Showing posts with label affirmation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label affirmation. Show all posts

Why Supporting Gender Affirming Care in the Church is Important

A bot asked me on Twitter if I support gender affirming care for minorsno doubt to stir the pot with the people who were already in my comments. Thing is, I don't need help to stir the pot. So lets talk about it.

Under the umbrella of gender affirming care are all kinds of treatments for both queer folks and non-queer folks of every age. Let's talk about some of the ones I use and receive.

I have a chronic illness called PCOS that affects the natural balance of male/female hormones in my body. I am a cisgender woman with male hormones in my body that I don't want. I take medication to remove those excess androgens from my body. That is gender affirming care. I receive it to make the hormonal composition of my body match my gender. Without that medication, I would have male pattern baldness, I would grow a beard, and that testosterone would create chaos inside of my body.
My condition is genetic. My paternal grandmother and her mother both had some version of it. My great grandmother had a lot of the same unwanted hair growth. My grandmother struggled with her fertility ended up having a hysterectomy before she could finish having children.
I was born with this condition. I had it as a teenager. I didn't get any kind of healthcare for my condition as a teenager. I needed gender affirming care that I didn't get because my mother didn't think it was important. I live with the consequences of those decisions every day of my life.  
There is no cure for my condition. I will be managing this circus, which was allowed to progress unchecked for decades because of conservative attitudes towards women's healthcare, for the rest of my life. I am sick all the time and I'm never going to get better.
Between my Catholic mother, BYU, and my mission, I didn't get any real treatment for my condition (because the first step is usually using birth control as hormone therapy) until I was in my early twenties and already married. That allowed my disease to progress to a point where I will never have children without spending $20-30k on fertility treatments.
This is what denying me gender affirming care has done to my life. 

So do I support withholding gender affirming care from underage people? 
 No. Not at all. I had that decision made for me in the best interest of others and their agendas, not what was best for me, and I will be dealing with those consequences for the rest of my life. Children and young adults deserve to receive the healthcare they need, not the healthcare that strangers in churches think they should be receiving. Especially when folks in those churches don't know the first thing about the people they're restricting treatment from.
Russell M. Nelson is a doctor. Nevertheless, he is not MY doctor. He is a surgeon, not an endocrinologist. He doesn't know the first thing about my health, my needs, or the treatments for my conditions. No one in a medical setting would let him anywhere near my case because he's unqualified to practice this type of medicine. So why should I, or anyone else, be comfortable with him or anyone else in the Church, being allowed to interfere in these decisions for church members through policy changes and church discipline?
Nothing about an ecclesiastical office qualifies someone to make my medical decisions for me. Conservative folks with a Twitter account, a cable package that includes Fox News, and the email addresses of politicians aren't qualified to treat my medical issues. 
The same way that preventable suffering during miscarriages and pregnancy losses are the consequences we're now living with because of anti-abortion legislation, the same thing will happen with bans against gender affirming care. The collateral damage goes far beyond underage transgender people. Conservative folks are so determined to punish transgender kids and their parents for being different, they're willing to destroy the lives of anyone and everyone else as collateral damage along the way.
Why? Because punishing trans people never was ultimately what this was about.
Remember: all culture wars, moral panics, and identity politics are the cheap Party City disguises for class warfare. When rich people in power can keep our lives in shambles, we're easier to control. They want you to hate me so we won't ever organize against them.

Celebrating Pride Month at Church in 2023

We've made the decision to start going back to Church in-person. For the long, ridiculous saga of what has kept us away for so long, all of that is here.

Since this decision coincides with Pride month, I bought myself something in preparation.

Image Courtesy of KerspiffityPins on Etsy

In my voyages across the internet, I saw a queer person say that the corporate, sanitized message of Love is Love needs an update for our current moment.

They suggested "Queer People are in Danger."

It has never been more important for allies to make themselves visible. Not just for the sake of queer folks knowing where the safe ports are in the storm, but to willingly put ourselves in the gap between them and those who would do them harm.

If someone has a problem with queer visibility in my congregation, let them express it to me, the person who is least affected by that expression. Let me be the one to say, without hesitation, "It's a shame that when y'all taught that families are forever, you didn't mean mine."

Let me be the one to ask, "Who made you the judge of my sister, my brothers-in-law, and many of my friends? When exactly did Jesus Christ put you in that position?" 

Let me be the one to drop whatever I'm doing and sing "Jesus Said Love Everyone" like the choir kid I am. Admittedly, I still don't know the words. I was never in Primary because I'm a convert. But for my queer friends and family, for those in hiding in the pews next to me, it's a small thing I can do to make the people around me a little safer.

Whether we can admit it or not, whether we like it or not, our congregations are overwhelmingly not safe places for queer people to approach God or find rest to their souls.

We cannot change what we won't acknowledge, so acknowledging it openly is the place to start.

Note: This was originally posted on Twitter. Within hours, my friends wiped out much of the seller's stock. I then posted follow ups with other products LDS folks could consider to show their Pride support. Here are the links to those:

By the next day, there were all kinds of people being foolish in my mentions, interrogating me about how I can support queer LDS people and still follow the prophets. You know, because those two things have to be mutually exclusive. Here was my response:

I find it endlessly fascinating that whenever a dude tries to confront me about treating queer people with dignity and respect at Church, they always question/accuse me of not following the prophets. Not Christ. The prophets, specifically.

If you think the leadership of the Church have given you an open license to bully and exclude queer people and those who love them from the Church, it's because you don't have the scriptural literacy or moral rectitude to know any better.

I've been in the Church for seventeen years. 

I've lived through the tenure of enough church leadership to know one thing for certain: they agree on absolutely nothing, including this. 

Those who look to church leadership for an absolute, unchanging consensus on any issue are going to be disappointed.

That is the one thing they have never been able to produce because they are human.

I didn't join this church for the sycophantic fan club of prophets, whose reverence for church leadership borders on idolatry. 

There are LDS folks who criticize Catholics for the way they revere Saints, when the way y'all treat church leadership isn't that different.

I joined the Church to worship Jesus Christ, not the servants he employs. It is his example I care about most. His teachings are the foundation of my life. His voice is the one I seek. His radical compassion, empathy, and love is what I am striving to emulate in my life.

Jesus Christ was kind in ways that many of our leaders were not and are not. Thank God for that. It would be a real shame if an omnipotent God's access to any of us was frustrated because of some guy named checks notes Dallin. 

Some of y'all want so badly for the Church to be a country club of the comfortably like-minded, you forget the example of the Savior, who never once vaulted himself above anyone, who had no use for wealth or status, who never once preached uniformity as a virtue. It is Christ who conquered death and the grave. It is Jesus who has risen, who will be my judge in the last day. It is to him I will answer for how I spent my life and my time.

Not to the prophets and not to any of you.

If the moral choice of my age is whether to love queer people and make the Church safer for them, or to allow rich people and paid actors on Fox News to convince me to dehumanize and exterminate my own siblings in Christ, I'll be honest: I'm taking my chances on love. 

I've spent way too much of my life being entrusted to teach Latter-day Saints their own beliefs, scriptures, and the words of your own prophets for "but what about the prophets?" to be the question I'm being asked right now. I've been every kind of teacher I can be in the Church. Every age and gender, in multiple countries and languages, called and set apart by every priesthood leader I've ever had.

If that thought perturbs you, maybe it's you who needs to work on your testimony of the priesthood. Not me.

A Prayer of Deliverance for Queer Church Members


After reports of bullying on BYU's campus towards Sarah Coyne, a professor who mentioned her transgender child in class, let's not have any confusion about what thay bullying represents and where it comes from.

You cannot teach the pure love of Christ for the LGBTQ+ community at the same time you exclude them from church fellowship.

You cannot talk out of both sides of your mouth and expect anything but cruelty, bullying, and ugliness to follow.

You do not reap grapes of thorns or figs from thistles.

Those who sow in hatred reap in violence.

A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Matthew 7:18-19

LGBTQ+ exclusion is an evil fruit from the corrupt tree of exclusionary church policies. Those policies are good for nothing but to be hewn down and cast into the fire.

We have been divided against our own at the behest of evangelical Christianity for long enough. Anyone who insists we do this to our own is no friends to us.

We are the house that cannot stand when it is divided.

How many more of our people, our brothers and sisters, our fathers and mothers, our friends and neighbors, our family members in Christ have to suffer and die before we see the error of our ways?

How many more will it take for the error to become apparent?

I plead that deliverance comes quickly.

Lord, thy people perish. 

Give us the courage and strength to run the hatred of strangers from our midst.

Let words of unkindness and violence turn to ash in the mouths of those who speak them. 

May all the inner vessels of those who have steeped malice be scoured clean. 

May those who have made the cups of others bitter be forced to drink to the dregs themselves.

Bring all conspiracies, all tyranny, all oppression into the light where all may see plainly.

Let those who deal in secret have their names be known and spoken in truth from the rooftops in the light of day.

Let there be no peace in Zion until all may rest therein.

That is my prayer today and always. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

The Unimpressive Origins of Anti-Queerness in the LDS Church

"Sister Collins, why don't you believe being queer is a sin like the rest of the righteous, obedient Mormons?"

Because despite what you've been told, the rejection of LGBTQIA+ people is not a foundational gospel principle to Christianity. It's not part of some consistent, eternal sexual ethic that has been passed down to us unchanged since the dawn of time. There is no such consistent sexual ethic taught in scripture. Any biblical scholar with a decent grasp of Hebrew and Greek would be able to tell you that. What the Old Testament teaches about sex is not what Paul teaches in the New Testament, is not what the Book of Mormon teaches, is not what the Doctrine and Covenants teaches.

Sexual ethics change. They're one of the things in scripture most likely to change and morph according to the man-made cultures surrounding them. They've changed drastically within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints alone over the nearly-200 years the institution has been in the earth. The idea that Latter-day Saints would advocate for a strict sexual ethic that isn't subject to change is comically ridiculous. It's an untenable position for anyone in a religious community community that went from not polygamy, to polygamy, and back againall in a 70 year period.

The idea that the current sexual ethic as it exists in the Church isn't subject to change to become inclusive to the LGBTQ+ community is nonsense. We have less authority than anyone else in Christianity to make that kind of assertion, which is why I'm continually baffled that our community has even tried at all.

The idea that homosexuality is sinful didn't enter the Church until after it showed up in the rest of Christianity in 1952 with the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. An edition, I'll point out, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not use. It was the first edition of the Bible to ever assert that the Bible explicitly condemned homosexuality. Before this point, no edition of any Bible that has ever been published interpreted or translated any of the texts to refer to homosexuality. While these perceptions existed culturally before this time, no one had ever gone so far as to translate the Bible in this way because such assertions and translations are completely inconsistent with the text.

Once the RSV team did include such a translation, an error they later tried to disavow, it became the source of these interpretations throughout the rest of Christianity. The Living Bible, the New International Version, and the New American Standard Bible all adopted this perspective from the RSV. While such doctrinal drift can't be traced through Latter-day Saint use of the King James Bible, we can review general conference talks to see how these line up with these perspectives and who introduced them. A full collection of indexed conference reports was uploaded by the Church History Museum to the Internet Archive in 2011, so this is not a difficult question to examine.

The first instance of this kind of queer condemnation, beginning with J. Reuben Clark in 1954, is in lockstep with conforming with the RSV's translation error. (Clark, Conference Report October 1954, pg. 79) It's also worth noting that the second condemnation, also from Clark in 1957, asserts that scriptural injunctions against "fornication" relate to men engaging in homosexual relationships, with a simultaneous admission that he isn't sure if those same passages included queer women or not. (Clark, Conference Report April 1957, pg. 87)

The idea that the Church's condemnation of its own queer community is an organized, ancient message that has been consistently taught and enforced throughout time the same way we do now is objectively false. We can point to our own conference reports and see the image of past church leadership guessing and speculating as to how to apply these condemnations from the rest of Christianity to our community. 

The question no one has been able to answer for me is why, if such messaging were inspired by God, there would be a need for guesswork or speculation on the part of J. Reuben Clark or anyone else.

I fully believe this is exactly the kind of Biblical mistranslation and manipulation we preach against. This is the apostasy I personally left evangelical Christianity to avoid. I don't believe in the rationalizations for anti-queerness in the Church for the same reason I don't believe the racial priesthood and temple restrictions were inspired, regardless of what any prophet or person has ever said about it: 

Because God is not a bigot.

God does not endorse bigotry. He doesn't endorse violence. He doesn't endorse division, ostracizing, indifference to suffering, the abandoning of children, bullying, and excluding people from his community because they are different. He doesn't participate in human rights abuses. Humans do that. God does not.

Jesus taught that it's "by their fruits" that we can know the truth of anything. We have had decades to see what the fruits of LGBTQIA+ exclusion from the Church have been. From mixed orientation marriages that fail to child abandonment, homelessness, conversation therapy, violence, and suicide. To say nothing of bullying and divisions in families throughout the Church.

The fruits of these policies of LGBTQIA+ exclusion have been evil because the policy is evil. The policy is evil because it came from the selfishness and ignorance of man instead of God.

And in that same breath, it needs to be said that you cannot collect good fruit from an evil tree. You cannot expect to teach people to love and accept queer people non-violently at the same time you close off participation to them in our community. Those two things cannot coexist together. You either follow the admonition of Peter when he taught that the command to take the gospel into all the earth includes all people, to call none of them unclean or common by condition off their birth, or you don't. (See Acts 10:14-15 and Acts 11:17) There is no room to negotiate people out of God's kingdom based on man-made prejudices. This is a lesson God has already taught.
I was in evangelical Christianity before I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I left that community because I didn't want any part of their teachings anymore. I have no loyalty to queer hatred any more than I have for original sin, infant baptism, or biblical inerrancy. My loyalty is to Jesus Christ—not the dungheap of human errors people have done in his name to justify their own actions, to amass power for themselves, or to lift themselves above others in vanity and pride.
I don't need a cafeteria lunch table to exclude people from to feel good about myself or to convince myself that God loves me. If that's something you need, that's not because of anything queer people have ever done to you. So stop blaming and hurting them and go to therapy.

Becoming Found Family within the Church

Growing up in an unstable home environment with parents who struggled with a host of issues that included poverty, addiction, alcoholism, domestic violence, and racial violence, one of the skills I learned early on in my life is gathering and assembling found family. I had so many adopted mothers, tied to so many different communities who cared for and about me.

The reason I made it out of poverty and avoided becoming a statistic was because of the support and mentoring I received from people who were my chosen family, rather than being limited to the support my biological family could provide.

While the Church is not the only group capable of forming these kinds of relationships, it's especially important for members of the Church to know how to do this, and know the meaningful distinction between found family and "ward family" or "church family."

Let's start off by talking about that distinction.


Not All Church Family is Found Family

I've been in the Church as a convert for almost seventeen years now. I joined as a teenager, the only member in my family. I've been in enough congregations to know the difference between ward family and found family.

Ward family is conditional. It exists within the shared identity of being members of the Church, and therefore only fully extends to members of the Church. Those who aren't members and are unlikely to ever become members, or who were formerly members and are no longer fully engaged with the Church, are often seen as being unworthy or undeserving of that network of help and loving care. The reason for this is because with church membership comes the expectation of reciprocation. In this line of thinking, the church member will pay it forward at a future time through ongoing service through the Church. The issue is not that people are receiving benefits to which they have not previously contributed. Rather, it's the boundary setting that happens with those who have no intentions of paying it forward through the same network of finite resources.

Church family also often centers around the formal administration overseen by local leadership on the ward council. It may or may not be facilitated through delegated assignments, volunteered service, or shared resources extended through church social networks. Because no one person has total control over this council and the causes it chooses to undertake and how, the help that is given through it is shaped by the personal beliefs and life experiences of many different people. Because of that, mileage and results will vary wildly based on geographic location and the cultures (and politics) of the surrounding areas.

Anyone who is familiar with the concept of found family, or comes into the church with the expectation that church family will function like found family, is going to be confused by what they see happening in many places. And because it's important for church members to understand the difference, to be willing and capable of doing both kinds of giving, this comes with acknowledging those differences honestly.

Found Family is Unconditional

Found family is an ongoing, personal relationship between individuals that isn't bound by shared identity, social networks, or life experiences. It's a much closer relationship than a casual acquaintance at Church. It's a friendship where a person is fully integrated into a family's embrace as one of their own. The exchange of love and gratitude is mutual, flows in both directions, and exists solely within the individual family. There's no expectation for anyone else outside of that relationship to be benefiting from it. So while two different communities may be coming together and sharing in a mutual space with one another, there is no expectation that their communities will directly benefit from that exchange.

For example, if an LDS family decided to sponsor a family of refugees and developed a found family relationship with them, there would be no expectation for the refugee family to join the Church. If an LDS family took in a queer person who was also a former member of the Church, there would be no expectation for them to come back to church because of that association, or in exchange for resources. The relationship itself is the reward, not anything monetary or otherwise valuable that the relationship could be used for.

Found family relationships often materialize spontaneously through already existing friendships. But through my own reflection, I'm realizing they exist when people create space in their families, their homes, and their lives for those relationships to materialize.  It's one where the jump has been made together from acquaintance or casual friendship to actual family. Those relationships are grown, nourished, and are sincerely cherished on both sides.

Not every relationship in the Church should be one of found family. I'm not suggesting it should be. But recognizing the ways that God works through found family is an important one for people of faith to understand and embrace. There is a kind of good that only be accomplished through found family relationships and in no other way, including by the a church or ward family. There are families who have space in their lives at different seasons to create found family relationships, and some who don't. It's important to be able to assess situations impartially and to understand which is needed.

In Psalms 68:6, David taught that "God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains." I've seen that ministry work through my own life in the Church. The trajectory of my life changed completely because members of the Church facilitated both found family and church family relationships. Knowing how to do both is good discipleship and allows those who belief in Christ to follow his example in moments where it can do the greatest good.

Cruelty and Violence in Mormonism: Online Harassment

I'm currently working on a series about rejecting the influence that violence and cruelty have in Mormonism, past and present. This post is inspired by my recent interactions with DezNat. The influences that invite that cruelty are many. For now, I will address one.

Because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has local lay ministry, there is a certain degree of influence guaranteed to each member in the lives of their fellow congregants. We are positioned intentionally to teach each other. We are taught to accept the offerings that others give to us, to see the holiness in them, no matter how helpful or unhelpful they are, based purely on the good intentions of the person who is offering them to us.

Younger generations are increasingly unwilling to participate in this relationship when it is one-sided, or even actively harmful. There is no more getting credit for trying for the sake of keeping up appearances. If what someone says, even in the spirit of trying to be helpful or preserving faith, relies on anything that appeals to the rejection of another person's human dignity, we're not going to politely say "thank you."

We're going to reject that offering.

This upends the status quo of lay ministry in the Church. People who have "waited their turns" are not getting the power and influence they were promised because an entire generation of people were taught to say "No" and mean it. And they're furious about it.

The social signifiers attached to the illusions of the Perfect Family, the Perfect Leadership, the Perfect Congregation, and the Perfect Church Member are falling apart. Why? Because members can no longer get away with harmful messaging and behavior that was previously considered eye roll worthy, at most.

Our refusals and rejections make them "look bad," in a community where, in some families, appearances and reputations are the only things they care about. Conveniently, they've forgotten that we were all taught better than that, and that's exactly how we intend to carry ourselves as adults.

And since an entire generation is leaving the Church, they no longer have the ability to shame them back into submission in person, as happened to their generation. So they're trying to do it online. This is misguided for a few reasons. It doesn't work. It didn't work then. It doesn't work now. You can't generate love and loyalty to Christ by being the exact opposite of everything he represented.

That, and people who aren't LDS can see it happening in real time. What DezNat and other conservative members of the Church forget, if they ever properly understood it, is the internet is forever. And they are actively harming the reputation of the Church more than any disaffected member ever could.

If what you want to be judged for are your "best," most active, most loyal members, rather than your "worst," most angry, most jaded forget affiliates... what does it say when the "best" are engaging in online harassment against all but a small cohort of like-minded anonymous accounts?

I'm saying this as a believing, practicing member of the Church. You cannot cannibalize people and expect to have a healthy community that lives long into the future. The cruelty of church members is a form of apostasy that has the potential to destroy the Church.

When people have a positive view of the Church, it's because of the uncommon, unexpected ways that we love, help, and serve our neighbors. That's what the bulk of my experience has been with both current and disaffected members. I may be willing to bounce back from that cruelty because I fully acknowledge that it doesn't make up the bulk of my church experience. Many others do not have that same patience.

So why does this need to be said?

Because I'm seeing a greater degree of cruelty from active Saints, particularly the ones who genuinely believe they have a license from their leaders to be cruel to LGBTQ+ people and the people who support them. This used to be relegated to the random uncle who would commandeer a portion of testimony meeting every month, and even good-natured conservative folks would roll their eyes.

That's not what this is anymore.

The message we bear to the world is that Jesus of Nazareth is a loving, caring Savior who is a champion of the oppressed, the deliverer of those who experience cruelty because they've been devalued by society.

We do not help him when we become what people need to be saved from.

The Harm of Perfectionism in LDS Parenting

There are few subjects I find more exhausting than LDS parents who decide, while their children are still young, to go to war with the very notion of those children ever having any real autonomy of their own. I've seen and heard parents in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints concoct the terms by which their children will lose everything from holiday participation to financial support if their children don't grow into the exact adults they want their children to become.

It's one thing when these people express these expectations of their children in their own home, or even in church settings where they're bound to find some amount of like-minded support. It's another when they're bold enough to outline their plans for anyone on the internet to see.

Which is what Matthew P. Watkins, an LDS blogger and podcast creator decided to do, using his four year old daughter as the character in the scenario he's concocting.

There are plenty of people in the world who can explain why what Matthew P. Watkins is saying isn't as loving or mature of an approach as he thinks it is. Several people, including those outside the Church, already have. But because this is a Mormon parent whose thinking is carefully constructed on the foundations of LDS beliefs on marriage and family, I won't use that approach. I think it's important to refute the approach he's defending and advocating with the language of the faith he believes in. That way, those who might be tempted to adopt it in their own families will understand why it's the wrong approach to be using.

What qualifies me to tell Watkins and those who think like him that this kind of parenting is trash? Because I'm just a convert who has spent an inordinate amount of my own time in the Church explaining to parents that this kind of behavior is abusive. It relies on coercion as a teaching tactic, which God has condemned. And at the time God was condemning it in the scriptures, he wasn't talking about all the non-Mormon parents out in The World. He was talking about people like Matthew Watkins.

One of the most oft-quoted scriptures in any LDS setting is from D&C 121:34-46, which most church members recognize as the "unrighteous dominion" section. It's where God defines, in plain language, what religious abuse is and outlines for members of the Church what they should be doing instead.

Persuasion. Long-suffering. Gentleness. Meekness. Love unfeigned. This is the kind of spiritual leadership and parenting God teaches should be happening within the Church.

Sometimes, I just want to sit these parents down, slap these verses down in front of them, and say "Point to which one you think means coercion, force, manipulation, and ongoing punishment into adulthood." Because honestly, if they've reached adulthood in the Church while thinking this is the behavior God has given them license to engage in, I have to think it's because their problem is one of scriptural literacy.

But like anyone else who has served in the Church as a Sunday School teacher as many times as I have, I can already hear the defensive response I would get back from such a maneuver.

"But Sister Collins. What about reproving betimes with sharpness?"

That's another part of the section I've linked to above. That's the part of that section LDS parents use in their moral licensing to believe they get to reject whoever I want, however they want, with no filter, tact, or respect for anyone's boundaries.

But like I said before: I've clocked so many parents like this already. I already know how to respond.

"How exactly do you think you're going to act like that, then show an increase of love afterwards? Hmm? How? You can't. Because you've already proven your faithfulness isn't stronger than death. Your faithfulness to your children is non-existent when you treat them like this." 

When LDS parents treat random people at church with more kindness, tolerance, and respect than their own children, just because of ideological similarities and reputation curation, that's the definition of hypocrisy. That's not what being a good parent looks like. It's not even what being a good person looks like, to say nothing of being a good Christian.

And the thing is, it doesn't matter that I think that. What matters is when children see their parents doing this and come to that conclusion on their own. Whether parents like it or not, their children will grow up and begin passing their own judgment on their parents as representations of the principles and values they've attempted to teach. Once those children start seeing and recognizing the hypocrisy in their parents' discipleship, the disconnect between how their parents behave towards them and what Jesus taught, they lose all moral authority in the eyes of their children.

The most glaring form of this hypocrisy is centered on the temple. Many LDS families use the standards for entering the temple as a justification to distance themselves from anyone and everything that deviates from that standard. The trouble with that, of course, is that a family's home is NOT a temple. Ostracizing and showing favoritism based on religious devotion is deeply inappropriate. It's exactly the kind of self-righteous behavior Jesus taught against when he was on earth.

You don't have to take my word on that. It's in the Sermon on the Mount. God never intended for Latter-day Saints to only surround themselves with people who think and act exactly like they do.

Matt. 5:46-48

When God commanded us to "be perfect," it was only in the grace we show to others when they fall short of our expectations. This graciousness, not the performance of outward observances of law, is what make God perfect. It's the only way to become like our Heavenly Parents, and to receive that same quality of mercy from them.

I have given this same warning over and over again to these kinds of parents. They rarely listen. They don't even begin to see the wisdom in what I've told them until it is far too late to change the outcome. The damage they do to their relationships with their children becomes the teacher they have to learn the lesson from.

"If your temple cosplay is more important to you than having a relationship with your adult children, I have news for you: you won't have a relationship with them. Or their spouses. Or your grandchildren. That's the road you're walking on, and that's where it leads. And when you arrive at that place, the only person you will have to blame is yourself."

The Good Shepherd

Let's talk about sheep.

Jesus taught that we are his flock of sheep. And the likes of Greg Olsen have made that sentiment way more endearing than I think it was intended to be. When you actually know something about animal husbandry, his meaning changes from the way we typically understand it.

If you had to describe sheep, here are several words and phrases you could use:
  • helpless 
  • vulnerable 
  • fragile 
  • able to be injured or killed remarkably easily, especially by accident
I'm learning animal husbandry for my certification as a veterinary nurse. Sheep scare the shit out of me. Handle them wrong and you can literally snap their necks. Their skeletons are fragile. They can't regulate their body temperatures much beyond 50°F. If you handle them roughly, you can break their back legs. You can't grab them by the fleece because you can permanently ruin their skin. They can't jump especially well. They have no natural defenses of any kind. If you remove a baby from its mother before she can bond with it, even to save its life, she will abandon it entirely. Touch them wrong and you could do irreparable harm to them.
There's no such thing as a little "oops" with sheep. Every sheep has to be treated like the slightest injury is a big deal. There's no such thing as being too sensitive or too careful with sheep. Their feelings matter because they are incapable of withstanding any kind of violence. There is no place for violence in a sheep herd. 
The shepherd's biggest worry for the sheep isn't just that a predator could come and wipe them all out. It's also that he could literally kill them by accident through bad husbandry.  
If you fancy yourself any kind of shepherd like Jesus Christ was, in any kind of ministering capacity, you need to recognize that one of the greatest threats to its survival isn't wolves. 
It's you. 
Specifically, you assuming you know what you're doing whenever do not. Because in that scenario, it's not a question of if you will do irreparable harm to some of the sheep in your care. It's when and how.
To be a good shepherd is to love sheep in all of their "I'm allergic to tap water" glory. To care enough to know how to handle them with love, meeting all their needs, no matter what they are.
When we talk about Jesus being the Good Shepherd, that's what that means.


Seeing some folks asking how it's possible to stay in the Church while disagreeing fundamentally with current policy and messaging surrounding the LGBTQ+ community.

My answer isn't for everyone. I'm not recommending it as a solution to anyone. It's only a description of my motivation.

When I was a teenage convert, one of my closest friends who brought me into the Church came out to me as gay. I was the first person he ever told. This was before Prop 8, before sexuality was something that was openly discussed in the Church. We navigated the practical and spiritual conversations about what being gay in the Church meant when there was no help. No real resources, unless you wanted conversion therapy.

There was no one and nothing to help us, except each other.

I stay because there will be more kids in the Church like us. Lost, confused, and alone. I don't want any teenager to go through those moments of crisis alone. And if I leave, I take all of my ability to help the kids within my reach with me. 

I can totally understand why anyone wouldn't feel the same way. I will never tell anyone to stay against their needs or better judgment. That's not enough for some people. I have the privilege of not being in real danger at church in advocating for LGBTQ+ folks the way I do. I fully recognize that isn't true for many others, but it's true for me. I've had a lot of success opening and changing hearts. It's a work I feel called to do from within.

I enjoy being the person elbowing others in the ribs and saying "Make room!" at the table.

The Online Harassment and Violence of Matthew Cicotte


I'm not saying I want Matthias Cicotte kicked out of the Church. 

I don't want anyone to ever have to get kicked out, to be honest. Excommunication is a violence of its own. I don't know if we can correct violence with more violence. 

But clearly, doing nothing about #DezNat isn't working. Not giving any meaningful correction isn't working. Punishing all the wrong people isn't working.

I just want consistency. If what the September Six did was worthy of Church discipline, why isn't racism, sexism, antisemitism, and white supremacy? 

Why isn't actual violence and harassment of anyone, especially other members of the Church, considered apostasy?

Why is saying you love Heavenly Mother enough to pray to her a sin, but instigating actual physical violence and harassment against other church members is... fine?

Prejudice is a sin. So why aren't we treating it like one? 

Where I Was During Proposition 8

I was preparing my freshman year of college at BYU. The person I was dating, who brought me into the Church, had just come out to me as gay. If he hadn't told me the truth, there's a good chance we may have actually gotten married, so I felt that loss profoundly.

Moving beyond that was difficult and left me with a lot of unanswered questions of what would happen to him in a larger cosmic sense. He was the first person who made me realize that being gay wasn't a choice because he never would've chosen that for himself.

I felt for the first time that I was encountering something the Church and the Plan of Salvation hadn't prepared me for in any useful way. Every person I went to for help also didn't have answers for my questions, or how to understand God's place in all of this.

When I arrived at BYU, my roommate was a shy wisp of a person from California from old pioneer stock. Her stake had wrangled her into phone banking to track support of Prop 8.

I listened to her get yelled at for hours, watched as it tore away at her spirit.

I had a stronger, if not a more volatile, emotional constitution than her. One day, I asked her to please take a break and let me do it for her. I couldn't watch as the maw of Prop 8 was swallowing her whole.

"No. My leaders gave this to me. I have to do this."

Forever and forever, I will remember how that conversation changed me, the vehement rejection I felt for what I was seeing. What her local leadership in California put her through was violent, abusive, and wrong. No law, public policy, or so-called moral stance was worth that. That was the beginning of the cocktail of cognitive dissonance I've been sipping from ever since. The Church, as far as I'm concerned, doesn't come in any other flavor anymore.

Today, I support full affirmation and unrestricted fellowship for all of our LGBTQIA+ family. I'm waiting for Official Declaration 3. The Church has tried everything else, painting themselves into a similar corner they did with the racist priesthood and temple restrictions. 

Without our LGBTQIA+ folks, the Church has no future worth embracing. It will become a pawn for the religious right to continue enacting violence against innocent people. That's not what Christ would do. Church leadership is in a losing battle to present this situation in any other way to folks like me who were there, who remember how much of a needless and painful waste of resources it was.

Stop Trying to Pray the Gay Away

Rainbow Chair, Maki Yamaguchi

God conquering and subduing LGBTQIA+ bodies to force them to be heterosexual and cisgender is not miraculous.

That's why God doesn't do it. It's not because our Heavenly Parents don't care. They don't answer such prayers because they didn't make a mistake in the first place.

The same goes for parents who try to pray various aspects of their children's identities away.

You cannot fix what isn't broken. But you can break a lot of things, including hearts, when you force anyone to be someone they're not.

Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen.

2 Ne. 4:35

God does have the power to help us with our problems, including in miraculous ways. In the language of scripture, we have to learn to "ask not amiss." 

LGBTQ+ folks (including David Archuleta) are people to be loved, not problems to be solved.

Happy Pride to All Those Who Celebrate🏳️‍🌈

My baby sister (who is a grown adult) came out as bisexual this week on Facebook. She announced it by showing off her Pride swag from Starbucks. 

I'm simultaneously proud of her and secretly contemplating re-entering the cesspool of Facebook to destroy anyone who even looks at her wrong. She told me to stop being so overbearingly maternal towards her. She's 27. I'm trying, but I can't help it. She'll always be the Rugrat I fed macaroni and cheese to because no one else was going to do it.

Part of why she feels safe enough to do this now is because she's in a stable environment, surrounded by people who love her unconditionally. That's what every person deserves. This is what any God worth worshiping expects us all to be.

You don't know how to respond when someone comes out to you, especially in your family? Love them first. Love them always. Love them forever.
You don't want to feel conflicted about choosing that reaction for the people who matter to you when they come out? Then don't. It's that simple. Don't let anyone else come between you and interfere with that choice. That's not their place. It will never be their place.
The Church's appropriate place in this situation is to teach me how to love her the way she needs me to right now, the way Jesus does. That's how they can be supportive of the families God has ordained. Not abuse, condemnation, criticism, or rejection.
Anyone telling you to reject or condemn the people you love because of sexual orientation is not your friend. They don't care about you. They care about themselves and what other people think of them. They'd turn on you for a Klondike bar. Mark my words.
Anyway. I had rainbows trapped inside of me and had to get them out, or I was gonna explode and get them everywhere. 
🌈Happy Pride!🏳️‍🌈

How to Handle Missionaries After Leaving the Church

Former members of the Church. Let's talk about the frustration you feel whenever you find yourselves interacting with missionaries against your will.

Y'all hate when people knock on your door. You hate that your consent to withdraw is never respected. You hate when toxic messaging shows up uninvited.

And yes. You could choose to spread the emotional contagion around by taking those frustrations out on a couple of 18 year old strangers. You could try lashing out at the institution that has hurt you via the person who is now, and will probably always be, powerless to change the situations you're actually mad about.

And I understand the temptation. Believe me. When you've set boundaries, added your name to the ward's Do Not Contact list, or even taken you name off the records of the Church, and you still have missionaries showing up at your house. It's frustrating! Especially when you've done your best to decline politely, communicating with them as an adult by saying "The way you can serve me best right now is making sure you and others at church don't come to see me anymore."

You've done all the right things. But in the endless shuffle of missionaries coming and going, leadership changes, and unit boundary shuffling, they're still showing up.

But let me tell you a secret about being a missionary, from someone who served a mission.

Rather than wasting your energy getting angry at this situation, you could choose to occupy a permanent space in their head instead.

Do you know who haunts me still and keeps me up at night a decade later?

The people who were abused and abandoned by the Church who told me their stories. The ones who made me think, for the first time, "This isn't okay. This shouldn't be happening. They deserve better than this." Those are the moments that made me realize that as long as the Church won't serve everyone, it can't save everyone.

There was a gay man in my first area in Brazil who joined a different church after coming out to his family. We ran into him at a grocery store. We'd seen him before because part of his family was still active. He was a returned missionary. He loved God. He loved being part of a church community. And in the middle of the grocery store, he just started telling us his story.

What became obvious to me is that he never wanted to leave the Church. There was a very real part of him that still wanted to come back.

"How can I be there, being what I am?"

That question is forever carved into the side of my brain.

He did that. He changed my life forever in that moment. That was the first time I really understood what the Church loses, the harm it does, by refusing to affirm our LGBTQ+ community in full fellowship.

I cried myself to sleep that night because I wanted so badly to snap my fingers and make the Church better in this one way, and I just couldn't. There was nothing I could do for him. And he made me realize that in a way I can never deny again.

Because he chose to engage with me as a person, it gave me the opportunity to do the same with him. That interaction has permanently changed who I've become as a member of the Church. For the rest of my life, I'm different now because one former member of the Church chose to tell me his story.

Former members of the Church don't owe those who stay that emotional labor. But if you're in a situation where whatever combination of circumstances has brought missionaries to your door, it's worth remembering you have a choice in how you respond. And who knows? Maybe you have exactly the right message a young Elder or Sister needs to learn, and they can only learn it from you.

Why I'm Still Trying

I've talked quite a bit about how I've arrived on the other side of my crisis of certainty and the fuller embrace of my faith. I don't want to call this a "Why do I stay?" because that implies that I'm physically present on some consistent basis.

It's more like "Why am I still trying?"

The answer may not be profoundly feminist or original. But it's the truth. My husband and I have our own weird little corner of Mormonism that we occupy together. Our own private planet where our beliefs and experiences have a life of their own.

Because of his sense of humor, he's allergic to ever taking anything too seriously. He loves an irreverent joke. His favorite thing is when someone pops off with nonsense in sacrament meeting because he finds it endlessly funny. He goes to church, in part, to laugh at people.

As an uptight overachiever in recovery, I can't express to you how unnaturally this came to me. To me, Church was not for laughing. Church was for doing serious things for serious people who are serious because that is correct. 

So much of what bothers me about the Church experience doesn't phase him because he doesn't care at all about what other people think. I can't express to you how little he cares that there are people at Church who are openly ridiculous in what they say and do. He says to me over and over again, "They aren't why I go." What this means is our shared religious life stays largely between us. Other people aren't a part of it. It's just us, discussing thoughts and ideas together in a shared language of belief.

When institutional Church became unbearable for me to sit through, I still had him and our weird little space together. He didn't withdraw that from me. He didn't try to force orthodoxy on me. He just gave me the space to figure out my own inner world and shared in it with me.

I've seen a lot of cases where Mormonism becomes another thing that pulls a couple apart when one of them chooses to distance themselves from the institutional Church. My husband never did that to me. He didn't let that happen to us. He went through it with me. I'm not the same person I was when we got married. I will probably never be that person again. He didn't view that as some violation of some contract we had. I don't owe him that. Change is part of the messy business of being human. He'd be the first person to tell you that.

I don't want the version of Mormonism that doesn't believe in science or vaccination, endorses insurrection, disrespects women, and turns a blind eye to racism and the torture of LGBTQ+ people. I want the version of Mormonism that exists in my home, where none of that is welcome. I want to inhabit the version of Mormonism that lives in my husband's heart, where respect, equality, and good sense are paramount. Where nobody is ever a second-class citizen, least of all me. 

Why do I believe there is a future in the Church I'm willing to try for? Because I see it, fully embodied, in the person my husband already is, and in the person he's becoming. 

In our home, we don't have to wait for some unknowable future to see it. It's already here.

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