From Error to Apology, or The Path to Grace in a Homophobic Faith


IN 1980, I BECAME A STUDENT at Brigham Young University, not long after the American Psychiatric Association reportedly removed “homosexuality” from its list of mental and behavioral disorders. To say the declassification had caused a stir on campus would be an understatement. Religious ire was up, and, throughout my years at BYU, both student and professor alike interpreted the change as “the world” normalizing sin and as Satan “winning over the hearts of men” in the last days. In my campus congregation, I was often reminded I’d been reserved for the spiritual battles to precede the second coming and to figuratively suit up.

So I girded up my loins just like my peers, full of devotion to God, even though I’d given the topic of homosexuality exactly as much thought as was held within the pages of Spencer W. Kimball’s The Miracle of Forgiveness.

Continue reading “From Error to Apology, or The Path to Grace in a Homophobic Faith”

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”

The Problem with Uncoupling “Jesus Christ” and “Latter-day Saints”

I vividly remember apostle Russell M. Nelson’s April 1990 General Conference address in which he reminded members to use the proper, full name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I remember because I agreed, having never been fond of the nickname “Mormon” for either Church or member. Today, as president of the Church, Nelson is reiterating his sentiments by asking both members and non-members to drop “Mormon” entirely. In its stead, he’s sanctioned the use of “The Church of Jesus Christ” and the official Church website will soon become churchofJesusChrist.org, a move that a Salt Lake Tribune article indicates seems innocuous to some outside the Church and offensive to others. What the article doesn’t note is the feelings of Latter-day Saints about the removal of their identity from the URL. Continue reading “The Problem with Uncoupling “Jesus Christ” and “Latter-day Saints””

The Restoration of Hope

In less than a year and half, Russell M. Nelson, as president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is managing to do something I hadn’t expected: he’s bringing hope back for many who had lost it, especially after the Policy of Exclusion became part of formal Church system. The hope I speak of isn’t perfect—and it’s far from full-grown—but the seed has taken root and the seedling seems to be pushing through the soil. Continue reading “The Restoration of Hope”

On the Excommunication of Bill Reel, the Heterodox Testimony, and the Lessons of Alma

Another stoning has occurred in this week’s excommunication of Bill Reel, the creator of the Mormon Discussions podcast. The violence of his excommunication has me in mourning, not half so much because he’s lost something as because the Church I love has forfeited something—someone—of value. Brother Reel is a modern-day Mormon enigma, a human symbol of a Church in turmoil, and the action of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which will soon have the approval of the First Presidency) is evidence of its dysfunction. Continue reading “On the Excommunication of Bill Reel, the Heterodox Testimony, and the Lessons of Alma”

All-In v. All-Inclusive: WWJD?

The recent apostolic push by David A. Bednar for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be “all in” regarding the gospel of our Savior emphasizes obedience, sacrifice, and consecration, offering each as a marker of all-in discipleship. I appreciate his message of devotion to our Savior and commitment to become like him. But as my soul dwells on his message, I keep sensing it isn’t complete. All-in is good; but all-inclusive is greater.  The difference between all-in and all-inclusive is that all-in focuses members on being fully committed to the formal Church while all-inclusive would focus the formal Church on its members. Continue reading “All-In v. All-Inclusive: WWJD?”

What Was, What Is, and What Will Be when Religion Limits Itself?

My name is Lisa Downing. I am a member of the Heath,Ward in the Heath, Texas Stake. I’m not an anonymous internet voice. I am a child of God, a convert to the great faith tradition encapsulated in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At my baptism at age 17 (some 40 years ago), I made a personal covenant with God—an extra one beyond those baptismal covenants outlined in the Book of Mormon—to always seek truth, light, and knowledge so that I can better honor and serve God and His purpose. Such a quest has no end yet is filled with new beginnings. It’s tiresome. Right now I’m tired. But my personal covenant requires something of me, something uncomfortable.

I find myself unable to validate through the gift of the Holy Ghost certain, limited statements made at Saturday morning’s General Conference, specifically remarks pertaining to truth in the address of Dallin Oaks.

These days, speaking up is becoming increasingly risky, and nothing feels more contrary to light of Christ than that. But the greater risk accompanies a denial of the Holy Ghost and so I will add my voice to that of Elder Oaks. Neither of us—none of us—can see God in any way other than through a dark glass, but perhaps, if I add what I have been given to see of the Divine, and if you add yours, the vision of God will come better into focus. Testimony is like a symphony. Each note alone has some small sound to convey, but only when all notes are joined do we understand the Great Composer.   Continue reading “What Was, What Is, and What Will Be when Religion Limits Itself?”

An LDS Trans Woman’s Response to General Conference

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. Continue reading “An LDS Trans Woman’s Response to General Conference”

Power and the New Class of Sinners

SunflowerButterflyLike most progressive Mormons engaging in the discussion about inclusion levels of the LGBTQIA community within the Church, I’ve argued in favor of love—that love is a behavior, that Christlike love practices empathy and inclusion. There is no concrete opposition to that, since love is an abstraction, so what I hear from “opposing” voices sounds a lot like, “We do love; we want to include” followed by a caveat. In truth, most orthodox, mainstream LDS are sincere in their desire to love and include, but they both justify and endorse policies of exclusion without hesitation. It’s a baffling dichotomy. But this weekend, at General Conference, the fog lifted for me. I’ve had it all wrong. This isn’t about a lack of love. It’s about power and submission. It’s about the corruption of ethics and ideals and how we’ve exchanged them for easily quantifiable “standards” that bind a subservient class to the will of its leadership. It’s about control. Continue reading “Power and the New Class of Sinners”