Thursday, July 30, 2015

The latest LDS-gay thing.

The current "thing" (I like current things -- especially when the thing is a change for the good) seems to be that gays are welcome into LDS church. Cool. One Bishop went so far as to call his congregation the house of friends.

Tangent: I am gay and I have been welcome in the church for years. Most people haven't advertised these personal issues until lately  - when every issue is Facebook-ed and social media-ed to death.

Fill 'er up

Let me state that again. Gay people are welcome to come to church. They are welcome to attend Sunday school and the auxiliary meetings as well as sacrament meeting. They are welcome to leave their kids at nursery -- like everyone else. Their teens are invited to attend young men’s, young woman’s, and primary as well.

One does not need to pass a temple recommend interview to participate in LDS services and activities. All sinners (keep yer pants on and keep reading) are allowed and welcome to come to the Mormon church. All of us are sinners. Therefore, come on down, every single one of you.

I am trying to look at this practically, and so I have this question: Will people come to church who aren’t looking for a temple recommend? The answer to that is yes. There are many in the church that are "active" in the day to day dealings of the church with out a recommend. There are many who need what the church has to offer without wanting to go to the temple. There are those who would like to eventually, but who are waiting to get their recommend signed on their own time. Some are'nt seeking one. Some choose to not follow the structure that would have to be followed in order to have their recommend signed: chastity, word of wisdom, tithing, regular attendance, or a number of things.

The message to the members of the church is that we accept all.  We invite all to come sit with us and worship the Savior. Whether or not one has a temple recommend is a deeply personal thing, and it is not my place or anyone elses to walk around and keep tally.

(As a FYI, there are jobs in the church that one does not need to pass a temple recommend interview for.)

Gays are welcome in the church. However, those who act on their homosexual inclinations are not allowed a temple recommend. In order for this to be clear, one has to understand that the LDS church differentiates between gay feeling and inclinations, and gay behavior.

Example: I have gay inclinations. I am attracted to men. I am gay. However, I currently -- and for the last 18 years -- have stayed away from gay behaviors.  I do not have sex with a man.

With this in mind, gay people are asked to follow the same structure outlined for everyone. A specific sexual orientation is not required, but being morally clean is.

It remains to be seen whether MoHo's, those so inclined and the sexually active, will choose to come to church. If they do, will they be welcomed?

I would hope so.  In my experience I always felt a little self-conscience when I was going to church as a disfellowshipped Mormon, or at times when I was actively not pursuing a temple recommend. Some may not feel welcomed. Our job, however, is to drop the judgement calls concerning others and to extend a hand to everyone.

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 these questions were from a form somewhere or whether he authored them himself. The questions are his. The answers are mine.

Q#1: 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: In other words, what's in it for gay people to remain chaste. 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" This is a very general comment made by a man in a time when man didn't know what questions to ask. I would have known what to ask, but I was not in the right position to receive revelation for the church.  

I do not feel that I am a degenerate. I know how painful it was to hear that, to read it in my study with a companion 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.

Friday, July 3, 2015

No hate crime today

I was both pleased and saddened to learn that suspected hate crimes against a Delta man were not crimes done out of hate towards a man who had said he was attacked for being gay.  The idiots of society that usually perpetrate these crimes were not to blame.
Unfortunately, it seems that the acts were actually staged by him as local police confirmed several days ago. Millard County Sheriff Robert Dekker said Tuesday -- as per the Deseret News -- that the assorted crimes were all faked.
"The investigation has come to an end today with Jones admission of to having staged all of the incidents," Dekker said. He later added that investigators are meeting with the Millard County Attorney’s Office to determine whether any criminal charges will be filed against Jones.
It had been reported that the Grand Central Station eatery was vandalized with graffiti several, that money was taken from the restaurant on another occasion, and Jones' assertion that someone threw a rock with gay slurs and a Molotov cocktail through his bedroom window.
Jones' attorney, Brett Tolman, said his client "is accepting responsibility for the incidents" and asked Tolman to contact the sheriff's office and have them cancel the investigation.
Quotes from his attorney:
"At this point we are working with investigators and with the community at trying to point out and recognize that what this really amounts to is a very serious cry for help by an individual … who is gay and is in need of mental health treatment, which he is getting,"
"The fundraisers were not something that Rick started," the attorney said. "That was (done) by well meaning persons that wanted to help out. But it was the appropriate thing to return those donations."
"I don’t think it was an intention on the part of our client to do anything criminal. I think this is truly a cry for help by someone that needs it."
"At this point the most important concern is his well-being. … And while he’s acknowledging that this is something that he takes responsibility for, it still underscores some of the difficult and rough roads that those in the LGBT community go through."
I remember a time in my life that I may have been tempted to do the same type of thing.  I hope this man gets the help he needs so that he can feel good about himself.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Blessed are the obedient

I have so many feelings this week concerning my LGBT family and friends. I support them in their personal endeavors and wish them and their families -- blood or other -- all the light and love that can be pored into their cups. You are welcome in my house. I will treat you the same as any other. (If you know me then you know that I should treat everyone a little better.)

I have LGBT friends in the church that have chosen to go a different direction than the one making headlines this month. They are not getting married to same sex partners.  They are members of the church in good standing. I fall into this boat.

I am trying to follow the prophet and keep my homosexuality in check.  I married a woman (with full disclosure) I felt at the time - and still do - that it was the right decision for me and my spouse to marry. I stand my my decision.  

I don't need affirmation from my friends, nor do my friends need my reassurance that they did the right thing. The Spirit of the Lord can give that confirmation. It is Him we should seek for guidance and direction.

This week I sent congratulations to my gay friends who will be getting married to their companions. I would also like to congratulate those in the LGBT communities who are Latter-day Saints and who wish to continue to obey the prophets -- prophets who speak for the Lord.

I don't usually quote people I don't know, but I would like to do so now. This gentleman has explained my thoughts better than I can come up with different words.  Here are his words that I have edited for space and clarity. He is a gay Mormon who has chosen to remain in good standing with the church - meaning that he follows the "rules".

"To straight Latter-day Saints who -- though with good intentions -- choose to publicly support gay marriage:

You mean well, and do your best to show love to LGBT individuals. But for us it can seem like you’ve ignored your LGBT brothers and sisters within the Church in favor of supporting those without. It hurts us when:

  • Our brothers and sisters in Christ flood our feeds with symbols of a life we’re fighting to forsake. 
  • People who don’t experience same-sex attraction take lightly the prophetic council that affects our lives and the thorn(s) in our side.
  • When people we love try to show their love for us by supporting the voices that strive to undermine our eternal happiness with our Father in Heaven. 
  • For those who are open about their same-sex attraction, it hurts when (our) friends (who have been spared this trial) side with those opposing Church policy.

Faithful LGBT members of the Church need Christ-like love and acceptance too. We need:
  • Members who seek to cement our faith in the prophets and apostles.
  • Members who will be brave and support unpopular policies set forth by the Brethren, not out of blind faith or bigoted arrogance, but out of pure testimony."  --Joshua M Butler

Having quoted this, I cannot tell you how important it is to have direction from the Spirit in all things. (This is not an arbitrary thought stuck in at the end of an essay.)

I am just going to have to come out and say it. I have gay friends who have paired with one of their same sex and they feel that they did so with the blessing of the spirit. 

A poor simile, but a simile nevertheless:

A prophet of the Lord was once commanded to kill a drunk in the street. Killing was against the law. The prophet followed the Lord and completed the task. The instruction to kill was not given to others, but to him alone. He complied with the will of the Lord.

One could say that Nephi murdered someone and deserves judgement. Or, one could say that because Nephi did as the spirit dictated he was not culpable, but obedient to the word of the Lord through his holy spirit.

I am not the judge of Nephi's actions. Neither are you. The spirit can confirm a correct action for an individual. He can be that specific. This begs the question:

Could Joe-gay-guy pray for guidance?  Yes. Could he be led by the spirit? Yes. Could Joe go the the Lord in prayer and say that he has decided to marry Bob, adopt kids and start a family?  Yes.  Could the spirit tell him yes?  Even though the general consensus is no,  could Joe be told that this was a good move for him? I would be arrogant to say no.

The Spirit of the Lord would trump my opinion, just as he trumped the opinion of the people in Nephi's time.  The world said "no" to murdering Laban. Yet the spirit told Nephi "yes".

I have made the decisions that I have made concerning my SSA based on my testimony and personal revelation -- subtle as it was. I was told to be morally clean and marry my wife. I was not/am not blindly following. God wants all of his children to have joy. I believe that God will bless the obedient with the righteous desires of their heart. I believe in following the commandments. And I believe in personal revelation.