Following the Prophet and Christ’s Prime Injunction to “Love One Another”

Love One Another

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (John 13:34)

I spent the holidays this year in Utah, and stayed the whole time with my brother and sister-in-law. Over the two weeks I was there, I had some really great conversations with them. They are very conservative members of the Church and believe in following the prophet with exactness, no matter what, and that we will be blessed if we do so. However, when talking about the plight of gay members in the church, I was surprised at how open minded they were to the idea of the Q15 coming out with a revelation accepting same-sex marriage in the Church. With two more vacancies in the Q15, we are getting closer to this possibility. Continue reading

Advertisements

Confused At the Grace That So Fully He Proffers Me

Teach me all that I must do

To live with him someday.

Naomi Ward Randall, 1908–2001

Last week I was out on my back patio enjoying some sunshine in our 70 degree weather, because that is what you do in Phoenix in December. I felt it time to listen to John Dehlin’s Mormons Stories Podcast where he interviewed Tom Christofferson about his book “That We May Be One.”

The interview was typical Mormon Stories Podcast format: Tell your story and then answer contemporary and relevant questions drawn from wisdom gained from your story. For me, I enjoyed his story and it was a disarming and refreshing experience listening to his conclusions and insights on such things as the Proclamation on the Family, the effects of the exclusion policy on the church, did he think same sex relationships and marriage were equal to opposite sex relationships and marriage, and his theology on LGBTQ in the plan of salvation. There really were no softball questions and John discussed subjects with Tom that have been wounding the LDS LGBTQ community for a long time. Continue reading

Honoring President Monson’s Legacy as an LGBT Mormon

IMG_6732 (1)

For many LGBT Mormons, the passing of LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson has been a bittersweet moment. As many have noted, he steered the Church during some of the most painful moments for our community during his 54 year career in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and First Presidency. He was also a famously kind, charitable, humble, and hardworking man. Balancing these realities has put a strain on many LGBT Mormons- active, doubting, progressive, post, and every philosophical shade in between.

After finding out the news this morning I sat in my cold car, eyes screwed shut, and thanked Heavenly Father for allowing him to live a rich life that blessed so many. As I drove across the frozen prairie, I sang along to an old BYU-Idaho choir recording of “We Thank Thee O God For a Prophet” and thought about the ways in which President Monson’s legacy will outlive the 90 short years he spent in his second estate.

Charity

Until 2009, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had a three-fold mission: perfect the saints, proclaim the gospel, and redeem the dead1. Under President Monson’s leadership a fourth aspect was added: caring for the poor and needy2. A large part of his legacy, from his years as a young bishop in Salt Lake City to the his role as the head of an international, 21st Century church, revolves around his deep commitment to charity. He famously went above and beyond to care for the widows in his ward, and exhorted Latter-day saints to go out and tend to the those in need during his General Conference talks. When many Saints think of President Monson, his lifetime of quiet, steady charity is the first thing that comes to mind.

Ways to Honor His Legacy:

  • Give your time – Sites like VolunteerMatch, Create the Good, All For Good, and the Church’s own JustServe offer location and interest-based matching for volunteer opportunities. On some of these sites you can specifically filter for LGBT nonprofits.
  • Give your energy – Do one simple act of kindness for a family member, friend, coworker, or even a stranger. From CNN’s article on President Monson’s death3:

On his 81st birthday, Monson was asked what would be an ideal gift from Church members. He replied: “Do something for someone else on that day to make his or her life better. Find someone who is having a hard time, or is ill, or lonely, and do something for them. That’s all I would ask.”

Diplomacy

President Monson dedicated nearly 20 years of work to bringing a temple to what was then East Germany, beyond the Iron Curtain. Touched by the lives of the Saints he met there in 1968, he used his spiritual strength and diplomatic skills to work with Church leaders and East German government officials. By 1983 the East German Saints broke ground on the Freiberg temple. After further work with the East German government, President Monson arranged for worthy members to receive the blessings of the temple in nearby Switzerland. In 1985, 18 years after he promised Church members in East Germany that they could have a temple of their own, the prayers of the Saints of Freiberg were answered when they dedicated their temple4.

Ways to Honor His Legacy:

  • Listen with an open heart – In many of his talks, President Monson spoke of “eyes to see and ears to hear1“, but we also need to open our hearts to those who have had different experiences than us. The world is a bigger place than we can imagine, and I know that listening to someone who has walked a different path than my own is usually to my benefit. Note: as LGBT Mormons, we often come across those who see things differently than we do with regard to matters of our very identity. We can be kind to them, and listen to them if we have the mental energy. However, we are not under any obligation to allow them to hurt us and we have the right to politely disengage.
  • Find commonality – It’s easy to focus on what separates and differentiates us, but we often have more in common than we may at first realize. This is true across our relationships within Mormonism (as LGBT Mormons interacting with cisgender and/or heterosexual Mormons) and within our own community. When discussing a particularly tender subject or trying to solve a problem it can be easy to fall into the familiar ruts of Faithful vs. ExMormon, or Queer vs. Straight. unless we can find what connects us and use it to ease communication, productive discussion cannot take place.
  • Assume good intent – I’m going to come out and admit that this is one I’m continually struggling with, especially in an age of text without the aid of tone or facial expressions. But the lion’s share of diplomacy in the digital age is giving others the benefit of the doubt- and allowing them to give us the same- when communicating across continents, time zones, and cultures. When it comes down to it, talk to others the way that you’d want to be talked to.

Openness

One of the most recent, and in my opinion influential, aspects of President Monson’s legacy is the culture of openness he has cultivated through his tenure as Prophet. In particular, the last 5 years of his leadership saw the nationwide promotion of the Joseph Smith Papers Project, the release of the Gospel Topics Essays, and a renewed transparency in teaching Church history to Seminary students.

Ways to Honor His Legacy:

  • Speak your truth – This may not be a safe option for everyone, but for those who can I encourage you to speak your truth, whatever it may be. Live your life free from shame. Tell the world who you really are. Stop hiding the parts of yourself that make you uncomfortable or embarrassed- let them be loved.
  • Seek knowledge – One of the consequences of the Church’s late 2010’s transparency was a flood of new information for lifelong Mormons, many of whom were troubled by facts that they were encountering for the first time. Educate yourself about your history- in all realms, not just the Church- so that you can go throughout your life with your eyes open and your head held high.
  • Share these things with those around you – Did you find out something that unsettled you? Amazed you? Humbled you? Share this with others, because someone else could probably stand to heard about it too. I know I’d want to.

Whatever your personal feelings on President Monson are, his 50+ years of Church service have touched every Mormon alive today in some way. Some parts of his legacy are painful for LGBT Mormons to face, and some parts of it are well loved. No man, even a prophet of God, is perfect- but we can choose to carry on the best parts of him now that he’s gone.

Footnotes

  1. Four-fold Mission of the Church, Mormonwiki
  2. Thomas Monson, Mormon church president, dies at age 90, CNN
  3. The Three Messages That Meant the Most to President Monson, According to His Conference Talks, LDSLiving
  4. President Thomas S. Monson and the East German Latter-day Saints, Deseret News

Out of Obscurity

o-THOMAS-MONSON-facebook.jpg

Thomas Monson, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaks at the 181st Semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011. Mormons from around the world have gathered to listen to church leaders during the two-day conference. Photographer: George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images

 

Tonight an era has ended.

The President of the Church who presided over Prop 8 and then gave us the exclusion policy has died.  These are some pretty hefty bookends holding together his 10 year ministry. As an LDS LGBTQ, I acknowledge the good President Monson did as president while grappling with the personal pain he caused me, my family, and so many of my fellow LDS LGBTQ. If anything, he brought the LDS LGBTQ issue front and center for the church to see in full daylight. Continue reading

Gay Keepers

8159281658_c68eeedc1b_k

I’ve been contemplating recently what it means to be a hero. As usual I’m trying to figure out what to make of myself, but in particular I’ve just finished reading The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker. In his book, Becker argues that the overriding fear of every person is death, and that we try to fight off that fear by being heroic. Religions, he says, are hero-systems. They teach us how to matter. Continue reading

Is the Church “True” for LGBTQ+ Mormons?

I’m a bit baffled when people bear their testimony and say they “know the Church is true”. The statement that the Church is true is meaningless to me. The Church is an organization. Certainly it is a unique organization, and even very unique compared to other churches, but the Church cannot be any more true than the United Nations is true, or the US Government is true, or McDonald’s Inc. is true, or the Utah County PTA is true. It’s just an organization, and organizations are not true or untrue.

Continue reading

I am a Refugee: A Letter from the Camps

Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission – to be of service to them whenever they require it.

St. Francis of Assisi, 1182-1226

 

Today I am not hearing a voice so necessary to the policy conversation. So I am supplying it. I am a November 5th refugee. The November policy instantly created refugees. As refugees we have no privilege in the church, although we used to be dripping in it. As refugees we used to have a home among the saints, although now we are gathered in camps along the outskirts and borders. As refugees we once felt safety in the stakes of Zion but now live with the continual threat of spiritual terrorism.

Like most refugee situations, you never really hear about life in the camps. It is a much more rewarding and universal experience to talk about the conflict that created the refugee in the first place, but not many stop to consider the actual conditions of the refugees born from such conflict. Continue reading