Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Schmiracle of Forgiveness

Sometimes, a book that may contain positive, helpful and uplifting information is overshadowed by other information it contains that is dehumanizing, destructive and even deadly. The Miracle of Forgiveness by Spencer W. Kimball is such a book. Many people have written about this book. In case you're wondering, I side with who view it mostly as something that is usually left in the street behind a parade of horses.

There are many thoughtful and skillful critiques available. However, I want to add my voice to the thousands of others who were told by trusted leaders, advisers, family and friends to read that book and rely on it to save our eternal souls---only to find that it mutilated our souls instead. A genuine miracle is that so many of us survived. A genuine tragedy is that so many us did not.

I share some responsibility for the spiritual, emotional and psychological trauma I experienced which was caused by the attitudes and actions The Miracle of Forgiveness espouses. I chose to absorb the misguided speculation passed off as fact and lived my life for many years as though the falsehoods in that book were truths. I'm in a much better place now psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. To be sure, I still have things to work through. Some might say I'm on the wrong path. But I know I'm on the right one for me.

The teachings in The Miracle of Forgiveness related to homosexuality are enough to shock the conscience. Miracle schmiracle. What kind of miracle can come about when the title of the chapter dealing with homosexuality is titled "The Crime Against Nature" and gay people are labeled as a threat to family life and the survival of civilization itself?

In a tragic coincidence, the book was published the same year as the Stonewall riots that began the modern Gay Rights movement in earnest. As Spencer Kimball was putting the final touches on his magnum opus, using the complete assortment of misguided falsehood to vilify homosexuality, a groundswell of new thinking began in other quarters. As Kimball and other prominent Mormons smilingly led a backward-looking crusade against gay people, psychologists, activists and others with ACTUAL training and experience started unshackling themselves from dangerous assumptions and moved forward.

And yet here we are in the year 2011, with this book still available for purchase at Deseret Book, owned by the LDS church and whose board is comprised of senior LDS leadership and other prominent Mormons. As recently as 2004, a senior LDS apostle, Richard G. Scott, proclaimed that book to be a "masterly work." Ezra Taft Benson, Kimball's successor in the presidency of the church, speaking as President of the Church and not as an individual stating an opinion, urged all members of the church to read and re-read that book. I presume Benson meant for people to also apply the principles in the book and not merely read the book for leisure.

Several months ago, the book Mormon Doctrine was at long last pulled from the shelves of Deseret Book. Citations to Mormon Doctrine are beginning to be whitewashed out of church publications, although much of the content remains under different attribution. Perhaps The Miracle of Forgiveness is slated for similar treatment. Even if that's true, it will be at least a generation before this dangerous book is removed from the collective Mormon memory.

If any book published by an apostle of the LDS church ever deserved formal repudiation by the current President of the Church, it is The Miracle of Forgiveness. But for that to happen, it will take a miracle.

6 comments:

  1. I wonder why Mormon Doctrine was pulled? I havent researched that book at all. And I have never read The Miracle of Forgiveness because I have only heard what a load of crap it is. I love your comparison as to what you feel the book really is in your first paragraph. ;)

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  2. The Miracle of Forgiveness was the first book I ever read on the subject of homosexuality. It made me want to die. I was a 14 year old who had never so much as touched another human being, of either sex.

    I like Jimmy Creech's term for this: spiritual abuse.

    This book is a relic of a period that we have gratefully survived. It's time for it to go the same way as the Church's pamphlets To the One and For Young Men Only.

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  3. Amen MoHoHawaii. Spiritual abuse indeed.

    That book was also the first book I ever read dealing with homosexuality, and I had a very similar reaction. It was also one of two books on the reading list given to me by my stake president in 2001.

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  4. Oh good ol' MOF... if there was ever a more wretched book written... It took years to undo the damage that it caused my 14-year old's mind to feel so dirty and unworthy and I hadn't even made it to the homosexual part! :-)
    Hugs,Miguel

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  5. I have read bits and pieces of miracle of forgiveness, and what i did read made me feel like shit. i dont think the damage has been fully undone yet.

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  6. I loved President Kimball as a child and teenager. My mother gave me his book as a gift and I appreciated its ideal of pursuing spiritual perfection through vanquishing sin and leaning on Christ's atonement, but in retrospect, the guilt the chapter(s) on homosexuality instilled in me was severe...I remember fearing anyone ever finding out, that I could be excommunicated (as a 15-yr-old!) just for having such thoughts. I am more sad than angry...the church was responding in the 1970's strongly to the sexual revolution which promoted promiscuity and I believe they unwittingly didn't know how to separate all that from homosexuality per se as a deeper, more complex issue of personhood, personality and identity. As anyone reading any of these "gay Mormon" blogs can see, there are many spiritual homosexuals in the world who just want to be good people while being truthful about who they are. President Kimball had a publisher, but we have blogs and together we will eventually change the paradigm of misinformed, tradition-entrenched ways of thinking regarding homosexuality, just like we changed the paradigm of "no inter-racial" relations, the paradigm of women as property, even silly paradigms that kept the physically handicapped hiding in shame (President Roosevelt). Lots of silly and serious paradigms that man has so foolishly/naively/ignorantly bought into since the dawn of time. I believe homosexuality is largely an issue of ignorance, a secret that we have kept to ourselves for generations; and it's up to us to just keep blogging away in this safe yet very practical and effective way of "getting the word out" about who we really are--until everyone finally just "gets" how cruel and simply misguided they've been in their perceptions of and treatment toward us.

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