28 June 2009

Whiplash

Well, okay, not actual whiplash. But figuratively, yes. You try going from the peaceful contemplation of taking the bread & water at church to an afternoon & evening with five, count 'em, five energetic 11 year olds of both genders hanging out at the house today and through the evening. Kids and friends. Boundless energy. Lots of noise. Lots of fun. It's an interesting age. They are capable of flashes of remarkable insight yet will bicker and squabble like two year olds over individual bites of vegetables at dinner, surreptitiously slipping this carrot or that broccoli floret onto somebody else's plate so they wouldn't have to eat it and could still qualify for dessert. It was like five pre-schooler auctioneers all going at once, and I had to nip several food fights in the bud. Sometimes they come perilously close to annoying, but I try to remember that this time is precious, next week (or so it'll seem to me) they will be years older, and fun times like this will be just a precious memory. So I savor it while I can.

Fortunately things have calmed down now as I sit by the open window and write this. The sun has set behind the hills just a mile to the west, the beach just on their other side. A gossamer veil of coastal fog is diffusing the setting sun's light into a golden pink mist that wraps the hills and turns their trees from dark green to pale green grey silhouettes against the pale glow of the sky, which fades from soft gold to pink to purple to pale blue higher up. A cool ocean breeze wafts through the window. The neighborhood is calm and quiet. Just as a summer Sunday evening should be.

I went to the beach the other day for an evening run, but the tide had other ideas. It was way high, so high in fact that the water regularly splashed against the cliffs. No way to run through that. But I did enjoy a walk through the water, refreshing and rejuvenating. When you grow up on the beach, you're like a salmon. There is always something irresistibly pulling you back there, something primal, even spiritual somehow. I've never been able to explain it, but I know countless people who say exactly the same thing. Some of my high school mates live in the Midwest and back east now, and they all say it too: OMG we miss the beach, it tugs at our heart all the time.

Makes me think of Wordsworth's lines from Ode on Intimations of Immortality: "Hence in a season of calm weather Though inland far we be, Our Souls have sight of that immortal sea Which brought us hither, Can in a moment travel thither, And see the Children sport upon the shore, And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore." Somehow I've been lucky enough to be able to stay so I don't have to rely on memory. It's right there all the time.

I had the foresight to bring the camera along that evening, so you can see what I saw and hear what I heard on the iPod, the matchless finale of Rachmaninoff's 2nd Symphony. On days like this I lose count of my blessings.



video

27 June 2009

Dear Avery

I was surprised by your letter, but glad you wrote it. Your intelligence and good faith shines through again. And as before, some of it is a bit cryptic. No doubt you intended that, as in all your other posts. That's fine. Blogs aren't homework or subject to some governing body's rules on what you must necessarily write about or how you must express it. If it helps you to "spew stuff" then that's fine.

Detailed and often harsh self-examination is normal at your age. You are trying to figure out who you are, where you fit, what you want, what is your purpose, what and who you love, what you aspire to be. You've reached a stage in life where you have some mature thinking skills and can start to consider all this in serious ways. That's good. Winnowing out the "whining, pathetic, yucky, gross" parts of yourself so that you can identify the steadier, clearer, positive, and even nobler parts is a good exercise that everyone should undertake. Frequently, in fact, regardless of age. If you don't feel like you're making any progress, try writing down specific goals, things to achieve, and a chart of how and by when you want to get there. Start small but stick to the plan. Nothing succeeds like success. Once you reach a goal, set another one slightly more ambitious. Over time you will show yourself that you can indeed move forward, that you're not stuck in "suffocating darkness."

I was struck by your belief that you can't find within you "the bright light that others seem to radiate with their words, their joy and peace and comfort and understanding" that they relay to you. This isn't something that can be forced, Avery. Nobody that I know sits down each morning and consciously says "OK, how can I radiate my bright light today?" and then actually does it. That's not how it works. The light is not the purpose. It's just a natural consequence of being true to yourself, pursuing what is best within you, and trying to reach out and help others along the way. Your blog tells me you have a significant spark of creativity and a gift not only for observation but empathy as well. So perhaps you shouldn't worry so much about whether your own light measures up to that of others. Everyone's gifts are different. You are still finding yours, I think. Remember what Pres. Hinckley's father wrote to his discouraged missionary son: "forget yourself and go to work." I don't say this as criticism, but perhaps if you looked for ways to give time and empathy and caring, to share your talents with others, you might find your own "bright light" surprising even you.

I have indeed mentioned and commented on your references to the friend that you "let go of" and said goodbye to. You said you thought it was best for both of you. I fully respect others' freedom and choices for what they think is best for their lives. I wouldn't change what you or he have done or thought even if I could. That said, I also have serious concerns for anyone who puts himself into Jeffrey Robinson's hands.

Part of my job, Avery, is to research and analyze situations, identify problems and gaps and try to fill them, and to resolve any disputes or discrepancies I find, based on objective evidence. I've been professionally trained to do this and have had some success with it, I think. I have used those same skills to investigate Dr. Robinson and his agenda. I've read his writings and things written about reparative therapy and about him. I've read about NARTH, his main affiliate organization, pro and con.

Your letter acknowledged that I can see further than you. And I have to tell you, Avery, I'm persuaded that the evidence is against Mr. Robinson and everything he advocates. A consistent thread through all of that research is that one has to start such therapy believing that change is possible, but the weight of educated opinion seems to be against that. Robinson's methods sound to me like Peter Pan's method for flying ("just believe, and you can fly, with a little of my pixie dust"). You can find a more colorful version of my opinion elsewhere; for now, it's enough to say I have good grounds to fear your friend's money and time are being wasted and his trust is misplaced. This is why I couldn't help feeling that it might not have been necessary to do as you've done with this relationship. For now, of course, you have to respect your friend's choices. But I think there's a good chance they may change.

You said you didn't "have a handle on human relation or emotion" and didn't "know how to love or to like or to be a friend." That at age nineteen you didn't even "want to see what is ahead," you already feel overloaded by life and are not even sure what you are, wondering day to day how you will get through the next one.

That's a lot to chew on. But I think your own words belie a lot of it. Your blog is a way for you to get a handle on how you feel, and at age nineteen you have a lot of time to figure it out. You come from a loving family and have had at least one friend to love, so I think you know how and just may be afraid to try it with others. As far as wanting to see ahead, don't beat yourself up about it. Nobody can. Think, ponder, figure out what you want to be, then figure out how to get there. That's the best anyone can do. And unless you get hit by a large vehicle, lightning, fatal disease or Osama Bin Laden, you are going to continue to wake up every morning after somehow managing to get through the previous day. So let that go. You'll do it without trying.

You worry that I and others are frustrated with your "insolent, myopic vision," apologized for it and asked that we not be angry. Oh Avery, no need for that. You are far more normal than you realize. You just have a gift for expressing the angst in words better than most. There's nothing to be angry about or forgive. The only thing that worries me about you is that you are too hard on yourself and you don't see the intelligent, talented, brimming with potential person that others do. Let some of that stress go, okay? Have faith in yourself and in the God who made you and endowed you with all this capability. It will all work out in due time. Meanwhile, don't stop writing. Even if it's cryptic.

Big hugs from big bro Alan

24 June 2009

Conference Hymn Verse Two

My source has dug up the second verse of the hymn below, which will be premiered at the upcoming NeverWeaned International Conference and sung to the tune of Welcome Welcome Sabbath Morning. He's looking for the rest. Here's verse two:

Here we preach self-flagellation
Here we mourn our perverse ways
Hear our self-congratulation
As we suffer through our days.

From the books of reparation
We are promised we can change
We'll endure lifelong sedation
We must all be re-arranged.

Victim victim, Mormon gay guy
Hear our pity party song
We can pray away the gay, guy,
If we keep this up lifelong.

23 June 2009

Conference Hymn

It's come to my attention that the NeverWeaned International Conference referenced below has commissioned prominent LDS lyricist Shanece Kapp Terry to write some new lyrics for the old favorite hymn Welcome Welcome Sabbath Morning, and this new version will be sung at the Conference's opening session. One of my sources who knows of my appreciation for fine literature has secretly sent me an advance copy, so here it is for everyone's FHE enjoyment:

Victim victim, mormon gay guy
now we stress with every care
victim victim, that's the way, guy
holy cow I love his hair

Loving leaders kindly teach us
how to put our hearts on ice
Let no feeling ever reach us
Don't protest, that's just not nice

Victim victim, mormon gay guy
sad and lonely till the end
We're not sure, but still we hope that
Though you're broken, God will mend.


Now isn't that spayshul.

21 June 2009

Conference Announcement

WARNING: The following is NOT for the humor-impaired. It is not obscene but may be offensive to some. It is satire, and biting at that, and as with most satire, it is funny because of the truth it contains. Read at your own risk.


During a recent visit to Salt Lake, I picked up a pamphlet in a downtown club. It advertised an event that I knew would be of great interest to whoever might still be reading this blog, so as a public service I am passing it on to you. Here's what it said.


Announcing the NeverWeaned International 19th Annual Conference! September 18 & 19, 2009 in Salt Lake City UT!

We are pleased to announce the 19th Annual Conference of NeverWeaned International, the only safe, correlated, orthodox organization for Latter-day Saints who struggle and groan and wilt under the massive, exhausting burden of Sexually Tortured Under Tyrannical Ideation Disorder ("STUPID").

NeverWeaned believes that the wicked non-LDS world's deceptive use of words like "gay" or "homosexual" as euphemisms for the more doctrinally palatable term STUPID dilutes and may even eliminate the divinely intended effects of this God-given supreme test of mortality in the lives of Strugglers who ought to be feeling the agony every day as they sweat and strain mightily to resist.

So if you're a clear-thinking Latter-day Saint Struggler not beguiled by science or the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, or any of those other tragically deceived lobbying groups, and if your daily wrestle with STUPID consumes your every waking thought, then the NeverWeaned Conference can provide your annual replenishment of force-fed strength to endure the coming year of pain! Only NeverWeaned Conferences offer reliably regular, Correlated, Church-approved, and spiritually safe fixes of hyped-up hope that reparative therapy might someday work for somebody. They're a unique array of the philosophies of men mingled with scripture to help you stay firm in the faith that God must have a reason for imposing the lifelong torture of STUPID on poor pitiful victimized Strugglers like you.

Regular paid attendance at NeverWeaned Conferences throughout your life will convince you that staying mired in the miasma of misery throughout mortality will in the next life qualify you for transformation into something normal. Such a simple solution. What a relief! Yes, it's true that no scripture says anything like that (yet), but we're confident that NeverWeaned will eventually persuade the Brethren to preach it as doctrine anyway! The caffeine obsession is losing steam outside Utah, and NeverWeaned thinks it has identified the best new issue to perpetuate the guilt we all thrive on: that issue is STUPID! So come join the movement!

Our Conferences have had remarkable effects on many lives already. Over the past twenty years we've reduced annual sales at the Trolley Square Yankee Candle store by 8%! Statistics indicate that in Salt Lake, sales at The Gap drop off and Mr. Mac sales jump during NeverWeaned Conferences! And thanks to us, the Provo MTC is replacing Tree of Life showers with private locking shower stalls so no missionary who made it over the raised bar with any residual STUPID has to face temptation ever again! We're spreading the shame!

The fellowship at NeverWeaned Conferences is unmatched. Strugglers who've attended in the past acknowledge that a NeverWeaned Conference is the best place in Utah to meet others who really understand STUPID. Who really feel like you do. Who really like to feel like you do. Who really want to share those feelings with you. Every year we're glad to see so many Strugglers pair up during NeverWeaned Conferences to share feelings afterward. We count on that happening so that attendance at our Conferences will continue to grow!

This year's Conference includes the following dynamic presenters:

Dr. Joseph Bird Robinson - A psychologist licensed in Grenada, Dr. Robinson lives in Medicine Hat, Utah where he runs the Fundamentally Understanding Boys Are Righteous ("FUBAR") Foundation, well known for treating Strugglers who want to improve their comprehension of professional sports. He is a former chairman of the Alumni Association at the University of New Mexico at Alamogordo, current president of the Four Corners Area Coalition to Procure Federal Funds to Pave The Monument Valley Trails, and the father of nine girls, five of whom are rodeo champions.

Mikayla Hidebounde - A former preacher and faith healer on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, Mikayla now tours the country lecturing and educating Christians on pro-family values issues like scrapbooking, the evils of public education, how to perpetuate Biblical gender roles despite equal protection laws, and teaching boys how to can peaches. A nationally known cross-stitch expert, she draws from her own difficult life experiences growing up as the formerly STUPID-afflicted daughter of touring circus acrobats who exposed her to the horrors of real life in a non-Christian world. She holds an Associate's Degree in General Studies from Wynonna Judd State College in Brass Band, Kentucky.

Ammon & Taylor McConkie Smith - This locally known husband & wife team of entertainers has been inspiring ward picnics and Elks Lodge meetings from Bear Lake to Beaver for the last five years. This is their fourth appearance at a NeverWeaned Conference! Ammon Smith was born and raised in Provo, captained his high school gymnastics team, served a mission in San Francisco, was head cheerleader for BYU, and graduated with a degree in interior design before beginning his new career as a motivational songwriter and musician. His wife Taylor McConkie Smith was a track & field star at Orem High, is a champion rock climber, a Harley-Davidson enthusiast, and sings Ammon's songs with a voice as beautifully resonant as Tina Turner's. They have no children.

Unfortunately this year we weren't able to secure a General Authority speaker because the NeverWeaned Conference dates conflict with an All-GA Retreat inside the Granite Mountain Storage Facility where The Brethren are planning next year's campaign in California to protect marriage once again, and the campaign for the year after that to repeal it in Canada, and for the year after that in Spain, and the year after that in Norway. Next year, perhaps, unless they're busy again planning the next campaign in California then too!

So if you are a Struggler determined to stay that way, come join us! After you register at the Conference, be sure to sign the petition to canonize the Proclamation on the Family as Section 139! And if you want to save money on future Conferences, you can enroll in Straight To Heaven, the lifetime NeverWeaned Conference membership program, a bargain at only $19,999! (Financing available through Zions Bank OAC and on confirmation of full tithepayer status). Conference commemorative souvenirs will be available at all sessions, including t-shirts, hats, tote bags, waterproof Scripture quote plaques for your home shower, and our special line of "LiaHomo" brand hair & skin care products, manufactured especially for us by Bath & Body Works.

We'll see you at the Conference! And next year's! And the year after that! And for the rest of your life! Because you are NeverWeaned!

19 June 2009

The Story of Trevor

Trevor was loud and a bit brash, as 3 year old boys often are. Full of energy and nearly running his parents ragged all the time. His mop of unruly golden hair and striking green eyes melted many a female heart from little pre-schoolers on up through the grandma set, so he sometimes got away with things he shouldn't. But inside, his heart was as good and golden as his hair. If he found a bug crawling along the baseboards, he would coax it onto a piece of paper and carry it outside to set it free. He would share his Goldfish crackers without being asked. In short, a normal, good little boy.

Trevor's kindergarten teacher was the kindest and most loving of women. As she taught her class their ABCs, she noticed that Trevor was left-handed, and she tried gently to get him to try doing his letters with his right. It didn't take, but she kept trying. She was patient and loving like Trevor's mother. Trevor wanted to please her so he did his best. And everything he did with his right hand was totally illegible, no matter how hard he tried. Left handed stuff was picture perfect though.

By the time Trevor reached third grade and began learning cursive, his teachers and his parents had become a little less gentle and a bit more demanding. You really should switch to your right hand, they said. Lefties have a really hard time in life, you know. Everything is designed for right-handed people. You'll smudge your homework, scissors won't work well for you, even your car trunk will be harder to open. Trevor tried hard, he really did. His left-handed penmanship by now was not only legible, it was remarkably good for an 8 year old. His teacher noticed, but still insisted: "Trevor, you really shouldn't be using your left hand. Right is right. That's the way we are supposed to be." Still, it didn't take.

When Trevor reached junior high school, his left-handed penmanship was so good that local artists had noticed and suggested he do calligraphy. He tried it and showed remarkable skill; word spread and he began receiving offers for paid jobs. A great thing for a junior high schooler. At home and school however, parents, teachers and everyone else turned up the pressure and inside Trevor was really beginning to hurt and be confused. "We love you, Trevor," they said, "and we know that being left-handed just isn't right. Right is right. It's the way we were designed to be. You really have to change! We love you and want you to be happy and we know you'll never be happy as a lefty in a world that's right. God does everything with the right hand, remember? We take communion at church with the right hand. We make covenants with the right hand. There's a reason they call left 'sinister'! Right is right, Trevor! Please, we love you, you must change!"

But after thinking about it for a long time, Trevor realized that he knew who and what he was. He knew right would never be right for him. He knew his inborn talents were all in his left hand. He knew that using those talents God gave him was what made him happiest. He couldn't understand why everyone said they loved him so much but pushed him harder and harder to be something he wasn't, never was, and knew he never could be. He had leftie friends who faced the same pressures and they regularly spoke up and protested, but all their loving family members and friends insisted. Right was right, they said. We love you, otherwise we wouldn't push you to change.

By the time of Trevor's junior year in high school, his church and others had had enough of the leftie dissidents. They formed the Choose The Right Coalition to support a proposed new law mandating that everyone use their right hand to write, all the time. Only their right hand. For months before the election Trevor's parents festooned their house with posters that said things like "God Speed The Right." Every Sunday they sang "Choose The Right" at church. "We love you," his parents and church leaders said, "please please please change and choose the right. We love you so much, that's why we want you to change!" And when Trevor and his other leftie friends didn't, they found themselves mocked, harassed, gossiped about, taunted, sometimes beaten up. By other kids at church, even, all under the loving supervision of his loving parents and loving church leaders. God hates lefties, the other kids said. God doesn't hate me, Trevor had always thought. He loves me. But eventually, Trevor began to wonder.

The proposition won, and became known as the Right Or Flight Law. Trevor's parents, teachers, and now his church leaders ramped it up. "Please," they said. "Please Trevor, you must change! We have to obey, honor and sustain the law. God wants you to choose the right! We can't let you live with us and God won't either if you don't change. We love you so much but we just can't have any lefties breaking the rules! We won't associate with you anymore if you don't change! You must never bring any of your leftie friends around! We have to protect our purity! That's why we're pushing you so hard to change, because we love you so!"

Trevor thought of something he'd read. If you love something, let it go, give it the freedom to fly and be what it truly was meant to be. Those words resonated so strongly with him. Wasn't love supposed to be kind, not use force, not punish, not threaten, not be haughty or self-righteous, not think badly of anyone else, but be patient, hope, endure? How could he change something that had always been there, that he never chose, that was obviously the repository of some God-given talent? Why should he want to?

By the time Trevor turned 18 he was used to being ostracized in the name of love. We love you Trevor, his parents said, that's why we won't let you bring any of your leftie friends over to the house. We can't support your illegal activity. We love you Trevor, his church leaders said, that's why we won't let you participate at church like the Righteous Kids do. So Trevor turned more of his time and attention to his growing art and calligraphy business. By this time he'd saved enough money to buy a nice car and was getting ready to move out of his parents' house for good. To someplace where he wouldn't have to face the relentless loving hostility and pressure to Choose The Right.

On his 18th birthday a letter arrived in the mail. It was from his church. It said "Dear Trevor: We love you and want to meet with you at 6 a.m. next Sunday. We have been told that you refuse to Choose The Right. Because we love you, we want to help you make amends and to help you Choose The Right. You must attend this meeting. There is no other way. With love, Your Church Leaders."

Trevor showed up more out of curiosity than anything else. It was early morning, still dark outside. He sat in a large room by himself, facing 15 men. They said "Thank you for coming Trevor. We love you and want to help you Choose The Right. If you can't, or won't, then we will show our love for you by taking away your church membership because we just can't have lefties here. We know you love us too and that you understand. We would love you even more if you Choose the Right. Will you?"

Trevor said "I have tried all my life to be what you say God wants me to be. When I try to do what you say, all I feel is conflict and anger and misery. When I follow what my heart says God made me to be, I feel happiness and peace. Don't the scriptures say we'll know in our hearts what is good and right? I have been nothing but what God made me to be."

Pandemonium ensued for several minutes, as Trevor sat calmly. "Trevor," said the leader, "now we see that you are unrepentant. God has said that only those who Choose The Right can go to heaven. We love you and if you are not willing to Choose The Right so you can go to heaven, then we must push you out of the church here on earth too and make sure you never sully heaven's door with your rebellious leftyness. We love you so much Trevor, and that is why we must shut you away from God forever. We must protect Him and not allow any lefties to approach. Especially you. We love you Trevor," they said as they revoked his church membership and privileges. "We love you Trevor," they said as they forbade him to ever take communion again. "We love you Trevor," they said as they canceled his baptism. "We love you Trevor," they said as they locked the doors of heaven and left Trevor outside.

With that, everyone arose. One by one the men who had just smiled as they lovingly cast Trevor out of heaven shook Trevor's hand and smiled again. We love you Trevor, they said. Some gave him hugs. Some cried and begged him to Choose The Right. We love you Trevor, we love you so much. There's the door. As long as you are a leftie, you can never come back.

Trevor walked outside. By this time the sun was high and bright and he blinked for a moment as his eyes adjusted to the brilliance. He gazed up into the vivid, shimmering blue of a perfect summer sky, felt the cool breeze wafting a faint scent of flowers through the air. "God," said Trevor in his heart, "do You hate me? Must I cut off my left hand and choose only the right from now on in order to see You again? I need to know."


Trevor waited. He trusted the scripture that said sincere prayers would be answered. And the answer came, clear as a bell, as clear as any inspiration he had ever felt. "Trevor, my son, I know what you are, and I approve."

And from that day forward Trevor walked in the sunlight, with a happy heart.

16 June 2009

Reply To Casey, Chapter Two

This is the second post I promised in response to Casey, and particularly his statement that "homosexuality might have the potential to prevent someone from obtaining their full inheritance." By "full inheritance" I believe he means exaltation in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom. He recently reiterated this in a prior thread by quoting Doc. & Cov. 131:1~3: "In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; and in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; and if he does not, he cannot obtain it."

Casey has hit on the most irreconcilable conundrum created by Mormon scripture. If we interpret the new and everlasting covenant of marriage to mean that I must be eternally sealed to at least one woman in order to qualify for the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom, and IF we assume this is the last word on the subject never to be changed or expanded on and there are no other possibilities (e.g. the new & everlasting covenant might allow for more forms of marriage than Casey envisions), then in all good faith I and countless others at this point can do nothing more than say "No thanks. Not now, not then." As Daniel said, that would be my idea of hell, not heaven. In all honesty, I am not capable. This is not theoretical with me. I know this because I tried it once and the result was miserable. Unlike many other gay guys, I actually have experienced first hand all the ups and downs and every aspect of heterosexual marital intimacy, in all facets, happy, sad, and in between. So I speak from experience in saying that, having been released from it, I can't do it again. Based on my current understanding of myself and the gospel, rather than being so yoked for eternity I would rather remain single.

In saying this, I mean no disrespect to any daughter of God. They are wonderful, priceless. I honor and respect them. My own little daughter is a miraculous delight and I love her to distraction. But not in the way I would an eternally co-equal companion. When it comes to that kind of relationship, never again with a woman. I could not in honesty or integrity commit myself to something like that which I know I am incapable of sustaining.

And let me stress the following: even if I remained strictly celibate and totally compliant with the Church's teachings in this regard for the rest of my mortal life, if my eternal reward for such longsuffering is to return to a heterosexual marriage, then based on what I know of myself right now, I still would not want it. God knows this, of course, about me and countless others. He would not force me into a relationship I didn't want. And I know I'm not the only one like this. So where do we end up, after that lifetime of loneliness, gritting our teeth, and cold showers, if we don't want the reward? Sometimes I wonder if straight members of the Church even comprehend this or how hollow it makes the promises of "eternal blessings" seem.

It's no wonder that by LDS Social Services' own statistics, about 80% of Church members who are gay are leaving the Church. As I considered some of Casey's statements and their implications, I comprehended more than I ever did before why so many gay Saints have taken their own lives. Because they want so much to be faithful and true, to grab the brass ring, to have eternal increase, but if Doc. & Cov. 131:1~3 really is the final word, then for them celestial glory means nothing but eternal misery. Why not just jump the queue if the end they're supposed to be enduring till is an end they find repugnant at the very core of their being? This is the conundrum which a gay friend of mine, one of the 80% who have left the Church precisely because of these intolerable conflicts, says "drives us to madness." He served an honorable mission, returned, was honest with himself and his family, came out, evaluated his future with the Church, and left. He tells me that in light of what the Church offers him, he will be quite satisfied to "live a fulfilling life with a man, and that's that." Many, many others tell the same story. The Church simply asks too much of them and gives too little assurance in return.

This is why only new revelation will resolve these intolerable dilemmas that are driving so many out of the Church. Because as it now stands, the Church is basically telling many, many people that the top tier is completely out of reach for them. That they have no hope of happiness in this life or the next. And if they try to qualify by marrying someone of the opposite gender in this life, odds are they will create only broken hearts, families, hopes and lives.

Fortunately the Church seems to have learned its lesson on this latter point at least and now counsels its gay members not to do that. But that still doesn't answer the question: what hope do gay Saints have when the Church now affirmatively tells them not to do the very thing Casey points to as the essential, non-negotiable requirement for top tier exaltation?

Some may say this is precisely what the Atonement is intended to compensate for. That the Atonement will change hearts and desires so that everybody who wants to can get in. That somehow in the eternities it will all be fixed, which ultimately means nobody will be gay anymore. But that is a brand-new doctrine and a fundamental shift in Church teachings for which I find no scriptural basis. It has emerged only in the last few years as the Church has begun moving away from its prior insistence that this was all just chosen misbehavior, not a condition, and that it could be changed and cured in this life. Now it concedes that that "may" not be possible. So it had to find some method of explaining away its prior assertions.

In 1992 the Church issued to local leaders a pamphlet called ""Understanding and Helping Those Who Have Homosexual Problems". It reiterated many prior positions by the Church, e.g. homosexual thoughts and feelings "can and should be overcome," people were not "born that way," therapy can "cure" the "condition", and so forth. Now the Church has shifted significantly away from those claims and says, contrary to prior positions, that "attractions alone do not make you unworthy", that homosexuality may be a "core characteristic" that cannot be "overcome in this life," and that gay Saints may have to "simply endure" it.

Conspicuously absent from the latest publications is the prior promise that "individual effort, faith and the atonement" will fix homosexuality in mortality. That has now been deferred to the next life. Those who in 1992 were promised a fix which never happened must now decide how much faith they can risk placing in this new promise of a "cure" sometime after mortality. Since the Church has always taught that the same spirit we have when we leave this life will possess our bodies in the next life, if that change does not occur in mortality, then I will be forgiven some skepticism about it happening in the hereafter. I'll be 100% blunt: I don't trust the Church on this issue anymore. The shift away from prior ignorance came only grudgingly and at the cost of many lives, literally, suicides driven by despair, no hope, and harassment by the Church itself, and it happened only when that prior ignorance could no longer withstand the growing mountain of evidence that the Church was wrong. And it came not from the prophet in General Conference, but off the cuff in a staged "interview" with one apostle and one member of the Seventy, a setting which we're justified in saying makes their statements nothing but personal opinion. It comes concurrently with other senior Church authorities actively spreading untruths about the political and legal consequences of same-sex marriage. The credibility bank is just about tapped out here.

As best I can tell right now, LDS theology allows only three possibilities for the eternal destiny of God's gay children: (1) they will not be gay in the eternities having been somehow transformed against their will at some point (a possibility which I and others reject because it conflicts with what we most deeply feel inside, which no scripture supports, and which seems to contradict the BoM), or (2) they will be locked out of the top tier because of a characteristic which they did not choose (which violates every basic Gospel principle), or (3) there is more to learn about the CK and what relationships will prevail there, and they may actually have some hope of landing there after all in relationships that would be heaven for them.

For now, I have no choice but to believe that God who knows my heart better than any other recognizes the impossible situation in which the Church currently places me and so many others. I have to trust that He knows (1) I want eternal increase and limitless possibilities, I don't want to settle for less; (2) I also would be miserable if I were sealed eternally to one or more women but inexpressibly, radiantly, celestially happy to be so with another of His sons, (3) I want to follow the Savior in every way. Current Church teachings make it impossible to harmonize all three of these. But if Section 138 is correct that we will be judged not only by our works but also "the desire of [our] hearts", and if the 9th Article of Faith's promise of more great and marvelous revelations is to be believed, then I have to conclude that Section 131 is not a complete statement of all possibilities and that somehow some provision will be made to reconcile all of these completely pure and righteous desires without conflict. Thank God for continuing revelation and the 9th Article of Faith.

14 June 2009

Insightful Analysis, and No, Not From Me

I actually do have a pretty full life outside this blog and what tends to be its most recurring topic. Part of that life includes regularly skimming some of the better blogs in the larger Bloggernacle for new knowledge and fresh perspectives. And I just found a comment so insightful, so good, that I had to share. It arose in the context of discussing Alma 32 and how "the seed test" actually plays out so differently for different people, whereas in the orthodox Mormon view, it ought to work the same for everyone, isn't that right? Well maybe it's not that simple.

I was impressed by the comment not just because it applied so insightfully to matters of faith in general, but because it also perfectly captured the conundrum so many Mormons face when confronted with a family member who is gay. From what they've told me, several of my friends in other places face precisely this reaction from their families. I would be interested in others' thoughts on this comment, in whatever context you choose:

I agree with Andrew S that Alma 32 or Moroni’s challenge can only lead to someone learning subjective truths: I felt good about the BoM, I feel good about JS, etc. But while many other belief systems are happy to say, “this works for me, so I do it,” Mormons use their experiences to say, “this is true, and it works for everyone, it is an objective truth.”

The church teaches this. The church teaches this is the ONLY true religion and the ONLY way to happiness and the ONLY way to salvation. Sure, you can accept it in this life or the next but it MUST be accepted for you to be saved. Frankly, this style has pros and cons. It makes missionary efforts much more succesful because it ingrains in members the need to share with everyone. We have all heard the story of, what if in the next life my friend says, “you had the truth, why didn’t you share it with me?” Jared has shared his testimony on this site several times and said something to the effect of, I must share what God has blessed me with. This is quite common among members.

The cons are that this alienates other christian religions and rubs some people the wrong way. It can be frustrating to be told that “you really aren’t happy, you just think you are, because you don’t have the full truth.” And going back to Alma 32, it can be frustrating to say, “I tried to put the seed in my heart and it didn’t grow so I am throwing it out,” and have your loved ones look at you like, but you just threw out the ONLY seed that will make you happy. It works. You need it back in your heart a little longer (meaning, until you do like it and it does grow).

This is what I find to be frustrating with Alma 32 and the church as a whole. The test isn’t about seeing if it works for the individual. The test is about seeing if the individual accepts what is already defined as the ONLY thing that works.

Now don’t get me wrong, if one believes this is the ONLY way back, of course you will be desperate that your family partake of the delicious fruit. But one problem I see is this desire for others to appreciate the fruit is so strong, that members don’t allow their children to truly TEST it for themselves. It is already defined as the only way. One can’t simply conclude that it doesn’t work for them without being looked upon as weak or faithless. This is especially frustrating at times because the church stresses free agency so often, but it seems to be lacking in practice in some ways. But, to clarify, I am not accusing people on this site of that, or all members, but I think it is sad that many members never feel that they truly had a choice in the matter that didn’t involve serious pressure from loved ones. But, like I said, it is a natural consequence. Parents love their children and want them to be happy. Parents who believe the church is the only way to be saved and the only way to truly be happy aren’t going to be able to let go of an issue like this very easily. So, I do not see a solution. It seems like a catch 22. If the parents strongly believe the church to be true, it is difficult to back off and let their kids decide on their own as if the kids are deciding between playing soccer or football. If the parents don’t believe strongly, the majority of kids won’t view it as an important decision and may not think about it that hard. Simply put, if the parents have such vested interests, it’s hard to let go enough to let the kids truly test it for themselves.


That is about as compelling and accurate an assessment of this whole approach as I have ever read, both as to missionary work and the Church's whole approach to the issue of homosexuality. You can read the original post and the full discussion here.

13 June 2009

Momentary Reversion to Complete and Total Idiocy

Lest this blog risk taking itself too seriously, herewith some slightly customized lyrics that popped into my head during my 4 mile run today with the finale from Hairspray blasting through the iPod as I contemplated recent political events in California, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, etc. and what they portend for the future:

You can't stop today [No! ]
As it comes speeding 'round the track [oooh, child yes! ]
Yesterday is hist'ry [be gone! ]
And it's never comin' back! [Look ahead, cause...]
Tomorrow isn't gonna wait, and it don't know gay from straight [Yeah! ]

'Cause the world keeps spinnin' round and round
And my heart's keepin time to the speed of sound
I was lost 'til I heard the drums, then I found my way
'Cause you can't stop the beat!

Ever since we first saw the light,
Two lads in love would like to shake it on a Saturday night
So I'm gonna shake and shimmy it with all of my might today!
Cause you can't stop the motion of the ocean, or the rain from above
And you can try to stop the paradise we're dreamin' of
But you cannot stop the rhythm of two hearts in love to stay
'Cause you can't stop the beat!


We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming of allegedly mature, rational analysis.

12 June 2009

Reply To Casey, Chapter One

Thanks to all for your responses to my friend Casey. He is an honorable, faithful man of integrity who sincerely tries to do what's right and to follow the Savior's example of humility and charity. I appreciate the reasoned tone of everyone's discussion and comments to him.

Casey and I have gone the rounds on this issue several times. But he made three particularly salient points in his recent comments which I want to address for this wider audience. I'll take them one at a time in successive posts.

First is his point that he does "not believe homosexuality (without unchaste actions) is by nature evil, wicked or naughty."

I don't either. But for a long time this is precisely what the Church taught, and it excommunicated otherwise faithful members just for being this way regardless of whether they'd actually indulged in "unchaste actions" or not. In short, the Church used to teach as doctrine something that was wrong, and on that basis kicked out members who otherwise wanted to stay. Since then there has been no "thus saith the Lord" type revelation about this issue, and the Church's position has fluctuated significantly but it still remains extremely hostile to homosexuality.

So if it is not evil or wicked to be gay, then what constitutes "unchaste actions" for this purpose? The law of chastity as taught in the temple is that it is wrong to have sexual relations with anyone other than one's husband or wife to whom one is legally and lawfully married. Since only heterosexual couples are admitted into the temple, naturally this definition would conform to their relationship, so it's not ultimately dispositive as a full description of the law of chastity. My understanding of the law of chastity has always been simply "no sex outside marriage." Until recently, marriage was impossible for gay people so gay sex was ipso facto "unchaste" by this definition.

But now gay couples can marry in a growing number of places. If we nevertheless insist that faithfully monogamous married gay couples are still being "unchaste" in their sexual relations with each other even after they are "legally and lawfully wed," then we have created a new definition of chastity that has never been used before, one that is not only marriage-based but gender-based. It would essentially be "no sexual relations outside the marriage of a man and a woman, or ever between two people of the same gender under any circumstances."

This would be unprecedented. Some might say "of course it's unprecedented, gay marriage is unprecedented too, and we have never had to consider this issue before." That may be correct, but it begs the question. Just what does unchastity consist of? Is sex between two people of the same gender ipso facto unchaste even when they are in fact legally and lawfully married?

The Church would need a scriptural basis to say that, so in order to answer this question we find ourselves right back at the issue of whether the Bible condemns homosexuality per se. No statement I have ever seen by an LDS leader that condemns homosexuality or gay sex rests on anything but a Biblical basis, since the uniquely LDS scriptural canon says nothing about it. Many statements by past LDS leaders about homosexuality have since been shown to be flat-out wrong (e.g. "there is no such thing as homosexuality, only homosexual behavior" and "it can be changed"). And as has been amply demonstrated before, solid Biblical scholarship makes good arguments for the proposition that those few verses popularly believed to condemn homosexuality as sinful do not in fact mean that at all.

We must also consider the wealth of Biblical denunciations of adultery and heterosexual fornication, which far outweigh the scriptural attention given to homosexuality. If proportion is any indication, then God appears to care much more about heterosexual sin and breaches of marriage covenants than He does about homosexuality.

I conclude from all this that unchastity is most defensibly defined as breach of a marital covenant of sexual faithfulness, or indulgence in sex without a marital covenant, and has nothing to do with the genders of the parties involved. In which case, if two men or women are legally and lawfully wedded civilly, with no interest in complying with LDS temple standards, why should the Church care if they marry or not? And what specifically within LDS doctrine prohibits the Church from recognizing those marriages as valid? Nothing that I can see. Given the alternatives for gay people if marriage is off-limits to them, why would the Church not want to make the stabilizing, pacifying, medically and economically beneficial status of marriage as widely available as possible?

The 12th Article of Faith says the Church believes in "honoring and sustaining the law", and in the 1930's and 1940's Church members were counseled to do so in support and defense of their various countries' governments, even though the Church knew that would mean Saints fighting and killing each other in battle. So the Church would set a new and dangerous precedent if it now stated that it would discipline for "unchastity" any Mormons who entered an otherwise legal civil marriage with a same-sex spouse. The message would be that the Church now believes in the 12th Article of Faith only selectively, and that it is willing to restrict and revoke the membership privileges of those who enter an otherwise completely legal marriage of which the Church disapproves on purely religious grounds. The Church would essentially be forcing some of its members to choose between preserving their church membership and availing themselves of a legal privilege and benefit otherwise open to them.

Some may say the Church already does this by reserving the right to restrict church and temple participation of those who disobey the Word of Wisdom. Drinking alcohol is legal for adults, yet Mormons who do so may find their access to the temple blocked and their membership privileges restricted. While this comparison may be superficially appealing, there are enough differences to make it inapposite.

Drinking alcohol is a purely voluntary and, for most, recreational activity which, if taken to excess, can cause serious injury and even death. Furthermore, for much of the Church's history it was not a bar to temple attendance; it only became so by popular vote of the Church membership without any apparent divine directive. Joseph Smith drank wine all his life. In short, drinking alcohol is not an intrinsically "immoral" thing.

Marriage, by contrast, is widely acknowledged and understood as a life achievement to which virtually everyone aspires, one with verified benefits to mental and physical health and longevity, a legal status with thousands of special privileges, a condition widely spoken of as "the bedrock of society." The consequences of marital infidelity can be devastating not only to the spouses but to innocent third parties like children. There is no question that the Bible condemns extra-marital sex as inherently immoral, as "unchaste."

It is one thing for the Church to restrict or suspend the Church membership and priviliges of those who choose to use alcohol, a potentially destructive artificial substance which clouds judgment and can injure or kill but which, by itself, is morally neutral. It is quite another to insert itself into secular political processes to try to impose laws on everyone regardless of religious belief which would prevent an entire group of people, most of whom are not LDS and have no interest in becoming LDS, from accessing all of the demonstrated benefits of marriage solely because of a personal characteristic which those people did not choose.

It's been conceded that homosexuality is not "by nature evil, wicked, or naughty." Neither, I would posit, is heterosexuality. According to Church standards, heterosexual sex is not only all right but positively encouraged within a legal marriage. To say that the same rule does not apply to homosexual sex within a legal marriage is to say that the attraction and desire is benign and not problematic, but carrying it out would be. In short, gay sex is always wrong no matter what. If that is so, then once again we find ourselves right back to asking what is the doctrinal basis for that position. We must look to the Scriptures, and so round and round and round we go, as already noted above.

Bottom line: Given the paucity of scriptural references about homosexuality as opposed to the mountain of condemnations about heterosexual marital unfaithfulness, it makes no sense to say heterosexual marriage legitimizes the sexual activity of its spouses if we can't say the same thing about same-sex spouses. The Church can't pick and choose which laws it will respect; its own doctrine requires it to respect all of them. Of course it has the freedom to set its own rules for membership even if those rules vary from legal privileges and benefits which its members might otherwise enjoy. But by disciplining any members who enter legal same-sex marriages, the Church would reinforce the box which it's already built around its gay members: it relentlessly pushes everyone else to marry yet will urge its gay members not to for vague theological reasons and will punish them if they marry a same-sex partner for exactly the same reasons a heterosexual member marries, namely, the love, companionship, fulfillment, happiness and security in life that everyone presumably wants. It's no wonder there is a steady stream of gay Mormons leaving the Church.

In my next post I'll address Casey's second point: "I don't think God would create some of his children incapable of obtaining all that He wants to give us . . . I do, however, think that homosexuality might have the potential to prevent someone from obtaining their full inheritance."

10 June 2009

Call For Contributions Round Two

Hey blog mates and readers. My friend Craig, who has now chosen to reveal his real name as Casey, has posted his response to the original Call For Contributions post below. As usual, he is thoughtful and respectful. I invite everybody to check out what he says and respond in kind if you wish.

06 June 2009

Shaken Faith Syndrome

Call For Contributions just below has engendered some good discussion and I hope will provoke more. Craig has read it all and is preparing his response to everyone, so stay tuned there. Thanks to everyone who contributed, and I hope more readers will do so. I particularly invite further comment on the first question, which is whether being gay is a "weakness to be overcome like any other" or whether it is simply a feature of creation.

Some of Craig's statements and the comments in response are the latest reiterations of many, many discussions I've seen and heard for years about how we should see the role of LDS leaders' statements, what constitutes authoritative doctrine, and whether the Church is an all or nothing proposition. I blogged a while back about the All or Nothing approach and why I disagree with it--and think LDS doctrine disagrees with it too.

Some question whether it's worthwhile or even defensible to be gay and remain within a church whose doctrine and policies are so clearly anti-gay. Whether it's intellectually honest to try to rationalize and harmonize one's own self-knowledge with the LDS Church's apparently opposing views. People I respect and have sincere affection for say it's not, that faith isn't a smorgasbord. That's okay. They are thoughtful and sincere and I honor them for that. I happen to have a different view. So forgive me if I advocate it here for a moment.

The 9th Article of Faith tells us we must expect new revelation on more great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. I understand that to mean that the Church's institutional knowledge and doctrine will always be incomplete, there will always be more to learn. That in turn means that the Church itself and its understandings and teachings are a work in progress. That things not only can but must change and evolve. The history of the Church confirms this time and again.

After the 1978 revelation, Bruce McConkie, to that point one of the staunchest defenders of the racist priesthood policy, was asked to explain his prior statements. His response was basically "Forget what I said, it's been voided." Something I'm sure many members of the Church thought was a fixed, eternal principle--like polygamy?--had been completely upended overnight. And it was clearly in response to growing pressure on the Church and the circumstances it faced as it expanded worldwide. Grassroots efforts within the Church itself also contributed to the change. The Lord tends to speak when He's asked a question or there's a crisis and not before. The revelation on priesthood is a prime example. I think He wants us to learn to figure things out on our own as much as possible. If we're here to start learning how to become like Him, well, nobody tells Him what to do, and He had to learn how to be that way too. Same for us.

So I think there is a place for those of us who choose to remain in the Church and advocate for changes in understanding, to push from the bottom up for greater light and knowledge and tolerance and charity and increased vision on the part of the Church and individual members. Change can be tough but it's inevitable. If you stop, you die. That goes for organizations as well as people.

This can be difficult. An honest good faith continuing search for new knowledge and understanding presents the risk that one's beliefs may be seriously challenged, even severely shaken. Nobody welcomes the prospect of learning that they may have been mistaken, not the Church, not any of us. This has happened to me, and I don't like it any more than the next person. Everyone is at a different point on their path. I judge no one, criticize no one, condemn no one because of their belief or the nature of their faith. Certainly my own knowledge is fallible and far from complete and I would not presume to judge others in that regard. If I hope for charity myself I must extend it to all first.

All that understood, the wise and prescient Hugh Brown said (quoted over there to the left) that we should "be unafraid of new ideas for they are as stepping stones to progress." That's easy to say, hard to do. If we discover that something we trusted before wasn't accurate, or was incomplete, we naturally become skeptical about other things from the same source. I'm that way and have said so. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

In that overall context, let me highly recommend to you, gentle reader, that you have a look at this, one of the best discussions I've seen in a long time about this very issue of either/or, all or nothing, what to do when your faith is shaken or you encounter something that seriously challenges what you always believed, how to distinguish between solid official doctrine and non-binding opinion, the role and nature of personal responsibility and individual revelation in a very hierarchical Church that stresses conformity, and the paradoxes that can sometimes arise in sorting all that out. Though not specifically presented as such, a lot of the discussion there is directly relevant to how we individually and the Church collectively deal with How God Views Gays and figure out how we fit into His plan and His church.

04 June 2009

Call For Contributions

I have a very good friend called Craig who is a faithful, devout Latter-day Saint. He served an honorable mission, and with his wife is now raising some wonderful kids who have befriended mine as well. His priorities are in the right place. He has a testimony and strong faith. He also has some surprisingly heterodox beliefs about a lot of things, which is very refreshing. He values integrity, honesty and respect, and practices what he preaches. He is the first person I ever came out to, and he was gracious and matter-of-fact about it. I will always be grateful to him for that. I am blessed to have him as a friend.

All that said, no two friends always agree on everything. Craig and I have had some wonderfully vigorous discussions about the course my life has taken since last summer. While we are honest about our disagreements, we always keep things respectful too.

One of the points on which we consistently disagree is the nature of being gay and whether it is something that could change or be "overcome." In our latest conversation we each stated our positions on this issue and defended them. We came to no resolution of course, but it occurred to me that some of my friends & colleagues in the 'sphere might enjoy adding to the discussion and perhaps could suggest perspectives neither I nor Craig had thought of. I've told Craig I would be doing this and he supported the idea. I think he will be interested to hear from whoever chooses to comment on our conversation, which is reproduced in pertinent part below. Craig reads my blog so you may respond to him directly. There are only two rules for comments: stick to the issues, and be polite. Disagree with Craig if you will, but back up what you say. I will not tolerate any disrespect to my honorable friend.

All right, here goes. This was our conversation, and I welcome comments:

Craig: I reject the idea that change is not possible. I refuse to believe that [being gay] is a weakness that is exempt from the universal command to overcome all weaknesses. Sorry but I am being brutally honest, I view this as an excuse. We are told over and over that our desires in this life will stay with us in the next. Please know again that I am not being judgmental. We just see this differently.

Alan: You see it as a "weakness," I do not, I see it as simply a feature found throughout creation, one on which the Church's knowledge is evolving.

Craig: Call it what you will. God creates all of us with different "features" and then commands us to change some of them to be in line with His will. I simply can't see Him giving an exemption to this one. It would mean He was invalidating His own rule, which would then nullify His divinity. But one thing is for certain, come judgment day we will all be dealt with 100% fairly.

Alan: Tell me Craig where you find that rule.

Craig: Alma 42. Was looking for a verse to quote, but I'd have to paste in the entire chapter. Best verse: 25 What, do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit. If so, God would cease to be God.

Alan: I have no quarrel with anything in that chapter and don't see any conflict between it and anything I've said.

Craig: So , the issue becomes: Is marriage between man and woman "the law"?


Alan: Define "the law." Not trying to be "cute", just clear.

Craig: Understood. Best answer I can give is: The scriptures, which would include, I would say, modern revelation. I am not going to say that everything spoken from the pulpit at General Conference is "scripture" because that stance irks the hell out of me and is very Stage 3, but my personal take is that the Proclamation on the Family is destined to become D&C 139.

Alan: Even that Proclamation does not rule out gay marriage.

[thereafter followed a discussion of what the scriptures do and don't say about this]

Craig: Let's focus on today. The issue of gay marriage has roared into the forefront in the past few years, and is growing in dominance. I was not alive in the time of Joseph Smith, but it does not seem to have been an issue [back then]. This is one reason why I love the idea of a living prophet. You are right that canonized scripture is the only "law" we can fall back on and you are right, as far as we know, that no canonized scripture out and out condemns homosexuality. But the scriptures, thank God, evolve. The Proclamation on the Family was given before the issue of gay marriage was as strong of an issue as it is today. I cannot agree with you that it allows for wiggle room. Its entire purpose is to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Craig: Going back to the core issue: I do not believe in a God that would issue such a statement via His church, and then create children who are incapable of living up to it. If I were in your shoes and truly felt that I was incapable of change, I would be faced with two choices: 1) I am wrong, or 2) this Church is wrong. If 2, then all of it is wrong. So why stick around?




Discuss.

03 June 2009

This Captures It

Reading through an excellent post by another blogger entitled What Bothers Me, And Why I Still Believe, I linked to his separate blog about Prop 8. In the wake of New Hampshire today raising the total of marriage equality states to six, I wanted to pass on an excellent comment from that separate blog, which emerged from a respectful debate with a conservative Christian commenter who obviously is no friend of the GLBT community. Kudos to Derek, the commenter (full post and thread here):

"Homosexuals do not demand that we "worship their master." They demand we allow them the right of conscience to determine for themselves who is their master and how they can best serve that master--just as mainstream Christians and Mormons each demand that same right. The issue of whether or not the Bible condones homosexual relationships is irrelevant. Neither conservative Christian faiths nor the Mormon faith have to perform or permit homosexual marriages, or accept those who engage in homosexual relationships within our faith, whether those relationships are marriage or not. What is relevant is allowing individuals and organizations the right to make those moral determinations. If we deny them that right, and force our belief regarding marriage on them, we betray the concept of liberty and freedom of conscience upon which this nation was founded."

And I wish the video below had been available before last year's elections. It is compelling and I would love to hear any Prop 8 proponent respond:

01 June 2009

Wish Fulfilled

A few months ago I was feeling frustrated with what seemed like an oversupply of angst and negativity sloshing through the Internet and public discourse about the "burdens" and the "struggle" of being gay and LDS, I thought wait a minute, there's a lot that's positive too, we shouldn't forget that. Pres. Hinckley said "In all of living have much fun and laughter; life is to be enjoyed, not just endured." How could I remind people of the good things?

Very suddenly the idea came to me. We need a picture. Worth a thousand words and all that. An image that could remind everyone that being gay doesn't have to mean being morose or self-flaggelating all the time, that there are lots of wonderful things about it. I'd always wanted to commission a painting and now I had the perfect opportunity. I knew a talented artist in Utah who'd be perfect, so I contacted Dan Embree and proposed the idea. He was on it instantly and enthusiastically, and last Saturday night unveiled "Community", his latest and one of his most beautiful creations.



It captures the concept perfectly. A group of God's children standing together, letting their lights shine, peace and trust in their countenances, arms interlinked for connection and support, faces aglow with life, vitality, gratitude and courage. You can read Dan's own thoughts about the painting, and find out how to acquire a print for yourself, here.

When the painting was unveiled, someone asked me what I hoped and intended long-term for it. I think Dan agrees with me that I hope it could become an iconic image, well known for symbolizing the hope and strength and faith and solidarity and mutual support to be found in the gay Mormon community, and not just there, but in any group of people who share a common bond.

Dan Embree is an artist to watch. He has the gift. Thanks Dan for a beautiful creation and for blessing all our lives.