Author Topic: Religion (Potentially sensitive)  (Read 17946 times)

Armadius

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Religion (Potentially sensitive)
« on: January 17, 2007, 11:58:12 PM »
I've got a couple questions. First, would you say your religion influences how you portray religions in your novels? I have a friend who remarked after reading Elantris that there seemed to be a parallel between Sku-Keseg, Shu-Korath, and Shu-Dereth and the real world. Did you model these religions after anything in the real world?

Second (and feel free not to answer), I noticed in your religion rant that you said you'd be happy to explain at length why you think the Mormon church is "right". I'm always interested when people try to back up their religious leanings, so please, go ahead. Why do you think Mormonism is correct?
« Last Edit: November 21, 2008, 06:33:45 AM by The Generous Knight »
"Beauty is a form of Genius - is higher, indeed, than Genius, as it needs no explanation. It is of the great facts of our world, like sunlight, or springtime, or the reflection in dark waters of that silver shell we call the moon. It cannot be questioned." - Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

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Re: For Brandon - Religion (Potentially sensitive)
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2007, 12:06:31 AM »
Wow, you're about to get an earful considering over half this forum are Mormons, a religion known for people who like to expout on why we believe the way we do.
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Armadius

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Re: For Brandon - Religion (Potentially sensitive)
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2007, 12:17:03 AM »
Fine by me.  I like arguing ^_^
"Beauty is a form of Genius - is higher, indeed, than Genius, as it needs no explanation. It is of the great facts of our world, like sunlight, or springtime, or the reflection in dark waters of that silver shell we call the moon. It cannot be questioned." - Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Skar

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Re: For Brandon - Religion (Potentially sensitive)
« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2007, 12:35:44 AM »
Actually EUOL is not "Mormon".  That was a mistype.  He actually follows the precepts of "Moron."

As such he looks for every opportunity to heap abuse on those he considers less intellectually astute than he is.  He's a lot like Terry Goodkind in this respect.

Beware, be very very ware.
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Re: For Brandon - Religion (Potentially sensitive)
« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2007, 12:46:25 AM »
Armadius,

Happy to answer.  First off, no, I didn't base any of the religions in Elantris on any real religions.  Shu-Dereth STARTED as the Norse religion when I was worldbuilding.  I wanted to take a Norse-style religious feel, then transform it into monotheism over time.  However, there wasn't a strict parallel with modern religion.  The basis for how all three religions ended up was more Eastern in concept, but again, I didn't use a single religion to focus any of them.

I did take a few things from other religions.  For instance, I liked how a lot of modern religions sprang from the same root.  Buddhism came from Hinduism, and Christianity was a growth from Judaism.  The aggressive Derethi religion was a little bit more like religions that have a convert or die philosophy--but, from my research, that concept has been used in pretty much every major religion at one point and time. 

I do worry that people will see Derethi and think of a specific religion.  Indeed, since I based Hrathen on what I saw as 'Evil missionary tactics' one could easily relate him to churches that do send out missionaries.  This wasn't my intention, however.   

As for the second question, I'm always happy to give my reasons.  Realize, however, that I'm not a big fan of religious argument.  I don't think you can prove religion.  Arguing Bible scriptures doesn't really do anything productive, in my experience.

I believe in Mormonism for three general reasons.  1) Experience.  2) Logic.  3) Feelings.

I think it would be best to cover these each in their own post, to break things up a bit.  (Oh, and I see other posts have been made while I was writing this.  Yes, a lot of people here are my friends from school, and a lot of us are LDS.  But, here's my post.  Also, Skar is joking.  I hope you realized that.  Also, I really hope this doesn't get into an argument.)
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Re: For Brandon - Religion (Potentially sensitive)
« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2007, 12:46:53 AM »
Experience.
One of the basic things that Jesus taught--and I hold that this is true, no matter what you think of Christ's divinity--is that by the fruits of a teaching, you can know if it is good or bad.  This is sometimes a hard one to adjudicate.  Is Islam a bad religion because so many people are taking it and perverting it?  I don't think that's what this doctrine means.  I believe it was intended on a much more personal basis.  Anything--no matter how good--can be twisted and used for ill.

In my life, many of my most profound experiences--many of my greatest joys--come because of things I've done involving my religion, and because of its teachings.  The teachings on family have caused my family to be closer.  The teachings on marriage have caused me to seek out a wife, and that has brought me a great deal of joy.  The teachings on what it takes to live a good life are things I have tested, and found comforting and true. 

In short, I find that I'm happier when I do things the religion teaches.  This isn't exactly a scientific proof, but I accept it.

--Edit-- Fixed some typos.  Meant "Hard" up above instead of "Good" in the first paragraph.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2007, 12:54:37 AM by EUOL »
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EUOL

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Re: For Brandon - Religion (Potentially sensitive)
« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2007, 12:47:42 AM »
2)  Logic.

I don't like to talk ill about other religions.  To be honest, there are wonderful things in each and every religion I've studied--and, as a writer, I like to read about religions and learn about their teachings.  Also, as I said above, I don't think you can prove religion with arguments.  Only God can prove whether a religion is true or not.

However, there are some things, logically, about Mormonism that just make SENSE to me.  I served a mission for the Church, and during that mission, I taught about what I believed.  There were several questions that people would ask that I haven't found sufficient answers to in any other Christian religion.  Two of the biggest of these were:

1)  How can you believe in God when there is so much suffering in the world.
2)  What about all the people who aren't of your religion?  They go to hell because they happened to live at the wrong time, when there were no missionaries to teach them?

Question One:
LDS teachings focus on this world being a planned event.  It teaches that before we were born, we lived as spirits, and were involved in the production of this world.  We chose to come to this planet because we desired the experience of living on our own, having mortal bodies, and being apart from God for a time.  We believe that when we lived before, we couldn't really experience pain, or fear, or any of those things--not as long as God was there with us.  We believe that only by having this Earth experience could we become complete, gaining experiences that we couldn't have gained in any other way. 

So, the core teaching here is that we came to the Earth by choice.  We decided that we would come down here and experience pain.  I personally believe that we were shown what our life would be like, and given options deciding just what kind of life we wanted to live.  That's not strict doctrine, but it IS strict doctrine that we were allowed to decide for ourselves if we wanted to experience pain and suffering--in order to learn and grow--or if we didn't want to.

Another big part of LDS doctrine is the concept of free will.  We believe that God HAD to let us make our own decisions here, otherwise the whole thing would be for naught.

This doesn't excuse people who do terrible things to others.  It simply means that we agreed to take the chance, and that we accepted the risk of the things that would happen here.  It means that God watches in pain as we are put in pain, but has bound himself.  He can't stop people like Hitler from existing, otherwise the whole thing would be meaningless.  A starving child in Africa is a terrible, terrible thing--and I believe that we are responsible for doing all we can to alleviate suffering.  However, the reason they can exist is not because God is punishing them, but because the world must exist this way--and because we all made the decision that we'd RATHER end up as a starving child in Africa than miss out on the opportunity to experience life.


Question Two:

LDS doctrine is one of the only world religion which includes serious, powerful provisions for the benefit of those who never learn of Christ.  We believe that the 'Earth' experiment doesn't conclude at death, but continues on in the next world for a time until the time for the end arrives.  People in the next life continue learning, growing, and having opportunities to discover the gospel and learn.  Since one of the main points of life is simply to have a life and experience the feelings associated with it, there are a lot of people who are born when the complete teachings of the gospel aren't available.

Joseph Smith--the founder of the LDS religion--taught that any person who WOULD have accepted the gospel in this life will be saved in the next.  These people will accept the teachings in the next life.  Plus, they will live the best lives they can on this world.  It's possible to be a very, very good person without the gospel.  I believe it enhances life, but it was impossible--because of agency, and because of the way the world had to work--for everyone to live in a place where they could be taught the truth.  And so, these people will be saved.

In addition, the LDS concept of Heaven isn't as strict as a lot of religions.  We look at heaven as a continuum--people are rewarded with happiness in direct proportion to how good a person they were in this life.  Even the worst of people commit a few good acts of kindness, and they will be rewarded for those.  The punishment they feel--the fires of Hell spoken of--are taught in the Book of Mormon as being mostly self inflicted.  The pains of hell is the knowledge of missed opportunities, of lost chances to do good and to help others, and the pain we feel from having made terrible decisions and having hurt others.  (The result of our having being given our free wills.)

In the end, there's Jesus Christ.  He, as an immortal and perfect person, was given the power to take away sins--essentially to fill in the gaps.  He is allowed to take upon him some of our own pains, and if we accept him, make up for our missed opportunities.  In this way, we can have joy that is perfect--without regrets--because while we made mistakes, we learned from them, and we learned to do better.  Christ then took our sins upon himself as a reward for believing in him, having faith, and repenting (becoming a better person.)  God doesn't care how many times we fall; the central teaching of Christ's ministry, as I read it, is being sorry for your mistakes and trying to do better.

So, no.  I don't believe that good people who never accepted LDS teachings will go to hell.  Will mother Teresa go to Hell?  Of course not.  I well nigh think that things will be better for her in the eternities than they might be for me, unless I shape up. 

There is a lot more to this--the concept that, if Christ makes us perfect, we become as He and the Father are, gaining everything they have.  Also, we do baptize people for the dead.  (Meaning, in the temples, a member can bring the name of an ancestor who didn't have a chance to have the gospel, then be baptized on their behalf to give them the opportunity--should they accept it in the next life--to have their sins wiped away.)  However, the core of it is what I explained above.
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Re: For Brandon - Religion (Potentially sensitive)
« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2007, 12:47:59 AM »
Part three:  Feelings

Central to the teachings of our church, and to the Book of Mormon, is the concept that God answers our prayers.  We have agency, and he can't stop all suffering--but he reserves the right to make things better for us if we humble ourselves and ask.

Central to this asking is the teaching of our Church that God will lead someone who seeks it to the truth.  He will not leave you hanging, and he doesn't expect you to have to just wander around blindly and gamble on the religion you choose.  If he REALLY exists, then I believe strongly that he will let you know that, and that he will tell you which path in life he wants you to take.

The central missionary teaching of the LDS Church is this:  Read the Book of Mormon, pray about it, ask God to tell you if it is true or not.  We choose the Book of Mormon because it is unique to us, though we believe in the Bible as well.  The Book of Mormon doesn't really teach much that isn't in the Bible.  It was reserved to be revealed during this day so that the church would have another witness of Jesus Christ, and so that we would have something that other's didn't.  Not because they aren't worthy, but because the Book of Mormon can then be a test.

If people pray over that book, I believe that God will speak to them in their heart of its truth.  He speaks to us through a warmth inside, a feeling of joy, that is his method of giving us witness of things that are right and good.

I have prayed over the Book of Mormon.  I have prayed over the truthfulness of the truth.  I have felt a strong witness--a strong power--within me that I cannot deny.  I've only felt such a strong power a couple of times.  (One other being the time when I prayed over my decision whether or not to get married.)

This is something I cannot prove with science, and I am respectful of those who have troubles believing in something with only a feeling as proof.  However, it is my proof.  God lives, Christ is our Savior, and the Book of Mormon is true. 

That's why I believe.  I hope I didn't get too boring or preachy. 
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Armadius

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Re: For Brandon - Religion (Potentially sensitive)
« Reply #8 on: January 18, 2007, 02:37:50 AM »
Fair enough. Thanks for answering, and for not trying to convert me (sorry if that's offensive, but it's a problem I've had with most of the Mormons I know.)

A couple more questions:

Are you saying that it's possible for someone who knowingly rejects the Mormon gospel to go to Heaven, regardless of their religious leanings? And what of atheists? I identify myself as agnostic-atheist. I'm willing to accept anything as a possibility, but I refuse to place faith in any idea that relies entirely on something as abstract and subjective as a feeling for proof of its validity. Because I've yet to see any good reason why I should believe a God (or many gods) exist, I'm skeptical at best of most religions. According to your beliefs, does this have a bearing on what happens to me after I die?

The second is more controversial, and let me assure you right now I'm not trying to tell you your faith is incorrect; you're as entitled to your belief as I am to mine. That said, the Mormon church's stance on homosexuality is something I disagree with very, very staunchly. I'm homosexual, and I have extreme difficulty validating a religion that tries to condemn me because of whom I love. For a religion that preaches so strongly the value of family, it doesn't quite flow logically that it simultaneously preaches against homosexuality, which is a factor in an enormous number of loving, stable families. My own family has come to accept my orientation, and the whole experience has actually brought us closer together. Some of my role models and good friends are gay couples who are raising successful, happy, loving families. Why is it that your church focuses on family life, but condemns homosexuality?
"Beauty is a form of Genius - is higher, indeed, than Genius, as it needs no explanation. It is of the great facts of our world, like sunlight, or springtime, or the reflection in dark waters of that silver shell we call the moon. It cannot be questioned." - Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

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Re: For Brandon - Religion (Potentially sensitive)
« Reply #9 on: January 18, 2007, 03:15:46 AM »
Armadius,

Good questions, and not at ALL offensive.   

(And as for the try to convert thing, please forgive us.  The LDS people tend to take sharing the gospel very seriously.  Most of them are more open-minded than they seem at first; it's just that they get very, very eager at the prospect of sharing their beliefs, and sometimes let their enthusiasm override their focus on what the person is really asking or needs.)

As for your first question, the answer is yes.  It is very possible, by our theology, for a person to NOT accept the gospel in this life and still obtain heaven.  Remember first that the LDS belief on heaven is rather broad--we look at most people, even those who commit serious crimes, as being more happy in the next life than they are in this life. 

However, a person who never accepted our religion in this life can indeed obtain the highest and fullest happiness in the next life.  Now, when LDS theologians talk about this, they mostly refer to people who never had a chance in this life.  However, most of them are careful to point out that we--as mortals--don't know what constitutes a fair chance.  If a person is given an opportunity to hear the gospel, they take it, and they decide not to join the church despite feeling that it's probably the right thing, the doctrine is fuzzy on whether or not that person will be given another chance.  However, the doctrine is very clear that people who never hear the gospel, but who are good people, will be able to obtain the highest level of heaven.

The middle is fuzzy ground we cannot really judge.  However, we DO believe that preaching is active on the other side, and that every person will be rewarded for the good deeds they do.  I'm convinced, personally, that a lot of people who reject the gospel in this life will be able to accept it in the next life because of unfair challenges or problems they had while here. 

This is a tough area to distinguish, however, since the scriptures are very clear on the fact that people who procrastinate repenting when they should obviously know better will have to suffer (most likely the suffering I mentioned above, which is the suffering of regret and opportunities missed) for what they have done.  I don't like to say "Yeah, you can accept it in the next life" since obviously this is a bad way to go about things.  We are meant to feel an urgency to becoming better people.  The longer we put it off, the more set in our ways we become--and we believe that you'll be the same person on the other side as you are now.  If you don't accept it now, it's actually going to be HARDER to make the changes and become the person you need to on the other side.  So, it's better to repent now and change.

Your other question is, indeed, a more difficult one--but I'm glad you asked it.  I'll get to it in my next post.
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Re: For Brandon - Religion (Potentially sensitive)
« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2007, 03:53:02 AM »
Of all the criticisms of the LDS church, I actually think this one is the one that is the most difficult to answer.  First off, let me say that I REALLY don't want to offend.  It's hard to talk about homosexuality from my side of the debate without coming off as a homophobe.  I don't think that I am.  The problem is, however, that who you are is very important to you.  By implying things about it--without having felt what you do--I wander into areas that make it easy to make errors in judgment.  So, I guess what I'm trying to say is, I don't know everything and please don't be offended if I stick my foot im my mouth.

The LDS church takes a strong stance against homosexuality, but not against homosexuals.  In fact, I've been very impressed with the church literature I've seen lately which encourages church leaders to be more understanding with this issue.

However, the honest truth is that we look at practicing homosexuality as wrong.  It was taught against in the Bible repeatedly, and has been confirmed by modern revelation as a sin.

The problem is, in saying that, I risk implying that you're a bad person because you're a homosexual.  I certainly don't mean to. It is not wrong to be homosexual.  It's something physical within your genetic makeup.  The homosexuals I've known--some are friends, one is my cousin--are not gay by choice.  It is something that happened to them, and they'd much rather have been straight, since being gay leads to all kinds of trouble. 

However, the difference in opinion we have is that we look at homosexuality as something innate, but still not right to act on.  I'd relate it to alcoholism, if that didn't seem to downplay the issue.  They aren't the same at all, but maybe the analogy can serve.  A person can be a natural, physical, alcoholic.  Does it make it all right for him to binge dink?  No.  Is he a bad person because he is susceptible to something others aren't? No.  However, we believe that it's still better for him to resist than it is for him to give in.  In many cases, sins happen when we give in to things that are natural impulses.

I can't claim to be an expert on this one.  Heck, I don't think anyone can be unless they have felt it.  And, I would point out that my personal belief is that it's no more wrong than sexual immorality of any kind.  And, if it's monogamous like the relationships you've pointed out, then my opinion is that it's much less of a sin than--say--a man cheating on his wife.  (Though, it's hard to rank sins, and I don't think it's very good to do so.  When we do, we risk getting into "Yeah, but at least I'm not as bad as THAT guy over there.)

Will my cousin go to hell because he's gay?  Of course not.  He's a wonderful person.  He's not LDS, never has been, but he is one of the nicest, kindest people I know.  Will he have troubles if he doesn't eventually accept Christ?  Yeah, I think he'll wish that he had.  Would he be better off if he decided to not act on his homosexual tendencies?  I honestly think that he would.  Of course, I'd be better off if I could stop being as lazy as I am in a lot of areas in my life.  We all have issues, and one of the thing Christ repeats over and over is that we shouldn't judge others because of their sins. 

Personally, I think God is going to be a ton more accepting of this one than he is of a lot of other things.  If your body is telling you one thing, it's tough to accept it when someone tells you the opposite because of words they've read in a book or spiritual experiences they've had.  Who are they to say what is right and wrong for you?  My only suggestion on this would be the following: only God can really have anything convincing to say on the topic. 

If you want to know some more of actual church talk about this, and you aren't quick to be offended by people who take it as given that what you feel is wrong, then do a search for 'same sex attraction' over at www.lds.org.  However, here's what one Church leader (elder oaks, one of our apostles) said:

“The person that’s working to resist those tendencies ought not to feel himself to be a pariah. Now, quite a different thing is sexual relations outside of marriage. A person engaging in that kind of behavior should well feel guilt. They should well feel themselves estranged from God, who has given commandments against that kind of behavior. It’s not surprising to me that they would feel estranged from their church. What surprises me is that they would feel that the Church can revoke God’s commandments.  To the woman taken in adultery (which is a pretty good precedent for us), the Savior was merciful and loving, but he said, ‘Go thy way and sin no more.’ He loved the sinner; he condemned the sin. I think the Church does the same thing, imperfectly perhaps, but that’s what we teach our members: love the sinner, condemn the sin."

How's that?  Now, reading it, I think I seem a lot more apologetic than I really need to be.  I don't intend to sound ashamed of what I believe, because I'm not.  I have confidence in the teachings of the savior. However, this is a touchy issue, and one that isn't nearly as easy to answer as most religious questions. 
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Re: For Brandon - Religion (Potentially sensitive)
« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2007, 03:55:14 AM »
Note: I know of at least one LDS author who has done a very respectful book series with a gay man as a main protagonist.  Tracy Hickman (with Margaret)'s Rose of the Prophet books.  Might not work for a person who is actually gay, but I found the depiction to be very well done.
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Re: For Brandon - Religion (Potentially sensitive)
« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2007, 04:11:31 AM »
There are many important aspects of human existence that rely on something as abstract and subjective as a feeling for proof of their validity.
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Re: For Brandon - Religion (Potentially sensitive)
« Reply #13 on: January 18, 2007, 05:48:58 AM »
Pardon me. That was poorly worded. I was speaking only about religion; my point is that until very, very convincing evidence or proof is presented to me, I refuse to acknowledge the undeniable truth of any one dogma. I agree with some tenets of almost all religions, but I'm currently unable to have faith in any particular denomination.

As for the answer, I still very profoundly disagree, but you're actually doing a marvelous job of explaining all this in a non-offensive way. I don't think I'm ever actually going to agree with you, but like I said, nothing excites me more than good religious discussion. Anyway, a few things:

1. I make no claim to be a Bible scholar. That said, it's true, the Bible does say things against homosexuality, but keep in mind that Jesus never actually talked about homosexuality, as far as I know. Furthermore, it's really only stated in the New Testament; I'd be happy to explain why Sodom and Gomorrah and Leviticus aren't actually anti-gay. Call it a product of my very lightly Jewish-influenced upbringing, but I tend not place much stock in the New Testament. Also, could you explain what you mean when you say it's been confirmed as sin by modern revelation?

2. I don't think I've ever sincerely wanted to be heterosexual. I enjoy my life very much as a gay person. Certainly, it makes many aspects of life immeasurably more difficult, but I'm getting a great sense of fulfillment right now. As you say, part of life is about overcoming challenges and striving to change. While I don't think I need to change my sexuality, it certainly has been an experience in overcoming - it is very much a way of bettering myself, because I'm learning in the best possible way how to accept alternate views and respond to others' actions.

3. You may disagree, but I would be careful of deeming it "sexual immorality". Keep in mind that homosexuality might be more aptly labled "homophelia"; it's as much a matter of love as it is of lust. I understand it's probably about as difficult for you to imagine loving a man romantically as it is for me to imagine loving a woman the same way, but homosexuality really isn't a simple matter of being attracted to men. I'm only 16, but I've been in love before, and I can say quite honestly that it's the best feeling I've ever experienced. I still find it a bit odd that a church with such a strong focus on family and unity through love can protest a strong, loving connection between two beings, regardless of sex.

4. Resisting homosexuality is extremely difficult, and because it's a genetic matter, so-called "ex-gay" ministries are (in my opinion) quite deluded in thinking it can be changed. Again, I understand it's difficult, but try to imagine a world where heterosexuality is stigmatized rather than homosexuality. Picture people trying to tell you that your attraction to women is morally wrong, and that you must conform to the standard of being gay. Try to imagine what it would be like to completely ignore any sexual impulses you've ever had, and force something that is, to you, very unnatural upon yourself. It's much, much easier said than done.

And I'll see if I can find those books anywhere. I'm in desperate need of a good read. Also, sorry if I'm coming off as critical and/or preachy; I always have trouble avoiding that when I talk about theology.

(By the way, I don't think I've said how very surreal this is. I always dream of being able to talk to my favorite authors about something other than their books, but due to the masses of fans, I seldom actually think it's possible. And I should probably also insert something about how fond I am of your work. It's wonderfully creative!)
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Skar

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Re: For Brandon - Religion (Potentially sensitive)
« Reply #14 on: January 18, 2007, 06:04:20 AM »
Forgive me as I stick my nose in. 
Quote
3. You may disagree, but I would be careful of deeming it "sexual immorality". Keep in mind that homosexuality might be more aptly labled "homophelia"; it's as much a matter of love as it is of lust.
What I believe Brandon meant by "sexual immorality" is, simply, sex outside of marriage.  According to LDS theology the only time sex is condoned is when it's between a married couple.  A man having sex with his gay partner, to whom he is not married, is just as bad/sinful as a man having sex with his girlfriend, to whom he is not married.  The two acts are equivalently sinful.  The sin is not in having the urges or the love, it is in acting on them outside of marriage.

Now, obviously, since the LDS church does not allow homosexual marriages, this leaves the gay man permanently out in the cold.  He'll never be able to act on his sexual urges but will have to resist them his whole life.  (unless he somehow changes their focus to females.  perhaps that's why there's so much focus on the ex-gay ministries?)  Anyway, at the same time, the clinically diagnosed kleptomaniac will never be able to act on his urges either.  Neither set of urges (kleptomania or homosexuality) condemns the person who has them. (and no, I am not equating gays with thieves, it's just an example of inborn traits)

Now, I am notorious on this forum for offending people.  It is never my intent to do so.  I hope that I have not done so in this case.
"Skar is the kind of bird who, when you try to kill him with a stone, uses it, and the other bird, to take vengeance on you in a swirling melee of death."

-Fellfrosch