Like for many gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people in Utah, when I came out, it was difficult for my Mormon family to understand. There were tears, frustrations and many awkward conversations.
But it got better.
After a few years I felt comfortable talking to my mom, and my brothers didn’t seem to be bothered by my sexuality. I have the utmost respect for the journey my family has taken. I know it’s not easy for them to accept and although it’s difficult, I am proud of them and so grateful for the progress that has been made. But after hearing about a speech given by one of the Mormon leaders at a semi-annual gathering, I was nervous to read the speech.
With great trepidation I opened the text copy of the words given by Boyd Packer. He spoke of immorality and the desire God’s children must maintain to eschew stains on their souls. Much of the speech seemed rather pedestrian. But when he spoke of tolerance it became relevant to me and to my family.
This snippet of the speech reads as follows:
“The permissiveness afforded by the weakening of the laws of the land to tolerate legalized acts of immorality does not reduce the serious spiritual consequences that result from the violation of God’s law of chastity,” Packer said. “Tolerance is a virtue, but, like all virtues, when exaggerated it transforms itself into a vice. We need to be careful of the ‘tolerance trap’ so that we are not swallowed up in it.”
Packer is no stranger to controversy and comments he made a few years ago claiming no loving God would make his children gay had sparked national press as well as a large protest. The second-in-line to lead the Mormon Church also authored a pamphlet that lauded a young man for assaulting a young gay man.
But none of those comments struck home quite like his comments about tolerance. My wonderful family has moved far beyond tolerance. They no longer tolerate me — they love me and even accept me. They still may not celebrate my sexual orientation, but we have made so much progress. And when Packer says comments about a “tolerance trap,” I immediately wonder how my mom interprets the speech. I wonder if she feels she should be a little less loving toward me. I wonder if she feels conflicted because she realizes I never chose to be gay and that I’m never going to be attracted to women. But most of all, I wonder if Packer gives any thought to the potential damage he will cause gay Mormons and their family members. I wonder if he even cares.
As an optimistic atheist I have a hard time understanding religious dogma, but when leaders knowingly participate in such blatant attacks on a marginalized group, I become especially disenchanted. I just hope that as new generations of Mormons take the helm, they don’t continue the anti-gay rhetoric and demonizing.