Delicious, Poisoned Soup
The LDS Church has launched a new website, mormonsandgays.org, which specifically addresses the needs of gay and lesbian members.
I looked over the website anxiously, hoping that maybe the Church was finally making some progress. The words “gay and lesbian” were used to describe us, after all, which seemed a major advance. We were no longer just “so-called” homosexuals. They used the right words.
But only once. Everywhere else on the site, we’re still called “same-sex attracted.”
That’s a problem.
Yet some would say the important point is that the Church is asking its members to treat those suffering from same-sex attraction with love and dignity, surely a significant change.
But that’s where another problem arises. We’re not “suffering” from same-sex attraction. We aren’t carrying the “burden” of same-sex attraction. Same-sex attraction isn’t our “cross to bear.”
But the Church makes it clear that we’re welcome back at church, if we repent.
Does President Monson feel he needs to repent of his relationship with his wife? No? Well, I don’t feel I need to repent of my relationship with my husband, either.
Does Elder Packer believe that making love to his wife is something abhorrent to God? Well, I don’t feel that making love to my husband is abhorrent to God, either.
What Mormon leaders, and the Mormon people, don’t understand, is that these things are equal.
The tired old line we hear from the Church is, “We all have to abide by the same commandments, whether we’re gay or we’re straight.” If only that were true. Heterosexual Mormons are commanded to marry. We’re forbidden. Heterosexual Mormons get to experience a rewarding and loving intimate relationship. We don’t.
Until the Church acknowledges that my marriage is the same as their marriage, not a weakness, not an addiction, not a moral failing, there can never be any honest dialogue. If Mormons cannot see this, it will be exceedingly difficult for there to be any meaningful discussion. We can see it perfectly. It’s not a difficult concept.
The Church is saying, ever so sweetly, that heterosexuals can and should have as their highest earthly goal a temple marriage, an essential part of reaching the Celestial Kingdom and becoming like Heavenly Father. But if we find that perfect, special partner that we want to share eternity with, we can just go to hell. Literally. Or maybe, if we try very, very hard to be good little boys and girls, we can spend eternity in a lower order as ministering angels to heterosexual gods.
Sound like a raw deal? How can it be? It’s said with love.
On TED video, I saw recently an experiment done with Capuchin monkeys. They were asked to perform a simple task, handing over a small pebble, in exchange for a reward. The researchers gave each of two monkeys a slice of cucumber every time they completed the task. Even though cucumber is not a preferred food for Capuchin monkeys, they performed the task dozens of times in a row, as long as they were each given the same reward.
But then the researchers started giving one of the two monkeys a red grape as a reward, while still giving the other one a slice of cucumber.
You should have seen the reaction. The monkey receiving the cucumber shook the bars of his cage. It slapped the table repeatedly. It picked up the cucumber and threw it in the face of the researcher.
It knew it was being treated unfairly.
The Church is of course free to make its own rules regarding its own members. As long as they cease funding millions and millions of dollars to political campaigns to deny me civil rights, they can do whatever they want with their own adherents.
I really do want to see the website as progress, but since there is no doctrinal or policy change, what difference does the Church “being nice” actually make? If it’s still forbidden for me to marry the man I love, then offering me “kindness” isn’t the same thing as offering me a place at the table. Maybe the website and the new attitude will help some people, but it’s not changing my life for the better in any tangible way that I can see.
It reminds me of a scene from a children’s book I read recently, Liesl and Po. Liesl’s wicked stepmother wants to kill the girl so she can inherit the girl’s money. The stepmother cooks some delicious soup for Liesl but puts poison in it. The girl is locked in the attic and so must decide whether she wants to starve to death or be poisoned. She can eat the delicious soup, which will be satisfying at first but which will inevitably kill her.
That seems to be the choice offered to us as well.