April 16, 2011

For Mormons Only (Update)

This is probably long overdue, as it's a sequel to a much earlier posting, which you can find at the following link.

It's no secret that I was against Proposition 8, the California voting measure that was meant to restrict the ability of gays to marry. I've tried to think of a way to say the following without seeming critical, but rather than mince words, let me simply relay what I believe to be factual developments regarding the initiative and my church.

In a way, the area where I live was a battle ground as it pertains to the LDS Church’s support of Prop 8.  My stake contains an extremely liberal and social-minded ward in Berkeley, where many of the members are university professors and other highly educated professionals.  However, the further inland one goes, the more conservative are the members.  The wards on the eastern border of my stake raised a lot of money to support Prop 8 and some of their youth groups were encouraged to go door-to-door to promote it.

My ward, Moraga, sits in the middle of the stake both geographically and politically.  After the election, our ward attempted to achieve a reconciliation among the divided membership.  Other wards tried to do the same.  Our stake president, seeing that there was a problem, went from congregation to congregation with a message that I found comforting (I had stopped going to church, but a number of people had told me that I should attend this special meeting).  Of his many comments, here are a few that stand out for me.  First, he said his remarks had been approved at the highest levels of the LDS church.  Second, he said that being gay was "unbidden," a term I like.  What he meant by it is that people don't invite same sex attraction into their lives.  In fact, he said it was obvious to him that no actively engaged member of the church would ever choose to be gay, given the difficulties such a decision engenders.  This is as close to an admission that homosexuality is not a choice that I've heard from an ecclesiastical leader.  Third, he said the church no longer recommends gay members to "just get married" with someone of the opposite sex.  That had been the policy in the past and it had led to incredibly sad stories of broken homes and lives.  Fourth, he said gay members who remain in the church deserve our compassion, if not our admiration.  If they're to live according to church dictates, they are destined to truly lonely lives devoid of physical intimacy.

I believe the issue continues to be divisive here as evidenced by something that happened several months ago.  The church leadership sent Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy to our stake conference and he held a by-invitation-only meeting that Sunday morning.  I was invited, but was unable to go.  Apparently, however, the meeting room was full of members who had been disappointed by the church's stance on Prop 8.  From what I understand, Elder Jensen said several things of interest.  First, he called himself an "administrator" with little influence in the church, but he was willing to deliver a message to its leadership regarding the feelings of its members.  This is an interesting admission, since as a general authority, he is deemed to speak for God.  Second, he admitted that the church had made mistakes in its handling of Prop 8 and he was sorry for the hurt that the actions had caused.  Then he let people stand and tell their stories.  Many of the speakers were parents of gay children, who felt that the church had abandoned them.  By the meeting's end, there were very few dry eyes in the room.  Elder Jensen appeared visibly moved and said he would relay the stories to Salt Lake.  I'm left with the impression that there is not only division among the members, but also among the leaders on this issue.  I hope the church soon adopts a more enlightened stance.

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