I figured I will give a simple, factual presentation of the next speaker and then go into crowd reactions and my responses to Brother Pruden tomorrow.
Brother David Pruden, Executive Director of Evergreen International spoke immediately following me. Here are some of the things that he said.
1. The God Loveth His Children pamphlet took 5 years to create. The Brethren consulted with the leaders of Evergreen International in the crafting of this pamphlet. 5 years of writing and re-writing the material.
2. He feels that the issue of same-sex attraction is part of the ongoing sanctifying process for the church and for those members that are same-gender attracted. It has come along at this time in our history for a reason that will sanctify our hearts and turn to the Lord.
3. It is easy for us to ask the wrong question like “Am I happy? Can I have what I want? Can I change?” They pale in comparison to the right question, namely, ”How can I become like Christ”
4. There isn’t a pill to “cure” same-gender attraction, and frankly we shouldn’t be looking for one. We shouldn’t look for a way to cut corners.
“We have come to understand some things, that 1. With Individual effort, exercise of great faith, reliance upon the enabling power of the spirit, and other types of things, some people with same-gender attraction feelings progress and grow and those feelings diminish dramatically and some cases seem to almost go completely away, for other people that simply isn’t true.”
6. People are individuals, we enter life differently and we have different trials we don’t always end up with the same mortal experience, we are all unique and so we can’t judge.
7. No blessing is or should be withheld from any member on this earth, including any member with Same-gender attraction. Without opportunities for callings, we cannot fully grow in the church.
8. Every person is a Child of God and we need to remember that in our interactions with others, particularly with those who have same-gender attractions.
9. Do not be afraid to share this with others. The worst thing that can happen is silence. This issue should be discussed, not repressed.
Then there was a Q&A, many questions were important; some were, in my opinion less important. Here are some of those highlights:
1. Q: What are some of the ways that members of the Church harm members with SSA?
A: We are a spooked out people and often are turned off by things that are different, especially when it comes to sex. Members with Same-gender Attraction can sense that and the caution that they sense feels like exclusion. It comes from Bishops all the time who wonder if they can call an SSA Member as a Young Adult Sunday School teacher. Of course you can! We often link different issues together like pedophilia, which has NO connection with homosexuality, we need to keep them separate.
2. Q: Are there traceable causes in every case of homosexuality?
A: Like the APA says, we don’t know fully what causes it, there can be biological and other factors that influence these things, but it doesn’t predetermine who we are. We are all Children of Heavenly Father with the capacity to grow.
3. Q: Is there anything else the Church and the Brethren are doing to spread the information in God Loveth His Children out to the Ward, getting the information out there and dispelling the misinformation.
A: We can ask and suggest and say that we should talk about this at a 5th Sunday Meeting. It may be something that they hadn’t thought about.
4. Q: Brother Baker made a reference to the possibility of having a future husband. This is a situation where you can have someone who is a home teacher, who is living righteously, and whose testimony expresses a sincerity of a different view and I think there is a concern on the leadership side. (Later this gentleman with his Italian accent came up to me and clarified his question, telling me that the danger and concern is that leadership will attack me for my testimony and he was wondering where the balance should be.)
A: In all due respect to Brother Baker, I appreciate him and his previous testimony, but that isn’t going to happen. But there is a lovely wife waiting for him. We have to teach correct doctrine, which is why everything I have said refers back to the brethren. Lets stay with what the brethren are teaching us and we will be fine.
5. Q: I have had a few friends who have this situation and it is hard because in order to be Mormon they are faced with the utter loneliness of being celibate for the rest of their lives. What do you counsel to them.
A: I have learned a lot from talking to Sister Sherri Dew. She isn’t same-sex attracted, but she has never married. She often remarks upon the loneliness, concern and the opportunities to serve it has created. I think the brethren we trying to send a signal with Sister Dew’s calling about their opportunities and were using Sister Dew as a model for us. That doesn’t mean it isn’t hard, but we all carry different burdens.
I have a neighbor, Elder Wirthlin’s granddaughter. She has Spina Bifida and is in a wheelchair. She probably will never marry, never have children and there is a lot she won’t have in this life. There are some things that just aren’t there for her. She has a burden, I appreciate that, they are different challenges that we all have; that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t cry together and appreciate each other, but it is still a sanctifying work.
6. Q: On the idea of Reparative Therapy (explained later as the notion of praying the gay away) I have heard that scientifically it is unfounded, dangerous and it causes great psychological for little success.
A: this is one that the APA got wrong. They suggest that this is the singular mortal experience that we cannot tie to genetics. No serious scientist anywhere suggests that. That is a simple fact. What we are saying is that this is the only thing that isn’t genetic, that growth isn’t possible in. What does that say? It is a blanket statement that goes against the gospel and common sense. Will everyone have an experience that changes him or her, no! Some of them, sometimes for some people this can be helpful. The Brethren and God Loveth His Children emphasizes this “some.”
7. Q: How should we react when someone comes out of the closet, or when he or she is stressed because of disagreements with the church stance. How do we show our love for them.
A: The church is concerned with preserving Eternal Families and opportunities for them. In some countries where certain events have taken place, where marriage and families have dissolved what we are finding is that the work of the gospel is almost completely halted. Scandinavian Countries after Same-Gender Marriage’s started to take place, the overall marriage rate has dropped below 20%. 80% of the people never marry at all. There is a lack of personal responsibility evident and perhaps some of the concerns could be the difficulty of genealogy and temple work.
8. Q: What is the process in diminishing unwanted same-gender attractions?
A: it depends upon how they had their attractions. If it came from Abuse, you have to focus on those issues. It is very individual because we don’t know how each person reached this point. However we can offer general processes to develop healthy relationships, continue to go to church, embrace the gospel and accept the atonement. We often get tunnel vision when in crisis, when that happens; we lose perspective, growth stops and anxiety ensues.