Saturday, December 24, 2011

O Come, Let Us Adore Him






Isaiah 9:6

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Latter-Day Pharisees


My new Bishop is a great guy, but I haven't had an opportunity to sit down and really shoot the breeze with him yet. I do communicate with him quite a bit on calendar and Ward Bulletin items, and occasionally we exchange e-mails on Gospel topics. The other day, for instance, I came a cross the Pres. George Albert Smith response to a letter from a minister in Salt Lake that had been concerned about recent assertions in a Church magazine that First Presidency statements were infallible. The statement in question was "When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done." Pres. Smith's response is priceless, and says in part:

I am pleased to assure you that you are right in your attitude that the passage quoted does not express the true position of the Church. Even to imply that members of the Church are not to do their own thinking is grossly to misrepresent the true ideal of the Church, which is that every individual must obtain for himself a testimony of the truth of the Gospel, must, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, work out his own salvation, and is personally responsible to His Maker for his individual acts.
I thought this might be good fodder for a 5th Sunday lesson, seeing as how we have some very narrow and prejudiced minds in my Ward. Lots of blind followers, I'm afraid. So I sent the entire letter from the Minister and the G.A.S. response to the Bish and made my recommendations. He responded warmly and positively to it.

Then Sunday rolls around and the Bish corners me to talk about coming in for an interview. Before I could even respond he suddenly notices what I'm wearing and says "Wow! That's the most close-to-white shirt I've seen you wear all year. Maybe we'll see you in a white shirt soon." OK, that was totally unexpected and about threw me off the edge. Since my White Shirt Rebellion a few months ago, I have not worn a white shirt to Church a single time. Nor do I intend to. I can tell that when I do have my interview with this Bishop, I'm going to have to set some things straight with him. My pet peeve is white shirts.

Then to top it all off, we had the incident this past week with Skinny Jeans and BYU-I. I immediately made a post mocking the ridiculousness of this incident, but it really does have me worried about a trend I see growing in the Church, and which is tied to all of my posts lately. Today, I found the perfect quote that sums up my concerns:

“The worst sinners, according to Jesus, are not the harlots and publicans, but the religious leaders with their insistence on proper dress and grooming, their careful observance of all the rules, their precious concern for status symbols, their strict legality, their pious patriotism … the haircut becomes the test of virtue in a world where Satan deceives and rules by appearances.” – Hugh Nibley in his talk ‘What is Zion?’ 
So, with the current emphasis in the Church on appearance, rules, image, public opinion, and piety; are we Latter-Day Saints, or are we becoming Latter-Day Pharisees? I'm afraid we're headed for the latter, if we're not already there. What do you think?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Skinny Made Me Bad

<<< THIS IS PORN, PEOPLE!

OK, If you haven't caught the unbelievable buzz yet about BYU and Skinny Jeans, please click HERE .

Next, I think they should:

1. Ask in Temple Recommend Interviews if you own Skinny Jeans!
2. Add an 11th Commandment - Thou shalt not wear Skinny Jeans before ME!
3. Issue a new 'Proclamation On The Skinny Jean'.
4. Pen a new Primary Song called "Pioneer Children Did Not Wear Skinny Jeans".
5. Ban football, because after all, you can see their ass through those tight-fitting uniforms!
6. Ban basketball. Its those silky shorts  - might show someone's 'package'.
7. Ban soccer, because after all, you can see bulges through those shorts too!
8. Ban rugby, because its - well, its almost like watching porn! (Dieux du Stade)
9. Require all female students to hide their bodies in used refrigerator boxes mounted on roller-skates (for mobility) with eye-holes cut out, since sight of the female body might actually cause a man to have an impure thought!
10. Ban gay people from BYU entirely, because we dared to notice that all the fluff about Skinny Jeans was a slap in the face to women by a bunch of male chauvinists with a double-standard! (and also because we pointed out the bit about bulges!)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Thaw?

I'm sitting here listening to the Michael Buble` Christmas CD and reflecting on the past few weeks, which have been somewhat remarkable in a way.

First, I got the news that the government agency I work for is not going to cut our program or our budget. That's good news, at least for the next year. Jobs are so tenuous these days. Big relief!

Next, my whole family took a trip to the mountains, and it was really wonderful. We had a cabin with an incredible view, cooked good food, and had a more enjoyable time together than we've had in many years. I have a pretty decent family when you boil it all down. Not perfect, of course, but decent. There is still a lot of prejudice in the family, which bothers me to no end, but something happened on this trip that gives me hope.

I was riding in the car with my sisters, shooting the breeze on a variety of subjects, when somehow my aged uncle came up in the conversation. To my surprise, my sister began to talk about him being gay. 50 years ago he was in a gay relationship and lived with another man as a 'couple'. This was extremely bold and scandalous in those days. My sister revealed some little-known details of this relationship, including the fact that my parents wouldn't let him bring his partner to our house. I was too young at the time to understand what was going on, but evidently it became a source of contention in my family, as they didn't want his gay lover anywhere near us. Sadly, a few years later this man died unexpectedly, and my uncle was left alone. He never found another person to love, and lives alone til this day.

This has been one of those 'elephant-in-the-room' subjects that my family has pretended didn't exist for decades. Here in the South, especially among my generation and older, you simply don't TALK about gay family members. You pretend they aren't gay and hope one day it will just "go away", but you never mention it - it just wouldn't be polite. Plus you might embarass the fam! Anyway, my other sister piped up and said how it must have taken a lot of guts to live as a gay couple back in those days, and how sad it was that he had lived his life alone after his partner's death. She also noted how much my uncle loved his partner, and how he still misses him to this day.

Needless to say, after all the homophobic rants I've heard my family get into, this conversation came as a bit of a shock. Could it be that at least a few of my family members are starting to 'get it'? That the ice is thawing? Hearts are melting? I can only hope! The last thing my sister mentioned is how sad it was that my uncle had to live a "fake" life, and that he couldn't really be his authentic self around the family. I was sorely tempted to pipe up and tell her how I knew exactly how he felt; but my practical side took over and I resisted the temptation to come out ....at least for now. There is more thawing left to do before that happens.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sheep and Goats

Our lesson today in Priesthood was on the Second Coming, and we were given assignments to read a small section of the lesson aloud and make comment. My section was about the Judgement, and included this scripture, which I'm sure I've heard a hundred times before:

Matthew 25:31-40
 
31- When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32- And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

33- And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34- Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35- For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36- Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37- Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38- When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39- Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40- And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

The scripture goes on to say that the 'wicked' did not do these things, and will therefore be cast out.

What struck me this time around is the way the Lord defined those who were righteous and those who were wicked - the sheep and the goats. Righteousness was not defined by Church attendance, keeping the Word of Wisdom, putting on a great Road Show, wearing a white shirt to Church, or serving in a particular calling. The only criteria for righteousness seemed to be how we served our fellow man. How we loved and cared for those around us. That was it. Likewise, wickedness was defined as a selfish absence of service, caring, or love.  The other commandments truly pale in importance compared to this crowning principle of love and service. This was one of those profound moments of realization for me.

And then my thoughts turned to the way many of us MoHos are treated. So many of us hunger and thirst for acceptance (see my last post), love, dignity, caring, and equality. So many of us are sick of being persecuted and being imprisoned in closets of anonymity. So many of us are naked and exposed to hate, ridicule, insults and the injustice of our society. How sad it will be  - how truly sad - when the parent who casts out his own child simply because he is gay finds out he is actually a goat, and not a sheep after all.  How sad, indeed, to discover that you have altogether missed the very essence of Christianity.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Acceptance

This is a concept that's been on my mind. Its been part of conversations, thoughts, and even dreams as of late. So here are a few of my thoughts on the the subject - this may ramble a bit..

Acceptance is one of the most basic human needs, and in fact, I would say it is near the top of the list. I watched two little kids at Church today, and even from the youngest age we want acceptance. Example: One of the kids draws a little picture, and they want the other one to like it and think its cool. They display it and explain it and may even embellish it on the spot if they think some part of it isn't being appreciated. They want to fit in. They want to be accepted. I guess acceptance is where a sense of security and self-confidence begin. To a large degree, then, we measure ourselves by gauging the responses of acceptance (or rejection) we receive from others. Our expectation is acceptance - its what we're counting on. This kind of acceptance could be called 'social acceptance', and the need for it is a key motivator of human behavior. Think of all the people who go on diets, have plastic surgery, or spend a fortune on clothes; all so they will be "cooler". Hipper. Prettier. More accepted.

Then there is the concept of self-acceptance. The concept of understanding who and what you are, your talents, abilities, strengths, weaknesses, looks, limitations, etc.; and in spite of this, still liking yourself for being YOU. Being OK with it. Comfortable with it. Not stressed out about it. In general, we human beings are pretty hard on ourselves, and I think a lot of us have a difficult time with self-acceptance. We're always wanting to be more perfect, more talented, more - whatever than what we currently are. Its OK to have a desire to improve and grow, of course, but there's a healthy approach to that. Its easy to start putting conditional criteria on our self-acceptance. "I'll be happy when I lose 20 pounds." Maybe what we're really saying is that we can't accept ourselves as we currently are. Or that we're afraid others won't accept us as we are.

And last is the concept of Divine acceptance. The concept that God is OK with us and what we're doing. That we're worthy of God's love. His blessings. His Spirit. His salvation. Many of us spend a lot of time worrying about Divine acceptance. Measuring up, so to speak, to all the commandments and requrements we hear about and read about and 'fulfilling' our various callings in the Kingdom.

My observation is that we MoHos are quite frequently caught at the intersection of these three types of acceptance, with negative consequences:

  1. Being gay is still not TRULY socially acceptable. Maybe socially tolerated best describes it. Its definitely better than it used to be, but we have a long way to go before gay people are treated like everyone else. Its still fraught with dangers, prejudice, stigmas and stereotypes. Witness the recent bullying issues in schools if you have any doubts. And the social acceptance of gays in the Church is about 20 years behind the rest of society, to say nothing of the ostracism and alienation from our families (including our Church family) that many of us suffer as a result of our homosexuality.
  2. Then we have the issues of self-acceptance. We have many MoHos who suffer in quiet desperation for years (I was one of them), trying in vain to pray away something that's simply a part of them. Endless self-loathing. Coutless dollars spent on therapies and programs. Shame. Guilt. Depression. Anxiety. And for many if not most, where does it all lead? Nowhere!
  3. And finally we have acceptance issues with God. We simply feel like we can't be loved, especially by Him. And how can we "measure up" if we don't feel attracted to the opposite sex? How can we feel worthy? If we don't have an Eternal Marriage, then we have utterly failed, right? That's the goal, the prize - the ultimate fulfillment of life's purpose, right? Its easy to feel like a failure if that's not where we're headed.

So in my mind I'm thinking this intersection combines to create a crisis of acceptance for many of us. This failure on three levels of acceptance sets us up for depression, anxiety, heartbreak, conflict, and in the worst cases, suicide. We wind up in a situation where the basic human need for acceptance is stunted or absent from our lives, and it has profound effects on us and on those around us.

I don't have all the answers to this dilema. So many of the answers would be personal and customized to the individual situation. In general, I think God is more accepting of us and our situations than we ever give Him credit for. He knows out hearts. His love is unconditional and greater than we can possibly imagine. What I believe we can do as individuals is to be accepting and supportive of each other in this community. To bear one another's burdens. To listen. To serve. To empathize. Support. Sustain. Encourage. And most importantly, to love unconditionally. We must accept ourselves and each other - just as we are. For some of us, that may be the only real acceptance we experience.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Planes, TRAINS and Automobiles

Trains have always fascinated me, as have other mechanized vehicles like planes and cars. I've owned vintage automobiles, and I've flown in more planes than I care to recall (although I've never flown in a vintage aircraft). This weekend I had the signular experience of riding a vintage passenger train. Now, I have ridden a number of trains before - Amtrak, bullet trains in Japan, etc.. but this was a different sort of trip - a train "excursion".

  

The excursion train I was on is a vintage Streamliner model from the 1950's. Its really got a 50's vibe to it, complete with 50's-style dining tables in the dining car, stainless steel body, and "streamlined" passenger-car designs reminiscient of 50's era automobiles. The coolest thing was the "dome car", which we got to ride in. They've bumped the roof up and put in a dome of glass on it so you have a much better and wider view. It was worth the extra we had to pay to get this advantage.

Our excursion was a 160 mile round-trip from the city out through the countryside to a small town with lots of antique shops, boutiques, and restaurants. Along the way we got to soak in pastoral landscapes and the rich tapestry of fall colors beginning to blanket the hills and farms. Pleasant company of old friends and lots of stimulating conversation made this one of those perfect, relaxing days that seems to come but once in a blue moon. It was delightful! What was so nice was the slower pace you can only experience on a train - especially a vintage model. They just don't go that fast! That leaves a lot more time for important things, like taking in the view or talking to friends. For one day, at least, "my joy is full". It doesn't get much better than this folks...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Saints and Superheroes

I watched all the sessions of General Conference this year, and I watched some of them more than once over the internet. Afterwards I followed a lot of blogs and other sites that provide commentary on LDS topics. Lots of comments about Conference. Lots of comments about favorite talks, favorite moments, favorite priciples, favorite music. But what really got me thinking were the comments about favorite GAs.

What I see happening is a decided drift towards hero worship when it comes to General Authorities. People actually gush over them like they would a rock star or Oscar-winning Hollywood actor! And its not just gushing over the content of their talks, its gushing over every aspect of them - the tie they wore, their voice, their hair - even how tan they look! The comments over Elders Uchtdorf and Bednar are especially embarrasing.

As a society we have taken the phenomenon of idol worship to a new level, and its showing up in our Churches and in our worship. Rather than focus on the message, many are focusing instead on the person delivering the message. I wonder, actually, if some even hear the message at all! And this isn't just about physical appearances. In a lot of cases its more subtle than that. When we begin to value one person's spiritual worth above another's; when we start to believe that someone is somehow spiritually 'super-human', we start a dangerous spiral towards vulnerability of the mind, blind obedience, and the literal objectification of another human being; which God himself forbade, saying "Thou shalt have no other gods before me".

The danger in creating Spiritual Superheroes has not been lost to Church Leadership. In an almost prophetic statement, Brigham Young warned:

“I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they will settle down in a state of blind self security. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not.”

The Lord expects us to maintain enough of a distance with the Leadership that we will earnestly seek an independant testimony of the inspired value of their words. Yes, we can love them, laugh with them, and relish their wisdom and insights, but He never intended the Brethren to be held up and worshiped like demi-gods. That will blind us. History is fraught with examples of men in high places who have fallen badly - take Moses, King David, and Judas as examples. Joseph Smith himself was sorely chastened by the Lord on several occasions for really screwing up.  And we have recent examples of Brethren teaching things that were later refuted or withdrawn - Bruce R. McConkie, Paul H. Dunn, and Boyd K. Packer, among others. The Lord wants us to sustain these men, but he certainly doesn't want us to be blind sheep. We need to know when they're speaking the Lord's will and when they're just throwing out an opinion.

It's time to take the General Authorities off the pedestal and see them for who and what they are - good but imperfect men who have been given a tremendous and solemn responsibility. They are, in their imperfections, called to perform a mighty work - the Lord's work. They deserve our attention, they deserve our respect, and they deserve our loyalty and obedience when it is appropriate. But the only person who deserves our worship is the Savior himself. Let's keep Him up there on that pedestal - alone - where He belongs.






Postscript - Found this great video of Elder Bednar echoing some of the thoughts of this post...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ccb7-gJs28I

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Apple Bytes

I came both early and late to the Apple party. The first computer I ever touched was an Apple II, which had a character-based green screen (think The Matrix!) and was at the same time cool and yet "clunky". It was cool because there was nothing else like it, but getting the darn thing to do something useful was another matter entirely. We used it to run a chess program.

That was my last exposure to Apple products for some time. Five years later a friend let me play with his new Macintosh. It was a small almond-colored cube with a tiny black and white screen. But the graphical user interface was neat - you could see the start of something revolutionary underneath it all. And it had this weird new thing called a "mouse" attached to it. Took some getting use to.

Another five years later I was immersed in a PC-based world. Businesses did not run on Macs - they ran on IBM. My shift towards a career in computer science was decidedly flavored by the business world I was connected to. There was no room for Apple there. Everything was DOS, servers, Novell, ethernet, and eventually Windows. PCs were "open", flexible, and had lots of options - lots of parts made my different manufaturers. Lots of software made by the likes of Lotus, WordPerfect, and Microsoft. Lots of competition. Lots of headaches! Platforms were unstable, and software crashed a lot. But Apple - well, that was almost a cuss word. We used to joke about Apple computers - they were for kids and people who couldn't understand "real" computers. After all, we could go to the command prompt on our DOS based PC and type in cryptic codes to make our computers do all kinds of fancy things - like copy a file! Or bring up the contents of a directory.  C:\DOS > DIR. This stuff was authentic geekaziod! We weren't about to drive a computer with an automatic - that was for sissies! We wanted a 5-speed manual!

Nearly twenty years later, and my how times have changed! My boss uses a MacBook Air. My brother-in-law hangs tight with an iPad. And I am almost inseparable from my iPhone 4. Inseparable. My seven year-old PC is about on its last leg, and I have begun shopping for its replacement. At the Apple store.....






Thanks, Steve, for thinking different. RIP.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Help

The Help is without a doubt one of the best movies of the year. Superb, really. I would not be surprised at all if it sweeps the Oscars next year. For those who maybe haven't seen it yet, I would highly encourage you to do so. The Help is decidedly a chick-flick, but far more than that. Its a social commentary with a glimpse into a world few Americans could ever imagine. And its a realistic portrayal - I know that for a fact.

Interestingly enough, my family is from a Southern town similar to Jackson, Mississippi - the town portrayed in the movie. There are so many scenes and situations portrayed in it that echo my experience as a child. My "rich" grandmother had four black servants - a cook, a laundry woman, a house keeper and a yard man (when my dad was a baby she temporarily added a fifth servant - a wet nurse to feed him). My grandmother was into the social scene just like the white women in The Help. I can remember the large Bridge Parties she would host in her home, which seemed so mysterious to us kids, since we weren't allowed to play with cards and we were absolutely forbidden to even peek in during those bridge sessions. Like the white children portrayed in the movie, were loved on and doted over by the Help. We loved them (except the yard man was a little scary)! They were so kind, and always made you feel good. And of course, the cook was the center of attention if it was your birthday, because she would make you a spectacular cake and you got to tell her what you wanted on it.

My favorite, however, was the laundry woman. She worked in the basement and had this amazing ironing machine that could iron almost a whole shirt with one dramatic whoosh! of steam. For a little kid, it was kind of magical. I would sit there with her while she used the magic ironing machine, and she would tell me stories about when I was a baby. She helped take care of me, you see. In fact, she helped care for and raise my dad, his brothers and sisters, and most of us grand kids. She probably worked for my grandmother most of her life, and that wasn't uncommon in those days.

All of us kids were really too young to understand that these sweet people were being repressed, discriminated against, and persecuted by their community. We approached them with the innocence only a child possesses. I do remember once having to go with my grandmother at Christmas time to the landry womans house. It was a run-down shanty on the poor side of town. This lady had gotten very sick, and my grandmother wanted to see her. It was kind of a disturbing experience for me, because that was the first time it hit me that this woman was poor. The only heat in the house was a lump of coal burning in the fireplace. I had never even seen coal before. It smelled bad. Her husband told fishing stories while my grandmother visited with her. I remember my grandmother giving her a hug as we were leaving, and pressing $100 into her hand. She tried to refuse, but grandmother insisted. That was the last time I saw the laundry woman.

So, if you see the movie you will see scenes that almost directly correlate to some of my early childhood experiences. I wouldn't say they are unique, but they are unusual artifacts of a dark time in this country's history. We have, thankfully, come far away from those days, but prejudice has not altogether been vanquised from the world. That starts with each one of us vanquishing it first from our own heart.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Latte for Sacrament?

Being the official greeter for Sacrament is truly one of the best callings I've ever had in the Church. I love it! You get to meet everyone, talk to them, joke with them - truly be an extrovert, if only for a few minutes. And you're in a position to occasionally have a singular experience that you otherwise would not have. Today was one of those days.

It was Ward Conference, so it was especially busy, with lots of Stake people showing up who normally do not come this far out. The entire Stake Presidency was there, Stake YM, Stake YW - a huge crowd of folks, plus the regular Ward membership. I'm doing my job, greeting away and trying to make sure everyone gets a program. Since I'm the only one handing them out and there are two doors people are funneling into, it was a juggling act to be sure.

In the midst of all this, a gentleman comes in the door with a large cup in his hand. As he crosses the foyer and approaches the doors to the Chapel I'm getting ready to greet him and hand him the program, when I suddenly notice this cup is full of coffee. He stops and asks me; "Would it be alright if I finished this in there (the Chapel), or do you think I should drink it out here?". This was, of course, completely unexpected, but as my wits came back to me I said politely; "Probably best to drink it out here." He said; "OK", and sat down on a nearby sofa to finish off his cup o' Joe. I had no time to think about the situation, as other people were filing into the meeting, but in a few minutes he came back to the door and said; "Where can I put this?" He held out a paritally drained cup of coffee and looked at me matter-of-fact. "I'll take it", I said, and he handed me the cup, took a program, and proceeded to find a seat.

So, as I was marveling at what had just happened, it suddenly dawned on me that I was standing there at the doors of the Chapel, greeting new arrivals with a stack of programs in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other!! It was one of those "ZOINKS!" kind of moments you see in cartoons! Hilarious!!!
 I slipped off to find a trash can in a classroom and quickly returned to my post. This has to be the highlight of my tenure as Ward Greeter! :)

But on the serious side -  as I thought about it throughout the day, I thought how grateful I was that this man came to Church today with his Java in hand. He was there where he should be. He was participating. I do not judge him, and I hope no one else did. I don't know who he is, but I wish others in the Ward who drink coffee, smoke, or have other issues they think might make them unworthy would not let that hold them back from coming. Let them come! We're all sinners, are we not? I'm probably less worthy than they are, in all honesty. I hope the way I handled the situation did not make this man feel uncomfortable. That he felt the Spirit. That he felt loved. That he felt included. Isn't that what's important?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Never Forget

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Rebel With A Cause




September is upon us, my fellow MoHos, and now is the time for rebellion to begin. Yes folks, I'm talking about the one you've all been waiting for - the WHITE SHIRT REBELLION!!

During the month of September, SHUN your white shirts like they were contaminated with the plague. Instead, don your most colorful attire for work and especially for Church. Let them see your true colors, folks!

For those who may need to defend their colorful couture in LDS circles, please note the following paragraph from the LDS General Handbook of Instructions, Book 2:

"Those who bless and pass the sacrament should dress modestly and be well groomed and clean. Clothing or jewelry should not call attention to itself or distract members during the sacrament. Ties and white shirts are RECOMMENDED because they add to the dignity of the ordinance. However, THEY SHOULD NOT BE REQUIRED as a mandatory prerequisite for a priesthood holder to participate. Nor should it be required that all be alike in dress and appearance. Bishops should use discretion when giving such guidance to young men, taking into account their financial circumstances and maturity in the Church."

Feel free to make copies of the preceeding quote to hand out to incredulous leaders and self-righteous members who dare to criticize your newfound sense of style! We have the official WORD, brethren!

I'm looking forward to the colorful stories that are sure to be born of this epic time in our history. Please post your experiences here for the enlightenment and edification of all. This blog will serve as the official Rebellion headquarters. Remember to stand tall, wear a defiant smirk on your face, and most importantly - let the white shirts be vanquished!



Be SURE to take my 'White Shirt Poll' located in the side-bar.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Gods and Monsters



 No, I'm not referring to the movie by the same title. I'm referring to our Republican presidential candidates. Little known to mainstream America, and largely unreported by the press; the Republican party has been undergoing an "infiltration" by two radical right-wing Christian groups, loosely called "Dominionists" and "New Apostolic Reformationists".  Their goal? To literally take over everything. Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry are among their vanguard.


Dominionists:

Derives from a small fringe sect called Christian Reconstructionism, founded by a Calvinist theologian named R. J. Rushdoony in the 1960s and based on the verse in Genesis 1:26
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Dominionists take that literally. In fact, they take every word of the Bible as the literal truth. They believe man has dominion over everything on earth, including all its natural resources. No wonder, then, that Michelle Bachman declared early on in her candidacy that one of the first things she would do as President is eliminate the "job killing" Environmental Protection Agency. Can't have anything standing in the way of unbridled dominion!! And that right to dominion extends WAY beyond earthly resources. They believe it is their calling to "infiltrate" and eventually control every institution of man. The ultimate goal? A totally Christian society with laws based on literal Bible interpretations. Bring back the death penalty for homosexuality and adultry. They even want to re-interpret the practice of slavery in America, seeing it as a benign institution where benevolent whites actually did black slaves a favor by giving them a leg up in the new world, since they weren't socially sophisticated enough to make their way in a modern society.

Michelle Bachman and her husband are deeply entrenched in this movement. Check out this article in The New Yorker by Ryan Lizza Leap of Faith . This one is long, but informative and deeply disturbing. What these people believe is almost unfathomable.


New Apostolic Reformation:

With roots also in the Christian Reconstructionism movement, this group believes they have been called by God to lead Christians back to the old ways of the Bible and, like the Dominionists, to a totally Christian version of America. The parallels to Mormonism are striking, including the belief that the Founding Fathers were inspired, and in modern day "Apostles" and "Prophets". In fact, if you read this amazing article from The Texas Observer by Forrest Wilder called Rick Perry's Army of God, you'll learn that Perry was actually "ordained" by two of these Apostles to become the next President of the United States! So when Perry says he felt "called by God" to run for President, he means that literally. The beliefs in Perry's camp are just as disturbing and menacing as Bachmann's, and the two movements have connections with each other on certain levels hard to understand. The alarming thing is that this movement currently controls a large portion of the Home Schooling programs in America. They are making serious inroads into our institutions and thinking.

Another article that fills in a few gaps of the first two is this one by Michelle Goldberg called A Christian Plot for Domination?


Not convinced there's a problem? Check out this video Reclaim the 7 Mountains of Culture

Bottom line - if people were worried about Mitt Romney being a "puppet" for Mormon leadership, they had better take a close look at the malignant alternatives Perry and Bachmann represent. Many of the baisc freedoms and rights we now enjoy could be in jeaopardy if these right-wing radicals come to power. Gay people especially should be on alert. This will not be an election to sit on the sidelines if you care about Democracy as we know it.


title illustration by Mario Zucca, used with permission from The Texas Observer

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Manhood

I got an invitation to an event called "Journey Into Manhood". This is one of those reparative therapy workshops which specifically bills itself as:
... a 48-hour immersion in cathartic self-discovery and emotional-healing work for men who are self-motivated and serious about resolving unwanted homosexual attractions.  It is designed specifically for men who believe that their homosexual attractions are not "inborn" but stem largely from unhealed emotional wounds and unmet needs.
I know people who have attended these workshops. Some of them are my friends, and some of them feel like they have been helped by their experience. I'm not here to debate the merits of such workshops. However, while I respect anyone's right to investigate the several therapeutic avenues available to address "unwanted" homosexual attractions, I have to take exception with the name of the program itself. For some reason, when I saw that invite, it just hit me - Journey INTO Manhood - are you implying that if I'm a homosexual then I'm NOT a man? That "manhood" is dependant on my attraction to the opposite sex? I found the inferrance here offensive, actually. Is this program preying on the fears of gay LDS men that they can't really be a man unless they ditch their homosexuality? Here's another line from the invite;
The exercises are designed to help you identify and process the underlying issues that may be alienating you from your authentic heterosexual masculinity
I'm sorry, but I have to take exception to that too. My homosexual masculinity is just as authentic as anyone else's "heterosexual masculinity". Manhood and masculinity have nothing to do with which sex you're attracted to. It has to do with the fact that you're male, first of all, and the qualities you posses as a male - courage, strength, honesty, integrity, respect for others. etc. etc. The definition is entirely subjective, of course.

At one point in time I really wanted to participate in these reparative programs. I had spent decades trying to "pray the gay away", but to no avail. Then I discovered Evergreen and started reading about programs like this that looked like a possible solution. With great excitement I told my priesthood leaders about them, and pointed out that they seemed to be "sponsored" by the Church. Thank goodness my Stake President was such a level headed and inspired man. He told me point blank that I was going to be gay the rest of my life, and not to bother with these programs. I was crushed when he said that. Crushed! But I also got a spiritual confirmation that what he said was true. Absolutely true. It took a long time for me to come to terms with that.

But come to terms I did. I think I am a better man because of my homosexuality, quite frankly. I think I am more patient with others, less judgemental, and more empathetic and sensitive to their needs. More Christlike, if you will. I think being gay is an important and positive part of who I am. I am not ashamed to say that. I used to loathe the fact that I was gay, but now I embrace the fact that it is a part of me - the real, authentic, gay, masculine me. Welcome to manhood.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

White Shirt

I do not wear white shirts to Church. I can count the number of times I've worn one in the past year on one hand. OK, on one finger!! Interstingly enough, this subject came up in Presthood class last week, and I was very outspoken about it. Gotta defend my rebelliousness!

I find many advantages to NOT wearing a white shirt:

1.) They look better. I'm into color. Combine one of my colorful shirts with a snazzy tie from my massive collection and you've got COLOR, baby!!

2.) You get noticed. Everyone comments on my clothes. :) Nobody comments on a white shirt.

3.) You don't get called on. If you want people to leave you alone at Church, just wear a colored shirt and a loud tie - works every time!

4.) You can express yourself. I express my mood with my shirt/tie combinations. Sometimes I coodinate them with the program I hand out for Sacrament Meeting (that's my calling - to make the program). These I print in full color, of course, and often I make my outfit match the colors on the cover (how gay can you get, right!), which is always a fabulous photo or piece of religious art .
But the truth of the matter is that there is a serious side to this white shirt business. I mentioned it on another blog recently, and I'd like to share those thoughts again here.
Doctrine and policy. There is a difference. Doctrine is revealed truth, and policy may or may not be. For example, one of the revelaed priesthood duties of a deacon is to pass the sacrament. That is doctrine. However, there is no requirement that the deacon has to wear a white shirt and tie to do so. That would be policy proscribed by local leadership. I would personally rather have a deacon pass me the sacrament in jeans and a t-shirt than for that same deacon not to feel worthy to come to Church because he didnt have nice clothes to wear. I don't think God cares about his clothes.

Sometimes in the Church we allow policy to get in the way of or over-shadow doctrine, and I try to make sure I don't do that myself. But I realize it can and does happen.

I really meant what I said here. Too often in the Church we get hung up on the minutia of policy and ignore the underlying doctrine, or worse - ignore the feelings and needs of others. The other day I got a call asking me to pick up a brother for Church who had just recently been baptized. He is a fine young man, recently divorced. When I picked him up he had on jeans, a t-shirt, and Nike sneakers. I'm certain he doesn't have anything nicer to wear, although he is not poor at all and has a lovely home. This is simply what he wears to work every day. Society has gotten a lot more casual in their dress standards, and many people I know go to work in very casual clothes now- even to fancy corporate offices. They don't even OWN a dress shirt and tie! Anyway, I cringed when I saw him, hoping in my heart that no one at Church would say something hurtful, or take it upon themselves to lecture him on proper Church attire. So far, that has not happened. I have a better than average Ward I guess, and I'm really grateful for that. But there have been times in the past when things have not gone so well. The point is, no one should ever have to worry about what they wear to Church. God "looketh upon the heart", and so should we.

So back to the white shirt thing - there is no official doctrine that says men must wear a white shirt to do anything, except in the Temple, where white clothing is actually part of the ceremony. This is just tradition in the Church, or local policy. If anyone out there has been holding back I would encourage you to break out the stripes, the checks, and the solid colors and make it KNOWN that white shirts do not make one worthy or unworthy - they simply make one BORING!

So let's officially make September the month of the "WHITE SHIRT REBELLION"! Go to Church every Sunday with a colorful pattern on your chest and a smile on your face! Let them see your true colors, folks! MoHo's unite!!





P.S. Take my "White Shirt Poll" located in the side-bar.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

...of Wisdom and Wizards

Three of my favorite books/movies (including series) of all time have involved Wizards. Starting with the Wizard of Oz as a young child, and ending this summer with the final installment of the Harry Potter series.

The Wizard of Oz was already a classic book when I was born, and I can remember my grandmother had a leather-bound copy of it in her book case. Pity I don't have that now, as it was probably an early edition. It became a tradition for the movie version of Oz to be broadcast on TV every year around Halloween, and I can distinctly remember as a 6 year old child being both terrified and enchanted by the witches and wizards in that movie. It still ranks as probably my all-time favorite. Other notable wizards include Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, and Dumbledore from Harry Potter.  Oh yes, and who could forget another Wizard - Mickey Mouse in the classic Sorcerers Apprentice ?! That one had no words, just a lot of fun!

So here is my heart-felt tribute to the Wizards in my life and the wisdom they have meted out over the decades. Timeless wisdom, for the most part. Some are quotes from the movie versions, some from the books. Enjoy!


Wizard of Oz

"You, my friend, are a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate impression that just because you run away you have no courage; you're confusing courage with wisdom."

"A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others."

"You people should consider yourselves lucky that I'm granting you an audience tomorrow instead of 20 years from now."

"Back where I come from there are men who do nothing all day but good deeds. They are called phila... er, phila... er, yes, er, Good Deed Doers" love this one!
 
 
 
Gandalf
 
"Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule."
 
"Many that live deserve death. And some die that deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then be not too eager to deal out death in the name of justice, fearing for your own safety. Even the wise cannot see all ends."

"...that is not for us to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door," he used to say. "You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to."

"Despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not."
 
 
Albus Dumbledore
 
“It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices.” my all-time favorite!
 
“We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”


“It does not do to dwell on dreams, Harry, and forget to live.”

“Fear of a name increases fear of a thing itself.”

“Humans have a knack for choosing precisely the things that are worst for them.”

“Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young…”

“…. we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided... Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.”

“Time is making fools of us again.”

“To the well organized mind, death is but the next great adventure. It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.”

“It is important to fight, and fight again, and keep fighting, for only then can evil be kept at bay, though never quite eradicated.”

“There are all kinds of courage. It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends.”

“The truth. It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution. “

“It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.”

“Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike.”

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light.”

"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."
 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Recently, Deseret News columnist Jerry Earl Johnson wrote a piece called 'Time to listen and learn from our neighbors" (read the article here). I thought he had some interesting advice for the LDS community, but I wondered if he took the thought far enough? Here are some snippets:

President Gordon B. Hinckley, especially, sounded that theme.

"My brothers and sisters," he told the Saints in Sudbury, Ontario back in 1998, "we must be good neighbors. We must be friendly people. We must recognize the good in all people."

The problem, I think, is that to "recognize the good in all people" we need to be curious enough to pay attention to them. We need to listen and learn. We must realize everyone has something to offer.
AMEN Jerry!! After recounting some missionary experiences and the account of a black student going to an all-white Utah High School, Jerry observed the following about the latter:

The wiser students hoped to learn new perspectives and insights from her. The less wise feared she would somehow upset the status quo and force them to adjust. Those two attitudes — fear on one side, and a desire to learn on the other — show up today when the discussion turns to Hispanic immigrants or to the growing number of Utahns who are not LDS.


The wise among us feel curious and want to learn. The less wise among us feel threatened. Fortunately, LDS leaders seem to honestly believe that people who are different from us have many things that can enrich us. They don't fear the change. They sense an opportunity — not just for conversions, but for a wider, brighter way to live. Curiosity may have killed the cat. But I think curiosity also makes an old dog wise. The counsel has been given: be good neighbors and recognize the good in all people. It's time to put down our guard and look for ways our new neighbors can enrich our lives, and we can enrich theirs.
These are wise words. Inspiring, even. I wondered, however, why Jerry did not include one of the most talked about minorities in the news today in his thought process - gays! How could he overlook that???

Jerry's omission got me wondering what a good LDS family might do if they discovered their new neighbors were GAY (yikes!), so I posted the following comment to his article:

These are great thoughts. But I wonder sometimes if we, as a people, are ready and willing to follow this admonition.


Let me pose a hypothetical - picture yourself in this situation - what if your neighbors in this case were a gay couple? Would you have the same enthusiasm for getting to know them? Would you listen earestly and honestly to their point of view? Would you diligently search for the good in them? Would you allow them to enrich your life, and would you, in turn, enrich theirs? Would you be eager to share the gospel with this couple?


Food for thought. Do we, as a people, really reach out to EVERYONE? And can we truly consider ourselves disciples if we do not? I think the Saviour would find a way, don't you?

I was hoping some lively and meainingful dialogue would follow, since mine was the first comment on this article, but I guess people really don't post a lot of comments on DN articles, at least Church related ones (as opposed to the Tribune - telling?!) Anyway, there were a handful of answers but nothing of note.

I would really love to see how LDS people actually handled my hypothetical. It would make an awesome documentary, wouldn't it? To track the reaction when a married, totally charming gay couple moves in next door to a stereotypical straight-laced Mormon family with like 8 kids? WOW! Might make for some exciting footage!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

GI Joe and the MoHo

A recent post by another blogger (read it here) reminded me of a toy I had as a child. This was the original action figure - a GI Joe doll. They came out in 1964, and if you were a boy and did not have one - well then you were a nobody! Mine was the rather plain version, but my friend got one that also had the toy Jeep. We were all envious of that boy.

The main thing I remember about my GI Joe, however, was taking off his pants. Yes, folks, I was a perv even at the tender age of 7. It bothered me a bit that Joe was not "anatomically correct". Some things are better left to the imagination of a child, I suppose.

Anyway, I mention this as confirmation that gayness seems inherant at the earliest of ages if one cares to examine the situation with an open mind. Invictus described this so eloquently in his post. Sadly, much of the world chooses to ignore the evidence...


P.S. Channing Tatum was a much more compelling GI Joe, don't ya think?!

Friday, July 22, 2011

'Bout Time!

Obama ends gays in US military ban

Well it's about time! Bravo, Mr. President.
 
 
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Friday formally signed off on ending the ban on gays serving openly in the U.S. military, doing away with a policy that has been controversial from the day it was enacted and making good on his 2008 election campaign promise to the gay community.
That means that 60 days from now the ban will be lifted.

"As commander in chief, I have always been confident that our dedicated men and women in uniform would transition to a new policy in an orderly manner that preserves unit cohesion, recruitment, retention and military effectiveness," Obama said in a statement.
"Today's action follows extensive training of our military personnel and certification by Secretary Panetta and Admiral Mullen that our military is ready for repeal. As of September 20th, service members will no longer be forced to hide who they are in order to serve our country."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Gender Confusion...Confusion!

I almost walked out of Sacrament Meeting today. Normally I'm not overly sensitive when people bring up gay topics in meetings, but today was different. The whole theme of the meeting was centered on "The Proclamation On The Family", and we had a particularly annoying and ignorant woman give a talk that caused my blood pressure to spike. The first offense was her declaration that basically gay people were "tools of Satan" and that "Satan was clapping his hands with glee" over us. Oh brother!

Then she launched into a diatribe about how gay people are spreading "gender confusion" and causing young people to doubt or to question their gender. What the HELL is "gender confusion" anyway? Where did this idiotic idea come from and why is it being used in the Church? Straight people can be SO CLUELESS!!! Ugh! I don't know of anyone who doesn't know what gender they are, (unless they are intersexed, and even then I think they know which side of the coin they belong to). Transgendered people know what gender they AREN'T but feel they should be. Homosexuality isn't being confused about your gender, its about being attracted to your same gender. I'm not confused at all about either my gender or which gender I'm attracted to (reference picture below).



Anyway, I'm so pissed by this nonsense that I'm seriously thinking of going to Church next week in drag and blaming it all on those satanic gay people who zapped me with the Gender Confusion Ray-gun of Fagginess. Rachael Zoe, I need a look darling... 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Cheeky

Once upon a time I worked with a lady from England who used to call me a "cheeky monkey". I always loved the way she said it - so Brit!

So here's my "Cheeky Monkey Collection" of spoofy Mormon graphics.  Enjoy!



















(photos originally posted on bycommonconsent.com.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Surrender Dorothy

The Washington, DC Temple has a special place in my heart. It was completed just before I went on my mission, and was the Temple I went to for my own endowments. For many years it was the only Temple east of the Mississippi, and eastern Mormons from all over would make the trek there. For us, it was a 15 hour drive.

One of the exciting things about those temple trips was the dramatic view of the Temple you get when you approach it from the interstate. The Capital Beltway loops around the suburbs that skirt DC proper, and the Temple sits on a hill in Chevy Chase, Maryland with a commanding view of the Beltway. As you approach the Temple from the east, you start up a gradual rise when suddenly the Angel Moroni begins to rise from the road in front of you! Mornoi rises higher and higer on golden spires until the full splendor of the Temple is in view. There's a wooded park at the bottom of the hill below the Temple, so it appears that this enormous (288 feet tall) building of white marble with golden spires is "floating" on a cloud of trees. This dramatic "reveal" of the Temple is a serendipitous effect of the lay of the land. Its so dramatic, in fact, that they have to keep most of the lights off on the Temple at night because startled drivers tend to end up in traffic accidents due to gawking.

Anyway, the Temple is a beloved symbol and landmark in DC, and almost everyone is familiar with it. Because of its striking, other-worldly looks and the dramatic setting and position it commands - floating there above its emerald forest - it immediately was associated by locals with the Emerald City in the Land of Oz. One enterprising graffiti artist recorded the sentiment in a humorous way on a railroad bridge that motorists coming down the Beltway would appreciate. I about busted a gut laughing over this one! I love it!!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Golden Door

Generations ago, my ancestors came here from distant lands looking for a better life. Some came from Ireland, others from England and France. The faith that must have taken  - to leave behind relatives, friends, and homelands upon whose shores they had lived for centuries. Yet, they did come! How blessed I am that they had the courage to be pioneers, for their act of faith has blessed all the generations of their families since.


All of us in America are immigrants - pioneers if you like - if not directly, then indirectly. I think its important to remember that fact. Its part of what makes America great, what makes us strong. Our diversity is our National Treasure. There is no place on earth that can compare. Like it says in the Book of Mormon, it is a land "choice above all other lands". I firmly believe that.

Although there is probably small chance to know for sure, I like to think at least a few of my ancestors had the opportunity to see the Statue of Liberty as they made their way here. There is a poem inscribed on the pedestal of that statue that some may not have read before. I leave it with you as my Independence Day salute to this wonderful country we live in:
"The New Colossus" by Emma Lezarus:


Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Sunday, June 26, 2011

I DO - and I don't

Talks and lessons the past two Sunday's have focused on the family, its significance and centrality to the Gospel plan, and the eternal nature of the family. During these talks and discussions the issue of Same Sex Marriage naturally came up, and I quietly noted the comments that were made and the reactions of various individuals in class. What struck me this time around is that there are really two completely separate issues at play here.

The first issue is marriage as defined by religion - specifically Mormonism. We believe marriage is divinely mandated and instituted for the creation of eternal family units. We are taught that Adam and Eve were the first married couple, and were commanded to be faithful to one another, worship God in righteousness, and multiply and replenish the earth (raise a family). This early example and definition of marriage has been further expanded on and clarified over the centuries to become what we have today. In our doctrine, marriage is defined as exclusively between a man and woman (currently just one woman, but that has not always been so). Gender has also been declared to be of divine nature and our spirits themselves existed as male and female before birth. I understand the scriptural basis for these doctrines, and I can accept it. It makes sense .

Same Sex unions are obviously not included in this doctrine. They are not, according to the doctrine, "ordained of God", nor are Same Sex relationships believed to last beyond this life. End of story? Not really. As a gay person I have to believe that all the doctrine on this subject has not yet been revealed . Quite frankly, I think there may be a LOT more to come, because I think the current LDS leadership has not really asked the right questions yet. Sadly this is, perhaps, a matter of their own personal prejudice and priority. Until some of the "old guard" move on, or until more revelation comes, I can live with what we have. I can be patient.

The second issue is marriage as defined by law. We live in a country where Church and State are separate. Essentially, the mandates or doctrines of religion do not necessarily translate over into the law of the land. There are many laws with foundations or roots in religious practice, but the opinions and doctrines of any religion have no guarantee to be expressed in law. Religious institutions are free to declare their doctrines and opinions in the public forums along side everyone else. But ultimately the legislators and judges of the land, elected and appointed by the people, decide what is and is not law.

It is in this secular, legal setting where opponents of Same Sex Marriage find themselves on thin ice. The legal concept of equal rights trumps any religious doctrine or opinion to the contrary. In the eyes of the government, marriage is not a religious contract - it is a civil one. I don't have to even believe in God to get married - the government has appointed public officers who can perform a marriage ceremony for anyone that desires it, and which creates the legal contract the government recognizes as "marriage". The government is gracious enough to extend legal status to marriages performed by religious authorities, but religion is not a prerequisite for the contract.

So in this context Same Sex Marriage makes perfect sense.  There is no logical or legal reason to deny two people who want a marriage contract the privilege to have one - no matter what their genders might be. To do so is to deny the parties invoved equity and parity under the law.

So, I DO believe in the Church and support the principles and doctrines they teach. I understand what the religious definition of marriage is and why its important to the Church. I understand why they have taken a stand on this issue. But I DON'T believe the argument has any merit when it comes to civil law. I want my gay friends to have happy relationships and families, with all the legal privileges and protections any other married couple has. I think it is their right. And I think religious institutions  - Mormon, Catholic, or any other denomination - will ultimately fail in their attempts to stop Same Sex Marriage. They simply have no legal high ground in this matter.