In Armand Mauss’ memoir, Shifting Borders and a Tattered Passport, he describes his frustration of holding a “Mormon passport” in the intellectual world because he was mistrusted and not seen as a true intellectual (how could someone intelligent fall for that cult, right?). Yet when he was in his home Mormon land he was viewed with suspicion because of the “intellectual” stamps in his “Mormon passport.” Bro. Mauss explains he was able to stay a faithful member of the church as a Mormon intellectual precisely because he maintained loyal citizenship to his home country, although he often left and visited other land.
I remembered Bro. Mauss’ analogy yesterday when I heard Elder Bednar’s saying there are “no homosexual members of the Church.” I really liked Andrew’s response yesterday… and I wonder if this idea of passports not only plays into Bednar’s recent words, but also Elder Packer’s words in the past.
By using person-first language, as Andrew pointed out, one sees themselves first as sons/daughters of God – members of the covenant, and “citizens of the Kingdom” – ie your homeland is Mormonism. You may occasionally visit other groups and associate with them (Armand as an intellectual, etc.) but when your loyalty shifts and you see yourself as primarily a citizen of another land first (gay, feminist, scholar, etc.) leadership sees this not only as a red flag, but as denouncing your citizenship. You’ve given up your passport. In 1993, Elder Packer warned that feminists, intellectuals, and homosexuals were the three “dangers” to the Church. If any members of these groups sees themselves as citizens of those places instead of holding a Mormon passport – I can see why they’d be nervous, I suppose.
I think Maxine Hanks is a good example of the passport theory. She is a member of the September Six that recently rejoined (2013) the church after her excommunication 23 years ago. To rejoin the church Maxine didn’t have to renounce feminism, her feminist beliefs, or any of her past and present work on feminist theology. She basically (in my words, here are hers) had to restate her loyalty to Mormon citizenship and acknowledge her part in losing her passport in the first place.
This topic of loyalty and identity isn’t easy and comfortable for me to consider. Over the last few years I’ve come to feel like a “foreigner” in my homeland (quite literally in Rexburg) and I’m the one that’s changed. I feel my loyalty to Gospel and grown stronger (more sure foundation) while my loyalty to the human structure of the Church has waned. I don’t feel totally safe here, and I’m trying to work to make the borders of my homeland bigger and more welcoming for others. I’m not sure how I’d feel about renouncing my feminism to maintain my membership in the Church – because to me the Gospel is feminist (even if the Church isn’t). I want to claim, merge, and own both of my identities. I find the intersection of my identities – the paradox of them – beautiful and brutal (brutiful for you Momastery fans). I want to be fully feminist and fully Mormon.
I can only imagine the identity crisis caused by LGBTQ+ members and the rhetoric of the church; to be told that claiming that part of their identity is wrong. I often hear people decrying labels, but I feel it removes agency just as much when you don’t allow others to label themselves and claim their own identities. Do you want to fully accept, embrace, and love how God made you LGBTQ+ AND be a Mormon? I want that for you, too. I pray for the day our leaders accept dual citizenship.
p.s. caveat: I believe that if a mormon passport is destroying your mental health, renouncing your citizenship is a legit option.