When I was about 15, my bishop gave me some horrible advice. It was the kind of generic advice you might give to a teenager that in many situations would be harmless and probably even positive. But if he had known more about my personal situation, I’d like to think that he wouldn’t have said what he did. Unfortunately, he didn’t just say, this is something you might want to consider. He said, God is telling me that you need to do such-and-such thing. Because I’d always heard that bishops could be inspired on your behalf, I took him seriously. I did what I was told, and it was awful. And most awful of all was the message that it conveyed, which was that God didn’t actually care about my needs or experience. It reinforced destructive messages I was already getting about myself and some of the situations I was dealing with. My relationship with God was already full of landmines, and it added to the chaos. Continue reading
Hi. You don’t know me, but I got into an argument with you this morning on Facebook. I don’t usually do that—one of my resolutions is in fact not to argue with strangers on social media, because I think it’s easier to demonize and dismiss people when you don’t know them, when they’re only friends of friends (if even that). And Facebook arguments in general seem to just go back and forth and leave everyone even more deeply entrenched in their positions.
But I jumped in anyway, because I was so troubled by what you said. Troubled by the content of it, for sure, but also by the reality that your views are shared by many, many members of the church. Troubled enough that I wanted to respond. I left the Facebook argument because I quickly realized that nothing I said would make any difference. But I find myself still want to say something, to see how well I can do at explaining where I’m coming from. I don’t expect that I’m going to convince you to agree with me, but I’m wondering if we can do better than reciting talking points at each other. Continue reading
It’s been a month now, since the church’s November 5th policy changes. It’s been a pretty awful month—in the church and in the broader world. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so discouraged about my country, and its enthusiasm for guns and xenophobia. And I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so discouraged about my church. Continue reading
A painful church experience to which I think many people can relate is that of listening to people share stories of divine intervention that didn’t happen in your life. People might talk, for example, about God giving them healthy children. If you don’t have children, or if your children aren’t healthy, this can really sting. Or perhaps God is reported to have intervened to cure a disease—one from which you or someone you love still suffers. Maybe God spared people from accidents, or blessed them financially. Those who weren’t blessed in those ways are inevitably going to wonder why. As a single person,my favorites are the “how God led me to my spouse” stories. (You might think that this would be a different sort of concern for me, given that I’m gay, but actually there are plenty of gay people who will testify that God brought their partners into their lives.) And hardest of all, I suspect, are stories about God saving people’s lives, when he didn’t save the life of the person you loved. Continue reading
It’s gray outside. That’s not unusual here; it’s been gray for days, and I know this is only the beginning of some long months. I remember that from living in the Midwest before, years ago. But twelve years of living in California got me used to seeing the sun on a regular basis. I knew this part of the move would be challenging.
This past summer I was starting to crash yet again. Life was increasingly appearing both bleak and terrifying, and I was barely treading water. I hadn’t been hospitalized for an entire year—an accomplishment, that—and I saw myself headed to the ER once again. Except that I wasn’t sure I could stand yet another trip to the regulation and boredom of a psych ward, and I wondered whether this time around I could keep myself safe.
Alma is unarguably the figure in the Book of Mormon who exhibits the most concern for the concepts of justice and mercy—which he notably conceptualizes as different things, even things that are in competition. He thoroughly explicates this in Alma 42, as part of his sermon to his wayward son Corianton. I wish to go briefly over his argument, and then raise some questions about this conception.
One of the many, many things I find troubling about D&C 132 is that it’s a revelation in which the recipient is put in a privileged position vis-à-vis significant others his life; in this case, his wife. In it, Joseph is promised all kinds of blessings. To be fair, Emma is as well—but only if she’ll swallow the bitter pill of Joseph taking other wives. Otherwise, she’s warned, she’ll be destroyed. Continue reading
It’s been a difficult, heavy couple of weeks, both in the church and in the world. I think it’s important to be talking about the issues that are getting talked about. But just for a break, I’m posting a survey of completely random questions.
1) What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
2) Do you use a mouse or touchpad?
3) What time do you think you should ideally go to bed? What time do you actually go to bed?
4) Are you on Facebook? How often do you post?
5) Which of the meetings of the three-hour block is generally the best one—sacrament meeting, Sunday School, or Relief Society/Priesthood?
6) What was the last TV show you watched?
7) What is your favorite month?
8) What blogs do you read the most?
9) If you have a pet, what is it, and what is it named? If you don’t have a pet, what kind of pet do you think you’d be most likely to get?
10) Would you rather travel by car, by train, by plane, by bus, by boat, or by something else?
11) What is your favorite breakfast cereal?
Adrienne Rich’s “Twenty-One Love Poems VIII” concludes with the lines:
Well, that’s finished. The woman who cherished
her suffering is dead. I am her descendant.
I love the scar-tissue she handed on to me,
but I want to go on from here with you
fighting the temptation to make a career of pain.1
I find that powerful. I’ve thought a lot about that temptation of cherishing your suffering, of making a career of pain. In my life, it’s been a seductive one—to define myself in terms of what I’ve suffered, to make that the center of my identity.
- Adrienne Rich, “Twenty-One Love Poems VIII,” The Dream of a Common Language (W.W. Norton 1978), 29. [↩]
I think I hadn’t realized how much hope I had that the rumored clarification/revision would substantially address the problems caused by recent policy changes until the clarification actually arrived. My heart sank when I read it. I will say that I’m happy to hear that many children who had temporarily fallen into a state of limbo will now be allowed to be baptized. I actually guessed that would happen; it seemed like denying baptism to children in joint custody situations was going to be a step too far for even conservative church leaders. But the fact that other children are still left out in the cold is deeply troubling. Even if the policy only applied to a single child, we’ve crossed a certain bridge now, in terms of what we’re willing to do in the name of rejection of gay marriage. It’s not pretty. And I worry that it will be very difficult to go back. Continue reading
I would indeed be ungrateful today if I didn’t acknowledge the blessings in my life. I say that tongue-in-cheek, but it’s nonetheless true; I have been reminded again and again in this past, difficult week that I have a lot of good friends. People have reached out to me, checked up on me, reminded me that they loved me. I’ve been asked over and over, are you okay?
And the answer, somewhat surprisingly, is yes. I’m okay. I really am. Continue reading
Ever wondered what the ZD backlist is like? Wonder no longer! This is one of many, many discussion threads over the last couple of days.
Lynnette: Another person I know just sent in his resignation letter. I feel like I’m watching a disaster unfold in real-time.
I usually start out upset at things and then calm down some. But this is going in reverse. The more time goes by and I see the effects of this, the more awful stories I encounter, the more horrified I am.
Vada: I’m horrified, too. The posts Jerilyn has been sharing are just about killing me. Especially the ones of parents trying to explain this to their children. Or of parents knowing they’ll have to, but not knowing how. I can’t imagine having to explain to my 7yo that he can’t get baptized next year, even though his brothers did recently. Or explaining to my almost 11yo that he won’t be able to pass the sacrament next year like everyone in his age. It breaks my heart, and I don’t even have to do it.
Lynnette: I feel like there’s been a lot of discussion about hypothetical children who might have cognitive dissonance while real actual children are getting directly harmed.
I don’t know how many times in the past couple of days I’ve read something along the lines of, “I have a testimony that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet, so I know this can’t be wrong,” or, “This is what God wants, so we shouldn’t question it.” As I’ve argued in the past, I think we’ve ended up with practical infallibility — we might in theory say that the Brethren could be wrong, but in practice, we’re expected to act as if they couldn’t be. A rejection of the notion of infallibility as understood by many Latter-day Saints, then, doesn’t necessarily allow for disagreement on specific issues. Continue reading
I haven’t been sure what to post about this. There have been so many excellent, thoughtful, articulate posts that have tackled the problems of the new church policies regarding gay members and particularly their children that I’m not sure I have much to add. But I find myself wanting to say something anyway. This is where I am and what I am thinking. Continue reading
It’s time for a confession. I’ve been a member of the church my whole life. I go to church regularly, and I could probably qualify for a temple recommend if I wanted one.
But I don’t. And I have never been through the temple.
For a long time, I was really defensive about this. Getting endowed is one of the things that marks you as an adult member of the church; like being single, being unendowed will place you, in the eyes of many, in the category of the spiritually less mature. If you got endowed at a young age, you may be oblivious to the social dynamics surrounding this. But if you were older, or an adult convert, you may have some idea of what I am talking about. There is a hierarchy, and there are insiders and outsiders. If you haven’t been through the temple, there is no shortage of reminders that you aren’t a full member of the church.
One of the doctrinal situations in the church that many feminists (and even some non-feminists) find particularly challenging is our lack of knowledge about Heavenly Mother. We know that she exists—this has been reiterated by a recent gospel topics essay—but, troublingly, we are not allowed to pray to her or worship her. I’ve personally blogged about the topic a couple of times—once about why I don’t want to believe in her (because she’s silent and subordinate), and once about why I do (because I want to believe that women are equal in the eternities). Every time this topic gets discussed, I encounter women sharing the deep desire to have a connection not just to an eternal father, but to a mother as well. It’s not good enough just to have a father, they say; we also need the influence of a mother in our lives.
It is worth noting, however, that these kinds of arguments are exactly those being made against same-sex marriage. Children need opposite-sex parents. It’s not enough to have just a father (or a mother)—they need the influence of the opposite sex as well.
Rumor has it that there’s going to be a new gospel topics essay on the ever-so-delightful subject of women and the priesthood. I came up with a list of arguments that might be made. Tell me, what am I missing? And which ones do you think are most likely to get used?
1) Women are important/valued/necessary
a) Women are essential to the plan of salvation, “a keystone in the priesthood arch of creation.” (Russell M. Nelson)
b) Woman are God’s supreme creation: “And so Eve became God’s final creation, the grand summation of all of the marvelous work that had gone before.” (Gordon B. Hinckley)
When I came out a few years ago, I thought of getting in touch with Affirmation, which is an organization for LGBTQ Mormons as well as their families and friends. But I had a vague idea in my mind—I’m not sure from where—that they were somewhat hostile to the church. I figured that I was having enough trouble negotiating the challenge of being a gay Mormon without dealing with that, so I didn’t pursue the idea further. Continue reading
The following is a slightly longer version of a talk I gave in sacrament meeting on August 30, 2015.
A Broken Heart
Patience, I suggest, is linked to the injunction to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Ether 12:27 reads, “if men [and women] come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto [people] weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all [those] that humble themselves before me.” This is not a comfortable verse. I have to admit that for much of my life, I have been wary of it. I have imagined God with a long computer print-out of all my flaws, ready and waiting to show them to me. But today I want to consider the matter in a somewhat different light.
The caricature of the Mormon feminist is that she gets hurt by a priesthood holder exercising unrighteous dominion, and gives up on the system altogether, without realizing that the system is actually benevolent and there are unfortunately a few bad apples. Or to use Elder Oaks’ analogy, she has a bad experience with a particular electrical appliance and gives up on electricity.