Yes, you read that right. I’m sitting in Sacrament Meeting today, feeling a little sick, wondering if the talks are going to bore me to death, thinking about hanging out in the hallway and playing with the primary kids (rather than sitting in the pew like a responsible adult) when it happens … the speaker starts talking about “Brokeback Mountain.” (For those of you who don’t know what “Brokeback Mountain” is, I invite you to leave your Montana cabin and come back to Civilization for a couple weeks, and then we’ll talk). “Oh goodie!,” I said to my wife. “This should be entertaining.”
The speaker was a fairly new convert, and I think she was a psychotherapist by profession. She had made a few harmless comments about how she likes to watch movies, when she suddenly and non-chalantly mentioned that she had seen Brokeback the other evening. Just in case some in the audience didn’t understand the reference, she clarified that Brokeback was an Ang Lee film about a “same-sex relationship.” She said it was quite well-done, particularly in how it portrayed the heartache and pain that the secretive relationship between the two male leads brought to the lives of all the characters. She then segued into a discussion about a recent same-sex attraction conference at BYU, which was attended heavily by family members of LDS gays, including many women who had been trapped in marriages to gay men and who had suffered greatly for it. The speaker commented on how enlightened the BYU professors’ discussion at the conference was, and she followed with a wish that the LDS community be more open in discussing issues like same-sex attraction, and more sensitive to the trials that many gay LDS members face. She concluded with a few comments about “grace” that topped off her talk rather nicely.
It’s hard to convey the tone and spirit of a talk like this in a blog post. The talk that could have been delivered well or delivered horribly; in my opinion, it was done very, very well. I was surprised to find myself thinking that. For some reason, it would have been hard for me to imagine someone pulling off a talk like this without visibly offending half the ward. Of course, maybe I just belong to an atypical LDS ward. But a more plausible explanation is that this woman just managed to find the right tone, and despite her potentially volatile content, she was able to pull the whole thing off.
In thinking about the talk some more this evening, I find myself wondering if any of it truly was inappropriate. In my view, the mention of same-sex attraction was perfectly appropriate. We live in a day and age where same-sex relationships and struggles are a reality, and there’s no point in pretending otherwise. I think the comments about how devastating the secretive relationships were on all those affected was right on the money as well. I liked the admonition that we all develop greater sensitivity on this issue, as well as the mild chastisement of LDS culture for not being as sensitive as it could be. The only legitimate concern I do see is that LDS members with children probably wouldn’t appreciate the advocacy of gay cinema over the pulpit. Not that the speaker was necessarily saying everyone should go out and see this movie, but it could easily have been taken that way. After all, Sacrament Meeting is a time for advocacy and admonition, even if we all know you shouldn’t necessarily embrace every word that’s uttered over the pulpit. I can easily imagine the following conversation:
“Mom, I want to go see “Brokeback Mountain.””
“Honey, you most certainly are NOT going to a movie about a gay love affair!”
“But Mom, the speaker at Church on Sunday said it was a good movie, and you’re the one that says I should listen to what I learn at Church! Hypocrite!!!”
My wife and I don’t have children yet, so maybe I’m just imagining a concern that wouldn’t really be that big of a deal. I don’t know. But I suspect that many LDS parents would take exception to this on some level. Nevertheless, all in all, I must say that I thought the talk was very timely, interesting, and tasteful.
I’m wondering what all you BCC readers think. That’s right … I’m speaking to all 227,000 of you. Based on how I’ve described it, can you imagine how this talk could have been in good taste, or is it clear that a line was crossed here that shouldn’t have been crossed?
In addition, I’m wondering if you’ve had your own experiences in hearing (or giving!) potentially volatile talks in Sacrament Meeting that worked remarkably well. If so, how did the speaker pull it off?
And of course, if you want to share experiences where the speaker DIDN’T pull it off, feel free to do that too. :)