Tag Archives: homosexuality

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.

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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.

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

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.

Educated Empathy

You oughta be shot. Or stabbed. Lose a leg. To be a surgeon, you know? Know what kind of pain you’re dealing with. They make psychiatrists get psychoanalyzed before they can get certified, but they don’t make a surgeon get cut on. That seem right to you?” – Jubal Early, Firefly (2002)

When I was young, I would wonder how other kids in my class, who were not Mormons, could not see that The LDS Church was the living and restored gospel of Jesus Christ. How did I know? How was I so sure? They told me at church. They told me at General Conference. My parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents all told me. It said so in The Bible, and The Book of Mormon. Heavenly Father gave us these sacred books to tell us how to behave, what was right, what was wrong, and what was true. How could anyone be so obtuse as to deny that? When I was old enough, I  would even get up and proclaim my perfect knowledge from the pulpit; “I know this church is true.”

Of course, later, I lost that perfect knowledge and faith. As I did, I began to empathize more and more with those who had doubted my previous point of view. They weren’t being obtuse, or hateful and evil. They weren’t just a bunch of “anti-Mormons” leading us from the straight-and-narrow. Either they believed, just as fiercely, in their own chosen faith, or they saw holes, contradictions, and logical fallacies in the claims of my former church. Just as believers had reasons to believe, doubters had reasons to doubt.

The experience of being so fiercely on one side of a debate, then having to admit that one was completely wrong, is a difficult but ultimately healthy one. It bestows a welcome gift of empathy that can be gained by no other means. Whether in religious discussions, moral, ethical, or political debates, there is no greater tool than understanding the position of the opposition, no matter how wrong it may seem to you. I believe the experience of believing gave me a better ability to understand why someone might feel that I am wrong, or even why they might feel threatened by my point of view.

When a business says that they are Christian, and won’t serve LGBT people because it’s immoral – I can empathize with the why, though I believe them to be completely wrong. Could they say the same? When believers get upset that “them damned atheists” are trying to move a Ten Commandments monument out of a courthouse, I empathize with their reaction. I think I understand, as much as anyone can, how they believe the action to be a attack on their faith and traditions, even though I don’t see it the same way.  But, are those believers able to, for a moment, suspend the concrete assurance that they cannot be wrong, for the purpose of trying to understand how in His name someone like me may feel differently?

Imagine What You’ll Know Tomorrow

Fifteen-hundred years ago, everybody knew that the Earth was the center of the universe. Five-hundred years ago, everybody knew that the Earth was flat. And fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.”

Continuing on some of the thoughts I had in my last post, I can’t help but wonder what will change in The LDS Church tomorrow.

From Brigham Young to Spencer Kimball, every president of the church, countless apostles, members of The Seventy, and lay leaders prophesied and testified about “negros” and the priesthood.

Brigham Young claimed that a white man who “mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.” When did this change? Does God have a different definition for ‘always’ than we do?

John Taylor taught “Cain and his posterity must wear the mark which God put upon them; and his white friends may wash the race of Cain with fuller’s soap every day, they cannot wash away God’s mark.”

Speaking at BYU, Apostle Mark Petersen stated, “it is the decree of God that the mark should remain upon the seed of Cain, until the seed of Able shall be redeemed,and Cain shall not receive the Priesthood until the time of that redemption.”

But, in 1978, for whatever reason you may believe, The Church changed direction, and allowed Black members to become full members, receiving the priesthood and temple rights. They did not, however, disavow their immense collection of racist teachings. Black members had to wait until 2014 to learn that they were not cursed with the “Mark of Cain” and that they were not punished for unrighteousness in the preexistence, and that these discriminatory policies were just an artifact of the commonplace racism prevalent in The United States when the church was founded. How is it that God let so many spiritual giants like Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Joseph Fielding Smith, Bruce R. McConkie, Mark E. Petersen, lead his chosen people down the wide and curved path of bigotry and abject racism within the confines of His restored gospel?

Today, though I am allowed to remain a member (in name only), faithful, diligent believers like Kate Kelly are excommunicated for essentially asking, “What if you’re wrong about something else? What if the male-only restriction of The Priesthood is just another artifact of our time? Perhaps the sexist nature of society has seeped into gospel teachings as racism did before?”

The Church claims today that homosexuality is still a sin, but in 1959 David O. McKay, Spencer Kimball, and Mark Petersen also saw it as a disease that needed curing. How many good people were harmed and injured by the despicable practice of reparative therapy? But, no more. In the 1990s, The Church learned that same-sex attraction was a “tendency”, to be worked through. And, today, The Church knows that it is not a disease, nor a tendency, but a test; a moral challenge to be faced.

It is odd that the omniscient God and His spiritual representatives have so much that they must learn as society advances. Today they know that polygamy is wrong. Today they know that racism is wrong. Today they know that reparative therapy is wrong.

Imagine what they will know tomorrow.