For years, the internet has been transforming the way people communicate and are able to express the inner workings of their minds and hearts. The Internet has become so important a part of the spreading of the gospel message, in fact, that Elder Ballard?first in a December address to BYU-Hawaii graduates and then again in the July Ensign?has publicly urged Church members to engage with “new media”?including blogs?in conversation about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its teachings:

“There are conversations going on about the Church constantly. Those conversations will continue whether or not we choose to participate in them. But we cannot stand on the sidelines while others, including our critics, attempt to define what the Church teaches. While some conversations have audiences in the thousands or even millions, most are much, much smaller. But all conversations have an impact on those who participate in them. Perceptions of the Church are established one conversation at a time.”

(As an aside to my intent in writing this post, this is what Northern Lights has tried to do. When it comes to homosexuality in particular, the public conversation generally seems to take place among the theologically or socially liberal who critical of the Church’s positions on the issue. Our hope was to harness, and contribute to, the conversations taking place among those who believe in and are striving to live according to teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Northern Lights is intended to be a place where we and our readers can openly explore and discuss topics and issues of interest to the LDS community?and particularly as they relate to homosexuality and the Church?in an edifying and uplifting manner and within the framework of commitment to the beliefs and ideals of the Church.)

As part of a contemporary cultural revolution, more and more men and women from a Latter-day Saint background are opening up about their homo-ness leanings on traditional and video blogs, documenting their journey. Many of these folk are choosing to seek resolution within the strictures of Church teachings and many are leaving the Church to pursue gay or lesbian relationships (and some are torn, moving back and forth, while still others in an emerging younger crowd are attempting a sort of polluted middle ground). Regardless of the direction people choose, I think the openness is a positive evolution. What’s particularly heartening to me is when there can be mature dialogue and discussion between those of various perspectives, without reactionary name-calling, demonizing, and the like. Even among those I would disagree with philosophically or theologically, I have deep appreciation for the truth that each of us are “in process” and that we “see through a glass darkly” (1 Cor. 13:12) as we each are trying to find peace and resolution within the paradoxes of our own faith.

Those of us who choose to be more open simply have to expect that, in that vulnerability, we are opening ourselves to criticism. It’s simply part of the game. I’ve received a good share of my own. Some have simply been ignorant and attacking, while others have been grace-full, mature, and articulate and have given me pause for self-reflection and re-examination. I very much enjoy and appreciate the latter. I don’t presume to have life all figured out and love good intellectual stimulation.

Among others who have chosen to be more open and vulnerable in sharing their thoughts and feelings is a young man by the name of Clark, who maintains a video blog via YouTube. While there’s much that he’s said that I take issue with, I’ll be quick to add that I value his willingness to be open and vulnerable as he sorts through this issue in his life and to reach out to others. He states at the beginning of a more recent series:

“The reason I’m here is to reach out to someone who might be sitting in their house, feeling like there’s no way for them to have a happy life, and who is sitting there wishing there was some way they could cease to exist.”

One of the video responses he’s received is something of an apologetic by a Latter-day Saint who goes by the moniker of HiveRadical. I watched through it today and was impressed at the depth and tone of the response. He’s reasoned and articulate in his response to the things he takes issue with in Clark’s statements, and while he was strong on some of the things he challenged, he was nonetheless overall respectful. It’s the level of dialogue and depth of thought that I enjoy. He’s the kind of person I would enjoy a philosophical conversation with, and his responses are of a depth that there needs to be more of. The following is the 3-part series response, but while he’s responding to Clark, the issues he addresses are ones we’ve all heard before and can stand on their own. If you’d like to see Clark’s initial blog entries, however, you can view them here: parts I, II, III, IV, and V.







What’s your thoughts? Are these kinds of online conversations good? Necessary? A waste of time and energy?

While there’s a lot more that could be said about the content of both Clark’s video entries and HiveRadical’s response, I’m more interested discussing the process of what’s going on here. My assumption after viewing HiveRadical’s response is that he hasn’t personally dealt with issues around SSA, but I suggest they the conversation would invite anyone with an interest.

Moving beyond the online forum, I also look forward to a day when there’s more open conversation between these perspectives that is akin to that taking place between Latterday Saint scholars and those of other faith traditions. Right now, it seems as though more of what we see is around homosexuality—from both sides—is name-calling, demonizing, and fear-mongering, but I have hope for more days of more fruitful and compassionately convicted exchange. Am I unrealistic in my dream? Perhaps. But I’d hope not.

Leave a Reply

14 comments

  1. avatar

    Robert

    HiveRadical’s response is very cleanly and clearly based on a “system of belief”. He states that he finds “arrogance” in unknowing. He then states that “the truth” is that “we are all the sons and daughters of God”. Is this “not” an arrogant statement?

    If one believes in a certain system whether it be LDS, Catholic, Buddhist, Islam or Hindu, it is still a “system of belief” and a state of unknowing is just that: an acceptance that truth is personal and nobody’s truth is better or greater than anyone else’s. Arrogance is the “belief” that you are right and someone else is wrong. Such responses while common place in existential dialogue do not change the fundamental inquiry. You can only know what you know.

    As far as the ‘new’ media is concerned, I think it is manifesting an incredible leap forward in the evolution of consciousness. People can now do their own due diligence on issues of faith, science and politics, and form their own opinions as reasoning intelligent life. They can see multiple viewpoints and read multiple intelligence with the click of a mouse. People can sort out their own truth.

  2. avatar

    Socal

    I don’t think that just because I believe that the LDS system of beliefs, as you put, has more truth than another person’s system of beliefs with regards to faith make me arrogant. Some may think that it does. I think that it just means I have a foundation of faith. I think arrogance comes in when someone demonizes or belittles another person because of his or her beliefs. If I were to demonize a Catholic, a Buddhist, a Baptist, or a person who actively practices a homosexual lifestyle, then that would make me arrogant. Arrogance takes place when mutual respect for another’s system of belief is removed from the equation. Are there Mormons who are arrogant in the way that they express their belief in the Gospel as we profess it in the LDS Church. Definitely. Just as there are persons of other faiths who are arrogant in their demonization of Mormons for their beliefs. There are also persons who live a homosexual lifestyle who demonize me for choosing to live a lifestyle in accordance with my beliefs in the LDS Church. I recognize these people as sons and daughers of God and while I may not agree with them, I hope that I never demonize them or become arrogant because I feel that the Gospel is the way to happiness. I think, ultimately, arrogance has nothing to do with whether or not you believe your truth to be more valid. I think arrogance comes down to what you do with that truth. Can you engage in a dialogue with others without belittling them, even if you don’t agree with them? If you can, then you are not arrogant. If you can’t, then you are.

  3. avatar

    Robert

    Socal: I was commenting on HiveRadical’ s response to Clark. He posited the arrogance argument as attributable to one who states that “they do not know”. I was responding to his thought process and not his belief system. He brought forth this position on arrogance “based” upon his own belief supposition that “we are all sons and daughters of God”. He was belittling the “unknowing” as being arrogant… he who casts the first stone.

    Clark stated quite correctly that nobody knows with complete certainty what happens after we die. This is a simple fact. Everything else IS “belief”.

    Sorry if you are offended by this. Nobody is “demonizing” anyone here. If anything, HiveRadical had no respect for Clark’s agnosticism (if it can even be called this). Is demonizing only limited to faith representations or does it also include those with no defined faith. Unfortunately, I cannot control what you find “belittling” to yourself. Only you can do that. If you find “me” arrogant, I cannot control that either.

  4. avatar

    I’m listening to HiveRadical right now and fighting to stay awake. I don’t want to start with my opinion of the arguments both have made because I’ll be comatose before I finish listening.

    Mostly, I’m here to comment on Ty’s questions:

    Are these kinds of online conversations good? Necessary? A waste of time and energy?

    Good? Sure. Why not? If people listen, they can be good. I would not be able to find or justify the time to listen. I’m of the opinion that all dialogue is good. My understanding of human nature is that our ideas are unrefined inside our heads and only get refined by expression. As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, “If I stay in my head, I’m dead.” This is like something that Clark said.

    Necessary? I don’t know. I’ve survived thus far without them.

    A waste of time and energy? Not an entire waste. Again, if people are partaking, I don’t doubt it will do any good.

    Is it just me or are these things just too slow? HiveRadical’s response would have been much better if he had been more prepared and had delivered it without so many um’s and uh’s. I’m a fast talker, so maybe I’m just being judgmental. Clark’s style, even though I don’t agree with it much, is much more engaging. It’s an inescapable fact that delivery is more compelling than content. Good delivery doesn’t prove anything, but if people don’t listen, what difference does it make what you say?

    Despite Clark’s more engaging style, I found that Clark didn’t really get to the point any quicker than HiveRadical. Both were painful to listen to for long.

  5. avatar

    Socal

    Robert: You don’t need to be on the defensive here. I was only commenting on what I believe arrogance to be. It was not an attack on you and I was not offended by anything you said. I do not think that you were demonizing anyone in your post nor do I think you were belittling anyone here. It was merely my thoughts on what I would define arrogance as.

  6. avatar

    isobel

    i, for one, am fascinated by blog culture. i think there are pros and cons. for me, as i was encountering homosexuality, in my peers at school, the guys i was dating, and the women i found myself flirting with (that is to say, in myself), places like Northern Lights and the many many lds moho blogs i trafficked were of great help for me to sort through my thoughts, feelings, and experiences. when i felt trapped, like i was all alone and could never reveal to anyone in my life what i was really going through, i found great comfort in reading and listening to those same thoughts, feelings and experiences on other blogs. so in terms of building community and support for a social issue that has not yet been enabled to “come out of the closet” completely, especially in mormon culture at large, i see that these blogs are most certainly good, and for some, necessary. the nature of this issue in particular calls upon anonymous global personal and social expression.

    i also like how the internet can be an equal playing-field. i find it refreshing that you can hear every side and angle with only a few clicks—this has GOT to be beneficial, and completely unique to our generation!! i think i’ve watched everything Clark’s put out there, months ago, and was captivated by the many details of his story i knew so personally. and in a way, by seeing where we diverged, he helped me find my own path. i don’t think i would want to live in a world where Clark wouldn’t be as free to share his beliefs and story as much as HiveRadical.

    this also brings to mind a question brought up by Jason Clark in a letter to fred and marilyn matis, posted on affirmation.org written in response to their co-authored book (with ty mansfield), in quiet desperation:

    In one of the most troubling passages of your account, you say, “Although losing our son was difficult, it has been comforting to know that he was faithful to his temple covenants.” (pg. 20). As a gay Mormon, what am I supposed to conclude from this statement? That I should kill myself rather than be sexually active? Your statement resonates with a troubling, oft-quoted anecdote by Marion G. Romney. According to Elder Romney’s story, before leaving for his LDS mission, his father told him, “We would rather come to this station and take your body off the train in a casket than to have you come home unclean, having lost your virtue” (Conference Report, October 1952, pg. 34.).

    this issue has also become the concern of Don Alden on his youtube video blog, MorMenLikeMe, which he started “as a way of reaching out and letting you know that you are not alone and things will most certainly get better. We have been where you are. We know what you are going though. We also know life is beautiful, and for us lucky few, being gay is part of that wonderful experience. Look at us. We are happy, healthy, well adjusted guys living authentic lives full of joy. You can too. Choose life.”

    to my knowledge, Don’s interviews cover a variety of perspectives, and include an interview with Clark Johnson. i think this approach is healthy, though i know it troubles many. i think latter-day saints don’t want to hear conflicting approaches bought and sold as the answer for anyone. we all want to see ourselves and our loved ones in the full light of the gospel, not shadowed in doubt or confusion. but the longer i live, the more i understand that opposition, that choice, as being at the heart and soul of what we’re here for in mortality.

    though i too carry a heavy heart for the many physical suicides that have taken place as a result of this issue, i wonder if it is so bad for us to also carry a heavy heart for all the spiritual suicides as well. because, in a way, living the gospel and keeping covenants every day IS about life and death, every day. that is exactly what my summer was like, and most days it wasn’t enough to choose my covenants and the Lord even once a day. i couldn’t forget that i’d already promised to be willing to give up everything to have those covenants; in my mind i heard, “where is your willingness now?”

    And, no one can make that decision for me but me. so the best things i can receive from others are compassion, understanding, and love. love suffereth long, love is kind, love envieth not, is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. love, i think, both embraces and encompasses all good and all evil—it is not an absence of evil, no. because charity—the pure love of Christ—endureth ALL things, all heights, all depths, me in my highest heaven, and me in my deepest hell. in a way, i’m here to experience it all. in a way…

    so, let there be choices! and many many blogging voices :-)

  7. avatar

    GFB

    ?What?s your thoughts? Are these kinds of online conversations good? Necessary? A waste of time and energy??

    I think conversation is good and necessary. I believe that the internet makes a lot more types of conversations possible and a lot more conversations possible.

    I think the strength of the internet is you can find a lot of the types of conversations you want to be involved in. The weakness is you need to look for the specific type you want. You don?t stumble into conversation. We all are involved in this conversation because we have exposure to these issues. I think few people that have not had exposure would ever get exposure as a result of our conversation here.

    I believe these conversations serve a purpose for those of us involved in them; otherwise we would not be here. I think it does serve us because we are not alone. Before the internet we would sit in our wards not talking about these issues, and thinking we were alone. I am afraid what we do here does not help others in the church become more aware of these issues.

  8. avatar

    bale

    Hi, I’m new. This looks fun. If there are “days of more fruitful and compassionately convicted exchange” to come they’ll arrive by means of the dialectic process…right?

    Youtube is a prodigious public forum without bias. It seems like the most effective medium for such a complex issue as homosexuality to be addressed, where every side has a voice and a face. Seeing a face is important. Emmanuel Levinas is all about the “face of the other”. That’s where we tap into pathos and thereby compassion to hear the other’s argument, truly hear it.

    The mocking banter and volley of epithets are incidental. With time all that stuff washes away and we’re left with the good. Who else believes there’s a greater, intended purpose for Youtube than funny cat montages?

  9. avatar

    I appreciate everyone’s responses here.

    Rex, perhaps some of it is simply style preference, because I found HiveRadical easy to engage. I appreciated his points, though I could easily envision some counter arguments.

    What I appreciate overall is the depth of discussion that can take place. As Elder Ballard said, discussions are going to take place whether we are a part of them or not, so we might as well be a part of them. Since discussion from a “faithful” Latter-day Saint perspective have generally come from Church leaders condemning homosexual behavior or from clinicians talking about the dynamics of change, and discussion in more liberal LDS-themed venues, such as Sunstone, seem to eschew conservative approaches, my hope is that more and more believing LDS who are choose to respond to these issues will take advantage of the “new media” to tell their own stories.

    If I remember correctly, Rex, in another forum you said something to the effect that if we aren’t willing to speak for ourselves, we don’t deserve to be spoken for, yes? Maybe I misunderstood what you said, but value the idea that more public discussion, such as those taking place on Northern Lights and other blogs, are an important addition to the private email discussion groups that have been around for several years.

    isobel, thank you very much for your insightful comments. I hope you’ll be one of those many blogging voices that continues to contribute to those discussions here and NL and elsewhere. :)

    bale, welcome to the community! thanks for comments.

  10. avatar

    Ty, if I said that, I don’t know what I meant. :) Maybe the context would help. I know I don’t like others to speak for me. I also think that if we don’t speak for ourselves, we leave it open for others to speak for us. So, I’m all for speaking up.

    The farther I get into high-priestness (meaning the older I get), the more I need sacrament meeting speakers to punch up their delivery to keep me awake. I used to joke about high priests who doze off during sacrament meeting. Now I are one.

    That was my main complaint about HiveRadical. He sounded like a member of the notorious dry council. My speech professor would’ve given him a D. Even if I wouldn’t agree with Clark, Dr. Wright would’ve given him an A. If it turns out that you or someone else here is HiveRadical, I’m mortified, but stand by my critique. Punch it up, bro!

  11. avatar

    Well, I don’t think anyone here is HiveRadical, so no worries. :) My assumption is that he hasn’t personally dealt with SSA and likely wouldn’t be hanging around this blog. Most of his other videos had nothing to do with the topic. Mostly other LDS-related things.

  12. avatar

    bale

    Thanx!
    I’m glad these online discussion exist.

  13. avatar

    Part – 1 (just kidding!)

    This is so refreshing!

    While much (well, everything I’ve seen) of everyone’s critique of myself is not something I haven’t heard before I both appreciate it AND the fact that you all do seem to posit it without any tinge of anything remotely approaching a malevolent spirit.

    I think my ‘boringness’ is emergent from the fact that part of my desire to post things on YouTube has a relationship similar in nature (or perchance it’s just my wishful thinking that this be the nature of the thing) to that which I have with my closest friends. I have a few good friends with whom I enjoy discussing things, even things we greatly disagree on, we both cut each other slack in presentation. It’s clear I take too many liberties in using YouTube more for my own gratification than to actually get my message out. Perchance it’s the wrong attitude but I’ve generally only taken the time to converse in depth with people who are not too put off with my capacity to present it. I know that YouTube and a face to face conversation are far far from being the same.

    This brings to mind the seeming dichotomy that I’ve found very present in, especially, Mormon Culture. On the one hand we are berated (see Brigham Young’s jabs at this) for being an extremely boring people able to withstand excrutiatingly boring (and far far too often pointless or not sufficiently pointed) meetings. But juxtaposed to the idea of not being a people pleaser. Nibley’s thrashings of virtually all things rhetorical whilst he (in my opinion) brandy’s about his own style of rhetorical flare. I suppose it comes with the territory of trying to find the balance the gospel is centered around. We’re to follow Paul and fashion ourselves, our presentation, and our message to others, and at the same time we’re to present our real selves, to not be artificial. We’re not to be hypocrites but we’re also not suppose to reprove betimes (often) with sharpness (accuracy and potency) all without loosing any love, in fact seeking an increase in such, toward those we are effectively judging.

    This whole balance and perceived dichotomy hit me like a brick when I put together one concept, lawyer jokes, and one of the titles of Christ, The Advocate. Granted Christ is the archetypal every person for those willing and/or wanting to see it.

    I hope the tone of my typing isn’t boring y’all ;)

    I’m living up to my reputation.

    Now I’ve just got to decide how to go forward. If no one watches, and if those who do watch are universally turned off by what I say then perchance I should more seriously revisit my reason for doing it. The more I look at it I see that between my drive to pack as much in (keeping the production time on my end to a minimum whilst sacrificing on the outward general appeal) so that I can comment on more things, ‘get more done,’ I have to second guess if I’m doing it more for me or what?

    I’ll leave you all with a thought that’s been bouncing through my head these last few days.

    I’ve thought a great deal about hidden sparks. By hidden sparks I mean individuals or seeding points or initial causes (that one’s a little loaded) that we either don’t see, or didn’t see, that lie behind the surface of history, pre-history etc.. One of the things about the gospel that’s most excited me (a dweeb who likes to read dictionaries, almanacs, primary sources of all types, reference materials in general) is the possibility to learn the story of the countless hosts that the world doesn’t have a clue about. Serfs or herdsmen tucked away in some point in humanity that, to the passing observer of things would make them effectively non-existent. Yet everything has an impact. In thinking about this I naturally feel inclined to desire, for good or bad, to be closer on the spectrum to a hidden spark. And I think this is where some of my apathy (again for good or bad, I’m not going to pretend to know for sure the relative good or bad I’m actually doing, I learned long ago it’s far far to easy for us to deceive ourselves) comes from. since the causative end of a vector is not what determines the net influence of that particular initial alteration then I’m happy thinking that my efforts may, just may, cascade through the connections that make up existence. I don’t care much if I’m ever visible to the GUI users, the idea that I might just be some critical subroutine, or even a part of a line in such, that’s enough for myself.

    Lame excuse. Sorry.

    But thanks everyone for the civil and engaging dialog!

    So to Rex, Ty, Robert, Socal and everyone thanks! It’s nice to at least find somebody talking about me without employing colorful metaphors!

    (keeping with tradition I didn’t proof this, sorry–well I guess I’m not really, otherwise I’d just proof it–but I’m frigg’n tired and better get to bed so I don’t look more totally out of it than I normally do in Church, and so I make it there on time.)

  14. avatar

    Ha, welcome HiveRadical! It’s about time you reared your head. Our hope is to maintain just the kind of conversation here you’ve alluded to. Conversation and dialog that can’t be civil has no place, imo. This aside from the fact that many of the points you make resonated with my own style of thinking. While I think I have a bit more personality in person, I suspect I’m quite boring and long-winded in print. Thus, I appreciate boring and long-winded. :) As long as it seeks to be objective.

    One comment you made here:

    We?re to follow Paul and fashion ourselves, our presentation, and our message to others, and at the same time we?re to present our real selves, to not be artificial.

    In the context of the dialog this post was about, this is one of the things I find myself chewing on a lot recently. The call of Christ is the take the gospel to the world—to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people—and to do so in their own tongue. And “tongue” can be as much cultural paradigm or worldview as it is foreign vocabulary or grammar structure. I find it just as important to be able to converse across culture and paradigm as it is to converse across language as we strive to communicate ideas that resonate as truth. The wrestle for me is figuring out how to do that without losing a sense of authentic Self, while also recognizing that much of my sense of Self is cultural construct and to transcend that and integrate valuable aspects of other cultures and paradigms is a worthwhile endeavor.