When the equals signs started going up Monday/Tuesday, I was full of optimism–here was a chance to change hearts and minds, to inaugurate(/consummate) a new era in the Mormon gay rights debate–or rather, to legitimate such a debate in the first place, to break up the near-twenty-year hegemony of heteronormativity, from the Proc to Prop 8 and it’s aftermath. Disillusionment wasn’t long in coming.
The scriptural invocations and the all-too-predictable “love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin” line were one thing, but to see a friend of a friend congratulated for her “moral courage” in “standing up” to “the gay agenda” and to be accused of personal apostasy was quite another and quite a bit too much. … I was planning on re-treading more ground, throwing out some more unbelievable examples, but, as you can see, the bitterness is still too near and too deep for me–my own public declaration of support for gay marriage, as I’ve indicated, came at a tremendous personal cost. In the end, I could sum what I saw of the debate thusly: many tears were shed, many hearts were untouched, many friends were unmade.
It would be easy to throw up one’s hands and say “We all made mistakes”; and no doubt each “side” used its fair share of vitriol and invective, hyperbole and position-shaming. But I would ever-so-humbly venture to posit that it is those who claim that God himself (and it is definitely always himself for them) was, is, and will ever be unequivocally and emphatically on their side who are primarily responsible for the chasm that has opened up in the Mormon community.
So how to move forward from here, to get the “Follow the Prophet” camp to budge? How to heal the breach? To provoke an invitation back into the community, as it were (because clearly demanding a place in it didn’t work)? In the spirit of my “[Female] Ordination Primer”, I’ve ever-so-arrogantly anthologized many of my own Facebook comments, semi-blowing my anonymity in the process, in the vain or perhaps plain desperate belief that my thoughts and arguments will prove useful to others where my own attempts to wield them have met with, at best, limited success. Once again, though, I welcome comments, the insights of others as they have thoughtfully and/or prayerfully considered and discussed how best to (appr/br)oach this subject in the current Church climate. This is not, I cannot say enough, about promoting my perspective, even my perspective as a gay Mormon–after seeing innumerable “I’m gay and I oppose gay [marriage /sex /relationships /children’s outcomes, anything is fair game except gay people themselves]” blog posts thrown around, I have cause to doubt anyone’s claim to authority based on their membership in the group-in-question alone. But I do believe that it has become necessary to retrench a little bit, to reassess our strategies to establish legitimacy as faithful Mormons and as advocates of gay marriage.
A note before we begin: For a variety of reasons–strategic, analytic, to accommodate the heterogeneity of stances in the camp of, for lack of more convenient term, “No on 8” dissenters, etc.–I and others have found it useful to distinguish between advocating for gay marriage for secular people (and for those who are truly outside of the Church, as opposed to most of us; this parsing often starts with a “there are many behaviors the Church deems immoral that it doesn’t seek–or require members to seek–their legal ban” premise) and advocating for a full incorporation of same-sex couples into Mormon theology and practice. Without further ado, welcome to my virtual world:
[1.] Here’s the thing about depression and OCD: they *do* suck, they are manifestly bad. We know this not because the prophets or the scriptures tell us so but because they decrease human happiness. Where homosexual relationships poses more fundamental problems than that for Mormonism is that those who participate in them are NOT unusually unhappy. They are perfectly capable of leading productive, well-adjusted lives and raising productive, well-adjusted children not despite their “condition” (as would be the case, presumably, for depression / [maybe] OCD), but precisely because of it–that they are sexually fulfilled, comfortable with who they are, etc.
Now. Consider how the premise of missionary work is often pitched as telling non-Mormons “We don’t want to take away any good that you have–only to add to it”. In the case of committed gay and lesbian couples, you are literally telling them to discard the good they have–the greatest good in their lives, as a partner is, often, even usually, for heterosexual couples–for, what? Celibacy, straight marriage? In other words, prospects for happiness far less certain. As a matter both of 2 Ne. 2:25 and other scriptures (Mark 2:27, for instance) […] I choose to view the gospel as intended for the maximization of happiness & health & welfare first–what any parent would want for their children–and enforcing dogmas on human sexuality or gender or gender roles second.
If gay people will truly just become straight in the next life (as the mormonsandgays website suggests), then I think the best solution would be to treat them the same as straight people who don’t get married in this life–i.e., that, as terrible as it is from my perspective, that they’ll lose this life’s partner and have an opportunity to find a soulmate (of the opposite sex) in the next life. Because it just seems so clear to me that we’ll have more happiness on Earth that way. […]
As for trusting the prophet: the FP also called interracial marriage “repugnant”. In the first place, even though I strongly disagree with the opinion, I wouldn’t say that necessarily constitutes “leading astray” [as a friend had pointed out that OD2 promises us the prophet will never lead us astray]. But more to the point, were we all as faithful members supposed to stick with that until they changed course? I think, on the contrary, that change can only come when the membership is ready for it, when they study these issues out for themselves in a spirit of humility and love.
[2.] I don’t mean that quote [wherein George Albert Smith, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., and David O McKay condemn interracial marriage] to be all gotcha or anything; nor am I saying the Brethren aren’t inspired. But I do think that when it comes to social issues, we need to radically rethink the nature and extent of their authority.
[3.] [After I was told not to “protest” and that we need to “sustain” “current revelation” as faithful members of the Church:] That assumes that there’s a bright line between protest & revelation, or that those are the only two possibilities. Disagreeing with the General Authorities does not constitute “protest”, and the Church does rely on inputs from his members [as when it changed the temple ceremony in the 90s]. I think of when Jesus said “the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27), or when Nephi says “the law hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith; yet we keep the law because of the commandments” (2 Ne. 25:25). Much of the Church’s organizational structure as well as policy is arbitrary, and is therefore open to change as that change can better serve the needs of its members: sure God COULD just tell the Prophet directly, but that’s not been the pattern–the word of wisdom, the Primary program, the Welfare system, and others have all come from faithful members taking their ideas and concerns to the Church government. I would encourage you to read the story of Zelophehad’s daughters (Numbers 27) as well.
To further clarify my epiphany: This video, while delightful, as well fellow blogger Hannah Wheelwright’s gay marriage post, represent the old approach: same-sex marriage is awesome and fair and perfectly fine for kids and won’t infringe on religious freedom or heterosexual marriage. Those arguments are all entirely secular. Coming out of SCOTUSgate, or whatever we’re going to call it (and contra what I just said, can it please not involve a gate), I’m convinced we need to address the living prophets argument head on. We need to couch our support for gay marriage as emerging because and not in spite of our Mormonism (which can’t include simply generalized, secularized “values” we inherit from [the C/c]hurch); we need to say, reversing and appropriating a phrase from the always-problematic Valerie Hudson, “I am a gay rights-ist because I am a Mormon”. I realize the strictures and possible self-censorship this approach entails; I also apprehend its risks: to some extent, we would risk appropriating “the other side’s” rhetoric of intolerance for dissent by claiming that our position necessarily follows from the religious identity our opponents share; we would be reaching for higher fruit when we’ve just been pushed onto lower ground. But I believe that is what we must do if we are to win the battle–for teh gayz, for our communities, and for (our place in) Mormonism.