Disclaimer 1- Most of you know I am a member of the Mormon Church. So, if while reading this, you find references to church practices and policies that don’t quite make sense, I apologize in advance.
Disclaimer 2- My views are definitely not the views of the Mormon Church. I in no way claim to make statements, true or false, on behalf of (or even in true representation of) the church.
On Sunday, we had a combined meeting for the 2nd and 3rd hours of the church block (Yeah, that’s right, 3 hour church. Come at me, bro). The purpose was to meet together and listen to presentations from local leaders about the church’s stance toward homosexuality and gay marriage.
Before we go further, there are a couple things I should explain. The first is you should know I am in favor of legalizing same sex marriages. Actually, that’s number 2 on my list of marriage definition options. The number 1 item would be to simply abolish the term “marriage” from the United States government’s control, issue civil partnerships/unions, and turn marriage into a private institution managed by churches as they see fit. Until that day, I am in support of making gay marriage legal.
The second thing you need to know is that the Mormon Church currently does not support the legalization of same sex marriage. I say currently because one of the perks of Mormonism is the belief in modern day prophets and continued revelation. This belief becomes especially helpful nowadays, since guys like Moses never laid out guidance in regards to internet use. Instead, current prophets have the ability to access God’s Will on some of the more modern issues we face.
Slow down. I don’t want this to become a debate on the validity of Mormonism, I am just laying out the facts of what Mormons believe so you understand why I use the term “currently” to explain the Mormon Church’s stance on the issue at hand. I know all the things you want to say about Mormons. But that’s not here. No matter how false or misguided you think they are, you can’t deny that Mormons exist and have beliefs, right?
Anyway, so, let’s review.
1. I, a Mormon, support same sex marriage
2. The Mormon Church does not support same sex marriage.
Now that you know those two important points, you can probably get a sense for my state of mind during the 2 hour meeting on homosexuality. I felt like George Bush at a Portland Farmer’s Market.
The meeting was very thoughtful, well planned, and carefully kind toward those attracted to members of their own sex. We were instructed well on showing love-but-not-loving, trying to support-without-supporting and being tolerant-without-tolerating same sex attraction.
The first presenter is a counselor and talked about her experiences working with members of the church with same-sex attraction. She talked about facing the pain, sorrow, guilt and loneliness experienced through feeling like a sinner under God’s law while “fighting” the temptations they feel toward members of their same gender. She painted a pretty bleak picture for these folks, talking about strange words like “recovery” and “rehabilitation” and even “Suicide.”
I say it was strange to hear those words basically because of the feelings I have toward my wife. Sorry, let me explain. I know the way I feel about her, the love and companionship and friendship we share. Not only do I like being around her, I can’t picture my life without her. If the church were to insist that my feelings toward her were not only wrong but against God’s will, I would not be interested in Recovering from some sort of affliction, or going through any type of Rehab…instead, I would question God’s will and His creation of me.
After the effect those terms had on me, I started paying attention to some of the other words being used. The common way to refer to the topic of discussion was that there are people “struggling with same sex attraction.” At first I didn’t pick up on some of the nuances, but the more I heard it, honestly, the more it impacted me. Let me break it down into two parts:
Struggling With-- To struggle with something means to contend with a task or a problem. For instance, you could say the neighbor who is going through foreclosure is “struggling with his finances.” Meaning, if he made some changes and worked to fix his problems, his finances would not be such a detriment to his success. The point of saying someone is struggling with something is essentially this: there is a problem that must be overcome; a problem that can be fixed or solved.
So when we say someone is struggling with homosexuality, isn't it divisive? Aren't we immediately asserting that there is something inherently wrong with a person that needs a fix we think is fixable simply because we don’t feel the same way as they do?
Flip it around for a minute. Can you imagine someone accusing you of struggling with opposite sex attraction? Can you force yourself to stop being attracted to the opposite sex and start doing the “right” thing and be gay? I doubt any of us who identify as straight even have the slightest idea how offensive and polarizing it is to make such claims.
If you are a staunch Mormon opposed to my views, you might respond with something along the lines of “everyone faces different temptations, this is theirs.” I think that is too unfair to our biological construction.
Adam and Eve were commanded to multiply. So great was this commandment (or perhaps, this intrinsic need to perpetuate the species and continue evolving) that our desire for sexual intercourse is among the strongest and most natural of our many senses. Using the “some people face alcoholism, some people face gambling addictions and some people face homosexuality” defense is as foolish as saying “some people eat fish, some people eat tacos, and some people live under water.”
The point being: you can control what you eat (tacos, chicken) but no matter who tells you what is “right” and “natural,” you simply cannot go stick your head under water and start taking deep breaths. Let’s stop telling our gay friends to dunk their heads and inhale. They’re drowning.
Same-Sex Attraction- The second half of the sentence is more subtle. I’m not sure why there’s this recent turning away from using terms like “gay” or “lesbian”, but I would guess it has something to do with creating specific groups. It is very clever, but also very loving from leaders of the Church whose hearts truly break for those they may see as lost.
If instead of referring to black people as “black” and white people as “white,” and replaced those terms with a scale of skin pigmentation, wouldn’t that take away from people identifying with their own racial groups (and stereotypes)?
Consider this statement about Russell Wilson: “He is a great young rookie quarterback from Wisconsin who shows poise in the pocket, high football IQ and good decision making. He comes from a family where his dad and uncle are both successful lawyers. His mom has bright blond hair, but he has his dad’s darker complexion and hazel eyes. He is smaller and scrawnier than most NFL QB’s, but he makes up for that by studying hours of game film and working on his release to get the same height as QB’s five inches taller than him.”
Do you think differently of Russell Wilson than if I were to simply say he is a black quarterback? Do you immediately picture someone fast and nimble, with less accuracy on the pass but with dangerous foot speed that can get quick first downs?
I do. And it’s because branding him as black causes me to immediately identify who he is. He is black. He is a black man, and will always be a black man. You don’t change your race. Black people don’t go to rehab and come out white. They don’t spend time in central Idaho recovering from their de-blacking.
By using the term “same-sex attraction,” the Church and others are doing essentially the same thing. We are not identifying a person as “gay,” because that could mean they were and always will be gay. Instead, we talk about it as if they are going through a faze where they are confused as to what they are actually attracted to and we can get to work de-gaying them.
Perhaps the argument to this point is “But Doug, people are born black and we know why they are black. We can accurately predict the race of 99.99% of children being born. There is no evidence that people are born gay, and God would not create a gay person.”
My only response to that line of thinking is “Yes there is, and yes He did.” I mean, my little girls are already showing recognition of the differences between boys and girls, and they are seven and three! The 7-year old is a little boy crazy. You want to tell me she is consciously choosing to like boys not girls?
The same holds true the other way, folks. I grew up with someone (I won’t say his name, but we are Facebook friends), and he has been gay since the day I first met him. Do you think I was surprised when he came out after high school? Do you think he held off on making that choice until after graduation? Please.
Another topic brought up in the meeting was the correlation between childhood sexual abuse and homosexuality. Look, I am in no way going to deny that there are certainly deep and long lasting psychological effects on abused children, but it is ridiculous (and sort of morbid) to use abuse as homosexuality’s scapegoat. It is an absurd concept, because it creates an absurd paradox. If being sexually abused as a child causes someone to be gay, then all gay people were sexually abused as children. Since this is not the case, the child abuse theory does not have a case.
So after the first 45-minutes of an hour and a half meeting, we discussed (without resolution) the question, “What is same-sex attraction?”
The second half of the meeting was spent discussing the Mormon Church’s support of programs that encourage traditional definitions of family. By “traditional” I mean the definition of family in America between 1980 and 1995. That is to say, we made no mention of how families are defined in other countries around the world in regards to plural marriage. We also avoided defining families before 1978 when only man and wife of the same race were safe to be married, and we certainly made no mention of plural marriage in America (or in the Church) before the turn of the 20th Century.
How quickly history can erase itself if we give it enough of a shove. Only a hundred or so years ago were we Mormons the ones causing national unrest for our perversion of the US definition of marriage. It seems we would have a softer heart toward those going down the same road we traveled so many years ago. We boldly sing the rousing lyrics to “Come, Come Ye Saints” but I guess we do it selfishly, with only our pioneers of old as deserving of the retroactive musical encouragement.
Anyway, we were instructed that the legalization of gay marriage in this country would eventually lead to the church no longer being able to perform marriages, because the government would step in and say if we didn't allow gay marriage in our temples, we couldn't do marriage, period.
While I doubt that would actually happen, so what if it did? Did you know this is the case in many countries around the world? Does a government recognized temple marriage make the marriage more meaningful? A majority of Mormons are Republicans anyway; doesn't this step take us a little further from government meddling in our lives?
Spare me the outrage of “but Doug, my tax dollars would be going toward a government that makes normal something I view as an abomination!” Look, if you can find me a group of people who are happy with 100% of the government’s use of tax dollars, I will concede this point to you. Until then, get down from the high horse.
The last thing I will say about our meeting is that it ended with our Stake President giving some final thoughts. His were the best and most thoughtful words of the day. His message was the only one I can really take from the meeting and feel good about, and that is “Love One Another.” Regardless of beliefs, sexuality or social class, love one another.
He didn't have all the answers. Hopefully, someday he will. I subscribe to a church that believes that God is yet to reveal many great and important things pertaining to our existence here on Earth. My hope is that in the near future, that revelation will come to help provide guidance to this crazy, divisive and hurtful topic.
Mormons talk a lot about eternal families and eternal truths. I hope we all remember that we still know practically nothing about any eternal truths. And someday, when those truths are revealed, I hope we have the courage to shake off our old prejudices and accept the further knowledge we receive.
One last thing. We Mormons hold the concept of free will pretty sacred. We believe that part of our plan coming to Earth was more than having someone set the rules for us and force us to obey. Instead, we believe our purpose here allows for us all to take into consideration the guidelines given to us from on high, and make our own choices, right or wrong, about following those instructions. I support gay marriage not just because I despise the idea of withholding rights from others. It’s deeper than that. I support gay marriage because I believe nothing but anger, hate and pain come from forcing others to act based on my personal beliefs.