“Mormon Girl” Joanna Brooks Misfired On This One

March 26, 2013    By: Geoff J @ 12:20 am   Category: Life

I just saw an article by Joanna Brooks titled “I Died Inside”. Here is the first paragraph:

Emmett C. is a twenty year-old community college student in the Pacific Northwest. Last year, he applied to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a religious obligation he had long prepared for and looked forward to fulfilling. But in the course of preparing his missionary application, Emmett came out to his local LDS Church leaders—not as a gay man, but as a straight Mormon who believes that LGBT people are equal in the sight of God and should treated the same as straight members of the LDS Church. And on these grounds, he was told that he would not be permitted to serve.


If Emmett was told he couldn’t serve a mission due to his views on the LGBT topic, I can guarantee that it was not for him believing “that LGBT people are equal in the sight of God and should treated the same as straight members of the LDS Church”. How do I know this? Because the church openly teaches that LGBT members are equal in the sight of God and should be treated the same as all other members. That includes holding all Mormons to the exact same Law of Chastity. The Mormon Law of Chastity states we should have no sexual contact with anyone besides our opposite-sex, legal spouse.

It is more likely that Emmett was advocating that LGBT members should not be treated the same as straight members and should not have to follow the Law of Chastity as it currently stands. Perhaps he was advocating for the Law of Chastity to be amended to give the green light to gay sex (within gay marriages) or something.

I’m sure Ms. Brooks meant well but I find her attempts at spin in that opening paragraph irritating and counter-productive. If you want to lobby for gay sex (within gay marriage) being permitted in the Mormon Law of Chastity just say so. At least we’ll be talking about the actual subject rather that completely dancing around it.


  1. If the first paragraph in Joanna Brook’s article was accurate and the whole story, I would die inside too.
    However the article explains, that Emmett told his SP that he believed that gays should be allowed to be married in temple. We will never hear the other side of the story, because stake president won’t tell publicly about a private conversation. I wonder how the SP responded, but my guess is that he said something like: “You feel like you are disagreeing with church doctrine, so take some time to think if you really disagree whit it, and if you do, think if you really want to serve a mission for the church. You know that as a missionary you are expected to teach the doctrine of the church and you will face this issue certainly.”

    Comment by Niklas — March 26, 2013 @ 5:19 am

  2. “that LGBT members should not be treated the same as straight members and should not have to follow the Law of Chastity”

    No sex outside of marriage?

    And let me preempt your response. Do you think that before 1978 whites and blacks were treated equally by the same priesthood ban? Afterall they were both commanded not to allow blacks to have the priesthood, just as both men and women are treated the same in that they are both told that only men can be included into the priesthood.

    Comment by the narrator — March 26, 2013 @ 6:50 am

  3. We all have choices we make. If a person wishes to represent the Church in an official manner (i.e., full time missionary), he or she needs to be ready to speak the things the Church teaches. It would be a horrible thing to have a FTM in a discussion with someone, have this issue come up, and agree that the Church needs to change.
    You’ll note the young man was not placed on disciplinary probation for his belief. He simply was not allowed to serve a mission, because his belief (which seems to have been openly expressed) could negatively affect the Church.
    In this case, I definitely agree with the stake president’s decision. And while I like much of what Joanna Brooks says in her posts, this is one time when she’s slanting a little too far to the left, trying to get sympathy for one of her personal agenda items.

    Comment by Gerald Smith — March 26, 2013 @ 6:59 am

  4. Yeah, the issue here is plainly over the question of gay marriage. And the church position’s on gay marriage is abundantly clear. While it is of course true that there is a single standard of chastity that applies to everyone, that standard plainly does not affect gays and straights in remotely the same way. Indeed, if the shoe were on the other foot, and you were told that you could not marry your wife or even pursue your romantic interest in her, but that you were instead free to either remain celibate the rest of your life or marry one of your male friends, you might likewise find the assertion that this standard treated gays and straights as equals more than a little unsatisfying.

    Comment by Randy B. — March 26, 2013 @ 7:00 am

  5. G.S.: It’s true that this young man wasn’t put on probation. However, he was told that he couldn’t have a temple recommend. That’s awfully close to the same thing.

    Comment by Eric — March 26, 2013 @ 7:36 am

  6. It would be a horrible thing to have a FTM in a discussion with someone, have this issue come up, and agree that the Church needs to change.


    Comment by Kristine — March 26, 2013 @ 8:20 am

  7. I guess we are all supposed to have the same political opinions. And I guess it is not allowed for a young man like this to believe or hint or imply that in his opinion the Church could actually be wrong about something. It would apparently be a bad message to send to investigators to create an impression in the investigator’s mind that not all members are 100% lockstep behind every political initiative of the Church.

    But here’s a question: why wouldn’t it be a good thing to present to investigators a sense that someone who disagrees with one of the Church’s particular political campaigns still believes in and is willing to actively proselytize for the Gospel and advocate for people to accept the Gospel by being baptized?

    Comment by john f. — March 26, 2013 @ 8:31 am

  8. Geoff J: I agree that Brooks missed the head of the nail on this one.

    However, I think you missed it too: “The Mormon Law of Chastity states we should have no sexual contact with anyone besides our opposite-sex, legal spouse.

    “It is more likely that Emmett was advocating that LGBT members should not be treated the same as straight members and should not have to follow the Law of Chastity as it currently stands. Perhaps he was advocating for the Law of Chastity to be amended to give the green light to gay sex or something.”

    In the article, Emmett clearly states that he believes “that gays should be allowed to get married in the Mormon temple.” Combined with the fact that gays can legally be married in several states and countries, it is certainly possible to be legally married (in agreement with the current LDS Law of Chastity) and yet still in violation of other LDS rules.

    Comment by BrianJ — March 26, 2013 @ 8:35 am

  9. Narrator (#2) —

    The Law of Chastity as it currently stands prohibits all gay sex — whether outside of marriage or in it. That is the heart of this issue.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 26, 2013 @ 8:52 am

  10. If Emmett agreed not to bring up the issue of gay marriage as a missionary, then I see no problem with his serving a mission. However, if he insisted on bringing it up to point out that he differs with the church, becoming an activist for his own views as a missionary, then he should be denied the right to serve a mission — but not because he harbors erroneous beliefs. We all have more than a few of those errors in belief. His will to promote his own agenda would be the problem.

    I have questions about the motivation of JB’s interview as well. It appears to be a crafted narrative to promote her point of view. As of the time of the interview, Emmett is no longer active — and at the time of the interview clearly has an axe to grind. I admit that I don’t trust his one-side of the story knowing that his Stake President is duty bound not to correct him if he slants it or outright distorts it. Given that he has left activity, it appears that there was wisdom in the Stake President’s response.

    Kristine: it wouldn’t be a good thing because missionaries are not called to promote their own agendas.

    Comment by Blake — March 26, 2013 @ 8:52 am

  11. john f. (#7),

    I just don’t believe that this young man was kept from his mission over politics. How many young Libertarians go on missions without any troubles? Probably lots. Yet Libertarianism advocates for decriminalizing drugs and in effect making gay marriage as legal as straight marriage by getting government out of the marriage game entirely. All of that is just politics.

    The problems are when one openly disagrees with core moral teachings of the church. If a young man thinks the Mormon Law if Chasity needs fixing so gay sex is given the green light (whether in marriage or not) that will cause him troubles when he applies to officially represent the church as a missionary.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 26, 2013 @ 8:55 am

  12. BrianJ (#8),

    I am not sure what you think I missed in that description of the Law of Chastity as it currently stands in the church. Right now the church teaches that sexual contact should only happen with one’s opposite-sex legal spouse. That obviously does not allow for gay sex, even in a gay marriage.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 26, 2013 @ 9:15 am

  13. #9, see my preemption in #2.

    Comment by the narrator — March 26, 2013 @ 9:58 am

  14. There are a significant number of members–and I believe that some of them are in high leadership positions–who believe that at some point the Church will and should accommodate GLBT members in committed long term relationships: either by ceasing excommunications, by permitting limited participation (perhaps without temple or priesthood privileges, as in the case of members who engaged in “elective” transgender surgery), or even recognition of some kind of commitment rites (up to an including rites in the temple).

    By the same token, there are members who believe the same about extending ordination to women.

    And before 1978 there were members (I was one) who served missions who believed that the priesthood/temple denial practices based on lineage/race were inconsistent with the overriding principles of the gospel.

    How far outside the “orthodox” mainstream can a person’s beliefs be and still enter the temple or serve a mission? Here are a few other hypotheticals:

    1. Should a person whose beliefs are like those of Randy Botts’ with respect to the Church’s racial past be permitted to serve?

    2. What about a person who believes that polygamous members in countries where that is legal (either having more than one wife, or more than one husband, or both) should be permitted to be full members of the Church? Or that the Church should solemnize such plural marriages in the temple in those countries?

    3. What about a person who believes the Church should change its policy and stop permitted undocumented members to serve in callings, as full time missionaries, or enter the temple?

    Comment by DavidH — March 26, 2013 @ 9:58 am

  15. Geoff J: I think you missed in your presentation of Emmett’s view. Not that you got it wrong, but that, like Brooks, you put a bit of spin on the story that detracted from the main issue. Twice you imply that Emmett/Brooks advocate for “gay sex.” While that is technically true, it’s a spin on the actual goal of their belief. They directly advocate* for gay marriage and only indirectly advocate for gay sex.

    *although, at least in Emmett’s case, “advocate” is perhaps too strong a word.

    Comment by BrianJ — March 26, 2013 @ 10:06 am

  16. Narrator (#13),

    Your point in #2 is interesting and all, but the policy of not allowing blacks to hold the priesthood is in a different category than the Law of Chastity. That is because the Law of Chastity is found in our revealed scriptures and liturgy. The priesthood policy was not.

    Further, that tact misses the point of this post. Pretending the issue is something other than whether the Law of Chastity ought to allow for gay sex or not is beclouding the actual issue at hand.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 26, 2013 @ 10:27 am

  17. BrianJ (#15),

    I think the “main issue” is what the Law of Chastity currently requires vs. what some people think it should require. I don’t think my post detracted from that main issue at all.

    What do you think the main issue is?

    Comment by Geoff J — March 26, 2013 @ 10:34 am

  18. All —

    I just added a couple of “(within gay marriage)” clarifiers to the original post because I can see that some folks were thrown off by that caveat not being included.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 26, 2013 @ 10:42 am

  19. I think it is more a matter of how one phrases one’s opinion on the mission. For example, I doubt that there would be a problem if Emmett expressed his hope and faith in modern revelation that would bring about the changes he hopes for. The problem here is that it discounts the process by which change is to take place in the Church. I happen to agree with Emmett and feel that there is a place for membership to bring attention to issues they feel strongly about (in fact, I believe in some cases it is a responsibility and a part of the process). At my core, I have to admit that even if I hope for change and think that change should happen, I still feel more comfortable as a believer trusting in the process. If I don’t, my belief is lessened in the Church and I am forced to wonder what the point is in believing any of it.

    Comment by Mark — March 26, 2013 @ 12:25 pm

  20. Geoff J, 17: I agree with you on what the main issue is. (I might add that the main issue is compounded by the question about eternal relationships, procreation, etc.) With your added amendment, you smoothed out the wrinkle that was bothering me. This sentence in the original post is now clear:

    If you want to lobby for gay sex (within gay marriage) being permitted in the Mormon Law of Chastity just say so.

    Under your guidelines, proponents of gay marriage could argue, as with the priesthood and temple ban, that the current restrictions go beyond what God ever really intended; i.e., they’re not “changing” the Law of Chastity so much as “restoring” it to how it would have been had there not been prejudice, etc. against gays. (Or whatever explanation one wants to assume for current restrictions on gays (or past restrictions on blacks).) There is even a fair amount of recent changes in Church teachings about homosexuality that would facilitate this kind of approach—if the Church ever decided to make the change, that is.

    Comment by BrianJ — March 26, 2013 @ 1:01 pm

  21. Isn’t the church position on gay marriage a reflection of our beliefs about the relationship of God the Father and God the Mother? Some say that it is a political position, but it seems to be connected to our most foundational doctrinal beliefs. A missionary who doesn’t see this, perhaps does not see church doctrines clearly.

    Comment by Hal — March 26, 2013 @ 1:28 pm

  22. I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. A person is interviewed for a job position with a company. Said position is very high profile. The person hoping to get the job says, “I really like your company but I have to say, I think you guys are wrong on some of your company’s values. They should change. But all that aside, you can trust me to have your best interests in mind when I represent your company in this new position.”

    “Umm, yeah. We’ll call you and let you know if you got the job. There’s a few other people we need to meet with…”

    Comment by Ben Johnson — March 26, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

  23. I just have a couple of seemingly unrelated questions. First, who is Joanna Brooks, and second, why should I care what she says about the doctrines of the Gospel?

    The rest of this discussion strikes me as a typical media snafu — heavy on the warm fuzzy type of rhetoric, but devoid of any substance.

    Comment by Jim Cobabe — March 26, 2013 @ 2:05 pm

  24. BrianJ (#20),

    Well said. You outlined a reasonable line of argument one could take on the subject. The good thing about the approach you took is it doesn’t imply false and/or misleading things about the Church like the paragraph I quoted from Brooks does.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 26, 2013 @ 2:05 pm

  25. To be fair, the young man’s bishop may not have been following policy correctly. I was told by a bishop that if my (non-member) father were opposed to my serving a mission, that he would not approve my mission papers. I could likely have appealed this to a stake president, since it doesn’t strike me as correct by any stretch (there was sure no problem with me being baptized against my parents’ wishes), but I was in a bad place at the time and didn’t really have the inclination.

    Things worked out for me well in the long run, but it was a bit of a shock since this was before the “raising [of] the bar”” and I’d been assured by a previous bishop that as long as I had a pulse and the desire to serve, I would be able to serve a mission regardless of family or financial concerns. Pretty sure the bishop who told me no was wrong and acting outside of standard church policy.

    Comment by Anon this time — March 26, 2013 @ 2:21 pm

  26. DavidH believes something that makes me want to ask him “Where’s the beef?” Just what evidence does he have that any number of church members, other than the very small number who participate in the bloggernacle, believe that the church should accommodate sexual relations between persons of the same sex? While he’s at it, I’m curious to know why he’s included bi-sexuals in his line about committed relationships.

    Comment by Mark B. — March 26, 2013 @ 6:30 pm

  27. The mission thing seems a little iffy, but it seems totally wrong to strip him of his temple recommend because of this.

    Comment by Trevor — March 27, 2013 @ 8:30 am

  28. Oh, his (gay) brother wrote this about the subject, in case anyone’s interested.

    Comment by Trevor — March 27, 2013 @ 9:41 am

  29. Geoff, while I agree with you that the church’s position is clear, is it really all that surprising that a local priesthood leader somewhere is freelancing? That kind of stuff happens all the time. The Brethren made it clear during prop 8 that a member’s position on that issue was not a worthiness issue, yet I know people who had their TRs revoked and who were released from callings.

    I agree with the ideal, that missionaries should strive to teach only official doctrine. And yet, I also am convinced that some of the most productive sources for crackpot, idiotic, insane false doctrine are mission presidents and CES instructors. The mission president where I live has all his missionaries convinced that he knows the true interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Given all the weirdness that comes out almost every Sunday in HP group, I don’t think this young man’s mild heresy is anything to get excited about.

    Comment by Mark Brown — March 27, 2013 @ 2:54 pm

  30. Mark (#29),

    The evidence is too incomplete here to know if the local leader was freelancing at all in this case. We only get one side of the story. That’s not to say leaders don’t far overstep their bounds at times — just that we don’t know in this particular case.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 27, 2013 @ 3:09 pm

  31. Geoff, right, at this point we don’t know. Which is different from what you said in the OP: “I can guarantee….” :)

    Another point worth bringing up is that even with heterosexuals the law of chastity is not as cut and dried and we might think. We used to live in a stake where one bishop would require 19 y.o. men to be free of masturbation for 120 days before he’d sign the mission application. Another bishop in the same stake didn’t even ask about it.

    Comment by Mark Brown — March 27, 2013 @ 3:35 pm

  32. I see your point about my guarantee, Mark. You are mentioning the possibility that the bishop was a secret apostate who really and truly believed that God doesn’t love all of his children. I grant that as a logical possibility — albeit a remote possibility.

    As for different bishops drawing slightly different behavioral lines with regard to the law of chastity — that hardly seems surprising. That is not really comparable to changing fundamental aspects of the revealed law, though.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 27, 2013 @ 11:44 pm

  33. No, I don’t think he’s a secret apostate, and I never mentioned that he was. I have only claimed that different leaders draw the lines in different places, and sometimes they get it wrong. Nothing really surprising, and nothing to worry about. These things happen, and the church goes on anyway.

    Comment by Mark Brown — March 28, 2013 @ 5:54 pm

  34. Me, I’m not getting too wordy in my temple recommend interviews (I know, it doesn’t sound like me, but I can do it when I have to). I’m keeping it simple and keeping my own counsel. He didn’t have to say anything; guys, you don’t have to confess your deepest rebellious thoughts.

    I’d have to confess that I wished the stake president would get a kidney stone.

    Comment by annegb — April 7, 2013 @ 1:12 pm

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