Guest Editorials

The problem of the moderate Mormon

by Jonathan Adamson

I am a 27-year-old gay ex-Mormon. I came out when I was 24 at Brigham Young University and left the church earlier this year. For the bulk of those first 24 years of my life I believed there was a part of me that was evil and distorted. Proposition 8 brought the gay issue to the forefront of Mormonism and reinforced the already solid belief that I was somehow broken and devilish. In spite of the fact that I had served a mission, studied at BYU and never acted on my feelings, I felt alone and despised.

Prop. 8 brought a lot of heat and criticism down on the church. There was a lot of pressure both within and outside the church to stop the political agenda by church leadership. This kind of press and pressure caused leadership to look to their public relations department to fix the situation. Over the years following Prop. 8, the church has grown quieter on the issue of homosexuality. Unfortunately, silence is not the same as change.

The church’s silence has been rewarded by groups like Mormons Building Bridges. This group began as a beacon of hope to the LGBT community in Utah as well as LGBT-friendly Mormons nationwide. It gained support and recognition from LGBT advocacy groups throughout Utah and the country as they were seen participating in parades. The message: “We are Mormon, we are sorry, and we support and love LGBT people.” They became the new voice for the many advocacy groups that responded to their request to join them. It looked like it could be a new leaf in Mormon history when members across the nation would apologize for the actions of their church and work to fight for LGBT acceptance.

Soon after the media attention and praise however, MBB’s true face began to show. Voices from the LGBT community that spoke of hope and efforts to gain full equality were silenced. Talks of politics and policy were forbidden. Experiences that were being shared, shedding light on the abuse experienced at the hands of the church and its leaders were shunned. At one point I asked a question, “How can a person claim to love, understand and support an LGBT individual and at the same time not stand by that person in their quest to achieve full equality? How do we talk about love and understanding and support without also talking about gaining equal standing under government and within our smaller communities?”

My question was met with criticism. I was condemned for suggesting we talk about equality, especially marriage equality. I was messaged by an administrator of the group who let me know that there was no room for comments like mine on MBB and that I should find some other group to express my views.

Now, it is fully acceptable for a group to decide what its purposes are. What is unacceptable is to rally together LGBT advocacy groups to march with you under the guise of Mormons supporting the LGBT community when, in fact, the purposes and intentions have nothing to do with the LGBT community and their pursuit of real equality. What is most offensive is what this group has done for the Mormon Church which has not changed a single thing since before Prop. 8. By marching as Mormons who support LGBT people, they have given the nation a reason to believe that the church has changed. Now, it would be one thing if this group actually was apologizing for the church and seeking change in church policy and practices regarding homosexuals.

But clearly, the group has no interest in any such activities. They are no threat to the church because they do not request anything of the church or its leadership. The church hides in the shadows doing nothing and they are receiving positive press as a result of MBB which, in reality, is saying nothing different than what has already been said by church spokespeople.

So why is this bad? Well, let’s start with Utahns. The state of Utah is heavily influenced by the Mormon church. Our government, policies and our communities are all connected to church headquarters. The attitudes of church leadership are reflected in almost every area of our lives from our employment and laws to our schools and communities. Regardless of your affiliation to the church, it still has an affect on your life, especially as an LGBT person.

The doctrine of your religion writes inequality into it policies and practices, how can you feel loved by fellow believers in the doctrine of inequality, let alone by God, the supposed author of such doctrine? The answer is simple: You don’t. This is why the blanket of complacency that MBB has spread over the church and its followers is so dangerous. It has replaced the pressure on the church with smiles.

The cost is more LGBT youth that will grow up in a church that continues to promote the same doctrine of inequality that it always has. Sitting next to a smiling person who has their arm around you does not change the message that is coming from the pulpit. It only causes more conflict and pain to youth who won’t understand why this person who claims to love, understand and support them continues to pay tithing to, sustain, support and defend the church and it’s leaders as they continue to promote anti-gay teachings.

In April of 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote a letter from a Birmingham jail to his fellow clergymen. What he had to say about the “white moderate” is what I have to say to MBB and the people that share its philosophy — the “Mormon moderate” who believes they are doing good:

“I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the negro the wait for a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating that absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

We cannot accept any timetable that is not now. Lives are at stake. People’s senses of worth and dignity are hanging in the balance. We cannot and will not excuse anyone who continues to perpetuate the status quo. The cost is too great.

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  1. I concur without reservation… until the Mormon Building Bridges actually step up to the plate and denounce what their church is doing they are no different than apologists in pre 1978 who claimed not to be racists but who never spoke out against their church racist policies… The LDS Church will not excommunicate 10's of thousands of its members who stand up for equality. What a PR night mare. What they rely on is silent complicity.

  2. That was the point of our book, The Blood Doctrine, the church's position is essential to their doctrine, it will not change. I do not see the leaders of the church, accepting the belief that gays are created by God, as opposed to making a choice to be gay. That is fundamental to the church. I have always felt the Building Bridges group was a warm, fuzzy, feeling good group with no substance. They marched in a parade as representatives of a church whose President of the Council of 12 gets up in conference and refers to gays as evil, a mistake that God would not create. I was criticized for my position, but I stand by it. I would find it impossible to be a gay, proud of who I am, and be a member in the Mormon Church. To make it is not logical, a position with little hope. There is a fundamental difference between recognition and acceptance and be embraced as equal. I salute Jonathan A. on his views.

  3. This is a great article. Salute to Jonathan A. Says everything I have believed for a long time. Marching in a parade does not equate to acceptance, it is merely recognizing a political issues after Prop. 8. The position will never change until the doctrine changes. When the President of the Council of 12 gets up in conference and characterizes gays as evil, un-natural, and not created by God I am not very optimistic about the church position. To me their position is not relevant. They are on the wrong side of history. Civil rights and equity always prevail in the end. That can not be stopped. There position does not matter to me. That was a point in mine and Ryan's book, The Blood Doctrine. Some will attack my position, but I could care less.

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