READER POST: Tonight, as I go to sleep, I am deeply troubled, and so are others in the LGBTQ community of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saint. This weekend, at the bi-annual General Conference, our leaders waxed spiritual over the pulpit. Most speakers talked of Jesus Christ and of his healing atonement. However, one speaker chose another way and probably turned away both members and perspective members.
Toward the end of President Monson’s life, the Church published a website, Mormon and Gay, that focused on helping mainstream members learn how to better interact and love the lesbian and gay part of the LGBT community. Since his passing, however, I feel the Church is distancing itself from inclusion and entrenching itself in more radical views about gender and homosexuality.
At last General Conference, Dallin Oaks made a stir by doubling down on the The Family: A Proclamation to the World. This weekend, he went full transphobic and homophobic. He started off by attacking celebrities in the media, urging distrust of anonymous sources of information, and then discrediting science and warning members to avoid it.
After this, he rolled out the mixture of politics and religion, saying things in ways he had to realize would be hurtful, even dangerous, to my community. He said:
Our knowledge of God’s plan of salvation requires us to oppose many of the current social and legal pressures to retreat from traditional marriage or to make changes that confuse or alter gender or homogenize the differences between men and women.
He goes on to state that “maleness” and “femaleness,” as well as marriage between men and women and the baring of children, are essential to God’s plan of happiness. He states the tired saying that Satan seeks to confuse gender, distort marriage, and discourage childbearing.
He goes on to attack euthanasia and abortion. The condemnation of abortion was particularity strange as the Church’s own guideline leaves room for exceptions, which are depicted as safely within God’s will.
The internet on both Facebook and Tumblr (the two areas that I monitor every session) went ablaze with comments condemning or praising the statement. People that are transgender or non-binary were crying, becoming fearful, or just shrugging because they’ve lost hope for inclusion. People who are LGBT themselves, or who have loved ones who are, were concerned about dinners that night with family members who may have just had their prejudices against the LGBT community fueled.
One Tumblr user, icyignorance*, expressed the concern this way:
Elder Oak’s just … crushed me. I don’t know how to explain how terrible it feels to be sitting in front of someone I should be able to trust, love, and learn from, only to hear that my identity is invalid, that I am going against God’s plan no matter what I do. Without children, I am disobedient. If I marry a woman, I am directly defying God. Considering that I’m not exactly female or male, even my daily life is evil.
Another Tumblr user, icyrose said:
I just bawled my eyes out and I feel so drained. My parents spent an hour to get me to stop crying. I feel like I just got socked in the stomach.
I’m so sorry. Holy cow that must have been a punch in the gut to watch live for those that Elder Oaks’ targeted, I don’t want to take attention away from the rest of the community but even as an asexual person who plans on adopting in lieu of bearing my own children, that hurt.
I think it is good to stand by doctrine as Elder Oaks did but on the other hand I worry that members will take Elder Oaks’ direct message as license to speak harshly to members of the LGBT community rather than express love and support to them.
Still another Tumblr voice:
I haven’t been in the church for 3-1/2 years and I still went into a panic, realizing that the church I grew up in and my father is a part of doesn’t accept me. To hear I’m a sinner not worth salvation was soul-crushing. That’s my perspective as someone outside of the church. I can only imagine the pain of the people still in the church.
Personally, all I could muster on social media was: “I am holding back tears as Oaks talks. This is not Jesus’s teaching.”
There is at least one bright spot about this talk. A woman reported receiving the following message from her father, a man who had repeatedly insisted her asexuality wasn’t “real.” Her father wrote to her:
A friend posted this on FB and I loved its message, especially after President Oaks’ talk yesterday. I want you to be you. I don’t want you influenced by church doctrine any more than I want you influenced by websites, blogs, Tumblrs or anything or anyone else that has a different position. Make that conscious choice to be you. You are a good, loving, and compassionate person. I love and support you no matter what.
If you are reading this and these quotations moved you, please consider helping in some way. There are LGBT groups that need help or money. Donate money to them or to suicide prevention places. Talk with LGBT people in your ward or church. Defend them against the harsh words that may are used against them. Please don’t feel sad and then do nothing. We need your voices in churches, playgrounds, homes, and schools.
BIO: April is a transgender member of the gospel of Jesus Christ. She has been transitioning since 2010 and returned to the gospel in 2015.
*All Tumblr quotations used with permission
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