The Untouchables

There was a message behind these healings, and it sounded throughout all of Galilee, Judea, and the known parts of the world: When God became human, when he wrapped himself in our blood and skin and bones, his first order of business was to touch the ones that we would not touch, to fellowship in our sufferings, and to declare once and for all that purity is found not in the body, but in the heart. – Rachel Held Evans, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, p. 169 Lepers, menstruating women, foreigners, the dead. Within the context of the New Testament, these were the untouchables. They were unclean, and physical contact spread the uncleanliness. But Christ healed the lepers, the woman with the issue of blood, He communed with foreigners, and He raised the dead. When I was reading Evans’s book, these words jumped out to me: “His first order of business was to touch the ones that we would not touch.” We don’t alienate the untouchables of the New Testament now. However, we have created new ones. I think we need to start asking ourselves—no, not ourselves… We need to start asking the Lord, what would Jesus do if He were on the earth now. Whom would he embrace? You know what leapt out at me? It was the many LGBT members of the church that we have scared—some to the point of death—with our version of who is unclean. I’m not even sure the most pervasive problem is outright hatred and homophobia. I think maybe the more pervasive problem is the fallacy that we can love the sinner and hate the sin. I think maybe the problem is that we keep trying to convince ourselves and everyone else that it is just homosexual acts we disapprove of. I think maybe the real, pervasive problem is that, for some reason, any relationship that is not heteronormative makes us forget Who we follow. Remember that the untouchables of the New Testament were not sinners. These...

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Keep Calm and Don’t Be Gay

What follows is a retelling of this meridian magazine article. I’m pretty sure that everyone, from those who think homosexual relationships make God angry, to those who are happy to accept that they were born homosexual, can agree on one thing, which I know is a truth: It would be nice to have a choice. As much as we’ve gone out of our way as a society to accommodate gay people, from not beating them for being gay to finally granting them equal rights, they’ll still be denied some privileges of hetero couples. Hetero couples can have kids… except those who can’t. Homosexual couples could never mix their DNA in a test tube and implant the egg fertilized from their mutual DNA into one of them or into a surrogate. Also, they can’t have a relationship that lasts into the eternities, because our leaders said that they can’t. So sure, we can be kind to them, but we can’t enucleate eggs to then implant a different mix of DNA. It’s not like it’s being done in animals and could be less than a decade or so away for humans. Gays can’t even hope for having biological kids. And as a child of someone who was adopted, I can say that raising your own biological children is the greatest privilege possible in marriage and really the only reason we have marriage. When a young person understands (as well as is possible with their limited experience) the ramifications of this, they’ll never choose a barren partner, or a partner of the same sex, because science can’t fix that right this instant.   We’ve made things so easy for gay people, that now the ones being raised in a conservative religious home have some social pressure to not be the kind of person that all of their family and entire social group expect them to be. What I’m saying is that we should make it more attractive for gays to want to sleep with someone they’re not attracted to. Just because they are attracted to...

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Helping our Children be Themselves

Sep 29, 15 Helping our Children be Themselves

Posted by in Featured, Homosexuality

This essay was originally published here. There’s a pretty toxic article floating around from Meridian that I hope, by the time I publish this, gets taken down by the magazine’s editors.  I’ve known them to be reasonable before, which is why I was particularly shocked to see an article by someone claiming to be a fellow therapist (I’m a psychologist) lamenting the disadvantages of being gay and explaining what she feels parents can do to encourage their kids to be heterosexual. As if that were even possible.   I remember that special day in my childhood I chose to be heterosexual…as one does.   Don’t you? The LDS church this magazine centers around has made it clear that being gay is not a choice, so why in God’s green earth would this person try to dispute that?  States are already beginning to make conversion therapy for gay kids illegal, so therapists claiming they can change sexual orientation do so at the risk of their own license.   Here’s another reason why this article is so harmful.  Utah (probably the largest clientele population for this magazine) ranks #1 in death by suicide rates.  I wrote my dissertation on Utah suicide prevention, and in my studies saw the impact these feelings had on at-risk youth and young adults: of feeling rejected, of not measuring up, that there was something fundamentally wrong with them.  This article will contribute to those feelings for gay youth and adults, who are made to feel yet again that they are inherently less than their heterosexual friends, whose futures will be more glorious because they can procreate with someone of the opposite gender, because that’s God’s will.  That they are a glitch in God’s plan is something no child should ever hear.   This is why I founded a portal for Happily Ever After Stories of Gay Mormons.  Smiling faces of couples in same-sex relationships/marriages beam back at you from the site along with their stories of how they met, how happy they are...

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What Does My Mormonism Demand of Me?

Sep 17, 15 What Does My Mormonism Demand of Me?

Posted by in Featured, Feminism, Homosexuality, Racism

I am writing from a place of privilege.  I am straight.  I am male. I am happily married. I have a good job. I have healthy children. For all intents and purposes, I am white. I am not writing this so as to say, “It’s so hard as a white, straight male. Woe is me.” No one wants to read that. I am not writing this so as to receive accolades from my friends who are LGBTQ, or people of color, or female.  That is exhausting work for an oppressed person to do. I am writing this to my white, male, straight, married, privileged friends. I was home sick from church a few weeks ago. I had a computer in front of me and was examining some of my privileges. I have many friends and some family members that have left the Church for various and very valid reasons. Sometimes the reasons have to do with the treatment of gays, the institutional racism, the institutional gender inequality. I think all those observations are true. I live in a conservative part of Oregon. Most people that live outside of Oregon view the North West as a liberal haven. This is not true. Most of the population of Oregon lives within what is called the Willamette Valley. It is a narrow strip that runs from Portland down to Eugene. This part of Oregon is liberal and controls most of the politics of Oregon. Outside of that, the state politics are different. Specifically here in Southern Oregon, where I live, the politics are conservative, with the exception of Ashland, which is a wonderfully odd liberal haven. I also work in a surgical speciality that is male dominant. It’s work that is physically demanding and intellectually demanding. Because of the culture of orthopedic surgery, there just aren’t many women. Because of that, things can be a bit sexist. I have sat with non-LDS surgeons that are quick to point out the patriarchy of my LDS tradition, but lack the ability to see their...

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Does my church support a hate group?

Sep 02, 15 Does my church support a hate group?

Posted by in Featured, Homosexuality, Politics

Being gay and loving gays is normal. Beating gays and killing gays is a crime! So says the sign held by the man, Dmitry Isakov, in this image. You can’t see it in the picture, but approximately 1,000 miles away there’s a guy who read an article about Dmitry’s sign and called the cops, leading to a conviction and a fine[1]. You see, in Russia a statement like Dmitry’s counts as LGBT propaganda. And it’s not all that counts as LGBT propaganda. Using the same law, Russia has cracked down on the founder of an online support group for LGBT teens and newspaper editor who published an interview with an openly gay schoolteacher. The contents of the interview? In the interview, the teacher — who was told his school contract would not be renewed after he came out publicly as gay — defended LGBT rights.[2] Something remarkably similar to these last three words were used, I believe, to describe a certain press conference earlier this year held in the Church Office Building. But I digress. So what does this absurd Russian anti-LGBT law have to do with this blog post? Well, first of all, LGBT youth suicide is a significant and urgent crisis across the world[3] and in Utah[4]. This is a problem that can be fought against as people stand up for their brothers and sisters and help them feel loved. But unfortunately this isn’t a blog post about how my LGBT brothers and sisters feel loved. This is a blog post about the opposite of that. The World Congress of Families This year the World Congress of Families is, for the first time ever, holding their annual meeting in the United States. In fact, at the invitation of the Sutherland Institute (a conservative Utah-based advocacy group), this meeting will be held in Salt Lake City, Utah and will feature a keynote address by Elder M. Russell Ballard. The WCF has ruffled not a few feathers across the country and the state. Most vocally,...

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Religion and Politics: 10 questions for 2016

I believe that we all have an obligation to make sure our moral and ethical beliefs inform our politics. The Christian magazine Sojourners says it well: We envision a future in which Christians put their faith into action in the passionate pursuit of social justice, peace, and environmental stewardship, working in partnership with people of other perspectives, for the common good of communities, families and individuals. And, it turns out, Mormons are not exempt. Elder Oaks, for example, taught the following: If we say we [hold one opinion] in our personal life but [a different one] in public policy, we are saying that we will not use our influence to establish public policies that encourage righteous choices on matters God’s servants have defined as serious . . . . I urge Latter-day Saints who have taken that position to ask themselves which other grievous sins should be decriminalized or smiled on by the law due to this theory that persons should not be hampered in their choices. With this in mind I’ve drafted 10 questions for all current presidential candidates. These questions are informed by my prayerful understanding of Mormon scripture and doctrine: The Bible teaches that we are to love our brothers and sisters, and that the way we treat them is the way we would treat Jesus Christ. In what scenario would you feel comfortable deporting Mary, Joseph, and little Jesus? Racism, condemned by every major religion in the world, is nonetheless a staple of American history. After hundreds of years of American oppression of black children of God, where do you think the nation is in the repentance process? Has there been full restitution? It has been 50 whole years since the Civil Rights Movement after all, and a black man is President. So . . . are we all done? In your efforts to defend the sanctity of all human life, where do you draw the line on racial epithets? Are you okay referring to newborns as devious “anchors” or...

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We’re gonna need a bigger boat.

A couple of weeks ago when “the letter” was read in our ward, we stood up and walked out. We weren’t grandstanding or trying to cause trouble. But we are LGBT friends and allies, and having already read the letter, we knew it only served the cause of furthering divisiveness. We’re only interested in fostering unity and love, so as a matter of conscience we wouldn’t give it audience. A church leader who knows my wife and is sensitive to her needs asked how she was feeling and she said something profound. She told him, “You know that conference talk about ‘staying in the boat’? I feel like I keep deciding, ok, I’m gonna stay in this boat. The church isn’t perfect, but neither am I, and I’m gonna stick with it (even though it is super frustrating and exhausting at times) and see if I can’t be part of the solution. I’m going to stay and work to make the kingdom more welcoming and Zion-like. And without fail, it feels like the leadership just keeps drawing more border lines. If you don’t agree with us politically, if you don’t believe in a given doctrine literally enough, if you don’t bear your burdens in silence, if you question our decisions or motives, or if you dare question us publicly… You’re an apostate. You’re not a true Mormon. You’re only here to destroy others’ faith. You’re poisonous and we can’t have you near the flock of God. In short, it feels like I’m having to constantly flail and fight to keep from being pushed out of the boat, wholesale.” But do you know why if feels like that? Because the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is in a time of crucial upheaval. Because contrary to what President Newsroom would have us believe, there is a fundamental divide among our leaders as to how to deal with doubters, progressives, activists, the openly unorthodox, neo-fundamentalist conservatives and an entire generation of youth with vastly different...

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A North and South Heart

A dear friend, who I will call Jim, of my (former?) partner, and I, after the LDS church’s response to the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court on same-sex marriage and then the response to the decision by the Boy Scouts of America to allow inclusion of gay scouting leaders, sent a message to me, saying, among other things: “You are now my life’s great mystery.  Why you would break [your partner’s] heart and give up your manhood for this horrible, wretched, hateful crowd mystifies me.  They have no respect for you or me or any gay person whatsoever.  They make that clear at every juncture.  Why can’t you just let go?  It couldn’t be clearer that the Mormons don’t want gay people.”  How do you answer someone who loves you, and has for twenty years, and as an agnostic who was raised in a mainline Protestant faith, struggles to comprehend what could cause anyone to — in his view — give up everything in order to be part of a church hostile to gay people?  Here is my attempt. Dear Jim, You and I were both raised in Christian religions with strong views about right and wrong, the nature of God, and the purpose of life.  Since then, we have both been exposed to a much broader range of spiritual thinking, and have seen good and evil in the world, firsthand as well as at the distance of history. I am certain neither of us sees the world the same way we did when we were eight, or fifteen, or even twenty-five.  At the most basic level, as we have learned, had our perceptions challenged and stretched, experienced hard times and glorious times, we have had to synthesize our views of reality with our hopes and fears for a distant future and to come up with some kind of unifying theory of personal meaning. That was what I meant when we were talking a few weeks ago and I said each of us chooses what we will believe...

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(The text of the post was originally a post on Carol Lynn Pearson’s Facebook page on July 23, 2015.) I have been made aware of three new suicides within the last ten days–all of these in Utah, two young men and one young woman, all three known to be gay and LDS.  These last several weeks have been deeply troubling for many, and for these three young people—and for many others that we will never know about—the inner conflict was devastating. PLEASE HEAR ME.  We need you!  We need you to stay right here on the front lines, fighting for your life, for your right to be seen as valuable and immensely loved by your Creator and by many of your sisters and brothers.  You are called—not to put out your light–but to insist that your light grows brighter and brighter so that your family, your church, your world will be dazzled by your brilliance and your goodness.  We need this gift from you—to stun us with how brightly you can shine—how strongly you can live and love, guided only by your inner compass, your personal relationship with the Divine. In my last post were words from LDS historian Richard Bushman:  “Should not Mormons have a connection with God that goes beyond the Church?  Do we worship God or do we worship Mormonism?  What should we teach our people to protect them from this vulnerability?” None are more vulnerable in our community than you, our precious gay youth—and this is to our shame and not yours.  No matter the words you hear from anyone—if they make you feel defeated or feel that you are less whole, less holy than others, less worthy to live—just the way you are–those words are untrue. Please stay and fight with us.  I have been fighting for you for decades.  We need you.  Please read my book No More Goodbyes: circling the wagons around our gay loved ones, and also the more recent, The Hero’s Journey of the Gay...

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The New LDS Anti-Gay Marriage Letter

There is a theory that if a person traveled back in time and confronted her earlier self, the universe would explode. This appears to be what has happened with the new anti-gay marriage letter put out by the LDS Church and set for widespread distribution this Sunday in all congregations in the U.S. and Canada. The modern LDS Church is against any marriage not composed of “a man and a woman.” But the earlier LDS Church was most decidedly in favor of marriages not composed of “a man and a woman.”  (Read: Polygamy.) When the modern LDS Church confronts its earlier self . . . Ka-Boom! The Church’s new letter against gay marriage is a prime example. Heat not a furnace for your foe so hot that it do singe yourself. In its zeal to show how opposed it is to gay marriage, the LDS Church has written a letter that ends up throwing Church history under the bus, flatly contradicts LDS scripture, and brands its first six presidents as “immoral” violators of the law of chastity. From the letter: “Marriage between a man and a woman was instituted by God and is central to His plan for His children and for the well‐being of society.” We will leave aside the fact there is no record of God ever instituting marriage between a man and a woman. Instead, we ask the more pertinent question: If “marriage between a man and a woman” is “central to [God’s] plan for His children,” what are we to make of polygamy? The reasonable conclusion to be drawn is that polygamy was not “central to God’s plan.” This is at odds with D&C 132:4, which states that “no one can reject this covenant (of plural marriage) and be permitted to enter into [God’s] glory.” Sounds pretty central to me. Similarly, if “marriage between a man and a woman” is central “for the well-being of society,” does this mean that the plural marriage practiced by the LDS Church for over 60-years was in...

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