The Church recently launched a site titled Love One Another: A Discussion on Same-Sex Attraction (at the URL: www.mormonsandgays.org).
Here is a useful link that centralizes many responses to the new site.
John Gustav-Wrathall writes at D&S that “Now is the Time” for dialogue, because this new site demonstrates that
They do not want to censor the dialog. They’ve made space for this by saying, in essence, ‘We don’t claim responsibility for nor do we necessarily agree with everything that is said here.’ They’re also telling the general membership and local leaders to, in essence, brace themselves to hear opinions that they are unaccustomed to, that they disagree with. If Church leaders intended to fudge or suppress or censor dialog, they wouldn’t be saying things like that.
This appraisal strikes me as overly optimistic. What the site actually says is, “Those who speak from the heart on this website do not necessarily represent in every word or detail the policies or positions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but all of them speak with authenticity because they reflect what has happened in their own lives and the experiences of those they love.” And from there, the site represents only the experiences of those with “faithful” positions — the exact opposite of unsuppressed/uncensored discourse.
This raises a question of audience. The “dialogue” Gustav-Wrathall is referring to is dialogue between straight and gay “faithful” members of the Church so that future gay members might feel comfortable enough to stay in the Church instead of leave it (provided they are okay not being allowed to “act on their attractions”). I see no evidence of intended dialogue between Mormons and gays outside the Church (either non-Mormons, or gay Mormons living “unfaithfully”), which makes the URL misleading. In fact, for the Church to now incorporate the word “gay” into its lexicon, make a site whose URL title is “Mormons and Gays,” but then have the site be so one-sided… well, it seems less a movement toward dialogue between the two named parties, and more the Church experimenting with how to best bring together the forces of heterosexism and technology: “‘Gay’ is here to stay, so how can we shape it to mean what we want it to mean in the Church, and reach the most Mormons?”
Basically, with this site, I see two things going on:
(1) The emergent discourse of the 2000s, spearheaded by North Star and others, arguing that one can be “gay” and still a good church member (by not acting on their gayness), is the official policy for the 2010s. The URL name makes this clear. While many of us are wondering when the Church is going to change its policy to allow same-sex relationships, really the Church just left behind “change [orientation] therapy.” (It was only about 30% left behind at the turn of the century.)
(2) The timing of this website launch shows that the Church is trying to bring under its wing the grassroots movement this summer, when Mormons marched in Pride parades. In essence, the Church is saying, “Okay, Mormons Building Bridges…good job. But make sure you remember who’s in charge and what your message should be. Oh, and Mormons for Marriage Equality, we won’t say this to you directly, but you don’t represent the Church.” I’ve recently written about how the movement this summer of Mormons in Pride showed a possible/probable extension of the Church’s heterosexism. I see this new website as evidence that supports my thesis — particularly given how many people are heralding this site as an extension of their work this summer. (Edit: The Church Newsroom says the site took two years to make…so, clearly, the Church and its members are working in tandem on this matter. I guess I just can’t help but be disappointed at how much it’s the same ol’ heterosexism in increasingly fancier forms.)
(OTOH, I wonder what actual positive policy changes we might see. Will temple recommends be denied to those who shun their gay kids?)