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 feelingsYes, 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.
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