05 November 2012

ART: New Gay Mormon Film- The Falls

Alright kids, it's been awhile since I've done a post that wasn't so charged. But I had the pleasure of screening a film that was sent to me by Breaking Glass Pictures. I think it will be available at the end of this year- so watch for it.

As far as I understand it, this is Jon Garcia's second film. Although he is not Mormon himself, a good friend from Idaho shared his story and Garcia related a lot to it. It was that story that inspired this film.


Being raised in a typical Mormon home in Idaho, RJ leaves for his full-time mission in Oregon where he and his companion, Elder Harris seek out those that may hear the message of their faith. As they work through the good and bad experiences of an LDS mission, they find themselves falling into a forbidden love for one another.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed the film's raw feel. I felt it was really pretty accurate as far as mission life is concerned- not perfect, but more real than other depictions I have seen. I found myself having flashbacks to my own mission. The characters were at first, awkward. I found that I interpreted that quirkiness as amateur acting until I sort of found myself really liking the little oddities of each of the characters. My skepticism disappeared as I got to know the characters better.

The film spends a lot of time on life as missionary companions before it begins to explore the love story. I enjoy slower paced, thoughtful films and so I enjoyed the pace of this one. I was a pretty straight-arrow kid and it would have been much harder to imagine two elders getting romantically involved if it hadn't spent time on developing their relationship as companions.

The film definitely did not have an agenda. I was expecting some snarky commentary on the Mormon Church, but the film did a really amazing job at being really pretty fair. I don't feel the Church was demonized in any way. In fact, if anything it was more accurate at depicting the Church than it was at depicting a gay Mormon's experience within the Church.

I don't mean to say that it favored the Church or it's position on gay issues, but I feel that it didn't do complete justice to the magnitude of the contradiction that is a gay Mormon. The costs didn't seem as high in the film as they are in real life. The internal struggle wasn't as tangible.

In the last part of the film, RJ speaks with his Stake President. This was a really really great moment. It was very moving. In someways I put myself into RJ and allowed him to say what I wish I could have said. It also brought back memories of the feelings of betrayal and neglect that I felt as I came to accept myself for who I am. It was a bittersweet moment of the film that will stay vividly in my mind.

I'd love to discuss more because I think there is a very interesting exchange between the two companions that I feel is very real in the Gay-Mormon community having to do with self-righteous validation, but I don't want to give away too much of the film. So watch for it in the coming months- especially you indie-film lovers.

20 October 2012

THT: Mormons Building Bridges Revisited

My previous post about MBB received a lot of comments. I have read arguments on both sides of the spectrum. There are extreme opinions on either side, and there are also well thought out ones. I feel that I should put a final word in on the matter now that I have had the opportunity to talk to and read comments from people on both sides of the issue.

It was not my intention to make it sound like MBB does nothing good. It was my intention to bring to light some of the bad that has resulted from the actions of the group. I felt that the attention that was being given was unfairly biased and did not take into account the many negative experiences people in the community have had with it. I felt like someone should speak out and give a voice to those people. It is obvious that many people had a lot of things they wanted to add to the discussion and that this was a real issue for a lot of people.

Having said that, I want to talk about some of the comments I feel were fair and affirming as far as MBB is concerned in general terms. I'm going to break down the positive aspects of the group and discuss each briefly:


Quite a few people expressed fear when they first joined MBB. They were afraid that their membership would be at stake and they didn't know what repercussions would be due to their alignment with a group that promoted understanding when it came to LGBT issues.


There were also many people who described the group as the reason they began learning more about LGBT issues. It was described as being a "stepping stone" rather than a "final resting place." A group that would get people's feet wet with the issues rather than diving into the deep end of a pool so-to-speak. It was described as "the primary approach" or the "milk before meat."


People also talked about it being a place where they were first exposed to the idea that LGBT youth were being harmed in LDS environments and that whatever was happening wasn't working. One woman said, "Recently, I've spent hours each week trying to understand. Most of that is in the form of listening and reading--connecting to others and trying to understand. In our family, those efforts are translating into training materials for our stake.


As one woman said, "we are still in the church and trying to effect change from where we are. The equality groups are mostly outside the church and are trying to effect change from there." Another said, "I stay because I feel like I can help bring about change from the inside"


I believe that all these things are good. I would not argue against them. Having said that, I don't appreciate those who commented with a condescending attitude that brought issues such as my age or maturity into play. Personal attacks might help you dismiss what a person says, but it doesn't make your argument any stronger.

Now, let me recap some of the arguments that show that MBB has hurt the LGBT community:


Many people commented on their personal experiences with censorship. Comments about marriage equality or comments promoting changes in the Church's official positions on the issue were targets. A lot of these people also talked about feeling bullied and unwelcome when they made these kinds of comments both by the group moderators and members. Some were even banned from the group.


In the early formation of the group, many agreements were dismissed - "They asked Utah Mormons for Marriage Equality to "stand down" and just make one big march, with the promise they'd promote already planned, but later-occurring marches after we went to a great deal of effort to promote the SLC march, including inviting hundreds of people personally and After SLC's march was over, they used the attention for self-promotion, and mentioned nary a word about Mormons for Marriage Equality. Nobody could even be referred to Mormons for Marriage Equality via their forum. Nobody was allowed to say that we even existed and they refused to follow through on their promise to promote our marches in exchange for the work we'd done for them."


A quote by Martin Luther King Jr. was shared to demonstrate the feeling many got from MBB. He wrote it in response to the "White Moderate" and what their efforts were doing to the civil rights movement. "I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another mans freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro the wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating that absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."


At the original march, they prevented anyone who wanted to march in the parade with a sign supporting rights or equality from participating even though they had asked that other groups who supported equality to stand down and join their march. Those who marched were to wear "Sunday best" to look like Mormons, though many of them were inactive or no longer members. To the spectator, it would seem like a group of active LDS people who were affirming the LGBT community. Reports on the march resulted in many falsely believing that the LDS Church was a safe and affirming place for LGBT people including one lesbian couple with a daughter who thought they should check it out and start attending.


One thing to note is that the affirming comments were mostly from heterosexual individuals who are active members while negative comments tended to come from members of the LGBT community who have different levels of affiliation to the church.



I don't know that my conclusion has changed, but perhaps now I can articulate it better. MBB is great for active, heterosexual "beginners." It is bad when it tries to step into the public eye as a Mormon to LGBT outreach group. Since it is a place where people feel a little hesitant to even be a member in fear of repercussions, I would argue that it would be better if it wasn't so public (ie marching in Pride). These people obviously feel a certain level of discomfort when talking about LGBT issues. They want to learn more about the issues and hopefully gain the resources and courage necessary to begin having conversations with others in their social circles. They don't want to risk loosing friends or family over the issue, and definitely don't want to risk membership. That is fine. It is a good "AA" type group for Mormons with closeted interest in LBGT issues.

However, when it promotes the idea that it is connecting Mormons to the LGBT community by showing love, support, and understanding- THAT is where the problems begin. LGBT people get involved thinking it will be mutually beneficial and uplifting. But soon they realize that they don't have a say in how people show them love, support, and understanding. They feel like they have no voice. They feel like they are being demonized by members who consider it preposterous to suggest that they march for things like marriage equality. In the meantime, the press gets the wrong idea about the group. It is touted as being an outreach/support group for the LGBT community headed by Mormons, when in-fact, it is a support group for Mormons headed by LGBT (or at least LGBT-friendly) Mormons. This is great, but it shouldn't promote a false image. It is that farce that does harm. Just as any gay boy or girl knows, when we pretend to be someone we aren't, monumental damage can and will ensue.

Just as the woman quoted above said, "we are still in the church and trying to effect change from where we are. The equality groups are mostly outside the church and are trying to effect change from there." So, that being said- do not try and be both. In my opinion, MBB should either be the quite and constant support from within, or be the energized, fully-affirming voice that is needed outside. But by trying to be both, it is diluting the external pressure that institutions like the LDS church and Utah government NEED to feel. They NEED to know that we are not simply asking for kindness, we are demanding full equality. Government WILL respond. It is only a matter of time. And once we are equal under the law, the Church will likely follow
(albeit reluctantly) in the years to follow. The MBB "voice from within" can help ease that last step, but if it tries to become the voice on the outside- as it has been- is will set both movements back.

15 October 2012

THT: Shame on Dallin Oaks

My last post received a lot of comments from both sides of the issue I talked about. I plan on responding to the comments and attention that the subject drew. I think there were good and bad arguments on both sides of the issue. But first- Oaks.

My first real impression of Oaks as a man was at BYU. I worked for the Office of Information Technology in the lighting branch of the Multimedia Events department. Our little team did the lighting for all sorts of events, from EFY dances to awards ceremonies to concerts to CES Firesides. (It is funny now to think that I ran the lighting for some of those firesides in the Marriot Center). Anyway, at one particularly high-end dinner/awards program, Oaks was one of several General Authorities in attendance. I remember watching him from the mezzanine. People were finding their seats as the program was about to start and his wife was still chatting it up with people by their table. Dallin Oaks (believing his wife to be behind him), pulled his wife's chair out and when he realized she was talking to people he just stood and waited patiently behind the chair. She was one of the last to wrap up conversation before sitting down and Oaks, of course, kindly scooted her chair in after she sat before taking his seat.

I share this story because I don't want people to think that I have completely vilified the leaders of the LDS Church in my mind. I know that many of them (maybe all?) are decent guys and if they were simply another person on the street, they would likely be likeable enough to just about anyone. However, they are not like a random person that you might happen to bump into. They proclaim themselves to be the voice of God. And people can say what they want about them being "imperfect men," but lets be honest with ourselves. We look into history at any mistake a past "prophet" made and we say, "he was only a man." Brigham Young for example. Mormons are quick to acknowledge that he was imperfect and made many mistakes and had questionable judgement. But if you even suggest that a current prophet is wrong, it is blasphemy. And not only are they treated like, as one facebook friend proclaimed during General Conference, "surrogates for the Lord," they are also treated like celebrities.

And as much a people would like to say that this is just a cultural issue, and not one that is perpetuated by the leaders themselves, it simply isn't true. You are not encouraged to question the teachings of President Monson. You are not told to read the ensign with a critical eye. What we are encouraged to do is "follow the prophet." So when someone in that position teaches false principles and ideas- it is dangerous. And as sweet as it was that Dallin Oaks pulled his wife's chair out for her, there is no excuse for an educated man who's words hundreds of thousands will interpret as scripture to say things of the nature that he did in General Conference. I don't know how his talk could be any more hypocritical.

He talks about the evils of victimizing children and selfish adult-interests while at the same time demonstrating that equation. How is re-enforcing the idea that single parents are less fit to raise children good for the children in single parent homes? How is making the already guilt-ridden woman haunted by her teenaged decision to abort her child feel evil make her feel valued and loved? And how the hell does telling people to "ASSUME" that same-sex couples with children are incapable, selfish, child-abusing parents do anything to help that child make friends in school and in their communities?

I'm sorry, are you telling us Mr. Oaks, that a child is better off in a foster home than being raised by two loving parents who spent the time in countless meetings and screenings and approvals to get the chance to provide a stable home to him or her? And sure, you were nice enough to pull that chair out for your wife, but isn't it a bit ungrateful to your mother who raised you alone in a world that can't have been very kind to her and her plight? Don't you think that if the toxic idea that she was ill-fit to raise a child wasn't so ingrained into our society that she might have had a better chance? Condemning single parents then didn't improve your situation, sir, so why do you feel it is your job to continue that poisonous teaching?

I have written much about Oaks and his discussion about what parents of gay children should do. I don't think I need to spend any more time showing how damaging his teachings about LGBT people are. But wake up people. THIS is the voice of God? How can people sit through that talk and come away feeling that it was uplifting and inspiring? I wish members were empowered to be able to stand up and say, "I'm sorry sir, but you are wrong- and there is no bell of truth that sounds when you speak."

10 October 2012

THT: "Mormons Building Bridges" is bad for the LGBT community

In my last post, I alluded to the fact that certain groups and people who from a distance seem progressive and helpful are actually becoming stumbling block for the LGBT community. I feel that experiences I've had over the past week have justified my speaking more plainly on the matter. Mormons Building Bridges is one of a few that I believe fit this category. I will explain why.

First, lets take a look what MBB says it is:
"[MBB] is dedicated to conveying love and acceptance to LGBT individuals. Acknowledging the sad history of strife and heartbreak within the LDS Church regarding issues of sexuality and gender identity, we seek to overcome past grievances and build new bridges of understanding and respect. Therefore, we facilitate communication and organizational efforts that help our gay brothers and sisters to feel supported in their life’s path and welcome in our homes and congregations. We are particularly focused on the plight of LGBT Mormon youth and hope to help curb the tide of LGBT Mormon youth homelessness and suicides. MBB is not sponsored by nor do we represent the LDS Church or any political party or caucus."
Sounds great right? I have to admit, I thought it would be a great group based on what the goals were. I had no preconceived notion that it was anything but good for the LGBT community as a whole, and specifically for those who have ever identified as Mormon. But lets read the fine print. I will bullet-point the conditions under each headline. The full text can be read on the MBB page here.

  • For anyone interested in building or finding support as pertaining to the issues of homosexuality, gender identity, and the LDS community
  • Only invite people who will respect the group's goals
  • After requesting to join, the potential member will receive a message from administrators who will ask them to abide by group guidelines
  • Pseudonyms not allowed (with few exceptions)
  • If a member blocks a group admin on facebook they will be removed
  • A place for fellowship and support and not political or doctrinal debates
  • Be civil and respectful of others
  • We want everyone to feel welcome
  • We do not promote specific philosophy/theology/ideology
  • Foul language, threats, harassment, and discrimination not allowed
  • Members are asked not to explicitly campaign for marriage equality on the Facebook group
Infractions of Guidelines
  • If a group admin determines a member is non-compliant to guidelines, they will be asked to modify, remove, or otherwise correct their post or comment
  • If member in question has not responded within one hour, the post/comment will be removed
  • Members will be removed and/or banned if admins determine that the member is not willing to comply with group rules
Quoting the Church's PR press release following Packer's offensive general conference talk:

"This [LDS] Church has felt the bitter sting of persecution and marginalization early in our history ... Our parents, young adults, teens and children should therefore, of all people, be especially sensitive to the vulnerable people in society and be willing to speak out against bullying or intimidation whenever it occurs, including unkindness toward those who are attracted to others of the same sex. This is particularly so in our own Latter-day Saint congregations. Each Latter-day Saint family and individual should carefully consider whether their attitudes and actions toward others properly reflect Jesus Christ’s second great commandment -- to love one another."
One thing you might be able to pick up on is the level of control the administrators assume over the members of this group. You must agree to a set of rules. You may very well be censored. You cannot debate politics or doctrine. You cannot explicitly advocate for marriage equality. And you can be kicked out and banned if the leaders see fit. Sound familiar? The group may not be endorsed by the LDS Church, but there sure is some resemblance.


When I began to realize the sentiment within the group, I voiced my concern. I made a post that asked how the group intends to achieve it's goals without talking politics and policies. My reasoning was this: How is an LGBT youth to feel loved, supported, and accepted in a community that also seeks to delegitimize the love that child feels toward another of the same sex by seeking to prohibit same-sex marriage. How is that child to understand empty words of love and understanding when actions show that the love and understanding is limited and conditional. "We love you, support you and we understand how you feel, but don't you dare expect that we will support changing discriminatory policies that our leaders support."

The response to my question was outrage. More than a few people threatened to leave the group if it was going to allow people to suggest that we ask more of our community by way of ACTION rather than simply WORDS. One woman was shocked that I dare hint at the idea of rejecting the clear message by prophets of the Lord that marriage is only intended for a man and woman. I was shocked. I was soonafter reminded by an administrator that this was not a place to discuss politics.  

This was the group that was going to "convey love and acceptance to LGBT individuals?"


This week I went to my first PFLAG meeting. I went with my boyfriend's mother who had been once before. I was shocked to find out that even though the Salt Lake Chapter has been established for 25 years it only had about 15 people there that night and only around 35 paying members. Membership is $35 a year. $15 of that goes to national, the rest is used by the chapter for things like reading materials that are supplied at booths that they run at several events. One of the more prominent women there expressed her shock that at a recent event, MBB was charging people $5 for a pamphlet. She said, "our whole purpose is to educate and get the information out there. We want to get that to anyone with even the slightest interest. And yes the pamphlet costs us $5, but putting that into the hands of an uninformed, but curious individual is priceless! We do not charge for information."

Okay, maybe she didn't say those exact words, but that was the gist of it. My point is, MBB boasts some 2,300 members. PFLAG in Salt Lake has 35. You'd think that with all those people wanting to convey love and support to the LGBT community would manage to hand out a few pamphlets free of charge. But the words of love and understanding and support just don't translate. Sure, it may have the affect of making people feel as if they are more understanding and loving than the average Mormon, but clearly there is a disconnect between words and action. Actions speak louder than words.


Recently there has been a move to create a MBB choir. When a facebook friend messaged me about it, I responded that I didn't think my philosophy meshed with MBB. In fact, I knew it because of the quick backlash I received for sharing my opinions. Well, now- weeks later, the director of that choir has released a little information about why all their practices have been postponed and rescheduled and canceled over the past few weeks:
"As of now, rehearsals are postponed until further notice.

I had a meeting with MBB Leadership today and there have been some concerns addressed, ones which I will not go into right now. The president of MBB would like a week to pray, think, and talk to others about what to do.

The reason we no longer have a rehearsal space is that we failed to make sure the exact details of LDS Church policy. Yes, we did have someone recording audio for the NPR interview. We did not know how serious of an infraction this was, and we are to blame for that. They also stated that we were videotaping the rehearsal, a accusation that is 100% false. I am trying to speak to the LDS Leadership of that building, and of other churches and rehearsal spaces.

Due to the present situation, I am hereby cancelling the Circling the Wagons 

I must also inform you that, while MBB has not said yes or no to continuing to sponsor the choir, both myself and MBB leadership has discussed us breaking away from the MBB organization and continuing the choir without their name."
I wish this were surprising to me, but again... when it comes to action, groups like this seem to become a blackhole for the progressive action that needs to take place in order for our communities to be places of respect, tolerance, and love for LGBT persons. But why?

Because there will always be room for intolerance, prejudice, hatred, and bigotry as long as LGBT people are treated differently by the law. Change starts there. Imagine if African Americans decided that instead of demanding equality- instead of taking that seat on the bus or walking into that school or ordering from that bar they would just share stories to spread understanding and love. Imagine that they agreed not to talk about voting rights or desegregation as to not offend or push politics or ideology. Imagine that the mere suggestion that they march to Washington caused their alleged allies to turn their backs in rage. Where would that have got them?

And for those who think that it makes sense that the LGBT youth will feel love and support and understanding by joining a group that says you are reaching out to build a bridge when at the same time you refuse to consider or talk about politics and policy changes, I would ask that you consider this analogy.

Let us say that somehow all the godless non-mormons of Salt Lake got a law passed to make temple marriages illegal in Utah. If you were found to have participated in such a marriage, the consequences were these:
  • You're marriage would be considered null and void by the state
  • Insurance providers could refuse to cover anyone other than the employed individual (no family benifits)
  • Renters could evict you from your home
  • Employers could legally fire you for being married in the temple
  • Hospitals did not have to recognize family members, and therefore they had no visitation rights
You get the idea. But wait! There is a new group that has formed whose mission is to support temple-wedded couples and families. They want to reach out in love and understanding and make you feel valued and welcome in Utah. They want to build a bridge across the pit of suffering. But there are rules. You can share your story, but don't say anything to suggest that you should be granted equal recognition. Don't talk politics or policies. Don't try and organize a protect or march. If you become unruly, you will be promptly removed and banned. After all, this is a place for respect, love, and understanding! We have lives to change and people to save!

Do you feel the love? How about understanding? Respect?

I would hope that you would expect someone who claimed to understand, love, and support you to fight for your equality. To take your hand and sit with you in that seat on the bus. To help you carry those books into that segregated school. To order that drink for you from the man who hates you. I would hope that you would expect for that person to speak up in defense of your rights- especially to those in power. I would hope that you would expect that person to walk with you down the aisle on the day of your wedding and celebrate with you as you commit to cherish forever the one you love most in this world. You want to build a bridge? This is your chance.

19 September 2012

THT: Dangers of the Gay Mormon Movement

I've been reading a book called "Victory" by Linda Hirshman which has been a very interesting and worthwhile read so far. And while the title makes it seem as if the fight is over, we all know that the fight is far from over- whether it is the fight within our own lives as we continue to struggle with apparent paradoxes of who we are and what we believe or whether it is the fight we have yet to win to gain full equality. But the book has made me ponder the current issues the gay Mormon community currently faces. I wanted to share these insights.

There are several points it brings up as it compares the gay movement to previous civil rights movements. The book suggests that certain things hurt the movements of the past and other things helped. Some examples of things that hurt were thing like trying to act or pretend like the people of interest are the same as the powerful majority, dilution, and separatism. It suggests that the three core principles of a successful movement are : admit you're different, demand respect, and take care of your own interests first.

The gay movement has two choices:

1. They could ask society to ignore or tolerate their behavior, immoral or not, in the interest of higher values like freedom or privacy.

2. They could argue that their sexual practices were not wrong- Gay is Good.

But the dangers that are tempting are:

1. Separatism (by checking out of the social and political movement)

2. Dilution (by taking up every progressive cause)

There are several groups that have popped up recently among the MoHo community that I personally feel damage the movement as a whole. I won't name them, but these groups encourage a sense of commonality and orthodoxy and discourage any voice which demands equality and respect. They encourage people to lay down their quest for equality in an attempt to gain listening ears and distinguish hostility. As they do this, the movement as a whole loses its core purpose- to be equal and free in every way that a human in this country is guaranteed.

There has been a dilution in purpose. No longer do we demand respect and equality, now we only ask for understanding (which has no concrete methods of measurement). There is no voice that argues that homosexuals are good and their relationships and love are Godly. These groups stifle and dismiss voices that argue that Mormondom should tolerate gay relationships.

What has been the result? Silence from leaders. Leaders of the church are smart. Here are these groups that are touting all the understanding and love that is found within Mormonism as it pertains to gays. These stories enjoy wide circulation. Videos are made by people who have themselves been rejected by the Church and its entities but which are credited by the media to be production of the Mormon establishment. Uninformed people begin to think Mormons are progressive on the subject of gays due to the media attention these gay Mormon misfits receive as they try and earn understanding and artificial love. Meanwhile, nothing has actually changed.

We have opened the door to story after story of good gay Mormons who conform to orthodoxy and reaffirm in the minds of Mormons everywhere that a righteous gay will marry a woman like they are supposed to and that God will fix us in the end. This is what happens when you stop taking a stand. If we act like we are content, the establishment will take the lead. And since we have silenced our voices to whispers of mutual understanding and love, the voice of the establishment gets free airtime. Meanwhile, they are painted as the unheard voices of reason and truth- when in reality, this is the only voice that has been heard for decades. The world already knows about this "fix." It has been offered as the cured for years and years. Are we going to let it become the dominate message that the gay youth of our community hear once again? Haven't we learned that it isn't right?

In my opinion, love and respect and understanding will result in equal treatment. If someone truly understands me, they will support me in my relationship and encourage a strong marriage bond and happy family. If they truly respect me, they will stand up for what is right, even in the face of leaders who might teach otherwise. If they truly love me, they will not patronize me with their words of regret and uncomfortable words of encouragement... they will stand with me in my demand for equality. They will be like the couple that offers the first dance at their wedding to the gay couples in attendance who are banned from marriage or the football player who speaks out for equality in the face of a heterosexually dominated profession.

We live in a democracy, not a theocracy. We have every right to demand equality from our government and call out those who would fight against it. It is written in our constitution. It is a guarantee to us. It is ours to claim. We Are Equal. This is our purpose. This is the movement. Once we achieve this, the neigh-Sayers will follow. Once we are free, those that would bind us will have no power. Our equal-ness will become self-evident. Why are we opening up the option for an institution to simply SEE us rather than to ACCEPT us? Are we THAT DEFICIENT of self-respect? Are we THAT DEPENDENT on our mother's milk? Are we SO AFRAID that our voices may be sharp? And are we THAT HESITANT to accept the full love and approval of God?

01 May 2012

THT: Santa Claus's Greatest Gift - Bliss

I believed in Santa Clause through most of my elementary school life. It's true. I had no reason to suspect the jolly old man wasn't real. In fact, I felt I had pretty good evidence that he existed. I'd wake up Christmas morning and clearly, he had taken bites out of the cookies and snacks I left out. I could have sworn I heard him on the roof and in the house. Songs spoke of kids all over the world who had caught glimpses of that plump old man. This was clear evidence to me that, indeed Santa was real.

Sometimes I had a challenging thought. For instance, I didn't have a fireplace in my childhood home. Well, while Santa clearly prefers entrance by way of chimney, he is full of magic. A lack of fireplace would be no match for the powers Santa had at his fingertips. He was all-powerful! And never would I want to be awake when he came... perhaps he'd pass by my house if I was up and about!

Oh the joy of those nights where sleep came slowly and the mornings began with an early rush of excitement and anticipation. Even as an adult I look back on those years with fondness and sometimes catch myself wishing that for a moment, I could believe again. It was so magical.


My roommate and I had a discussion about an experience he had while talking with a couple of LDS guys. One was about to go on a mission, and one had just returned home. He related to me how he felt somewhat envious of them. He knew what it was like being in their shoes. The world was so clear. Their life was so clearly constructed. The RM would go on to find a wife and have a family, raise them in the same belief system where they'd all go on happily believing they would all be together in the end. Joyfully ignorant of any other possibility.

The soon to be missionary was beaming with joy and affirmation as family and friends rallied around him and his brave commitment to serve the God of all goodness and creation regardless of the challenges the next two years might bring. The world he knew lifted him onto his chariot of righteousness that would begin a path that was undeniably good. Never could he imagine a more good way to sacrifice his time. This was what he had always dreamed of becoming. Like his heros in Sunday School, he was about to embark on a journey so noble, it would be worthy of filling volumes of holy writ.

I identified with my roommate's experience. There have been several times where I have had a passing wish that I could just believe again. It was so much easier to have answers to everything. My mind didn't have to be bothered by questions. What I knew made up the world in its entirety. Outside tumoil need never to disrupt my bliss. All I needed to do was re-affirm to myself that it was I who had the truth, which I did at church every week.

Living in reality is quite a bit different. Never would I assume that I know everything there is so know. Never would I imagine that I had already learned the most important knowledge I could gain. Life is full of questions and possibilities. There is no map where my life is clearly marked. But, just as no sound adult could force themselves to again believe in Santa Clause, I cannot force myself to believe again in Mormonism (and perhaps even God?).

"But how can you deny what you have experienced in your lifetime? How can you disregard the clear hand of God in your life?"

Well, how can you deny the moments in childhood where you swear you heard Santa. How about all the "evidence" your childhood mind had found to affirm the reality of that magical gift-giving man? You see, once we are conscious of the fact that we perpetuated our own belief by ascribing meaning to things that we accepted as "evidence" for Santa, we can no longer ignore the plain truth.

Clearly, my parents took bites from the treats I left out. The sounds I heard, were sounds I may have heard on any night, but I was listening for the purpose of affirming my belief.

Did it feel good to believe in Santa? I'd say so! That kind of excitement and anticipation will never be matched. Does that make it true. No. And I for one value truth.

You see, while I no longer have a clear construct of the world and cosmos in my mind, the infinite possibilities that I am no open to have added a new depth to life. The world is out there to discover. It is an adventure I've embarked on that has no timeline or map. I don't know where it will take me- and that is quite exciting.

And though there are times when I miss the quite days of bliss, I could never consciously choose ignorance and be happy... or even sane.

29 April 2012

PE: First Conversations

A conversation with my roommate prompted me to look up a conversation I began with someone shortly after coming to the realization that "gay" was real and it was forever going to be a part of my life. As I read through it, it amazed me to be introduced to that old self again- locked in time by a facebook correspondence.

When I was at BYU working at the front desk of the library, there were more than a few occasions where a gay guy would hit on me. Back then it really bothered me because it meant that people might be able to tell! As if I had something gay on my face.

Anyway, one of these guys (to remain anonymous) facebooked me later:

March 4th, 2010
"So...as random as it may be...I just ran into you in the library...and was just curious to chat with you. It's so high school...but thought I would give it a shot. I'm [JOHN]..."

to which I responded,

"hmm... I don't remember helping you (sorry). I wouldn't mind chatting, but just so you know, I'm interested in females haha. Not that I judge. But yeah, just thought I'd put that out there. Anyway, that was pretty bold- so I commend you on that."

to which he responded,
"yes...I read your profile and figured it out. Being bold is the only way to ever know. Good luck!"

Little did I realize at the time that months later I would reach crisis in my life as I grappled with the fact that indeed, I WAS gay. I didn't know any gay people at BYU and I didn't have anyone to talk to about my crisis who might understand. But that is when I remembered this guy [John]. So, I messaged him back:

June 21st, 2010
"I'm not sure you'd remember me, but I thought I'd give it a shot. And this is really weird and random that I am sending this to you because I don't even know who you are. So the truth is I've struggled with my sexuality for most my life. I don't really know how to label myself. All I know is that I've lived hating myself for a long time and it is a sucky way to live.

Last night I kind of talked about my sexuality with three of my closest friends. The truth is I am really confused about it all. Anyway, I've never "dated" a guy or anything and I am not necessarily going to... but if you wouldn't mind talking maybe it would be helpful. Being in this Mormon world makes it so difficult to be able to talk about without feeling judged.

If you are up for chatting on skype or something let me know. Otherwise, sorry for the randomness.

Oh, and ps- you must have had some reason to suspect I might respond positively to your first question... what made you think that? Just curious."
to which he responded,
"What a surprise to hear from you! Looks like you were up late writing your message. I had to look at your profile to remind myself where we had met since I wrote you so long ago.

First to answer your question, the reason I had a suspicion was just an intuition I have about some; nothing to be offended at. While as was at BYU I saw you all the time and always wanted to say hi, but never did so that is why I wrote the email.

I am always willing and available to talk, especially since I understand where you are coming from. I am in a different spot than you since I have identified with my sexuality more and have my own theories, however, I still get it and know what the religious struggle is like. Questions and "polling" people, as I call it, are great ways to get an opinion and help to ease some of the pain and awkwardness that comes along with dealing with these issues.

So, I think you should feel free to email me as much as you want and after I get to know you better I would be fine to Skype or something like that. I typically reserve Skype for people I know better since I am a little shy, if you can believe it. Either way, let it all out and I will do my best to help.

Keep your chin up Jonathan. You have a friend in me and you should take comfort in that. Can't wait to hear from you."

The conversation went on- I asked questions, and he asked me questions in return. Here are questions that I asked:
1. I was wondering if you still do the church thing or not.
2. When did you come to terms with your sexuality? How did you know for certain?
He asked:
1. Do you feel bad about not having been to church?
2. Do you miss the temple?
3. If you have ever acted on your feelings, do you feel bad?
4. If you knew you'd go to Heaven no matter what, would you just
go ahead and come out?
5. Are you happy with who you are?
6. Do you know who you are?
I asked:
1. How do you view the church... or religion in general?
2. Do you ever think about the possibility that maybe you could be condemning yourself?
3. After you were out, what changed about your life and the way you viewed yourself?
4. How did your family react, what do they think?
5. Looking back on your life, when do you feel you were the best person (world's terms not necessarily religious terms)
6. Did you receive a patriarchal blessing and do you value it at all or believe in it? And if so do you fear you have given blessings up?
What struck me about the conversation was how much more I identified with [John] and how my old self reminded me of most the people that come to me with their questions/stories. I was also impressed by [John's] questions and ways of talking to someone like me who was clearly in a different spot than he was. Many of my questions were obviously based on fear. It was a good reminder to myself that I was once in those shoes.

07 March 2012

THT: Once You Are Real

The Velveteen Rabbit:

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.

"The Boy's Uncle made me Real," he said. "That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."


Shedding the facade and embracing myself has felt much like becoming "real." It is a painful process to become real, and it sometimes takes a long time... but it is also kind of magical. Once you are real, you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.

02 March 2012

PE: The Church's Response to my Letter

I got a letter from the church today. Here is what is read:

Dear Brother Adamson:

I have been asked to acknowledge your recent letter in which you request that your name be removed from the membership records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I have also been asked to inform you that the Church considers such a request to be an ecclesiastical matter that must be handled by local leaders before being processed by Church employees. Therefore, your letter and a copy of this reply are being sent to President Edward L. Schollenberger of the Provo Utah YSA 13th Stake. He will have Bishop Dennis W. Fisher of the Provo YSA 188th Ward contact you concerning the fulfillment of your request.

In view of the eternal consequences of such an action, the Brethern urge you to reconsider your request and to prayerfully consider the enclosed statement of the First Presidency.


Confidential Records

Why can't they simply honor my request? This Bishop was the source of a lot of pain in the past. It was back when I was at BYU... over a year ago! I have nothing to say to that man. He was very indecent to me... and that was when I still wanted to strengthen my belief in the church. In the pamphlet that came with the letter, "An Invitation," one of the sentences that made me chuckle a little was, "We invite you to partake of the happiness you once knew." That so-called happiness led me on the path to suicide. I would have to be crazy to go back.

25 February 2012

PE: My Letter of Resignation

Today, I sent my letter of resignation to Church Headquarters. I followed the format suggested on this site which details all the steps you should take if you are thinking about resigning. Originally, I wrote quite a bit about why I was leaving and my experience. I decided to be brief and to the point. All I really want to get across is that I strongly oppose the church's involvement preventing full equality to gays.


This letter is my formal resignation from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and it is effective immediately. I hereby withdraw my consent to being treated as a member and I withdraw my consent to being subject to church rules, policies, beliefs and 'discipline'. As I am no longer a member, I want my name permanently and completely removed from the membership rolls of the church.

I have given this matter considerable thought. I understand what you consider the 'seriousness' and the 'consequences' of my actions. I am aware that the church handbook says that my resignation "cancels the effects of baptism and confirmation, withdraws the priesthood held by a male member and revokes temple blessings" I also understand that I will be "readmitted to the church by baptism only after a thorough interview."

My resignation should be processed immediately, without any 'waiting periods'. I am not going to be dissuaded and I am not going to change my mind.

I expect this matter to be handled promptly, with respect and with full confidentiality.

After today, the only contact I want from the church is a single letter of confirmation to let me know that I am no longer listed as a member of the church.

While I am aware that including my reasons for my decision are not required, I will include a brief statement for the reader’s knowledge.

I vehemently oppose the decisions made by church leadership to actively contribute to the voice of anti-gay rhetoric in the political, secular, and public sphere, particularly concerning marriage. I do not agree with leaders abusing their ecclesiastical power to rally members to fight against the civil rights of any class of people. I stand for equality, kindness and decency- ideals which I believed this church stood for. I want nothing more to do with an organization that continues to be indecent to a group of people in the name of God. It has forever stained the image of God in the minds of hundreds of thousands of people. It has cut deep wounds into the hearts of gay people and their loved ones around the world and relentlessly continues to throw salt on those wounds. I have had enough of the embarrassing lies the church continues to spew which are responsible for the betrayal, abandonment, and even death of some of the most beautiful, talented, and loving children of God. I am absolutely ashamed of the Church I once represented and outraged that the leadership seems determined to remain unapologetically ignorant and bigoted on this matter.


Jonathan Adamson

22 February 2012

PE: Visit Home & Back to Church

I am in California visiting my boyfriend Sean and my family. Sean and I spent several days at my parent's house. One of those days was a Sunday. My sister was giving a talk, my dad was teaching Sunday School and my mom was teaching a special class on raising kids. So I guess there was no getting out of church for them. I usually prepare clothes so that I could go to church if that is what people were doing. So, despite my parents knowing my intentions to leave the church, I brought my clothes. I really don't have anything against sitting with my family at church every now and then. For me, it is more about family than it is about church.

Anyway, Sean and I decided we would go to Sacrament Meeting to hear my sister's talk. The meeting had the same familiarity as always. It was a little weird being back at my home ward with my boyfriend, though I'm not sure how many people knew that was who he was, or even if they know I am gay. The first speaker was my sister, followed by a recently returned missionary referred to as the "junior companion" to the last speaker who was a member of the high council.

The meeting was a bit torturous. It was uncomfortable because I didn't want to make my family uncomfortable by being comfortable with Sean at church. I mean, we held hands while sitting in the pews, but it was very discreet... practically hidden. The talks were boring as usual, but this time they were especially bothersome because I could see right through them. The return missionary was being groomed and prepped for "great things." Traveling from ward to ward with a member of the high council talking about his mission... six months after returning home. Nothing he said was really of any substance... but I could see why he was in front of us speaking.

He felt important. Local leaders were praising him publicly. He had an audience who listened (whether they wanted to or not).  He had stories he loved telling. I experienced this on my mission. I felt important. I had a duty and others looked up to me and expected me to be great and they praised me for it. That is a pretty good ego builder and it feels wonderful. In many ways, I think it is kind of addictive. When you don't have it, you get depressed and feel unimportant. But as long as you keep feeding the addiction, you are living high.

So even though this return missionary was feeling this great sense of importance and success, he really had little to say. If I remember right, the climax of his talk was when he recounted how he gained a testimony and would never doubt it again. The story went something like this: He was having a hard time in the bible belt were he served. He felt discouraged because it seemed that all anyone wanted to do was prove him wrong. But then he found this scripture in the Book of Mormon that talked about going and preaching to the wicked Lamanites and how those missionaries were blessed by God and righteous by every standard. That scripture spoke so strongly to him about what he was doing, that he will never again doubt the "true church."

When I was young, I would have nodded my head and added this story to the endless list of special spiritual experiences missionaries have. But now I sit wondering how all this adds up. How does relating a scripture to your perception of your current situation equal undeniable truth? I mean the missionary viewed himself as going out against all opposition to take the truth to the "wicked Lamanites" and somehow that means the church is true. It just doesn't add up anymore.

My dad also made some comments that revealed his real feelings about me being gay. While we were getting ready for church he said, "you're not going to take the sacrament though right?" When my mom objected to the question he said, "well is he supposed to?" I had no intention of eating a piece of bread and tiny cup of water, but the message my dad was sending with his comment was clear. Obviously he thinks that I am "unworthy" in some way. Otherwise that comment wouldn't have been made. He said some other things suggesting that things in the water (or other source of food or drink) might have been the cause for me being gay and also that gays change all the time from being gay to being straight.

My dad is friendly enough to me and Sean, but when you see that someone perceives you as unworthy or broken or as just going through a phase, it doesn't provide a very welcoming atmosphere.

Although the rest of my family is much better about the whole situation, I think that they still have a ways to go. It still feels like their might be some level of discomfort for them. Not in seeing me with another guy, but in the way they don't talk about it or mention it to people in general. I mean, I know people ask about me. "How's Jonathan doing? Is he married yet?" And instead of responding in a transparent way, responses are given that don't let on to the fact that I am gay. On the other hand, if someone were to ask about my sister, the response would give plenty of information about who she is dating and how serious it is, etc.

Some day I hope that I don't sense any of that discomfort. In the meantime, I will give it time and I will live my life un-apologetically. 

08 February 2012

THT: A New Resolution

Lately, I've been quite active on facebook... posting articles of interest about gay marriage and the church. I've gotten quite a bit of backlash for it which got me thinking. I let my personal feelings muddy my dialog with other people on this issue. I need to stay calm and collected.

I've decided that this month, I will write my letter of resignation to church headquarters.  With that letter, I am sending all my feeling of betrayal, anger, hurt, and rejection. I will still comment on and post articles of interest to me, but I will stick to facts and not get personal about it. I will not make someone feel like I think they are inferior because of their beliefs or opinions. I will replace criticism with fairness and anger with kindness. It is something I need to work on and I think it will be good for me to make those changes.

29 January 2012

PE: How I got from point A to Gay

Alright. So I have been asked if I could try and explain how I got from where this blog began to where I am now. I'll do my best to try and fill in the gaps of history.

I began this blog in October 2010. That was about two months after coming out to my family and about three months after coming to the devastating realization that I was gay. So, by the time I wrote my first post, I had already made decisions that would set me on my path.

It was my last semester at BYU and I felt the intense need to get out of Provo. I could not stay where I was while exploring my options as a gay guy. I felt very paranoid on campus. I thought someone would find me out and turn me in and I would get kicked out of school. My bishop was a complete jerk and I could not rely on him for any kind of help or support. The only thing he seemed willing to provide me was a drop kick out of college. At first I tried to just transfer to another ward, but my bishop wouldn't allow it. He said as along as I lived in his boundaries, I am required to be under his watch. So I moved. I moved to South Jordan.

I couldn't afford to be found out and kicked out of school my last semester of college, so i decided it would be best to lay low. I went to church at random wards every now and then... but I never put myself in a position where a bishop or leader would ask if I were moving into the ward. This wasn't such a great experience because I got a taste of homophobic comments in almost every ward I attended. It was upsetting because all I could do was sit there and take it. I didn't feel like I could defend the gays without putting myself at risk. So, my attendance trickled down to zero.

By the time I received my diploma in January, I was already mentally and emotionally prepared to be out and open. I came out almost immediately to extended family and close friends. I had discussion after discussion with people about what they thought/ how they felt and what my experience was. For the most part, people were loving and supportive. But the church still was not. Every now and then I would go, and almost without fail gays would come up in the lesson. It is like the go-to answer for anything evil or threatening. Church just didn't feel comfortable. It felt like abuse.

Still, I had the idea that if I could just have the courage and strength to ignore all that I could change minds by being an awesome Mormon. But there was a problem. I had no "home ward" anymore. I would have to start attending one ward and get records transferred in... but you can never do that without having a little chat with the bishop. I was done with deceit and lying. I've never been the type of person that enjoys that. I am honest and truthful and it kills me to lie. So I knew that my first sit-down talk/interview with a new bishop would include me divulging the fact that I was gay.

I wouldn't know a soul in the ward. No one would have any history with me. They would not have and experience by which to judge my character. So, I knew that in this hypothetical ward, leaders would know me first by the label "GAY" before anything else. They wouldn't know me and would have no problem excommunicating a stranger and I wasn't ready to stand in front of a bunch of old men who I have never met in my life while they interrogated me in a so-called "court of love." It wouldn't do anyone any good.

So, I thought that perhaps when the church cooled down its stance on gays I could possibly return. For awhile after Boyd K. Packer's controversial conference talk, the church stayed pretty quiet on the issue. During that time I continued my research and reading and thinking about the church, it's doctrine, it's history, and it's claims and what a potential relationship with those things might be. It is hard to know the truth about the church (both from personal experience and documented history) and still feel like it is something you want to be a part of.

I was experiencing life. I was happy and had a meaningful romantic relationship. I could look back on my life and see how I had arrived at a place so much more healthy for me than ever before. So, I thought that I would just continue that life. My name would still be on the rolls of the church, but I was going to live my life how I saw fit and not let it be dictated by religion.

But then recently, the church began releasing more statements and chatter about gay marriage in particular. At this point I have been in a committed relationship for over 8 months and the idea of marriage isn't so abstract and distant. It is a real possibility in my life and it is something that I know that I want at some point. So when the Church started back up with its attack on marriage, it was a clear sign to me that I could have nothing to do with it. Leadership will not take any advice from me. Nothing I can say or blog or anything would make them change their mind. The best thing for me and them would be to resign. At least then they will see me as a number. Another one lost. And at least then I don't have to live with the knowledge that I belong to an organization that actively fights against my choice to commit my life to another male that I love. I won't have to live with the guilt that my membership is showing support for actions I don't approve of.

And so, the plan goes something like this. I find a way to talk to my parents about my decision. I write a letter of resignation to church headquarters and also a letter to my bishop and stake president of my HOME ward explaining my feelings and experience with a copy of the resignation, and then it is done.

I will always have my past. Mormonism will always be a part of me. I was raised in the church. Of course it will continue to influence how I think and how I approach ideas of deity and spirituality. I will still carry the fond memories in the church with me as well as the bad ones. But I will no longer be a Mormon. I suppose I will be an ex-Mormon... although ex sounds so harsh. I will be previously Mormon. ;)

27 January 2012

THT: Taking the Mormon out

As you might be able to tell, I've been quite silent for awhile. Partly because I've been busy with a full-time job and a full-time relationship. But also because I feel as though I have very little to offer to readers.

When I think about the progress of my blog, it seems I began this journey very optimistically (or maybe idealistically). I accepted that I was gay, but... as if to make up for that fact, I seemed determined to be Mormon. Almost as if the mentality was, "I'm gay, but it's okay- I'm a Mormon!"

As I have talked with and associated with other people along this journey, this seems to be a pretty common step or stage that a gay LDS person goes through. Reconciliation. A time that we attempt to redefine our lives to include everything we know, no matter how contradictory it may seem. I wanted to fit everything into the neat little box that I seemed always capable of doing.

If you have followed my posts... or even if you've only checked in ever now and then, it is clear that I have been somewhat unsuccessful if my end goal was as originally stated. I am however, happy. I have made a wonderful transition.

Sometimes I think that the readers of blogs like mine are searching for some other answer. That they are the ones who optimistically look for an example of a well-adjusted, mentally stable, emotionally healthy gay Mormon who is both a pillar of his Mormon community and has begun a life with a same-sex loved one whom he/she loves with all their souls. And although I don't feel like a failure- not in the least, I imagine my 24 year-old self flipping through my blog and thinking, "oh, another disillusioned Mormon who jumped head first into the "gay lifestyle," and then moving on to some other blog.

I'm not sure anything I have to say anymore is anything people looking at these sort of blogs can relate to. I have come to the realization over time that I am part of two worlds that cannot coexist. One must prevail over the other. This is not something I would have accepted as I began this journey of mine. I had to discover it on my own. But the truth is, I cannot have both. I can either build a life and family with a man I truly love, or I can be an active, participating member of the church. I have experienced some of both in my life.

I grew up in the church. I was someone members would speak of fondly and praise. I served a 2 year mission in Korea. I graduated from BYU. The Church has been the bulk of my life experiences. I have many fond memories. I have also fallen in love. Made unforgettable memories in big and small places. I've held hands with a boy walking down the streets of New York. I've stayed up all night playing chess and drinking wine on the floor with him. I've celebrated the new year with a kiss. I've rubbed his back when he was ill. He's brought me dinner after a long day of work. He loves me more than anything in the world and when he walks through the door, I can feel my face light up.

I would never give up the chance to love and be loved the way that I have experienced for anything. And I have only had a glimpse of what this life could be like. I would never forfeit love for a religion that would have me deny it. And so my choice is clear. I choose love over Mormonism. And if I am to be punished by some invisible being for loving someone, shame on that being for crushing something so beautiful. I do not wish to be part of an organization that actively fights to deny me my happiness. I will not support a church that attacks my family.