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...

7 comments:

Duck said...

I could NOT have said it any more perfectly than you have, Neal.

I, too, feel disappointed with the web site and for the very reasons you have stated here.

I wish the web site would include letters such as your post. I wish it would include stories like John G-W's. It could have been so much and it came with so little. I have adopted "Against the Wall"'s term "slick new websites" to describe this new site.

And, I now worry that Church members who see this site will go to it, read the Ty Mansfield and Laurie Campbell stories and think that everyone should be able to do what they have done. THAT is the part that so frustrates me with the new site.

Thank you, again, for yet another profound post. Again, I hope it is alright, but I am linking this post to my blog. You are a brilliant writer.

By the way, what do you do for a living, if I may ask? ARE you a professional writer?

Happy night, love, and respect, always. Duck

Ned said...

I agree with Duck, very well said. My wife has had an initially negative response to the site. First of all she couldn't get some of the video to launch. Then when I asked her about it, she was angry rather than understanding about our long-term mixed-orientation relationship. Rather than applauding the church's stance that marriage isn't necessarily recommended any more, she seems to see it as an invalidation of our efforts to stay together and make sacrifices to rear our children in a two parent home.

This is all a long way of saying I very much agree that if the church is going to ask it's LGBT members to take on such extraordinary burdens (including straight spouses of those who have chosen or will chose marriage to a gay spouse), the church needs to provide some extraordinary support.

I also wonder if the church is paying lip service online to keep the cyber Mormons and press at bay while saying nothing of this to the rank-and-file who attend church. My sacrament meeting yesterday was on the topic of "love one another" but not a single speaker mentioned anything about loving those who are different. Not LGBT people, not anyone who who appears different.

Thanks for yet another great post, Neal. I hope you'll consider submitting this to a widely-read blog like Common Consent.

TJ said...

Ugh! I feel the same frustration. I'm mostly frustrated by the fact that so many people need a declaration (be it via website or however) to know how to treat other human beings. Sadly, this feels very too little too late and patronizing. I agree with Duck. Many members will see the Ty and Laurie stories and wonder why every MoHo isn't a "success story". I keep trying to see the bigger picture...Elder Packer and his comments were not mentioned (did I miss them?) and maybe gay, LDS teens will view this as indication of a more tolerant climate.

Neal said...

Ned,

Talked to my Stake Pres and he said General Authorities had done face-to-face training on the new web site and related Church policies the last couple of weeks with Stake Presidencies and other regional leaders. He said he will be rolling out the training to Bishoprics in the coming weeks. I think this might be the training Elder Christofferson mentioned in his interview? Anyway, the point is that this is being discussed 'down the ranks' and will undoubtedly make its way to the general membership. How and to what degree will probably be left to local leadership.

Just to be on the safe side - I forwarded the web site link to my Bishop. :)

Neal said...

Duck - sorry I'm just catching up to all the comments.

Thanks for the compliments. I am NOT a profressional writer - far, far from it! You are being too kind.

And of course you may post the link on your site. :)

emerdean said...

Ned and Sister Ned: I can see you being upset that the type of relationship you two apparently have - one where two committed adults are striving to create a functional home – which is not being pointed out as a way to make a family work. It's like when "regular" male/female couples are doing their best day in and day out to raise their families, but only the rich ones, or the pretty/handsome ones or the other "exemplary" ones get the attention. That would be and is frustrating. Excuse me, I've been puked on and sat in endless parent/teacher conferences and stayed awake at night worrying. Don't I get any credit? Right now there are some "shining lights" who have been brought to the forefront of the whole moho thing. I say good for Ty and Sister Ty, and the Moses' and that family therapist who recently came out with his wife who has the unusual name. They have achieved miraculous successes. They "look" normal, so they will be more easily brought into the fold because they have changed to what we "want" them to be. It's a chink in the the brickwork of the wall between "them" and "us." We don’t know the next trials for them (or us). And we don't know that these folks – or we – will have to survive next. Not that I do not wish those shiny people well. None of our stories are over yet.
One thing I keep in mind is that systems change S L O W L Y. It is the nature of every system to act vigorously to return to the status quo until and unless the change is actively maintained by powerful leadership and system membership interests. Sit down hard on a non-waveless waterbed and see who gets tossed right back out of bed unless you grab on tight... So many people are operating from now-invalid positions in the church and it will take persistent and constant effort to grab on tight to help guide the church and its members into following the Gospel – not culture or habit or media blitzes or law suits – as they progress to making the church reflect the true essence of Christ - Charity.

emerdean said...

Continued

Think of the Children of Israel. They saw God part the Red Sea and so many other miracles, yet still they returned to their old ways. Remember, none of the people who had lived in Egypt were allowed to enter the promised land. I believe they didn't have it in them to REALLY repent of their lives as slaves so they could never have appreciated the freedom God wanted to give them. They didn't have the personal power to change their hearts from slave hearts to free hearts.
It wasn't that long ago that we of the “cursed interests” were receiving great persecution that was sanctioned by the church leadership. I do not believe these persecutions were sanctioned by God. People were excommunicated for even letting it be known that they had homosexual interests. Only recently has the church begun to let it be known that a record follows EVERY person who has been disciplined for homosexual activity. I read of a young man who was given a blessing that if he were to marry his fiancee that his homosexual interests would GO AWAY! NOT Another man I know of had a comment from his ward mission leader who said: "Brother So-And-So, I didn't know that you had been disfellowshipped" Said Brother So-And-So: Yes, but that is past me now. How did you know about it?" "Heard about it in ward correlation meeting..." The problems just seem to multiply spontaneously... Parents casting their children out of their homes. And then there are the suicides... So much ignorance. So much hurt.
God knows our hearts and he knows the hearts of those who persecute. And what did Christ tell the Apostles to do? Feed My Sheep. Feed My Lambs. Feed My Sheep. Not just feed the pretty sheep, or the ones with nice wool, or the male and female ones who only prefer fooling around with sheep of the other gender. God knows the hearts of those who do not abide by his laws. Reread the 13th Article of Faith and figure out where the church stands on honesty, truth and so forth. But MOST important reread that article of faith and figure out where do YOU and I stand on the feed my sheep issue, and on being honest and true.
There is more but I am tired.