I love my Latter-day Saint family and friends, immensely. I love our common theology, Mormonism. Not only that, I believe it. I want to build Zion with them. I want celestial glory as an eternal family with them. I want to participate in theosis with them. I want to exist with them forever, not just metaphorically, but quite literally. I want time and all eternity with them.
However, this testimonial desire for time and all eternity doesn’t feel reciprocated when my family and loved ones participate in a religious institution which paints celestial glory as my celestial genocide. You might feel repulsed or defensive at the insinuation of celestial genocide, but please allow me to explain. The current policies and teachings of the Church, and accompanying leaders, advocate for a heaven where I’m not welcome as a queer woman. Queer couples cannot be sealed in temples and their children cannot be baptized. Celestial glory, as ritualistically and politically constituted, is the celestial genocide of queer folks. I either must change myself into something I’m not or forgo celestial glory with my family. Either way, heaven is a place where I don’t exist. Celestial glory, according to Latter-day Saint rituals and practice, is queer celestial genocide.
I can hear the responses of my faithfully Latter-day Saint family and friends now, “You are more than welcome to come to heaven with us. All you have to do is follow God’s rules like everyone else. You are not your sin.” This is where we fundamentally disagree. I don’t believe being queer, even acting on it, is a sin. I am queer. It’s part of my identity. Being queer is not a sufficient reason to exclude persons from temple practices, rituals, and blessings. Monogamous, cisgender heterosexuality isn’t God’s law. It’s time to start taking responsibility for a harmful, sometimes hateful, interpretation of Mormon theology, instead of blaming human prejudice, sexism, intolerance, and dogma on projections of God. God isn’t excluding me, the Church is.
I’d like to believe that my Latter-day Saint family and friends don’t recognize the full extent of what current rituals suggest about my eternal and existential existence. I’d like to believe it’s ignorance more than malintent. I honestly don’t know if they see the psychological trauma it has had on me, and other queer folks. Do they realize what their Latter-day Saint religious practices and rituals are building? It means creating a heaven, building Zion, an eternity without me. It means, no more family reunions, no more hikes through the Wasatch mountains, no more family trips to Lake Tahoe, no more anniversary celebrations in Park City, no more date nights, no more birthday celebrations, no more philosophy discussions, no more family dinners, no more me. Celestial glory for them is my celestial extinction. Latter-day Saint temple practices implicitly and explicitly teach that my family is going to heaven without me, and sometimes it feels like it doesn’t even seem to bother them.
Will they even miss me? If they won’t miss me in the eternities, maybe they won’t even miss me now. It feels like my family is telling me, “We had some great times on earth, but this all has to end once it’s time for me to move on to celestial glory without you.” Inviting your queer family members to family dinners is nice, but inviting them into heaven is better.
I can hear the reactions of my ex-Mormon friends now, “I’m so glad I’ve moved past Mormonism, so I don’t have to believe this nonsense anymore. Organized religion is evil. None of it’s real. It’s all lies and fiction!” Let’s posit those voices are right. There’s no God. No heaven. No hell. No Satan. No life beyond now. Let’s say it’s all a myth that people adopted to sooth their existential angst about their inevitable death. Even if we were to operate under that premise, it doesn’t account for the fact that I have family members who actually do believe in eternal families, and what they believe has material consequences. Fiction still affects reality. Whether or not celestial glory is “real” is beside the point. They believe in an eternity without me and that hurts.
On the flip side, my relationship with my husband has been literally life-saving. Everyday he tells me in word and deed, “I’m not going to heaven without you. I don’t want a future where you don’t exist. I will go to hell with you and we will make a heaven out of it, because heaven is where you are.” This is what it means to weep with those that weep and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. This is what it means to go after the one in ninety-nine. This is what it means to do unto the least of these.
I often wonder how many of my Latter-day Saint family and friends are willing to go to hell with me and make a heaven out of it? I have family members who say they believe their queer family members will be with them in heaven, yet they are also silent in the church pews. After hurtful remarks by Latter-day Saint authorities they do not express their disagreement. Silence in this context feels like complicity. They care more about preserving their position in the community, than saying what they truly believe. Their fellow church goers dig my grave while I cry out for help, and they respond by smiling politely.
The ignorance of my Latter-day Saint family and friends is often what hurts the most. Whether their ignorance should or shouldn’t hurt me is another story, but it doesn’t change the fact that it hurts. Yet, if I try to tell them my experience, some cry in resistance, “You’re hurting me when you pull me out of my ignorance! I’m the victim! Why couldn’t you let me be content to build a heaven without you, so I could absolve myself of personal responsibility and accountability of how harmful interpretations of Mormon theology affect you? I just want to follow my authorities dogmatically. If you try to tell me your experience, I will defend my leaders at your expense. I’ve made my choice, and it’s not you. My authorities make me feel safe and I will defend them like a dog on a leash. On the other hand, your existence make me question all that makes me feel safe, thus you must be rejected.” My response is in the scriptures. It is impossible to be saved in ignorance. (D&C 133:6) If you wish to remain ignorant of how your interpretation of Mormon theology, rhetoric, rituals, or policies are the celestial genocide of my kind, then you will not be saved according to your own scriptures. God is no respecter of persons. (Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11, 2 Nephi 26:31) Heterosexual and cisgender supremacy built on queer genocide is not heaven, it’s tyranny. Even good intentions cannot override the harmful effects of ignorance.
Even still, I don’t ask that my Latter-day Saint family members leave the Church. For me, with some exceptions, asking them to leave is as nonsensical as them asking me to stay. I don’t see binary “in” or “out” ultimatums being very constructive solutions. If maintaining membership and activity in the Church makes them a better person, I think they should continue that path. However, this also doesn’t mean they are absolved of the responsibility to promote inclusive interpretations of Mormon theology. So long as queer families are barred from baptisms and temple sealings, Latter-day Saint religious leaders and policymakers cannot claim they want us, love us, or value us for time and all eternity. They may placate us with rhetoric of love for time, but time simply isn’t enough. I want eternity.
What I ask of my Latter-day Saint family and friends is that they work toward building a heaven which includes me too. Get insights from queer family members and friends, then get to work. Work together to build a life, future, and heaven which includes queer folks. You can’t just say you’re LGBTQ+ inclusive, you have to actually be LGBTQ+ inclusive. If you are working toward a queer inclusive life, future, and heaven without input, insights, or participation from your queer family members and friends, you’re not being queer inclusive. Ask them how you can help. Ask them how you can be inclusive. Ask them about their hopes, dreams, and desires for the future.
As for me, I love my Latter-day Saint family and friends, immensely. I love our common theology, Mormonism. Not only that, I believe it. I want to build Zion with them. I want celestial glory as an eternal family with them. I want to participate in theosis with them. I want to exist with them forever, not just metaphorically, but quite literally. I want time and all eternity with them.
What is family? Is it defined purely by genetics? We each have a family tree that can now be traced back many generations. Do we believe that this family tree is somehow duplicated in the spirit world, so that in that world we continue on with the same relationships we have here (i.e. our earthly parents, grandparents, children, etc., remain the same)? This could be theoretically possible with post-mortal spirit existence, but what about pre-mortal existence? If our earthly parents are still our parents in the spirit world after we die, were they our parents in the spirit world before we were born? Assuming a common source for our creation as spirit beings, in what way would parents be parents, children be children, etc.?
If we are going to believe in an alternate reality that we refer to as a spirit world and that we had (and will have) an existence as conscious beings in that reality, does it not seem reasonable that we developed long-term relationships (perhaps timeless relationships) in that reality, not having to do in any way with patriarchal hierarchy, and that we would want to return to those relationships after our brief experience in mortality? Should we expect that the relationships we form in a brief mortality based on a patriarchal hierarchy and religious belief would somehow supersede those timeless relationships?
There are, of course, the questions of gender identity and level of spirit development. If we think that spirits have a gender identity, which they have always had and will always have, then this can, among other things create a gender identity crises for some individuals (e.g if I have a male body and identify as a female, is my spirit male or female?). Also, I don’t think that we should assume that a person’s relationship in an earthly family necessarily determines that individual’s relationships in the spirit world. It seems likely that some advanced spirits (e.g. Jesus and Buddha) as well as others could be born into a particular family in order to perform a specific role in that life and then, upon return to the spirit world, no longer continue on with that familial relationship, but return to the relationships they had prior to their incarnation. True, some of our relationships may carry over from one reality to another. We may indeed find our soulmate in this life. But we should not necessarily expect, or even desire, that the whole family structure will remain intact from one reality to another.
In sum, the Mormon plan of salvation can seem attractive on the surface, especially in the way it emphasizes the importance of family, but when looked at in any kind of detail, it is, in my opinion, found to be wanting.
Thank you sharing. I agree with you 100%. You are amazing and a great communicator.
Thank you, Blaire. I will read this often to remind me to speak up. No doubt in my mind that my gay son will be with me for eternity.