Sunday, July 31, 2011

Gay Gospel Doctrine Class: Road to Damascus

This is another in the Gay Gospel Doctrine Class series of posts that takes a lesson from the LDS Church’s (Adult) Gospel Doctrine class and presents it from a gay perspective.  Today’s lesson is based on Lesson #29 in the Gospel Doctrine Manual and was prepared by Utahhiker801.

This week’s lesson - Lesson 29, “The Number of the Disciples Was Multiplied” - focuses on Acts chapters 6 – 9.  The main event of this passage is Saul’s conversion.  Saul had been creating havoc for the church, harassing and having the followers of Christ thrown into prison.  The scriptures describe him “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciple of the Lord.” 

Yet on the road to Damascus, he has a vision where Christ appears to him and asks, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”  Saul is struck blind for three days.  Upon being blessed by Ananias, his sight is restored and he is baptized.  Saul immediately goes to the synagogues and preaches the about Christ.

I sometimes wonder if people who are hardened against the idea that gay people are normal people, entitled to happiness in their lives without feeling marginalized, will ever come to the point where they can embrace (and not just tolerate) gay people.  Will they ever have their road to Damascus?

As I write this lesson on Saturday afternoon, I know that tomorrow I actually have to teach this lesson in church.  Confession time: I’m actually the Gospel Doctrine teacher in my ward.  I can’t begin to tell you all the inner conflicts I feel at times with my life and with the church, but that is nothing new; most of us have dealt with that for decades at some level or another.  We have all been contorted in trying to bring various aspects of our lives together.  I’m not sure what that will ultimately look like for me.

In the mean time, preparing a lesson with a gay perspective knowing I have to teach an “orthodox” lesson tomorrow creates different types of insight.

On Sunday, I want to ask my class, “How are we sometimes like Saul?  Firm in our testimony of the truth and yet sometimes wielding it to make someone else’s life less joyful or loving?”  What does our personal faith bring to the world?

I know that a prior bishop and stake president in my ward, who after hearing Elder Packer’s talk decrying gay people, have both said they disagreed with him.  His words did not match their experiences, and it has lead them look more closely at themselves.  I will admit that they’ve said that I’m the only real experience they’ve had with a gay guy in the church, but that’s hardly the point.

There are so many barriers to this type of cultural change, a church-wide road to Damascus; years of sermons, lectures, hushed “I-told-you-sos” perpetrated to create shame make this difficult.  All of these thing attempt to continue the status quo.  However, I have hope.  I believe they will ultimately fail as love and understanding overcome bias.


  1. They asked me to be the gospel doctrine teacher, but I turned it down. I had mentally left the church behind me, and I couldn't go back to pretending to make other people happy. But I have different views on the church than you do. I wish you the best in teaching in a way that you can be what the ward wants, and still be true to yourself.

    As for you message thanks. Good insights. I thought it was going to be about Elder Uchtdorf's talk "Waiting on the Road to Damascus". I'll be honest. I hated that talk. I felt like the message of talk was the exact opposite of the message of the scriptural story. Saul wasn't waiting on the road to damascus, unsure of his beliefs. He knew what he believed, and he acted on his beliefs. It was only then that Christ intervened. I think the same message is told with Alma the Younger. It is when we act on our beliefs, and God sees that we are valiant in the law we have been given, that he gives more. Not we pretend to believe to appease those around us. Or at least that is the impression I get from those scriptural stories.

    But what would I know? I'm just another atheist.

  2. Thanks for your comments, Allen. I think perhaps another way of expressing your thoughts about Saul and Alma is to say that God engages with us when we engage with life.

  3. Allen, thanks for your comments. I completely understand what you're saying about having mentally left the church behind. There are very large swaths of my mind which have checked out of the church, and I have serious reservations about many aspects of the church (and dare I say, maybe even God?).

    When I'm teaching the class, I usually don't get into much of that. If there's some GA quote in the manual which I think is especially lame, I leave it out. And I have problems with the forced directions and assumed foundations of many of the "suggested" questions for discussion.

    But I do enjoy the discussion and making people feel at ease to comment in class, even if they have a different viewpoint from me or the mainstream church. I certainly don't feel as though I need to have all the answers. I like how some of the really boring subjects force me to be creative to make it interesting. And I like making people laugh. For these reasons, I still enjoy teaching gospel doctrine.