I’d be remiss if I didn’t stand up before you, here today, and bear my testimony. Recently, there seems to be a little strife and contention in MOHO-land regarding the upcoming Mormon Stories, Circling the Wagons Conference. We all know that the spirit of the Lord excuses itself when contention enters the room, so I’d like to calmly and cheerfully weigh in on the contentious discussion.
Those who were with me a year ago will remember that I attended the first Circling the Wagons Conference. It was an affirming and safe weekend. Apparently this year’s conference is coming soon. I heard about it through 2 blog posts: Joseph Broom’s Beyond the Closet Door and Mitch Mayne’s, I am Mitch Mayne. I am an openly gay, active Latter-day Saint.
The big controversy is that a North Star leader and Josh Weed have been invited to speak at this year’s Circling the Wagon Conference. Like Mayne, when I first heard the news I was sickened.
My opinion of North Star isn’t any secret.
I find it curious that Mitch Mayne has stuck to his initial gut reaction and withdrawn his support from the Circling the Wagons.
Since I’m bearing my testimony, here are a few things that I know regarding the unwritten order of things Mormon and gay:
- I know that regardless of what the North Star speakers actually say at the conference their message will be interpreted by the extreme factions to be either the opposite of or in complete support of what they themselves believe. The 2 speakers Josh Weed and Steven Frei are divisive rather than uniting.
- I know that LDS people have a tendency to fanatically stretch a mere suggestion into a commandment, like they can transform a transgression into a super-sin. As much as North Star may claim it is not recommending a lifestyle, it is. It’s like when Hinckley made some off-hand comment about earrings once during a talk and suddenly two earrings were a sign of rebelliousness and scandalous women. Setting up Josh Weed and Steven Frei even just as successful anomalies sets the bar for what our loved ones now expect from the rest of us. They have done far more to set many of us homosexual Mormons back years than any Boyd K Packer statement in the last 10 years.
- I know that inviting not North Star speakers to the Conference sends a message of support for their ideas and beliefs regardless of what the actual Mormon Stories statement of purpose says.
- I know that in the years that John Dehlin has worked on Mormon Stories I’ve seen a lot of fluctuating with regards to his pandering to the church vs. his willingness to boldly take a stance. The pendulum swings both ways about every 18 months. It’s on the pandering end right now.
- I know that I find it difficult to believe the Circling the Wagons statement of purpose claim that they “seek spaces where Mormons (and all people) can interact as equals” when that is clearly contrary to Mormon history, principle, practice and doctrine… and this latest development. A straight married individual holds higher rank in this life and the next within Mormonism. Therefore the lifestyle that Josh Weed and Steven Frei exemplify is naturally seen as “better” or “higher”, more pure, indeed more Mormon. As much as North Star and Mormon Stories claim respect for all points of view, there’s no way to escape this unspoken fact that all other life choices are seen as inferior.
- I know that like a lot of things in Mormon culture, celebrity is valued over substance. I see Josh Weed’s inclusion as symptomatic of this.
- I know that I care about my daughters. Everyone seems to forget our daughters. I haven’t heard of one solid argument for creating an environment where our straight daughters are subjected to a marriage to a gay man. It’s wrong and it’s selfish and it’s dangerous to our young girls to encourage the idea that for some people this is a risk worth taking. Weed and Frei’s wives could testify differently til the cows come home and I still wouldn’t want it for my daughters.
- I know that focusing on the exceptions like North Star does seem to be dismissive of those of us who have been there. Even though last year’s conference was refreshing, I did not see or hear “myself” on the pulpit. This year, I believe the inclusion of bloggers similar to me, Joseph Broom and Alan Miller, to be a lot closer. I hope their messages contrast significantly with the North Star presenters’ messages and warn of the dangers and selfishness of their preferred pathway.
- I know that there’s a huge difference between a man , already married, who may find comfort at North Star and a young man not yet married making huge life choices. For the former, I concede that men like Steven Frei may have been helped by North Star. But the danger comes when single LDS men look to it as a model to emulate before they have been so entangled and end up messing up not only their own lives but a young lady’s life as well.
- I know that I don’t get Mitch Mayne’s adamant refusal to participate in the conference to be honest. Josh Weed and Steven Frei are basically just mimicking Mormon teachings for the most part and Mayne’s claim to fame is that he has become the poster boy for being gay and active Mormon. I find Mayne’s stance as confusing and detrimental to young gay men as the North Star stance. They all are out, they all claim belief in LDS teachings.
- I know that I can love the believer but hate the belief.
- I know that I feel compassion for North Star leaders and participants. I’ve been there and it NOT what they claim.
- I know that there’s not much difference between a person who can’t paint and an artist who won’t. North Star members claim to cherish their homosexuality without the need to act on it. There’s some sort of intrinsic value to gayness that they are supposedly able to benefit from without doing anything overtly gay. To me, that’s like the artist who won’t pick up a paint brush, but resigns himself to a life in an accounting firm working in someone else’s world and with all the creativity only happening in his head. It’s disappointing that those people are seen as “stakeholders” in the Circling the Wagons concept.
- I know that “Circling the Wagons” for me conjures up an image of facing inward as a group to protect those who need protection. I felt that last year as mostly straight folks rallied to the defense and support of gays who have suffered in the LDS faith. I know that I wouldn’t feel that in North Star’s presence. It feels to me that the Conference board is allowing in wolves in sheep’s clothing.
- I know that it may not be all as bad as everything I’ve born witness to above and that the conference will probably be just fine. Part of me still wants to agree with letting everyone in to speak and participate. Heck, invite the Westboro Baptist Church for I all care.
I won’t be going to Circling the Wagons this year… not because I wouldn’t, but because I wasn’t planning on it anyway. It would be too expensive of a trip for me right now. Please return and report if you go.
Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live; it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.
And unselfishness is letting other people’s lives alone, not interfering with them. Selfishness always aims at uniformity of type. Unselfishness recognizes infinite variety of type as a delightful thing, accepts it, acquiesces in it, enjoys it.
I say these things in the name of cheese and rice, Amen
PS. Please bless the refreshments