Moving from Cause Warriors to Builders of Zion

mormon-church-meeting3Many faithful members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been deeply invested in “the defense of traditional marriage” and find themselves mourning the recent Supreme Court refusal to hear same-sex marriage cases in five states. These Mormons had hoped the church’s campaign against gay marriage would cause the walls of Jericho to crumble; instead, the Court’s decision has likely opened the gate for nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage. Although I’m a practicing, politically conservative Latter-day Saint, I have disagreed that a church should be waging such a political battle. Furthermore, unlike many mainstream Mormons, I don’t see this ruling as evidence of increased evil in the world. In my view, the SCOTUS decision should free traditional Mormons from the battlefield and enable them to return to the field that is ready to harvest. It is time to transition from Cause Warriors to Builders of Zion; it is time we pour our energy into making the Mormon world safe for all.

The war waged by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints against same-sex marriage has, in practicality, united the majority of practicing LDS people, but it has also encouraged the sense that homosexuals are too different from the mainstream, even less-than, in spite of rhetoric to the contrary. After all, Mormons assert that homosexuality is not a choice, but then claim that same-sex attraction is beneath God’s standard. In other words, our message is:  “God made you the way you are. Unfortunately, His Plan of Salvation doesn’t have you in mind. But we sure do love you, just as God loves you.”

Somehow that doesn’t sound like love.

I heard that. Devout readers just screamed “I can love the sinner and hate the sin! Just because I’m opposed to gay marriage doesn’t mean I don’t love homosexual people!”

There was a time I believed this. There was a time I stood in line at an LDS meetinghouse, waiting my turn to sign a petition to amend the Constitution of the State of Texas so that it would define marriage as between one man and one woman.  But as I continued living, I observed something that nudged, and eventually shoved, my thinking onto another track: Abusive parents often claim they deeply love the children they victimize.

In fact, many abusive parents suggest their abuse demonstrates their love. (“If I didn’t love you, I wouldn’t be so hard on you.”) Wisely, society doesn’t evaluate whether or not these parents are abusive based on their claims of love, but by the damage they inflict on their powerless children. Similarly, the level of love exhibited by Mormons toward their own LGBT members cannot sensibly be measured by their own insistence that love motivates their stance on gay issues. Evaluation comes through examining the powerless recipients of this “love.”

Obviously, as a straight Latter-day Saint, I can’t speak on behalf of gay Mormons, but I can report my observations and experiences with them. There is great faith in many within the gay Mormon population, but there is also enormous pain, pain so deep, lasting, and destructive that exiting the Church becomes a survival mechanism.

Think hard about that. man-praying

Too often, I read on social media the words of some unknown-to-me gay Mormon begging strangers to give him or her some reason to continue living, some hope that God can love them, and that they needn’t always feel—and be—so alone. I encounter pain-filled tales of abandonment and rejection, of alienation and devaluation. While some find love and support in their home congregations, many find peace only in leaving the church. No matter their age, LGBT Mormons are our offspring, our family. We must learn to love them properly, or we will lose them. We are our brother’s keeper.

When people are offended, they tend to become angry, to rise up in indignation. But when people are hurt, when they are crushed, they pull inside, they hide, they berate themselves, they lose hope that they are lovable. Certainly we can find LGBT Mormons (inside or outside the church) who are offended by the LDS stance and/or by the behavior of some of its members, but, from where I sit watching, these good people become angry and offended only if they first survived being hurt.

For the record, I don’t believe the Latter-day Saints have intended to inflict pain on LGBT communities. The conundrum for traditional Mormons is that, even though they don’t want to hurt homosexuals, particularly gay Mormons, LDS teachings on same-sex attraction remain both painful and alienating. No Supreme Court ruling has changed the LDS doctrinal position, and many mainstream Mormons will continue to view homosexuality as a contradiction to the core Mormon belief that we are saved in gendered relationships intended for eternal increase. “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” is very clear, they point out, that divinely sanctioned marriage is between a husband and a wife.

As a faithful Latter-day Saint, I sustain the prophet and apostles, and I accept that, when they speak when moved upon by the Holy Spirit, they speak for God. I also understand that the same is true for any man or woman who speaks with the voice of the Spirit. The difference is, of course, that the First Presidency and the Apostles are set apart to deliver revelation to the Church and to the world. As Elder Russell M. Nelson said in the Sunday morning session of the October 2014 General Conference (and I paraphrase), the fifteen men who are called to lead the church have varying ideas, opinions, and approaches to life, and so we will know the Spirit has moved them toward revelation when they are all in agreement.

leadership-mainAll fifteen leaders are in agreement about the content of the proclamation on the family. However, as I have pointed out before, the proclamation is eerily silent about homosexuality (as is the Book of Mormon). What we think the proclamation teaches us about homosexuality, we think only because it lauds heterosexuality, but does not mention (much less praise) homosexuality.

Imagine a manager of a large corporation oversees a particular department headed by two individuals. The manager sends out a memo to all employees praising the hard work of one of those two department heads. To infer that this means the employer disapproves of, or rejects, the work of the second employee is not only ridiculous, it is immature.

The absence of information is not knowledge.

The absence of knowledge is an opportunity to learn more. The absence of light instructing us about homosexuality and the plan of salvation is an invitation for further revelation, not proof that the conduit to divine understanding has closed.

The understanding that we don’t understand is pivotal because that admission will allow our humility to grow; when our humility grows, our love grows. We will become less concerned with how to win a political victory we deem moral and more concerned with the morality attached to creating a community so filled with Christ’s love that our LGBT brothers and sisters will feel welcomed, wanted, valued, and honored as the significant contributors to the advancement of the Kingdom of God that they aspire to be.

So, how can we create that community, even when our canon has not changed?

The answer isn’t difficult. We change our focus.

We stop focusing on our fear of evil influence and start focusing on our love for jesus_huggingadditional light and knowledge—not only in terms of the Plan of Salvation, but (first and foremost) in terms of gaining light and knowledge that will teach us how best to treat and think about our LGBT brothers and sisters. We stop thinking of love as something we show through correction or coercion. We stop praying for something (or someone) to change, and, instead, pray for our hearts to change—to grow, to expand. And we stop thinking that we know all we need to know. In humility, we must move beyond, “A Proclamation! A Proclamation! We have got a Proclamation, and there cannot be any more Proclamation” (2 Ne. 29:3).

Imagine if we poured as much energy into improving our relationships with our LGBT members as we have poured into our effort to stop gay marriage. Imagine a day when our collective prayers—our collective energies—move from asking how to “save marriage” to how to save ourselves with all our brothers and sisters. Imagine how, with more light and knowledge, we’d be better able to emulate the Savior’s love in all we do, say, think, feel, are. Imagine the Holy Spirit uniting us, no matter our differences of approach or opinion, no matter our sexual orientation. Imagine our pews filled with the wonderful people we have hurt, their wounds healed. We have that power because we have the Savior.

We must put the battle behind us and become builders, rather than warriors. The sword may defend, but it also destroys. And in this case, the sword that mainstream Latter-day Saints have wielded has not only taken its toll on the well-being of gay Mormons, but has armed a sentinel that has denied additional light and knowledge access to our world. Instead of marching into battle, we must fall on our knees with humility and the determination to become better. We must watch for the light that remains just beyond our sight, remembering that that light will be revealed because no law with the fullness of God’s understanding is abusive to any of His children.

Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also. (2 Ne. 29:8)

 sunflower rainbow


26 thoughts on “Moving from Cause Warriors to Builders of Zion

  1. Michael Davidson

    While I generally agree with your post, the question one is left with deals with implementation of your suggestion. Many in the LGBT community, at least many of the loud ones, condition their own acknowledgement of our love towards them on our acceptance of their lifestyle choices. They argue, in essence, that who they are is so tied up in what they do that we cannot effectively hate the sin without hating the sinner. Taking this a step further, they claim that they only way that they will feel loved, or can feel loved, is if we accept the sin. This attitude is a very effective tool of the adversary, particularly in the LGBT community.


    1. Eric

      Michael – not true. Most gay people I’ve seen couldn’t care less whether the religious right accepts their lifestyle choices. As far as they’re concerned, so long as they have the freedom to live their life the way they see fit, the religious right can reject their choices so long as they leave them alone, and they’re just grateful to have their family and friends love them and accept them how they are.


      1. Michael Davidson

        Eric, my comments were not directed at the entire LGBT community, and I apologize that I wasn’t more clear. Instead, I was referring to that subset who identify (however loosely or strictly) as LDS, or who have some interest in what the Church has to say on such matters.


        1. Eric

          Thanks for clarifying. I don’t know how many homosexual Mormons there are who are actively campaigning for the church to alter its doctrine (i.e. allow same-sex temple sealings, etc) and I don’t expect the church will do so. Still, there are definitely better ways for members of the church on both sides to affect how they relate to the doctrine and for members to come to an understanding that works for everyone’s benefit.


  2. Corey

    Is it a “lifestyle choice” when I, a heterosexual woman, fall in love with a man ?

    Spending energy and time devoted to judging others, IS a lifestyle choice. One that we have been counseled REPEATEDLY to avoid.

    Do the people who judge LGBT persons for living life on their terms, spend as much time conjecturing what everyone else in the congregation does in their time outside the meetinghouse ? Maybe they commit fraud, maybe they are cruel to children or animals, maybe they are focused too much on the acquisition of worldly goods. I don’t know. God takes care of those things.

    From what I read, this post is about redirecting our energies to be more Christlike-as Christlike as my human capacity will allow. Since I do not have Godlike omniscience, I’ll leave the judgment for those who have attained Godhood.


    1. Michael Davidson

      Corey, Lisa’s original post encouraged better efforts at reaching out to people identifying as LGBT. I was merely pointing out an impediment to reaching out to many who advocate change in the LDS Church. If we are to reach out to people holding the attitude above, this needs to be addressed.


      1. Corey

        What attitude do you mean ? I think you and I view this quite differently. I don’t define “reaching out” to someone to be embodied in stances where a straight person feels justified in stating that their love is hinged on how loud or open an LGBT person conducts their life.

        I can’t REACH out to anyone without stretching forward and offering something of my heart.

        Is a person who makes a commitment to the one they love suddenly not worthy of respect without chastisement ?


        1. Michael Davidson

          The attitude I referenced is the one I described in my original comment to which you were responding. Speaking of myself and most active LDS with which I am associated, my love and concern for others is not conditioned “on how loud or open an LGBT person conducts their life.” As I mentioned above, many in the LGBT community can’t accept, or won’t accept, that someone can love them while disagreeing with the way they live their life. The fact that someone won’t accept that they are loved for these reasons doesn’t change that there is love. The question is how does one bridge that gap.


          1. Corey

            Hmmm. Well, I know many many LGBT people who recognize and accept love from people who are not 100% sold on same sex marriage, for instance. If there are some who are still hurt, wary, or bitter toward LDS people, I won’t let that deter me from showing my love by supporting the overwhelming majority who welcome it.

            I have marched in Pride with Mormons Building Bridges-a group that exists and operates within the guidelines of LDS doctrine (as it IS currently). We were showered with acceptance and love from so many people who had just cause to harbor resentment if they chose. But they shared their spirit of forgiveness and love with us.

            If we focus on a few who are not open to LDS association, and position that as an obstacle; then we are pointed in the wrong direction.


          2. Michael Davidson

            Corey, the Mormons Building Bridges group appears to be doing good work, and I agree with your sentiment that it is better to focus on those who are open to conversations and association.


  3. amycartwright

    Lisa, I love this. I have been pulling away from a lot of online activism lately because I’m tired and in need of refocus and retreat, but I shared this because I love the spirit from which this is coming.

    I’ve been studying the writings of a child psychologist Gordon Neufeld. He studies the psychology of relationships, primarily parent-child, but they can be expanded to any relationship. Here are a few key points to attachment research:

    – connection before direction: Our brains are wired to only take direction from people to whom we are either 1) attached or 2) afraid of receiving harm. The second may yield results but if/when the fearful party gains any power, they will use it to harm those who harmed them or they will harm others. We call this the cycle of abuse. When we tell people that they need to obey commandments out of a place of fear, they will obey for a while (some indefinitely if they remain afraid) but often, they will use that fear to make others afraid of them as well as a way of reclaiming power.

    Most of us can see when we step back from situations that connection is a much better tool for direction, and yet in the moment, we often forget this. We threaten our children with time-outs or spankings or we tell our LGBT loved ones that God essentially doesn’t love who they are because of what they have done. You actually cannot love the sinner and hate the sin. Jesus didn’t say this, we have said it.

    – When people are hurt by the “parent,” (in this case, the church members), they become defended against attaching. This is why so many of our LGBT brothers and sisters leave. It becomes a pain too painful to bear and at some point, they leave for their survival. Sometimes that survival is emotional but often it is all too physical. Their lives are actually in danger. So they leave because it’s the only way for them to stay safe. If we wish to have the power of direction in someone’s life, we need to make connection with them. We cannot direct them all the time. Another similarly-minded child psychologist suggested that the ratio needs to be about 80:20 of connection to direction to be effective and also keep the relationship in tact. I would suggest that most members have flipped that ratio in regards to our LGBT brothers and sisters. We go on and on and on about all the ways they are wrong and living in sin, and add an addendum of “oh, but we love you, just not what you’re doing!” to the end of our sentiments. Fact is, it doesn’t work. And it won’t work.

    Overall, if someone does believe that homosexuality is a sin, they have two options. They can either move someone toward their way of thinking through love and connection and *only very occasional direction,* or they can continue on their path we have set ourselves on and push everyone away that we wish to direct through a constant rhetoric of shaming. Only one of these methods is actually effective at changing behaviour, the other only pushes them away and destroys relationships. The reality is that our track record on this is abysmal.


  4. Dang! Thought, as your article’s title suggested, that you were actually calling for “Builders of Zion”. Maybe instead of arguing about what Babylon’s laws should be, we should be scrambling to build Zion, or at least, pre-Zion communities because as Christ put it, “I will not spare any that remain in Babylon.”


  5. symphonyofdissent

    I have to disagree with your interpretation of the Family Proclamation. Indeed, the Proclamation could not be more clear that marriage and sexual relations are only appropriate between husband and wife. “We Further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and women, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.” Furthermore, the proclamation declares that “Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan,” and that kids are entitled to be raised by a mother and father.

    If the powers of procreation can only be between husband and wife, such a marriage is part of God’s plan, and kids are entitled to such a household, it is pretty clear that anything else is contrary to God’s plan. This isn’t merely subtext or an implication that the brethren happen to draw from it, it is at the very center of Proclamation’s message.

    The Church cannot change its stance on homosexuality or gay marriage absent divine revelation. Such a revelation is unlikely because it would upend many of the doctrines that we hold most dear. We can not compromise on doctrines necessary for exaltation.

    Ultimately, your example of the abuser falls short. I think a better metaphor is a Doctor operating on a patient. Surgery is painful and even dangerous in the here and now, but ultimately beneficial. Likewise, the Church’s teachings may be difficult and ultimately painful in the here and now. Abstaining from pleasure is never an easy choice. But ultimately, it is not the Church imposing on people a pointless and torturous path, but the Church explaining the path one needs to trod to achieve eternal life and eternal bliss.


    1. amycartwright

      I don’t think Lisa was suggesting that the Church will suddenly be accepting of homosexual behaviour but the reality is that we do not have a theology that encompasses our LGBT brothers and sisters. We do not have any revelation about what their purpose is in this life except to somehow make it to the end of it when things will magically be made better in the next life. That’s insufficient theology. I believe that God will yet reveal “many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” Why could a theology that encompasses so many of our dear ones not be part of this continued revelation?


      1. symphonyofdissent

        Our theology does include all sons and daughters of God. There is one plan of salvation for all of God’s children regardless of sexual orientation… The end goal Is the same. We are fooled by our earthly perspective into thinking that challenges and temptations of this life are eternal.


        1. amycartwright

          But our theology states that all must be married and sealed to achieve exaltation. The Church very clearly now states that homosexuality is not a choice, that it cannot be “fixed” through therapy and that people experiencing same-sex attraction should not marry someone of the opposite sex. Where is there room for our LGBT brothers and sisters in this?


          1. Michael Davidson

            Where is it said that people experiencing SSA should not marry someone of the opposite sex? I am unaware of any authoritative statement to that effect. I’ve known many people who have struggled with SSA and yet have had successful marriages with members of the opposite sex.


          2. symphonyofdissent

            It is not a choice in the same sense that any attraction or desire is not a choice. However, it does not mean that it is an eternal immutable trait. Quite the opposite, leaders of the Church have clearly suggested that such attraction is temporary and that in the Celestial Kingdom those who are righteous will be entitled to the full blessings of an eternal family.


          3. Melissa

            Can you please provide evidence of official LDS Church statements that claim homosexuality is not a choice? I have been researching and can’t find this anywhere.


          4. Melissa, sorry for the delayed response. I decided not to hop into this discussion, but let others have their say. However, I do want to answer your question. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a webpage dedicated to the topic. You will find it at Unfortunately, there isn’t a ready tab/link to the site so many members aren’t as aware of the page as they should be. I know this has recently been called to their attention and hopefully it will be remedied, all in the effort to improve the understanding of the general membership. You will notice a light blue box near the top of the page. It reads:

            “Where the Church stands:
            The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.” [Emphasis is mine.]


          5. Melissa

            Lisa, this is very interesting since it also states “No one fully knows the root causes of same-sex attraction. We simply don’t have all the answers. We believe that with an eternal perspective, a person’s attraction to the same sex can be addressed and borne as a mortal test. It should not be viewed as a permanent condition.” I believe that God did not make gays that way but allowed them, because we live in a fallen world, to be that way. There is a big difference between the two in my mind.


  6. No truer words have err been spoken!

    “This site is in no way connected to the official Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the views expressed here do not necessarily reflect official positions of the Church.”


  7. Rebecca Dalmas

    Fortunately, those two roles are not mutually exclusive.

    Lisa, you speak of the impressions you have from families who reject their gay loved ones…please don’t confuse them with those who define marriage as hetero. I do appreciate the building-up-Zion sentiment, but I feel you’ve tangled it up unnecessarily with a rejection of political activism, along with your own emphasis of where the Church should lead in the future.


    1. Eric

      Unfortunately, the political activism church members have chosen to take has had negative consequences for the church and its reputation. Whatever the doctrines of the church might be, the choice to enforce its doctrines in this manner has generated a lot of bad blood that was totally unnecessary and has resulted in the church needing to rehabilitate its image and not doing a very successful job at it. It would have been better if we had found alternatives than to ally ourselves with the religious right.


      1. Corey

        The church’s bruised reputation is not due to the activism of its LGBT-LOVING activists. The church has established it’s own image as an LGBT-REPRESSING entity.

        I realize and acknowledge that there are recent attempts to find common ground or some kind of peace, but the activists did not create this divide


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