Dear 100 Hour Board,
Have any of you had struggles with the church's stance on homosexuality affecting your testimony? I'm pleased to see that it is slowly becoming more understanding, but there are still places where my friends are hurting. In addition, do you feel like supporting family members or friends in their same-sex marriages makes you not temple worthy? I have my own opinions and thoughts, but it can feel a bit lonely at times.
-loves God but also ???
Dear loves God but also ???,
Hi, I'm a lesbian who went to BYU during Proposition 8. I wanted to stop going to church long before I was allowed to by finishing my education at BYU. I resigned the day the exclusion policy went public in 2015. So yes, my testimony was definitely affected by the church's stance on homosexuality.
To be clear though, my being gay, the church's involvement in Prop 8, and the blatant homophobia everywhere were not the only reasons I decided to leave. They probably weren't even the major reason at the time. I think the stereotype is that the decision to stop attending the Mormon church is an easy one for a simple explanation -- they're gay, they wanted to sin, they were lazy, they got offended, they stopped reading their scriptures. The truth is always more interesting and more subtle than that. It's also more painful. I have known a lot of people who left. Nobody ever took it lightly or left without a great deal of pain. You probably understand this, of course, but I try to say it as often as I can in Mormon spaces.
As for whether supporting loved ones' marriages makes you not temple worthy, let me tell you a story. I came out to my family probably nine years ago. At the time, the label I was using was bisexual. I called my mother and told her. The literal first things she said to me were that 1. she was not the kind of mother who was going to leave Mormonism over something like this, and 2. she didn't think she could attend my wedding if I decided to marry a woman. My relationship with my mom has improved a lot since then and she has slowly come around on the whole queer thing, little by little, most of the way, kind of. However, I will never as long as I live forget that she said that to me. It let me know exactly where I stood with her and she made it clear in that moment that the church mattered much more than I did. My advice would be to not let your loved one feel that from you. When asked what was the great commandment and the law, Jesus said to first love God and then to love thy neighbor as thyself (Matthew 22:35-40). Jesus also said that when you show love to others, you show love to him (Matthew 25:40). To my atheistic self, that sure seems like loving others is a divine twofer.
There is community for folks like you. Go find it and get some support. Learn about other people's experiences. You don't have to be alone where you are, wherever you end up.
- The Black Sheep
I have definitely struggled because none of their current approaches make any sense to me. I won't go into depth on it. But I do know for a fact that supporting your LGTBQIA+ friends in their relationships (same-sex or otherwise) is totally within the bounds of temple worthy. If we started revoking temple recommends for people who go to their friends' gay weddings or hang out with them or get them gifts or whatever vague definition of "support" we're talking here, I'd have some serious issues.
And uhhhh, I don't think HF and HM are big fans of being exclusionary.
I have complicated feelings about this (as you can imagine) but what it boils down to is this. I used to care a lot about what other members and church leaders said about LGBT issues so I could be the "right" kind of queer member. But I just don't anymore. What I do or believe is between God and myself, nobody else. And I feel that as long as I feel like I'm doing right by God as best as I can, the rest doesn't matter.
Yes, it was one of many "shelf" items that I struggled with as a Church member. I grew up in a church that taught me that God loved everyone and wanted everyone to live with Him in heaven, and in that same church, I was taught that good people in loving relationships who wanted to live together and raise families couldn't do that just because of their sexual preference. I thought perhaps one day the Church would catch up with society - that maybe what I was taught about God's nature and character would reflect the actual policies of the Church. And then the Church banned *baptisms* for children of gay couples. I sent in my resignation the next day.
I can't really speak on what is or isn't temple worthy, or anything related to religion anymore, as I don't believe in a god or gods. But I do know that life is short, and precious, and people are more important than rules. Your LGBTQIA+ friends deserve and need your love and support.
My testimony has changed over the last few years. Or rather, evolved. Partly in response to this issue, and partly thanks to other things. But it's still there, and I think it's better for it.
I'm an active member of the Church (okay, fine, I could really do much better at my calling and ministering, but still). And I believe that homosexual marriage is just as holy as heterosexual marriage. I believe that the Church is wrong about this, and that it should (and probably will, eventually) change its position. But that doesn't stop me from believing that other things about the Church are true. I believe it's guided by God, just not all the time. I believe we have prophets leading and within the Church, but they make mistakes. Sometimes big mistakes. Mistakes that cause pain until they are fixed.
I value my beliefs. I feel like I'm informed by the Church, but ultimately relying on my personal connection with God for answers. And, even though it often feels lonely, I know many other members share my beliefs. But I recognize that this can be a very difficult position for many people to have. It can feel like you're doing mental gymnastics, like you're being pulled in two different directions. It's not for everyone.
I don't think supporting family members or friends or anyone in their same-sex marriages makes me not temple worthy. I'm not very outspoken about my views, largely because my social media output has been limited to about 3 facebook posts in the last 3 years. But I also don't try to hide them. I'm lucky to have relatively liberal local leaders, but I guess if they ever feel differently about my worthiness, then that's on them.
Sorry it's hard. Thanks for struggling.
In the famous Japanese novel Silence by Shusaku Endo, a Jesuit priest named Rodrigues is forced by antagonistic Japanese government officials to look on as his flock of believers is brutally tortured and killed for their faith. The authorities tell him that if he will publicly trample on an image of Christ and deny the faith, they will let the believers go. Rodrigues agonizes over the morality of allowing others to suffer for the sake of his own faith in Christ, and fights against his apostate mentor Father Ferreira, who tells him that there is no glory in martyrdom and that he is weak and selfish for allowing innocents to be tortured and murdered for his sake.
At the climax of the novel, Rodrigues looks upon the image of Christ before him, and Christ's voice suddenly breaks the agonizing silence:
"You may trample. You may trample. I more than anyone know of the pain in your foot. You may trample. It was to be trampled on by men that I was born into this world. It was to share men's pain that I carried my cross."
Rodrigues then steps on the image, formally apostatizing and losing the support of the Catholic church. Both the original book and the 2016 film adaptation heavily imply that he kept his faith privately, as the Japanese authorities don't really care whether he actually stops believing privately, so long as his public denial destroys the Jesuit proselytizing efforts.
I first read this novel in a Japanese literature course some years ago at BYU, and we had a very interesting class discussion on the morality of Rodrigues' and Ferreira's apostasy. Was he right to publicly deny the faith to save the lives of innocents? Would Christ have told you or I, in that same position, to trample the image to save innocent believers from torture and martyrdom? These are difficult and complex questions, and not everyone agreed about the morality of the hero's actions.
What does this have to do with your question? Ultimately, I feel that a similarly indescribable situation presents itself for most LGBTQ+ members of the church. And while I am not God and can make no final or definitive judgments, I feel that for those of God's children for whom reconciliation of faith and sexuality proves to be impossibly painful and difficult, it is still possible find love, peace, and approval from God, even if the only way to resolve their pain and suffering takes them away from the restored gospel. In that, I agree with Van Goff that ultimately what matters is striving to do right by God. I believe that God cares a great deal more about how we respond to our individual and personal challenges and whether or not we seek a genuine, loving relationship with Him than He does about perfect and total orthodoxy. All circumstances, experiences, afflictions, and predilections will be taken into account when we stand before Him to be judged. I don't understand everything, but I do understand that.
What does this all mean for the doctrine of celestial marriage? I honestly do not know. Is it possible it will change? Absolutely. Should it? I cannot say. I don't think that it will, but I don't know what the last day will look like. I trust that God knows and weeps for the suffering felt by his LGBTQ+ children, and I strive to take very seriously the responsibility that all of us have to offer love, kindness, and compassion because of that suffering. There is more than enough pain to go around in this world. If Church doctrine really does require us to hold to certain beliefs that compound that pain for particular groups of people--and for the foreseeable future, it would seem that it does--then it seems to me that we have a most solemn and serious obligation to be as kind, gentle, and sincerely loving as we possibly can.
To your second question--I am, for perhaps obvious reasons, deeply skeptical and often critical of those who shy away from what is often vaguely described as "supporting their lifestyle," whatever that means. What do you gain by refusing to celebrate a friend or family member's same-sex wedding, hurting and alienating them in the process? What good is accomplished by belittling someone's genuine, loving relationship with someone else just because you may not personally agree with the morality of the relationship? The usual response is something about not wanting to support or celebrate sin, but you're not responsible for the behavior of others, and you aren't somehow making moral concessions about "accepting the sin" by treating same-sex unions with respect and courtesy. God does not require us to oppose sin by going around with a megaphone loudly shouting our opposition to every pattern of behavior out of line with the restored gospel every time we see one. In such situations, I think kindness and love are much more important priorities than insisting for whatever reason on our doctrinal boundaries. You are only responsible for what you choose to do, not what others do. And you can show kindness, love, and empathy to someone without tacitly approving of every decision they make.
Dear the struggle is real:
I just want to add one point. My first response to the idea that the institution is becoming "more understanding" was, are they though?!
Sending inconsistent messages from various administrative offices to current queer BYU students is very on-brand, and made national headlines, and not in a good way.
I saw a wide range of responses, but I think that it's frankly intellectually dishonest to not call a spade a spade, and say that public opinion on this has shifted remarkably rapidly in the fifteen years since I was a freshman, and the Church has, fundamentally, not.
For your own reference, "homosexuality" is a term that isn't recommended by GLAAD, and definitely makes you sound out of step, or like me circa 2007. (And if you saw my bangs you'd know no good can come from that.)
If some busybody Bishopric member thinks you warmly welcoming your lesbian sister-in-law, for example, is putting your "worthiness" at stake, I would seriously contemplate what exactly that paper is worth.
---Portia, straight but not super impressed by half-half-half measures