Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Does Bro M have a temple recommend?

I love Mitch Mayne and I don’t even know the dude. I don’t know his most recent status, but I do know that he was functioning as an executive secretary for his LDS ward. And he is openly gay.

(Won’t it be nice when one's sexuality isn't listed in the first sentence used to describe someone. I’ll be happy when the fact that he is openly gay is way down further on the list, just under "losing his hair" but before "avid colorful sock collector".)

I have been reading about him for some time, and he is a Facebook friend, so I hear a lot from him. He often gives advise on all things Mormon and gay -- and rightly so. He is directly in the middle of everything. There are questions I myself would like to ask the man and I have been around as long as he has.
This is not Bro Mayne,
but this guy does collect socks.

Brother Mayne recently wrote an essay on his being asked whether or not he held a temple recommend. Just writing that last sentence makes me take a deep breath. I understand his concern.

He said this in his essay, "Suddenly I felt like I was sitting on the witness stand being questioned by a prosecuting attorney—like everything I’d said before would either be invalidated or accepted based on how I answered this one question. Because really, what she was asking me was, 'Do you have any value?'"

I would add this, if it is allowed -- "Do you have any value to me, for my purpose". Usually the purpose people ask is to use Mitch as a reference for other Mormons who have family/friends in the GLBT community. And they want to know:

"Are you sanctioned by the church?" 
"Is what you are saying concerning homosexuality in line with what is being taught in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
"Do you represent Mormon beliefs?"

Once upon a time I myself was in a similar situation. I had achieved notoriety in my profession that allowed me to schedule firesides that were well-attended by Mormons of most ages who listened to LDS music. When the stake young men’s president or other authority contacted me to schedule, I was often asked if I had a current temple recommend.

Frankly it pissed me off -- if I may be so crass. Bro Mayne is much more eloquent. My thought process at the time was this: 

These people came to me, searched me out, somehow Sherlock-ed my cellphone number because I was a Mormon performer to ask me to come to their stake or region, sometimes hundreds of miles away, to give a musical fireside (which I did voluntarily without any monetary incentive, often paying for musicians out of pocket).  And then they require me to prove that I am a faithful Latter-day Saint?

Well, yes. That is exactly what they were asking. Looking back on the three of four years I was a draw, I see that the question was not necessarily out of line.

Bothersome, yes.
Annoying, oh-yeah.
More than a little not-very P.C., invasive and quite possibly ruder than snot? You got it.

Someone wanted/required information from me that was theoretically available, but this person hadn't put in any of the effort required to access that information about another human. It’s like asking to read someone’s journal -- possibly not an issue if you know the person and have invested time with the person -- but completely laughable if you don’t or haven't.

Ummm. No. You can’t read my journal. My journal is personal and I know you from another Mormon with a blue tie.

Brother Mayne referred to this in his essay as as a shortcut.

There were several months when I answered these people that my recommend status was none of their concern. I think I was a little bit nicer about it than that -- something along the lines of  "I do not speak of my temple recommend with those outside my family and circle of friends."

Some scheduled me anyway. Some did not.

I quit being so upset about it when I realized that these people were bringing me in to speak to members of the church -- their family, friends and neighbors -- many of them young and impressionable or old and impressionable to be uplifted.  I was supposed to tell them that I was a Mormon and that I was successful (somewhat at that time) in what I did, and that they could be, too.

So what was I so concerned about? After all, confirming the standards of the church was part of my message. I had been through hell and made it through. I wanted to tell everyone within the sound of my amplified voice that I believed in the atonement with all of my heart.  I was being asked to perform for people who wanted to see an active, card carrying LDS for inspiration. 

So, I decided that I would answer the question -- though I did draw the line at presenting my card at the door, or sending a copy of it in the mail.

If I were a young men’s president today, I might want to ask the same question. However, rather than asking about someone’s temple recommend, I might ask if they upheld the prophet and the teachings of the church (unless they were clearly not LDS -- at which point I would explain what I was looking to see if my invited guest was comfortable with our standards.) 

I would also go with my gut. Is this person who and what is needed for the group of people that I am in charge of?

Times have changed a bit. Standards have been clearly presented and precisely drawn. There is far less fence sitting than there used to be. As the fences have become sharp and quite pointy. There are decisions to be made.

There is a time when we have a legitimate need to know where people stand on the Gospel and gospel issues.  There is also a need for kindness, sensitivity and spirit. 

No more shortcuts.

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