The 8 things I’d like to ask

I know…I have resigned my membership. So why do I care about the new Mormon church policy update that impacts LGBT Mormons? Why bother stressing about it if I don’t even belong or believe?

Because this was my faith community for 46 years. Because it was how I was raised. Because I have active believing children (and now grandchildren), parents, a sister, extended family and friends that do continue to believe and participate. Because the Mormon church continues to impact those relationships. I have a gay brother whose married to a wonderful man and they’ve been together for a lot of years. During my faith transition, I reached out and made many friends online and became aware of their struggles and pain. I’m a Mama Dragon, even if I don’t have any gay children myself, because LGBT issues have impacted my life. I’ve received private messages over the past couple of years about what it means to be gay in the Mormon church. I have listened to stories of unimaginable pain and anguish. And the most basic reason is because I’m human and I care about people.

So I’ve examined this policy, as currently written (with no clarification issued yet), and engaged in a lot of discussions. While doing this, I’ve compiled a list of questions – questions that the video the church released with Elder Christofferson left unanswered. Here they are:

#1 – Since the primary reason for the policy given by Elder Christofferson was to protect the children from mixed messages, how does this policy accomplish that when it only bans them from saving ordinances while allowing/encouraging them to attend church? If this is the primary concern, why not ban them from attending our church services all-together until they’re 18? How does the church reconcile the mixed messaging happening for children in other families that are living in situations where parents are living in ways that don’t align with church doctrines/policies? Like non-members, those engaged in sexual activity outside of marriage, those with addiction issues, those living with partners but unmarried, those that have left the church, apostates, etc. If the church is trying to prevent mixed messaging or family conflict, why aren’t these same rules applicable for all children under age 18? Are they still working on policy updates for those children/families as well? Because there are many children currently participating in the church the hear messages that conflict with what they hear and see at home.

# 2 – Does the church anticipate that the children of gay parents will still attend church with these new rules? Do they hope that grandparents, family members and friends will continue to bring these children to primary, church and youth activities? Will the church be encouraging that? If so, how does the church envision this experience working for both those children and the adults teaching primary/YM/YW? Because the messaging will be the same. And they won’t be able to fully participate in some things (baptism, blessing/passing the sacrament, temple trips, ordinations). Does the church plan on altering the manuals to help teachers and leaders prepare for these situations and how to make the children feel truly involved/included?

# 3 - Since baby blessings are not a saving ordinance, and viewed as a celebration of a child’s birth, and are done for children whose parents are inactive/non-members, why is this different for children with gay parents? The reason given, during the video, was it creates a membership record and starts ward responsibilities for that child. But that happens with other children, as well, whose parents may not even be attending or believe (and living in situations where mixed messaging will happen). Is the church concerned about having the gay couples names on the certificate of blessing? Or in the church system listed as a family unit?  If so, why? Wouldn’t the church want primary/ward leaders and members to reach out to these children, just like they do for inactive families?

# 4 - Why is the church just now enacting these changes when same-sex marriage has been legal in roughly 20 other countries for anywhere between 1 year and more than 10 years? The total church membership in those countries is about 2.5 million. The church has said this is to protect children and families. Was the church concerned about the children and families in these other countries as well? And, if so, why did they wait until marriage laws changed in the U.S. when this is a global church?

# 5 –  How does the church view support of same-sex marriage for members now? In this interview with Elder Christofferson in March 2015, he stated:

“Our approach in all of this, as (Mormon founder) Joseph Smith said, is persuasion. You can’t use the priesthood and the authority of the church to dictate. You can’t compel, you can’t coerce. It has to be persuasion, gentleness and love unfeigned, as the words in the scripture.”
There hasn’t been any litmus test or standard imposed that you couldn’t support that if you want to support it, if that’s your belief and you think it’s right,” Christofferson said after a Jan. 27 news conference.

We have individual members in the church with a variety of different opinions, beliefs and positions on these issues and other issues,” Christofferson said. ” … In our view, it doesn’t really become a problem unless someone is out attacking the church and its leaders — if that’s a deliberate and persistent effort and trying to get others to follow them, trying to draw others away, trying to pull people, if you will, out of the church or away from its teachings and doctrines.

The current policy update states that children with gay parents, in a same-sex marriage, will need to disavow this practice in order to be baptized or serve a mission. Does that mean regular members can support it, but children with gay parents can’t? What about after they are baptized and 18 years old? Or after they return home from their mission? At that point are they allowed to support it like the rest of the members?

# 6 – Now that the church has included same-sex married couples in the definition of apostasy/apostates, are the temple recommend questions going to be altered to reflect this? Especially the question that asks:

“Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” 

Does this mean belonging to a group like Mama Dragons is a violation of this? Since they support their children and others that live with their partners or get married? What about parents who support their gay children that are doing this? What about being a member of a LGBT support group that supports these as valid options like Affirmation?

# 7 – We’ve heard rumblings that there will be some clarification or additional training coming forth to help expand on this written policy. If this is the case, and the church was planning on doing this from the start, why didn’t Elder Christofferson mention this during the video? The video was released late the following evening and the media and online discussions had been happening for 24 hours. Many people were upset, confused, surprised and honestly shocked at this update and wording. The church would have been well aware of this by the time they began filming the video. Wouldn’t it have been good timing for the church to reassure the members that further clarifications would be forthcoming? And that the church recognized there were a myriad of individual circumstances that would need to be taken into account? That the church was aware of the pain and anguish this policy was resulting in, and that they would work hard to expand on the language to help local leadership understand how to implement this? The policy change became public on November 5, the video was released on Nov 6, and it is now November 12. There has been no clarification. If the church had these exceptions/clarifications prepared, why is it taking so long to release them? Or is this delay due to not anticipating the need for these?

# 8 – If the church provides additional clarification, and allows exceptions for children who have divorced parents (mixed-orientation marriage), how will these exceptions work? Will it be based on specific percentage requirements for the amount of time they can live in the home of the parent that is cohabiting or in a same-sex marriage? After they turn 18, does this requirement end (say, for instance, a student at BYU that lives with a gay parent during a term break)?

OK so perhaps it was more like 8 groups of questions I’d like to ask!

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Boy Scouts Edition!

Peeved about the inclusion of gay scout leaders, the CoJCL-dS is toying with dropping the Boy Scouts as a component of the church’s official youth program for American boys. (I guess it’s not good enough that they still allow discrimination against atheists and women.) The LDS Newsroom released the following statement:

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is deeply troubled by today’s vote by the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board. In spite of a request to delay the vote, it was scheduled at a time in July when members of the Church’s governing councils are out of their offices and do not meet. When the leadership of the Church resumes its regular schedule of meetings in August, the century-long association with Scouting will need to be examined. The Church has always welcomed all boys to its Scouting units regardless of sexual orientation. However, the admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America.

As a global organization with members in 170 countries, the Church has long been evaluating the limitations that fully one-half of its youth face where Scouting is not available. Those worldwide needs combined with this vote by the BSA National Executive Board will be carefully reviewed by the leaders of the Church in the weeks ahead.”

What’s wrong with that statement? Well, for one thing:

“The Church has always welcomed all boys to its Scouting units regardless of sexual orientation.”

Really? It would certainly have come as a surprise to Elder Jack Goaslind, who in 1991 said that he “would recommend that the church withdraw from the Boy Scouts of America if the church is forced to register homosexual Scouts.” Openly gay Mormon youths could not officially be BSA Scouts until 2014, when the BSA’s policy changed (a move which the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints admirably did not oppose, having distanced itself somewhat from the attitudes of 1991). It would be better to say that “The Church has always welcomed all boys to its Scouting units regardless of sexual orientation for as long as the BSA has had that policy,” which, of course, is pretty meaningless.

Plus a lighter point:

First, I was not aware that the church gets an entire month long vacation every July. What is this? Europe??

BTW, Europe is awesome, and I heartily agree that the US should adopt more reasonable vacation policies. Practically everybody here is astonished/horrified that Americans (not including the church leaders) get so little vacation.

Anyway, the biggest gaffe in the whole passive-aggressive statement was the bit where they said “As a global organization with members in 170 countries, the Church has long been evaluating the limitations that fully one-half of its youth face where Scouting is not available.” Pro-tip:

Pssst – Brethren, just for the record (and not that you care) but half of your “youth” are actually…
GIRLS!

I admit this poorly chosen wording probably doesn’t reflect the Brethren’s intent. Most likely it’s the work of some underpaid sexist ding-a-ling in church PR. Nevertheless, there is a Freudian resonance to it. If by “youth” the Mormons mean “boys” one must assume that, in similar church statements, by “adults” they mean “men.”

And why not? When a Mormon girl turns twelve, she goes straight from Primary to a boring, grown-up regimen of marriage and motherhood. Then, when she finally grows up and gets married, she’s relegated back to the standing she enjoyed in Primary. I understand that nowadays, girls as young as 8 are required to attend mind-numbingly boring “women’s” conferences, making the Mormon female’s experience bizarrely backwards – robbed of her childhood as a girl, robbed of her adulthood as a woman.

Many people noticed that it’s pretty strange of the CoJCoL-dS to be worrying about a few gay leaders at boys’ camp when they insist on having straight male leaders at girls’ camp, not to mention having straight men asking teenage girls about their sexuality in closed-door interviews.

Even the more orthodox believing blogs smell a rat:

The part of this that is driving me crazy is that the national BSA is allowing religious backed troops to continue to discriminate. This announcement doesn’t affect LDS troops At All. Nothing has changed for the church.

The church’s problem with the announcement is that they don’t want anyone ELSE to have inclusive troop leadership.

Wha???

[…]

We have no business telling others how to run their Boy Scout programs. No secular Boy Scout group has insisted that the Mormon troops run the same program they do.

Actually, not all of the faithful had a problem with the statemant. Comments include “I will agree with whatever decision the church decides” — see Expert Textperts for more!

In the end, maybe a split would be better for both sides.

The polarization was strong this past week. The folks who think Mormonism is the key to happiness took issue with the following:

By contrast, a few days ago the sidebar had a link saying:

Kate and John don’t want you to be miserable anymore

I assumed this piece must be a parody, it was so over-the-top and offensive. But as I have seen others comment as though this is real, perhaps I was wrong to presume that Kate and John had more decency and self respect than to pen such a piece.

Here is an excerpt, speaking of those who are not fleeing Mormonism:

“Because it really is your choice. A weird choice, to be sure. To be frank, literally impossible to comprehend that you would choose–actually choose–bondage and darkness and humiliation when you could be an actual person, breathing the euphoric air of freedom and jubilation and glee and ecstasy and euphoria and rapture.

I read the piece, and I think it’s not serious — it’s a parody of the way apostates are “loved” by believers. Nonetheless, in an unrelated article, the empire struck back with the following remarks about the Book of Mormon Musical (now playing in Salt Lake City!!!):

Mormons should find this show offensive. Well, yes, they should.

But not because they’re Mormons. They should be offended because they’re human beings.

OK, so this is my all-time favorite musical, not just because it’s brilliantly funny but also because of the way it profoundly expresses some of my own experiences growing up Mormon. But I guess I’d be offended by it, if only I were a human being. Thanks a lot, Deseret News!! Can’t we all just get along? Guess not…

The faithful are presenting their own musical in Salt Lake City as well: Nephi and the Sword of Laban by Sherry Allred. Interesting choice of subject matter for someone who ostensibly wants to make the church look good. I suppose next she’ll be doing a musical Rom-Com featuring Joseph Smith and Helen Mar Kimball…?

Also, the CoCJoL-dS has a new rogue prophet, Julie Rowe. Any bets on how long before she gets ex’d?

In non-Mormon-related weirdness, some people put together a video to make it appear as though Planned Parenthood is selling baby parts, and somehow this nonsense is being treated as serious political discussion (pushing out hard issues we seriously need to address). Knotty analysed the connection with Cecil the Lion. In other not-exactly-Mormon-related, Hermia Lyly wrote a great bestiary of bad allies — be sure to read it all the way to the punchline at the end!!

But let’s get back to the Mormon news and commentary! Kevin Barney wrote a good explanation of the tribe-of-Israel lineages in Patriarchal Blessings. And if you want to know more about real Mormon lineages, you can participate in the Mormon genome project! Eyewitness testimony’s connection with the gospel. And a student’s portrayal of Heavenly Mother mysteriously vanished from a display at BYU.

In life journeys, atheist Mormon housewife has been learning to answer moral questions for herself. The Sinister Porpoise is expressing gratitude. Chelsey Sidler-Lartey explained mixed episodes. candidecando offered some good advice on making a mixed-faith marriage work. Steve Bloor wrote an allegory with a similar point to ProfXM’s post. AnotherClosetAtheist designed a flow chart illustrating the path of getting locked into Mormonism. Steve Otteson started questioning the church while sharing the great Plan of Happiness… with already happy people. And the Wicked Witch helped a gay Mormon kid come out!!

And in fun stuff, Froggey found a place that contains “elements of magic, serenity, sorcery and mystery.”

In closing, I hope you’ve enjoyed our three articles here this past week — stay tuned for some book reviews and more in the weeks to come!!

A MESSAGE TO ALL HOMOPHOBIC PEOPLE AND A LETTER TO MY MOTHER

A MESSAGE TO ALL HOMOPHOBIC PEOPLE

Another 17 year old boy named Jack Denton Reese committed suicide on April 22 in Mountain Green, Utah after being bullied for being feminine and/or gay, the day before his boyfriend Alex Smith spoke at a panel about the bullying Jack experienced.  The panel was held in connection with the screening of the documentary film, “Bullied.” Alex did not even know that his boyfriend had already killed himself the day before the panel convened. “You’ll always be remembered,” wrote a close friend on the mortuary’s guest book. “I know you’re looking down on us all right now, telling us all to be ourselves no matter what people say or how harshly they judge. I know it because that’s all you wanted. I love you, Jack. Love forever in our hearts. You’re amazing just the way you are.” And “I remember Jack when he was in our ward and when he would pass the sacrament,” reads another entry. “What a handsome and dedicated young man!” Jack attended Morgan and Weber High schools. On April 27, Weber High students attended class in their Sunday best in Jack’s honor.

Although I am not personally so affected by personal attacks on me (at least I do not let it show), my heart bleeds and my soul aches with severe pain and extreme anguish when I read these stories; and the tears come gushing out.  Jack and his boyfriend Alex are so cute, cuddly and adorable and innocent looking, that it hurts me all the more and makes the intense pain unforgettable.  It almost makes me want to go out and kill those dam f$&%ing bastards who did the bullying (and I do not care if you pardon my French or Not). I am simply baffled and hurt, and cannot believe that this innocent boy is no longer with us and that his gorgeous and awesome presence will no longer be around for us to see him grow up to be a man.  I don’t just cry, but I bawl every time that I look at his beautiful and flawless face.  How can anyone in this cruel world, possibly want to hurt or tease, or ridicule or in any fashion bully this most wonderful and adorable boy.

It is my greatest hope that those who provoked this beautiful child to kill himself and cause so much pain to his equally gorgeous boyfriend, that they suffer the pains of hell and degradation that only a vengeful God in all his wrath and fury can unleash to their miserable souls.  May they rot in hell and in endless and eternal torment with gnashing of teeth and the pains of eternal damnation and May a Just God grind their souls into the oblivion of “outer darkness.”  God the Father says that I must forgive them, but He, God, does not have to forgive them and it is my wish that he not forgive them as he says he does not have too.  Oh how exquisite and endless will be their pain and no man will know the eternal torment of these dammed souls, only those assigned to the awful pit of hell and the internal endless lake of fire and the smoke that ascends up forever and ever, only they will know the eternal anguish of that dark and horrible place.  Give them all you got Lord God and do not hold back one iota of your eternal wrath, even the endless wrath of almighty God the Father who is quick and powerful and slow to hear the cries of the wicked.  I personally never want to see them again or hear their hatred and prejudice and bigotry and cruel remarks again.

I may have to forgive such people but I do not have to forget and I do not have to wish for God to forgive them either and I certainly do not, hell no!  I may even be commanded to love such individuals but I do not and will not love, condone, or in any way accept their evil actions and intentions for which they will suffer for all of eternity.  God did not say that I could not hate and loathe their damnable behavior for which he God will never forgive or give pardon to.  Christians say “Love the sinner but hate the sin” and that is exactly what I am doing here and I am no hypocrite either. (Thanks for letting me vent).

MY LAMENTATION:

My, my, my how I cry, cry, cry and say why, why, why and want to die, die, die and I hope you sigh, sigh, sigh when you nod good bye, bye, bye to the kid who die, die, die died.

IT’S PRETTY “LAME” ALRIGHT, ISN’T IT?

I will never forget the story of Jack Reese and his boyfriend Alex Smith.  Just another Gay Mormon boy child whose candle went out to soon like a candle in the wind, even before we got to know the beautiful baby or even say good bye!

I WOULD ALSO LIKE TO SAY TO WHOEVER MAY BE INTERESTED:

My comprehension of my own life is that I am a truly wise person; I know this because I have been told by many that I have the gift of discernment and the bible says that all who have the gift of discernment especially at a young age, and I did at the ripe old age of 10 years old, are truly those individuals that will not only have wisdom but will be wise indeed AND NOT BE CONFOUNDED.

A MESSAGE AND LETTER TO MY MOTHER IF SHE WERE PRESENT

So in conjunction with that I wish to say to my Mother, if she were still alive; and she is not:

Hi Mom its Robin Lee Johnson here, your second oldest son who grew up like the oldest because I was the only boy amongst my siblings after my older brother passed away.  I have wanted to tell you that when you clapped your hands over your ears, and yelled at me at the top of your lungs: “Shut the F%$#@ up!!, and don’t ever speak to me about this again” when I tried to tell you that I was being repeatedly and forcibly molested at the ranch; you really hurt my feelings and made me think that you did not love me or even care about me at all.  Not only that, but you did not protect me, and so I was repeatedly molested again and again after that and raped also.  There was no use telling you, because you would not listen to me in the first place.  I learned to be helpless because I was being forced to do something I did not want to do, and no one was there to help me, not you Mom, or Dad either.  Only Cassie my little 5 year old sister tried to help when I asked her for her help, but failed also, in the end, because he viciously threatened and scared her away.  I was hurt badly and still bear the deep emotional wounds of your actions (and lack of appropriate actions) to this day, some 40 years later!

Because I was emotionally damaged for your lack of intervention on my part, I hold you responsible for many of my emotional problems and mental illnesses with their accompanying years of psychological as well as physical pain.

I can only imagine how you would react to the news that I am a faggot, queer or homosexual.  Would you react the same way as when I tried to tell you I was being molested by an ugly 52 year old man when I was just 10 years old?  Would you support your only surviving son, out of the 14 boys that you conceived but never got to raise?  Or would you just hate me for being gay and therefore show to me that it was wise of the Lord to not let you raise my other brothers because in all likelihood some of them would probably be homosexual also.

You were there for my older sister when she got raped at gun point and also for my two younger sisters when they were molested by that “Hell’s Angel” character; and you did all in your power to bring them to justice including court trials in which I even testified at when I was just 12 years old.  Why did you try and help them and not me?  Are you that different in your treatment of girls over boys or are you so homophobic that the very thought of me being with another male disgusted you to the point of holding back your love from me in my greatest time of need?!?

In any case, I forgive you only because I have the capacity to do so, and God has commanded me to do so.  But until I die, I will always wonder if you will accept me for who I am when you know the truth about me; that I am gay as hell!  I always figured that it would be Dad that would reject me for my sexual orientation and even want to go out and shoot me in order to put away that filthy faggot!

Daddy did not really support me being gay, but at least he did not reject me either.  He did not understand me being gay and I suspect that he does not even understand the homosexual people at all, not the slightest clue; because like the Mormon Church, he does not give it the time of day, because he has always believed that homosexuality was simply evil.

I do not blame my Dad for his attitude, because he was taught this attitude by the Mormon Church and other so-called Christian organizations and people.  My Dad was not sophisticated enough to be able to tell when someone was wrong or right, especially not in social and family issues or even matters of the heart.  He was simple, yet he agreed with those he chose to agree with and would say: “to hell with everyone else.”  My Dad even told me that he was angry with the Church leaders, who he said had no right to excommunicate me like they did and that he felt that they were wrong.  In that way I did get some support from my Dad, but I do not know if it was more or less that he usually disagreed with Church leaders anyway, or if it really was just supporting his son over the Church.  Either way, I am glad that he said what he said.  In a lot of ways my Daddy was cool and a somewhat fair man, but a poor man just the same; poor financially and spiritually.  I love my father, so don’t get me wrong, he never tried to destroy us with words like my Mother was always trying to do to us kids.

Also don’t misunderstand me Mom; and think that I do not love you, because I do; and I am not taking Dad’s side over yours either, it is just that you are the one that failed me when I was always loyal to you.  This is something that you did not understand, like the day you permanently exiled me from your life and told me to “get the F@#$%& out of my house, and I hope the door hits you in the ass on the way out too” when I was 17 years old and a junior in high school.  You were the one that got me put in a foster home because you fought with our Landlord about my sister not doing the dishes, and then you, because of your pride, threw our butts on the street, not because the landlord said we had to go, but because you were angry.  And when I tried to inquire as to when I could move back home, after you and my younger sisters had moved back home already, and you asked me first before I could open my mouth, “So when are you going to move back in son” you threw me out of the house because I answered “I don’t know…” (You did not let me finish, either!)

You did this because you thought, I was not sure that I wanted to move back home, because like usual, you did not let me finish talking, for I was trying to say: “I do not know, when do you want me to move back in, because I am ready at any time to move back in, but it is your call.”  Mom, you have always been the boss, no one in this world tells you what to do, that is why I answered the way that I did.  But you assumed that I was going to say something like: ‘I don’t know if I really want to move back in’ and thus you figured that I was not being absolutely loyal to you.

Quite ironic when you think about it though, isn’t it?  The fact that you were the one that was not loyal to me on several occasions and I was never disloyal to you ever.  So if you threw me out of the house when I was a minor child, and did not give me a chance to explain myself, all because I did not answer a question of yours exactly the way you wanted me too, then I can only imagine what wrath you would pour down on me when you discover that, God forbid, my son is queer!  I for one fear your wrath, more than the wrath of Almighty God.  I ask for your forgiveness mother, in advance, if I have offended you in anyway; for you always said that we were a reflection upon you, and that whatever we did either complimented you or were an embarrassment to you.  I can only hope that you are not embarrassed by me because I am gay!

Your Loving son Robin Lee Johnson!

Mormon Moment Series on poetrysansonions.blogspot.com

Ahhhhh! The smell of fresh, juicy, slightly wrong Mormon blog posts. It must be Sunday!

I have been doing a series of posts related to Mormon and Post-Mormon issues that seem to be *hot* this year. With more and more people interested in Mormons, and now the change in rules for when male and female missionaries are allowed to serve, the Bloggernacle keep heating up! So, if you missed the first posts in the series (because I was a slacker and wasn’t cross posting) here is your chance to catch up. If you have been catching them on my blog, you will notice they are a little different. Thanks to Kevin who suggested that I should include the topic of the post in the title, and not jsut which post number it is. Ahhhhh, aren’t friends great for helping you see your blind spots? I am glad I have so many friends looking out for me.

I am using the same introduction for each post, both because I think that it helps keep them uniform, but also so I don’t have to try to come up with 20 ways to say the same thing!

What this series is about:

If you are Mormon, you are probably sick of hearing about the Mormon Moment. There are so many people who are suddenly interested in Mormon culture, and there are lots of Mormon bloggers that are cashing in and sharing their stories. Some of the stories end up being kind of silly, but if you are simply trying to get people to read about what is important to you, the Mormon Moment is one way to draw people in.

I do not want people to think that I don’t respect the bloggers whose posts I am sharing. All of them are good bloggers, and most of them write about Mormon topics all of the time. I have no doubt that they would have shared these thoughts and stories at some point, but as one friend told me the other day, “in the race to the election, bloggers are pushing hard to attract new readers before the Mormon Moment is gone.” So, to help you, I sifted through hundreds of posts to share the ones that I still remember. (This group of posts are nowhere near a complete view of Mormon bloggers. All of the bloggers are either Mormons, post-Mormons, or write about Mormon issues, even when it isn’t election time.)

So, what have you missed?

Mormon Moment Series – Part One – Mormon Mind Control?

Mormon Moment Series – Part Two – Ayn Rand and Quirks in Mormon Culture

Mormon Moment Series – Part Three – Modesty, Perfection and Secrets

Mormon Moment Series – Part Four –Why can’t we seem to say what we mean?

Mormon Moment Series – Part Five –Fasting For Followers!

Mormon Moment Series – Part Six – Who is a Mormon?

While it is not officially part ofmy Mormon Moment Series, please take a minutes and check out this post about Mormons, Masterbation, and the story of a teenager driven to attempt suicide, because of his wet dreams.

But for the Grace of God….

This post is about a teen suicide attempt and some of the actions that led to it. The language is not vulgar, but it is specific. Please read only if, it is emotionally safe for you. A few days ago, I sent an email out to several family members and friends about a post on the Mormon Therapistblog. It deals with a sensitive subject, so please understand that this particular linked post is not g-rated, although it will not include any explicit language either. If you are uncomfortable with discussions about sexuality, masturbation, how to teach adults and children healthy sexual attitudes, or the negative impacts of shame, I suggest you skip this post, and not click onto the linked article.”
You can go here to read the entire post, including the responses from TBMs who are supportive of Mormon Therapist’s view, who also explain how the email about this young man touched their lives, and the lives of their children. This is a bold stand from all sides, as Mormon Therapist boldly proclaims, “Masturbation is not sinful behavior in of itself nor is it a transgression.”
We live in a time of great turmoil, and out youth especially need to love and support to deal with a variety of challenges. From masturbation to Coke, homosexuality to the age of sister missionaries, the church is changing or softening on a number of important issues. I believe that we need to support those who are members of the church, who continually ask questions and look for answers. I also believe that current and former members need to find common ground, in as many areas as they can, and work together on those shared goals. Almost every post-Mormon still has family or friends who are members of the church. Almost every member of the church knows someone who has left, been kicked out, or is inactive. While there are very real hurts on all sides, I believe that coming together and being the chance we want to see in our own lives, the lives of our family members, and in the lives of all of the children we love, can make that change a reality.
Whether you are celebrating General Conference today, or are in mourning because of it, there are always ways to find a little common ground, a little place of friendship, a little piece of shared light. We do not have to change our minds about our belief or lack thereof. What we can do is put the first brick into creating a bridge, that will help span the gap between us, and the children and youth who need to know that it gets better, no matter what your sexual orientation or habits!

One last link. If you have a talent to share, leave a comment, and you could be the lucky winner of a pair of pearl stud earrings!

Moral Nostalgia and the Movies

This post was inspired by A teenager speaks on new movie standards.

In her recent discussion of the current state of movies, and particularly award winning movies, Camila B. states that she is concerned about “movies throughout the decades and the negative changes that I have noticed.” She then goes on to lament that “the corruption viewed daily by millions of people is disgusting.”

The remainder of her post is pure nostalgia for the “good old days” when “movies portrayed beautiful messages, filled with great acting and baroque orchestral pieces that penetrated deep in to your core. These movies brought laughter with wit and romance with subtlety; they brought morality. It saddens me that we have lost that throughout the years.”

She closes with “My only request is to come out of a movie theater without feeling awkward, confused, and dirty. I would love to feel refreshed and glad to have watched something that has inspired me for once. For now, Ill just stick to the movies of previous decades until something new comes along.”

After reading her post, I am left to wonder, 1) should I really believe the word of a teenager about what was or wasn’t true in the world of movies and entertainment “throughout the decades,”, 2) is moral nostalgia part of human nature, or is it more a function of social and religious conservatism, 3) really, no uplifting movies in the past 5-6 years of her short life, and 4) what is about the movies that gets Mormons all tied up in knots?

What is moral nostalgia? It’s simply the view that life and society was more moral in the past than it is today. Unfortunately, moral nostalgia simply isn’t true. It’s not true of society in generally, and it’s certainly not true when applied to Hollywood.

Movies have always pushed the boundaries of what is socially acceptable even the 40s and 50s, those days of social conservatism that so many Mormons wish they were still living in.

Consider the following list of movies, all of which were nominated for best picture in the 40s and 50s (winners in bold, controversial themes in parentheses):

All About Eve, A Streetcar Named Desire (homosexuality, nymphomania, and rape), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (homosexuality, frank sexual dialogue),The Apartment (adultery, suicide), A Place in the Sun (murder, using sex to advance ones social standing),From Here to Eternity (beach sex scene), Anatomy of a Murder (rape/murder).

All of these movies were controversial to some degree or other, because of content that was felt to be outside of social norms. Yet, today they are considered fairly mild, even by Mormon standards. In 1939 censors even pushed to change the line, Frankly my dear, I dont give a damn. Yet, Camila and other Mormons forget this, because the movies appeal to their sense of what is moral, at this time.

A few years ago there was a great discussion here about the nature of sex and violence in the movies (Rated R ‘just for violence”). And just this week a discussion about the use of F-word in The King’s Speech at Wheat and Tares (The Kings F#!$@ Speech). While these discussions don’t rely upon moral nostalgia to make any points, they do reflect the importance of movies in society. As well as the importance of choosing the movies we, and our children, subject ourselves to. They simply reflect how movies affect us in the here and now.

That’s the beauty of movies (and other art); no matter when they were created, they can have an effect upon our present. And that’s what’s wrong with moral nostalgia and the movies, we project our current morals and standards on movies of bygone eras and say, “Look! These movies are uplifting and contain nothing objectionable. Why can’t they make movies like that anymore?” But we forget that morals and standards have changed, and that in 50 years people will look back at The Black Swan and say, “They don’t make movies like they used to, do they?”

(n.b. Kuri, a frequent commenter here, posts his own rebuttal of Camila B. as well.)

1965 “For the Strength of Youth”

Publisher’s Note: J. Seth Anderson toils in Outer Blogness at Boy Meets Blog and was recently featured in Jordan Currier’s Disciples. We could use a few more dispatches from the southerly ends of the Morridor around here at MSP and Seth promises to help us do something about that.

I have come into possession of a 1965 version of “For the Strength of Youth.” The Church has published 9 editions of this pamphlet beginning in 1965, then in 1966, two in 1968, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1990, and 2001. This particular version I have is a time-capsule of a Mormon Church and a Mormon culture that I never knew.

The 1965 edition is prefaced with a short letter from the First Presidency: David O. McKay, Hugh B. Brown, and N. Eldon Tanner. This “treatise” as they call it was prepared by general officers of the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Associations, “the Brigham Young University” and a large group of representative youth. The First Presidency admonished that all members of the Church familiarize themselves with the “suggestions” and “conform to the regulations set forth.”

The 1965 edition is only 16 pages long, with large print and sketches of exceedingly Caucasian, middle-class Utahans.
The topics covered are:

Dress
“Grubbies,” Curlers, Hair Fashions
Good Grooming
Dating
Acceptable Dancing
Clean Living

One of the things I find most interesting is that there are no scripture citations in the 1965 version, nothing is pinned down to what was then current doctrine. The only reference to deity is in the preface where the First Presidency reminds the reader that conformity to established rules is a “necessary prerequisite to the blessing promised to those who obey and keep His commandments.” But unlike the version of “For the Strength of Youth” that I grew up reading, the one from 1965 has a good-natured, well-meaning tone like you are reading a personal letter from a grandparent; it does not feel dogmatic. Many of the recommendations are good advice, things like being polite and expressing appreciation. And some of the advise makes me roll my eyes and laugh. The pamphlet states, “A ‘real lady’ does not go out in public, to the market, or to shops with her hair in curlers.”
I also enjoyed the advice about dancing, “The dance should not be a grotesque contortion of the body such as shoulder or hip shaking or excessive body jerking.”

I was surprised by the theme running throughout the 16 pages. Yes, it is a little overbearing in parts, but the reader is often asked to use wisdom to make a good decision.

The current edition of “For the Strength of Youth” is 44 pages, the list of topics is much longer and all are framed in doctrine with scriptural references. I came of age in the 90s and was asked to give talks using the 1990 edition of “For The Strength of Youth” as a reference. I also read it often while searching for answers to my questions. The pamphlet made explicit the rules and commandments I was supposed to be following, I didn’t have to use wisdom.

I suppose one could argue that we live in more difficult times so more guidance would be necessary, and thus a longer pamphlet. I don’t buy that. In 1965 people were still having sex and using drugs, the country was in the middle of a costly war, an oppressed minority was standing up and demanding equality, and a far rightwing political movement was calling everyone who disagreed with their ideology communists and socialists.

In the 2001 edition the First Presidency states in the preface that god has given commandments and that the “guidelines” in the pamphlet are true principles. In other words, the issues contained in the current version are black and white, the thinking has been done, these are the rules and if you’re not living up to them you are not living up to the commandments.

At least that’s how I felt reading the pamphlet as a Mormon youth and maybe that’s why the 1965 edition surprised me: it’s a relic of a church I never knew, a reflection of a culture pre-correlation, and a reminder that members were at one time not nearly as micromanaged as they are now.

Im with shuck face

Shuck Face Shirt

The Salt Lake Tribune reports: Deseret Book wont carry Utah authors latest novel

This latest book from James Dashner contains language some of our customers would find offensive, said Gail Halladay, managing director of marketing at Deseret Book …

The Scorch Trials, the story of teenagers trekking across a dystopian landscape …

includes words such as damn and this sucks, as well as the phrase shuck it.

So far, 38 44 readers like this Trib comment:

“But they’ll carry Glenn Beck’s bound toilet paper?”

Cue facepalm* and what the holy scrud? … soundtrack courtesy of the Sons of Provo (available at finer Deseret Book outlets everywhere):

*Then again, Dashner attended BYU and currently lives in South Jordan City with his wife and four children. How the heck could he not know the G-rated lexicon of permissible Utah non-profanities? Whatever. His bannination is still shuckin’ bullfit (say that ten times fast).

4,500 protesters encircle Temple Square

Tons of photos and video here.

CNN: Friday’s intriguing people: Eric Ethington

AP report w/ photos at the link: Utah Gay Activists Protest Mormon Church Remarks

Pride in Utah: 4500 Protest Against Boyd K Packer And LGBT Suicides

Mormon Expression: Episode 87: The October 7th 2010 LDS Protest

John Larsen and Jim take to the streets to interview participants at the Pride in Utah protest at temple square on October 7th 2010.

Salt Lake Tribune: Thousands ring Temple Square to protest LDS apostles words

Salt Lake Tribune: Mormon apostle’s words about gays spark protest

Salty Gossip: Over 4,000 Attend Protest! Succcesssssssssssssss!! (w/ private video)

Deseret News: 2,000-3,000 protest for gay rights outside Mormon church offices in Salt Lake City

KSL: 600 gay rights activists protest LDS Church leader’s remarks (I’ll leave ridicule of that 600 figure to this guy).

“I was listening to General Conference with my family, who is all LDS, when it was happening; and I heard that speech and I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t mad, I was sad,” protester Tiffany Rock-Ward said.

FOX13: Thousands of gay activists held a silent protest Thursday evening outside the headquarters of the Mormon church in Salt Lake City

QSaltLake: Thousands Surround LDS Temple Square in Protest of Packer Speech

LGBTQNation: Thousands protest outside Mormon church over LDS leaders anti-gay remarks

ABC4: Protesters circle Temple Square to condemn anti-gay remarks by LDS Church leader

Write On!™ Public Relations: Utah LGBT Activists Hold Silent Demonstration

KUTV (Utah): LDS Church Leader Changes Some Words In Controversial Speech

In terms of the internal LDS debate/dialogue, this change strikes me as perhaps more important than the others: Guide is the new Revelation

On Top Magazine: Mormon Church Says Boyd Packer ‘Simply Clarified His Intent’

LGBTQNation (Eric Ethington): Mormon church edits transcript of Packers anti-gay hate speech

Salt Lake Tribune: Petition against Packers speech draws 100,000 signatures

Salt Lake Tribune: Packer talk jibes with LDS stance after tweak

Deseret News: Mormon church clarifies intent of President Boyd K. Packer’s talk