Gay Mormonism in the news a lot recently

The gay/Mormon intersection has been in the news a lot recently. There’s the gay BYU students and LDS parents of gay kids who’ve made “It Gets Better” videos. There’s talk of bishops apologizing and standing up for gay members in their wards. Yesterday, a group of gay Mormons met with Mormon officials (no higher leadership, though) and, among other things, asked the Church to denounce Evergreen for still advocating reparative therapy. I doubt that’ll happen, since Evergreen is the only gay Mormon organization LDS leadership has actually participated in. The gay/Mormon intersection has been reaching commentary at the national level probably in part because of Romney’s presumptive nomination.

As Joanna Brooks has reported, some gay Mormons are interested in going back to church as they hear reports of bishops becoming more understanding.

[B]ishops tell LGBT members, I am not a gatekeeper for the Lord. My job is to bring people to Christ, and I want you here.’

It’s conceivable that single gay Mormons (in their 20s, 30s, 40s) are returning to church in greater numbers. This “invitation” was already put forward in a 2007 Ensign article when apostle Jeffrey Holland said, “You’re gay. And?”

But non-celibate gay Mormons…wouldn’t they would face immediate disciplinary councils and be excommunicated? What would happen if I, for example, went to back to church and let my local bishop know I’m still on the official roster? After a few questions, wouldn’t he be required to begin the excommunication process?

Me: “You said you want me here, and the first thing you do is excommunicate me?! Rude.”

Currently, non-celibate never-been-Mormon gays are “welcome” to attend, assuming they’re okay with remaining unbaptized, which I doubt there are many people out there with that mindset.

There’s also a rising generation of young gay Mormons in their teens who do not “struggle” with their sexuality because their church and families environments are less homophobic than they might’ve been a decade ago. I know a gay guy who said church was the only place he felt that no one judged him, except the expectation to “fight the good fight” was eventually overwhelming and he had to leave. Mormonism will struggle more and more with finding a place for young people as they reach dating and settling-down age.

There’s talk of greater understanding, but the true understanding won’t come until the doctrinal issues are tackled.

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17 Comments

  1. 1

    [...] Alan has addressed the pertinent issues over at Main Street Plaza today: …Its conceivable that single gay Mormons (in their 20s, 30s, 40s) are returning to church in greater numbers. This invitation was already put forward in a 2007 Ensign article when apostle Jeffrey Holland said, Youre gay. And? [...]

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  2. 2
    Alan says:

    That’s a good suggestion, Andrew … treating same-sex marriages as “non-temple” marriages. Except I would say they’re already treated this way (that they’re “less than ideal”). The fundamental issue is still the “gay intimacy is sin” issue.

    Is the Church moving in a direction where gay intimacy is still seen as sin, but a sin that the leadership won’t discipline its members over (ie., stop stripping people of their memberships)? I don’t think so. I think it would create too much dissonance, where some members would say, “Well, if he’s allowed to have gay sex and not be punished for it, then why am I not allowed to watch pornography?”

    One significant change we have seen, is that a gay person is not required to repent for their same-sex intimacy, but just agree to not be in a same-sex relationship to retain church membership. There’s allowance for disagreement on whether homosexuality is a sin. This is the case for gay and straight people, where bishops are basically saying, “Let’s agree to disagree on the belief of whether homosexuality is a sin, but still follow the rules in terms of your actions.”

    So the seeds are planted and are growing in Mormon culture. At some point the foreground (official policy) won’t match the background (members’ beliefs) and then there’ll be policy change. Unfortunately, we’re still years away from this, I’d guess.

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  3. 3
    ExMoHoMoDon says:

    To posit that same sex marriage is simply treated as ‘less than ideal’ is nonsense. The Mormon Church does not spend millions of dollars and lots of man hours in political campaigns to make heterosexual non temple marriages illegal, employing outright lies and fear mongering to accomplish it. What you suggest might be wishful thinking, but it is simply untrue. The idea of belonging to or even attending the Mormon Church for a homosexual person is to me, simply crazy and self destructive, but people have to figure that out for themselves. The softer, gentler hatred dealt out by Mormons towards gay people may fool a few, but I know the difference between real change and PR. The Mormon Church’s only interest is in softening its PR posture.

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  4. 4
    Andrew S. says:

    re 2

    Alan,

    I would say that the main change there would have to be to make it not so that gay intimacy is sin, but rather to focus on the difference between relationships outside of marriage and relationships within marriage. Then encourage (and support?) people to get married.

    That way, the church would have an easy way out of Prop 8 fiascos (simple: stop supporting initiatives like Prop 8 ) and would still have a position to stand for that doesn’t cause as much dissonance (so, the issue is sex outside of marriage — not gay sex.)

    re 3

    ExMoHoDon,

    Right. What I was writing about in my post were changes the church *could* (but as of yet hasn’t) make. From a recent article, I read the following line:

    To their credit, Ive heard a few local Mormon leaders concede that the church has no answers for its gay members

    As things currently are, I completely agree here. But what I’m saying is that things *could* be different.

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  5. 5
    Rob says:

    LOL. Hey ExMoHoDon, I’m the author of that article you’re quoting. How nice to know that it got a little attention. For anyone else who’s interested, here’s the link:

    http://sdgln.com/social/2012/04/20/rgod2-what-lgbt-people-might-expect-mormon-president-mitt-romney

    I’m writing a second one this week with some follow-up observations, in case anyone’s interested. Should run by the weekend, I think.

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  6. 6
    Rob says:

    P.S. Oops, that was Andrew who was quoting. Sorry!

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  7. 7
    Alan says:

    @3:

    What you suggest might be wishful thinking

    I’m perfectly aware that the Church still considers homosexuality to be an abominable sin, and that this was a major sentiment behind Prop 8. Another major sentiment was Mormons wanting to not feel like foreigners in their own land, so they fight for “marriage” as they understand it.

    Still, Mitch Mayne is proof that today’s church doesn’t require a person to repent for homosexual activity in order to retain their membership or even be given callings. I’m sure it’s a case-by-case basis that depends heavily on the bishop, but the official requirement is to “live by the law of chastity.” If it came to the attention of his bishop that Mayne were, say, teaching others that homosexuality is not a sin, then that’d be another matter. The Church is interested in one’s actions (present actions as a member). Thoughts/beliefs are given leeway. (This is why, for example, homosexual feelings are not considered “sin.”)

    One thing I’ve learned over the last few years is plenty of temple-recommend-wielding Mormons don’t think homosexuality is a sin…most of these people are straight, though, so their own romantic feelings aren’t in the picture. Gay Mormons who come to believe homosexuality is not a sin leave the Church for obvious reasons.

    Same-sex marriage is a phenomenon that exists outside the Church. Generally, if you were to ask a Mormon about it, they’ll politely respond that they believe homosexuality is a sin and that same-sex marriages are less than ideal.

    @4:

    Andrew, in your post, you say that the Church doesn’t like non-temple marriages, but doesn’t excommunicate its members who enter them. I would note that a husband and wife are considered “married” for the purposes of fulfilling the law of chastity regardless of whether they had a temple wedding or a non-temple wedding.

    Are you suggesting that the Church might (a) keep considering homosexuality a sin, but (b) allow married same-sex couples to be fulfilling the law of chastity because they’re married? I’m not sure this would work, because then it would mean that there is “sin” within the law of chastity. The only way things can work is to stop considering homosexuality sin first, and then secondly, recognize same-sex married couples as “married” (a loaded term theologically-speaking). It’s one of those things where it has to be a holistic change in terms of how gender is understood.

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  8. 8
    Andrew S. says:

    re 5:

    Rob,

    That was the one! can’t wait for part 2.

    re 7:

    Alan,

    I think that if they de-emphasized any and all teachings that homosexuality is a sin, then they could just start emphasizing marriage — and hey look, there are these gay folks who are married, so no big deal!

    Basically, the issue is the law of chastity, right? So, if a husband and wife are considered married for the purposes of fulfilling the law of chastity (even if the church thinks a temple marriage is ideal), then why can’t two men or two women who are married be considered married for the purposes of fulfilling the law of chastity. The church can still think that temple marriage is ideal (and say that temple marriages must fit certain more restricting criteria), while still not shutting people out of relationships, period.

    I guess I’m trying to flesh out something that could be more realistic for the church. The church isn’t going to make a holistic change to its teachings on gender. But the whole, “deemphasize one teaching; reemphasize another, and never apologize ever” thing…yeah, that has precedence.

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  9. 9
    Alan says:

    @8 — On a micro level, I’ve seen Mormon parents note that if their kid is gay and must leave the Church to be happy, they’d rather he or she be in a monogamous same-sex relationship (a marriage, even) than be promiscuous. So, in that sense, the law of chastity does get “queered” out of familial necessity.

    I’m not sure if the same could happen on a macro level, though. “Family” at that level is more abstract with gendered theological underpinnings. If you’ve got alternative families at the Church, but no place for them theologically other than being considered “lesser than,” and resulting from “mysterious desires” … well, there’s an everyday instability and disrespect there that would have to be addressed.

    It might be the case that the leaders will stay mum on this subject for a while (including homosexuality as sin) and see what the membership comes up with. Sometimes sheep can get through a valley without a shepherd, particularly if the terrain limits their options. Or I guess another way to put it is that sometimes sheep are hardy enough that a shepherd only has to check up on them every once and a while.

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  10. 10
  11. 11
    Chino Blanco says:

    “Mormons who preach acceptance and love of LGBT persons within the church are well-intentioned, hopeful, and remain a microscopic minority with little impact.”

    http://www.lgbtqnation.com/2012/04/after-gay-teens-suicide-utah-town-to-hold-community-meeting-vigil/

    “According to one official, off the record: ‘It happens here about once a week,’ but then quickly adds, ‘but officially, you know, it doesnt happen here.’”

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  12. 12
    Kristine says:

    Taylor Petrey takes a good first swing at some of the doctrinal possibilities here: http://mormonmatters.org/2012/04/26/92-93-can-mormon-theology-affirm-homosexual-relationships-now-and-in-the-eternities/

    I think, sadly, that change is still a looong way off. The kinder, gentler homophobia of “orientation is not sin, only action” will probably last a couple of decades.

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  13. 13
    Chino Blanco says:

    As I mentioned elsewhere to one of the other commenters here, days like these, I have a hard time understanding what the LDS church ever did to deserve people like #12 who take the time to think through possible ways forward.

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  14. 14
    Andrew S. says:

    Kristine,

    I am in the middle of listening to that episode of the podcast.

    To bounce off of what CB has said in comment 13 (and elsewhere), I think what’s really most tragic is that even though there are so many people who are developing possible ways forward, the leaders in charge most likely aren’t going to hear about these things…I’ve heard that the church sometimes monitors blogs, but I doubt that any general authorities are listening to Mormon Matters…

    I guess I just feel sad that there is no really effective mechanism for grassroots change within the church. I wasn’t around for how the 1978 revelation “happened” (and I haven’t really read up on the history around that), so I don’t really have ANY personal precedent for the church changing either due to outside or inside pressures. It’s pretty bleak to me…

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  15. 15
    Chino Blanco says:

    By the way, I just ran across this and for some reason it reminded me of this thread…

    FAIR trying to “represent” over at the Student Review:

    “One group of ex-Mormons even runs a parallel series of ‘I’m an ex-Mormon’ videos … After all, who wants to pour through boring old volumes of Dialogue, BYU Studies or the Journal of Mormon History…”

    http://thestudentreview.org/2012/04/17/giving-mormonism-a-fair-chance/

    FAIR still doesn’t “get” the Internet, but I certainly hope they keep trying ;-) With their help, our upcoming Provo Exmo Pioneer Day sesquicentennial parade is gonna be a huge success!

    P.S. Then again, it’s probably a good thing that the scholars at FAIR are discouraging students from “pouring through” Dialogue.

    (I’m on my phone, there will be edits)

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  16. 16
    Alan says:

    Kristine, thanks for stopping by with the link. I’ll listen to it when I have got some time. It’s great to take an article like Petrey’s and turn it into an MP3 file.

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  17. 17
    Kristine says:

    Chino Blanco–indeed. When even the apologists can no longer speak and spell the true and living English language, we can be sure that the end is nigh ;)

       0 likes

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