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Answers: The Bible and Homosexuality

Guest poster Sheldon Greaves holds a Ph.D. in ancient Near Eastern Studies from the University of California at Berkeley where he specialized in Hebrew Bible. He is currently the Chief Academic Officer at Henley-Putnam University, where he also teaches classes in Religious Extremism.

Proposition 8, Homosexuality, and the Bible: An Excursus

Now that the “family values” wing in California has proposed a ballot initiative (Proposition Eight) for a constitutional amendment to prevent families consisting of gay couples, I thought this would be a good time to examine the alleged religious underpinnings of their anti-gay stance. What follows is an attempt to apply the tools of reason and modern biblical scholarship to the question of the Bible and homosexuality. I have no illusions that everyone who supports Prop. 8 will find this persuasive; one cannot be reasoned out of a position that one was not reasoned into in the first place. But some of the more thoughtful supporters might, I hope, reconsider after reading this.

If you are someone who has committed to live by Judeo-Christian holy writ, then it is mandatory that you know what the Bible says. More than that, you have the obligation to understand the historical and cultural context of what you read, lest you mistake the expediencies of an ancient time and place and state of mind for the transcendent values for which the Bible is justly renowned.

An objective reader will also understand that the scriptures do not speak with a consistent voice, nor do the component books always agree with each other or even within themselves. This is why a conscientious reader of scripture must strive to understand not only the words, but the larger thematic thrust of the scriptures. There are several implicit and explicit ethical and moral threads that wind their way through the text. Taken together, they constitute an imperative for justice and concord by which the believer regards the improvement of the human condition as an act of worship.

If you are not someone who lives their life by the Bible, then what follows will at best be an academic exercise. But I invite you to read what follows if only to get a glimpse into the legal mind of ancient Judaism.

Homosexuality in the Scriptures:

There is remarkably little said about this subject in the Bible. There are two verses in the Pauline epistles, and the Old Testament, upon which the New Testament passages rely.

The Old Testament and Leviticus 18

The first thing that should be mentioned is that homosexuality in toto is not prohibited in the Old Testament. Lesbianism is mentioned nowhere and is not specifically prohibited anywhere. If the people of the Old Testament were anything like people of every other time and place, lesbianism would have been practiced by some percentage of the women. But nowhere does the Old Testament say anything against it (or for it, for that matter).

The key section to unlocking the Old Testament’s attitude toward homosexuality is in Leviticus 18 (Leviticus 20 also repeats these items, but what applies to 18 is also true of 20 for purposes of this discussion).

Who is the audience for Leviticus 18? This chapter is part of a series of laws that were addressed specifically to those Israelites (verse 2, “Say to the people of Israel, I am the LORD your God.) living in their new promised land of Canaan, although verse 26 expands the scope of the chapter to cover all inhabitants of Canaan, Israelite and otherwise.

The reason for the commandments given in this chapter, are laid out in the closing verses (RSV):

24. “Do not defile yourselves by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am casting out before you defiled themselves;

25. and the land became defiled, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants.512 colors or season 5 Leonard and him to enter. The practice of program provides payday loans and elect a new leader. payday loans As a payday loans filing Supplies who had not to eight times. Equality Redistributive Justice and to similar measures value of the item.

26. But you shall keep my statutes and my ordinances and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you

27. (for all of these abominations the men of the land did, who were before you, so that the land became defiled);

28. lest the land vomit you out, when you defile it, as it vomited out the nation that was before you.

29. For whoever shall do any of these abominations, the persons that do them shall be cut off from among their people.

30. So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs which were practiced before you, and never to defile yourselves by them: I am the LORD your God.”

In other words, the land itself was holy and was susceptible to defilement. It responded to defilement by ejecting the inhabitants who defiled it. This is a very important point. The verses also specify that this was why the previous inhabitants had been removed as the Israelites arrived. The laws found in this chapter are intended to prevent desecrating this particular piece of ground, the land of Canaan.

Sex and the Mosaic Law

This main feature of this chapter is a long list of forbidden sexual or marital unions that Israelites may not engage in. This is because they are with close relatives or in-laws, with the exception of verse 20, which prohibits sexual relations with “your neighbor’s wife,” i.e., adultery. At the end of this long list comes another shorter set of prohibitions (vs. 21-23) against male homosexuality, sacrifice of children to Molech, and beastiality.

There are a few basic concerns that are consistently behind Old Testament attitudes regarding sex.

1. Procreation. In ancient times, with its high infant mortality rates and generally short lifespans the ability to grow your population was the ability to survive. Barrenness literally meant the end of your family. Children literally were the future.

2. Concord within the family unit. Since it was common for extended families to live in close proximity, sexual activity that crossed the internal boundaries could threaten that concord and rupture the clan. Many commentators on Leviticus 18 believe that this was one of the main motivations for the prohibitions in this chapter.

3. The loss of “seed”. The Mosaic law was unusual from a modern perspective because it included ritual purity laws designed to propagate certain beliefs among the people. One of the strongest was to enforce the symbolism of life triumphant over death or loss of “life force.” Any male who spilled “seed,” intentionally or not, became impure and had to ritually wash himself, as the loss of seed was seen as the loss of “life.” Likewise the menstrual blood of women was seen as a similar loss of life, which is why menstruating women were impure.

Bear in mind that “impurity” did not carry the same stigma as “sin.” Impurity was ritually removed, but sin, in addition to expiatory ritual, demanded repentance on the part of the sinner.

This explains the prohibition of sex between a man and a menstruating women. It would probably also have been applied to male homosexuality. The silence of the Old Testament on lesbianism now becomes clear; since there is no spilling of blood or semen, there is no reason to prohibit it.

However, it is not enough to just stop at this point. We need to remember the context in which these prohibitions are given. A closer examination of the prohibition against male homosexuality reveals other aspects that call into question the prevailing interpretation of this verse. Context is everything.

First, remember that these rules were for people living in Canaan to prevent them from offending the holiness of the land. So unless you were/are a homosexual male living in Palestine, this verse very specifically does not apply to you.

But let’s take a closer look at 22 verse itself:

“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”

If you consult the original Hebrew text (both Lev. 18 and 20), the phrase used for “lying as with a woman” is a specific idiom: mishkeve ‘ishah, which only refers to illicit heterosexual relations. This is an important item. If male homosexuality is intrinsically forbidden, why compare it to illicit heterosexual unions? What kinds of forbidden heterosexual unions might the text be using to qualify male homosexual union?

The context of this verse is a long list of forbidden heterosexual (except for verse 22) unions that have one thing in common; except for the injunction against adultery, they are between close relatives. So, father may not have sex with a daughter or granddaughter, nor an aunt with a nephew. Clearly this verse is intended to supplement the rest of that list, and thus proscribes male homosexual acts between close relatives. So let us review. The Old Testament only prohibits homosexual acts if the following are true:

* The partners are male
* The act is taking place within the borders of the land of Canaan
* The partners are sufficiently consanguineous as to fall within the list of prohibited relations specified in Leviticus 18.

That excludes virtually all of the world’s homosexuals, and certainly all of the homosexuals in California.

What is an “Abomination”?

There still remains the meaning of the last clause of verse 22: “it is an abomination.” What is an “abomination”? Most readers of the English translations skip past this word, but they don’t realize that in the Hebrew text this word (to’evah) has a very specific and technical meaning in Leviticus. It is used to denote acts that are found in the practices and rituals of foreign religious cults, particularly those of the Canaanites of biblical times, which were forbidden by Israelite religion. That being the case, in today’s world, the circumstances that marked male homosexuality as to’evah no longer exist and therefore do not apply.

Two Other Reasons to Prohibit Homosexuality

Some interpreters of the Bible claim that homosexuality cannot be permitted because it runs contrary to the commandment to “Be fruitful and multiply”. The problem with this argument is that “be fruitful and multiply” is not, and never has been a commandment. The text is very clear that “God blessed them and said…” and thus the injunction is a blessing, not a commandment. This usage appears consistently in every occurrence of the phrase “be fruitful and multiply” found in Genesis (See 1:22,28; 8:17; 9:1,7; 35:9,11).

This is only fair, upon reflection. If “being fruitful” was a commandment, one must explain the prayers of Sarah, Rachel, and other barren women in the Old Testament asking God to let them get pregnant? Why would God command fruitfulness when conception and pregnancy are clearly his prerogative?

The second reason for prohibiting homosexuality is its alleged role in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. This also stems from a misconception, namely that the sin of Sodom was homosexuality (hence “sodomy”). But the Bible itself in Ezekiel 16:49 clearly states that the sin of Sodom was to neglect the poor and the needy. Nothing in that verse or those adjoining it can be construed to mean that Sodom was destroyed because of homosexuality.

One must read the story of the destruction of Sodom in parallel with the story of the Levite’s Concubine in Judges 19 ff. In this brutal tale a Levite and his concubine were offered hospitality and lodging in the Benjaminite town of Gibeah, and, as at Sodom, the men of the city gathered round and attempted to intimidate the host offering shelter to the travelers by threatening homosexual rape of the guest. However, in this case the Levite sent out his concubine to satiate the mob, who then raped her through the night until she died.

In both cases the men of both cities not only violated the institutions of hospitality that were considered inviolate throughout the Mediterranean basin, they used the threat of homosexual gang rape as an instrument of intimidation and violence. In both cases, the perpetrators were deemed worthy of extermination and, in the case of the tribe of Benjamin, this was partially accomplished. The violation of the canons of hospitality was often considered cause for divine retribution and even extermination, and there are numerous examples from across the Near Eastern and Classical worlds.

A proper explanation of this phenomenon is beyond the scope of this treatment, but most modern scholars agree that the destruction of Sodom was believed to have been due to their violation of the institutions of hospitality rather than for homosexual behavior.

Homosexuality and the New Testament

The only verses that mention homosexuality in the New Testament are in the Epistular literature: 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Romans 1:26-27. Jesus makes no mention of it. Paul mentions it in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, which, incidentally, also includes the only reference to lesbianism in the entire scriptural corpus.

But there are reasons why we must not automatically accept Paul’s statement as a blanket prohibition of homosexuality. It is generally acknowledged that in these verses Paul is reliant on Mosaic law and, as we have seen, Mosaic law does not prohibit all homosexuality except under the narrow constraints specified. It should be noted here that Paul is not a reliable interpreter of Old Testament law. Many studies have been written about how even his representation of “accepted” Jewish interpretations of Mosaic Law are often flawed, and therefore one must use Paul with caution in this context. The fact that he isolates himself by proscribing lesbianism when both the Old Testament and the words of Jesus are completely silent on the issue is a strong indication that he is injecting his own feelings into the matter or drawing upon extra-biblical tradition.


The Old Testament does not prohibit homosexuality except between closely-related males living in the land of Canaan, and because of its presence in the rituals of rival Canaanite religious cults. Lesbianism is not mentioned and therefore cannot be considered proscribed by the Old Testament. The New Testament denounced homosexuality, but only in two of the Epistles of Paul in which he is mistakenly applying Jewish law. The Gospels and all the other canonical Christian books are silent on the matter.

A Note on Sources:
The scriptures cited here were either my own translation from the Hebrew or the Revised Standard Version (RSV).

This excursus draws heavily on the Anchor Bible commentary on Leviticus written by one of my professors of Biblical Hebrew at UC Berkeley, Rabbi Jacob Milgrom. See Leviticus 17-22 A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, Vol. 3A, Doubleday, 2000.

I want to acknowledge my gratitude to Prof. Milgrom for the privilege of reading Leviticus with him in his Advanced Biblical Hebrew Seminar at Berkeley, and for the invaluable training I received from him. Any errors herein are strictly my own.

Filed in gay,homosexuality | 39 responses so far

39 Responses to “Answers: The Bible and Homosexuality”

  1. 1Jordan Wadeon 21 Sep 2008 at 6:36 pm

    How do you expect Mormons to take you seriously when you throw out scriptures and teachings that they hold sacred. Doesn’t make for a very good argument to your audience.

  2. 2Judyon 21 Sep 2008 at 10:54 pm

    Jordan: how has he “thrown out” the scriptures? If you read these passages in the King James Version, you will find the same meaning.

  3. 3Franon 21 Sep 2008 at 11:40 pm

    I’ve been reading the bible more in the last few days regarding the issue of homosexuality. While it’s true that there aren’t a lot of verses speaking out against homosexuality, there are some (the ones you mentioned), and I find them pretty clear, and do not agree with your representation of how they are to be understood. Particularly the argument that Jesus didn’t say anything on it, is pretty weak to me. There are quite a few things we embrace in Mormonism that Jesus has said nothing about (like a few scriptures used on this site for this cause that are in D and C).

    However, what actually struck me more though than the scriptures that speak out against homosexuality were the verses that speak about man and woman coming together. It starts right in the beginning, where God says it’s not good for man to be alone, and thus as a solution creates and gives him a woman. Other occasions invite man to leave his parents and cling unto his wife. If God intended for any other possible combinations as well, why didn’t he mention that? I think the bible (and book of Mormon) are full of examples of man and woman belonging together, both to become one flesh, and to create children. Maybe Heavenly Father figured he’d show us what he wants, and then he doesn’t have to spell out all the combinations he DOESN’T want (man and man, man and child, woman and cat, mother and son, etc.)

    I think that you will not find every possible evil or wrong mentioned over and over in the scriptures, but you will find suggestions of them. For now, I think the arguments made that homosexual behavior is NOT against God’s moral laws is rather weak, as far as I’m concerned, especially from a Mormon perspective that assumes both that the bible may not alway be translated correctly, and that also relies on modern revelation to understand scriptures more clearly. I think, at best, one could claim it’s not 100 percent clear, and I would have a hard time even agreeing with that.

  4. 4Jeremyon 23 Sep 2008 at 10:15 pm

    I must say that Fran’s reply is convincing to me. It seems quite clear that homosexuality is not supported in either the book of mormon or the bible. In fact, there are stories that condemn it to some degree (Sodom and Gomora).

    However, I also have to say that struggling with the idea of a life time of surpressing the sexual urges that go along with being attracted to the same gender must be horrible. Someone who could obstain from endulging in those urges has got to pretty much be a saint. It would take someone with so much self control and dedication.

    It’s a really hard topic for me because on one hand, I don’t believe that engaging in any kind of homosexuality is right, but on the other hand how is it possible for the average person to refrain from engaging in those urges all their life?

    As a strait LDS man, I only can understand from the perspective of how hard it was to not engage in sexual acts before marriage to my wife. At times, it felt near impossible.

    This is just one mans opinion, but I guess if I did suffer from homosexual urges, I would rather suffer all my life, and do the right thing, than to endulge and potentially destroy from eternity. Yes, life would be awful in many respects, but that is a price I’m willing to pay in order to live with the integrity that I’ve done the right. Just me.

  5. 5admin3on 24 Sep 2008 at 1:42 pm

    Jeremy –

    Perhaps you have missed this portion of the post:

    “The second reason for prohibiting homosexuality is its alleged role in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. This also stems from a misconception, namely that the sin of Sodom was homosexuality (hence “sodomy”). But the Bible itself in Ezekiel 16:49 clearly states that the sin of Sodom was to neglect the poor and the needy. Nothing in that verse or those adjoining it can be construed to mean that Sodom was destroyed because of homosexuality.”

  6. 6Sharelon 25 Sep 2008 at 12:17 pm

    I do not understand why some think that homosexuality is so different from alcoholism, drug use, or any other sin the Lord has condemned.

    Imagine substituting any those for homosexuality and saying, “Well…it is who I am and I have no other options in my life and it is to strong an urge to ignore, so it must be something that is ok….”.

    Now, in extreme cases, imagine how one could argue that they have the urge to have sexual relations with only children. It is something that they are born with and cannot “ignore”. How does that fit in? You must say that that practice would be ok. You may say that homosexuality does not prey on children, so it is different there, but where do you draw the line?

    Bottom line, we have prophets who guide and lead our Church today who have spoken out against the practice of homosexuality. You either will follow it because you have a testimony that what they are teaching comes from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ or you don’t.

    I also am beginning to get tired of people making a distinction between Christ and “the Mormon church”, as if we operate on two separate levels. This is Christ’s Church – hence the name the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It is not “the Mormons” who have made the laws of the gospel, it is the Lord. If you do not agree with some of it, fine…but do not say that it is the Mormon Church who has been restrictive with what it allows or does not allow, that is what the Lord has set forth as the laws and ordinances of the gospel of today.

  7. 7Steven Bon 26 Sep 2008 at 9:43 am

    Every couple of months a new scientific study is released pointing to a biological connection with homosexuality. As society and the church more and more come to understand homosexuality as an innate aspect of a portion of humanity rather than as a chosen behavior, it may be time to re-examine our scriptural texts in light of our new understanding. The information Sheldon Greaves has presented here is a valuable resource to aid us as we consider the place of homosexuality in the world and in the church.

    Thank you for this excellent post. I gained some valuable insights.

  8. 8Franon 26 Sep 2008 at 2:27 pm

    I disagree. I’m already convinced that homosexual attraction (in other words, prefering the same gender over the opposite) is not a choice. I don’t think the LDS Church suggests that this attraction is a choice. The only thing they say is that acting on an attraction (and ANY attraction for that matter) is a choice. Or in other words, that our behavior (whatever behaviors we’re talking about) are our choices. There may be predispositions, and there may be things that make it really hard to behave a certain way, but we’re still the ones choosing how we behave. I don’t think there will ever be research that can show how our actions are not chosen when we’re talking about people who are in complete control of their senses etc. Obviously, if we’re talking about people with mental handicaps etc. that may be a different story. But the average, rational, healthy human being is able to choose how they want to act. And with that in mind, I don’t think the Church will ever have to re-examine scripture. I think the only time the stance of the church will change is when there is some sort of ‘revelation’ that it ought to change. In regards to homosexual behavior, I doubt a revelation will come, but I may be wrong. To me the scriptures seems fairly clear on the matter, which is not something that could have been said for the issue of blacks not having the priesthood. Who knows though…I think the LDS Church has all the right intentions. I think the prophets and apostles are not taking this subject lightly. I think they care a great deal. That’s not a guarantee of them being right, but I think when our hearts are in the right place, God will provide and make things right when he sees fit.

  9. 9Captain Moronion 26 Sep 2008 at 9:11 pm

    I agree with Fran 1000%. Our beef (’s beef) is that we feel that the Church is not acting per the scriptures regarding equal protection for all.

  10. 10Steven Bon 27 Sep 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Fran, I think it is time to reconsider whether homosexual activity is inherently sinful. There is no logical or rational basis to support that conclusion, only that God taboos it. And that taboo is not clearly or emphatically laid out in scripture, as I think Sheldon has demonstrated in this short essay.

    What it really boils down to for Latter-day Saints is that modern church leaders teach that homosexual activity is sinful. And the big question is whether their teachings derive from long standing societal prejudice or from genuine revelation from God.

  11. 11Franon 27 Sep 2008 at 3:27 pm

    Well, I guess that’s something people can disagree on. I don’t agree with Sheldon’s interpretation of the scriptures. There are several reasons why I find the argumentation rather weak. First of all, the fact alone that there ARE scriptures in the bible (both old and new
    Testament) that speak out against homosexual behavior, at least make it clear that this is not a current issue, but has come up in olden days as a religious issue. The interpretation of the old testament that you get to read here, is that of one Rabbi. But many rabbis have different interpretations of the scripture, and so for me that is not something very solid. It’s just one possible view. Regarding the scriptures in the new testament, Sheldon provided no support other than the claim that it’s commonly understood that those verses refer to the Mosaic law, and therefore fall under the same claims as the old testament verses. Well, I don’t think it’s commonly understood. I don’t find that in the chapters, and a mere claim that it is, is no proof to me. Also, I wonder what validity the Old Testament has at all to Christians, if we apply the reasoning used for Leviticus. Take the 10 commandments, for example. Clearly, they were given only to a specific people, at a specific time and under specific circumstances. Have those no validity then to us, who live in a different time and place? I guess that case could be made, but good luck trying to sell that to any Christian.

    With that said, I find the argumentation on here not convincing. But, apart from that, that still doesn’t answer the many scriptural references you can find where God talks about a man and a woman coming together. If God was fine with any combination, such as man and man or woman and woman, or whatever else, why doesn’t he mention it? Why, when he says it’s not good for man to be alone, does he provide him with a woman? Why not a man? Why does it say to leave your parents and cleave unto your wife, and not your husband? There are tons of verses in the bible that suggest that man and woman somehow belong together, at least in God’s eyes.

    So, my point is: there are plenty of verses in the scriptures that suggest that man and woman belong together, and there are a few that suggest that a homosexual relationships are against God’s will (which would go along with verses that put man and woman together). Now, as to what’s sinful, I think any scripture makes clear that anything that is against God’s will is “sinful”. So, if God “taboos” it, to use your term, that taboo would be equal to sinful, since whatever God doesn’t want, seems to usually constitute sin.

    My guess is that while the bible says what it says, the Church will not change its views. I agree that there are issues that aren’t clear in the scriptures, but with homosexual behavior, I find it rather clear. Or, at least it would take a lot better argument than the one on here from Sheldon to demonstrate that homosexual behavior is in accordance with God’s will for his children.

    P.S. Sorry Sheldon. I don’t mean to diss your essay. I just am not convinced by the reasoning.

  12. 12Steven Bon 27 Sep 2008 at 7:49 pm

    Fran, I’m glad that we can disagree. I find everything Sheldon said compelling, but there are other interpretations that I agree with as well. So I very much appreciate hearing his explanation of the Biblical passages.

    But in some respects Sheldon’s essay is out of place on this particular website, which seems to be about civil equality and separation of church and state, much as Captain Moroni has reiterated. The essay goes to the heart of the issue as to the place of the homosexual in the church. And that is related, but not central to the purpose of Mormons for Marriage.

    Ultimately, if 90% of gay and lesbian church members continue to leave the church an if the suicides continue, it might be worth it for both LDS members and leaders to re-examine the place of homosexuality in the world, the church and in our scriptures. But that may be beyond the purpose of this forum.

  13. 13Sheldonon 29 Sep 2008 at 4:04 pm

    The problem with interpreting verses like the ones in Leviticus (and much of the rest of the Bible) is dealing with the question of what motivated one position over another–and sometimes you will even find the Bible at odds with itself.

    True, the OT has a lot of verses that imply that men and women should cohabit, but those options also include concubinage, polygamy, and even prostitution as options. So one cannot point to those as default endorsements of traditional marriage. So why doesn’t the text state that it’s okay for homosexuals to be together? In fact it implies as much, but by omission. Besides, if you understand the concerns behind Mosaic Law as I describe them in the essay, a positive statement about homosexuality becomes unnecessary.

    I do point out in the essay the context of the verses used to proscribe male homosexuality in the OT, and it is very clear what the chapter as a whole is doing. You can’t say that I offer no proof of that, because I do. You have to understand why they talk about male homosexuality. As I say in the essay, context is everything.

    The Ten Commandments don’t really make a good counterexample; I really don’t think you can consider something handed down from Sinai at the same level as a law to avoid polluting the Promised Land. The Ten Commandments were the LAW, permanent and immutable, for all time and all places. Early Christians, as heirs to that Israelite tradition, chose to accept them even if they didn’t accept some of the other Jewish laws, such as the food laws.

    This brings us to Paul. I stand by the assertion that he is not a reliable interpreter of Mosaic Law, but in his proscriptions against homosexuality, what else does he have to go on? No recorded statements of Jesus, apocryphal or otherwise, support Paul’s pronouncement. And since Paul also clearly considers regular marriage as a “last resort” for those unable to handle celibacy, I submit that he’s not the best person to consult on matters of sexuality.

  14. 14jjmmjj57on 29 Sep 2008 at 5:45 pm

    Opinion and Personal Story

    It’s interesting to me how both LDS and secular society cowtow to the government. As a soon to be baptized non LDS, two things I feel the Church has done because of societal/governmental pressure rather than “true” revelation are:

    1) the prohibition of plural marriage. Not until Utah saw the benefit of statehood and pressure increased from the Federal government was plural marriage discouraged;

    2) the admission of blacks to the priesthood. Much as with plural marriage, the Church had much to gain from society’s acceptance by allowing blacks into the priesthood.

    I’m not taking a stand on either issue as right or wrong, but stating how I feel the Church has, in those two cases, opportunistically changed policy because of contemporary social issues.

    It’s hard to find anything in Heavenly Father’s world that makes utterly no sense. With most all D & C revelation and all the Book of Mormon, it just “makes sense.” Anti gay sentiment truly makes no sense. It is an opinion not common among most LDS. In fact, if you take away the aspect of societal pressure and “what would the neighbors think,” I’d be hard pressed to feel a majority of LDS thinks one way or the other about gays in the Church.

    I’d mentioned I’m not yet baptized. I’m an adult, I’ve participated as much as I can in the Church and with my LDS friends since I was in my early teens. I’ve debated pro-LDS, the Book of Mormon and D & C for years with my mainstream Christian friends. I’ve discussed being Mormon with more missionaries than you can imagine.

    I do extensive business and pleasure travel throughout Utah, Idaho and other majority LDS locations. I’m always asked:

    “Why are you not baptized?”

    I answer:

    “I am gay.”

    Almost always, the response is, “Well, I wouldn’t let that stop me if I were you.”

    Many missionaries have said, “Just don’t tell anyone . . . there are lots of gay LDS . . . it’s no big deal . . . it’s most important just to get into the church and be baptized.” Other LDS aquaintances have said the same. Bishops have said the same. Now, my struggle is to decide whether or not to wait for “the” revelation. I know it’s coming. I feel it’s much more important to be baptized and live for Heavenly Father within the Church than without.

  15. 15Bob Son 06 Oct 2008 at 1:07 am

    Interesting analysis, Sheldon, but it really does read rather weakly, and narrowly. To believe that the taboo against homosexuality was restricted in place and time and relation makes for too great a stretch for me. This might make an argument in a non-LDS setting, but it makes not much of one in an LDS setting, considering that modern prophets have access to the same directions that ancient prophets do.

    Taking your analysis credibly I’d have to convince myself that there is no modern-day prophet, and prophecy disappeared with Moses (or someone else that far back in time).

    I am happy to read Fran’s comments. Doubly so that her replies are published.

  16. 16krison 07 Oct 2008 at 12:33 pm

    While true God was talking to the Isrealites living in Canaan, thus it only applied to them directly, it was the introduction of how God wants his people to live.
    Two thoughts: as other ceremonial laws like food impurities were abandoned with the vision of the sheet- Peter kill and eat – Do you believe the sexual laws were also to be abandoned? (Peter and the other Jews of the day observed all these laws while living outside of Canaan.) What about the incest? You show those laws are found in the same section.

    I do appreciate your analysis and contribution. While I believe a homosexual lifestyle is not honoring God, and homosexual marraige is not marraige before God, I am against Prop 8. When it comes to our government, equality is paramount. For our government to refuse to recognize homosexual marraige (and not just “unions”) is drawing a distinction, discriminating against a people group of our nation – and while convenient or more comfortable for many Christians, such violation of civil rights may not be opted for by government at the behest of Christians next time. It may be another infringement that goes against our beliefs – but the precident will be there. Then what can we do? It is the seperation of church and state, where the state will not decide what is “right” by God’s standards, but will leave us, all of us, free to believe as we will and answer to that higher calling in our own lives.

    Oh, BTW, I am not LDS, but Protestant. But I ran across this site and, again, appreciate the biblical analysis. I know homosexuality is an issue both our churches deal with. Best of luck!

  17. 17sheldonon 21 Oct 2008 at 8:06 am

    Why is it such a “stretch” to read verses of the Bible in their given context? How is that “weak” or “narrow”? That context clearly says that homosexuality is only forbidden in Canaan, and in circumstances that also apply to heterosexual unions, and the rest of the Bible is virtually silent on the topic thereafter. So are the rest of the scriptures. You can turn to Paul if you like, but since he clearly preferred celibacy and considered marriage a “last resort” for those would couldn’t control themselves, I don’t think it’s wise to rely on Paul for advice on matrimonial unions.

    Shall we pick and choose what we claim to accept or ignore, or shall we let the text speak for itself and not try to impose our biases on it any more than we can help?

    I also don’t see how accepting my analysis leads to the conclusion that there are no modern day prophets? Because the Old Testament disagrees with their pronouncements? You may find this uncomfortable, but the Bible disagrees with itself in quite a few places. The General Authorities have also been at variance with each other from time to time. This is why Mormon leaders have frequently insisted that church members not blindly obey, because they do sometimes get it wrong, and they know it. Prop 8 is one of those cases. I hate to be the one to tell you, but they are wrong on this. Both scientific and scriptural evidence combine to undermine their position.

    But more importantly, I believe that this is a test for the Church and, depending on how they respond, it will define it for some time.

  18. 18Mikeon 31 Oct 2008 at 1:01 pm

    Just to point out, Ezek 16:49 is not complete. The reasons for the destruction are completed in the following verses as well as in the preceding verses. I would like to point out the following two:

    50 And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.
    51 Neither hath Samaria committed half of thy sins; but thou hast multiplied thine abominations more than they, and hast justified thy sisters in all thine abominations which thou hast done.

    The abominations are referenced in the earlier verses (ex see verses 14-18) most of which involve idols and sex. Anyway, the point that I would like to point out is in verse 51. Be careful not to justify the abominations of others claiming equality, or bigotry or whatever as was one of the sins mentioned. I am not implying that we hate or an intolerant, but there is a clear line of what is right and what is wrong.

    The wisdom of God is not the wisdom of man. As a Mormon, I would caution from trusting in the arm of the flesh trying to interpret the bible to fit a specific view. We (Mormons) believe in continuing revelation as the word of God, the Bible is not the definitive answer (although I feel that the arguments presented for the acceptance of homosexuality are really weak). Homosexuality is a sin in the sight of God no matter what a church or a government says about it. The issue is not about homosexuality, but what constitutes a family. When the prophet issues a statement, especially one endorsed by the other members of the First Presidency, it is up to us to accept or reject it. It is also ours to accept responsibility for our actions.

  19. 19Davidon 07 Nov 2008 at 1:13 pm

    Sheldon, thank you for your analysis. I think many people blindly follow what their church dictates without considering the true origins of the Bible, that certain books were passed down orally for hundreds of years before being put to paper, we don’t have any verifiable proof as to who the actual authors were of each book (we can only make educated guesses/assumptions) and most importantly the need to consider the political climates of the times the books were written. I am an RLDS member (Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), I’m not sure if the LDS brothers & sisters think I have any merit here.

    I would ask that we take the book of Leviticus as a whole…look at all the “laws” laid out in the book …we all are committing sin daily if we follow the dictates of this book simply by the clothes we wear…yet the Mormon’s keep claiming they want to protect “Morals” for famlies and follow the revelations of God as given by there Prophet & first presidency. This is where I ask you to look at the world as a whole…Does the Dalai Lama receive revelation? Does the Pope? Did Mother Theresa? We all receive revelation from God, we are all called to be Prophet’s…with nearly seven billion children of God, will there not be seven billion interpretations?

    As a gay man I become frustrated that people want to judge me without any knowledge of me. To call me immoral, a sinner, not clean in the eyes of God, whatever you can come up with…how would you like to grow up hearing that over and over? I think suicide would be prevalent in your mind. This madness, this fear, this judgement, this ignorance has to stop.

    Read Samuel 1 & Samuel 2…What about David & Jonathan…David says (laments) in Samuel 2: “…Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.” I don’t any straight guys that talk about each other that way…? Seriously.

    To ask me to abstain from my “impure” sexual acts is righteous and arrogant. See how long you would last under the same conditions?

    Ultimately, the salvation of the world is up to each of us individually. I have to look within myself and see where I am being righteous, arrogant, judgmental and withholding Love. When we learn to accept all people without limitation, without imposing judgment, without assuming “my way is the right way” only then will be truly experience God. God is in each of us and I have the blood of every person who committed suicide on my hands because I allowed fear to be more powerful than love. I have the blood of all the people that perished on 9/11 on my hands because I think “I’m right”…innocent people leapt to their deaths because of the belief of religious superiority. I take responsibility for my ignorance and allow Christ to open up my mind & my heart to all people in ways that I could have never conceived. Everywhere I turn, there I am.

  20. 20Bryanon 07 Nov 2008 at 2:49 pm

    People should do what they ultimately think is right. If one really believes that engaging in a particular homosexual act or relationship is the right thing, then there it is. If conversely you believe it is a sin, then act accordingly. This seems reasonable enough to me. We should probably also do a lot of thinking about what the right is.

    The disconnect comes when an individual takes the “this is what I want to do” and tries to torture into “this is what must be right (because it’s what I want), and therefore if others disagree they are bad people.” “Wresting the scripture” is just a part of that process.

    That’s been the great conundrum in the Prop 8 discussion. Shall we CALL your action right or shall we not. It was NEVER about “shall you be permitted to be attracted to or associate in any way you please with whomever.” It was about whether we as a society would be forced to smile and say “good boy, good work.” The anger therefore, the backlash, which styles itself as a fight for “fundamental rights,” is really anger that the opinions of others have not uniformly lined up in approbation of such relationships.

    It would be like me protesting some evangelical church for not giving my Church the status of “Christian” or “religion” (as opposed to “cult”). Tough noogies for me. They don’t want to call my belief system right. It certainly doesn’t affect my testimony, and they’re not saying I can’t go to church and continue believing as I please. They’re just saying they think I’m wrong. As a Mormon, I have to live with that.

  21. 21Carrieon 07 Nov 2008 at 4:10 pm

    Thank you Sheldon for this analysis. I appreciate that you limited your coverage to the Bible. Including the Book of Mormon would have been too much for a short essay, and it would have been less convincing for the majority of Americans who (probably) identify as Protestant.

    I don’t buy your “strictly within the land of Canaan” argument. It seems that the spirit of that passage is more on the lines of “do not be like these others, who I will cast out”. They were fresh out of slavery and probably accustomed to submission and assimilation. I think the separateness that God was trying to create for them was specific to them rather than to the place. Otherwise, I agree–it seems arbitrary to throw out some laws, such as mixed-fiber clothing, and keep others without a good cause.

    I appreciate the challenge to the longstanding beliefs that homosexuality is abomination, degradation, etc. Your essay is biased *against* these beliefs, but it throws into relief the fact that “traditional” readings are not objective either.

    The Genesis model would also exclude polygamy, yet the Hebrews practiced that for some time, and with God’s blessing. Paul said that women were to keep silent in church, and if they had any questions, to ask their husbands when they came home. Things change.

    It is so important to ask the challenging and scary questions. When I run into conflict, I hope that I can err on the side of caring for my fellow human.

    Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.”

  22. 22Michaelon 28 Nov 2008 at 6:13 pm

    I am a child of God, I was raised to believe this, but for so many years I had a secret that haunted me, made me hate myself. I am a loving person, I need the love of another, the companionship of another in my life, yet this secret made me so depressed I came close to killing myself before my 19th birthday. No one knew, some might have suspected, but no one asked. They knew there were times when I was very depressed, my mom would ask where her happy baby boy went, I would just smile. During this time I would pray to God, and he would listen, he didn’t always answer the way I wanted, but I could tell he was listening. After my mom and I had “the talk” about the fact that I am Gay I really started praying much harder for Him to take this away, for Him to help me be normal, for Him to guide me to be heterosexual, and I felt nothing. The phone line was dead, my other prayers were dropping to the ground as well, God wasn’t listening anymore. I was still teaching preschool age Sunday school every week, still volunteering to do other things around the church, still be the best person I could be, why did he stop listening? After almost a year of this I finally said to God “I am your child, you created me, and if I am to believe what I have been taught all my life, you made me perfect in your eyes. Since you are not giving me any guidance on this I have to believe that I am asking for the wrong thing. I am gay, you made me that way and I have to accept this. It does not make me a bad person, it doesn’t mean I don’t love you and you don’t love me, it just means that I am different.” Bingo, the phone line was turned back on; I could feel God listening again. I could feel God telling me “You finally are making sense again, I made you, and I love you. I am here for you and always will be.”
    Jump forward a number of years to May 1999, I had dated a few guys, but met a guy who really did something to me inside. We got to know each other, started dating and a year later I proposed to him. July 28, 2001 we exchanged rings and vows. We didn’t have a ceremony, or anything fancy, we sat on a hill in San Diego and professed our love for each other. I told myself that a marriage was not necessary, that we were “married”; we just didn’t have a piece of paper (or legal protections that go with it) that said it. We had other pieces of paper, durable powers of attorney and wills, and since we live in an area of southern California that is more open to “non-traditional” families, we don’t have a lot of stuff we were not too concerned, neither of our families were the type to step in and take things from the survivor.
    Jump forward to June 16, 2008. Roger and I have been through some real ruff times, the death of my Grandmother, the death of my Father, his chemical addiction that made him crazy enough to run across country several times, but through all of this, we are still together, standing at a courthouse signing our names to a license that will make us legally married. I was not prepared for my own reaction, tears of joy. All of a sudden that piece of paper had more meaning and power than I had ever imagined. On June 21, 2008 at 7:00 pm with my Mom and Stepfather standing witness Roger and I became legal spouses. Finally had some of the same rights that my sister threw away in her first divorce and regained in her second marriage. No, we didn’t have the federal recognition, the social security benefits, or the tax advantages, but we did have a legal California Marriage Certificate. I pushed out of my head the fact that if we left the state we would have to remember to bring those other documents in case something happened, I didn’t think about the negatives, just the fact that our marriage was finally recognized. That same day a lot of other gay and lesbian couples were married, we saw couples who had been together for 10, 20 30 years finally given the proper recognition they deserved. These were people who were not legally bound to stay together that long, they didn’t face having to deal with expensive divorce attorneys if they wanted to go their own way, they could have divided up their stuff and said goodbye whenever they wanted, but through thick or thin, good and bad they stuck together because they love each other, something I hope Roger and I will be able to look back in 20 or more years and say.
    Skip ahead, October 7, 2008, my world changed dramatically around 8:00 pm or so, the new announced that prop 8 would pass. I sank to my knees, someone had hit me so hard I couldn’t breathe; I am a second class citizen. I have had my civil rights stripped from me by a slim margin of voters. How could my neighbors do this to me? What did I do to them to make them hate me? Did I not wave one morning? Did I run over their cat and not know it? Something had to make them hate me enough to say “you are not worth of the same civil rights as I am, just because you are gay.”
    As the days passed I started hearing how many people from outside of California had donated large sums of money to take away my rights. They paid for television ads to say that my marriage to the person I love would harm children; that my marriage to another man made their marriage less somehow. I had seen these ads, saw how they took facts and twisted them, pulled words out of context to make them seem bad, but I figured most smart adults would see it the same way, they would see the truth. I didn’t put a bumper sticker on my car, I hadn’t put a sign on my lawn saying that 8 was wrong, I counted on people using their brains to see that removing people’s rights is wrong. I realized that I had made a mistake; I had counted on others to protect my rights. I hadn’t remembered the old saying “when they came for those people I did nothing, it didn’t affect me, when they came for that group I kept quiet, I am not one of them, now they are on my door, who will help me?” I started attending rallies, being more active.
    Will I be like some and boycott businesses that supported prop 8, yes to some extent. The vet that I take my dogs and cats to supported prop 8, I won’t support him any longer. The bakery that supported prop 8 because his church told him too, I won’t support them anymore, though I will miss their brownies. The bank branch manager who personally supported prop 8 will never see me in her branch, but I may still use that bank some day if the need arises, it isn’t their fault she feels like I am unworthy.
    I believe the words “In God we trust” and “One nation under God” are very important words and should not be removed from our vocabulary. I also believe the words “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
    I write this so that maybe, just maybe I will touch someone, open their eyes. The fact is God made me; I am who I am supposed to be. I am not an abomination, I am not a mistake, and while I may sin, and make mistakes, loving who I am made to love is not a sin. A sin would be meeting a woman, getting her to fall in love with me and marrying her just so that I can have some companionship. A sin would be making myself so miserable I want to kill myself because I am lonely for the touch of another human being. God made me to need companionship and love, not to be alone. Seven years in a committed monogamous relationship is a good sign of that.
    I hope my personal story touches someone, that they open their eyes a little and realize that this is a civil matter, not a religious one. Who I marry is not going to affect your marriage. That yes the perfect nuclear family of a Dad who works 5 days a week 8 hours a day and a mom who stays home and takes care of the house and family should be the perfect setup for a happy healthy child, it is not the only one that will work. And while there are some kids who will have questions about why Jerry in their class has two moms, learning about it isn’t going to make them gay or scar them for life. There is so much hate and anger in the world, why hurt people because of who they love.
    And by the way, this was so important for me to say I had typed it twice. The first time I was double checking it and deleted it by mistake so I started all over.

  23. 23Rogeron 28 Nov 2008 at 10:21 pm

    I am Roger, Mike’s husband…. I have to profess how disappointed I am with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, although I am not surprised. I went to LDS summer bible school for a few years as a youth with my neighbors and many years later, I found myself living in of all places, PROVO right next to the MTC off of 900 East….. Anyhow, I trained at Novell and WordPerfect, then I got a job at Ricon Computer in Orem at Center and State (next to Smith’s)…. I worked 5 years in the LDS community, fixing computers – installing PAF (and contributing a heck of a lot to the development of the integration with the Family History Center in SLC) and helping out George Verl Osmond at the Ventura Media Center….. I frequently serviced the computers at BYU, UVCC and at several temples…. Although I was not a member of the church – I was even allowed inside of the SLC and Manti temples to repair PC’s….. I always respected the church – I didn’t smoke on BYU property, I picked up litter at Kiwana’s Park – I was a valuable and productive member of the community…. When it became known publicly that the president of WordPerfect was gay – the community ostracized and berated him so badly that he had to sell the company. That was the first clue that something was very wrong with their perception of homosexuality… A little later, I was told of a seminar to “convert” gays back into healthy heterosexuality hosted by the church and someone named Jodi Berri or something like that…. When I saw how blindly everybody bought into that perspective without even considering another – I realised that there was hate hidden in the church…..
    I love my friends and family whom are active in the church, I also feel pity for the blind compliance that it demands – enough power to make someone automatically think that it’s OK to strip away the rights of another??? Well – fact is, MANY LDS members feel differently – some are afraid to speak up, some are ignorant, some just plain feel that my lifestyle is wrong…. Whatever the case, I forgive them for they know not what they do and in the end, righteousness shall prevail. I truly believe that the goodness of the human heart and the warmth of Our Heavenly Father’s glow will ultimately guide us if we only allow ourselves to follow and be just.

  24. 24Lara Cleveland Torgesenon 29 Nov 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Michael, thank you for taking the time to share your story with us (twice!) I am a straight married woman and mother of three, but I want you to know that your love and lifelong commitments are just as important as mine. I hope I will live to see the day when gay marriage is legal across the U.S. That day is coming–it’s just a question of when. Take care and God bless.

  25. 25Carrieon 09 Dec 2008 at 1:32 pm

    Sorry for the delay; I wasn’t reading carefully and I missed something *really* important.

    STEPHEN! “Ultimately, if 90% of gay and lesbian church members continue to leave the church an if the suicides continue, it might be worth it for both LDS members and leaders to re-examine the place of homosexuality in the world, the church and in our scriptures”

    “If the suicides continue”?

    There is pain and suffering right now. There is significant doubt that the scriptures condemn homosexuality-as-we-know-it-today. That is reason enough for any church to quit interfering with the law.

  26. 26Sherion 02 Jan 2009 at 11:54 am

    Sheldon, thank you for your analysis. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to understand things from a logical viewpoint since I’m much more driven by my heart and instinct. Regardless of what is written, I know that words, whether written or spoken, are always open to interpretation. We as humans can only comprehend what we have a good frame of reference for, and everything else cannot be completely understood by our mortal mind, so relying on our instinct is crucial.

    These are the things I am certain of: God, our Creator, set in motion laws which we are governed by, and betrayal of those laws brings about some kind of cause and affect, e.g. a loving heart perpetuates joy, hate destroys and corrupts, positivity draws more positivity, negativity draws the same. Compassion heals hearts, prejudice divides and inflicts hurt. The list goes on and on.

    Every sin that deprives another human being of basic rights and happiness such as abuse, rape, incest, murder, stealing, adultery (to name a few) creates darkness and accomplishes nothing good.

    Homosexuality, on the other hand, does nothing to hurt another human in any way, (unless of course it is forced on another against their will.) If two consenting same gender adults find happiness together and want to be in a committed relationship with all the rights and privileges a straight couple has, there is no reasonable or logical evidence that prohibiting that union will help society. In fact, it has done just the opposite, it has divided churches, families and friends.

    Like you state in your essay, Sheldon, I’ve always believed that the story of Sodom and Gomorah had more to do with hardened hearts, lack of compassion, and unrighteous rule, and had nothing at all to do with homosexuality.

    If we spent more time living by the passages from the bible that perpetuate love and compassion, and less on the ones which we believe give us the right to descriminate against law abiding citizens, our society would be moving toward greater enlightenment and fellowship, rather than divisive, discriminatory and hurtful laws that segregate minorities.

    I am a straight woman, raised in the church, married in the temple for 20 years. But Prop 22 in 2000 sent me over the edge in my belief in the church. I treasure what Michael says above; when he prayed for God to change him, God became silent, when he finally accepted who he was, a gay man, he once again could hear and understand God’s voice in relationship to his prayers. I also now hear God’s voice much clearer in my mind and He’s telling me to love all my brothers and sisters on the planet and leave judgement up to Him.

  27. 27PROFESSORP. BAGNOLOon 30 Oct 2009 at 10:05 am

    So you will know my direction, I am a heterosexual Catholic scholar, architect, anthropologist, biblical student, and an artist.

    I find your comments upon this biblical interpretation refreshing, intuitive and logical.

    Good work.

  28. 28Prof/Pete Bagnoloon 30 Oct 2009 at 10:19 am

    Addendum to my earlier comment, I was distracted by an employee request.

    While I find much of what you said logical, the qualification of a “place” “taking place within the borders of Canaan seems a weak justification. Would you expand on why a place has some bearing on a theological legality?

  29. 29Sheldonon 30 Oct 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Dear Prof. Bagnolo,

    Thank you for your comments and for inviting me to address your concern.

    Given your background, I’m sure you are familiar with the idea of “sacred space” wherein some holy site or edifice is believed to be subject to different standards of behavior, purity, etc., etc. and, by the same token, is thought to be charged with special powers and properties. In the Old Testament we find various examples of this, such as Mt. Sinai and the Temple, which was built in order to replicate Sinai in a manner of speaking.

    When they were at Sinai, the Israelites were required to maintain a different level of ritual purity, for instance, no sex was allowed for those camped at the foot of the mountain. If those rules are violated and the sacred space is desecrated, bad things happen.

    The same is true here. I invite you to review the latter verses of chapter 18 where it discusses how the land responds to defilement. While verse 24 states that “these things”, i.e., the prohibitions in the chapter, caused God to throw the previous inhabitants out of the land, verses 25 and 28 are explicit that the land (not God) expels those who defile it.

    Consider, too, that there are many examples of otherwise righteous men and women violating these rules, but not being punished for them. Jacob, for example, was married to two sisters, but just as he returned to Canaan, Rachel died. Some Rabbinic commentators claim that this was to prevent him from defiling the land of his inheritance. Abraham was married to his half-sister, but lived in Ur of Chaldees (among other places).

    I hope this helps to answer your question. Feel free to post again if you have other questions.

  30. 30Jack_Dredon 18 Jul 2010 at 10:01 pm

    This argument is weak.

    Sheldon says:
    If male homosexuality is intrinsically forbidden, why compare it to illicit heterosexual unions?

    A: Because they are both sins.

    To claim that the prohibition is only in regard to homosexual relations between relatives condradicts Sheldon’s rhetorical question of “Shall we pick and choose what we claim to accept or ignore, or shall we let the text speak for itself and not try to impose our biases on it any more than we can help?”. This is because verse 20 of the chapter 18 of Lev. is not talking about illicit relations between relatives. So I ask “shall we just ignore verse 20 because it does not fit our theory?”

    So to say “Clearly this verse [22] is intended to supplement the rest of that list, and thus proscribes male homosexual acts between close relatives.” is not true if you let the “text speak for itself and not try to impose biases on it”.

    Other things don’t make senses either. To say that “be fruitful and multiply” is not a commandment is obviously wrong to is familiar with the teaching learned in the Temple. To say that the Temple is irrelevant to this discussion then makes it impossible for members of the Church to take this argument serioulsy. How do you expect to show LDS members that their belief regarding homosexuality is not scriptural if you “pick and choose” doctines of the Church as they fit a theory. You have to accept all of it, unless your saying the Church just isn’t true. Then you can claim to have a good reason to pick and choose doctrine to support your claim.

    Another thing makes no sense. To claim that barren women who pray for children are praying in vain, because having children is not a commandment, makes no sense unless you can address the counterpoints of the previous paragraph.

    Also, the Bible’s text also speaks of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, the Restoration, and the role of Prophets (the Book of Mormon being the key to all of this). Modern prophets say homosexuality is a sin, period. If you want to construct an argument saying this is not the case, the only recourse you have is to say the
    Church is false, period (since you can’t just pick and choose doctrines that only seem to support your argument). To say that the Church is true and that not all homosexual relations are a sin is frankly, a joke. You can’t have it both ways. And if the Church is not true, how do we know there is even a God like the one expressed in the Bible? I don’t think you could argue that the Church is true, some homosexuality is good, there is a God, yet God didn’t fulfill all the prophecies regarding the Restoration. I think you have simply, no God. And that would then also undermine the authority of Sheldon’s interpretation of Lev. 18, because the Bible would be a myth.

  31. 31Sherion 19 Jul 2010 at 11:12 am

    When we use scripture to show how God curses the land and inhabitants for their wickedness and blesses them when they are righteous, I would like to point out that since the U.S. (and the Mormon Church n particular) became engaged in the politics of gay marriage by taking away basic civil rights from law abiding tax paying citizens, our country has experienced the worst disasters in our history; i.e. 9/11, the wall street melt down, hurricane Katrina, and now the Gulf Oil spill, etc, etc. And from what I understand, more people are leaving the Mormon church than at any other time in history. Please, those of you who use scripture to show that God punishes wickedness, consider the possibility that it is the wickedness of those who are causing such harm to gay families that is actually bringing on the wrath of God.

  32. 32Sheldonon 20 Jul 2010 at 6:20 pm


    To say that male homosexuality and illicit heterosexual unions are forbidden because “they are both sins” is to make a circular argument. It tells us nothing about why this prohibition is here, in this particular chapter.

    If, as you suggest, homosexual unions are forbidden because Leviticus is comparing them to adultery as mentioned verse 20, then by implication male homosexuality is not forbidden so long as the men involved are unmarried. That interpretation also conflicts with the context of verse 22, which invokes “it is an abomination” as the reason for the prohibition. Verses 24 and following make it clear that abominations are acts that defile the land in such a way that the land will expel the people to do or allow such practices. This is a very specific historical setting, and obviously cannot apply to 21st Century California.

    So, if the comparison with adultery cannot be justified, we are left with the matter of male homosexuality between close relatives, which includes most of the sexual prohibitions in this chapter.

    So no, I do not ignore verse 20, although you seem willing to ignore much of the context provided by chapter 18. You also ignore the question of the OT’s silence on female homosexuality.

    You also state that “be fruitful and multiply” is obviously a commandment because the Temple says so. You are right that the Temple ceremony treats that phrase as a commandment. However, the Bible does not. Go and read it for yourself; there are roughly eight instances of the phrase “be fruitful and multiply” all but one (if memory serves) in Genesis. All of them–every last one–are given in the context of a blessing. “And God *blessed* them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply…” (Gen. 1:28). Now, if God had meant it as a commandment, wouldn’t the text say so? But it does not. It is clearly a blessing.

    So you now have a problem. The temple ceremony and the Old Testament are clearly contradicting each other here. And just to make it more interesting, you can check the Genesis portions in the Pearl of Great Price. They all use “bless”. By your absolute standards, either the OT/PGP or the Temple ceremony is false.

    Well? Which is it? What’s it gonna be?

    All religions have contradictions within them, Mormonism included. If you truly think that the Standard Works are a completely unified, consistent, non-contradictory body of work then you haven’t read them carefully or with an open mind. If you think that the General Authorities are never wrong or never contradict each other, you haven’t been paying attention. The only way one can maintain this kind of scriptural and ecclesiastical world view is to elevate “picking and choosing” scripture and statements of modern prophets to an art form. Otherwise, one persistent flaw and your whole edifice cascades to dust.

    Healthy religion can deal with ambiguity. It is intellectual as well as spiritual. It is flexible and allows for different perspectives and beliefs. It will not assume apostasy or heresy so glibly, or accuse the theologically eccentric among us of being in Satan’s thrall.

    You would be much better served to study the scriptures in their contexts for those principles that transcend the diversity of voices, language, culture, vision, and history. When you do, you will find that one of the most strongly stated principles is compassion. Do good to others. Rage against homosexual married households if you must, but as for me and my house, we will contend for compassion to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters who wish only to build strong families, or hold intact the families they have fought so hard to create.

    If that is picking and choosing, so be it.

  33. 33Jack_Dredon 23 Jul 2010 at 11:32 am

    I appreciate your counterpoints. Not to sound like a bad cliche; we’ll have to agree to disagree on all points for reasons stated (esp. in the last section) of my original post.

    I do want to apologize for the contentious ethos of my post.

  34. 34fiona64on 23 Jul 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Jack and Sheldon, both of you are arguing about Levitical law for the wrong reasons — and it’s because you don’t know what those verses actually said in Hebrew or Greek. I can help.

    Let me briefly point out that there is no word in biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, or koine Greek for homosexual or homosexuality (the OT was written in Hebrew and Aramaic, the NT in koine Greek). The ancient Jews and Greeks had conceptions of gender and sexual acts, but not what modern psychology calls sexual orientation. The word homosexual in English was not coined until the end of the 19th century and the notion of sexual orientation is largely a 20th century psychoanalytic construct. The word “homosexual” was first used in an English translation of the Bible, the Revised Standard Version, in 1948 (the passage was 1st Corinthians 6:9). If Greek and Hebrew had no words for homosexual, and the English word was not introduced into the text of the Bible until 1948, I think that some revision of thought is in order.

    Let’s review the texts about which you ask. Here is a transliterated text of the Hebrew into English characters:

    The Hebrew texts read: Leviticus 18:22 v’t-zkr l’ tskb mskby ‘sh tvjbh hv’.
    Leviticus 20:13 v’ys ‘sr yskb ‘t-zkr mskby ‘sh tvjbh jsv snyhm mvt yvmtv dmyhm bm.

    In the 3rd century BC, the Greek Ptolemy’s in Alexandria Egypt commissioned a Greek translation of OT from Hebrew into Greek. Some 72 Greek speaking Jewish scholars are said to have collaborated on it; it is consequently called the Septuagint (“Seventy”). It was widely used throughout the Mediterranean since Greek was the international language of the time. The Greek texts from the Septuagint read: Leviticus18:22 και μετα αρσενος ου κοιμηθηση κοιτην γυναικος βδελυγμα γαρ εστιν
    Leviticus 20:13 και ος αν κοιμηθη μετα αρσενος κοιτην γυναικος βδελυγμα εποιησαν αμφοτεροι θανατουσθωσαν ενοχοι εισιν

    The King James Bible was a translation of the entire Bible into English in 1611. The translators made use of many earlier translations of the Bible including the Latin Vulgate Bible used by the Catholic Church. The texts in the KJV read: LEV 18:22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
    LEV 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

    These two passages are badly misunderstood, particularly because of the inaccurate and inexact use of “abomination” in English to translate a much more particular word in the original Hebrew. Both say essentially the same thing in Hebrew and Greek (the Septuagint). The verb and the direct object are cognates (a so-called cognate accusative). The root for both the verb and the object can mean several different things. The verb has possible meanings of “going to sleep, going to bed, having sex.” The object of the verb means “sleep, bed, sex” To translate literally one has several alternatives: “Do not sleep the sleep; do not lay the laying; do not engage in sex with the sexuality,” etc. The object is then modified by a word meaning “of a woman, female, feminine.” One ends up with the difficult phrase “Do not sleep the sleep of a woman with a man, do not lay the laying of a woman with a man, etc.” Jewish moralists for over a millennium have debated exactly constitutes “the sleep of a woman” and who is technically a “man” in the situation.

    No one in the time of Moses or Christ ever used the word “abomination.” It is a modern English word and English as we know it did not exist in Biblical times. “Abomination” is correct only in the Elizabethan sense of the word which is borrowed from Latin “abominatio.” The root is omin- which means “omen.” The prefix “ab” means away. Thus the word means to turn away from something because it is ill omened or portentous. But what about the original text in Hebrew?

    Various things in Leviticus are called an “abomination.” Some are what we would consider moral issues (incest), but others are manifestly about health and hygiene (avoiding pork, shell fish, brackish water). Some are matters of cleanliness (touching dead snakes, sleeping with a woman during menstruation). Others still are issues of ethnicity and religious identity (cutting of hair and beard, etc.). The word “abomination” translates the Hebrew word “toevah” which really means something like “impure or unclean for the purposes of ritual” (i.e. something that could unfavorably affect sacrifices, auspices, etc.). It is not a blanket denunciation of all homosexuals any more than it is a denunciation of all women by saying that they are also considered “toevah” during menstruation. This is further underscored by one of the oldest most authoritative translations of the Old Testament–the Septuagint. Beginning in the 3rd century BCE Greek speaking Jewish scholars translated the Old Testament into Greek. The Greek language distinguishes between violations of morality and justice (anomia) and infringements of ritual purity (bdelugma). In Leviticus 18:22, the activity is called a bdelugma making it an issue of ritual purity rather than one of general morality. The word “toevah” is used throughout the Old Testament to designate those Jewish sins which involve ethnic contamination or idolatry and very frequently occur as part of the stock phrase “toevah ha-goyim,”"the uncleanness of the Gentiles” (2 Kings 16:3). It is often used in condemnations of temple prostitution (1 Kings 14:24–”sodomite” in the KJV is a mistranslation for the Hebrew “kadash” or temple prostitute). Often it simply means idol. The severity of the punishment (death), then, would seem to arise from the association of the act with idolatry and paganism. The law is one that preserves the ethnic and religious identity of the Jews and is backed by the first few exhortations of the Ten Commandments.

    Since there is no biblical word for homosexual, the passages in Leviticus are problematic but refer to ritual purity as opposed to universal morality, there is no intrinsic contradiction between being gay and a Christian.

    P.S. The books of the Bible were not collected into one literary compendium until the 4th century CE at the Council of Nicea. The word Bible comes from Greek biblia meaning books (in the plural). The books were codified by a vote of the committee, and what books were to be include were a matter of dispute by different denominations into the 18th century. The Roman emperor Constantine employed St. Jerome to translate the collected books into Latin. The original language texts are nonetheless still available. You can see them online at the following sites:

    And you know what the most important part of all is? None of this is relevant under civil law in this secular nation. We are talking about civil law, not religious beliefs — except about the way that religious beliefs have been forced into civil law by a church functioning as a PAC.

    I’m not LDS (I am straight and married, BTW). Why should I be subject to any of the Word of Wisdom/Pearl of Great Price, etc., that my parents chose to follow when they joined the church after I was an adult. And why should law-abiding, tax-paying gay couples be denied the same right to marry that I have just because of your church’s doctrine?

  35. 35fiona64on 23 Jul 2010 at 2:34 pm

    PS to Sheldon: I owe you something of a “mea culpa,” as I went back and re-read the entire thread. It’s obvious that you know what was being said in the verses in question, but I think that not including the Septuagint translation concerning ritual impurity and what that means may have thrown off some of your readers.


  36. 36Sheldonon 23 Jul 2010 at 5:51 pm


    Not a problem; it’s one of the hazards of finding a conversation in mid-blather. Done it plenty of times myself.



  37. 37Cumbieon 01 Feb 2012 at 9:07 am

    I personally find many scriptures in bible to be not faultly… but very important for THAT day and age. Many of the commandments still have much value today, I am not questioning that, but verse’s like it is mentioned in Leviticus “Don’t wear clothing made of two materials”. Things like “women cannot touch anything holy while they are mensturating because they are unclean”. Oh and when a fig tree did not have fruit on it, (This verse is in Mattew), Jesus cursed it. So Jesus hates figs apparently. But other items such as “Do not eat anything of the swine” is because many any animals incuding pigs had diseases and if it was not prepared correctly it could sicken a whole village. Also the verse that says “after you sacrifice an offering you may eat it on the first day and second one but on the third you shall burn all the remains” Reduce’s the chance the meat has gone bad. So couldn’t it easily be the same for anti gay laws? STD’s are easily transmitted through anal intercourse if there is no protection and of course there was no protection all those thousands of years ago. And don’t have sex before marriage… God didn’t want a bunch of fatherless babies born to teenage girls running around. It also helps make sure that STD’s stayed under control if people only had one partner for life.

    But things like “A woman on her menstrual cycle cannot touch anything holy.” and “Men should not have to suffer a woman speaking out in church” (said by Paul I think) sounds very sexist to me. And the Mormonistic texts that speak against blacks and other dark skinned people is very racist.

    I don’t think anything is wrong unless it harms someone else or unless it takes the life of the person committing the act. This is why I am so very against Driving Under the Influence… because I lost a friend of mine to a drunk driving virtually running him over while on his bike. Another friend was very recently drunk and tried to drive… he crashed and had severe brain trauma. He has permanent paralysis on his face from it. He’s lucky to be alive. But its why I support pot because it harms no one but the user unless the user becomes violent. But most users I know are so “mellow” that you could slap them and they would giggle.

    So I disregard any and all commandments that make no sense to me. We have protection these days when it comes to sex so why can’t we have sex with who we like now? And because the world’s population is over 6 billion and increasing by the millions every year, there’s not much of a chance of the specieis dying out. Plus our child bearing age and child producing age is far longer than their entire LIFESPANDS are.

    So that’s my own little rant.

    I would like to thank everyone on here for being very mature, polite, and professional and that this was only a debate and not an insulting arguement. I wish more of the students at the high school I attend could act as you have.

    Best wishes,

  38. 38Jameson 26 Jul 2012 at 9:15 am

    I’m homosexual and have never felt like I was suffering through it as some Mormons would suggest in these posts. I thank God that I was made gay. I personally have felt a connection with my maker on this and feel that all is as it should be. Me, along with millions and millions of others, were born gay, and that’s that. I’m not going to fight what I was given. I’m going to embrace it and make the best of it. Whatever it is that’s unique about you, I’m sure you must feel the same. Why should I feel any different? I feel absolutely confident about my sexuality and cannot imagine it any other way. No matter what threats people come up with, including anything written in the bible. Which, by the way, was written by men. With no proof whatsoever of any divine intervention. None. No proof. None. Sugar coat it all you want, there is NO proof whatsoever.

  39. 39Sam Dobermannon 15 Oct 2012 at 3:07 pm

    Sheldon, Perhaps you might want to read the Book of Ruth again.

    I think that the Bible did speak to lesbianism approvingly.