A couple weeks ago, I wrote about tension subscribing to notions about the eternal nature of sex/gender, while also recognizing that many of our cultural notions of gender attribute and role are social constructs that I reject. But deconstructing those socio-cultural constructs without devaluing gender altogether—as many in the world seems to be doing—is something of a dilemma for me. I appreciated all the comments.

To add to that discussion, I want to share a couple things I’ve read recently that got me thinking about the eternal nature of God’s gender, and also about race. I’ve spent quite a bit of time this summer studying trans-religious and trans-cultural apocalyptic and visionary experiences, including “near-death experiences,” or “death visions.” Philosophy and reason all have their day in court, but I’m particularly interested in “experiential” or “visionary” revelation, especially since in the deluge of revelation promised as part of the dispensation of the fullness of times, God has promised that “babes and sucklings” shall have revealed to them “those things which never have been revealed from the foundation of the world, but have been kept hid from the wise and prudent” (D&C 128:18).

I’ll touch on gender first. The following are a couple experiences of people who saw beyond the veil. While the descriptions are subtle, my wonderment is if they provide any insight into just what is eternal about “gender” if so many of the qualities we typically associate with gender, as described in the previous post, are qualities those of both sexes should be seeking and cultivating. The first is of a woman named Elane Durham who had what many might call a “near-death experience,” but which she terms a “death vision” since she was declared legally dead and her body was being prepared for the morgue when her spirit returned to her body. Concerning part of her vision, she states:

“I realized that I was part of a ‘family’ that had been around when this earth was formed from matter in the heavens, and I understood how this family had been organized. I knew not only that I had a Father in heaven but a Mother as well, and that every living soul, including Christ, was the offspring of eternal parents… We truly were a large eternal ‘family,’ offspring of a Heavenly Father and Mother, and we are all brothers and sisters…

“I understood perfectly my role as a woman, and felt absolutely comfortable with it. I was given to understand that men and women are co-creators with God, and that part of the role of women is to bear the mortal bodies of the premortal spirit children of our heavenly parents. But our divine role goes much farther than that, for I was shown how we were given the sacred gift of nurturing. It is no accident that women are more inclined to nurture others than are men, for this was a part of our premortal heritage.

“I was shown how vital a woman’s role is, to the exaltation of our heavenly family. It is absolutely essential, and I sensed that nothing in a woman’s life can be more important. As my grandmother used to tell my mother, the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. This is more true than she could have known.

“I also understood the role and position of men, and while I don’t recall as much about that, I do remember being shown that while the roles of men and women are not the same and never have been, each is totally indispensable to the other. We all exist in a dynamic, eternal organizational structure called ‘priesthood,’ where men and women are meant to compliment rather than compete with each other.

“Finally, I had a perfect understanding of the necessity of both men and women respecting each others’ roles. This respect is important for our eternal growth, which is enhanced by our helping each other with these divine responsibilities. Any time a man degrades a woman, or a woman degrades a man, whether sexually, physically, emotionally or spiritually, through cruelty and abuse, posing for or viewing pornography, practicing prostitution or what have you, such an individual’s spirituality is diminished and their divine role remains unfulfilled” (I Stand All Amazed, p. 40-42).

When Elane had her death vision, she was not a member of the Church. She had grown up in a fundamentalist Christian home, so concepts related to premortality, the eternal Mother, the literal Fatherhood of God, and the eternal pattern of family were completely new to her. Fifteen or so years after this experience she became interested in Mormonism when she learned how consistent Latter-day Saint teachings were with what she experienced in her “death vision.” Once she then gained a spiritual witness of the restored gospel, she joined the Church.

Another experience is of a man named Roy Mills who isn’t LDS—he’s Southern Baptist, if I remember correctly. He was allowed to remember his premortal life (not a concept taught within SBC). Describing an experience with the Eternal Father, whom he terms “the spirit Father,” he writes:

“Then He allowed me to see into His light, and I saw Him, and he looked like a man. We are truly made in the image of our Creator.

“His appearance was one of great wisdom and strength. He was powerful-looking and very tall?much taller than the average man. The robe He wore shone with a pure white light, and He wore no shoes. There was a neat fringe of white hair around his head, and a crown of light suspended above his head. His face was very kind and loving, yet strong and marked with authority. As I stared at Him, I was filled with awe and humility, but I also felt safe and very loved” (The Soul’s Remembrance, p. 139-40).

So, my question is: are there any elements specifically related to the concept that “gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose”? If so, what? Ideas in Mills’ description like “wisdom”, “strength”, “powerful”, “kind and loving, yet strong and marked with authority”, and the exuding of a feeling of safety and love, are certainly attributes I would ascribe to the Eternal Father, but I can also imagine ascribing them to the Eternal Mother. Any of those unique to particular gender?

The other concept I want to relate in context of this is eternality of race. While we there is a strong concept in LDS doctrine of the eternality of sex and gender role, there is, to my understanding, no concept of the eternality of race. I bring this up because the attribute and past socio-cultural conflicts over race often come up when discussing homosexuality. And yet, while race is clearly bio-genetically determined attribute—unlike homosexuality—there’s no clear idea in Mormon thought that race is eternal. In fact, though there’s nothing necessarily authoritative I’m aware of declaring such, I would suggest that Mormon thought would generally reject the idea of the eternality of race. A couple related statements I am aware of:

President David O. McKay stated:

“There were no national distinctions among those [premortal] spirits such as Americans, Europeans, Asiatics, Australians, etc. Such ‘bounds of habitation’ would have to be ‘determined’ when the spirits entered their earthly existence or second estate” (Home Memories of President David O. McKay, p. 228-30).

Joseph Smith lamented:

“While one portion of the human race is judging and condemning the other without mercy, the Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard; He views them as His offspring, and without any of those contracted feelings that influence the children of men, causes ‘His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.’ [Matthew 5:45.]”

Again, I’m not aware of any statement to the effect that there are no racial differences beyond mortal experience, but it makes sense to me that there wouldn’t be. A couple other visionary experiences where the individuals involved made observations relative to race included the following:

Elane Durham recorded:

“There were no races in that premortal realm, in fact, my memory of my experience is that the only skin color in that realm is ‘light,’ for every being I saw was somehow made up, to one degree or another, out of light. Yet there was substance to this light, for there was definitely substance to my own being. I knew, too, that this light was spiritual, and though I understood this perfectly while I was there, I’m at a loss to know how to explain it now. Ni ether can I explain the purpose of the various races her in mortality, save my assumption that they are all part of the divine plan to teach us how to love each other” (I Stand All Amazed, p. 41).

Another individual wrote,

“When I was in heaven, I never saw different races of people, only spirit beings who were filled with love for each other. We are all the same ‘race’ in heaven. Before we come to earth, God chooses what our earthly race will be. He makes that decision for our spiritual growth and according to His perfect plan. On earth, many people are prejudiced and sometimes even violent toward others who are different—people of color, the poor, alcoholics, and addicts, or those with physical or mental disabilities. But in heaven, it is considered a great honor for a spirit to accept such a difficult life.”

So, what are your thoughts? There are a couple different issues raised here with regard to gender, race, and even sexuality—what is eternal and what is not?

The Church has clearly outlined positions relative to family, sexual expression. With race, there has been an evolution, but nothing that involves doctrine concerning the premortal or postmortal nature of racial distinction (only folk beliefs about premortal valiance which affected mortal racial distinction and the timing of certain blessings). In my view, the changes in policy regarding priesthood were a welcome change that didn’t require any fundamental doctrinal change. We increasingly grow to see one another only as men and women, sons and daughters of the same eternal God with only our choices, not our genetics, affecting the receipt of eternal blessings.

In order for the Church to affirm homosexual relationships, as some gay men and women want them to, it would require a complete reworking of the nature of eternal family order and capacities for procreation (and we’re talking here about the nature of eternal life, not immortality; for gay and lesbian-identified men and women who do not accept the fullness of the gospel, my understanding is that they will be the same as any other man or woman who does not accept the fullness—“remain[ing] separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever” (D&C 132:17)). While some like to speculate about the possibilities of continuing revelation that could involve such a reworking, I can only say this: I’ll happily and humbly eat my words if that is ever the case, but I’m certain it won’t be.

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19 comments

  1. avatar

    Very nice Ty.

    No matter what the cultural constructs of society are regarding gender or race, its comforting to know these are fleeting anomalies – temprary, man-concieved and man-imposed ideas that will perish in the dust of Eternity.

    I read a book many years ago called “Embraced by the Light” about “death visions”. Fascinating stuff, especially coming from non-LDS sources.

    Best Regards,

    Neal

  2. avatar

    Robert

    While your lengthy introduction seems to indicate an interest in the subject of gender endurance in the after life and the sex specific attributes of gender, your final words belie the intent of your “questions”. At the conclusion, this is not inquiry. This is bullying.

    I would turn toward the work of Judith Butler if you want to understand the concepts of gender performativity and sexuality from a cultural studies’ perspective. Given your erudite mindset on the eternal family, I am surprised you would see gender as culturally constructed in the first place.

    I would recommend reading the works of Ken Ring on the subject of NDE. His research is very interesting and his methodologies are sound. One of his students, Amber Wells, published a paper in the Journal of Near Death Studies which reported that 70% of NDE subjects demonstrated belief in reincarnation. This is interesting to me as I live in a predominantly Buddhist culture. An example of this type of knowledge can be seen in a letter written to Dr. Ken Ring by John Robinson:

    “It is a matter of personal knowledge from what the being with whom I spoke during my near-death experience told me about my older son, that he had had 14 incarnations in female physical bodies previous to the life he has just had.”

    While such a report lacks the power of evidence in and of itself, it speaks directly to the issue of gender endurance. Additionally, in a case documented by Dr. Melvin Morse, a girl who had her near-death experience when she nearly drowned at the age of 7 reported seeing during her experience two adults waiting to be reborn and both were genderless.

  3. avatar

    Robert:

    First, fleshing out an idea and stating certain convictions about that idea is not “bullying.” You’re simply wrong on that point. You may have forgotten that this blog begins with the assumption of the truthfulness of the Latter-day Saint worldview—at the very least, its core doctrines relating to the plan of redemption and salvation, even if socio-political ideas may more complex, textured, and subject to difference of opinion.

    As for gender, the point of my previous post was to look at the tension between acknowledging both that gender is an eternal characteristic as well as that some of our notions of gender and gender role may be more socio-culturally constructed. I believe we can deconstruct some of those notions without devaluing gender all-together. What I sense in academia, though, particularly liberal academia, is a tendency to downplay gender completely. That may be an over-generalization, but it’s something I sense.

    I’ve read some of Dr. Ring’s work with interest, as well as the the intro he wrote to Arvin Gibson’s Fingerprints of God: Evidences from Near-Death Studies, Scientific Research on Creation and Mormon Theology. I value what Dr. Ring has to say, particularly because I believe there is value in exploring the evidences from these NDEs from different perspectives. I’ve also been interested in Allan Kellehear’s work, since he seems to be the one at the forefront of transcultural comparison.

    I’m not sold on the idea of reincarnation, though I don’t completely discount it. If it were true in some cases, I’m not sure it would be completely inconsistent with LDS theology. I’ve read other accounts, though, where experiencers were told that re-incarnation does not occur. The statement you quoted is interesting to me, since it’s the first I’ve seen where an “otherworld” being explicitly stated that there were multiple incarnations. What I tend to see is that people perceive what they experience on the other side as being compatible with previous ideas about reincarnation and so they maintain those beliefs. I would suspect, and this may just as well be true with LDS NDEs, that much of our worldview on earth frames our perceptions of what we may witness in a phenomenon such as an NDE. There were multiple aspects of Elane Durham’s experience that she stated ran counter to her previous belief system, such as those things I mentioned in my post. Those were new to her, and she was told that she would come across a “new people” in 15-20 years who would teach such things.

  4. avatar

    Seeking Glitnir

    Ty,

    Awesome post. I do not know what is in store as far as race, but, I believe we are with the body we had through mortality for eternity. If the body dies in infancy or childhood. that is the body that is brought up, and must be raised to adulthood. I am not saying for sure, but if that were the case, wouldn’t it make sense to be raised whatever race we were at death? Perhaps there is no race per se on the other side of the veil because our limited minds which love to catagorize and label will see well beyond any such factors.

    In addition, and I can’t remember the quote right now, but I seem to remember learning that we grow into perfection even with regards to our physical body, I mean sheesh, there is no rush, we have all eternity!

    Who knows, perhaps there is a form to fill out as to what we get! My father-in-law just does not want a beard so he hopes it is not required! Anyone record that from their experience?

  5. avatar

    Thanks for the comments, Seeking Glitnir. I offer the race thing as my speculation. I believe that many attributes of mortality are strictly that—attributes of mortality, whether they have to do with racial or ethnic diversity, physical handicap, etc—and that those things will not exist in the eternities. I’m familiar with the quotes you mention about us being raised as we went into the grave and that we will grow to perfection from there. What exactly that looks like, and the process from there to our eternal glorified, resurrected state, is something I don’t have any ideas about. But I do believe the “end” state will not include those distinctions. President Joseph Fielding Smith (or maybe Joseph F., I forget now) speculated that those who do not receive the highest glory, thus not having the blessing of eternal increase, will maintain their gender but will not have the “parts” required for procreative purposes. I don’t have any idea about that, either, but I chalk that up to pure speculation and tend not to have that view.

  6. avatar

    As I see it, this whole “eternal gender” thing was promulgated by Elder Oaks in his 1993 conference address, “The Great Plan of Happiness? and later in the proclamation on the family, to answer the question of “gender confusion.” If gays are just confused about their gender, then the solution is simply to teach that gender is eternal and thus, confirm that God did not make a mistake with the gays. Given that the primary purpose of the Proclamation was to formally state the church position on same-sex-marriage, it makes sense that Elder Oaks included that bit.

    And now we have bloggers debating the finer points of “eternal gender,” even in reports of near death experience. It just makes my head want to explode.

  7. avatar

    Socal

    If you don’t like a blog that is dedicated to supporting the teachings of the LDS Church, then maybe you shouldn’t post here.

  8. avatar

    GFB

    I think Howller you have a point when you say:

    ?As I see it, this whole ?eternal gender? thing was promulgated by Elder Oaks in his 1993 conference address, ?The Great Plan of Happiness? and later in the proclamation on the family, to answer the question of ?gender confusion.?

    This is a new doctrine we see this no where before this. Gender being eternal does seem intuitive to me. My maleness seems very central to who I am, just as Elder Wickman said in ?The Interview? that gender orientation is a central characteristic. I not sure I know what gender orientation is, but gender feels very central to me. It does seem suspect that the only time this new doctrine is referred to by the brethren is in reference to the not so intuitive idea that homosexuality is gender confusion.

    What floors me is this gender confusion idea has not just died an embarrassing death, and never mentioned again. It seem so blatantly untrue. How many homosexuals are actually confused about whether they are a man or a woman? How many people gay or straight that even have enough exposure to the concept of homosexuality to be reading this blog believe that homosexuality is caused by a confused about what gender they are.

    Let me quote what I posted on another discussion line:

    (?Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.?

    What does this say about homosexuality or gay marriage? Nothing. A gay man?s gender can be strongly male or female. A straight man?s gender can be the same. The same goes for women. Gender has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Even so this statement is so generic it does not even answer any theological questions about transgender people or those with genetic make up other than xx or xy. )

    If this new doctrine introduced by Elder Oaks is true, and again it feels true to me, what if anything does it clear up about gender issues. It may say something about reincarnation, thank you Robert for introducing this idea into the mix.

    In closing Socal I think Howller brings up a legitimate question on a blog dedicated to supporting the teachings of the LDS church. What significance does this new doctrine have to us? Because at lest to my way of thinking it does not seem to have the significance that the brethren imply it has.

  9. avatar

    Howller (and GFB who seemed to concur), I’m confused that you’d say something like this. First, the very reference you mention is Elder Oaks quoting the following statement by Elder James E. Talmage, published in the Millennial Star in 1922:

    “The distinction between male and female is no condition peculiar to the relatively brief period of mortal life; it was an essential characteristic of our pre-existent condition.”

    This concept of the eternal nature of gender is in no way new to the discussion on homosexuality. Contextually, social discussion of homosexuality wasn’t even on the radar when Elder Talmage made this statement. It’s a concept that just happens to be particularly relevant in the contemporary cultural wake of normalization of something counter to the eternal duality and complementarity of gender.

    There’s evidence that all the pieces germane to this principle were taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith from the very beginning of the restoration. And prophets and apostles since then have continued to teach the same ideas. A gentleman by the name of Joseph Lee Robinson recorded a revelation he received when a lot of these ideas were first being explore in the later years of the Nauvoo period. He wrote:

    “[T]he question arose then, How is God the Father of our spirits? I wondered, studied and prayed over it for I did want to know how it could be… [I]t came to pass that in time a vision was opened, the voice of the spirit came to me saying: that all matter was eternal, that it never had a beginning and that it should never have an end and that the spirits of all men were organized of a pure material or matter upon the principle of male and female so that there was a time when…the spirit was organized or begotten or born so that the spirit has a father and the material or matter, that our tabernacles [i.e., spirit bodies] are composed of is eternal and as we understand are organized upon the principles of male and female.?

    At a conference in the Provo Tabernacle in 1885, Elder Erastus Snow likewise spoke of gender as eternal ?principle?:

    ?We have a Mother in heaven as well as a Father. The male and female principle is united and both necessary to the accomplishment of the object of their being, and if this be not the case with our Father in heaven after whose image we are created, then it is an anomaly in nature? Hence when it is said that God created our first parents in His likeness?it is intimated in language sufficiently plain to my understanding that the male and female principle was present with the Gods as it is with man.?

    And these are just a tiny sampling of the myriad of statements that are available. Perhaps I misunderstood what you were saying, because the fact that these ideas have been taught since the beginning of the restoration is pretty clearly documented. I was I bit taken back that you’d suggest otherwise. And that GFB would concur.

  10. avatar

    -L-

    Ty, I keep meaning to comment on the race issue. I don’t really have any specific insight, but some questions in my mind. I don’t have references (you always impress me so much the way you can just roll them out like that!), but I’ve been taught that our bodies are a copy of our spirits (i.e. our eternal appearance is approximated by our bodies… or the appearance of our perfected bodies in the case of bodies changed by disease). I’ve also been taught that race is not eternal. But this seems contradictory since so many physical characteristics are determined by race–body proportions, height, features, etc. It’s not just skin color. So, if race is gone, is there a great homogenization of physical characteristics as well? Is it just the skin color that changes? These are genuine questions because your post is really interesting to think about.

  11. avatar

    Great questions. I obviously don’t have answers, and the scriptures indeed teach that our spirit is in the likeness of our body, but I understand that to mean general rather than express resemblance. Difference among peoples on earth such as racial distinctions, inherited physical traits, or genetic imperfection may not be due to differences in our spirits. I think that many of our mortal characteristics are unique to this estate, but I have no idea how to break it up.

    For example, we believe that we lived for eons in the presence of God before coming here and that, each developing unique talents and having a unique personality. At the same time, though, many facets of our personality can clearly be attributed to development. My patriarchal blessings states that God has “given” me a specific personality for the purpose of helping me to fulfill my mortal mission. So, how much of my personality is the eternal “me”, and how much is due to mortal circumstance? I don’t know. And I don’t really care, to be perfectly honest. My responsibility is only to do the best I can to grow in the attributes of godliness and love that I was sent here to learn.

    I imagine it would be similar with our bodies. Many aspects of our physicality is germane only to our mortal experience, part of which is to be tested. Elder Packer said, ?Some are tested by poor health, some by a body that is deformed or homely. Others are tested by handsome and healthy bodies; some by the passion of youth; others by the erosions of age? All are part of the test, and there is more equality in this testing than sometimes we suspect.?

    Elder Orson Pratt suggested:

    ?We, as Latter-day Saints, believe that the spirits that occupy these tabernacles have form and likeness similar to the human tabernacle. Of course there may be deformities existing in connection with the outward tabernacle which do not exist in connection with the spirit that inhabits it. These tabernacles become deformed by accident in various ways, sometimes at birth, but this may not altogether or in any degree deform the spirits that dwell within them, therefore we believe that the spirits which occupy the bodies of the human family are more or less in the resemblance of the tabernacles.?

    My opinion—and I stress that this is only my opinion; I’m not aware of any authoritative statement on the matter—is that racial distinction is among those exclusively mortal characteristics.

  12. avatar

    Ty, Given that we worship an anthropomorphic god, and believe in the principle of deification, discussions about gender are appropriate, even crucial, if we desire to become like God, whom we conceive as having gender. And reflecting upon the characteristics of God’s gender are perhaps even more important to those who might be gender variant, gay, lesbian, transgendered or intersexed.

    So, I think that your several posts dealing with gender are very welcome, thoughtful and entirely appropriate to this group. That I criticized the post really has more to do with “my” frustration that the brethren so boldly proclaim eternal truth, while at the same time appearing so very ignorant of social science to use the phrase “gender confusion.” I recognize that Elder Oaks’ specialty is not social science, and that as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles he is a better source for spiritual guidance. But ultimately, that Eternal Gender was written into the Proclamation, in my opinion, is an ironic synchronicity based on the gender confusion concept. There is no other reason for it to be there.

    But just so that you’ll understand why I would disrupt your blog with my little rant, please bear with me.

    As much as I admire the brilliance and contribution of Joseph Smith, when he formulated the idea of exaltation as families through the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, he set the wheels in motion whereby the church would so glorify Marriage, Family and Procreation, as to practically supplant the focus we ought to have on the Atonement and Salvation of Christ. And in doing so, the church defined a road-map for happiness and ultimate spiritual fulfillment that effectively ignores the diversity of mankind in terms of sexuality and gender expression.

    So when I see the church so furiously promulgating gender constructs, it just seems so out of place. If Christ died to save all men, why is there such a crusade to defend the ideal at the expense of the exceptions? And members everywhere are framing these pronouncements about gender and exclusion and hanging them on their walls!

    Sorry, it just struck a nerve. I read this blog often, but infrequently participate because I usually try to respect the purpose of the community here. Back to lurking.

    BTW, thanks Ty, for the additional material on Eternal Gender.

  13. avatar

    In this mortal world, God, in his wisdom, infused mankind with great diversity. Diversity in terms of skin color, body size, strengths, weaknesses, diversity in our susceptibility to diseases, and diversity in terms of gender, gender expression, sexuality and genetic chromosomes.

    Scientists tell us that if we were all the same we could not survive as a species. So diversity is very much an essential element of mortality.

    Diversity is also essential to our experience of opposition in all things. It is part of the rich tapestry of humanity that makes mortality such a profound learning experience.

    But in the eternal world, we perceive a perfect eternal duality. Everyone is perfectly heterosexual and perfectly male and female. There are no racial distinctions. No deformity. No barren woman. No sterile male. None is too short and none too tall. No effeminate males or butch females. All is magnificent perfection.

    If we hold that in the eternities there is a great “eternal duality and complementarity of gender,” we must hold that the diversity in gender and sexuality we witness in our earthly creation is only necessary as part of this mortal probation.

    And we ask, is there any place for diversity in the hereafter? Is it all a grand and wondrous sameness?

  14. avatar

    Robert

    Well stated howller. I have wondered these exact things in consideration of the diversity of species and all Christian theology dealing with an anthropomorphic Godhead. It seems once an inspired writing winds its way through the culture, all matter of additions, interpretations,extractions, reductions and the like make their way into a subtle defense of the resulting religion and its institutional need to control the thoughts and actions of others.

    To me, the most compelling aspect of your deductive reasoning is the final concept: perfect eternal duality. Is it expressed as the homogeneity of mankind into the perfect specimen of male and female? A glowing ‘sameness’ (of what, I’ve never heard) which seems to fit well with certain worldviews, but certainly not all. It seems uninspired to me. I have spent a lot of time scuba diving in many ocean locations where diversity is so impressive and seemingly more profound than that found on the land. Since the majority of the planet is water, perhaps this ideation of Heaven actually exists in a “body” of water and we are amphibians?

    Perhaps if I had stayed in the midlands of Texas where I was born and had continued to be influenced greatly by my family of origin and was raised to believe that all people in Heaven were going to be perfect and familiar…I might believe this was a “good” and plausible thing.

    The wisdom gained from living and learning has taught me differently. Instead, I expect eternal diversity. I am simply a single cell in the body of God…or, as likely, the earth is a single cell in the body of God and I am lesser still.

  15. avatar

    GFB

    Ty Ray,

    I see that even though the words gender is eternal was not explicitly said that the concept was referred to. I suppose this is why it seems so right to me.

    It seems you skipped over the real point to my post. How does this doctrine, new or not, effect what we believe about gender issues and homosexuality in particular? And do you believe what the brethren are bringing up over and over that homosexuality is gender confusion?

  16. avatar

    Howller, while I was a bit put off by your initial comment, I very much appreciate the content and tone of your response. And I share some of your disdain for the term “gender confusion”. I’ve never liked it. I also hear your concern about the “plan” also being focused on to such a degree that we may, if we’re not careful, lose valuable focus on the Atonement. I became so suffocated by the “structure” of the “plan” and the “programs” to help us realize it that for years I was spinning wheels trying to achieve what seemed so inachievable. It wasn’t until I was forced to my knees to gain a real conviction for the power of the atonement, and when, for the first time, I really felt like I “got it” that I was able to see the plan in greater perspective.

    I appreciate the Church’s teachings and emphasis on the plan of salvation and that we do have some idea of the eternal possibilities, if we want them. If the Atonement is about reconciliation, I believe the larger cosmological context of the gospel helps us to understand just what it is we Fell from and can be Atoned to. It’s this larger context that most of the religious world lacks. They may teach spiritual ideas, but the Restoration seems to be more about the “why”, and that is the power of Joseph Smith’s teachings and focus. I don’t believe that the Atonement is just about understanding that we have value, that Christ loves us with an infinite love, and that we can be forgiven of sin—though each of those ideas are crucial—but that Christ’s love invites and calls us to transcend the circumstances of mortality, to trust in a vision of something higher than what we can see with temporal eyes alone, and provides some conception of what it is we are repenting toward rather than just repenting/turning from. One of my favorite biblical passages is Paul’s statement that “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Cor. 15:19).

    Christ did die to save all men, but the fullness of that salvation is only efficacious “if [they] will repent and return unto the Lord [their] God” (Hel. 13:11). While we all experience a diversity of circumstances, I don’t believe that means there are a diversity of plans. There’s one strait gate and narrow way, even though we each have to seek the power of the Atonement in individual ways in order for that reconciliation to be eventually realized. And, again, not all blessings will be realized in mortality. I believe it’s the responsibility of the prophets to teach both the infinite nature of Christ’s love and grace as well as the infinite strictness of His word. Elder Maxwell taught,

    “Those who insist on walking in their own way will find that all such paths, however individualistic in appearance, will converge at that wide way and broad gate—where there will be a tremendous traffic jam” (Not My Will, But Thine, p. 12).

  17. avatar

    GFB, I do believe that there is something akin to “gender confusion,” but I reject the idea that that is synonymous with same-sex attraction. My problem with the term is that it seems to be perceived that way, and that as soon as people stop being confused about what sex they are, they will be attracted to the opposite sex—which is, of course, ridiculous. But, for all I know, there have been occasions when it’s been used when the person was, in reality, addressing the idea of gender confusion and I was presumptuous enough to assume they were talking about me and just “got it wrong.” I’m willing to grant that and simply try to work toward greater understanding, addressing the concepts using the terms that seem most meaningful to me.

  18. avatar

    GFB

    Ty Ray,

    Thank you for your thoughts.

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