Seminary class can be an interesting period for a gay kid in a stiflingly homophobic community! I have sat in on meetings between our Seminary teachers and our school's GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance, a tolerance club) leaders where an understanding has been reached, but unfortunately some venom still makes it through.
During Tolerance Week, an event sponsored by our school's GSA chapter, posters showcasing victims of hate crimes (including many homosexuals) were posted around the school. As a sort of retaliation (apparently the individual in question supports hate crimes), one student started sporting an "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" t-shirt with a blatantly homophobic image on it; he would also privately peddle these in our Seminary class. Neither the Administration at school nor the teachers at the Seminary intervened. (In all fairness, our area is so overwhelmingly conservative that angry parents demanded that the posters be taken down, and amazingly, the principals more or less complied!) It was an especially sensitive issue because Tolerance Week happened to be near the 2008 elections, and the members of the Church in our area had been pumping massive amounts of money into the Yes-on-Prop 8 campaign.
I felt I had to take a stand, but it was, as you might guess, an awkward situation to be in. The t-shirt fellow could claim to our Seminary teacher that he was innocently defending God's definition of marriage and family (the tired slogan is derived from the Bible, and the homophobic image, a gay couple crossed out in red, would not have been as demeaning to others as it was to me), which I didn't necessarily want to be perceived as attacking in Seminary. Certainly I would never want to strip anyone of their freedom of speech, but I did feel an obligation to refute the hatred, and a sickening sense of hypocrisy if I stayed silent.
We made an unspoken compromise: I gave a devotional one day on Christlike love, which incorporated Mother Teresa's quote, "I'll never go to an anti-war rally, but if you have a peace rally, invite me." My advice was to love everyone and build up your own causes rather than tearing down those of others, and the t-shirts weren't seen again.
Had I a little more time and nerve, my devotional would have gone differently. I might have asked, If you want to look to Biblical examples of marriages, let's look to the Abraham model, which makes a provision for slaves. Or do you prefer Jacob (who fathered children with two sisters and their servants) as your marital exemplar? I would never mean to slander these prophets, and that is most emphatically not my intention here; the point is, there are some things in the Bible that we can't apply to ourselves in the strictly literal sense.
Perhaps he would have then retorted, "But you are opening up the definition of marriage, and where will that end? With people marrying animals, or even inanimate objects?" Ah, but has our own Church, I would respond, always conformed to the traditional marriage definition? It may not have been "Adam and Steve" in the Garden, but it wasn't "Adam and Eve and Jane and Sarah", either. I doubt your t-shirt's message would have been well-received by the early prophets of this dispensation.
"But we had our reasons!" he would protest. Precisely, I'd reply. We had our reasons, and no one understood. No one tried to understand--it was simply too abstract, too alien.
...Sound familiar? There are reasons for homosexual relationships and marriages, too, but at the end of the day it's "just too different" for many people to even want to attempt to understand.
As it is, we can't pry people's minds open, or squeeze hearts or necks into softness. We have to persuade using reason and feeling. I tried to do this, and by the time I completed this year's Seminary course a few weeks ago, I was respected for standing up for my beliefs in the face of the majority. I may have been swatted at as the class gadfly, but I had stung everyone into a consciousness of their words and opinions.
However, I confess that I am far from the defender I could be. The next step would be to emerge from the closet--an irrevocable but incredibly powerful course of action. Admittedly, there are only two reasons I am in the closet: hope and cowardice. Hope, because there is a chance that my attractions could be reversed, as has been the reported experience of some people. Stranger things have happened--Lazurus rising from the dead, et al. I'm not saying that SSA is an affliction necessarily, as the Church describes it, but why lock a door simply because it hasn't yet been opened? At least at my tender age, there is something to be said for keeping one's options open.
The other, more motivating reason is cowardice. Little more need be said! I'm afraid to break my grandmother's heart, afraid to lose my beloved but prejudiced grandfather, who was born in the segregated South and has in effect cut ties with both of his sons for reasons much less severe than homosexuality! How could I hope to change an attitude that rigid? There must be a balance between idealism and pragmatism.
Still there is a fine line between prudence and hypocrisy, and my conscience won't let me forget it.
First of all, it's important to remember the difference between doctrine and policy in the Church, something Scott has gone to great lengths to distinguish on Dichotomy. Perhaps the foremost example of policy correction MoHos can look to is Priesthood amongst the black membership of the Church.
As a little "thought experiment", I tried to put my feet into the shoes of a black member of the Church in the 1950's and 60's. What thoughts might I think?
- I appear to be a second-class citizen of God's Kingdom, seeing as I don't have the Priesthood power of that Kingdom.
- What will be my place in the next life? If I can't have the Priesthood, what other blessings will I miss out on?
- Will I be black for eternity? [This question came from Scott's thought, Will there be lefties in Heaven? Are we changed to resemble God in every single aspect?]
To the first thought, we can look to Official Declaration 2, which extended the Priesthood to all worthy males of the Church. This also solves the second conundrum: there will indeed be equality amongst God's children in the next life. The only divisions among Heaven's inhabitants will be based upon the things we do/think/choose with our agency. The blessings of the Gospel are available in full to people of all race and color.
To the third question, we should remember that our Resurrected bodies will be ours for Eternity. There are currently, of course, flaws that apply only to mortality, such as sickness, deformities, etc., that will be corrected at the Resurrection. The rest of our features, we must assume, are eternal. (Or am I missing a piece of doctrine here? I'm not a bona fide Gospel scholar, so I'm completely open to correction!) After all, we sing the words of Hymn No. 284, which read, in part, "There is no end to race."
If there really "is no end to race", as this hymn written by William W. Phelps (an LDS man with no fewer than 15 hymns to his name) and published by the Church asserts, then we must assume that race is not a flaw but rather a neutral characteristic, since it is not changed to match God's race as it has been depicted in portraits commissioned and approved by prophets, seers, and revelators.
These principles all surely apply to homosexuality, no? If there is no end to race, why would there be an end to sexual orientation? Most (probably all) gay people would attest that their orientation is a neutral (if not outright positive) trait. Therefore, the three thoughts and corresponding answers above would also apply to MoHos.
Currently, I am an LDS teenager living in a mostly Mormon, medium-sized city in the western United States. The people around give special meaning to the term "straight and narrow(-minded)"--I have a great family, ward, school, and town, but let's just say I am rooted in the closet for now. As such, this blog is an outlet for me to express the ideas I wouldn't necessarily share with those around me.
I also decided to start Scarlet's Letters for my venting needs. Sorry in advance if this is a bit sporadic, but I'm involved in a number of other organizations and projects that keep me rather busy.
I hope my thoughts will be of use or enjoyment to someone out there, and look forward to bouncing ideas and support around with you all. Thanks!
P.S. You can contact me via Facebook or comments.