Why Would Our Heavenly Father do That to Anyone?
Why Would Our Heavenly Father Do that to Anyone?
In October of 2010, Elder Boyd K. Packer delivered one of his more forthright and unfiltered conference talks called “Cleansing the Inner Vessel,” which focused on overcoming a slew of dangerous, ‘worldly’ temptations like pornography, drugs, alcohol, and homosexuality. Specifically addressing homosexuality and gender nonconformity, Packer remarked:
“Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember, He is our Father.”
Many LGBTQ+ Latter-day Saints were deeply hurt by these words, feeling that Packer was fanning decades-long flames of homophobia and intolerance. His offensive remarks not only denied the reality of sexual and gender minority experience, but implied that a benevolent God would never ‘condemn’ people to be homosexual or gender nonconforming. Amidst immediate backlash from LGBTQ+ affirmation groups, the First Presidency had Packer remove the question, “Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?” from his conference talk the following Monday morning. That is why you will no longer see that question in the current version of the talk on lds.org or in the Gospel Library, (although you can still hear it in the video recording of his original talk). While we don’t know the exact reason why the First Presidency had Packer remove the line, I presume that it had to do with negative publicity, hurt and anger expressed by LGBTQ+ individuals/organizations, and a concern that it misrepresented the Church’s stance on homosexuality and transgenderism.
For decades, Packer devoted much of his ecclesiastical energy toward defending heterosexual marriage and the nuclear family, institutions he deemed to be sacred and divine under the vicious attack of secular and worldly forces like homosexuality, transgenderism, feminism, etc. This was part of a broader top-down effort by church leaders to construct and maintain sexual and gender hierarchies that have placed cisgender heterosexuality at the top. They have done this by framing sexual or gender nonconformity as contrary to God’s teachings, an affliction, a disease, and a sin if ‘acted upon.’ So, my question is why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? If God is truly all-loving, compassionate, and understanding, why would He view anyone as deficient or lesser simply for being their authentic selves? Instead of being concerned with who we love, wouldn’t God be more concerned with the way we treat the people we love? Instead of being fixated on one’s gender or sexual identity, wouldn’t God be concerned with someone feeling comfortable and happy with their identity? Wouldn’t God allow people to enter intimate relationships (including marriage) with a partner they love and care for? This is the warm, all-loving, compassionate God I believe in and strive to follow.
When I express sentiments like this, defenders of the Church’s teachings on sexuality, gender, and marriage typically reply that God’s love does not mean permissiveness in breaking the commandments. They explain that because God loves us, he has implemented a plan whereby only a man and a woman can be married and exalted together. To me, that simply does not sound like love. Requiring someone with same-sex desire to refrain from pursuing intimacy and romance is cruel, unreasonable, and oppressive, and certainly not anything a loving God would require. Homosexuality is not a trial that people need to overcome or a burden that one must bear. Rather, this idea is a sociohistorical ideology that for centuries has oppressed, marginalized, and dehumanized people who have not fallen into male-female relationships and marriages. Also, it seems odd that many Latter-day Saints insist that a sealed same-sex couple would defy the laws of the Celestial Kingdom, when God is a being who created the entire universe, turned water into wine, and continues to perform unthinkable miracles for billions of people around the world. In addition, some of the most monumental births in Christian history were performed without heterosexual biological procreation. According to biblical scripture and LDS temple rituals, Adam was created by two males (Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ), and Eve was created by three males (Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the rib of Adam). And consider the belief that Christ’s birth was performed through immaculate conception, a divine method that had nothing to do with biological procreation. These examples invite us to expand our minds on the infinite and inclusive nature of our theology, especially in regards to queer celestial relationships.
Considering the expansiveness of the divine, why would God not be able to exalt a same-sex couple who love and care for each other and yearn to be together forever? At the end of the day, isn’t God truly concerned about the person we have become? Doesn’t he yearn for us to develop the heartfelt charity, compassion, and benevolence that he so liberally bestows upon us? In 1 Samuel 16:7, he says to Samuel that “man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” If we truly believe this divine declaration, why then do we impose such arbitrary standards on others that have nothing to do with the goodness of their heart? I believe we can rise above these harmful categorizations and oppressive judgments and move toward a religion that judges people according to the content of their character, not according to who they love or how they identify.
While many church members find these ideas radical and oppositional to God’s teachings, embracing LGBTQ+ identities and relationships actually harmonizes with the most fundamental of LDS teachings. Ultimately, the essence of our theology is to facilitate an ongoing process of personal betterment and progression, independent of race, ethnicity, class (and I would add sexual orientation or gender identity). Instead of organizing a concept of faithfulness based on one’s decisions or experiences around sexuality, gender, and/or romantic relationships, we can reconstruct faithfulness around one’s daily commitment to being a kinder, more compassionate person. In addition, our theology portrays God as an all-loving being who desires the happiness and salvation of all humans, simultaneously emphasizing the imperative that we become like God by developing his attributes of benevolence and compassion. For members and leaders to truly live out the splendor of this endeavor, our teachings and institutions must ensure that all gender identities and sexual orientations are given equal space and value on earth and in heaven.
This article was submitted by an Affirmation community member. The opinions expressed are wholly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Affirmation, our leadership, or our staff. Affirmation welcomes the submission of articles by community members in accordance with our mission, which includes promoting the understanding, acceptance, and self-determination of individuals of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and our vision for Affirmation to be a refuge to land, heal, share, and be authentic.