Evolutionary Spirituality and Homosexuality within the Mormon Church

The Mormon church has long been known for its staunch opposition to homosexual marriage, from the high level of support the church provided for proposition 8, an amendment of state constitutional law in California which dictated that “only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California” (http://voterguide.sos.ca.gov/past/2008/general/text-proposed-laws/text-of-proposed-laws.pdf#prop8), to Mormon cultural figures such as Orson Scott Card, author of the influential Science Fiction novel Ender’s Game, who is extremely vocal in his disapproval of homosexuality itself. Considering the influence of Christian beliefs on the Mormon religion, this opposition is probably not surprising.  What is surprising, however, is the acceptance of openly homosexual members in certain Mormon churches, including some important figures within the structure of the church.

One of the most outspoken examples in 2013 is Mitch Mayne, the executive secretary of the Bay ward of the Church, which is based in San Francisco, California.  Mayne self-identifies as a homosexual Mormon man and describes himself as “an ambassador between the church and the LGBT community” (http://www.kalw.org/post/where-homosexuality-and-mormonism-collide), bridging the gap between what appear to be two opposing groups of people.  In the article I tweeted, there is an interesting interview with Mayne that provides some insight into the attitudes held by Mayne and his peers regarding homosexuality inside and outside of the Mormon church.  The most prevalent aspect of the interview discussed by Mayne was his spirituality regarding his religious faith and his sexual orientation. 

As discussed in Understanding Cults and New Age Religions, the Mormon church is one of the first examples of spiritually-based evolutionary mythology, and the church believes that human beings are inherently “spiritual beings whose existence predates their physical birth” (40). Because of this heavily spiritual belief system, the language used by Mayne regarding his sexual orientation and his faith as aspects of his physical and spiritual make-up, genetically ingrained aspects of his body and soul, can show some reasoning behind the acceptance of gay members of the Latter Day Saints church. Mayne is, as the article I posted suggests, “not what we think of as a typical Mormon”, but his standing within the church may represent several intriguing movements within the LDS church: an ability of the church to change over time can be attributed to spiritual evolution and greater understanding of the soul. An acceptance of modern sensibilities is possible within the movement, and there is a potential schism between those who show disdain for LGBT rights and those who choose to accept homosexuality as inevitable.

Does this contentious point show signs of change within the Mormon church?  Does the history of New England as a space of “rapid social change” (Understanding Cults and New Age Religions 39) around when the religious movement was founded allow the church to be more open to internal debate and modern sensibilities that change over time?

 

JC   #341

5 thoughts on “Evolutionary Spirituality and Homosexuality within the Mormon Church

  1. This is definitely different for the LDS church. I don’t believe that any of his statements would be backed by the Church publicly. I think that this type of publicity has the potential of averting the “hysterical culture” that potentially could’ve arisen amongst closeted Mormon LGBT, leading them away from being spiritually open or resentful (Understanding Cults and New Religions, 160). Maybe this was an intentional move on part of the LDS Church to avert membership loss, internal factionalism, as well as deal with external tensions regarding LGBT community.

    Its too soon to tell the direction the LDS Church is going with their stance on homosexuality, or whether its changing at all. But this definitely is not an ushering in of equanimity between the LDS Church and the LGBT community. The Church is still staunch on their position that only those who act or “behave” on homosexual feelings or same-sex attraction are committing sin; so long as your single and celibate you’re entire life you’re A-O.K. I don’t believe Mayne’s comments would be supported by the Church as inherently homosexuality behaviour and feelings are “unnatural” and an “ailment” of you’re imperfect physical self. If you read the Churches Honour Code for their University BYU, it still reflects this position. Gay students are still being “outed” and subsequently forced to leave school.

    According to Mormon theology, if you are not a Priesthood holder, or a woman “sealed” to a Priesthood holder than you will not reach the highest level of heaven, the Celestial Kingdom. So in the case of Mitch Mayne, theologically speaking he may enter the Kingdom so long as he does not act on his feelings in any way. This poses another issue of a sexist and patriarchal eternal plan, one in which unwed or homosexual women have no way of entering the highest level of heaven – yet all men, including celibate gay men can.

  2. Very interesting article. Having not researched about the LDS or Mormon church at all, I was surprised to read that there were homosexual members, let alone, one that is in a position of power as an executive director. My surprise stems from lack of information. I am very well aware that other major religious traditions ie. Christianity, Islam, etc. have members who are of the LGBT community. It is because these religions are so open and well known to the public that I am aware of that, and at the same time has allowed the tolerance of LGBT members. Change or a shift in attitudes and thought of anything takes time, but is helped with public attention in the form of media. I think more reports like this about the Mormon church will no doubt bring more public attention and awareness, and as a result, will begin an internal dialogue that will bring the church into more of a mainstream. In my opinion, there is a positive outlook for present and future LGBT members of the LDS church.

  3. The LGBT topic will always be addressed in any religious movement, it is just a matter of time. Because the LDS Church belief system is also based off the protestant scriptures from the Holy Bible, homosexuality/homosexual acts are seen as wrong or deviant behavior. It is interesting to hear that there are people who are addressing and creating awareness about the issue. Perhaps the topic will be further assessed within the LDS Church and changes can be made. On the contrary, this could also separate the LDS Church creating sects within the community or maybe fuel the fire for another New Religious Movement. Only time will tell.

    GCW #341

  4. I believe that any steps towards allowing for a more open discussion of LGBT rights in a religious setting is a good one. I found Mayne’s discussion of the combination of body and soul, religion and sexual orientation very interesting and intriguing. An acceptance of this type of belief – an ingrained holisitic approach to faith and orientation – is a true step towards a more modern mormonism. I would be interested to see if most LDS church’s across the country feel the same way, that steps towards acceptance of homosexuality is a good thing, or if, in Mayne’s case, it is more case-specific.

    – LValentina, 341

  5. As the world becomes more secular, I think it is important for religions to adapt to new modern cultural beliefs in order for it to survive. If religions continue to be uncompromising of new ideas, they will begin to lose faith of many people. As shown in history, as new ideas and thoughts are formed in society, many religions reinterpret their scriptures to adapt to the times. For example, women were seen as unable to reach liberation in Buddhism. They were thought to have needed to reincarnate as men before they were able to reach a higher existence. However, many forms of Buddhism are starting to allow the idea of women reaching enlightenment. They do this by redefining certain rules or ideas to encompass a larger group of believers. Therefore, I think if the Mormons are able to begin to accept gay marriage, it could help its own religion live longer. It will not force many members to renounce their faith simply because of sexual orientation. I also think that if some religions begin to accept gay marriages, others might follow and thus, creating a new standard of acceptance.
    I am curious to know how the Abrahamic religions will adjust and reinterpret their scriptures in the years to come to adapt to the changes in society.

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