Tag Archives: Christ

Education Committee on Conflict Resolution

Sword

Many people come to you with rhetorical swords drawn.

To be a queer Mormon means facing a life full of conflict. We face opposition and criticism no matter which decisions we are making. These decisions are deeply personal to us, and we give so much energy and thought into making them. If people know that you are queer, they will often approach you with questions or comments about your life. Some people come with genuine questions. They are willing to listen and want to learn. However, many people come with rhetorical swords drawn. They want to hurt and attack.

  1. Value conflict
  2. Ego conflict

Pseudo conflicts are rooted in miscommunication. They are usually the easiest to resolve, because the solution is just clearer communication. Queer Mormons sometimes face these conflicts. People come to us in misunderstanding. They may not know our intentions or our values. These conflicts can usually be resolved with some clear communication to those willing to listen.

Content conflicts are based on facts. They can usually be solved with studies and data which illustrate a point. Sadly, there is not yet a huge body of research on queer experiences within Mormonism. While more researchers have started examining our community, there is still a long way to go. Besides, sometimes our experiences are so personal that no studies can accurately communicate what we feel. One of the queer Mormon community’s unique features is the influence of the Mormon religion in our lives. Even though the members of the community follow a spectrum of beliefs related to the church, the special impact of Mormonism makes it difficult to use studies in arguments–especially when so much of the argument is rooted in faith and beliefs.

Value conflicts come about when people have different views on life. They each choose to prioritize different things, and an issue may bring those differences into focus. These conflicts are the most difficult to resolve, because to completely agree in the end requires change on the level of the heart and mind.

Value conflicts are, for better or for worse, the ones most commonly faced by queer Mormons. Orthodox Mormons often feel that supporting us means giving up on their idea of what a family is. They may feel that supporting us goes against God’s will. For the less orthodox queer Mormons, finding peace with orthodox Mormons can feel like an uncomfortable compromise. They may feel like they are giving space to an organization that has hurt many queer Mormons on a deep level.

Ego conflicts are the most damaging. These occur when someone is only in the argument to win it. They want to feed their ego with a victory over the other participants. Any of the other types of conflict can swiftly turn into an ego conflict, and the end result is wounded feelings.

Conflicts will inevitably come up, especially in such sensitive issues as the positions, choices and lives of queer Mormons. Each conflict will be different, but a few guiding principles can help resolve them, even if we don’t come away from every argument with full accord. These principles are:

  1. Seek Understanding
  2. Empathize
  3. Don’t escalate

The first principle in resolving an argument comes in seeking understanding. This step is usually the only one needed in pseudo conflicts, and it goes a long way in resolving content and value conflicts. Ways to seek understanding involve listening and asking open-ended questions. If you don’t understand what someone is saying, try paraphrasing their argument to see if you understand them correctly. This verifies your perception of what is going on, and gets the participants into a place where the conflict can hopefully be resolved.

The second principle is to empathize. This may be difficult when someone disagrees with you on a fundamental level. As a queer Mormon, I sometimes feel that orthodox Mormons are questioning my very basic humanity. This cuts deep to the core of my beliefs, and it would be easy to villainize people who feel differently about how I should be treated. If I take a second to step back, however, I can remember that everyone is in a different area of understanding on these issues. Before I came out to even myself, I would have said many of the same hurtful things that get thrown at queer Mormons.

To empathize with people who disagree with me, I sometimes think of people who are close to me who have hurt me. For example, I still love my family, even though they have said hurtful things about my sexuality. Because I love them, I want people to give them the benefit of the doubt. This is the same for the people I argue with. Someone loves them, and that someone would want me to give them the benefit of the doubt and try to empathize.

The third principle is to not escalate. Having someone criticize the way we identify or the choices that we make cuts deep to our core, and it is instinctive to lash out at the person who criticized us. A productive conversation, however, will not come out of attacks. If you feel that an argument is becoming an ego conflict, it might be better to just walk away.

It is especially important to remember this principle when someone calls you out on your behavior. If you say something that is offensive (even without realizing it) and someone calls you out on it, it is easy to get defensive and go on the attack. However, it becomes a much more productive conversation if you apologize and seek understanding instead.

Armed with these principles, you can turn many arguments into productive conversations. You can reach a greater understanding with the people around you. These principles won’t make arguments disappear, but I hope that they prove useful in resolving some of them.

On TLC’s “My Husband Is Not Gay”

Recently, my Facebook account has been flooded with headlines and opinions on TLC’s “My Husband Is Not Gay,” which features four Latter-day Saint (Mormon) men who, despite being attracted to men, have chosen to marry a woman. Comments have ranged from calling it “the most unbelievable reality show” to saying it “proliferates a damaging–and even deadly–message.” Since the men featured in the show are associated with an organization called Northstar, Northstar’s president, Ty Mansfield, has responded to criticism, defending the show and stating that “LGBT, Inc., is threatened by the fact that our very existence challenges its identity, its distorted socio-cultural narrative, and its socio-political agenda.

Having not seen the show yet, but having seen the small video segments out there, I have some thoughts to share to both sides of the argument.

  1. We need to respect people’s identities. Genderqueer, polysexual, pansexual, biromantic, two-spirit… The number of identities in existence may be as large as the number of people on this earth. However, just like it is extremely important to not misgender someone, it is also important to respect the labels and adjectives that somebody uses to describe their sexual orientation/gender identity/gender expression. And yes, this also applies to people who admit to being attracted to men but do not identify as gay. Comments like “Your Husband Is Definitely Gay,” by the Daily Beast, aren’t only dismissive, but they’re also offensive. If we truly intend to promote respect, this respect should be given to everyone, regardless of how they identify. One person’s identity does not threaten, dismiss, diminish, or take away from the identity of another individual.
  2. It is time we stop looking at sexual orientation and attraction by themselves and realize that an intersectional approach is necessary. While arousal and eroticism do play a role in sexual orientation, there are other factors that come into play. Race, socioeconomic class, age, and yes, even religion all contribute to an individual’s sexual behavior and sexual identity. While religion may not contribute into it for many, it is a reality that, in Utah, Mormonism affects how many individuals approach their sexuality. One cannot be disconnected from the other for them. If we fail to even attempt to understand how this might be, we are taking away the rights of others to shape and identify their own experiences and orientation.
  3. Christian people who identify as SSA need to be very careful when sharing their narratives. While some men who are attracted to men may be able to marry a woman and find satisfaction in it, many other individuals’ sexualities aren’t as plastic. Many, many queer LDS youths hear these narratives and use them in unsuccessfully trying to change their sexual orientation. Mormons need to be especially careful. With our history of reparative therapy, electroshock therapy, and high rates of LGBT youth homelessness in Utah, we need to be extra careful. Our history is plagued with continual instances in which LGBT members of the church have been rejected, ostracized, and mocked. While you aren’t responsible for what people do with your story, your narrative should be told in such a way that it is evident that it is only yours and should not be used against others. Please share your story, but think of those who are and will be affected by it. I hope to see the same amount of effort put into clearing misconceptions as you put in telling your stories.
  4. People in general (and especially Mormons) should understand that these stories belong to the individuals telling them, and to nobody else. Just because these men chose to marry women doesn’t mean that others should or can do the same. Do not use these narratives to harm, hurt, coerce, or try to change, heal, or correct others around you. If instead of doing that, you choose to listen to both narratives and validate both, you will learn more. Also, do not use these stories as signs of righteousness, repentance, or favor from God. The men in the show aren’t more righteous, more repentant, or loved more by God than anyone else. If they married a woman, it was their own personal choice, and assumptions about other’s relationships with God should never be made.

Last I want to speak to LGBT friends who may feel hurt by this show:

  • To those who feel like a failure because you feel like these men could change and you could not: you’re not a failure. You are different from them. You have your own path, which will be beautiful and full of surprises and victories. Do not compare yourself to them. Your circumstances are different, and you are successful. Please understand that you are loved and you can find peace. It may not be the same type of peace these people express, but yours will be just as good.
  • To the people featured in the show: I am sorry you have to go through this hell. I do not know you personally, but you have been very courageous in sharing your face to the world. Know that I respect your identity and I wish you the best.

I hope we can all learn from every experience and we can choose to listen, and not assume; as well as be careful with how we tell our stories, and how they will affect others. As we do this, we will find ourselves on the higher path to understanding.

 

Samy Galvez

President

USGA

This is So Gay

My mission companion was 24 years old, but he’d always say he was 23 and a half. In Brazil, the number 24 is a symbol of homosexuality. Some people go out of their way to make sure they don’t look gay.

Many of my friends say, “This is so gay,” when they really mean flamboyant, stupid, or worthless. The word gay should never be insulting, degrading, or intimidating.

In the LDS church, homosexuality is something sinful, horrific. This negative culture can be destructive. Many gay Mormons are embarrassed and hate themselves for being homosexual. Some even treat it like a disease they are trying to fix.

When I started dealing with my homosexuality, it was really hard. I had spent my entire life fighting against my “evil sin.” It became even harder at BYU. I thought my sexuality was the worst part of me. The first couple times I told someone I was gay, I explained it as a hardship or trial. Why was I treating homosexuality as a bad thing?

It makes me sad to think about the negativity that surrounds being gay. Homosexuality shouldn’t be negative. We don’t need any more sadness in our lives. We need to focus on the positive. Never again will I think of being gay as a bad thing, because being gay is awesome.

I’m gay, and for me that’s only great! Homosexuality is one of my best characteristics and not my biggest weakness. I’m proud that I’m gay; it’s part of what makes me special.

I know that God created me this way. Being gay is a part of who I am and could only come from our Creator. God loves me unconditionally, and He especially loves the gay part.

When we think about what we are thankful for, I hope we are grateful to be gay. It’s easy to feel alone during the holidays, particularly when all of your relatives and friends are wondering why you are still single. Instead of getting annoyed, I hope to celebrate who I am. After all, I am thankful that I am gay.

Ever since I’ve accepted my sexuality, I’ve been a lot happier. There is so much light, hope, and love in my life. After I embraced and celebrated my sexuality, I found that life is beautiful, joyful, and wonderful.

I am what I am, and I’m happy to be gay!

Response to Millennial Mormons

Last month, the blog Millennial Mormons posted an article about gay marriage that caused quite a comment firestorm.  They then posted a follow-up article (that can be read in its original form and entirety here) by a different author.  While I appreciate the attempts of both articles, and don’t think either was motivated by any sort of malice or even ambivalence, I found some serious and severe issues with the second article.  The only way I know how to do the article justice is by responding paragraph by paragraph.  The article in its entirety appears below in italics, while my responses are in bolded text.  I have modified some of the formatting.  Because this is essentially two blog posts, it is super-duper long.  Some of my comments can stand alone, but some will make a lot more sense if you read them in the context of the paragraph they are responding to.

All of this is somewhat influenced by my surprise at reading an article entitled “the Church loves gay people, and so does Jesus Christ” that included only one example of evidence as to how the Church “loves” gay people.  Before I get into the actual responses, I’m going to talk a little bit about love and hate.

Love (noun)
1. an intense feeling of deep affection.
“Babies fill parents with of love.”
Synonyms: deep affection, fondness, tenderness, warmth, intimacy, attachment, endearment.

Hate (verb)
1. to feel intense or passionate dislike for (someone).
“The boys hate each other.”
Synonyms: loathe, detest, despise, dislike, abhor, execrate.

Here is my main contention: to love someone or a group of people one must display “an intense feeling of deep affection.” To hate them, one must display “an intense or passionate dislike.”  The Church has referred to the gay community, gay activists, and gay people as adversaries and perverted and warned that their activism will bring about calamities and the very destruction of society as we know it.  In recent years, Apostles have been coupling their strident rhetoric against gay marriage with a reminder to be civil and respectful even with people we disagree with.  Very rarely has it been acknowledged that there are hundreds of thousands of members of the Church who are same-sex attracted or identify as gay or lesbian.  Yes, HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS—2% of 15 million is 300,000.  You could fill at least ninety-eight Conference Centers with gay members of the Church and still not have enough room.

So ask yourself, as you read through this post, if you can think of statements, actions, and rhetoric from the Church towards these thousands of our brothers and sisters that display an intense feeling of deep affection.  If you can’t, ask yourself what that would look like.  What does love mean to you? Have you see that from the Church towards gay people?

If you’re pro-gay marriage and our posts make you angry, please remember that we are human just like you are, and we have no desire to hurt you. You can call us wrong, and that’s ok. Whether or not your believe us, I can tell you that we love people regardless of beliefs.

We posted an article about gay marriage the other day. The number of comments, both positive and negative, that we received in response were overwhelming. With the high number of negative comments in mind, I want to make a few things clear.
The church does not “hate gay people”.

First of all, the church is made up of it’s members. So to say that an organization hates any large group of people is a bit ridiculous. I don’t doubt that there are some less-than-Christ-like members of the church who harbor negative feelings toward gay people. I am not one of those people – some of my best friends are gay. Regardless of whether they’re faithful church members, they’re great people and I love them.

First of all, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a hierarchal organization that we Mormons believe is led by a Prophet and Apostles who speak for God on the earth. If the Church was just the sum of its members, we would be a democracy, which we clearly are not.  This institution has a PR department, a legal department, and an HR department—it has procedures, guidelines, and rules, not to mention the doctrine and policies it receives and reveals.  Hate is an emotionally-loaded and vague word.  But, it is entirely plausible to say that an organization or institution can have policies or take actions that are detrimental, harmful, or even hateful towards individuals or groups.This is to say nothing of the countless members of the Church whose opinions on members of the queer/same-sex attracted (SSA) community range from ignorant to downright revulsion (if you don’t believe me, spend fifteen seconds in the comments section of any Deseret News, LDS Living, or Meridian Magazine article on the topic).  Or of the hundreds of families in Utah who have disowned and made homeless their own queer children—abandoning them to the streets.

While I will not say that the Church “hates gay people,” a false negative does not make a positive.  The Church of JESUS CHRIST should LOVE everyone.  Clearly the Church as an institution has had past failings in its ignorance of, approach to, and treatment towards gay people, and the Church as a body of believers has a long way to go in being kind and loving to those that are different. 

The final problem with this paragraph is the tokenizing of “gay people”.  Just because you have a gay friend, a black friend, or a Mormon friend does not mean you are free of prejudice or ignorance or an expert on any minority group.

We don’t hate you for your beliefs, so please don’t hate us for ours. 

Hold the phone.  We don’t hate you for your beliefs.  Really. Truly. Honestly. I don’t hate you. Period.

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe in Jesus Christ. We believe that we came to Earth to be tested, and that we’ll all face temptations that we must overcome in order to return to our Heavenly Father. Every single member of the church is tempted by things. If I went to my bishop and said I wanted to start smoking Marijuana because I think it would really help my anxiety, he would not be OK with that, and neither would the Lord. That would not mean, however, that my bishop hates me. It simply means that he has my best interests at heart and is aware of the importance of keeping the commandments in this life. If large numbers of the church wanted to start drinking wine at social functions because it would give them a bit more of a buzz, again – church leaders wouldn’t be ok with that. It’s not a matter of love or hate – it’s simply a matter of obedience and commandments.

This paragraph, where to begin?

It is not appropriate to compare being attracted to someone to deciding on a whim to smoke marijuana or drink wine. On a scale of 1 to 10, the appropriateness level is 0. You know what you could compare being attracted to someone to? Being attracted to someone.  The idea of comparing homosexuality to alcoholism or drug use is old and tired (full disclosure, I used to use these exact metaphors as a teenager). They are based on the reduction of same-sex attraction to a solely lustful and physical experience. Being gay or lesbian or same-sex attracted means you’re attracted to members of the same sex. Not just penises. Or abs. Or boobs. Or butts.  I’m attracted to people. Men. Men with souls and hopes and dreams. Men that want to be fathers. Men with beautiful eyes. Men with infectious smiles. Men whose company inspires me to be more selfless and loving and patient.  How similar is that to wanting to smoke marijuana? Zero percent similar.

The Church is free to receive any and every revelation from God it claims to, and it is free to enforce those standards for its members.  And you are free to agree and believe them as you see fit.  But you’re not free to misrepresent, misconstrue, and spread misinformation in the process. So please stop comparing being attracted to someone of the same gender as something either on the same level as or similar to drug or alcohol consumption or addiction.  I’ve never done drugs or drank, but I bet you anyone who has and is also gay, lesbian, or same-sex attracted can assure you they’re not the same type of thing. Sex addiction is real, promiscuity is real, and those are things that afflict both the homosexual and heterosexual populations.  But same-sex attraction is not like a “temptation” to drink. Period. End of story.

In 2009, Salt Lake City became the first city in Utah to offer housing and employment protection for gays and lesbians – an action supported by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Read more here.) The church openly supported the rights of gays and lesbians to not be discriminated against financially or in terms of housing or employment because of their sexuality. So whether or not you agree with their stance on marriage, you can quite clearly see that the church does not “hate gay people” – it is simply defending our beliefs.

I personally am very grateful that the Church lent its support to the non-discrimination ordinance in Salt Lake City. To say, however, that this is evidence that the Church doesn’t “hate gay people” is a little silly.  What’s important to note here is that the Church didn’t lead on this issue.  People from the queer community had to negotiate and haggle with them to get their support—a simple stamp of approval for a single city where the Church is headquartered.  When similar ordinances were discussed in any other city in the state, or for the statewide ordinance that has been introduced year after year in the Utah legislature, the Church was conspicuously silent.  A one-time, begrudging stamp of approval does not erase an entire history of animosity.

The “Mormon” church defends traditional marriage because we believe in the doctrine of the family.

That’s really all I have to say about that point. Whether you hate us or not for it, we’re just defending our beliefs because we want societies to be as happy and flourishing as they can be. Of course we aren’t perfect, but we should still strive for ideals. 

Defend. Traditional. Doctrine of the Family. Let’s look at these three terms.

  1. Defend

The only impact same-sex marriage has on “traditional” marriage is that it decreases the likelihood that closeted gay men and women will marry opposite-sex spouses to fulfil what they see as a religious commandment—marriages that have failure rates as high as 80% that lead to broken homes and broken hearts.  That right there is reason enough to support same-sex marriage; it quite literally will strengthen “traditional” marriages by making it less likely that a small but specific segment of the population will be getting divorces. 

Other than that, same-sex marriage has no impact on “traditional” marriages and families.  But there are dozens of other things that do have direct implications: teen pregnancy, out-of-wedlock births for adult women, poverty and joblessness among men, education levels of men and women, etc.  Think for a minute about if the Church put as much effort and resources into mobilizing its members to combat any of these other issues. The positive impact could be really consequential.

So, defending is not really the word you want to use here.  More like distracting from strengthening.

  1. Traditional Marriage

This one is easy.  Let’s take all of scripturedom from 7,000 years ago until just now.  The only times that heterosexual, non-incestual, monogamous marriage (what the Church currently calls “traditional”) was the norm of recorded scripture are 1890–­present (124 years), parts of the New Testament (~100 years), and parts of the Book of Mormon (~900 years that don’t overlap with the NT).  Altogether, that’s 1124 years out of 7,000 years of history.  That’s 16%, if I’m being generous.  Let’s count the ways that 16% of history, most of it relatively recent, count as “traditional”: zero ways.  If you want to get really specific, our model for and concept of marriage, family, and all their appendages essentially comes from mid-century American norms. To call that traditional is irony in the utmost.  Aberration is the word you’re looking for here.

  1. Doctrine of the Family

I covered most of this in the preceding paragraph, but what is exactly our “doctrine of the family”? Since 1995, it’s been semi-officially that we claim that monogamous, heterosexual marriage to be ordained of God. And, anything outside of these bounds is amongst the gravest of sins and cause for excommunication from the Church.  The other 90% of scriptural history is rife with everyone from normal peasants to prophets doing things that would currently get them excommunicated from Church by not obeying the “doctrine of the family.” It’s totally fine to say this is the current doctrine of the family, but don’t pretend it hasn’t changed or is immune to external social pressures.

Same-sex marriage may have dramatic consequences on our religious freedom.

A popular argument among gay marriage advocates is that gay marriage won’t affect anyone but those getting married. I believe this is false. Once gay marriage is legalized, there’s every chance that a legal battle against the church will begin. People may demand that the church marry gay couples in our chapels – then temples. Temples will be shut down before the Lord allows that to happen. The church may be forced to comply or lose its tax-exempt status. THAT is why we aren’t “mixing church and state” – we’re trying to DEFEND what the founding fathers believed about not mixing church and state.

(^ These are my own speculations.)

We aren’t trying to force anyone not to be gay.

lol.

I’m glad you clarified that these are merely speculations.  Because they are 100% demonstrably false.  Let’s look at a list of countries that have already legalized gay marriage:

Netherlands (2001), Belgium (2003), Spain (2005), Canada (2005), South Africa (2006), Norway (2009), Sweden (2009), Portugal (2010), Iceland (2010), Argentina (2010), Denmark (2012), Brazil (2013), France (2013), Uruguay (2013), New Zealand (2013), most of Mexico (2013) and England & Wales (2014).

These seventeen countries house a lot of temples.

Netherlands (1), Spain (1), Canada (8), South Africa (1), Sweden (1), Portugal (1), Argentina (2), Denmark (1), Brazil (8), France (1), Uruguay (1), New Zealand (1), most of Mexico (14) and England & Wales (2) including a few under construction.  For a grand total of forty-three temples by my count, or roughly 27% of the operating or under construction temples worldwide.

Combined, these countries have roughly seventy-five years of gay marriage history. 

Let us count how many of these countries (ALL of which have fewer and weaker religious liberty rights than the US, and some of whom have official state religions) have forced or attempted to force LDS clergy to officiate same-sex weddings, meeting houses to be used for said weddings, or for same-sex weddings to happen in temples.

Zero countries. Literally zero.

I could get into the assertion of “that is why we aren’t mixing church and state.”

So I will.

The reason the legal arguments failed to prevent same-sex marriage from happening in the US (which enjoys the strongest religious protections in the world of which I know), is because (wait for it) the legal arguments failed. Literally dozens of states came up with dozens of separate legal briefs, opinions, and state constitutional amendments, and dozens of private organizations submitted amicus briefs.  They all lost. Why? Because religions and churches are free to define whatever they want to define however they claim God sees fit.  But as soon as they want to coerce society into using their definitions and codes of behavior, they need to provide arguments based on fact, logic, reason, research, and science—not faith and belief.  Very few of the arguments against same-sex marriage are anything other than window dressings for the but-God-said-so-a-long-time-ago-so-this-is-how-society-should-be argument. 

This paragraph is awash in double speak.  “We’re afraid that the government will not let our Church practice our religion by forcing the State to accept our definitions and apply them to all of society because we are trying to defend the separation of Church and State that we are ostensibly seeking to usurp.”

Like what actually even?

It sucks for us too.

Trust me when I say that I have every sympathy for gay people wanting to get married who are unable to. Too often in the gay marriage debate, we forget WHY each side is fighting for what they’re fighting for. It’s obvious why gay people would want marriage legalized – I am 100% certain that if I were not a member of the church who believed in the scriptures and the commandments and the power of modern-day prophets, I would believe that too. The church doesn’t want to make people miserable. (Return to that housing issue earlier – we fight for right, regardless of who is relates to.) We just want to stand up for what we believe are eternal truths. We aren’t forcing anyone to not be gay. We aren’t forcing people to do anything, really. We are just asking that marriage be preserved as between a man and a woman. (Especially because we may be forced to do things when gay marriage is legalized.)

Just like we probably won’t change your beliefs, ours will not be changed. So there’s no point fighting and hating each other.

Sucks, eh?

Has a man ever come into your church with a shotgun threatening to shoot you? Have you  gone through “therapy” to rid yourself of your testimony? Have you ever been electrocuted to get you to stop believing what the Spirit has confirmed to you? Have you forced yourself to throw up every time you have a spiritual experience to get them to stop? Have you been disowned and kicked out of your house for telling your parents you’re Mormon? Have you been raped because of your membership in the Church? Have you been beaten to death for your belief in the Book of Mormon? Because those things have happened to gay people and continue to happen to gay people. Those are things that suck.

There is a huge difference between standing up for what you believe in and encouraging your members (who believe you have divine revelation from God) to pour millions of dollars into a campaign to actively preserve a legal statute that discriminates against them. 

Standing up for what you believe in would look like posting your beliefs on Facebook, not attending the wedding of your gay best friends, or voicing your opinion in a discussion at school or amongst a group of friends. 

Actively trying to preserve or change a law (on either side) is not voicing your beliefs, it’s activism.  The queer community owns its activism. They are proud to be known to fight for what they see as their rights, privileges, and obligations.  People who oppose them are just as much activists and shouldn’t be hiding behind the façade of saying they’re just voicing their opinions. 

Finally, it would be accurate to say that the Church is no longer forcing anyone not to be gay.  But it used to.  “Being gay” (meaning you told your Bishop you’re attracted to the same sex) got many people excommunicated back in the day.  BYU’s President Wilkinson once gave a speech telling all the gays at BYU to leave immediately. Students at BYU underwent electro-shock therapy to cure them of their gayness so they could continue going to school.  Not to mention all of the passive-aggression from countless books, Conference talks, and Ensign articles.  The Church is (or was until last Monday) trying to force people not to be able to get married to a same-sex partner.

I am fairly certain gay marriage will soon be legal everywhere. We were taught last General Conference that some things that aren’t pleasing to the Lord will become legal, and we will have to endure them. Let’s just all remember that we’re all human beings with feelings, and we are more than our differing beliefs. Let’s not think that we can’t work together to make the world a better place – to end homelessness, to make those who feel alone feel loved, and to do the whole host of things that we’re probably failing to do.

John 13:34 – “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” 

Yes, we all have feelings, even queer people.  I personally would much rather spend my time and energy working to alleviate the objectively vast and varied problems of the world—instead of wondering if I’ll be able to find love, to adopt and raise children, and to have spousal benefits that help me sleep at night. 

And trust me when I say that I wish this wasn’t an issue. It’s exhausting and so painful for both sides. But it has to be one for as long as I believe in defending my religion.

Nope.

It really doesn’t.

You could say “Hey I believe that God wants me to marry someone of the opposite sex and have children and raise them in the Gospel. But I also recognize that is not a valid reason to deny someone the same legal benefits I enjoy from the government under which I reside. I will defend my church’s right to practice and preach as it sees fit, but I won’t use my beliefs to actively try to harm other people by denying them benefits and legal protection. And I will show people whose beliefs and behavior don’t conform with mine love by genuinely being interested in their life, helping them when they’re in need, sharing my deeply held beliefs with them, offering counsel and advice when they want it, and hoping they do the same for me. I can recognize that a diversity of beliefs and experiences can enrich not only my life but other’s live as well—and those beautiful experiences can help me become all the better of a person as I strive to be more like my Heavenly Father and His son Jesus Christ.”

It’s not easy. But it really is that simple.

Unconditional Love—What’s Love Got to Do With It?

This past Thursday, USGA had the pleasure of listening to the words of Greg Denmark, a Trainer and Consultant with the Quest for Quality Project. Greg is very passionate about unconditional love and shared with us its power for good. Here are the highlights of his presentation, from his point of view:

My belief is that unconditional love has everything to do with it. Unconditional love is the root, the source, the origin of all forms and manifestations of love. It is my growing conviction that unconditional love is the most creative and most powerful force in the Universe. It is the well-spring of the creation of all that is good.

I believe unconditional love is one of the only things that is really real because it is one of the only things which can and will last forever.

YOU are a powerful creator. You can be your contribution in a weary world which deserves to benefit from your love and light and positive creativity. You already have within you your own answers.

By learning more about the foundational principles which underlie all of reality, by staying open to possibility, and by learning how to show up for yourself and all others from a space of unconditional love, you can determine what will work best for you. That knowledge—along with the motivating force and power of unconditional love—will enable you to create a different, more desirable reality—whether in your education, career, business ventures, and/or in your personal pursuits and relationships. Creating higher quality results in your life will lead to greater peace, abundance, fulfillment, joy, and happiness.

10 Christlike Ways to Help Your Gay Mormon Friends

With the media and the world sending so many different messages about LGBT/same-sex attracted individuals, it can be confusing to know exactly how to help.

The Church has been clear on its stance–the Church-produced site mormonsandgays.org says:

“The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”

There are many ways to help LGBT/same-sex attracted individuals in the Church without compromising our beliefs in the family and the plan of salvation. Here are 10 ways to help:

1. Let love be your guide.

Always think about how the Savior reached out to everyone in his life. He did not stop talking to anyone because of their sins/temptations/imperfections/qualities. Show interest in your friend’s life and remember that he/she is still the same person as before.

2. Remember that it is ok to be gay/LGBT/same-sex attracted and Mormon.

Being gay means only one thing: that the person is attracted to the same sex. It does not mean they do not believe in Christ, that they hate the Church, or that they plan on marrying someone of the same sex. It is perfectly ok to be gay and still be a member of the Church. In fact, gay/LGBT/same-sex attracted members of the Church bring diversity to our Church and many also have strong testimonies of the Savior and the Church.

3. Ask before making any assumptions. 

Finding out a friend is LGBT/same-sex attracted can be hard. There may be many questions in your head, and you may jump to conclusions unknowingly. Avoid the tendency to jump to any conclusions. If your friend has trusted you enough to talk to you about this, your friend will appreciate that you ask questions and show interest. It may be intimidating to ask questions sometimes–nobody wants to feel like they’re making dumb or insensitive questions; but as long as you show true interest and care, questions will be welcome. That being said, respect the right your friend has to not answer a question.

4. Be proactive in learning about LGBT/same-sex attracted issues.

Google can be your best friend. Use the internet to learn more about different perspectives, but do not let just one website define your whole understanding. Make sure that, whatever your source is, it is not the only one. Again, learning as much as possible will help you be the best ally for your friend.

5. Use proper language.

While there are many words and labels that can be used, and the best one is always the one your friend chooses. Ask your friend how they would like you to talk about it. Some will choose gay, others will choose lesbian, queer, or same-sex attracted. Respect the word your friend has chosen and use it.

6. Don’t be a bystander. 

If you hear anyone using language that is disrespectful or hurtful, make sure you talk to the person and kindly invite them to use different language. The Prophet and Apostles have emphasized that there is no room for bullying or abuse in the Church, so we shouldn’t stand by in these situations.

7. If your friend is in danger, seek help. 

If you feel your friend is at risk of hurting him/herself or others, seek help immediately. There are many lifelines that are specialized in helping those at risk of suicide. It is better to be safe than sorry. Here are a few places where you can find help:

The Trevor Project 

National Suicide Prevention Landline

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

8. Respect your friend’s decisions.

Sometimes your friend might make decisions you may not agree with. This does not mean you should stop talking to your friend, nor does it mean that you can no longer be friends. Use this as an opportunity to ask more questions and understand. Maybe you will change your mind and learn more! Even if you do not agree after talking, always remember that your friend still loves you and will also respect your choices.

9. Become involved. 

There are many ways to serve the LGBT/same-sex attracted community. There are a few Mormon organizations, Affirmation and Northstar (neither are Church-sponsored), that help mormons who are LGBT/same-sex attracted. Mormons Building Bridges is also another group for members who are not LGBT/same-sex attracted but want to help their friends. If you are at BYU or BYU-I you can visit USGA (Understanding Same-Gender Attraction), a student-run organization that meets every Thursday at 7 PM in both campuses. All organizations have friendly people in them who will be more than happy to help you and answer your questions.

10. Share this post! 

Share this post with others who may have questions, and, if you have more questions, feel free to ask away!