Monday, February 11, 2008

Till Now, I Always Got By On My Own

As I was studying for my HEPE test, I came across some statements from a clearly LDS point of view about love that struck me. In chapter 1 the HEPE text reads, “Researchers do not understand how love can improve immunity, but the evidence strongly suggests that it does. Loving others has been shown not only to increase a person’s antibodies and white blood cells, but also to decrease susceptibility to colds, reduce the amount of pain, and even extend life (Justice, 1987). Hugging, holding hands, smiling, singing, owning a pet, writing and receiving letters, and visiting with relatives and friends are all part of the social dimension of wellness.” Love increases quality and quantity of life.

In my sociology class, we talked about how Americans value not only love, but romantic love. One American writer states, “All of our basic drives are exceedingly difficult to control. It is impossible to sublimate or redirect thirst or hunger. It is difficult to quell the maternal instinct. And it is very tough to control one’s persistent craving for a sweetheart. We need food. We need water. We need salt. We need warmth. And the lover needs the beloved. Plato had it right over two thousand years ago. The God of Love ‘lives in a state of need.’ Romantic love is a need; it is a fundamental human drive” (Helen Fisher, Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love). Clearly we value love and intimacy.

In fact, I would say that Latter-day Saints value romantic love even more than the average American. In New Testament today we talked about how the feelings that man has for his spouse and the need for sexual intimacy is given to men from God and is crucial to the marriage relationship. To Mormons, romantic love endures forever and sexual intimacy is an important and valued part of mortality and immortality. It is so important that the only way you can become like God is to be married. You can’t get to the top of heaven if you don’t love and marry someone.

It doesn’t seem fair, then, that this value is reversed for homosexuals. In fact, it seems like a contradiction. Those who don’t have a God-given attraction and desire for intimacy and sex with a woman and who instead desire men, should either marry without romantic love or live a life without a spouse at all—never holding hands, never kissing, never learning how to be in a romantic relationship. Not just being single, this idea of celibacy includes never even looking for a lover.

Which of these contradicting values is going to give? In sociology I have learned that cultures have conflicting values all the time. It is these contradicting values that become the catalyst for social change. My professor cited racism as an example. Americans value ethnic superiority. Americans also value equality. These contradicting values resulted in the civil rights movement.

As Latter-day Saints, we value sexual intimacy and romantic love. As Latter-day Saints we also value sex only in marriage between one man and one woman. For the gay Latter-day Saint, this is a contradiction, and I think it will ultimately lead to social change. The questions is, which value will give? In my own life, the value in heterosexual marriage is what gave, and I hope that is what gives in both American and Latter-day Saint cultures. It seems like the majority of the Mormon population, however, seems more willing to sacrifice the divine need for romantic love instead. You know, its funny how easy it is for a happily married man to tell someone else that they don’t need romantic love.


Foxx said...

I think it's safe to say that this was the crack that eventually shattered my testimony.

I can't recall how many times I felt broken as a high school kid in Priest's quorum about how natural and good and god-given were the feelings of attraction towards those of the opposite sex. And with everybody my age getting behind it, I was left wondering what was the matter with me, or what I had done wrong that I didn't understand what they were talking about. You remember socially traumatic experiences like that.

Fast forward a few years, and I finally start feeling these emotions. It's funny, but before that, I never saw a contradiction. Suddenly, there was always a modifier - attractions weren't god-given, only heterosexually oriented attractions were. If that were the case, how did I miss it?

Furthermore, how could God, knowing all, not know what I knew in my heart - that my feelings were just as natural and spontaneous as my brother's and my sister's? How could I so suddenly be thrust off the path to celestiality without so much as a choice? It was then that I began to realize that my eternal well-being was not in my hands, but rather in the hands of the Church, which is free to create rules at whim, not based in truth - the true state of things - but created with retention in mind.

They didn't seem to see the contradiction - if the truth is that attractions are god-given, as is taught by the church who has Jesus Christ at its head - how is it that mine were so abhorrent?

Eventually I decided it was more important to listen to and trust my soul than it was to listen to them, whoever they may be. I've been a lot more confident since then.

[kɹeɪ̯g̊] said...

It seems like the majority of the Mormon population, however, seems more willing to sacrifice the divine need for romantic love instead

Or rather, they're willing to sacrifice it on behalf of others, because they don't have to do it themselves. They don't have to make the hard choice, just tell others to.

Eventually I decided it was more important to listen to and trust my soul than it was to listen to them, whoever they may be. I've been a lot more confident since then.

I think that is what many of us end up choosing. And it usually turns out for the better.

Peter said...

In the Tuesday Devotional just now, the guy said, no joke, "Romantic love is wonderful.” See! Mormons love this idea!

One of So Many said...

But is there a more truer and more powerful love then Romantic? Take Fiddler on the Roof. The love that folds your laundry, and cooks for you year after year has got to be a more powerful love then this Romantic love that people keep talking about.

Peter said...

Right. Who needs romantic love when your parents can pick out a match with the matchmaker who will slave your for day after day?