How Dare They: The Romneys’ Sense of Entitlement

I am not really tuned in to the presidential election. Not as I think I should be. I am, after all, a bit of a political junkie. But I listen to the news on NPR, and I catch the headlines on the Internet, the New York Times, Huffington Post, the Salt Lake Tribune, and other premier news outlets and call it good. Or at least as good as its going to be.

One thing I have been struck by so far in this election is the Romneys sense of entitlement. For example, when people started questioning why the Romneys were not releasing more tax returns, Ann Romneys response was: Weve given all people need to know and understand about our financial situation and about how we live our life. And so the election, again, will not be decided on that. [It] will be decided on who is going to turn the economy around and how are jobs going to come back to America.

Hmmm. Ann Romney has decided what the American people need to know. (And how dare those nasty Democrats challenge what she and her husband have decided is what the American people need to know.)

Then there was the recent tit for tat between the Obama and Romney campaigns. From a recent USA Today story, we read:

Vice President Biden, criticizing Republican deregulation policies, told a crowd in Virginia on Tuesday that Romney ‘s approach would “put y’all back in chains.”

Later, during a speech in Ohio, Romney said Biden’s comments reflected “an angry and desperate presidency.” The Republican challenger added, “Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago.”

That drew this retort from Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt: “Governor Romney’s comments tonight seemed unhinged and particularly strange coming at a time when he’s pouring tens of millions of dollars into negative ads that are demonstrably false.”

(Biden said there was no hidden meaning in his use of the word “chains,” noting that Republicans have been pledging to “unshackle” businesses.)

Romney did not back off today, telling CBS This Morning, “The president’s campaign is all about division and attack and hatred — unhinged would have to characterize what we’ve seen from the president’s campaign.”

As I listened to the stories coming across NPR, the thoughts that came into my mind were these: This is not about Mitt and Ann Romney being members of a privileged wealthy class of Americans who look down with distain upon ordinary Americans who need to be told whats best for them. This is really about Mitt and Ann Romney being Mormons and believing that they are not answerable to others for their actions and believing that they are not accountable to a common standard, but to a higher standard which they alone understand.

How dare others impugn their integrity? The Romneys believe that they have acted with integrity, that they have disclosed all they need to disclose, and how dare others impugn their actions and their decisions, and most importantly their integrity. If its one thing Mormons like the Romneys take issue with, its with others impugning their intergrity.

How dare they?

 

Revisionism: The Sin (and Doctrine) of the Ages

About 15 months ago, I published a pieceon MSP, the first of series of posts exploring issues related to mixed-orientation marriages, that generated a number of comments by someone who identified himself as An Inner Light. I subsequently found out that this person is Joshua Johanson, a youngish Mormon who is married to a woman but admits publicly and loudly that he has same-sex attraction (SSA).

What greatly disturbed me at the time about Johansons comments to my piece was what I viewed as his apologetic historical revisionism of the teachings of the LDS Church concerning homosexuality in the 70s and 80s, particularly the teachings of Spencer W. Kimball and Boyd K. Packer. Johansons position, briefly stated, was that Church leaders have never condemned homosexuality per se (i.e., sexual orientation), only the practice of engaging in lustful homosexual sex acts. He argued that Kimballs teachings as well as Packers infamous speeches in the late 70s (as well as his October 2010 address) were misinterpreted by the men and women who heard and read his remarks.

The following are a couple of choice excerpts from his comments:

When [President Spencer W.] Kimball said homosexuality can be overcome in a few months, he wasnt talking about becoming straight because that concept didnt exist back then. He was talking about not having gay sex. People say that the churchs position has changed because the vocabulary has changed, not because the doctrine has changed.

[T]here are people who misinterpreted Kimball back then just as the news reports show people misinterpreted Packer now. I have no doubt that many people, including many bishops counseling gay men to get married, misinterpret many comments.

At the time, I took strong exception to his position, because to me it was revisionism, plain and simple. To me, Johanson in the process of proving (mainly to himself) that the Churchs position on homosexuality has never changed; it was just misunderstood was minimizing what for generations of Mormon men were deeply significant statements and teachings teachings that altered their lives and conveyed that to have same-sex attractions was sinful, dirty and (to use Packers recent phrase) impure and unnatural.

As I commented at that time, to advance a theory that the Church didnt really teach what it did in fact teach, that it was all semantics, minimized the trauma that countless men went through and are still feeling the effects of. It relieved the Church of responsibility for what it did, and it relieved the modern thinking member of the Church of responsibility for contemplating WHY the doctrine has changed so significantly over the past few decades.

I didnt think much more about Johanson until a little over a week ago, when I read that he had make a presentation at the recent annual conference of the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR) held in the Salt Lake area. I found a transcript of his remarks online, entitled Navigating the Labyrinth of Homosexual Desire (note not Homosexuality, but Desire) and saw that he was repeating and amplifying comments that he had made over a year ago.

[M]any people, Johanson wrote, fault President Kimball for saying homosexuality can be changed. Understanding that homosexuality has multiple meanings, we can look at the context and determine he was referring to homosexual behavior. Take this quote for example about homosexuality: If one has such desires and tendencies, he overcomes them the same as if he had the urge toward petting or fornication or adultery. The Lord condemns and forbids this practice with a vigor equal to his condemnation of adultery and other such sex acts. He refers to homosexuality as both a practice and a sex act, not as an attraction.

After asserting that thousands of people misinterpreted Elder Packers comments in his 2010 October conference address, Johanson writes: In previous statements, Packer had made it clear that simply having same-sex attraction is not a sin. Why would he change now? This is what Kimball taught, and this is what the Church teaches now. There hasnt been a major change in doctrine like some people suggest.

In a sense, I dont care what Johanson believes or says (and I am fully aware that his views do not necessarily represent the views of current leaders of the Church). But his revisionism deliberately and consciously ignores the deeply painful and traumatic experiences of thousands of Latter-day Saint men and women who struggled with same-sex attraction, who listened to leaders such as Kimball and Packer and saw themselves as virtually less than human in the secret chambers of their own hearts. For Johanson to dismiss these experiences as misunderstandings and to in effect blame these persons for their own misunderstandings this is insufferable.

A few months ago, I received an email from a guy I know who is about my age, is married (to a woman) and is gay. We have corresponded for well over a year. By way of background, he was raised in the Church, but knew he was gay. He came out for a number of years (or, as many might put it, lived the gay lifestyle), but then met a woman with whom he felt he could make a life and live the Plan of Happiness (i.e., be a devout heterosexual Mormon). They got married and had children. Now, however, though he loves his wife, he feels deeply conflicted.

I was cleaning out some old magazines and books, he wrote, when I came across an issue of the Ensign dated November 1980 (conference issue). On page 94 there is an article by President Spencer W. Kimball entitled “President Kimball Speaks Out on Morality.” I want to quote some parts.

He then went on to quote extracts of President Kimballs address, including a quote that Johanson used in his FAIR presentation:

The unholy transgression of homosexuality is either rapidly growing or tolerance is giving it wider publicity. If one has such desires and tendencies, he overcomes them the same as if he had the urge toward petting or fornication or adultery [C]ontrary to the belief and statement of many people, this sin, like fornication, is overcomable and forgivable, but again, only upon a deep and abiding repentance, which means total abandonment and complete transformation of thought and act The fact that some governments and some churches and numerous corrupted individuals have tried to reduce such behavior from criminal offense to personal privilege does not change the nature nor the seriousness of the practice. This heinous homosexual sin is of the ages I am pressed to speak of it boldly so that no youth in the Church will ever have any question in his mind as to the illicit and diabolical nature of this perverse program God made me that way, some say, as they rationalize and excuse themselves for their perversions. I cant help it, they add. This is blasphemy. Is man not made in the image of God, and does he think God to be that way?

My friend then went on to describe the visceral, unexpected reaction he had upon reading Kimballs words:

This makes me sick and I started shaking when I read it again for the first time in many years. Is it any wonder so many of us fought with ourselves for so long? Is it any wonder we put on the mask and thought if we acted the way we were told to that eventually we could be cured? If the church really wanted to change, really wanted to heal wounds, then they would recant these types of messages and extend an olive branch to the downtrodden. Instead we just get a general love the sinner but not the sin. Or the equally loving hey, you’re OK just they way you are, just don’t act on it. It makes me realize how hard I fought, and why I fought. I wanted to please the prophet, my prophet. In the end I was just betrayed. I’m sorry could go a long way towards healing old wounds, but it won’t happen.

When I wrote this friend a week ago to tell him about Johansons FAIR presentation, he responded:

[This] almost brings me to tears, and makes me angry as hell. To be marginalized as though none of this ever happened, or that if it did happen it was just misunderstood. My god what are they thinking?! It is so frustrating to always come back to the same place. It is always my (our) fault. Not only was it my fault when I was fighting being gay, it is now my fault again because I misunderstood what the prophets were saying! Never ever did I hear one word about how it was ok to be attracted to men. There was never a distinction between feelings and actions. I think maybe that was one reason it was relatively easy to act out when I was younger. I was already evil and broken by having those feelings, so having a sexual encounter was really no different.

I am quite confident that hundreds, if not thousands, of men could give similar testimonies and share similar reactions concerning this revisionist, apologetic view of the Churchs teachings regarding homosexuality that affected men not only of my generation, but have continued to impact men down to the present day. I have blogged here about my own contemporary reaction of Kimballs words, and testimony that the effects were not limited to my generation is evidenced by the following comment left on my blog:

I went to the MTC in 2004. I spoke of my gay feelings with a leader. I was then given and required to read The Miracle of Forgiveness.” That book is explicit and clear on how the church and its leaders thought about homosexuality. It made me feel even more hopeless and dirty. I knew God would never help me as long as I was gay. So I vowed to serve my mission on my own- without God’s help, to prove to him that I was worthy of the miracle of being cured. Anytime something went wrong, I assumed it was my fault for being gay. Not that I was acting on it at all… just because I knew that God knew. In Mormonism, I could never accept what I could not change- I am Gay.

People say that the Miracle of Forgiveness has been pulled by the church and no longer used. That Kimball admitted to the over-the-top harshness of his book on his deathbed. They were saying this back when I went to the MTC. The truth is, they were still using it as required reading for anyone with gay feelings. Why? No matter how it is reworded to sound more politically correct, this is the view the church has accepted for a long long time. Being gay is like being a murderer. It is better that a gay man never had been born. That’s what I believed about myself- even as I went about Korea trying to teach the gospel I thought I loved.

As offensive as is the revisionism, as maddening as it is to be accused now of having misinterpreted the words of the leaders of the Church, perhaps the most damaging aspect of the type of apologetics advocated by Johanson and his ilk (such as FAIR) is the likely effect that this has now today on young gay men and women and on their parents and family members.

I dont doubt that a number of parents of LDS youth who are struggling with same-sex attraction were either present at the FAIR conference or have read Johansons comments, and the take-away messages are: the Church has never changed its position on homosexuality; it is ok to experience same-sex attraction, but this doesnt mean that your son or daughter is gay or lesbian (which terms, in any event, should never ever be used as nouns); these feelings of attraction dont say anything about your son or daughters innate sexuality; God doesnt have homosexual sons and daughters; feelings of attraction (or affection or love) to members of your own gender can and should be ignored or overcome and treated as sin.

The problem with these take-aways is that they are all lies at worst, gross misrepresentations at best. The true take-away: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Those Uppity Gays

The whole Chick-fil-A controversy reminds me of a period of time in recent American history when a segment of our society that tried to assert what it believed to be its civil rights and dignity was brutally repressed, particularly in a certain section of the country.

I refer, of course, to African-Americans which is certainly not what they were called back then.

Recently, I loaned our copy of The Help to my young teenage son to watch. He told me later that he enjoyed the movie but was appalled that black people were actually treated that way. I was dismayed, but not surprised I suppose, that he knew so little about what things were like back then.

My son has probably never even heard the word nigger. The thought that a black person was forced to use separation public washrooms, was expected to sit at the back of the bus, was expected to remember her place, was expected to accept second-class citizenship and (perhaps most of all) was expected not get uppity and aspire to being treated equally all of this was beyond the pale of my sons comprehension.

I gave him a very brief history of what it was like, what I remember watching on the news growing up in the 60s. What I didnt go into was the way segregation was viewed by society at large, particularly in the South, which is also the bastion of Chick-fil-A. How in those days, sermons were preached in many pulpits about the propriety of keeping things the way God intended them to be. How those who were trying to change things were called agitators and were routinely intimidated, beaten or even murdered. How most people were simply part of the silent majority who didnt commit acts of violence but who nevertheless to one degree or another agreed with those of their ilk who were committing acts of violence, whether government-sanctioned (e.g., police) or acts of vigilantism.

What I think he would have had the most trouble comprehending, however, is the concept that African-Americans were expected to just accept the order of things as dictated by the racist white majority. Blacks were expected to see themselves as inferior, because of course they were. No amount of agitation could change the religiously-sanctioned (and even promoted) view that blacks were inferior to whites and needed to be treated so. What really enraged certain segments of the white population in the South (as well as elsewhere in the country) was when blacks simply refused to accept this status-quo. How dare they be so uppity!

So, here we are in 2012, and the same thing is going on only this time, its the gays that are being uppity. Certain segments of the population, i.e., those represented by the people that stood in line at Chick-fil-A restaurants around the country a couple of days ago, are perhaps willing at least publicly to accept the existence of homosexuals, but they are enraged that gays presume to aspire to the same degree of civic equality as heterosexuals. They insist that gays accept second-class status and are infuriated when we refuse to do so.

To me, thats what this Chick-fil-A thing is all about. Dignity. Vast swaths of our society expect us to accept their world-view, their beliefs about ourselves and their views as to what we are entitled in the way of civil rights. The fact that we refuse to do so makes some of them practically foam at the mouth.

I wonder, will my grandson, 40 years from now, express incredulity that a minority in our society was discriminated against, suffered acts of violence and was expected to know their place and keep it? Will he find it difficult to comprehend that religious organizations actively participated in this discrimination and fostered this intolerance and hate? Will he wonder why a majority of society simply accepted this situation as being part of the natural order of things?

I hope so.

* Invictus Pilgrim blogs atBeyond-the-Closet-Door.blogspot.com, where the above post was published last Friday.

It’s the Doctrine, Stupid!

The recent patriotic month here in Utah turned my thoughts to the subject of parades and patriotism.

As a resident of Davis County (just north of Salt Lake City) for a number of years, my former wife and I took our children to the Centerville 4th of July parade every year and to the Bountiful Handcart Days parade, which was always a day, or two or three or four, preceding Pioneer Day.

I didnt grow up in Utah, nor did I grow up in the LDS Church. I am from the Midwestern United States, I have a long (non-Mormon) pioneer heritage that extends back hundreds of years in virtually all the original 13 colonies, and prior to converting to Mormonism, I considered myself just as patriotic if not more so as the next person.

Then, I was exposed to a different sort of patriotism during the 10 years I lived in Canada. During those 10 years, I observed that Canadians are, as a general rule, much more reserved than their American cousins. They dont wear their love of country on their sleeve; this is considered by most as a private thing that becomes tawdry when shared with others. And their love of country is, if I may be so bold to assert, a love of a set of values and the society that embraces and shares those values.

Fifteen years ago, we moved to the United States, to Utah. My first experience with a Utah parade was the Centerville Fourth of July parade. This is when I was first introduced to the Utah custom of staking out a position on the parade route with lawn chairs, blankets, ropes, etc., well before the start of the parade. I later witnessed the same thing in Bountiful, which got to be such a competition that people started staking out positions at least two days before the parade. The City finally had to adopt an ordinance that prohibited this practice prior to the morning of the day of the parade.

Then there was the candy that was thrown from floats, causing kids to rush out into the street, scrambling to collect as much as they could. At first, I thought this was fun, but it got to the point where I found the practice demeaning of my children.

Then there were the huge squirt guns fired into the crowd, which Centerville City finally had to ban.

Then there was the overly-showy displays of “patriotism.” It seemed to me that people were in a competition to see who could stand up first when the color guard was at least a block away. This and other practices were very foreign to me. As time passed, I became increasingly disturbed by what I came to view as the “Nazi patriotism” that is evidenced here in Utah by many people.

People made a show of their patriotism, not – so it seemed to me – out of genuine love for their country, but out of an ingrained sense that they not only had to demonstrate their patriotism for others to see, but consciously or unconsciously entered into a competition to be more patriotic than then next person. It got to the point where I was just disgusted by it all and refused, for example, to put my hand over my heart when color guards passed at Cub Scout and Boy Scout events (held at our LDS ward building) or in parades. (Canadians dont do that. When their national anthem is played, they stand with their hands at their sides.)

All of this was very much in evidence at the recent Bountiful Handcart Days parade. I didnt go last year, but I was going to have my kids that day, so I decided to take them, not only because I thought it might be fun for them (not me), but also because I had potentially two sons marching with the Sons of Helaman in the parade (a topic for another post).

Well, the first irritation I faced was trying to find a place for us to sit. It seemed that every square inch of Main Street had been saved, through the spreading of blankets, the setting of chairs or, in a number of cases, cordoning off large sections of grass (particularly the spots that would be shady). But we finally found a place to sit.

Then, more and more people arrived. Even after the parade started, more and more people. We were sitting on a narrow neck of land, and I for one was starting to feel extremely claustrophobic. Then some Boy Scouts came by and handed out American flags to all the children. Then the parade started. I kept waiting to see the Sons of Helaman, but they failed to make an appearance. (It was later that I learned that they were the last entry in the parade.)

Finally, I got to a point where I simply couldnt take it anymore, i.e., that increasingly oppressive atmosphere, and the kids were also ready to go. So we left.

Now, I dont mean to rag on the Handcart Days Parade. But that parade is what stimulated some thought.

For years, I struggled with being a member of the Mormon Church. There were a lot of things I didnt like about it, but I told myself it was the culture I didnt like (particularly that found here in the heart of Zion”), not the doctrine.

A few days ago, the light went on. I was doing some reading about, among other things, the so-called White Horse Prophecy, in which Joseph Smith prophesied that the day would come when the Constitution would be hanging by a thread and the Mormon elders would rush in and save it (and other variations to the same effect). Suddenly, and with great clarity, I realized that many Mormons do consider themselves more patriotic than the next person because they have been taught since infancy that they have a special role to play in the future of America not so much religious America, though there is that, but civic America.

This realization was closely followed by another one: Mormons believe that America has a special role to play in the world, particularly in the future of the world. Mind, there has always been an element of this in the American psyche ever since the Puritans arrived, and it is this element which is perceived as arrogance by the vast majority of the rest of the world among others, that makes so many people in other nations refer to the ugly American.

But the point I want to get to is that it is the doctrines of the Church that have directly contributed to the culture of the Church. I chose for many years to believe that the culture of the Church was what alienated me, all the while tenaciously clinging to the doctrine. Now, I know better.

And, by the way, I dont intend to attend any more parades (Pride parades excepted).

*NOTE: This is my maiden post after a long period of not blogging. For any readers (which would be most) not familiar with me and my story, I was an orthodox Mormon, married with children, until Boyd K. Packer’s October 2010 Conference address, which blasted me out of the closet. I am no longer an orthodox Mormon or married, though I still have children – and a partner with whom I am finding fulfillment as a gay man.

Gay Mormon Fatherhood

A week ago, I wrote a post on my blog about coming out as a gay father. I mentioned strands of Mormon thinking which, I had come to realize, were woven throughout my psyche as a gay father, along with the strands of general homophobia, shame and self-loathing that are endemic to gays and lesbians everywhere, particularly those who came of age a generation ago. I wrote that I had been going through a process in which I became aware of these strands and aware that they were unconsciously affecting me and my relationships with my children.

I was going to expound a bit in this post on these strands, but as I sat down to write a follow-up post for my blog, something different evolved. I had planned to only briefly discuss another aspect of coming out as a gay father, particularly in the Mormon world, but these other thoughts sort of took over where I had planned to go.

I want to preface my comments by saying that I in no way want to minimize the difficulty that young (single) Mormon men experience in coming to accept their sexuality and all that this means within a Mormon context, including how they reconcile their sexuality with their faith. I know this process can be, and often is, excruciatingly difficult and has on more than one occasion resulted in suicide.

That being said, however, I think it bears pointing out that the coming out process for men who were married, had children and were active in the LDS Church is uniquely challenging.* Not only must such men come to terms with their true innate sexuality, but they must also if they make the decision to come out, or if it is somehow made for them go through a process of coming out as a gay father.

They must reconcile the Plan of Happiness (i.e., the Church’s plan for a happy and fulfilling life, involving heterosexual marriage, children, church activity, etc.) which they have tried to live for years or even decades with who they really are.

They must find meaning in having lived what in most instances amounted (to one degree or another) to a lie however well-intentioned to themselves and/or to their spouse and their children.

They quite often find that the belief system that framed their entire existence during their marriage – and provided a purpose to life – is no longer valid.

They discover that their role as a father was so tightly entwined with LDS teachings, Church activities and Church culture that, once they have either chosen or been forced to leave the Church, that role must to one degree or another be reinvented.

They find themselves ostracized not only as a gay man but also as a gay father. They are often accused of choosing to abandon their wife and children just so they can go out and have gay sex or live a gay lifestyle. In the process, they are frequently demonized and dehumanized, their most inner selves laid bare to assault and ridicule.

They are faced with helping their children cope with a situation that not only (usually) results in/contributes to divorce, but also in trying to help them get to know a man they thought they knew, but who in reality was largely a shell, a false persona, an actor on a stage who was trying as best he knew how to play his part.

They are faced with efforts by others to shame them, to deny or erase their existence, to cover-up who they are, to make excuses for them, and to deny access to their children.

Quite often these efforts to shame succeed at least temporarily aided and abetted by our own internalized homophobia. I was reminded of this as I recently read about efforts by the so-called Million Moms to force Toys-R-Us to remove an Archie comic book from its stores because the cover of the comic featured two men (of different races, no less) getting married. I read about this on Box Turtle Bulletin, and Id like to quote some passages from their blog post in order to make a point about the experience of gay Mormon (i.e., who either were or are members of the LDS Church) fathers.

Anti-gays have an immense sense of entitlement, wrote Timothy Kincaid. They should not ever have to be confronted with the fact that gay people exist, and especially not at a family venue like Disneyland, a park, [or] a toy store Because the mere existence of a gay person will have catastrophic results to the psyche of children who will be forced to ask questions far beyond their age appropriateness [These people believe] its best if gay people are invisible where children might be present. Or so the AFAs Million Moms have decided.

Kincaid then quoted from the Million Moms website, the salient part of which follows:

Unfortunately, children are now being exposed to same-sex marriage in a toy store. This is the last place a parent would expect to be confronted with questions from their children on topics that are too complicated for them to understand. Issues of this nature are being introduced too early and too soon, which is becoming extremely common and unnecessary. A trip to the toy store turns into a premature discussion on sexual orientation and is completely uncalled for.

As I read this, I couldnt help but think what many gay Mormon fathers have faced with their families and/or in a predominantly Mormon culture. We are not supposed to exist. Our mere existence, who we are, is treated as an affront that could have catastrophic results to the psyche of [OUR OWN] children who will be forced to ask questions far beyond their age appropriateness.

The sad thing is, we gay Mormon fathers often accept this state of affairs, whether consciously or subconsciously, in our dealings with our children and former spouse. We may subconsciously try to fit within the Mormon construct insofar as our dealings with our children are concerned. We may feel without really being conscious of it that we must not only bow to the Mormon worldview but support it by refraining from doing anything to upset or contradict it (which our mere presence has a tendency to do).

But we do not have to do this. There is an alternative. In a future post, I hope to discuss this alternative and reflect upon how the challenges I have described above can be used to make us even better fathers and healthier persons than we were before coming out.

I certainly believe this is possible. Im counting on it.

Invictus Pilgrim blogs at MoHo Sapiens.

* There will no doubt be some who read this who will say, But what about the wives? What about what they have gone through? I have written extensively on this subject in my former blog and acknowledge the very real pain that the wives in mixed-orientation marriages go through when reality finally trumps pretense. But in this post, I am a gay man, writing about gay fathers, and though I in no way want to diminish what wives go through I would hope that this would be understood.

 

Boyd-Speak: Where I’m At and Why I Bother

Invictus Pilgrim formerly blogged at invictuspilgrim.blogspot.com. For personal reasons, he has taken that blog private and has started at new blog at mohosapiens.blogspot.com. The following was his initial post on his new blog.

A little over 15 months ago, I was prompted (not in the Mormon sense, but in the common-usage sense) to start blogging about what I was going through. A few weeks before, I had been blasted out of the closet upon hearing a talk which soon became infamous that was delivered by the President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles the second most-senior apostle, the man who was and is a heart beat away from becoming the Lords mouthpiece on the earth.

During the course of the next 13 months, I blogged extensively about my thoughts and experiences as a gay man who had finally come to terms with his true identity after over 20 years of marriage and activity in the LDS Church.

Two months ago, I reached a decision to take that blog private and to take a break from blogging. Like other men who were (closeted) gay, married and Mormon and who blogged about their coming out experience, I reached a point where I wondered whether there was anything left to write. Furthermore, I am definitely not the same man I was when I began my blog in October 2010, and my life is very different today than it was a year ago and even six months ago. My head, so to speak, is in a very different place.

I debated for a time whether to revive my former blog. Frankly, I didnt know whether I wanted to bother with it anymore. But when I read what Elder Packer recently said during a broadcast which two of my children probably saw, I decided the time had come to take up my pen. I do so, however, in a new blog, having ultimately reached the decision to permanently close my former blog.

I dont claim to have anything earth-shattering to say about Elder Packers seminary address; others have written eloquently about what was said that night. But I wanted to add my voice to theirs and share a few thoughts about the following passage from Packers talk:

We know that gender was set in the pre-mortal world. The spirit and the body are the soul of man. The matter of gender is of great concern to the brethren, as are all matters of morality. A few of you may have felt, or have been told that you were born with troubled feelings and youre not guilty if you act upon these temptations. Doctrinally, we know that if that were true, your agency would have been erased. And that cannot happen. You always have a choice to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost and live morally pure and chaste, one filled with virtue.

Points to ponder:

Gender was set in the pre-mortal world.

As I recently tried to explain to someone who knew absolutely nothing about Mormonism, Mormons believe that we humans are made up of an immortal spirit housed in a mortal body. This spirit is the offspring of deity and has existed for countless ages with a gender, either female or male. What President Packer believes but doesnt explicitly state is that gender and sexual orientation are basically one and the same, i.e., male (gender) = wants to love and have sex with females (sexual orientation). He apparently cannot conceive of this equation: male (gender) = wants to love and have sex with males (sexual orientation). Because of this unspoken belief, he believes that we were programmed as heterosexuals in the pre-mortal world and that homosexuality in this mortal world is an aberration that defies logic and Heavenly Fathers plan for his children. Thus, the infamous line, Why would Heavenly Father do that?

The matter of gender is of great concern to the brethren, as are all matters of morality.

Gender is a moral issue? This is where we really start to get into what I call Boyd-Speak. Elder Packer doesnt come right out and say that believing yourself to be gay is immoral, but he certainly implies it. Hes doing here the same thing he did in the October 2010 conference address. He couches his language in innocuous-sounding words and phrases that most (straight) members of the Church believe to be perfectly defensible (“he was talking about pornography, not homosexuality”), while sending a message straight to the hearts (like a dagger) to gay members of the Church.

A few of you may have felt, or have been told that you were born with troubled feelings

This phrase reminds me of Elder Packers infamous 1978 BYU multi-stake fireside, To the One, in which he devoted an entire address to speaking to the one among 100 who might be suffering from troubled feelings of homosexuality. As if a young man or woman wouldnt feel isolated enough, hes going to make sure they and others know that only a tiny minority of Church members is plagued by such troubled feelings.

And just in case you believe the propaganda that you were born with the inclination to be homosexual, Packers belief and thinly-veiled assertion is that such beliefs are hogwash, pure and simple.

Troubled feelings. I think this is the segue to NARTH and the unspoken invitation to see a good reparative therapist.

troubled feelings act upon these temptations.

Notice again the Boyd-Speak. Is he saying that if you have troubled feelings that you may be gay (a) you are suffering from a temptation to actually believe that youre gay, or (b) that you will automatically suffer from temptations to go have sex with a guy (or gal, as the case may be)? I think hes saying both at least this is the message that I believe all the gay kids suffering from troubled feelings will hear him say. Both assertions are, of course, unfounded, unsound and just plain ridiculous. But he will have made his point through nuanced language that camouflages his message.

Doctrinally, we know that if that were true, your agency would have been erased.

What exactly is he saying here? The impression is given that hes saying that if youre born with troubled feelings you automatically feel that you have to act upon those feelings. He seems to be saying that this is where agency gets erased. That if youre born gay, you have to have sex, and that you can justify it by saying that you were born that way.

Are you kind of getting a whiff of a stereotype of gays as sex-crazed animals who only care about sex? If you havent already smelled it, this is born out by his next sentence: You always have a choice to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost and live morally pure and chaste, one filled with virtue.

Another alternative interpretation that is perfectly plausible, given his personal beliefs, is that hes saying that it would be a violation of agency for you to have innate, authentic feelings of attraction to persons of the same sex. In his view, this would be a violation of agency because he believes that such feelings are a choice, not innate.

Which brings me to my final point.

You always have a choice to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost and live morally pure and chaste, one filled with virtue

The unspoken, Boyd-Speak, message is that one cannot have even feelings of attraction toward persons of ones own gender and be morally pure and chaste, and certainly not filled with virtue. This line is reminiscent of his October 2010 line in which he labeled such feelings impure and unnatural. The message to young members of the Church is clear.

So why do I bother blogging about this? Because I know that Packers words influence impressionable young men and women in the Church. And that impression is negative. They drive like daggers into the hearts of souls of all those youth who struggle with troubled feelings, and they put arrows into the quivers of ignorance, self-righteousness, intolerance and bigotry that other youth in the Church, along with their parents and leaders, carry around with them. I feel a personal obligation to not let those words go unchallenged.

To be clear, I am not saying that Elder Packer doesn’t have the right to preach about the law of chastity. Obviously, this is a key teaching of the Church. But it could hardly be said that he reached out (in his seminary address) with love, compassion and understanding to young members of the Church struggling with feelings of same-gender attraction, which both hurts these youth and enables the un-Christlike attitudes of other members of the Church toward homosexuality.

Prayers for Bobby: An Open Letter to Mormon Parents

He must have seen the large tractor trailer approaching from under the Couch Street overpass and timed the jump. Bobby executed a sudden and effortless back flip and disappeared over the railing. The driver tried to swerve, but there was no time Robert Warren Griffith, age twenty years and two months, had died instantly of massive internal injuries. Prayers for Bobby

Bobby Griffith was a young gay man who came out to his conservative (non-LDS) religious parents in his senior year of high school. He was a near-contemporary of mine; a kind, bright, sensitive young man who had been a devoted member of his parents church. Yet, he came to sense that there was something different about him. Something awful. Something he didnt want, but couldnt deny: he was attracted to men.

When he came out, his mother undertook an unrelenting campaign to change her son. She quoted scripture, assured her son that he could change if he really tried, bolstered by the teachings of her church and her understanding of the Bible. He tried, but came to hate himself more than ever. Eventually, the seemingly irreconcilable conflict within him drove him to suicide. He simply couldnt live with himself anymore.

I have been meaning to write about Bobby Griffith for months. But the time never seemed right. That changed Sunday night, inspired by a young man I met who is Mormon and gay. He had come to hear my remarks at the First United Methodist Church here in Salt Lake. As I heard only a small part of his story and felt only a tiny fraction of the pain he has experienced as a result of coming out, I knew that the time had come.

Just that afternoon, as I was making final edits to my talk, my eyes fell on a copy of Prayers for Bobby that had been laying on my desk for weeks. Something seemed to prompt me to pick up the book and flip through it. In doing so, I came to a dog-eared page that contained a passage I had underlined. I read it, and once again, as I had been many times before, I was moved to tears by what I read.

The thought came: you should use that in your talk. But I dismissed this; I could not see how that passage would tie into my prepared remarks. I put the book back down and printed out my talk, gathered up the food I was planning to take for refreshments and headed out to my car.

As I went back into the house for my talk, however, the feeling came to me again to take that book with me. So I did. I had no idea why until I arrived at the church and the impression clearly came to me to end my remarks, not as I had initially intended to, but with the passages from that book that I had underlined on that dog-eared page. It was after doing so, and after meeting the young man to whom I have referred, that I realized that the time had come to write about Bobby Griffith and that I should do so as an open letter to Mormon parents.

Mary Griffith, Bobbys mother, wanted the best for her children not material things, per se, but a good home environment that was centered on faith and trust in God and living according to the teachings of the Bible. She loved her children, but her son Bobbys self-confessed homosexuality ran counter to everything she believed in. She could not accept this in her son. She felt that if she just tried hard enough, prayed hard enough, God would cure her son and everything would be as it was supposed to be. She wanted no empty chairs for her family in the life hereafter.

It was only after her sons death, as she agonized over whether or not Bobbys suicide had consigned him to hell, that her grief drove her to deeply examine not only her conscience but the religious teachings that had driven her zealous campaign to save her son. She eventually came to the horrifying conclusion that her son had been sacrificed on the altar of her religious fanaticism.

Looking back, she wrote, I realize how depraved it was to instill false guilt in an innocent childs conscience, causing a distorted image of life, God and self, leaving little if any feeling of personal worth What a travesty of Gods love, for children to grow up believing themselves to be evil, with only a slight inclination toward goodness, convinced that they will remain undeserving of Gods love from birth to death.

In a letter to Bobby three years after his death, Mary wrote, We were not aware (at first) of the conflict was slowly breaking your spirit You were the apple of Gods eye just as you were. If we had only known. Out of the many discussions we had, the one phrase that comes back to me is the age-old chant, You can change if you want to. How that must have angered and hurt you. You began to feel like you did not fit into your family anymore. You wanted to believe that you were not the person the Bible had interpreted you to be. You were at the mercy, as we all are, of the false interpretations of the Bible concerning homosexuality

A turning point for Mary came as she spoke at a local city council meeting about something as innocuous as approving a resolution calling for a Gay Freedom Week. In a scene brilliantly acted by Sigourney Weaver in the movie based on the book, Mary made an impassioned plea to the council members and her community:

Because of my own lack of knowledge, I became dependent upon people in the clergy. When the clergy condemns a homosexual person to hell and eternal damnation, we the congregation echo, Amen. I deeply regret my lack of knowledge concerning gay and lesbian people. Had I allowed myself to investigate what I now see as Bible bigotry and diabolical dehumanizing slander against our fellow human beings, I would not be looking back with regret for having relinquished my ability to think and reason with other people

God did not heal or cure Bobby as he, our family, and clergy believed he should. It is obvious to us now why he did not. God has never been encumbered by his childs genetically determined sexuality. God is pleased that bobby had a kind and loving heart. In Gods eyes, kindness and love are what life is all about. I did not know that each time I echoed Amen to external damnation, each time I referred to Bobby as sick, perverted and a danger to our children, his self-esteem and personal worth were being destroyed. Finally, his spirit broke beyond repair. He could no longer rise above the injustice of it all

It was not Gods will that bobby jumped over the side of a freeway overpass into the path of an eighteen-wheel truck which killed him instantly. Bobbys death was the direct result of his parents ignorance and fear of the word gay There are no words to express the pain and emptiness remaining in our hearts. We miss Bobbys kind and gentle ways, his fun-loving spirit, his laughter. Bobbys hopes and dreams should not have been taken from him, but they were. We cant have Bobby back.

There are children like Bobby sitting in your congregations. Unknown to you, they will be listening to your Amens as they silently cry out to God in their hearts. Their cries will go unnoticed for they cannot be heard above your Amens. Your fear and ignorance will soon silence their cries. Before you echo Amen in your home and place of worship, think and remember. A child is listening.

Returning again to the letter Mary wrote to her son three years after his suicide, Mary lamented: I believed I was doing right the name of Christ. I did now know my soul; my conscience was in bondage to the people and ministers who stand in Gods stead. I went along in blind allegiance, unwittingly persecuting, oppressing gay and lesbian people my own son. The scales of ignorance and fear that kept my soul in darkness have [now] fallen from the eyes of my soul, my conscience. I have been set free to have faith in, trust the dictates of my conscience.

Mary then wrote the words I used to conclude my remarks last night: I would rather be branded a heretic while helping a child of God out of the gutters of this world, where the church and I have thrown them, than to pass by on the other side muttering under our breath, The wages of sin are death. Rather this that to look away from the pain and humiliation of a child lying helpless. The heart that hungers and thirsts for Gods love will find it in the Bible. It has been said the eyes are the mirror of ones soul. When we look into Gods mirror [the Bible] will we see Gods reflection of love gazing back? Or will we see an evil reflection of mans inhumanity?

I have been a member of the LDS Church for over 25 years. I am a parent. I myself was once as Saul, driven by my deep self-hatred, my homophobia, to embrace the teachings of the Church concerning homosexuality. I had bought into them myself and was, to my shame, guilty of bigotry. Fortunately, the only person I hurt through such acts was myself. Yet, I have experienced, in other situations, the intense pain and regret that has come through putting the Church and its teachings ahead of the welfare of my son. I have repented of such actions and vowed never again to let anything stand between me and my children.

There is much that could be written. But for now, I would simply implore Mormon parents who know or suspect that they have a son or daughter who is gay (or, if you prefer, struggling with feelings of same-gender attraction) to read Prayers for Bobby and/or watch the movie by the same name and then to open your hearts and minds to its message. You may not realize how close your child is or may have been to resolving the conflict in their hearts and minds the way in which Bobby Griffith did. You may not fully appreciate the pain in your childs heart. You may not have ever allowed yourself to question the religious teachings that may have caused a separation between you and your son or your daughter. Please do it now, before it becomes too late.

Invictus Pilgrim blogs at http://invictuspilgrim.blogspot.com, where a media-enhanced version of this post appeared earlier this week.

By way of commercial announcement, a new Mormon Stories Facebook discussion/support group was formed this past week for LGBTQ persons, allies and family members. It can be accessed here: http://www.facebook.com/groups/158660464212536/.

The Mormon Wall

I felt disheartened as I walked away from the restaurant. I had just had lunch with a former priesthood leader (whom I call John) who had responded relatively compassionately to a coming out letter I had sent to a few former close family friends. His response, among the few I had received, had been the most enlightened. When he had invited me to lunch, therefore, I had hopes that our meeting would go well.

It didnt.

I quickly surmised what the tone of the conversation was going to be when he began using the term SGA. I hate that term. I used it myself when I first came out. Well, I vacillated between it and SSA. I couldnt initially bring myself to refer to myself as gay. And so I understand why a lot of Mormon guys, particularly when theyre first trying to come to grips with their feelings of attraction to men, use these terms. They seem safer, less out there.

But when priesthood leaders in the church use the institutionally-approved term, what it says to me (among other things) is that they are trying to define the parameters of the conversation: they will take what you say and categorize it according to their filing system, rather than truly listening to you. They will decide which of your thoughts, emotions and experiences are valid and which are not, those not conforming to their view of the world being relegated to the dust bin. Of course, Im generalizing, but this has been my experience.

I got a further indication of how the conversation was going to go when John proceeded to tell me a lengthy story about a former work associate and friend who was gay (and was apparently the only gay person with whom this guy had knowingly interacted). I emphasize the word was. John told the story about how, after being inactive in the church for decades, this guy decided to go back. Long story short, he is now married to a woman and is enjoying all the blessings of the Gospel. Hmmm.

John then proceeded to tell me that he had had a number of experiences in his various callings in priesthood leadership, including that of mission president, that had shown him that there is a wide variation of sexuality, from purely heterosexual to purely homosexual. I told him that was called the Kinsey Scale. He said had never heard of that (!).

He told me, for example, of a young man he had counseled who had confessed that he was attracted to pre-pubescent girls, not mature girls. Thats just the way he is wired, John said. He then cited another example of his exposure to alternative sexualities by citing the case of the man he had counseled who had found himself to be a compulsive flirt, seeking to seduce as many women as possible without acting on his conquests.

I sat across from John, knowing that he thought he was being very open-minded, very compassionate, very understanding; that he was ministering. I did not want to confront him, both because I knew he felt he was being truly compassionate and because I had respected this man. However, I felt like throwing my salad at him. I had not expected this of him; I had not expected him to compare feelings of same-sex attraction to pedophilia and extra-marital lust all variations on a theme of sexual deviance.

I thought I would try to reach him. Try to open his mind a bit. I thought it was worth a try. I ignored my irritation at having been compared to a pedophile and tried to tell him what had happened to me in the wake of President Packers remarks last October. I mentioned the self-hatred I had experienced for most of my life. I tried to explain what it felt like to grow up and live with ones essence being referred to as an abomination.

A look of incomprehension came over Johns face. Why abomination? he asked.

Because thats what we were referred to as, I replied.

Well, he countered, Ive been in priesthood leadership positions for 30 years, and Ive never heard it referred to as that.

Now it was my turn to experience incomprehension. President Kimball taught that, I said.

I never heard him say that, he countered.

Its in his book, I replied, a slight edge in my voice.

Why was he fighting me? Why didnt he just listen. Why couldnt he just accept my feelings as genuine? Filtering. Filing. Valid. Not valid. No authenticity. Just filtering and filing.

I talked about praying away the gay. I related the story of how frustrated I had been when my new bishop had asked if I had ever prayed that my feelings of same-sex attraction would go away. Can you imagine, I tried to explain, what it must feel like to a guy that already hates himself because of these feelings he has, which he has been taught are very wrong, then to pray and fast that the feelings be taken away, only to find that God hasnt answered his prayer? It compounds the feelings of self-hatred and loathing.

The look of Oh, thats easy, I have an explanation for that crossed his face. Well, lots of people experience that. People with depression for example, which is very real, may ask, Why doesnt God take this away? We are all given trials, and God doesnt take them away for a reason. We have to learn to rely on the Savior.

At this point, I really wanted to scream. I really did. I was losing patience. First, the pedophilia comparison. Now the comparison to mental illness. I was beginning to despair. If I couldnt get through to this guy who struck me as relatively open-minded was there any hope at all of reaching other members of the Church?

I tried again. I tried to describe the agony [just so you know, thats a real emotion] that young gay Mormons face as they try to reconcile their feelings with their faith (and, I could have said, the growing cynicism that many older married, closeted gay Mormon men face as a sense of betrayal grows in them).

I could have quoted something I read recently, written by a Mormon guy who has recently accepted his homosexuality: For years, the very act of me bowing my head to say my prayers meant immediate feelings of shame, guilt, and inadequacy would wash over me. It was a terrible feeling. Each church meeting, each calling I was fulfilling, each temple session, there was always the underlying emotion of ‘my service isn’t good enough because God hasn’t cleared away the gay yet‘.

But I couldnt get past the Mormon wall the wall that is erected to shut out feelings and experiences (whether of others or ones own) that do not comport with revealed truth and/or the counsel of the brethren. Does it hurt to just listen? Does it challenge ones testimony just to try to be empathetic? Or is there no empathy once the moral judgments have been made? Is all that is left the platitudes about applying the atonement and finding true happiness?

I was truly discouraged by the end of the meal. And resigned. I am quite sure I will not hear from John again. I could tell he felt like he had failed to get through to me, just as I had failed to get through to him. I could sense a change at the very end of our conversation. He was withdrawing from the field, sensing that I was in the gall of bitterness, no doubt. (You know, the term self-righteous Mormons use for people who dont agree with them?)

The Mormon wall was up and the gates to the citadel had been closed. I had sadly, regretfully, but firmly been left to kick against the pricks.

This post appeared yesterday on my blog at http://invictuspilgrim.blogspot.com.

Casualties of the Churchs Stance on Homosexuality: Stories from the Salt Lake Mormon Stories Conference

I have to say that, a year ago, I knew of only a handful of LDS families that were said to have gay members, but I knew nothing of any challenges they may have faced because of this. I had no knowledge of damage that had been done to families by the Churchs involvement in Proposition 8 in California. I was only very dimly aware of the suicides of young gay Mormons who had given up the struggle. I was basically ignorant of the whole issue, which was attributable to me being deeply in the closet myself; I didnt consider it safe to express any interest in such things for fear it would expose me as being gay.

Now, however, I know differently (and feel very, very badly about my former ignorance and apathy), and I want to do what little I can to increase awareness of such issues among the LDS community in which I live locally and am a part globally.

So, speaking to members of this community, I wonder how many of you have family members who are gay or lesbian. A son, a daughter, a father, a mother, an aunt, an uncle, a grandson, a granddaughter, a cousin, a niece, a nephew. Or how many of you have friends who are gay or who have family members who are gay?

If you know of someone in these categories, I wonder how familiar you may be with some of the challenges that these persons, families and friends face when, as faithful members of the LDS Church, they are confronted with the reality of learning that a loved one is gay. I wonder how aware you might be of the turmoil that exists in families in the Church over the Churchs stance toward homosexuality and gay marriage. I wonder whether you know of someone who, though not gay, has left the Church because of the Churchs stance on homosexuality.

There is much I could write on this subject. For this post, however, I want to share just a few stories of real-life people whom I didnt know a week ago. I met them this past weekend at the Mormon Stories Salt Lake Conference. These are simply sketches, but are representative of stories that could be told, I am sure, across the length and breadth of the Church.

Sketch #1: Alice had traveled from England specifically to attend the conference. In getting to know her, she shared that she was a 6th-generation Mormon, some of her ancestors having been converted by Heber C. Kimball on his mission to England. She had been raised in the Church, as had her brother. He had grown up a faithful Latter-day Saint and had served an honorable mission.

This young man, however, harbored a secret: he is gay. After going through an intense struggle with which any young gay Mormon would be familiar, he went in to see his bishop to tell him that he is gay. Expecting support and help, the young man was crushed when his bishop told him there was no place for him in the Church. He returned home, devastated and broken.

Alice was so incensed by this treatment of her brother that she eventually resigned her membership in the Church. She could not be a part of a religious organization that inflicted such pain on someone she loved so deeply.

Sketch #2: Malcolm is a graduate student at the University of Utah. He is a life-long member of the Church a wholesome, handsome young man who exudes a spirit of gentleness and laughter, and who also happens to be gay. In getting to know him, he briefly described to me the challenges he had faced in coming to terms with his homosexuality. Not unlike other young Mormon men who struggle valiantly even desperately to overcome their attraction to men, Malcolm had tried to pray the gay away. He had pleaded. He had fasted. He had gone through therapy. He had also participated in a well-known retreat program that is designed to help gay men overcome their gayness through development of wholesome bonding with other men.

Of course, none of these approaches worked. Finally, Malcolm accepted himself for who he is, and in the wake of doing so came a wave of bitterness and anger toward the church that had told him to go through what he had gone through that had told him that if he just tried hard enough, long enough, and had enough faith, he could overcome his weakness. The wonder of it all was that, here he was, at this conference, wondering if he could yet forge a place for himself in Mormonism.

Sketch #3: Jerry was a man I met Sunday morning while attending Music and the Spoken Word with the Mormon Stories group. He and his wife had come from out of town for the conference. As was the case with others I had met over the course of the weekend, we quickly got to the point of asking each other about our story.

Jerry explained that he is straight, that he had been an active member of the Church for over 25 years, but that his faith had hit the wall over the issue of gay marriage. In the wake of Proposition 8, something arose within him that cried out against what he saw as the injustice and inhumanity of the Churchs treatment of gays and their campaign against gay marriage. He could no longer believe that the leaders of the Church were inspired. He eventually resigned his membership. But there he was with his wife at this conference, wondering – like Alice and Malcolm – if he could forge a place for himself and his wife within the world of Mormonism.

As Ive said, these are just three sketches of lives of members of the Church who have been deeply affected by the Churchs stance on homosexuality. These sketches are representative of many, many other stories which will only grow in number, here in North America and around the world.

So I would like to say to my former ward members and fellow members of the Church around the world that the issue of homosexuality is not going to go away. If an LDS family hasnt already been touched by it, it is only a matter of time before it will be .

Invictus Pilgrim wrote about this past weekend’s Mormon Stories Salt Lake Conference here.


LDS Message for Pride 2011

This post was written by MoHoHawaii.

Timed for the annual gay pride celebrations, the LDS Church’s official magazine, the Ensign, has an anti-gay manifesto in its current issue.

The article is written by Elder Bruce D. Porter a General Authority who was formerly a political science professor at BYU. The article’s subject is political, not spiritual.

Placing political op-ed pieces in the Church’s educational materials is not a good idea. In fact, mixing politics with religion, in general, is a bad idea. It results in bad politics and bad religion.

Three things struck me when reading the piece. First, there’s the virulence of its anti-gay sentiment. The article contains no words of compassion, just condemnation and a call to political action against families the Church doesn’t approve of. Then there’s the cowardice. The article doesn’t mention gay people by name, and it doesn’t use the term homosexuality. It is written entirely using code words. And finally, the article repeatedly claims victim status for the Church. It evades all responsibility for the disaster that was Proposition 8.

You can read the essay for yourself, but I will respond to a few of the most egregious parts.

The first four paragraphs lay the foundation of a straw man argument. Porter presents as controversial the completely uncontroversial position that the family is an important social institution. (Can you see where this is going yet?) After this set up, Porter gets ready to attack his straw man:

[M]any of societys leaders and opinion-makers increasingly seem to have lost their bearings when it comes to understanding the vital importance of the family.

We live in a day … when good is called evil and evil good. Those who defend the traditional family … are mocked and ridiculed. On the other hand, those … who seek to redefine the very essence of what a family is, are praised and upheld as champions of tolerance. Truly, the world has turned upside down.

Sigh.

For the record, those of us who are on the receiving end of the Church’s political campaigns do not mock the Church. We disagree with the Church’s political actions, and we are harmed by the practical consequences of those actions. There’s a difference between disagreeing and mocking, even if the Church doesn’t see it.

As for the argument that proponents of marriage equality want to “redefine the very essence of what a family is,” one can also ask if President Kimball redefined “the very essence” of LDS priesthood in 1978. Extending the rights and benefits of marriage to a small minority of people has no effect on existing marriages, just as giving the LDS priesthood to blacks did not “redefine” the priesthood already held by others.

As usual, just exactly how same-sex marriage is an attack on the traditional family or on traditional marriage is not explained, it is merely taken for granted. For a thorough discussion of these issues, I would recommend to Elder Porter the transcript of the federal court case that overturned Prop. 8 in California. (Why was Elder Porter, an expert from BYU, not a witness at that trial?)

Next, Porter dismisses tolerance as a virtue while simultaneously accusing any who engage in debate over gay issues as intolerant:

Latter-day Saints are often accused of narrow-mindedness or lack of tolerance and compassion because of our belief in following precise standards of moral behavior as set forth by Gods prophets…. Until recently in our national history, tolerance referred to racial and religious non-discrimination. It meant civility in the political arena; in other words, respecting the right of others to express their views, even if we do not agree with them. It meant treating all people with decency and respect. Such tolerance is an important and vital part of our American heritage.

Today, however, the world is in danger of abandoning all sense of absolute right or wrong, all morality and virtue, replacing them with an all-encompassing tolerance that no longer means what it once meant. An extreme definition of tolerance is now widespread that implicitly or explicitly endorses the right of every person to choose their own morality, even their own truth, as though morality and truth were mere matters of personal preference. This extreme tolerance culminates in a refusal to recognize any fixed standards or draw moral distinctions of any kind. Few dare say no to the almighty self or suggest that some so-called lifestyles may be destructive, contrary to higher law, or simply wrong.

When tolerance is so inflated out of all proportions, it means the death of virtue, for the essence of morality is to draw clear distinctions between right and wrong. All virtue requires saying no firmly and courageously to all that is morally bankrupt.

I don’t know where to begin with this kind of twisted and self-serving statement. First of all, the Church is hardly in a position to bring up racial tolerance. Its racist policies were firmly in place within recent memory (I grew up with them), and it used virtually the same language in arguing against civil rights for blacks as it now uses for gay people! The argument, then as now, was (mis)framed in terms of morality and supporting families.

Now, as then, the Church seems unable to distinguish between what influence it should exert over civil laws and the influence it has over religious laws. Why isn’t Elder Porter railing against the evils of alcohol and coffee? Where’s the Church’s support for a referendum that would outlaw alcoholic beverages and Starbucks? And if religious views are so important to respect, where’s Elder Porter’s support of gay-affirming churches who want to bless gay unions?

The theme of Mormons-as-victims continues:

Curiously enough, this new modern tolerance is often a one-way street. Those who practice it expect everyone to tolerate them in anything they say or do, but show no tolerance themselves toward those who express differing viewpoints or defend traditional morality. Indeed, their intolerance is often most barbed toward those of religious conviction.

In other words, Porter thinks the right of free expression is stifled by open political debate. Porter confuses the right of free expression with an (imagined) right to say whatever one wants without having others who disagree get their chance to present their own arguments. But, apparently, the opinions of others (including those actually harmed by the Church’s political actions) don’t matter. According the Porter, the Church knows better than the people whose lives it seeks to disrupt:

By defending the traditional family [i.e., legislating against families the Church doesn’t approve of], Latter-day Saints bless all people whether others recognize it now or not.

Excuse me for not extending my thanks as I watch my partner lose his right to live in the same country as me due to the Church’s efforts to “bless” my life whether I recognize it or not. Please, spare yourselves the effort! The Church is accruing some pretty bad karma with its effort to ‘bless’ people like me by attacking the one thing in our lives we care most about: our families.

In the middle of all the politics, Elder Porter does bring up one religious point. However, it’s the heretical idea that has recently been introduced by LDS leaders to the effect that God’s love is conditional.

Gods love is sometimes described as unconditional…. But while Gods love is all-encompassing, His blessings are highly conditional, including the very blessing of being able to feel and experience His love.

[This is an example of bad religion, and it’s not coincidental that it is linked to unjust politics.]

Finally, it’s back to politics for the wrap-up, with a call to political action:

The Church is a small institution compared with the world at large. Nevertheless, the Latter-day Saints as a people should not underestimate the power of our example, nor our capacity to persuade public opinion, reverse negative trends, or invite seeking souls to enter the gate and walk the Lords chosen way. We ought to give our best efforts, in cooperation with like-minded persons and institutions, to defend the family and raise a voice of warning and of invitation to the world. The Lord expects us to do this, and in doing so to ignore the mocking and scorn of those in the great and spacious building, where is housed the pride of the world.

The sense of persecution is just breathtaking, and in case you missed it, the call to “give our best efforts” means to donate money, and to do this “in cooperation with like-minded persons and institutions” means to give money to groups like the National Organization for Marriage, a political organization that was created by the Church to get Prop. 8 on the ballot in California. (Elder Holland’s son Matthew was a member of the original board of directors.)

But there’s more:

May we as members of the Church rise up and assume our divinely appointed role as a light to the nations. May we sacrifice and labor to rear a generation strong enough to resist the siren songs of popular culture, a generation filled with the Holy Ghost so that they may discern the difference between good and evil, between legitimate tolerance and moral surrender.

Many younger LDS people are not okay with this message. It is not “popular culture” that makes young Mormons sensitive to the plight of their gay peers; it is an emerging sense of justice. I know many devout members of the Church who are heartbroken over the harmful ideas that Elder Porter repeats here. Many members are ashamed of what their Church is doing, and rightly so.

Elder Porter, please know that demeaning someone else’s family does not strengthen your own.

I thought things were changing with these folks. Apparently, they are not. Is the Church warming up for the fight in Minnesota in 2012?

There is a silver lining here. It’s clear that Elder Porter’s op-ed sermon is very defensive. He knows that the Church’s position is unpopular with many members of the Church and that its involvement in Prop. 8 was a PR disaster. The subtext of the article is a sense of panic that the Church is losing this one.