The Lost 116 Pages, Backup Plans, and LGBT Hope 

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Have you ever lost your work because you didn’t save in time, or because you didn’t have a backup? I imagine that would lead to a small taste of what Joseph Smith felt when he learned that his 116-page manuscript of the plates of Lehi was lost (with no backup copy) while in Martin Harris’s custody. In fact, Joseph Smith’s mother said that after learning of this disaster, Joseph “continued tracing backwards and forwards and weeping and grieving like a tender infant untill about sunset.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 7, p. 6-7). His ability to translate was taken away (D&C 3:10-15). He didn’t know what to do until the Lord revealed that He had foreseen all this and had prepared a backup plan: Joseph was not to translate from the plates of Lehi again, but rather was to translate from the plates of Nephi, which cover the same time period (D&C 10:29-45). The Lord had a backup plan even when the Prophet didn’t.

Many Church leaders today have realized that some people are seriously and legitimately attracted to the same gender, and this is not changing. They also admit that they have no idea what to do now. The only idea they have is about what not to do (break the Law of Chastity), but other than that, they don’t have any comprehensive clue what queer people should actually do instead. Our Church leaders, working with several sources that assume that everyone is “straight,” are caught without a backup plan. Until one is found, they are advising queer people to follow the Law of Chastity for straight people.

Some of our Church leaders are in much of the same position as Joseph Smith before the revelation of the backup plan in D&C 10. They have been surprised by the actual existence of LGBT people, but there have been no additional scriptures yet to address this. They are frantic, scared, and defensive, much like Joseph Smith, whose entire world was undone with the loss of the 116 pages. And much like how Joseph lost the precious pages, our church leaders have “lost” a world near and dear to them — a world where everyone is straight.  And just like those 116 pages aren’t ever coming back, their heteronormative world is never coming back either, no matter how familiar and comforting it was. Let us pray for our leaders.

Our Lord has always provided backup plans that his closest servants on Earth could not foresee. The Lord provided a ram in the bushes as a substitute for the sacrifice of Isaac, when Abraham had no way of anticipating it (Genesis 22:13–14).  Esther did not realize that if she refused to come out of the closet as a Jew to save her people from her husband, the Lord would still bring protection and deliverance to the Jews through another way (Esther 4:13–14).

The Lord even has a backup plan for those who do not fit norms for gender and procreation.  Eunuchs, who may have been Jewish victims of persecution or military defeat, were promised that if they were faithful to the Lord, they would receive a name and a place in the Lord’s kingdom that was actually better than the ability to have children: “Neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off” (Isaiah 56:3–5).

Anyone who knew only the biblical exclusion of eunuchs in Deuteronomy 23:1 would have no way to predict this generous backup plan.  While the situation with eunuchs is very different, Isaiah’s promise still gives hope for all people who don’t fit in the standard “plan” that others would impose on us, whether we are LGBT families, childfree couples, or people who are single by choice or circumstance. Assuming that queer people should follow the same plan for straight people without any adaptation leads to absolute misery and alienation from Christ.  On the other hand, the Spirit is leading LBGT people to a backup plan that’s right for us, and that brings peace, joy, and closeness with the Savior.

The tragedy of the lost 116 pages teaches us two very important lessons.  First, that even leaders called by God can make serious mistakes and errors of judgment.  Second, that God has a backup plan even when His servants don’t, and His backup plan is more glorious and genius than we could have ever imagined! This has always been true. Every time we read the amazing words from the Plates of Nephi (1 Nephi through Omni), we should be reminded that we serve a wise God who has beautiful backup plans and will not let human mistakes ultimately defeat the joy of LGBT people.  God’s purposes for LGBT families cannot be foiled by anyone, and the providence of the Plates of Nephi is one reason why I know that the Book of Mormon is a true resource for queer people.

Let us pray that God’s glorious backup plan for us will be made clearer to the whole world:  “And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.” (Isaiah 40:5)

2 thoughts on “The Lost 116 Pages, Backup Plans, and LGBT Hope 

  1. I lean more towards the prospect, “receive a name and a place in the Lord’s kingdom that was actually better than the ability to have children”, if that means there is some sort of reward for celibacy or marrying someone you’re not attracted to or attractive to. I think the church policies are probably real and coming from the Lord, it just bothers me that any specific revelation for it is not accounted for anywhere. I’m just hearing it in general from church leaders without a specific source or beginning. About that, the bible and old world are not accountable for it, because that’s apostasy and potential mistranslation. It should be sourced from modern revelation.

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  2. I appreciate the perspective here and definitely agree that the Lord knows what He’s doing and has a plan for every one of His children to live as He created them to be and to be able to enjoy all His blessings. But until we receive that plan, I believe it is a test of our faith and an experience important to our eternal development to continue forward with the commandments and revelations we have now. For example, Abraham and Isaac had to go through every part of the preparation of sacrifice until they received alternative instructions in the very last minute. They both learned a lot about themselves through that experience. Additionally in the Book of Mormon, some groups stop living the Mosaic Law after seeing the sign of the birth of Christ. The Saints are also counseled that they must continue to live the Mosaic law until it has been fulfilled. (3 Nephi 1:24-25) They received joy as they aligned with the prophets, both under the old law, and as they transitioned at the appropriate time to the new law.

    I look forward with hope for the day in which we shall know the will of the Lord concerning our LGBT brothers and sisters, and when they are able to feel fully comfortable as they associate with the Saints and worship before the Lord. I believe that there is a lot that each of us can do right now to work toward that day, even though at the current moment we don’t have all the answers and we are continuing under what has been given so far. I believe that the sacrifice of obeying the Lord and His servants, whether under the older, familiar commandments, or in the transition to further light and knowledge is what brings us joy that cannot be replaced by anything else, and that He has atoned for all our sufferings and confusion in addition to our sins as we navigate this mortal world. One day, it will all be healed, whether you live in times of an older law or in times of a newly revealed understanding.

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