Three and a half years ago I was just beginning to leave the comfortable shelter of strict orthodoxy and fall down the rabbit hole of . . . actual church history given by Bushman, et al. In the middle of this process I ran across the It Gets Better video created by USGA at BYU featuring current students bearing their testimonies and describing their experiences being gay and mormon.
For the first time I considered what it would be like growing up gay and mormon from their perspective; I heard the pain and the self-loathing and the confusion and the desperation and I crumbled inside. What a tragedy with no solution. At that time my husband was serving in the bishopric and I tried to talk to him about the video. After an interesting discussion I was able to get him to promise to watch the video one day, at his own discretion.
A few weeks later he returned from an area priesthood leadership training meeting; the General Authorities had been trained over General Conference weekend recently and had been given assignments to return to their areas and train local priesthood leaders that there is no difference between sexual sin. Sexual activity outside of marriage and adultery are all on the same level of seriousness of transgressions whether it was heterosexual or homosexual. The local priesthood leaders were then told that if any of them doesn’t agree, or if their recoil or think that homosexual sin is any worse than heterosexual sin they were to repent – that those feelings were from Satan (to be disgusted by homosexuality). My husband came home from training and was almost bursting at the seams to let me know that I would have loved the training meeting he just got home from. After he told me what they’d been instructed I felt hope; I felt that I could almost shout from the rooftops that “It gets better!”
Seeing how the church’s understanding and treatment of LGBTQ+ issues has evolved over the years [see footnotes 1 & 2] from electroshock therapy at BYU during the 1970s, to believing it wasn’t “real” and counseling gay men that they were confused and once they got married to a woman and had sex they’d realize they weren’t gay, or to the most recent www.mormonsandgays.org website statement that ” individuals do not choose to have such attractions” . . . I hope you’ll forgive me that I’m a little reticent to fully back any current position by any of our leaders on this issue from any time frame, current and past. Especially since my most recent understanding was that the training coming down from Salt Lake City three years ago was that there is no difference in sexual sin.
My current understanding is that we don’t know much about this issue as it relates to the eternities and we certainly don’t understand how the LGBTQ+ experience fits into the Plan of Salvation. Since we believe there are still many great and important things remaining to be revealed pertaining to the Kingdom of God . . . and we don’t know what those things are and if or when they will come . . . I’m hesitant to double down on heteronormativity and retrench and quite literally adopt exclusionary practices at the table of Mormonism.
This past weekend I felt quite literally if I were wrestling with an angel. I care about my friends I’ve made over the last few years who are affected by this new policy. When they hurt, I hurt. In a comment I made on my own facebook page on Friday I said, “I am not interested in your testimony or your justifications or your condemnations or arguments about this policy. The only thing I’m interested in is making sure my LGBTQ+ friends know that I love them, I accept them, and I want them here.” One of my most spiritual experiences I had this past year was manning the Free Hugs booth from Mormons Building Bridges at the Idaho Falls Pride Celebration. It was my privilege to witness the transformation that came over people who had never heard a Mormon say those words to them, I felt like I was watching grace in action. Acceptance is a powerful thing – it is THE most important thing an LGBTQ+ person needs in their life to help safeguard against suicide according to the Family Acceptance Project . I feel at a loss for words of what to say to my friends other than that, so I’ll echo the opening words of the video above:
“I know you expect me to say it gets better; but if I’m going to be authentic, I can’t say that. I don’t know where you are in your life right now; I don’t know what experiences, what pain you’ve gone through. And I don’t know for sure if it will get better.”
But I hope it does. In the last few years there have been a lot of steps by the church that have given me hope. This past weekend has felt like we fell off a cliff. Here’s to hoping that we get back up and start walking again, and that from this vantage point it gets better. If you need to find another “hospital” to help heal from the injuries of the fall; totally understandable. Hopefully one day it will get better and we will be able to trust these words from Pres. Uchtdorf again:
Some might say, “I don’t think I could live up to your standards.”
All the more reason to come! The Church is designed to nourish the imperfect, the struggling, and the exhausted. It is filled with people who desire with all their heart to keep the commandments, even if they haven’t mastered them yet. (Come, Join With Us; Oct 2013 General Conference).