Monday, May 30, 2011
At the turn of the 19th century polygamy was the central issue within the LDS church and most all the church's actions were directed around polygamy in one way or another. Slightly earlier, when John Taylor was president of the church, he advocated speaking in code to keep hidden the intimate details of polygamy. The code allowed polygamists to communicate but was not easily interpreted by outsiders, particularly the courts that were trying to track down and imprison polygamists. John Taylor and later presidents of the church advocated a policy of "mind your own business", even within LDS wards. It was not proper to inquire about a person's spouse or children. Frequently, even bishops were not allowed to know who was married to whom and when asked it was officially approved to refuse to answer or even to lie. The web of details about family relationships was a state secret.
Today, in the correlated, sanitized, and bland lesson manuals of the LDS church and the general format of it's meetings, presentations, talks, and conferences, a different but similarly insidious code has become the culture. Ideas must be expressed in the approved format and with the approved words. Discussions that probe beyond the shallow surface of many topics are considered to be "lacking faith". Obvious truths that are generally recognized in the world are ignored and conflicts are never discussed. Rather than embrace challenges to approved patterns of thought and stimulate discussion and growth, such discussions are labeled as "apostate".
The bottom line is that using the "code" has always been the way to get approval and get ahead in church politics. To me both of these examples indicate an organization/corporation that is most interested in sustaining and protecting the organization. Next time I go in for a priesthood interview, I may try the John Taylor line, "mind your own business."
Sunday, May 22, 2011
I understand that honesty and integrity is a lot more complicated that the trite Sunday School lesson about being honest in all your dealings. One quote out of thousands available, should be sufficient --
"In matters of honesty, there are no shortcuts; no little white lies, or big black lies, only the simple, honest truth spoken in total candor... ” - Gordon B. Hinckley
Being a gay Mormon is a nearly constant dilemma of honesty and integrity. Personally, I have found that honesty is much healthier than dishonesty and so I try to stay on that path except when the price of honesty is more painful for someone I love than the price of dishonesty is painful for me (not an easy or necessarily healthy thing in and of itself).
Organizations and Corporations (speaking specifically of a certain Corp of the President) however, are much more immune to the ill health effects of dishonesty. Because organizations are not living breathing emotional beings they are not harmed by dishonesty in the personal way a human being is harmed by dishonesty. Poetically however, dishonesty usually catches up to the organization and can sometimes bring it tumbling down (ie: Enron, etc.).
Over many years, in fact from it's very beginning, "Lying for the Lord" has been such an inbred core belief in the Mormon church that in an era of the internet, Wiki-leaks, and expectations for greater transparency in corporate governance, dishonesty is becoming a trademark of Mormonism that threatens to undermine the otherwise good works of the organization. "Lying for the Lord" has many connotations that I won't get into here but you can find them online. Here I only use the phrase to mean it's least damning implication, which is something on the order of "saying what the church authorities believe the listener should hear rather than clearly stating the truth". This type of "Lying for the Lord" intentionality creates a fog around certain doctrines and points of history that the church prefers not to discuss.
Doctrinal fog is frequently used when the church changes a doctrine. The fog is often language that can be interpreted in different ways by those with different levels of belief and experience in the church. Fog allows those who like the new doctrine to see it as an improved clarification while also allowing those who like the old doctrine to still believe it because the old doctrine is rarely formally denounced.
Examples of doctrinal fog are everywhere in Mormonism when one looks at the current doctrine and compares it to what was taught 100+ years ago. An easy example is the lifting of the priesthood ban for blacks. The Church lifted the ban, but never explicitly denounced the theology that leaders once used to justify the ban. So the theology largely still continued and only started to die with the effects of silence and time. If the Church had denounced the earlier doctrine that was once used to justify the priesthood ban it would have called into question the reliability of prophets and apostles.
Repentance, admitting mistakes, and changing behavior is a foundational belief of the LDS Church and indeed of all Christianity. While this applies to individuals it should also apply to organizations, particularly one that claims to be the "only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth". However, the instances of LDS leadership admitting mistakes and errors are so few as to be almost non-existent. From a corporate perspective, it is much safer and easier to use doctrinal fog to blur past errors than it is to be honest in it's dealing with it's members and with non-members. This may be a necessity in the imperfect world we live in but in my opinion it should be used extremely sparingly and with great caution. It should not be the norm for lessons, public communications, and doctrinal pronouncements. As the church is learning through it's failing attempts to keep young people active and it's internet communications, payback can be a bitch.
Friday, May 20, 2011
Just watched the movie "Breakfast with Scot", a Canadian film from 2007. The story is of a gay couple who unexpectedly end up caring for a young boy with flaming gay preferences. One of the men is a former hockey star who is not so out-of-the-closet. They each end up learning powerful lessons about love and caring for each other. The story made me consider what it would have been like to be a gay boy raised by gay parents. I'm sure it would not all be roses, but for me it would have been wonderful to have parents who could help me relate to myself and the world. I can hardly imagine how great it would have been to be able to discuss my real feeling with my parents and to hear their advice about how to be happy and survive in a not so very gay friendly world. Great movie!
Sunday, May 15, 2011
I'm here. The fact that I exist and that I feel and think and love cannot be denied even by the most strident anti-gay rhetoric, tradition, or argument. I’m here, and this fact cannot be proven false by any scripture, prophet, or revelation. I’m here and I EXIST and I’M GAY.
So it really comes down to a very simple decision for each person:
A - you can accept the fact that I was created the way I am and go with it, or;
B - you can use any number of ideas, religious teachings, traditions, or beliefs, to explain why either I've chosen to be the way I am or that some outside influence has subconsciously caused me to be this way.
Our lives are built upon our beliefs, which come from our experience and learning. It’s impossible for one person to experience and know everything so we use our existing database of knowledge and experience to extrapolate into areas where we have not personally been. Most often real experience will prove that at least a portion of our extrapolated ideas are false. (This is why gay rights will ultimately triumph because over eight-four percent of Americans under 30 know someone who is gay or lesbian and this knowledge trumps tradition).
Our experience and learning come to us from spiritual, emotional, and intellectual means. It’s uncomfortable to change our foundational beliefs because it upsets so much that is built upon that foundational belief. Nevertheless, if we stubbornly hold to beliefs that are later proven by our experience and learning to be false, then we deny ourselves the opportunity to embrace more truth and to grow.
With respect to being gay, I have fully exhausted Option B. There is no stone left unturned and no idea (that I am aware of) left unconsidered that could explain me being gay other than Option A. After having shredded my life by examination to detect at what point I choose (either consciously or subconsciously) to be gay and finding nothing, and also having exerted all the power and influence of which I am capable over a very long time to change the way I am, I must conclude that Option B is false and that I exist as I was created.
Because I have a fundamental belief in God and because nothing I’ve done in wearing out Option B has proven to me that God does not exist, then the only answer left is that God created me as I am and I exist as he wants me to be, thus Option A.
You may certainly disagree. However, with respect to my life your database will be much smaller than mine so by definition I am the expert with regard to my life. For many years I believed Option B and it was reinforced over and over by my family, community, and the LDS Church. Unfortunately, this caused a great time delay in recognizing the truth, which brought me much unhappiness.
Because I now know, beyond doubt, that I was created the way I am and that God is OK with it, my old foundation of many other beliefs perpetuated by my family, community, and the LDS Church have also been permanently fractured. However, this is a topic for another day.
I exist and I love it!
Friday, May 13, 2011
If you're not in Utah you may have missed the latest Mormon scandal as former governor/ambassador John Huntsman told Time magazine this week that ...well read it for yourself below:
"And as for whether or not Huntsman still belongs to the Church of Latter-day Saints, I know less than I did before I asked him. ("I'm a very spiritual person," as opposed to a religious one, he says, "and proud of my Mormon roots." Roots? That makes it sound as if you're not a member anymore. Are you? "That's tough to define," he says."
Kind of refreshing to have a Mormon answer honestly about his feelings toward the church. Obviously, the vast majority in Utah think he is on the fast track to hell despite having a GA for a father and an apostle for his grandfather. I can relate.
Sunday, May 1, 2011
You Can't Go Home Again is a novel by Thomas Wolfe. It was published posthumously in 1940. The novel tells the story of George Webber, a beginning author, who writes a book that makes frequent references to his home town of Libya Hill. When the residents of Libya Hill read the book and see the egregious distortions Webber penned, they begin sending Webber death threats and menacing letters expressing their discontent with the novel, even though it is held in high regard in the rest of the country. Wolfe, as in many of his other novels, explores the themes of a changing America, including the stock market crash and the illusion of prosperity, and the unfair passing of time, which inhibits George from ever being able to go "home again".
The title comes from the finale of the novel when protagonist George Webber realizes, "You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood ... back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time — back home to the escapes of Time and Memory. (Wikipedia)"
Today, I went to Sacrament Meeting with my wife. We have not been able to go much recently because of her cancer treatments, which has been OK with me as I've made good use of the time off to reassess my situation and what I want out of the church and my relationship to it.
Today, I was deeply impressed by the spirit during the meeting and especially during the sacrament. For me, it seems as a confirmation from God of the love he has for those who attend despite the differences of opinion, culture, and values that exist within the membership.
It's always a little awkward for me to meet some of the men who were part of the High Council when I was humiliated by their uninformed and stupid questions at the time I was excommunicated. For a few years they stumbled through greeting me on Sunday but it was very uncomfortable on both sides so we've come to a point where we generally just avoid each other. I sometimes wish I could go back now and explain my life to them with the more clear vision of hindsight. I think I would be more able to teach them the truth about homosexuality and be less intimated.
Even though I enjoyed sacrament meeting today, my church life will never be the same...I can't go home again. I won't ever again be considered as "the possible next Bishop" candidate. No one will ever hold me up as an example in Sunday School of the "righteous priesthood holder". Because I am so uniquely different I won't ever feel completely comfortable at church. Changes may ultimately occur within the church that would make me feel comfortable but I doubt it will occur in my lifetime.
For my part, I won't ever again have complete trust in church leaders, the deep commitment to fulfill every assignment, or faith in every lesson and concept taught. My faith in God is solid. He knows me. Without it being intentional on my part, I will always be skeptical of what is spoken and written and even without looking for them I will see ulterior motives and manipulation.
I'm OK with that and I believe God is as well. I don't want to go back, I want to go forward. Isn't that the Plan after all? Isn't wisdom born of experience one of the great accomplishments of life?
Nevertheless, I don't plan to abandon the church. I'm a cultural Mormon and it's so much a part of who I am that I don't think it would be possible to completely separate myself without significant cognitive dissonance. I love to feel the spirit and the love of the saints toward each other even if it's not toward me. I want to support my wife and children and their desire to attend church. I will participate on my own terms and in my own way.
It's true...you can't go home again...at least to home as you once perceived it. But we can and will return home to God, this time with our eyes wide open. Here's to the future, bring it on!