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
- 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
"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:
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?
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 performance.
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."
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
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.