A Brief Introduction

Endeavoring to define myself outside of a "job title." I'm a nomad of sorts who fell in love with technology, activism, and helping others. I run a web & media consulting firm, have a blog specifically for activists & non-profits, and travel often. I love talking about theology, politics, and social change. I love doing something about it even more. I also like to be a well-rounded and fully present person. That's why I write here. Connect with me on twitter

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Concerning Mormonism

As I was looking up searches that had led to hits on my blog, I found BYU-I College Democrats and their post about the then-upcoming Soulforce visit. The author gives a brief explanation of Soulforce and Equality Ride from his perspective and goes on to give his thoughts on the matter. A rather heated exchanged follows in the Comments section. With the ride behind us, I wanted to throw my voice into the mix... hopefully to better clarify our goals for our visits and to aid in a path towards reconciliation. I'll repost my thoughts here:

As one of the riders from the 2007 Soulforce Equality Ride, I'd like to take a little time to comment on the ride in general and the 2007 visits to BYU-Provo and BYU-I.

I know it's a little bit dated but it came up in a Google search I was running...

I hope that the students of BYU-I had time to speak with the riders as we stood oustide of the school or at BYU-Provo as we walked around it for hours. I'm sure if you did you would see that we neither forced a dialogue with anyone we talked to nor did we ever call a person a bigot. Conversations must be two-sided and all of the conversations that I engaged in were consensual, civil, and mutually enriching--even when I spoke to individuals with views different from my own.

I was raised Protestant Christian but over the course of the ride, spent weeks speaking with our LDS riders about the Church and the faith. It is such a beautiful faith, I wish I had been exposed to it earlier in life. I even procured a Book of Mormon which I have begun to read. The RM that I spent the most time speaking with once called attention to the Holy Ghost witnessing to me as well... it was a surreal experience.

But now I am at a crossroads. I am gay. That is an anthropological fact of my existence. The First Presidency and The Twelve Apostles recognize that sexual orientation is often beyond conscious choice and often cannot be changed. They even recommend against opposite-sex marriage for those individuals who have a homosexual orientation.

So now what do I do? I have been presented with this beautiful faith. A faith with much purpose. A faith founded on family. But a faith that tells me I have no place in it. Where do I go and what do I do?

I have seen what other GLBT Mormons have done. They have tried to change themselves--and they have failed. For every major medical, psychological, and sociological organizations agrees that it is impossible to change one's orientation (and the General Authorities tacitly agree).

I have seen them try to hold down relationships with members of the opposite sex. Hoping for normalcy and to fit into this beautiful theological system. But that is not honest. It is not honest to the partner, to the person, or to God.

I have read statements that say there will be no homosexual desires in the next life and that an individual should do everything in his or her power to avoid "sinful behavior." I have known bright, rational, grounded individuals be gradually driven to either contemplate or attempt suicide because they feel it is their only option. And I have seen that once they make peace with the way Heavenly Father created them, once they find supportive family, friends, and Church members... thoughts of suicide would never enter into their mind. These are not clinically depressed individuals, they are individuals who have been pushed to the edge and who know no other option.

Soulforce and the Equality Ride is sometimes misrepresented by school administrations or the media. I have heard it said that we just want to create a media spectacle to further "our agenda." Our only goal truly is to engage in conversations. That is what we do everywhere go. Look at MidAmerica Nazarene, Pepperdine, Fresno Pacific, George Fox, Seattle Pacific, Northwest, Northwest Nazarene, Dordt, and others. We spent hours and sometimes days in honest, Christ-centered dialogue about who we are as individuals and what we believe in and why. I know that at every school stop where the West Bus was on campus, administrators told us that they were happy to have us and that while we disagree, the conversations were mutually enriching. I would second that opinion. We can still learn from one another and grow to understand one another better.

In places like Provo, Rexburg, Billings, and Ellendale where the schools would not let us on campus, we had conversations nonetheless. I attended a student discussion group in Provo with over 75 BYU students present. We hosted dinner conversations and picnics in parks. We talked in restaurants, coffee shops, and on street corners. We listened and we learned.

At each stop I learned so much about the denominations of the school and of the individuals in attendance. I took away so much from the past two months, from every encounter that I had, and I'd like to think that I made an impression on at least a few people along the way.

Change happens. In society, slavery was abolished and so was segregation. In the LDS faith, blacks were allowed to enter the priesthood and plural marriage came to an end. Only the Prophet has the power to enact sweeping change but in the meantime, we are allowed to talk about it. There was discussion about blacks in the priesthood long before the change took place. Learning more about our GLBT brothers and sisters is not sinful, nay it is necessary. Nor does engaging in this conversation mean we must abandon our beliefs. Just because change happened in the past, doesn't mean it will happen in the future. Even if no one ever changes their attitudes (which, is entirely a person's right), conversation and growing understanding will still be beneficial. We are all Heavenly Father's children...I can't imagine Jesus not wanting to know us better!

I understand that we are all imperfect humans and thus sometimes people react in less then Christ-like ways when they find out someone is gay, but only through openly and candidly addressing these issues can we hope for improvement.

It was my honest desire at every stop not to change anyone's mind but to learn more about them and tell them more about myself. To hear about their faith journey and to share my own. Four GLBT youths take their life every day, this is something we need to talk about.

I hope if the Equality Ride returns to BYU-I next year you will take some time out of your schedule to go speak with them. I think you'd find we have much in common. And if not, feel free to email us. I would be happy to talk with you or put you in contact with one of our LDS riders.

This is an issue that is dividing the country and ripping families a part. I would like to be a part of the solution and I would like you to be as well. And I think that the first step is talking to one another. That's all I'm asking.


Looking back, I worry that I did not adequately answer the blogger's question, "What are they trying to do?" Or maybe, why are we trying to do this. BYU-I (and other colleges we visit) may not actively "teach homophobia" or hold anti-gay rallies, but the policies they hold and the positions they espouse regarding sexual orientation marginalize, silence, and relegate GLBT members of the faith. This is spiritually, emotionally, and psychological damaging to the individual. It is also my belief that is damaging to God's community on Earth. We come to these schools to bring a different perspective. A perspective that affirms individuals who happen to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. We come to speak about our experiences as GLBT individuals and as believers. We come to support those students who are suffering in silence on these campuses. We come to be present, to be witnesses. We come because these beliefs are causing mothers to wish death upon their sons, causing sisters to leave the faith, causing loved ones to kill themselves.

We come because this conversation is too important not to have.

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