Four queer folk

I no longer go very often to the LDS church. This post partially explains why.

One: J

When I was dating the woman who would become my wife, she struggled to tell me something. It took her a while before she eventually said, “my brother J is gay.” I wasn’t bothered at all but Rebecca was scared it would scupper our relationship. After all, if her brother was gay, the idea that I — a Returned Missionary — might contemplate marrying a woman from anything less than the perfect Mormon family was in danger. It seems silly now but that’s what she thought. I’m not sure why it didn’t bother me. I am no font of tolerance and charity . . . I just didn’t care. Plenty of other Mormons don’t either but she had this idea from somewhere, I suppose. Perhaps it was from some of the people in our branch whose virulent homophobia was on display in Sunday school? And where did that come from? At the time, I would have absolved the church. Bigots are everywhere, I thought. It’s not the church’s fault.

Two: A

41ntYcKyHtL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_When you find out you are mentioned in someone’s memoir, it can be a little unnerving (in 2001 I was, apparently, “tall and broad-shouldered with hair the colour of pumpkins”). National Geographic’s Andrew Evans details, among other things, his life as a Mormon gay man in The Black Penguin. We knew Drew in Oxford and I was his home teacher when he came out.

Drew was the music leader in Primary and Rebecca was in the Primary presidency. She wanted him to continue. So, initially, did the bishop, who knew Drew was gay. Then something changed. The bishop spoke to the stake president who spoke to the area president who spoke to Salt Lake. The word came back: ask him whether he was attracted to children. When Drew told me this I was devastated for him. Where did that come from? Not the church, obviously. Everyone knew that homosexuality and paedophilia were unrelated. I had always thought this to be the error of a naive bishop. Only when I read his memoir did I find out that the concern came from the top. The area president told the bishop that Drew had to be released: “It just looks bad,” he said.

It’s difficult for me to read now that Drew didn’t quite believe my attempt to offer a hand of friendship at the time, as if I was just “a good friend assigned by the church to keep me in check.” I did not feel that way but I can understand why he believed it. The bishop had offered the same hand before withdrawing it. But it wasn’t my fault, nor was it entirely the bishop’s. As Drew remembers it, I said, “You just have to forgive us. The church isn’t ready yet.” That was 2001. I really thought things would change.

(Andrew and I will do a Q&A on the book soon.)

Three: S

S was on the same PhD programme at Johns Hopkins as me. He was a Catholic from New Jersey who, to my surprise, had been a student at BYU. He was a kind and forgiving man who always spoke warmly of Mormons . . . except when it came to that one time his bishop in Provo (he had for a while considered converting) had told him it would be better to drown himself in Utah Lake than be a gay man. When no-one in our ward would babysit for our kids when Rebecca went into hospital to have our third child, S stayed the night with them. How anyone could be so hateful to someone so kind, I could not fathom. At this point I was beginning to believe that there really was something fundamentally wrong with the church’s moral compass when it came to how we dealt with queer folk. After all, by their fruits shall they be known. S had been equally hurt by his Catholic elders but there was a difference: it was possible to find a haven from the hatred in some pockets of the American church. I celebrated Good Friday with him in his Baltimore parish, a parish that knew he was gay and in a relationship but left him alone.

Four: E

I grew up with E, a beautiful and vivacious woman. Our Mormon youth together was a golden age of LDS wholesomeness and earnest faith. After college and missions, our friendship waned, as these things do. I married Rebecca at 22. E married at 40 and for years I wondered what was taking her so long! She had many suitors and every reason as a Mormon woman to settle down. What I didn’t know was that E was gay. Last year I went to her wedding in London. It was a joyous event and I don’t think I have ever seen a couple more in love. This was something lovely and of good report and not to be despised. And yet on November 5th, 2015, the church said it was, that she needed to be excommunicated and any children she might have be excluded from fellowship. I just could not believe that, nor could I lend my full support to an organisation that would do that. Reading Drew’s story I realise now how I could not completely absolve myself of responsibility for a church who would see a gay man as a potential child molester, say hateful things to a friend, induce such worry in my wife, and call good evil. Did I not support the church financially? Did I not give the church hours of my time? Did I ever speak out in public about this? I was the church.

And so anyway, here was my sad conclusion, made with absolutely no satisfaction at all: it was not random bigotry but a systemic moral failure all along. Am I wrong?


Please note that these are my thoughts only, not those of BCC, and should not be used to dismiss all of the other good and true things to be found among the Mormon people, whom as friends and family I continue to love. My religious life — worshipping as an Anglican, practising Zen, and, yes, fellowshipping with Mormons — remains very much alive.

 

Comments

  1. Melanie says:

    It is interesting reading your experiences, and it is good to be made to think and prod at your beliefs to be more aware of where one fits in the grand scheme of things. What I think is, the Church is the Church – and People are People. The Church can’t be responsible for the actions of all of the people, and people can’t be responsible for all of the actions of things done in the name of the Church. For me, Church is good and I chose to live the best I can in line with the Gospel principles that I have been taught. I recognise that doing so is easier when your circumstances align more closely to what might be considered the Mormon ideal. If I was gay would that be more complicated? absolutely – and so I can’t really talk for how I might feel about the Church if I was, because that would only serve to minimise the reality of others. But, I can say that I hope that I can treat people as people, and that sexual orientation shouldn’t make ay difference to me in the relationships I have with people. Do I think that the Church is changing? Yes, slowly on some things – but culturally rather than doctrinally. Do I think it needs to change? I don’t think that is up to me, that is up to God to be revealed through His Prophets and I think as a membership being more aware and inclusive is a step in the right direction.

  2. thomaskinrade says:

    Great article. Sadly, the members who are enacting all this harm on LGBT people would disagree that theirs is a moral failing at all; to them, morality is defined as unquestioning obedience to the leaders of the church. The result is a schism where both sides think they have the moral high ground. It’s gonna take a lot of members having experiences like you’ve related here for the church’s culture of intolerance to mellow out into something that’s truly Christlike.

  3. I’m sorry to agree. I want to be positive. However, while none of my stories are the same, sadly they are more of the same. Whatever you call it (I’m leaning toward harsh names that my parents taught me not to use) the “just go away” vein runs top to bottom. No matter how thoughtful and loving many individuals are toward many others, the message that there’s no place in the Mormon church for gay people, not in the doctrine, not in the organization, not in the families, not in the pews, is unmistakable.

  4. Steve S says:

    I think you’re right that there are many moral wrongs that have and are committed against gay members. I think it is true that in many ways it is a systemic issue. I think it is right to feel repulsed and openly acknowledge when such things are seen.

    I appreciate your caveat at the end, because I do think while there are dark spots to be acknowledged, it would be a shame to define the church solely by these dark spots when the restoration has been responsible for bringing so much light, knowledge, and good to the world. I do believe despite its shortcomings, it is still a light on a hill and an ensign to the nations.

    On this specific poignant topic there exists a lot of tension currently, and I think rightly so. In my mind it is clear we are still young in our knowledge of the subject. It is one of those things that seems to fit the category of “we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” Where gay people rightly belong in God’s Kingdom I do not believe is currently revealed, which ultimately seems to be the source of the tension. And in this darkness remains a breading ground for mortals within the church to commit moral wrongs. I believe the day will come that light will shine on this darkness and it will be seen for what it is. There will be sorrow for sin, a rejoicing for the past integrity displayed and the good yet to come, and then I believe a day of healing. I believe we will ultimately see the place and purpose of our gay brothers and sisters in God’s kingdom and overall plan of happiness. Whether that includes a reversal on same sex relationships and an embrace of gay marriage, or whether it includes a different and greater path than has currently been considered or revealed, remains to be seen. Either way, I do feel in me that the light will come, that day is coming, and we will see the place and purpose of our gay brothers and sisters in God’s kingdom. In the mean time, in the darkness and tension is where some of the greatest tests of personal integrity can exist. I hope I will become stronger, and that I will be able to look back and say that I was kind and that I stayed true to the light within me.

  5. Ronan, I have loved your work on the Mormon Lectionary Project, and my first (selfish) worries were that you would not feel as called to write those posts. It made me wonder about the different groups of people who need us, and our individual needs, and how we can possibly have a hope of balancing them.

    I don’t have answers about what that means for my relationship with the church – I’m mostly trying to stay on this side of despair – but for what it’s worth, I’m right there with you, and I appreciate and admire you, and (as is so often the case) I’m grateful for your words.

  6. Sometimes I wonder what the church would be like if it were run by a bunch of guys who grew up in, say, Stockholm.

  7. thestudent says:

    I think you are right. If you are a part of the church then you have a responsibility to stand up and speak up for those who are being harmed by its actions. If not you and others like you, then who?

    I am not a Mormon but I was a Christian for many years. I left my faith and am no longer a believer of any kind because of the way I saw LGBT folks being treated. I couldn’t come out in the church and I couldn’t live a lie any longer, so I left. I often wonder if I would have stayed in the faith had there been more of a focus on love and compassion.

  8. I think that a lot of us who are LDS forget that we are not on this earth to judge others. We are taught to love one another. What happened to that? Instead we are seeing a lot of hate.
    I have taught my children to love and to accept. I am very grateful to my kids, because they didn’t see that “gay” guy that my husband home taught, that no one wanted to visit. My kids saw Frankie. They still mourn his passing after a year.
    This needs to end. The hate and excuses need to stop.

  9. Kevin Barney says:

    Ronan my brother, this really resonates with me. I remain actively engaged largely for an accident of circumstance, in that there is no one in my immediate orbit of family or ward who is gay (that I know of). So for me at this time it’s more of an abstraction; if I had had experiences like yours I’m pretty sure I would be in the same place you are.

    My two children are both long out of the church, and while that was hard for me when it first happened, for many years I’ve been nothing but proud of them for making their own choices in this sphere. It wasn’t just this issue, but I know this is one that loomed large for them. The Church has a real problem with youth who grow up outside of some conservative backwater; egalitarianism towards queer folk is not a question anymore, it’s a fact, it’s baked into who they are. Gay-straight alliances in high school, pride parades, good friends who are openly gay. When the Church comes across as so backwards on this subject, so unthinking and unfeeling, and tries to double down by painting what is clearly a cultural issue as revelation from the Almighty received by God’s Prophet on Mt. Sinai, that is a problem.

  10. Thomas Parkin says:

    I remember when I was young you’d often hear that there had been many dispensations of the gospel, but that they had all failed. That this one, however, possibly because the end would come before it failed, as well, would make it through. I’m not sure where this comes from but any reading of the scriptures, especially the BoM, would bear it out. People are people, short sighted, fearful, prideful, cock sure of themselves and deaf to others. Why would we think we would be any different? Because of catch phrases about Jesus and the Restoration, pridefully and blindly spoken? I now read the BoM largely as a warning to and a condemnation of the modern church. The Rameumpton people are not some prideful, self-righteous people we can point at, they are us. The Nephites shooting arrows at Samuel the Lamanite on the wall, the outsider and other with the needed message, are not some terribly blind and misguided people who, thank the stars are not us. They are us. The church is failing, like it always does. Light and truth is not only lost by disobedience, but also by the traditions of men. (Sec 93). And the church is up to its eyeballs in the traditions of men.

  11. This post is both powerful and good, Ronan. It speaks a hard truth. Kudos to you for speaking it so plainly.

  12. What is the church supposed to do? Is Christianity in general supposed to just abandon its theological heteronormativity?

    To me, I think the particularly interesting case is S’s:

    After all, by their fruits shall they be known. S had been equally hurt by his Catholic elders but there was a difference: it was possible to find a haven from the hatred in some pockets of the American church. I celebrated Good Friday with him in his Baltimore parish, a parish that knew he was gay and in a relationship but left him alone.

    Catholic teaching on sexual ethics is not institutionally LGBT-friendly. So, is the difference between S’s experience with Catholicism and Mormonism just that Mormons are better at enforcing their doctrine than Catholics are?

  13. Even the Catholics don’t ban children from baptism.

    But to your point: I think it just means that the Catholic church is somehow able to train at least some priests who are able to make autonomous moral decisions. That’s what Drew’s bishop wanted to do until he was overridden. In the LDS Church, there are only 15 opinions that matter. Even the Vatican is not that arrogant. So, if I were to adopt your argument I would say that the LDS Church comes off *even worse.*

  14. Jacob H. says:

    We continue to be active, but my spouse and I have decided to stand in solidarity with our gay brothers and sisters and not allow our children to be baptized until they reach the age of 18. The day of reckoning, and our “outing” when our first child turns 8, is fast approaching.. how can we assent to being part of the privileged class when there are siblings in Christ who stand at the door and knock?

  15. governingmyself says:

    I once considered leaving the church because I was concerned I was complicit in exactly what RJH speaks of. This message so resonates with me. I am a counselor and I work in crisis and suicide intervention. I decided to stay after speaking to so many suicidal Mormon youth and realizing there was not safe people for them within active Mormonism and they could not yet leave. So my partner and I have raised our six children as progressive activists, allies, supporters of the liberation of all oppressed folks. Its been as messy as one could imagine. The other day my 17-year-old active LDS cisgender straight son sent out an email supporting pride month to some friends. He accidentally included his aunt (an active conservative Mormon woman). Her response to him was incredibly cruel. In that moment I saw him transform. I don’t know that Mormonism will ever be able to fully re-capture his attention. He now understands the problem.

  16. orangganjil says:

    I do not believe you are wrong and my family has come to the same conclusion. We withdrew financial support after Prop 8 and sustaining votes after November 2015. I could never live with myself if one of my children was gay and I raised them in the church. I know the rhetoric they would hear on Sundays and how gays are institutionally treated. How could I subject my children to that? I can’t, so we do not attend, casualties in the church’s culture war.

  17. RJH,

    I will say that I was reading an article posted to the Christianity subreddit that discussed a cardinal or someone very high up allowing LGBT folks in relationships to receive communion. I guess from your perspective, that might positively seem like a case for holy envy, but most of the Catholics on the subreddit were absolutely aghast. That a cardinal could act so independently against doctrine was seen as profoundly heretical. (FWIW, I think Catholicism has more consistent sexual ethical theology, so to me, if any religion is more locked in to their current teachings, it is Catholicism.)

  18. Jason K. says:

    “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

    We Christians have struggled and mostly failed to live up to that for nearly 2000 years. I think that we ought to keep after it, though. The cases you talk about here are one site of that struggle today. Can we love them, as Jesus loves us?

    Thank you, RJH.

    (And you’ll be pleased to know that autocorrect suggested “Everton” when I was typing “everyone.”)

  19. P.S. My religious life — worshipping as an Anglican and practicing Zen — remains very much alive.

  20. Interesting, RJH. I stopped my Mormon practice over compassion concerns, similar to you, and have settled on a Quaker practice informed by elements of Buddhism as well. (Quakers also being of the Anglican tree of Christianity.) I just thought I’d note the interesting similarities in the results of our faith journies. Thank you for sharing these stories and observations, and I feel very similar to the ways you’ve expressed.

  21. Angela C says:

    I don’t think you are wrong, but I don’t know how we ever improve society by withdrawing. I’m appalled by what happened in the last US election, but it revealed a reality that must be somehow dealt with. I’m a progressive at heart. Progress is the goal. I’m also appalled by some of the hateful things people feel emboldened to say and do toward gay people. Maybe we hadn’t hit the rock bottom depths of depravity yet that will lead to the rebound and progress. If Mormonism can survive such a horrible and unjust policy maybe it can survive. I think the key is what Andrew S points out: grass roots acceptance and the courage to do what’s right, not just to blindly obey. The old adage seems relevant: Catholic doctrine says the pope is infallible but no one believes it; Mormon doctrine says our leaders are fallible but no one believes it.

  22. I share your concerns – though not your experiences – and remain active. I hope my staying will serve some purpose. I hope those who can and who disagree stay and speak up and carve out a space of tolerance. I don’t begrudge anyone who chooses differently, though.

  23. Some very kind comments here. Thank you.

  24. MikeInWeHo says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Ronan. I hope you realize that for a very long time your compassionate words in the Bloggernacle have been a blessing to many people all over the world. It’s nice to see that continuing.

  25. Thanks, RJH. Being old, having known both your families, over all these years, my biggest concern has been for the parents, having raised you all in the church, watching you go your own way, as my kids have largely done. It’s sometimes hard to decide to stay faithful when those you love the most are hurt or otherwise choose another way. I long ago decided I would never use the word “but” with respect to my children. They are excellent human beings, excellent children of God, and people are better off for knowing them, they are people I like. But I stick with the church, because I have had enough witnesses over the decades that there is great truth to be found in it. I have to admit tho, that I feel that one might say of too many members that they are obsessed with sex. Surely there are other things to notice about people, eg the good that they do for others. I don’t want to consider my bishop’s sex life, why should I want to consider anyone else’s?

  26. Peace and love, Bev. Happily my parents and I still have an excellent relationship. We all love each other to bits.

    Agree on the sex. Enough!

  27. Cheers, Mike. It’s been a long time, eh?

  28. RJH, I feel similarly situated and my heart aches–though I have not made the decision to leave, I feel complicit and conflicted. If I am indeed the church, I cannot be silent. I hope my presence serves some purpose, but there comes a point where I wonder nonetheless if it matters. I have no answers, except that I choose love.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am so grateful for the faith and love you and Rebecca both so generously continue to share.

  29. I started out from the homophobic double whammy perspective as a Mormon in the Bible Belt. I noticed from a young age that homophobia existed because my middle name is associated with homosexuality. The laughs and smirks during roll call at school clearly indicated this to me.

    So I thought about the gay stigma and slowly peeled away the prevalent assumptions about gays. I threw away presumptions attaching homosexuality to pedophilia, to AIDS, and to promiscuity.

    Despite this, as a conservative Republican, it was clear that gay marriage could represent a major turning point and revolution of the way society defines marriage. I became a committed opponent of same-sex marriage, and logged hundreds of internet hours researching and debating, many of them with gay, lesbian, bi, and transgender people. I listened, sometimes I listened better than other times. Yet, after several years, I deeply wanted same-sex couples to be able to have legal protections.

    When SCOTUS finally ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, I was genuinely happy for those benefitting from the legalization of same-sex marriage.

    After getting to know and to love many people who are not straight, I still cannot completely relate to a same-sex relationship, but I’ve also realized that this doesn’t change anything. Do we have to understand each other completely to be decent and kind? I hope not. Do I get it? Not totally, but so what. I want you to be able to live your life, to love, and to freely commit to another person if you want to.

    At that point as a believing Mormon, I would empathize with the Brethren. I assumed that they, the protectors and stewards of the precious flock of humanity here on earth, had agonized over this issue. I hoped that they were even more aware than I of the suffering, heartache, and struggle felt by those in the church who are not straight. I assumed that the First Presidency had gone to the Lord and pled with the Lord for these children and asked for guidance and that they had received a “No” from the Lord.

    From the compassionate believing-Mormon perspective, I believed that we are and were stuck with the Lord’s ban on acting out on homosexuality. I believed that this ban was a burden separating us, generating pain and hostility, and that we as disciples of Christ were charged to love through that gap, to bridge the separation.

    From within that bubble, I started to really believe that there might be some higher purpose in this dilemma, that maybe Mormons, when they learned to love gays despite God’s ban on their desires, would lead the way for all devotees around the world. I believed we would show Muslims, Baptists, and other Mormons how to love those separated from us and how to bridge the distance.

    My belief in the church didn’t break over these issues, but my belief broke.

    From outside the Mormon bubble, the dilemma Mormons suffer over homosexuality is so much clearer, and is absolutely tragic. It’s so useless, this suffering. There’s no reason consistent with love and hope to believe God is banning homosexuality.

    As an ex-Mormon, I keenly feel the pain of being untethered from the comfort of dogma and religious certainty. It is frightening. It is unstable. It is dark sometimes. Yet, it’s only dark, unstable, and frightening if I leave the thinking to Mormonism. Every day requires me to do the mental exercise of building my own game plan and values. It takes work to undo the Mormonism programming and rebuild my own thinking.

    But there is an interesting thing that happens almost every day once I do this deliberate mental exercise: life gets so exciting, everything is more valuable. Time and opportunities are more precious and meaningful. I just have to remind myself to do it. And one of the very best things about being an ex-Mormon is being absolutely free of the cognitive and heart-dissonance of homophobia.

  30. I will never forget the moment when I first “understood the problem” to use @governingmyself phrase. At my sister’s graduation party, several members were talking and I overhead the story that one, a flight attendant, shared. She related the pain that her gay colleague had expressed after breaking up with his boyfriend. The others laughed at his crying, and made derogatory comments. The immediate anger that coursed through me was overwhelming. How could these “Christians” be so callous and hateful? Had it not been my sister’s party I would have spoken up, but I didn’t want to ruin her party. That was one of the keys to my leaving 20 plus years ago; by their fruits ye shall know them indeed. Thank you Ronan for sharing.

  31. Great stuff Ronan. You’re still my guru. Cookies? 🍪👑

  32. This is one side of the experience. Without the whole story it is hard to make conclusions or judgements, but it seems there are many who want to support their position with elaborations of opinion. Romans 12:14

  33. KerBearRN says:

    Ditto, Ronan. When I am in England, I do find peace when I attend C of E services (though in not super regular–yet.). They are pretty all -inclusive… and of course I’m addicted to Evensong. I find some comfort that the Dean of Leicester Cathedral is openly gay, lives with his partner in the deanery, and he is treated with love and respect and welcoming. And THIS in a church that doesn’t currently sanction gay marriage–yet they have found a way to accept gays into their parishes and leadership and not hang them and their children. What the hell is Mormons’ problem?!?

    And it isn’t just “people”. The Exclusion Policy came from the 12; therefore it IS the Church.

    Make everyone welcome, let God sort us out.

  34. Thanks for the words, Ronan. I feel the same wrenching conflict in my own religious attendance. Maybe if I were more brave I could find something more impactful for me to do.

    On the note of morals, I do wonder, while the church may be at fault for a cancerous approach in treatment towards our LGBT brothers and sisters, does it also receive credit for instilling in people like you and I that very moral core that allows us to see just how wrong this treatment is?

    It’s a paradox to which I haven’t found a resolution.

  35. definitely anon for this says:

    Ronan, I have read BCC for many years and have always loved your posts, especially the MLP. I’ve struggled with this issue. How much am I complicit for paying tithing? What about when I spend 3 hours in meetings on Sundays instead of volunteering or building relationships? But if I can’t help solve the problems if I go, then should I stay? I feel like I’m living in a strange no man’s land, where I can’t fully to commit to staying or leaving. Why can my faithful friend not marry their partner, but a pair of young 20 year old RMs can get married after knowing each other for 2 weeks? And keeping some 8 year olds from baptism but not others? It’s so cruel and unchristlike. Combine this with the traditional millennial faith crisis and, well…

    Thank you for your words and your strength in making the best choices for you and your family. Some day I hope to be able to have the strength to make a decision one way or the other.

  36. N. W. Clerk says:

    I can’t figure out why a Catholic BYU student would have a Mormon bishop, nor why a local bishop would refer to “Lake Utah”.

  37. Astute observation, N. W. Clerk.

    If you’re not participating in the church trying to make it a more welcome place for those on the fringes you’re part of the problem, not the solution. Kind of like complaining about Trump when you couldn’t be bothered to vote.

  38. Everything about this post hurts. God bless, Ronan. God bless.

  39. I find myself trapped by the position the Church has put me in regarding this issue. I won’t go and stay silent about the injustices and homophobia, but if I speak up too loudly I face possible removal. I’m not sure I’m ready for that step so I just don’t go, but I don’t feel satisfied. I don’t know what the best path forward is.

  40. I share your experience and perspective. For years I thought these things were just individual anomalies. Once I realized that these attitudes are pervasive, systemic and actually fostered by the LDS doctrine, I had to walk away.

  41. Bryan D. H. says:

    Yes, you are wrong. Homophobia is far and away the default impulse of the vast majority of the population. Homophobia, like racism, xenophobia, and other forms of out-group marginalization, is probably rooted in something innate, not some nebulous “systemic morality of the church.”
    Most likely the only reason you and I are not racist, for example, is because we’ve grown up in a society and had it drilled into us from a young age how wrong it is. You’re probably not homophobic because of your personal experience with gay friends and family members. Although I have no gay friends or family, I have come to feel the same way as you because of what I have learned from years of pondering, study, and discussion about it. Since most people haven’t done that it does not surprise me that they think differently, and it shouldn’t surprise you either. Of course this will change as our society moves forward but it will be slow and difficult, just like it has been in regards to race but right now we are in the same place as our brothers and sisters were in regards to race pre-1978. There are so many institutions, governments, universities, etc. that we support financially and otherwise that we also have major with disagreements on policy. If you applied the same standard to them as you have to the church there would be nothing left to belong to.

  42. mikerharris says:

    Rask: Well said.

    Sounds like a lot of anger and painting the Church with one awful, ugly brush stroke. The Church is no longer absolved because of it’s “virulent homophobia” and bigotry and “systemic moral failure all along”. Really?

  43. dlorenzen says:

    These are reasons enough – for the worth of a soul is great, etc. For me, I draw the line of non-collusion at refusing to serve at some arbitrary level of leadership position, if and when offered. As long as I can serve in the background somewhere, I’ll just try to do my best where I’m planted, for now.

  44. “NW Clerk”

    I know you and I know your history here at BCC, and as I said in my post, I am not that good at charity, so listen well, you nasty little oaf: S had a Mormon bishop at BYU because for a while he was investigating the church. You are right, of course, that I’ve got Lake Utah wrong. Hopefully readers will forgive a mistake from someone who has never lived there. I like the way you are suggesting I am making this up. Nice.

    jpv,

    You don’t know me and have no idea how hard and how long I tried. I actively participated in church for twenty-two years of my adult life, despite many of these concerns. Comments like yours and Clerk’s make me think I made the right decision. No doubt you are glad to be rid of me. Win-win.

  45. Gilgamesh says:

    Ronan, I have valued your posts for a long time and resonate with your experiences in the OP, though I have landed more in the vein that culture and age has been a large factor in the church’s stance. I am eager to see where we land in say, 50 years. I hope you will still dabble is some musing on Mormonism, if onky for my own selfish learning.

  46. Several thoughts in addition to my general agreement (way up).
    1. Ronan, I appreciate your writing and your passion. I’m glad you are not completely out of circuit.
    2. Apropos departure, I appreciate the subtlety of “not very often” and “fellowshipping with Mormons.” I moved far in that same direction in the last two decades, triggered by how gay members are treated, but taking me off in a more generalizable journey that has to do with the role of the institution in judging and line drawing. When the shock of November 2015 came (my wife’s words about me:
    “And my husband
    Curls and cries,
    Grief in his beard,
    With groans
    too deep for words.”)
    I found there was no further out to go, at least none that made sense for me.
    3. But speaking up is still important. And in an analytic sense, two things I like to emphasize:
    a. It is not necessary to find hate or homophobia in order to find fault. Some people do hate. Homophobia is all too common. But the moral failing of the institution is exclusion. Exclusion from the sacraments that the institution deems salvific. A century’s worth of “love the sinner” rhetoric cannot square that circle.
    b. Taking the moral failing to a personal level, I do fault the current leaders of the Mormon Church for failure to figure it out. Failure to move faster. I was there in the trenches (at a Ward and Stake level) asking and probing and pushing, over 20 years ago, I know that the problems were known. I know they knew that there was an exclusion issue already and growing in intensity (different than, but in a similar sociological position as “blacks and the priesthood” of the ’60s and ’70s), and instead of seeking the maximal possible inclusion–because what else could be the morally correct direction, when you think you hold the keys to necessary saving ordinances?–to all appearances fought a retreating action and were ultimately caught off guard and unprepared for the rapidity of legal marriage.

  47. Thanks, Ronan, despite my having spent most of yesterday in private mourning. (I mostly exhausted my rage on this subject in the ’70s trying to help gay friends at BYU, but I have not exhausted the pain.) Thanks, Christian, and some others. If I wait long enough to comment, someone else will say most of what I considered adding to the discussion. But here are a couple more analytical points: (a) it seems that the systemic moral failure is at least in part a function of a more fundamental systemic problem — the overconfidence of some Church leaders in the accuracy and scope of their understanding (pride) and the overconfidence of many Church members in their leaders (abdication of responsibility for thinking and moral choices); (b) I think there are many more than 15 opinions that matter, though most others matter on a local or individual level (maybe here I’m merely quibbling with a rhetorical statement). There is also no sufficient reason to think that the senior 15 have identical opinions on the 2015 policy of exclusion; there is some reason to think that they do not. BTW, I have had reports of some corners of the LDS Church where same-sex married partners are welcomed in the pews and active in their Church communities (with “assignments” instead of “callings”). There need to be many more such corners. Also, I know of some bishops who have declined to follow instructions from senior Church leaders on callings within their wards. Sometimes I wish there were more.

  48. Ronan, thank you for a beautiful and pointed post. I, too, hope that you will continue to stay engaged with us in some way.

    Melanie says, The Church can’t be responsible for the actions of all of the people, and I suppose that this is true at some level. But it’s an organization made up of people, and many times the actions those people take are taken in the name of and with the authority of the Church. The Church doesn’t exist without, or independent of, the people. We’re long past the point where we can deny the effect of the opinions of the people who lead the Church, and the policies those people put in place, on a large number of members. When enough people leading others, teaching others, and raising others in the Church treat our LGBT brothers and sisters as mistakes, as evil, as cursed, and as pariahs, it is the Church which acts and the Church which is responsible.

    And it is the Church which needs to change, and that will happen because other people with other viewpoints stay involved, not because a few talks are given at General Conference in which we’re reminded to be nice to everyone. You who are weary, and disgusted, and heartsick, we need you; all that you are able to give.

  49. It’s a tragedy for the church to lose good, faithful LBGT members, and to lose good, faithful members who feel like they cannot in good conscience remain b/c of sensitivity to the hurt we too often cause to LBGT members. And that’s true even if you believe that the church’s positions and current policies on gay marriage and related issues are 100% correct.

  50. Peace be with you, Ronan. <3

  51. I have had half a dozen experiences where my faith came up abruptly with the reality of LGBT Mormons. It seems the best the church has progressed to for them is to set up a group of heart-breaking choices and then shrug. I have been heartened by the fact that these young men I was friends with have found happiness in their own lives, in and out of the church. I stay because I know I can continue my father’s work of loving the one. But it is tiring.

  52. Jason K. says:

    I’ll keep fellowship with you, Ronan, come what may. Peace be with you!

  53. Heartbreaking. But these musings are important — I only wish those few people whose opinions matter could see this, could actually know Andrew Evans, or your brother-in-law, or your childhood friend who finally married. I have my own similar memories of experiences with Andrew at Oxford and with the people in the Oxford ward, including that bishop. I’ve read The Black Penguin and truly mourned that we cast him out instead of including him, learning from him, benefiting from his strong testimony and sincere beliefs. The excommunication was unconscionable, especially as honestly described in the book — so nakedly political in nature by a district president who happened to be a Bush II political appointee at the time.

    Ronan, I am grateful to retain your fellowship. We in the church have lost a lot by losing you and casting out Andrew and many like him. It’s a tragedy. I pray fervently that God will intervene and give some guidance — a revelation — to our leaders on this fraught issue.

  54. Glenn Thigpen says:

    So, what if the Church is true and the the age old ban on homosexual behavior is of God?
    Also there is a problem with people using the homophobic slur. Homophobia is a made up term, but a phobia is actually a fear of something, not a hatred of it.

  55. “So, what if the Church is true and the the age old ban on homosexual behavior is of God?”

    Then heaven is likely to be boring, poorly decorated, and have crap music.

    “Homophobia is a made up term…”

    Yes, as opposed to all the other terms that were found in the wild in their natural state.

  56. Michael H says:

    Great post. Among other things, in the end I simply felt that my staying active was legimizing the harmful teachings of some church leadership.

  57. On the Catholic baptism discussion (as one raised Catholic), a factor at work here is that Catholic theology prompts more urgency to baptize children because of what Catholics believe about Original Sin. And I don’t think they believe that unbaptized children are destined for hell, but it’s still driven by a sense of “We have to get this done!” At the same time, the comparison brings bad optics for the LDS Church, especially withholding what we teach are sacred, saving ordinances.

    I’ve enjoyed your posts as well, including and especially this one.

    Blessings to you, fellow Evertonian.

  58. All terms are made up terms. Also, hatred and fear are closely connected. At least, that is what many therapists have told me.

  59. Tiberius says:

    A quick pedantic note on terminology.

    A phobia is a clinical term; if somebody had a hard time going to sleep because they thought that gays were out to get them, then they might qualify as having “homophobia”; however, more often than not the term is used to simply pathologize people who have an ideological/political disagreement with the person using the term. “Not only do they disagree with me, but by definition if you disagree with me you have a mental disorder.” There’s a long, dark history of this pathologizing disagreement approach. The Associated Press has stopped using the term for these and other reasons.

    So no, try not to use it (there are other terms like “homonegativity” that are more precise) , and maybe you could even be charitable and use their own descriptors of their opinion, instead of assuming that President Monson really just thinks Gays are icky and dangerous.

  60. Tiberius: Pedantic back at you, the AP style book is controversial, probably wrong on this point, and not the source I would use except as a “some people think” example. It is true that “homophobia” is used in politically charged speech and therefore ought to be used thoughtfully. However, the so-called “clinical” definition refutation is also politically charged.
    A “phobia” is simply an irrational fear, and that’s a very good descriptor of the need to exclude in some people’s minds.

  61. John Mansfield says:

    “Homophobia” seems like a fine term for homophiles to use.

  62. Angela C says:

    I don’t see how anyone can reduce vilification of an entire group of people (homosexuals) as a political or ideological difference. I know that’s commonly done by those who defend differentiated treatment, but it’s not political or ideological to them. It’s personal.

    Then again, we seem extraordinarily comfortable with the discomfort of others.

  63. There is a good reason why the term “homophobia” continues to be used. It captures something about anti-gay prejudice that no other term expresses.

    The most visceral part of many people’s reaction to gays is disgust. We usually experience disgust as an involuntary thing, as when we retch at a horrendous odor. The brilliance of the term “homophobia” is that it connects disgust to fear, and in doing so it allows us to control our disgust. It rationalizes a thing that previously seemed irrational. Upon reflection, we realize that if the root of our reaction is in our learned fears, then we can overcome the disgust that we thought was uncontrollable.

    I agree with those who point out that the expression “phobia” lends a false veneer of medical authority to the term, and this is a problem. But I’m not persuaded that it is a good reason to stop using the word “homophobia,” which has had a wonderful effect, opening up the possibilities for discussion about homosexuality.

  64. What an insightful post. It’s so refreshing to see somebody consider other viewpoints alongside their’s; the majority of people are simply unable to do so.

  65. I teach public school in Utah. I recognized the angst and pain among many LGBT students, so back in the mid 1990’s, I agreed to sponsor a student tolerance club modeled on the gay-straight alliances. Given my background and social views I should be adamantly opposed to the church’s policy on gay marriage. I am not. Do I believe that the Church’s policy concerning gay marriage will ever change? I do not. I strongly believe that the church’s current policy is inspired. I questioned it at first, but my thoughtful prayers were answered.

  66. Thanks for this, Ronan.

    I was going to stay at make it work as a gay Mormon. I really was. And for a long time I was living in one of those pockets where it felt like there was room for me (the San Francisco Bay Area, in my case), and that helped.

    Unlike a lot of people I know, I didn’t leave over one particular thing. I made it through Prop 8 and the November Policy. What happened to me was that I unexpectedly fell in love with another tradition (Anglicanism ftw!) There are a lot of factors surrounding that, but the fact that the Episcopal church affirms same-sex couples is not irrelevant. The rector of my parish is in fact a man with a husband, and it does my heart good to see him leading the congregation and celebrating the sacraments.

    And yet I am not without sadness when I realize this might be it, that I might actually be leaving the LDS church. Because I love Mormonism, too, for all the ways in which it connected me to God and made me who I am. And I wanted to be someone who stayed and tried to make a difference, because so many people made that difference for me over the years. I have immense respect for those who are sticking it out, pushing back, fighting for room for their LGBTQ sisters and brothers. Like you, I still deeply value my fellowship with Mormons. But I’m slowly realizing that my path might be going in a different direction.

  67. My thoughtful prayers were answered too.

  68. Angela C says:

    As were mine.

  69. I don’t believe anybody can claim to know that church policies on a any topic will never change. I also think it’s dangerous to be too sure in such speculation and opinions b/c it can invite people to invent explanations for policies that later turn out to be false when policies change. I do think it’s a relatively safe bet that the church isn’t going to start sealing gay couples in the temple any time soon, and without a major revelation. But I would not be surprised in the least if the policy barring children of a parent in a gay marriage from baptism is changed within a few years. One thing is for sure, the church is in a state of flux on these issues, and where it goes from here, and where it ends up, I don’t think any of us can say.

  70. I’ve struggled with the very same issues growing up LDS. I thought it was always such an inclusive place, why can’t it truly include all people? As a result, I have also been going to church less and less.
    While many of the values I grew up with were positive, your post very eloquently explains some of the less-than-positive aspects to the church. Thank you for sharing (you are not the only one with this struggle).

  71. Michael H says:

    JKC: How do you interpret Russell Nelson’s “will of the Lord” explanation of the November 2015 policy?

  72. Jacob H. says:

    Michael H, you didn’t ask me, but in light of John Dehlin’s 13 April 2016 post (https://www.facebook.com/johndehlin/posts/948085483159), I would interpret President Nelson’s remarks with the same grain of salt I would interpret President Packer’s referring to the Proclamation on the Family as a revelation.

  73. Michael H says:

    Jacob, since I haven’t heard you explain your thoughts on the Packer matter before, that doesn’t feel like an explanation to me. Are you headed toward explaining that those two instances are examples of uninspired declarations?

  74. Wilhelm says:

    >folk

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  75. RJH, the color of the hair that you had in 2001 hardly seems the point. The fact that there was hair is what’s remarkable.

  76. Angela C says:

    Michael H: I would put both Nelson’s “will of the Lord” statement and Packer’s statement about the Proclamation being revelation in the optimistic (to them) hyperbole category. Unfortunately, that opens up all statements they make to increased skepticism for me.

  77. Russel M Nelson provided the definition of “the will of the Lord” in his Oct 20014 conference address.

    “The calling of 15 men to the holy apostleship provides great protection for us as members of the Church. Why? Because decisions of these leaders must be unanimous.13 Can you imagine how the Spirit needs to move upon 15 men to bring about unanimity? These 15 men have varied educational and professional backgrounds, with differing opinions about many things. Trust me! These 15 men—prophets, seers, and revelators—know what the will of the Lord is when unanimity is reached! They are committed to see that the Lord’s will truly will be done. The Lord’s Prayer provides the pattern for each of these 15 men when they pray: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

    If you define revelation from God as God actually speaking his own words and communicating them to man, then it is not the same as RMN’s definition because his definition completely eliminates the necessity of someone hearing and recording the voice of the Lord. It is a unanimous Q15 decision much like what happens in a board meeting of any corporation. As share-holders,we should feel good that it takes a unanimous vote of the 15 “diverse”board members to make a decision for the church. It is entirely possible for the Q15 to come to a unanimous decision yet not an inspired one. Therefore, they can label their unanimous decisions as revelations but that does not make them so.

  78. Michael H: It may be worth noting that Packer’s comment on the Proclamation being revelation was changed in print to its being “a guide that members of the Church would do well to read and to follow.” The change was attributed by Church spokesman to Packer himself. It remains to be seen whether Nelson’s revelation comment as to the 2015 Policy of Exclusion will ever be explicitly corrected by himself or another. It may also be worth noting that while Nelson attributed it to inspiration/revelation to each of the 12, not even one of the others has publicly backed him up on that. This is in great contrast to what happened with the 1978 black/priesthood change. Incidentally, the Proclamation’s comment on gender as eternal cannot be reconciled with the statements of Joseph Fielding Smith on the subject as compiled in “Doctrines of Salvation” (apparently the source of the infamous(?) TK Smoothie idea). Of course, some would prefer that book had been named “Speculations on Doctrines that May or May Not Have Anything to do with Salvation.” Even Deseret Book’s blurb on that book notes that you will find doctrines there that you will not find anywhere else! Could that really be what Deseret Book meant to say? I’m with Angela C on this one.

  79. Michael H says:

    Many here are speaking to my taste for coffee. I drink it convinced that the error of the Church leaders who banned it will one day be corrected!

  80. Jacob H. says:

    The supply list for the original trek to Utah did suggest that for every 5 persons, they should include 1 lb of tea and 5 lbs of coffee… so you are in good, if not exactly coeval, company! ^_^ (https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/mopi/hrsab.htm)

  81. It’s good to have people stay in the church to help their brothers and sisters act with charity. But you shouldn’t assume you’re right on the issue of God’s will on homosexuality and they’re wrong.

    In either case, having read many posts over the years, can’t say I’m surprised, but still saddened. If that’s harsh, well you did just tell me I’m part of a systematic morality failure. It’s been clear to many who you it others view as having failed morality where a certain line of thinking will eventually lead. We don’t point it out to win an argument but to hold up a warning sign to turn the car around before you go over the cliff. But of course, while you can’t restore the car the goes over the cliff, you can always come back while the Lord’s hands are outstretched.

    Truth is, the current societal views on homosexuality will have a generational impact we still can’t know how it will turn out. But the prophets on the watchtower see the calamity ahead (relating to morality, sexually, the family, society), even if they don’t pinpoint all the individual issues.

    Ultimately, it comes down to who you trust and if you’ve done those things necessary to gain a testimony for yourself. I think for many, the concept of testimony has been trivialized from Sunday statements to where it seems easy to dismiss.

    But I can tell you that it’s all true and more. God has revealed it to me and many others. I can speak for myself that the heavens were opened. And it was the culmination of looking to the prophets and apostles and keeping the commandments (more than just the simple seminary answers, but certainly including those too) and sincere prayer.

    So if it’s all true as they say, and I know for myself it is; then you’re sadly mistaken. People can make mistakes and we can still love them. It doesn’t make their mistake right. That’s true for the homosexuals, true for you, and true for those who stick with the church while also sticking their foots in their mouths from time to time.

    Don’t stay with the intent to subvert, object, or otherwise steady the ark. Stay to serve as his disciple, called to his priesthood, and come to know him and his will for you.

    The problem, sadly, is so many reject answers that we’re previously given and revealed and assume away the glory and majesty of God’s will for us. And then they dwindle in belief while assuming it’s the church that’s missing something.

    George Q Canon spoke on the issue of people rejecting revelation they haven’t had revealed to them:

    If you hear a doctrine that does not agree with your feelings or that you do not believe, take this course; do not reject nor endorse hastily without knowing or understanding. By taking this course you will develop the principle that God designs we should possess, and we will thus become a wise and understanding people, for we will be based on the rock of revelation.

    There’s sadly far too much assumption in these parts that the church needs to get with the times and that’s all based on people having it backwards and hastily rejecting revelation because they don’t understand it or haven’t personally received it. And they never will in this life if they don’t approach the issue from a different angle.

    It doesn’t mean no questioning. But it does mean that the answer will never come to a question if you’ve departed from prophetic teaching and made up your mind what the answer should be or what the answer is certainly not to be already before asking.

  82. Hman, Thanks for your advice. However, you seem to have assumed hastiness and lack of personal revelation on the part of those who disagree with you. From at least some of their reports it would appear that both assumptions are in error. As to “prophetic teaching” George Q. Cannon also advised, “Do not, brethren, put your trust in man though he be a Bishop, an apostle or a president; if you do, they will fail you at some time or place; they will do wrong or seem to, and your support will be gone; but if we lean on God, He will never fail us. When men and women depend upon God alone and trust in him alone, their faith will not be shaken if the highest in the Church should step aside.” It would seem unwise to assume that all who report both (a) keeping the commandments (as explained by current apostles) and (b) answers to prayers contrary to yours had made up their minds what the answer should be or is certain not to be before asking. Perhaps each ought to act on the light the Lord has revealed to them and not on the contrary “light” someone else reports having received.

  83. ĢQC also spoke on the issue of monogamy being the cause of prostitution and polygamy being the cure.

    Give me that old time religion! (The kind that doesn’t agree with my feelings and that I don’t believe)

  84. Hman,

    I’ve also pondered and done as you have over the years. Prayer, fasting, attending the temple, scripture study, magnifying callings, steady and compassionate community service, missionary work, family history service, attending general conference whenever possible, — all these have been faithfully and earnestly done throughout my life with heartfelt devotion. Yet I believe the spirit has opened my eyes to the pain and suffering of the gay community. They have been despised, rejected, bullied, persecuted, and demeaned throughout the history of the world–being shown everything but love and kindness. I believe Heavenly Father grieves at such cruelty. Bigotry. Exclusion. Meanness. Fear. Through the spirit of revelation I have felt and seen the possibilities of love and inclusion that are possible if we open our spiritual eyes and hearts to these brothers and sisters. They can have marvelous marriages to rival any heterosexual marriages–devoted and spiritually rich marriages of love and goodness. They can have wonderful, healthy families to rival the best of families everywhere. They can teach us much if we are willing to learn. But we believe we already know more about homosexuality than those who actually are! I’ve come to deeply believe there can be no complete Zion without these wonderful children of our Heavenly Parents. How grateful I am for these experiences that have brought me closer to the Savior and his remarkable capacity for Love. I am a bit more like Him because of it. And I could never express in words my immeasurable gratitude for these precious spiritual experiences. God bless us all to continue to ask, seek, and find so that He may open our eyes to all His ways and will…..

  85. Through my struggles with this issue my dad reminded me to do what I thought was right and to remember I could be wrong. From the sincere expressions written here it seems to me we are all trying to follow Christ even when we reach different conclusions. For my part I want to err on the side of compassion and inclusivity, remembering that Christ more than once taught that compassion should come before strict observance of the law.

  86. Gglenn, heavenly father doesn’t condone bigotry and exclusion. He invites so to come to Him through his Son. That was why he would stand by as his son suffered so terribly. Sin is real and when we commit it or justify it, it’s we who are excluding ourselves from God.

    For those that have a revelation that appears to contradict the church teachings, I can only say that it’s possible your revelation may be true. I’m the spirit of kindness, I’m even fine saying you have received revelation, but have taken the wrong conclusion from it.

    It’s no doubt true we should love others, help them, encourage others to be kind to each other. God will most certainly reveal to you how much he loves his children and in particular an outcast sinner. Those who have these revelations are privileged.

    But one you take that revelation on the road and say something outside the bounds of what his authorized servants are teaching you are at best going beyond the bounds of what your revelation was meant for. And if you’ve misinterpreted that so dramatically, then clearly your judgement about matters of faith shouldn’t be readily accepted from a faithful perspective.

    A similar but different case can be made from a talk given by President Eyring. Please listen to it. He speaks of wanting to render harsh judgement against a sinner and being shown how the Lord views this one who is suffering from their own sin. The key in his revelation is to not pile on someone already suffering. But to help them. But you’ll notice he didn’t then use his vision of God’s love for this person to argue the church should revise it’s understanding of keeping certain commandments retaining to the word of wisdom.

    Please study his words and emulate his faith on your path to emulating the Savior who called him as his representative.

  87. Talon,
    Your mockery demonstrates you are no better than those you presume to mock. When the shoe is on the other foot, society will quickly see those who preach tolerance and mock sanctimony, once in power will lead society to terribly self-righteous sanctimonious tragedy.

  88. I’d like to make one more comment on the well thought statement in this thread, given in the spirit of generosity:

    “From outside the Mormon bubble, the dilemma Mormons suffer over homosexuality is so much clearer, and is absolutely tragic. It’s so useless, this suffering. There’s no reason consistent with love and hope to believe God is banning homosexuality.”

    Consider a different issue. Consider someone teaching that God is a spirit without body parts or passions and he is not the literal father of our spirits but just a far removed “other” who loves us deeply. Shouldn’t we love them still? Yes. Why should we be so hateful to exclude someone who believes that when they might be the worlds kindest servant?

    It has certainly been the case that someone is doing better at being Christlike who doesn’t line up with latter-day doctrine than someone who sits in the chapel every Sunday and “knows” the right stuff.

    And yet, it’s not useless to be opposed to drastic errors creeping into our understanding of the plan of salvation, such as is the case with the call to accepting homosexuality or the hypothetical call to admit a typical trinitarian into church membership.

    It’s clear many haven’t received revelation about our eternal destiny. I have. So have others who recognize we need to follow the prophets on this. That doesn’t make your pleas for love wrong. But it does mean you lack the added perspective to the ultimate purpose of that love.

    Match your love for your fellow man with a sincere belief that his servants are teaching and have taught the word and will of God, not looking for errors as there may be, but seeking to know God more fully though his servants; and I can promise with patience and prayer you’ll have the heavens opened to you.

  89. Hman, It seems your last paragraph, including beginning with a “sincere belief that his servants are teaching and have taught the word and will of God” [without any human error?] amounts to assuming you know the answer before you pray about the subject. Isn’t that the very problem you have ascribed to others? Incidentally, a promise you have no power to fulfill rings rather hollow. Perhaps your last paragraph should be taken merely as a testimony of your experience and not direction and promise to others.

  90. Steve Smith says:

    I’m pleased to read this post. Evidence that more apologists (and I know many of you BCC bloggers don’t consider yourselves to be apologists, but you all sort of are) are on their ways out of the LDS church. I’m also pleased to hear the voices of sympathy for RJH. Evidence that the readers of this blog are probably on their ways out of the LDS church as well.

    I too used to be a believer who sympathized with the departers. Eventually I departed myself. Many of you sympathizers will probably leave at least mentally, if not physically, over the next few years. To that I say, “welcome.” To RJH, I say, “welcome.” Why should any of us have any business with homophobic churches who breed cultures of homophobia among their members, which cultures manifest themselves in the cutting of the mic of a 12-year-old girl coming out as a lesbian to her beloved congregation. May we all be out in due time.

  91. Single Sister says:

    I have absolutely no doubt that the church is true. Joseph did see Heavenly Father and Jesus. The Book of Mormon is true. I am a child of God with eternal potential. But I’m struggling. As an older single, never married, sister I am on the outside. I feel it like I feel the wind in my hair. And yet my pain at being “other” cannot – is not – as much as being gay must be. A beloved nephew recently came out. For a while he attended Scouts at my ward meetinghouse and – of any of my family – he would have joined the church. I wonder what would have happened if he had joined and then realized he was gay. What kind of pain would he be feeling now? It breaks my heart just to think about it.

    I know the church is true. For me, for you, for the world. And yet I pause. And yet I wonder.

  92. Michael H, others have addressed it, but since you asked me, I’ll give you my answer: I don’t think there’s much about the statement that needs to be interpreted: President Nelson believes that the policy was the will of the Lord b/c the brethren agreed to make the policy change. That seems pretty straightforward.

    If you’re asking how I react or if I think that conflicts with my statement that the church is in flux on this issue, here’s my answer, in two parts:

    (1) While I think we should always remember that church leaders are no more inerrant than the scriptures are, I do try to give them the benefit of the doubt, but I also give statements by the brethren more or less weight according to a number of factors such as how many of the brethren say it, and how unified they are, how close it is to the heart of the gospel (the atonement and the commandment to repent), and whether it is in the scriptures. In this case, only President Nelson has made that claim. Nobody else has done so. (It is also true that nobody else has corrected him either.) It’s on a matter of policy, and it is at least in tension with some scriptural teachings. There is arguably precedent, with the polygamist policy, but that policy is also arguably in tension with certain scriptures. So where does that leave me? I accept the possibility that President Nelson is right and the possibility that he is wrong, and I wait for further light and knowledge.

    (2) Setting aside whether President Nelson is right that the policy is the will of the Lord, the will of the Lord at any given time does not have to be permanent. It could be very short term.

  93. Your mockery demonstrates you are no better than those you presume to mock.

    If you are saying I am no better than you, you are correct. And neither of us is any better than our LGBTQXYZ brothers and sisters, which I think is the point of this post.

  94. Hman wrote “made up your mind what the answer should be or what the answer is certainly not to be already before asking” — do you think it likely that this is the attitude many or most current Church leaders have had as they’ve gone about “asking” God about homosexuality and the place of gays in the Church and gay marriage in an intentionally pluralistic, secular public sphere?

  95. Interesting discussion. Immensely difficult topic, to be sure. Steve Smith’s comment gives me chills and persuades me to stay.

  96. Steve Smith’s comment makes me want to go to church on Sunday.

  97. Too bad I shall be engaging in debauchery instead. Oh well.

  98. Competing “answers to thoughtful prayers,” and the use of those answers as cards to trump the other, give me severe pause. I do believe God speaks to man. To each of us individually. And I do believe He loves us. And that we must love each other. Regardless of what God speaks to me. Or you. His ways are not our ways. And our primary obligation is to love. In an effort to be like Jesus. I understand how all of that can seem at odds with prophetic, or other, declaratives. And all of that probably is, at times, quite at odds with prophetic, or other, declaratives. Despite that, I do see efforts by leaders of the church to publish peace and good tidings of good. So we love. We follow that first commandment. And pray for good eternal outcomes. It is from that love that I can draw hope. I hope, upon scrutiny, and despite the many experiences to the contrary, that our co-religionists acquit themselves okay on this topic. I don’t know. But I hope.

  99. I hope and pray all of us in the church can continue to strive to seek the Lord on this difficult topic. I hope we can stop judging others from an I-know-and-you-err point of view. My earlier comment was to testify of my own experiences only, and I cannot deny them. Nor can anyone else here determine I misunderstood or misinterpreted them. We cannot make such claims on things we didn’t experience. I did not claim Hman’s prayers and spiritual experiences were misunderstood by him, nor that they were in any way wrong. I do not claim our leaders are wrong. I just wanted him and others here to know that I, too, have studied, pondered, prayed, fasted, and mightily labored over many decades on this subject and have received choice spiritual experiences for me only that show a different message than he has received. I think the Lord knows Hman is a faithful servant and gives him answers he can go forward with, abiding in faith. I also think he gives mothers’ hearts more compassionate answers sometimes that thereby two view points can learn to work together for the blessing of those whom we pray about. I know this has happened many times in my marriage as we’ve prayed for our children. My husband usually had more answers toward justice and mine toward mercy. Sometimes it was the other way around. As we consulted in love we came to solutions far better than we could have ever come up with on our own. I hope everyone will stay active in a spirit of hope for improvement in areas where we miss the mark, and especially open our hearts to our gay brothers and sisters in sincere love and fellowship.

  100. Seriously, few things are more effective at keeping me active than the Steve Smiths of the world.

  101. When someone is outside the church, we tell them that they need to pray and ask God if its teachings are true. But once they’re inside the church, we expect them to stop being an earnest seeker of truth. To stop getting answers to prayers, especially the sort of iconoclastic answers that might lead someone to leave everything they know behind and join (or found) the church in the first place.

    When we’re raising our kids, we tell them that staying strong in the church isn’t just an arbitrary commandment. It’s a way of life, and it’s part of God’s plan of happiness. “It brings us peace in this life, and joy eternal too.” We teach them that families can be together forever, that love can make a heaven on earth. And when they grow up a little we start telling them that when they marry, they can find fulfillment for their adolescent sexual feelings that are crying out for release. But when our children find out that they’re gay or transgender, we expect them to forget everything that we taught them about sex, and relationships, and to give up their dreams of love and marriage for a lifelong lifestyle of quiet longing.

    When our grown-up children call us bigoted homophobes, we take stern offence. We tell them that unlike societies in the Middle East, we do not in any way condone hatred. We tell them to be grateful for that, and to remember their place … as children, single adults, and less than full members of Mormon society. But when someone obtains a court order to get us to bake a cake for their wedding, we don’t bow our heads and meekly accept our society’s customs. Or remind ourselves that it’s better than being shot, in some parts of the Middle East, for being Christian. Instead, we rend our clothes and gnash our teeth, and lament how unfair it is that we cannot force others to practice our religion.

    The watchmen up on our towers are looking into our camps, and telling us flattering words about how good we are, and how foolish the outside world is. Meanwhile, women and marginalized people construct their own towers, and warn us of escalating danger; of camps full of homeless LGBT+ teens here in Zion, and of how suicide is now the leading cause of death for Utah children age 11-17.

    But we close our eyes, and cover our ears, and harden our hearts, saying only that all is well for us. For all of the people that matter.

    May God sweep Mormon society off of the face of the Earth, like the worthless chaff that it is. May he save our children, and innocent victims. And may he have mercy on all of our souls.

  102. Angela C says:

    Nice try, Steve Smith.

    “You’re basically admitting that your motive behind going to church is image and reputation more than, if not instead of, actual belief that the LDS church’s teachings are true.” Not at all. It’s wanting to participate knowing full well that we will never have any standing in the church, forever ostracized by people like you. He’s motivated not to leave his beloved church to those who want to corrupt it with their closed-mindedness, to those who willfully misunderstand the gospel by conflating it with their conservative politics.

    “Sounds like there is not much depth in your commitment to the church.” It requires more depth of commitment to participate when your views are in the minority.

  103. Loursat says:

    Can I just say to Steve Smith: LOL

    Tonight I’m grateful that I can still genuinely laugh at this kind of stuff, whether it comes from scolds inside the church or outside of it. Laughter really is often the best medicine.

  104. Leonard R says:

    I’ve struggled with this same disconnect for 15 years now, so I’m sure another 10 years will still see me in the pews and serving faithfully. I will stay Mormon because I am deeply inspired by and believe in Mormonism.

    But this issue continues to pain me, and appreciate Ronan’s summary of why.

  105. Jacob H. says:

    The ‘nacle would be a much duller place without its Steves. As an ENTP, I have a pretty strong anarchist bent which makes the idea of leaving a beloved institution quite palatable. Fellow “rational” types get it, I think. But I’m married to an ISFJ who naturally has a very strong preservationist bent. It’s much easier for her to find value in and work for the institution, in spite of any flaws. She’s certainly helped me see the value of her position and choices. If we think in terms of Keirsey temperaments, I imagine it’s the “idealist” that suffers the long, dark night of the soul the most frequently with respect to tough issues like this. Or am I crazy to imagine that the divisive responses to institutional problems we see have more to do with personality temperaments than personal experiences and beliefs?

  106. Isn’t our personality temperament informed by our personal experiences and beliefs? You don’t actually have to answer that. As a SSSIMG I have no interest in a debate about Keirsey/Myers/Briggs temperaments.

    (Somewhat Stupid Socially Inept Mormon Guy)

  107. By the way, RJH: excellent post. Thank you very much.

  108. Loursat, In the time honored tradition of ripping scriptures out of context, “… cease from … all laughter…” D&C 88:121 BTW, I have no intention of doing so; sometimes laughter is truly the best medicine, at least for SSSIMGs like me. (thanks, sch for that acronym, I may continue to use it).

  109. Emily U says:

    RJH, your worship with Anglicans, practice of Zen, and fellowship with Mormons is the kind of thing I wish for myself and my kids if Mormonism becomes completely untenable for us. I admire your vibrant faith, whatever expression it takes.

    I’m pained each time the Church fails to keep a truth-seeking soul. And it’s clear they’ll lose many, many more over their unwillingness to grow and change in the context of modern understandings of sexuality and gender. It’s so very sad.

  110. Since the Church has completely reversed itself on major doctrines at least twice (polygamy, black priesthood), you’d think that people would be more careful in declaring eternal truths.

    But a leadership made up entirely of old men isn’t likely to change course without overwhelming pressure. Brigham Young was in his forties when he became prophet, and Joseph Smith was in his twenties (!) when he founded the Church itself. I’m not advocating ageism–I know I’m a lot wiser than I was twenty years ago–but adding a few younger members to the leadership would, I think, add a fresh perspective that the Church currently lacks.

  111. RockiesGma says:

    In all sincerity, adding the inspiration women are blessed with would help too Nepos.

  112. John f,
    “do you think it likely that this is the attitude many or most current Church leaders have had as they’ve gone about “asking” God about homosexuality and the place of gays in the Church and gay marriage in an intentionally pluralistic, secular public sphere?”

    No for the apostles and I assume many other general and auxillary authorities. They have had the heavens opened to them and understand the plan of salvation. I can know this because I’ve had the same experience which was very real, and the result of years of acting in faith and trusting that they were what they said they were — while making personal sacrifices for others that try to live up to Christlike discipleship.

    But never did I seriously engage in the “church leaders are just as biased” wherever I’d come across areas that I disagree strongly with. And I wasn’t perfect. Made years of dumb choices beneath the surface while being and active Mormon. But I carried on, didn’t construct elaborate arguments to convince myself and others where I was right and they were wrong.

    And when my personal revelation came, it was a direct result of loving Gods apostles, searching their words for enlightenment about coming to know God and like I said really trying to follow the Savior in word and deed. My experience would not have been possible if I was cutting off the Lords servants in areas where the pavement runs out and the dirt road continues so to speak.

    I can make that promise about answer to prayer because God has made it to me and I didn’t get it in on my own, but by from his servants who he authorized to make it.

    Anyone who says they’ve made that prayer and done that work.. the answer is always patience and carry on (but don’t sever the revelation before you get it by deciding they are wrong and you and others in society are right). It will come. Like Joseph, I probably wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t have the experience. But I did. God knows I did and it’s true. I can’t refuse to say what I know when others are saying it’s not possible or the Lord’s servants are doing it wrong when God has shown me the exact opposite.

    And the most important point is you don’t have to trust an anonymous commenter. But you have to look to God and his authorized servants and go from there.

    The church is truly what it says it is.

    My personal opinion that is leaving might make you get along better with the morals of contemporary society. You can still serve your fellow man and be blessed from God as you strive to love like his Son. I’m glad of that. But your efforts at adhering to contemporary social morality will not bear fruit through the generations. It will only become amalgamated into something else progressively more confused and disconnected from God over the generations of time. Eventually, the love of God and man will wax cold and I think over the generations this is how we get there… The micro-examples are right here. And on a personal level you’ll lose a lot of potential for growth in yourself and others you’d serve.

    Look to God though his prophets and live. To the author, please don’t worry about winning a debate (you can probably run circles around most people you meet including me). But just come back to church and pattern you’re discipleship after God’s servants in principle.

  113. My trouble with the Policy of Exclusion has nothing to do with the morals of contemporary society, as you put it. My trouble is that it goes against what I was taught in Primary and by my faithful LDS parents. This insinuation — and I hear it all the time — is utterly false.

  114. RockiesGma–of course! The more perspectives available to leadership, the better.

    Hman–serious question, what about people who had solid testimonies of polygamy or the priesthood ban? Either the prophets were wrong, or God changed the policy, but either way, what was doctrine suddenly became not-doctrine (in a single day, in the case of the priesthood ban). What makes you certain that He will not do the same with the ban on homosexuality?

  115. RockiesGma says:

    What “works over generations in bearing fruit” is a good point to consider, as Hman suggests. We have several millennia to see the bearing of truly rotten and horrible fruit by all societies in their treatment of gay people. Everything from ignoring to rejection to assault to suicide to murder. Society has never learned to know and understand and to love these neighbors as ourselves. Promiscuous behavior by anyone brings woe. But does marrying and raising a family in righteousness according to gospel teachings bring woe? Can a gay-parented family not live the gospel too? Can the gospel not give them stable homes of refuge? Would this not bring all of us closer to God in feeling, word, and deed? Is not this the whole plan?

    It seems to me that a few generations of trying to love and nurture ALL who come unto Christ could bring nothing but good fruit. Glory that….

  116. Rjh,
    That’s good to hear. “My trouble is that it goes against what I was taught in Primary and by my faithful LDS parents. ”
    If the insinuation as you call it is false, there’s no offense intended.

    Did you ever learn a principle in math or science in primary school that was incorrect from a more advanced perspective?

    I’m not even saying that primary gospel teaching is incorrect, but if that’s your objection then I’m hopeful you can rectify it with talking to your stake president.

    My best personal thought is that we have to trust the prophets for how the policy of baptism is assigned. Smokers can’t get baptized. Sometimes, I’m sure they have. There are all kinds of policy decisions surrounding baptism. The Lord himself excluded some from baptism. Even now, there are many excluded not of their own fault but of their neighbors or governments.

    Sadly, for whatever reason a restriction had to come closer to home for many of us. Would that it weren’t necessary, but apparently it’s for a reason — and there’s no way whatever it’s because the apostles find gay people icky.

    If you believe the church is true and you believe in the importance of baptism as you commendably do, then you can both be saddened by the loss of mortal experience though no fault of their own, but equally hopeful that no undeserving loss experienced in this life will go without a corresponding offset in the next.

    Consider the apostasy. At some point, deserving people weren’t able to continue to be baptized with authority on account of others. The Lord himself rescinded further ordination through the death of his apostles and apparently staying his hand from ordaining more. Consider all those who were still believing and willing to give all for their faith, but for whatever reason, weren’t given those blessings in their lives.

    To be a latter-day saint in primary, necessitated being taught and believing in the apostasy, which means a mass baptismal policy restriction. Is it exactly the same thing as this? No, but I like to think when the Lord made the apple, he didn’t stop and say I already have a perfectly good fruit in this orange. Are they the same? Clearly not, but both are fruits and both exist. Likewise the policy currently you’re anguished over has some similarities and some differences. Still doesn’t mean it can’t be a fruit though.

    I think I’ve demonstrated that there are a variety of cases for policy restrictions, and also that the Lord won’t hold it against the faithful for their “loss”. It’s better to study the words of the apostles and talk too your stake president. I’d plead with you to do so (only reason why I’m posting because I sincerely don’t want people to depart).

  117. “what about people who had solid testimonies of polygamy or the priesthood ban? Either the prophets were wrong, or God changed the policy, but either way, what was doctrine suddenly became not-doctrine (in a single day, in the case of the priesthood ban). What makes you certain that He will not do the same with the ban on homosexuality?”

    Perfectly answerable, but truly I think you’d get better purchase in obtaining those answers from the source yourself. I’d just add that it would be a more fruitful answer if you approached the question pondering with at least an equal likelihood that the apostles screwed up for generations is the wrong model.

    It’s also theoretically possible that God will be revealed to be a spirit all along. At least you could point to various teaching to support that. But I don’t object to teachings of an embodied God on account of what might chance in further generations.

    Incidentally, I’m happy to square the circle by saying of course God is a spirit, when you narrow in the focus on the part of the godhead in question. But our Eternal Father is embodied, and I can testify of that quite certainly.

    As to my certainly about homosexuality… I’m not saying policy can never change with how the church navigates a society with evolving morality with regard to homosexuality. But that doesn’t mean I’m not certain* what God wants for us and how he hopes to exalt us, and what that entails for our Eternal destiny. *Word chosen carefully.

    Can gay couples who are good people have a part in that? Sure. There is a place for them in heaven, but not as exalted couples which is one of the primary purposes in the function of the church.

  118. Gma,
    “It seems to me that a few generations of trying to love and nurture ALL who come unto Christ could bring nothing but good fruit. ”

    Your comment had a half dozen questions which were mostly rhetorical, but I assume you’re also open to an answer.

    I had Elder Christofferson’s talk on the current bush immediately come to mind as I read over your post and read it again to understand your point of view better. I know it seems presumptuous to be sitting her assigning reading or something, but I really think it’s helpful to study that talk charitably for your own answers.

  119. Calling gst…

  120. Ok, now I’m convinced this commenter is parody. If not parody, à magical combination of self-righteousness and callousness. Just listen to yourself talk about gay people, about black people. I call BS.

  121. We’re done here. Thanks everybody.