Last night I attended a candlelight vigil that was the product of some hardworking LDS Mothers that have gay children. The Mothers are members of Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays (PFLAG) and had put the vigil together in response to the LDS Church's overwhelming outpouring of money and volunteers in support of Proposition 8, an initiative amendment that will be on the ballot tomorrow in California. I was in awe of how much these wonderful people remind me of my own Mother's family, other than I have no idea how my Mother's family has taken the news that I am gay. I came out to my parents 5 years ago, and at some point both of my parents have disclosed my sexuality to their brothers and sisters.
The organizers spoke of how they had attended a luncheon a few weeks ago and spent four hours discussing the church's position and the implications it has had on their family; how the divisiveness of this campaign has seeped into their relationship with their church; and how they are astounded that a church that sought protection itself from persecution with events like Haun's Mill and the Missouri Extermination Order signed by Governor Lilburn W. Boggs in their past. Their attempts to sway the vote are reminiscent of the early days of the church in Illinois when Joseph Smith ran for president and the people of Illinois ran them out, in fear of the voting bloc and power they could become. At that point in history, Nauvoo, Illinois was larger than Chicago, and now is just a small sleepy town that sits on the Mississippi River.
After the speeches that helped to lift the spirits of those there, we proceeded to march around the block following the lead of those pioneering Mothers in their journey to protect their children. I spoke to a couple that was in the procession, and told them what my Mother had said as I was leaving. I had mentioned where I was going to her, and her response was, "That's a shame." My disappointment for the reaction of my slightly progressive Mother was hard to suppress and I found myself yearning to have parents like the ones I was marching next to. Their names were Marilyn and Bill (I think), and they have a son that is partnered. They hope for his sake that someday he will be able to get married and enjoy the same legal benefits that they do. After receiving the warm kindness of those who hosted the event, I only felt it proper to help take down the canopy and help load the vehicle that brought all of the materials used. I then spent the rest of the night palling around with some friends and watching "The L Word."
The point of writing this blog though is to express my concern with the LDS Church's viewpoint on the issue. I'm not worried nor depressed by their negative stance toward homosexuality in a gospel sense. I am more discouraged by their lack of appreciation for diversity in the greater environment. As a former Mormon with a highly religious family, I have found that even though I afford them respect regarding their religion, I am not afforded that same respect with my sexual orientation. Discussions about my beliefs and views are rare, as I have tried not to bring up issues that they feel are inappropriate for children. However, this simply causes me stress without achieving any progress in my family's perspective toward gay people. In my view, the Church was the ultimate advocate for unconditional love and understanding in regards to families, but I find that this often isn't the case. Church families sometimes disown and alienate members that are gay or lesbian in their effort to preserve the family's moral sense. Some put the Church ahead of their family, in order to stay on the "straight and narrow path" and avoid influences that might negatively affect their spirituality. I am a product of a family that seeks to remain close, but fails to recognize that I am different and that I might need extra motivation to keep including myself in family activities.
I really wish that they could divorce their view of religion from their familial perspective, although I understand that is akin to removing the roots from a tree. I just wonder why it is that their "eternal" perspective is so much more important than making a difference in this lifetime and accepting the people around you that you could have the greatest influence on.
There is no doubt that this campaign in California has been divisive and will have a dramatic effect on the Church population in California. I think the impact on my own relationships with my family and the people I know have been impacted as well. I am just waiting for Wednesday morning when this particular chapter will be closed. For those who may be struggling with this issue, there are many websites including Mormons For Marriage, Signing For Something, Gays and the Gospel, and The LDS Family Fellowship.