Why In The World Did We Walk In a Pride Parade?

pride parade pic 6-7-15

A few years ago, we NEVER would have entertained the idea of walking in a Pride Parade. Like many LDS people, we felt that would be “condoning sin” and supporting the wrongful choices of others. So, why would we change our minds? Well, this is just one way we are trying to follow the Lord’s command to show love to our brothers and sisters, especially those in our society who feel so very little.

Is it possible that concerning our LGBTQI brothers and sisters we have put the 2nd great commandment to “Love One Another” aside and put judging our fellowman above loving them?

Over the past several years, as we have tried our best to follow the feelings and impressions we have received, our hearts have been greatly softened. We would like to help provide understanding and encourage compassion because we now see both sides clearly, not just one side. We have gone through a lot to have those softened hearts. We have prayed, attended the temple, studied and fasted about this very issue. We hope for more kindness, and sensitivity in the way LGBTQI issues are discussed. It seems some of the harshest comments come from those who have no comprehension at all about these issues, and they do not wish to understand at all. People are more apt to be kinder when they try to see where another person is coming from or have heard their story.

As a religious community, we have shown that we “hate the sin” but where are we showing we “love the sinner?”…I’m using this horrible statement since it has been used a lot lately towards LGBTQI people. The phrase is based in judgment, which we have no business doing towards other people. You can judge righteously for yourself, but you can never judge another person’s life without error. Never. If anyone tells me I can, no matter who it is, I remember the words of our Savior as told to us by Mormon, “Behold what the scripture says-man shall not smite neither shall he judge; for judgment is mine, saith the Lord…” He never gave us the right to judge other people. That right is only His. We should be so grateful that He will be our judge.

One of the ways we follow the Savior is when those in prison are visited. Usually it is leaders in our wards and stakes that will go. They go to share God’s love for those that are incarcerated and to provide hope and uplift to those that are some of the “least” among us. One of the things the Savior said was, “I was in prison, and ye came unto me…. Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”  Are those that are visiting condoning the sins of those men/women by going to the prison to visit them? Are they supporting the horrible things some of these people have done when they show love and compassion for them? No, they are following the Savior’s example…the example we all should be trying to follow. Love your brothers and sisters…the Lord will be the judge.

There is one group in society that we have made the “least of these.” People that have been horribly marginalized, judged harshly, dehumanized and made to feel they are the cause of the destruction of families and the bringing about the end of the world (this issue has been a HUGE distraction from the things that are truly destroying our families such as: porn addiction, drug addiction, child abuse, sexual abuse, verbal, physical, and even spiritual abuse, pride, materialism, inappropriate media, etc…but that is for another post)  Can you imagine what that must be like being told all of the time that YOU are destroying other people’s families? How many days can you go before you hear a negative comment about anyone LGBTQI? Right now, I don’t go one day without hearing or seeing a comment like that and unfortunately it is from those who are religious. So many of the LGBTQI are good people and yet we treat them as if they are the enemy. Many LGBTQI in Utah are returned missionaries. They served the Lord giving up 2 years of their lives. They come home and try as hard as they can to live a life of being alone and celibate. Eventually, many give up because they just can’t live that way. They know their only choice to remain in good standing is being celibate or living a lie in a marriage with a partner of the opposite sex that usually ends in divorce. Some have been able to live these lives, but the percentage is very small.  No matter your personal views, can you at least try and think of how you would feel? Try to see from another person’s viewpoint? We have made people our enemy that are not our enemy.

So, this is why we walked in the Pride Parade….to say, “We love you!” We walked with the group, Mormons Building Bridges. This is a group that’s only purpose is to show love to the LGBTQI community from the LDS community. They keep their views in line with current Church doctrine. As a group, we wore our Sunday clothes and only held signs with messages of love from the prophets, scriptures, primary songs and hymns. The sign we made said, Love One Another. As we gathered, there was a sound system that was reverently playing beautiful hymns. Before the parade began, there was an opening song, an opening prayer, and a short talk on loving our brothers and sisters. The Spirit was there! I know the feeling of the Spirit and it was there!!

As we began to walk, the streets were lined with tons of people! I had no idea that there would be that many people there. We were #47 in the parade. At the front of our group (about 200 people in our group), a few members were holding the Mormons Building Bridges sign. We all followed behind. As we would walk by, the crowd would erupt in cheering and clapping!! Our little family walked on the edge close to the people. As we walked, we could see people with tears in their eyes. Some had tears running down their faces, and one woman was so overcome she was weeping. Ben went over and asked if he could give her a hug and she threw her arms around him. People came up to us over and over again shaking our hands and saying, “Thank you” and “Thank you so much!” This was not just a few times, but over and over again all through the parade route people were expressing their gratitude that we would come and show our love. It was such an amazing and spiritual experience. Yes, the Pride Parade was a spiritual experience. We had so many people coming up to us while we were in the middle of walking in the parade to shake our hands, or high five as we walked by and saying thank you, that we were overcome with such love for them. Afterwards though, there was something that made us very sad. The crowd seemed to cheer louder for us than most of the other groups. Why was that? Because we were “Mormons who loved them.” We thought to ourselves, shouldn’t they look at our banner and think, “There are the Mormons. They love everybody.”

We say we love everyone, but they aren’t hearing it. Maybe it is because they aren’t seeing it?? Do our words reflect our actions? Do they only hear the condemnation and see no love? I am afraid that is the truth. We need to do better. We must do better. I look forward to the day when Mormons Building Bridges isn’t such a big deal to the people that are watching the parade. There go the Mormons…they love everybody.

The Church’s Changing Stance on Homosexuality and LGBT issues~

One thing we have found interesting, is that people don’t seem to know that the Church has come a long way in its thoughts and misconceptions on LGBT issues.They used to teach incorrect ideas on homosexuality.They taught according to the knowledge the world had at that time. As we have learned more, the leaders have also, and they have slowly been changing their position as more and more comes to light that we didn’t know before. Here is a little timeline of just a few things that show the change of position over the last few years. You will notice that after WWII, there was a dramatic increase in hostility towards homosexuality and that around the 1990’s, the stance began to soften.

22 January 1843– Joseph Smith teaches that God destroyed Sodom for “rejecting the prophets.”

In Ezekiel we read:…48“As I live,” declares the Lord GOD, “Sodom, your sister and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. 49“Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. 50“Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it.…”

Interestingly, we have all probably been taught it was destroyed because of homosexuals. It wasn’t. Go read the story again in the Bible…Sodom was horribly wicked in many ways. But nope, it wasn’t because of “gay people” that it was destroyed.

2 October 1952 – Second Counselor J. Reuben Clark gives a talk at the Relief Society general conference warning against “self-pollution, prostitution, and homosexuality, which it is tragic to say, is found among both sexes.” He states that homosexuals “exercised great influence in shaping our art, literature music, and drama” implying the idea that homosexuals were outside the Mormon culture but that homosexuality could be imported and spread.

1954– Clark speaks to the priesthood session and tells those in the congregation to avoid “that filthy crime of homosexuality.” His use of the word “crime” shows the expanding definition of homosexuality within Mormonism in the 1950s. Not only did Church leaders perceive homosexuality as a sin, but they began to speak of it as a crime and increasingly as a mental illness that could be cured.

1956-1961– W. Cleon Skousen, former FBI agent and BYU professor took over as Chief of Police and launches his “Morality Crusade.” His administration foreshadowed the Church’s hardening stance against homosexuality in the coming decades. Skousen raids gay bars, repeals liquor licenses, and tries to change state laws involving lewdness or indecent exposure to “enable authorities to commit offenders to the Utah State Hospital for life if medical examination showed them to be mentally ill.”

12 September 1962– Ernest L. Wilkinson, President of BYU, met with BYU general counsel Clyde Sandgren, the new Dean of Students, J. Elliott Cameron, and Apostle Spencer Kimball and Mark E. Petersen “on the question of homosexuals who might possibly be part of the student body.” They developed a cooperative system where Mormon General Authorities and other Church administrators would give BYU any information they obtained about homosexuals on campus and BYU would give Church administrators information about homosexual church members. They decide, “as a general policy that no one will be admitted as a student at the BYU whom we have convincing evidence is a homosexual.”

10 July 1964– Apostle Spencer W. Kimball speaks to seminary and institute teachers at BYU. A large portion of his talk entitled “A Counseling Problem in the Church” address homosexuality. “A cure for this malady [homosexuality] lies in self-mastery.” He also encouraged marriage to get rid of homosexual feelings.

13 November 1965– Ernest L. Wilkinson, President of BYU says in a talk that BYU did not intend to admit any homosexuals to campus. He continued, “if any of you have this tendency and have not completely abandoned it, may I suggest that you leave the university immediately after this assembly…we do not want others on this campus to be contaminated by your presence.”

1968– Homosexual acts added to the General Handbook of Instruction as an excommunicable offense.

1969– Church publishes Miracle of Forgiveness. Chapter 6 is titled, “The Crime Against Nature” where Pres. Kimball asserts that masturbation leads to homosexuality. This was the common thought at this time (along with it being a mental illness). Funny though, if that were true, I would suspect that the well majority of human beings would be homosexual. 🙂 

1970– The Church publishes a 9-page pamphlet titled “Hope for Transgressors.” The pamphlet declares that “homosexuality CAN be cured, if the battle is well organized and pursued vigorously and continuously.”

October General Conference 1976– Apostle Boyd K. Packer gives his now infamous talk entitled “To Young Men Only.” He said some young men are “tempted to handle one another, to have contact with one another in unusual ways.” He commented that “such practices are perversion….Physical mischief with another man is forbidden.” Packer also essentially advocated anti-gay violence in his speech when he recounted the story of a male missionary who had “hit” and “floored” his mission companion, apparently for simply revealing his sexual orientation. Because Elder Packer does not specify the reason for the violent response, the talk leaves interpretation open. Elder Packer told the missionary, “Well, thanks. Somebody had to do it and it wouldn’t be well for a General Authority to solve the problem that way.” Packer told his audience, “I am not recommending that course [of violence] to you but I am not omitting it. You must protect yourself.” The talk was published and is distributed today.

1977-1979– Elder Mark E. Petersen attacked the Gay Rights movement with six harsh editorials for theChurch News writing such things as: “Since homosexuals have become a nationwide entity, and have come out of hiding to demand their place in the sun, many of them claim that they are what they are because they were born that way and cannot help it. How ridiculous is such a claim? It was not God who made them that way, any more than He made bank robbers the way they are.”

The horrible trauma caused by this kind of rhetoric is difficult to measure. Make no mistake, his words along with talks and printed books from Church leaders has influenced and continues to influence generations of gay Mormons who grow up learning to hate themselves. It has also caused many of us to grow up looking down on gay people with disgust.

NOW WATCH HOW THINGS CHANGE…SLOWLY, BUT THERE IS CHANGE:

4 April 1987 – First Counselor Gordon B. Hinckley tells priesthood session of general conference “marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices…” This reverses decades-long church policy formulated by Spencer W. Kimball.

In the 1990’s, there was another policy change: you were no longer excommunicated just for being homosexual. If you hadn’t acted on it, you could remain in full fellowship. From 1968 until this time, just for coming out as gay/lesbian was reason enough for excommunication. It didn’t matter that you had never broken the law of chastity.

In the 2000’s, even though not exactly known why people are homosexual, it is well accepted that most people are born this way and it is complex.The Church leaders start teaching this and impress on people to show love and acceptance to those who are “same-sex attracted.”

25 April 2012– LDS Church accepts new Boy Scout Gay Policy allowing gay scouts to participate in LDS scouting programs.

2012– The LDS Church releases the website Mormons and Gays entitled Love One Another: A Discussion of Same-Sex Attraction. The website states: “Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them.”

This is a recent interactive interview with Elder Oaks. If you want to read all of it I have posted the link.  http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2015/02/13/mormons_and_transgender_elder_dallin_h_oaks_says_the_lds_church_is_open.html

“One question dealt with transgender identity, and the response by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, one of the highest-ranking church leaders, was the most significant—and underreported—statement from that session. A mother said, “I have a transgender son who came out to us about a year ago. … I hate having to fear what retaliation [from church leaders] I might have for supporting him … I think we as members need that assurance that we can indeed have our own opinions, support our children, and still follow our beliefs.”

Oaks responded:

This question concerns transgender, and I think we need to acknowledge that while we have been acquainted with lesbians and homosexuals for some time, being acquainted with the unique problems of a transgender situation is something we have not had so much experience with, and we have some unfinished business in teaching on that.

Oaks’ tone was conciliatory and optimistic. A leader of a church that is famously conservative on gender and sexuality issues expressed some reservations about current teachings on transgender issues, anticipating that more experience might lead to changes. Here and elsewhere, rather than retrenching, the church is showing subtle signs of evolving some of its paradigms on gender and sexual identity.”

What is interesting to me, is that as the Church learns more, they slowly do change. I have wondered why the Lord lets the leaders sometimes be off on things? There have been things taught in the Church that were really quite awful about black people. Why didn’t the Lord just come down and tell the Church leaders they were completely wrong? Why didn’t the Lord make it known years ago that you can’t “pray the gay away” or that it is not a choice? Why aren’t we ahead of what the world knows? I don’t have all of those answers, but as I have prayed about it, I have realized a couple of things.

One is that if the Church were perfect, when would we ever have to exercise any faith that this is His Gospel? How can the Church be perfect when it is run by men? Do we idolize our Church leaders and think they could never make mistakes? But as we can see from what happened with the leaders’ ideas from the later 1800’s to the 1970’s on African American people, they were definitely influenced by the thoughts and traditions of men at that time.They were WAY off. It was eventually straightened out, but it took time.

Number two is that the Lord is letting us (non leaders) work out some issues. We are sometimes referred to as “Blind Sheep” and even though we hate being called that, I believe sometimes we are exactly that. We let the leaders tell us exactly what to think and what to do. Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe that they are really good men that are trying to lead us in the right direction. But, does the Lord sometimes want us to work things out and not expect everything to be handed to us on a silver platter? As we look at the Church’s past, it seems that when it comes to Social Issues, the Lord let’s us stumble until we ask the right questions. There were many people who didn’t feel good about what was happening and being taught in the Church about African Americans. For those who had taken the time and made the effort and prayed and received answers, the Lord gave them an answer that was different from the then current teachings of the Church. He loves our African American brothers and sisters just as much as He loves anyone else and that they are not less than in His eyes …if they pressed the issue with leaders they were threatened with Church discipline.

I feel like the Lord is telling us to THINK, PRAY, LEARN! Come Unto Me. I believe He is also trying to tell us that He is our only Master. Yes, He has given us leaders to help us along the way, but they aren’t perfect. The only one whom we should be following with exactness is the Savior, because He is perfect and he is our Lord. I think He is trying to teach us that. I wonder if we are learning?

Singles in the Church should not be compared to LGBT+ people~

I wrote this recently in response to the comments I have heard many times over comparing single women in the Church to LGBT+ members. I have to admit, I used to think the same thing. I used to think that nothing was asked of LGBT+ members that wasn’t asked of single women. I told my son after he first came out as gay that he could remain in good standing in the Church if he remained celibate. I said to him that he was no different than single women in the Church. They too have to remain celibate. I will never forget him looking into my eyes with great sadness as he said, “Mom, I am nothing like the single women in the Church. They have HOPE!! They have hope that one day they will find someone. There is no hope for me. If I find someone it doesn’t matter, I can’t be with that person. There is no hope.” I have also learned that I didn’t understand the difference between Celibacy and Chastity. Single women are not asked to be celibate, they are asked to live the Law of Chastity. The only group asked to live celibate, which means no relationship at all, are those that are born LGBT.

These were my thoughts I penned for a Facebook post….

Growing up, my best friend and I would go to the old Deseret Gym in downtown SLC. We loved going there and we would swim, hang out in the hot tub and sometimes sneak into the steam room (the age limit was 16 and we were 14 and 15 during those years). We would sit in the hot tub and dream of what our life would be like. We both couldn’t wait to get married and to have children. I wanted to get married at 20 or 21 (yes, naïve teens that actually didn’t realize you don’t get to choose when that will happen). She wanted to be married at 19 and have 6 children. All her life all she wanted was to be a wife and mom. What would it have been like for her, if she had known at 14 years old, the future…that at 45 she would still be unmarried? Would that have been devastating? Absolutely! However, because the Lord is merciful, we don’t know our future.

LGBT people are NOT like single people in the Church. I’ve heard it stated over and over, “They are just like single women. Nothing is expected of them that isn’t asked of a single woman in the Church.” Please keep reading while I share my insight with you.

Our LGBT brothers and sisters know what is expected of them for the rest of their mortal existence to remain in “good standing” in the Church. They know at a young age their future….the companionship of married life and children will be completely unattainable for them if they are to remain “worthy” members. They are not allowed even the hope of someone to walk through life with. Every day is not a new day with renewed hope like there is for a single person, but a realization that there is no hope for you in this life. My cute friend has hope every day that today, or maybe tomorrow, or sometime in this life she will find “Mr. Right.” She may not know when, but she has hope that it will happen. LGBT are not given that gift of hope. HOPE! My friend has struggled, and it is very difficult, but she has HOPE!

Added on top of knowing your future concerning a partner and children, you are looked at as a pariah, something “unnatural” where the very essence of who you are is a point of ridicule, pointing of fingers…”love the sinner, hate the sin”(no person ever feels real love for them coming from this statement…it is a very judgmental statement), debates whether or not you deserve to be served or loved, and lack of any doctrine of hope in this life from most Christian churches. Who you are and what you feel is preached against in Church meetings, in facebook posts…you hear about it everywhere. Your desire to walk through this life not utterly alone is not given any thought and your very being is reduced to a sex act.

We expect a level of sacrifice and commitment of one group of people that is not asked of others. This kind of strength of testimony and commitment takes a lot of time to develop and I wonder how many people ever develop this level during their mortal existence? Yet we ask that of those who are babes in life and babes in their testimonies. They learn as young men and young women their future. A future that is very lonely, and isolating. They are told to make an unbelievable sacrifice for the rest of their lives. Their reward will be in the next life, so you are told to just tough it out and toe the line or you will lose your reward there too.

There is no dating for you. There are NO Church sponsored social activities for you. There is no first kiss, holding hands, falling in love. This is off limits to you…not singles, just you. There are a VERY small percentage of LDS people that have been able to live this kind of lonely life, but the huge majority can’t. Do we really wonder why?? The suicide rate for LGBT LDS teens is heartbreaking….and the vast majority of our brothers and sisters who are LDS and LGBT have been suicidal at some point in their lives. The lack of hope is devastating.

Please, just think about this in your heart. Please, quit saying that LGBT are just like single people. They are so unalike…not the same at all. There is support for singles, and believe me when I tell you there is VERY LITTLE for our LGBT brothers and sisters. Please, find it in your hearts to just love your brothers and sisters. Our hearts must change….