Yet again – “We All Have a Place in the Lord’s Church” – really?

So last year I wrote a post “Is Reconciling Being Gay and Mormon possible?” following an article in Pink News that an openly gay man, a member of the LDS Church, had put on twitter how happy he was being married to a straight woman. More power to the couple, however long that lasts. See my post, linked above, for reasons I’m sceptical. Also, an older post.

So, now we have an article on The Church website, currently on the home page, written by another openly gay man, Arteh Odjidja – an award-winning portrait photographer and educator born and raised in London. A brief bio describes that Arteh “considers London to be his home and a place of inspiration for his work. He also draws much inspiration from his global travels and his focus on empowerment through the medium of portraiture.

Some inspirational thoughts Arteh expresses in the article:

I believe my purpose is to offer perspective to others through my words, my art, and my insights—to encourage compassion towards others. I don’t think my life is any more important than anyone else’s, but hopefully my perspective can offer others the peace I now feel about having a personal testimony of Jesus Christ and His purpose for our lives.

As an artist who captures human stories, I’ve become enlightened to the many hidden faces of humanity: the untold stories, the silent and silenced voices of suffering. It is important to me to inspire others to empathise with those we deem as “other,” as we are all brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, we have a long way to go before division, injustice, and prejudice are eradicated from people’s hearts. I know how integral it is to our collective progression to have charity in our hearts and to bear one another’s burdens.

I try to champion unheard voices because that’s the very least I can do to play my part and love as the Savior would.

So what’s my objection to the article? Same as before, it portrays being gay and Mormon as compatible, that the two ways of being can be reconciled. As said before, I strongly believe, unless a person is asexual, the denial involved, required by The Church, for an LGBTQ+ person to be life long celibate, is cruel, heartless and not what God, however, whatever, you may consider her/him/them/it to be, wants or desires.

A lot of people I know may be offended by that last paragraph. Though, hopefully, a lot of my LGBTQ+/GSRD friends will understand my reasonings.

So is Arteh asexual? I have, of course, no idea. From the article he sounds a wonderful person. From the selected quotes in the previous couple of paragraphs he has some amazing qualities and ideals. I hope he can maintain his discipleship. Though I seriously wonder how long he will be able to maintain that, whilst being an openly gay member of The Church. He’s been a baptised member since April 2016. It’s now February 2021. Will this article still be on The Church website in a year’s time, 5 years time, 10 years time? Or will it disappear like many videos/stories from what used to be the Mormon and Gay part of The Church website, now renamed to same-sex attraction, which seems a further rejection of being being gay, putting more emphasis on sex, rather than on relationships.

Do “We All Have a Place in the Lord’s Church?” Until there is full acceptance of those who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer in anyway, my answer is, no.

Consent – some further thoughts

I was going to title this “Consent and religion”. Though that felt too much like click bait.

Whenever we join an organisation, for whatever reason we may do so, there are certain requirements or expectations of us. Perhaps weekly or monthly meetings to attend. Service to give. Instruction manuals to read/study, in order to understand the group’s additional expectation of its members. There may even be a subscription fee.

This can happen, in varying degrees, whether it’s a company we are employed with, an organisation we may volunteer with, a school, college or university we are studying with, a religion or faith we may start associating with or formally join. As time goes by requirements often change and increase. Occasionally in a way to a level not imaged or considered when first joining. Many times happening without our full agreement or understanding of everything involved.

Over time it seems our consent is being eroded. Our expectations have been distorted. It can then be difficult to extract ourselves, reclaim our personal authority and either reduce what we offer or leave completely. Walking away can be arduous due to the consequences that may be imposed or at least threatened. Some may be insignificant, others severe.

In the case of employment, in some cases, we can wait things out, while we look for alternative work with a new company. Many times waiting is not possible because of extreme expectations and/or it’s not safe to stay. This brings all sorts of difficulties. Is it possible to renegotiate our contract, the company’s and/or our manager’s expectations? If we walk out how easy will it be to find another job? Will we be able to get another job at all?

Leaving a volunteer position is generally easier. We’re not dependent on income from volunteering. Though departing an unpaid internship may affect future income opportunities. That’s another discussion.

What about leaving a religion or faith? How easy is that? If fundamentalist, I suggest not easy at all. Unless you’ve been involved or know someone close who has been, this may not make much sense. Surely it’s just a case of walking away, of not attending, not contributing any more and so on.

Yes and no. It may be different, depending how long you’ve been involved. But the one difference, I see, between leaving employment, volunteering, and religion, is that the latter deals with eternity, whereas the the former with the present. Things are worse if the religion is fundamentalist or a cult. The two are usually combined. Imagine for years being told one particular path is the only way to heaven, to being with your family in eternity. Then you discover something about yourself that seems incompatible with that religion.

This is shown in my previous post, where I explored the following article, “My Experience Living the Law of Chastity with Same-Sex Attraction“. The relevant part being:

I was encouraged to pray and receive knowledge and a testimony that it’s true [the church] for myself.

And I did.

After I gained that testimony, I asked to be baptized. The missionaries asked me, “Are you willing to endure to the end and keep the commandments?”

I said yes, even though at the time I didn’t fully understand everything that question entailed.

Here Jacob R commits to “enduring to the end and keep the commandments…even though at the time [he] didn’t fully understand everything“. What happens later, if he no longer feels the same, if he can no longer hold to that earlier commitment?

Most fundamentalist churches are very binary in their approach to gender and sexuality. Perhaps you were born into such a faith/church, later realising you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer or nonbinary. What do you do? Deny that part of yourself, in order to stay? Or develop the courage to leave?

Experience shows that staying may be possible for a time. The length of which differs for individuals. I’ve seen some hold on for years. Others months or weeks. As I mentioned before if you’re asexual and/or aromatic remaining may be easier. There are many groups, who understanding the dilemma faced, that will support you in staying or leaving. Whilst the faith/church will no doubt want you to stay, very often the leadership will have no clue of the trauma being experienced and thus no idea how to support you, beyond saying keep the faith, keep the commandments.

This is one reason fringe, unofficial groups come into existence to provide support. Helping you come to terms with being LGBTQ+, working through with you, if it’s safe to stay or leave. Individual counsellors, such as myself, also can provide similar support.

“This Book is Gay” – Juno Dawson

Wonderful book, whether you’re LGBTQ+ (perhaps you’re questioning or wondering?) or know someone who is. I’d recommend reading this book 🌈 😇

This book is wonderful!

Are you a young person wondering about your gender and / or sexuality? Read this book 😊

Do you have a child, niece, nephew, grandchild, or other young relative or friend wondering about their gender or sexual? Read this book 😊 and then either give it to whoever you are thinking about or buy them a copy!

I mention young people as that is the main audience Juno is writing for. Though, of course, the information within is relevant for everyone, whether LGBTQ+ or otherwise.

The chapters

  • Welcome to the members club
  • The name game
  • You can’t mistake our biology
  • Stereotypes are poo
  • The fear
  • Haterz gon’ hate
  • Coming out
  • Where to meet people like you
  • The ins and outs of gay sex
  • Nesting
  • Hats
  • A guide to recognising your gay saints
  • Build a bridge
  • The cheat sheet

I’d say all the chapters are relevant and important reading. Though, if you’re a parent, guardian, relative or friend of someone who is gay (or wondering or questioning) “Build a bridge” is vital reading.

When you buy the book, make sure you get the second edition. Has a few important updates.

The Art of Asking, changing and becoming…

I love having a bath. Usually, once a week I take a bath. Generally I soak for at least an hour. During which I may read, meditate, ponder, dream, imagine, pray, visualise, compose poetry. Being secluded brings more ideas and feelings, than come at other times. Which is where a large part of this entry comes from. I first read “The Art of Asking” several years ago. It still resonates with me, that I recently reread it.

Being a person-centred counsellor I try to embrace all I am. Being more open about everything, is consistent with the concept of congruence, one of the three primary qualities of a person-centred counsellor – unconditional positive regard, empathy and congruence – ideals I aspire to each day. Aspire to, yet no doubt never completely reach. A line from Amanda Palmer’s book “The Art of Asking”, my bath reading, fits here, about the purpose of life being for:

Trying…..

A lot of thoughts have risen from the book. Recommend it.

image

Can the essence of the book be summed up in a word? Perhaps, connection is one word I’d choose. Another, vulnerability. Trust and faith are others. And of course, asking:

Some days it’s your turn to ask
“Some days it’s your turn to be asked

“Asking for help requires authenticity, and vulnerability. Those who ask without fear learn to say two things, with or without words, to those they are facing:

I deserve to ask
     and
You are welcome to say no. 

Because the ask that is conditional cannot be a gift.”

Some other words or phrases that stand out for me:

“Conditional love is:
     I will only love you if you love me. 

Unconditional love is:
     I will love you even if you do not love me. 

It’s really easy to love passing strangers unconditionally. They demand nothing of you. It is really hard to love people unconditionally when they can hurt you.”

“You can never give people what they want, Anthony said.
What do you mean?

We were lying by the side of Walden Pond in Concord, two towns from Lexington, where we’d crested a ritual of ambling around the circumference of the water, then lazing under the trees with a picnic for a nice long grok.

People always want something from you, he said. Your time. Your love. Your money. For you to agree with them and their politics, their point of view. And you can’t ever give them what they want. But you —–

That’s a dreary worldview. 

Let me finish clown. You can’t ever give people what they want. But you can give them something else. You can give them empathy. You can give them understanding. And that’s a lot, and enough to give.

On their own the words quoted above may not mean much. Read the book and hopefully they will. You will no doubt take different things from it than I did. And that is okay. And perhaps that’s another principle, idea, concept, of the book – difference is okay.

Not everyone will like Amanda’s writing style. If you have read and valued Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly”, then the ideas in “The Art of Asking” should resonate with you.