Friday, October 08, 2010

When a word matters

Some of you were a bit stunned by Elder Packer's talk in conference where he said "Some suppose that they were pre-set, 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 Father."

Fortunately, it looks like you weren't the only ones a bit surprised by the language. I'm not sure if his words were just a mistake or his personal opinion, but the words of his talk have changed, just slightly, on the church website. The changes alter the entire meaning of that section of the talk. The revised talk reads: "Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn temptations toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Remember, God is our Heavenly Father."

Besides getting rid of the "Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone," the change gets rid of "tendencies" and replaces it with "temptations." Granted, it doesn't make as much sense anymore (what are inborn temptations?) But the underlying message--that all homosexuals can overcome their homosexual tendencies--has changed.

Unfortunately, whether accidental or intentional, considerable damage has already been done. Many people who heard the talk (or who read about it elsewhere) will never read the version on the church website (or the version that will most likely appear in the Ensign). But at least we have those resources to counter people who argue that the church states that homosexuals can overcome their homosexual tendencies. The church does not state that. Elder Packer said it in conference, true, but it appears as if the church officially disagrees with him or that his words came out wrong.

See here for the revised talk. I'll let you find the original language on your own.


Katrina said...

Interesting. I'm not surprised they edited it slightly, but I am glad. I wonder how Pres Packer feels about the alteration, as I'm positive he wasn't out to overtly offend anyone.

Woodine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Woodine said...

I think it is important to remember that President Boyd K. Packer is President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am confident that changes made to his talk were with his express consent and that he was involved in the process.

On, the official stance on homosexuality reads "People inquire about our position on those who consider themselves so-called gays and lesbians. My response is that we love them as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. Most people have inclinations of one kind or another at various times. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church. If they violate the law of chastity and the moral standards of the Church, then they are subject to the discipline of the Church, just as others are" (Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, Nov. 1998, 71). The church news gives more insight if you search under same-gender attraction. While the word “change” is never used, they do note the ability to control the temptation and the importance of not defining yourself by it.

As far as the ability to change goes, in "The Miracle of Forgiveness" President Spencer W. Kimball noted that it is possible for people with homosexual tendencies to actually change and that as a church leader he has seen that process first hand, many times. I’m not sure why people are so shocked about that concept. I know of multiple instances of people who were happily heterosexual, married, and then they choose to switch to a homosexual lifestyle. So why are people up in arms about the suggestion that the reverse is possible?

My dad has served in a variety of leadership roles and has worked with humble members, struggling, and who are succeeding through Jesus Christ. That doesn't mean it is easy. And they may have to battle the temptation long term. But people can change. We shouldn't be turned off by that idea. All things are possible through Jesus Christ.

Tim said...

Thanks for the comment, Woodine.
I do believe that some people may be able to change their tendencies. But I'm a bit reluctant to say that it's possible, at least for everyone, in this life. We all have weaknesses, and some of those weaknesses, such as mental and physical illnesses, will probably be with us until we die. Why should homosexual tendencies be any different for some people?

I know that President Packer is a representative of the Lord. He's a good man. He's not perfect (obviously--otherwise he wouldn't have had the need to change "overcome tendencies" to "overcome temptations" in his talk). How does the joke go? Catholics say the Pope is infallible but no one believes it, and Mormons say the prophet isn't perfect but no one believes it?

Like Henry Eyring (Senior) said of the prophet of his day, we may disagree on some things, but I know that if I follow his words I'll go to heaven.

Meanwhile, I'm much less likely to disagree with the actual prophet than Henry Eyring was (granted, that has more to do with who the prophet is now than differences between Henry Eyring and myself, but...)

The church has been quite careful lately to not give an opinion on whether or not people with homosexual tendencies can change. I think there's a reason for that--I think some are able to change and some are not. The tendencies themselves are not sinful.