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


Duck said...

I really agree with and like your post. Maybe you could draft a nice letter including your talking points and send it to Elder Hollands? Especially you (as a former High Councilman??) might actually be able to get him to read it and respond to it? I am not trying to insinuate that "callings" will get him to listen, but a letter coming from a man who has been a High Councilor AND is gay, well, that might make a difference to him. What do you think? Duck

Neal said...

That's a great thought, and I have actually done that already. Although I sent my thoughts to Elder Oaks and not to Elder Holland. No response, I'm afraid. *sigh*

However, my Bishop did get a letter from SLC that he read over the pulpit reminding members NOT to write the Brehtren, and to channel all communications and concerns through local Priesthood authorities. Ugh!! :(

Duck said...

Channeling through local priesthood leaders makes it hard for anything to change, especially, as has been my experience, when I get my Stake President telling me, among other things, "You are not gay. It is impossible for a woman to be gay. You only think you are gay because you were sexually abused. Go find a man, get married, and have lots of sex." His exact words. Of course there was a "but, wait- that's not true" on my part, for everything he said, to which he would not listen.

How do we effect change if we get shut down by local leaders who are downright wrong? I am sure you have some good ideas, especially as you have worked on the Stake Level and seem to have a great relationship with your Bishop.

Duck said...

P.S. I have not exactly had good outcomes when talking with local leaders, etc., about being gay. I have written about these encounters on my past blogs and on my current blog. (If you would like the hear the condensed version of what they told me, you will find my rendition here: )

I really feel like the gay issue is so similar to the blacks receiving the priesthood. Pres. McKay was trying to get the Brethern to agree with his point of view. It took until 1978, YEARS later, before the Quorum agreed with the then-president, Pres. Kimball.

Maybe this will always just be a grassroots event and change will only come if and only when enough people get sick and tired of how gays are treated and actually DO something about it. If there are people, such as Matt Mosman in Cali and other leaders there in the same area who will not serve councils against their gay constituents for having a gay partner, maybe the movement is beginning? I do not know. I sure wish I had the answers for this.

Neal said...

Wow! Your SP is - well - out there!

The only thing I know to do when local appeals fail is to channel through these outside organizations (Mormons Building Bridges, etc.) If they get enough attention, press and support; local leaders take notice. Eventually, it works its way up to the top. That seems to be the only thing that works. If you look at the videos from the link I provided at the end of the post, you'll see that the locals are being much more progressive than the 'representative' from SLC (which was just a member of the SP who read a prepared statement, I believe)

Neal said...

P.S. Just saw your P.S. waiting in the moderation queue. Sorry!

I agree that this is similar to the Priesthood Ban issue. I think the Brethren have to have 100% agreement before they can change major policies or pronounce new revelations, and that seems to have held up the repeal of the Priesthood Ban.

Its significant to note that in the 70s, Monson, Packer, Oaks, and Holland were all involved in something called the Values Institute at BYU. This was an organization designed to discredit and blunt the Gay Movement. It failed. But in light of their involvement, I wonder if there are insurmountable personal prejudices still present in the Councils? We will probably never know for sure. But Elder Packer's famous (or infamous) 'To The One' speech was a direct result of his involvement with the Values Institute.

Neal said...

P.S.S. Read your summary of meeting with Church leaders. Came away feeling like I had been stuck in a washer on the spin cycle!! Yikes!

Mr. B. said...

I wasn't at the "conference", but was very interested in it. While I am just as disappointed as you are that we can't talk about the issue at a higher level. It needs more than a few snide remarks by certain leaders. It definitely wasn't a "big" step.

On the other hand, I did listen to a lot of the sections of this conference. I was surprised and encouraged that this discussion was held. It may be a "small" step forward.

First, even though these aren't prominent church leaders, they all had experiences with others being gay. You can see that many of them have changed their feelings over the years.

Second, The fact that some of the therapists were open to accepting gay lds people and not condoning them is a HUGE step.

Third, we are seeing more people in different groups coming out with discussion. Mormon Stories, Building Bridges, hundreds of mormons walking in various gay parades ....

Hopefully we can all continue to open up the doors and help bring people through them, step by step ...

Just some thoughts ...

GeckoMan said...

"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."

Well, as one of those 'happily married' gay guys, it took decades of struggle and adjustment to come to a stage where we are both happy. And that only came after openness was agreed upon. Too bad we seldom seem to remember there was a straight spouse involved who suffered as well. Given the high rate of divorce among Mixed Orientation Marriages that come out to themselves, I'd say the Church has much to do in support the wreckage of many family units who must deal with the aftermath of flawed counsel.

Neal said...


Your pain is evident and your points are valid. Since I'm writing this as a single person I guess I am not attuned to those in unhappy/struggling MOMs. I apologize for my myopia.

Many of those MOMs do end in messy divorce (sounds like you have been able to hang on) which result in two SINGLE people. The straight one has the Church Singles program to fall back on. And what about the gay one? Nothing.

So I think your comments are adding another dimension to the lack of support gays feel within the Church - both married and single.

emerdean said...

the three letters I sent to Oaks concerning my personal experience with being disfellowshipped after going to my Bishop were sent certified, return receipt requested. I got what I believe to be real responses from him - or at least his subordinates put my response letters from him through the signature machine... - that reflected that someone read what I had to say. One of the things I expressed my unhappiness with was the fact that I would carry a notation on my membership record for the rest of my life that I was NOT to be made aware of and that would alert leaders to the fact that I had been involved in "repeated acts of homosexuality" and should not be allowed to work in Primary or with the youth.
I noticed from the you tube response of the RM gay dancer who won "so you think you can dance" that his stake president called him in after his disfellowshipment to tell him that he would have a permanent notice on his record that he had been disfellowshiped and would never be allowed to work with primary or the youth. I see this as some sort of progress as previously, there was no notification of the notation being added to a person's record.
Galations 6:9 - "Weary not in well doing."