Category Archives: LGBT Issues

Arrogant Faith

Growing up, I was taught by my LDS parents and teachers that the LDS faithful would one day be commanded by The Prophet to return and reclaim Independence, Missouri.  I was told that we may even have to walk there as our ancestors had.  That the journey could be just as hard as our forbearers, but that, as The Faithful & Elect, we would be protected and blessed.  I was told that we would listen to our prophets and we would do as we were commanded.

What would you be willing to do if commanded by your religious leaders?  What wouldn’t you be willing to do?  If they speak for and behalf of The Almighty God, who knows all, shouldn’t you be willing to do absolutely anything?

“If God told you to kill your child—would you do it?” — Penn Jillette

I wouldn’t.  Not if He personally came down, 100% proving His existence and power, knocked me out of bed, and told me that, if I didn’t murder my daughter with my bare hands, He would torture me for eternity.

I would hope I could even muster the courage to spit in His almighty, but definitively evil face.

The story of Abraham is truly terrifying.  Believers teach it as a story of faith; that we must trust to God, who knows best.  “But, Heavenly Father saved Isaac.”  No.  Abraham had murder in his heart.  A willingness to cut open his innocent and only son.  Not a desire, but a willingness.  A blind obedience to commit an act of pure evil if only commanded.  God didn’t save Isaac; He merely changed His mind.

Mr. Jillette asks the question above to illustrate, if you would not murder your child at the command of the god you claim has the right and authority to command your actions, you are probably already an atheist.

If a religious leader in whom you trust told you that your God had commanded your family to sell all of your clothing and belongings and live unprotected in the winter mountains? That God had promised to provide for you? Would you do that?  Would you willingly put your family in mortal danger?  Trusting in God to provide?

If the religious leader commanded that you, not even kill, but pointlessly harm your child in some small way?  That God had promised you blessings without number for an earthly demonstration of your faith, would you do it?

If a man you *knew* to be a prophet told you to turn and rant and rail against your child, just because of whom they love?

Would you do it?

Or, instead, would you love your child regardless, and help them to grow up happy and healthy?  Loving those they loved and who made them happy – regardless of what a man who doesn’t know you, and doesn’t know your child, chooses to say from a great and spacious building?

“It’s not arrogant to say that you can’t figure out the answers to the universe with your internal faith. It’s not arrogant to know that there’s no omniscient, omnipotent prime mover in the universe who loves you personally. It’s not sad to feel that life and the love of your real friends and family is more than enough to make life worth living. Isn’t it much sadder to feel that there is a more important love required than the love of the people who have chosen to spend their limited time with you?”– Penn Jillette

Poisoned Pueblo

“No!  Help!  Help me!” I cried out, loudly, to all the people in the McDonald’s.

“Shut the hell up!” Tiana started dragging me toward the doors.

“Help!” I screamed, looking around at all the moms and their kids bustling to the play area and bending over their Happy Meals. “Help me!  Don’t let her take me!  Please!”

No one even looked at me.

 

The above is a passage from Saving Alex a memoir from Alex Cooper, which I am currently reading.  The biography describes Ms. Cooper’s 2010 ordeal with Southern Utah “conversion therapy” after she came out to her parents as gay.

My favorite novel of all time is It by Stephen King.  That story features the town of Derry, built around, haunted, and possessed by an ancient soul-devouring monster.  When I read the passage above, I thought of this passage from It, in which one of the characters is running from the monster who has possessed her father:

If he caught her he would choke her, or beat her, or kick her. And when it was over, someone would come and collect him and he would sit in a cell the way Eddie Cochran’s stepfather was sitting in a cell, dazed and uncomprehending.
She ran toward downtown, passing more and more people as she went. They stared – first at her, then at her pursuing father – and they looked surprised, some of them even amazed. But what was on their faces went no further. They looked and then they went on toward wherever they had been going.

I believe that few individuals are true monsters.  They are rarely as racist as David Duke, or as bigoted as Gayle Ruzicka, or as misogynistic as Donald Drumpf.  I think our society, however,  exposed to the constant diseased energy of these individually demons can amplify that hate, ignorance, and bigotry; can cause good people to do bad things, or, sometimes worse, nothing at all.

We’ve all heard of mob mentality; when a group of people start acting viciously, and that emotion permeates the mob, and keeps building, and building, and building on itself until it reaches a frenzy level?  It seems as if this soft racism, this soft bigotry, this soft acceptance of misinformation and willful ignorance is somehow more insidious and more pervasive, infecting even the most good hearted of people with the willingness to condemn, judge, and cast aside people they don’t even know, for the most inexcusable of reasons.  It quietly encourages the populace to vote for politicians who promise to hurt the minorities among us – even should they not tacitly agree.  To support or simply ignore the passing laws that only serve to further wound the vulnerable.  To become defacto lesser demons of the true monsters.

I can only hope that, like the Stephen King novel, empathy, love, and unconditional friendship can defeat the monstrous.

Sinews of The Soul

This is my much-less polite and anger filled resignation letter, as opposed to the message I sent to my immediate family.  This was originally posted at The Friendly Atheist.

—-

Dear LDS Church,

It is amazing how much The Church has changed since my early Mormon upbringing. So many of the messages and teachings have changed and evolved over time. For example, when attending church:

Yes. This last revelation was the straw that finally prompted this long overdue letter.

Although I have found other policies of The LDS Church hurtful, ignorant, and bigoted, this last policy change seems so malicious. So full of hatred. And I won’t be a member of a hate group, even in name only.

I received many odd and certainly unique lessons on sexual morality, and was frequently told in oblique ways that homosexuality was a sin, I was never taught that this kind of sexual immorality would damn the salvation of my children.

The LDS Church claims to be a loving, knowledgeable, and charitable representative of a just and loving god, but their actions speak louder than their empty words.

Potential converts to The LDS Church are asked to commit to baptism in the first discussion, then rapidly pushed through a shallow and superficial version of The Church’s doctrine and history in a mad dash to get them under the water and on the membership roles.

Eight-year-old children are encouraged, expected, and demanded to make lifetime commitments they cannot possibly understand, to a church which continues to hide, obscure, and deny it’s history and doctrines.  Heavenly Fathers wants everyone, and quickly, before they start looking too deeply into the closet.

Except in this one special case; a child raised by same-sex parents.

Even if that child is raised in this fraud of a church by those loving, caring parents. Even if that child believes with all his/her tiny, pure heart that there is a Heavenly Father, and that Jesus knows and loves each of his beloved and innocent children. Even if all that child wants for their eighth birthday is to be washed clean of their supposed “sins.”

The LDS Church will tell them, “No. You are lesser in the eyes of Jesus and Heavenly Father.”

“Though you have done nothing wrong, your parents are the worst kind of sinners.  Jesus does not want you as a member of His church, nor will He take you until you are old enough to curse the names of those who loved and raised you, and shake the dust off your feet at their doorstep.”

As of the writing of this letter, I am an atheist and an ex-Mormon.  Should a Mormon member take my young child to be blessed into your twisted organization, however, my child would be accepted and blessed without pause or question because I am married to a member of the opposite sex.

This hate-filled policy is designed only to cause injury to an already injured population; the same-sex attracted people who The Church considers to be the loved children of Heavenly Father, who are doing their best to make it through this life whilst still maintaining some measure of belief in the deceitful message of eternity and love that you spout between vicious jabs at these wounded souls. It cannot and does not serve any other purpose.

This manipulative “guilt by association” is revolting behavior from anyone, let alone an organization which spends so much time talking out the side of its mouth about the importance and necessity of love, acceptance, and eternal families.

I have not claimed membership in this deception for years, but have never felt it useful or necessary to make it official. I do now. I cannot and will not allow you to continue to count me amongst your hateful, heinous, hurtful, and peculiar number any longer.

I hereby resign my membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

A Next Step

Dear friends and family,

I want to let you know that I am resigning my membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Though likely unwelcome news to many, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise as I have not regularly attended church service in nearly 20 years, and no longer believe in a god.  Why do I feel it necessary now? To officially cancel my ties with The Church? As has probably been guessed, the new anti-LGBT policies of The Church are the last straw for me.

I hurt so much for those true believing children who were just told by the trusted and beloved representatives of their loving Heavenly Father and Savior that they were lesser and unworthy.

I clearly remember my own child-like and singular love and trust in Jesus — so pure and innocent and all-consuming. Jesus, who gave only love and comfort and acceptance; never a rebuke, even in the face of sin.

Because I remember that so clearly, an image comes to me of having that very love and trust bludgeoned by a visit from President Benson, on the day of my Baptism, suddenly breaking the news to me that Jesus won’t have me as a member of His church today.

I can imagine my heart breaking in my chest as President Hinckley shows up at our ward house, and stops my father’s hands, only to tell me that Heavenly Father will not have me as a member of His Priesthood today.

I imagine being filled with such abject misery and hopelessness when my Primary teacher tells our class that “Heavenly Father needs and wants all of your chosen generation, but not you.  Not you.”

Though I no longer believe in the importance of these events, the thought of the children going through less dramatic but nonetheless real versions of those scenarios right now fills me with heartache. That’s why I’m angry for them. That’s why I hurt for them. That’s why I feel it necessary to take this action.

I’ve considered this final step over the years, but this is the reason I’ve finally decided it’s necessary; to protest a church claiming to speak for a God of love and acceptance, which instead seemingly teaches children hate, exclusion, and shame. Teaching them that they will not only be punished for their own sins, but also for their parents’ love.

I understand that we may have different understandings and interpretations of this policy. I have read several different official, semi-official, and unofficial attempts to explain how this new policy is not vicious nor malicious. I’ve watched D. Todd Christofferson’s reaction video. I’ve read the letter from The First Presidency. I’ve read the press-release from Michael Otterson. I sincerely disagree with all of these rationalizations and explanations.

I don’t mean to preach in this letter, but I felt I owed at least a brief explanation before I join the other compassionate and empathetic believers and non-believers in requesting that we no longer to be counted among the membership of this church.

If this hurts you personally, I am truly sorry. It is not my intent, though that may be cold comfort.

Any and all of you are more than welcome to tell me or ask me anything you like, so long as we can remain a loving family in doing so. I love and value and respect each of you and know that each of us is walking our own path as best we know how.

Straight and Delightsome

In the last week there have been 2 significant changes to the LDS “Handbook 1” (which goes to the stake and bishop leadership levels), both relating to homosexuals. Changes listed here.

The first is that homosexuals that are in a same-sex marriage are now considered apostates by the church.

For those that don’t know, in particular, that means that they have actively and willfully turned their back on God.  One does not become an apostate by simply not going to church.

This is viewed as one of the worst things that a person can do in the LDS church.  Even murderers, child molesters, and rapists are not considered apostates.

As though that weren’t heinous enough, the second change takes that level of mistreatment of humanity to a new level.

Children of same-sex couples now cannot be baptized and become members of the church, until such time as they are 18 years old, and disavow their parents’ marriage. Let me repeat that… DISAVOW their parents’ marriage.

This originally was thought to be disavowing their parents, but it is mentioned specifically disavowing same-sex marriage or cohabitation.  One church leader made this clarification, as though it was better than disavowing one’s parents.  “Hey moms… I love you, but you’re apostates and I can’t support your relationship together.”  This is more of the “love the sinner, hate the sin” filth that we’ve seen before.

The idea that one can love the sinner, yet hate the sin, especially in this case, is preposterous on its face.  It provides a false sense of not being hurtful to others for what you believe.

It has also been “clarified” by LDS church leadership that it is to protect the children of persons who are in same-sex relationships.  That the child would become confused because of a difference of church and family teachings.

In the LDS church, most are baptized at the age of 8, and upon confirmation, it is thought that you then are directed by the “Holy Ghost” to know the difference between right and wrong.  It is thought that after baptism, you need repent if you do ‘wrong’ because you have the Holy Ghost and faculties to KNOW those differences.  The question this brings up, in the case that a same-sex couple give a child permission to become baptized at the age of 8, would the Holy Ghost not be able to provide those answers?  Is the Holy Ghost that impotent?

As has been blatantly apparent, I’m not a fan of organized religion, but this takes it to a new level. I now consider the LDS church to be hate group.

I’ll expand, in case you think I’m being unfair.

Children of other types of individuals can be baptized (with parental permission) at the age of 8, including, but not limited to, children of murderers, rapists, child molesters, terrorists, and drug dealers. Yet, children of persons that are in a same-sex relationship apparently are special, and not in a good way.

As a friend posited to me shortly after this information was available, it seems that now that the control the LDS church tried to exert previously on same-sex marriage has been lost nationwide, and it’s turning on its own membership.

This does not punish same-sex couples. It punishes children. A child that is actively going to church will now be ridiculed by his or her peers because they are not getting baptized.  Being a Utahn, I was ridiculed at 8 because I wasn’t getting baptized, and I wasn’t LDS.

These rules cannot come from anywhere but hate for homosexuality and an inability to affect public change. Hence, hate group.

I’m sure we’ll see plenty of apologists attempt to provide reasons for why this is a necessity, and is part of a loving God, but it’ll take a lot of convincing for me to see why this is anything but human hatred coming from a place of power.

Intrinsically Impossible Power

In my quest for understanding and empathy, I frequently find myself having imaginary debates with imaginary religious people. Regardless of the subject of the debate, a question I repeatedly ask is, “Why do the religious believe that God is so impotent and powerless?”

That may seem an odd question, assuming that most religious people consider God to be the omnipotent creator of all things – and often the cause of massive, inexplicable miracles. To me however, from the outside perspective, it seems that most religious people have no faith whatsoever in God’s power.

For example, the Christian citizens upset about same-sex marriage. They insist that such a thing would anger and upset God. Yet, same-sex marriage is now common place. God, though ostensibly angered by this, did nothing and has done nothing. Why not? At the very least, He only had to convince only one more Supreme Court justice. Being all powerful, God could have forcibly changed the judge’s mind, or, respecting free-will, could have inspired the anti-marriage lawyers to say just the right thing to change that judge’s mind, or, more theatrically, He could have appeared in the clouds over The Supreme Court saying, “I am Yahweh of The Bible. Hear my words! Read Deuteronomy again! Did I stutter? No legalized marital buggery!”

But He didn’t. If He does exist, and if He does hate same-sex relations, He stood idly by and let a few believers wave signs and holler what they believe to be His wishes.

There are more personal examples; my daughter and I. My wife and I have chosen to raise her in a secular home. As one of God’s beloved children, this must be very troubling to Him. Why would He allow me to teach her about The Big Bang and Evolution? Why wouldn’t He lead me to a convincing apologetic book? Or inspire me to think of something that would lead me back to whatever the right path is? If not for my sake, then for my daughter’s? Instead, He, apparently, leads me to things like http://www.fairmormon.org or http://www.discovery.org/ – ludicrous, flimsy, implausible and dubious explanations of life’s more difficult questions.

I guess I have to assume that, since God has a plan and hasn’t punished me with boils, or whale consumption, or temporary blindness, or a sodium-chloride spouse, my apostasy and blasphemy is all part of that Divine Plan. As is me writing this, you reading it, you considering it, and, possibly, you refuting it in a way that will finally convince me that He’s certainly there and that science and evidence and rational critical thinking are all pointless in the face of pure faith.

As George Carlin so brilliantly put it (cleaned up to avoid over offending):

I’ve often thought people treat God rather rudely, don’t you? Asking trillions and trillions of prayers every day. Asking and pleading and begging for favors. “Do this”, “gimme that”, “I need a new car”, “I want a better job.”

And I say, fine. Pray for anything you want. Pray for anything, but what about The Divine Plan? Remember that? The Divine Plan? Long time ago, God made a Divine Plan. Gave it a lot of thought. Decided it was a good plan. Put it into practice. And for billions and billions of years, The Divine Plan has been doing just fine. Now, you come along, and pray for something. Well suppose the thing you want isn’t in God’s Divine Plan? What do you want Him to do? Change His plan? Just for you? Doesn’t it seem a little arrogant? It’s a Divine Plan. What’s the use of being God if every run-down shmuck with a two-dollar prayerbook can come along and mess up Your Plan?

And here’s something else, another problem you might have: Suppose your prayers aren’t answered. What do you say? “Well, it’s God’s will.” “Thy Will Be Done.” Fine, but if it’s God’s will, and He’s going to do what He wants to anyway, why bother praying in the first place? Seems like a big waste of time to me! Couldn’t you just skip the praying part and go right to His Will? It’s all very confusing.

But my God says….

Now that the SCOTUS has decided that marriage, no matter genders involved, is protected nation wide, I’ve been watching the mayhem from those that disagree.

There are many gems, but this one in particular has stood out: Texas clerk won’t issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples

In the name of truth and honesty in disclosure I’ve followed it through, and apparently her office will now issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but that’s not the point, this discussion is about ‘religious freedom’.

The first amendment states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It seems pretty clear from the text that the government can’t establish religion (you know, like “In God we Trust”, er wait….), or prohibit the free exercise of a persons religious beliefs (of course, there are limits, if your religion teaches that say women who are raped should be married to their rapists, the government really doesn’t allow someone to force that).

The issue at hand here is that a governmental employee, while functioning as a representative of the government really can’t establish religious reasons for providing government services.  In the case of Hood County Clerk Katie Lang (referenced in the link above), she isn’t issuing the license, the government is.  She’s simply the individual that handles the paperwork, as it were.

In the Quran it states “Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them…” This is often used as the basis for Islamic women covering themselves.  What if someone working in the drivers license division stopped giving drivers licenses to women because they weren’t covered from head to toe?  Would that be exercising freedom of religion?

In the bible it states “A widow, or a divorced woman, or profane, or an harlot, these shall he not take: but he shall take a virgin of his own people to wife.”  What if the same clerk that is refusing to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples required that women provide irrefutable proof of virginity before marriage in a mixed gender marriage?  Would that be exercising religious freedom?

Freedom requires that the government, not individuals, protect rights, that way everyone has a greater chance at being treated equally.

If you’re a representative of the government, then you must leave your personal views at the door, and pick them back up on the way out.

Consistently Inconsistent

“Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago.” – Bernard Berenson

In response to a statement regarding same-sex marriage issued by The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons), which is required to be read aloud, from the pulpit, to each Sunday congregation, church member Paul Malan scribed and open letter to his local Bishop.

https://medium.com/@ungewissen/missing-church-in-july-928e90931ee1

The letter rightly, via the Church’s own essays, condemns previous LDS racism:

When our culture began to recognize the nonsense of racism, N. Eldon Tanner assured Church members “that no matter how convincing an argument might seem to be,” our prophets and apostles were “powerless to change God’s unchanging laws when it comes to the color of our skin.”

Thankfully, God’s laws may be unchanging, but our understanding of them is not. The Church recently approved an essay in which they “unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.”

Mr. Malan then goes on to draw the comparison between that needless, erroneous bigotry and the ongoing bigotry toward LGBT people:

There is nothing new or surprising in the wording of the letter you’ve been asked to read, but, as with past statements on race, it perpetuates misunderstanding and reinforces the “otherness” of our gay brothers and sisters. As a father, I hope our church can become a welcoming, safe place for my children to learn from Christ’s loving example within the context of their Mormon heritage. This letter makes that connection less likely.

As I am an atheist, I assume that Mr. Malan and I disagree on almost everything, though on this particular point we may find common ground; If a church celebrates that it receives modern-day revelation from its prophet, if that prophet speaks directly to The LORD, and if the church has received many, many, many documented revelations that have reversed previous practices*, how is it surprising or shocking to imagine that God may issue new commandments at any moment? Many LDS members believe that God will one day call them back to Independence, MO. Others believe that God will eventually call women to hold The Priesthood. Maybe God will even allow decency toward LGBT members.

As Dr. King said, “The arc of the  Moral Universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”  So too does the will of benevolent LDS believers like Mr. Malan, Kate Kelly, Douglas Wallace, and others like them who drag a stubborn, intolerant institution with them into a future of equality and morality.

But no one wants to go back to Missouri.

* Polygamy, Law of Consecration, Blacks in the Priesthood, Word of Wisdom, “White and Delightsome”, Law of Adoption

Love Whomsoever Thou Wilt

“Love all men, even your enemies; love them, not because they are your brothers, but that they may become your brothers.”
– Augustine of Hippo

The last time I remember experiencing a pure, unbridled joy for my fellow human beings was when Utah’s Amendment 3 was originally overturned in December of 2013. I was not joyful with a sense of victory, or triumph, or schadenfreude, but rather with the pure happiness of watching love celebrated so honestly and openly after being so long denied. I watched the TV news with elation as couple after couple after couple after couple kissed each other as if for the first and only time.

I know a great many who worship the god of The Bible and believe that homosexuality is wrong. I also know a great many who believe that God is the spiritual and physical embodiment of love. If your heart is filled with disgust, disappointment, or even hate with today’s SCOTUS announcement, take a moment to see how much joy, happiness, and love is being celebrated by those for whom the decision most affects.

To this outsider, it seems that God has changed his mind about a great many things since the first authoring of The Old Testament. Maybe this is another and He’s telling us with  bliss, jubilance, and, of course, Love.

We Have Found A Witch

“We did do the nose.  And the hat.  But she’s a witch !”
— Monty Python and The Holy Grail

Apparently, some LDS Bishops are on a witch hunt.  According to the latest Mormon Stories podcast, after not attending church for more than four years, Taylor Knuth-Bishop has been called before an LDS disciplinary council to face possible [likely] excommunication.  Taylor and his husband, Sean, were among those happy couples married, on-stage, by Queen Latifa at the Grammy Awards in 2014.

Taylor lives in New York, but recently moved back to Utah for the summer in order to help plan his sister’s wedding.  One night, while preparing dinner, the Bishop of the LDS ward he attended as a teenager called and asked to speak with him.  Taylor was informed that they intended to hold a disciplinary council based on his “choice” to marry Sean and the “lifestyle you have chosen.”

excommunicationIf God really wants to remove from Church membership, those of us who no longer believe and who live “lifestyles” that irritate The Almighty, He’d best get crackin’; there are millions of us.

As much as it doesn’t make sense to me that otherwise faithful people like The September Six or Kate Kelly are excommunicated for pointing out inconvenient facts, it makes even less sense to go after people who no longer really have any interest or affiliation with the LDS Church.  In fact, it seems very much like an old fashioned witch hunt – which stokes the fire, anger, hatred, and persecution complex of the still faithful and the expense of those deemed to be disposable.

According to Mormon Stories, at least two other couples have claimed that they now face disciplinary councils for the same reasons.

Taylor declined to attend his trial and, instead, sent this letter.