14 December 2010

THT: Ignorance Is Bliss

Why is it so hard for so many LDS people to consider that gay people don't choose to be gay or that perhaps they have valid arguments? Why do they accept sketchy logic to give them reason to ban gay marriage? I've often wondered why it is SO hard and SO uncomfortable even for close friends to talk about and think about the morality of homosexuality. My mom helped me realize what I think is a huge reason.

When I, (a gay individual), ask for an active LDS person to understand, I am asking much more than that. It isn't my intention, but in the other person's mind, I am asking them to question the prophets, question their beliefs, question the position of the church on this issue. That is no small order. It is scary. It is huge and overwhelming. No wonder so many don't want to hear about it or talk about it.

Although I think it is sad and unfortunate that something like this would rock the foundations of their testimonies, I can understand. I was there once. But now I realize that my testimony isn't built on any man or institution... both of which will always be imperfect in this mortal existence. My testimony is built on Christ. So a question I pose that might challenge something a prophet has said has no effect on my testimony of Christ and his gospel. Today, however, most of us go to church and open our skulls to have "truth" dictated to us and poured into our heads. We don't question, we don't challenge. If it is in the lesson, it must be truth. I think this is a sad sad reality. "All is Well in Zion." Don't doubt or question anything that is said or done because "all is well."

So yes, on the one hand, I understand why people don't want to understand the plight of individuals like me. But on the other hand, I don't agree that it should be that way. I don't agree that this issue has to challenge anyone's testimony or cause them to choose between the gospel or this issue. Unfortunately, that's what the majority of people in the church feel they must do... so continued ignorance will bring continued bliss until it becomes too late. One day people might understand... but they will have regrets for the harm they've caused due to their love of ignorance and their fear of questioning. The idea that questioning leads to a loss of testimony is not doctrinally based and ignorance has never been preached by Christ.


ControllerOne said...

Great post. I also think that LDS theology is very, VERY, choice centered. The preexistence. This life. We are supposed to have chosen our path. So, if we are gay, we must necessarily have chosen to be gay.

I totally agree with your assessment of questioning as a form of at least mild heresy. To suggest that perhaps the prophet is mistaken is to assert that he isn't the prophet in many people's minds.

Even when I was a supposed believer, and a staunch one at that, I would get irritated to no end with people who just could not even listen to the slightest suggestion that a prophet or one of the general authorities might not have a particular issue right. I would try to say, "now look, if the prophet says that the color blue is the greatest color ever, that doesn't mean it is, right?" But to no avail.

And to a certain extent I get it. There is a point where a considered rejection of enough theological positions begins to bring the giver of the theology into question.

Like I said, great post.

Steven Lester said...

As you know, I've been a member of the Church for 32 years now, and I've seen a few things during that time. Let me make a few observations about certain psychological aspects of Church membership, why it is offered in the way it is, and why people are so afraid to question stuff.

So often we view our reality through various lenses. The military member or the criminal on the street sees life much differently than would a rich kid laying out on the beach or a person whose family is really centered on achievement and public service. The subculture each is in is the lens that they see reality through. The subculture gives the person purpose, it makes noble their achievements, it strengthens them during their trials, it saves them from fear, and it makes them to feel better or more blessed or superior to those not a part of their subculture. It is like a tribe, or a big family, and it has key actions and words or phrases which define membership to each subculture. Mormonism is a subculture.

Rock Waterman, is his blog entitled Pure Mormonism, explains all of this far better than I could, but suffice it to say that our Mormon Leaders are absolute masters of power and the control of human beings. They set themselves up as icons of spiritual perfection, as examples of who to be like and how to think and speak, and then separate themselves from the people they rule and live lives of mystery and complete privilege. They set themselves as little gods in residence and those who question their privilege or what they say are immediately corrected, but if they remain recalcitrant, are expelled and made anathema. However, the faithful, the worshipper, the rapt in attention, and especially, the robotized, are praised as worthy of nothing less than godhood itself, which these men have already attained on earth, and oh, how godhood elevates one in one's own eyes and in comparison to the unwashed, the uninitiated.

One of the most successful methods of achieving seeming superiority is to marginalize some other group as hateful, worthless, stigmatized, and to not be like them makes the person better in his own eyes in comparison. This is a method used by power-seeking individuals from time immemorial. Originally, in our Church, it was the gentiles. Then, after they thrust us out of their midst, and Brigham Young (BY) got control, it became the blacks, from the loins of Ham, who bore the sin and the mark of Cain, and who could never hold the Priesthood because God said so to BY. This was how it was when I joined the Church, but then the Church started to make inroads in South America and didn't have enough white men to run things down there so they supposedly went to the Lord and said to him, "we want to change this, unless You say we shouldn't; so should we not?" Apparently, there was no reply, irregardless of what McConkie said over the pulpit, and so suddenly the Priesthood that was supposed to denied them until the Second Coming was theirs now! (Which is a very good thing, by the way, however it came about.)

Steven Lester said...

So, now they had no one to hate. They looked around for a replacement. First they went for the women when they began to get all uppity. Then the intellectuals became a target. But neither of these kinds of people really stirred up the guts of a people like the blacks did. Well, then, who should begin to declare for their rights in the open forum of American politics, largely through the efforts of Harvey Milk and those of his ilk? The gays, specifically male gays. In them, the Church leaders found what they were looking for. Somebody weak who would make perfect targets for gut-felt hate and by definition make the hater morally superior in one fell swoop. See the big picture of how all of this works and why Prop 8 got that big infusion of cash and the imperial command for member help? It keeps the troops in line, diverts their attention while the bigwigs get to do whatever they want in secret and unchallenged. Again, this method is as old as the hills.

It takes a certain kind of person to fill the role of a troop. Insecure? Troubled? Dumped or put off by one religion or sect and looking for another one? Seeking for truth and finding promised godhood by surprise? Well, "you" fit the bill. Join us. We'll turn you into a raging neurotic, but you'll be so happy being one. We promise.

So, okay, you and I are gay. Understanding our fellow brothers and sisters in the gospel as we do, why should we play into the leaders' designs for us by feeding the hate for us which they so deeply desire? Why do we thrust our differences into the faces of those who do not want to know about that part of us, because then they must hate us as directed? I have never told the bishop anything about my private life. It is none of his business. I've never told my family either, although I know that they know, they aren't stupid, but I've never confirmed anything and so they are quiet about it even as I am. My business is my business and none of theirs. "Steven, are you gay?" "That's my business. Are you?" You confirm nothing and then they let it go, returning to the land of sunshine they descended from just so they could find out. Believe me, this is by far the kindest way to handle it. Even as they ask the question, they fear the answer. Released by your evasion, they jump back into their la la land.

Although, being the young radical that you are, you probably won't agree. This method has always worked for me, though.

apronkid said...

I really like the last sentence: "The idea that questioning leads to a loss of testimony is not doctrinally based and ignorance has never been preached by Christ." If anything, God wants us to question.

In a sense, when one brings up being gay to the average Mormon member, we're asking them to "come out." Or, go through that process of questioning and reevaluating. Gay people have already been there; they question their own attractions and the straight society they live in, and hopefully, they accept themselves. It can be a hard and painful process, especially when one has been taught the homosexuality is wrong.

The average Mormon has to question their beliefs. While the Church seems to have stopped calling gay people "evil," they certainly don't call them "good." It's a harrowing experience for the average Mormon because they believe they belong to the true church. So how could their leaders be wrong? The Church wouldn't be the true church anymore!

I think that those, like you, who have a testimony grounded in the Gospel, (not the Church) will be the ones who are comfortable with and understanding to their gay brothers and sisters.

Gay Mormon said...

@Steven- You hit it right on the head when you said I would probably not agree with you about keeping quiet. Honestly, I would love if that could happen. If being gay was no big deal (the same as being heterosexual was no big deal) I could keep it private. But when every time I am with my extended family I have to prepare myself to dodge questions about "who I'm dating," "when I'm getting married," etc, etc, I start to feel uncomfortable. I don't like to feel like I am lying. It forces distance between me and loved ones because I can't share my life with them. Family is important to me. For that reason, I need them to know.

Also, while I may disagree that being gay makes me unworthy and I assert that I feel no guilt for it, I would feel guilty lying to a bishop or evading his questions. If he wants to know, I'll tell him the truth and accept whatever he decides is a good "punishment." But I will not let him intimidate me back into the closet.

See, heterosexuals don't have to worry about "coming out" because people accept those relationships. They can hold hands and kiss in public. If two guys do it... aren't they effectively "coming out" to anyone that witnesses? I wish that sexual orientation wasn't assumed by anyone and that no one would be surprised or taken aback if the orientation happen to be gay, but that isn't the case.

So rather than showing up to the family Christmas party holding hands with my boyfriend and sending everyone into a craze, and rather than feeling like I have to pretend we are just friends, I choose to prepare them by telling them, giving them time to think and respond, and moving forward with my life. IF they don't want any part of it, that's fine- at least I know and we can all avoid uncomfortable situations. But if they are accepting, all the better! Because I'd like my family to be a part of my life. My life. Not the life that they had imagined or hoped for me.

Gay Mormon said...

@apronkid- I agree. They do kind of have to go through their own "coming out" process which requires a reevaluation of their testimony and what it is built upon. I don't think that kind of reevaluation is bad either. I think it is healthy.

@ControllerOne- Very true- we are very choice-centered in our beliefs. Thanks for bringing that up. I'm sure that is a big reason why it is so hard for people to imagine that being gay isn't a choice.

Too Hard Headed to Give Up said...

I also really liked the last sentence. Questioning is HOW we learn and grow. If we never question... we are damned.

I have been abused. I find the same fear from people. They don't want to hear my story. It hurts too much. Causes too many emotions and questions. They feel they can't handle it. Their fear kept me quiet FAR longer than was good for me.

There have been many times that I wished I could be ignorant like them. I never had the choice to live in a blissfully ignorant state. It seems to me you never had that choice either.

Boris said...

@Gay Mormon - I agree with your response to Steven, although IMHO there is one very valid point in his argument: "My business is my business and none of theirs." One characteristic of a cult is the ability to break down personal boundaries. What gives a bishop or stake president or GA the right to ask you about such intimate matters as your sexual orientation or practices? I always wonder, do any church leaders get some sort of vicarious thrill from asking young teens (sometimes barely post-pubescent teens) about their masturbation practices, or how often they make out, etc? No doubt Jim Jones, David Koresh and Sun Myung Moon would all have approved of the Mormon version of an "interview."

@Steven - given what YOU have said about Mormon leaders in re the "loins of Ham" and finding a replacement to hate (i.e., the gays), WHY are you still associating yourself with a religion and leadership for which you exhibit such contempt?

Steven Lester said...

@Boris - Well, there is one reason alone right now: when I was baptized a member of the LDS church and then confirmed a member of the Church shortly afterward, my heart was branded a member probably irreversibly. To give up my baptism and confirmation by having my name removed from the Church rolls, would leave a hole that would (and did when I excommunicated myself in 1990) create a profound feeling of emptiness that is impossible to describe. You have to have been a Mormon to understand, I think.

Unlike (insert his name here when he announces it), the author of this blog, I am not a Christian as he is. He (Christ) would require far too much from me and I fear Him greatly. I really, really want to be left alone. I don't want to have to deal with other people, which loving in the charity sense would require me to. And if I had some sort of mission (assigned during the pre-existence) to accomplish with other people, I don't know how I would handle it. And so, when I find out that the Church isn't all perfect and golden as is announced from a thousand different venues across the world, it makes me feel really betrayed and really angry, but they remain my religion and my "leaders", nevertheless, although I know that they and it will never change back to what it was at the beginning, pure and correct. Hence, my deep frustration.

Trev said...

Gay Mormon, I think you are absolutely right in this post. The process you talk about members going through who are "exposed" to homosexuality like those who are come out to is a mini version the same process that gays themselves are forced to go through, constantly. Unfortunately, people, it seems, naturally don't want to go through this process, and I think that's why members of the Church of unconventional sexual orientations are so much more spiritually mature, in general, than the rest of the Church as a whole.

As for the last paragraph, it absolutely isn't supposed to be this way! We need to be spiritually growing as individuals and helping each other to do so. Like we hear reaffirmed in posts and comments here, often (or maybe I just focus in on this), testimony and conviction--the genuine kind--*originate* in constant questioning.

Boris said...

@Steven Lester - Thank you for such an honest (and, in my possibly naive view, heart-felt) response. I grew up Mormon (albeit in Colorado, not Utah), served a mission, went to BYU back when it was under the repressive regime of President Ernest Wilkinson, and heard for myself Bobby Kennedy's courageous speech (which you can find by Googling "RFK at BYU in 1968") at the Fieldhouse only a few months before his assassination. All that was more than 40 years ago. By the early seventies, I knew for certain my "gayness" (SSA, SGA, or whatever you want to call it) was part of my core being--in spite of still being a "virgin" (i.e., having NEVER yet had an orgasmic sexual experience with another person, male or female--hell, I had never even "made out.") It was obvious to me I would never be "cured." My response was to pull away--to stop attending ANY meetings, and to make it clear that I wanted to be left alone.

That self-imposed isolation made it possible for me to discover who I was and what I wanted in my life. I became more openly gay, and had a couple relationships (one of which lasted for 3 years in another country/culture several thousand miles from my home). I learned that, however tempted I might become, and in spite of the gay zeitgeist of the time (pre-AIDS and very promiscuous), I was monogamous by my nature: I wanted/needed a life together with "one true love," perhaps not "for time and eternity," but at least "until death do you part." I met that one person in 1980, and we have been together ever since--our thirtieth "anniversary" was earlier this month.

Leaving the church left a very big hole in my life, and saddled me with almost unbearable guilt for some years. But, in retrospect, and for that period of time (when Mormon and BYU homophobia was even more virulent than what you see today), it was probably the best decision I ever made. Nevertheless, I would not recommend the same course for you or anyone else. Gay Mormon (blog author) is from a different generation: he is full of hope and optimism, and probably believes it is possible for gay and lesbian church members to hold on to Mormon heritage, tradition and community while still being themselves. Although I no longer believe the official LDS church origin myths, and am probably more Buddhist than Christian, I still hope he is right, and the day not so far off when ALL LGBT brothers and sisters are welcomed by the church and its leaders. There would be a lot less pain, and far fewer suicides, if that were the case.

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