Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dear Anonymous: Understanding What it Means to be a Gay Mormon

Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart …
~ 1 Kings 3:9

This is my seventh letter to Anonymous.  For those who may not have read the previous posts, these letters were prompted by an individual whose comment, posted on my blog two weeks ago, struck me as representative of thinking among many members of the LDS Church with respect to being gay. Even though Anonymous subsequently identified himself as “Bryan” in follow-up comments, I have continued to address these letters to the many anonymous Mormons whom I believe hold beliefs similar to those underlying Bryan’s comments.  

The following was Bryan’s comment (the gist of which being that that I should go back into the closet because 20 years of “sowing wild oats” was not worth giving up “exaltation”):  “Sincere question for you here … Assuming you're 45, and will live to be 76, you're approximately 60% of the way through your life. Up to this point, you've been a faithful member of the Church, paid your tithing, etc. So, you've only got 40% of life to go and if you can just keep on the path for that last stretch, you'll very likely receive exaltation and be together with your family, as the LDS Church teaches.  On the other hand, if you choose to live a homosexual lifestyle, you've got, on average, 31 years (assuming you're 45) left. Keeping in mind that after 65 you're pretty much "old" (no offense intended) which brings the "wild oats" years down to roughly 20. Are those 20 years worth it … [i.e.,] worth what you're giving up?”

Today’s letter addresses a subsequent comment by Bryan, when he asked “why I am doing what I am doing”, and it also discusses some of Bryan’s other further comments.


Dear Anonymous,

This letter is addressed to some of your follow-up comments you have made to my previous letters, starting with a question you posed in response to my fourth letter. Even after writing several posts in which I expressed my own personal witness that one doesn’t choose to be gay, one just is; after explaining why a gay man can’t really pretend to be something he’s not without incurring (and perhaps inflicting) emotional and psychological damage; after explaining that being gay is about much more than attraction and certainly about much more than sex, that it is about experiencing a full gamut of emotions; after all this, you still wrote, as a comment to my fourth letter, “I don't really know why you're doing what you're doing.”

I will try to be more direct in my response this time I will begin by being even more personal than I have been in previous letters.

President Packer’s Talk and What It Meant

My world changed forever on Sunday, October 3, 2010.  That morning, I heard four sentences that caused an irreversible, uncontrollable tectonic shift deep within me.  These words, which quickly became infamous, were uttered at the Church’s October General Conference when President Boyd K. Packer, in the midst of a talk about moral purity, read the following sentences:

Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember, He is our Heavenly Father.”

These four sentences cut through my heart, as they no doubt did countless other Mormon men and women who are painfully struggling, totally alone for the most part, in the hidden chambers of their innermost soul … with what is commonly referred to as “same-sex attraction.”  Not only did President Packer call me, and those like me, “impure and unnatural,” he poured salt in open wounds by saying, in so many words, that God would and could never make such a depraved person as me, and that God didn’t love me for who I am – that even before GOD, I could not be my true self because my true self was not acceptable. 

Then, as if this wasn’t enough, there was the added injury caused by thousands of Mormons who “rallied” to President Packer’s side to “support” him, revealing the wide and deep homophobia that exists in the Church.  Many of these people, who obviously believe that they are not required to be “Christian” toward homosexuals, vilified gays with such choice comments as the following:  “If the church ever allowed gay marriage, then the church is not true,” and “Thank you President Packer … even though the wicked fight against you.”

In the moments, hours and days that followed General Conference, I realized that I was no longer willing or even able to repress who I am, that my homosexuality is a fundamental part of who I am as a person, that I was tired of feeling guilty and dirty about it, and feeling, in President Packer’s words, “impure and unnatural.” 

In the days and weeks that followed General Conference, my resolve hardened:  I was NOT going to crawl back in my hole where I had lived for most of my life!  I was going to affirm who I am:  a man who did not choose to be gay, but was born that way; a man who had spent most of his life denying and trying to hide not only his natural sexuality, but also multiple facets of his identity and personality that were bound up with this sexuality. 

I swore that I was going to shed the false persona that had controlled my life; that I was going to cease living as a cardboard cutout, as someone who was simply going through the motions in life. After nearly a lifetime of despising myself, I was instead going to affirm and embrace who I am and – yes – LOVE myself for who I am.

This, Anonymous, is why I am “doing what I am doing”.  I could no longer live a lie.  In this past Monday’s post, I described in some detail what living a lie meant to me, as well as to my wife and my children. In my post yesterday, I described some of what I have been feeling these past weeks and months:  “Since starting the coming out process, and particularly since moving out, I have had experiences which have brought me happiness and even joy – a joy that I could not comprehend while living in the closet, a joy that I feel in my heart comes from fulfilling the measure of my creation.  There have been occasions, during this last while, when I have felt like I can be myself and when I get in touch with myself.  All the pretense has fallen away, and I'm often surprised at who “comes out” at such times, i.e., the gay man that I’m just getting to know - a part of me that's been carefully hidden for decades, who only now, at certain times and in certain situations, feels safe in coming out.  Then, joy has come, and I have been surprised.” 

When I first came out to my wife, it was not my intent to end my marriage; I merely wanted to honest with her.  The fact is that I did not choose to end my marriage; my wife did.  We had been having serious marital problems for several years and had been close to divorce more than once.  My admission that I am gay was the last straw, and she soon thereafter asked for a divorce, to which I was more than willing to agree.  If the price of staying married was retracting my admission that I am gay and going back into the closet, I was unwilling and incapable of paying that price.  My wife was unwilling and incapable of moving forward without me paying that price, so our marriage has come to an end.

Ears to Hear What President Packer Said

Anonymous, in your first subsequent comment, you stated, with respect to President Packer’s comments, that in your view, “President Packer's quote condemned ONLY the action, not the individual who, through no fault of his own, had the attraction.”  I strongly disagree. Packer’s spoken words (as opposed to the edited text) speak for themselves, and those who have ears to hear heard what he was saying.  I wonder if you can bring yourself to hear what we heard? 

What did we hear? First of all, in Packer’s statement about “tendencies toward the impure and the unnatural” we hear him say that same-sex attraction and homosexuality is “impure and unnatural.” He wasn’t speaking of homosexual sex. He was speaking of “inborn tendencies.” By calling that to which we as gay men are naturally inclined, “impure and unnatural,” he was calling us impure and unnatural. You can quibble all you want about what you think he meant or what we should have heard, but this – if you are interested – is what we heard.  

We also heard him scoff at and utterly reject (“Not so!”) the concept that being gay is inborn. The implication (particularly in the larger context of his talk as a whole) was that being gay is a choice, and that anything that affirms, or any steps taken to affirm, one’s gay nature is wrong. 

But President Packer didn’t stop there. To “prove” his point, he uttered those infamous words, “Why would Heavenly Father do that to anyone?”  If he had possessed a single understanding, empathetic bone in his body, he would have known that thousands of gay Latter-day Saints have painfully, heart-wrenchingly struggled with precisely that question, to which there is no answer. He would have appreciated how searing those words would be to such members of the Church who have bloodied their knees seeking an answer to this question, to which there is no answer. He would have perhaps understood the additional shame and condemnation that such a comment would have inflicted. He would perhaps have foreseen that many, like me, would have heard such words as a statement that God would and could never make such a depraved person as me, and that God didn’t love me for who I am – that even before GOD, I could not be my true self because my true self was not acceptable.

Anonymous, having described the effect that President Packer’s words had on me and having conveyed what these words meant to many of those in the Church who struggle with “same-sex attraction," I would hope that you would thereby develop an understanding and appreciation of “where we are coming from.”

However, if such understanding cannot come to you or to others, I would thereafter express my belief that it will not do for Church members - who close their hearts and minds as a result of a knee-jerk reaction to “defend” and “support” President Packer - to pretend that he said something else. It will not do for such members to say that thousands of their fellow Church members, not to mention thousands of non-members, are mistaken in what they heard, that their feelings are not real or valid, that they have no right to be hurt, disappointed and angry. It will not do to simply label fellow church members as apostates and to thereby feel righteously justified in simply dismissing such persons’ legitimate thoughts, feelings, reactions, experiences and testimonies. It simply will not do. Not any longer.

Understanding vs. Merely Asserting  

Anonymous, I have gone to great lengths, throughout the course of this “correspondence”, to describe to you the challenges faced by gay members of the Church, of which I am one. I have tried, in a respectful and civil way, to point out and counter the fallacies, misconceptions, false premises and prejudices, concerning homosexuality and their gay brothers and sisters, that exist in the minds and hearts of much of the general membership of the Church – which were unfortunately bolstered by President Packers’ remarks at last October’s conference (even though other Church leaders thereafter tried to “soften” them).  In so doing, I haven’t simply made statements and asserted them as truth. Rather, I have tried to provide explanations for my positions with a view to trying to increase understanding.

You, on the other hand, have for the most part simply restated your positions without acknowledging what I have written. With respect to the term “gay lifestyle”, for example, I went to some lengths to explain why this term is offensive. Your response, however, was to simply make the following statement:  “There IS a straight lifestyle, just as there is a homosexual lifestyle.Pursuing or maintaining relationships of a heterosexual nature is living a heterosexual lifestyle. Replace "heterosexual" with "homosexual" and the same is true.” 

Well – as the saying goes - says you; but that don’t necessarily make it so. Among other things, what troubles me about your response is that there does not appear to be any willingness on your part to understand, only to assert

You also stated that you do not believe that same-sex attraction - “as a general proposition” - is a choice and that you believe that same-sex attraction, while “part” of identity, it is not the “entirety” of our identity. On what basis do you make this judgment? Furthermore, from these comments, I am left to wonder when, in your mind, you believe same-sex attraction is a choice. 

As to the issue involving attraction and identity, I will refer you to my letter of last week in which I discussed the issue of attraction and how this concept is used to “compartmentalize” homosexuality. Furthermore, if you stopped to think about how much the concept of male-female attraction defines and shapes the average modern North American adult’s identity and life (and indeed our entire culture), you would perhaps begin to understand how wrong it is to try to bifurcate attraction and identity when it comes to same-sex attraction. Again, I ask, is there a willingness to try to understand, or simply a desire to assert?

Understanding doesn’t necessarily imply agreement, but you apparently feel that empathy and understanding might weaken your argument – because you definitely appear to have an agenda. This becomes evident when, for example, after making the above statements concerning straight and homosexual (is the choice of the word “homosexual” over “gay” deliberate?) “lifestyles”, you make the following declaration:  “Both are voluntary choices.”  And that appears to be your end goal, i.e., to prove that gay is a choice, thereby attracting moral culpability.

This letter has ended up being far more lengthy than I had originally envisioned. That being the case, I will save for my final letter a discussion of your comments about where I and other commenters “are” with respect to the Church and a more general discussion of what the Church means to gay Mormons.


  1. Wow, potent and clear prose. You have a gift, and thank you for applying it to this post.

    I had sensed the negative response of many homosexual Mormons to President Packer's talk, but have not seen it described as poignantly as here. The perverse effects of his message about homosexuality is well illustrated in this post. One positive consequence of his remarks, I suppose, was the compulsion you felt to begin speaking out.

    I have been and still am critical of many apologist attempts to explain away his remarks (e.g. claiming he never spoke about homosexuality in the talk at all). The statement is consistent with his earlier statements on homosexuality; it dovetails with prevailing attitudes of many in top church leadership, expressed in statements by President Kimball, President Faust, and others; his talk was edited afterward; and other leaders responded with mitigating statements. At the very least we must acknowledge the thousands of those who had responses similar to yours and received the message as though it was about homosexual behavior and/or orientation.

    I have also noticed confirmation bias evident in the dialogue of many regarding church views on homosexuality (including my own, unfortunately). Asserting without seeking to understand is a potent indicator of this bias. Unfortunately I think there is a Mormon cultural norm against seeking understanding in certain subject areas such as homosexuality. If the starting point is that whatever prophets say is correct and consistent, the only errors can be in the reception or interpretation- in which case, there is no use for an orthodox believer to seriously entertain your criticisms or observations of fallacies. The presumption is (in a recent critical comment of the YouTube version of my book): "Once the prophet has spoken, it's a DONE DEAL." Nothing like the privilege of being released from the obligation to engage moral reasoning. Thank you Jesus for lifting my burden! (that's facetious gratitude, btw)

    I also strongly feel the inappropriateness and ultimately impossibility of discretizing attraction and identity. I also think it is untenable to canalize the sexual aspects of homosexual orientation, as such overwhelming involves a constellation of interrelated emotions, responses, tendencies, and attractions which are human, romantic, loving, etc. in addition to erotic. I think a difficulty the church faces is explaining WHY homosexual orientation and/or conduct is wrong/undesirable/sinful when heterosexual orientation and/or conduct is right/desirable/righteous. The only tenable explanation derives from divine command theory and the assertion that same-sex sexual relations are per se immoral (which also provides a likely-to-be-employed outlet, as divine commands can be rescinded). Why would this be when opposite-sex relations are not? Especially when gender is not binary (there are intersex persons, and in the church's eyes spiritual gender is what counts and none of us has a basis for concluding as to the spiritual gender of ANY person any more than we can discern other spiritual attributes such as spiritual height or spiritual hair color)? The more tenable moral truth is that same-sex relations are moral or not on the same basis as opposite-sex ones, i.e. are they wielded to manipulate, or to express love? Do they take place inside marriage, or outside it? Are they used to solidify and build relationships, or merely to derive gratification?

  2. "He would have appreciated how searing those words would be to such members of the Church who have bloodied their knees seeking an answer to this question, to which there is no answer. He would have perhaps understood the additional shame and condemnation that such a comment would have inflicted. He would perhaps have foreseen that many, like me, would have heard such words as a statement that God would and could never make such a depraved person as me, and that God didn’t love me for who I am – that even before GOD, I could not be my true self because my true self was not acceptable."

    > Herein is why this is such an incredibly substantial moral issue. To otherize or demonize a group of persons without merit is among the vilest of vices. Groups/minorities have been unjustly stigmatized in this way for millenia- Jews, women, immigrants, Mormons, and blacks to name just a few. I for one am not terribly interested in worshiping a God who encourages such categorizing, which not only predicates callous harming of marginalized individuals but is itself the very species of spiritual violence Jesus called us to eschew. Getting this issue wrong institutionally is not merely an "oops, my mistake, let me fix that little misstep" kind of problem. It's closer to a Creon/Oedipus kind of problem, where all of the sudden you look at the corpses lying around you and realize, "Holy shit, I just caused the unnecessary death of thousands of people!" The casualties in the case of the sexual minority of gays and lesbians are sometimes literal but more often evidenced in decimated relationships, demolished self-concepts, and demoralized believers. Ultimately, only truth will prove capable of healing the rift torn by the talon of pulpit-hewn heterosexism. I pray it will wash over the wound with the kind of haste expressed in this verse:

    "I spied him where a fountain burst
    Clear from the rock; - his strength was gone;
    The heedless water mocked his thirst,
    He heard it, saw it, hurrying on:
    I ran and raised the sufferer up,
    Thrice from the stream he drained my cup,
    Dipped and returned it running o'er;
    I drank, and never thirsted more."

  3. A germane article: "Overruling Dred Scott: The Case for Same-Sex Marriage"

    "The guarantee of “equality” is, of course, not self-defining. Each of us differs in various ways from one another; and state recognition of some difference is not an automatic violation of the rule that all of us are created equal. Inequality as such – state treatment of some people as simply different from and less favored than others – is not forbidden. The constitutional wrong is inequality that marks its subjects as a different order of humanity, that they are outside the bonds of human connection, “so far inferior that they had no rights which [others are] bound to respect.” This is the basic conception of human equality – of equal dignity – that was dishonored by Dred Scott...

    The status of being a slave carried with it many deep indignities. Perhaps the first attribute that comes to mind is “slave labor.” But the evil in this practice was not the absence of compensation for labor. In fact, as Southern plantation owners tirelessly insisted, slaves were compensated for their labor by the provision of food, housing, clothes; and indeed, Southern slaveholders drew a favorable comparison with their provision of lifetime support for their slaves even when they were no longer productive, in contrast with the Northern industrial practices of so-called “wage slavery,” where the capitalist owners would simply fire any unproductive worker no matter how long he had served his capitalist master. It is more to the point that the evil of slave labor was not lack of compensation but lack of choice about employment. But even here, the Southern slaveowners observed that Northern industrial workers were deprived of choice about whether or where to work by impersonal market forces with the same practical impact as the personalized deprivation of choice imposed on plantation slaves.8
    But whatever the significance of forced labor for defining the core evil of slave status, whatever the differences may be between “free labor” and “slave labor,” there is one attribute of slave status that is radically and undeniably different from freedom. That attribute is the legal recognition of family relationships.9 Slaves were not simply forbidden by law to marry. Because they were the property of their masters, slaves had no legally recognized relationship with anyone else. They had biological connections with their children, they had loving connections with one another; but none of these connections were approved or permitted by law. So far as the law was concerned, nothing impeded masters from selling their slaves to far-away purchasers, breaking their bonds of love and biology with their mates and their children. And the law affirmed the morality of such heart-breaking actions. As the anthropologist Orlando Patterson has described it, slavery was a status of “social death”; and slaves were, he said, “natally alienated” – that is, even worse than dead, they were alive but not part of the human species.10 Their forced labor was not the hallmark of this dehumanized status; the law’s disregard for their bonds with other beings, its refusal to recognize their family relationships, their inability to marry in the eyes of the law, was much more at the core of the social degradation inflicted on them."

  4. "In the moments, hours and days that followed General Conference, I realized that I was no longer willing or even able to repress who I am, that my homosexuality is a fundamental part of who I am as a person, that I was tired of feeling guilty and dirty about it, and feeling, in President Packer’s words, “impure and unnatural.”

    These are my EXACT thoughts/feelings. Thank you for this wonderful post.

  5. @Brad - WOW!!!! What powerful, insightful and articulate comments. THANK YOU for taking the time to share your extremely relevant and understanding remarks. Your are an exceptional person and a real asset to the gay Mormon community.

    @FindingMyWay - Why do I have the feeling that there are many more that felt the way we did? Thanks for your comments.

  6. BK Packer's words hit me like a ton of bricks. I was disgusted and VERY disheartened with what I heard. It hurt and angered my heart so much that I could listen no longer.

    I teach in a room next to one of BK Packer's grandsons. It took all of my self restraint that following week not to go in to his room and tell him "a thing or two" what I thought about his grandfather. (I respect the grandson, so I did not do it.)

    It was also interesting to me how his words were so quickly edited. The written word versus the spoken word were two completely different things. That angered me beyond words.

    Thank you for your insightful and thought provoking posts to anonymous.

    Love and respect, always.

  7. One thing I've learned is that it is very difficult to change someone's mind once it's made up. However, I'll make one last attempt to explain my position.

    Even going with what was SAID by President Packer in Conference (as opposed to the minor changes made in the published talk), I strongly disagree with your interpretation. President Packer said nothing negative about the person who feels certain tendencies, only that the tendencies themselves were towards the unnatural or impure.

    You said:

    "By calling that to which we as gay men are naturally inclined, “impure and unnatural,” he was calling us impure and unnatural."

    This is your interpretation, with which I completely disagree. In my opinion you are confusing condemnation of the action with condemnation of the person who feels the tendency toward that action. Those are two very different things. I personally, may have a tendency towards a particular activity that I know to be wrong. By telling me the activity is wrong, you are not condemning me, you are only making a judgment value about the activity.

    "You can quibble all you want about what you think he meant or what we should have heard, but this – if you are interested – is what we heard."

    I understand that is how you "heard" what he said, but I'm only interested in what was actually said. President Packer, never, at any point, said that those who have the inclination toward homosexual behavior are, themselves, impure and unnatural. No matter how much you may want to have heard that, he did not say it.

    I disagree with many of the premises that you assert (many of which I've already addressed), and in all honesty, wonder how willing you are to accept your own advice to have ears to hear.

    I am realizing that I could discuss this all day with you (and at this point, I think I may already have) but your mind is clearly made up. I intend to read your final letter, unless it becomes clear that you mean only to disparage the LDS Church or its leaders, but do not intend to comment further. I sincerely wish you the best and hope that you find happiness. While we may (let's face it, clearly do) have our disagreements, I have enjoyed communicating with you and hope the feeling is mutual.


  8. On occasion when I’ve had discussions with others with differing points of view on various subjects, it seems that when a view or opinion that challenges the underlying paradigm is presented, it is often labeled as antagonistic or anti-whatever. It seems, as you stated, that Anonymous is more interested in assertions rather than understanding a differing viewpoint.

    Despite what I see as very reasoned, respectful arguments, Anonymous is regrettably dismissive of anything that doesn’t jibe with his understanding of sexual orientation and what it means to be gay. And to completely miss all of Packer’s inferences in his talk? Those rose-colored lenses are nearly opaque.

    Dang it. When I first wrote my response to his question, I answered it as though talking to a friend who wanted to understand my experience. I guess you got me on that one

  9. @Bryan:

    I’ve been reading this whole series and have re-read your initial letter many times. And I’ve just read your comment above. And I have to say this.

    You don’t get it.

    You have not learned that perception is reality. It doesn’t matter what you think Packer said. Because he wasn’t talking to you. The reality of what he said for countless gay people is exactly as Invictus Pilgrim described: Packer thinks we are impure and unnatural, intrinsically.

    This has been a consistent theme in many of his speeches over the years. As far back as the early 1990’s, he identified us as one of three main future threats to the church. He has tacitly sanctioned physical violence against gay people in at least one speech. His hostile homophobia is well-established.

    No doubt you will disagree and say even if that is true, it doesn’t reflect official church teachings. Well, half-hearted damage control efforts from church HQ don’t mean much when local level homophobia remains so wide and deep, just as Invictus Pilgrim said. Just ask the guy who the church just fired because his stake president yanked his temple recommend. Why? Not for any violation of the law of chastity, but because the SP didn’t like the guy hanging around with gay friends. Apparently that was “affiliating with persons who advocate things contrary to the teachings of the church.” You may think that an isolated incident, but I assure you it’s typical of attitudes still common far and wide in LDS wards and stakes.

    While I applaud the efforts of well-meaning peacemakers to promote harmony, understanding and rapproachement between the LDS church and the gay community, it is also clear that such efforts would not even be necessary if the LDS church itself had not staked out such hostility as a matter of doctrine. It’s not the gays who have been persecuting the Mormons. They simply want to be left alone. The prejudice which needs to be overcome has not arisen because the gay community fostered it.

    Ultimately, such efforts can have only limited effect. Because the truth is that there is no place for God’s gay children in LDS theology. The LDS church cannot explain us, does not understand us, will not find a legitimate place for us AS gay men and women. Our very existence is repugnant to the neat, clean LDS construct of where everybody’s supposed to fit in the eternities. So they are forced to explain us away as a temporary aberration, “challenged” in this mortal life only, for some strange reason only God knows. While some find a way to accommodate such a position and remain, most gay Mormons ultimately realize there is no place for them within the LDS church, they get tired of fighting, and they seek and find greater happiness elsewhere.

    The only way to stop that is for the current crop of risk-averse corporate managers running the LDS church to ask for and get a revelation that would re-write the whole edifice of LDS theology. And it’s highly doubtful they would even consider thinking such a thing necessary, let alone be willing to contemplate taking responsibility for it. Result: the steady flow of departures will continue for the foreseeable future, depriving a church already suffering from flatlining baptism rates and 60%+ inactivity worldwide of significant talent, dedication, and spirituality.

  10. The church loves statistics. Perhaps it should tally the number of members, including me, who after fighting my true sexual identity for many years had this reaction, "In the moments, hours and days that followed General Conference, I realized that I was no longer willing or even able to repress who I am, that my homosexuality is a fundamental part of who I am as a person, that I was tired of feeling guilty and dirty about it, and feeling, in President Packer’s words, “impure and unnatural.”

    My guess is, the number is non-trivial.

  11. We need to cut Anonymous/Bryan a little slack. My suspicion is that he is an earnest young gay man devoted to the Gospel trying to do his best to "support the Brethren."

    Weren't most of us MOM guys like him when we were 25 years old and naive about ourselves, our lives and the world in which we were doing our best to survive undetected?

    One day, Anonymous/Bryan will wake in the morning like most of us have done and realize that the pain and anguish of living a lie is too much to bear.

    It's then that he will remember with horror his comments on this blog and realize that what he wrote as a message of enlightenment and faith was actually nothing more than regurgitated hate and bigotry.

    Thank goodness the atonement of Christ is universal. That means there is hope for those of us who are "impure and unnatural" as well as for bigots and hate mongers like Anonymous/Bryan.

  12. @Anonymous/Bryan - You're right: it's difficult to change someone's mind once it's made up, which definitely appears to be the case with you.

    I hope that as you progress through life, you will become more open to trying to understand where other people are coming from, instead of just dismissing their heartfelt feelings and emotions as invalid. It is one thing to disagree with someone's beliefs, particularly as those beliefs may somehow effect other people; it is quite another thing to refuse to open one's mind to even consider, let alone accept, that someone may not view the world the same way you do.

    Frankly, Bryan, your comment about "wanting to hear" something is insulting and reveals much about you. You apparently do not see that you are the one who is wanting very desperately to hear something different than what President Packer actually said - not only in this conference but for the past 35 years.

    Bryan, you cannot simply ignore the few voices that have expressed similar emotions and responses to Packer's talk, which voices are representative of many, many more. Well, I guess you can and will ignore them, but that doesn't change their existence or their validity.

    The bottom line is that, as you have stated, your mind is made up. In this, you are representative of many, many members of the Church. There are, however, thank God, many other members who have more open minds and hearts, and it is to them that I have been primarily addressing my comments.

    @Rob - Thank you for chiming in. Your lucid, articulate and insightful comments are always appreciated.

    @Anonymous - Thanks for making this point.

    @Clive - You were obviously in a mischievous mood when you posted your comments. :)

    I won't go so far as to adopt your characterizations of Bryan as a bigot and hate monger. However, I will simply point out that the Oxford Dictionary defines "bigot" as "an obstinate [stubborn, intractable] and intolerant [not tolerant, esp. of views, beliefs or behavior differing from one's own] believer in a religion."

  13. Bryan - it's not about correctness. It's about understanding someone else's pain. And after sitting on the sidelines and reading all of these great posts, I am led to a preliminary conclusion that there is one missing ingredient in your posts: it's called empathy, that is, the ability to feel what someone else is feeling.

    Don't get me wrong: truth is terribly important. People have died defending what they believe to be the truth. But, all I have seen here is that, like trying to explain to a man (who has never tasted salt) what salt tastes like, you simply don't get us. I wouldn't mind so much if you tried. But, somewhere, deep down, I get that you have been totally focused on "line of reasoning" rather than on "getting the person". In short, you stayed in your head.

    As a Jewish convert, I want you to be well aware of the pitfalls of staying in your head. Where loyalty to book or to tradition rules. And where the possibilities of brotherhood are left dangling like frayed rope. Your line of reasoning simply invites people to stand tall. The opportunity for humility is lost. The opportunity to be taught something new is lost. The opportunity to feel something new is lost. My own life's timeline is quite similar to that of Invictus.

    I have chosen to be more a "Latter Day Protestant" rather than a "Latter Day Catholic" for the purpose of being a Saint. Because in the end, we are either a Joseph Smith type (with personal revelation that stands the test of time, that is the final arbiter) or a Brigham Young type (with personal revelation easily dismissed if it violates the organization's progress).

    What I have seen here over THE issue of our generation is such a tension. And so, I choose the best that I can muster. Not anyone else's prescription. Because I am responsible for this most precious gift. How will we get your line of thought? Easy. Stay in our heads. How will you get our line of thought? Difficult. Travel 18 inches south into your heart. For one purpose: to become vulnerable. Once you get there, you will understand. Alas, most of us have been taught never to go there. And so, we dig in our heels.

    Let me ask you one final two-pronged question: what have you risked here in all of this? And what has Invictus risked in all of this? Therein lies the path from truth to love. From Old Testament to New Testament. From Moses to Jesus. The good news here is that you have truly extended yourself as best as you know how. I salute you for that. What you might consider next is to step out of this virtual world and meet one or two of us. So that you might KNOW, rather than just know. Just a thought.

    Thanks to you, Bryan, for allowing Invictus to offer us an extraordinary apologetic that will one day be seen as a moment in LDS history when further light and knowledge was gained for the purpose of inviting people once again to fulfill the measure of their unique creation.

  14. @Martin - Thank you for your wonderful, thoughtful comments. I loved what you wrote about Joseph Smith vs. Brigham Young type. As well as what you wrote about head vs. heart, reasoning vs. feeling, old covenant vs. new covenant. Thought-provoking, profound, rich. Thank you.