One of the most interesting questions posed during last Saturday afternoon’s panel discussion at the Circling the Wagons Conference on the future of gay Mormons was something like, “What can the Church do immediately to make things better, i.e., for GLBT members of the Church?”
I have to say that I had been somewhat disappointed in the tenor of the panel discussion. I frankly felt like the elephant in the living room (i.e., LDS doctrine concerning homosexuality) was being ignored. I was feeling a bit frustrated until this question was posed to the panelists.
Carol Lynn Pearson’s response was direct and to the point. Paraphrasing, she said that the Church needs to give permission, e.g., through a conference address by a ranking general authority, to parents to love, welcome and accept their gay, lesbian and transgendered children. What a remarkable statement (!) that goes to the heart of much that is wrong in the LDS Church on this issue. So many parents who are “faithful” members of the Church believe that, if their child comes out to them, they have to choose between the child and the Church, and they perhaps more often than not choose the Church.
But given the rhetoric that has come from the highest levels of the Church (e.g., President Packer’s October 2010 Conference address), is it any wonder that many devout Mormon parents react to their gay children as if they are infected with a leprous disease that will contaminate them and their home if they – gasp – accept and love their son or daughter even though they have come out to them?
A few months ago, a very good friend of mine was traveling on Trax (Salt Lake City’s mass transit system) with a friend and they encountered a group of homeless gay youth. Every one of them had been kicked out of their home or felt driven to leave. One of the young men was the son of a stake president.
Surely, the Church leadership is responsible for such tragic situations and has a moral responsibility to speak out against the spiritual bullying that has occurred from pulpits – both in the Conference Center as well as in ward houses and stake centers across the country and, indeed, the world – as well as in living rooms from one end of the Church to the other.
Carol Lynn’s comments were followed by Dr. Bill Bradshaw’s surprisingly direct response. Paraphrasing, he said he didn’t see why it was that difficult to simply act (remember, he was directing his comments toward the Church) like Christians. The comment was so unexpected and so truthful and powerful that the entire sanctuary erupted in applause. I can’t wait to see it on video when MormonStories.org is able to upload it.
The Long Arm of Ecclesiastical Homophobia
Since Saturday, two incidents have reminded me of other things the Church could do immediately to make things better for GLBT Mormons. This past Sunday, I received an email from a young LDS gay man who had, along with other members of his priests quorum, just been given a copy of “For Young Men Only” by his bishop.
I have written about this pamphlet – which consists of the text of a talk (available here) given by Elder Boyd K. Packer in Priesthood Session of October Conference 1976 – several times; see here, here and here. The Church could immediately direct all of its branch presidents, bishops and stake presidents to not use that pamphlet anymore. As I have previously pointed out, it – perhaps alone of all conference addresses in the last 40 years – is NOT available on the Church’s online Conference archives. If the Church can withdraw it from its website, could it not withdraw it from circulation – period?
The other incident involves the pending Church discipline of Benjamin Clark, with which many readers are probably familiar. He married his husband in a legal and lawful ceremony in Connecticut a few months ago and is now facing Church discipline for being in a committed, loving, legal marriage. Earlier this week, he met with his stake president, who placed a copy of a pamphlet before Benjamin – a pamphlet entitled “A Letter to a Friend,” with which I had not previously been familiar.
This pamphlet was originally written in 1971 by Elder Spencer W. Kimball with input from Elder Mark E. Peterson – easily two of the most homophobic Church leaders in recent memory. As pointed out on Affirmation’s website, “Elder Kimball was getting his information about homosexuality from popular magazines, rather than from prayer, revelation, or inspiration. In New Horizons, Kimball quotes a June 11, 1965 Life story and a January 1965 issue of Psychiatric Spectator. Elder Kimball's views are today as obsolete as his sources.”
It is simply astonishing that this pamphlet is still being used by local Church leaders in their “ministry” to LGBT persons. If the Church is serious about reaching out to its gay members, and to the gay community generally, if the Church is serious about stopping spiritual bullying, it could and should direct that this pamphlet be immediately withdrawn from circulation. This and other publications such as “To Young Men Only,” have inflicted untold harm on generations of men (and women). Isn’t it time that they be repudiated by the Church, if not publicly then at least in a directive to the thousands of bishops, branch presidents and district and stake presidents throughout the world?