As many already know, Barb and Steve Young were the keynote speakers at the Affirmation conference.
Affirmation is a group comprised of “Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals from every background and situation, united in the shared experience of a spiritual and/or cultural heritage in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS/Mormon).” (affirmation.org)
Why this is such big news is because of the place that the Youngs, especially former San Francisco 49er Quarterback, Steve Young, holds in the place of Mormonism. Steve has been instrumental in normalizing the LDS professional athletic experience. He has also been a role model for children and adults alike as he has conducted himself with proper decorum and was not subject to some of the pitfalls of fame and athleticism such as drugs and violence.
Steve spoke first, introduced by Carol Lynn Pearson. He mainly offered anecdotes relative to football and his struggles therein. He made it a specific point to emphasize basic Gospel principles such as charity, humility, and faith especially in the face of doubt. He quoted from Elder Holland’s talk given in General Conference this past April about leading with faith, and fanning those flames. He entertained the crowd with these stories while offering an important message that “faith is the fuel to return us to our Heavenly Father.” He ended by indicating that he was there to build understanding with his gay Brothers and Sisters in the gospel.
Barb Young spoke next, introduced by Steve Young. Before even reaching the podium the audience was warned (by Steve) that this issue is so near and dear to Barb’s heart that she may simply cry the entire length of her talk. Thankfully for all, she did not. She spoke strong words of Christ’s love, and her personal love for those of her LGBT brothers and sisters. She answered the criticism that she was only involved in this “love movement” (as she termed it) because she has a gay brother. Her answer to that was that “whether she had a gay brother or not she would’ve done the right thing.” She also indicated that even from a very young age she has always loved when love wins against bigotry and hatred. She honored her LGBT Brothers and Sisters because they are “here surviving and thriving like a phoenix from the flame.” She also offered the important message of what Christ termed to be the second greatest commandment—that we must love one another. In that love, she said that “we must raise each other up and glorify one another.”
She went on further to advocate as well for offering our loving “patience for those around us who don’t get it.” That we are all at different places in our journey and that while things sometimes move slowly we are getting to a place of greater love and understanding and that we will only get there together. She then closed with a beautiful story about a friend who had donated to the “Yes on Prop 8” campaign who came to be ashamed of that. She said she held the woman while she sobbed, and that “there was something so beautiful about watching her go through those labor pains to give birth to the most incredible heart—her evolution.”
The world would be a better place if we all could love in such a Christ-like fashion and move speedily toward Zion arm in arm with each other.
From a friend of mine who is gay….he wrote the following about the mormonsandgays.com website and shared it again after the youngs gave their talks:
Why http://www.mormonsandgays.com is wrong. I was asked to respond to the new website after it was released last year, this is it. However, after reading the Young’s talks this week, I feel it’s apropos to remind us WHY some of us won’t accept being taught we’re second-class citizens and don’t believe we were born to suffer for a religion.
I’ve been asked to write out exactly why the new Mormon Church’s stance isn’t being readily accepted by the gay Mormon community as it seems it should be. I’m a gay exmormon, but for many years I participated in Evergreen, the Mormon Church’s “conversion therapy” program. I left the church for various reasons, more than just the fact that I was unable to be gay as a Mormon. I actually know many people who would go back to the church if they would accept homosexuals, and perhaps you’re now thinking with this new “stance” on gay people, they might return. Here’s why they won’t:
The need to have a fully actualized relationship that includes, affection, touch, and sexual expression is necessary to a human’s core being. The reason a human desires to BE in a domestic loving relationship in the first place is because they feel a necessity to share closely every aspect of their lives, including touch and feel, which are necessary for a close domestic relationship. One cannot have a fully engaged relationship without touch, feel, affection, and sexual expression.
I don’t perceive my own expression towards my husband now to be sinful any more than I felt love for my wife was for 16 years before I found him. I come from a place where I actually can compare the two. And during those 16 years as a married, perceived heterosexual I didn’t understand how any previous love expression of mine towards any man was sinful any more than you do as a heterosexual.
And really, as a heterosexual, you’ve never had to even think about it. Because heterosexuality has never been deemed sinful in your life, you simply have always had the freedom to express yourself through touch, feel, affection, and sexual expression with anyone of the opposite sex. You’ve only had to stop yourself from full sexual realization until you were married, assuming you were actually able to do that. In other words, your sexual orientation was never in play as a possible threat to God, only your possible breach of sexual activity outside of marriage.
If your own desire for women/men was deemed a sin, you might begin to empathize with what it’s like to be gay. Without telling yourself the story as to why gays are wrong per God’s command to multiply and replenish the earth, imagine for just a moment if your desire right now inside you for women/men was sinful. Not just sinful outside of marriage, but sinful all the time, every minute of your life. Imagine that your deep core gender attraction itself was deemed an abomination.
Let’s take this empathy exercise even further: Imagine for a moment that you were told that God only saw homosexual relationships as righteous and worthy. I know, it’s hard, just try it for a moment. You wanted to please God, your parents, everyone around you. And you were told you could change your sexual orientation to be homosexual even though you’re skeptical and know somehow that it might be impossible. But you know to be saved and to follow God’s Plan, you must. And so you launch in to trying to like women/men with a reverent, God-centered mission. You even marry a person of the same sex and everything, but deep down you know you’re kidding yourself and you start to want a person of the opposite sex, because let’s face it, you’re wired that way.
OK, back to your own life. That is never going to be your fight, but would you compare that empathy exercise of being attracted to the wrong gender the same as being addicted to drugs or alcohol? No, of course not, because love isn’t a substance like drugs or alcohol. Your sexual attractions are hard-wired and you cannot change that.
Up until a few days ago, the Mormon Church told you that you were NOT born that way. That you were choosing somehow to be homosexual/heterosexual. But look now! The church is saying that you ARE born that way! Woah! That seems like a big change! That seems like it might be the answer to a lot of frustration and angst! So if you are a gay Mormon and you’re now born that way, what changes for you?
Besides now being on the side of Lady Gaga, nothing changes for you. But wait! Why not? You were just told that you were born that way! That’s freaking awesome, isn’t it??? Well, lets examine it a bit closer:
So even IF you’re born gay, the church still believes that ACTING on your core, born-with sexual orientation is still sinful. That hasn’t changed. So if that hasn’t changed, what has? Nothing has changed. You see, telling gay people they’re born that way and still maintaining that homosexuality is sinful as an action hasn’t changed at all.
Gay Mormons weren’t waiting to be told they were born that way, gay Mormons were waiting to be told they’re just as in un-sinful, valid, and valuable in God’s eyes as heterosexuals are, even if they can’t multiply and replenish the earth. You see, your sexual attraction to women/men was never about having babies in the first place, it was about being able to freely touch, feel, express, and fully sexualize your domestic relationship with your chosen partner. That whole “having babies” thing is superfluous to love, to loving the way you need it.
And so sadly, the new website, the new big change really isn’t any change at all. When Lady Gaga sings about being born that way, she then goes on to sing about loving that way, too. She’s trying to explain that being gay is the same as eye color, you can’t change your eye color any faster than you can change your sexual orientation. As a matter of fact, you can’t.
And so gay Mormons are just as stuck as they were before. The new big change is just a tragic sadness. It’s a façade. It’s a new smile on the same old doctrine of pain and suffering. Can gay Mormons now go to church and hold hands with their domestic partners, their husbands, wives, and loving spouses? Can they hold them, kiss them, express to them how much they love them like all the other heterosexual couples God loves unconditionally? No.
As a matter of fact, IF a gay Mormon, whom are all now born that way according to Mormon leadership, actually try to love their partners, dates, spouses like those same Mormon leaders do, they’ll be sinning. And not just sin because they’re doing it outside of marriage, but because they can NEVER touch, feel, show affection, or have any sexual contact with them ever. Ever as in forever.
And not only that, but the Mormon Church believes that homosexuals will be corrected as part of the resurrection process to become a perfect heterosexual person. So what they’re really telling you is to never have a relationship at all because you cannot ever love them eternally, even if you feel like you love someone that strongly. Even if you feel in love, a love as strongly as those Mormon leaders love their spouses.
Because IF you remain a celibate gay Mormon in love in this life with the person you wish to eternally love, your core being will be changed to heterosexual and you will not be able to love them anyway because they still believe homosexuality is a sinful abomination that must be changed.
You are born doomed. Forever doomed now that you’re born that way. You see? Nothing has changed at all. Gay Mormons are just as doomed now as they were before this latest big change that hasn’t changed a thing.
Garrett you are preaching to the choir here. However, this post is about an Affirmation conference, not about the Mormons and Gays website, so while your friend offers valuable insight and important points I don’t see how it is relative.
Are you opining that gay Mormons cannot choose for themselves whether or not to be members or to identify as such and so Affirmation should not exist? I hope not, because I think more than anything we all want to do what we feel in our hearts is right. The fight within The Church is just as important as the fight without, and for those who feel called to fight that good fight and their allies I believe it is owed to them to honor that choice.
Emmet, thanks for writing this – and thanks to the Youngs for their part in bringing light and love to the welcome table.
Thanks, Emmett! (4 AM typing fail)
I agree Melody. I was quite pleasantly surprised at the force with which Barb Young spoke truth in her piece. A very refreshing change of pace.
How it is all relative….it is all part of the same issue…what the church is doing with the website and talks like these, while well meaning, are not truly addressing the issues at hand
The Affirmation Conference and the talks given by the Youngs are not being done by The Church, and they are precisely addressing the issue at hand. I know many many gay Mormons. They run the wide range of activity and inactivity, but every single one of them believes in Jesus Christ. Talks that specifically address that the way The Church/members has acted is un-Christ-like gets right to the heart of the matter for them.
Are these talks and conferences and websites going to satisfy everyone? No. Is there still a long road to trek? Yes. I don’t see how throwing out any progress whatsoever accomplishes the goals of anyone. Your friend has left, you have left, and the Body of The Church (whether it knows it or not) mourns that loss. We are less rich because of each person that leaves. However, for those of us who can manage to stay we are working to bring about greater change. I am not sure why so many will insist on shooting us in the foot over it.
No one is shooting you in the foot over your desire to do good. Is something like this a positive step…yes. That being said, it is still an issue when the message is given that these gay people in the church came to earth at this time to teach others about love…when so many other gay people were here at other times. did those other gay people then choose to come at a time when they were going to be persecuted, spit on, kicked out, etc? no. the problem with all of this ultimately is that you have a leadership that claims divine inspiration and they have done next to nothing to truly change the message, admit wrong doing, etc. None of this addresses the fact that the prophets, seers, and revelators are completely off base on everything…but yet we are ok with this because they are fallible human beings that get things wrong. Divinely inspired with the leaders of the church is basically wait for society to force change, then change and state that now god was ready for the change. Groups like affirmation may be doing some good, but very little of what they do truly matters until the leaders of the church admit wrongdoing and force change