With new Latter-day Saint Web site, a gay Mormon moment

Scott Sommerdorf AP In this Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012 file photo, women walk by a statue of Joseph and Emma … Continued

Scott Sommerdorf

AP

In this Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012 file photo, women walk by a statue of Joseph and Emma Smith outside the church office building during the 182nd Semiannual General Conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently announced a new Web site featuring outreach to its gay members.

Early Thursday of last week I received a call from a friend and reporter for the BYU Student Review, letting me know that the long awaited and rumored new Web site from the LDS Church about homosexuality had just gone live. Pulling up www.mormonsandgays.org on my iPhone, my hands shook with great anticipation and also concern – what if it wasn’t all that I’d hope it would be? What if it was better than I expected?

The first thing that impressed me was the use of the word “gay” in the Web site’s URL–the beauty alone of putting the words “Mormons and gays” together seemed to formalize a relationship. Then, as I scrolled through the site I saw several important messages presented: 1) sexuality is not a choice, 2) love and be inclusive of your gay and lesbian family members, friends, and church members, and 3) listen and seek to understand them.

The site conveyed the importance of unconditional love and acceptance within families and in LDS congregations – respecting individuals to make their own hard choices and refraining from characterizing individuals who have chosen different paths as bad people. It emphasized the importance of being real and authentic and truly set a tone of viewing LGBT individuals as “us” rather than “them.”

I thought of the unique Mormon scripture:

With this new Web site, the church seems to be finally encouraging those members who had been previously unwilling “of their own free will,” to accept and include their gay family and church members on religious grounds, to now engage in Christian empathy and understanding around the subject of homosexuality.

In many ways, the church’s new outreach can be seen as a formal recognition of the ongoing grassroots activism done freely by Mormons in the spirit of Christian love. Over the past few years, work has dramatically accelerated among many straight and gay members of the church – from creating videos of the authentic lives of gay Mormons from around the world, to the creation of podcasts and forums for discussing difficult Mormon subjects – homosexuality in particular, to the hundreds of Mormon allies who marched in Salt Lake City’s Pride parade, and the many other hundreds combined who marched in 17 Pride parades worldwide to demonstrate their love for their LGBT brothers and sisters. Much of this also coincided with spiritual renewals at LGBT Mormon “Affirmation” gatherings in the oldest LDS Temple in Kirtland, Ohio and most recently in Seattle, Washington.

Last week’s new site is also a perfect example of how Mormonism’s unique belief in continuing revelation works. Continuing revelation not only requires the highest leadership of the church to wrestle with and pray over issues not yet settled, but it also requires the average member to anxiously engage of their own free will in working towards what they, by personal revelation, feel inspired is right. Eventually, the two meet – like last Thursday.

Many would argue that what happened last week was not revelation – because it does still call my same-sex relationship a sin, does not offer me full fellowship in the church and the same message was already taught by Jesus almost 2000 years ago. Maybe so, but one thing has been clearly revealed – the parent, sibling, neighbor, or church leader who does not seek to love, include and understand their fellow gay Mormon is now clearly found in sin. This has already made an impact in the lives of various people I know personally, including one friend’s sister who apologized openly on Facebook for how she had previously treated her gay brother. It will make even a more profound impact in homes and congregations in the developing world where the church is growing the fastest and where homophobia is persistent.

One essential question remains unanswered: What does this call for love and understanding really mean for gay Mormons who are seeking or already in committed same-sex relationships and want to be involved in the church but currently feel like a group of the poor, described in a Book of Mormon story, who felt they could not even worship in their own synagogues? (Alma 32:5) What will it take for more church leaders and members to act of their own free will, as those in a handful of wards and stakes are doing today (including mine), and proactively reach out to and include all gay members despite their relationship status? How can we really get them to focus on the Christian imperatives of inclusion over exclusion, ministering over disciplining, and meeting people where they are and bringing them to Christ?

In my opinion, the Web site will have only reached its full value when we finally see LGBT Mormons feel welcome in every LDS ward around the globe. In my dream, I see them contributing their talents and gifts with their ward community and I see straight members opening up their homes to them. I see the gay couple sitting together in the pews with a straight couple next to them, while both couple’s children crawl around together below the pew. I see them helping care for the sick and afflicted, mentoring youth, singing in the choir, performing musical numbers, receiving and giving home teaching visits and sharing their testimonies in church – despite their relationship status. I see them using their understanding of what it feels like to be outcast as a balm for reaching down and helping the least of God’s children. This is my dream, and for me and a few others it is beginning to come true. Now, let’s as Latter-day Saints not wait again to be commanded in all things. Let’s follow our church’s call to Christian love and make this dream come true.

Randall Thacker is president elect of Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons which supports LGBT Mormons, their families and allies by encouraging spirituality, providing information resources and working for equality.

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  • rondonaghe1

    So, let’s say your heterosexual, born that way, can’t change it, don’t want to change it, and you really really want to be accepted by an important organization, one you feel brings you close to God. You want to be welcomed with open arms, feel part of the organization, be part of us. The only problem is you can’t marry the opposite sex person you love, because the organization says, we love you, but we find that engaging in opposite sex relations is still a sin. Why would you want to be welcomed and loved and included in such an organization? One one hand they say your are loved but they take away one of the most basic of all human traits, your own ability to love whom you love. Isn’t this the perfect definition of irony?

  • azprofessor

    If an organization was truly the one with a direct link to God through continuous revelation would the organization be the last in social change. The Mormon church was one of the last to hold out discriminating against blacks.

    Now after many churches and congregations are accepting in full fellowship the gays, the Mormon church is still way behind in revelation trying to decide what to do with those gays born in their own Mormon families.

    In the last 50+ years, the Mormon church has been involved in chemical and elctroshock therapies of it’s gay members. The church has been involved in gay hunts leading to many suicides. Even today, Utah has the highest incident of teen sucides in the nation, a large share of them being the gay Mormon youth. For years the church counsel was better dead than a homosexual. No apologies for any of this on the site. This is not revelation, this is a reaction being forced by the large loss of members due to this stance. Follow the dollars.

  • keithhjohnson

    Your hands ‘shaked’ with great anticipation??? SHAKED? Do you not have spell check?

  • marcluxjd

    With this LDS “progress” and your advice to follow the dollars, I seen changes for the Boy Scouts too.

  • Tornogal

    So in the author’s view, it is ground-breaking news that “has been clearly revealed – the parent, sibling, neighbor, or church leader who does not seek to love, include and understand their fellow gay Mormon is now clearly found in sin.” Really? Up until then there was doubt? How pathetic.

    If the LDS church were truly God’s One True Church™ it would LEAD the world in compassion toward all people, instead of needing until 1978 (!!) to declare Blacks were as human as Whites and until 2012 to declare that loving GLBT people is the right thing to do.

    The LDS church receives no more revelation than does a Burger King manager.

  • Dirk Vanden

    I am fully expecting Pres. Monson to issue a revelation that God says it’s now OK to be Gay–IF we get married in a Temple and go on Missions to save other Gay souls, adopt unwanted children and raise them all as Mormons, all paying 10% tithing, of course. Then we will be embraced by the fastest growing, richest church (per capita) on earth and our basic differences will vanish. The same thing happened with Negroes. Brigham Young believed and taught that they were filthy and lazy and not fit to hold the priesthood, or even membership in the Church. Now Black People are welcome, even though we were taught that Negroes were the children of Cain, the world’s first murderer, and that the color of their skin was a “mark of shame” for being “fence-sitters” in the War in Heaven. When i was growing up, those ideas were taught in Sunday School, but a vision from God to the Prophet changed all that! God changed his mind about blacks,I’m betting he will about Gays, too! Thanks but no thanks!

  • jbardsle

    Thanks for the thoughtful article. I agree with your interpretation of the scripture “it is not meet that [the Lord] should command in all things.” Jesus Christ’s ideal of love and kindness was always the same, but sometimes because of our fallen natures we need to be prodded by revelation from the Church relating to specific situations where we are lacking. It should seem obvious that we should treat everyone with love and understanding, but this form of reminder is what the Church is good at. It reminds us of those basic things that our hearts sometimes forget, even though we intellectually have learned them. It reminds us that it is desirable to both believe in God’s moral standard and love people even when they do not understand things the way we do.

  • Tornogal

    jbardsle,

    Seriously, you need reminders because you “intellectually learned” to be human toward all mankind?

    The more I learn about Mormonism the more frightening it is to me.

    (“It should seem obvious that we should treat everyone with love and understanding, but this form of reminder is what the Church is good at. It reminds us of those basic things that our hearts sometimes forget, even though we intellectually have learned them.”)

  • Dirk Vanden

    In fact, I officially quit the church in 1976 when The Advocate, a Gay newspaper, reported the deaths of 2 Mormon boys in Provo. One of them happened to be my second cousin. They had both received “calls” to go on missions & had gone to their bishop to ask if they could go together, as husbands and wives often do. The Bishop refused & condemned them as Abominations in the sight of God. They went out in the canyons behind Provo and killed themselves, or each other, with hunting rifles, leaving a note in their pickup: “God knows we are not abominations.” I wrote to the Church president,citing the article, requesting my name be removed from a religion that caused men to kill themselves because they loved each other. My wish was granted May 18, 1976. I am officially an ex-Moron. The Mormons have Blood on their collective hands. Lots and lots of blood! Nowhere near Catholics, but enough to damn them–except Mormons don’t believe in hell. Oh well, damn them anyway!

  • LDS_Revelations

    I think yer right. A revelation will come and eventually sexually active married gays will be accepted as Mormons….but I doubt that will happen anytime soon. The LDS Church MO is to fight change tooth and nail as long as it can claiming to uphold God’s revealed word, only to finally cave and claim that it never was doctrine (see plural marriage and the priesthood ban). It will take a good bit of time for that to be acceptable with in the faith. It may even take a adjusting of theology. and a backing off previous claims. Personally I expect to be long since dead but I;m still laying money on it..

  • bob1981

    I agree with a lot of the sentiment here. The LDS church has always been so far behind the curve of progress and then vehemently denies it when called out. This most recent ‘revelation’ basically brings them up to the year 1995 in terms of acceptance of LGBT people.

    People are getting married (married!) here in Seattle, and then the church has the bad timing to issue a statement saying: “Ok, you know what? Gay people actually *are* born that way and we shouldn’t treat them badly.” They’ve got a lot of catching up to do….

  • Vanka

    This was no “revelation” and will not lead to any revelation. This is “public relations”pure and simple. The Church is a megalithic behemoth modern business these days, led by corporate executives with MBAs and law degrees, and marketing and public relations professionals. These businessmen (masquerading as “prophets, seers, and revelators”) have not issued any “revelations” for almost 100 years.

    Like good corporate officers, they have issued “Official Declarations” and “Proclamations”, and have launched advertising “campaigns”, media blitzes, and web sites, but the days of official “revelation” are gone. Revelations don’t make money!

    And that is the primary mission of the Mormon Church – to make money and consolidate political power!

    The LDS Bible Dictionary explains:

    “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kingdom of God on the earth, but is at the present limited to an ecclesiastical kingdom. During the millennial era, the kingdom of God will be both political and ecclesiastical (see Dan. 7:18, 22, 27; Rev. 11:15; JST Rev. 12:13, 7; D&C 65), and will have worldwide jurisdiction in political realms when the Lord has made a full end of all nations (D&C 87:6).”

    They will “Lie for The Lord”, deceive, give “milk before meat”, and manipulate the public’s perception in order to achieve their Dominion. That is what motivated their abandoning the word of god on polygamy, the prohibition of blacks to hold priesthood and participate in Temple ordinances, and now this ambiguous website about gays, despite their “secret combinations” to fight against marriage equality (Prop 8 in CA).

  • wlfsng

    The church is preparing itself for the time when the government says discriminating against homosexuality is wrong for any organization.
    This way the church can tell the government, “see how nice and loving we are?”
    I don’t understand how they can say it is not a choice in one breath and then state, just don’t act on it. Really? So I’m not supposed to be honest with myself and want to marry the one I love?

  • johnfromil

    And once again tonogal is here with anti-Mormon stuff. it must take a lot of work to be such a hater.

  • johnfromil

    This is really nothing new. The church has always taught its members to love one another. We don’t always like what members of our family or others do, be we are still commanded to love them.
    Any member of the church who does not follow this commandment is himself or herself not living the law.
    Just because we love an individual, does not mean that we have to approve of them in their sins.
    Love the sinner, but hate the sin.

  • johnfromil

    Just to clarify the Mormon activism on Proposition 8. Church’s are allowed under the IRS to get involved in moral issues. The definition of marriage is certainly a moral issue.
    LDS church leadership asked it’s membership to support Proposition 8. Some did and some did not. Those that did, did. There was not penalty or church sanction on those that didn’t support Proposition 8 or even some LDS who opposed it.
    The LDS church itself did not donate vast sums of money to the support of proposition 8. The Church did provide some non financial assets to the cause and they were dutifully reported. It is incorrect to say that the LDS committed election fraud. The fine they paid was because they missed a filing deadline on the reporting of some of the non-financial donations.
    Individual contributions from LDS and non-LDS citizens created the bulk of the funding for Proposition 8. The LDS church did not funnel any of these donations through it’s organization.
    It’s interesting to note that the anti Proposition 8 funding exceeded the pro Proposition 8 funding.
    Individual members of the LDS church used their organizational talents and private assets to organize the campaign and set up private cell phone banks in individual homes.
    The LDS make up a very small percentage of the California voters. The passing of California proposition 8 was due to the large turnout of Hispanic, black and other voters who DO believe that the definition of marriage is between a man and a woman.

  • psmithphd

    We should all rejoice in the Church’s new website. It should help all of us come to feel love for all our brothers and sisters.

    There are two key issues that remain the same. For both heterosexuals and homosexuals there is the ever-present law of chastity, that sexual relations should take place only within a marriage relationship. Then there is as well, in conjunction, the fact that God ordained marriage as a union of a man and a woman. Thus homosexuals and all unmarried heterosexuals must, as I did until I was 32, find a way to remain chaste. We should have great compassion for all who work to live within these God-given guidelines.

  • limecat

    You should be afraid of all mankind, not just Mormons, if you can’t understand that most people on earth know they should do kind and good things, yet don’t always do them.

  • limecat

    Thanks for the article. It sounds like the web site is a good thing. Maybe it’s not a giant change, but considering what the past has been, any change in the right direction is cause for some excitement.

  • Tornogal

    From LA Times:

    “When we accused them of contributing more money [than was reported], they stated publicly that our claims were false, but that turned out to be a lie – one of many,” said Karger, who was in Sacramento attending the FPPC meeting to make sure the fine was assessed. “It’s unbelievable, their arrogance, blatantly violating California election laws and lying repeatedly about their involvement in prop 8.

    According to CAH, a spokesman for the Mormon Church, Don Eaton, said in an interview with KGO-TV (ABC San Francisco) prior to the election, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints put zero money in this.”

    It was eventually learned that the Mormon Church coordinated contributions amounting to more than half of the $45 million dollar Yes on Prop 8 campaign, as well as contributing non-monetarily to the campaign by sending Mormon campaign volunteers through the Church’s “mission” program and offering use of church ward (parish) properties throughout the state.

  • mikeamesquita

    The one big difference is that if a hetero Mormon couple wait till they get married they are rewarded in the church doctrine. If a gay Mormon couple wait till marriage to have sex they are still punished in the church doctrine. So where is the incentive?