If only I had waited a day later to post my obligatory President Packer talk analysis. Just one day.
I planned on this one being short, but I ended up ranting. I ranted, deleted, ranted, deleted, ranted, then deleted some more. This is the short version.
By now, most of you have probably heard the hullaballoo of the edits made on President Packer’s talk once the written form of Conference hit the Church website. The three major changes of import (and you can see a great blog post comparing the spoken and written version here) are thusly:
1. The edit which changed the Proclamation on the Family from a “revelation” to a “guide.”
2. The edit which changed President Packer’s statement that “tendencies” cannot be inborn to “temptations.”
3. The edit which completely eliminated President Packer’s rhetorical question: “Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?”
1. This one is huge. I had always heard of the Proclamation on the Family as some form of revelation. It’s always been considered psuedo-scripture, or even with the same force as scripture. Whenever people want to cite the Church’s prophetic mantle, they cite this as revelation. Whenever people ask “Where have all the revelations gone?” this one is usually cited. I find all of these views on the Proclamation on the Family as problematic, but kept silent since this Proclamation is a huge sacred cow in the Church. For the deliberate edit demoting this officially from “revelation” to a “guide” is of great import, but will most likely (predictably) ignored.
2. This one people will probably be cheering about. There’s already a level of smugness about it for more liberal Mormons. This one doesn’t move me, nor did President Packer’s original statement bother me, but that’s because I’m jaded. Does this edit really change much? It’s moving the talk more towards the centrist “we talk about action, not orientation” position of the Church when it comes to homosexuality, and that’s that. Will it change the thoughts of more conservative Mormons when it comes to homosexuality? No. Absolutely not. Those who want to continue to believe homosexuality as a choice rather than part of your biological makeup will continue to trawl through past General Authority quotes to find what they want. In reality, this edit has a net difference of zero in our current situation.
3. This edit made me sad. Why? Because it’s a really, really good question, that’s why! I feel this is a dangerous move our Church has made in the interest of reducing some of the hate it’s attracted. But by golly, this is a deep theological question that everyone should struggle with for the rest of their life.
Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Why would he allow people to be born in abject, spirit-breaking poverty? Why would He allow children to be born to abusive parents who don’t even want them? Why would He allow women and children to be sold into sexual slavery and raped until their intestines fall out? Why would He allow people to butcher each other in wholesale slaughter? Why would He allow child molesters to kidnap children and brutally torture and scar them? Why would He allow that young mother of six to die of cancer when her family really needed her? Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?
Ruminate on this question. Let it marinate in your soul. This ultimate question of evil is that which we should wrestle with all night long, like Jacob did with the angel of God. We are the inheritors of the birthright of Israel, literally he who wrestles with God. Yet when President Packer brings up such a crucial theological question, we sweep it under the carpet. Sigh.
First thought that went through my head when I saw the update: What’s the point of watching General Conference anymore? Watching General Conference is like participating in a beta – it’s buggy, there’s bad information and code, and in the end, it’s probably gonna be fairly different when it finally ships.
This brings up a really good question, though. President Packer’s message was off enough where the Church (or, at least President Packer) decided to edit the remarks for the printed, written format. In a way, outside political events forced this issue, but it’s an important one.
What if prophets are wrong?
It’s just as hard as the “Why would Our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?” question. Another really good one to think about. It holds thunderous implications about how we view the Church and God’s interaction with her.
In closing, I feel bad for President Packer. He’s an 80+ year-old man. He’s someone’s grandpa. Oh no! An 80+ year-old man thinks that gay people choose to be gay? WHAT A SHOCK. JUST LIKE, OH, I DON’T KNOW, EVERY OTHER 80+ YEAR OLD MAN EVER IN THE EXISTENCE OF 80 YEAR-OLD MEN. Seriously. Let’s all calm down. I’m done talking about this, really I am. I’m so sick of the whole gay issue. Let us all agree on this as Church members, yes? Gay people are still Heavenly Father’s children and they deserve to be treated as such, and if we so much as judge them mentally, or mistreat them verbally or physically, or refuse to accept them into the family of God, imperfections and all, then we bring upon ourselves the displeasure and judgment of a God who knows that we know better.
Nobody is benefiting from this. Not Church members, not gay rights activists, no one. No one is benefiting, and no one will win. We will only have losers if we continue down this route. We need to change tactics, we need to change how this discourse pans out and fast, because right now, nobody is winning. Everyone’s just losing.
And it’s making me sick to my stomach, how we’re so willing to tear each other apart and scream and rant and throw feces at each other like the primates we descended from.
That is all.