Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Mormons thrill in the Human experience -- a few gay LDS questions

I was sent a few questions from a reader. I don’t know if they were from a form somewhere or whether he authored them himself. The questions are his. The answers are mine.

Q: Mormonism presents a theological limit to full participation by LGBT people. When a member of the family comes out of the Mormon closet, what are the eternal prospects of a brother or sister who does not fit within what Mormons understand as God’s plan?
A: I believe that LGBT people do fit into God's plan. I am a LGBT person. His plan includes all of us – even the ones that do not fit in with the majority standard.  But don’t ask me how.  I believe that God has a way and a place and a plan, but I do not know the entirety of it. I do know that if we act on the knowledge we have, follow the prophet, and ask the Lord for guidance we will receive instruction. With that instruction we will all be able to progress.

Q: Mormons are actually subject to the same growth and conflict as every other people of faith. Why doesn’t the church reflect that? 

A: I believe that the church as an organization does reflect that. It is becoming far more specific. For example, in 1969, Spencer W Kimball, who was an apostle and would soon be the prophet, wrote in his book The Miracle of Forgiveness (which is in the process of being phased out BTW,) that homosexuality was one of “ever deepening degeneracies” perpetrated by the deprived; A very general comment.  I do not feel that I am a degenerate. I know how painful it was to hear that, to read it in my study while I was on a mission to which I had been assigned by... Spencer W. Kimball.

The church, the hierarchy of the church, the doctrine of the LDS church state that homosexual behaviors are as wrong as they ever were. Thankfully they do not say degenerate. However -- back to that specificity -- the church now makes the differentiation between the state and the behavior. The behavior is considered wrong. The state of being is not. I am gay.  I am not a degenerate.  I choose to behave according to what I feel is right, trying to be/stay morally clean.

Q: It is said that Mormon theology evolves in mysterious ways. It seems to evolve in tandem with shifting leadership in the Church’s upper echelons.  

A: Change is part of the human existence. Change may coincide with personalities of church leaders. Conference became a friendlier place with Gordon B. than it had been with Ezra Taft. Doctrine was still the same, but there was a different personality at the helm and a slightly different focus.

As a people our focus changes as well.  In the seventies we wondered about blacks and the priesthood and received clarification. Today we have different questions, and the focus in the church reflects that. We are in a different place than we were 50 years ago and our questions are different, and – dare I say it – more evolved.

Q: LDS Church Public Affairs has been credited with the development of web materials now used in the church. Public Affairs seems to be positioned to respond quicker to evolving issues in a ways that the Church’s ecclesiastical chain of command is not.

A: I do not believe that you can separate the LDS Church Public Affairs from the leaders of the church. LDSPA is led by the general authorities. They have called people and selected staff to represent the church.  Every word that comes out of the proverbial mouth of LDSPA comes from a general authority or has been approved word for word by a GA. LDSPA was created by the church to handle a changing society and the way in which it communicates. If there is a response given by the LDSPA, the odds are incredibly high that you are hearing the voice of a general authority of the LDS church.

Q: Why is it OK to be a gay Mormon in southern California and not to in Idaho Falls.

A:You can’t be talking about the Idaho Falls that I know. But I understand the question.

First, we need to clairfy. Are you talking about being with a partner and having a recommend at the same time?  Probably not going to happen. Or are you talking about gay people participating in the church?  It can happen. I am gay and I am in the church and I have a temple recommend.

I suppose it has something to do with the people themselves. The doctrine is the same from place to place, but the personality of the ward reflects the members. Are they more accepting of people and their differences in California than they are in Idaho Falls? Is that your point?  Maybe. There is much freedom handed over to local leaders who are pulled directly from the local congregations.

If not everyone is welcome in your ward -- whether you are in Boise or Boston, then do something about it. You are the church and you can exert influence on how your local ward acts towards their community.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

My religion says "no"

My Mormon religion is very clear on it's stance that marriage is between a man and a woman. I myself believe that marriage is between a man and a woman - one of the reasons, I suppose, that I am a Mormon. 

Specifically, I am a card carrying TBM who is gay and is married to a woman - a rather cool woman if I may add. (There is just no short way to say that) 

The SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality made recently supports the stance that gays have the right to marry based on "equal protection under the law". The supreme court has decided that it is a fundamental right that requires protection by the U.S. constitution. 

I agree with their decision. I am not comfortable excluding those of the GLBT community from this right regardless of my personal religious beliefs.

My friend, John Gustav-Wrathall has stated: 

"The majority and dissenting opinions alike agree that marriage is a fundamental right that deserves protection under the constitution. But there are core differences of opinion on the question of what, precisely, about marriage is fundamental." 

It is clear that the institution of marriage has changed over the course of time, so an argument based on keeping the status quo is unsupportable. That would be akin to the government coming up with an approach of "because I said so". Has that ever had any credibility?

And if there have been any changes to the institution of marriage throughout history (and there have been) then keeping the status quo for it's own sake rings hollow. 

The question is whether or not those of the LGBT community should be allowed access to "marriage". Is marriage dependent on gender as the political right thinks, or is marriage the voluntary union of two consenting adults - as per the left?

Liberals see no reason for those in the LGBT community to be excluded from marriage or denied the right to marry. The conservative take is that liberals want new laws that change the definition of marriage as they themselves have historically interpreted it.

Our 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection. It requires. and we expect that SCOTUS will decide if the laws in question take away fundamental rights and freedoms. Who gave SCOTUS this power?  Why, we did. This has been established by the constitution. 

In this case, the LGBT community has been kept from an institution that has been historically reserved for Heterosexuals. A "yes" vote by SCOTUS has kept us from creating a group Americans without the rights that other Americans have - a minority group that isn't allowed the same privileges as their neighbors have. The court did its job and protected a minority group from discrimination. 

Now, if I may bring a bit of my Mormon religion into it. As I have stated, I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. I support the stance the LDS church takes and I support the right they have to take it. However, I cannot in good conscious force that opinion on others. Neither do I believe that the LDS church wants to force its opinion on others.

There are many things that our rights allow us to do. That doesn't mean that we should. For example, I have the right to speak my mind and picket the funeral of a solder with a tasteless sign. That doesn't mean that I should or that I am going to. But I have that right as per the constitution.

This goes back to the beginning for me - quite literally. Mormons believe - I believe - that we all fought for the right to make our own decisions. Getting married to one of the same gender is a decision. Whether I would make that particular choice is not the question. 

 I do believe that Satan started and will end by trying to destroy the family and I believe that this is part of it. And still, people should have the choice to decide for themselves. We can encourage, plead, suggest, beg, make public the proclamation (which is revelation form the Lord) in order to convince them to make what we feel is the right decision based on our knowledge, but in the long run, we all have agency.

Do gays have the right to marry under the law? Yes. Should they have that right? Yes.

Do I agree that gays should marry?  It just doesn't matter.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Two equal points from this weeks church letter

With a letter directed to all members (read hereLDS church leaders clarified their belief in and commitment to heterosexual unions.

The letter read: "Marriage between a man and a woman was instituted by God and is central to his plan for his children and for the well-being of society." Changes in "civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established," the letter continues. "God expects us to uphold and keep his commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society."

The letter accompanied with a slew of information and background materials was sent to leaders of LDS congregations to share with members -- as per church spokesman Eric Hawkins -- but not in sacrament meeting. The information was intended to be a catalyst for discussion. Members were instructed "to meet with all adults, young men and young women on either July 5 or July 12 in a setting other than sacrament meeting and read to them the entire statement."

The letter and the information presented make it clear that regardless of what civil authorities dictate, Mormon officials "will not employ their ecclesiastical authority to perform marriages between two people of the same sex... and the church does not permit its meetinghouses or other properties to be used for ceremonies, receptions or other activities associated with same-sex marriages."

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as per the letter, have the right to "express and advocate religious convictions on marriage, family and morality free from retaliation or retribution." Due to Religious freedom stipulations in the First Amendment, the SCOTUS ruling does not require that any church recognizes gay marriage unions.

Meanwhile, back at the farm...

While all this affirmation of religious rights is going on, there is an equal message in the same letter given to the membership of the Mormon letter,  "... to love and treat all people with kindness and civility — even when we disagree."

"We affirm that those who avail themselves of laws or court rulings authorizing same-sex marriage should not be treated disrespectfully," the letter states. "Indeed, the church has advocated for rights of same-sex couples in matters of hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment, and probate, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches."

These LGBT protections -- those concerning employment housing and fair treatment (the very same protections that had difficulty being heard in years past) -- breezed through the legislative process after the LDS church jumped on the bandwagon, or rather, pulled those supporting LGBT legislation onto their wagon. 

Bottom line?  There are two points the church wants to make.

1) The LDS church supports marriage between a man and a woman only.

2) Everyone is to be treated with respect regardless of their beliefs.