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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."

 

Holiday Emotional First Aid Kit

It’s that time of year again. Pack up your patio furniture and pool toys and make room for turkeys and tinsel, cranberries and candy canes. For many of us this is a joyous time of year where we gather with loved ones around tables, trees, pianos and fireplaces to feast, unwrap, sing and celebrate. For others of us, gathering with loved ones is highly stressful and emotionally and mentally draining. For those in the second category, I thought I'd put together a little holiday gift – an Emotional First Aid Kit to help better navigate the season that sends far too many of us flying over the cuckoo's nest.

Continue reading “Holiday Emotional First Aid Kit” »

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.

LDSApology Broadening its Focus

Originally founded in 2009 to support the LGBT community, is broadening its focus to include other forms of abuse that exist within the Mormon Church – primarily sexual abuse. Sexual abuse in the LDS Church is more often than not covered up, with primary concern being about protecting the perpetrators and the Church's image, resulting in the continued abuse of the victims and their families.

For years, members of our committee have watched the drama surrounding the cover ups of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and wondered when the Mormon Church would be held accountable for similar practices. When news hit of the covered up molestations in Penn State's College Football Program, and President Obama issued the following statement, we decided that the time was now.

“Well, obviously the whole situation is heartbreaking. We think first and foremost of the victims of the alleged crimes. But I think it is a good time for us to do some soul-searching – every institution, not just Penn State – about what our priorities are and making sure we understand that our first priority is protecting our kids.  We all have a responsibility. We can't leave it to a system. We can't leave it to somebody else.”   (President Obama)

Our support committee and community of survivors at http://www.ldsapolgy.org have taken seriously President Obama’s call to action and have made the decision to no longer “stand quietly on the sidelines.” Instead we have expanded our mission this week to now include the offering of support to, and the documentation of the stories and experiences of, LDS church members, and others, who have experienced abuse – not only sexual, but abuse in all its forms, from members and leaders of the Mormon Church.

On November 12, 2012 actress, writer, producer Emily Pearson, accepted the position of Communications director and spokesperson for ldsapology.org. As a former Mormon, an advocate for support and healing from abuse – in all its forms, and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse in the LDS community herself, we feel Emily will have a huge impact as our official spokesperson in reaching out to those we most wish to help.

In regards to her decision to join LDSApology.org, Pearson, whose own story of abuse and survival is written about in her new book Dancing with Crazy stated, "Every time a child is abused, it is a devastating tragedy. And every time that abuse is ignored or covered up, it is an inexcusable crime – one that, as a society, we must start holding one another accountable for."

For many years members of our committee have been deeply affected by stories in the media about child abuse being covered up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We agree with Bill Mahar who said on Good Morning America, regarding the recent events at Penn State, that any male dominant organization "…where there are no women; Football, the Church, the Middle East, Fraternities; it always goes bad. Women provide a moderating influence. ”

In the Mormon Church, all active and "worthy" men and boys over the age of 12 are ordained to the "Priesthood" which is the power to administer the spiritual and organizational functions of the church. According to Mormon doctrine, this Priesthood comes directly from God and entitles men to preside over women and children. Many of the women and children in the Mormon community feel they have no voice or power in this solid patriarchal society. When a woman or child experiences abuse, it can be very difficult for them to find someone to confide in and to trust in the all-male Mormon heretical leadership structure.

In this specific all male leadership, women have historically had no voice in making choices, changes or even in affecting policy and decision making. Organizations of this type have a high incidence of abuse and cover ups that often span decades – as we have watched unfold over the last few years in the Catholic Church.   It is the goal of LDS Apology to dedicate ourselves to shedding light, giving support, bringing love and healing, and to providing a safe place for all those that have experienced abuse as well as our continued efforts to serve the LGBT community. LDSApology.org is one of the first organizations to not only officially and actively reach out and serve those that have suffered, or are currently suffering, from mental, emotional, verbal, ecclesiastical, physical and sexual and abuse from Mormon members and leaders; but to call for an end to the perpetration and cover ups of these abuses.

Reporting Child Abuse

 ”Every adult in this story failed the child because they didn’t go to police. Rather, they went to their church.”—Marci Hamilton

“As a culture, we are slow to react to evidence of child sex abuse. We worry about tarring the reputation of adults far more than we do about early intervention when a child is in trouble. It takes a whole culture for children to be sexually and physically abused — adults to do it and others to take no action when they suspect what is happening.”—Marci Hamilton

National Hotline Crisis Counselors Available 24/7 The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) See their great website at http://www.childhelp.org

Family Acceptance Project LDS Brochure   The Family Acceptance Project™ is the only community research, intervention, education and policy initiative that works to decrease major health and related risks for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth, such as suicide, substance abuse, HIV and homelessness – in the context of their families. We use a research-based, culturally grounded approach to help ethnically, socially and religiously diverse families decrease rejection and increase support for their LGBT children.

Legal links and Reading:

Martha Beck’s Leaving the Saints discusses her early childhood Mormon ritualistic sexual abuse and Richard Bushman’s (active LDS Church Patriarch) biography of Joseph Smith discusses his thirty plus multiple wives and teenage brides:

Holiday Emotional First Aid Kit

Holiday Emotional First Aid Kit

It’s that time of year again. Pack up your patio furniture and pool toys and make room for turkeys and [...]

Abuse Defined

Abuse Defined

  For those of us raised in Mormon homes, many of us women maybe even some men believed that unless [...]

LDSApology Broadening its Focus

Originally founded in 2009 to support the LGBT community, is broadening its focus to include other forms of abuse that [...]

Reporting Child Abuse

 ”Every adult in this story failed the child because they didn’t go to police. Rather, they went to their church.”—Marci Hamilton “As [...]