Dear 100 Hour Board,
Hi, current AND FORMER writers! (Yay alumni week!)
I feel like the Church is trying to improve their rhetoric about and relationship with LGBTQ+ people. Many people still seem very dissatisfied with those efforts and say they aren’t enough. It kind of feels like the only thing that will make a lot of people satisfied is changing the doctrine, but I really don’t see that happening.
So short of changing the doctrine that marriage is between a man and a woman, in your opinion, what could 1) the Church as a whole (administration-wise) and 2) individual members of the Church do to help LGBTQ+ people feel less marginalized and more welcome?
-I want to be kind to everyone
For your second part (what individuals can do), I'm buying a rainbow keychain to put on the bag I bring to church. It isn't a huge thing, but I want people in my ward to know that I'm a safe place. It's a super little thing, but I'm hoping it'll help.
What can the Church do as an organization? I saw what happened when President Nelson urged members to use the Church's full formal name and avoid the term "Mormon." The change was total, organization-wide, and nearly instantaneous. If the Church really wanted members to react with love and acceptance when someone close to them came out as LGBT, even without changing any of the underlying doctrines on marriage or gender, they could make it happen. So far, they haven't.
-a former writer, not yet out
Dear I want to be kind to everyone,
Hi there. I don't expect folks will recognize my nym anymore, so let me give you a little background. I wrote for the Board from 2008 (so Prop 8 times) to 2010. I'm queer, but I wasn't out then. I was definitely the most liberal person writing for the Board at the time, and my views on homosexuality were... well, let's just say they were not mainstream. I was also the first person I know of to cop to a wavering testimony on the Board when I started writing under Friendly Neighborhood Agnostic. I stopped going to church as soon as my obligation to BYU was ended though I had entered BYU with a strong testimony of the gospel. I am now an agnostic atheist.
I think your premise is a little off, with the greatest kindness and respect intended. The wording of your question suggests a beleaguered organization who has tried everything in its power, but some folks just won't be placated no matter what they do. That does not square with my experience or with the history of the issue. The fact is that Mormonism has been actively harming queer people through its doctrines for decades. Generations of people, queer or not, were assigned President Kimball's The Miracle of Forgiveness for law of chastity violations despite the truly hateful and ignorant things he wrote about gay people. BYU, with the knowledge of today's top leaders, sponsored heinous conversion therapy experiments which were performed on gay male students and led to a rash of suicides. The Mormon Church was less than transparent when it paid for the vast majority of the advertising for Proposition 8, and the arguments they used were clearly specious in a way that I don't think would be tolerated by its membership nearly as well today. They insisted that they were not part of the problem for decades as more and more people were harmed and more and more people died by suicide. Within the past few months they released more material on what their view of trans people is, and I would encourage you to find a trans or nonbinary friend (which you have, whether you know it or not) to discuss their comments with. It's not as if this is an old issue. This is a decades old, continuing issue that they haven't really done all that much to combat. There has been a website (the first version of which, by the way, was Mormons and Gays, which was super rad, let me tell you) and some rhetoric about loving anyone. One of the apostles sits on a suicide council now, after years of concern. Nothing substantive has changed. Nothing is done to parents who kick out or disown their queer children (which happens, a lot) or to other members who are hatefully transphobic or homophobic. Can you see why, from my point of view, this all rings pretty hollow? I know a lot of people who have been harmed in this fight, and they are real, important people to me. I have been harmed in this, and I'm only starting to get better now. What the church has done is not enough.
A few years ago, I heard an interview on This American Life. The reporter or producer had heard a young black woman speak about race issues and they wanted to know who had raised such an incredible young woman, so they spoke to her father. He spoke of how he raised his daughter to not have any unfairly kind notions of our country and began to speak frankly of the myriad mistreatments black people have suffered since the first slave ships. The reporter or producer, also a black person, asked the man about this. Doesn't he worry about how white people will react to his frankness? Doesn't he worry about what it might do to the movement, to use polarizing language like that? He said, "I don't worry about the white man in America. The white man is doing just fine." Now obviously being gay and being black are two very different things. Nobody like me has ever been sold or not been allowed to vote or so many other experiences because of who they love. However, I have tried to adopt this point of view on behalf of the groups to which I belong which are marginalized. I don't worry about the Mormon church. The Mormon church is doing just fine. What they choose to do from this point on is their business. I just worry about the people like me and how we can all live happier lives, well into old age as much as possible.
As for what you can do, stop apologizing for the church. Stop telling queer people that the church loves them. Honestly, we can see that it does not, whatever Christ or God might feel for us. It feels like gaslighting to be told it does. Gay, bisexual/pansexual, trans, and other queer folks continue to be involved in the church for a lot of reasons, and they should be allowed to. Those folks, though, whenever I have spoken to them, are tired. Don't tell them why things have to be the way they are. They are not idiots and they know the doctrine.
The way to be kind to everyone and to be a safe space is to be brave and advertise it. Let me tell you what I don't mean by that. Every time the church does or says something harmful to queer folks, the progressive/ex/post-Mormon community's social media pages light up with a little graphic encouraging people to call the Trevor project or speak with them. I am a safe person, the graphic overtly states. I know from experience, though, how hollow that rings when that is the only thing you have ever heard that person say about queer issues. The time to make it clear to the people struggling around you is before a crisis happens. Speak up in your meetings when someone says something hateful. I know it is uncomfortable, but you are letting everyone in the room know where you stand and you are saving a queer person from having to do it themselves. Speak with queer people you know about what would be helpful to them. Join a group or do some volunteering with an organization where you can get a little education. Read up about queer issues in Mormonism and use any feelings you may have in response to help fuel your fight. You might start with a book by active Mormon poet Carol Lynn Pearson called No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons Around Our Gay Loved Ones. Start anywhere, be humble, and get going.
- The Black Sheep
There are a lot of things you (and the Church) can do, and I love the other writers' responses to this question. I'd like to add that it would be very meaningful for me if the leadership of the Church was more straightforward about queer issues and less afraid to condemn hatred. Using accepted terminology (for example, "gay" instead of "same-sex attracted") is a good step in this direction. I would love to see the leaders of the Church acknowledge the prejudice that LGBTQ+ people face and express concern about their (physical, emotional, and mental) well-being. I would like them to stop erasing the identities of LGBTQ+ people, especially trans people. (We are all children of God. That is a beautiful thing to know and to preach. But it's used too often to erase other important identities and shut people down when they are talking about the difficulties they face). And I think the best thing the leaders can do, short of changing policy, is to directly address prejudice and hatred against LGBTQ+ people as an urgent moral issue, using no-nonsense language.
As for what you can do as an individual? I think the same principles apply.