Thursday, June 2, 2011

Building a gay Mormon theology: First steps

Joseph Smith received revelation within the context of the culture of his time. This directly impacted the translation of themes and ideology that came from God and subsequently served as the underpinnings of the restored gospel.

For example, the organizational paradigm that drove society during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was that of hierarchy based on a monarchical model. As a result, the primary metaphors and stories used to teach revealed truth centered around movement from bottom to top, with the greatest blessings reserved for those who climb the pyramid the best. Hence, the celestial kingdom is at the top of the "reward" pyramid while the telestial kingdom is at the bottom. The prophet is at the top of the "authority" pyramid followed closely by other General Authorities, stake presidents and then bishops. Women, who hold no priesthood, are at the bottom.

This particular cultural imperative has less relevancy in today's egalitarian society and, as a result, fails to connect with many devoted members of the Church. Other doctrines grounded in the mores of the nineteenth century are equally outmoded and through "continuing revelation" have been swept aside with varying degrees of success as they impede the core message of the Gospel.

I often wonder what the Gospel and the Church would be like if they would have been revealed today within the cultural context of our time rather than that of two hundred years ago.
  • Would women administer ordinances in chapels as they now do in temples?
  • Would fathers and mothers actually preside co-equally over the family and would single mothers be allowed to preside over their families in righteousness?
  • Would greater emphasis be placed on faith in Jesus Christ and less on obeying church authorities?
  • Would heaven be a place where all of God's children will be blessed with happiness according to their desires and aptitude rather than a society that demands eternal unions and conjugal relationships with members of the opposite sex as the only path to true happiness?
If the Brethren, like the rest of mankind, receive revelation only to the degree that they are prepared and willing to receive it, it follows that any truth that is revealed will come through the filter of the revelator's own experience and cultural biases. That truth will be interpreted by the revelator and his followers within the culture of their time.

To expect that any man (or woman) can receive and then convey pure truth untainted by culture and experience is asking more than is humanly possible for any person--even one called and ordained of God.


  1. Well written my friend. I have gradually aware of the early cultural underpinning of the church as time has passed. The extreme attention to being "clean" for example.

  2. "To expect that any man (or woman) can receive and then convey pure truth untainted by culture and experience is asking more than is humanly possible for any person--even one called and ordained of God."

    I agree.

    "The extreme attention to being "clean" for example."

    I have pondered purity norms lately as well. I'm not convinced of their morality; perversely, they often result in the "pure" otherizing the "impure," causing unnecessary inferiority and superiority identities. Hmmm.

  3. Though I agree with the theory that God can only use the human vessel (and therefore its cultural and historical context), the notion also frustrates me. Why can't we humans be challenged by more "Saul-to-Paul" moments if revelation? It's seems that an omnipotent God could (should?) rain down truths ad course corrections in times of dire need.

  4. KPW--Those Saul-to-Paul moments tend to undermine our need to find our own way, learn by faith and experience, and exercise agency. If the Lord showed us clearly the path we should be walking when we step astry, we'd miss most of the great opportunities for challenge, growth and, yes, joy that life has to offer.