24 March 2011

THT: Am I My Brother's Keeper?

"And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper? And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground."
 Genesis 4:8-10
Responsibility. This is one of two posts I want to write on this issue. I am not going to mince words here. This first post is directed towards the leaders of this church. You are (speaking to the leaders), in many ways, guilty of the same crime as Cain. This is evident, most recently, by your complete disregard and negligence for the gay LDS people for whom you are responsible for. When you stand before God and he asks, "Where is thy brother Jonathan?" or "Where is thy brother Stuart Matis" or any number of men and women who have been kicked out of their homes, driven away, or simply forgotten and left alone, what will you say?

"Am I my brother's keeper?"

You have lost so many due to negligence and silence on the issue of homosexuality. If a celibacy or heterosexual marriage are not viable options for a person, they are dismissed. They are not invited to participate in your wards. They are not allowed to speak in church. You place a visible mark on them. Don't pretend that others will not notice a person in the ward who never has any calling and who never speaks in church, or who never goes on temple trips or takes the sacrament. There is no help for them from you unless it is on your terms. 
You have lost so many kids to risky behavior, abuse, a life of drugs and sex because you will not give them appropriate, helpful, and realistic counsel specific to their needs and because you have taught their parents that homosexuality is as evil as murder. You have failed to teach these kids that they are valuable and loved by God. That they are of great worth and are not broken or sick. That there are still ways for them to live respectable lives, ones in which they respect themselves and others even within a committed homosexual relationship. That their goal should be a long-term, committed and legitimate homosexual relationship and a family-oriented life if celibacy is not realistic. That they should be open and include their families in their lives.  

You have lost the lives of so many who believed that it would be better to die than to be gay due to careless remarks and comments on homosexuality. Because of the fear you have instilled in them. Because these people wanted to do what was right so bad, that they would rather take their own life than to sin. Because you have allowed an environment of fear, hate, ignorance, and prejudice to exist among your congregations regarding homosexuality. Good, bright, worthy, God-fearing men and women have been lost.

What will you say when God asks you where they are? Take responsibility. If you are what you claim, you are accountable and responsible for the thousands upon thousands that have been lost due to your actions (or non-action). 
"That there are abusive practices that have been used in connection with various mental attitudes or feelings. Over-medication in respect to depression is an example that comes to mind. The aversive therapies that have been used in connection with same-sex attraction have contained some serious abuses that have been recognized over time within the professions. While we have no position about what the medical doctors do (except in very, very rare cases — abortion would be such an example), we are conscious that there are abuses and we don’t accept responsibility for those abuses."
-Elder Oaks
You have authorized and known of actions and orders that have been given to gay men and women to cure them of their homosexuality. This includes, but is not limited to, prescribing marriage as a fix, and endorsing shock-therapy at church-owned and church-run BYU. Whether you knew at the time that these prescriptions were harmful or not, you allowed them, and they indeed have proven to be extremely harmful. But rather than apologize and acknowledge this, you have responded, "Am I My Brother's Keeper?"

I am training as a manager at my workplace. In the process I have made many unintentional mistakes. I was unaware that I was doing something wrong. Regardless of that, however, I was still the person who made the mistake and it would never excuse me from apologizing for my error. You are no different. You are responsible for your actions. You ARE your brother's keeper.


Trev said...

Whoa, what triggered this?

Steven Lester said...

Thank you, Jonathan. A powerful declaration and condemnation, this. You are taking on the Leadership, always a dangerous thing to do. Can you imagine what would happen if you were to type this up in a letter and send it to the "Prophet", especially if it had been publicized first? I have some ideas, but I would prefer not to scare you in the telling of them.

The worshipped Brethren only care about power. Over people. Over wealth, itself. They believe that only self justifies any kind of action; indeed, they are the most selfish of men alive today; wolves in sheep's clothing; unafraid of God's justice because they do not believe in Him at all, all verbiage aside. They are despicable! They are literally the sons of Cain.

I am, by the way, one of those who was never given callings or ever allowed to speak at Church (or even to offer prayers). I did always take the Sacrament, though. Years ago. Before I decided to leave the pain of being ostracized behind me, not that anybody ever noticed my absence, or cared about it.

Isn't it amazing how different the real Church is from the glorified image that was presented to me by the missionaries in 1976? I forgive them, though. It was never their fault. They knew not what they were actually doing to me.

jen said...

This is a very impressive post.
I'm currently feeling incredibly angry. And I am not sure who to be angry at: The bishop that was just following the counsel? My parents who thought they were doing what was right? The seminary teacher? The friends? And I've finally come to the place that the leaders of the church have responsibility. They speak in the name of God, and that gives them a lot of credibility. All of the people that repeat and BELIEVE what they teach have some responsibility, but I have a hard time being angry at them...

(I'm not sure if I made sense. Currently experiencing a lot of anger, and I am not as rational as I would like to be.)

Rob said...

Jonathan channels Martin Luther and the 95 Theses.

Anonymous said...

"They knew not what they were actually doing to me."-Steven Lester
So true. I've been there. I think we have to put aversion therapy and pushing heterosexual marriage in the context of the times.

Most of the Church leaders that supported these ideas were operating with ignorance at the time.
They really didn't know better. I suppose you can say ignorance is no excuse. I think it may have been then. It isn't anymore.

There's no excuse for spouting anti-gay words in a General Conference, having a double standard for gay members or for some (few I hope)members treating members and former members poorly.

I left and I can't get it through my thick skull why I miss it in many ways. Maybe I miss the good members or that perceived wall of protection.

apronkid said...

I've been feeling a lot of frustration and anger lately too... I don't think it's just you jen.

Luckily, my bishop is very accepting of who I am, but what has really really been making me angry is the way I here my roommates talk about gay members of the Church. The lack of care and the denial of responsibility on the Brethren's part has bled into the beliefs of these essentially good, well-meaning people. They whisper the word "gay" in hushed tones as if Satan were listening to them, and they tear apart the supposed "gay lifestyle" (whatever that is)... As if they were really in a fit place to judge others!

The worst is when gay members are pitied. When being gay becomes a burden to be born, and the gay member becomes a special project because he/she has such an enormous challenge... that's when I get really angry. I. Am. Not. Broken.

Thanks for the post. It reminds me of my responsibilities as a Christian to more fully love my neighbors, no matter who they might be.

Sean said...

Steven, if the Church was in fact Christian, I don't believe it deserves that title. one would in fact challenge the leadership in every action they make that is "un-Christian."

Indulging in the fear that these men are somehow more powerful, holy, or to be addressed non-confrontationally is invoking humanistic worship and encouraging cultish habits.

Their is nothing to fear from the leadership structure of the church. If you are deeply entrenched in LDS culture there are ways out. There is a lot of blood on their hands that will never be washed away no matter how hard they scrub the history of the church. Theirs is one of plausible denial and those who place all their trust and faith in these men "because 'God' will never lead them astray" are those who are truly lost and fallen from grace and reality.

The church is very culpable for each life lost at the hands of it spreading fear, hatred, misinformation just to perpetuate the illusion that Mormonism is "God's only right way." It is abuse of power and spirituality and they will indeed be judged accordingly.

Pray for those still deceived by the illusion that Mormonism and it's cultural Zion is somehow the sacred and blessed land of OZ hallowed by Joseph Smith's idea of God. Their is a man behind a curtain. Have the courage to pull back that curtain and see who's there. Is most definitely is not Jesus.

jen said...

apronkid - I agree.

You. Are. NOT. Broken!

I wonder if there is a way to show people, the ones who really mean well and don't want to hurt anyone, that what they are doing is really hurtful.

Jonathan Adamson said...

@Trev- Nothing in particular. I've had these thoughts for a long time, I just haven't written them. Back when blacks were given the priesthood, the prophet basically apologized and said forget everything we have told you about blacks. These days, any mistakes that are made are not acknowledged by the brethren. At most it is handed off to the PR department to handle.

@Steven- I wouldn't call the leaders of the church the "sons of cain." I do not believe that they are doing anything maliciously. Also... I do not believe that sharing my thoughts on this matter is dangerous by any means. There is nothing for me to fear. I believe that the leaders of the church are generally good people who are trying to do what they believe is best. However, they are men and men make mistakes. All I am asking is that responsibility be taken.

Jonathan Adamson said...

@Jen- I know the feeling. It is hard to locate the source of hurt. While I believe the brethern have a great responsibility since they do claim to speak in behalf of God, I think that it is just as justifiable to hold followers responsible. It is each of our responsibility to consider, ponder, and apply what is said by anyone (claiming to speak truth) to what our own life experiences have taught us. When people put blinders up and simply accept everything that comes out of the mouth of a person, that is where things get dangerous. If people would take the time to really find the truth of what was said, leaders wouldn't be able to teach people false things... whether intentional or unintentional.

@Anonymous- I agree that perhaps, at the time, leaders didn't realize what they were doing was wrong. But this doesn't excuse them from taking responsibility for what has been done and to take action to undue the harm that has been done. Knowing that what was done was abusive and then not trying to make things better is just as bad as allowing those actions to continue. But they can't even muster a simple apology, recognizing and accepting responsibility for making mistakes that were (and are) harmful.

@apronkid- SO TRUE. It is so hard when extended family members or other people refer to my being gay as a challenge. Usually, along with that they say something along the lines of having faith and trusting the lord to overcome challenges. Being gay is just as much of a "challenge" as being straight. What? You are straight? That must be SO hard! There is no reason that it should be a challenge. It is only because of the perceptions of others that it is any sort of a challenge. It has nothing to do with being gay in and of itself.

Jonathan Adamson said...

@Sean- Harsh. However, I do like the thing you said about members challenging unchristian teachings if they indeed valued being a Christian. I never think of members as "deceived" or like I somehow need to wake them up so they can smell the coffee. I think that Mormonism really does work for some people. It is what makes them happy. It is what they want in life. It brings them true peace and purpose. Why should I be angry that they have found that? I wish everyone could feel that sense of belonging and peace and purpose. What I do feel obligated to speak out on is when what brings them peace and purpose and happiness is being forced upon others as if it is the answer for everyone. THAT is when I cannot stay silent.

@jen- I wonder how that can be done. For my family, it was me coming out to them that made them realize how ignorant they had been about homosexuality. But that doesn't work for everyone. I'm not sure there is one answer that will work like magic. I think the only thing we can do is to be open about how we feel and about our experiences. It is hard sometimes because they are very personal, and honestly, no one's business. But if we are to seek understanding... we have to be willing to make ourselves a little vulnerable and let people see inside of us. See the hurt, the pain, the struggle. Take off that strong game face every now and then and help them see into our soul. It is easy to be on the defensive. But once we do, the other side simply writes us off as evil, confused, messed up, etc, etc.

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