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

Sex and Gender in Creation

M82 Galaxy, Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI/CXC/UofA/ESA/AURA/JHU

So the whole approach that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has with gender, and it being an eternal binary and complementary? And they say that binary is necessary because sex is necessary to creation?

Let's unpack that and throw it into the recycle bin.

So Creation involves two different creative acts at its core, which I want to discuss:

  1. Making Stuff
  2. Making People

Scripture gives us a couple different accounts of the Creation. 

In Genesis, God (understood singularly) creates everything, with the exception of "Let us make man in our image." That statement remains plural in a way that goes totally unacknowledged and unexplained in the text. 

Moses 2 then has God speaking in the first person telling this story. 

We learn during the endowment that the Creation involved a collective effort between God, Jehovah (the premortal name of Jesus), and Michael (the premortal name of Adam). 

The creation of Stuff in these depictions are non-sexual in nature, and nonsensically male. Especially since Abraham 4 calls this a collaboration between plural Gods. With God being a title that is shared, according to Mormonism, between perfected heterosexual couples, it simply makes no sense that our conceptions of Creation do not include women anywhere. That's not how they're read, understood, or taught in any official capacity. 

The label of "God" didn't yet apply to Jehovah or Michael in their premortal, unembodied, unordained, and unendowed states. But somehow, we are more comfortable with their participation in the Creation than we are with acknowledging the perfected, resurrected, empowered contributions of our own Heavenly Mother.

We're supposed to base our entire notion of divinity on the power of sealed men and women—and no other type of relationship. But our understanding and presentations of the Creation are too timid to even acknowledge that any woman was even there.

If gender matters so much in the creation of Stuff that women don't even get to participate, or approach in no way supports the need for women in these partnerships. And if women were present for and are essential to the Creation, then the way we interpret and teach the Scripture needs to change drastically to include women. One has to give away to the other.

And then there's reproduction! Surely it takes a combination of the right equipment, requiring both men and women in the gender binary to reproduce! This may be where the sidewalk ends in terms of "the known world" in Mormonism, but this is the reason we give, more than any other, for the justification of why we cling to the gender binary.

The greatest incongruence between what we believe and what we teach on this front is apparent in the endowment. In that depiction, there are no women present. Returning to Scripture, there is no need to see it this way. Abraham 4 speaks plurally about the Creation of Adam and Eve, that there are multiple participants there. Genesis 1 or Moses 2 can also read this way if we get comfortable with the voice of God including both Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother, a duet of voices instead of a solo masculine voice. That's not what we teach, but I believe it should be.

You can have a cosmology in which women are so important to a heterosexual couple, no eternal union is complete without one. Or you can contradict this notion entirely and maintain that God's children only need a Father. And these thoughts do contradict each other at their core. Yet somehow, they've existed together in the air we breathe for so long, we don't even have the language to name this contradiction unless we gather it from somewhere outside of our community. But pointing out that contradiction isn't enough for some people to challenge the gender binary as anything less than divine.

Nevermind that sex and gender are delineated separately in Scripture—male and female created first, Man and Woman named second.

Nevermind that there's no necessary connection between gender and what reproductive capabilities and equipment someone may or may not have.

Nevermind the way the flimsy eternal gender binary falls apart every time another intersex person is born neither male nor female, as if that detail somehow escaped God's perfect notice—whoops! Like God suddenly forgot their own rules.

We are at a place in scientific advancement where we can produce healthy biological offspring between same sex parents. That technology and capability is new to us, but none of it is new to God. God understands genetics, and has for the entire history of our relationship with them. The potential and ability to use genetics in this way has been there this entire time. As with all assistive reproductive technologies, creating life doesn't cease to be sacred just because a penis never entered a vagina at any point. And if that's the hill we're dying on, that battle was lost back in the 1980s when gamete donation and IVF became a normal part of reproductive healthcare. The children born from medical interventions in pregnancy aren't lesser people because of how they were conceived. There's no reason for this to be different for queer couples who use those technologies, even as it defies what we've traditionally thought as being necessary to create life.

So what makes sex holy? Is it the gender binary? The monogamy? The presence of a sealing ceremony? The ability to produce offspring? Which parts of heterosexual coupling are the necessary elements to honor and serve God?

It's not monogamy, and there are many dead polygamists who will fight you on sight for suggesting it.

Infertile couples will tell you it's not the ability or inability to produce offspring. None of us are being thrown out or blocked from full participation in the Church because of that.

"Children are entitled to a mother and a father," they say. But single parents, widows and widowers who don't remarry, don't have their sealings cancelled because their children are missing a parent of a certain gender. 

None of these justifications for maintaining the gender binary as a necessary part of our faith holds up to scrutiny. And since the sealing ceremony is being withheld from people based on their adherence to the gender binary, queer exclusion is a policy with no real valid justification other than "We've always done it that way," and "because we said so."

But let's say none of this convinces you. The idea that queer people in same-sex relationships cannot bear their own children is the hill you're willing to crucify others on. Within the structure of eternal family building, this still doesn't matter because adoptive sealings exist! 

If my husband and I adopted a child and my brothers-in-law adopted a child, we are both equally shut out of those children's lives because we didn't give birth to them in the covenant, and are therefore not sealed to them. The circumstances are identical. The roll that will fix it is identical. Because sealing works for me and my husband in our relationship, there is no necessary reason why it wouldn't similarly work for queer couples of whatever configuration. 

The seating solution would exist deep into eternity, especially for the number of eternal families that will end up divided over queer rejection. According to one of the speakers at general conference last week, no one is going to be forced to remain in a familial sealing where they don't feel safe, valued, and respected. For that reason, there will be many queer people in search of families in eternity, from every age and culture in the world.

We have to start acknowledging that the formation of these families is a better solution than forcing queer people into celibacy—a state which is contrary to divine mandate, happiness itself, and the ability for anyone to receive their full inheritance in the Kingdom of God. If the only alternatives you can come up with for queer relationships are ones that God would reflect because of how they harm individuals and place their relationships on unequal footing with everyone else, it's a good indication that it's a man-made problem paired with shoddy human problem-solving. An all-knowing God wouldn't set someone up to fail from something they can't change in such an eternally unfair way. (See Genesis 2:18 and D&C 38:24-27)

What this really comes down to, the more I think about it, is the insecurity that comes to people of a certain age and status in the Church in admitting they are wrong. There is fear in having to acknowledge the holiness in all kinds of love, and all the many kinds of relationships that are born out of this love.

If anyone can fall in love with anyone and form a family, then doesn't that make MY family less special and holy?

No. Of course not. Unless your family relationships were born out of duty and obligation instead of love, and you now have to admit that there was no need to put yourself, or anyone else, through that. I've personally been left holding the bag with church policies that are disavowed only after they've done damage to me. The harm that has happened to others is no justification for ongoing harm. If the best time to have changed that approach was twenty years ago, the next best time is now.

The insistence of heterosexual supremacy in the Church is full of contradictions, which should be our first clue that it doesn't come from God. It's preventing us from taking the gospel "into all the world," according to the injunction the Savior gave to his original apostles. It's preventing the fullness of the gospel from reaching many who cannot access it because of their sexual orientation and gender expression, which have never been and never will be valid reasons to withhold access to God from anyone. (See Mark 16:15, 2 Nephi 26, and Alma 32)

Queer people deserve to participate fully in the Church. They deserve to be sealed in the temple to their partners. They deserve to know the joy that comes from being able to form eternal families. They deserve to be able to seek out valid and essential healthcare without having their positions in the Church threatened or questioned in any way. They deserve to be in the pews with us, presenting as who they truly are. Honesty is the Spirit of worship, and we need to stop asking queer people around us to build their lives on foundations of lies and deceit for the comfort of others at church.

Don't let anyone tell you this has to be difficult. It's not difficult to see the unnecessary obstacles created by policy. It's easy to recognize them for what they are and commit to getting rid of them. The love we have for God, which requires us to love ALL of God's children, should compel us to make these things right. We should want to envision the arms of God stretching out wide enough to include everyone in this world.

Being the voice of a loving God, who doesn't fail and is not a hypocrite in that love, is the easiest thing in the world. We would all know that if that was the God we worshiped.

And, as a warning that is needed by some: just because you do not worship a God who loves and honors queerness doesn't mean that version of God doesn't exist. It does mean you've prevented yourself from perceiving God that way.

In the same way those who have claimed to serve God have justified slavery, you will end up with egg on your face when you realize God does not endorse forced subjugation and exclusion of anyone. Affirmation, like abolition, is simply the right thing to do. No appeals to Scripture will ever change that.

We don't have to keep making this mistake. We can believe that when God said he loves all people, that all are welcome and none are forbidden, that God is no respecter of persons, that we are all children of God—we can believe it.

Instead of fighting the will of God, we stop making excuses and just... do it.

"You Can't Do That" and Other Stumbling Blocks

When I was investigating the Church, I told the people around me I wanted to get baptized after I'd only been to services a few times. I hadn't read much of The Book of Mormon. There were many things I didn't know or understand. But I had felt the Spirit of God and knew that this was the place where I would find God. I knew I was supposed to be baptized.

What was the response?

"You can't do that."

They didn't have missionaries. They didn't have anyone to teach me the discussions. I was coming to Church in a different place from where I lived because of where my friends, who were members and who had invited me, were living.

It got bad enough that I set a date for myself to get baptized and told them they had that long to figure it out and deal with their scruples. And they did.

Then I found out about patriarchal blessings in one of the lessons I had in Young Women. I wanted mine. I went to my branch president and told him that.

"You can't do that."

I hadn't been to church long enough. Could I wait a year? Six months?

But that's not what the lesson I was taught said. It said that if I felt like I was ready, then I could have one. So I showed up outside of my branch president's office every week for over a month to ask again. Finally, he talked to the stake president, who told him there was no rule or timeline mandated in the Handbook of Instruction that prevented me from receiving my patriarchal blessing. I finally received it 4 months after I was baptized.

Then I went to Brigham Young University. I was in one of my favorite wards I've ever attended. Everyone around me was so kind and supportive. They helped me deepen my knowledge of the restored gospel and the scriptures. And when all the young men in my classes started receiving mission calls, I wanted to as well. I felt "called to the work," and the Doctrine and Covenants said that was enough.

"You can't do that."

They didn't let women serve at 19 at the time. I had to wait. Why? Because I might get married instead. The hypothetical possibility of reserving me for a man was more important than the calling I had received from God.

I had the opportunity to serve in the temple regularly for the first time in my life. I was from an area where the temple was two hours away, which meant I got to go only a couple times a year, at most. As the only member in my family, I had many names to do. And as the endowments started piling up, I could feel the weight of my responsibility to get the names done weighing on me. I didn't have a ward full of endowed people to rely on in my student wards. It was just me. And the more I went to the temple, the more I craved that divine closeness, the spiritual support for how much harder it was for me to be a member of the Church than it was for everyone else. I was totally on my own, no support from large extended families like they had. I needed more support to come from somewhere. So I started asking to receive my endowment.

"You can't do that."

I needed to be getting married (preferably, in their minds) or serving a mission to get endowed. That was the rule at the time. It didn't matter that I already wanted to serve a mission. It would be so much more special if I could go with my husband! Didn't I see that? My life was just supposed to stay on hold for him, whoever he was. The idea that I would have a spiritual development and progression separate from his was a totally foreign idea at the time, and wasn't reason enough for me to receive my own endowment. Meanwhile, as the ordinances in my own family backed up higher and higher because I was in student wards with no access to the endowment or other endowed people, I was just stuck and alone.

Then the identity of the mysterious young man I would eventually marry was revealed to me. Hurray! And we both went on missions. We were planning our wedding. And after years of alienating my family with all the milestones of my adult life they didn't get to witness because I was in Utah thousands of miles away, I wanted to have a ring ceremony so they could at least watch me get married.

"You can't do that."

And every reason I was given, especially the one that it took away from the validity and the sacredness of my temple sealing, was later disavowed when they did away with this rule.

All of this to say, I've been in the Church for almost 18 years. I have seen so many changes come into the Church and its culture in that time. The things that were impediments to me as a young believer and convert are no longer there, in part because I left so many bloody knuckle prints on heaven's door, pleading for these things to change. Heaven bore witness to how many times I was told "You can't do that" by my own community—with shallow, indefensible reasons for why my journey needed to be so much harder and lonelier than it needed to be.

Changes like these do not come about simply by waiting. They come because the faithful, especially those who are most affected by the lack of change, keep praying and pleading with heaven for change. The hurt goes on the altar because it never should've been mine to carry. Let God witness it. Let him see, feel, and know the burdens I bore in his name, solely at the behest of my community whose reasoning for it was poor and indefensible because it all came down to a single failure: they couldn't begin to imagine the impact their choices were having on me. And until they could begin to understand it, they could never conceive of why their status quo needed to change. Their ignorance and desire to remain in what was familiar and comfortable was a form of bondage to me. That was true.

But what was equally true was that there was nothing wrong or evil in pushing back against all of that, with all the strength I possessed. I would live to see so many of these stumbling blocks I encountered change for those who came behind me. Young people in my church community today don't have to make many of the same choices I did anymore—and thank God for that! I called down the powers of heaven to me to witness these burdens so no one else would ever have to carry them again! I have been witness to the power that these prayers—my prayers—have had to build the kingdom of God on the earth by affecting these changes.

And we're not done. There are many more such changes that need to come to fruition , including (but not limited to) making the Church fully accessible to everyone in our community. Our LGBTQIA+ and disabled people, our women and single Saints, our marginalized, abused, and forgotten in communities of color all over this world.

The kingdom of Heaven is not built, our work is not finished, until ALL are safely gathered in. That is, until they all CAN be safely gathered in. Until all that resists unity, diversity, equity, and inclusion that will define Heaven are removed by the Saints, whose job it is to build that kingdom. To never say again to someone who is trying to come to Christ "you can't do that."

Because with enough time and effort from the Saints, you'll find they can, in fact, do that.

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? 

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