Beginning in late 2006, Millennial Press & Distribution started releasing a series of books that was intended to clarify various issues within the Church. In something akin to the Oxford University Press A Very Short Introduction series (which includes the titles Mormonism, by Richard Bushman, and the upcoming The Book of Mormon, by Terryl Givens), Millennial Press is publishing a Setting the Record Straight series.
The series started with Mormons & Masons in 2006 and was soon followed by Blacks & the Mormon Priesthood, Mormons & Polygamy, Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet, and The Book of Mormon in fall 2007, and then again by Mormon Temples, The Word of Wisdom, Emma Smith: An Elect Lady, Joseph Smith: Presidential Candidate, and Mormon Fundamentalism in early 2008. The fall 2008 docket includes Mormons & Science and, yes, the one that addresses the issue that brings us all here together today: Mormons & Homosexuality, by A. Dean Byrd.
The book description reads:
Setting the Record Straight: Mormons and Homosexuality answers the questions of the Mormon Church and its stand on Homosexuality.
? What Church discipline are members who engage in homosexual activities subject to?
? Is homosexuality biological?
? Should Latter-day Saints with homosexual proclivities pursue a temple marriage and family?
In this book, practicing LDS psychologist Dr. Dean Byrd illuminates some of the little-known realities regarding homosexuality. He relies on his expertise as a social scientist and a practicing mental health professional as he shares the research and clinical data on this controversial topic. He provides compelling evidence on what science can and cannot say about homosexuality.
With abundant clarity, Dr. Byrd explores common misconceptions, answers challenging questions, and shares personal stories of triumph.
In addition, he offers a chronology of the events that have brought the United States and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to their present positions regarding homosexuality.
Employing a thorough, scientific, and engaging style, this volume provides readers with the best LDS analysis of the issue of homosexuality available.
Doing a quick Google search, I found only two reviews thus far, both of which were quite brief. Judging from the book quotations included, it seems as though it’d be pretty similar to his previous publications. The text of his short 2001 book, Homosexuality and the Church of Jesus Christ, and a 2004 FAIR conference address, “Born That Way? Facts and Fiction about Homosexuality,” can both be read online—as well as a Sept 1999 Ensign article, “When a Loved One Struggles with Same-Sex Attraction.”
If I get around to reading it, I’ll post a review. Or, better yet, one of you read and review it. :)
The only thing I really want to comment on is a couple of statements from the first of the two linked reviews. Bill Duncan, who is referenced as “an attorney with the Marriage Law Foundation who specializes in definition of marriage legal cases,” writes:
“I have family and friends who are homosexual, and I love them as my brothers and sisters. I do not agree with their sexual orientation, but I still accept them as my family and friends. If they are open to counsel, I shall counsel them to repent and to try to overcome these tendencies, just as we all have ‘tendencies’ and ‘temptations’. The sin lies not in having the temptations, but in following the temptations.”
Uhh, Bill, if you’re talking about sexual orientation or same-gender attraction, then there’s nothing for you to disagree with. Same-sex attractions just are. (I say that as a statement of presence, not permanence.) The beliefs chosen and actions made in response to the attractions—including efforts to overcome or diminish them, or not—may be subject to agreement or value judgments, but not the attractions themselves. Hopefully, if you really read Dr. Byrd’s book (I’m making the assumption that Dr. Byrd was responsible enough to point out that even though homosexuality may not be “innate and immutable” that people don’t choose to experience same-sex attractions; I know he knows this), you would know that this is a misinformed idea. And if you accept that this is a temptation, and that the only sin is in acting on those temptations in unrighteous ways, then you, again, have nothing to disagree with when it comes to attraction or orientation or tendency or temptation—however you choose to view it.
This is somewhat akin to an equally frustrating statement from the other side who insist “homosexuality is not a chosen lifestyle.” Um, really? Yes, homosexuality is a “chosen lifestyle” if we’re really talking about “lifestyle” as opposed to feelings, attractions, impulses, etc. “Lifestyle” implies action and action implies choice.
Later, Bill states:
“Homosexuals are people, just like the rest of us. They have every right to work and live as we do. We’re all in this together. However, because the choice they made (somewhere along the way) and continue to make by remaining homosexual, then they cannot “tap into” the “benefits” that traditional marriages can tap into. (I hope that makes sense.)”
Ugh… ugh… ugh… *burying my face in my hands*… No, Bill, it doesn’t make sense. Or, rather, I’m pretty sure I understand what you’re saying, but your beliefs about what is chosen and what isn’t are based on really bad (or insufficient) information. *sigh* Again, I would have hoped that Byrd clarified these issues in his book rather than simply focusing on gay activists’ socio-political agenda and how it’s often based on etiologic myths. Bill, even to state that there are significant temperamental, relational, or environmental issues affecting the development of homosexuality, and that some degree of change is possible, a great many people who continue striving to turn to the Lord and to live within the strictures of gospel teachings continue to experience same-sex attractions—including those who experience fulfilling opposite-sex marriages. To state that people chose this somewhere along their developmental path, and that if they continue to experience the attraction they are consciously choosing to remain homosexual (with an inference that they are not repentant enough) is inaccurate and entirely unhelpful if this is what you might base your counsel on when assisting your family and friends who are seeking resolution to these issues.
Anyway, that’s all I have to say about that. Now, everyone go read and review. If you want.