Today’s guest post is written by an LDS trans woman in reaction to President Oak’s Saturday morning General Conference address. Her thoughts and experiences may be her own, but the responsibility to hear her through the lens of the pure love of God belongs to us all. –LTD
I spent Saturday with a lesbian friend. We had barbecue hamburgers and a very pleasant day. When I arrived home around 8 PM, I noticed several messages asking if I was okay. I couldn’t understand why I, so I responded to a friend of mine, assured them I was fine, and asked why they were asking. I was told that President Oaks had given a very disturbing talk regarding the LGBT members of the church at General Conference.
I looked for the talk on the internet. Once I found it, I listened to it. It’s hard to think of a more abusive, arrogant, ignorant and reprehensible talk any time, especially by a church leader of any faith. Elder Oaks proceeded to tell those of us who are transgender or gay/lesbian how we were worth nothing in the sight of God. He said we could not enter the celestial kingdom but could only hope for a lesser glory in the resurrection. His talk makes me think of 2 Timothy 3: 1-5:
1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
In his condemnation of the entire spectrum of LGBT members and non-members, President Oaks took it upon himself to judge us. In a CES fireside on 1 Mar 1985, President Oaks said this about the final judgement: “First, I speak of the final judgment. This is that future occasion in which all of us will stand before the judgment seat of Christ to be judged according to our works. … I believe that the scriptural command to ‘judge not’ refers most clearly to this final judgment, as in the Book of Mormon declaration that “man shall not … judge; for judgment is mine, saith the Lord” (Mormon 8:20).
It seems Elder Oaks has forgotten his own words and instead takes upon himself to judge all LGBT people. This is not Christ-like. He goes on and tells us not to trust scientists and other experts. This so arrogant as to be incredible. Numerous times we have been counselled to seek expert help as needed for health and other issues. Now suddenly, they know nothing and instead we should trust the leaders of the church, none of which have training as therapists and medical doctors regarding transgender issues. In fact, BYU, the church university, doesn’t even have one expert to turn to. The church even denies the possibility of intersex people even though it is a well-documented fact.
I am reminded of others who were deemed unworthy. Think of the woman caught in adultery who was brought to Jesus. John 8 reads:
1 Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.
2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
I must infer from his talk that Elder Oaks is without sin.
Most important of all is the impact of this talk on those who have or will listen to it. I have personally felt a need to step away from the church to find rest to my emotionally scarred soul. Being transgender has been a rough road in the church. Many of the members of my ward have been friendly, if not supportive. The church as an institution has not.
The church refuses to use my legal name on church records once I changed it legally, against their own policies. I am not allowed to go to Relief Society or Priesthood or their activities. I can only use the family restroom if they have it and if not, there is no restroom made available to use as a transgender (I suspect that’s illegal), I’m not allowed to serve in any callings, and on and on. Then I am told I’m welcome at church. I think most people would find that quite unreasonable to say that is welcoming.
I had felt for a few weeks that, for my emotional health, I was better off not attending church. This talk from Elder Oaks cemented for me that the teachings of the church regarding the LGBT brothers and sisters is not from the Lord as it doesn’t reflect His teachings. Based on teachings such as from this talk, many members will feel free and justified to look down on LGBT members. My own family is included in this. Here is an email I sent to my siblings and the response I got from my brother:
Me to brothers and sisters:
Some of you may find this [article about the link between genes and transgender] interesting. Most of you either won’t read it or won’t believe particularly after Pres. Oaks talk today to not believe science in these matters. For me, this is good evidence of what I feel. As for Oaks, because of comments like his from church leaders, I had decided a few weeks ago not to go to the Mormon church any more. After this talk I’m seeing clearly I was right. I won’t be returning to church for a long time, if ever. Sorry if that bothers you but it’s my choice.
My brothers response:
Sorry to hear your church decision. When I heard Pres, Oaks comments, I hoped you were listening and would heed the words of one of the Lord’s prophets. But you have clearly decided that the only time they are correct in their teachings is when they agree with you. Some years ago Pres. Benson described this as one of the characteristics of pride. You want the Lord to bow to your opinion rather than listen to Him.
I’m disappointed in your decision, but I’m not particularly surprised by it. You are following the progression of most who apostatize from the Church.
Even though we disagree on this issue, I still love you and you are still my brother. You are still welcome in my home. The only thing I ask is that you do not try to convince my children that you are right and the Church is wrong. If you start doing that I will sever ties. You and I can discuss as much as you like.
From what you have shared, I know you are unhappy, miserable might be a better word. Consider the teachings of a Book of Mormon prophet who said wickedness never was happiness. When you finally ‘come to yourself’ and return to the Church you will once again find the contentment and happiness you are seeking.
Thanks for the loving kind words when I’m feeling down and out. I appreciate the kick in the gut.
I know I’m not the only one who feels this way or is treated this way. Sen Jim Dabakis from Salt Lake posted this on his facebook account:
In response to a speech given today, [he posted]:
“Dear LGBTQ youth of Utah, especially Mormon and trans kids. I know you can feel alone and unloved. No matter who says it, even if it is your family or some high titled official—neither you nor the people who are fighting for you to be treated fairly are ‘Satan’s plan’. You matter. You are loved. You don’t need to change who God made you to make ‘them’ feel like all their cogs fit into their tidy religious machine. This Senator and so many other Utahns are standing with you and not with the bullies–of all ages! People who mouth loving you but that then demand that you conform to their narrow, 1950’s, UnChristian requirements are dangerously ill-informed at best and evil at worst. It will get better for you. I see you. I love you.
Elder Ballard at a BYU devotional in Nov 2017 said this:
I want anyone who is a member of the Church who is gay or lesbian to know I believe you have a place in the kingdom and recognize that sometimes it may be difficult for you to see where you fit in the Lord’s Church, but you do.” He went on to say “We need to listen to and understand what our LGBT brothers and sisters are feeling and experiencing. Certainly, we must do better than we have done in the past so that all members feel they have a spiritual home where their brothers and sisters love them and where they have a place to worship and serve the Lord.
Of course, this was before President Monson passed and the new First Presidency with Elder Oaks as First Counselor was formed.
To Elder Oaks I would say, You need to listen to Elder Ballard and the LGBT members of this church!
Linda Swayne Gifford
BIO: Linda came out as a transwoman on September of 2017, just prior to her 69th birthday. This resulted in a divorce from her wife and rejection by some in her family. Her goal for later life is to be a support for the LGBT community in helping others dealing with this difficult part of their lives. She is very involved in Affirmation (a worldwide organization supporting LDS LGBTQIA) as well as SAGA (Southern Arizona Gender Alliance).
Through the lens of pure love, we see mortal beings of infinite potential and worth, and beloved sons and daughters of Almighty God. Once we see through that lens, we cannot discount, disregard, or discriminate against anyone. Dieter Uchtdorf, October 6, 2018 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
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