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”

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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”

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”

The Prophet, the PoX, and the Vulnerable Seminary Student

June, 1828: Joseph Smith and Martin Harris take a break from translating the golden plates onto foolscap because Emma Smith is about to deliver a baby. Harris desperately wants to take the 116 pages to his wife in order to justify the time and money he is investing in Smith. Smith reportedly prays twice for permission to let Harris show the manuscript to his resentful wife. Twice he’s told no. Harris persists and Smith, who imagines (financial) value in winning Lucy Harris back to his prophetic corner, prays a third time. And this time, the wearied Lord tells him Harris may take the pages. Cue foreboding music.

You know the rest of the story. Months after Emma is delivered, Smith journeys to Palmyra to learn why Harris hasn’t returned with the manuscript. Smith finds a distraught Harris, who admits the pages are missing and assumed stolen. Grief-stricken, Joseph loses his ability to translate further. After a period of repentance, his gift is restored.

Moral of the story: Don’t tempt God. Respect His answers. It’s often said that the Lord agreed to let Harris take the manuscript to teach his prophet a lesson about the difference between following the Lord’s will versus following his own. I propose it also teaches what happens when our study and faith is grounded in faulty assumption.

Like all lessons of history and scripture, the lesson of the lost manuscript is meant for more people than just Joseph Smith. Continue reading “The Prophet, the PoX, and the Vulnerable Seminary Student”

November 5th and Why I Stay

Two years ago this November 5th, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints applied a mallet to a chisel and created a crack in the ability I once had to apologize for it. That day initiated what people like me call “the exclusion policy.” People not like me don’t call it anything. They ignore it. They say, “These men are called of God, and I have a testimony of that.” I can say I have a testimony of that as well, but I can also say I have a testimony that the exclusion policy is wrong, no matter who passed it down or who passes it off as God’s word. Every day I read words of LGBTQIA children of God whose faith in God is whole, but whose trust in the leadership is shattered. Across the past two years, there’s been an exodus of members who, like me, see a church leadership that can’t embrace the most important, the most basic, teaching of the Savior, namely to love others as we love ourselves, as equals. I can’t speak for the LGBTQIA community, nor for their families. I can speak only for myself–a cisgender, heterosexual female member–and today I’d like to answer a question I’ve been asked repeatedly, either in the form of “Why do you stay if you disagree with the prophets of God?” or “Why do you stay as if nothing ever happened on November 5, 2015?” I stay because I will not abandon what is rightfully mine. I stay because I own my relationship with the Divine Being, and the formal church does not. I stay. But I won’t stay quiet. Continue reading “November 5th and Why I Stay”

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”