Monday, February 20, 2012

Alternate Paths

I actually went to Sacrament meeting yesterday. The talk was on progression, specifically on eternal progression.

The speaker made tremendous effort to prevent feelings of guilt throughout her talk. She spoke of her own weaknesses, she spoke of trials, she spoke of how sometimes we fall off the path. And that is okay, because we can get back on the path to eternal life.

I wasn't offended by the meeting, and I really enjoyed seeing some friends and singing the hymns, but I realized that I really don't belong there any more.

The thought I had was that some people probably think I have fallen or am falling off the path. But even if I have, aren't I just on a different path? Some paths lead the some place, some paths lead to different places. If the path is a peaceful and happy one, then it seems that it would end up in a similar location. I really hope to find that peaceful path soon, because I am pretty sure it is not within the church.

My father-in-law referenced an article in Mormon Times recently, about a gay man that has joined the church and is happy living church standards, even though he has AIDS and previously lived the gay lifestyle. Scott's dad's comment was that "it can be done" as though anyone can do it. I was quick and firm to correct him. That might be the right path for some people. But just because it is right for and can be done by one person does not mean it is right and can be done by everyone. He also talked to me about the fact that there are still people in the church that are supportive of gay rights, and that are even activists. He was trying to tell me that I could do it too, but again, I tried to convince him that just because some can do it, doesn't mean everyone can, and that I think I've decided that is not the right path for me. At least not right now, and maybe never again. All I know is that I take life one day at a time, seeking peace for me and my children.

There has been interesting news lately confirming that the LDS church actually is losing a lot of members. (Duh!) Former church historian Marlin K. Jensen shared some of the details and concerns, as seen in this article from the Salt Lake Tribune, or this clip from an ABC4 news cast:

Here are comments from interviewees in the newscast that bothered me a bit. They really have no idea...

  • "I'm from Chile, and down there a lot of people just stop attending. They take it a little bit too casual."
  • "If people are leaving, I think it's really a mark that we all need to get deeper into our faith."
  • "When life is going good, and we don't have as many challenges, sometimes we don't turn to God."
  • "It does come down to us, as members of the church we need to go out there and do our part."
Most of the people I know that have left or are leaving have not taken leaving casually at all. I have been one of the LEAST casual. Also, I was one of the most faithful members I know, and I don't think I could have been any deeper into my faith. My life is good and challenge-free so I don't need God? HAHAHAHA! The last comment makes me think of how I know the church works with trying to reactivate. I used to do it! Me and my kids are tired of people saying "Where have you been?" or "We miss you." or "Why don't you come any more?" I really appreciate people that don't ask me that, and instead, ask me how I really am, and really try to be my friend.

Some of you might have seen this before, but here is a presentation by John Dehlin, founder of Mormon Stories Foundation, that talks about why people leave the LDS church and what friends and family can do. The problem I see with it is that the people who need it most are probably not willing to listen to it.

I'm hearing and learning of more and more people that are leaving because of historical facts they are finding on the internet. When Scott first shared some of these details with me, it did not affect my testimony, because I know that prophets are men and make mistakes (something with which my Stake President and many other TBMs fiercely disagree), I know that things change and evolve in the church as needed, and I have always had a strong testimony of things like Joseph Smith and The Book of Mormon, and of course of God and Christ.

Rather than the historical controversies themselves, I am more bothered by the fact that the church is not honest with its history. By the fact that members are encouraged to follow the prophet over personal revelation, or rather the idea that we should seek personal revelation to see that something the church says or does IS true and right, rather than to find out IF it is true. The fact that Mormon parents try to hide things from their children, like the existance of gay people, and keep them in an environment of closed-mindedness instead of teaching and encouraging them to think for themselves and make their own decisions and mistakes.

And like something I recently discovered in my own ward--parents withholding priveleges from youth, like dating or driving, until the child has earned their eagle scout or young womanhood medalian. And worse yet, it was done at the recommendation of the Bishop!

The behavior of TBMs (True Believing Mormons) like Scott's sibblings that won't let him bring a date to family parties or let their children find out that Uncle Scott is gay, like next door neighbors that don't allow their children to play at my house, or like the situation I described in the above paragraph are doing much more harm to my staying in the church than any weird historical stories from church history. Maybe it is because of my love for youth, for the kids I teach at school, especially the ones in the GSA club, that these things bother me so much!

I am grateful for a mother that taught me by example to be open-minded, to question, to be self-motivated. I accomplished things like earning my Young Womanhood medalian or graduating from seminary because I wanted to, not because I was bribed or threatened. I'm not sure she is glad that she set that example, as she is really concerned right now with the path the children and I appear to be heading down with regards to the church. But I think that she is the reason I still have a testimony.

I've watched others that came from TBM homes that when they find out about church history and start to question, everything that they thought they once believed breaks into a million pieces. They are not able to hang on to any pieces of their testimony as a result, which is sad. I rejoice in my testimony of God, of a life after death, of my Savior and redeemer Jesus Christ. I still love passages from the book of Mormon that have brought so much peace and understanding and hope to my life for nearly 40 years. Where-ever my path may end up, I cannot imagine ever denying these aspects of my testimony that were once so strong. But I also do not judge those who don't believe, who find peace and happiness in other paths like atheism. At least I try not to judge them, but I know I still have work to do in that area. Which is a whole different blogpost entirely!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Consider the Children

(Note: I've included a couple of photos of our children thriving with our gay friends. Openness and honesty is what we've been all about with our family through this change, and it has been wonderful for all involved!)

Last weekend a birthday party for February birthdays in Scott's family, including his down-syndrome brother, was held at his parent's house.

Other than his parents coming to parts of the Mormon Stories conference in November, Christmas Eve dinner, lunch with his little sister, and a funeral for his step-mother's brother earlier this month, he has not associated with his family since July of last year.

I was actually really glad he came to the funeral, because while there his sister asked him about the guy he's dating, whom she had noticed status updates about on Facebook. She has come a long way in truly loving and showing interest in him without restraint.

Anyway, when his mom invited him to the party, he asked if he could bring a date. She told him she would talk to his dad and get back to him. The answer came that others in the family were not yet ready for that step and so while he was welcome, and even urged to come, he was not yet permitted to bring a date, so he informed them he would not be coming to any family events until that was permitted. (Side note: if it is really that big of deal, why can't they just let Scott say "this is my friend?" for now? We've had friends with us at family parties before. I think Scott and his friend would be willing to keep PDA to a minimum while the family just got to know the friend for a few months first. Give it a chance! Compromise! Jeez!)

Last summer he sent a letter to his family, informing them that he would not associate with them until they were ready to accept him completely. It was sparked in part because of his brother that was in town at the time. I didn't want to go to a family party and have the out-of-town family asking where Scott was. So Scott's dad asked them to tell their children that were are divorcing. They did so, and the 10 and 14 year old girls asked why, to which they lied and said "We don't know."

While I realize that parents have the rights to what they want their children to learn at certain ages, the whole thing infuriated Scott and I at the time. And it still does, just thinking about it.

Well, the problem continues, and not even the local siblings are ready for that step, because they don't want to tell their children. I'm sorry--but they are never going to be "ready" for that step until they are willing to jump right in. Maybe they are waiting until their children are grown, which means when uncle Scott is actually willing to come back into their lives because they now know all about him, they will no longer even remember that he ever existed, or they will be so jilted against him because of their upbringing in the church, that they won't want anything to do with him anyway.

Scott's parents took me to dinner last night to talk and to celebrate my birthday (which was over a month ago). Scott's dad feels like he is being as accepting as he can possibly be with Scott, and that he is not capable of changing the fact that he believes some of the things Scott is doing are wrong. I told him that Scott's response to that would be that he is gay and cannot biologically change that, but their beliefs against same-sex relations are just that--beliefs--and so the comparison is flawed. Anyway, Scott's parents have no idea what to do, because they want Scott back in their lives, but they are not willing to step on the toes of the other siblings that refuse to let Scott bring any appearance of a same-sex relationship around their children--probably because they agree with those parents.

Scott's dad also expressed to me that because it is the siblings' rights as parents to decide what is best for their children, that I (and Scott) have no right to be angry with them. That made me angry! I have not crossed the line and told any of their children things that they don't want them to know, but I should not be angry? How do I control whether or not I am angry? I understand that it is their right, but it is not one I agree with, and I am angry about it, and that is that.

I was talking about all of this with Scott last night and then with a good friend of mine in the ward this morning. Scott was grateful for the information about my discussion with his parents, because it solidifies his belief that he cannot handle a relationship with his family right now. His parents are willing to do what the siblings want, but not what Scott wants. So they need to realize that the consequence of that decision means not having a relationship with Scott.

As for the children, wow. I just get so frustrated. I know one of my sister-in-laws tried turning it on me a few months ago, saying that what if the tables were turned and we were still the TBM (True-Believing Mormons) and they were the ones that suddenly and drastically changed their views on gay rights and wanted us to accept them. Would we? I told her I could not answer that question, that I had no idea, but I hoped that I would have been willing to listen to their viewpoints and give them a chance, stepping outside my Mormon box and think for once. In fact, that is exactly what I did when Scott came out to me.  Why wouldn't I have done the same thing if it was one of them instead? I love them--and if this is important to them, then I would have tried. I really think I would.

Anyway, this morning my friend made the comment that in the church we have things that are "sacred" and because they are "sacred", we tend to also keep them secret. So children have a hard time differentiating between sacred and secret, and when parents have a secret, suddenly that is what the children want to know about the very most! What happens, then, is in families where things are not talked about, the children seem to be more likely to experiment with this secret that their parents won't talk to them about.We hear radio ads about this very thing--talking to our children about drugs and alcohol is the best thing we can do to keep them from experimenting with it. Wouldn't the same thing go for sex and homosexuality?

Another thing is that so many people have the misconception that talking to children about what it means to be a homosexual means that they also have to teach their children about sex. Hogwash! The kids came from parents that had sex to get them here, and yet that is not discussed until the kids are ready. Why does telling children that two men or two women love each other immediately mean that they have to teach their children about sex, and a particular kind of sex that the parents are very uncomfortable with and know very little about? Children know what love is, they thrive on love! There is no need to include sex to talk about love and acceptance to children. My concern with families, like our next-door neighbors and Scott's TBM siblings, where they don't talk about that stuff, is that even if they don't talk about it at home, they hear it at school, in the paper, on the news, etc. And if they try to ask questions and their parents just say "we don't talk about that" then it can only make them feel like something is wrong with it, and they will grow into adults that shun and judge others because of it. Or worse yet, if they are gay, they will grow up hating themselves and the damaging cycle with families and homeless youth and suicides continues!

I believe that when Scott's siblings are finally able to tell their children, that a couple of things could happen: the children could be disgusted and judgmental because that is how they've been taught to be, simply because their parents did not discuss it with them, and will want nothing to do with Uncle Scott. Or maybe the children will be angry with their parents for not telling them sooner, thus causing further rifts within their families.

Thank you Mormon church, for helping families break up in so many pieces, for generations yet to come, over this issue! Voting against same-sex marriage is so supportive of and preserving traditional families, right? Like hell, it is.

And you have no idea how close I am to telling all of the children exactly what is going on since their parents won't. What's the worse that will happen? The parents will no longer associate with me. At the moment I don't really want to associate with them anyway, so who gives a rat's ass? I guess the only thing that holds me back is the association that my children have--and crave--with their cousins. And I can't hurt my children like that, even though I think it would be for the best.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Conquering the Bullies

Sitting in the car, writing a text before I start to drive away from a neighbor's house where I've dropped off a child from an activity at the church.

My middle child (the only one in the car at the time) says "I'm bored."

I tell him I was going to take him shopping. Does he want to do that or go home?

No answer.

"Oh, sorry. I'm trying to write a sentence", he says, "with the word 'bored' and words leading up to it so that each word is one letter more than the last. So far I have 'I am (blank) (blank) bored.'"

I start offering suggestions. As we drive to the store, we come up with "I am the very bored _______ (a version of his name with 6 letters.)

Then we start trying to figure out if we can think of another word to put after his name that has seven letters. Nothing makes sense, until he says the sentence with the seven-letter word being the last name of his best friend. But then he says something about that is not his name.

I reflexively said "It could be if you married your friend someday."

He looked a little awkward, and then started to say "actually some of the mean kids at school say stuff like that since my friend and I are always together." Then he told me about some stuff his teacher talked about, about not being mean. She used the example that someone might say to her, "You are fat, but don't take it personally." Just because it might be true, doesn't mean it is okay to say, she told them.

I tried to ask the child more about what the mean friends say. After all, I am the GSA adviser at my school, and bullying is a big deal to me. In fact, I was asked if I would talk at a PFLAG meeting in a neighboring county about Gay-Straight Alliances and bullying in schools, so it was kind of on my mind today.

Now my child looked really awkward and wouldn't tell me, instead he started running off down an aisle of the store with the cart. Then he found pistachios and begged me to buy them for him. First I said no, then I said, "If you tell me what the mean kids say."

"The mean kids say things like that word you said earlier."


"Sort of."

"So not exactly marriage? What exactly?"

"There are too many people around that might hear."

We wander the store, finishing our shopping, looking a the price of a video game he wants. Finally, when we are in a part of a store where there are not many people, I ask him again, reminding him of the pistachios.

He finally spells silently on his lips the word "L-O-V-E"

"So the mean kids tell you and your friend that you are in love?"


"Does that bother you?"

He nods.

"Does it bother your friend?"

"No, he just ignores them."

"Does your teacher know what the mean kids say to you? I won't tell her..."


"So she wasn't talking about not saying mean stuff because of mean things said to you and your friend?"


Later in the car...

"When the teacher was talking about not saying things that are mean, my friend spoke up and said that he likes to laugh when someone says something mean. That way, if they are trying to make him feel bad, laughing makes them think they've failed at their goal. But it also keeps him from feeling bad and getting upset."

"That sounds like a good plan."

I wish I could shelter him from this mean world. Children always tease each other about being in "love", but because of the society and culture we live in, it is obviously a little more awkward when the teasing is about two boys possibly being in love. This is the one child that won't talk to me--unless I bribe him, I guess--and I worry about him in particular more than the other kids.

God bless him to be strong, to ignore the mean kids, and to know that no matter what, he always has a safe place with me.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mormon Stories Conference November 2011

I am so excited that portions of the LGBTQ Mormon Stories Conference from last Novemeber is finally becoming available on YouTube. Here is one of them. I was going to blog about the experience right after, but I never did, and I forgot so much. I am excited to re-listen and then maybe blog about the experience.

One of the most exciting things was meeting two other couples, one from Texas, one from Idaho, that are pretty much in the same situation as Scott and I. We had a wonderful lunch with them and also with another straight wife that contacted me through my blog long ago. Meeting her, and having her share with me what my email to her meant to her, was incredible.

Scott's parents even came to part of the conference. Carol Lynn Pearson continues to be one of my greatest heros. The interfaith service on Sunday morning was so touching and uplifting, and I wished that there was such a service for me to attend every Sunday!

One of the most memorable things I gleaned was from a workshop on Saturday with Lee Beckstead, where a movie clip was shared, and at the beginning of the clip was this saying: "The lotus is a flower that blooms in the mud. The thicker and deeper the mud, the more beautiful the lotus blooms."

There was also Friday night, where at a discussion with Carol Lynn Pearson and Bill Bradshaw, I finally braved the constant stream of comments and questions and shared my own heart-breaking experience with church, church leaders, church "doctrine", and church attendance, especially with children in consideration. Many thanked me for my comments, and cried with me as I cried through my words. Carol Lynn gave me an incredible hug and much encouragement.

Anyway, as more of these videos become available, I will make them available here, along with my thoughts as I have time to watch them.