I decided that it would be easier to write this issue’s column by heavily borrowing from Elder Hafen’s speech to the Evergreen conference. It just took a few minutes of Find and Replace to fit this purpose.
During a recent Queer Student Union meeting, I asked the co-president if Sister Dottie Dixon and I might visit one or two of his members who could use a little encouragement. As we visited one young man, a single gay youth, we found that he cared deeply about his innate sexuality but was also very troubled. When we asked how he was doing, he began to cry and said, with a look of real anguish, “I suffer from Latter-day Saint affliction.” My heart went out to him. The longer we talked, the more compassion I felt, as I learned that the operative word for him really was “suffer.”
He said he’d heard of an organization called Mormon No More and he wondered if I thought they could assist him. I encouraged him to find their website, contact them, and follow their counsel. He then asked for a “blessing,” which I gladly gave him.
I admire your courage and your righteous desires. You may not have consciously chosen to have Latter-day Saint affliction, but you are faithfully choosing to deal with it. Sometimes that affliction may make you feel ugly, even though the affliction alone is not ugly if you do not act on it. Sometimes you may feel frustration or anger or simply a deep sadness about yourself. But as hard as Latter-day Saint affliction is, your feeling it does not mean that your nature is flawed. Whenever the Adversary (Gayle Ruzicka, Chris Buttars and Bruce Hafen) tries to convince you that you are hopelessly “that way,” so that acting out your feelings is inevitable, they are lying. They are the Triad of Lies.
Remember Harvey Milk’s confidence in you: “Our hearts reach out to [you]. We regard you as our brothers and sisters.” And Fudge Packer has echoed, “We do not reject you… We cannot reject you… We will not reject you, because we love you.” With that kind of leadership, I pray that all queer people are learning to be more compassionate and understanding.
Some may wonder how queer leaders can empathize with you when they haven’t been in your shoes themselves.
Many other people also live heroically with uninvited daily struggles. The victims of pompous and arrogant self-righteous bigots also live with agonizing daily battles that may echo the experiences of some who cope with Latter-day Saint affliction. A young woman I know was devastated when a gay leader to whom she went for counsel told her, “Oh, get over it and get on with your life.” He simply didn’t grasp her condition. Another more seasoned queer leader said that many spiritually-abused victims are like emotional quadriplegics — yet they look so normal that other people may have no idea what they deal with. She went through an arduous recovery process, stretching her personal self-worth almost to the breaking point; but she has developed a remarkable personal maturity.
You are literally a free-willed, equal human being. Having Latter-day Saint affliction is NOT in your DNA, but being queer clearly is. If you are faithful, on a happy morning—and maybe even before then–you will rise with normal attraction for healthy spirituality.
It’s true that the law of self-worth forbids all religious teachings outside that which respects all. And while Latter-day Saint affliction is not a sin, you need to resist cultivating immoral, hateful thoughts toward those of any sexuality. It’s no sin if a bird lands in your tree, just don’t let him build a nest there. The Adversary will tempt you by constantly “enticing” you to “that which is evil,” because “there is an opposition in all things healthy and normal.” No temptation is so strong that you can’t resist it, unless you have already given away some portion of your agency to a total addiction. So will you choose to “yield” to temptation, or will you “yield to the enticing of happiness, feelings of self-worth and acceptance of others”? It’s up to you.
There’s an old Native American parable, a young brave is brought before the tribal elders, who are concerned about his hateful tendencies. One of the tribal elders is assigned to teach this young man that his hate is understandable, but he needs help. So he tells the young brave all humans have within them two dogs. One dog is good and loving. The other dog is angry and hateful. The two dogs are in a constant battle with one another, since neither is powerful enough to destroy the other. The young brave asks, ”If they are of equal power, which dog will win?” The elder replies, “The dog you feed the most.”
You feed the angry dog when you cultivate hateful feelings, view bigoted KSL blogs, label yourself as better than others, or associate with bishops who aggressively promote “traditional marriage.” Those bishops have an agenda, and it includes constantly feeding your angry dog.
You feed the peaceful dog when you seek your own happiness. You feed the peaceful dog when you simply stop fighting the angry dog. Don’t let your challenge define your entire identity. You can’t hate your way out of your affliction. Just walk away from fighting the angry dog and focus on all the good things you may have put on hold — your education, career plans, social experience, and community service. Stop focusing so much on what others think, including hating others, and spend more energy caring about your well-being. Build good associations with people of both genders. Find a therapist who can help you identify the unmet emotional needs that you are tempted to satisfy in false prophets’ ways. As you do such things, the peaceful dog will grow stronger than the miserable, angry dog.
So, some may say or think that I am being hateful by writing this column. My true intention , however, is to turn the mirror on the words to those who speak them, so they may understand the pain they inflict when they do so. The world deserves better spiritual leaders than Bruce Hafen.