Two years ago this November 5th, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints applied a mallet to a chisel and created a crack in the ability I once had to apologize for it. That day initiated what people like me call “the exclusion policy.” People not like me don’t call it anything. They ignore it. They say, “These men are called of God, and I have a testimony of that.” I can say I have a testimony of that as well, but I can also say I have a testimony that the exclusion policy is wrong, no matter who passed it down or who passes it off as God’s word. Every day I read words of LGBTQIA children of God whose faith in God is whole, but whose trust in the leadership is shattered. Across the past two years, there’s been an exodus of members who, like me, see a church leadership that can’t embrace the most important, the most basic, teaching of the Savior, namely to love others as we love ourselves, as equals. I can’t speak for the LGBTQIA community, nor for their families. I can speak only for myself–a cisgender, heterosexual female member–and today I’d like to answer a question I’ve been asked repeatedly, either in the form of “Why do you stay if you disagree with the prophets of God?” or “Why do you stay as if nothing ever happened on November 5, 2015?” I stay because I will not abandon what is rightfully mine. I stay because I own my relationship with the Divine Being, and the formal church does not. I stay. But I won’t stay quiet. Continue reading
Like most progressive Mormons engaging in the discussion about inclusion levels of the LGBTQIA community within the Church, I’ve argued in favor of love—that love is a behavior, that Christlike love practices empathy and inclusion. There is no concrete opposition to that, since love is an abstraction, so what I hear from “opposing” voices sounds a lot like, “We do love; we want to include” followed by a caveat. In truth, most orthodox, mainstream LDS are sincere in their desire to love and include, but they both justify and endorse policies of exclusion without hesitation. It’s a baffling dichotomy. But this weekend, at General Conference, the fog lifted for me. I’ve had it all wrong. This isn’t about a lack of love. It’s about power and submission. It’s about the corruption of ethics and ideals and how we’ve exchanged them for easily quantifiable “standards” that bind a subservient class to the will of its leadership. It’s about control. Continue reading
Even though it’s more important to do right than to be right, its frighteningly easy to convince ourselves that the two always correspond, particularly in matters of religion. The recent Mormon Women Stand (MWS) post, “A Protected Class of Sin,” is an example of what happens when the desire to be right supersedes the desire to do right. MWS has a history of arguing ideas that are divisive. The group seems to envision its job as that of separating the wheat from the chaff. Unfortunately, this post (like many others) risks dividing the faithful from the Spirit of the Lord. Continue reading
There was a time I accepted the phrase “Love the sinner; hate the sin,” but I always felt uncomfortable using it. Eventually, I started giving the expression second thought, and I realized the parallelism of the phrase suggests a balance between the ideas of love and hate. But love and hate don’t balance one another. Just as light cannot be where there is darkness, love cannot be where there is hate.
Of course, once I became aware of this difficult dichotomy, that voice of contrariness we probably all know popped into my head, insisting it is possible to love a person and, at the same time, hate what that person does. But is it? Continue reading
The “revelation of the week” is that Moroni 9:9 has been removed from the Young Women’s Personal Progress program, which offered the verse to Mormon teenage girls as a supporting scripture in the section, “Virtue.” Of course, this is significant because Moroni 9:9, 10 tells us that the daughters of Lamanites were taken captive, raped, tortured, and killed; it emphasizes that rape deprived these daughters “of that which is most dear and precious above all things.” In other words, the violent “loss” of their virginity is equated to a loss of virtue and is dubbed more tragic than either their torture or their murder. Fortunately, the verse had already been removed from “For the Strength of Youth,” but somehow lingered in the Personal Progress program. I suspect Elizabeth Smart’s public outcry against toxic chastity lessons was the match that lit the rather long wick prepared across decades by feminist outcry. The deletion of the verse is gratifying and a relief, but also signals something much more. Its removal is an acknowledgment that our sacred canon is fallible, that the views of the men who wrote, abridged, or recapped the events within that canon do sometimes pass on the biases and bad information of their eras—and that, when we know better, we should do better. The deletion reaffirms the pre-correlation notion that we are to learn truth from any source that brings it forward, and reject all untruth, no matter where it be found, including (as in this case) in our sacred writ.
The Church has taught that the Book of Mormon is not a perfect book and that its flaws are the flaws of man, not of God. The proof of this fallibility, to date, has come in tweaking words here and there in order to better represent the intent of a given passage. To be clear, the Church has neither reworded nor removed Moroni 9:9 from the Book of Mormon, nor do I think it should, though some may demand it.
While I empathize with those who call for its deletion (the message is reprehensible), I submit that there is more truth and power in leaving the scripture intact within the Book of Mormon, provided forthcoming Church teaching and literature acknowledges that Moroni 9: 9, 10 represents the fallibility of human beings and the historical wrong-headedness that endangered women by placing our value squarely on sexual purity. Our choice is to bury this reality through deletion or rewriting, or to embrace it.
I’d champion the addition of a footnote on the verses that clearly states that Mormon’s understanding was incorrect, that virtue is never lost through rape, and that the life of all human beings is most dear and precious above all. Such a footnote would represent an acknowledgment that even the prophets sometimes miss the complete truth because of the influences of their day. It would affirm that we are both a church and a people who will grow in wisdom, light, and understanding, and, when needed, will correct our course. If the Book of Mormon is a book written for our day, we ought not ignore this essential lesson.
Of course, such a footnote would likely be as scandalous as revolutionary, considering the implications it would hold for other ancient scripture. We can’t reasonably reject the teaching of Moroni 9:9, 10 for being out of sync with God’s feelings about rape and virtue, and, at the same time, fail to consider whether or not other ancient scripture is, likewise, off-track in light of additional light and knowledge currently possessed. We know through both anecdote and science that valuing women primarily for their “purity” is detrimental to the physical, social, emotional, and spiritual well-being of women. We also know through anecdote and science that current church teachings are detrimental to the physical, social, emotional, and spiritual health of LGBTQ people. This is significant.
Perhaps equally important, such a footnote and redirection of our teaching of the verses could set a precedent that would free our top leaders from the expectation—the burden—that their words must, at all times, be a perfect representation of God’s will. This expectation is a cruelty, even if its arguably self-inflicted. It would also emphasis, within the membership, an increase in the reliance upon the gift of the Holy Ghost.
I rejoice that the Church officially removed Moroni 9:9 from the Personal Progress program. It’s another improvement for women and a reduction of the pedestal’s height upon which Mormon women live and worship. I’m pleased to think its removal may signal a step toward contemporary acknowledgment that our prophets needn’t be perfect, that all our canon comes through a lens of human fallibility, and that we, as a people, are striving to do better. More of this please.
Victims of rape, incest, or other sexual abuse are not guilty of sin. If you have been a victim of any of these crimes, know that you are innocent and that God loves you. Seek your bishop’s counsel immediately so he can help guide you through the process of emotional healing. “For the Strength of Youth”
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So a bunch of LGBTQ activist groups have asked the Big 12 to reconsider their interest in BYU because of discriminatory practices at BYU against LGBTQ students. Needless to say, many BYU fans are upset and protesting back, claiming that these activist groups don’t understand that BYU is open to gay students who live the BYU Honor Code; this is just another example of religious persecution, they say. Well, no. No, it isn’t. Its a natural consequence. Its accountability in action. For all the attention we Mormons like to pay to the idea of consequences, we sure don’t want to accept the unpleasant consequences when they crash down on us. Continue reading
I watched the news out of Baton Rouge with my 15-year-old son, who is considering a career in law enforcement. When the reporter upped the death toll from two police officers to three, I turned my eyes from the TV to my son. Nearly two years earlier, I had watched him just like this, watched him watch Ferguson burn.
Ten days ago, at a peaceable Black Lives Matter march, a gunman shot and killed five Dallas police officers, wounding several others. One of the murdered officers used to escort my daughter-in-law from the Dallas theater where she worked late shifts to her parked car; she loved his sense of humor. The young man who killed him grew up in the town in which my two oldest children spent their elementary school years. Had we not moved, they’d have gone to high school together, my oldest son a grade ahead of him, and my daughter, a grade behind. As is, we have friends who knew the killer.
When Ferguson burned, I begged my youngest son to reconsider his future career, saying the world is too dangerous and that I’m afraid for him. His response was, “Imagine how dangerous the world would be without police officers.” As Baton Rouge unfolded, he said nothing. He just stared. Continue reading
So often, discussion of doctrine, particularly related to homosexuality, becomes academic in its characteristics. For so many believers, God is found in a book–in the Bible–and the inclination is to scour the words of the book for evidence with which to bolster the preferred argument. But the scriptures were not meant for argument, but to settle arguments–to settle them with the one great power all human beings can harness. Not priesthood, not the gift of the Holy Ghost, but love with its many names: empathy, compassion, kindness, and charity. Continue reading
I’ve done something scandalous again. I’ve read the Church Handbook of Instructions 1, or at least some of it. The recent debate over whether or not the contents of Handbook 1 qualify as doctrine got under my skin, so I decided to study it and find out for myself. (How Mormon of me.) Of course, there was a hitch to my plan. Handbook 1 may be an authorized read for stake presidents and bishops (plus those who outrank them), but not for lowly members like me, who aren’t given access. My problem is compounded, of course, because I’m female, which means I’ll never serve in a bishopric or stake presidency. I suppose I could, technically, be plucked from obscurity and called to serve as one of the nine women in the general auxiliary presidencies who have authorized access, but the chance of that is exactly zero. So, for all intents and purposes, the book is sealed to me, in spite of the fact it contains policies by which I, as a Latter-day Saint, am to live and be judged. Huh. That stinks. What’s a girl to do? Continue reading
By now, we’ve all felt the fall-out from the November 5th policy change. Our church has been bleeding members, both gay and straight. This is a clear marker that our LGBT community needs us to demonstrate our love for them. We have that opportunity this Fast Sunday, June 5th, 2016 if we participate in the Rainbow Mormon Initiative. The initiative organizer, an LDS psychologist, asks us to don a rainbow ribbon as an outward sign of the inward love we have for our LGBT members, especially our young people who remain in hiding, unsure as to whether or not they will be accepted and understood. Continue reading