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
Like 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
Even though it’s more important to do right than to be right, its frighteningly easy to convince ourselves that the two always correspond, particularly in matters of religion. The recent Mormon Women Stand (MWS) post, “A Protected Class of Sin,” is an example of what happens when the desire to be right supersedes the desire to do right. MWS has a history of arguing ideas that are divisive. The group seems to envision its job as that of separating the wheat from the chaff. Unfortunately, this post (like many others) risks dividing the faithful from the Spirit of the Lord. Continue reading
The “revelation of the week” is that Moroni 9:9 has been removed from the Young Women’s Personal Progress program, which offered the verse to Mormon teenage girls as a supporting scripture in the section, “Virtue.” Of course, this is significant because Moroni 9:9, 10 tells us that the daughters of Lamanites were taken captive, raped, tortured, and killed; it emphasizes that rape deprived these daughters “of that which is most dear and precious above all things.” In other words, the violent “loss” of their virginity is equated to a loss of virtue and is dubbed more tragic than either their torture or their murder. Fortunately, the verse had already been removed from “For the Strength of Youth,” but somehow lingered in the Personal Progress program. I suspect Elizabeth Smart’s public outcry against toxic chastity lessons was the match that lit the rather long wick prepared across decades by feminist outcry. The deletion of the verse is gratifying and a relief, but also signals something much more. Its removal is an acknowledgment that our sacred canon is fallible, that the views of the men who wrote, abridged, or recapped the events within that canon do sometimes pass on the biases and bad information of their eras—and that, when we know better, we should do better. The deletion reaffirms the pre-correlation notion that we are to learn truth from any source that brings it forward, and reject all untruth, no matter where it be found, including (as in this case) in our sacred writ.
The Church has taught that the Book of Mormon is not a perfect book and that its flaws are the flaws of man, not of God. The proof of this fallibility, to date, has come in tweaking words here and there in order to better represent the intent of a given passage. To be clear, the Church has neither reworded nor removed Moroni 9:9 from the Book of Mormon, nor do I think it should, though some may demand it.
While I empathize with those who call for its deletion (the message is reprehensible), I submit that there is more truth and power in leaving the scripture intact within the Book of Mormon, provided forthcoming Church teaching and literature acknowledges that Moroni 9: 9, 10 represents the fallibility of human beings and the historical wrong-headedness that endangered women by placing our value squarely on sexual purity. Our choice is to bury this reality through deletion or rewriting, or to embrace it.
I’d champion the addition of a footnote on the verses that clearly states that Mormon’s understanding was incorrect, that virtue is never lost through rape, and that the life of all human beings is most dear and precious above all. Such a footnote would represent an acknowledgment that even the prophets sometimes miss the complete truth because of the influences of their day. It would affirm that we are both a church and a people who will grow in wisdom, light, and understanding, and, when needed, will correct our course. If the Book of Mormon is a book written for our day, we ought not ignore this essential lesson.
Of course, such a footnote would likely be as scandalous as revolutionary, considering the implications it would hold for other ancient scripture. We can’t reasonably reject the teaching of Moroni 9:9, 10 for being out of sync with God’s feelings about rape and virtue, and, at the same time, fail to consider whether or not other ancient scripture is, likewise, off-track in light of additional light and knowledge currently possessed. We know through both anecdote and science that valuing women primarily for their “purity” is detrimental to the physical, social, emotional, and spiritual well-being of women. We also know through anecdote and science that current church teachings are detrimental to the physical, social, emotional, and spiritual health of LGBTQ people. This is significant.
Perhaps equally important, such a footnote and redirection of our teaching of the verses could set a precedent that would free our top leaders from the expectation—the burden—that their words must, at all times, be a perfect representation of God’s will. This expectation is a cruelty, even if its arguably self-inflicted. It would also emphasis, within the membership, an increase in the reliance upon the gift of the Holy Ghost.
I rejoice that the Church officially removed Moroni 9:9 from the Personal Progress program. It’s another improvement for women and a reduction of the pedestal’s height upon which Mormon women live and worship. I’m pleased to think its removal may signal a step toward contemporary acknowledgment that our prophets needn’t be perfect, that all our canon comes through a lens of human fallibility, and that we, as a people, are striving to do better. More of this please.
Victims of rape, incest, or other sexual abuse are not guilty of sin. If you have been a victim of any of these crimes, know that you are innocent and that God loves you. Seek your bishop’s counsel immediately so he can help guide you through the process of emotional healing. “For the Strength of Youth”
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So a bunch of LGBTQ activist groups have asked the Big 12 to reconsider their interest in BYU because of discriminatory practices at BYU against LGBTQ students. Needless to say, many BYU fans are upset and protesting back, claiming that these activist groups don’t understand that BYU is open to gay students who live the BYU Honor Code; this is just another example of religious persecution, they say. Well, no. No, it isn’t. Its a natural consequence. Its accountability in action. For all the attention we Mormons like to pay to the idea of consequences, we sure don’t want to accept the unpleasant consequences when they crash down on us. Continue reading
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
Previously published at By Common Consent, dated May 4th, 2016.
Angry? You bet. Tyler Glenn’s latest song and video boil with rage. Glenn, a gay man and former missionary, was embraced by the church for his advocacy in building the inclusivity bridge. That is, until the LDS church’s November 5th policy change regarding homosexuals—a change that codified those in same-gender marriages as apostates, required their excommunication, and forbade the baptism of their children under certain conditions. The policy change hit him hard, like a gut punch, he says. Feeling himself betrayed, denigrated, and literally dismissed over his sexual orientation, Glenn took a hard look at less-visited areas of Mormonism and decided he could no longer believe. The release of “Trash” depicts a stunning reversal of attitude toward his faith heritage. Continue reading
On 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
We’ve had nearly two months of discussion about the recent policy change regarding same-gender, committed couples and their children. The “wheat and tares” analogies are flying, with each side sure it is the wheat and the other, the tares. Just like in politics. That can never be a good thing within a religion. So, for a moment, I’d like to put aside arguments about the policy and talk about our kids. Not our gay kids. Not our straight kids. Not the kids of same-gender couples. Not the kids of traditional Mormon marriages, of mixed orientation marriages, or of divorce. But all of our LDS kids, regardless of orientation or circumstance. Let’s talk about what happens to them in the aftermath of the policy change because what happens to them affects us all. Continue reading
A blog post is circulating, written by Angela Fallentine over at Mormon Women Stand, titled, “Why You Can’t Be Loyally Opposed to the Church.” She argues that, in order to be truly faithful, a Latter-day Saint must accept “fundamental, core doctrines of the gospel; namely that marriage is only between a man and a woman and the law of chastity.” She isolates these two doctrinal points, I would assume, because of the on-going controversy surrounding the recent policy change and subsequent policy clarification that specify formal church discipline must occur for those in same-gender marriages or committed relationships; such discipline manifests as “church courts” and will result in the excommunication of any same-gender committed couples. While the church membership generally understands the difference between policy and doctrine–a lesson learned with the lifting of the priesthood ban–Fallentine seems to be swinging a few decades behind the curve ball. Continue reading