The Vitality of the Latter-day Saints

This guest post comes from Calvin Burke, a student at BYU.

On the heels of the development of a new committee addressing issues of systemic racism within the campus community, Brigham Young University’s Religious Studies Center published
a book this year by an Egyptologist detailing the “viable hypothesis” that childhood sexual trauma is a component of LGBTQ+ identity. The book further described victims of sexual violence as “more likely to become sexual abusers of children.” [1]


It would be easy to conclude the prejudice evident in the publication of such work is representative of all members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, BYU’s sponsoring institution—but an expert rebuttal to that work authored by another BYU professor [2] led the BYU Religious Studies Center to pull the offending text from shelves; and earlier this year, hundreds of BYU students protested the treatment of the LGBTQ+ community by the Church Educational System. Dismissing this incident as the product of inherent Latter-day Saint bigotry is to miss critical aspects of the Latter-day Saint religion which explain its place at unique crossroads in modernity, and which also demonstrate its continued vitality.

From its very inception, Mormonism has enshrined “continuing revelation.” Founder Joseph Smith declared the idea that God, mindful of all His children, still speaks to humankind, a fundamental article of the faith.[3] Latter-day Saint scripture further defines continuing revelation’s necessary conditions as a combination of both intellectual and spiritual effort, proceeding “by study and also by faith.”[4] The entire history of the Latter-day Saints showcases this fundamentally expansive revelatory undergirding.

In 1925, citing the Book of Mormon’s declaration that “all are alike unto God,” Brigham Young University President Franklin Harris gave a speech in Denver denouncing all racism in religion[5] and then went to work turning BYU into a world-class university. The religion’s imperative to build a better world compelled many early LDS leaders to finance adherents’ study at many American universities in the early 20th century. Their professors were moved by the sincerity of their commitment to a socially and economically just world, and the authenticity of their LDS students brokered a “theological disarmament” that created ground for mutual dialogue and genuine respect. [6]

This intellectual-theological disarmament was not one-sided; Latter-day Saints accepted progressive principles in higher education they found consistent with LDS teachings, and this led to the dawn of the modern Church. The Welfare Program and the Church Educational System formed in this era, outgrowths of an eager Latter-day Saint commitment to scientific progress and the application of their religious beliefs within daily life. In 1921, the LDS Church’s First Presidency formally endorsed higher biblical criticism [7] and Prophet Heber J. Grant led multiple non-LDS scholars to address the faith’s General Conference in 1921 and 1922.[8] Scholars from the University of Chicago’s Divinity School taught summer-length seminars to the entire Church seminary and institute faculty, and the Church Educational System encouraged its teachers to hold “a reverence for whatever is held sacred” balanced with “a liberality that welcomes all newness of truth.”[9]

Harvard Professor of Religion Amy Hollywood has argued that the healthiest and most “alive” religions are those which venerate their past while also embracing the future.[10] Latter-day Saints’ continuing critical engagement with both study and faith, their doctrine and contemporary society, is evidence of Mormonism’s “liveness” at perhaps every point in their history. Mormonism’s paradoxical theological veneration of both study and faith has also been the engine producing all revelation responsible for the modern church. LDS apostle and political scientist Neal A. Maxwell described this revelatory process, noting it called for the “institutional anchor [to be] played against the doctrinal sail,” [11] in the course of the production of progress.

The Latter-day Saints have not always responded to the tug of the wind in its sails, however. At times, they have dropped anchor, digging in. Perhaps the most heart-wrenching turmoil within the faith has been caused by prejudice and inequality; the faith’s refusal to examine its own racial prejudice has caused enormous pain for Black church members and other adherents of color. Uproar following prejudicial treatment at BYU earlier this year provoked the assembly of the BYU Committee on Race, Equity and Belonging shortly before the events which sparked protests on and off campus in support of LGBTQ+ BYU students.

The crowds of students protesting in support of their LGBTQ+ siblings, with children’s hymns and prayers on their lips, as well as those marching for racial equality, signs emblazoned with Book of Mormon scriptures—these are the billowed sail of the Latter-day Saint faith, born up by love for their LGBTQ+ & BIPOC siblings and the very breath of God. They are inspiring their faith to live up to its own ideals, and perhaps even change the world.

Church leadership has demonstrated their own humble confidence in the dialectical nature of the revelatory process. In September of 2019, current prophet Russell M. Nelson described how he had been “grieved” upon hearing the pain of LGBTQ+ adherents. “Whenever the sons and daughters of God weep,” Nelson said, “we weep.”[12] In General Conference earlier this month, Nelson denounced racism and all prejudice, and called upon church adherents
everywhere to “lead out” in dismantling it. “I plead with you,” he implored Latter-day Saints, “to promote respect for all of God’s children.”[13]

This revelatory dialectic—a conversation between leadership and adherents, faith and studied experience—is not indicative of weakness within the Latter-day Saint faith. It is indicative of strength. It demonstrates the faith is alive, an aliveness maintained by its
paradoxical and expansive undergirding.

History demonstrates Latter-day Saints are at their best when they are also fearless. If any religion aspires to change the entire world, it must be committed to dismantling prejudice. The revelatory process within the Church is not finished; the process of eradicating prejudice has only just begun. Yet the Latter-day Saints are no longer at anchor: as we’ve seen this past year, they have hoisted high their sails.

—————

1 John Gee, Saving Faith. (Provo: Brigham Young University Religious Studies Center, 2020), 195.
2 Kevin Shafer, “On Saving Faith and Expertise,” By Common Consent (blog), August 23rd 2020, https://bycommonconsent.com/2020/08/23/saving-faith-and-expertise/
3 Articles of Faith 1:11
4 Doctrine and Covenants 88:118
5 Franklin S. Harris, “A Sane Approach to an Understanding of Racial and Religious Prejudices,” Proceedings of the 52nd Annual National Conference of Social Work, (Salt Lake City: Eugene England Papers Collection 160-4, University of Utah Marriott Library Special Collections), June 10-17th 1925.
6 Thomas Simpson, American Universities and the Birth of Modern Mormonism, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016), 101
7 Gary Bergara and Richard Priddis, Brigham Young University: A House of Faith, (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 49.
8 Bergara and Priddis, Brigham Young University, 50
9 Kenneth G. Bell, “Adam Samuel Bennion, Superintendent of LDS Education – 1919-1928” (Provo: Brigham Young University Scholars Archive, 1969), 73. https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/etd/4517/
10 Amy Hollywood, “On the True, the Real, and Critique; By Way of an Introduction” in Acute Melancholia and Other Essays: Mysticism, History and the Study of Religion, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016), 15.
11 Neal A. Maxwell, All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1980), Chapter 7.
12 Russell M. Nelson, “The Love and Laws of God,” BYU Devotional, BYU Speeches, September 17th 2019. https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/russell-m-nelson/love-laws-god/
13 Russell M. Nelson, “Let God Prevail,” General Conference address, October 4th 2020. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2020/10/46nelson?lang=eng

Comments

  1. Laurel Lee's Blog says:

    This is one of the most enlightening articles I have ever read concerning continuing revelation in the Lord’s church. As a recipient of two degrees at BYU, I am grateful for being able to connect to resources regularly that both build my testimony anchor and stretch my intellectual sails. Thank you!

  2. the Latter-day Saints are no longer at anchor: as we’ve seen this past year, they have hoisted high their sails.

    Thank you, Calvin, for this inspiring take on recent events. As they say in German, have a safe journey, and may there always be a hand’s breadth of water under the keel [of the Old Ship Zion]!

  3. Meg “big sister” Conley says:

    Cal, I’m going to buy you dinner someday.

  4. This is so hopeful. Thank you.

  5. I am glad that the process of eliminating prejudice is underway. I do wish though that it was well underway instead of just beginning.
    Thanks for the good read.

  6. Shane Swindle says:

    This is very well done. Thank you. I have 35+ years on you, and I’ve never been more hopeful about the future of the church. From my experience with your generation, I think you may be the first generation ready to encourage and embrace positive progressive change. And I believe and hope revelation will come when the membership is ready to accept it. Again, thank you, and keep up the good work.

  7. Thank you! I love this OP, I echo those who have felt the hope in this. I assume I am older than the author, but I guess that 54 year-old BYU students do exist, but I think it fair to say I am not in the rising generation, and perhaps am included by some measures in receding generations. As the rising generation changes the culture and the tolerance in the church, there may be space for inclusionary revelations to occur someday. I only wish that it could happen through leadership from the receding generation that holds the reins to put forth changes that are truly substantive and loving for people like me (Excommunicated transgender lesbian here) who seem essentially blocked out. In the meantime we are left with revelations about two hour church and changing the name of excommunication to “withdrawal of membership.” Also in the meantime, I will continue to try to do my best within the bounds that are set upon me, I do not wish to dissapear from this church that I love and believe in. Also in the meantime, I personally continue to feel more grace and peace in my life right now than I have ever felt by denying myself (for decades) from living according to the profoundly central parts of my personhood that are the trans-lesbian parts of me (and no, these are not the only centrally intrinsic parts of my personhood- I get that). And also in the meantime, I would like to get back into membership and covenant in the church, but both myself and my Stake President are literally befuddled on how to make that happen in the curent policy milieu without endangering my well being. What’s a girl to do? I guess just trust in the Savior and rejoice over hopeful noises I hear from time to time, like this OP. I would like to write more on this soon. Thanks again Calvin Burke!

  8. This is hopefull, and optimistic. Will wait and see how realistic?

  9. Calvin, while I love your optimism, sadly I must confess that your whole essay seems colored by the naive narcissism that I find characteristic of BYU students who have seen little of the real world outside of the Mormon bubble or have not become aware of BYU’s consistent history of anti-intellectualism and anti-egalitarianism. For instance, I think you would be hard-pressed to find someone who is not LDS who considers BYU a world-class university or who thinks the LDS church has had a place at unique crossroads of modernity. Although we fancy ourselves as changing the world, since we believe we are the only true and living church and that God is using us to send a message to the world, I think over time you may find we seem more like a small parochial religion that simply harbors aspirations of being a world religion. The world is changing for the better in many ways all around us, but I don’t share your apparent belief that we are contributing to that change in a meaningful way. That a small fraction of BYU students and faculty see progressive possibilities in Mormon theology is not new, but they have never been a significant portion of BYU’s student body or faculty or the LDS church, and I see little evidence that has changed. My own personal experience suggests that in 30-40 years, many of those bright young progressive BYU students will no longer be associated with the church, despite having served in many local leadership roles and having given thousands of hours of service, simply because the cognitive dissonance just gets to be too much. Especially if they are or have friends or relatives who are BIPoC or LGBTQ. Despite your impression that Pres. Nelson is pushing the church to change, I think you would be hard pressed to find many older LGBTQ adherents who believe that Nelson’s words about ending prejudice or leading out in dismantling it really meant that he intended to have the LDS church do anything to end its toxic teachings around their reality and to fight for marriage equality. I do know some BIPoC adherents who are optimistic that this time around the church really is serious about ridding itself of its racism and its teachings that faithful BIPoC adherents will be turned “white and delightsome” in the afterlife. But I think many more have seen from personal experience that prejudice runs deep in the LDS culture, and that LDS culture mostly reflects the prejudices and biases of the conservative-strain of US culture rather than influencing it for the better.
    So while I am glad that you are optimistic, it feels very naive and I wonder if your optimism will survive another 20-30 years of lived church experience. Your faith in a living Christ can easily survive that, but your faith in the CoJCoLDS being God’s only true and living church may not.

  10. 10ac
    Is Calvin naive? maybe. narcissitic? I don’t feel so. I think the main thrust and direction of your comment is salient. I do agree with you that President Nelson is advocating little substantive change, but without enough hope, no light will shine. I share with you the love of Calvin’s optimism, but feel burdened by reality. I think the Stevie Wonder song is sadly relevant from “Someday at Christmas” with the words about truth and justice and kindness ascendant “maybe not in time for you or for me, but someday.”

  11. 10ac: I hear what you’re saying, and I think it’s important to understand rhetoric and experience that might feel new but really echoes past moments. With that being said, I don’t think narcissism or a BYU-bubble encapsulate what Calvin writes about. As much as I have heard outsiders bash BYU, I have also heard outsiders respect BYU, though the majority of responses has been without opinion. I don’t know about the LDS church leading social change, but that doesn’t mean that a parochial religion can’t participate meaningfully in that change, or experience it within the bounds of that community. There are plenty of historical examples of when a religion’s influence has stretched beyond its usual scope. I hope that there’s, at least, a stronger sense of community who support LGBTQ and BIPoC people who want to stay within Mormonism, as traumatic as their journeys might be. At the very least, conversations about these topics have changed between what I’m understanding as your generation networks and Calvin’s. I think that’s reason enough for someone like Calvin to express the living nature of religion, to him. So, while I hear your voice of warning and think it’s important to have realistic expectations, I also hear Calvin’s call and think it’s essential to have living hope. And I don’t think there’s anything narcissistic or naive about that. Calvin, I’m with you.

  12. Jon Miranda says:

    All
    It is not good for Latter Day Saints to encourage othrrs to go down the LGBTQ road. If one chooses to go down this road and remains unrepentant, all that you will have left is heartache, pain and regrets.

  13. All (and Jon Miranda too)
    It is not good for Latter Day Saints to encourage others to suppress their true and created natures or to oppress those who try to do so. If a person is LGBTQ, they will know and should not suppress themselves. If a person is cis-hetero-so-called-normative, they will also know and will find the accepted templates for being themselves much less repressive, if a cis-hetero-so-called-normative person chooses to go down the LGBTQ path (first of all, how likely is that really), they will likely have heartache pain and regrets. If a LGBTQ person chooses to suppress who they are to fit within a paradigm that is thrust upon them, even if for the most noble of reasons, they will have (at least it was so in my case) heartache, pain and regrets. As I have repented of my own intrinsic transphobia/homophobia and have lived my life as I was created, I have felt the peace and love of the Savior amplified in my life, and feel that I am living now my best life that I ever have. I was shocked that I received answers of peace and love about repenting from my intrinsisc trans/homophobia and self repression. It is not a matter of encouraging others to go “down the LGBTQ ROAD.” It is about encouraging people to be honest with themselves about who they are. In my experience, if LGBTQ people suffer heartache, pain and regret, it is most often at the hands of cis-hetero-so-called-normative people and institutions that choose to oppress them because they don’t fit into their so-called paradigm. but this is not just about my won experience, there is also evidence. https://whatweknow.inequality.cornell.edu/topics/lgbt-equality/what-does-the-scholarly-research-say-about-the-well-being-of-transgender-people/

  14. “It is not good for Latter Day Saints to encourage others to suppress their true and created natures or to oppress those who try to do so. If a person is LGBTQ, they will know and should not suppress themselves.”

    This is, of course, false. This can easily be shown by any other formulation of the argument:

    “It is not good for Latter Day Saints to encourage others to suppress their true and created natures or to oppress those who try to do so. If a person is angry and prone to violence, they will know and should not suppress themselves.”

    “It is not good for Latter Day Saints to encourage others to suppress their true and created natures or to oppress those who try to do so. If a person is sexually promiscuous, they will know and should not suppress themselves.”

    “It is not good for Latter Day Saints to encourage others to suppress their true and created natures or to oppress those who try to do so. If a person is envious, they will know and should not suppress themselves.”

    or, to drive the point home:

    “It is not good for Latter Day Saints to encourage others to suppress their true and created natures or to oppress those who try to do so. If a person is bigoted, they will know and should not suppress themselves.”

    On the book and response that sparked the issues of the original post, I admit ignorance. But this particular formulation is a special pleading and is inconsistent with any form of discipleship that requires change in either behavior and/or nature (and the Gospel requires both of all of us).

  15. Jonathan, you’re cherry picking a bunch of negative character traits and equating them to being lgbtq. Everyone has the freedom to express and act on feelings, motivations, desires, etc so long as they bring no harm to others. And guess what bud? Being LGTBQ isn’t hurting anyone.

  16. Jonathon, (suicidal ideation trigger warning) you can try to conflate being LGBTQ with being angry, sexually promiscuous, envious, and bigoted. I can only tell you what has happened in my life. I grew up in and loved, and still love my Latter-day Saint upbringing and religion. I spent nearly 45 years actively suppressing what I consider to be my true and created nature as a transgender woman. I was assigned male at birth, and raised male, and functioned male, and went on mission, served, bishopric, family, children, temple and all of it (doesn’t make me more special than others, just mentioned to show the degree of involvement), and I love the religion, but I always thought my feelings that I was and “should have been” a woman was a perversion and a sin, I say a “thought” this because this is basically what I was taught by my society, culture, and church. However, I always felt a profound despair and private turmoil at the incongruity between the role I was functioning in and the identity at my core. as I increasingly came to feel that I would never be made whole and unified, I felt like I was dead, and no amount of prayer, service, faith, did anything to alleviate those feelings, I even had nearly incontrovertible desires to end my life. And you know what else? telling someone like me that “it will all be worked out in the resurrection” is cold comfort and even a terror, what could I expect to happen, that I would suddenly be turned in the resurrection all happy to be a guy, that something that felt so central could be snapped away felt very scary, not comforting. What would comfort me was the thought that I might be resurrected as a woman, but that only made me want to die faster. I came very close to killing myself twice, and had come to think about it constantly. You know what finally made me feel calm, and happy, and right again? Finally having the courage to pray if it would be right for me to go ahead and transition to a female and then being shocked, SHOCKED at the peaceful feeling I got in answer to that prayer (don’t get all excited- I am not saying I got revelation for the church or anyone else- it was for me). In any event, I felt like the Savior had my back, and cared for me more than all the words in the Proclamation on the Family, still not scripture- y’all want to hang some scripture on your walls, or want some scripture as a “tent pole?”- try out 1 Corinthians 13, it has more staying power). You know what I don’t feel anymore now that I am living in a transitioned female role and body (thanks to hormones)? I don’t feel like I want to kill myself. Has it been tough on my family? yes, to say the least, but any of the things that has happened as a result of transitioning or as a result of my other actions would not have been as hard on my family as me killing myself. I feel that the teachings in the church and the Proclamation contributed in large (not exclusive) measure to suppression of what I consider to be my true created nature, and this suppression was narrowly dangerous for me. So yes, I stand by my assertion, It is not good for LDS (or any other group) to contribute to such oppression as their policies currently (still) do. Do I think there is grace enough for the church in this? yes. But it will be messy for many in the meantime, and for me- well it nearly killed me. I was not making some fancy word game argument, I agree with you that it is not good to be angry, sexually promiscuous, envious or bigoted. But in terms of being LGBTQ? as Rachel says, it does not hurt anyone. If LGBTQ people had a safe place within their religion to marry, and express their natures and their love within families, (dare I even say in sealed eternal family units?) then the church would be serious about being an inclusive place for all people. I guess I do dare to say it. It just seems the most loving and equitable approach.

  17. Continuing revelation “shall cover the multitude of sins”.

  18. @Rachel:

    “Jonathan, you’re cherry picking a bunch of negative character traits and equating them to being lgbtq.”

    Not really. Heterosexual attraction is a natural human desire as well. Defining oneself by heterosexual desire — and not working to suppress that desire — is destructive. Claiming that any attempt by others to advocate that restraining that desire is oppression in opposing to someone’s true and created nature is destructive. Thus, the formulated premise is a special pleading.

    @Lona:

    You might be surprised at what we agree on. For example, you state:

    “Finally having the courage to pray if it would be right for me to go ahead and transition to a female and then being shocked, SHOCKED at the peaceful feeling I got in answer to that prayer (don’t get all excited- I am not saying I got revelation for the church or anyone else- it was for me).”

    First, I absolutely agree that the Lord can tell any of His children anything that He wants to tell them. If He can tell Nephi to kill Laban, He can certainly tell you to transition (which I presume, in my ignorance, must be further down the ladder of eternal importance however you rank things). I am a firm believer that you follow the Prophet and Church leaders unless the Lord tells you otherwise — then you do what the Lord tells you. So far so good.

    But the problem arises because you are doing what you seem to recognize you are not permitted to do. Accepting as stipulated that the Lord told you to transition, you still acknowledge that “I am not saying I got revelation for the church or anyone else- it was for me.” This is a correct presentation of the order of the Kingdom of God. Nephi would be sinning, even if justified in killing Laban, by coming home and telling everyone that the Ten Commandments weren’t applicable and it was oppressive to teach them. And this is even true with the quite obvious subtextual struggle that Nephi had with this decision to kill Laban throughout the remainder of his life. I can only imagine how much it might have hurt Nephi to teach and hear “Thou shalt not kill” when he knew he had killed Laban — justified killing though it was.

    So I would close by drawing your attention to two of your quotes:

    1. “I am not saying I got revelation for the church or anyone else- it was for me.”

    2. “So yes, I stand by my assertion, It is not good for LDS (or any other group) to contribute to such oppression as their policies currently (still) do.”

    Hopefully you can see that these two statements are contradictory. On the one hand, you recognize you don’t receive revelation for the Church. On the other, you claim your personal revelation justifies a determination that the Church is wrong.

    By all means, you can simultaneously both teach the doctrine and advocate LGBTQ people take their particular circumstances to the Lord and get counsel from Him. They are His children, not mine or yours (and not the Church’s), so only He can provide perfect guidance. No less of an authority than President Oaks has said that the Church teaches rules of general applicability and the Lord gives specific instruction. I can see a situation where a person would get guidance from the Lord to follow your path and a different person would get guidance to follow a different path. I cannot possibly conceive of who gets which guidance — and neither can you.

  19. @Jonathon said: “Defining oneself by heterosexual desire — and not working to suppress that desire — is destructive.” Maybe it depends on exactly what you mean by “suppress” here, but in the Christian/LDS marriage therapy/sex therapy circles that I frequent (as a lay person), a significant amount discussion goes into how to get good girls/good boys (as Laura Brotherson called them) to embrace and develop their sexuality. I can kind of appreciate the importance of not “being defined” (not always sure what that means) by one’s sexual desires, but decisions around suppressing/embracing those desires seem unclear. For myself, one of the big questions is — if it is appropriate for cis-hetero people to embrace their sexuality (in the context of a monogamous relationship), why is it not appropriate for homosexual people to also embrace their sexuality within an appropriate relationship context?

  20. Another thought triggered by @Jonathon’s comment. I find a certain appeal to the idea that we are each responsible for making these moral choices for ourselves. However, it seems to set up a slippery slope (not sure when and how it can be fallacious). If God can individually approve of something that is generally declared immoral (and we have an example for something as “clear cut” as murder), are there any universal moral standards (other than whatever God says to you)?

    In some ways, I like the GAs teach general truth and individuals determine if they are exceptions. When it comes to LGBT things, how meaningful is that? estimates I see on Wikipedia suggest about 0.5% of the population is transgender. If cisgender is the general rule, it’s almost self-evident that transgender could be an individual exception to the rule. What is the moral point to even saying that most everyone is and should be cisgender, but a few may be inspired to see themselves as exceptions to the cisgender rule? Most statistics for homosexuality say between 5 and 10%. Higher numbers to be sure, but still within the “heterosexual is the obvious general rule, but there will be some individual exceptions”?

    Jonathon, your post provoked some thoughts and reflections for me, but I’m not sure I’m coming to the conclusions that the Church wants me to come to.

  21. Jonathon. I do appreciate much in what you say, but I think some clarification on what I meant is in order. When I said that “I am not saying I got revelation for the church or anyone else- it was for me,” it was simply a recognition that I do not have or claim any of the keys or authority to get revelation for the church. I do recognize that transitioning of gender roles/presentation is something that tacitly is NOT permitted by the church, because if you do it there are always consequences about your standing in the church. Without having any other reason to have my temple recommend revoked, my temple recommend was revoked, and my temple ordinances, and sealing, and endowment were all revoked (it surprised when this happened, it blindsided me, I was not expecting it), this was a clear recognition that what I was doing was not permitted by the church. But through it all I remained firm in the peace that transitioning was the right step to save my life AND has brought me so much joy that truly I feel that life is more abundant since doing this. This recognition that I do not have keys to get revelation for the church and the recognition that the church does not permit me to have transitioned, is very different from the assertion that “It is not good for LDS (or any other group) to contribute to such oppression as their policies currently (still) do.” Just because a group of men have been given keys and authority to lead the church and minster to the flock does not mean that they will always do so correctly or in a way that is loving in its effect, or in a way that is the best interest to allow the flock to thrive. We have the whole denying the priesthood based on racial status as an obvious (An O-B-V-I-O-U-S!) example of priesthood keys being used in a prejudiced, oppressive and hurtful way. I do believe the brethren (Q of the 15 basically) do have divine, miraculous, angelic administered keys of authority to lead the church and receive revelations and set policy and all the rest. But as it appears we can agree, they are not always right. So how do we know something is right? By the influence of the Spirit, and by the fruits. What are the fruits of the Proclamation and current policies regarding gender identity and sexual orientation that is not cis-hetero-so-called-normative? We could go on and on. But in my case it made me fearful and despairing and contributed to my suicidality because it seemed I could not be who I desperately needed to be without losing those things associated with the church (family, common purpose, love, temple, communion) that I love. The fruit of the current policy is that it literally became impossible for me to reconcile who I was with what the church policies directed. Rules of general applicability? They about killed me, and for what? to make the majority of the Saints more comfortable in the ongoing paradigm and prejudice and misconceptions about people like me and to preserve the idea that people like me are incompatible with the covenant path that can lead to exaltation. Yes I stand by my assertion that first, it is oppressive, and second that it is wrong, and that is not contradictory to the idea that I don’t have the keys to speak FOR the church, I can only speak TO the church in my tiny little whisper from just outside the boundaries, but it is not listening. The church does not really care about me or what I have to say about my experiences, it cares only about the church. But tis ok, Christ still comforts me.

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