Review: No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons around Our Gay Loved Ones

No More Goodbyes coverby Carol Lynn Pearson
Pivot Point Books, $14.95

For the purpose of full disclosure: long before I opened Carol Lynn Pearson’s new book, No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons around Our Gay Loved Ones, I was familiar with the story she told in Goodbye, I Love You. It was an account of Pearson’s marriage to and amicable divorce from a gay Mormon man, as well as her ex-husband’s later AIDS-related illness and death in Pearson’s home. I’ve never read Goodbye, but after my first engagement ended with the discovery that my fiance was gay, several people told me about it. They mentioned the book not as a source of solace but of affirmation.

After I’d realized that my fiance was gay, broken off the engagement, and talked to him about it, he came out. I chose to continue our friendship, though without its former romantic aspect. I faced harsh criticism and quite a lot of social pressure to reject my friend. People spoke of him as if he were subhuman, as if he were somehow not a child of God, and they demanded that I do the same – not because he had deceived me, but simply because he was gay.

The pressure I faced to sever my relationship with my former fiance was almost as difficult to deal with as the emotional aftermath of our broken engagement. I found a few women who’d been in situations similar to my own, and they told me Carol Lynn Pearson’s story. It was a way of supporting me in my choice. For that reason, I began No More Goodbyes quite positively disposed toward Pearson.

Now that my bias is out in the open, I’ll move on to discuss Pearson’s book. I ask that out of respect for the author, any discussion in the comment thread of this post focus on the book and my review, rather than the story I recounted above.

No More Goodbyes addresses the experience of religious people who are homosexual, or whose loved ones are homosexual. Though the book’s primary intended audience is Mormons, it is secondarily addressed to all adherents of religions which discourage or discriminate against homosexuals. In format, it’s a collection of true personal accounts from many people, interspersed with commentary from the author. Most of the people who contributed are Mormons. However, there’s a smattering of material from adherents to other Christian churches, and even a story from one Muslim woman in Egypt.

Pearson’s purpose in writing seems to be to share several types of coming-out stories with the reader: stories about abandonment by church and family, stories about love and kindness from church and family, stories about entire families’ rejection at the hands of church members. The author expresses the conviction that we fear and reject what we don’t understand, and that in providing us with the real experiences of gay and lesbian Mormons and their families, she is providing us with the tools we need so that we may respond lovingly to our gay and lesbian coreligionists.

This is a worthy goal, and the collection of stories Pearson provides gives insight into many permutations of life as a gay church member. She presents the stories of such activists as Stuart Mathis, torn forever in the paradox of desire for full fellowship in the church and awareness of their own essential sexual and romantic inclinations. She presents the stories of mixed-orientation couples, some of which end in divorce and some of which do not. She presents the stories of individuals who aren’t torn, who simply leave, or who simply stay. Such information cannot help but affect us.

One story in particular made me weep. It was the story of a man named Brad Adams. As reported in the book,

He was converted to the Church in his early teens. He had never known such warmth, such good people, such love as he found there. He drank it in, a thirsty true-believer. But – he was gay.

“I’m one hundred percent gay, not just ninety-nine percent,” he told me. “I have never had the slightest sexual feeling toward a woman. When I was baptized – I knew I would change. I knew Jesus would heal me. But it didn’t happen, and I didn’t understand why. I loved the Lord, I loved the Church, I loved the gospel… I obeyed all the commandments… I went on a mission… I was still gay. I was terrified.”

After a year of work with his bishop, Adams concluded,

My emotions were dead. And at the end of the year, I thought to myself, it’s never going to happen. I am never going to change. I’m destined to go to the lowest place in God’s kingdom, and I’d just as well go now.

So I figured out how to get a lot of pills… One evening I took them all. I knew I would have about fifteen minutes until the effects set in, so… I drove up to the Provo Temple. I figured that would be the place I wanted to die. I believed there would be kind and helpful spirits around the temple, and that when I passed over, there would be someone willing to help me…

Adams woke from a coma two weeks later. Despite the sympathy of his bishop, Adams believed he would never belong in the church, and that he couldn’t bear to remain severed from his emotions. He left, despite the pain it caused him, and despite the fact that he remained committed to Mormonism and the LDS church for the remainder of his life. His final words to the reader: “The Mormons have got to stop being so rejecting. To be rejected by something so wonderful as the Mormon church is nearly more than a person can bear.”

Faced with stories like Adams’, how can we remain untouched? This is the great strength of No More Goodbyes.

Some things are lacking in the collection of narratives, though. A longstanding phenomenon in Mormon discussions of homosexuality is the heavy emphasis on male experience, to the virtual exclusion of women. Relevant church publications, talks, ward gossip, usually focus on gay men. Women are traditionally a footnote, if they are mentioned at all. This bias is present in Pearson’s book. The author mentions Mormon culture’s traditional ignorance of lesbian members, acknowledges the existence of Mormon lesbians and includes a few of their stories. However, the heavy emphasis on the experiences of gay men inadvertently reinforces the idea that Mormon lesbians are rare, or at least unimportant.

Given Pearson’s life experience and her resulting public persona as an activist for the compassionate treatment of gay men in the church, it’s quite possible that she has greater access to men’s stories than to women’s. Frequently, the introductions to men’s tales include some mention that after reading her first book, the narrators called and introduced themselves to her. Lesbians were not central to that book, and may not have felt the same motivation to contact her. Perhaps this has simply led Pearson to collect more stories from men than women. However, the gender disparity is a problem which Pearson should have addressed more carefully in the text.

Pearson’s self-presentation is also likely to present challenges for many Mormon readers. She gives a concise, effective summary of the basic scientific findings which point strongly to a biological basis for homosexuality. She compliments it with statements from several church leaders on the church’s current position, as well as these words from Alan Gundry, head of LDS Family Services’ Department of Homosexual Concerns: “Ten years ago, I would have said that all these guys can be changed, but I know now that’s not true.” Such information could doubtless bring comfort to many readers. However, Pearson has a tendency to use New Age-influenced language and philosophy throughout the book – including an rather mystifying short essay on the power of “consciousness” at the book’s end. This is likely to alienate many of those in greatest need of the comfort and accurate information she’s provided, simply because such cultural referents are so foreign that they may discredit the author and her knowledge, at least by the standards of traditional Mormon culture.

Nonetheless, this is a useful resource for us as we think about the place of gays and lesbians in our church. The stories included can provide us with a basis for the establishment of empathy with those whose Mormon life is complicated by issues of sexual orientation; and Pearson’s most basic contention – that empathy will allow us to develop compassion for those who suffer – is doubtless correct.

-Serenity Valley/TNS

Addendum – Carol Lynn’s response:

Much thanks, Taryn. I appreciate your review and the positive things you said about the book. Also grateful for your own story. Certainly, I hope the book’s impact will help us to feel, as you said, more Christlike toward our gay brothers and sisters.

I would have liked to have had more stories of lesbians in the book. I had to work to get the ones that I did. The lesbian women I know personally were not interested in their stories being published. One formerly LDS lesbian said to me that its much easier for lesbians to silently and comfortably leave the Church because being women they’ve already been on the periphery of importance anyway.

Thanks for moving the conversation along. If any inquire, the book is available right now on www.nomoregoodbyes.com. In a few weeks it will be available in bookstores.

Blessings,

Carol Lynn

Comments

  1. Thanks for the interesting review– I look forward to reading the book.

    Another possible reason for Pearson’s focus on gay men is that there appear to be fewer women than men who are homosexual.

  2. Thank you for reviewing this book. There are so many difficult questions associated with homosexuality and the church. At an epistemological level, I am convinced, both core religious belief/experience and beliefs about sexual orientation are based on similar kinds of claims–claims about personal affective (emotional) experience that are inherently subjective, if still influenced by an external society that tells us what to make of those feelings and experiences. And while biology and genes may have a role in both, the most that biology can do is influence probabilities (as is evident in the identical twin studies of homosexuality, which find that at most 50% of the pairs with at least one homosexual have two homosexuals).

    Moreover, contemporary discourse on this matter–particularly evident in gay/queer rights rhetoric, which has an increasingly naturalistic tendency (and which might be a long-term risky rhetorical move)–tends to assign people to hard and fast categories, which in turn affects peoples’ experiences of themselves. Thus, to feel a same gender attraction some times is for some enough to reconcieve of themselves as gay (an approach which much gay culture seems to advocate for), whereas it may not for others. The influence of the social aspect seems most evident in those who, coming from a background unaccepting of homosexuality, seem to believe that any periodic feeling is enough to make them gay. Which is silly.

    What this leads to is a place in which conversation is difficult if not impossible, because agreement seems to require people to reject their own experience and the conclusions they have drawn from that experience (about who they “really” are-a child of heavenly parents, gay, or both), and because the evidence itself is not objective, cannot be made inter-subjective.

    Thus, it seems to me that while we can and must–as D H Oaks has said–be loving and caring to those whose affective experiences (note that I’m using that in a fairly technical, emotion theoretic way) lead them to feel they are gay, once we move from responding to individuals to talking about doctrine, to beliefs which people hold emphatically and on bases epistemologically similar to those which lead people to feel they are homosexual, the conversation must necessarily be difficult. While some may say, just change doctrine, I’m not so sure–doing so in a mormon context would be a sweeping revolution, and one that conflicts with many peoples’ basic experience of the gospel–that is, what they think is real.

    So while this work is certainly useful in responding to the question of how do we as individuals respond to gay people, it seems to me that the bigger question–how do we understand their place in the gospel plan and plan of salvation (including exaltation)–is unresolved. And so, while this may help their interpersonal experience, their larger experince with the church as community will remain unchanged.

  3. MikeInWeHo says:

    Thanks for bringing this book to our attention, Taryn.

    As an interesting aside: Carol Lynn Pearson’s daughter married and later divorced a gay Mormon named Steven Fales. Fales wrote a book and later produced a one-man stage production called “Confessions of a Mormon Boy” which had considerable success off-Broadway. He’s now performing it here in West Hollywood. While it is intended for a non-LDS audience, I was struck by how sympathetic he is toward the Pearsons. They have come through a lot together. It’s no anti-Mo diatribe, and he distributes the BoM at a table out front. Details on Steven Fales here:
    http://www.mormonboy.com

    The intersection of the gay subculture and the LDS subculture is a source of endless fascination to me, and probably why I keep popping up here in the bloggernacle.

  4. Michael, a quick comment: your perception that there are fewer lesbians than gay men is a common one, but it’s not obviously supported by the best available data that I’m aware of. As one useful example, the 1994 Sex in America: A Definitive Survey estimates that 4.1% of American women and 4.9% of American men have had a homoerotic encounter since they turned 18. Granted, there are differences between reporting encounters and having a persistent identity — but it’s certainly unclear whether one sex or the other is more likely to experiment with sexual acts that conflict with a dominant gender identity.

    In other words, the evidence suggests that there are more or less the same number of gay men as there are lesbian women.

  5. kristine N says:

    I’ve only met a very, very few women who identify themselves as lesbians. is it more common for women to experiment with homoerotocism, but later abandon it than it is for men to do the same? I also realize that my perception could be way off–I’ve lived a pretty sheltered, probably rather conservative life–but it seems much more common for a woman to describe herself as bi-sexual than exclusively homosexual. Again, this is a perception on my part and I have nothing to really back it up.

  6. Kristine,

    I can’t vouch for the generalizability of what I’ve heard, but I know that every lesbian I’ve ever talked to about her sexual identity has said she went through a long period of bisexual identification before saying, “No, I just prefer women, end of story.” I’ve heard from gay men older than myself that such a process used to be the norm for males; but among gay men of my own generation, none of my friends has ever reported that they’d claimed to be bisexual.

    Is this a difference in inclination, in individuals’ understanding of inclination, or in the cost vs. advantage equations for lesbians and gays? Given that as RT mentions in comment #4, survey data indicates roughly similar rates of homosexual encounters among women and men, it seems unlikely to be a difference of inclination.

    I’m also going to suggest, once again based on my limited experience, that in Salt Lake City and the Bay Area at least, lesbians are more socially segregated from heterosexuals than are gay men.

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    MikeInWeHo, I saw Carol’s daughter at Sunstone this past summer. I also saw Steve Fales, who was giving a presentation. Carol’s daughter made some comments at Carol’s presentation on her new book Taryn reviews.

    It is indeed fascinating that daughter sort of relived her own mother’s experience.

    But no one should cry for her. She is a beautiful woman, and she was with some incredibly hunky looking guy, so she seems to have landed on her heterosexual feet soundly enough.

  8. Taryn,

    Thanks for the review. You didn’t mention Pearson’s stand on the key issue here though. I don’t think that there would be much resistance to the idea that we ought to love and accept gays and lesbians as people and fellow children of God in the church. Same gender attraction in itself isn’t really the problem. The problem is that we take covenants in the church that preclude gay sex so those who participate in gay sex are in violation of important covenants (just like sexual active but unmarried heterosexuals are). Where does Pearson stand on that issue? (I hope my question isn’t too blunt…)

  9. Hmmm… I’m remembering parts of a molecular biology lecture that I definitely fell asleep in, so I’m not for sure about this, but if I remember correctly, there are statistically less women that identify as homosexual (something like 2 percent versus 3 percent) and I think that there is evidence that male homosexuality is somehow at least partially linked to the Y chromosome, which would indicate a stronger genetic component than is present in female homosexuality. I’d never even thought about the genetics behind homosexuality being different between men and women, but of course that makes sense if it is in any way linked to the sex chromosomes. It could be – and I’m totally speculating here – that the reason male homosexuality seems to be so much more of an issue is because it is more genetically influenced and the trait is exhibited more often.

    I could be wrong though, I’m not a scientist and I really wasn’t paying too much attention when this was discussed.

  10. M, once again, I’m not sure the numbers from the best available studies line up with this interpretation. For example, twin studies estimate the heritability of female homosexuality to be as high — if not higher than — the heritability of male homosexuality.

  11. Sister Pearson is letting us read two chapters of her book for free at the book’s website.

  12. I am a gay man and former Mormon, and was married for ten years before coming out 18 months ago first to my then-wife and, in time, to my broader circle of friends, family and acquaintances. I remain close to my former wife and her family and I gave a copy of Person’s book to her and her mother for Christmas with a note that they exemplified many of the loving and accepting stories that CL Pearson tells in this book. (I am actually breifly mentioned in the book, though not by name.)

    For me, the great strength of Pearson’s approach and that of my former wife and many of my family and friends has been that it accepts my own experience as definitive. My former wife, for example, chose to learn about what it means to be gay by talking to me for hours and hours and hours about my feelings, emotions, fears and experiences rather than simply accepting a doctrine or dogma that she had learned in Church. That has made a huge difference in our relationship. Though I certainly can’t speak for all gay Mormons, I think many of us often feel as though our experiences are given less weight than the words of Church authorities. That can contribute to feelings of alienation from both family and church.

    Geoff J, though, speaks to a central issue that he correctly notes that Pearson does not address: the doctrinal condemnation of homosexuality and homosexual behavior. As I understand Mormon theology and teachings, there simply is no place for gay people as gay people in the Church or its vision of eternal families and relationships. For those of us who choose to live gay lives, that leaves us on the outside. Person’s plea for understanding will only take the conversation so far.

  13. MikeInWeHo says:

    Those two chapters linked above are really beautiful. I just ordered the book from Amazon.

    re: 8 I was wondering the same thing. Where does she really stand? My guess is she’s forced to equivocate in order to maintain her status in the Church, and to not lose her Mormon audience.

    Chris Williams is correct in his last paragraph. I happened upon Seagull Books across from the LA temple on Saturday. Overhearing various conversations, I had the deepest realization: There is no place for a family like mine in this community (two committed men + kid). I went back to WeHo pondering why I read the Bloggernacle, and why I don’t just jettison my residual Mormon-ness once and for all. Interesting that this post should appear today.

  14. Chris–

    Part of what makes these discussions and interactions so difficult, it seems to me, is that gay people never make the effort to understand the other side, never seem to imagine that there might be good reasons to prefer doctrine over others’ personal experiences, and so treat with disrespect anyone who does. Preferring to see those who disagree as merely bigoted or behind the times may be nice rhetorically and good for the self esteem, but it doesn’t do much to move toward a place in which each side can approach the other without losing its integrity.

  15. Geoff J. said:

    Thanks for the review. You didn’t mention Pearson’s stand on the key issue here though. I don’t think that there would be much resistance to the idea that we ought to love and accept gays and lesbians as people and fellow children of God in the church. Same gender attraction in itself isn’t really the problem. The problem is that we take covenants in the church that preclude gay sex so those who participate in gay sex are in violation of important covenants (just like sexual active but unmarried heterosexuals are). Where does Pearson stand on that issue? (I hope my question isn’t too blunt…)

    Geoff, honestly, the book isn’t about the church’s doctrines regarding human sexuality. Pearson is clearly of the opinion that not everyone is cut out for heterosexual marriage. However, what she’s addressing here is the pain lesbian and gay church members experience because of the community’s response to them.

    It’s important to remember, Geoff, that plenty of gay and lesbian Mormons live celibate lives, or they marry heterosexuals. They suffer a great deal of pain, just as those who choose life outside the church suffer. So do their families and friends. Our reactions to them are a major cause of such suffering.

    MikeInWeHo said:

    re: 8 I was wondering the same thing. Where does she really stand? My guess is she’s forced to equivocate in order to maintain her status in the Church, and to not lose her Mormon audience.

    Pearson doesn’t seem to feel the need to equivocate. She’s pretty clear about her own views, though those views are not central to her advocacy efforts.

  16. A general note, folks, though I’m not aiming it at anyone in particular. I’m not going to allow my post to provide an occasion for an explosion of vitriol. All the comments so far are pretty moderate, rhetorically, but please be warned that I will close commenting if I feel that a flame war is developing. In particular, any attacks on individuals or groups of people will lead me to shut down comments immediately.

  17. SV,
    you’ll never get a mega-thread that way, you know. ;)

  18. Kevin Barney:

    I’ll go ahead and cry for her, despite her hunky beau and her physical beauty. As her autobiographical story in Sunstone makes apparent, her path has not been easy.*

    *Perhaps you’re joking. If so, forgive my hypersensitivity.

  19. Please note Carol Lynn’s response; I just added it to the original post.

  20. Thanks for the review. That’s an interesting point about the bias of the book as reflected in the disparity between accounts of the sexuality of men vs. the sexuality of women.

    It sounds to me like the book isn’t ignoring women as much as it’s re-inforcing the popular stereotype that men are sexually troubled and that their sexual issues dominate their lives.

    For my part, I’ve always appreciated the gender essentialist approach that homosexuals tend to take. It’s a useful antidote to the extreme gender-constructivist approach of many feminists. So I always appreciate concise summaries of scientific findings on this front.

  21. Kevin Barney says:

    B. Bowen, I too read her story in Sunstone. I didn’t mean to diminish the tremendous pain of what she experienced; I simply meant to suggest that things have turned out well for her in the end, that’s all. My comment was focused on the present, not the past.

  22. Kevin Barney says:

    MikeInWeHo, I hope you’ll retain your residual Mormonness and continue to hang out with us. I like having you around.

    This was a point I should have made in my gay marriage thread, but forgot. Another reason I would favor gay marriage is that it would conceivably provide an avenue for a family such as Mike’s to be a welcomed part of the Church. If you were married, your relationship with your spouse would be covenantal in a sense the Church could in theory accept–some day, at least. But I realize that is a pie in the sky vision that won’t happen any day soon.

  23. MikeInWeHo- I second what Kevin said- all of it.

  24. MikeInWeHo: Mormonism isn’t a choice. Mormonism is the Hotel California of Christianity.

  25. TMD (14) —

    You do those of us who were Mormon for years and who tried very hard not only to understand but to actually live the gospel a great disservice when you suggest that the onus for understanding lies entirely with gay people. These conversations are difficult, but not just because of the attitudes gay people bring to the discussions.

  26. And an addendum to what I wrote above —

    In her book, CL Pearson calls on gay people to treat their families with the same respect, love and understanding that we hope for from our families. She’s right to do so.

  27. MikeInWeHo, I second Kevin – please stay! Also, I third Kevin’s statements about gay marriage.

    TMD and Chris, this is an interesting conversation. I think that anyone who grows up in the church would have to be really weird to be able to reach adulthood without really understanding the position of the church, or the positions of its members, on these issues. And I can’t imagine that someone would convert to Mormonism without such understanding – what, did they join for the red jello with mayonnaise sauce?

  28. MikeInWeHo says:

    LOL. Amen, DKL ! And that is why we all know there is something, well, real going on here. 20 years ago I was sneaking a peek at Dialogue in the U.of M. library, and I’m still here. Maybe I can catch up on all the back issues in whatever coach-class afterlife I wind up in.

    Thanks for the kind words. I’ll stick around. Somebody should throw a SoCal bloggersnacker so I can meet some of you in person.

  29. Chris: I didn’t, and wouldn’t, say that the onus lay entirely upon gay people. But in my experiences relevant to this issue, many gay people treat the doctrine of the church (and others as well) in this area as if it were a semi-arbitrary rule put in place by either the uninformed or the bigoted. Are there some people who may fall into this category? Perhaps. But there are many–I would say many more–who have a real and dynamic commitment to the underlying theology and to the rule itself. And so gay people aren’t respecting that key aspect of who their interlocutors are. And so the the love that is offered and the conversation possible is either patronizing or conditional in character–conditional on that person adopting their gay interlocutor’s position on the doctrine, from their perspective, conditional on sacrificing that part of their integrity. To do otherwise is taken as rejecting the gay person–and the end of any conversation or relationship.

    So where does this leave us (us being people in the church emphatically committed to the current theology of the church but seeking a more satisfying answer to the question of homosexuality on the one hand, and gay people in or drawn to the church on the other)? Still at the beginning of a difficult conversation. Because, frankly, I’m not sure where it will go or how, or even how much room there is for it. But revelation may well surprise us all–not only in timing or but in a solution or answer different from that which the politicians and activists suggest.

    But note that a conversation is between people who wish to engage. From where I sit, it has to begin with both sides considering with respect the self-perceptions, experiences, and understandings of the other–rather than how we might like to understand their feelings and understandings. And it has to be done outside of the political or politicized rhetoric, of both sides–since that tends to characature and simplify the issues, on both sides.

  30. I’m with everyone else, MikeinWeHo. Please, stay around. We like you. We need you.
    I have a friend whose mom wrote one of the bits in this book. He was really glad she had this creative outlet to explore how she feels/is dealing with his coming out and leaving the Church. He’s simultaneously really embarrassed that it’s so public. I wonder if others feel that way.
    Lesbians: I had a Mormon roommate who came out and then later randomly (found on Craigslist) had two more lesbian roommates. Once you meet one, you meet a ton. Also, I have a Mormon lesbian friend that has not and will probably never come out publicly. She says she feels no drive for sex and feels satisfied with the intimacy of her many female friends (there are lots of single Mormon women) and is happy that way. I think that’s true and also it must be terrifying to come out and deal with the aftermath.
    Do people think it’s more common for a Mormon woman to accidentally (or not) marry a gay man? I hear lots of stories and wonder why it happens so often but maybe it’s not any more or less often than any other religious or irreligious community group.

  31. TMD,

    While I’ve consistently found that gay and lesbian church members are indeed understanding of others’ positions, I’m definitely on board with the “revelation will surprise us all” bit – it’s done that many times before, in regard to many other issues.

    Beyond that – rather than complaining about the motes in our fellows’ eyes, let’s pray in the spirit of Francis’ famous prayer:

    Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
    where there is hatred, let me sow love;
    where there is injury, pardon;
    where there is doubt, faith;
    where there is despair, hope;
    where there is darkness, light;
    and where there is sadness, joy.

    O Divine Master,
    grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
    to be understood, as to understand;
    to be loved, as to love;
    for it is in giving that we receive,
    it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
    and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

    Amen.

    By the way, my husband suggests that perhaps you’ve encountered a lot of conversations about this with people who are very focused on their dislike the church? Online or face to face? I’ve mostly dealt with people who are either trying to live in the church, or whose lives have taken them far away from it. Maybe we’re both dealing with nonrandom samples?

  32. Amri, yes, that’s my experience as well. One of my roommates in Salt Lake City was a lesbian. When she figured out that I knew, and that I wasn’t going to try and evict her, I met all her friends. She stuck entirely to other lesbians; she wasn’t even comfortable straight women or gay men. But she had one of the largest social circles I’ve ever seen. This sounds like a stupid joke, but they actually had their own football league. I was one of the only heterosexual people most of them dealt with socially, and I think they only really interacted with me because they were in my home a lot.

  33. MikeInWeHo: “coach-class afterlife”! Wonderful.

  34. Steve Evans says:

    “Once you meet one, you meet a ton.”

    Are we talking about lesbians, or Pringles?

  35. Having been molested by two gay men when I was ten years old, please forgive me if I am not predisposed to not try an understand the plight of gay men and women.

    I know many such people and I can say without reservation, however, that I have never treated them with neither disdain nor contempt despite the thorns left in my side by the same behavior.

    For me, despite any scientific or biological justifications, I am not ready to compromise my moral center to gratify the fact that I am nice to gay people. The Lord has made clear the moral and thus, spiritual ramifications of such behavior and it is that, I feel, I need to understand above all else.

    While many are narrowminded of such behavior as to cite Sodom and Gomorrah as God’s feelings upon the subject, it is only by virtue of my understanding of the Atonement that I have given compassion for those who I believe commit a grave sin. If it were not for my knowing of Christ, it would be real easy for me to succumb to the hate I have felt many times in my life for such behavior.

    Yet, as I am very mindful of the fact that Mercy can balance the scale of the demands of Justice, it should be remembered that Mercy cannot rob Justice. The one thing that our unfortunate gay brothers and sisters will have to honestly ask themselves is:

    “Do I have the capacity to repent for these urges? If I do, then I will certainly have to pay Justice for what I could have done if I fail to repent.”

    If they do not, then it all falls upon the grace of our Lord; and His Atonement is sufficient to give them the same opportunity that we all have: Eternal Life!

  36. TMD:

    I’m open to suggestions. How would you like me, a gay man, to begin a dialogue about homosexuality with a believing member of the church with “a real and dynamic commitment” to the church’s teachings and doctrines?

  37. Oops…it is always wise to edit being posting. Forgive me of the double negative in the first sentence and the wrong preposition in the sentence “Do I have the capacity to repent FOR these urges?” It should have been “of…”

  38. Steve Evans says:

    Chris: “How would you like me, a gay man, to begin a dialogue about homosexuality with a believing member of the church with “a real and dynamic commitment” to the church’s teachings and doctrines?”

    Chris, first I’d say GET OVER YOURSELF! There is like 99.9% of yourself that has little to do with your sexual orientation. You are acting like this is the HUGEST thing in the entire world and all that anyone should ever concern themselves with, and why oh why can’t people see?!!

    Well of course there’s a problem with how the Church addresses homosexuality. But it is a complete non-starter if all you are able to do is frame your religious views through the filter of your sexuality. If you are truly interested in beginning any sort of dialogue with the Church on issues of homosexuality, I think it is an absolute fundamental to first show that there is something to your being beyond this pet issue.

    That said, let me apologize for the seeming callousness of the remark. I don’t mean to belittle the heartache I know you’ve suffered over the past year or so. It sucks to feel this huge part of your life ripped away. But honestly — if the only time we hear from you on the blogs is about gay rights issues, and if all you ever write about or think about are homosexuals in the Church, and if that’s all that consumes you all day, then I would say you have to try to get beyond the issue somehow and reclaim a somewhat normal (i.e., not self-centered) existence beyond the issues of sexuality.

  39. TMD:

    Let me try to start this way. It helps if I imagine you as one of my faithfully LDS friends of family members.

    I believe you to be sincere in your faith and firm in your convictions. I believe you to be motivated on the questions that arise from homosexuality by a desire to respond in a way consistent with your faith and what the church teaches, including that you are led by a prophet who receives guidance an revelation from God. I believe that you feel it is imperative that you remain true to the guidance you receive from church leaders because you believe it comes from God himself. I ascribe to you no malice. I do not think you want to hurt gay men and women, inside or outside the church. I do not believe you act out of bigotry. I believe you act out of integrity and honesty, true to your deeply held faith.

    From my perspective, however, what the Church teaches me, a gay man, about homosexuality is inconsistent with my own reality. The language the Church uses to describe “same gender attraction” does not describe my own experience as one who experiences. And the guidance I feel I have received from the spirit affirms me as a gay man, rather than confirms what the church teaches me I should do in terms of understanding and action.

    Where do we go from here?

  40. Generally those I’ve met or talked to are out or on their way out–and generally people in their twenties. Honestly, though, this is probably characterizes the majority.

    Taryn, I take a bit of umbrage at my comments being labeled ‘complaining’ about others, or being told to ‘mind the beam in my own eye’ first. I try quite hard to recognize and understand others beliefs as they are, often using a wide range of theory as an aid in doing so. But frankly, I’ve found relatively few who are really interested in doing so–most set my changing as the bar for conversation or relationship, and (online) otherwise flame me. I’ve had this experience in the past, at this site. And it seems to me that the starting point needs to be honesty with each other, and a recognition that both sides have integrity claims that are implicated, and that ultimately movement on both sides will likely be necessary. And to be chided for expressing that one side feels that the rhetoric and style of the other side feels injust and preclusive of meaningful dialogue seems, well, suppressive of conversation.

  41. Steve Evans, have you ever actually had a conversation with me? There is, of course, a lot more to me than being gay. If you actually knew me, you’d know that. If you choose to define me from how I participate, very rarely, on Mormon blogs, well, then, you are putting me in the very box you are urging me to break free of.

    I talk about gay issues here because a) I’m still working through the many changes that I have been through over the past 18 months of my life and 2) I have little interest in Mormon issues these days, except for how they interact with gay issues, so this is where I choose to participate.

    Maybe instead of getting over myself, I should just get over all of this…

  42. TMD, sorry to have upset you. I was trying to encourage the very sort of Christian dialogue you seem interested in; I clearly didn’t express myself well. My apologies. Please email me if I’m leaving you feeling yucky; I don’t want to do that.

    By the way (TMD, this really isn’t a response to you), I’m closing comments now.

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