Our stake has initiated a program where, without going into the nitty-gritty details, we are to talk to every member in our ward to gather information about their their ancestors in their 5-generation pedigree. Basically, we're getting the number who've had their temple work done from each ward member. In a 5 generation pedigree chart, there are 30 direct line ancestors (not including children); so, we're asking for a number between 0 and 30 from each ward member which we'll enter into a spreadsheet and turn it into the stake in January
Now, I have to admit I was a bit annoyed when I first learned of this "request" from the stake. The reality is that most of the people whose number is 30 (meaning all of their ancestors have had their temple work done) probably haven't lifted a finger personally to do any actual genealogy research - since their family has likely been in the church for generations and Aunt Matilda did it all. By comparison, those of us who are first generation Mormon's - who have actually had to go out and do real research to find our ancestors, but haven't yet completed 5 generations resulting in a number less than 30 - will look like slackers.
But, trying to be the obedient son - and being the only member of the High Priest group leadership who has any actual family history experience, I tried to put my personal feelings aside and spent considerable time looking at this over the past week reviewing new.familysearch.org to figure out how we can help ward members derive the information the stake has asked for. The more I looked at it the more I became convinced that whoever thought of this at the stake just hadn't thought it through. While possible, it's not intuitively obvious how to derive the requested information on new.familysearch.org; plus, we were essentially going to go through a lot of work talking to all of the members to collect a useless data point. When all is said and done, the only useful purpose of this data will be to show the stake that we were an "obedient" ward who did their bidding.
As I thought about it more, I came up with, what I thought, was a better idea. I identified some alternative data points that were easy to derive from new.familysearch.org - and that would actually be useful to us in assessing where we needed to assist ward members in their family history and temple work. I discussed this with my wife (who has much more family history experience than I have) and she agreed that my idea had merit. I was actually starting to feel some of the passion I once had for family history.
So, I drew up a proposal for my alternative and presented it to other members of the High Priest group leadership on Sunday - and I was shot down! I was told that wasn't what the stake asked us to do. When I countered with "do we want to fulfill the letter of the law of the spirit of the law?" - I was told that we needed to fulfill the letter of the law and do exactly what the stake asked of us. It felt like a sucker punch to the stomach - and any passion I was beginning to feel quickly dissipated. Now, this seems like a trivial thing - but I was angry when I left church on Sunday. I was angry that my ideas were dismissed so readily because I wasn't towing the party line. The frustrating thing is that it's possible the bishop and/or the stake president might have even liked my ideas - but we'll never know because they never made it past the first rung on the leadership ladder.
Today I'm OK. I feel that I had a brief moment where I tried to actually think for myself - but I'm over it now. Well ... the reality is that I just don't care anymore - Any passion I was beginning to feel is gone - and it just isn't worth fighting over. So, I'm just going to roll over (or maybe "bend over" would be a better metaphor) and do what is asked of us.
But, at the risk of sounding childish, I've decided that I personally will not participate - I will be the obedient son and do whatever I can to assist the HP Group Leader in collecting this information from ward members, but I will not be providing the stake with the information they asked for about my ancestors. Since I created the spreadsheet that we will use to collect the information, I simply removed my name from the list of ward members. That way, if anyone does happen to scan the list to see who hasn't yet provided the information requested - my name won't stand out, since it won't be there; and, my own little private rebellion won't reflect negatively on the ward. And, in the off chance that someone does notice and asks about it - I'll just shrug my shoulders and say I have privacy concerns. Which is not really the case - I just have no idea what they intend to do with the data and, therefore, have no inclination to share.
But, this being my gay blog - this post isn't really about family history. It's about coming up with the best solutions to address the problems facing the LDS church. Certainly, how to deal with gay members of the church is a problem for which the LDS church leadership is not prepared - evidenced by the dismal retention rate of gay members in the LDS church. The straight membership can console themselves that we're simply being led astray by the adversary - but seriously, 99% of us can't keep a lid on our attractions to the same gender? It's insulting to suggest that being gay equates to being weak!
I have to believe the answers are out there - answers which could be found with the help of people like those of us in the Mormon queerosphere. But our culture doesn't allow for a bottoms-up approach - everything has to come from the top down.
Now, to be fair, there are islands of hope - a bishop here, a stake president there - local church leaders who seems to 'get it' and who demonstrate genuine interest in helping gay members. But, for every island of hope - there are islands of despair, such as the bishop that TGD blogged about who counseled a family member who is having thoughts of suicide that "its best to follow through the suicide than to give into men."
In my previous blog post, I mentioned that I believe change will come - eventually. I still believe that; but, my recent experiences have demonstrated to me that change will not come from within. Good gay members of the church - who are an excellent source of ideas for how to best address the gay contingent in the church - will have little to no effect in changing the hearts and minds of the church leadership as a whole. To even consider such smacks right in the face of our doctrine of priesthood leadership - because those of us in the trenches do not hold the "keys" to receive inspiration for anything other than ourselves and our families. To even suggest that we might have the answers for the church as a whole is a sure indication that we are in league with the devil - the father of all lies who seeks the deceive the righteous.
I believe change will come - but it will have to come from outside of the church. As society increasingly accepts homosexuality, the LDS church will increasingly come across as petty and vindictive towards that segment of society; and, this will force LDS church leadership to reconsider how to best address homosexuality in the church.
Some commentators to my previous blog post took issue with my statement that "the LDS church does not hate gays - they only hate what gays do in the privacy of their bedrooms." - countering that the actions of the LDS church speak louder than their words. I understand what they are saying - but I still hold to my opinion. The LDS church does not "hate" us - they "fear" us. I believe actions by the LDS church to oppose anything 'gay' - such as proposition 8, or BKP's comments in general conference - are out of fear rather than hate. And fear can make people irrational in their words and their actions.
Hate is such as strong word - and I believe church leaders have a genuine concern for the salvation of our souls; but, the very idea of two men or two women in a loving relationship smacks right in the face of our doctrine of the eternal family - and that scares the hell out of them. It scares them enough that to even suggest that such loving same sex relationships could be acceptable to God is blasphemy.
Well ... maybe, just maybe, all it really means is that perhaps we don't understand the doctrine of eternal families as well as we think we do.
In the meantime, I've lost hope that I personally will be able to do anything that might make a difference in the lives of my family - my MoHo family.
And I find myself wondering - how did we get from teaching correct principals and letting the saints govern themselves to blind obedience and damn the consequences?