Monday, December 24, 2012

What its all about...


 
 
Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Elephant Remains

Although there has been a lot of excitement (or controversy - depending on your persuasion) around the new Church web site about Gays and Mormons, there are some things that decidedly did NOT get addressed there. No, there were no doctrinal changes, but I didn't really expect any at this point. Neither were there apologies for past policies or shortcomings - didn't expect that either. What I WAS hoping for was a concrete plan for dealing with the Elephant in the Room (see my blog post HERE).

If you strip out all the hyperbole surrounding homosexuality and how the Churh responds to it, you're really only left with a few fundamental questions. The Church web site attempts to answer some of these - such as: What is the official Church doctrine on same-sex relationships? Is homosexuality a choice? How should families and members treat homosexuals? These are sort of the base-line questions any discussion on this subject needs to start out with, and that's great. Its great we're talking about this now.

But what I think is just as important for us to discuss is the long-term plan for single LGBT members. How do you support and nurture LGBT members in a way that makes 'staying with us' meaningful and 'worth it'? Its really a cop-out just to say, 'Hey, let's start treating these people better' without having a plan of how to get us there. Especially since homosexual members are being asked to do something no one else in the Church is being asked to do - endure a life devoid of intimacy, companionship, courting and sex. No one else is being given this extraordinary mandate. Straight singles are encouraged to date, flirt, dance, hold hands and otherwise enjoy at least some sort of social interaction. And they can enjoy the hope of someday finding a life partner and having an intimate, loving, sexual relationship. But gays are being asked to put all that on ice - for a lifetime! If you're going to ask someone to do something extraordinary, you need to be prepared to support them in an extraordinary way. To help bear their burdens with more than just lip service.

We recently had a lively discussion on Mormons Building Bridges on reparative/orientation change programs. I honestly don't blame any young gay Mormon for wanting to find a way out of this dilema. If you really believe and want to live faithful to Church teachings, there has to be a desperation (perhaps akin to panic) to somehow get out of the situation. If I were younger (I was born in the Cretaceous, folks - my age can only be determined by carbon dating) I would probably jump on these programs too, even if there was just a sliver of a chance.

I also wonder if you were able to transport all the General Authorities back in time to when they were 21 and then turned them all gay; how many would be General Authorities today? How many could do what us gays are being asked to do? These are all wonderful and good people, but I suspect many could not endure that kind of trial. Perhaps I'm wrong, and they're such such spiritual giants they would make it no matter what, but what about us spiritual 'Joe Schmo's'? What kind of chance do we have?

So I really do hope the conversation doesn't stop at what we're seeing now. I think something extraordinary needs to be done to help us MoHos fit in and find meaningful ways to fill the giant hole the Church is asking us to make in our lives. For now, the elephant remains in the room, folks. The elephant remains...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Stand!

It is time for all of us to take a stand. I was shaken, once again, by the news of a gay teen committing suicide in Utah. As someone who almost went down that path myself, it literally made me weep to hear about it. There really is no excuse for this kind of event - especially because it was precipitated by bullying. Enough!!!


His family has given permission to make his identity public. Rest in Peace David Q. Phan, 14, of Taylorsville, Utah. From one of his classmates:

"When I first met him he told me he was gay, I was totally okay with that. Gay, straight, democrat, republican, upper class, lower class, we're all human right? Wrong I guess. He had a lot of friends he would hang out with at lunch and he would always put a smile on my friends' faces, but there were those kids that constantly bullied him for being "different" and we couldn't do anything about it.

Today when I found out what had happened from another friend I didn't know what to feel. I was at the church right in front of the clinic he was taken to, I saw the ambulance he was in and everything but I didn't know. I think that's the worst part. I didn't know what was going to happen, so I couldn't stop it. It's amazing how it takes something so tragic and so sudden to bring a whole school together. At the candlelit vigil there was such an intense mixture of emotions it was heartbreaking. People laughing, trying to take the pain away, others bawling and seeking comfort, the unbelievers that broke down as soon as they saw the evidence and the people that came just to be with their friends and then got hit in the face with the truth when they were told the story. I hope that David's death will be the beginning to the end of bullying at BJH at least. I'm going to be haunted by that guilt that I could've done more to prevent this for the rest of my life, but that's okay because now I'm more determined to abolish bullying once and for all."


My deepest sympathies go out to David's family and friends. As members of the Church and as Christians, it is our God-given duty to put an end to the hatred and ignorance at the root of this problem. Please share the attached pamphlet with friends, loved ones and Church leaders. It outlines principles for protection of our LGBT youth. And take a STAND on bullying in your school, community, and congregation!
 
 
 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Just The Way You Are

One of my favorite Billy Joel songs goes by this title. The final verse goes:

I said I love you and that's forever
And this I promise from the heart
I could not love you any better
I love you just the way you are.



I've been reading accounts of the Circling the Wagons conference, and it brought back a vivid memory to me. That memory was the day I sat down in front of my Stake President and told him I was gay. I was terrified, actually. I didn't really know what to expect, how he would react, how I would react - the stress level was off the scale.  But what followed was one of the sprititual highlights of my life. After I had nervously spilled out my story, he began to systematically debunk some of the fears and misperceptions I had about myself, homosexuality, the Church and God. The most important thing he told me that day was; "You don't need to change anything. God loves you and accepts you just as you are." And with those words, the ton of bricks I had carried around for decades came tumbling off my shoulders.

I got a sense of that same message reading some of the conference addresses from CtW. Acceptance, love - unconditional love - these are the most important things gay Mormons need right now. From their families, from friends, from the Church (I blogged previously about acceptance Here). But we have a long way to go.

One of the problems in the Church right now is that families and leaders think they have to 'fix' their gay loved ones in order for them to be acceptable or worthy of love. When I look at the life of the Savior, I find no examples of this kind of thinking. His mandate:

John 13:34-35

 34. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
 35. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

The first order of business for all of us is to love. Completely, unconditionally, universally. The fruits of that love will be acceptance, tolerance, patience, kindness, healing and happiness.

We cannot earn God's love, and God cannot love us any more completely and fully than he does right now. He loves us just the way we are - warts and all. Our challenge as mortals is to accept the Savior's mandate and learn to love each other as He has loved us. When we learn to do that, we can move on to other things...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bridges


BRIDGE   noun   \'brij\

1.
 a:  a structure carrying a pathway or roadway over a depression or obstacle
 b: a time, place, or means of connection or transition

There are a number of initiatives in the MoHo community either to support Mormon homosexuals or to reach out to disaffected gays or the gay community at large. Some of these are new, and a few have been around a number of years. I think anything that gets us all talking and sharing experiences and ideas is a good thing (as long as its civil). It's interesting to see the different positions and approaches each of these organizations take and how people respond to them.

One of the newest efforts is Mormons Building Bridges , which sprung onto the scene this summer by asking faithful Mormon allies to walk in Gay Pride Parades .The success of it was unexpected, exhilarating, and it made national headlines. Now, MBB has its own Facebook group and is using social media to build membership. Another initiative is Mormon Stories' Circling the Wagons, which has sponsored conferences in a number of cities, also with the aim of opening dialogue on the subject. Additional efforts are under way by Far/Between, North Star, Compassionate Cause and others to tell the gay Mormon story in all its variety and to open meaningful dialogue on this critical subject. I only wish the Church was more participatory. :(

It is my prayer that each of these efforts will help build bridges of understanding, love, tolerance and hope for our gay bothers and sisters. We sorely need it! I publicly and privately support a number of these projects, and encourage all to do the same.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Millions Shall Know

One of the most popular hymns in the LDS Hymnal is 'Praise to the Man', a heroic poem originally penned by William W. Phelps shortly after the death of Joseph Smith. Later it was set to the tune of a popular Scottish anthem and included in the current Hymnal. Speaking of the future, one line in the fourth verse reads, 'Millions shall know "Brother Joseph" again.'

Today, I am brought to ask, but which "Brother Joseph" shall we know? I recently began reading 'Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling', by Richard L. Bushman. This book is considered by many to be the most significant and accurate biography of Joseph Smith to date (please note- Bushman is a faithful LDS member, historian and Patriarch). Yet reading it, I find a Joseph Smith that I hardly recognize. As a child of the Correlated Curriculum, I have been taught all my life a very particular narrative of the founding events of the Church. This narrative portrays Joseph Smith as the heroic boy-prophet who innocently inquired of the Lord about religion and was told he would become an instrument in the hands of God to restore the true Gospel to the earth. It tells of his miraculous retrieval and translation of the Gold Plates into the Book of Mormon. It tells of his devoted and idyllic marriage to his wife Emma. It portrays Joseph as the innocent victim of countless persecutions, trials and injustices. It paints him as almost angelic in his countenance, stature, faith. This spiritual 'Superhero' of almost immeasurable integrity is the image of Joseph Smith almost all of us have been given in countless Primary, Sunday School and Seminary classes. This is the official Church 'version' of our history. But it is not accurate.

Instead, what I discovered in 'Rough Stone Rolling' (RSR) is an entirely different Joseph Smith. This Joseph was deeply involved in folk magic and the use of 'peep stones' as a youth. This Joseph was rough and uneducated - someone who was frequently in trouble for treasure-seeking. This Joseph wrote or dictated 1/2 a dozen different versions of the First Vision; most of which did not even mention seeing God the Father or ask the question of which church to join. This Joseph translated the majority of the Book of Mormon with the Plates either covered in a cloth on the table or entirely absent from the room; and he did it with his face buried in a hat  - his favorite 'seer stone' inside. This Joseph had 30 wives, at least 9 of which were married to other men at the time he married them. This Joseph hid his polygamy and polyandry from his wife for years, and its practice caused heartache and strife in their marriage. This Joseph was financially reckless and brought many persecutions and trials upon himself and the Church. He could be ill-tempered and did not take criticism well. He asked high-ranking members of the Church to publicly lie about the practice of polygamy among their ranks, and he eventually destroyed the printing press that was trying to fully expose his polygamous practices - an action that would cost him his life. It is true that this Joseph was a sincerely spiritual individual who believed what he taught and tried to put it into practice. He was untiring in his service to God and fellow Saints and performed many acts of selflessness and kindness; but he was also a flawed human being - indeed a 'rough stone' - not the polished gem I have been presented with all my life.

The paradox between the Correlated version of Church history and the actual one is the quandary of the Church in our generation. I do not blame Joseph Smith for any of this in the slightest - he never pretended to be anything he wasn't. And don't get me wrong - I believe Joseph was indeed a prophet. In fact, I find this new, flawed Joseph much more realistic and relatable than the caricature portrayed by the Church. It was the Brethren of current and previous generations who decided to paint a whitewashed view of historical events. Perhaps nowhere else is this more evident than in the 1981 talk Elder Boyd K. Packer gave to a group of Church historians and CES instructors called "The Mantle is Far Greater Than the Intellect". His most famous (and telling) quote from this talk is:

"Some things that are true are not very useful."
  
 
I would encourage you to read the entire talk - its quite interesting (you'll have to download the PDF from the link I provided). This talk served as a 'shot across the bow' to Church Historians, as Elder Packer clearly spelled out that their immortal souls were in danger if they did not portray a faith-promoting view of Church history. For some years prior, the rather progressive and intellectual Leonard J. Arrington had served as Church Historian. He was the first professional Historian ever to fill that position. Arrington had taken a different and more academic approach to Church History, and for the first time had opened the Church Archives to outside scholarship. During his tenure he produced two books on general Church history which were not well received by the Brethren. A year after Elder Packer's talk, the entire Church History Department was 'transferred' to BYU, and Bro. Arrington, the Church Historian, was 'released' (without a vote of thanks, notably). The Church also closed its historical libraries to outside scholarship. The Brethren had spoken - only the 'faith promoting' version of the story would be entertained.

There is a problem with that kind of thinking. Richard Bushman put it succinctly, I think, in his own musings about RSR:

The real question is, Should we hide troublesome things from the Saints and hope they will never find out? The problem then is what happens when they do. They are disillusioned and in danger of mistrusting everything they have been told. . . . Amazingly, many LDS don't know Joseph married thirty women. We have to get these facts out to be dealt with; otherwise we are in a vulnerable position. It may be my job to bring the whole of Joseph's story into the open...I worry about the young Latter-day Saints who learn only about the saintly Joseph and are shocked to discover his failings. The problem is that they may lose faith in the entire teaching system that brought them along. If their teachers covered up Joseph Smith's flaws, what else are they hiding?


Exactly. You can't be open and closed at the same time. You can't pick and choose which details of history are 'faith promoting' because leaving out 'the bad stuff' will make you look like a liar. The age of the Internet and the universal accessibility to information has now forced the Church to re-think its position on historicity. President Hinckley was instrumental in bringing about change in this regard, and in opening the Archives again. He instigated a program of transparency that made writing a work like RSR possible. Probably the most important effort of all is a project now under way called The Joseph Smith Papers. It is an effort to publish literally every document written by, dictated by, or directly connected with the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith. And when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING - right down to financial ledgers and the like. This is a most welcome advancement, and Bro. Bushman is one of the historians involved in this effort.

For me, probably the most important take-away from my recent studies is the realization that receiving revelation and knowledge from God is a murky, inexact science. Each person filters inspiration through the cultural and personal experiences and biases they possess as a human being. As the Apostle Paul said in Corinthians, "For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known.".  Joseph Smith's struggle to know the mind and will of God, his successes, his ultimate failings and trials, his stumbling while trying to peer through that dark glass make me realize that our current leaders are no different. They too are men of their age, struggling to know the mind of God as they lead an entire people. They are no better than Joseph Smith, but no worse. As a consequence of this realization, I am less inclined to jump on every word they speak. I am more inclined to meditate and pray about their counsel, for I see how easy it is for that counsel to be fogged and clouded by the dark glass that is their humanity. I will sustain them, but I will not trust them blindly or follow their counsel without serious contemplation and prayer. I see quite clearly now that they are rough stones in their own right. And so am I.

  • What are your thoughts on the recent, more accurate portrayals of Joseph Smith? Does the whitewashed version of Church History disturb you?

  • What do you think of the new openness evidenced by The Joseph Smith Papers?

  • How can the Church introduce a more realistic portrayal of Church history without alienating the general membership?


 Here are some interesting links related to this subject:

Maxwell Institute thoughts on RSR, by Daniel Peterson

The Joseph Smith Papers project, sponsored by the Church

FAIR Podcast: Richard L. Bushman, Part 1

FAIR Podcast: Richard L. Bushman, Part 2

Joanna Brooks - blog discussion about Joseph Smith history.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Conference Crumbs

A few crumbs fell from the Conference table Saturday, and homosexuals were mentioned (briefly) in talks by two General Authorities. Some comments were positive and some decidedly negative. Have a listen for yourself and let me know your thoughts....


Elder Neil L. Anderson -  'Trial of Your Faith'
 
 
Elder Dallin H. Oaks - 'Protect the Children'

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Dueling Documentaries

MoHos are being confronted with two documentaries which attempt to explain something about what it means to be gay and Mormon. The approaches are quite dissimilar.


Far / Between


The first effort, and the one that has been in production the longest. Here's part of the mission statement for Far Between:

The purpose of this site is simple — to better understand what it means to be homosexual and Mormon. Please know that this site is neither “anti-Mormon” nor “anti-homosexual”. It’s just a place to listen and consider, for a moment, what it’s like to be someone else. We hope the experience will move you to engage in constructive conversations about reconciling your empathic responses to the videos, with the doctrines and policies of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints.
 
We have spent over a year in production on a documentary, gathering information and filming interviews with those who have been touched in some way by the lived experience of being homosexual and Mormon.While compiling the footage, we have felt compelled to break from the typical practice of sequestering the wealth of information and first-person interviews until after the film debuts. We feel it important to share them now with the hope that it will help to improve the conversation about homosexuality and Mormonism sooner rather than later.
 
Our intent is to provide, through Far Between and its sponsor, Empathy First Initiative, a space for people to share their story, holding equal space for people of all stripes to share their lived experience, no matter the differences, without judgement.

Read about the Far Between Project here



Voices of Hope Project


The second effort - just announced - is a product of North Star, and is an extension of an earlier anthology of stories published by Ty Mansfield. Here's part of their promo:

...There are many, many other stories out there that need to be told, and there’s a growing number of people ready to share them.

In order to best solicit, curate, and promote these faithful voices, North Star International, along with some motivated sponsors, have decided to launch a Voices of Hope website that would include video testimonies as well as an expanding collection of written personal essays.

We have engaged an Emmy-nominated videographer/producer to help with the project and on Friday, August 31st, began filming the first set of individuals. Our initial goal is for the website to be a repository of a thousand voices of faithful Latter-day Saints dealing with these issues, sharing their stories and their faith—why they’ve chosen to embrace the restored gospel and how they’ve found peace and resolution in that decision.

Read about the Voices of Hope Project here


So what is my take on these two very different efforts? First, I think there is room for multiple approaches and multiple points of view on any subject, and I think we should all be willing to entertain and respect varying approaches. Each documentary will likely appeal to a different audience. I think Far / Between is trying to take a neutral position as to Church orthodoxy and allow people to tell their story from their own perspective and experience. As such, I think it will ultimately portray a more realistic cross-section of gay Mormon experience.

The Voices of Hope Project is decidedly approaching the subject from a 'you can be gay and be a faithful Mormon' angle. This is an important point of view, and one that has been attacked and marginalized in the past. From his previous comments, its evident that Ty Mansfield caught a lot of unwarranted flack from the gay community when he married a woman. Other faithful Mormon gays have experienced a similar backlash when they have come out. This is an opportunity for them to speak up in a supportive setting.  However, the goal of having 1000 video segments portraying faithful Mormon gays is, in my mind, overkill. But I do think stories like this need to be told.

In the end, the public will decide which of these documentaries is the most valuable. Both projects are asking for donations (and thus competing with each other) to fund the rather expensive task of filming MoHo interviews. I'm sure its not cheap, considering all the time and travel involved.

  • What do you think of these two projects? Are they valuable in telling the gay Mormon story?
  • Is it more important to portray the cross-section of gay Mormon experience, or just stories of faithfulness?
  • Would you make a donation to help fund either of these projects? If yes, which one?

I'd love to hear what you think.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Colorful

September has slipped up on me! Its time, once again, for the White Shirt Rebellion!

I'm happy to report that I have not worn a white shirt to Church for an entire year. And other men in the Ward have also begun to show a little color now and then. So don't think you can't have an influence. The other day there must have been 15 colored shirts amid the sea of mundane white. It was thrilling!

So, try to wear something colorful to Church during the month of September. Be bold! Be different! Be amazing! And be sure to smile about it. :)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Mormon Stonewall

There was a pivotal moment in Gay history where homosexuals fought back. The Stonewall Riots are remembered every year as that event. As a direct result of Stonewall, the modern Gay Movement had its genesis, and gay rights groups and organizations were formed around the world. Every gay person - even those Mormons who may call themselves 'SSA' or 'SGA' - owe a debt of gratitude for Stonewall. The world we live in is more free and more equal now because of it, and gay people in the Church are treated a little more kindly.

But back to history - gay Mormon history is somewhat obtuse, defnitely less well documented, but no less peppered with drama. I've been intrigued lately by a couple of events that could figure as the 'Mormon Stonewall'. They have had a major influence on how the Church has approached the issue of homosexuality over the years. They also tie in to my previous post about The Elephant in the Room.

First, a little background. Up until the 1970s, homosexuality was considered a mental illness, and by some as a 'contagious' one.  Take for example former BYU President Ernest L. Wilkinson's remarks at a BYU assembly in 1965:



"We do not intend to admit to our campus any homosexuals. If any of you have this tendency and have not completely abandoned it, may I suggest that you leave the university immediately after this assembly. ... We do not want others on this campus to be contaminated by your presence."

At that point in time, homosexual 'perverts' were widely feared, homosexuality was considered criminal, and people thought it was a choice. In the Church, simply being homosexual could result in excommunication. As science began to debunk the myths and misperceptions surrounding homosexuality (and as gay activists insisted that mental health professionals reassess earlier assumptions), both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association removed homosexuality from the list of known mental disorders; concluding "homosexuality is a normal variation of human sexual orientation". A lot of controversy surrounded that action, especially from conservative and religious groups. Churches tended to see homosexuality as a moral issue - a deviance; a weakness that could be 'cured' by applying the appropriate religious principles. Our Church was no different (reference The Miracle of Forgiveness, chapter entitled 'The Crime Against Nature').

The Values Institute

So, jump forward a little to 1976. The first event I want to mention was the formation of a fuzzy, mysterious insitution on BYU campus called The Values Institute (documentation here). Its exact purpose and mission was not announced at its formation; either at the Board meeting where is was presented by Dallin H. Oaks, nor later in the BYU newspaper article formally announcing the new Institute. The only purpose put forth was to conduct "research that would assist in preventing and changing problem behaviors which lead people away from eternal life" and "attempt to harmonize professional concepts with a religious approach to human problems".  Nowhere was homosexuality mentioned. BYU Psychology professor Allen E. Bergin was immediately installed as the Institute's director.

The real purpose of the Institute, as would be revealed later by internal documents, was in fact to 'combat' what was percieved as the growing threat of homosexuality. The Institute was to develop treatments and conduct research around homosexuality based on assertions in scripture and the pronouncements of modern Prohpets, to study the ways homosexual activists 'indoctrinate' Church membership, to create materials members could use to support legislative actions against homosexuals (shades of Prop 8?) and to reject and disprove 'secular attitudes and philosophies' on the subject. In addition to Professor Bergen; Victor L. Brown, Jr. played a major role in the Institute. Administratively and ecclesiastically, Dallin H. Oaks, Thomas S. Monson, Jeffrey R. Holland, and Boyd K. Packer would play key roles. The stage was set for the second event.

The Payne Papers

In 1977 a BYU student, who we now know was Cloy Jenkins, was taking his beginning psychology class from Dr. Reed Payne (a member of the Values Institute). As it just so happened, Cloy was also a closeted gay; and much like the events that sparked the Stonewall Riots, Dr. Payne's inaccurate and misleading lectures on homosexuality became the tipping point for Cloy. The ignorance and prejudice within the Church on the subject of homosexuality had become so unbearable something had to be done to set the record straight. What ultimately flowed from the pen of Cloy Jenkins was an exceptionally well-written and scathing 53 page rebuttal addressed directly to Dr. Payne and to leaders of the LDS Church - the Payne Papers. What made the Papers so powerful was not just their boldness or well documented content - it was the way in which they were delivered. Cloy was able to have copies of his rebuttal anonymously and simultaneously mailed to all the General Authorities at Church Headquarters, and to administrators at all Church Universities. It was a bombshell. Copies eventually appeared in regional newspapers and even in national magazines.

The response of the Church to this "attack" was annoyed and immediate. Dr. Bergin was tasked with writing the rebuttal, but it was so poorly written that it was later "recalled". Victor L. Brown, Jr. made an attempt, but his effort was never published. The Values Institue seemed to be floundering in its response to the Papers, and ultimately the task of rebuttal fell to Elder Boyd K. Packer who, in March of 1978, gave his famous 'To The One' speech at a BYU Assembly. Among the ideas postulated in this address were assertions that homosexuality is casued by 'selfishness', and that even 'talking about it' can actually cause one to become gay. Elder Packer only used the word 'homosexual' once in the entire 4000 word speech - and that was to assert that it is "an adjective to describe a temporary condition". In the eyes of the Church, homosexuality was considered totally curable.

The Final Word

After the Payne Papers (now called Prologue) made a splash, the Values Institue set about on a new project. The goal was to produce a book that was to be the seminal work on homosexuality and human behavior. This book, funded by tithing dollars, would be on a par with 'The Articles of Faith' . And interestingly enough, there was a decided effort in making this a work acceptable to the secular community. Plans called for the book to be a 'New York Times style' publication by an eastern publisher unconnected with the Church or the University (see this memo ,Oaks to Monson). Drs. Bergin and Brown were to co-author the work. However, as is clear from the memo, the book fell upon difficulties, and was ultimately abandoned. Soon after, Bergin resigned and the Values Institue was eventually dissolved.

The publication of the Payne Papers and the subsequent failure of the Values Institue marked the beinning of a shift in thinking on homosexuality in the Church, although the changes were very slow in coming. The Payne Papers challenged the prevailing teachings and policies of the Church. Over time, many of the assertions in the Papers were shown to be correct, and earlier teachings and practices of the Church were modified in the face of new evidences which contradicted Church policy. Even today, however, one can see evidence that the old ideas have a long shelf life. In 1995, James E. Faust of the First Presidency said that if homosexuality were inherited, this "would frustrate the whole plan of mortal happiness". Elder Packer caused an outcry in his 2010 Conference remarks that essentially asserted some of his prior ideas from 'To The One'. They were later 'revised'. One can imagine the difficulties these leaders face leaving behind notions that they had been indoctrinated with for decades. It really takes a leap of imagination going from homosexuality being a disease of the mind and its practitioners 'perverts', to accepting and embracing open participation by homosexuals in the Church. Because of this, the answers we all hope for will, in all probablility, be a long time coming. Stock up on peanuts, because the elephant may not be leaving the room any time soon.



NOTE:  I am extremely grateful for Connell O'Donnovan, whose meticulous documentation on gay Mormon history I have linked to liberally throughout this post. The Payne Papers, now called Prologue, are copyrighted by Affirmation.



Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Elephant in the Room



Several conferences and meetings have been held recently specifically to discuss gays in the Church. The majority of these meetings have been organized by individuals and organizations outside of the Church, and only one of them I'm aware of had any kind of official Church representation. The one I'm specifically referring to was held in Washington State, and an official statement from Headquarters was read to the conference before the meeting started. Evidently it featured a number of quotes from previous and current Church leaders, the 'Proclamation on the Family' *cough* , and was little more than the same depressing, worn out old rhetoric we've heard for years. The effect was to (temporarily) throw cold water on the conference. So much for building bridges.

Aside from being openly disappointed that the Church has largely ignored a topic that makes national headlines on a daily basis, I'm also chagrined that many, many opportunities are being missed to show gay folks (and the world) just what it means to be Mormon and to be a Christian. For example, there have been recent interfaith rallies on the Wasatch Front to raise awareness of and decry the horrific rate of suicide among gay teens. The Church has been notably absent from these events (although good LDS members of conscience have attended on their own accord). Are we too busy canning peaches to participate?

The other issue I want to raise is a beef I have with the way gay Mormons are portrayed in what little media coverage we do get - especially LDS media coverage. Everone is enamored with stories about gay Mormons who are happily married. I've got news for you - married gays are the low hanging fruit from an ecclesiastical standpoint. Although the stories may be interesting, there is really nothing the Church has to do to step in and support these people. In large part they have solved their own 'problem', and become what the Church considers 'mainstream'. Everyone can sit back and give a big sigh of relief! And should they ever need it, the Church is just overflowing with resources for married folks with children. There is no end to it, really. Married gays represent little or no challenge to the Church.

On the other hand, a single gay Mormon is truly the elephant in the room. This is the hard nut to crack. This is the issue that won't go away. What does the Church do with you? So far, they haven't come up with any answers, other than to be faithful, stay busy, and don't dwell well on it. To quote the pamphlet 'God Loveth His Children':

It is not helpful to flaunt homosexual tendencies or make them the subject of unnecessary observation or discussion. It is better to choose as friends those who do not publicly display their homosexual feelings

Yes, its better to bury your head in the sand and pretend none of this even exists. And for heaven sake don't ACT gay! That would be flaunting.



So rather than have a dilogue within the Church where members come to understand what it really means to be gay and Mormon (SINGLE GAY MORMON - let's get that clear), there remains a deafening silence. No talks in General Conference (or Stake Conference, for that matter). No new lesson materials for Sunday School or Priesthood. No special instructional broadcasts to help dispel the homophobia that is still rampant among our membership. No guidelines for leadership on how to counsel gay people. Or work with them. Or meet their needs. No discussion of how to reach out and bring back the thousands that have left (and are still leavng) the fold. Nearly all of that discussion is taking place OUTSIDE the Church - not inside, where it should be happening.

I'm still waiting for that answer - for a plan. For the Church to address the elephant in the room. I hope I'm not waiting in vain.



P.S. Enjoy some footage from the conference I mentioned in Seattle, WA.   I especially appreciated the ecclesiastical panel, who are current or former Church leaders in the Seattle area.
Compassionate Cause

P.S.S.  Here's some additional comments from the Circling the Wagons conference in San Francisco. My hat is off to Mitch Mayne and his Stake leaders who are actually DOING something to reach out to gay Mormons. Take a look:
Mosman Talk - Circling the Wagons

Sunday, August 12, 2012

GAY is OK

There's been a lot of discussion in MoHo circles on using the term 'GAY' lately. Not that this is anything new - it's come up frequently in the past, and usually centers around the desire of some gay Mormons to be called anything BUT gay! And who have adopted all kinds of terms that are supposed to somehow take the 'gayness' out of being gay. Same-Gender Attracted (SGA) is the one I hate the most - especially when it's coupled with the phrase 'suffering from' or 'struggling with'. Its so clinical. (Ironically, an early meaning of the word 'gay' meant a straight man who slept with a lot of women! My, how things have changed! Read the complete history of the word here) .

The only person who's posted anything on this topic that makes relative sense to me is Josh Weed. You can read his take on using the term 'gay' here. I love the way this guy thinks and writes. But I think there's another issue here that still needs to be addressed. Josh alluded to this in his post, and its really the heart of the matter.

Mormons think GAY = BAD.

And they assume that in the most literal sense of the word. I'm not going to go through the litany of reasons why, because they really don't matter. What does matter is that they are dead wrong. The truth is that there are so many reasons why gay people are good that I can't even begin the list! There are as many reasons why gay people are good as there are that Mormons are good. The problem here is a matter of perception.

Now, I have a solution to this dilema for any who care to listen. I'm taking this directly from the playbook of Mormonism itself:

From the earliest beginnings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, members have been called 'Mormons'. This label was originally applied in spiteful derision, and was soon adopted by all enemies and critics of the Church. Calling someone a 'Mormon' was a decided insult. If you were a Mormon, you were part of a despicable cult. MORMON = BAD. Very, very BAD!

The Church struggled against this epithet for 150 years, and spent considerable time, effort and money trying to get people to quit using the term. They hired a PR firm to create a snazy Church logo that prominently displayed the full and official name of the Church. General Authorities gave talks and published articles on why calling us 'Mormons' was inappropriate. The Church PR machine churned out 'style guides' for the media to use, hoping to divert and dilute the use of the word 'Mormon', and focus on the official name of the Church. And it all failed. Totally, utterly, miserably failed. No matter what the Church did, people still called us Mormons. Even if a newspaper article started out using the full name of the Church, it inevitably used the word Mormon somewhere in the article. 'MORMON' stuck like glue. Super-glue. At some point (recently), the Church decided to take a different approach, which I think was inspired.

Witness the emergence of the 'I'm a Mormon' campaign - the culmination of a change that started several years ago. Rather than fight the use of the word itself, the Church chose to embrace it and alter the perception of what the word meant. Through the campaign, Mormons are portrayed as ordinary, likeable people - just like everyone else. We are approachable, human, and real. And its working - the campaign has been a huge success and had a positive influence on the perception of the Church. People both inside and outside the Church are now more liberal in their positive use of the word 'Mormon'. The stigma is lifting; attitudes changing. MORMON no longer  = BAD. Now, as a people, we stand with pride and relish the 'Mormon Moment'. No one calls it 'The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Moment'!

So, to my MoHo friends who find using the term 'gay' embarrasing, difficult, distateful, or 'BAD' -  I think you will find that you are in an identical situation as the Church. You can adopt 16 syllable alternative descriptors for 'gay', but society is going to ignore that, let alone understand it. If you announce you are 'Same-Gender Attracted', everyone will still call you 'gay'. When people talk about you behind your back, they won't say 'he's Same Gender Attracted' - they're going to say - 'he's gay'. If you wrote a book about how you really aren't gay, people would still say "Hey, did you see that book by the gay guy who says he isn't gay?" The media will call you gay. Bloggers will call you gay. Your momma will call you gay! Even if you claim to have switched orientations, people will call you ex-gay! 'GAY' sticks like glue. Super-glue.

The only way Mormons are going to change their belief that GAY = BAD is for gay Mormons to embrace it and alter the perception of what the word means. Take a lesson from the Church. 

Someone once asked Jospeh Smith what the word 'Mormon' meant. His reply was that it meant 'more good'. I think its time we let people know that 'gay' is a good word too. Make this your 'Gay Mormon Moment'. Gay is OK!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Gold Rush

Some of the Team USA gold captured this week across the pond. Go Olympians! Looking forward to another exciting week of THE Games!


























Saturday, July 28, 2012

Church Uniform

If you've read my blog, you know how much I hate the 'white shirt uniform' so many Mormons seem to believe is mandatory in our services. There is an excellent article in Wheat & Tares this week on that very subject. Of course, I had to add a few comments to the discussion section....

Wheat & Tares:  Our Church Uniform



Saturday, July 21, 2012

THE Games!

I absoutely LOVE the Olympics! I will be glued to the TV the entire time. My favorite venues are Swimming, Diving, Gymnastics, Track & Field, Rowing, Wrestling, and Basketball. Let the games begin!!!