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!