Adam & Steve play underscores changing LDS views on gays, gay marriage

I had the opportunity to read the script of  ”Adam & Steve and the Empty Sea,” a two-character play that is playing at the Wagner Center in Salt Lake City. I hope to see the play. It involves longtime best friends, Adam, a Mormon youth, and Steve, who is gay. The play covers Adam’s reaction to Steve’s coming out as a teen, their eventual estrangement after Adam, while preparing for a mission, shuns Steve for his lifestyle, and finally concludes with a semi-reconciliation of friendship between Steve, now in college, and Adam, who has returned early from his mission to Brazil due to serious health problems. (Read more about the play here)

California’s Proposition 8, which bans marriage between same-sex couples, serves as one backdrop to the conflict between Adam and Steve. It’s perhaps not surprising that the final scene, where Adam apologizes to Steve for once ending their strong, valuable friendship over his refusal to accept Steve’s lifestyle, can symbolize the slow cooling of tensions between the LDS Church and supporters of gay rights that peaked with the Prop 8 battle.

Will changing opinions over how gays are treated within the LDS Church parallel the slow change in attitudes that occurred within the church over its exclusion of blacks, a discriminatory practice that ended less than two generations ago? After the 1960s, a decade that provided significant civil rights achievements, it became unthinkable that the LDS church could continue its policy of denying blacks priesthood and temple privileges. With increased tolerance of gay rights, including same-sex marriage rights, and the pariah status that accompanies any individual or group that display bigotry against gays or lesbians, it’s not unthinkable that the LDS Church will one day make significant, positive changes regarding the status of gay and lesbian members.

The demographics of the church support a more tolerant future. At a discussion that followed a showing of “Adam & Steve …,” there was anecdotal evidence that younger, active Mormons do not see their gay friends and neighbors as persons to be pitied, who are engaging in a sinful lifestyle (read) The play’s author, Matthew Greene, 26 and a straight, active Mormon, contrasted the attitudes between older BYU officials, who would not let him produce the play while he attended BYU and younger Mormons who “are discovering this is a not a one-sided issue.”

There are several powerful moments in “Adam & Steve …” When Steve initially comes out to Adam, he describes his crushes on another boy in a manner that is as normal as any heterosexual crush. He says, “And this guy, I couldn’t stop thinking about him, and I just kept wondering, you know, what the hell? Um, for months, seriously, long-ass time. And what was wrong with me, right? But feeling like that, it’s the most normal thing in the world. I mean, I realized. It’s that thing, it’s all those movies, all those love songs, what I’ve heard my whole life. The whole stupid world is in love with each other…But it’s this guy. And nothing happened, with him, but this is how I finally feel normal.”

In the play, Adam regresses. He abuses alcohol, his grades suffer, and he’s depressed over his mom’s marriage to an active LDS man and his active LDS brother’s return from a mission. Steve motivates his friend, trying to get Adam to go to USC with him.

Eventually Adam, motivated by his family and his renewed LDS spirituality, decides to get rid of influences he considers contrary to the Gospel. Steve, being gay, falls into those influences Adam decides to give up.

In an scene that leads to their estrangement, Adam attempts to justify his reasons for ditching his best friend. Here’s an exchange between the two:

ADAM: Steve. I can’t just keep…compromising for the rest of my life. You know? I’m starting to see in black and white again. And I forgot how good that feels.

STEVE: If you want me to, I mean, support you in this decision, / I can try.

ADAM: I can’t expect you to do that. Maybe you can’t support what you don’t…understand and maybe it’s, I donno…time for us both to realize that.

The phrase, “starting to see in black and white again” reminds me of the slogan that we were constantly told to remember while I was in the Missionary Training Center. It was “keep the Gospel simple/stupid.” But “black and white” and “simple/stupid” are slogans designed to reinforce a belief that does not invite change, skepticism or a re-evaluation. Any organization that stays “black and white,” or devoid of doubt, cannot remain completely honest.

One of the ironic things about Mormonism, or most churches, I imagine, is that the phrase “the last days” are always used as a pretext for wickedness. But actually, there’s something to be said in favor of modernity. The passage of time, and new, modern ideas, tend to end bad ideas, such as denying blessings to individuals because of the color of their skin, or denying the same blessings because God made them to love someone of the same sex.

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21 Responses to Adam & Steve play underscores changing LDS views on gays, gay marriage

  1. D. Michael Martindale says:

    I don’t foresee any meaningful change until this younger generation grows up to be GAs–and that’s a long time!

    But the Blacks and priesthood thing caught me totally by surprise. Wouldn’t it be nice if it happened that way again?

  2. Doug Gibson says:

    I believe that God is perfect and all powerful. If he creates sons and daughters with same-sex attraction, why should they be denied the opportunities for love, etc.

    • Dan says:

      God has created people with all kinds of problems…blind, deaf, lame, autistic, downs syndrome, mental illness, etc…but those things are temporary. I would guess that same-sex attraction falls into that category as well. It’s a condition of this world, but not a permanent trait.

      • cken says:

        I didn’t know for example that Downs Syndrome was a temporary condition. Why would God create gay people if being gay is a sin?

    • LMA says:

      When you hear a “why should …?” question, it is time to reach back and check your wallet. Someone is trying to pick your pocket.

      The problem with an argument like that is that it attempts to succeed by shifting the burden of proof. Here, you (Doug) want upholders of the divinely inspired law of chastity to justify the application of that law to homosexuality, merely by invoking the idea that God must have intended homosexual predispositions to exist.

      Well, that argument doesn’t work. Lots of other innate predispositions exist too. If God creates sons and daughters with a predisposition toward sex with children, why should the be denied the opportunity for love, etc., eh, Doug? If God creates men with the desire to bed multiple women, why should they be denied the opportunity for love, etc., right, Doug? If God creates sons and daughters with sociopathology, why should they be denied the opportunity to express themselves criminally or violently, right, Doug? If God creates sons and daughters with a desire to express anger and resentment through arson or vandalism, why should they be denied the opportunity …?

      Well, wait. I know what you’re thinking. You’re saying, those things are harmful. And of course you’re right. Those kinds of behaviors, even to the extent that they represent the inherent psychology of the person involved, need to be regulated or prohibited for reasons of morality or public policy which extend beyond the subject’s desire to express something inherent in his or her personality.

      So, good. We agree. In the Plan of Salvation, God’s perfection and power is not inconsistent with a wide variety of circumstances of birth. In temporal reality, personality and behavior are shaped by nature as well as nurture or other experience. Exactly none of that excuses any of us from obedience to divine commandment. It is no argument at all to say that obedience to the law of chastity is harder for some than others, or allows fewer outlets for sexual desire, because no one really knows how hard or easy obedience is for anyone. And apart from the commandment to be fruitful and multiply, no one came here with a guarantee that all of their sexual preferences could freely and morally be expressed.

      The unstated assumption behind much public discourse concerning homosexuality today is the assumption that homosexual relationships are everywhere and at all times equivalent to heterosexual relationships. Accusations of prejudice typically involve thoughts or ideas that are inconsistent with the assumption of perfect equivalence between heterosexuality and homosexuality. But the assumption must always be hidden; it can never be expressed in precisely those words. And why is that? The answer is obvious. To state the assumption is to understand why it is untrue.

    • MrNirom says:

      We all are born with our own “Natural Man”. It is our mission to overcome.

  3. ZEN WORDSMITH says:

    Original “Sin” was [sexual] in nature. Between [Adam]
    and his wife.
    However the [faithful] believe that it was transgression.
    According to testaments, both [Adam] and his wife had carnal fortitudes with a “stem” of a tree, in the guise of a “serpant”.
    With that story of [Eden], an old dispensation of time…this has happened every generation, since time and memorial.
    From father to son. Mother to daughter.
    No. As the [BYU] Missionary Training Center would attest, we are
    not born with procleavity to [same-sex attractions].
    Either “Arrested Development” and/or that set of molecules that
    place a adolescent at “High-Risk” of a bonide predisposition to the
    use of Alcohol. A “gate-way” to [Dangerous Laisons].

    • MrNirom says:

      Where did the idea that homosexuality was not “normal”? When I say normal.. I mean not caused by our environment. You know.. if you let Tommy play with dolls, he will turn into a little girl and like boys. This started in the medical community. It was the medical community that had the “cures” for what ails homosexuals and it was the medical community that got us believing it was nothing more than a by product of our environment.

      Now we are told that this is not true. We are now told that those that are homosexual.. or to put it much more nicely.. have same sex attraction.. are born with it. It’s not their fault. Just like the change that men had to make when it was discovered that all those women who were put to death for not giving them a son.. it was not the woman’s fault at all.. but the man’s. It is his sperm who determines the sex of the baby. The woman has no control over the outcome whatsoever.

      Adjustment. So I am sure that within the walls of the MTC.. they too will have to adjust. The General Authorities have. The human side of them now realizes that homosexuality is something that is given to some at birth. Who can explain it? It is obvious that the Lord is quiet on the issue as far as to the why? And no new commandment to reverse the law of chastity has been given. It is just another experience and trial that some of us have to go through.

      In the perspective of eternity.. this time spent on earth is less than a blink of an eye. It is what we do with it.. that counts. I don’t know how God will actually deal with those who act on their natural impulses. He is the Judge and that is his job. It is always up to individual to find out the will of God.. and want to follow. All we can do is help those who are seeking the will of God.

      But we certainly can not join the group that supports what we know to be a sin to God.. without bringing condemnation upon our own selves. Just because the rest of the world is starting to become complacent with all types of sin.. does not mean we too have to join the party.

    • Dan says:

      Original sin was not a sexual sin – that notion is false. If Adam and Eve were husband and wife, then there was no sexual sin that could have taken place, for they were married. As the scriptures say, Adam and Eve both partook of fruit that God had said they should not eat or they would die. That was the cause of the Fall. The idea that the Fall of Man originated from sexual sin is not found or supported anywhere in the scriptures.

      • cken says:

        Adam and Eve were man and woman. Obviously you take the bible literally, therefore they could not have been married as there was no church or clergy to marry them. You are right man’s downfall was not based on sexual sin. Man’s downfall was based on the knowledge of good and evil. In other words man’s original sin was obtaining free will.

      • ZEN WORDSMITH says:

        Good [Fruit of the Looms] observation [Dan].
        My under garments will keep the “family-jewels”
        intact, why the “folk-lore” of the Old testament
        serve to remind us: That we live in New Testament
        times.
        Pull on the “low-hanging fruit” and see if [Adam] takes a bite.
        CONSIDERED YOURSELF “BRIEFED”.

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  6. E B says:

    I appreciate that attitudes on this topic are changing, as well they should. However, I think we LDS people need to also remember that blacks were always promised the same blessings even if it were in the next life, just as gays have that promise now. We know what eternal families look like – the pattern or doctrine is set forth clearly in the scriptures and in the Family Proclamation. The gospel, unlike the Church itself and Mormon culture, is comprised of eternal truth and love and never changes over time. I think it would be unwise to expect the doctrine/gospel to change. However, we should be happy that the attitude of the Church and Mormon culture is shifting towards the gospel, which is love and acceptance and tolerance while continuing to teach the plan of happiness which is available to everyone regardless of circumstance.

  7. Collin simonsen says:

    Mr. Gibson,

    The issue with blacks and the priesthood is very different than homosexuality. Joseph Smith ordained an african american man to the priesthood and the man received his endowment. But for some reason that all changed under Brigham Young. There was little doctrinal support for denying the priesthood to blacks.

    But the role of the traditional family is central to mormonism.

    I am glad that attitudes are changing because I have come to know that many gay members have been mistreated. It makes me sad that this kind of unloving behavior has happened and continues to happen. But we should be careful to not fall into the following intellectual trap: If someone is wrongfully persecuted for a behavior that must mean that the behavior is perfectly acceptable. Nope. That’s erroneous thinking.
    Another example:
    I should never persecute or hate someone for smoking. But even if smokers were hated and persecuted that does not mean that I am a hater or persecuter if I have the opinion that smoking is a bad activity. In my opinion, gay sex is the same. A sin before God and a harm to the individuals involved. We must show love to the smoker and the homosexual (practicing or not practicing).

    But we should not abandon our ability to think. I think that individuals like you are blinded by their strong sense of justice. A strong sense of justice is good, but when you feel strongly about something, you can tend to forget how to use nuance. Please consider how homosexual relationships might be bad for the individuals, families and society.

    Please also consider that God does have something to say about this and that he does speak through His servants.

    • Doug Gibson says:

      Appreciate your comments, Collin. I agree that any irresponsible sexual behavior harms individuals and society.

      • LMA says:

        “Irresponsible.” Kind of a subjective, value-laden term. When is sexual behavior responsible or irresponsible? God sees it one way, Doug sees it another. In Doug’s eyes . . . , Doug wins! Amazing that Doug thinks he’s a better moral arbiter than Heavenly Father.

        Doug’s idea of irresponsible sexual behavior is intended to treat homosexuality, per se, as perfectly responsible. That’s because Doug believes, even without saying so, that homosexuality is equivalent to heterosexuality for any purpose. But of course it isn’t. Homosexuality is, at best, irrelevant to child-bearing and child-rearing. Heterosexuality isn’t. Homosexuality can’t be used as a glue to forge bonds between the parents of children. Heterosexuality can. Homosexuality is at best orthagonal to the concept of the inter-generational transfer of wealth and culture. Heterosexuality is integral to that process. It makes a difference for children to be reared in a home with a married mother and father. Prophets, seers and revelators have told us, jointly and solemnly, that gender is an essential characteristic of eternal identity and purpose. Homosexuality is just plain not the same as heterosexuality and no amount of whining about that will change the reality one whit.

  8. Rockgod28 says:

    There is an attitude change in the CJCLDS about same-gender attraction. It is evident from the attitude of the Church leadership and membership. While there will be no compromise of standards God has set by the commandments, revelation and the gospel of Jesus Christ the attitude has indeed changed. Prop. 8 was a clear statement of support of the institution of marriage between a man and a woman. Civil unions are supported by the Church since a civil union is no a religious endorsement it is supported.

    Why?

    It is clear that Gay Activists and the CJCLDS are not friends. Jesus gave us a clear path to follow. Make an arrangement before going to court and being sued for everything. In fact give more than asked. So it is with Civil Unions. All the rights and privilages of marriage without the religious endorsement. It is what was desired and that goal has been achieved. A compromise without sacrificing either sides integrity to their cause.

    So it is with those who experience same-gender attraction. Just because you have the feelings or desire does not mean exemption from the commandments and laws of God. Men of both types of gender attraction are to not engage in any sexual relationship. That is reserved for marriage. Period.

  9. ashia says:

    A person’s sexual orientation shouldn’t have anything to do with their rights. It makes no sense.

  10. clark says:

    ashia is 100% right The minute you begin to determine an individuals rights according to anything other than the fact he or she is human being is not only senseless but very dangerous as well.

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