17 January 2014

Tuesday's Warriors

I was dreading Tuesday. I was terrified of Tuesday. Last Tuesday I was ostracized, outcast, and oppressed. Tuesday broke me.

But this Tuesday... Tuesday was to be the day that I stood up to my fears. Tuesday was to be the day that I stood up to my oppressors. Tuesday was to be the day that I stood up for myself.

It turned out to be so much more.
I attend Institute at the Salt Lake City Institute at the University of Utah. Last week, when I attended my "Teachings of President Thomas S. Monson" class, I was absolutely smeared and belittled for being gay by the substitute teacher. Here's the story. I was scared to go back... I was so excited for this class, and now I'm fighting with myself to go. It shouldn't be that way.

I sent out a cry for help to Mormons Building Bridges, Young Mormon Feminists, Affirmation Millennial's, and Feminist Mormon Housewives on Monday. Dozens from out of state sent their love and their prayers. Others got a hold of family members that live in Salt Lake to see if they could attend with me. All in all, three people were able to make it to my class: Andrew, Laura, and Katie.

Andrew and I arrived together, and set up shop in the front corner of the classroom. A few minutes after class started, Laura came in. We didn't know each other until that day, so she stood in the back and said, "Is Ellen here? I'm looking for Ellen." Very timidly, I rose my hand and said, "I'm Ellen." And she came right over, full of self confidence and spunk, and kicked Andrew right out of his seat! He was a great sport, and Laura was thrilled to see that he was there for me too. She introduced herself and gave me a hug, and then let class continue. A few minutes later, Katie came in. I waved her over, and she came to sit right behind me. My army had arrived. I felt safe. I had the strength to speak my truth.

The lesson was a crap fest. Very traditional, orthodox Mormon. The class focus is supposed to be the Teachings of President Monson, and yet, the only thing discussed about him was the age change for missionaries. I brought up how wonderful it was to see more Sisters entering the mission field. Brother Butler agreed with me, and suggested that it was divinely inspired to "level the playing field" between the men and the women. His logic was that educated, professional women intimidate the men, and therefore encourage them to be lazy and play video games all day.

Laura, in all her Mormon Feminist glory, spoke up and asked, "Why is it a problem for women to be professional and have careers? Why is it a problem for them to own their home or condo? Why are these young men intimidated? Maybe we should be raising and teaching our young men differently."

Next up was the equating argument between Motherhood and the Priesthood. Laura countered and explained that Fatherhood = Motherhood; Priesthood is an entirely different thing. While Brother Butler stepped back to clarify that he meant it in more of a metaphorical way, he never backed off of the comparison.
He explained that it's the mother's responsibility to usher us into the world, and the Priesthood's responsibility to usher us into the hereafter. He talked about the Ordain Women movement, and described it as a "peculiar new idea", after which a girl spoke up and started saying that "being equal to men doesn't mean to be the same as them." Which then segued into a call to read Sherri Dew's new Book "Women and the Priesthood". Which is gross.

The argument about how Satan hates family was brought up often. How he continually attacks the institution of the family (though he never brought up LGBT families, which I consider a win), and the divine role of women. He hates women because he will never have an eternal family with a wife and children. It was certainly an explanation that I had never heard before, and it certainly raised a few eyebrows, even if they were just from the four of us.
Heavenly Mother was brought up, and the first real explanation as to why we never talk about Her was given: "It hasn't yet been revealed." It was nice to have someone say, "I don't know," rather than to divert back to the "She's too special," cop out. Katie absolutely rocked it by offering places to find information on Heavenly Mother... specifically this BYU Study. Once he realized that he had a handful of Feminists in the room, he said that he was open to difficult discussions, and topics.

To end the lesson, we went over a timeline of the big moments of President Monson's life and ministry. We closed with a prayer and a hymn, and then the rest of the class dispersed. Katie, Andrew and Laura all stayed behind with me so I could talk to Brother Butler about the concerns I had from last week. He was already aware of mormonsandgays.org, and he didn't erase it from the board after I wrote it there. He listened intently while I told him about the collapse of my mission, and the affirming experience I had in the Temple that brought me out of the deep depression I had slipped into. He listened to what Elder Peters had said and done last week, and he welcomes the fact that I'm outspoken, and that I will stand up for the things that I believe in. We'll see if he really wants what he's going to get...

All in all... the Thomas S. Monson class is going to be the most challenging class. But the Women and the Gospel: Eternal Perspectives class... the class that I was convinced was going to be a shit show... is going to be my salvation. That class is at 7:30 in room W003. Please come and experience the awesome. I'm going to start blogging about that class too, so stay tuned!

11 January 2014

Mormon Newsroom

I was browsing around the Mormon Newsroom, mostly because I'm a gluton of punishment. But I stumbled upon this gem, and I don't know how to handle my feelings...

It opens up with this statement, "On 7 June 2006 ABC’s Nightline ran a story on members and former members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who struggle with same-gender attraction. This issue is one that evokes strong emotions and, unfortunately, often perpetuates negative stereotypes on both sides of the debate. Nightline’s story contained some comments that do not reflect the views and teachings of the Church and its leaders."

Here are the comments:

Daniel Holsinger: “There is a very strong notion that I am a sinner — fundamentally who I am is hated and reviled by God. I am alone; there is no one else like me.”

Morgan Smith: “We’re not recovering from God, but we are recovering from the put-downs, the discrimination, the people that come along and say that if you’re gay, you’re not good.”

Russ Gorringe: “There is no place for me in the gospel as a person who never married.”


It's not the bloody comments that are contrary to the teachings of the Church! It's the behavior of the members towards these people! For all of our talk about being a Church of love and compassion, the LGBT members of our wards and stakes have a hard time finding them in our congregations.

Why do you think that Daniel feels hated? Because there are members of the Church that do! Not all, but there are enough. We hear all about the "homosexuals"... from everyone but LGBT people. We see statements like this made by the First Presidency in 1970, “Homosexuals can be assured that in spite of all they may have heard from other sources, they can overcome and return to normal, happy living,” as if my life isn't already normal and fulfilling. We are compared to bank robbers by Elder Mark E. Peterson in 1978, “Since homosexuals have become a nationwide entity, and have come out of hiding to demand their place in the sun, many of them claim that they are what they are because they were born that way and cannot help it. How ridiculous is such a claim. It was not God who made them that way, any more than He made bank robbers the way they are.” And we are (frankly) belittled by President Spencer W. Kimball in 1978, “’God made me that way,’ some say [i.e., homosexual] … This is blasphemy. Is man not made in the image of God, and does he think God to be ‘that way’?” When I see these things, I feel hated and unwanted... by the membership, as well as the leadership.

Morgan feels put down, and every single LGBT person has been, whether it's direct or indirect. Can you blame us? Bishop Keith McMullin of the Presiding Bishopric said this in 2010, “If someone seeking your help says to you, ‘I am a homosexual,’ or, ‘I am lesbian,’ or, ‘I am gay,’ correct this miscasting… it is simply not true. To speak this way seeds a doubt and deceit about who we really are.” That makes me feel put down! You are ignoring my trust in you to tell you something this personal about me, and you shut me down and tell me that I'm wrong? When you clearly have never gone through what I'm going through?! Or how about the douzy in 2010 from President Boyd K. Packer, “Some suppose that they were pre-set and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember, He is our Father.” You're telling me that I am impure and unnatural... sounds like a put down to me. From the membership and local leadership, I've heard them all... from little things like being called a "dyke" to being told there is an evil spirit residing inside of me. They are hurtful, plain and simple.

The Church has made SO many steps in the right direction since the 1960's, and since 2006, when this article was published. But if you think for one second that we are "at the forefront at having love and compassion", you are horribly mistaken.

08 January 2014

As I Have Loved You

I had one of the worst experiences of my time in the Church yesterday. I had taken a year of hiatus from Institute, and decided that I would take a class titled, "Teachings of Thomas S. Monson". When I walked into the class, there was a substitute teacher, Elder Peters – a Church service missionary – giving his introduction. He immediately started off with politics and controversy, and that's when everything started going downhill.
He started going on and on about how Mormons need to be the moral compass of the world. That we were so popular in the 1960s and 1970s, specifically with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. And then the ERA came around, and the Church became the "bad guys". Then it was Prop 8, and now it's the Federal Court ruling about marriage. Just going on and on about how people that supported these measures, and those that affiliate with these people are sinning.
I couldn't keep quiet anymore. I was so uncomfortable and I had physically felt the Spirit leave the room. When he paused and asked if we had any comments, I raised my hand. I quoted President Monson from his closing statements of the April 2013 General Conference, "We are a worldwide Church, brothers and sisters. Our membership is found across the globe. I admonish you to be good citizens of the nations in which you live and good neighbors in your communities, reaching out to those of other faiths as well as to our own. May we be tolerant of, as well as kind and loving to, those who do not share our beliefs and our standards. The Savior brought to this earth a message of love and goodwill to all men and women. May we ever follow His example."

I went on to explain that his comments are especially painful because he is speaking ill of people who are sitting in this room. Me. I'm gay. I know I'm gay because I've had personal revelation from our Heavenly Father – personal revelation that our Church values so highly. I have been to the brink of suicide and self hatred. I said that we need to be compassionate and loving like Elder Cook calls us to be. We need to acknowledge that every one's personal experiences are valid, like Elder Christofferson tells us. We need to be tolerant of other people's political opinions like President Monson told us in an interview with the Deseret News in 2008, "Regarding another question about whether church members could disagree with the faith's opposition to legalizing same-sex unions and still remain in good standing, he said the answer 'depends on what the disagreement is... If it's an apostasy situation, that would not be appropriate. If it's something political, there is room for opinion here and there on either side.'"

He blew his top. He rose his voice, and said, "There is no such thing as homosexuality and so called same sex attraction! It did not exist in the premortal existence! It does not exist in the post mortal existence! And it does not exist here! You are choosing to sin. You are choosing to be inferior."

I walked out in tears. No one stood up to support me. No one even looked at me. They just stared straight ahead. As I walked down the hallway, and found a seat to calm down in, I opened my Scriptures to John 13:34. It reads, "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another."
As I have loved you.

Do you have any idea how powerful that is?? Christ loved us so much that He defended us from Lucifer's disastrous plan of forced obedience. He loved us so much that He came and fulfilled the Law in order to bring a new and everlasting covenant, where we are forgiven of our sins. He lived us so much that he bore the weight of the world and suffered the price of our sins. He shouldered the weight of our guilt, pain, sorrow, and suffering. A weight so large and so traumatic that He showed a rare moment of mortal hesitation and plead with His Father, Our God, to "take this bitter cup" from Him. And yet, He pressed on bearing the weight that would cause His blood to run from every pore.

He completed His Atonement, and guaranteed that you and I will never be left comfort less. He has secured us a place. He allows us to return to celestial glory to live with Him, and our Heavenly Parents again.

We need the Atonement, because we aren't perfect. We abuse our fellow men at worst, and tolerate them at best. John is telling us to love others, and to look at those people that we despise, abuse, and tolerate through the eye's of Christ, and to see them as sisters and brothers of Christ.

I had never looked at it that way. I despise this teacher because of how uninformed, and hurtful he was. I despised my classmates for their indifference. I despise Governor Herbert for his decision to nullify over 1300 marriages because he has a "moral opposition". But I need to look at it in a completely different way.
The next time I see Elder Peters, I need to look at him as my brother in Christ, and know that he is a product of his generation.

Next week, when I walk into class, and I see my classmates again, I need to look at them with compassion, and remember how hard it is to speak up on a tough situation. None of us is quite as Christlike as we know we should be.

This week, when I support my LGBT Brothers and Sisters who have had their marriages annulled and fight and pray for their civil rights to be reinstated, I will look to Governor Herbert and see him as a son of God. A son of God who is doing what he believes to be right. I will look at him with love, even though I strongly disagree with his political and civil decisions.

Will I yet go away from Institute? Not yet. I've contacted the Institute office to let them know about the events that transpired, and I will be going into class early next Tuesday to discuss what happened with our assigned instructor, Brother Butler. I will give it another chance. Because the only Apostle that I love more than President Monson is President Uchtdorf, and I will not shy away from learning how to be a better person from the teachings of this great man.