Look at us, happy and smiling, nothing to see here!

Today’s post is a guest post by Hawkgrrrl’s friend, Katpur, a woman living in Salt Lake City.  A friend shared this recalled transcript of her recent temple recommend interview with her bishop.

Bishop: Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

Me: I’d have to say that I’m quite a bit more liberal than most members of the Church, bishop.

Bishop (looking slightly surprised to hear this response): “Okay? Uh…?”

Me: Well, for starters, I have no objections to same-sex marriage.

Bishop: Uh huh.

Me: Would you like me to elaborate?

Bishop: Would you like to?

Me: Well, having said what I did, I guess I probably ought to. Um… (pausing to collect my thoughts and decide how I was going to word this). Well, I believe that in God’s eyes, marriage to is be between a man and a woman. I don’t believe the Church should ever have to start performing same-sex marriages or issue temple recommends to same-sex couples. On the other hand, I am absolutely in favor of the separation of church and state. I believe all individuals are entitled to their civil rights — including the rights that heterosexual married couples have, simply because they are married. Rights like insurance benefits, end-of-life decisions, etc.

Bishop: I agree!

Me: (wondering if I heard him correctly). What I’m trying to say is that I see marriage from two different perspectives, and I would use the words “holy matrimony” and “civil unions” to describe it, depending upon who enters into the marriage.

Bishop: Uh huh. I agree. I definitely believe we are all entitled to the same civil rights. The problem — when you use the word “marriage” — seems to be one of semantics. People can’t seem to agree what terminology is acceptable. I do know how you feel about this, Susan (not my real name, as most of you know). I know you and Cheryl marched in last year’s Pride Parade with Mormons Building Bridges.

Me: Uh, yes. How did you know that?

Bishop: It was on your Facebook page.

Me: Oh yeah, that’s right.

Bishop: It’s okay, really. Just make sure people know what it is you’re standing for.

Me: Well, I try not to get into it with people. I don’t want people judging me.

Bishop: You need to get into it with people. Not everybody thinks as deeply as you do. So many members of the Church don’t even know what they believe or why.

Me: Well, when the subject comes up, I’ll talk about it. You do understand why I marched, don’t you?

Bishop: In support of their civil rights, I assume.

Me: Well, not really. I believe they are entitled to these rights, but if that’s why I’d been marching, I’d have marched with Mormons for Equality (which has been actively pushing for same-sex marriage for years). I basically agree with what they’re doing, but I didn’t march with them. I marched with Mormons Building Bridges to make a different kind of statement. In this group of over 400 LDS marchers, one person was holding up a sign containing the words to a Primary song: “Jesus turned away from none. He showed His love to everyone.” I’m sick and tired of how members of the Church look down on gays and how they treat them. Lots of people were marching because they have a son who is gay or a sister who is lesbian. I was marching for the gay Mormon who has nobody.

Bishop: You’re great. I love you, Susan.

Me: I really appreciate your saying that, bishop. It means a lot to me. I just have a really hard time believing that it’s our place to be imposing punishments on people whose moral choices are different from ours. And I can’t help feeling the way I do.

Bishop: I know what you’re saying. No, we shouldn’t be punishing them. We shouldn’t even be judging them.

Me: You know, I’ve marched twice. The first year, on the way down to the parade, I kept thinking, “What would my bishop think?” By the time the parade was half over, I was thinking, “Who cares what my bishop thinks. I know what my Heavenly Father thinks, and he’s fine with this.”

Bishop: So’s your bishop.

Me: I’m really glad to hear it. I was afraid you might tell me to go home and repent.

Bishop: You have nothing to repent of.

**Note: This interview lasted about 45 minutes. I haven’t loved a bishop as much as I love this bishop in a very, very long time. I feel happier and more comfortable with my place in the Church today than I have for a long time, too.

Why yes, nearly all bishops are heterosexual, married, middle-aged white guys!

As I thought about my friend’s interview, I have to say I fully believe that my own bishop’s response would be very similar.  When I have talked with him about various concerns, he takes the attitude of having a diverse set of ward members, everyone with their own unique circumstances, and he respects people where they are coming from and loves them as they are.  To me, that’s been the norm among my bishops.

  • What’s your experience?  What would your bishop’s reaction be?
  • Is this “temple recommend leader roulette” the sort of thing the church should be tackling more directly to demonstrate how serious we are about supporting gay rights?
  • What would be the most effective way for church leaders to address this?