I wish to add to the discussion regarding the importance of same-sex attraction by referring to an address regarding homosexuality given by Elder Boyd K. Packer to Brigham Young University students on March 5, 1978. Elder Packer directed his remarks “To The One,” meaning those drawn erotically to others of their own gender. The ideas he presented included a particular emphasis on the concept of selfishness and included the following ideas:
“…The cause of this disorder has remained hidden for so long because we have been looking for it in the wrong place. When the cause is discovered, it may be nothing so mysterious after all. It may be hidden because it is so obvious.
I present a possibility. …Have you explored the possibility that the cause, when found, will turn out to be a very typical form of selfishness ---selfishness, in a very subtle form? … I do not think for a minute, that the form of selfishness at the root of perversion is a conscious one, at least not to begin with. I am sure it is quite the opposite. Selfishness can attach itself to an individual without his being aware that he is afflicted with it. It can become embedded so deeply and disguised, so artfully as to be almost indistinguishable.
If one could even experiment with the possibility, that selfishness of a very subtle nature may be the cause of this disorder, that quickly clarifies many things. It opens the possibility of putting some very sick things in order.
I repeat, we have had very little success in trying to remedy perversion by treating perversion. It is very possible to cure it by treating selfishness. ”
Elder Packer’s suggestion that homosexual behavior was largely attributable to selfishness brought severe, negative reactions from many, gays and non-gays alike. While not all were dissatisfied, his remarks were a lightning rod for agitation. Despite this negative response on the part of many, I believe that Elder Packer was inspired and more on target than perhaps even he understood. He had grown up a well-adjusted heterosexual man, and struggled to get his mind around subject matter far from his life experience. Nevertheless, he did care and prayerfully sought to understand. It may be that he was laboring to bring new bearing to this matter, to spiritual impressions presciently gained, but only seen "through a glass darkly," which he felt needed to be shared.
The linking of gays to selfishness was jarring. Webster’s dictionary defines selfishness as “concerned only or primarily with oneself without regard for others.” This hardly applies generally to gay people. However, there is a way of understanding selfishness ---"in a very subtle form.” When the word selfish is broken apart, it can have an entirely different meaning than that commonly attributed to it. The first half of the word refers to self or the identity or essence of a person. The suffix “ish” indicates approximately, partly or somewhat, as in something being described as greenish meaning a little bit green or having a touch or trace of green. It is truly in this light that homosexuality can be understood as caused by self-ish-ness.
With homosexuality, the self or identity, the “I am-ness” of the individual is inchoate or incompletely formed. In this case, there is indeed a psycho-sexual developmental arrest. The individual, insofar as his personal concept is concerned, has only partly progressed on his course toward becoming a man, psychologically, socially and emotionally. In that sense, the self is “ish.” It is nascent, a beginning, a little bit or only partly present. There is more needed for its completion. Aside from their developmental handicap, when compared to their fellowmen, gays are no more selfish or strange than most others. It is not the developmental arrest or the need for completion that is in error. It is only the adaptation that is incorrect, the efforts to solve a childhood identity and relational difficulty through inappropriate adult sensual behavior.
Importantly, Elder Packer acknowledged the failure of efforts to treat or curb “perversion” by focusing on it. Policing adult sexuality and attempting to curb or modify it can be likened to flailing at the leaves of a problem while failing to give attention to its roots. Same-sex sexuality is adjustive behavior, a symptom of the core concerns that lie behind those actions, e.g., relational estrangement and identity and gender-role deficiencies, self-ish-ness.
I believe that when role and identity deficient males are given the opportunity to love and become one with valued heterosexual men, they will be able to make up for many of the losses they encountered earlier in their lives. Taking down walls of rejection and nurturing and helping boys and men use their attraction properly is a liberating solution, a solution hidden because it is so obvious. In a future blog I will discuss the important concept of "corrective emotional experiences" as it relates to facilitating personal growth.
One of life's primary tasks is to learn to love. What a great opportunity to learn and grow is this issue of men needing to care and support of one another. Brotherly love can go far in bringing a healing oneness. With more accurate understanding of homosexuality, this common but enslaving adjustment to early trauma, trust and openness can increase, and countless men from both sides of the issue will be able to experience miracles born of friendship.