Dear 100 Hour Board,
What are your thoughts on the Oaks talk during the Saturday morning session? Is what he said considered doctrine, particularly the part about trans people? Most of my friends are hurt and upset about this, so I wanted a more LDS perspective.
-Doubting Thomas (back again)
I just wonder why President Oaks goes back to this message every single conference recently. Everybody KNOWS what the doctrine is, but what not everybody knows is if they'll ever really be loved in the same way straight members are. They don't know if they're welcome in a church that they believe in/want to be true, but where they feel they'll never really belong or be accepted. As one of my friends put it, he feels "too Mormon to leave, too gay to stay," and talks like this one seem to at least inadvertently send the message that people really can be "too gay" to belong to the church that has shaped so much of their life and worldview, and that preaches it's for everyone. So I wish President Oaks had answered those questions about love and belonging, rather than just reiterating doctrinal statements that everyone has heard so many times before. I wish that at the very least he had tempered his message with love (or just not talked about this in the first place). And maybe it's not my place to wish that a General Authority change his Conference address, and maybe a more faithful person would say that if he talked about this it's because he must have been inspired to, but I can't look at the devastating effect that talk had on my LGBTQ friends and not mourn with them. I can't not wish that they weren't being ripped apart like this, pulled in two apparently separate directions by two incredibly important parts of their identity.
I would also like to address the idea of an "LDS perspective" in your question. We can have as many LDS perspectives as there are members of the Church--it doesn't always have to be 100% homogeneous. If an LDS LGBTQ person has a negative perspective on that talk, that is still an LDS perspective. It's not an orthodox perspective, but it's still the perspective of an LDS person. A lot of times I see a very binary mindset among members of the Church--either you're 100% in, without any questions ever (at least not any that you voice), or you're out. But it doesn't have to be that way. It's okay to be hurt by all this and still believe the gospel is true. It's okay to look at the human cost of talks like this and call out the terrible effects they have on certain people. I love the talk "Come, Join With Us" by President Uchtdorf, because he emphasizes that there is room for everyone in the Church who wants to belong in the Church, whether they fit the mold of a typical member or not. He also respects the right of people to have honest questions (even if those questions lead them to leave the Church), and points out that those who do aren't lazy or sinful or morally bankrupt. In his words, "In this Church that honors personal agency so strongly, that was restored by a young man who asked questions and sought answers, we respect those who honestly search for truth." If someone's honest search for truth leads them to have questions that you personally don't have, that's okay. If they choose to stay in the Church despite those questions, that's also okay, they're not "weakening the Church" somehow, and in fact it would probably really benefit most members to hear their perspective on things. It sounds like you're trying to listen to and understand your friends who don't have traditional viewpoints, and for that I applaud you (and invite you to continue doing so to the utmost of your ability).
You can be a member in great standing, and sustain Church leaders, while still noticing that the way they talk about certain issues can exacerbate feelings of anxiety, depression, and suicidality among susceptible people. You can wish that they would stop saying those things (even if they may be true). It doesn't make you a worse member to do so, and it certainly doesn't make you a worse member to listen when people share their stories of how certain rhetoric is hurtful to them. If anything, it makes you a better human being and more Christlike person to listen when people share their stories.
I believe President Oaks' talk was doctrinal. I am heterosexual, I was born a male and have always identified as a male, and I don't have very many LGBTQ associates. However, I really wish he had said something that helped those who identify with the LGBTQ community feel loved, understood, and that they are valued in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I'm a believer that these messages don't have to be completely at odds with each other. I think it is possible to profess the doctrine and simultaneously convey a message of love, understanding, and hope.
Do I fault President Oaks? I'm not sure. I get that he is not perfect and I've never had to prepare a talk to be heard by the entire world. So, I can't just lay blame on someone that I don't really know.
All I can say is that in the future I hope that there is a better dialogue for those in the LGBTQ community, and I hope people don't give up their hope. There is reason to live, there is reason to keep coming to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There are people who do love, accept, understand and value you. You are not worthless, you are not less than anyone else, you are a child of God. If I had any advice, it would be to continue to develop your relationship to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I think as your relationship with Them grows stronger, you will feel your worth.
-Sunday Night Banter
-Zedability c/o AF
My primary concern is how members will view this talk. By saying "We should not consider secular prominence or authority as qualified sources of truth" and scientific truth is limited as "Those truths [about life] cannot be learned by scientific or secular methods," it gives members permission to discount the multiple scientific studies that have shown that members of the LGBTQ community have biological factors that explain their sexuality. That is, this is not a choice and it cannot be "cured" with positive thinking. By not expressing love or understanding for those in the LGBTQ community (which it felt like the Church was doing so much better at for a time), it gives members an excuse to come down hard against LGBTQ individuals and members.
I saw this firsthand when, talking with my roommate about conference, I mentioned President Oaks' talk and the negative influences it already has and will have on LGBTQ members, including some who have already commit suicide. My roommate simply shrugged and said, "Some people will choose to be offended."
He did not express love or concern for this community. He did not encourage Church members to love them (even if they disagree with them). He focused on how it is Satan who "seeks to confuse gender [and] to distort marriage". He said the answer to this opposition is repentance, faith, and seeking help.
His talk allowed my roommate to simply shrug when she learned someone had died because of his insensitive words and say, "Some people will choose to be offended."
-guppy of doom
I was on a family trip during conference and I only heard the talk in the background. I've been nervous to really listen to it. I've been nervous because if I agree too much I will be hurting the LGBTQ people I care about. If I disagree too much I will be hurt and confused.
There is so much truth in what I have heard and I'm afraid to throw the baby out with the bathwater so to speak. I think the essential doctrine he was trying to share is found in The Family: A Proclamation to the World. If you are looking to discern what parts of his talk represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I would refer to that document.
I know President Oaks hurt a lot of people and I'll get to knowing how very soon. But I can say that I listened very intently to Elder Uchtdorf's talk and I received a very powerful answer to the questions that President Oaks' talk has enforced on my mind.
The Church of Jesus Christ needs to be changing us to be like Him. We are using it wrong if it isn't doing that. Membership, when used correctly, is a vehicle to real abiding charity. The kind that possesses you.
My heaviest question for years has been How do I believe in this Church and still love my LGBTQ siblings? Must there always be a 'but'? Elder Uchtdorf literally answered a prayer I've had since Orlando.
If the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints isn't the reason you love people better everyday, you're using it wrong. Make everything you do in this Church about Jesus Christ and it will be His Chruch. If it is His Church it will help you love LGBTQ people better.
It is my job to find Christ in His Church. It is my job to find Christ in myself. I find Him by accepting truth and rejecting hate as they are revealed to me. I believe this will help me empathize and defend. It will lead to revelation about how LGBTQ people are feeling and why. It will show me the things I do, say, or support that make them feel afraid. It will give me the courage to change those things. If we find Christ in His Church we will purify the culture it houses.
I'm not ready to listen to President Oaks' talk with Christ's ears. I'm not prepared to discern what is eternal essential truth and what is hateful. But I'm working to be ready so that it can be a strength to my ability to love rather than a challenge to it.
I think there is a big difference between lovingly firm and harshly firm. I do not doubt President Oaks put a lot of thought into that talk, and I don't doubt that he knew it would hurt people, honestly. But it kind of makes me wonder if he really understood what the impact of his words would be. Surely he knew that there would be LGBTQ+ youth and adults listening to it? Surely he knows that most members don't fit "The Ideal Mold." Surely he acknowledges the deep painful struggles of so many Church members, especially LGBTQ+, of feeling like God still loves them amidst all these teachings. Surely he knows about the devastating suicide rates among teens in Utah and the correlation in particular with LGBTQ+ teens.
I understand the doctrine behind it, I really do. But most of the people that were the targeted audience of that talk already feel like sinners because of the kind of judgment culture (whether real or perceived) that's sadly all too prevalent among us. They don't need to hear what was said in this talk, and they don't need to hear it repeated every conference like it has been. They need to feel like God loves them and will be there for them through their pain.
While the lawful, essential reminder of doctrine is great, to me his talk lacked a crucial element of Christlike love. Sometimes we get too caught up in stuff that we forget that Christ mostly spent his life loving and serving people, especially those that society had deemed outcasts. His life was dedicated to fostering faith, helping others, and spreading love. LOVE is the center of the gospel. In the New Testament, the people that Christ seems to spend the most time calling out are the Pharisees and Sadducees who thought they were doing so good because they were 'following the rules' but really they had forgotten the purpose behind it all. Christ didn't spend his whole life telling people they sucked, he just tried to help them do better. He didn't and doesn't try to make people feel worthless because of their shortcomings. Talking about this every conference is proving to only further damage the souls of those who already feel alienated, and that is not Christlike.
President Oaks is a kind, spiritual, lovely man, and I have no doubt his talk was planned with the best of intentions. I'm sure that he just wants to see people do their best and everyone be exalted. But we also have to acknowledge that he isn't perfect and that what he said hurt a lot of people. I don't really understand why it had to feel so loveless. Maybe I'm just not in the right mindset, but I don't feel great about it right now. Really I just feel kind of sad.