Mormon Gay Pride? Right. PR Pride, maybe?

 Trigger Warning:
This blog is about recent developments in the LDS community and LGBTQQIA rights. It also comes down on your average Mormon pew-sitter. I don't intend to pull punches when I deal with any branch of Christianity-- even the fringe/smaller ones like Mormons. When you're the majority in any group, you need to be more than mindful-- you need to be reminded! What you do is important, it has consequences. You can't shove your head in the sand and pretend it isn't so whilst trumpeting how much of a "christian nation" the US is (albeit in  your own mind). It's getting to be time to put up, or shut up.

If you don't think they're "real christians", you're wrong-- they profess belief is Jesus as the child of God. If you really want to know, take a look at The Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance's Mormon page, they're very good, very open and honest. 

But, first, some background.
So a couple years ago, the Mormon church supported this little bill called Proposition 8 in California. At the end of this blog list will be a couple links for you, if you are interested. The church in Salt Lake City Utah sent letters out to their various wards and stakes (basically your congregations and parishes/geographical groupings) telling the people that their President (their Mormon Pope) wanted them to support that legislation in every way they could.

Sounds like a very usual, very religious thing, right? For Mormons that was an explicit order to help; not "if you can" or "if you've got both the time and cash". It was "find the fucking time, and get your asses out there!"

Wait, you say, you're not a Mormon! How do you know how their faith works? You're being bigoted!

You're correct, I was never a member of the LDS church. I dug into them, though, because every Mormon I'd ever met was so nice! They're so cute and cheerleader-happy! I was all of 16 and wanted to be happy like that. Undiagnosed depression really fucks with you when you're a kid.

So I researched and read and spoke to some of the missionaries.

I'm glad I did it in that order; I found a lot of information at my library that I never would have known about if I'd spoken to the missionaries first. 

I learned about the Mountain Meadow Massacre.
I learned about Joseph Smith's multitude of under-aged and sometimes unwilling, wives.
I read how Smith translated the tablets with his seers stones, in his hat. [Learning that made my Cynicism meter go off and I completely lost the ability to take it seriously as a religion for me.]

That's just the tip of the iceberg; none of these internet resources were available when I was digging, so I skimmed them quickly to  make sure they weren't apologetics for the faith. I wanted clear, concise truth-- not "well, I learned it this way, so it has to be the right way" brain-washed faith follower speak. If I included something partisan other than the Ex-Mormon site, I'll find something else to use, just let me know.

Their dogma is very close to, and yet very far from, your generic christian religion; this seems to be the case for every group that broke away from your centre-line Catholic and Protestant groups. They believe that Jehovah is god, and that his son Jesus hung out here in the US for awhile; that they're the only true christians, and that every other christian church is an abomination-- it's the usual case of "You're doing it wrong".

They also have some weird ideas about marriage-- my favourite being that women need to be married, sealed in the temple to their husbands for eternity, so that their husbands can open the veil and usher them into the right levels of heaven. Some day, if they're lucky they get to populate their own planet with spiritual children-- those poor Mormon women, all those babies they'll have to have!

Needless to say, I wasn't looking for a more kooky version of the faith I was wanting to leave. So Mormonism wasn't for me.

I met a couple Mormons in Basic Training; and there my opinion of the church started to go from "WTF these people are a little strange, but seem nice enough" to "Oh Goddess, talk about sanctimonious bastards!"

When they weren't complaining about how loud we were, or the profanity, or that there was not a Mormon church for them to attend* they were assholes to the lot of us because we weren't moral enough.

And you know what, we weren't moral enough. No one is ever good enough for churches. We never measure up; so we fake it 'til we make it. That's the LDS church in a nutshell, as I've found it to be: if God loves you, you're happy-- if you're not happy, you're wrong. So, fake it 'til you make it, so no one seeks how wrong you really are.

I noticed a nasty echo that reminded me of growing up evangelical. It scared me about Mormons then, because in the same way you never know if that evangelical person detests you and is pretending so they can "lead you to Jesus", were the Mormons doing the same thing? Do they even know if they're doing it? Yeah, to me that's the scary part.

This is so much not the way to show others the way to your god! This is absolute wrong way to do it! It's the exact opposite thing to do, really. In fact, it seems to be the very thing that's turning people off of evangelical sects now-- that steeply sloped, "We are all right, and you're all wrong" attitude. It doesn't matter how fresh-faced the messenger is, how sweet their smiles, how dedicated to their god; hearing that only they know the way, and even if you were raised christian, if you're not their kind of christian you're not enough-- that shit is hard! It can be very hurtful if your religion is meaningful to you.

Later on I met more moderate Mormons; they were decent sorts once I could get it through their heads that being curious about how they worshipped was completely and utterly different from wanting to convert. I got the feeling that such curiosity wasn't encouraged-- but that's not abnormal in many religious sects, either. Getting curious, asking questions, that can make you really question the oddities that you'd take for granted as "the way God told us to do things" otherwise.

Some faiths actively want you to question; it's thought in most sects of Judaism that you have to come to an understanding of your faith on your terms-- otherwise it's not really a faith. Same with many UU congregations, some of your more liberal mainline Protestant faiths and most of your so-called Pagan faiths.** I think, and have always thought, that questioning, being able to wonder and find answers is one of the reasons we have philosophies in the first place! Figuring out the why and how of our inner-spiritual lives is an amazing journey that everyone needs to have.

Most, though, want you to follow the "god said it, I believe it, and that's good enough for me" line of thinking. IFBaptists and Mormons are-- I think-- the worst for this. As much animosity is between these two sects, they're so much more alike than they know.

So, my opinion of Mormons ended up being a very generic "I don't agree with them, but I guess they're OK"-- that was my go-to phrase for all christian denominations for a couple years. I was trying to be tolerant, because I wanted tolerance. I was trying to be kind, because I wanted kindness. I was trying to live by the Golden Rule-- because I wanted that in return.

Then I became more active in the Equality movement; the pro-women movement, the pro-abortion movement. And I couldn't say that about Mormons any more. No more than I could for most christian groups. Instead I started to point out why I thought they were wrong; where legally or morally they were bankrupt; where they'd crossed the line from "whatever they're doing their thing" to "now they're trying to tell me to do their thing too! WTF is this shit!"

I know the Religious Reich started their thing in the 1970's, but I didn't see it explode until the mid 90's. It's gotten worse since then, until now they're a teeny minority of loud-mouthed fucks screaming about their holiness and how they want their country back.

Unfortunately for the LDS church, they've been right there with Falwell, Robertson, Graham and the like. They have been more like silent partners, because many fundamental christians think Mormons are cultists-- but they've been partners nevertheless.

Partners in forcing their queer kids to get conversion therapy; partners in giving their queer men no choice but to get married to women in order to be in good standing in their church; convincing these men and woman that it's OK to have "homosexual urges" as long as you fuck someone of thee opposite gender-- and eventually those so-called urges will go away. The LDS church has been at the forefront of the fight against equality in marriage; their fight to preserve the "sanctity" of marriage would be laughable if it wasn't heart-killing to so many people.

Watching a church implode on itself can be extremely gratifying if that church has hurt you. I won't lie or sugar coat it; there's some part of all humans that-- no matter how badly we want it not to be-- we want people who hurt us, and ours, to suffer. If that someone is a church-- all the fucking better! If it's an institution that's a pillar in our community-- well, I'll be the first to admit that I've sat back and watched, lacking only the popcorn to make it an entertainment event!

Christianity is imploding right now. And I'm watching. Some of the time, I'm helping push the mess into the fire! Wait, not push, shove bodily. A huge part of me wants all of christianity to implode-- just get it over with already! Then those who are anti-love can be clearly seen, and those who are pro-love will finally be brave enough to come out swinging. So I keep shoving.

That's what this blog is, too. More shoving.

As for why I do this, it's because I have to. I've been an activist for equality, women, abortion and civil rights since I was about 22. Before that I didn't know such actions were needed; I naively thought it was taken care of-- I thought it wouldn't be long before everyone could get married, that it was like a flower blooming. I was young and stupid, and I learned.

I've stood here, in my little space, pushing back against the hate and lies; against these institutions determined to brand me and mine as abominations. I've pushed back against the money that pours into these groups like water, even though me and mine don't have money like that; I've protested, and voted, called and written, screamed and yelled and cried aloud. Because if I stop, then I've lost. I can't let them win.

This makes me so angry, too. Angry, and afraid. Hurt too. Mostly though, I'm scared. Being afraid makes me mad. How dare these people scare me! How dare they threaten me! Who do they think they are!

I was close to despairing in 2008, most Americans were. George W had... was... ummm ... disaster. That's all I'll say about that. But California passed a law legalising marriage equality! It was cause to celebrate! I was so excited!

That was short lived. Prop 8 was put on the ballot and the money poured in. The LDS church worked ceaselessly, and often clandestinely (as can be seen in the trouble they got into for hiding their involvement, this blog touches on it). Heaven forbid that gay people could get married. Some how that would make all Mormon marriages dissolve into a puddle of same sex love! Oh No! Protect "traditional marriage, but not the dowry-tradition, or the property-tradition, or the polygamous-tradition, or the arranged-marriage-tradition or the dynastic-tradition, just the imaginary tradition of one guy and one girl."

Yeah, I know, it makes as much sense as any other thing used to justify discrimination.

The thing was, the Mormons threw themselves into this fight against justice. After being loudly supportive of undocumented aliens, after showing support of an amnesty or work-to-visa/citizenship program, they pulled this!

Many of us, queer activist and religion-watchers like, were shocked. I was appalled. How could this church which claimed they loved Jesus do this? Obviously they were indeed just like the evangelicals shouting about "biblical marriage" and condemning us to hell with the same panache that they fuck their mistresses. It was beyond belief.

Unless you knew the inner workings of the LDs church. It's very much business-like, quintessential American. Think Amway with God, that's about how it works, and it works very well. The RCC does it, with their top-down leadership and their Pope; the LDS does it with their President and Quorum.

The big difference between the RCC parishioners and LDS parishioners is, I think, a disconnect that can only come with more time. LDS isn't an old faith; they still have a very integrated model of business. The RCC members have no trouble going to mass and then going home to take their pill, eat meat on Fridays, support equality and pretty much do whatever they want to do without worrying about their bishops finding out. The LDS church is very different; it's called the MORG on purpose-- because they are more like an organisation than a church some times. I also think it's an unconscious reference to Star Trek's Borg-- but that's just me. Assimilation above all else is very, very prominent in the LDS church and culture.

So, we get used to seeing some Mormons stand against Prop 8; we see these parents of queer kids, LGBT adults, allies and generally loving people stand with us against that hate. As California goes, so goes the nation, is the thoughts-- and I wanted so badly for Prop 8 to fail. Those Mormons who were vocal about pushing back against that piece of legislation were doing so on pain of excommunication. They were standing there, with us, against their God! They put their immortal souls on the line, because of love.

And I Loved them for it! They stood with us, for equality, because of love!That's Christian, and it was uplifting to see. Any time someone stands with their kid, or brother, or cousin, or friend against their church is a scary time. They were telling their God that they didn't think their President really spoke for him. Now, that might not seem like much-- but the LDS church teaches that the President is the Prophet! He's the literal mouth-piece of God on Earth. So, they told God he was wrong.

Huge fucking deal!

Then Prop 8 passed; there were rumours, and swirls of rumours that the church had had a lot to do with it. As more and more information came out, it became more and more apparent that the LDS church was standing with Evangelicals and the official RCC hierarchy: LGBTQQI persons are abominations; we deserve to be alone our entire lives, never to be loved, never to love; we are less-than; imperfect; evil; we are abhorrent.

I thought that more LDS members would shout that down. The silence was deafening. The men and women who'd stood with us were still there, don't get me wrong. We were just holding our breaths, waiting for more, for that little word, that no, the church doesn't feel that way.

We would have died of suffocation if we still held our breath, if we still waited we'd never stop waiting. So we, with our very few Mormon allies turned our backs on yet another religious institution and walked away. They teach that there is something wrong with us; that we have no place in the upper "Married-Mormon only level" of  heaven with our LDS families, but if we're really good, and pray really hard we might be not-queer in one of the lower levels of heaven.

This is, and always has been, unacceptable. It's no better than Evangelicals preaching that all of us are going to burn in hell. It's no better than the official Catholic line that we're "intrinsically disordered". It's no better than the Exodus International tack that we can choose to be straight if we try hard enough. It's all bad; all evil; all hurtful. All Wrong.

This brings us to today.
It's a little safer to be pro-marriage equality. Congress repealed Don't Ask, Don't tell. DOMA was found unConstitutional, and will head to the Supreme Court. President Obama, amongst others, has come out in support of marriage for everyone. More and more Americans support gay-marriage being treated no differently than straight-marriage. Change is rolling, down the hill like an avalanche.

And it's safer, really truly safer, to be pro-equality. It's accepted by a decent portion of the population.

There's been rumblings in the part of the LDs church that considers itself to be "progressive". Knowing what I've read about them, they're more apologists in the "well, yes, technically the D&C says that, but it doesn't really mean it," kind of way; but if they want to feel progressive and defiant and slightly naughty, it's nothing to me. 

Literally nothing. It reminds me of preachers kids who get really rebellious and use Jesus Christ as a profanity. Then they look around for that lightning bolt out of the heavens to punish them. The Mormon apologists-- as apologists go-- seem to be waiting for that lighting bolt, that Divine punishment, so they quietly whisper their support of the LGBT cause, support of women and our autonomy. But not too loud, just in case.

I have shaken my head at these people for awhile. It's more resignation than anything. "Yeah, yeah, you love us queers, yeah yeah, we're fine with you, yeah yeah, equality and all that rubbish."

I haven't heard a lot of "shit, we fucked up, we should have said something then, but we were afraid." I haven't heard any "I'm so sorry the church I love so much has been, and is still being, so hateful." I haven't heard any "We might not always agree, but we can agree on equality," or "I'm just one person, but the church doesn't speak for me, and I'm working to change the minds of the hierarchy."

Not even, "It might not be popular with my religion/in-group, but I've got your back, because you're worthy!" That one would be kinda nice, ya know?

I've heard an sudden outpouring of "Oh, we lurve gay people soooo much!" though, and it's very annoying.

I feel condescended to, to be perfectly frank.

In Salt Lake City this weekend there was a Gay Pride Parade. About 400 Mormons walked in it. With their children, in their Sunday-school clothes; and then, some of them went to church.

Where were these people when gay kids were being shocked? Where were they when Santorum was campaigning on forcing same-sex couples to be divorced if he was elected? Where were these people when queer kids were cast out of their families? Where?

They were home, of course, or in church. They were being good-little-Mormons. They were being elect. If they had to deal with us undesirables they could be sanctified about it, you know, condescend to deal with us gentiles (yes, non-Mormons are called gentiles in their parlance; they honestly believe they originated from, and will be counted as, one of the tribes of Hebrews talked about in Genesis).

But these people marched in a parade; they wanted to show how much they love us, support us, all that. For some people in SLC there was forgiveness. For some, there was a spirit of uplifting and care. For some of them, there was a peace that covered their hearts, maybe a beginning of détente between their dogma and the people around them.

For an outsider looking in, it's all a loud of bull shit.

Oh, but they're being supportive! We can't turn away our allies! We need them! Look, maybe they changed their minds?!

Maybe they did. Maybe they didn't. It's not about that. I mean, maybe those adults have always been pro-civil rights; maybe they've always wanted LGBTQQI people to be protected under the law, and treated with respect. There's no way to know, is there? But let me say if they did always believe in equality, we needed them in 2008; we have needed them every day, of every year, and they have failed us in so many ways. They have, in many ways, failed themselves and their Jesus, too, every day they choose to remain silent; if I remember my Gospels, Jesus never stayed silent when he say evil. He stood for the little guys, too; those people who were outside society; people like the LGBTQQIA community.
 
I am truly sorry that I can't open my arms and forget how they have failed us to thsi point. You would think a religion built on persecution, on being treated badly for being an out-group would never do that to others. But we know that is never the case; historically humans immediately persecute each other as soon as they get into power. It is a racial failing; we can all agree, I think, that humans are fucking stupid.

Their little entry in the parade, and the several planned across the US over the next few months don't mean anything to me. They are annoying, and irritating, and seem like a disgusting PR stunt to go hand-in-hand with their cute little "I'm a Mormon" advert campaign.

I get it, Romney is the Republican nominee, and he's a Mormon. So what! I get that there are Mormons who aren't like him at all, who are different, who feel that they need to show us that. I get that there are Mormons who genuinely want to be supportive of everyone, that they think we're all God's children, even if we don't fit into the mould their church wants us all to fit into. I get that some people's minds will change, have changed and will continue to change as they meet us, as they realise we're not as weird as they've always been told we are-- we are disgustingly normal and tend to be sickeningly boring.

But I ask why I have to be up in arms supporting them now? Why does this cute little parade in their pretty dresses mean anything?

They weren't brave enough to stand up for us when their church was telling them to stand against us.

They only stood against discrimination if it was based on colour-- and only because of the growing group of Spanish-speaking, non-documented immigrants that are members here in the US; they stood/stand for discrimination with it's against sexual orientation.

They weren't brave enough to demand an apology from their prophet when he called us less-than; nor were they brave enough to refuse to fund his jihad against a pro-equality bill when that infamous letter went out.

They haven't been brave enough to resign en masse  when their church pushed to enshrine such discrimination into law-- in so many states!

They sat there, in their pretty dresses, their white shirts and ties, and they listened to us be preached against.

So, what's so brave about being in a parade?

Nothing. Little kids do it all the time. There is nothing brave, nothing amazing, nothing loving about these parades, regardless of what apologists have to say. Yes, support your religion, but for crying out loud, don't act like a parade is equivalent to the protests against Prop 8 that ended in excommunication. Don't act like you're life is on the line here.

Is it possible that these Mormons are merely harbingers? That there is a moment of change in that church?

Sure. Maybe. I mean, it's old enough, I guess it's about time for a schism, right? A good old fashioned church-split. It could happen, I suppose. I doubt it, though. 

Things are too top-down. They need their own Luther, and his 99 Theses. They need a Calvin. They need to be brave enough to risk excommunication when it's not popular. They need to stand there, against their church, their god, their community, their everything and stand for what is right-- because it's right! The LDS church is very conservative-- so much so that they're rightly counted as evangelicals. They need someone brave enough to stand against that tide like the Reformers did during the Enlightenment; I don't know if they have anyone who can do that for them right now. They need that leader to stand up against their hierarchy, and I don't know if she/he can do that.

Doing the right thing is hard! So very hard. Especially when  your entire community is against you. When your soul is on the line-- when you're being threatened with eternal damnation if you don't toe that line, [which in this case can be summed up as "Complete Obedience Always to the Prophet", unfortunately]-- could you stand for what's right? What would it take to make you stand there, alone if necessary?

Standing up for, supporting, being unwavering in that rightness, that equality is important. Standing  and being counted amongst those who are defiantly equal is scary. It should be about what's the best thing, not because there's a photo op to be had, or to bolster their "normalcy" like those ridiculously insulting and banal adverts that all end in "And I'm a Mormon". Ugh. Those adverts insult the intelligence of everyone who has to see/read them.

If you are a Mormon, and you haven't resigned your membership, I ask you the same thing I ask every single christian: Why Not!

Every day that you go to church, every dime you give them, every moment you sit there, you support discrimination. You support second and third class citizenship for everyone who doesn't fit into your hetero-normative boxes. Every single time, because your Prophet, who speaks for your God, says we aren't good enough. Silence is assent, remember? You can't get away from that, no matter how many parades you walk in, or cheer from the side-walks.

Doing the right thing shouldn't be a too little, too late deal. It should be something greeted with excitement and celebration. I can't get up the excitement this time. I can't get up the celebration. It is very much a case of too little, too late.

Until I see some concrete actions, some real rebellion from the church that teaches assimilation above all else; until I see some people ready to risk their everything to stand with us, then I don't buy it. When you support queer-rights when it's easy, but not when it's going to cost you something, you're probably not supporting us very much.

Change comes when we suffer some times; change comes after a fight; after trials and tribulations. It shouldn't come as a photo-op; as a PR stunt. And it means less than nothing if it's the adult equivalent of a teen-ager whispering "god-dammit" and flinching as you wait for the lightning bolt to punish you for being bad.

Mormons:
If you're real, where in the hell were you! Why were you such a coward? Why do you really think this one thing will change the past? It doesn't? It does however, make cynical people like me even more leery of people like you: instead of "OK, they despise us, but they're honest about it" I wonder what you want from me, why are you sucking up? Do you really think your God cares if you disagree with some dude who calls himself a prophet?! I mean, really! Is your god that small that he can't love queer people too, because gay people skeeve your prophet out?

Don't ask me to stand with you. You're the ones who have some catching up to do, not me. I've been here for a long time; arms linked with people of all colours, creeds, orientations and beliefs. We've been linked by one thing and it's growing stronger the longer we stand: we're here, because it is the right thing to do, and we're not going anywhere.

Supporting equal rights for everyone isn't something that you should be ashamed of; and it's not something you can suddenly do to wash away the past sins of hating us for being different.

Until I see some concrete changes like resignations, vocal outcries, stakes closing from lack of funds, maybe even mass excommunications I can't say I believe a word of this sudden rainbow support. Until there's some consistent noise, all this parade is, is another chapter in the "Oh, those meanies aren't real christians! We love everyone, so we're the real christians (TM)!"

I'm getting sick and tired and disgusted and angry at these people who all claim to be real christians (TM). Put up, or shut up.

And by put up, I don't mean walk in a parade, either. You claim your pioneer ancestors were brave, right? They were persecuted and all that? Stop persecuting us, and stand with us-- that would make those people proud. That would really show something worthwhile; that to me, would be truth.

I'd like that, very much.




Links:
Joanna Brooks' article (she is very much an apologist)
Prop 8 description on Wikipedia-- it's one of the best ones I found
Californians against hate, entry: Mormon-gate, how the church lied about funding Prop 8,
New York Times "Mormons Tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage"


* Sunday Chapel was your generic non-denominational Protestantism. There was a priest that came in once a month and if you were Buddhist, Pagan/Wiccan or Hindu you could see a different chaplain. There weren't any other ones, though, so your other christian sects had to make due.

**Paganism in the US is such a huge umbrella that it's almost impossible to define. Usually it's meant as any religion, philosophy, creed or way of life that is not Christianity, Islam or Judaism. Therefore it includes Pagan, Wiccan, Asatru, Taoism, Druidism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and anything else you want to throw in there.

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