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John Dehlin, MormonStories.org and Faith Reconstruction

I've been a friend and supporter of John Dehlin for many years, and have the greatest respect for his personal integrity and work. I've watched John travel through a long path of challenging experiences, and grow intellectually, professionally and as a very kind and compassionate man into one that is even more so. I've watched him build an amazing body of work and help hundreds of people and build strong communities of people sharing the same challenges and beliefs, and also watch him struggle personally through his own journey in losing his faith in the Mormon Church and watch his efforts to try to rebuild that faith again. I hope that John keeps his interviews and large body of work on Mormonstories.org and finds great joy as he plans to return to full activity in the Mormon Church at this time.

I've just listened to John's “Faith Reconstruction” 3 part interview Listen Here . I can't recommend it more highly for anyone whether you are in the church or out. John is so sincere, and forthright telling his deeply personal experience in leaving and coming back into the Church and many of his reasoning and challenges in doing so, you feel as if you are walking with him on certain points of the trail of his journey. Of all the many "Mormon Stories" there, John's own story is one of the very most interesting!

To honor John's work we would like to share with you his study that he mentions in part one of his Faith Reconstruction interview here:

Survey Results: Understanding Mormon Disbelief: Why do some Mormons lose their testimony and what happens to them when they do.

Posted by Cheryl Lee Nunn

Is Mormon Teaching About Gays Evolving?

We feel that it is a small step in the right direction for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the LDS or Mormon Church) to post a website on this topic and to express agreement that bullying and public discrimination against gays in employment and housing is wrong. However, we believe the information on the site is slanted and lacks full disclosure.

It was legal for gays to marry in California before voters passed Proposition 8, heavily funded and backed by the LDS Church. Although Proposition 8 banned gay marriage, fortunately, this discriminatory law was found to be illegal. In his decision, appeals court Judge Stephen Reinhardt stated that "Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples."

The LDS Church has the legal right not to recognize its members' same-sex marriages. However, we object to their encouragement of pressure tactics – such as changing state laws – to coerce their members into discriminatory activities and the denial of basic human rights.

The LDS Church's new website clearly indicates that the Church expects gays to be celibate throughout their entire lives without any hope of marriage. They state that there should be no sex before marriage, but also deny recognition of any same-sex marriage, thus putting gays in an impossible situation. This is no different than expecting gays to live their entire lives as monks or nuns, without children or companions over many long decades of complete celibacy. Few people can live healthy, happy lives under such extremely difficult and lonely circumstances.

The Church is setting a bar so high for gays that almost no one could reach it and stay there. But if someone fails to do so, according to LDS teachings they suffer losing their eternal family and salvation. Even though this new website has attractive people and lovely, warm music, I can't understand or see any real kindness or compassion in such beliefs.

Church leaders previously taught and advised gays that they could change, become heterosexual and marry opposite sex partners — and that opposite-sex partners should marry gays. Gays were taught that if they prayed hard enough, suffered cruel shock, vomit or reparative therapies, they could become heterosexual and live happy family lives as heterosexuals.

Today a large body of scientific evidence proves these teachings are false and these experiments don't work.

A large number of LDS members who followed LDS leader advice for mixed-orientation marriages or suffered cruel experiments are speaking out. Their lives were shattered and great emotional and even physical damage was caused by following this advice. It appears now the LDS Church is backing off from giving advice on mixed-orientation marriage and experimental reparative therapies. Instead, they are expressing a more subtle, almost kind-sounding approach in expressing their rejection of gay marriage and homosexual relationships (see  http://www.mormonsandgays.org/ .).

Unfortunately, while the new site may model LDS members being kinder to gays, their beliefs on gay marriage and lifelong celibacy leave little hope for gay LDS members. Thus they suffer high levels of loneliness that cause deep depression and even a high number of suicides. In fact, Utah is known as the state with the highest level of suicides among young men because of a high LDS population and these specific LDS beliefs.

SLATE MAGAZINE'S BROWBEAT CULTURE BLOG WRITER DAVID HAGLUND DISCUSSED THIS QUESTION ON DECEMBER 6TH 2012 WHEN THE LDS CHURCH CREATED A NEW WEBSITE RECENTLY AT HTTP://WWW.MORMONSANDGAYS.ORG/

"Back in June, Max Perry Mueller asked in Slate whether one could really be both gay and Mormon, concluding that the "answer depends, to some extent, on how you define both these identities." Gay sex is expressly forbidden by the LDS Church. But if you're comfortable with a definition of gay that does not include having sex with someone of the same gender, you can plausibly be a devout gay Mormon. That doctrinal wiggle-room is one of the reasons Mueller cited for signs of change in the attitude of the church—which played a famously crucial role in passing Prop 8 in California—toward homosexuality.

Today, the LDS Church launched a new website, mormonsandgays.org, which, according to a press release, aims "to encourage understanding and civil conversation about same-sex attraction." The site presents itself as a "collection of conversations"—with LDS leaders, Mormons "who are attracted to people of the same sex," and the loved ones of such Mormons ("who are dealing with the effects of same-sex attraction in their own lives").

Among the videos on the site is one featuring the Mormon apostle Dallin H. Oaks, titled "What Needs to Change." Oaks says that "what needs to change is to help our own members and families understand how to deal with same-gender attraction." While that sentence doesn't quite parse grammatically, the message seems to be: Don't throw your children out of the house because they're gay. Do teach them, though, not to have gay sex. The "doctrine of the church, that sexual activity should only occur between a man and a woman who are married," Oaks says, "has not changed and is not changing."

 

Those who pay attention to verb tenses may notice that Oaks does not say that Mormon doctrine will not change. On one level, this is simply good Mormonism: The LDS Church believes in continual revelation through a living prophet, so no apostle can declare with certainty that something will never change. And the new website, which is hardly a celebration of gay pride, is also a savvy bit of public relations: Brad Kramer, an anthropologist at the University of Michigan who studies contemporary Mormonism (and who is Mormon himself), called the site "an example of the curious space where PR and doctrinal shift intersect and subtly cooperate."

But it's hard not to see some real change in the comments as well. Consider that in 1995, Oaks wrote that "erotic feelings toward a person of the same sex are irregular"—or that in 2006, he made a highly defensive statement about the "unrelenting pressure from advocates of that lifestyle to accept as normal what is not normal." In contrast, today's statement emphasizes uncertainty and compassion. And even the url for the site, while probably reflecting the church's knack for SEO, reflects a significant change in the terminology the church uses. As one blogger put it this morning: "Even the fact that in their official statement they have used the terms ‘gay' and ‘lesbian' to refer to members with same-sex attraction, I think, is huge."

Over at BuzzFeed, McKay Coppins, who is a member of the church, refers to the site as an "evolution from its past teaching." To which some might say: Evolve already. But at least there is some movement, and in a more compassionate direction."

 

Facing East, The Movie

"I'll tell you why your son died. He believed in your church more than he believed in himself!"

Utah has the country's highest suicide rate for males between the ages of 14 and 25. That grim statistic is given a name and a troubled family in Carol Lynn Pearson's impassioned play "Facing East."

We are all so close to this issue. We’ve all been tormented as we’ve watched good people struggle and families torn apart. We’ve all seen how religious families with gay children (or husbands, wives, fathers, or mothers) struggle along a trail that has few reliable markers. The unique thing about the story of Facing East, is that it provides those markers, without condemning or degrading. Though about religious people, it is not a religious film, and has found support from both the LDS as well as LGBT community. Facing East has the potential to be a bridge between two very different communities. Continue reading “Facing East, The Movie” »

Victim Takes Down Legend, Becomes Hero to Many

Victim Takes Down Legend, Becomes Hero

 

The story of a boy, being raised by a single mother barely above poverty, befriended by a Penn State Football legend and then destroyed by him. I learned about his story in a 20/20 episode aired 10/10/2012 by ABC News. While I was deeply affected by the horror this young man endured, and repulsed by the actions not only of this powerful man who inserted himself into this boys life, but also by the non actions of the people that surrounded him who were supposed to protect him and did not. This is a story all should know about and keep utmost in mind especially those entrusted with the care of children. There were signs, red flags that parents, school teachers and administrators should of seen and should of acted upon, but did not. In the end by not protecting the boy when all kinds of suspicious behavior occurred to warn them, they aided the molester in perpetrating his unspeakable acts upon the boy.

Victim 1, he was called at the trial, and at fourteen years of age, spoke up against Jerry Sandusky in the Penn State scandal, and now for the first time tells his story.Aaron Fisher was a eager and spirited eleven-year-old when legendary Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky recruited him into his Second Mile children's charity. Offering support at a critical time in Aaron's life, Sandusky gave him gifts and attention, winning the boy's trust even as he isolated him from his family and peers. Before long, Sandusky's attention escalated into sexual assault. When Aaron summoned the courage to speak up, he found himself ostracized and harassed by the very people who were supposed to protect him. The investigation set off by his coming forward would drag on for three years—and would launch the biggest scandal in the history of sports.In Silent No More, Aaron Fisher recounts his harrowing quest to bring Sandusky's crimes to light—from the intense feelings of guilt that kept him from speaking up earlier and the fear he felt at accusing a man who was a pillar of the community and a hero to the largest alumni network in the world, to the infuriating delays in the arrest and conviction of his abuser. He catalogs the devastating personal toll the case took on him: the shattered relationships, panic attacks, and betrayal of trust that continued to haunt him even after the charges went public in the fall of 2011. But he also speaks of his mother's desperate efforts to get him out of harm's way, the invaluable help of psychologist Michael Gillum, and the vindication he felt at inspiring numerous other victims to step forward . . . and at knowing that, thanks to him, there would be no future victims of Jerry Sandusky.In the end, Aaron Fisher won his fight to expose the truth, achieving some measure of closure. Told in the honest and unforgettable voices of Aaron; his mother, Dawn; and his psychologist, Mike, this inspiring book completes Aaron's transformation from a nameless casualty into a resounding voice for change.

Abuse Defined

 

For those of us raised in Mormon homes, many of us women maybe even some men believed that unless there was severe physical abuse or infidelity, we were in the wrong to ever seek a separation or divorce. Temple marriage vows are made for “Time & Eternity” and “temple divorces” were given only in rare occasions by General Authorities of the Church when these extreme circumstances were proved, while a “temporal or legal divorce” is common and easy to obtain”. Many of us that have long been divorced 20 30 years or more are still married or “sealed” in the eyes and records of the Church. We have also been led to believe we have failed if we have divorced.

This wheel clearly indicates that there are all types of destructive abuse far beyond what was taught us growing up in the Church, and that if you or anyone you know is experiencing them, then there is great cause for concern, therapy, and change.

If conditions cannot be improved, and lasting changes made, then often many relationships should be ended rather than endured.

It takes great courage for anyone to face the loss of an important relationship, sometimes even more courage than tolerating bad treatment. Only a woman or man can know for themselves if the degree that they experience is beyond correction and does not contribute to a satisfying relationship and healthy home life. We hope that those struggling with such abuse will not feel trapped or obligated by religious beliefs or advice of leaders to stay in any unhealthy relationship that involves the types of abuses mentioned in this diagram.

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