Saturday, March 31, 2012


Tonight, Pres. Monson said "I love the word duty--and all that implies." (Or something very much like that...I won't promise my memory of the wording is exact.)

And I thought: what does the word "duty" imply?

It implies that our relationships matter, and that we have the most meaning not as isolated individuals, but in the context of relationships to our fellow human beings and to God. It implies that we are accountable for our actions--and by extension, that our actions matter. It implies a mission in life which can, in at least some measure, be fulfilled.

Pres. Monson went on to quote, for at least his third time in a General Conference, a short thought by Rabindranath Tagore:
I slept and dreamt that life was Joy.
I awoke and saw that life was Duty.
I acted, and behold, Duty was Joy.

I usually notice when an Indian is quoted in Conference, and will admit to feeling some ethnic pride at hearing Tagore's wisdom over the pulpit. I decided to look up the quote and see if it was part of a larger poet--but I haven't been able to find the source.

I did find an interesting meditation of Tagore's on the subject of everyday duty in a collection of letter-excerpts called Glimpses of Bengal which sort of reminds me of Hel 12: 6-8. Here's the Tagore passage:

16th June 1892.

The more one lives alone on the river or in the open country, the clearer it becomes that nothing is more beautiful or great than to perform the ordinary duties of one's daily life simply and naturally. From the grasses in the field to the stars in the sky, each one is doing just that; and there is such profound peace and surpassing beauty in nature because none of these tries forcibly to transgress its limitations.

Yet what each one does is by no means of little moment. The grass has to put forth all its energy to draw sustenance from the uttermost tips of its rootlets simply to grow where it is as grass; it does not vainly strive to become a banyan tree; and so the earth gains a lovely carpet of green. And, indeed, what little of beauty and peace is to be found in the societies of men is owing to the daily performance of small duties, not to big doings and fine talk.

Perhaps because the whole of our life is not vividly present at each moment, some imaginary hope may lure, some glowing picture of a future, untrammelled with everyday burdens, may tempt us; but these are illusory.
Whichever quote you use, I'm thankful for people who have found meaning in our routine burdens of simple duties, and for a restored gospel that exalts the everyday.

And I'm grateful to have both Rabindranath Tagore, the poet, and Thomas S. Monson, the prophet, present in my life.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Moses and the Angels--Gen 2:4-5

"These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,
And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground." (Gen 2:4-5)

I was reading Genesis again the other weekend, and thinking again about how cool it is that when the seven-day creation story in Gen 1:1-2:3 ends, the next verse doesn't just proceed straight on to day eight. Instead, a new story of the "generations of the heavens and of the earth" starts, uncreating mankind for a moment before creating us again in a different set of words.

And this time reading it I got this strange and lovely image: of Moses and the angels, sitting around a campfire. The sun just barely gone down. The first angel speaks, and Moses hears one truth wrapped in one story of the creation. Then the second angel speaks, and gives Moses another truth wrapped in another version. And so it goes, from angel to angel, story to story, history rising in zigzagging layers, wisdom building line upon line. Because Moses knows what it means to have ears to hear.

Because for Moses, sacred stories are the promised land.

And after all, isn't it only natural that the mountains are high while the rivers run low?

Who but a fool would wish for a country that's lined up straight in every direction: that's stubbornly, barrenly consistent?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Form and content

When I was a kid, I spent most of my time in the parallel reality of my imagination. Which I could access most powerful by means of either a) the scriptures or b) my bicycle.

The scriptures were amazing to me, better than any other books because they contained world after world after world with no clear dividing lines. During sacrament meetings, I would stare at the maps and move from place to place and era to era in them, or else flip through the verses looking for scraggly-thin, intense, long-bearded prophets like Elijah and Abinadi (who were so caught up in God they didn't seem to experience ordinary fear) and for clever, long-sighted women like Rebekah and Abigail who could feel what was coming and change it with their words.

On my bicycle, I was both free and potent. I'd ride across the school grounds and up a hill and imagine myself somewhere in the middle of Asia where the people looked like me. My bicycle was my steed, then, and I wore a turban and carried a sword and led my troops over plateaus and steppes and then stopped to eat by rivers on fertile farmland.

This is almost, but not quite, a normal way for a Mormon boy in Utah to grow up in the mid-late 1980s and early 1990s when I was there. I mean, I'll bet there were plenty of Mormon boys around me whose imaginations were best unlocked by the scriptures and their bikes, but I'll also bet they were thinking about Nephi instead of Elijah, and about wearing cowboy hats instead of turbans. The difference is pretty subtle, I think, but somehow has meant a lot to me. I'm still, in many senses, an untypically typical Mormon boy.

Which may explain why the current Everyday Mormon Writer combination of Nick Stephen's "The Garden Gate" and Jake Balser's "Beginning Ghazal" means so much to me. There's something that just feels natural to me about seeing two Mormons explore one of the stories we Latter-day Saints value most by borrowing old Iranian motifs and forms. And yet--I don't think I ever would have expected to see it. Never would have expected to see two grown-up Mormon boys, each within a few years of my own age, letting their imaginations mix Sunday School with styles from lands in the middle of Asia.

I know there are plenty of troubles in this world of ours...but it's a fun time to be alive.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Part Four: In Which I Finally Get to Gay Marriage

This is the final installment in my four-part series on gay marriage and Prop 8. Comments are open today--feel free to respond to anything from the entire series, but please be respectful to those whose opinions differ from yours and/or mine.

Marriage evolved early to protect the “vertical” relationships between generations and only more recently to protect the “lateral” relationships between partners. So what will happen if we take the vertical and lateral legal framework of marriage and apply it to lateral same-sex relationships that haven’t attempted to serve a vertical function in any previous generation? Three different court rulings in California have sidestepped this question by asserting that since men and women no longer have legally defined gender roles, there is no difference between a same-sex and an opposite-sex relationship.

I wish sometimes we’d approach social engineering more like we approach actual engineering. Gay marriage proponents have pointed out that in the five-month window during which California did recognize same-sex marriages, nothing drastic happened to suggest that the fabric of society had been fundamentally changed and have used this to extrapolate a future free of negative consequences. But what would happen if we used the same reasoning to approve oil drilling technologies? No one would have a right to be upset at BP over the massive Gulf oil spill. Our nuclear safety laws could be held in court as having “no rational basis.”

But engineers don’t aim for five months of safety. My uncle, who’s a chemical engineer, has a job where the acceptable projected major incident rate is once every 30,000 years. So if engineers are going to incorporate a new building material or configuration into a plant design, they consider numerous possible consequences first. If we are going to stick same-sex couples into the old category of marriage, we ought to be considering what stresses the design change might put on marriage as a category and on same-sex couples as a group.

It seems to me that there are two possibilities. The first is that expanding the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples could decrease the vertical emphasis in marriage, which may have broader social implications. The second is that marriage’s vertical dimension is strong enough not to be affected, in which case using the term “marriage” would likely increase the pressure on same-sex couples to focus more on vertical relationships.

Would including same-sex relationships under the legal umbrella of marriage affect vertical relationships in the long term? Is it reasonable to be concerned about the effects of gay marriage on procreation and parenting?

Judges have dismissed such fears when it comes to procreation, but the truth is that we don’t know. Some people will exclusively pursue lateral same-sex relationships no matter what the legal or cultural context is. Others will have children and invest significant energy into vertical relationships no matter what the legal or cultural context is. But we don’t know what will happen in the marginal cases in between: whether, for example, same-sex marriage rights will change the opposite-sex married fatherhood rates of men who are roughly equally attracted to members of both genders.

These sorts of unknowns may not matter to secular, highly-educated, white, middle-class voters. But then again, that’s a demographic with a fertility rate below replacement levels. Among many of the racial minority and religiously conservative communities that have fertility rates above replacement levels, fears about the possible consequences of gay marriage are much more prevalent. Is this just ignorance and prejudice, or a product of pro-natal values that are perfectly compatible with the Constitution?

The parenting question is more sensitive. For most of history in most cultures, parenting models have been based on ideas of the two genders as complementary (yin and yang, if you will), but parenting styles that rely on gender roles in America today are controversial. Do mothers and fathers matter, or are loving adults essentially interchangeable as parenting units?

On a practical level, I’m not opposed to some experimentation. After all, there are plenty of children without stable and loving parents at all—even in the absence of a historical precedent for gay parenting, I think it’s better for children to be raised by adults who want them than by adults who don’t. But judges aren’t ruling that we should open a door to experimentation on gay parenting right now—that’s already been done. They are ruling that differentiation between opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples has no rational basis and violates the United States Constitution, ruling effectively that it’s prejudice to consider opposite-gender parents superior to same-gender parents.

If the mother-father model is based entirely in social constructs, that’s no problem. But if there turns out to be a meaningful biological component to the mother-father model, well...good luck getting biology to change in response to a court order.

It may be instructive to consider another parenting controversy in which progress and biology seem pitted against one another as a reference point. Yes: just in case gay marriage isn’t enough to start a fight in the comments, I’m going to touch briefly on infant formula vs. breastfeeding.

For most of human history, babies were breastfed—if not by their mothers then by a wet-nurse. But during the 20th century, when our collective respect for technology and industry overtook our respect for tradition, infant formulas became increasingly popular. In the 1920s, studies that suggested formula-fed babies fared as well as breast-fed babies led to the first significant formula boom. By 1950, roughly half of American babies were being raised on formula and by the early 1970s, the percentage was up to three-fourths. Whenever evidence suggested breastfeeding might have inherent advantages, scientists simply attempted to create more advanced formulas.

Eventually, though, the body of evidence for the advantages of breastfeeding (both nutritional and psychological) grew large enough to inspire a counter-movement. Four decades and billions of dollars in public awareness campaigns later, three-fourths of American mothers start their babies on breast milk—though only a third are still exclusively breastfeeding by even the three month mark. And pushing for more breastfeeding can be tricky, despite the body of evidence. Campaigns like the “Breast is Best” one are accused of being judgmental or devaluing mothers who choose formula.

Now, do I think we should ban formula? No. But would I be nervous if a court ruled that infant formula and breastfeeding are no different from one another? Yes.

Do I think we should keep same-sex couples from building lives together, or keep determined same-sex couples from parenting together? No. But do I think we can treat traditional marriage and same-sex marriage as identical without affecting the strength of our vertical relationships in some way? Well, let’s just say I think there’s sometimes a fine line between progress and hubris.

So far, though, my structural analysis has focused on how ruling Proposition 8 unconstitutional might affect the next generation. A good engineer would also carefully consider whether there will be unintended effects for the current generation of same-sex couples.

Let’s assume that marriage as an institution would not be affected by being expanded to include same-sex couples. Would same-sex relationships be benefited or harmed if they were expected to do the same work of connecting generations that marriages have traditionally done? Again, we don’t know. My general impression is that few same-sex couples before, say, 1990, felt like parenting or grandparenting were vital missing dimensions of their romantic relationship. Is it optimal for gay couples to have norms based in heterosexual relationships projected onto them without any adjustment? How would it affect gay men, in particular, to have adoption and parenting as common social expectations of their long-term relationships?

I don’t necessarily have a problem with social engineering, but hastily redefining a core building block of society seems like really shoddy engineering work. I agree that we need to do something in this country to protect gay Americans, but is trying to leverage social acceptance by redefining marriage really the best solution?

And will anyone really benefit in the long term if we decide it’s hate or prejudice to believe that same-sex and opposite-sex relationships aren’t quite the same?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Part Three: What is marriage?

On Wednesday, I discussed the history of same-sex relationships. On Thursday, I discussed my religion-informed perspective on gay rights. Today, I deal with the question of what marriage has meant in the past. Tomorrow, I will finish the series and leave reader comments open.

Is the institution of marriage just about recognizing couples “who have chosen to share one another's lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring”?

This appears to be the central issue in the recent legal debate over Proposition 8 in California. According to the gay marriage opponents who defended Proposition 8, encouraging procreation in the context of a stable relationship has been a central historical purpose of marriage as an institution. While few in the United States today would challenge the legal right of men or women to pursue romantic relationships with members of the same sex, a procreation-centered definition of marriage makes the idea of “gay marriage” a contradiction in terms. If this definition of marriage is correct and important, there’s also some risk that we’ll redefine a core purpose right out of marriage if we insist its two-gender history is just a matter of prejudice.

But according to Judge Vaughn Walker, two counter-examples prove this thinking wrong:

1) Couples who have no intention to have children are allowed to marry.

2) Couples with no ability to have children are allowed to marry.

The initial court ruling against Proposition 8 (and in favor of gay marriage as a constitutional right) asserts that these examples prove that marriage is fundamentally about mutual caring and therefore not restricted by definition to couples who plan to bear children. Without procreation as a core purpose of marriage, there seems to be little rational basis for the exclusion of same-sex couples, and so the court is simply fulfilling its 14th Amendment obligation to strike down measures that create undue legal burdens for persecuted minorities when it invalidates Proposition 8.

I think Vaughn Walker’s ruling against Proposition 8 is intellectually honest. But I also think that careful consideration of his counter-examples shows his ruling is historically myopic and fairly problematic.

Here’s why:

Up until fifty years ago or so, getting married with no intention to have children was unthinkable. For one thing, contraceptive technology was limited enough that it was logistically difficult to have a lifelong sexual relationship without an extremely high chance of pregnancy and childbirth. For another, social attitudes simply precluded it: if you got married, having children was taken for granted as a next step. So to say that the existence of modern couples who don’t intend to have children sheds light on the social purpose of marriage is misleading.

What about couples who can’t have children? Ample historical evidence reveals that in every culture where marriage had legal status, childlessness was considered an extreme tragedy. A marriage could be started without children, but was not considered complete in cases where no children came. A story like this is the basis of the religious beliefs of the majority of the people in the world to this day: Abraham and Sarah long for children and feel incomplete when children do not come.

Except, of course, that a child does come to Abraham and Sarah in the story. Which reveals, incidentally, another flaw in Walker’s reasoning: it is medical hubris to believe we can tell with absolute certainty which male-female couples won’t be able to have children. I have two nephews, actually, whose mothers had been told by doctors they would be unable to bear children. But doctors do not know everything, and two surprised women in our family each gave birth to a boy.

Let’s call the relationship between two people of the same rough generation “lateral” and the relationship between generations “vertical.” If we go back more than a hundred years in history, I think it’s clear that marriage as an institution was considered primary vertical (that is, designed to protect the relationships between generations) and only secondarily lateral (that is, designed to protect the relationships between individual lovers). That’s why Alexander never would have thought of marrying Hephaestion. Even though the two men’s strongest lateral relationship was with each other, Alexander married at least two different women for the sake of his vertical relationships. Ancient Greeks seem to have valued both types of relationships, but would have considered it ridiculous to assume they were the same.

But you don’t have to look only to the past to see the vertical dimension of marriage. Look at an ethnic wedding in the United States today and you’ll see largely neglected kinds of clothing, music, and traditions rise to prominence. Even assimilated, clean-shaven men from traditionally Sikh families typically grow beards for their weddings as a sort of nod to ancestors. Even very American Jews use the Hebrew “mazel tov” to congratulate a new couple, because there’s an unspoken feeling at a wedding that the new couple is standing in a chain of couples that goes back to days before ancestors ever set foot on English-speaking shores, and that the couple is going to continue that chain of descendents until long after today’s English is dead.

Now, over the past hundred years or so, it’s become increasingly common around the world to give the lateral elements of marriage more weight. Matches that start with love are now the norm rather than arranged marriages where love is a secondary feature the couple can choose to develop. Spouses are expected to be close friends in the personal lives as well as partners in an intergenerational enterprise. And even the most deeply pro-natal faith groups in America seem to support these trends and to feel good about a model of marriage that is equally vertical and lateral.

But those same groups are extremely uncomfortable with a definition of marriage that fully devalues the institution’s vertical elements. Don’t believe me? Go ask orthodox Jewish, LDS, Catholic, Muslim, or Sikh religious figures sometime what they think about couples who plan not to have any children. I think you’ll see quickly that the old idea that marriage is complete only with the arrival of children is very much alive, and not just a pretense for homophobia as some have claimed.

Since few people organize to insist that it’s hateful to disapprove of couples who don’t want to have children, of course, and since it’s easy for couples who don’t want any children to simply change their minds, the erosion of the vertical dimension of marriage in their case hasn’t become a major political issue. But since most gay rights advocates insist that disapproval of same-gender sexual relationships comes from ignorance and hate rather than from different values, and because same-sex marriage is irreversibly distanced from at least biological vertical relationships, the underlying questions about the nature of marriage have become both political and heated.

Continued (and concluded) in Part Four: In Which I Finally Get to Gay Marriage.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Part Two: Gay Rights in Our Time and Place

This is part two of yesterday's discussion on gay marriage. Comments will be closed on this post and the next and open on part four this Saturday.

I believe in a God who takes the bonding power of sexuality very seriously and teaches that it should only be used in male-female marriage relationships. So I do worry when the language of gay rights begins to suggest that any opposition to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender) lifestyles is grounded in prejudice and hate. I mean, I don’t believe that people simply choose who to be attracted to, but I also believe there should be many, many steps in a person’s decision-making process between initial attraction and sex. After all, from my perspective a sexual relationship has lifelong consequences—and life never really ends.

It’s difficult to bridge my belief in sex as part of an eternal relationship with the perspectives of those who advocate trying out various types of sexual relationships as a way of discovering and asserting a political identity. And to hear that I should value heterosexual and bisexual lifestyles equally doesn’t fit well into my existing frame of reference: I can understand that some people (probably more than we admit) are attracted to people of both genders, but what am I supposed to make of the notion of valuing bisexual lifestyles when I believe an ideal life involves only one sexual relationship?

I agree with gay rights advocates that no one should get beaten up physically or verbally for being different, but I can’t agree that it’s a moral imperative to think all types of sexual choices are equal.

But is being personally respectful to people who choose different lifestyles enough? I’m not sure it is. If I understand right, talk about gay marriage started during the AIDS epidemic, when many gay men were making great sacrifices to care for dying partners and suddenly found themselves wishing for legal rights about things like insurance and hospital visitation. The right to visit a sick loved one is something many of us take for granted. But it’s also a right, sadly, that many family members of gay AIDS patients in the 1980s didn’t exercise. So our country was left with situations where gay men had to fight against standing rules for the right to visit dying men no one else was going in to visit.

It breaks my heart to think about that.

Don't those men, whose acts of service in the face of adversity our God surely saw and respected, deserve some help making appropriate legal changes?

I think it’s a good thing that so many people, especially young people, believe the answer is yes. But it’s notoriously difficult to transfer a kind and wise spirit successfully into binding letters, so good intentions won’t necessarily translate into good laws.

Early attempts to grant same-sex couples insurance and hospital visitation rights, plus everyday things like the ability to easily open joint bank accounts, were built around words like “civil union” and “domestic partnership.” California, for example, created a registry in 1999 for legally-recognized “domestic partnerships” designed primarily for adult same-sex couples who, to use the law’s phrasing, “have chosen to share one another's lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring.”

But creating a new legal category can be tricky. What rights and obligations should domestic partners have? Rather than starting from scratch, California and many other states decided to simply borrow pre-existing marriage laws: domestic partners, the California law said, had all the same legal rights and obligations as spouses. Which sort of raised the question: why not just call them spouses? Why not just legally recognize a committed same-sex relationship as a marriage, and thus protect the rights of same-sex couples by tying them to rights of everyone else?

And once the word marriage became a rallying point for gay rights activists, many lawyers and judges started to wonder: should anyone have a right to tell two people who build a life together that they can’t get married?

Which is the question that dominates the gay rights debate today.

Continued in Part Three: What is Marriage?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Four-Part Series on Gay Marriage and Prop 8

I finally finished a detailed blog post on gay marriage--and have decided to split it into four parts, which will appear over the next four days. Comments will be closed on the first three parts and open at the end of the fourth.

"I think I'm going to write about gay marriage," I told my sister.

She sighed. "I wouldn't touch that issue with a ten-foot pole," she said.

"Oh, I've avoided it plenty," I said, "but I think it's time."

So wish me luck. And remind yourself to speak kindly to others on all sides of the issue should you make it to the end and choose to comment.

Part One: Let Me Take a Step Back

My grandpa, Gurcharan Singh Gill, taught college math classes for several decades. My parents used to tell me I was free to ask him for help on my homework, but I'd better be ready to get the whole history of mathematics starting with Pythagoras before he'd help me find the answer.

Like grandpa, I suppose, like grandson. Before I get to California in 2008, I'm going to wander through the Bible and Shakespeare and ancient Greece (and maybe even try to tie in the disco era to make my journey through the canonized History of the Western World complete).

Why? Because our current way of thinking about same-sex relationships—sexual or not—is hardly the only way to think about them.

Let’s start in the Bible. Sociologist Rodney Stark describes ancient Jewish culture as radically “pro-natal,” what with all the promises of descendants like stars in the heavens or sands in the sea and all the talk about tell your children this, teach them that. Given beliefs that put such emphasis on children and future generations, it’s no surprise that Jewish thought was for sexual bonding in the context of male-female marriages and against any other kind of sexual activity or relationship.

But if we were to take a time machine back, most modern Americans would probably think the majority of Biblical-era men they’d see were “totally gay.” Read the Bible: men don't just give awkward half-hugs, the phrasing is often more like "fell on his neck" to describe an embrace. They don't give quick Latin-style air kisses to each other—in 2 Sam 20:9, it seems to be standard practice that Joab takes Amasa's face in his hand before a kiss. And men in the Bible are not afraid of deep same-sex emotional attachments: it’s beautiful to them when “the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.”

And it’s not just the Bible. From a historical perspective, current American expectations about the limits of appropriate levels and expressions of affection between men are extremely rigid. Most cultures have valued close, deep emotional bonds between men far more than Americans do today.

Take Shakespeare's plays as a second example. In the climax of Two Gentleman of Verona, Valentine offers his girlfriend to his best friend as a token of reconciliation in their friendship. That's pretty offensive to modern audiences (especially given the circumstances!), but was probably moving to many men in Shakespeare's time--who took their own closest friendships more seriously than their marriages. In Twelfth Night, the pirate captain Antonio takes huge risks for Sebastian because of an admiration or affection which sounds downright passionate in its intensity--and no other characters seem to think this is particularly strange or "queer." For them, seeing one man deeply drawn to another probably seemed perfectly normal and did not raise questions about "sexual identity" or corresponding minority status.

I put "sexual identity" in quotes there because the idea that an individual's attractions defined his/her identity or belonging to a group is fairly recent in Western cultures. Ancient Greek culture did not distinguish between gay and straight people the way we do today, and Plato seems to have felt that a love between men which combined intellectual engagement and sexual energy was far superior to the merely procreative sexual relationships that took place between men and women. According to Plutarch, the generals of the Greek city-state Thebes successfully channeled the power of sexual bonds into military might by forming a unit known as the Sacred Band made up entirely of male couples. Soldiers might desert their comrades, the generals' reasoning went, but would fight to the death for their lovers. And it seems to have worked: no one defeated the Sacred Band until they all fought to what the Greeks considered deeply noble deaths in a desperate last stand against Philip of Macedon.

Philip's son Alexander had a famously close relationship with his friend and comrade Hephaestion. Though each later married a daughter of the deposed Persian emperor, their relationship with each other was likely sexual in their youth and may have remained sexual throughout their lives. And though Alexander had conquered most of the known world and seen plenty of suffering, he was still inconsolable when Hephaestion died. Ancient sources say that Alexander mourned over Hephaestion's body all day long, at which point he had to be physically dragged away by his remaining companions.

And though we rarely talk about it, stories like Alexander's are probably not confined to the ancient world. I've read convincing arguments that in upper-class Victorian single-gender boarding schools, strong same-sex attraction was fairly common: sometimes leading to intense friendships, other times to relationships that were also sexual. I've also read and heard that in a context like a naval ship mission, where an almost exclusively male population is isolated for an extended period of time, men who would otherwise consider themselves heterosexual find themselves drawn to members of the same gender.

There are two main lessons I think we can learn from all this:

1) "Gay" and "straight" isn't an on/off switch. A few people may be exclusively attracted to members of the same gender regardless of culture and context. A few people may be exclusively attracted to members of the opposite gender regardless of culture and context. But the vast majority of us are somewhere on a spectrum in between, at least theoretically capable of feeling a variety of levels of attraction, admiration, and emotional investment in members of the same sex. It is historically strange, to say the least, that we view so many manifestations of male connection and affection as signaling membership in a separate "gay" minority group. We stigmatize feelings and ways of relating today which are probably normal components of human nature for almost everyone.

2) The 1960s and '70s gay rights movement used language of sexual liberation and personal freedom from social accountability, which created a common public association between homosexuality and casual sex or promiscuity--but that's not necessarily representative of same-sex relationships now or throughout history. There have been and are many same-sex couples who are deeply committed and faithful to one another. And I think we do ourselves a collective disservice if we treat the emotional reality of those bonds lightly as we decide which legal framework to use for same-sex relationships in a democratic society where subjective experience should carry weight.

Continued in Part Two: Gay Rights in Our Time and Place

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Patterns and Presence --D&C 115:14

"But let a house be built unto my name according to the pattern which I will show unto them." (D&C 115:14)

My wife and I have a picture of the temple already in our apartment. It's a line drawing of the Salt Lake Temple by Doug Corbett, and I like it. It's simple, but it reminds us that the temple should be a pattern (in some sense) for our home, for our lives.

I've seen other great temple art in people's homes. I love the photos of the Salt Lake Temple from above in the fog. Love ward pictures of the primary in front of the Columbus, Ohio Temple. Love the paintings from amateur artists that go on display in their relatives' homes.

I think my favorite temple artwork so far, though, might be a recent piece by Nick Stephens. As I write this post, I'm finding it difficult to explain why this piece moves me so much. Maybe it's this: other artwork reminds me of the temple, but this piece reminds me of where the temple fits into the universe.

I love the way it invokes temple history by making Solomon's temple the shadow or reflection of its latter-day counterpart. I love the way the circle of the baptismal font draws you in (it's the gate, right?) and then how the light lines of the temple blueprint draw you up toward the symbol of a sun that radiates over moon and stars.

Looking at this piece, it's easier to remember that the temple cuts through time. That the temple is an anchor between heaven and earth. That the House of the Lord is not just a place, it's a whole different kind of space, a taste of eternity.


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