12 November 2008

The internal cost of injustice on one Mormon, and the rest of us, too

I received an email yesterday from a close friend who is a member of the CJCLDS. I'll call him Joseph. He is not one of the idiots in the pews: he has a position of pretty hefty leadership in the CJCLDS.

Joseph married a very pretty LDS girl and they started a family of very good looking children. I mean stunningly good looking.

Their oldest daughter (I'll call her Emma) was never "in the mold" and they couldn't figure out just why until puberty hit. At that moment they recognized that she "liked girls." This was difficult for my friend and his wife, but they were as supportive of her as they were of the other children. The whole family showed up for every school play, sports event, theatre event -- what ever one family member was "in" the whole family was there to show support.

Emma finally graduated and left home and went to San Francisco. She met a cool girl and they've been together for years. Both Joseph and his wife really like Emma's partner and have been vocal about their support of that relationship even stating that they were very happy for Emma when church members would make snide comments about gay people.

Prop 8 has caused Joseph and his wife a lot of anguish. On the one hand the obligation to support their church. On the other hand, they have to support their daughter. Joseph voted "no." Then he had to justify to their three "active" children why he had to vote "no" -- their conviction that Emma's relationship is a marriage. (It's interesting that those same active children welcome Emma's partner, but don't think after 15 years it deserves to be called a marriage.)

The email today told me that Joseph, with the support of his wife, has asked to be released from his position of authority in the church. Joseph said he didn't know if the members would see it as a sign of protest, but that it wouldn't bother him if people do see it that way.

He said that asking to be released from his position was the only way to demonstrate to Emma and her partner by word and deed, that he supported their marriage completely and his complete disgust at the actions of the church. He has put everything on the line for his lesbian daughter and her wife.

My reply told him how much I've always liked him, but that I had never been more proud to be his friend than at this moment.

I've had emails from several returned missionaries telling me they've turned in temple recommends and stated the reason why to the leaders -- the duplicity of those leaders and the loss of confidence. Some of my friends have asked to have their names removed from the church records. One returned missionary telephoned me last week and sobbed for an hour on the phone. I don't mean he cried as we talked -- I mean he sobbed while I talked. He could do nothing except sob. He could not believe the leaders -- whom they are told "cannot lead them astray" -- had done that very thing.

It is impossible for someone who is not LDS, particularly someone who was not raised in the church, to understand what has happened to these people.

Please remember, in your indignation, that the CJCLDS stabbed their own members in the back over this. There are thousands of LDS who are deeply wounded and have lost confidence in their leaders. Remember to pray for these wounded people; they hurt just as much as we hurt.

In a very real way, the same inner turmoil is going on in the Anglican Communion. People are torn between following the way of justice or upholding years of church tradition that is comfortable. I have friends whose family has been split between those who believe TEC is on the right path and those family members who think the Gafconners are the only true church.

It is too easy for both "sides" to point the finger at the other and say, "you're not listening to the spirit or you'd know that I am right."

I have no liking for the tactics used by any type of fundamentalists, nor for the problems they have caused. But the past week has given me a different prospective on our trials and tribulations.

In the early days of the AIDS crises, we saw the emergence of a group of true Saints (and I use a capital "s" on purpose). The were the people who came forward to care for the ill and to work for funding to research the disease.

I am convinced that the aftermath of Proposition 8 will give us a new group of Saints.,straight and gay. My friend is just one of those saints who are following Jesus and doing the right thing. When the history of GLBT civil rights is written, these saints will be largely unnamed. But they will never be forgotten by God.

Like the civil rights movement of the 1960s, it was not the big names who brought about the change. No, it was the little, unnamed masses. For every Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King, Jr., there there hundreds if not thousands of unnamed saints who were the real heroes of the movement. Do a web search for photos from that era; look at the photos and see how many people you recognize -- one, two, perhaps for our five. Then look at the hundreds and thousands of other people in the photos -- they are the people who brought the change.

The same is and will be true of the civil rights movement of the early 2000s. People like Susan Russel are just tiny cogs in the wheels of the moment.

Like the the song we sang two weeks ago, "I sing a song of the saints of God," these heroes are people just like you. People who do the grunt work and receive no recognition; people who put the human face to the issue for your friends and acquaintances.

I've met one of these saints and I'm proud to call him my friend. You've met some of them too whether you realize it, or not.

The hardest thing for many of us, if not all of us, to remember is that all of us are God's children and God loves us equally. God knows us, fully, our secrets and our shames, and yet God has accepted us, just as we are without a single qualification, warts and all. God knows my name and he knows your
name, too and miracle of miracles, God loves us just as we are. And nothing, absolutely nothing can separate us from that love. Deo Gratias!

When Christ was lifted from the earth,
His arms stretched out above,
though every culture, every birth
to draw an answering love.

Where generation, class or race [or sexuality]
divide us to our shame,
he sees not labels but a face
a person and a name

Thus freely loved, though fully known,
May I in Christ be free
To welcome and accept his own as
Christ accepted me.

About the photo. The LDS have three "standard works" 1) Book of Mormon 2) Bible 3) Doctrine and Covenants which is more or less the revelations given to Joseph Smith regarding the administration of the CJCLDS. The poster is a pun of that book.