Monica Bielanko
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The Battle Continues

You guys, this is a long one. A soap boxy one. But it needs to be written, if only so I know I wrote it. It's a topic I'd love to hear your thoughts on whether you agree with me or not so I can at least see a small sampling of what the world really believes.

Sometimes living in Utah gets to me. And I'm not alone. I've received a couple emails lately asking my opinion regarding a certain incident that happened here recently to which I haven't responded. Until now.

Here's what went down.

Twice a year Mormons from all over the world gather at what's called the Conference Center in Salt Lake City to hear their leaders speak. Not only do thousands travel to Utah to hear the speakers, millions of members across the world gather around televisions, computers, radios and in their local church houses to hear the talks.

The talks last most of the day Saturday and Sunday. Usually the church leaders, almost all elderly, white men, talk about faith and family and pretty harmless generally uplifting stuff. This year one of the men, Boyd K. Packer is his name, decided to talk about gay marriage and gays. Specifically how those who are "tempted" by same-sex attraction can overcome it. You know, like drug abuse and such. Here is a portion of what he said.
We teach a standard of moral conduct that will protect us from Satan’s many substitutes or counterfeits for marriage. We must understand that any persuasion to enter into any relationship that is not in harmony with the principles of the gospel must be wrong. From the Book of Mormon we learn that “wickedness never was happiness.”

Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn temptations toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember he is our father.”

Paul promised that “God . . . will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” You can, if you will, break the habits and conquer an addiction and come away from that which is not worthy of any member of the Church. As Alma cautioned, we must “watch and pray continually.”

Isaiah warned, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

Years ago I visited a school in Albuquerque. The teacher told me about a youngster who brought a kitten to class. As you can imagine, that disrupted everything. She had him hold the kitten up in front of the children.

It went well until one of the children asked, “Is it a boy kitty or a girl kitty?”
Not wanting to get into that lesson, the teacher said, “It doesn’t matter. It’s just a kitty.”
But they persisted. Finally, one boy raised his hand and said, “I know how you can tell.”
Resigned to face it, the teacher said, “How can you tell?”
And the student answered, “You can vote on it!”

You may laugh at this story, but if we are not alert, there are those today who not only tolerate but advocate voting to change laws that would legalize immorality, as if a vote would somehow alter the designs of God’s laws and nature. A law against nature would be impossible to enforce. For instance, what good would a vote against the law of gravity do?
Does he not even realize the hypocrisy of this last statement when the Church financially assisted getting Prop 8 passed in California?

And, for what it's worth, Boyd K. Packer once also stated that the three greatest threats to the church were homosexuals, feminists and intellectuals. "The dangers I speak of come from the gay-lesbian movement, the feminist movement (both of which are relatively new), and the ever-present challenge from the so-called scholars or intellectuals." (Talk to the All-Church Coordinating Council, May 18, 1993).

Historically, Packer hasn't been a big fan of interracial marriage either. Time will prove him equally wrong about gay marriage as well.

But back to the point at hand. As you likely know, this unfortunate speech comes on the heels of at least five gay teens committing suicide. When I first watched the speech and then read the text I was fuming. Outraged. Because I know how intently the Mormons listen to these leaders. They believe these leaders are directly in touch with God, that God inspired Packer to say what he said. As I believe in their right to religion it also broke my heart that this man was reinforcing a sweeping condemnation of those who are born gay in front of millions of people around the globe. Millions of people just waiting to hear what God allegedly reveals to Packer and then follow this lead.

"But Heavenly Father wouldn't make anyone gay!" I've heard so many Mormon friends counter.

Really? If we're going by that theory than I might also remind you he makes mentally handicapped people, people born with no legs, people genetically predisposed to alcoholism... or is mental retardation also a choice?

What I'm saying is, shit happens and nobody knows why. I mean, look, God allegedly made Dick Cheney and Snooki... proof positive that you just can't know what God's got up his sleeve. You cannot know for absolute certain whether someone is born gay or not, particularly if you aren't gay. So wouldn't you error on the side of humanity and allow someone to be who they are, just in case?

Upon hearing Packer's straight up condemnation of gays can you possibly imagine the war inside the hearts and minds of young, gay Mormons? And then to have this "leader" tell them they need to fix it, as if being gay is a "habit" or "addiction"...

At least gay nonmembers can blow off his hateful, non-scientific theories but it just reinforces self-hatred in these poor kids who, right now, would probably rather be anything than gay. Being a teen is hard enough, remember? Add the horror of not only discovering your sexuality but being told you're going to hell for it and it's a wonder any of these kids make it out of their teen years alive.

I raged around the house yelling at Serge about human rights and the horror that Packer has unleashed and how the fuck do we still live in Utah, then I sat down to write a blog about it. But the words wouldn't come. You all already know how I feel, I thought, so what good is it to write about how much I detest the Mormon stance on this subject?

And then the emails started rolling in. Still, I couldn't write. I felt defeated. Like, what's the point? I live in Utah. Everyone I grew up with reveres this man as one who talks with God. Me? They think I'm just some batshit, crazy immoral nutter. If you yell so much about something eventually you're just making noise and nobody listens.

You may be reading this from New York City or somewhere equally progressive where gay acceptance is pretty prevalant so the battle may seem far from you. Here? Here in Utah the battle is raging. Every day I work with people who believe Packer's talk was a revelation from God. I want to stand on my desk and shout you are so wrong! But how can you condemn someone's religion without seeming like a hypocrite? I want them to be tolerant of gay rights but in that request comes the implied intolerance of their religious beliefs.

Here's the difference. I am tolerant of your religion in so far as it doesn't affect the basic human rights of others. But when you actively campaign in a state election, when you solicit donations to pass a proposition denying gay rights, well then you done shed your cloak of religious freedom. Your religious beliefs cross over into dangerous territory. Look at it this way, Mormons: Your meddling in gay civil rights is the same as if the governor decreed your Mormon bishops should perform gay marriages. Go back to your church and condemn homosexuality all you want and they'll stick to their civil marriages in courthouses and never the twain shall meet.

But I"m getting off track as I am wont to do when this topic is brought up. I got emails from folks wondering why I didn't write anything about Packer's speech.
I would really love it if you would share your thoughts on "the talk" from the other day. I am crying with frustration over it. I have family that are members, that have said they have no problem with gay people. I want to scream at them that they are members of this church and therefore believe it's doctorine. I know you would be able to put many peoples' feelings into words better than we can. I love your blog and the way you put everything out there.
And then there was this one:
I've been reading your blog for some time now. We have very similar opinions and experiences. I'm only 20 though. Still very young. I grew up in an very religious house. For some reason I feel a lot of shame for the way I was raised. I am embarrassed by how close minded I was raised and the ideas that were constantly ingrained into my head. When I turned 18 my mother died. I hate that she died. I miss her a lot. I'd give anything to have her back. Having said was liberating in a way. I finally felt like I could live my life my way and not fear what her reaction would be. I haven't attended church since I was 16. How did you deal with your family? I read your post about the gay marriage law. I felt like I could have written that. My 2 very best friends are lesbians. I love them and their girlfriends. I have so much respect for them. I posted on facebook that I was happy prop 8 was overturned. EVERY SINGLE mormon family member deleted me. That hurts. My immediate family has accepted me, it's my aunts, uncles and cousins. Anyway, how do you deal with your family and their opinions? I realize that we have differing opinions, I can respect their's. They cannot respect mine. Also, what do you do when you run into friends when you were mormon? I fee like I should tell them I don't practice anymore....I know you get a lot of e-mail. Any advice would be appreciated.
Still, I wrote nothing. Didn't even reply to the emails. What can I say that hasn't been said?

Then yesterday I read this and it just pissed me off. It was a cop out. But I understand.

Here's why.

I like this girl. She is my age. From my hometown. Lives down the street from my mom in Utah County (Mormon Country) and is devoutly Mormon but within her I sense a free spirit, the new generation of Mormons. Dare I say the free thinkers, deep thinkers, those who weren't raised to be racist or homophobic and those who understand, even above what their older, white leaders tell them, that every single human being deserves to love, be loved and united in marriage if they so choose and it will not affect the "sanctity" of straight marriage any more than Liz Taylor or Larry King already have.

Live and let live.

Courtney has a massive following, Mormon and nonmormon and when she alluded to the fact that she was going to write about the Packer controversy I thought, man, I hope she says what's in her heart despite the pressure of being read by so many Mormons. Deep down I know this girl believes everyone deserves to be married just as she writes that her mother knew black people deserved the same rights as whites before the leaders of the church declared it to be so.

So yesterday, when I saw what Courtney wrote about Packer's talk I was disappointed. She has an opportunity to reach thousands every single day, and for whatever reason, she didn't feel comfortable revealing what is truly in her heart. Oh, she implied it, but she couldn't publicly refute a church leader. I understand why. Still, I was disappointed.

And then it hit me. I can write what she didn't. Sure I have so much less sway with Mormon readers who see me as a bitter nutter who's just out to get the Mormon church. But still, I need to take every opportunity to shout the religion of L-O-V-E and A-C-C-E-P-T-A-N-C-E from the rooftops, if only for myself and for my children.

Here is what I think:

I think the Mormon church provides positive guidance for millions of people. Community and comfort are two major things that come to mind. But I also think the church is stuck in the past because its leaders tend to be very elderly, white men, from another era. A less accepting time. Packer himself is pushing ninety. The last prophet died at ninety-seven for hellsakes.

I think there is some young Mormon man going about his life somewhere right now who will eventually become the leader, the man the Mormons call a prophet, and that man will change church doctrine much as Spencer W. Kimball did in 1978 when he, in effect, declared that all black men should be able to hold the priesthood and receive the blessings of the Mormon temples even though this "revelation" contradicted the "revelations" and beliefs of so many prophets before him.

The decision made in 1978 also shows that Mormons will ultimately accept just about anything their leaders tell them. When it comes to accountability, the leadership of the LDS Church answers to no one but God. But what the hell does that really mean when they make decisions that contradict what Mormons have historically considered to be God's unchanging will? Polygamy, blacks and the priesthood...

Whatever. At least is demonstrates that another huge shift in Mormon doctrine is possible through "revelation" and if/when it occurs church members will very likely jump on board.

In short, I believe the church will eventually come around and Courtney and the millions of other younger Mormons struggling with the gay issue will follow suit, much as their parents did in 1978 in response to the decision to let black people hold positions within the church.

And so maybe Courtney and I aren't so very different although she, as a practicing Mormon, still isn't comfortable publicly disagreeing with the leaders of her church even though I suspect she knows in her heart that what they're preaching is wrong.

However, the beliefs of a bunch of Mormons aren't my particular concern unless, like I said earlier, they start interfering with elections and laws. And gay kids start jumping off bridges.

And so the battle continues.

Reader Comments (52)

Thanks heaps man. I was worried that line may have trivialised my faith. Also love me some ironic use of tone.

November 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Kate

I'm far more fascinated with and wish we had more information about : the revelation to switch to formula.
I've invested heavily in Nestle- holding for the longterm. I wish i knew what else God has in portfolio... but more will be revealed...

June 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJohn M. Prato

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