Do You Hear in General Conference what LGBTQIA Members Hear?

GENERAL CONFERENCE IS upon us. Many LDS are preparing to hear the admonition, advice, and encouragement of the men and women called to lead the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While many believing members anticipate General Conference with great hope, some face the bi-annual conference with trepidation, bracing themselves for the painful messages that sometimes swipe at the tender souls of LGBTQIA members. Often, the talks that inspire cisgender, heterosexual (cishet) people like myself are talks that can plummet a queer person into despair and self-loathing. (“Queer” is an oft-used, commonly accepted umbrella term to replace LGBTQIA.) I may be cishet, but I’ve spent decades listening to queer people, and, while I’m in no position to speak on behalf of any LDS queer person or their community as a whole, I am in a position to talk to people like myself about the things I’ve learned along the way. I do this in the hope that other cishet members might better understand why General Conference can be so painful for queer LDS, even if they no longer attend. I also stand ready for correction by those associated with the LDS queer community.

Most cishet members balk at the idea that anything we or our Church leaders do or say is  homo- or transphobic. After all, we say, we don’t fear LGBTQIA people, and we surely don’t harbor feelings of hate for them. Interestingly, one of my gay friends has stopped using the word homophobic, opting instead to speak of heterosupremacy, or the worldview that heteronormity is and should be privileged as superior to homosexuality. Just because the “supremacy” part of “heterosupremacy” reminds us of the dark, cruel, and vicious world of the KKK’s white supremacy, we shouldn’t gauge the term an ill-fit descriptor of the LDS Church’s worldview; the modern Church can be both infinitely kinder than the KKK and unabashedly favor heteronormity, which it clearly does.   

Continue reading “Do You Hear in General Conference what LGBTQIA Members Hear?”

Dear LDS Woman, on Discovering Joseph Smith Deceived Emma

You aren’t alone. Many of us have been exactly where you are. When you called, you didn’t have to say much before I understood. You’d encountered the Fanny Alger story. You’d been taught Joseph Smith’s polygamy began in Nauvoo, not Kirtland, and with Emma’s consent, not behind her back. Your image of Joseph Smith is shattered, and with it, your trust in the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These men who pushed a scrubbed clean narrative of Joseph no longer seem incorruptible. You feel broken. What was certain no longer is. With each breath, your pain reminds you of Emma’s pain.

Continue reading “Dear LDS Woman, on Discovering Joseph Smith Deceived Emma”

The Struggle for LDS Unity

A recent Sacrament meeting in my ward focused on developing unity. Unity is a topic that often occupies my thoughts because, when I look around my ward, what I notice are the faces I no longer see. Unity isn’t what’s happening in today’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Division is increasing. The orthodox stay. The heterodox leave. As an openly heterodox member, I’m getting more and more lonely in the crowd. Continue reading “The Struggle for LDS Unity”

Open Letter to Straight Latter-day Saints From a Straight Latter-day Saint

Dear Straight Latter-day Saints,

To be clear, I am one of you, both because I am heterosexual and a practicing member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When the reversal of the Policy of Exclusion (PoX) became public, I, like you, celebrated. My celebration, however, was cut off by the fierce growl of the wounded and weary LGBTQ Mormon and post-Mormon community as it carried across social media. The reversal, they said, didn’t make anything better for them. The PoX was gone, but the Theology of Exclusion remains. I’ve spent this week in reflection, reading as many LBGTQ voices as I could, hoping to understand them with clarity. Today, I’ll share some thoughts, from one straight person to another. To do this, I must indulge in a personal story, one that is unflattering to say the least. Continue reading “Open Letter to Straight Latter-day Saints From a Straight Latter-day Saint”

Polygamy Culture, Pt II

My recent post regarding polygamy culture, followed as it was by this interview from Sisters Quorum, has raised some controversy. The discussion has rankled some LDS members who perceive the phrase as an attack on Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling. In other quarters, some claimed “polygamy culture” is just patriarchy. Today I’ll address both these arguments in brief, acknowledging that, like any developing concept, growth and adaptation are likely ahead. Continue reading “Polygamy Culture, Pt II”

Making Space: Tyler Glenn asks, “How Many More?”

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 “Making Space: Tyler Glenn asks, “How Many More?””

Numbers Tell the Story

rainbow darkOn November 5, 2015 the policy change to LDS Handbook 1 regarding homosexual members became known to the public. Since then, in the US, 34 LDS LGBT young people between the ages of 14 and 20 have committed suicide. The numbers are being tallied by Wendy and Thomas Montgomery, leaders in the Mama Dragons and Dragon Dads support groups for LDS LGBT families. That’s 1 suicide every 60 hours, or every 2 ½ days. That number does not include a count of suicide attempts, nor of suicides by any closeted LGBT young people. Twenty-eight of these suicides occured in Utah, a state that averages 37 youth suicides in a 12 month period. Thirty-four in 84 days is a stunning statistic. It’s horrifying. And gut-wrenching. It is also telling. It tells us we adults are not sucessfully supporting our LGBT youth.  Continue reading “Numbers Tell the Story”

The Members are True; the Church is True.

Christ synagogueSeveral weeks ago, a Gospel Doctrine teacher stated that “The Church is true, but the members are not.” Judging by the nods of assent, I’d say those sitting with me agreed with her. My natural inclination, as a language person, is to pick apart the word “true” until there’s no meat left on its bone. But I’ll spare you that. I do, however, want to to focus on the underlying assumption of the statement, namely the inference that the Church, as an institution, is better than its people. I’m not sure we really mean that. Continue reading “The Members are True; the Church is True.”

Letter to 14 Year Old Me, by John

John Bonner, of Salt Lake City, Utah, has given me permission to publish his open letter of encouragement to his 14-year old self, posted initially on the Mormons Building Bridges Facebook page. I can’t thank John enough, either for the honor of sharing his words with you or for his candor. This is a must-read for all people of faith who seek to follow the admonition of Christ to better love and serve the LGBT community. 

Dear 14 year-old me,

I see you there in the pews, head bowed, lines of tears marking divides down hot, embarrassed cheeks and pooling up in blurry smudges on the pages of the hymnal as you let the sacrament pass you by because you believe you’re not worthy. I see you standing alone in front of the basement window in complete darkness and silently mouthing the words, “I’m gay,” for the first time and vowing never to speak those words aloud to anyone. I see you pleading, begging, night after night on calloused knees to have these feelings taken away from you–rooted out of you and destroyed. Continue reading “Letter to 14 Year Old Me, by John”

The Policy and the Latter-day Apostate

bully

Slob. Slut. Prick. Princess. Tree hugger. Tea Bagger. Feminazi.  Fruitcake. Cracker. Coon. 

And then, in Mormonism, there is “apostate.”

Derogatory terms are meant to dismiss, demean, and devalue people, to set them aside as Other, or Less Than. Every one of us is guilty of using this or that term in our bad moments. Stupid. Radical. Nerd. Fool. And when we do, a silent, internal script soothes us by whispering, “At least I’m not that.” Continue reading “The Policy and the Latter-day Apostate”