Special Cases

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bridget_night
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Special Cases

Post by bridget_night » 24 Mar 2009, 04:55

I was on a group where they were discussing whether God would ever tell you something different than GA's do. I told them that has happened to me and I was told I was treading on thin ice for saying that. Some said that God would never tell you anything differently. So much for Nephi being told to kill, right? Well, I believe the church leaders give general principles and then you pray whether that is right for you or your family (like mom's working outside the home for example). Anyway, I was sent this article called "Special Cases" where a talk by Dallin Oaks was addressed. Here is the main jest of the article and wondered what your thoughts or experiences have been on this subject:

In the May 1, 2005 fireside talk that Elder Dallin Oaks addressed to young adults in Oakland, California, entitled, "The Dedication of a Lifetime." He specifically urges young people to be more serious about their responsibility toward courtship and marriage. He urges them not to postpone this sacred requirement but to get on with it and their lives as married adults. But what if you happen to be gay? Should you seriously consider marriage to someone of the opposite sex in order to follow a prophet's admonition even if you find such an idea physically and emotionally repugnant? It's safe to assume that Elder Oaks agrees with President Hinckley's statement that marriage should not be used as a "cure" for homosexuality.

So who do you turn to for advice, for comfort and support and solace? How do you reconcile your true feelings with the constant exhortations and intense familial and community expectations? In short, how do you deal with the fact that you are an exception to the general human condition? Exception means literally to take out.

When you are an exception, you are removed from whatever is under consideration. Can gay Mormons, either as a category or as individuals, represent an exception to God's laws and the advice of modern prophets? We all instinctively recognize the dangerous precedent that is set whenever exceptions to God's rules are mentioned.

LDS prophets and apostles are used as the source for our understanding of what is right and wrong or sinful behavior. In his talk, Elder Oaks recognizes the possibility of exceptions to God's commandments. Speaking of dating and marriage expectations, Elder Oaks entertains an intriguing discussion of exceptional behavior. For this purpose he chooses to use for illustration the deliberate taking of human life that may be a required part of the life of military personnel who are under legal command. This, Elder
Oaks says, is as an exception to the commandment to not kill. Other exceptions come to mind such as not wearing temple garments in certain sporting events and military service conditions or periodic non-attendance at Church meetings for professional football stars such as Steve Young.

But Elder Oaks sets a high standard for this kind of exception. He says bluntly that it is to be worked out with the Lord, meaning not on a group membership basis, and that the individual petitioner must personally be able to say that he or she believes the Lord has granted the exception. In the first instance, this implies a close relationship with deity. It also suggests that exemptions or exceptions are a personal and private matter before the Lord.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks and the Special Case Doctrine

I now turn to the commentary. Elder Oaks' remarks are followed by
commentary in italics.

DHO: If you are troubled about something we have just said, please
listen very carefully to what I will say now. Perhaps you are a
young man feeling pressured by what I have said about the need to
start a pattern of dating that can lead to marriage, or a young
woman troubled by what we have said about needing to get on with
your life.

In this case let us suppose that the troubled young person is gay
and does indeed feel concerned because of what was said. The trouble
is, of course, that he or she cannot get on with life through dating
someone of the opposite sex with the idea in mind of finding a
potential marriage partner.

DHO: If you feel you are a special case, so that the strong counsel
I have given doesn't apply to you, please don't write me a letter.

We may suppose that the gay young person will probably feel that
indeed, he or she is a special case. Such a person might wish to
write a letter but may feel awkward in doing so out of fear of
further rejection. In any case, Elder Oak's counsel is to not write
a letter.

DHO: Why would I make this request? I have learned that the kind of
direct counsel I have given results in a large number of letters
from members who feel they are an exception, and they want me to
confirm that the things I have said just don't apply to them in
their special circumstance.

No other source, including scripture, can affirm an exception
derived from a special circumstance, and a local bishop will feel
unauthorized to do so. Thus, the gay LDS member is naturally
inclined to seek it from a living prophet-an LDS apostle.

DHO: I will explain why I can't offer much comfort in response to
that kind of letter by telling you an experience I had with another
person who was troubled by a general rule. I gave a talk in which I
mentioned the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13).
Afterward a man came up to me in tears saying that what I had said
showed there was no hope for him. "What do you mean?" I asked him.
He explained that he had been a machine gunner during the Korean
War. During a frontal assault his machine gun mowed down scores of
enemy infantry. Their bodies were piled so high in front of his gun
that he and his men had to push them away in order to maintain their
field of fire. He had killed a hundred, he said, and now he must be
going to hell because I had spoken of the Lord's commandment "Thou
shalt not kill."

Similarly, gay LDS members may wish to know whether their
disobedience to the command to marry in the temple will condemn them
or limit their participation in the full fellowship of the church if
not obeyed.

DHO: The explanation I gave that man is the same explanation I give
to you if you feel you are an exception to what I have said.

This is potentially of great significance to the gay LDS. Here a
living apostle provides an explanation for people who regard
themselves as exceptions to God's commandments. The nature of the
exception is not given. The counsel pertains to all who believe they
are an exception to what Elder Oaks says about dating and marriage.

DHO: As a General Authority, it is my responsibility to preach
general principles. When I do, I don't try to define all the
exceptions. There are exceptions to some rules.

Elder Oaks confirms that there are circumstances under which general
principles have exceptions. He is unambiguous here. "There are
exceptions to some rules." He doesn't state here explicitly which
rules may have exceptions other than to cite the very serious
commandment, "Thou shalt not kill." Elder Oaks does not say anything
about any other commandment but opens up the possibility for others.
Note that he uses the words "principle" and "rule" in the plural
form. I don't think this is a trivial usage.

DHO: For example, we believe the commandment is not violated by
killing pursuant to a lawful order in an armed conflict. But don't
ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the
general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your
responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and
the Lord.

Instead of telling us which rules may or may not be subject to
exception, Elder Oaks gives us a principle by which to guide our
behavior. He makes the decision the responsibility of the individual
listener. Ultimately we all must decide for ourselves how we conduct
our lives. Such decisions bless us and bring us closer to God or
condemn us and remove us from his presence. But the process of a
decision to regard ourselves as an exception resides solely between
each individual and the Lord. Note he does not say between the
individual and his or her bishop, parent, relative or any other
person or organization.

DHO: The Prophet Joseph Smith taught this same thing in another way.
When he was asked how he governed such a diverse group of Saints, he
said, "I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves"
(in John Taylor, "The Organization of the Church," Millennial Star,
Nov. 15, 1851, 339). In what I have just said, I am simply teaching
correct principles and inviting each one of you to act upon these
principles by governing yourself.

Elder Oaks makes it clear that the principle of marriage (to the
opposite sex) is a correct principle. He does not rescind this or
qualify it-marriage between a man and a woman is a correct
principle. Dating between the sexes is a correct principle. Having
been taught this correct principle, we must then govern ourselves.
This is a somewhat different position than saying "Having been
taught the correct principle, that principle will determine your
behavior." Rather, having been taught the correct principle, you
determine your own behavior. If your behavior is not consistent with
the principle, then you should have worked this out with the Lord.

Who Should be Interested in the Special Case Doctrine?

Elder Oaks' keen insight into the special circumstances of some
young adults is of direct interest to parents of gay children. We
are familiar with a number of strong LDS families who don't know
where to turn for help and are emotionally paralyzed by an
apparently irreconcilable dilemma. The young LDS gay person who has
discovered his or her homosexuality and is trying to come to terms
with it will also read Elder Oaks words with keen and hopeful
interest.

A great deal of the burden in Elder Oaks' "Special Case" doctrine
(to elevate this more than perhaps he intended) falls on the
individual who places him/herself in that category. The decision to
regard oneself as a special case perhaps worthy of exclusion from a
general law or principle isn't the burden, however difficult it may
be to come to this conclusion. What is difficult is to get oneself
in the position to be able to communicate clearly with the Lord and
to hear and understand His special guidance in return. In that
connection, I turn to another talk by Elder Oaks, entitled "Our
Strengths Can Become our Downfall."

DHO: Closely related to this example is the person who has a strong
desire to be led by the Spirit of the Lord but who unwisely extends
that desire to the point of wanting to be led in all things. A
desire to be led by the Lord is a strength, but it needs to be
accompanied by an understanding that our Heavenly Father leaves many
decisions for our personal choices. Personal decision making is one
of the sources of the growth we are meant to experience in
mortality. Persons who try to shift all decision making to the Lord
and plead for revelation in every choice will soon find
circumstances in which they pray for guidance and don't receive it.
For example, this is likely to occur in those numerous circumstances
in which the choices are trivial or either choice is acceptable.

DHO: We should study things out in our minds, using the reasoning
powers our Creator has placed within us. Then we should pray for
guidance and act upon it if we receive it. If we do not receive
guidance, we should act upon our best judgment. Persons who persist
in seeking revelatory guidance on subjects on which the Lord has not
chosen to direct us may concoct an answer out of their own fantasy
or bias, or they may even receive an answer through the medium of
false revelation. Revelation from God is a sacred reality, but like
other sacred things, it must be cherished and used properly so that
a great strength does not become a disabling weakness.

There have always been questions that church members have asked and
answers have followed sometimes after many patient years. In these
areas we have hoped for direction either directly from the Lord or
through Church leaders.

I live by what I believe to be right and if I find out it was wrong later, I change. Bridget

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Special Cases

Post by Curt Sunshine » 24 Mar 2009, 10:47

Bridget, this is exactly how I look at my life - as my own unique life lived generally within certain parameters, but open always to what I personally feel is right for me. I live the "standard life" generally, stepping out of it when I feel that is what God wants of me.

I just wish all members understood better what Elder Oaks says here. I probably will take this and post something on Mormon Matters about it. I'll make sure I give you unnamed attribution. Thanks.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

Gabe P
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Re: Special Cases

Post by Gabe P » 24 Mar 2009, 10:50

I think this is a pretty good statement of how I see morality. I can't be ignorant of the moral code that we've developed as a church and as a species. But I feel accountable for my own actions, so I've got to do what's right as I understand it. If there is a judgment, I don't think I'll go wrong if I honestly try to do that.

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Orson
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Re: Special Cases

Post by Orson » 24 Mar 2009, 13:05

Individual responsibility, I LOVE IT! Hey, we are supposed to think for ourselves and seek answers for ourselves! Yes, even within the framework of the gospel, but that doesn't mean that our lives will all be cloned.

Thanks for that Bridget!
My avatar - both physical and spiritual.

I first found faith, and thought I had all truth. I then discovered doubt, and claimed a more accurate truth. Now I’ve greeted paradox and a deeper truth than I have ever known.

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Brian Johnston
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Re: Special Cases

Post by Brian Johnston » 24 Mar 2009, 13:23

Fascinating idea to ponder.

I think the counterbalance to declaring oneself an exception, is to consciously acknowledge that you are also responsible for your decision. I disagree with "authorities" in the Church in my personal interpretations of things at times. I realize though that I can no longer pin them with the responsibility when I do that. There's no scape goat. There is a true comfort to staying on the reservation, so to say. It makes things less complex and risky -- the prophet told me to do it! (so it isn't my fault if I am wrong).

Well I sometimes do things different. I have nobody else to blame if I mistake the promptings of the Spirit.

On some level, I think everyone is a special case. We are all individuals. We must act and react to the needs of the moment. I see the specturm. There is seldom a choice between the one right answer and the one wrong answer. That's the gritty practical side of reality.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

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hawkgrrrl
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Re: Special Cases

Post by hawkgrrrl » 24 Mar 2009, 13:57

"But don't ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord."
I think this is the very key to both disaffection and reconciliation, so thanks, Bridget, for posting it. Oaks, as a previous judge, can kind of come off the hard guy with lots of little rules, yet this quote is spot on.

Many who become disaffected or feel disenfranchised consider themselves an exception to something or other (or empathetically see others as exceptions), and they want to lobby for validation of those exceptions, either for themselves or others. They don't want to feel judged or for others to feel judged, and there's a noble sentiment there about valuing diversity.

By the same token, it is a disempowering idea to think that we need someone else to sanction our "okayness" with God. We don't! We can go straight to God and get direction for our own lives (and Oaks wisely cautions against rationalization). Once you let go of needing approval (which is at the heart of seeking validation for exceptions), you become empowered. You can stop being a child of God and start being an adult of God. And adults are responsible for their own decisions.

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Re: Special Cases

Post by Curt Sunshine » 24 Mar 2009, 14:34

Hawk just hinted at one of the reasons I accept the concept of prophets and general rules. There are SO MANY things we have to try to understand in this life that it literally would blow our puny little brains to try and figure it all out on our own all at once. We need general safety standards in which to operate while we gradually figure out the extended boundaries of our own lives.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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HiJolly
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Re: Special Cases

Post by HiJolly » 24 Mar 2009, 18:58

Ray Degraw wrote:Hawk just hinted at one of the reasons I accept the concept of prophets and general rules. There are SO MANY things we have to try to understand in this life that it literally would blow our puny little brains to try and figure it all out on our own all at once. We need general safety standards in which to operate while we gradually figure out the extended boundaries of our own lives.
In my life I have searched near and far for enlightenment. I've dug through much manure to get to the 'pony' that surely IS there.

In all that I have surely gone where very few other LDS have gone, yet all the time I felt the sweet assurance of the Lord's Spirit guiding me, helping me discern the good from the not so good. One key that was given me was to hold on to my covenants. The covenants I have made in the Church serve as the standards that holds me back from wanton excess and folly. Just as a string holds the kite from certain free-fall and disaster. Some may say the string limits the kite, keeps it from really fulfilling its true capacity. But the appearance is deceptive. No string = a broken kite.


HiJolly
Men are not moved by events but by their interpretations.
-- The Stoic Epictetus

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Special Cases

Post by Curt Sunshine » 25 Mar 2009, 13:42

That's a fabulous analogy, HiJolly! Thanks.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Tom Haws
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Re: Special Cases

Post by Tom Haws » 25 Mar 2009, 22:50

Ray Degraw wrote:We need general safety standards in which to operate while we gradually figure out the extended boundaries of our own lives.
Exactly. I really appreciate your concise statement.
Tom (aka Justin Martyr/Justin Morning/Jacob Marley/Kupord Maizzed)
Higley and Guadalupe
Gilbert, Arizona
----
Sure, any religion would do. But I'm LDS.
"There are no academic issues. Everything is emotional to somebody." Ray Degraw at www.StayLDS.com

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