Guest op-ed: Response to a Previous Opinion on Conversion Therapy in the LDS Church | News, Sports, Jobs
I am writing in response to the guest opinion piece titled “Several years after officially disavowing conversion therapy, does the LDS Church still practice it in the afterlife?” This argument is troubling because this way of thinking is not only incorrect, it also creates distress and pain in a population that already has too much. Much like coercive and unethical conversion therapy, extreme and overheated rhetoric can also harm the very people it purports to help. I appreciate the opportunity to provide a different way of thinking about this. This question is close to my heart because I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I experience same-sex attraction.
Recently a friend asked me, “What do you think the hunger in the resurrection will look like?” His question really got me thinking. We know that the resurrected Jesus was able to eat (see Luke 24:41-44), so presumably our resurrected bodies will be able to eat. But does that mean we will be hungry? Are we going to crave chocolate or stuff ourselves with potato chips late at night? In the Millennium, will we go for a Taco Bell run at 2 a.m.?
Should we count calories or precisely balance macronutrient percentages? I don’t know, but I doubt it. I don’t know if hunger will even exist in the resurrection, but one thing I’m sure of is that it will be different from the way we experience it now. From this point of view, these questions are not only quite ridiculous, but also irrelevant.
Likewise, sexual desire is an appetite (like hunger) that exists at least in part to ensure the reproduction and survival of the species (since food is necessary for the survival of the individual). Do these concepts apply to glorified and resurrected beings? I doubt it, but at the very least we should be humble enough to recognize that concepts like sexuality and reproduction will be vastly different and probably staggeringly different in the exalted resurrection. Not only does this include mundane and limiting constructs like LGBT identity, but I strongly suspect that many fallen aspects of heterosexuality will also be ignored.
In “The Great Divorce,” CS Lewis wrote, “Nothing, not even the best and noblest, can continue as it is now. Nothing, not even the lowest and most bestial, will be resurrected if it submits to death. He is sown as a natural body, he resurrects a spiritual body. Flesh and blood cannot come [heaven]. Not because they are too senior, but because they are too weak.
I guess you could consider that a loss, but I prefer to see it as a gain. For example, we know that other animals and insects perceive more of the electromagnetic spectrum than we do, seeing in the near infrared and up to the ultraviolet. Some animals hear wider frequencies and smell with more insight than humans. What abilities will our resurrected bodies have? What kind of art could we create and enjoy with multispectral vision?
What symphonies will we compose and enjoy with augmented hearing? What beauties, even of the present world, are we unable to perceive and appreciate? I can’t wait to find out. Even if that also means that some of the great works of art and music that we now revere as masterful works of genius might then seem a little lackluster and inadequate by comparison.
I suppose if you thought this event was a great tragedy, you might wish to refuse such an “upgrade”, and God might even honor such a request. But that would be limiting and tragic in my opinion. Exaltation means being in the presence of God, and to endure it we must learn to love the laws he loves and associate with those who love him. We must also allow Him to change us and let go of those things that separate us from Him.
The process is both additive and subtractive as we learn to become what we are not yet and let go of those things that separate us from the divine nature. This process can begin now, in this lifetime. This process is called repentance and conversion: “And it is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3).
This attempt to impose a distorted, mundane narrative framework (“conversion therapy”) on a glorious, transcendent afterlife reminds me of Lewis’ fictional account of the last days and the second coming in his latest book on Narnia. It is there that dwarves, fooled by a false messiah, persist in not allowing themselves to be fooled. Fearless and loyal, they are exactly the kind of allies Aslan (the true figure of the messiah) would like to have.
But in their determination not to lose what they have won at the cost of a great fight, they are unable to perceive a world much more different, beautiful, abundant and joyful than the one to which they have locked themselves. Refusing to see the light, they call it darkness. Unable to appreciate a delicious banquet, they esteem it as a tasteless straw. Invited into a beautiful community, they instead retreat into low tribalism, shouting “dwarves are for dwarves!” (see chapter 13 of The Last Battle).
Dwarves could open their eyes and join others as they raced “higher and higher” to discover new wonders and renew old friendships in the bustling paradise. If they did (and at least one did), they could lose some or all of their tribal identity. But what they have to gain is so much greater!
There are indescribable glories and unimaginable joys awaiting us “higher and higher”, but if we are more attached to the material and temporary aspects of our identity, then we will never discover them.
Jeff Bennion is a marriage and family therapist and co-founder of North Star International, an organization dedicated to supporting members who experience sexual and gender diversity (and their family and friends) who wish to live faithfully to the teachings and practices of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
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