“All are alike unto God”

This past Monday Kate Kelly was excommunicated from the LDS Church.  She is the founder of Ordain Women (OW), a group that “aspires to create a space for Mormons to articulate issues of gender inequality they may be hesitant to raise alone. As a group [they] intend to put [them]selves in the public eye and call attention to the need for the ordination of Mormon women to the priesthood” (OW title page).

John Dehlin, the founder of mormonstories.org, also faces charges of apostasy and will face his “court of love” on Sunday (29 June) to decide what his membership status will be.

As I have strolled through social media since Kate Kelly’s excommunication I have noticed  that many seem to be “high-fiving” themselves over the expulsion of this apparent heretic.  People touting how wrong she is, feeling that her excommunication is proof that her cause and belief are false.  Sharing the title of Mormon with such people causes me great shame.  No one should rejoice in the expulsion of a child of God.  She has committed no great crime, no murder.  I understand that reasons for her excommunication are more for the organization she has created than the belief she proclaims.  Not for the belief that women should be ordained to the priesthood, but instead due to the demonstrations and the teaching of that belief and her purported desire to amass a great following for herself and in so doing lead others astray.  HERE is a First Presidency response and HERE is where a portion of the official excommunication letter can be found.  While I share her belief that women will one day receive the priesthood (really people, it’s not that strange of an idea), clearly her methods have thus far been ineffective.  I do not know what a better way is, but I hope that the momentum she has created, the dialogue she has opened, will continue.  I heard that she plans to appeal the ruling against her and can only hope for the best.  Hope that hearts will be moved to compassion and that she will be allowed to stay.

“In this Church there is an enormous amount of room—and scriptural commandment—for studying and learning, for comparing and considering, for discussion and awaiting further revelation. We all learn ‘line upon line, precept upon precept,’ with the goal being authentic religious faith informing genuine Christlike living. In this there is no place for coercion or manipulation, no place for intimidation or hypocrisy.”

– Jeffrey R. Holland, “A Prayer for the Children,” Ensign, May 2003

I know many that have announced their desire to leave the Church if the excommunications of Kate Kelly and John Dehlin are carried out.  I add my voice to Kate’s: The decision to force me outside my congregation and community is exceptionally painful. Today is a tragic day for my family and me as we process the many ways this will impact us, both in this life and in the eternities. I love the gospel and the courage of its people. Don’t leave. Stay, and make things better (emphasis added).  I will stay in the Church not in support of aforementioned actions or even in proclamation of its (the LDS Church’s) unquestionable veracity, but because if I leave, then who will ask the questions?  Without the queer community in the Church, what motive will it have to accept us?  Without the feminists who have the courage to stand for a belief, even in the face of excommunication, who will help end the sexism expressed all over the Church?  I mean really people, a woman prayed in General Conference and it was a big deal.  That is ridiculous!  That should just be a normal thing!  Why is it that only men are financial clerks?  Or Sunday school presidents?  What manly merit makes males more competent than females in those roles (and vice versa with Primary presidencies)?  These are roles that require no priesthood and still women are excluded from them.  But now I’m just getting side-tracked.

One day, I have faith that there will be a Conference talk such as THIS ONE, asking members to discount all previous statements that have promoted the unanswerable patriarchy of the Church (and gay/queer discrimination/prejudice as well).

One day....

And John Dehlin.  I am so thankful for that man and the voice he has raised for Mormons of all belief levels (“…regardless of your circumstances, your personal history, or the strength of your testimony, there is room for you in this Church.”—President Dieter Uchtdorf).  Many of his beliefs may be “unorthodox,” or rather not mainstream Mormon doctrine, but that should in no way be a reason to exclude him from the Church.

“I admire men and women who have developed the questing spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas as stepping stones to progress. We should, of course, respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to dissent–if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression… This free exchange of ideas is not to be deplored as long as men and women remain humble and teachable. Neither fear of consequence or any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences. … We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it.”

– Hugh B. Brown

Dehlin says, “In 2005 I started Mormon Stories Podcast as a way to model open, honest discussion of difficult Mormon issues, and to provide a place for struggling Mormons to work through these concerns.”  His counsel is neither to stay in the Church nor to leave it, but to do whatever is best for each individual.  Or in other words, that everybody is different and what works for one person might not work for another.  Which to me just seems obvious.  Why, then, is this being treated as such a radical viewpoint?  Ironically, Dehlin reports that thousands of individuals have testified that Mormon Stories has helped them to stay in the Church.

For the body is not one member, but many.  If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?  And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?  If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?  But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.   And if they were all one member, where were the body?  But now are they many members, yet but one body.  And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.  Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:  And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.

KJV 1 Corinthians 12:14-23

Questions are necessary in the Mormon Church.  In every Church, organization, family, work, or anything else; if there are only blind followers, then it is too easy to lose your way.  And there are many Church leaders who affirm this.  Quotes such as THESE give me hope for Mormonism.  Hope that change will come.  That there are still many great and important things yet to be revealed (Article of Faith 9).  In fact, I’m counting on it.

“[The Lord] doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God”

The Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 26:33

-Daniel

PRIDE!!!!

This was an incredible experience.  I marched with Mormons Building Bridges.  There was just so much love everywhere.  I went alone, but met Danielle, Kate, and Andrea and marched with them.  Even though I hardly knew them, or anyone else there really, it didn’t matter.  We were of one heart and one mind.  I can’t wait until Provo Pride on September 20th.

As great as that was, the whole thing with John and Kate really upset me.  There are claims of acceptance and diversity by the church, but now excommunication threats are being made.  It just hurts that any voice that varies a little is silenced.  It makes me wonder if there will be a place for me.

-Daniel

Paper Towns

John Green is my author of the season.  Unfortunately, the number of books he has published is small, so with The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska, and Paper Towns already read (An Abundance of Katherines sits next to my bed waiting for me to digest and write about Paper Towns), there isn’t a whole lot more of him for me to read.

Following is what I wrote to a friend of mine on her LDS mission in Florida about the book:

On Sunday I binge read (and finished) a book, Paper Towns,by John Green. Quick synopsis: Q (short for Quinton) is approaching high school graduation when his neighbor/friend/crush, Margo, runs away from home, leaving him cryptic clues as to her whereabouts. As he progresses through, he learns how to really see people for who they are.

It is easy to forget that other people are real people too. They actually have hopes, fears, and dreams just like I do. They aren’t merely characters in the story of my life, but have stories of their own. Too often I see only mirrors in them; or rather I only see me in them. Instead, I should look for windows to see them as they are instead of as a reflection of myself. For example: I believe that [someone, let’s say Steve] has issues understanding and accepting the gay thing because he views it as unnatural, a farce of a love. He has a hard time believing that a committed, monogamous, homosexual relationship/marriage could work. For him it isn’t “Love=Love,” but “Heterosexual Love>whatever those gays lust for.”  Yes, I intentionally used “gay” incorrectly as a noun instead of an adjective for emphasis. To be fair though, I have a hard time seeing him as he is instead of seeing him how I think he should be, reflecting my own hopes/dreams/desires. Though I use the gay example, it works for nearly everything. Mormons are often seen as judgmental because we believe others should reflect our own values instead of accepting them as they are. The same is true of almost every political thing ever. Wars. Arguments. Everything.

The perfect example of someone who sees windows is Christ. He is able to see us as we are. Suffer with us. Mourn with us. Rejoice with us. He has felt what I felt when I hated myself for liking boys. Or the gender dysphoria of those who do not fit the gender binary of today. He knows my pain not because of the abuses he experienced during his life; the beatings, the scourging, the betrayal, but because in some divinely inconceivable way he became me, living through my woes. He felt my relative take their life, becoming my relative. He felt his son’s anger at his parent who abandoned him long before a son should bury his parent. In the performance of the atonement Christ not only brought humans to God and made them more God-like, but he made God accessible to humans, making Him more human. A human who has lived the however many billions of lives that have passed on the earth. And because of that we are able to take His name on us, give His name as ours. And when we do so at that great judgment day, every fault and sorrow in our registrar in the Book of Life will read, “Paid in full.” Because He paid what we cannot, we escape the punishment that He deserved not, but took anyway.

The mirrors concept also ties in nicely with the circles that I was talking about last week, the part about not forcing parts of yourself on others and instead seeing and loving them as they are.

Windows can sometimes act as mirrors, depending on where the light is brighter.  You will see wherever the brightest light is.  If you look at a person with the goal of outshining them you will never see them.  Looking for the light they already have will reveal them.  Sometimes this might mean dimming your own light, showing your weakness, so that you meet them where they are at, then shine together.  Green in Paper Towns quotes Walt Whitman in saying that the ultimate goal is to become someone else.  Christ did that. One day we will be able to as well.

They who dwell in his presence are the church of the Firstborn; and they see as they are seen, and know as they are known, having received of his fulness and of his grace;

And he makes them equal in power, and in might, and in dominion.

-D&C 76:94-95

-Daniel

Perfect/Complete

This is the second half of “The End of the Line/As Far As We Go.”  I felt that they belonged together, but not in the same post.

Perfect/Complete

 

My friend Leica (pronounced like Lisa) for the past two weeks has been performing “Perfect/Complete.”  She started with a dot on a twelve foot canvas, drew a circle around that dot, then drew a circle around the previous circle and thus continued with her performance.  My friend, Rick, took the above photo on day three (I believe) of this.  She dedicated at least eight hours each day to the performance.

As is seen in the photo, the circles are hardly smooth.  They have bumps and dips and anything else that a circle can have.  Imperfect by any mathematician’s standard.  However, they are undeniably circles.

It resembles the cross-section of a tree trunk.  A perfect creation with imperfect circles.  Precise perfection is something people create, but rarely exists in nature.

Perfection is often synonymous with flawless.  An alternative definition that is sometimes better is complete or whole.  Christ’s seemingly impossible command, “Be ye therefore perfect” (Matthew 5:48 KJV), takes on new meaning with this definition.  The commandment is not to be flawless, but to be whole, to complete ourselves.

Completion can be found in becoming all that we can become, in finding every personality trait of our soul and adding it into the circle.  I am gay, and that is a part of my circle.  If it were to be removed or covered the circle would be incomplete, imperfect.

circles 2

 

Many people disagree, believing that identifying as LGBTQIA is something that develops as you grow or that it is a choice.  I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that as long as I have liked anyone I have liked men.  It is a part of my circle.

We are all drawing circles striving for perfection and wholeness.  Regardless of personal beliefs, we want to improve, whatever that may mean for any individual.  If I were to undertake the endeavor as Leica did to create this our circles would be similar, and from a distance you couldn’t see a difference, but if you were to try and superimpose one on top of the other they would be completely incompatible.

To try and force your own individual circles upon someone else is offensive to everything that went into their development.  We can certainly allow others to help us create our circles and attain our perfection, but in the end they cannot do it for us.  Our circles only work for us.

This means that my answers need to fit into my circles and I cannot inflict them upon others.  That doesn’t mean I can’t provide input and assistance, maybe even express my opinions (*gasp* not allowed!), but I can’t make my answers work for them.  To do so would be not only remarkably egotistical, but also incredibly rude and not likely to help anyone.

In understanding others I find completion.  In July I will start training to volunteer with The Trevor Project on Trevor Chat.  If there is anything that I can do to help prevent suicide I want to do it.

What happened with my relative was tragic.  I can’t say how far along in the circles, how complete they were, but I have seen the effects of this in my family and it just hurts.  Hopefully my relative has found a greater ability to complete themself without physical restrictions.  As far as we go, I pray that we are whole.

perfect complete poster

 

-Daniel

The End of the Line/As Far As We Go

Last week a relative of mine with bipolar mood disorder took his life.  As I also have bipolar, I was affected in a different manner than most.  Not more or less poignantly, just different.  A future I pray won’t come.

Lately I have been down-swinging and doing what I can to survive it.  When suicidal thoughts come it isn’t because I don’t feel loved or acknowledged, but rather it stems from the despair of imagining a future perforated with loneliness and inability to finish things.  But this isn’t about me.

I can’t imagine what the children of my relative were feeling.  I mourned for them just as I mourned for the departed.  The funeral on Thursday was lovely, but my heart broke as I imagined what they might be thinking/feeling.  Sadness.  Abandonment?  Anger?  Despair?  “Funerals are for the living” (The Fault in Our Stars).  How do you carry on with that?

What follows for my relative?  I don’t really know.  While the LDS Church has clear general beliefs on what happens after we die, there are a lot of unanswered questions.  At least so far as I know.  What happens to those who commit suicide?  And mental illness?  With some things I think it is clear.  As Alzheimer’s Disease has a clear biological nature, there is no reason it should remain in a perfected body.  But bipolar?  I know there are often chemical imbalances involved, but that doesn’t mean that all parts of it are corporal.  I don’t doubt that there are bipolar souls.  Personality disorders further complicate the issue.  Generally speaking, personality disorders are less responsive to medications which suggests that it isn’t completely based in biology.  What parts of what we call a disorder will remain?

What are the personality traits of a soul?  What comes with us when we reach the end of the line?

end-of-the-line

 Part II