Reminders of the anti-gay message at Mormon’s General Conference
This past weekend, the Mormon church held its 180th Semiannual General Conference – a conference that is broadcast to all its members across the globe. The leaders of the church reiterated the churches stance that allowing gay marriage would be “legalizing immorality” and that same-sex attractions are choices that can be changed.
Boyd K. Packer, president of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, added that the church would continue to oppose marriage equality: “Regardless of the opposition, we are determined to stay on course.”
Some of my thoughts are easy to transcribe on this blog; this is not one of those cases.
I am the “black sheep” of my family. Every single person in my family went to BYU – both parents and all 7 siblings. My four brothers served two-year missions for the church, as required. One of my three sisters did as well. I did not. My path has been different, obviously. When I was 18, my mother gave me the ultimatum: start going back to church or move out. My response: okay, bye.
Yet even as I have become more confident and assertive, I have not pressed the issues with my family. I have never challenged them. I’ve consider it a futile exercise where nobody wins. In a brief conversation about Prop 8 with my most open-minded sister, she told me that she would have voted for it. I was crushed by her words.
I can’t let it slide any longer. I cannot ignore the damage these messages cause.
When I hear that message of hate, bigotry, and intolerance proliferating to the entire church, I can only think of two things:
(1) How does my family receive those messages?
I am sure that my entire family heard it. When they do, how do they take it? Has my coming out changed their perceptions? Do they doubt the messages at all? When Boyd K. Packer, speaking on gay marriage, asks, “A law against nature would be impossible to enforce. Do you think a vote to repeal the law of gravity would do any good?” does my family realize how stupid that analogy sounds? Seriously, it doesn’t make any sense.
And how do they think of me now? The foundation of the Mormon faith is the idea of an eternal family. Do they consider me the one that screwed it up for everyone? I wonder how much they still pray for me. I can just hear it now, casually tossed into a pre-dinner prayer, “And bless Pete to open his heart to the Savior so he can change his ways. Amen.”
Honestly, I can deal with all of that on a personal level. Those are little issues. But, more importantly, when I hear about the message to the entire church, I can only think of:
(2) All the GLBT youth in the church.
It’s tough thinking back to those days sitting in church, hearing the anti-gay rhetoric. I remember being a young teenager, probably 14, and going to one of these conferences and hearing these same messages. They said I was confused. I needed help. I was a sinner. My thoughts were not natural. I was betraying God’s plan. They said I could change. I remember going home and spending weeks, months, and years trying to pray to be fixed. At 17, I remember thinking I had an epiphany when I considered homosexuality my one big temptation that if only I could overcome it, I’d be rewarded by God.
I am saddened thinking about the hundreds and hundreds of youth in the church who are having those same feelings after attending General Conference sessions this past weekend. They feel less-than, they feel ashamed, they feel despair. They want to change, they try to change, but they cannot change. Because it cannot be changed.
Undoubtedly, there are youth who heard that message who will commit suicide. The church knows that. How could it not? There have been plenty of documented suicides by Mormon youth. Think about that. The church leaders deliver a message that they know will lead to the death of a segment of its membership, and they deliver that message anyway. That absolutely disgusts me.
In a recent interview with CNN, Dan Savage, who is leading the “It Gets Better” YouTube campaign to help struggling GLBT youth, says the religious right needs to be held accountable for these suicides. I agree.
BYU student Cary Crall submitted a letter to the editor of the school’s student paper “The Daily Universe” challenging the churches support of Prop 8. While the letter was published and then pulled, it is available in its entirety here. Crall writes:
“It is time for LDS supporters of Prop 8 to be honest about their reasons for supporting the amendment. … We must be honest about our motivation, and consider what it means to the delicate balance between our relationship with God and with His children here on earth. Maybe then we will stop thoughtlessly spouting arguments that are offensive to gays and lesbians and indefensible to those not of our faith.”
I wonder if the church will ever change. They “believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” (It’s their 12th of 13 Articles of Faith.) So if gay marriage becomes the law of the land, will it be okay? Sadly, no, not to them. That law will be a mistake of man going against the natural law of God. Sadly, I imagine that the church will remain our strongest opposition until we get equal rights (and after).