Monday, October 8, 2007

What is it that we really want?

In my last post, Forester posed the following question
Why is it that we want so much from the church? And, what is it that we really want? Acceptance? More attention? More discussion? We know that gay sex is wrong, so where do we go from here?

Fair questions. I started to reply in a comment; but, I decided to blog about it as my comment was getting quite lengthy.

Why is it that we want so much from the church?

This question carries with it an assumption that suggests the church has already done a lot for us and that we still want it to do more (perhaps, even, more than is reasonable). So, what exactly has the church done for us? In the last five years we have seen

  • An article titled "My Battle with Same-Sex Attraction" by an anonymous author in the August 2002 Ensign
  • An article titled "Compassion for Those Who Struggle" by an anonymous author in the September 2004 Ensign
  • A pamphlet titled "God Loveth His Children" released April 2007
  • An article titled "Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction" By Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in the October 2007 Ensign

This isn't counting the occasional reference to homosexuality in a talk on some other topic; nor responses to questions asked by the media, nor does it include the change to the BYU Provo honor code (which only affects a small subset - and then only while they are at BYU).

Is this a lot? Is it so unreasonable to expect more?

The single members of 'the family' who truly feel that marriage cannot be in their future are told that they must live out their lives in celibacy; all while enduring continuing talks and council about why marriage is so important. They are counseled that any sort of intimacy with a member of their same gender, however platonic, is strictly forbidden. Therefore, their only choice is to live a life of solitude and loneliness.

The members of 'the family' who are in, or are considering, a mixed orientation marriage are told that they must forever ignore their natural attractions. While celibacy is not required, they are taken to the fountain of sexual fulfillment but only allowed to take small sips, never allowed to quench their thirst.

In light of such strong demands, is it selfish to want a little more comfort and encouragement in return?

Why do we want so much from the church? Isn't the church asking a lot of us? In addition to everything that the church asks of all of its members (attend to family responsibilities, keep the commandments, pray, read the scriptures, attend church, magnify our callings, do our home/visiting teaching, be member missionaries, food storage, family history, render service, yada, yada, yada), they are also demanding that we put our natural proclivities on hold with a vague promise that, if faithful, we will no longer have those inclinations in the next life (a point that I'm not 100% convinced is even true, see Eternally gay?). Is it really so unreasonable to want more guidance and encouragement to do the things we are expected to do?

What is it that we really want?

My employer has the following nondiscrimination policy:

Business activities such as hiring, training, compensation, promotions, transfers, terminations and [business]-sponsored social and recreational activities are conducted without discrimination based on race, color, genetics, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, age or status as a special disabled veteran or other veteran covered by the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Act of 1974, as amended.
Is it really so unreasonable to expect at least as much from my church? As I stated in my previous post, when I read God Loveth His Children, what I get out of the pamphlet is
It’s OK to be gay as long as we: don’t have gay sex, don’t think about gay sex or have other gay thoughts, don’t act gay or exhibit gay attributes, and don’t have gay friends (and don't use words like 'gay', although not explicitly stated in the pamphlet).
To further summarize, it's OK to be gay as long as we're not gay. Or, in other words, as long as we don't do anything to suggest to others that we're different - as long as we can pretend to be a typical straight Mormon then everything is hunky doorey.

I'm OK with the no gay sex prohibition - I really am. But, why do I need to suppress everything gay about me in order to be considered a good Mormon? I've been doing that my entire life, and I've paid a stiff price in terms of depression, anxiety, feelings of unworth - and I cannot continue down that path; to do so will only lead to my early demise (in a very literal sense).

Do we want Acceptance?

No gay sex - we get it! Now, can you please accept us for who we are and not demand that we pretend to be something else? Why must being gay be so shameful? Why must it be considered so abhorrent that we are not even supposed to call it by it's common name? Why is being gay 'that which shall not be named?'

Do we want more attention?

When sufficient numbers exist, the church often makes special provisions for members who are single, speak a different primary language than the surrounding community at large, have special needs, etc. Would it be so terrible to make special provisions for gay members? Why can't there be a gay ward in Salt Lake City? What would be wrong with a gay Mormon tabernacle choir? Rather than discourage, why not encourage platonic same sex relationships? We have marriage relations and family relations sunday school classes, why not a mixed orientation marriage relations class? Or a gay couple relations sunday school class that focuses on how to make a platonic relationship work? Instead of a pamphlet that tells us that God loves us as long as we don't do anything that makes the straight membership uncomfortable, why not a "For the Strength of Gay Members" pamphlet that focuses more on the do's and less on the don'ts (we got those already - you really don't need to keep hammering them into us).

Do we want more discussion?

We all know the do's and don'ts. What we need is more discussion on 'how'. How can we make a life of celibacy be meaningful? How can we build a strong relationship with our spouse when we are not sexually attracted to them? We need more frank discussion with the general membership to educate them that the, so called, 'gay lifestyle' is not as the media portrays it (anymore than the 'straight lifestyle' being as the media portrays it). We are not a bunch of perverted monsters out to corrupt their children with our evil ways. We need to teach tolerance for those who have different views than us - even if those views are diametrically opposed to our beliefs. The 11th article of faith says "
We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may." - it doesn't say "except if you're gay."

We know that gay sex is wrong, so where do we go from here?

Exactly! No gay sex - we get it! Many of us are not having gay sex. Some have tasted of the forbidden fruit and have gone through the repentance process. Now what? Is that is? Is that all we get? A pat on the head while saying "no gay sex, good boy."

I'm sorry if this is all coming across so negative. I love the church - I really do. I love being a Mormon. I have a testimony. But, I'm frustrated. I'm frustrated with being that which shall not be named. I'm frustrated that I can't just be myself - having to constantly be on guard with everything I say or do, every little mannerism. But, most of all, I'm frustrated with myself for cowering in my closet.

One of the purposes of the church is to help "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). However, if we consider the retention rate of the gay membership - we ain't doing so good.


Foxx said...

Abelard, being Voldemort has its advantages. ;)

Also, don't forget In Quiet Desperation sold at Deseret Book and other LDS bookstores. That's pretty recent too.

Why is it that we want so much from the church? And, what is it that we really want? Acceptance? More attention? More discussion? We know that gay sex is wrong, so where do we go from here?

We want so much from the church because we believe it to be true. As the only church to have a direct line of communication with Jesus Christ, we expect that the policies and attitudes of the church would reflect the truth we feel within us. We expect the power of revelation to produce doctrine that promotes our general well-being so that we can reap the rewards of happiness in this life and become effective agents of Christ.

Policies promoting perpetual silence do not encourage the spirit of man to excel, but foster feelings of deceptive loneliness and self-loathing.

The partial purpose of the Church is to learn the Gospel of Christ and to become strengthened in your resolve and understanding of the gospel; transcendence through eternal progress. Right now, gays in the Church find themselves in a predicament: for Celestial salvation, what is required? The unequivocal answer the Church provides follows a line of commitments: church attendance, scripture study, baptism, service in the church, and eventually straight marriage in the temple by the sealing power of the Melchizedek Priesthood. It's right there in the D&C: "In order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]."

By providing advice to young men who admit to homosexual feelings that they not marry as a means to rid themselves of their SSA, are they not also stripping these men of their ability to achieve all that the father hath?

So we wait, faithfully, for the Plan of Salvation to be more fully revealed, for God is not a respector of persons, but looketh on the heart. Perhaps our indignation is arrogant to feel impatient at the Lord's timing, and perhaps we feel the burden of silence we have been called upon to bear is too heavy, but I find it difficult to believe that the perfect course of action for gays in the church is a dormant one - it does not seem to support the mission of the church aimed at its current members: perfecting the saints.

Chedner said...

I'm going to be vague, mostly due to time, but thank you for writing what you just wrote here; it's helped me refine some thoughts of what I feel I need to do.

Forester said...

Thank you for beginning to address some of these issues. I've been asking myself these questions for some time now. I think that many of the answers to our questions are already outlined in the principles of the gospel, they just aren't specific to our situation. I do admit that I was a little disappointed that there was not one mention of direct support to our cause at conference this past weekend. However, the support that was given is applicable to all who suffer.

I think many of us agree that we do not suffer as a result of church doctrine, but instead from a great lapse in understanding among the members of the church. I don't agree with some of your suggestions, such as a gay lds ward. I just don't think that we are that special and I don't think some of these issues should be discussed out in the open.

I think one great step would be better instruction to local leaders. You never know how a local leader is going to react if you tell them you are gay. I've never seen any specific direction given in any of the world trainings given twice a year or at the stake level trainings.

I also think same gender attraction should be discussed with the youth of our church in a more accepting and loving way. Most of us grew up feeling like we were bad people for having these feelings. I would hate for any youth to have to go through what I did growing up.

I try to also remember that the leaders of the church are just like us. They too have struggles with faith, receiving revelation and trying to be leaders when I'm sure they feel totally inadequate. I would hate to be in their shoes. So much is expected of them. They never asked to be in their position.

MoHoHawaii said...

Thanks again for another perceptive and poignant essay. I think you really capture the sense of contradiction that's built into the church's current SGA position. If SSA is morally neutral, why do we have to be so darn secret about it?

Really, your post should be required reading for the powers that be.

MoHoHawaii said...

P.S. Hi from India. I'm here for a few weeks for work. Watching the zillions of people on the street here who have never even heard of Mormonism is a good source of perspective for me.

Beck said...

I don't want anything from the Church beyond fellowship. If I'm not willing to face up to myself, then why should I expect the church to? I don't expect anything different from the Church than what they are already doing. Maybe a little more understanding - and that comes in time. But how can I expect them to be more understanding of me when I don't understand me?

I just need to live my life in a way that I can find peace. If we're living our lives the best we can with what we've been given, what else can be expected?

J G-W said...

I'm kinda on the same page with Beck... But everyone should take pause from your statement -- and I think it is accurate -- that "if we consider the retention rate of the gay membership - we ain't doing so good."

We can speculate all we want about the reasons for the abysmal retention rate among gay LDS, but we're kind of deluding ourselves if we go much further than three words: Mandatory Life-Long Celibacy. (OK, four words, depending how you count.)

John Kovalenko talked about "higher roads" and "lower roads." As a denizen of the "lower road," I guess I can live with that, because my bond with my Heavenly Father is strong enough that I will try not to worry about the future, and will focus on loving NOW, in the present, listening to the Spirit NOW, doing what he asks me, in the present, and letting the morrow care for itself.

But is there anything more the Church can do to wrap its arms of love around us "low roaders"???

Abelard Enigma said...

I'm not looking for anything from the church, per se. What I see is a need for a change in the Mormon culture. Unfortunately, given the highly hierarchical structure of the church, such changes are difficult, if not impossible, to drive from the bottom. They need to come from the top and trickle down.

For example, take the recently released pamphlet "God Loveth His Children". Is there anything in that pamphlet that the general membership should not see? Is there anything in that pamphlet that should not be taught to children and youth? Yet, that is not how it is being used - it is viewed as a resource for those struggling with same gender attraction and their families. What do the general membership get? A priesthood/relief society lesson on the law of chastity emphasizing Spencer Kimballs teaching that homosexuality is a heinous sin. I'm not refuting his teaching; but, it certainly doesn't promote compassion and understanding for those who struggle.