The Hard Work of Zion Building

READER POST: Earlier this week, in a leadership session of LDS General Conference, Pres. Oaks said some really hurtful things about queer people. He’s ignorant and his statements were factually incorrect, scientifically speaking.

This is not the exception for Pres. Oaks or other members of LDS leadership, including Pres. Nelson, who also made really harmful statements in a BYU address recently. Because members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints view these men as speaking for God, their opinion, however hurtful and incorrect it is, carries a lot of weight. It can do a lot of good, and it can do a lot of harm.

When it does harm, especially to queer people whose eternal value is minimized, the response is often anger. This is a reasonable response to being dehumanized. Unfortunately, our anger is often not well received. It is misunderstood, mis-contextualized, and policed.

It requires a lot of emotional intelligence to not take harsh words personally especially when we’ve been culturally conditioned to dismiss uncomfortable emotions as quickly and thoroughly as possible. However, that kind of emotional intelligence is no more than what Jesus asked his followers to do. It is no more than what we covenanted to do when we entered the waters of baptism.

It would be absolutely incredible to come to a church-attached space with my pain and have it be welcomed and honored even when it’s difficult or challenging. I have rarely experienced this, and when I have, it’s been in spaces already more liberal and willing to do the work. It’s never been at church.

If I called Pres. Nelson a homophobe (and evidence suggests to me that he is) or Elder Oaks a transphobe (and again, evidence suggests that he is) and was extremely critical of them, if I was even critical of the members of the Church who sustain him, I hope the response would be “You sound incredibly hurt. How can we show you support and love?”

Unfortunately my experience is that most people can’t or won’t do that work. The response far too often is “you’re part of the problem.” I’ve learned to take my anger, and therefore my pain, to safe spaces away from my LDS community. That’s not okay and not everyone is as lucky as I am to have places to do that.

Asking queer people to be “respectful” in expressing our pain is tone policing. It’s not dissimilar from asking someone severely injured in a car accident to stop screaming.

Too often, queer Mormons and ex-Mormons have to be the EMTs and paramedics in our community while also tending to our own wounds as straight bystanders criticize our pain as playing the victim, being disrespectful, or even being anti-Mormon.

In the spirit of General Conference, I’d like to issue a challenge to all traditionally-believing Mormons. General Conference tends to bring up a lot of pain and anger in many Mormon communities. This is especially true for queer Mormons. Before you condemn anyone’s anger, please try to listen to it and respond with compassion.

This is the hard work of building Zion. The responsibility isn’t on harmed communities. It’s on those of us who are safe and unharmed to make space for healing, to decry ongoing abuse, and to create safety. That’s what love looks like.

~Lacey~

READER BIO: Lacey grew up in Eastern Idaho and is the daughter of a convert and a lifelong Mormon. Her own faith journey has taken her places she did not expect and she has embraced the idea that everyone’s faith is unique and valid to their own path. As a non-traditional believer, she is passionate about creating environments where charity allows us to understand each other and build Zion together.

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