The Unimpressive Origins of Anti-Queerness in the LDS Church

"Sister Collins, why don't you believe being queer is a sin like the rest of the righteous, obedient Mormons?"

Because despite what you've been told, the rejection of LGBTQIA+ people is not a foundational gospel principle to Christianity. It's not part of some consistent, eternal sexual ethic that has been passed down to us unchanged since the dawn of time. There is no such consistent sexual ethic taught in scripture. Any biblical scholar with a decent grasp of Hebrew and Greek would be able to tell you that. What the Old Testament teaches about sex is not what Paul teaches in the New Testament, is not what the Book of Mormon teaches, is not what the Doctrine and Covenants teaches.

Sexual ethics change. They're one of the things in scripture most likely to change and morph according to the man-made cultures surrounding them. They've changed drastically within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints alone over the nearly-200 years the institution has been in the earth. The idea that Latter-day Saints would advocate for a strict sexual ethic that isn't subject to change is comically ridiculous. It's an untenable position for anyone in a religious community community that went from not polygamy, to polygamy, and back againall in a 70 year period.

The idea that the current sexual ethic as it exists in the Church isn't subject to change to become inclusive to the LGBTQ+ community is nonsense. We have less authority than anyone else in Christianity to make that kind of assertion, which is why I'm continually baffled that our community has even tried at all.

The idea that homosexuality is sinful didn't enter the Church until after it showed up in the rest of Christianity in 1952 with the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. An edition, I'll point out, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not use. It was the first edition of the Bible to ever assert that the Bible explicitly condemned homosexuality. Before this point, no edition of any Bible that has ever been published interpreted or translated any of the texts to refer to homosexuality. While these perceptions existed culturally before this time, no one had ever gone so far as to translate the Bible in this way because such assertions and translations are completely inconsistent with the text.

Once the RSV team did include such a translation, an error they later tried to disavow, it became the source of these interpretations throughout the rest of Christianity. The Living Bible, the New International Version, and the New American Standard Bible all adopted this perspective from the RSV. While such doctrinal drift can't be traced through Latter-day Saint use of the King James Bible, we can review general conference talks to see how these line up with these perspectives and who introduced them. A full collection of indexed conference reports was uploaded by the Church History Museum to the Internet Archive in 2011, so this is not a difficult question to examine.

The first instance of this kind of queer condemnation, beginning with J. Reuben Clark in 1954, is in lockstep with conforming with the RSV's translation error. (Clark, Conference Report October 1954, pg. 79) It's also worth noting that the second condemnation, also from Clark in 1957, asserts that scriptural injunctions against "fornication" relate to men engaging in homosexual relationships, with a simultaneous admission that he isn't sure if those same passages included queer women or not. (Clark, Conference Report April 1957, pg. 87)

The idea that the Church's condemnation of its own queer community is an organized, ancient message that has been consistently taught and enforced throughout time the same way we do now is objectively false. We can point to our own conference reports and see the image of past church leadership guessing and speculating as to how to apply these condemnations from the rest of Christianity to our community. 

The question no one has been able to answer for me is why, if such messaging were inspired by God, there would be a need for guesswork or speculation on the part of J. Reuben Clark or anyone else.

I fully believe this is exactly the kind of Biblical mistranslation and manipulation we preach against. This is the apostasy I personally left evangelical Christianity to avoid. I don't believe in the rationalizations for anti-queerness in the Church for the same reason I don't believe the racial priesthood and temple restrictions were inspired, regardless of what any prophet or person has ever said about it: 

Because God is not a bigot.

God does not endorse bigotry. He doesn't endorse violence. He doesn't endorse division, ostracizing, indifference to suffering, the abandoning of children, bullying, and excluding people from his community because they are different. He doesn't participate in human rights abuses. Humans do that. God does not.

Jesus taught that it's "by their fruits" that we can know the truth of anything. We have had decades to see what the fruits of LGBTQIA+ exclusion from the Church have been. From mixed orientation marriages that fail to child abandonment, homelessness, conversation therapy, violence, and suicide. To say nothing of bullying and divisions in families throughout the Church.

The fruits of these policies of LGBTQIA+ exclusion have been evil because the policy is evil. The policy is evil because it came from the selfishness and ignorance of man instead of God.

And in that same breath, it needs to be said that you cannot collect good fruit from an evil tree. You cannot expect to teach people to love and accept queer people non-violently at the same time you close off participation to them in our community. Those two things cannot coexist together. You either follow the admonition of Peter when he taught that the command to take the gospel into all the earth includes all people, to call none of them unclean or common by condition off their birth, or you don't. (See Acts 10:14-15 and Acts 11:17) There is no room to negotiate people out of God's kingdom based on man-made prejudices. This is a lesson God has already taught.
I was in evangelical Christianity before I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I left that community because I didn't want any part of their teachings anymore. I have no loyalty to queer hatred any more than I have for original sin, infant baptism, or biblical inerrancy. My loyalty is to Jesus Christ—not the dungheap of human errors people have done in his name to justify their own actions, to amass power for themselves, or to lift themselves above others in vanity and pride.
I don't need a cafeteria lunch table to exclude people from to feel good about myself or to convince myself that God loves me. If that's something you need, that's not because of anything queer people have ever done to you. So stop blaming and hurting them and go to therapy.

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