Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mixed Feelings

(I started writing this post a few weeks ago when the topic was more timely, but I have been spending much more time sleeping than being on my computer.  Sorry.)

As many of you probably know, the documentary that Scott and I interviewed for has been in the press lately and in fact there are those who believe that the church’s statement a few weeks ago at the SLC city council meeting was at least partially a preemptive effort to defend themselves with regards to some of the content in the documentary.

I blogged about our initial interviews last January, but I would now like to blog about the entire journey, the initial information we had about the documentary, the interview itself and our motivations and reasons for being involved, my feelings and anxiety regarding the release of the documentary, and my concern on the stance that the film-maker, Reed Cowan, is taking with everything. Scott and I have talked about this a lot, and I feel like I am finally ready to lay it all out on the table.

So, let’s go back to January 2009 when Scott received this email from a mailing list he is on.

(Forwarded from Duane Jennings, representing Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons, Salt Lake Chapter)


Hello Utah GLBT community and hello GLBT supporters!


This is our mantra as we look to our upcoming visit to Utah to shoot our documentary on Proposition 8.

WHEN: Saturday, January 31, 9am-9pm


The intention of this film is to show the attitudes and teachings of the Mormon church relative to LGBT issues has not only impacted lives, but also public policy.

I give my word to do all I can to get this film in to every movie theatre in the world...but THE SUCCESS OF THIS FILM RESTS SQUARELY ON YOUR ABILITY TO BE BRAVE AND OFFER YOUR STORIES.

The power of this film depends on you and your story.

As mentioned before, I have received some amazing commitments from some of the most prolific voices on the issue where it pertains to Mormons and Mormonism who are booked for our film.


I want to hear from Mormons (gay and straight) who sat in church and felt the pinch of authority telling them to do something that was against their own beliefs about LGBT issues.

I want to hear from those who are former Mormons, who have been rejected by their faith community because of their sexuality.

I want to hear from those who have not only been victimized by the short sited mindsets that got Prop. 8 through--but also those who have triumphed over it all in the spirit of optimism that will eventually see Prop. 8 overturned.


What's your story? Let's tell it!

Reed Cowan
Documentary Film Maker & Emmy Award winning journalist
The email of course intrigued me. I was definitely hurting over Prop. 8. A lady in my ward was trying to save my soul on the subject in her Relief Society lessons, and it was ticking me off. My local leaders refused to understand. I was hurt from a talk from a high councilman in another ward and stake, comparing those who disagree with Prop 8 to “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

I had to tell my story. I had to tell the world what a wonderful man my gay husband is, and all of our sweet friends, some "married" in CA and raising children, incredible parents that want nothing more than the same freedoms "one man and one woman" have, to be sure that their "spouse" and children will be taken care of, and without the extra legal cost and worry that it won't be enough...

But I was nervous. I knew there could be consequences. I forwarded the email to a friend at school that is also LDS and struggling with the church’s political involvement, watching the pain it inflicted on her gay brother. She and I talked about it a lot. She decided to email Reed to find out more:

Hello Mr. Cowan, I am interested in participating in your documentary but I have a few questions before I consent to do so. I am LDS but I don't agree with prop 8. I would love a venue to express this in, however, I am not interested in being a part of something that is simply anti-LDS either. Will this documentary be neutral (factual) with what is presented or is it going to be anti-LDS? My other question is who will have access to it and will my words be taken out of context? I appreciate what you are doing for the gay/lesbian/bi/transgender community regardless of my decision of whether or not to participate. God bless you for doing this. May lives be saved and souls have peace.

…and he wrote back:


Thanks for your interest. And thanks for being a guardian of your thoughts and actually participating in the process before the process.

Here's the deal. There WILL be voices in the film that are angry, hurt & say they are wronged. Those voices will likely be heard louder by some than the voices who are for Prop. 8.

I'm not trying to be anti-LDS, but as a person raised in the LDS church and who went on a mission to become a mission leader, I can tell you that I know that it's easy in the church to be labeled "ANTI.

I'm sure...despite my best efforts to give ALL voices a chance to be heard, that the film will be called ANTI.
In the end, you may or may not feel the same way.

What I can tell you is this:
1. I've extended the invitation to interview to ALL people of ALL SIDES
2. I've extended the invitation to the LDS church.
3. I've extended the invitation to ACTIVE LDS people

And their voices, if they lend them...WILL be heard.

However, whenever you interview for a journalist, you run the risk of your words being taken out of context. All I can tell you is that I have a goal of NOT doing that.

I hope to see you Saturday. Thank you SO MUCH for your good heart regarding this issue. I really hope you come. I need the voices of BELIEVING, FAITHFUL LDS PEOPLE who have chosen LOVE and have chosen to NOT support 8.

My consultant for this film: Carol Lynn Pearson has wisely encouraged me to "Not leave people in a dark alley..." In other words, to showcase GOOD, KIND and FORWARD THINKING Mormons who see beyond the mountains...people like you.

I hope you can be a part of this.


Her dad, a temple worker, gave her this advice: I thought your inquiry was very good and that Reed tried to give an honest answer. As he pointed out, there are certain risks and dangers in a volatile, highly emotional and sensitive issue such as this, even with the best of intentions on both sides. I believe your heart is right and I hope things go well for you in whatever you decide and do. May God bless.

So, after much prayer and pondering and thinking and feeling, we decided to do it. We were nervous, but the Spirit was strong and calming. It was liberating to watch others share their stories, knowing they were there amongst friends, and watching their burdens lift with hope in knowing that others in the room loved them for who they are, felt their pain, all of us hoping and praying that people who eventually watch this film could feel what we were feeling at that moment, and that it would make a huge difference of peace and comfort in the lives of many, many gay Mormons and their supportive and friends and families.

Then, last spring, Reed released footage of Buttars to the media. Of course I have no use for Senator Buttars, his opinions, his political activity over the years, etc., and I guess it is his own fault for saying such horrible things on camera for Reed’s documentary, but it somehow felt wrong for Reed to do what he did the way he did it, and it started to make me nervous about who this Reed Cowan really is and what kind of tone his documentary really will have.

After being asked by my local leaders regarding the documentary and when it will be out and how it will make the church look, I became even more nervous. I knew that a ton of people had interviewed for the film, and that he would not be able to include everyone. So I emailed Reed, and he let me know that while Scott, our daughter and my friend at school had NOT made the final cut of the film, I had, but he didn't believe that anything I said would be enough to get me in trouble with the church.

Within a few weeks of receiving this message from Reed, he had of course launched a web site and a blog for the documentary.  The blog posts started to concern me a little bit as Reed appeared to use the blog to lash out with his feelings about the church and his own LDS family.  Scathing posts would appear, then disappear, as though he regretted posting it. But then one of them brought me some hope and comfort again. (I was just going to post a piece of it, with a link to the original, but he has removed this particular post as well.)

Rain (October 24, 2009)
It's raining where I am today.  It has been all night.  Fall is setting in.  The end of things tired and used up.  The beginning of a new season.  My sons are having lunch with their dad in the kitchen.  The smell of coffee is wafting through the house.  Outside it is raining.  Inside our family's world, it is calm.

I suppose that's how the week has been too for us, metaphorically speaking.
While going about the lives of a normal American family...paying bills, dropping kids off at school, attending to our work...the storm of this film continues to swell in the outside world.

And as with any storm, there has been tremendous damage.  And tremendous good.

"Mr. Cowan, thank you for making this film.  It gives me courage."

"Mr. Cowan, my church's incursion in to politics and the messages they sent out as they worked against gay policies caused me to go home that afternoon and attempt suicide.  Thank you for showing the consequences of their actions and their words."

These are the thoughts of people who have shared with me what the pending release of this film has meant.  And I am humbled by their candor and their desire for change.

And I have received hate mail.

Mean spirits in the mix.  People who do not know me.  People who do not know the stirrings of my heart.  People who assume much before ever seeing the finished piece of film that will come in early 2010.

In their fear, their anger and in their sense of protection for what they hold sacred, they have lashed out.

Our film is not a hit-piece.  Our film is not motivated by a desire to hurt or destroy the church that is accused of encroaching beyond the dictates of separation of church and state.

Really, it is not.

In fact, our narrator Dustin Lance Black has made his participation in this film contingent on a respectful tone throughout.  And NY Times best-selling author Carol Lynn Pearson (also a Mormon) has insisted the same.

I agree with them.

Truth can hurt.  But it also sets us free to venture in to new expressions of the faith traditions we all hold dear.

This film is an opportunity to see the failings of people who thought they were doing the right thing, and experienced the scrutiny that came from making the mistakes that are alleged.

Many of you have asked me how my family situation is.

Like many LGBT people embroiled in family situations where family culture and religious culture creates conflict, it's a shambles this morning.

Nasty e mails.  Angry diatribes.  You know the drill.

But one of the youngest members of our family sent me the following and I'll share it with you now:

"I just watched the trailer for your up coming documentary. And i must say i am very excited. I cant wait to see the whole thing. But i am also very reserved, im certain that your movie will cause a great reaction in this state that seems so solitary... It is my hope that your powerful message will spark a change for the better in many hearts. Thats what this state needs is an eye opening, but with such a delicate subject... i worry about how it will affect relations in this family. I have seen first hand how people cling to this belief that the Mormon church is omnipotent.... Just this morning i fought two boys who were bashing my gay uncles they know nothing about... I do not doubt that they are good people at heart, and i hope there will come a great awakening when people will realize that all these things that make us a diverse species should not be feared and hated... but celebrated... Until that day, i will make you a promise that no matter how bad things get know that i love you and that i will always consider you my uncle and part of my family. You have helped me learn more about myself in the short time i have known you, then i ever would have imagined... Once again I love you. And i pray for you and your beautiful family every night. Peace and Safety."

Bless him.  May we all follow our young.  They are not poisoned by hatred and ignorance that leads to discrimination.


I was touched.  This was the Reed I met in January, with a vision of hope and bringing peace. I have no idea why he would have removed this post.

But then Maine politics happened, and the National Organization of Marriage was involved in the campaign, and Reed began to lash out again.

Then, as mentioned, the church spoke at a SLC city council meeting, a huge step in the right direction, but Reed was nothing but critical. His next few blog posts disgusted and upset me.

Mormons endorse not leaving the gays to rot
 8:TMP Press Release

A friend of ours who also filmed for the documentary and who is very involved in policitics (but is also very young) contacted Reed and recommended that reacting this way was not going to accomplish anything.  Reed apparently told him that he is too young to understand what will actually make a difference in this situation.

So as Scott and I discussed my feelings and questions about Reed, his heart, and his intentions, Scott told me that he believes Reed did have the best of intentions from the beginning; that he was not putting on a show for us when we interviewed, but that he did intend for the documentary to really contain facts and accurately reflect on both sides of the issue. But somehow in the process of creating the documentary, of listening to hours and hours of heartbreaking interviews, of delving into church policies and politics, he has become bitter, and has lost judgement on what really is going to make a difference.

I have not seen the documentary.  I do not know if I will be glad that my voice can be heard as truth is revealed and peace is pursued, or if I will be embarressed to be associated with it, sad to see my beloved Prophet, President Monson, and other church leaders, demeaned and harrased.  My feelings are mixed as I anticipate the release of the film.  But I know without a doubt that when I interviewed, it felt like I was doing the right thing.  So I can only cling to that and hope for the best.  Because I do agree with Reed that this story needs to be told, and that there are people out there that need to know just how much the church's involvement in Proposition 8 destroyed (and continues to destroy) lives and families, the very thing they claim to be trying to protect.

Meanwhile, as I continue to wait to hear from my Stake President regarding his verdict on my temple recommend, I worry that this documentary is factoring into his decision, and I want him to know that my heart truly is in the right place.

Only time will tell...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Baby Steps

Many people are not aware that the LDS church's official policy and opinions on homosexuality (or same-sex attraction, as they like to call it) really have changed significantly over the years. See Scott's timeline for a detailed documentation of those changes.

I also realize that for many people, it feels like the church's participation in Prop. 8 and also Elder Oak's recent talk at BYU Idaho have taken the LDS church backwards by a few large steps.

But I still believe they really are making progress, even if it seems only like baby steps forward.

I was going to blog about a significant article in the Ensign back in September, but life was crazy (especially with shutting down my blog for a while) and I never got around to it. The title of the article was "The Best Thing I can do for Leigh", and even though the author's attitudes and opinions are not quite like my own, I still thought it was actually a pretty big step in the right direction. The article is from the viewpoint of a lady with a gay sister, and how she still accepts her sister and partner into her home and her heart, allowing her children to associate with them as well. She does specifically mention not agreeing with the sister's lifestyle choice, but one cannot expect anything other than that from a message in an LDS church magazine. I thought it was just great that the article indicated that having same-sex attractions is not a choice, and that we can still accept and love family members who might choose to live in a way that is not in harmony with the teachings of the church.

Now we have seen another step forward this past week. I have seen many rejoice over the news that the church would make a statement in support of anti-discrimination laws in SLC that specifically pertain to gay rights. But there are still many others that are annoyed by or suspicious of the action. An editorial (*or rather, a letter to the editor :) in the Deseret News today expresses disappointment in the church with the following opinion: (as usual, the comments are infuriating and entertaining, if you have some spare reading time)
"The agenda of the gay community is to gradually force the rest of us to accept its lifestyle as normal, which it never will be. So I am disappointed that the LDS Church and Salt Lake City have taken a step in that direction. Do we also have to accept kissing in public and private areas? Do they deserve the same benefits as the rest of us in the workplace and housing? That should be up to the employers and the landlords. No one should force an employer to hire someone indiscriminately. The applicant must have those skills and qualifications that fit into a particular job opening.
I am opposed to gays taking our rights away from us."

Another organization (that is comprised of church members) claims that the church only made such a statement because they were forced to. They apparently sent out 80,000 faxes last week to voice that opinion.

And then some in the gay community are outraged with the wording of the statement, or that it is too little too late, or that it seems more like a political move than a sincere statement of compassion and reason. They have become so bitter that they are suspicious and cynical, unwilling to see anything good in the statement.

But I choose to believe it is a step in the right direction, and not only that, but as big a step as the church can make right now. For example, full and equal rights for Blacks in the church came when the time was right, when the world and specifically the membership of the church was ready for it. Others may disagree, but I believe it is similar in this situation. As evidenced by the editorial mentioned earlier, there are many members of the church who are not ready for a major new policy or endorsement of gay rights, and making any kind of drastic statement, I believe, would be harmful to a significant percentage of the membership of the church.

It is sad that so many lives have been lost and that individuals and families have been hurt so badly by the church's words, actions, policies, etc., over the years. But I have faith that God has a plan, and that little by little, He will put that plan into place as we are more ready for it. After all, we do believe that God "will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God." Of course I have no idea what those revelations will be, but I know they will come, that hearts and homes will be healed, that members of the church will find themselves on a path to become more like Christ, and that someday we (or our posterity) will look back at this battle and marvel at how things used to be, and how things have changed for the better.

Unfortunately, trying to be patient and have this kind of faith is not easy. That is why I have to cling to the "baby steps" to remind me that there is in fact progress, and that there is always hope.

I think I have said this before, but I believe that the war Satan is waging on us with this issue is less about the immorality of homosexual behavior and much more about contention, cynacism, and bigotry on both sides. May we all rise above it, and may both sides make a greater effort to build bridges, understand each other, and be more like Jesus Christ in thought, word, and action.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Change his ways?

One morning a week or two ago, I woke up with a song from the musical Guys and Dolls rolling around in my head.  Scott and I were both in the chorus for this musical our Junior year in high school.

I don't really remember if when I married Scott I thought I could change anything about him.  I really did love him the way he was.  I do remember after we got married, though, that I discovered a few things about Scott that I wondered if I could encourage him to change.  But mostly, I think our marriage became a melding, each of us changing at least a few of the other's ideas and traditions. We each came from our own families and upbringings, and together we had to determine what would be the same and different for our own growing family. Over the years, we have established our family's own way of doing things (and even those traditions have mutated over time and experience), and have come to accept the things that we cannot change about each other.

Anyway, I've heard stories of young men with same-sex attraction being told by their bishops or other church leaders that if they married a woman, eventually their feelings and attractions would change.  Many marriages have then subsequently failed when after many years, the feelings did not change as expected. The heartache of the situation then affects not only the man, but also the wife and children. What a sad reality.

Does everyone enter into marriage expecting that, like this song, they will be able to somehow change the one they marry to be the perfect companion for them?  Is that why divorce rates are so high, because at some point they realize change will not happen and they cannot live with it?  How can we help future generations understand these fallacies, and thereby better preserve future marriages and families?

And how much truth is there to this song?  Could an additional baby in the family make a big difference for good? Maybe I should make more pot roast as a preemptive move. :)

"Marry the Man Today"
At Wanamaker's and Saks and Klein's
A lesson I've been taught
You can't get alterations on a dress you haven't bought.

At any vegetable market from Borneo to Nome
You mustn't squeeze a melon till you get the melon home.

You've simply got to gamble

You get no guarantee

Now doesn't that kind of apply to you and I?

You and me.

Why not?

Why not what?

Marry the man today.
Trouble though he may be
Much as he likes to play
Crazy and wild and free
Marry the man today
Rather than sigh in sorrow
Marry the man today
And change his ways tomorrow.
Marry the man today.
Marry the man today
Maybe he's leaving town
Don't let him get away
Hurry and track him down
Counterattack him and
Marry the man today
Give him the girlish laughter
Give him your hand today
And save the fist for after.
Slowly introduce him to the better things
Respectable, conservative, and clean
Readers Digest
Guy Lombardo
Rogers Peet
But marry the man today
Handle it meek and gently
Marry the man today and train him subsequently

Carefully expose him to domestic life
And if he ever tries to stray from you
Have a pot roast.
Have a headache
Have a baby
have two!
But Marry the Man today
Rather than sigh and sorrow
Marry the man today
And change his ways - change his ways - his ways

Saturday, November 14, 2009


For those of you who live in the Salt Lake area and like to listen to the best Christmas music ever, but also have to plan ahead for your busy schedules, here is an item for your calendar:  a free production of the Messiah from five combined Stakes in the Midvale Community. Yes, it is the same production my daughter and I participated in last year, and we are participating again, but this time I think we've talked Scott into joining us, and I was also brave enough to try out for and get a solo.  Eeek. :)

Anyway, mark your calendars for this momentous event, Sunday December 13th at Hillcrest High School. I don't remember the time for sure.  Maybe 7 or 6? I will probably remind you all again when it comes closer.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

FHE, November Edition

According to Scott's calendar, the date is fast approaching for the next Saturday night FHE at our house.  Scott or I can present a topic for discussion (probably from the Ensign, which means the conference talks this time.) We will try to choose something that we liked, that will hopefully lead to a good gospel discussion where the spirit can be with us.

Meanwhile, we heard that the Matis firesides have now changed to Tuesdays, so we are going to change our Family FHE to a different week to spread things out a bit. Officially, we would like to make it the Monday following the first Saturday of the month (which will sometimes be the first Monday of the month and sometimes the second Monday). Because of that change, there will be no family FHE in November (because it would have been last Monday, November 9th), but the next one will be on Monday, December 7th.

Also, we haven't seen some of our MOM friends for a very long time! (Yes, Kengo, I mean you and Miki and the kids!) So, assuming that flu season will not interfere, we would love to get together with any mixed-orientation couples (and families) that are interested in doing so next weekend, probably the Utah County direction somewhere (since that is where most of you are!) Anyway, e-mail me with your availability and ideas for location and activity.  I think either Friday or Saturday (November 20th or 21st) would be great, whichever is best for most of you.

Whew.  So glad to be back.  Love my friends.  See you soon!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


First of all, I am glad to be back.  I need to write, to vent, to explore my feelings. Not on a blog where I have to be anonymous.  Not on a private blog where the audience is limited and uninformed because they can't get the RSS feed. I need to know people are reading and thinking of me and using my words to help in their own lives and situations.  I only hope I can keep my words temple-worthy, and free from anything that would violate the privacy rights of others, especially my students. Anyway, here goes...

Why does it feel like I am stuck in the middle of haze? By haze, I don't mean that I am unhappy all the time, just that I am confused.  I have no idea how I should act or feel or even how I want to act and feel.  I have no idea if I want to keep going to church or not.  I have no idea if Scott and I are happy together or not.  I have no idea what his needs are or how I feel about him trying to meet those needs with a break from church or massage or whatever.  I have no idea if he wants more attention or affection from me or less.  I feel like I want more attention and affection from him, but not as a result of him knowing I want and need it, but just because he wants to give it me, because he loves me. (P.S.  - Sunday evening after I wrote this, even without Scott knowing about it and reading it, he finally opened up to me and we talked like we used to, deep conversation that we haven't done for a while, and he gave me the attention I was wanting.  It was almost like he had read my mind. :)

Three weeks ago was the first time I attended church after Scott proclaimed on his blog that he is done being "stuck." I did not expect him to come to church, but he ended up coming for the sacrament (to support our son passing it for the first time), and then I did not even stay for the meeting when the younger boys started acting up and the talk was making me uncomfortable. The rest of the "block" we were in the Stake President's office, so it was not a normal Sunday.

Then two weeks ago, our family all attended sacrament meeting because we were participating in the Primary program with a family musical number: Scott on piano, my daughter and I on violin, and the kids and I singing. It felt like old times, when I was the chorister or primary president and very involved in the primary program.  Following the program, Scott took our youngest child home with him because he (the child) was sick. Nothing felt any different from a typical Sunday 2 or 3 years ago.

One week ago we were up late with our friends on Halloween, we had company staying with us, I had a bad cold, one child also had cold symptoms, another child woke up early with a stomach virus.  We just all stayed home and had an extremely relaxing day, which was really, really nice. I slept a lot, and did not feel the least bit guilty about church because I was sick.  And because I was sick, I also didn't really care that the healthy members of our family were not there either.

So, today is really the first time since Scott's decision (to take a break for a while) that it was what I can probably come to expect from a "normal" Sunday.  The kids and I all went to church while Scott stayed home.  The children were well behaved, the talks were benign (and maybe even inspirational regarding the need and power of prayer in our lives.) I felt like I was where I should be, except that someone was missing,  As I started to sing each hymn during the meeting, I stopped during the first verse of each song, tears welling up in my eyes as I missed the warmth of Scott beside me (even though I was plenty warm from children beside me and leaning on me) and the sound of his gorgeous bass voice singing in harmony with my own.

During the meeting, I also thought about my son's upcoming Temple recommend interview this afternoon, and how I hope that I will hear from the Stake President soon regarding my own recommend, so that I can maybe take him myself to do the baptisms for the two male family members that my mom gave me the cards for yesterday.

I thought about the temple, about the ceremonies that I have not been able to participate in for a while, and my desire to be there, to hear the familiar words.  I felt again like I consider myself worthy to be there, that even though I associate with and sympathize groups of people that are angry with the church right now, I don't feel like it crosses the line.  Maybe it is close, but not across. There have been moments over the past 2 months that I have been bitter with the whole situation, and have truly felt unworthy.  I don't feel that way at the moment and I hope that sometime soon a decision will be made that will allow me to go. Meanwhile, I am trying to be patient, trying to become more worthy in heart and mind to be there, and seeking more opportunities at home to feel the spirit.

I enjoyed the meetings at church, I enjoyed the lessons and the friends that I have there and the conference issue of the Ensign that I began reading between Sunday School and Relief Society.  But I was sad, and in a haze, going through the motions, even feeling the spirit, but not knowing what the future brings for me, my family, Scott, church attendance, etc.

There are other things going on that add to this haze, other things that I am not sure about...but that will have to wait for a future blog post, when I am ready to post about them...