Friday, February 27, 2009

My guilty pleasure

[me] Hi, my name is Abelard, and I watch RuPaul's Drag Race

[everyone] Hi Abelard!
Yes, I am man enough to admit that I've been watching RuPaul's Drag Race on Logo. My wife watched the first episode with me; but, she didn't particularly care for it - so, I've been watching the remaining episodes on my own.

Seeing the transformation from boy to woman is just fascinating to watch. And, some of these guys ... er ... girls are downright beautiful when they are in full drag. Don't get me wrong - I don't have any desire to do this myself - but I do think being a Gender Illusionist is a perfectly respectable profession.

This weeks challenge had each the queens making their own Viva Glam screen test. Viva Glam is marketed by M·A·C Cosmetics; and, every cent of the selling price of Viva Glam Lipstick and Lipglass is donated to the M·A·C AIDS Fund to support men, women, and children living with HIV and AIDS.

There was an unexpected moving moment at the end of the competition when Ongina learned that she had won this weeks challenge,. You can view the clip here in part 6 of episode 4 of RuPaul's Drag Race



My personal favorite is Nina Flowers (real name is Jorge Florez) who is originally from Puerto Rico.

btw, according to the Drag Queen Name generator, my drag name is:

[drum roll]

Lois Carmen Denominator

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sleep With The Right People

Sleep With The Right People represents an alliance between two powerful groups: the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bi-sexual Transgender) community and UNITE HERE (the union representing more than 100,000 hotel and restaurant workers). Both face similar struggles in their quest for fair and equal treatment of all individuals.
Um ... I don't quite know what to say

I know there are some who object comparing gay rights with equal rights from the 60's. But, to compare the struggles the gay community faces with those faced by hotel and restaurant workers - just seems a little over the top.

Now, I understand that the hotel and restaurant worker business may not be the most prestigious of jobs; and, I'm sure they are looked down upon by many. But seriously ...
  • Has anybody has ever been a victim of a brutal beating - for being a hotel/restaurant worker
  • Has anybody has ever been fired from their job - for being a hotel/restaurant worker
  • Has anybody has ever been denied marriage - for being a hotel/restaurant worker
  • Has anybody has ever been kicked out of the military - for being a hotel/restaurant worker
  • Has anybody has ever grown up with hotel/restaurant-worker-phobic slurs and epithet's
Politics sure does make strange bedfellows [pun intended]

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

30 years later

I encourage everyone to read this article by Dustin Lance Black as he reflects on Harvey Milk, 30 years later.
"Somewhere in Des Moines or San Antonio, there is a young gay person who all of a sudden realizes that she or he is gay. Knows that if the parents find out they’ll be tossed out of the house. The classmates will taunt the child and the Anita Bryants and John Briggs are doing their bit on TV, and that child has several options: staying in the closet, suicide. . . and then one day that child might open up the paper and it says, “homosexual elected in San Francisco,” and there are two new options. One option is to go to California. . . OR stay in San Antonio and fight. You’ve got to elect gay people so that that young child and the thousands upon thousands like that child know that there’s hope for a better world. There’s hope for a better tomorrow."
Harvey Milk in a speech delivered on June 9, 1978
All of us here in the queerosphere should be concerned about equality - even for those of us who are living by LDS church standards and not engaged in gay relationships. The fight for equality doesn't just apply for those who are sexually active. Equality should not be based on who we may or may not be sharing our bedroom with.
  • You will be considered inferior and damaged - for simply being a homosexual
  • There are states where it is still legal to fire someone - for simply being a homosexual
  • you can be kicked out of the military - for simply being a homosexual
  • You can be refused the opportunity to serve in the boy scouts and other organizations - for simply being a homosexual
  • Many people will look on you with suspicion - for simply being a homosexual
  • Your family may be shamed and/or pitied - for simply having a homosexual

Monday, February 23, 2009

Commie homo loving sons of guns

A bunch of commie homo loving sons of guns felt that Sean Penn deserved an oscar for his performance as Harvey Milk - and I agree. As I blogged about earlier, Sean Penn became Harvey Milk.


For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame,and the shame in their grandchildren's eyes, if they continue that way of support - We've got to have equal rights for everyone!

And kudos to Dustin Black


To all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told they are less than by their churches, by the government, or by their families - that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value; and, that no matter what anyone tells you - God does love you, and that very soon, I promise you, that you will have equal rights, federally, across this great nation of ours!

Blogging

I think I'm subscribing to way too many blogs.

I didn't login to my computer at all on Sunday. So, I went from Saturday evening to Monday morning without checking blogs (I think that may be some sort of record for me). Anyway, my blog reader this morning said I had 62 unread blog entries.

As much as I enjoy reading the MoHo blogs - I can't keep up with all of the blogs anymore - there are just too many of them. Lately, I've been mostly skimming blog posts. And, sometimes, when a blogger has multiple posts - I just click the "Mark all read" button and move on. There just aren't enough hours in the day.

Mind you, not all of these are gay Mormon blogs - although most are. But, I do have a life and other interests - really, I do.

. . .

OK, just kidding, I don't have a life - but I do have other interests.

I wish I could read and respond to everybody's blog posts. When I've been reading a blog for a while, I start to feel a kinship with them. When I stop reading their blog, I feel like I'm abandoning a friend.


This brings something else to mind - my blogroll of family blogs has become unwieldy. Any suggestions? I like having a comprehensive list of gay Mormon blogs. I think it can be helpful to others who find their way to the queerosphere. But, when the list has grown to over 175 entries, it's usefulness becomes questionable. I've thought about starting up a new blog: A MoHo portal - a jumping point to other MoHo blogs. Sort of like the Mormon Blogosphere portal where the blogs are categorized. But, I'm not sure I'm imaginative enough nor adept enough at web programming to pull it off. Any volunteers?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Birthday greetings

Yesterday was my birthday. The following chart breaks down who I received birthday greetings from.So, nearly 2/3'rds of the people who wished me a happy birthday are queer - not bad for a bunch of same-sex-lusting, public-fornicating, disease-spreading, marriage-ruining, child-molesting, society-endangering perverts. I wonder what that says about me?

For all those who wished me a happy birthday - thank you

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Utah politics

I have to confess, I haven't been paying that close attention to Utah politics. When I first heard of the Common Ground initiative, my first thought was that it didn't really stand much of a chance of passage. I fact, I'm not even sure if its authors felt it really stood a chance - but were using this to make a point.

To be clear, the LDS church never claimed to support granting certain rights to same sex couples - what was said is:
... the Church does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches. [emphasis added]
I interpret 'not object' to mean this is a battle the church chooses to not get involved in - and their silence during this whole common ground initiative supports that view.

Although, based on recent commentary, I'm reminded of something I stumbled upon in my web surfing a while back: How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps by Jim Burroway. The final step really strikes a chord in light of recent events in Utah politics
Step 15: Close on a compassionate note. You don’t hate anyone. Honestly, you don’t. The Biblical message is all about compassion, about loving your neighbor and all that. You love homosexuals. You really do. You just don’t like their same-sex-lusting, public-fornicating, disease-spreading, marriage-ruining, child-molesting, society-endangering ways. And really now, where’s the hate in that?
btw, are we sure Chris Buttars is LDS? He sounds more like one of those wackos from Westboro Baptist church. You know, the www.godhatesfags.com folks. I'm sure he and Rep. Sally Kern of Oklahoma City would get along famously. A year or so ago, she made the news in my neck of the woods when she proclaimed "the homosexual agenda is just destroying this nation and poses a bigger threat to the U.S. than terrorism or Islam."

And, the really scary thing is that there are enough people out there who agree with this sentiment to elect people like Chris and Sally.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Gay, gay, and more gay

The Gay Christian Network (GCN) classifies people of the gay persuasion as follows
Side AAA - believes that recreational sex with multiple partners is OK.

Side A - believes sex is only OK in the eyes of God in a committed, monogamous, same-sex relationship

Side B - believes that God calls gay Christians to celibacy.

Side X - (for "ex-gay") believes that we need to try to change our sexual orientation.
Like other attempts to classify sexual orientation, this system over simplifies things; for example, it is probably more of a continuum from Side-AAA to Side-X rather than four distinct classes, and it doesn't address a gay person involved in a heterosexual relationship. But, it helps me understand what my problem is with how the LDS church treats homosexuality.

GCN focuses only on Side A and Side B and eschews side-AAA and side-X. Most GCN members are Side-A; but, a significant minority are Side B.

I maintain that the LDS church focuses only on the extremes: Side-AAA and Side-X. Side-B is merely tolerated, but is not encouraged. If a member of the LDS church is involved in a same sex relationship then it doesn't matter if it is casual recreational sex with multiple partners or in a committed monogamous relationship. The result is the same - they are considered a lost sheep, and often as a lost cause. The church may even excommunicate the unrepentant thereby washing their hands of the sinner.

The ideal, in the eyes of the LDS church, is that we should all try to overcome our same sex attractions. The pamphlet God Loveth His Children states
While many Latter-day Saints, through individual effort, the exercise of faith, and reliance upon the enabling power of the Atonement, overcome same-gender attraction in mortality, others may not be free of this challenge in this life.
Implicit in this statement is that we should all be exercising faith to overcome our same gender attraction, while recognizing that some will not be successful (suggesting that most will).

Some might argue that 'overcoming' doesn't mean changing our sexual orientation; but, to be free of the challenge of same gender attraction means I'm no longer attracted to the same gender - i.e. I'm no longer a homosexual. I just don't see how this could be interpreted any other way. And, that is certainly how the majority of LDS members reading this statement would interpret it.

The question is often asked "what would we have the LDS church do, with regards to homosexuality, that it isn't already doing?" For starters, recognize that homosexuality exists in the LDS church - and that for most of us, no matter how hard we pray, at the end of the day we're still going to be gay. If mixed orientation marriage and celibacy are the only two viable options then formally recognize those - and give us a little assistance in making it work.

Instead, it feels to me that the LDS church is simply sticking it's head in the sand - covering its ears, so to speak, singing "la-la-la, I can't hear you." The party line is that any sexual relationship outside of marriage (between one man and one woman) is unacceptable. We're told that is the criteria, so now just work it out on your own - but you'll be in big trouble if the way you decide to work it out doesn't fit into those two options (MOM or celibacy).

Seriously, is it really too much to ask for a little help here? If God is truly telling our church leaders that homosexual behavior is always wrong, with no exceptions - is it really so unreasonable to expect them to go back to God asking how to help the homosexual saints? I don't know about others - but a pamphlet isn't doing it for me, especially a pamphlet that essentially tells me that its OK to be gay as long as I pretend to be straight.

I don't know why I am gay - if I was born this way or if it is due to environmental factors while I was growing up. But, I do know that I did not choose to be this way. So, why should it be so shameful? Why am I made to feel like I should be ashamed of who I am?

Additionally, just as a bank president who embezzles millions of dollars is not the same as a man who steals food to feed his family - neither is a man who is engaged in promiscuous gay sex the same as a man in a committed monogamous homosexual relationship. The church will treat the bank president differently than it does the man who is simply trying to feed his family - so should the church treat a gay gigolo differently than a man in a faithful relationship with his loving husband.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Don't mix politics and religion

I received an email last night from our stake high counselor over seminary and institutes.
To: All Seminary Teachers

It was brought to my attention today that at least one parent is concerned with the amount of time spent in seminary discussing politics. This was true during the heat of the election, but has now continued. I do not know which teacher and as such this message is meant for all as a reminder of the Church’s stand on politics.

1) The church remains neutral on politics. This has always been the case and is reiterated every year at election time. We are advised to be involved by running for an office, supporting a candidate of choice and by expressing our opinion through the voting process.

2) When there is an issue that is in direct conflict with our beliefs or the nature of free religion the church will play an active role in standing up for what we believe through due process. The most recent example is Proposition 8 in California.
He went on to reiterate that we only have a limited amount of time with the seminary students each morning and that we need to focus our instruction on the scriptures.


On one hand, I'm glad parents are complaining and voicing their concerns - and I'm glad my stake is stepping up to rectify this situation.

On the other hand, I'm flabbergasted that there are, evidently, seminary teachers in my stake who feel it's OK to discuss politics during seminary. And, I'm sure these discussions are not pro-Obama.

I've worked with the youth in various capacities for most of my adult life - and I've never brought politics into my lessons. When a youth asks me about my stand on a particular political issue, I explain that it's not appropriate for me to discuss politics in church - but if they really want to know they can ask me out in the parking lot. Usually that's the end of it - but, occasionally, I've had them come to me after church in the parking lot and repeat their question, to which I gave an honest answer - often to their disappointment since they took my refusal to discuss in class to mean that I held a controversial position - and I am usually in line with most members of the church in my political leanings.

Political neutrality is the official church policy - this has always been the formal policy since I've been a member of the church. In the leadership meetings I've attended over the years, that principal has always been clearly taught. So, I am dumbfounded that there are people today who think that policy is pass├ę.

I find myself wondering if this is more fallout from proposition 8 in California - do church members feel empowered to bring politics into their lessons at church because the church got involved in a very controversial political issue in California?


Lest I get puffed up in my own self righteousness - our priesthood lesson yesterday was "Chapter 27: Beware the Bitter Fruits of Apostasy". And, [groan], proposition 8 was brought up as an issue that has caused many members of the church to apostatize.

One quote stood out for me
Heber C. Kimball, while serving as a counselor to President Brigham Young, reported: “I will give you a key which Brother Joseph Smith used to give in Nauvoo. He said that the very step of apostasy commenced with losing confidence in the leaders of this church and kingdom, and that whenever you discerned that spirit you might know that it would lead the possessor of it on the road to apostasy.
Heber C. Kimball, Deseret News, Apr. 2, 1856, p. 26; spelling and capitalization modernized.
Have I lost confidence in the leaders of the church? When it comes to their decision to get politically involved with proposition 8 in California - I have to answer "yes". Does this mean I've started down the road to apostasy? According to the statement above - the answer would be "yes".

Regarding item #2 in the email I received - I don't agree that proposition 8 was in "direct conflict with our beliefs or the nature of free religion". Having members of the GLBT community adopt a position similar to ours, on the importance of marriage fidelity and family, is IMOHO a good thing. We're taught "by their fruits ye shall know them" - aren't these (fidelity and family) good fruits?

Instead, we tell them that family is important - except for yours because it's illegitimate. And, it doesn't really matter that you remain faithful in your relationship - because you're a couple of immoral perverts who are going to hell anyway. Is this what we mean by "Christ-like compassion"?

What strikes me is that, on one hand, we have somebody preaching politics in their seminary class - in clear and direct violation of church policy. On the other hand, we have me - who disagrees with the church on a political issue, although remains quiet about my feelings in church. - yet, between the two of us, I am the one considered to be on the 'road to apostasy'.

Does this strike anyone else as being odd and out of balance?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentines broccoli

For Valentines day, I gave my wife a pack of broccoli plants which I planted in our vegetable garden yesterday. Now, that might not seem very romantic; but, you have to understand that I really do not like broccoli - while she loves broccoli. By giving her broccoli plants, I was signaling to her that I am willing to eat broccoli with her, even though I do not like it.

OK, I confess, I gave her some other things too. But, the broccoli is the most heartfelt.

She pointed out that homegrown vegetables taste better - and I'm thinking "oh goody - more of that good ol broccoli flavor that I love so much." Anybody got some good broccoli recipes to share? Ya know, something that might kinda mast some of that broccoli flavor a bit?

Friday, February 13, 2009

A parable

There once was a man who was a faithful follower of God. This man had a brother who left the faith and who had made some bad decisions that the man was disappointed with. Nevertheless, the man loved his brother and wished for him the best.

One day, the man was talking with a friend. The friend mentioned the mans brother and started speaking terrible things about his brother. The man became distraught with his friend and was upset about the things being said about his brother - even though there was some truth in the things being said. But, the man felt that by dishonoring his brother - he too was being dishonored.


This parable describes how I feel when I feel when I hear/read people trash talking the GLBT community - a community that I too am affiliated with. To be honest, there are aspects of gay culture that I am not comfortable with. There are things which some of my gay brothers and sisters do that I flat out think are wrong. But, that does not change the fact that I feel a certain kinship with my gay brothers and sisters - especially those who are trying to live their lives as honestly and best they can. It saddens me greatly when I see people pointing to some of the base debauchery that exists in certain corners of the gay culture - and then applying that to the overall GLBT community

Yes, there are some nefarious aspects of gay culture - the promiscuity, flamboyancy, drugs, and a generally hedonistic lifestyle is often glamorized by Hollywood. But the reality is that gay culture does not have an exclusive on depravity - all of that self indulgence that people use to discredit the the GLBT community is just as prevalent in the straight community.

We often hear of the Gay Agenda. I, evidently, missed the memo; but, apparently, there was this big meeting of gay folk where a plan was devised and is being carefully orchestrated and carried out as we speak to
  1. Destroy all healthy heterosexual marriages by redefining marriage
  2. Recruit all straight youngsters to a debauched lifestyle
  3. Bulldoze all houses of worship
  4. Secure total control of the internet and all mass media for the exclusive use of pornographers.
But, what about the Straight Agenda? Evidence that a straight agenda exists? A TV spot that aired in some local markets during the Superbowl for AshleyMadison.com - an online dating service for married folk.
AshleyMadison.com CEO Noel Biderman said he started the service in 2001, after reading that 30 percent of the people signing up for singles dating services were actually married.

“I thought, wouldn’t it be better to be honest about your status?” he said. “About 3.3 million members and tens of millions of dollars later, I think I was right.”
The Toronto-based company is focusing on Texas because Houston, Dallas and San Antonio represent its fastest-growing markets. According to an article in the Houston Chronicle - The ad was deemed inappropriate by NFL and NBC officials; however, a few local NBC affiliates felt it made financial sense to run the ad during the Superbowl - a bonanza for Ashley Madison since, by Monday afternoon, the Web site had received 147,000 hits from the Houston market alone.
[sniff] it makes me proud to be a Texan
Where is the outrage? Isn't a dating service for married people - a service that glamorizes and encourages adultery - a very real and true threat to the traditional family? Shouldn't we be outraged that our local NBC affiliates put profit and greed above family programming? Shouldn't we be organizing letter writing campaigns letting the NBC brass know how angry we are that our children were submitted to such moral turpitude?

[sigh] apparently not. There has been little, if any, mention of this in the local press. I've not heard of any churches in the area gathering their forces. It's not even on the Focus On Family's radar, that I'm aware of.

Apparently, we'd rather focus our energy on imaginary threats - those evil and vile homosexuals who want to shove their degenerate lifestyle into our collective faces by [GASP!] getting married - and by so doing, threaten the very sanctity of marriage.

I don't even know what that means - to threaten the sanctity of marriage. It's a clever sound bite - but what does it mean?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A gay Jesus film

I received the following email yesterday from my high priests group leader
Corpus Christi....the movie:
The movie Corpus Christi is due to be released this June to August.
I totally agree with the message below.

A disgusting film set to appear in America later this year depicts Jesus and his disciples as homosexuals! As a play, this has already been in theatres for a while. It's called Corpus Christi ' which means 'The Christ Body.' It's revolting mockery of our Lord. But we can make a difference. That's why I am sending this e-mail to you. If you do send this around, we will be able to prevent this film from showing in America and South Africa ..

Let's stand for what we believe in and stop the mockery of Jesus Christ our Savior. Where do we stand as Christians?

At the risk of a bit of inconvenience, I'm forwarding this to all I think would appreciate it too. Please help us prevent such offenses against our Lord. It will take you less than 2 minutes! If you are not interested, and do not have the 2 Minutes it will take to do this , please don't complain when God does not have time for you, because He is far busier than we are.
Hey, it's worth a shot! Apparently, some regions in Europe have already banned the film. All we need is a lot of prayer and a lot of e-mails.

Remember, Jesus said 'Deny Me on earth and I'll deny you before my Father'

In God We Trust
Problem is, according to scopes.com - this is a myth. While there is, evidently, a controversial play by this name - there is no evidence of any plans to turn it into a movie.

Is this what it's come to? The religious right tasted blood with their victory in California. Now, in order to keep the outrage against homosexuals alive, they are inventing issues to unite the forces in the fight against those evil homosexuals? Is the idea to keep their forces riled up so that when a real issue does arise, they are primed and ready?

And what am I supposed to do with this? Should I be supporting my priesthood leader and forward this email to all of my friends? Should I feel guilty about the email that I actually did send - informing him that this is a myth, with a link to the article on snopes.com? He replied to my email admitting that he didn't check it out before sending his email - although, I did note that he replied only to me and made no correction to the remainder of the people on his distribution list.

Why does this make me, a closeted homosexual, feel more isolated from my priesthood quorum? I wonder if he would have sent this if he knew there was a homosexual sitting in his priesthood meeting each Sunday? How would the other priesthood brethren feel if they knew there was a homosexual in their midst? I feel like a pariah - that I should come to church wearing a sign that says "unclean".

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The good life

I have a good life
  • I have a wife who loves me
  • I have a family who loves me
  • I have a good job with a good company
  • I live in a nice home in a nice neighborhood
  • I live in a area that is not being hit as hard economically as elsewhere
  • I don't have any major health problems
  • I have the restored gospel in my life
By all appearances I should be happy and content.

So, why do I feel so crappy? Why is the good life so elusive? Why is happiness always beyond my reach? Why do I feel like crying? Why do I feel so lonely and isolated? Why does my life suck so much?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Ward conference

Note: For anyone reading this blog who is not familiar with the LDS church organization. We call our individual congregations wards. A group a wards in a geographic area are then organized as a stake. This is similar, in catholic parlance, to a parish and diocese.

Yesterday was our annual ward conference.

I have to admit, I kinda have a bad attitude about ward conference. I don't get the point of it. It just seems like something that, perhaps, made sense in days of yore - when the church was much more spread out and it was an opportunity for members in remote regions to interact with stake leaders. But today, with the church more prevalent in society and modern communications technology - I just don't get it. It seems like we cling to the old ways simply because that's how we've always done it - and nobody is willing to stand up and ask "hey, is this really necessary?"

Plus, to put it bluntly - it's boring. It starts out, in the chapel, with Sacrament meeting - which is stretched out to 90 minutes. Then all of the youth and primary children leave and the adults stay sitting in the chapel for a lesson by a member of the stake Sunday School presidency. After that, the women move to the relief society room and the men stay in the chapel for a combined melchizedek priesthood lesson. So, basically, on ward conference - I come in, plop myself down in the chapel - and sit there for 3 hours. By the end of the 3rd hour - my butt was really tired.

Anyway, the theme this year was ostensibly "God Loves Us" - however, it seemed like 3 hours of yelling at us because we're not doing enough missionary work and telling all of our friends that God loves them; and, we're not doing enough temple work because God loves our ancestors too.

As I was sitting there listening to how we should be talking to our friends - it occurred to me that the people I know and interact with on a regular basis - the ones who aren't already members of the LDS church - most of them are gay. I don't think the church really wants my friends. They say they want us to talk to everyone - but not really. They only want my friends if they're willing to leave their life of debauchery behind. In fact, my friends would need to sit down with the mission president to be interviewed before permission would be given to be baptized - the same as convicted felons and women who've had an abortion. No, I don't think they really mean it when they tell me I should talk to my friends - at least not to my gay friends. I don't think they really want people like that in the church - hell, we got enough of them already, we certainly don't want to add more.

Like I said - I kinda have a bad attitude when it comes to ward conference. If they have some important message they want to get out to all members - can't they just send us an email or something?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Please bless this food

Sometimes weird thoughts pop into my head. The other day, as we were saying a blessing on our dinner, the thought occurred to me - what exactly are we asking God to do when we say "please bless this food?"

I can understand giving thanks for providing the food. I can understand blessing a person - that they may be filled with the spirit. I can understand blessing a home or a temple - that the spirit may reside therein. But, what are we expecting from blessed food? Are we asking that the spirit reside in the food that we are about to consume? Isn't that a bit creepy - we're going to eat the spirit? Are we asking God to change the chemical and/or biological makeup of the food so that it is more nourishing than unblessed food? Why can't we just give thanks for the food? Why do we have to ask that it be blessed?

It's just one of these things we repeat by rote without ever really thinking about what we are saying - at least I've never really thought about it before.

Growing up outside of the LDS church, we didn't bless the food - we said grace. I remember once, as a small boy, we were at a family reunion in Pennsylvania. They asked my uncle - a methodist minister - to say grace. We all bowed our heads. He then said "Grace" - "OK, let's eat." Not that he was an irreverent man - I just think he felt that there was a time and a place - and a family reunion was neither the time nor the place for a long drawn out dissertation in the form of a prayer - I can think of some Mormon's I've known who could take some advice in that regard.

I remember a family I met while serving on my mission who invited us over one Sunday for dinner. When it came time to say the blessing on the food - they got dessert out of the refrigerator and set it on the table during the blessing - then they put it back in the refrigerator until we finished dinner. They also took the lids off of the salad dressing bottles during the prayer. So, I guess blessings are not able to permeate refrigerator doors or plastic lids to reach the food.

Personally, wouldn't it be much more efficient f we would just bless the grocery store? Then we could say a quick prayer of thanks before we eat it - think of all of the time we could save.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Third Wave

Ron Jones authored a book titled "No Substitute for Madness" where he tells of a social experiment he initiated in 1968 while teaching high school in Palo Alto, California.
When a social studies student asked about the German public's responsibility for the rise of the Third Reich, saying "it couldn't happen here", Jones decided to try and simulate what happened in Germany by having his students "basically follow instructions" for a day. He turned his class into an efficient youth organization, which he called the Third Wave. Some students were informers, and some were told they couldn't go certain places on campus. He insisted on rigid posture and that questions be answered formally and quickly.

The experiment, initially scheduled for one day, stretched into five. "It was strange how quickly the students took to a uniform code of behavior. I began to wonder just how far they could be pushed," Jones wrote.

To his surprise, Jones found that students recited facts more accurately in this authoritarian environment and that he had no discipline problems. One previously lost soul suddenly had a role in the school--he became Jones' bodyguard.

The students got very involved in the Third Wave, many sporting black armbands to signify their membership. Others actively proselyted other students. Banners appeared around the school, and announcements were made over the PA system. "... by the third or fourth day, there was an obvious explosion of emotion that I couldn't control." wrote Jones.

But soon the experiment began spinning out of control. There was betrayal among teens who had been close friends since childhood when one would refuse to conform. Jones wrote "I kept hoping someone would walk in and ask what was going on, so I could point to them and say, 'That's right, look what you're doing, you've become just like fascists' and end it. But it didn't happen."

At a Friday assembly, five days into the experiment, Jones announced, "We can bring (the nation) a new sense of order, community, pride, and action. Everything rests on you and your willingness to take a stand," he told students.

As one, the students shouted, "Strength through discipline!"

After a long silence, Jones began to speak. "There is no such thing as a national youth movement called the Third Wave. You have been used. Manipulated. Shoved by your own desires into the place you now find yourselves."

He showed a movie of Hitler at the Nuremberg rally. The students and teachers saw that they had only too readily adopted many of the behaviors they were witnessing on the screen. They realized the possibility that it could happen here.


Someone recently commented on my blog about her experience in California
"The realization that not only am I a pariah for voting No, but that I'm not allowed to talk about it, "preach what I believe," shook my core foundation. I'm not out to ruin the church or mislead its people. I just really disagree here and it struck me weird that I couldn't talk about it without people telling me I had little faith or I was going against the Prophet."
As I read this, I recalled watching a PBS special dramatizing the events described in Ron Jones book "No Substitute for Madness". And, I find myself wondering if proposition 8 has spawned our own Mormon version of the Third Wave. With everyone shouting "no gay marriage" and "protect the traditional family" as one voice. And, those who are not in lock step with the movement having their faith and commitment called into question, perhaps even being ostracized, with long time friendships and family relationships being torn apart.

. . . something to think about

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Mormongate

"Mormongate" is starting to show up in the press. And not just the gay media - the mainstream media is starting to pick up on it.

The LDS church is embroiled in a PR disaster. Mormon historian Jan Shipps calls it the perfect storm. Some events are not of its doing - such as the Mitt Romney run for the presidency, or the FLDS fiasco which some, erroneously, associate with Mormon's. Other events are a direct result of its overt actions - such as involvement in getting proposition 8 passed. But, all of the events in the past year are conspiring together to form the perfect storm.

Now, we've always had our enemies - people who protest whenever we open a new temple or at general conference. But, it's always been fringe elements who are doing the protesting - people that few take seriously. The difference now is that mainstream society is starting sit up and notice that something doesn't quite seem right. There is the old adage "where there's smoke, there's fire" - and right now there is lots of smoke. And, the LDS church is doing an abysmal job at putting out the fire.

As an organization, the LDS church is very private - disseminating information very carefully and succinctly. It is also very image conscious. These characteristics have worked very well for the LDS church over the years - until now. People are asking lots of uncomfortable questions - questions which are going unanswered; and, our image is being dragged through the mud. The very traits which have worked so well for us are now working against us.

We can handle fringe elements telling us we're evil. We can handle other churches telling us that we're not Christian. We can weather these storms quite easily - we've been doing it since Joseph Smith's time, it's ingrained into our culture.

But now, as a result of events over the past year or so, we're faced with the perfect storm. While we fancy ourselves as being mainstream - more and more, with our fundamentalist views, the world is relegating us to the fringe elements of society. Where we were once admired as being pro-family - we are now only viewed as being pro-[certain kinds of families].

Our doctrine, teachings, and culture are being carefully scrutinized in ways we're not accustomed to. And, it's becoming more and more difficult to defend our policies that just seem petty and silly - such as boys can't wear earrings and God only likes white shirts.

Even members from within are beginning to sit up and question some of our practices and policies - wondering if we are truly being Christ-like in our treatment of certain members of society.

Can the LDS church weather out this perfect storm? Or are we at the cusp of a new era in Mormonism? To survive, are we going to have to rethink what we're doing and where we're going? Have we reached a point where the old ways just won't work anymore?

I won't claim to be smart enough to know the answer. But, I believe this perfect storm is not going to dissipate any time soon. And, I find myself wondering, and fearing, how many of our brothers and sisters are we going to lose before we admit to ourselves that we need to chart a new course?


Lost by Abelard Enigma

Today, we lost another brother
He did not abandon us
But we abandoned him
And, with his departure
A part of each of us goes with him
We all become somewhat less than what we were
Because no one reached out to embrace him
To accept him for who he is
Instead, he was ignored along with others like him
Pretending that he and his soul mates don't exist
Forcing him, and others, to hide their true selves
Living in constant fear that their secrets will be discovered
Is it any wonder that we lost yet another brother?
How many more will be lost
Before we realize that these losses diminishes each of us?
How much more can we be diminished before we too are lost?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Me thinks the LDS church doesn't "get it"

The LDS church issued a news release regarding the media buzz about the previously unreported $190,000 that was in the latest filing from the church: Church Clarifies Proposition 8 Filing, Corrects Erroneous News Reports

The whole explanation boils down to "we were supposed to file by January 31st, 2009, and we met the deadline - so what's the problem?"

First of all, there is a certain arrogance with the phrase "corrects erroneous news reports". Most of us are not versed in the finer details of campaign finance laws. We look at the information at hand and form opinions. The information available to us prior to yesterday is that the LDS church previously filed donations 'in kind' of approximately $2000 - then they submitted a final report detailing out approximately $190,000 of donations 'in kind'. Why wait until you've been blasted in the media before issuing a press release? Why not be a little more proactive and issue a news release simultaneously with the final filing? This is, obviously, a very sensitive topic. Were they truly naive enough to think that they were going to file this and nobody would notice the discrepancy? Did they sincerely believe that no explanation was needed?

It is also disingenuous to point out that their in-kind (non-monetary) contribution is less than one half of one percent of the total funds (approximately $40 million) raised for the “Yes on 8” campaign. The fact is that most of the $40M came from Mormon's. And, it's safe to assume, that most of those Mormon's would probably not have made a donation if the church hadn't ask them to "do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time" in conjunction with its fundamental principal of "follow the prophet". So, while the church did not make significant contributions, according to the legal definition - it is directly responsible for the majority of the contributions received by the YesOn8 campaign.

The LDS church feels that same sex marriage is morally wrong. They rallied their forces and were successful in passing proposition 8 defining marriage as only being between a man and a woman. They averted a potential catastrophe that was threatening the very foundation of family by redefining marriage. Families in California are now safe from all of those gay couples who wanted their own committed monogamous relationships to be recognized as such. So, why are they now hiding behind legal mumbo jumbo? Why not stand up and be proud of their accomplishment?

In the days following November 4th, Jan Shipps, president of the Mormon History Association (and, interestingly, a non-member), said in an interview: "I think they probably are really astonished that there are demonstrations at temples all over the nation"

I agree with her. I believe church leaders were truly surprised and caught off guard by the back lash following November 4th. I think they truly do not understand the anger the GLBT community has towards Mormon's right now. In their minds, they were simply 'standing up for what they believe' and cannot comprehend why others will not respect that. They don't seem to understand the difference between passively standing up for what you believe - and aggressively going on the offensive to ensure that others comply with what you believe.

They just do not "get it", nor will they even acknowledge that they don't "get it" - and that is what saddens me most.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Disconcerted

The decision of the LDS church to get involved in the proposition 8 battle in California has me feeling unsettled; although, it's been in the days since the election on November 4th, 2008 that I'm beginning to realize the extent to which I am troubled.

Why am I feeling distressed?
  • The LDS church preaches a position of political neutrality. LDS church policy explicitly states that church buildings are not to be used for political purposes - yet the LDS church was actively involved in a political battle in California - and now we learn that church facilities were utilized in this political campaign.
  • The LDS church asserts that churches and religious organizations are well within their constitutional rights to speak out and be engaged in the many moral and ethical problems facing society - yet, it is not politically involved in other moral and/or ethical issues - even other countries and states with similar measures on their election ballot are ignored.
  • Our 11th article of faith states: 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 - yet, we do not grant this privilege to those who believe that same sex marriage is ordained of God.
  • One of our hymns has the phrase: "True to the truth for which martyrs have perished" ("True to the Faith," Hymns #254) - yet LDS church leaders participated in the spread of half truths and lies in the days leading up to November 4th, 2008, such as when Elder David A. Bednar, while speaking to a group of young adults, suggested that passage of proposition 8 would result in the church losing its free speech right to preach against gay marriage.
  • One of the temple recommend questions asks: Are you honest in your dealings with your fellowmen? - yet, we find out this week that the LDS church had had failed to report donations to the tune of $190K - nearly a hundred times more than what they previously reported.
Am I wrong here? Does anything I stated above need to be corrected? Am I taking anything out of context? How can I resolve these conflicts? Why can't just let this go and go back to a state of blissful ignorance?

I'm not sure I know what to believe anymore - and therein lies my conflict: Once I start to believe a modern day prophet can be wrong about one thing - it opens the door to them being wrong about other things.

President Wilford Woodruff taught that a prophet will never be allowed to lead the Church astray. But why? Doesn't the prophet have the same free agency that the rest of us enjoy in this earthly plane of existence? Is this teaching supported by scripture? How do we know President Woodruff isn't leading us astray with this teaching? Isn't it imperative that we all receive our own personal witness and not rely on blind faith?

I suppose some will proclaim that I'm being lead astray by Satan - the master of lies. Others will suggest that my eyes are truly beginning to open to the real truth.

But, I just don't know what to think anymore . . .

By choosing to become politically involved in the proposition 8 battle in California - the LDS church has drawn a line in the sand for all of us - worldwide. But, right now, I feel like I am straddling that line - and I need to decide which side of the line I belong on. The answer is not as clear cut as many would have us believe.