Is Anyone Awake Over At LDS Social Services?
By Tony Collette
Recently the well-intentioned folks over at LDS Social Services in Salt Lake City have begun handing out this book, written by and for Fundamentalist Christians interested in "change therapy" to their Mormon counselees who come to them for help in resolving their struggles with homosexuality. The author, Joe Dallas, is the president of an umbrella organization of ex-gay ministries called Exodus International. (As a side note, the two founders of the organization, Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper, eventually left it, married each other and denounced Exodus as "a destructive fraud." For a thorough treatment of this and other ex-gay ministries, see the July 1990 issue of Affinity.)
When reading Dallas' book, the first question that comes to mind is, "Have any of the General Authorities who oversee the LDS Social Services ever read this book?" And secondly, "Why would a Mormon organization supposedly under direct, central control of the LDS Church distribute such extremely Fundamentalist literature?"
We've all read a lot of books about homosexuality as we've tried to come to terms with what we've been taught and what we know from personal experience. Some of them have been preachy, some silly, others downright hateful. Almost always it's been pretty obvious that the authors had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. Desires in Conflict is different.
If you were a fundamentalist Christian, unhappy with your homosexuality, looking for a sympathetic shoulder to cry on and hoping to change your sexual orientation, this book would seem like a blessing. Dallas begins by re-examining the Fundamentalist approach to Christianity, repentance, salvation and the believer's relationship with Christ. Later he deals with motivations and expectations for change, why you're gay (faulty relationships in your early life), how to maintain sexual integrity, and how to eventually date and marry members of the opposite sex.
Unlike other books that are spiteful and mean, this one convinces you that you're not alone, that others (i.e. Anita Bryant) really were out of line for treating you so poorly; you're understood, loved and cherished. It reaches out and wraps its strong, muscular arms around you and holds you tight. Whose Fundamentalist knees wouldn't wobble, whose Fundamentalist heart wouldn't melt?
But you're not a Fundamentalist Christian. You're a Mormon Christian. And so are the vast majority of LDS Social Services' counselees. What are you and they supposed to think when reading stuff like: "Homosexuality is not a 'heaven or hell' issue." Homosexuality will not send you to Hell or keep you out of Heaven, judgement is based solely on having your name written in the Book of Life. Your name is included there by confessing Jesus Christ with your mouth and believing in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead. "It is Christ's work alone which made provision for our salvation, not any reformation on your part. We overcome sin, then, out of gratitude to and love for God, not to avoid his eternal judgement." (p. 40- 41)
On page 34 Dallas says that it's possible for a homosexual Christian to be in a gay union, maintain an intact relationship with God, enjoy the workings of the Spirit in their life, and experience spiritual gifts. Sounds pretty good. What more could any person ask for, gay or straight? But there's a catch. Your fellowship with God will be compromised (whatever that means), the Bible will be misrepresented, and the absolute authority of scripture will be undermined. You decide if the pros outweigh the cons. Tough choice, huh?
This, of course, is a far cry from the traditional Mormon teachings that homosexuality is a heaven or hell issue, that being sexually active outside of marriage will completely compromise your spirituality, that salvation is something we somehow earn and that we repent of sin specifically to avoid the judgement of God. Doesn't it seem even a little strange that an LDS agency would distribute this type of Protestant theology? It would be great if this indicated a possible shift toward a kinder, gentler interpretation of scripture concerning homosexuality. But that's not likely. The kind-hearted people over at LDS Social Services are so incredibly desperate for something, anything to help them deal with homosexuality, they feel compelled to go this far–handing out fundamentalist doctrine which the Church left behind over 150 years ago.
In their ministry to hurting vulnerable Latter-day Saints who happen to be gay, why should LDS Social Services prefer to embrace and emphasize Fundamentalist Christian teachings instead of the experiences of healthy LDS gays who would be available to help, comfort and assist? What unfortunate craziness, on both sides, has brought us to this point? What will it take to repair the damage?
Desires in Conflict by Joe Dallas (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1991), 288 pp.
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