I didn’t pay any attention to Ginrul Confernz, as my BYU brethren were wont to pronounce it. I spent the weekend pubbing and clubbing in my hometown. (It’s the rather sprawly one with the horribly oversized airport on the lower right corner of the map.) The advantage of this laziness is that I can reap the fruit of everyone else’s labour.
Looks like most of the talks were the usual — follow the prophet, gender roles, tithing, missionary work et cetera et cetera. Apart from honourable mention given to the soppy yet sweet talk on gratitude by CEO Monson, the headline-grabber was Boyd K. Packer’s latest assault on The Gay.
This evening @porlob put forth the question: “Anyone else starting to think Boyd K. Packer is a big ol’ closet-case? He’s always had hangups on sex and and gayness.”
The answer: Yes. Unequivocally, absolutely, unreservedly. No person who devotes as much of their professional career as Packer has to sexual repression and denial can possibly be a healthy individual. Given the timely release of the most comprehensive study of American sexual behaviour ever, it seems that 8% of American males are gay or bisexual. (My guess is that the number is likely a percentage point or two higher, given that homosexuality is very likely to be under-reported due to stigma.) Eight percent. Let’s see. There are twelve apostles in the LDS church. What’s one divided by twelve? Gee whiz, it’s eight percent.
Based on pure statistics, somebody in the quorum is just a little more fabulous than the rest. My money’s on Packer. He was the 10th of 11 children; younger sons are more likely to be gay. Each older brother increases the probability of being gay by a third. Packer is the fifth son.
It’s interesting that all published accounts of Packer’s courtship with his wife, Donna, show her as the initiator. The story goes that Packer was asked to give a talk in a ward he did not usually attend. His future wife was present and thought to herself “Now, this is the type of man I would wish to marry.”
If there’s one central theme to Packer’s career, it’s self-denial. Glancing over the greatest hits of his career, it’s easy to see the signs of a deeply conflicted man who represses himself so badly that he can’t ponder a world where all men don’t need similar restraints. This is a bloke who disdains art and music if it doesn’t serve a utilitarian function of promoting “The Spirit.” I found a fairly comprehensive list of his speeches, and a disproportionate number are addressed at the youth, and a disproportionate number address masturbation, sex and pornography. It is nearly impossible for him to give a talk that is aimed at youth without sexualising them to some degree. These highlights stuck out at me, and I think they offer us a glimpse into his state of mind when we consider that his talks may be aimed at himself as much as they were at us:
- 1965: I’m a Person: In an uncharacteristic speech, Packer tells us we should “feel free, perfectly free, uninhibited” and affirms the importance of feeling like “a person” with “eternal worth.” This hardly sounds like the mean-spirited old man we hear from today.
- 1970: The Path to Manhood: Packer’s appropriately-titled début as a member of the twelve highlights the necessity of marrying a woman in the temple and pillow talk with his military bunkmate in which he asks “What did I do wrong?” He relates how a military supervisor told him that he was too uptight and needed to go out and have some fun. Packer congratulates himself for never giving in to self-gratification.
- 1972: Why Stay Morally Clean?: Packer tells teenagers to stay out of each others’ pants. Sex is only for procreation, and nobody has any reason to grope one another.
- 1976: To Young Men Only: Don’t touch yourself. Self-gratification is evil. Gay sex is evil. If you touch yourself, you will go gay. If someone tries to get gay with you, beat them up.
- 1981: Marriage – Divorce is evil. Sex is only permitted in marriage. Do not lose faith in marriage. Do not lose faith in marriage. Do not lose faith in marriage.
- 1986: Little Children – The top two gravest threats to children are the idea that any two adults can have sex even if they aren’t married and “misuse of that procreative power in degraded acts of perversion is widely promoted as the right of consenting adults.” The biggest threat to kids is two people enjoying themselves in a consensual relationship. Not lack of access to education, physical abuse, or malnutrition.
- 1989: To Young Women and Men – AIDS and crack and Satanism is your doom if you give into temptation.
- 1993: Talk to the All-Church Coordinating Council – Gays, lesbians, feminists and intellectuals (all groups that advocate self-acceptance and explosion of stigmatising gender roles) are the greatest threat the church faces.
- 1996: The Unwritten Order of Things – Even when you are dead, you don’t deserve to have some attention for yourself. Even your funeral needs to be co-opted as a marketing tool for The Church. High-ranking priesthood leaders should never indulge themselves and come down from the stand to sit with their families during church. Don’t ever ask to be released from a calling.
- 1997: The Father and the Family – Packer begins with an overtly sexual definition of why people have families but later reprises his wish that everyone can feel like “a person.”
- 2009: Counsel to Young Men – Stay pure and worthy. Don’t wank and don’t let anyone else wank for you.
- 2010: October Conference – Gay is a choice. The church will continue to try to stigmatise homosexual relationships by preventing them from gaining social and legal standing.
It makes sense that a man who refuses to confront his own sexuality would give sermons demonizing free thought demonising self-indulgence. The most telling passage, for me, comes from “For Young Men Only.” Dim the lights and read this passage aloud to yourself in a sultry voice. It quickly becomes clear that no person comfortable with their sexuality could have possibly imagined that the following would have any value in a meeting meant for spiritual education:
Now a warning! I am hesitant to even mention it, for it is not pleasant. It must be labeled as major transgression. But I will speak plainly. There are some circumstances in which young men may be tempted to handle one another, to have contact with one another physically in unusual ways. Latter-day Saint young men are not to do this. Sometimes this begins in a moment of idle foolishness, when boys are just playing around. But it is not foolishness. It is remarkably dangerous. Such practices, however tempting, are perversion. When a young man is finding his way into manhood, such experiences can misdirect his normal desires and pervert him not only physically but emotionally and spiritually as well. It was intended that we use this power only with our partner in marriage. I repeat, very plainly, physical mischief with another man is forbidden. It is forbidden by the Lord. There are some men who entice young men to join them in these immoral acts. If you are ever approached to participate in anything like that, it is time to vigorously resist.
Now skip to the following and imagine yourself alone in a room, penning these words, tears trickling down your face as you force yourself to believe them:
There is a falsehood that some are born with an attraction to their own kind, with nothing they can do about it. They are just “that way” and can only yield to those desires. That is a malicious and destructive lie. While it is a convincing idea to some, it is of the devil. No one is locked into that kind of life. From our premortal life we were directed into a physical body. There is no mismatching of bodies and spirits. Boys are to become men –masculine, manly men –ultimately to become husbands and fathers. No one is predestined to a perverted use of these powers.
Verbal self-flagellation if I ever read it. If you are trying to force yourself to believe such words, the best method would be to get others to believe them too. The level of obsession is ridiculous. Packer’s in the closet, but the door is made of glass. The cheap shot that I simply can’t avoid taking is the irony of a repressed self-loathing gay man with the surname of “Packer.” He is someone to be pitied and loathed. When he shuffles off the mortal coil, the world will be a better place. In different circumstances, he could have led a happier and more productive life. However, the part of me that wants to forgive him for being the victim of a system that assaulted his identity from birth is overwhelmed by the part of me that holds him responsible for the deaths of countless LGBT youth.
Come out of the closet, Boyd. It isn’t too late. You can’t take back the years of agony you inflicted on the trusting souls who believed you spoke for God, but now that you’re at the end of your life and your health is beginning to fail, would it really be so bad to go through the last rite of honesty?