Dear Elder Oaks,
You don’t know me. We’ve never met, but I’ve listened to you speak from the pulpit since I was a child. You’ll likely never read this, but I feel compelled to express myself anyway. You see, something sad happened a couple months ago.
I was in the car with my husband, Drew, when he reluctantly handed me a manila envelope. He had it in his possession for a few days and wrestled with whether or not to give it to me. He knew what was inside and I know his intentions to withhold the contents were coming from a place of love and paternalism. Even so, he eventually gave me the envelope.
I opened the envelope and pulled out the contents that were carefully enclosed by a family member from another state. The top page was a brief letter expressing their disapproval of my queerness and orthopraxy of Mormonism. They said they have “a better understanding of [my] viewpoints” after reading one of your Ensign articles on homosexuality. It baffled me how a person could think they understand me better by reading your words, as if you had some hidden insight into how I experience queerness and Mormonism. It hurt that they gave you authority over my experience. They can’t end a letter with “we have great love for you” and expect those words to have any significant meaning when an expression of their “great love” feels like a dagger to the chest. If that’s love, I don’t want it. I cannot believe that is what an expression of “great love” should feel like. I recalled the times I spent with them as a child, and wondered if this could really be happening.
I was crying by the time I finished reading the letter. I wanted nothing more than to run to the mountains to be alone. Anymore “expressions of love” would surely be the death of me. Unfortunately, the safety of solitude would have to wait.
Nothing prepared me for what came next. I removed the letter from the top on the stack and there was a printed copy of your October 1995 Ensign article, “Same-Gender Attraction.” I looked at my husband and broke down in uncontrollable sobs. This was not the first time I was sent a copy of your talk. Over a decade ago, my husband—and best friend—gave this talk to me with a note expressing the necessity for me to gain a testimony of the prophets’ counsel concerning matters of homosexuality. This talk kept finding its way back to me. I remembered when my husband asked me to read “Born that Way? A True Story of Overcoming Same-Sex Attraction,” which, sadly is still being sold at Deseret Book. I remembered the arguments we had over Prop 8, but mostly, I recalled the pain. It was clear, even a decade later, that the people I loved were still giving authority to your words—that somehow what you were saying about my experiences as a queer woman were more valid than my actual experience. Somehow it was unquestionably understood to them that your perceptions of God’s will were more valid than mine. It’s as if their belief in you somehow absolves them of accountability for their actions.
Thankfully, my husband feels differently now, which gives me hope that someday my other family members might feel differently in the future, but in that moment all I could feel was the overwhelming pain of having to legitimize my existence to my family for the last 15 years.
There was no distinction between the sadness, pain, grief, sorrow, and anger. The passions came rushing to the surface without consent. My face grew hot as I screamed my frustrations at my husband. I yelled, “I wish Elder Oaks would just die already, so he would stop spreading these false, hurtful messages!” Drew kindly gave me the space I needed to express myself. I rationalized that “It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.” I’m not proud of what I said. Unfortunately, a patriarchal gerontocracy makes death a gateway to progress by way of structural deficiencies, which is a truly horrid thought.
Whether people want to recognize it or not, LDS policies on marriage have changed, including polygamy and interracial marriage. Lest we forget interracial marriage in the United States has only been fully legal since 1967. About a decade later in 1978, black men were ordained to the LDS priesthood, and black men and women were allowed to enter the temple. Until that point an interracial couple was denied the blessings of an eternal temple sealing. In the U.S., gay marriage became legal a little over two years ago. I wonder if it will take a decade for the LDS Church to adapt policies again? How many more people must die before we overcome these senseless oppressions?
While listening to your most recent talk, I can’t help but question if you know what you’re doing? Are you aware of the rifts you are provoking? Do you know the harm you are causing? I want to believe that you love the members of this Church, but I don’t hear or feel love from you. When you paint a picture of heaven, salvation, and exaltation that doesn’t include the people we love, your heaven starts to look like hell. Too many of my queer siblings have given credence to your depictions of heaven to the point where they feel like death is the only way out. I wish they would take upon them the empowerment of personal revelation. I wish they believed “we ought to obey God rather than men,” and realize that the men who lead this organization are, indeed, men. I wish they believed Joseph Smith when he said, “a prophet [is] a prophet only when he [is] acting as such.” I wish they could see the radical beauty of Mormon theology, eternal progression, and life beyond the oppressions of patriarchy.
Aren’t you tired of this yet? I am.
With all the horrors in the world—with all the pain, injustice, suffering, sin, and death, why do you still choose to give talks that unnecessarily divide families? We have members all over the world struggling with poverty, war, and disease, and you choose to speak about same-sex marriage? What a waste of time and resources.
Like I said, I don’t know you. You don’t know me. We’ve never met, and likely never will. However, if you do read this, I want you to know that I disagree with your interpretation of doctrine concerning eternal families and gender. I disagree with this distribution of resources. I disagree with the message you are attempting to justify in the name of God. Mormonism is bigger than you or me. Mormonism is more than its policies on marriage. Mormonism is the radical idea that the love and life of the body of Christ will lead us to godhood in an ongoing process of eternal progression. I believe in Mormonism, and I’m not going to sit by idly and let this issue separate me from my family and faith.
I also want you to know I would like to reconcile these differences. My door is open to you, it’s a standing offer. You are welcome into my home to break bread. From one Mormon to another, atonement means that nothing is beyond reconciliation, and I believe in the power of atonement. Mormonism is more than its worst moments. Just as you are more than your worst moments, I am more than my worst moments. I still believe in forgiveness. Come, break bread with me. I’ll have a fresh loaf waiting.
Sincerely, a Queer Mormon Sister
You are not alone in feeling this way. I wish you well in dealing with this.
Thank you for writing this. You are strong and kind.
Good job Blaire. Keep speaking out, up and loud. It is about time the members start confronting those “all-know, self-righteous” people in “possession of authority in the church that by the “Satan’s plan: Obey me and follow me” manipulates others minds by “blocking their God giving right by His chosen plan by Jesus:”Father, I will teach them and they will choose” (they will have the responsability to investigate, study, think, pray, etc….to find the TRUTH. An received their confirmation by the spirit of God no by the “words of men” that are so call the “voice of God”
Thanks! You always seem to be able to articulate my thoughts so well! Go Bless all our LGBTQ brothers an sisters.
Sorry. I read his talk and listened to his latest talk in the links you provided. I’m missing where your problems lie with what he is saying? From what I read, we are responsible for our actions, regardless of our inclinations, temptations, suceptibities, etc. What’s so heinous with what he said that you wished he would just die? Yikes.
From where I stand, there is a constant message of love and reaching out and trying to help the LGBQT community from the church. Love the sinner, hate the sin…
I’m sorry you feel such anger and frustration. I can’t even imagine how difficult this is for you. I hope you feel loved by members of the church, regardless.
“Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you do”. I read that somewhere and love it. We all need the atonement and to love and help each other.
Blaire, Your article was heartfelt.
Your words touched my soul. A great article and may God bless you always.
Another, “my experience is unique and my feelings matter more than objective reality” article. It’s unfortunate how much people are blinded to the truth of reality by their emotional appeals.
“Rational Faith” is an oxymoron.
Logically your argument is full of wholes. You basically say your interpretation of Mormon doctrine Trumps the Apostles and within the church, if you believe it, then you have neither the authority or mantle to make such proclamation. You are a person who is upset that the leaders called by God disagree with you. If you don’t believe the church, it doesn’t matter since it is all made up.
I get feeling sad by it by the righteous indignation you feel makes no sense.
As an active LDS member, I sympathize with your feelings, but apparently that is mot enough for you, because even the loving words of your own family only made you more upset. So, I’m going to skip the usual courtesies and fluff that you are used to recieving from people around you. If you don’t appreciate such things than why should I bother? I’m just going to lay it all out.
Based on what you wrote, you lack faith in Elder Oaks as a Prophet. You question his divine call and even wish he “would just die already”, believing that his death would somehow lead to a change in church doctrine and policy. Clearly, you have not read the scriptures, wherein numerous ancient prophets in both the old and new testaments condemn homosexuality. Queerness is not a new sin; it was extremely common in ancient Rome. By the time Rome collapsed, an estimated 80% of men practiced homosexual sex. So Paul knew what he was talking about when he condemened it as “unnatural affection” and “strange flesh.” The prevalence of the practice did not magically make it acceptable in the early Christian church, and it will not make it acceptable in the restored church today, no matter how prevalent or accepted it becomes, and no matter which apostles live or die.
You need to accept this.
I understand that your queerness makes it hard for you to reconcile your feelings with your mormon beliefs. We all have our personal trials and vices to overcome. For some members, it is coffee or smoking. For others, it is pornography. And for some, like yourself, it is queerness. Were it not so, we would have no need of the spiritual hospital that is the church. “I am not come to call the righteous, but the sinner to repentance,” said the Lord. But just because he invites us to repent does not justify the sin. I, too, have great personal trials and weaknesses, but I am grateful that the church drives me to become better, rather than lowering its standards to acquiesce to my sins.
Unfortunately, you are blaming one man for simply and powerfully restating the church’s long-standing position on a centuries-old question. Elder Oaks is not to blame. He is required to make these statements in order to prevent false doctrines on this subject from penetrating the church. I doubt you realize it, but by writing the above article you are actually facilitating the very penetration of false doctrines of which I speak, because you are suggesting that an apostle of the Lord addressing the entire church membership is not “speaking as a Prophet”, but simply as a man. That is a grave mistake, for there is no other venue wherein an apostle is MORE a prophet than during general conference. Each apostle seeks divine revelation and must clear his remarks with the first Presidency before he makes them. Furthermore, Elder Oaks’s words are simply reemphasizing the Proclamation on the Family that the entire church leadership authored in 1995, which was again just a reemphasis of obvious church doctrines that had existed for millenia. Thus, if you disagree with Elder Oaks, you are disagreeing with every Prophet and Apostle who has ever lived.
As is common practice for those who deny the divine call of the Lord’s annointed, you cite the apparent past inconsistency regarding black ordination to the priesthood, when, if you would study the subject more in depth, you would see that there is no inconsistency. Just as Jesus forbade his gospel from going to the Gentiles until well after his death and resurrection, so also did the Lord wait until the opportune moment to extend the priesthood to blacks. It is the Lord’s timing, not man’s. If the church ever changes its position on homosexuality, which I doubt, it will be the Lord’s will, not man’s. However, that position has stood since the dawn of man, so I wouldn’t hold my breath. When it comes to the sacred and eternal nature of gender and how it relates to families, the Lord does not seem willing or even able to change. Even He is bound by eternal laws, such as Justice and Mercy, and were he to violate those laws “he would cease to be God” as Alma teaches. If gender is indeed an eternal trait, and the Lord has revealed that it is, then it cannot be changed, even by him. Sure some people may give in to their temptations and choose to live a homosexual lifestyle, or even alter their physical anatomy surgically, but they cannot change the eternal gender of their souls.
Rather than condemn the Lord’s servants for simply acting as his messengers, you ought to focus on humbling yourself and striving to understand the Lord’s will for you. I am not downplaying the difficulty of your trial, but simply telling you that it is possible to overcome it. Even the great prophet Nephi cried out in anguish about the weakness of his flesh, callimg himself a “wretched man.” King Benjamin also declared our need to overcome “the natural man” within us. We all have a “natural man” who is carnal and devilish, lustful, hateful and greedy. Rather than blame the church or its leaders for your weaknesses, you should try your best to overcome them.
I truly wish the best for you. You sound like a generally good person called to bear a heavy cross. I know that as you turn to the Lord, his grace is sufficient to help you bear it and eventually cast it off entirely, but it will because YOU changed, not because the church changed. As the Lord promised Mormon, “If they come unto me, I will make weak things strong.” He has done so for me. I testify that he can do so for you as well.
Can I ask you to participate in a brief experiment? Try to trick your mind into believing that the Church really isn’t true and that Elder Oaks doesn’t have more authority to speak for God than anyone else. Can you imagine that really being the case? Now, don’t these rules on who can marry who or love who seem like a bunch of nonsense?
You wrote: “Elder Oaks’s words are simply reemphasizing the Proclamation on the Family that the entire church leadership authored in 1995, which was again just a reemphasis of obvious church doctrines that had existed for millenia. Thus, if you disagree with Elder Oaks, you are disagreeing with every Prophet and Apostle who has ever lived.”
I’m sure that the many apostles and prophets who supported plural marriage would never have agreed with a Proclamation on the Family that said marriage is between a man and a woman.
Much of what LDS leaders teach and have taught is incorrect and sometimes qualifies as false doctrine. You may want to check out my list of 40 false doctrines and false prophecies by top LDS leaders in an article titled “Oopsy Daisy.” It can be found at ldsplace.blogspot.com
May I also suggest for your consideration articles titled “Obedience gone awry” and “Falling short, staying put.” The latter essay explains why members should remain in the church despite the many foul-ups by prophets.
As far as your comments on blacks and the priesthood, the ban was taught and practiced as a doctrine and was contrary to the will of God from Day One.
For the sake of accuracy, Elder Oaks’ talk in the October 1995 Ensign that you’ve cited was not a “conference talk”- as you labeled it. Any addresses from the October 1995 General Conference would have been published in the November 1995 issue of the Ensign.
Thanks for updating the post for accuracy.
Sometimes the only answer to questions I have had is “Mortality and our fallen state are inherently confusing. Nevertheless, stay faithful.”
The gospel is true. Thanks for your post.
Luke Johnson – I like a good exchange of opinions without attacking. I appreciate that you were keeping your comments without throwing verbal arrow.
In some ways I think you are right. I think many that are struggling in the church have a hard time seeing some of the actions and teachings of the church as coming from God.
So what is one to do? Follow what could be some men or go with what they feel God is telling them? To put it another way, what would you say to a Jehovah’s Witness that is struggling with what their church teaches? To me logically you would need to give Blaire and the JW the same advice. I suspect you can’t really see these are parallel. But what if the JW’s are right and the LDS are being deceived? How would God give someone brought up in something other than “the true church” the ability to escape from the conditioning they may have had since they were born.
I would only offer one bit of advice. To me your comment does not invite Blaire back. Instead it is saying, “you are wrong”. That comes off (at least to me and I suspect to others) as a bit “son, let me tell you how it is because me and God are best friends and I know him really well” (OK, sarcasm added in). I would suggest a better way is to testify of YOUR belief and not show your judging of where you feel Blaire has gone wrong. You might want to read about the “backfire effect” and how just telling someone they are wrong usually puts them on the defensive and actually strengthens the other person’s depth of feeling that they were right DESPITE your arguments.
Just as an example.
I respect that you see it different, but to me this is exactly the same as blacks with the priesthood and temple ban. I have studied this quite a bit and I have come to that conclusion and I have prayed and felt that the doctrine and policy was a mistake of man and not God. I respect your right to see this differently and I still respect you.
A friendly note – there is a distinction between “policy” and “doctrine”, such as the policy of interracial marriage and the doctrine of eternal marriage. A little study of this may help you on your journey. I hope you find peace, as I hope all others struggling in one way or another do!
Interracial marriage being discouraged was doctrine. It was repeatedly taught for generations, by a multitude of leaders, and in official Church manuals (even until 2013).
Unless you change the definition of doctrine, discouraging interracial marriage qualifies.
Brigham Young taught that interracial marriage would “always” be against the laws of God, and the priesthood ban on blacks was described by the First Presidency as a commandment and a doctrine. Moreover, if we now agree with Elder Oaks that marriage between one man and one woman is “a statement of eternal truth,” we seem to forget that good Latter-day Saints of the 1800s would have viewed such words as “a statement of infernal tripe.” (And any men who have been sealed to multiple wives would likely say the same thing.)
BTW, a very powerful and moving statement by Blaire.
Oct. 4, 2017
Oh my dear ‘Queer’ sister:
I am so sorry for you, so so sorry. You are completely in the dark. I have two pages of information I could post here, but it would be a waste of time. I would like to share it with you so why don’t you send me your email address. Mine is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Being someone who left the faith, I can tell you that life is better after leaving. Sure one has to still deal with the ups and downs of life. That never changes. However, what does change is the realization and opportunity to face life without the nanny church. Members have brains and personal autonomy that are sadly being underutilized when they cede some decision-making over to the church. The men who control it don’t necessarily have any better advice on member’s lives than the members do and that is clearly shown by the nonsense Elder Oaks gives from the pulpit from time to time. These men shouldn’t be given any deference over what anyone else says just because they make dubious authority claims that are too “sacred” to tell.
You should probably spend a season or 3 working on a farm/ranch. All these silly little things like transhumanism will flit right out of your brain when you have to do some real work for survival
What a cruel thing to say. Who are you? Walk a mile or twain in someone shoes before dolling out advice.
Blaire: thank you for sharing. I have a tendency to agree with you about talks by elder oaks. His logic, I think, encourages others to be heartless. I don’t think that is his intent, though.
I feel badly that so many here in these comments have attacked your heartfelt words.