Today I accepted what many will consider an unconventional Book of Mormon Challenge. The challenge directs participants to read a chapter a day (which means finish the Book of Mormon in 239 days) “and then apply your mind to consider the implications, search for and refine meaning, and PONDER the significance of the chapters you’ve covered. ” Hardly radical. The only unconventional aspect of this challenge is that isn’t coming from some bishop or other church leader, not from a seminary teacher or family member, but from Affirmation, a support group for LGBTQ Mormons, their families, and friends.
Of course, to the members of Affirmation, this challenge is likely as conventional and traditional as any Book of Mormon challenge has ever been. The agenda is only to draw closer to God, to increase understanding of God through interaction with scripture, to share thoughts and testimonies, and connect as children of God. It’s only unconventional because so many Mormons outside the LGBTQ community think of gay Mormons as standing in opposition to the church, the Brethren, or LDS doctrine. And that’s unfortunate.
So I’m taking the challenge and invite others to join me in enjoying both the spirit and the Spirit that pervades Affirmation. Some traditional Mormons may hesitate to accept this challenge, concerned that participation might appear to be supporting the legalization of gay marriage, or perhaps be interpreted as an act in defiance of LDS doctrine. People who would have this concern don’t know Affirmation. I invite these good people to peruse the Affirmation website, beginning here, at the Who We Are section. There we find, “As members and friends of the gay and lesbian community, it is our intention to work for the understanding and acceptance of gays and lesbians as full, equal and worthy persons within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and society, and to help them realize and affirm self-worth.”
Some may interpret this wording (“it is our intention to work for the understanding and acceptances of gays and lesbians…”) to mean “it is our intention to persist until we convince the Church that gay sex is not a sin and that gays should be allowed to marry.” But Affirmation is not about steadying the ark. In fact, Affirmation does not advocate for gay marriage or doctrinal change. On the “Our Vison” page of the Affirmation website, we read that both the Affirmation organization and its leadership “avoid taking positions on church doctrine.” Affirmation’s goals are more along the lines of helping LBGTQ Mormons lead lives of spirituality and purpose, while also supporting them in living a reconciled, hope-filled life. It is intended as a safe place for the worldwide community of LGBTQ Mormons to talk openly and freely about the paradox of being gay and Mormon, and to help non-LGBTQ/SSA Mormons better understand their unique struggles. Affirmation aspires to assist LGBTQ individuals have a positive experience in worship, one that allows them to feel both God’s love and the love of their brothers and sisters.
The Affirmation Book of Mormon Challenge begins Monday, July 28, 2014, and is one I’ve accepted. They are inviting you to join them as well, but they have one caveat participants must follow. It reads, “There are many platforms where the Book of Mormon is studied and discussed from a scholarly, apologetic or critical point of view. This Challenge is specifically for people who choose to study the Book of Mormon from a personal and spiritual point of view.” If you feel called, as I do, to increase my understanding and love for scripture and toward my fellow man, perhaps you, too, should prayerfully consider accepting the unique opportunity that is Affirmation’s Book of Mormon Challenge. The Challlenge will include the opportunity to share thoughts and prayers on a Group Wall.
And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that every good gift cometh of Christ. (Moroni 10:18)