Sunday, October 10, 2010

Why Boyd K. Packer's Speech Matters

Many of my Mormon friends seem to find it difficult to understand the controversy and protest sparked by Boyd K. Packer's speech last week at General Conference. So here's why we protest:

Imagine you are raised to believe from when you are very young and impressionable that the LDS faith is true. You believe that it represents absolute moral authority and that leaders like Elder Packer speak on behalf of God. For most who disagree with me here, this part will not require any imagination.

For the rest of this post, I ask that you exercise an important element of the human condition called empathy. Imagine that after having this Mormon upbringing you realize you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, transgender, or otherwise queer. Naturally, you try to fight it, for you believe such identities are impure, unnatural, and immoral. Yet somehow it won’t go away. You hear Boyd K Packer say that gays are not preset, implying that you can change. Of course, you’ve already tried to do so, and so you internalize guilt and self loathing. For if these tendencies are not inborn then it must be your fault they persist. Furthermore, every time someone like Packer denounces the sinfulness of homosexuality, you know that if you start to accept these tendencies it will threaten your relationship with your family. You hate yourself for reasons you can’t discuss, and if you’re really unlucky you’ll be bullied for those same reasons. Are you finally starting to see why this matters?

To quote Classically Liberal, “Most the gay people I know were assaulted in school, one time or another, because they were gay. They can't tell their fundamentalist parents because they fear rejection from them. They can't talk to their homophobic minister who has regularly consigned them to hell fire for eternity. Is it any wonder that so many of these kids decide they would rather die?”

This is why we care when Elder Packer condemns homosexuality and asserts that we can change. Because such ideas, no matter how removed they may be from my non-LDS life, cause real pain and even death for children. And that should concern everyone with a conscience.

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