I am a Texan, a conservative, a practicing Mormon, and an ally of the LGBT community. Two recent events have unfolded in my peripheral vision that have struck an emotional, intellectual and spiritual chord in me, leaving me both disheartened and heartened.
First, Texas Republicans held their 2014 state convention in Fort Worth, a process that establishes the party’s platform plank by plank. One of those planks will include language that rejects homosexual relationships as legitimate or valuable to society. The plank will also specifically support reparative therapy, an odd inclusion but for California and New Jersey’s recent outlawing of such therapy for minors. The fiscally conservative group, Log Cabin Republicans of Texas (who were denied booth space at the convention), optimistically finds progress in the party’s compromise to drop from the platform the words “homosexuality tears at the fabric of society.” I appreciate their optimism and patience, but feel sorrow over the party’s rejection of the skills, talent, and voting power that could potentially follow once Republicans open their arms to conservative-minded members of the LGBT community. Although supporters of the anti-gay, supposedly “pro-family” plank of the Texas Republican party will argue their stance is a godly one, I find it not only uninspired but judgmental, self-righteous, and crippling to the foundational fiscal messages of conservatism.
The second event that has moved me (this time, positively) was seeing the 400-450 strong delegation of Mormons Building Bridges marching in the Salt Lake City Pride Parade. Families came with their small children. Faithful members who have served at all local levels of leadership put their best foot forward in support of love and inclusion. The MBB delegation was comprised of amazing, giving human beings who took strength from one another and returned it a hundred fold to a group of people who have, historically, been rejected, alienated, and marginalized by Mormons. If you aren’t familiar with Mormons Building Bridges, these are faithful, practicing Latter-day Saints who choose a message of love and inclusion toward our LGBT brothers and sisters instead of aversion and exclusion. They are not an inherently political group and members do not necessarily sign on in support of legalizing gay marriage, but members are united in their determination to create a loving place for everyone. MBB describes its mission this way:
In accordance with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Mormons Building Bridges is dedicated to conveying love and acceptance to same-sex attracted and LGBTQI individuals and asserts that all our sisters and brothers are inherently worthy of love and belonging in our homes, congregations, and communities. MBB supports specific initiatives that promote this mission.
This week I have struggled to understand why the message of Mormons Building Bridges is not the default message of conservative Christianity, which, of course, includes mainstream Mormonism. I’ve tried to understand the argument that Christlike behavior can include shaming and marginalizing human beings, all under the banner of loving the sinner and rejecting the “sin.” Finally, after years of trying to understand the concept, this week I got it—but I’m not happy about that. You see, I find myself suddenly able to love people whom I want to shame and marginalize. The “sin” I reject, however, is not homosexuality, or even same-sex intercourse. The sin I reject is self-righteous intolerance. I reject the behavior of Christians who would exclude, who would marginalize, who would demean and shame any of God’s children—their sisters and brothers—using the excuse that they are standing up for God. So yes, I admit it. I feel okay about shaming and marginalizing this type of Christian. Ah, my hypocrisy! I own it. I’ll work on it, but first, I have to work through the self-defeating tangle of bigotry that has my name on its roll call and that may question my faith because I choose love and acceptance over alienation.
The Texas Republican platform will read, “Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle in public policy, nor should family be redefined to accept homosexual couples.” I’ve never been comfortable with people who are so sure their minds and wills are in alignment with God’s mind and will that they suggest what they speak is what God would speak. Of course, as a Latter-day Saint, I believe God can, does, and will speak to a prophet of His choosing, but I also believe those events are rare. For the most part, I believe God leaves us alone to draw the conclusions we will in light of the evidence placed before us (or the evidence we seek out) and our own level of humility. So I acknowledge that what I’m about to say is not what God would tell the intolerant religious right. It’s what I would tell them. This is the plank in my platform:
“Homophobic Christianity must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle in public policy, nor should discipleship be redefined to accept bigotry.”
God is not a bigot. If you are a bigot, you are not God’s. And you are not representing His team.
I am particularly troubled when I hear Latter-day Saints argue the same points adopted by the Texas Republican party. I have said this elsewhere and I’m certain to say it again, but I believe the 200 year pride cycle of which LDS are forewarned in the Book of Mormon is at its height. We’ve become defenders of the status quo instead of seekers of light and knowledge. We’ve adopted a gospel platform based on obedience to the person above us rather than on love for the human being beside us.
Love is a behavior. It is not an emotion. It is not, “Gee, I don’t wish harm on anyone, only good things, like rectifying your sexual orientation.” Love is “I see you. I understand you. I hurt for you. I rejoice with you.” Love is companionship, not marginalization. Love is not conditional. Love is not limited because the person loved is perceived as flawed or sinful; love is limited only because of the flaws and sins of the person who is called to love.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came into existence because a teenage boy asked God an important question: Which of these churches should I join? And I find myself today asking essentially the same kind of question of God: Which of these philosophic camps should I join? The camp that purports to honor You by shaming and marginalizing some of Your children? Or the camp that seeks to honor You by actively seeking the good report in each and every one of Your children?
I don’t need God to descend in a pillar of light and tell me which behavior is more Christlike. I sense the answer in my soul, and every day I become more confident in it. I reject the claim that God is the author of shame, subjugation, and of course, sin—and that includes the sin of pride, the sin that leads us to exalt ourselves over those who seem Other to us.
Mormons reject the tenet that God pre-determines salvation when a child is born into a situation in which s/he has no opportunity to learn of Christ. We faithfully erect and attend temples to carry out the temporal requirements of the saving ordinances we affirm God will provide for all His children, no matter their earthly circumstance. And yet, when it comes to the obvious complexity of exaltation as salvation for non-heterosexuals according to LDS theology, we accept and support mainstream Christianity’s staid teaching rather than petition God for further light and knowledge. Instead of sustaining the quest for continuing revelation, we nestle in to the status quo.
Latter-day Saints who sustain the status quo—be they leadership or membership—and who are not actively, prayerfully seeking more light and knowledge regarding the application of the plan of salvation to our LGBT brothers and sisters have forgotten a few things. They have forgotten that the representation of the Bible as the defending document of Victorian sexual practice is a fallacy. They have forgotten their belief that the Bible is true only in so far as it is translated correctly, and that modern revelation will come because of need, desire, faith, and prayer to clarify human misperceptions of God’s pure and undefiled will. They have forgotten that the status quo is not what Mormons are supposed to defend; we are to defend truth wherever we find it—and we are to actively seek truth out.
The status quo never seeks anything but itself.
The status quo is an obedient follower, but never a leader.
The Book of Mormon teaches us that, at the height of the pride cycle, we will find a fork in the road. We either take the self-righteous path that leads to our destruction, or we take the path of humility and renewed righteousness. Humility requires that our prayers be prayers that seek God so we can become like Him, not that seek for others to become like us.
Humility is an act of bravery. It will often separate us from those whose praise we once sought. But that separation, dear reader, is a natural consequence of the Restoration. I applaud Mormons Building Bridges for showing me the path of humility, and I will follow in their footsteps because we need more light and truth. We need answers. We need all our brothers and sisters. We need to better understand the love of God.
“If we are truly disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, we will reach out with love and understanding to all of our neighbors at all times… The Lord expects a great deal from us. Parents, please teach your children and practice yourselves the principle of inclusion of others and not exclusion because of religious, political, or cultural differences.”
— Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
14 thoughts on “Love is a Behavior: A Conservative Mormon Reminder to Love our LGBT Community”
This was wonderful! Thanks for the support and love.
Another beautiful post. Thank you for your bravery and humility in writing this.
But in Utah, where a slight majority are conservative Mormons, the Law has already been rewritten to include allowing no predjudice in employment, housing etc.for people who are gay. The prophethas repeatedly said that love is the path. Some of us are trying to hold on to the definition of marriage, and even working to prevent its changing, and that is a right. It does not make us bigotted, just excercizing our right to democratically define our views. If we should fail, no doubt life would go on. Jesus told the Pharisees that divorce was not God’s preference, but he allowed it to be because of the inability of the people to live without divorce. Maybe God will speak more on this issue. I will listen. But for now, I will work to support my preference without any hate whatsoever. The only hate I have even heard has come at me from the other side. But then I live in. North Provo.
You are correct. Difference of opinion will remain and wanting to hold on to the traditional definition of marriage does not inherently mean a person is bigoted. Utah is a different state than Texas (trust me on that) and Mormonism is a different faith that the one that predominates here. I do believe most active Mormons would accept any revelation about the place of LGBT in the next life. I’m troubled, though, that I frequently hear in my LDS meetings fellow members offering up their version of what God’s plan is for homosexuals. Its not flattering. And, more importantly, it is neither definitive nor as inclusive as I’d hope. Humility, I think, requires us to seek clarification from God. If exaltation is salvation, if marriage of man to woman is eternal and procreative powers facilitate this great cycle we call the Plan of Salvation, how does God deal with homosexuality? We are left to make assumptions and that, to me, is the definition of the philosophy of men. Until Heavenly Father explains through his prophets how the plan of salvation will work or be applied to LGBT, we ought to be careful speaking in God’s name. Or so I think. I mean no offense to the many LDS people who behave with love and kindness toward our LGBT community. I hope that they will consider aligning themselves with Mormons Building Bridges, which again, focuses on loving inclusion and not political activism.
Thanks Rita. I’m glad you commented. So many things are left out of any single blog post and its nice to have readers bring up issues. I can’t always respond, but comments are read by myself and others. So your reaching out is appreciated.
Let me add this, because I should have written it in my initial response to your comment, Rita. The official LDS church no longer teaches that homosexuality is a choice. Nor does it teach that same-sex attraction is, in itself, sinful. This means that the official church sees gays as being “born that way.” There is no official statement about what that means for gays in the Celestial Kingdom. Some postulate gays will “obviously” be changed into heterosexuals, a supposition that LDS gays tell us feels entirely wrong to them; others assume homosexuals will be excluded from the celestial kingdom. That, of course, doesn’t jive with our assertion that God will provide a way to salvation for all his children. Right now, the best we have to offer LDS gays is encouragement to live a chaste life. But that is, in fact, a contradiction of the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth. In decades past, the official church tried encouraging gays to marry the opposite sex, but that proved disastrous for so many families. With all these disconnects, or holes in the doctrines we teach, how can we consider ourselves faithful members if we are not asking for more light and knowledge? It is one thing to admit we don’t know more than we now know, and another thing to assert that what we know now is the “gospel truth.” Faithful Latter-day Saints, in my opinion, should be deeply concerned that so many in our LGBT community leave us because we don’t have the answers they need. The answers we need. The only way that I see for me, as a faithful, practicing Latter-day Saint to ensure that bigotry doesn’t control my view of issues regarding sexual orientation is to stay on my knees, seeking relief in the form of an answer from God. How wonderful, how revolutionary that will be!
Rita, are you saying it is illegal to discriminate in jobs and housing in Utah based on someone’s sexual orientation. This is false on a state level. SB 100 was never passed, let alone heard by the legislature. It would have made discrimination in employment and housing illegal. Granted there are a handful of cities with fairly toothless ordinances that address discrimination.
When you speak of laws, you have moved from the realm of religion (which is of your choosing) to the realm of government which affects all citizens regardless of their religion.
The new question to ask yourself is “is the constitution and the laws applied equally and fairly to all citizens?” Your chosen religion is free to conduct itself as it sees fit and you can choose to follow that religion if it meets your needs. The problem comes when you start to impose your religious beliefs, through law, on people who don’t hold your beliefs. Therefore, advocating for a religious definition of marriage in secular laws is wrong.
Rita says “the Law has already been rewritten to include allowing no predjudice in employment, housing etc.for people who are gay.”
This is false, or at least misleading. Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County have such a law, but a statewide law has met intense opposition. The LDS Church hasn’t stepped up to support it (even thought they supported the Salt Lake City law), and most lawmakers won’t support it if the Church doesn’t.
Fortunately about 1/3 of the state’s population is in Salt Lake County, so a large percentage of people are protected, but it’s certainly not state-wide.
Thanks for the update on Utah laws. Its puzzling why the church steps in to some political arenas and avoids others. To say the least.
I would like to congratulate you on your successful transition coming out as the class act definition of a courageous straight ally. As a gay, active Mormon, millennial at BYU I wanted to offer you some perspective. My coming out process has included an intense study of LDS Church doctrine which has created immense confusion and amplified the anxieties that I naturally feel identifying as gay at an CES school. This is due to the contradictory nature of the present situation that I find myself in. God is not the author of confusion. However, same gender attraction is described by the Apostles as a feeling, a susceptibility, an inclination, a battle, a captivity, a battle for eternal salvation, a struggle, a suffering, bondage, an affliction, a moral weakness, that can never be assumed as easy. It is characterized as an addictive, compulsive feeling like alcoholism, gambling, tobacco; it is like a hot temper, a contentious manner, or a covetous attitude, and it’s permanence is like being handicapped, in total paralysis, or serious mental impairment, disfigurements, and physical or mental incapacities. Most of those things were said in 2012 alone. My inability to obtain optimum heterosexuality and be married has been compared to Lance B. Wickman’s physically disabled daughter. The problem with this is that never in my life after realizing that I am gay have I ever encountered or discovered such a deep and calmer version of myself. An incurable depression that caused me much travail has evaporated. I am confident, cool, and collected. I’ve lost 15 pounds. My GPA has skyrocketed. I cannot accept these characterizations, and am left contemplating how the peace of the devil could be so total and complete. Perhaps twenty or thirty years ago I would have been told that I have a mental disorder that could be cured. Now, I feel as if I am being labeled as having a spiritual impairment, which is even more caustic and damaging than the crude mechanical postulating snake oil cures of old. Those old methods killed people through suicide and now new methods kill them just enough to leave them still alive. I can’t forget the pressure and will of my gay brothers across the veil, and will do everything to honor their deepest, last, and final wishes as if they were still alive. For purposes of my mental health I have to reject leading LDS paradigms not only just to live, breathe, and exist in a mortal world, and not just to be at times possessor of happiness, but to be an owner of vitality. My greatest achievement is to have fleeting moments which penetrate bigotry, ridicule, and hate that shine through the darkness of the space of humanity from the floor of the Heaven of God through the channel of His Spirit which tells me that the Gospel is true. I don’t ever have to leave it behind. Choosing between the one true religion and being gay is not a choice at all. I vehemently reject it, and others are too. In the end I want the social Church to know either that I attended my Sunday meetings for the rest of my life in nonviolent resistance despite the outcome of my final choices or my access to the saving ordinances or that I left running, never looking back like 86% of my peers already have – and nothing in between.
Thank you lovely Lisa.
Here is where we are at/our progress:
This is how gay Mormons are unique:
And this is what people like me are fighting for:
All views are my own.
When I began this blog, I never anticipated how it would affect my life. I’ve upset people, including people I admire but happen to disagree with on one particular or another, and I lose sleep over that. I do. But I’ve also had the incredible experience of “meeting” others I never would have come across had it not been for the act of vanity that is publishing a blog. I thank you so much for letting me know you are out there and for sharing a little bit of your story with me. If it is true that some of Heavenly Father’s most valiant spirits are selected for the most difficult spiritual journey’s on earth, then I suspect you are one of those spirits. Our testimonies are personal relationships with God and are not dependent on what the guy sitting in the pew next to us thinks, imagines, or fears, but I can’t fault anyone who needs to step away because of mistreatment. However, I see reason for encouragement in our youth who seem to be leading our congregations in so many ways when it comes to inclusion. Being born gay and a Mormon, you’ve been assigned a hard row to hoe, but many of us feel honored that you are with us and will take strength from you. I love your tenacity and trust God will bless you for it. I’m sure others will be blessed through it. Hang tough. And thank you for sharing your blog links. All my love …
Everyone has spiritual impairment, gay or not!
Everyone has a character weakness, not an internalized psuedo-disability. Same-sex attraction and not measuring up, or falling short in our personal weaknesses in the Gospel are associated with different qualities in comments from the General Authorities and Church leaders. For example Brad Wilcox’s talk “His Grace Is Sufficient” compares character weaknesses to practicing the piano or paying off debt for financial independence, whereas Elder Oaks and Lance B. Wickman in their Mormon Newsroom interview compare same-sex attraction to among other things, drug use, alcoholism, gambling, and a permanently disabled 27 year old daughter who will never marry. These comparisons highlight a negative association of qualities with overcoming homosexual feelings and attractions whereas character weaknesses within the balance of grace and works are given neutral, positive references. Clearly even to General Authorities, due to their association with different qualities a character weakness is not the same as homosexual feelings, which is much more serious issue. After coming out to myself I don’t believe that any person can change their sexual orientation. I haven’t met anyone who says that they can change. Although I have met people who claim to minimize the intensity of those feelings, they never go away. A study performed at USU of 1,612 gay Mormons and former Mormons revealed a success rate of attempting to change your sexual orientation or becoming straight at 0%. A completely random sample of 1,612 people would disagree, because if it was a character weakness they could just change. Weaknesses can be overcome; impairments have an unknown permanence that cannot generally be overcome, and if it can be it takes a long time – such as waiting for the next life. I would argue a majority of gay Mormons would at least secretly find your characterization of that part of themselves as a character weakness as offensive. At least 86% of them would, considering that the Church has a retention of only 14% of its LGBT population which remains active and celibate. In a class at BYU if I got a 14% on an exam my teacher would pull me aside and ask me if I was trying to fail. Even the apostles have admitted that some people will never be able to marry in this life. Can you defend that as a character weakness? It is absolutely something much much deeper, but the Apostles have said that it’s not a condition or mental disorder. There is a middle ground and impairment is the word that I’ve chosen to use. It doesn’t imply a chronic condition but means being damaged, diminished or weakened especially in a particular faculty (the sexual faculty of marriage). That’s my conclusion and I’m not expecting you to accept the my truth as legitimate or even empathize with it. If you have some gay friends or not find some and ask them if they can change, and if it’s a celibate gay Mormon ask if they will be able to change in this life. With a few, extreme examples the answer will be overwhelming consistent across the board. A spiritual impairment is not a character weakness. Also, after meeting so many good people who are gay, active Mormons, I just can’t imagine them being different in the Celestial Kingdom. However, homosexuality is a curable condition if not now in the eternities we’re all just going to get wiped.
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