Sitting in Sacrament meeting last Sunday, I was surprised to hear … AGAIN … a letter read by our Bishop promoting the Church’s new movie, “Meet the Mormons.” In this letter, we were strongly encouraged to go see the movie, to bring our non-member friends, and to buy extra tickets even if we didn’t need them so that the theatres would sell out. This would allow the movie to remain in the theatre longer since it would seem like it was in high demand. I was surprised to hear it brought up again this past Sunday because there was a letter read in Sacrament meeting the previous Sunday advertising the same movie. It’s been highly publicized on our ward Relief Society Facebook page and I have also received emails from ward members in leadership positions urging us to go see the movie. Not to mention Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have been blanketed with “Meet the Mormons” posts.
I’ve watched the trailer for this movie. It tells the story of six people and is shot on location around the world. The movie goes to great lengths to show the wonderful diversity that is present in our church – diversity in culture, age, family dynamics, and ethnicity. It is beautifully done. Top-notch filming, editing, music and graphics have been used. I’m sure it cost millions to make.
One thing I can say about our Church – when it comes does something, it does it right!
So why am I having hard time with this movie?
I have seen or heard advertisements for this film countless times in the past few weeks. We are being inundated with “Meet the Mormons” hype. So why is it that I have not heard or seen even ONE mention of the Church’s website www.mormonsandgays.org by my local leaders or General Authorities, in the nearly TWO YEARS it has been out? I haven’t heard letters read by my bishop over the pulpit in Sacrament meeting. I haven’t heard letters read in stake conference by my Stake President. I haven’t received any emails from my ward leaders. I haven’t seen it linked to our ward Facebook pages. The ONLY places I see this website mentioned is in private groups on Facebook who are dealing with LGBT issues within the LDS faith. My local leaders know about this website, because we told them about it. They hadn’t heard about it before we brought it to their attention.
I will admit that I am decidedly biased on this topic. I am an active Mormon mother of a 16-year gay old son. In the three years he has been out, it has become my mission to make a place for him in our congregations – both locally and on a larger scale. He keeps the Law of Chastity and is worthy of the Aaronic Priesthood that he holds. But he is not seen as worthy, equal or even welcome.
Do you have any idea what an enormous impact that website could have for the thousands of families like mine if it was promoted even HALF as much as “Meet the Mormons”? My son came out in January 2012. The Church’s website came out in December 2012. We had almost a year of trying to work with our local leaders without the aid and backing of that site. It was most difficult. We got the distinct impression that our leaders saw us as parents trying to get special treatment for our son and asking for things that were inappropriate and would make many uncomfortable. But when the website came out, we finally had the support of a Church-approved resource and three apostles who speak compassionately about our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. This website gave us a leg to stand on when talking with our leaders.
We posted the link to the Mormons & Gays website on our social media, talked about it with family and friends, sent dozens of emails, and wrote articles about it. We got the word out as best we could with our limited reach. But because the “advertising” of the site was coming from me and not the normal channels the Church uses for disseminating information, many questioned its credibility and authenticity as a true Church resource.
Our efforts (and the efforts of MANY others) were sincere, but had little effect. For there to be widespread change in how Mormons view and treat our LGBT members, the message HAS to come from the top. After all, the Church put together this beautiful (and probably costly) website that has some of the most compassionate and inclusive language ever used by our senior leaders to talk about gay people. It is an impressive step forward for our conservative Church and I am so grateful for it.
We have had the opportunity to meet with some of our top leaders, as well as the head of Church Public Affairs. I feel immense gratitude that they were willing to meet with us and listen to us as we shared our story. I felt love and connection from these good men. They wept with us. They buoyed our spirits. They thanked us repeatedly for the work we are doing. In all of the meetings we had with these men, our main message was the importance of this website and how desperately LGBT people and their families needed this to be talked about, promoted, and received by the membership of this Church. We begged, literally begged, them to talk about it when they spoke in General Conference, to write an Ensign article about it, to have a letter read over the pulpit to wards and stakes, to include this website with the list of other church websites on LDS.org., etc.
We are still waiting for that to happen … and the website has been out almost two years.
The Church is brilliant at getting information to its people, quickly if necessary. We have seen how good they are at doing this with the promotion of its movie, “Meet the Mormons.” So WHY, after all the expense and effort to make Mormons & Gays, do they not talk about it??
We have LDS parents STILL kicking their gay kids out of their homes. We have LDS gay teens STILL attempting suicide. And heartbreakingly, many are successful in their attempts. Do not make the mistake of thinking these are rare or isolated cases. I often hear “this don’t happen anymore” or “no one in MY Church would do that.” If you have said (or thought) this, you are wrong. All you are doing is trying to explain away a very uncomfortable truth.
In my opinion, being gay and being Mormon might well be one of the hardest, and least reconcilable, situations one can experience in this life. Can we not do more to help them?? We ALL need to do more – General Authorities, local, stake and regional leaders, and everyday members of this church. ALL of us need to do more. This isn’t about any political push. This isn’t about the “gay agenda”. This is about literally saving lives and keeping families intact. Every last Mormon should be on board with that. Would you care more if it was YOUR child? Then pretend like it is! For me, I don’t have to pretend. This is my reality.
I would LOVE to see our Church use our hard-earned tithing and fast offering dollars to go to a cause that saved lives, instead of just promoting ITSELF like it is doing with “Meet the Mormons”. When up to 60% of any given ward is inactive, perhaps focusing on the 5-10% of LGBT members (and their families) who leave the Church should be a priority. I have seen studies that show statistics as high as 80% of gay youth leave the Church, and in many cases their families follow. As I live in California, I am also aware of the numerous families who have left the Church over Prop 8. Millions of members are struggling with these issues; and they have been largely ignored.
I realize most of this article has focused on LGBT issues within the Church. That is what is foremost on my mind since I have a gay son. But there are also a myriad of other causes and organizations that are FAR more deserving of the millions of dollars the Church spent on a movie to talk about itself. We could be raising awareness and helping to fund groups that run soup kitchens, homeless shelters, battered women’s shelters, suicide hotlines, sex trafficking, poverty, spousal and child abuse, addiction recovery, etc. I know we do some of these things from time to time, but if the church has millions of dollars to make a movie that is so, completely unnecessary than it FOR SURE has more money to give towards saving and improving lives.
One organization that is truly saving the lives of LDS members is the Liahona Foundation (http://www.liahonachildren.org). This organization travels around the world, visiting LDS branches, wards and stakes, in an effort to end childhood hunger and starvation among these impoverished people. These faithful Saints pay their tithing, but don’t have enough to feed their families. For only $50 a year, you can feed a child for that whole year! It takes so little to make a difference. Imagine how many children could go to bed with a full tummy with what it cost to make that movie.
I understand that many will read this and think it sounds harsh and bitter. I admit to fighting against those feelings often, and trying to stay positive, centered, and headed in the right direction. But it’s been almost three years that my family has been desperately struggling and begging for help on this issue. (For countless others, it’s been decades longer.) We have been the recipients of some incredibly cruel, heartless and ignorant comments and acts by members of this Church. I feel emotionally and spiritually weary of fighting this never-ending uphill battle.
I truly believe that if the website was more widely known and implemented in our wards through Sacrament meeting talks, lessons and conversations, things would greatly improve for LGBT members, their families and allies. If our congregations were more welcoming and inviting places for LGBT people to come and worship, we wouldn’t be losing so many to inactivity.
If ever there was a group of modern-day lepers, it is our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. They are cast out, seen as unclean, unworthy and unwanted. We NEED to do better. Christ expects more from us. I have felt the love our Heavenly Parents have for their LGBT Children. Some of my most profound spiritual experiences happened while I have been with gay people. They have a wisdom and depth to their soul that I have rarely encountered. They have such deep-rooted faith. Their testimonies have been hard-earned and refined as they journeyed on the road to hell and back many times. They are some of the most spiritual, beautiful people I know and I count them as my closest friends.
We are losing some of our best, brightest and most faithful. If the Church puts money into member retention, the LGBT community might be a good place to start since most of them leave, looking for friendlier skies.