I know. I KNOW. We are all so tired of the political discussions. However…. my e-mail box is constantly being visited by my sweet Mormon friends (many from out of state) sending me Yes on Proposition 8 information. So far, I haven’t answered back as I’m trying to save my energy. But – most of the information is inaccurate and based on unsubstantiated fear. I’ve been doing a lot of research on a lot of issues for this coming election, and I’ve spent literally hours reading legal arguments and reasoning for both sides of Prop 8. I’ve been doing lovingkindness meditation when I get frustrated. I don’t want to get sucked into contention – but I also don’t want to be silent on this issue.
My tribe is Mormon. Mormons have taken a very visible stance on this issue and it makes me wince every time I read about it. Just because there are many Mormons behind this issue, does not mean that we all think alike. Sometimes we need to say something, more than we need it to be heard. Here’s what I felt compelled to write to my church leaders about Prop 8. FWIW – I apologize for veering off of the norm on this blog. Regular programming will resume after next Tuesday. Consider the dead horse kicked. (Oh there goes my bodhisattva practice – oy!)
August 14, 2008
Dear President Monson, First Presidency, and Quorum of the Twelve,
I write this letter with a lot of respect for what you do, not as a means to affect change within the church of any kind, but to simply bring more awareness to a quiet side of the issue on Proposition 8.
As a wife and mother of three, I understand the importance of family and the value of morality. After much consideration, I have decided not to support Proposition 8. I am saddened to see the church take such an organized effort against gay marriage. I have always respected the church’s statement about voting which I understood to be: pray, ponder and vote according to your own conscience. Creating an organized effort to support this proposition, speaking about it in church meetings, asking for help with polling and monetary contributions is contradictory to this teaching.
I am concerned about the amount of time given to this during church. I understand that many members already oppose gay marriage, and that is just fine for them. There are also some of us who believe differently about the subject. It’s not a matter of being right or wrong, but about being able to vote and discuss all things openly and lovingly and create respect for a difference of opinion. Even though my views are different, I want my chapel to be a comfortable and safe place to worship. I would also like to feel comfortable bringing a non-member friend to church, but right now that is out of the question for me given the inordinate amount of time being devoted to this topic.
It is incomplete to say that this is a moral issue, therefore it is okay for the church to organize a political action. I understand that the church teaches that homosexuality is a sin, yet I cannot find one real threat to my own traditional marriage by legalizing the marriage of my gay neighbors. My marriage will not be adversely affected if our gay friends marry. The success of my marriage is up to my husband and I. It appears to me that the church is choosing to make a statement about the nature of homosexuality, more than it is trying to protect marriage.
There is a lot of fear about what might happen within our society, our church, our schools and our families if we allow gay marriage. I literally hear, “I’m afraid we’ll have to add gay parenting to school textbooks, I’m afraid that the church will legally have to perform marriages for gays, etc. ” I’ve learned through experience that most projected fears have very little to do with the reality of how life actually unfolds. They almost always end up being more of a reflection of our internal state of mind. As a group, it’s a good opportunity to step back and reflect on what our collective fears are telling us about our culture within the LDS church and how we should proceed from here.
We cannot hide behind this proposition. We need to deal with these fears and concerns regardless of whether gays receive the right to marry. They are independent issues that need attention. Regardless of what the community teaches our children, we need to teach them about homosexuality and how to interact with our gay friends. As members we need to be educated about how to love and lead a child who we suspect might be gay. We need to find a place and a way within the church for gay members.
Gay couples are not going to disappear from our culture. The stance within our church will not affect gay couples outside of the church. Gay couples will continue to commit to each other, regardless of the initiative. They will continue to raise families. We can encourage a loving attitude towards them and their children or foster an attitude of alienation and superiority. I want my children to know that under no circumstances are their friends with gay parents any less whole than our own family. In no way is their family inferior to ours. To me, this is an important part of morality and maturity.
I have heard the reasoning, “Have faith and follow the brethren.” With great respect, I must say that we are all simply human, and throughout the history of the church the leadership has occasionally missed the mark. During the civil rights movement, the church had similar fears about the Equal Rights Amendment. The leadership and many members were afraid that marriage and families would be threatened. Members were asked to be politically active and many who supported the ERA publically were reprimanded. The womens’ movement has created huge opportunities for me. My husband, who is a hands-on parent, has a much more intimate relationship with his kids than the generations of fathers before him simply due to the equality of parenting time and division of parenting responsibilities. Equal rights have benefited us both tremendously in so many ways that I can’t list them all here. Looking back, the church’s defensive stance against the ERA was not what was best for me while growing up in that era, and I believe that denying gays the equal right of marriage is not in their best interest either. It is also another example of how a movement that is already started will continue to move forward, whether or not the Proposition passes. Thankfully, the women’s movement was propelled forward, even with the failure of the ERA, and my life is incredibly different because of the women who followed their conscience and spoke up. I believe that a similar movement is moving through our society as we deal with this issue of gay marriage.
It is clear to me that opposing gay marriage will alienate a group of people already rejected by the Mormon faith, creating more pain for these couples and families who are trying to make peace in this often intolerant world. I’ve lived in California most of my life. I have gay friends, neighbors and students who are wonderful, moral people. It is clear to me through study as well as talking with my gay friends, that homosexuality is a genetic trait, not a choice. Research backs this up over and over. Statistically, it is nearly impossible to change sexual orientation, despite radical and experimental treatments, some of which were conducted at BYU at great cost to their subjects. I do not think that people should be denied the pursuit of family, or the pursuit of happiness because of their sexual predisposition.
I would love to see more members of the church reach out in understanding for what it is like to be a gay person in the world, let alone a gay member of the LDS faith. I would encourage you to sit back and reflect on your own sexual attraction and where it comes from. What if your nature steered you toward a same-sex attraction? Where would your place be within the church, and how would you find a realistic and fulfilling lifestyle? I see no support or advice within the church for these members who are trying to navigate their lives and achieve a sense of wholeness and happiness. They are often rejected and left feeling broken and hopeless with nowhere to turn. I believe that God’s plan includes happiness.
Ultimately, I was looking for a motivating force for whether to support or reject the initiative. Around me, I see that fear and defensiveness are the motivating forces for those members opposing gay marriage. As I grow in understanding of the nature of God, I understand that fear is not the Divine motivating force. Love is the divine energy that connects us all, and love is the motivation for my support of gay marriage. I do not believe that God works through fear. As a Christian, I choose love, acceptance and understanding. I have an opportunity to wage war or to wage peace, and peace is why I will vote no on Proposition 8.
I know that you are all extremely busy men – thank you for reading my letter.