Just my rambling thoughts about being gay and Mormon

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

LDS Bishop speaks up

Donald Fletcher, an LDS Bishop in San Francisco, published a guest commentary on Religion News Service about how gay members are poorly treated in the Mormon church (my words, not his). The same article was picked up by the SL Tribune, but not the Deseret News (hum..wonder why?). You can read his article HERE.
I was surprised at the emotion this article stirred within me. Most the time I'm pretty much over the Mormon thing, but sometimes it comes back and surprises me. The truth is that I will always be, at my core, both Mormon and gay and they don't play well together.

As I read his commentary, at first I found tears welling up in my eyes as I felt affirmed by at least somebody in a leadership position within the Mormon church. I thought how great it must be for the gay members in San Francisco to have access to such an understanding priesthood leader. Then I wondered, is this the way the church will change? By adapting to meet the needs of the local members, with or without the approval of Salt Lake?
After I finished reading and as I was thinking about what I had read, I felt cheated for having to deal with such non-understanding priesthood leaders. Generally good men, but who did not know a thing about what being gay was like or how it felt to be continually held up as the ultimate example of evil in meeting after meeting after meeting. Their greatest concern was about implementing whatever discipline they felt was required so they could say that their hands were clean. 

Next, I felt sad for gay members who live in Mormon Wards similar to mine. How many more must suffer and in some cases die? I felt sad that the leadership in Salt Lake does so little to prepare priesthood leaders and so little to dispel the false beliefs church members have about homosexuality.
The more I thought about it my sadness turned to anger. Anger at having been abused, taken advantage of, and lied to. I was so trusting, so believing, for so long. But ultimately, I was forced to acknowledge the truth about homosexuality that was in my face for so long. A truth that is obvious to so many who are willing to open their eyes and just see without prejudice or predisposition. 

How can an organization that proclaims to accept all truth, and to have living prophets and seers who can see the truth, fail to acknowledge the truth about homosexuality? (or lots of other things, as it turns out). Why is an organization led by God so far behind in acknowledging reality? Why are the prophets being led by lowly members who drive change instead of leading the way?
Ultimately, the LDS church leadership must be judged based on their actions (or by their fruits you shall know them). Unfortunately, the weight of evidence suggests they are a group of generally nice but out-of-touch old guys who have established a management system that favors themselves and the status quo.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mormon's against marriage in the UK

Mormon's are a relentless bunch - the very definition of persistence.  But really, how often to you have to keep flogging this losing cause?
RJH over at BCC (sounds like some super secret code) posted about how the UK government has asked for input about formally making same sex marriage legal. He notes that the government "clearly believes it will prove sufficiently popular. All the main parties support the legislation and it will almost certainly pass."  His blog post is worth a read. You can find it HERE
Peggy Fletcher Stack, over at the SL Tribune also wrote a piece about the same UK government action but noted the Mormon's church's response. She wrote about how the local Area Authority Seventy sent out a letter to be read in all Sacrament Meetings. Apparently, the letter says that "same-sex weddings will destroy the institution of marriage for future generations", and "will lead to a constitutional crisis."  You can read her story 
 Blah, Blah, Blah...same old scare tactics that have no basis in fact.  

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ambulances in the valley

What is the purpose of religion and/or a church? The answer to this basic question is extremely important because what a church or religion believes to be it's mission guides the actions of the organization. Here a just a few possibilities from real religions:

  • Heal the wounded
  • Bring God into the lives of people
  • Bring people to Christ
  • Create harmony among mankind
  • Save souls
  • Point people toward God
  • Destroy the non-believers
  • Create a community of like minded people
  • Protect the poor and innocent
  • Preach the gospel
  • Redeem the dead
  • Perfect the saints

According to His Holiness The Dalai Lama XIV, “The whole purpose of religion is to facilitate love and compassion, patience, tolerance, humility, and forgiveness.”  
Whatever your belief is about the purpose of religion it should have something to do with what church you choose to associate with...or you could just adopt the beliefs of atheism.
A pretty persuasive argument can be made that religion is bad and has caused more problems in the world than it has solved - but that's a discussion for another day.

With respect to the Mormon church in particular, why is it so unresponsive to pleas for help and so distant from the social issues faced by humanity? Because of it's underlying belief that it has a higher mission. It's minimal efforts (compared with it's resources) to protect the innocent, alleviate suffering, promote human rights, reduce poverty, and foster greater freedom, compassion, and cooperation are because it believes it's resources are better focused on other things more in line with it's stated purpose. What is that? Well, one purpose is to ensure that members and the dead receive the ordinances of salvation so they can inherit the celestial kingdom after this life. This belief drives the billions of dollars spent on temple construction around the world.

Russell M. Nelson, a church apostle has said, "Humanitarian relief rendered by members of this church is extensive, multinational, and generally unpublicized. Even so, there are doubtless many who wonder why we don’t do more to assist the innumerable worthy causes to which our hearts respond. Of course we are concerned with the need for ambulances in the valley below. But at the same time, we cannot ignore the greater need for protective guardrails on the cliffs above. Limited resources needed for the accomplishment of the higher work cannot be depleted in rescue efforts that provide only temporary relief" (conf May 1994).

This mission is very different than the mission of most other churches, which focus on helping the community through religious service. Mormons have a common saying that "God will take care of it in the afterlife." I can't help but wonder if we use this as an excuse to not do something to help those in need today?

For me, the older I get the less important worrying about the future and the afterlife becomes. I can't really do a lot about some vague future afterlife that is not well defined. I can do something to help those who need help today. A basic principle of sane and wholehearted living is to live in the present. Christ even said that tomorrow will take care of itself. 

I guess my lament is that there are so many areas where without expending large resources, the church could simply, by giving a nod of approval or sponsoring a program, help drive change to improve people's lives today. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Something smells fishy here....

The Deseret News was the first newspaper to publish an article on  a new "study" about children raised by same sex couples. Of course the "study" found that the children had more problems than those raised by heterosexual couples. Interestingly enough, the DN also published an editorial praising the study about 2 minutes after it published the story itself. The DN's title for the article is, "Studies challenge widely held assumptions about same-sex parenting".
Any in-depth reading of the "study" shows it was a political ploy not real research. The "study" is being roundly criticized by scientists and investigative reporters because of it's poor methods and obvious right wing agenda. It consists of using very shaky data to try to find fault with the 59 published studies cited by the American Psychological Association supporting the health and well-being of children of same-sex couples. 
I won't get into the details of what's wrong with the study, you can find that for yourself. In summary, it draws conclusions about the relationship between parents' sexual orientation and a child's well being that are really more findings about the role of instability in childhood than same sex parenting. All they really found is that family instability is bad for children ... hardly groundbreaking news. The disgusting part is how they try to link it to same sex couples by bending the data in all kinds of weird ways. The study’s most obvious flaw is that it doesn't compare intact two-parent same sex families with similar two-parent straight families.
This smell's fishy to me. Turns out the National Organization For Marriage (NOW) is behind this political statement in the guise of a scientific study and the founder of NOW is on the Editorial Advisory Board of Directors for the DN. The project was led by Mark Regnerus, a sociologist at the University of Texas and former professor at the evangelical Calvin College (Regnerus also wrote a cover story for Christianity Today encouraging Christian children to marry young).
I'm really getting tired of the Mormon church's back handed, under the table efforts to undermine gay rights. It now seems they are willing to support fake science to achieve their goal. For me this is another piece of evidence to support my conclusion that the DN has stopped being a newspaper and is now just a political rag for the right wing.
This is incredibly sad because in the end it hurts Mormons with gay family members and children in general, particularly those who could be adopted and loved by gay couples.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mixed orientation marriage is...

The LDS media world has had multiple stories and comments the past few days about the recent coming out post by Josh Weed on his website.


The attention is not focused so much on the fact that he's gay (what's another gay Mormon?) as it is on the fact that he's married to a woman and he wrote his coming out post on their 10th anniversary.

I wish Josh and his wife well and don't really have any comment about his post other than it was very personal and I applaud him for his openness. My thoughts are centered more around the response to his blog post.

The breadth of human experience is vast enough to cover a huge variety lives. Each person's experience is legitimate in their own situation. I absolutely don't believe that one type of experience is better or worse than other...just different. For me, that is part of the wonder of life, that we each have unique (God given, if you will) characteristics, abilities, and preferences. No one path is correct for everyone.

Having lived the majority of my life in a mixed orientation relationship I know that it can be rewarding, fun, and happy. It can also be frustrating, lonely, and hard. I don't recommend it for those who need continual care and feeding from a partner. Not because your partner won't love you or try to meet your needs but because there are times when he/she won't know how. This occurs in any marriage but mixed orientation marriages are more prone to it, in my opinion. I've been very lucky. My life has been blessed with a uniquely wonderful partner. For most people, life is difficult enough without adding mixed orientations to it. 
I really don't like that many in the LDS media community have pointed to Josh's post with a "there, see it works" attitude. This attitude is typified by a comment that reads, 
"I'm single, LDS and straight and have wondered how someone could be gay and live the teachings of the gospel. I somehow always knew, absolutely KNEW it had to be possible. I will share your blog with others."

I also noticed that the majority of those who commented on Josh's post were women, many of who seemed to be trying to fit their gay friends and family into  a context of Mormon church teachings (versus, just accepting them for who they are). It appears that for many the post justified their belief that mixed orientation marriage is the way for their gay Mormon friends and relatives to be saved. The Utah Mormon media also geared their coverage of the story with this slant. Many comments also reinforced common erroneous stereotypes and for me highlighted a need for education. 
John Gustav-Wrathall linked to a new blog by Ashley, where she describes her mixed orientation marriage and how it ultimately failed. Unfortunately, it is not an unusual tale, though she writes about it in an unusually powerful and tender way. I recommend you read it.
Ashley's Blog

Monday, June 11, 2012

The arrogance of man

I laughed out loud when I read about Cambridge University Press releasing the journal of Dr. George Levick. He was a biologist on Scott's expedition to the South Pole in 1910. On his return to Britain, Dr. Levick attempted to publish a paper entitled "the natural history of the adelie penguin", but according to Douglas Russell, curator of eggs and nests at the Natural History Museum, it was too much for the times.
"He submitted this extraordinary and graphic account of sexual behaviour of the adelie penguins, which the academic world of the post-Edwardian era found a little too difficult to publish," Mr Russell said. "It's just full of accounts of sexual coercion, sexual and physical abuse of chicks, non-procreative sex, and finishes with an account of what he considers homosexual behavior, and it was fascinating."  (source: BBC News)

The shocked polar explorer's associates in Britain determined that the "depraved" sex acts of the penguins was unnatural and so they buried the report for 100 years. How could anything that a creature of nature do be unnatural? How arrogant is man to assume he can judge anything he sees. 

I imagine the same good chuckle will be had 100 years from now when people look back at how they viewed LGBT people today. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Corporation above church...another example

I get physically ill when I think about the horrible policy of the Mormon church that permanently marks the membership records of those who have confessed homosexual activity. This mark remains on the persons membership record forever. (by-the-way I love this new Ray-Ban add)
In my post from yesterday, I talked about Benji Schwimmer's interview on Mormon Stories. Late in the interview he talks very emotionally about what this mark on his church record means to him. It is incredibly moving and sad. 
Today, I refer you to a post on Neal's Pensieve where he relates his investigation into this policy and verifies from an apostle that it exists as described.  You can read his excellent post HERE
This makes me very angry and ill to think about. My reaction is to get as far away as possible from the Mormon church. I've thought about formally resigning from the church but never thought it worth the effort. After all, they have no more influence over me than I give them so what's the point of just leaving versus resigning. Maybe one purpose of resigning is a tangible statement of protest.
This is something I need to think more about. Even if I resign I will never know what records the church maintains about me because everything is kept so super secret. I firmly believe, based on my experience as a Ward Clerk and other callings, that church records never really go away. It's kind of Orwellian.  

It makes me want to file some kind of legal action to obtain full access to any records the Mormon church has about me. Is that possible, or practical?  Probably not since it would cost a fortune to fight them in court.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Benji Schwimmer !!

Mormon Stories recently posted an interview with Benji Schwimmer, who won the second season of So You Think You Can Dance in 2006. Mormon Stories does such a fantastic service in providing the stories of a wide variety of Mormon experience. I was particularly touched with Benji's story. It resonated deeply. 

The interview is pretty long - 5.5 hours - but extremely worth the time!

Part 1: His early years, and his LDS mission experience
Part 2: His experiences on So You Think You Can Dance
Part 3: His attempts to come to terms with his sexuality and his LDS faith

My experience and life is very different than Benji's but my feelings and the emotional and spiritual path we both traveled were very similar. I find it fascinating that there is a growing community of gay former Mormons, including me, who feel convinced that they were led away from the Mormon church by God. This part of Benji's story begins at about 1 hour into the 3rd video.

Thank you Benji Schwimmer for being open enough to share your story, and thank you John Dehlin and Mormon Stories. I encourage you to support Mormon Stories. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

When is a change not a change?

Yesterday, at the Pride Parade I was visiting with various people and one of the common topics of discussion was the "Mormons Building Bridges" participation in the parade. The general consensus, as far as I could tell, was that people thought it was very nice of them to participate and that they should be applauded for being willing to stand up and show support. However, most people also mentioned that until the church leadership changed some very gay un-friendly policies, the change was pretty much just skin deep.  I tend to agree with this sentiment.
Jana Riess, over at the Religion News Service, wrote a great piece today that points out one of the real problems with the Mormon leaders policies. In brief, it is that the Church Handbook of Instructions essentially equates homosexual activity with child abuse and could follow you forever on the church records! 

I know for a fact that when you tell a Mormon church leader something in confidence, it probably won't just stay with him. In some cases, it follows you in secret for the rest of your life.

Read Jana's article, its very good. She is correct, the church needs to stop this practice, NOW.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Dustin Lance Black !!

Academy Award winner Dustin Lance Black was the Grand Marshall of the Salt Lake City Pride Festival this year. He is much loved by the Utah gay community because of his connections to Utah/Mormons, and his very successful advocacy of gay rights.

  • Dustin Lance Black is a screenwriter, producer and director, having won the Academy Award® and Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay for MILK, the biopic of the late gay civil rights activist Harvey Milk starring Sean Penn
  • In 2004, Black signed on to draw on his devout Mormon childhood experiences in San Antonio, Texas as a writer and co-producer on HBO´s Emmy® and Golden Globe® nominated polygamist drama BIG LOVE. He continued to write for the show until the third season wrapped in 2008
  • Recently, Black completed his feature directorial debut VIRGINIA starring Jennifer Connelly and Ed Harris and has teamed up with director Clint Eastwood, actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Imagine Entertainment to scribe J.EDGAR, the story of famed FBI director J. Edgar Hoover
  • Black is currently writing THE BAREFOOT BANDIT for FOX based on the true story of Colton Harris-Moore, and recently signed on to adapt Jon Krakauer´s acclaimed UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN for Warner Brothers.
  • Beyond his film work, Black is also a civil rights activist. He is a founding board member of the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), which is leading the Federal Case against Prop 8 in CA with lawyers David Boise and Ted Olson, and is on the Board of the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ teen suicide hotline providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ youth.
  • Black has had two books published, has written for every major screenwriting magazine, contributes to The Daily Beast and The Huffington Post, topped the list of OUT Magazine´s 40 under 40, and has repeatedly been named one of the 50 most powerful LGBT people in America today by that same publication

This was my first full participation in Pride and I really had fun (although I'm too old to stay up partying until 2 AM with any frequency). We have an amazing, vibrant, caring, and hopeful community. Young gays in Utah are almost certain to have a better chance at a promising and inclusive future than my generation.
 DLB was kind enough to pose with me for a picture!! I pretty much just intruded on him and asked for the picture. He was very gracious and posed, twice in fact, because the first picture turned out blurry. He even put his arm around me - isn't he sweet. In case you can't tell, he's the cute one and I'm the rainbow smiley face who still needs to keep some level of privacy for my blog.  
Thanks DLB for taking time to participate in our Pride Festival, and thanks for letting me get a picture with you!!