The king cobra is one of the most recognizable snakes in the world. With its signature menacing hood and prominence in pop culture, most everybody is familiar with this serpent. Nearly everybody would stay far away from one if they encountered it in the wild, despite the temptation of obtaining the ultimate wildlife selfie. You wouldn’t blame them, because almost as famous as their appearance is their venomous bite, capable of killing an elephant.
A fear of cobras is a healthy one. It keeps you alive. You would be wise to fear for a victim who had been bitten by a king cobra. If you found out a friend of yours lived in a place where king cobras were commonplace, you might fear for their safety, and would likely encourage them to be careful because you love them.
You would be foolish to fear the victim of a cobra bite, as venom is hardly contagious unless you yourself have an open wound and somehow the venom enters your system (highly unlikely.) But you would be wise to worry if they denied the cobra bite had anything to do with their deteriorating condition. And you would be especially worried if they said to everybody they passed that they were glad they had been bitten by the snake, and that others should try it too.
I began thinking about king cobras as I recalled a comment I had seen on social media. The comment was in regards to a post about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and said something along the lines of, “I just wish Dallin H. Oaks would admit he’s homophobic.”
What does homophobic mean? You might think you know, but you may find yourself wrong. Homophobic means one of two things: A) The fear homosexuals and/or B) The fear of same-sex attraction. Phobia meaning “fear of” and homo meaning “same” (In this case, a shortened version of homosexuals/homosexuality.) That’s the meaning of the word. Plain and simple.
Most people use homophobic to describe somebody whom they believe fits both definitions above. Their fault, however, is they have twisted and perverted the word to IMPLY that somebody who is homophobic excludes or persecutes people who experience, or act upon, same-sex attraction. This is utter nonsense. The word is in regard to feelings, not actions. To call somebody homophobic is an accusation regarding emotions, not deeds.
I assume this comment was meant to imply the latter, that President Dallin H. Oaks persecutes or excludes rather than simply fearing, in which case I must firmly disagree with the author’s choice of words. They, and many others like them, have hidden like a coward behind the twisted pillar of a word that once had meaning, popping out on occasion and throwing stones at passerbys. However, allow me to tackle all three possible accusations this person could have been attempting to make.
Firstly, the argument that Dallin H. Oaks (and really all members of the Church who sustain him) has a fear of homosexuality. Let me ask you this… assuming this accusation was true, would it even be morally wrong of him? Would it be sinful of him to simply have feelings of fear regarding the temptation that is same-sex attraction?
No. Not at all. Would he be foolish to fear the king cobra and its venomous bite, even if he himself had never been bitten? Both of these are healthy fears. Like your hypothetical friend that lived in a place where cobras are commonplace, members of the Church may well fear the venomous serpent that is same-sex attraction, even if they themselves do not struggle with it. Why? Because they love their fellow man, as Jesus taught, and they do not wish for them to be bitten by a dangerous serpent and risk eternal pain and punishment.
Second, the accusation that President Oaks and the members of the Church have a fear of people who experience same-sex attraction. This too is absurd. Certainly, some members do have a fear, admittedly an irrational one, of people who have and/or act upon same-sex attraction. But the feelings of a few members do not mean that is what the Church teaches.
Why on earth would I fear a victim who had wandered too close to a cobra and now had venom seeping through his body? I can think of no rational reason. Certainly, I may chastise him. Surely, I may warn him to stay away from the cobra in the future. Mostly, though, I would be working to get him the medical attention required to treat the wound.
But what if he claimed that he wanted no medical attention, would I fear him then? Would I fear him if, as I tried to take him to the hospital, he resisted and claimed that he enjoyed the cobra venom? What if he began proclaiming to men, women, and children as he passed, that he felt fine, was even enjoying himself, and that he was better off now than he had been before?
Perhaps I would fear him, or at least, his affect on society. I would fear for the children that he spoke to and influenced that day. What if one day, inspired by his words, they play with a cobra? I don’t really think that counts as fearing the victim of the cobra bite, because I still love him and want to give him medical attention, even if he refuses to let me help him. Even if one person did fear him after that delusional, misguiding tirade, I wouldn’t feel comfortable accusing that person of any sin. Perhaps they are guilty of unrighteous judgement, but even that is hardly my place to accuse them of such.
Likewise, we should not fear somebody who experiences, or acts upon, same-sex attraction. We should love them and care for them. If they’ve been wise and have been careful around the cobras, what a reason to celebrate! If they have not been cautious, if they have played with the dangerous serpents and been bit, then we have all the more reason to love them, even if they refuse the anti-venom of Christ’s atonement.
For if your friend refused medical attention, wishing instead to let the venom course through him, would you permit him to die alone and unloved? If he foolishly endorsed playing with cobras, you might have to explain to your children that he was wrong, but you would not abandon him except as a last resort. Christ would not abandon him, and I absolutely cannot envision the Savior of mankind persecuting him.
Which brings me to my final point. Persecution is in no way, shape, or form, Christlike. The closest Christ ever came to persecution was righteous judgement and punishment of the wicked. I testify that President Dallin H. Oaks has NEVER persecuted somebody for same-sex attraction or even for acting upon it, and certainly not while he has acted as an apostle of the Lord. As for whether or not he excludes these people, I must argue that he, nor any of the leaders of the church, would never endorse such a thing.
Yes, the Lord himself has made it so that certain requirements must be met in order to receive certain covenants such as baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and temple ordinances. To say that this is exclusive to ANYBODY is absolutely preposterous. EVERYBODY is welcome to come and partake of these blessings. The Lord wants you to come inside, but he requires that you leave your sins at the door. Your sins may not enter His Holy House. You are more than welcome.
I am aware that some members of the Church have felt excluded and persecuted. I am sorry for this. People are not perfect, and that certainly includes members of this and any Church. Please do not call our leaders homophobic without thinking about the meaning of the word. Both the actual definition and the implications of persecution and exclusion. Accuse of persecution and exclusion if you must, and if you have evidence, but be clear about it. As for fearing sin, I must admit that, yes, I am afraid of temptation and giving into it – much more than I am of the king cobra’s bite.