by Michael Haehnel
Here in the Northeast, we are coming off an unusually severe and long winter. The changing of seasons is always fascinating to me. Some days, as warm air collides with cold, the winds are riotous. It feels as though they will peel the siding off our house. And, to be sure, the spring winds do cause some real damage. But winter gives way to summer in the end.
As I hear about the adverse reactions to Charlie Bird and Matt Easton’s comings out, I am saddened. Living outside the Intermountain West, I get to hear the fun stuff without the local flack. So at first, I am elated. But as the reports of strident negative reactions filter their way eastward, reality sets in. There is still a very long way to go.
Seasons change, and violent winds blow. Latter-day Saint teachings endorse continual suspicion against any social change that does not originate within the Church. Whatever comes onto the world stage without the prophet and apostle’s imprimatur must be “of the world” and another indication of the general societal decline leading to the Second Coming. The us-versus-them rhetoric grows more strident.
Taking a step back, this is all quite natural. People are averse to anything that threatens to disturb their worldview. To call longstanding beliefs into question is often the same as calling a lifetime of decisions and actions and behaviors into question. People will vigorously defend their philosophical underpinnings. I myself have done so many times in the past. It is only natural. But that does not excuse such reactionism.
The natural man may be “an enemy to God,” but that doesn’t mean that our natures are ungodlike. Other scriptures use the words “nature” or “natural” to describe positive aspects of our existence. What this scripture does point out is that certain behaviors and inclinations—such as instinctive reactions—often run contrary to God’s designs. The answer to this negative kind of natural response is, as the scripture points out, to be “as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love.” We might say “open-minded” or “willing to move out of our comfort zone.”
The truth is that God has not always chosen the Church as the means for bringing about positive change in the world. Sometimes the Church is at the tail end of changes, rather than the forefront. The civil rights movement is a prime example. The natural inclination to resist change that is not Church-initiated played out in that process.
So it goes now. Society is coming to the truth that gender and sexuality do not fit neatly into boxes, that they entail numerous gradations, that they may be fluid, and how individuals respond to their own gender and sexuality is really a matter of individual agency. Summer is coming. Winter cannot prevail. In the latitudes of the Church and other like-minded ideologies, the winds blow furiously as the cold air of outmoded belief meets the warm air of true humanity. These are but paroxysms of fear and confusion as individuals face the reality that what they have believed all along is simply not true and cannot stand.
The winds will pass. In the meantime, let us keep track of each other, holding hands and providing protection. The winds, while inevitable and indicative of good times to come, are dangerous. We can be hopeful, for sure, but the time for vigilance has not passed.