I know I said that I avoided this subject, but well, whatever. The Mormon blogosphere has been quite abuzz lately over the California Amendment. With the Church’s urging of people to express their views online it seems that both sides have come out in full force. Unfortunately, however, the tone that a lot of these conversations take can be very damaging for gay members of the Church. Discussions too often come down to mudslinging, name-calling, and personal attacks.
This morning, I read a post on a friend’s blog where she supported the ban on same-sex marriage (she doesn’t know that I am gay). My issue was not over the fact that she didn’t support same-sex marriage, but that her writing was so cold and close-minded. In my relatively short experience, being open-minded is a virtue and doesn’t involve what you believe, but how you respond when faced with things that you don’t believe.
I know a lot of members of the Church want to show their support of the prophet and speak out for their beliefs and I applaud their efforts. What I warn, however, is that if you aren’t careful, you can alienate the members of the Church who are gay and striving to live the commandments or even those members who aren’t gay, but are struggling to resolve their faith and personal political views.
Here are some suggestions for when you are writing your blog post or having your conversation at church:
- Vinegar just ticks people off.
Suggesting that people who support same-sex marriage or are unsure of their position are “stupid” or “apostate” isn’t productive. I assume you are writing a post or comment because you are trying to change someone’s mind or sway their opinion. Personal attacks never change someone’s mind, but usually solidify it further in their opposition to you. I had a roommate of another faith who moved out after my sexuality became too much for him to handle. Now, every time he talks to me he preaches to me about how I need to come to Jesus (he doesn’t believe the LDS Church is Christian). I found myself reacting so strongly against him that I eventually decided that he was impeding my progress in the gospel and I had to stop contact with him. I know his intent was to convert me to the “true Jesus”, but his heavy-handedness was starting to push me further away from God. If he truly wanted to convert me, he should have tried being more understanding and loving.
- Talk about what you know.
The strongest and most understandable argument for supporting a same-sex marriage ban is that the Lord has a prophet on the earth and that that prophet Thomas S. Monson. As the Lord’s mouthpiece, he has counseled us to support such an amendment. State your testimony of his calling and guidance. If you try to talk science or politics of which you only have a vague familiarity, your arguments starts to lose validity because a lot of gay Mormons know the studies, science, and theories probably better than you. We can tell if you are talking about something you are completely ignorant of. It can be like hearing protestant churches talking about what Mormons believe, even though it is obvious that their information came from completely inaccurate sources. Please, please don’t base your entire knowledge of homosexuals on “that one guy in high school who I’m pretty sure is living with some guy in DC now”. “I know not save the Lord hath commanded me” (Moses 5:6) is a valid argument. Your testimony of prophets is your best bet. Stick with it, unless you really know what you are doing.
I posted some comments on several blogs that had very active discussions about same-sex marriage. They mostly pointed out the existence of gay Mormons and urged people to think about them as they made their statements. My comments were largely ignored (interestingly, I was only acknowledged by the person making the most ignorant statements about homosexuality). I was rather annoyed. It was pretty clear that I was probably the only one in the discussion who was gay, but people were so busy arguing with each other, that the one person that this issue actually affected personally was disregarded – by both sides. I briefly came to the conclusion that gays were just pawns in a Mormon political battle. While I admit now that part of my frustration was due to a bruised ego, realize that these are people and not just principles that you are arguing over.
- Imagine that everyone in the room is gay.
It is possible, even likely, that someone in the Church meeting where you are expressing your opinion is gay or that a gay Mormon will be reading your blog. You may be concrete in your views, but they may still have questions. This doesn’t mean that they don’t have faith or a testimony - they are just still unsure of some things. Is your statement going to help or hurt their faith? Imagine that your father/brother/husband is gay. Could you say the exact same thing to their face without feeling uncomfortable? No? Then maybe you should sit back and revise - not necessarily the end result, but the path to getting there.
The point of all this is that there are real people that are caught in the middle of this debate. This isn’t an “us” vs. “them” debate because some of “us” are also some of “them” and while it may be easier if they were just “weeded out”, we need to remember that we aren’t the weeders. The Lord does the weeding. We are the caretakers. Everyone is responsible for their own actions, but if we, through our actions or words, make it easier for one of the Lord’s beloveds to leave (regardless of the issue) or serve as a barrier to entry into the Kingdom, we will be held accountable for that. Doctrine is doctrine, but as Joseph Smith taught:
“No power or influence can be or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness, and meekness, and by love unfeigned.
By kindness, and by pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile-
Reproving betimes with sharpness when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase in love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy.”
D&C 121:41-43. (emphasis added)