Back when I first got divorced and came out I was asked to share my reasons for getting married in the first place if I had already known I was gay. Well, I didn’t actually already “know”. Better yet, I knew; I just hadn’t admitted it to myself yet. But the strange thing I encountered when discussing my thought processes (or lack thereof) at the time were strange anachronistic comments by LDS family and friends. The most common comments were something like, “The LDS Church leaders don’t encourage marriage for people with Same Sex Attractions!” or “The church only teaches homosexual behavior is wrong, but it’s not a sin to have gay feelings.”
The problem with statements such as these is that they are both correct and incorrect. Take the first statement, for example. At the time that my friends spoke those words they were correct that the LDS leaders had wised up and no longer encouraged straight marriage for those with homosexual feelings. The statement, however, is incorrect because at the time that I got married the LDS leadership did encourage such marriages.
For the second statement, they were mostly just wrong. Until last week, the LDS Church Handbook of Instructions included language that homosexuals should repent of “homosexual thoughts or feelings” and that same-sex relationships “distort loving relationships.” Those words were removed from the handbook, so anyone making claims that “The church only teaches homosexual behavior is wrong, but it’s not a sin to have gay feelings” from today forward would be correct. My friends were wrong 6 years ago.
I don’t hold it against them though because most of the people making these claims to me were women. As women, they would have had no occasion to read the Church Handbook of Instructions because the document is only for the eyes of priesthood holders…and women can’t have that responsibility in the church. So, I don’t blame them. It does highlight a common field of ignorance on the part of LDS women, however.
A sister of mine once claimed to me that the LDS church held no position on birth control, that it was nobody’s business but it was between the married couple and God. I think I kept my mouth shut at the time, but I knew that the LDS church had adjusted their stance on birth control at different times by changing the wording in the Church Handbook of Instructions. At that time it also counseled couples to seek the advice of their bishop (which is outside of my sister’s fantasy loop of her, her husband and God).
It just irks me that from this day forward, LDS members are going to continue this sort of anachronistic judgment of gays’ past behavior based on their current beliefs. And I suppose it irks me because I know that my LDS friends and family members’ ability to make moral choices depends solely upon their church leaders’ telling them that it is OK to do so.
In other words, my siblings, friends and even my own children’s acceptance and love towards me is only going to grow as long as they are green lighted by LDS leaders.
A few years ago I saw the documentary Burying the Past , a telling of the modern day legacy of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. It was fascinating and heartbreaking but one part really stood out to me that perfectly displayed this permission-based moral standard that is so inherent in Mormon belief and culture. The documentary showed how the Mormon descendants of the massacre perpetrators and the non-Mormon descendants of the victims were hesitantly working together to heal old wounds. The LDS members of that community were very hesitant to join forces in an act of reconciliation with the victims’ descendants . They were suspicious and uncooperative until the LDS President, Gordon Hinckley gave them the thumbs up. Then, suddenly it was all love and community spirit. I sense a general malaise in that sort of behavior.
Mormonism prizes obedience over moral judgment. You can see it in their concern over what LDS leaders teach as to what they can accept or tolerate.
I want my children to do the right thing when life throws them difficult curve balls and not hesitate, waiting for a signal from their leaders. Their highly cherished moral “standards” only get them so far, for their standards are a set of rules and line-item decision points based on conditions at one point in time.
A moral compass would serve them better; it could handle the exceptions, the gray areas, and wouldn’t at all be concerned with obedience.
In short I don’t want my kids to be followers. I want them to have the capacity to make moral choices before getting the thumbs up to do so. A moral compass would serve them today and tomorrow, and what a leaders said yesterday would be irrelevant.