It’s Sunday, so it’s time for a “whatever I’m thinking about” post. I admit that I’m nervous about this one, not because I haven’t thought about it much, but because I’ve thought about it a lot over the course of years and I know it is a very divisive topic. I want to stress right now that the views and ideas expressed in this blog are my own and are not representative of any other person or group to which I may belong. This is just me, talking about what I think and how I feel.
Why all the disclaimers? Because I want to talk about something that has been bothering me for a long time. Something close to my heart. I want to share with all of you my personal views and beliefs regarding homosexuality, or same-sex attraction. But first let me give you some background about me, where I come from, and my experiences with homosexuality.
I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We call ourselves LDS, but because of our belief in The Book of Mormon as a companion scripture to the Holy Bible we’re also called Mormons. Mormons hold many of the same beliefs that Christian churches have, Jesus Christ is our Savior and the Only Begotten of the Father, and only through him can we be saved in the kingdom of heaven, but we also believe that there are prophets on the earth today who continue to guide us as the prophets in the scriptures did. If you want more information about the LDS church and our beliefs, you can visit mormon.org.
I was born and raised in Utah Valley, Utah County, Utah. Yep, happy valley Utah. But from a very young age I was exposed to cultures and people from all around the world. My parents stressed tolerance and love. We were encouraged to be understanding of everyone, and to seek for peace and friendship. My best friend my junior year in high school was a boy who confessed to me over the phone one night that he was gay, and was so afraid. He thought he was a monster. He thought his parents would disown him. I spent most of the night on the phone with him reassuring him that we were still best friends and that he wasn’t a monster or evil or anything, and that I loved him. We lived in a small town and he was afraid of getting bullied or beat up, so I was his beard until he graduated. I was fine with that, although I wished he didn’t have to worry about how people would accept him.
Since high school I’ve had several friends who’ve been attracted to people of the same gender. I love them all very much. I don't believe being homosexual is something you choose. It's something you're born as and wired to be, just as much as anyone else. Second, being a homosexual or being attracted to someone of the same sex does not make you evil, bad, or condemned to hell. It doesn't make you anything, it's just a part of who you are. Third, I do believe in an afterlife and in a just and merciful Father in Heaven. And none of those things in my mind are contradictory.
Before I go on, I'd like you to read this blog post. If you've read it before, just skip through it as a refresher because I want to refer to specific things in it. http://www.joshweed.com/2012/06/club-unicorn-in-which-i-come-out-of.html
Okay, so here's what I believe. This life is supposed to be a test, and it's supposed to be a test that's difficult enough to put us through a refiner's fire. And we're supposed to go through a refiner's fire because the life after this one is filled with such endless possibilities and eternities that we need to be prepared to handle bigger consequences and receive bigger blessings. Being homosexual is hard, because no matter what lifestyle you choose, you're sacrificing something huge. If you decide to follow your passion and marry someone of your same gender, you're giving up the possibility of having a biological child that's made of both of you. That's enormous. And tragic. In many ways I'm still mourning my inability to have more children, and that's only a shadow of what it would feel like to not be able to have any.
If you decide to follow religious or societal conventions and marry someone of the opposite sex, you're giving up an integral part of the romantic relationship. Again, that's something that's such a huge sacrifice it's hard to contemplate. And whatever any individual decides to choose for themselves is their own business and I will give them nothing but love. They're already giving up enough. They don’t need me giving them a hard time about it and it wouldn’t be my place to judge them anyway. They live their lives as best they can. Who am I to think I would know better?
From a larger perspective, though, it isn't more than some other people are expected to give up. Not everyone's trials, not even half everyone's trials will be as difficult or as visible. But some people are born without the ability to have children. Some people are born, like me, with a myriad of genetic and autoimmune problems that will make life progressively harder. Some people, like other friends of mine, are born fine but then through circumstances beyond their control become incapable of having romantic relationships because of abuse and the betrayal of trust. Are we broken or evil for the way we were born, just because it’s different that the norm and will limit our choices?
From an eternal perspective, the perspective that The Book of Mormon is true and everything that goes along with that, there is the strong knowledge that families can be sealed in the temple to be together forever. My worst fear is losing one of my sons. Imagine how much more tightly then I hold that forever families belief now that I have children.
And as part of the gospel, there is the Second Coming and the Resurrection when everyone who dies gets to live again and all the pain and afflictions we've suffered are past. I'll be able to walk and run and write and play with my sons and my husband forever, never have to say goodbye again. If that's real and that's available for everyone, how can I encourage people to make choices that will jeopardize that? Now this is an important distinction I want to be clear about- I will never judge or condemn someone for choices that they make. I will assume that everyone is trying to do the best they can with what they have been given and love them as individuals. If I overheard someone disparaging or demeaning homosexual individuals for their choices I would step in and make it stop. And I have before, even gotten punched in the face once doing it. But when what I believe, personally, for me, is that gay marriage can jeopardize the happiness and eternal progression of each individual, from a religious standpoint, how can I vote for it?
If the government steps in and mandates legal marriage between same sex partners, that's fine. I would not oppose it and I would openly welcome any life partners and their children to our neighborhood and our community. Personally I think they wouldn't make any better or worse parents than any other, and possibly be a lot more understanding to their children. I think they have the right to make their own choices and live their lives any way they want without anything from me but friendship, love, and understanding. And not passively. We would have them over for dinner, have play dates with their kids, and make sure they felt welcome.
But if the government says, "You vote what you believe to be right," then they are asking me to directly and personally take a stand for or against a principle. I wish they wouldn't. I think the question of marriage is a religious question, and I wish that those who choose that lifestyle would pull it under that umbrella, because then the government couldn't intervene. They would have to support religious freedom, and that doesn't mean they have to believe in God, they just have to believe in something. The first amendment would protect their right and they (the government) would stop harassing me about standing for or against something that makes me mix my church and state.
And maybe that makes me a coward, but I am tired of the catch 22 we’re being placed in. We are asked, as a people, to vote for or against legalizing same gender marriage, and then when we vote, we are made into villains for doing exactly what they asked us to do. Come out and vote for what you think would be best. And if you don’t agree with what we want, then you’re evil and narrow minded and we hate you.
I’ve heard of Mormons who vote for changing the definition of marriage, who march in gay rights parades, and who speak out about civil rights infringement. On the one hand, I totally get that. I think it’s unfair that the government would ever inhibit the rights of one group and not another. And I hate, I HATE seeing those who have committed no crime but existing as themselves being put down or shunted aside or being made to feel somehow lesser. That should not happen. But on the other hand I think that these Latter-Day Saints are being hypocritical. We have the promise that if we follow the commandments and believe in the words of the prophets, both in ancient and in latter days, that we can receive eternal blessings. And that everyone will be judged fairly.
And not by me. It is my job in this world to live my life as best I can. When I encounter someone who is suffering, I try to make it better. When I meet someone living a different lifestyle than mine, I love it. I enjoy meeting new people and making new friends who challenge me and help me to see the world in a broader way. The only things I will not stand are deliberate ignorance or violence.
Does this make sense? Am I rambling? All I want you to understand is that I think being homosexual means having to sacrifice something huge no matter which way you choose and I have a lot of sympathy and respect for that, and that since I believe in the Second Coming and in Jesus Christ I believe that the fire and trials and pains of this world are worth it. For me, I have to. I can't stand the thought of losing my boys or my husband, and the days when my autoimmune stuff is so bad that it's painfully hard to even get out of bed I have to believe there's a reason for all the suffering. But I also can't stand the thought of people believing that I'm stupid or bigoted or blindly following the path someone else laid out for me. I am not a villain and I am not a victim.
I am a person with problems who is doing my best to get through life the best way I can, and trying to help others along the way. Judge me for who I am, not who you think I am. Because the rhetoric of bigotry and hate has to end between us. We have politicians for that.
Angie, I love and appreciate this post. Brandon and I have had this exact discussion and came to the exact same conclusion as you. I have never had the guts to post it on my blog. I have never had the eloquence to post it on my blog. YOu're my hero.ReplyDelete
Oh thank you my Angie!! I Love this!! Finally someone put into words exactly what I was thinking and feeling about this topic. You really hit the nail on the head. And here I thought I was the only LDS that thought and felt this way. - MariaReplyDelete
As someone who was raised in the Mormon church this is my opinion. And before you read what I have to say it is just my opinion. I feel that in all religions there are things that are people pick and choose to leave in and leave out, one of them being marriage with a man and woman. I don't think its wrong for someone in the Mormon church to agree with homosexuality or support it. I have a homosexual member of my family who believes in the Mormon church but is not allowed to attend because of how he is. It has been a little upsetting to my family. I think when it comes down to it.. whatever YOU feel is right inside is all that matters. I am just happy that you are so open and it makes me love and respect you all the more.ReplyDelete
Cami- if your family member can't attend just because he is gay, that is on the head of the bishopric. The church leaders have NEVER EVER said a gay person cannot be a member of the church. If he is actively engaged in a homosexual relationship, that may be the reason for them asking him not to attend. But just being gay is not wrong in the eyes of the church.Delete
This is likely going to be a few posts so I hope you are willing to read the entire post... I apologize in advance for the length.ReplyDelete
I am probably against the norm on your blog for this specific topic but I don’t think there is an issue that have a stronger opinion on and would like to share it. I am sure Angie saw this as an event in her near future and at least this confirms that I read the blog… Bear with me as I doubt I am anywhere near as eloquent as Angie but here it is. I cannot speak for everyone so these feelings are simply my own.
First let me start this as Angie did, a bit about me. I am an openly bisexual woman who strongly believes that I was born that way, I can even name all of my first crushes and they were all women. I am married to a man and have been for several years; as any marriage we have had our rough spots maybe more so than others, but here we are 10 years later and still together. I was raised in a home that was LDS although not active and was raised with strong LDS beliefs. I have tried numerous times over my lifetime to renounce my sexuality as it is and how I wished it would have been a phase… I have always been a bit of a rebel but anyone who knows me knows that my personal need to be loved and accepted wins over most anything else (there is a reason I have been nicknamed The Hufflepuff) and it is hard to be gay in Utah to an LDS family, even harder to be bi-sexual! It has taken me several years to become open as I am now. Many people wonder why it is a concern to me since I am married to a man and don’t have to worry about marrying someone of the same gender, which leads me to the real reason…
If marriage were just a religious right I am sure there would be people fighting still for the opportunity to marry their same sex partner however this issue is not really about religion, it only partially ever was. If marriage were just about religion than a large percentage of marriages would not exist (mine included) because it was never about religion. The reason why the majority of US citizens get married is because they felt a personal feeling for a person that was felt strongly enough to risk linking an entire life to that of another person. By linking your own existence to that person you gain a series of benefits (and sometimes consequences); in addition to whatever religious benefits you gain through your personal beliefs, such as an eternal marriage and family like the LDS believe. ....
Currently these are many of the rights and benefits you gain from being married (taken from http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/marriage-rights-benefits-30190.html):ReplyDelete
• Filing joint income tax returns with the IRS and state taxing authorities.
• Creating a "family partnership" under federal tax laws, which allows you to divide business income among family members.
Estate Planning Benefits
• Inheriting a share of your spouse's estate.
• Receiving an exemption from both estate taxes and gift taxes for all property you give or leave to your spouse.
• Creating life estate trusts that are restricted to married couples, including QTIP trusts, QDOT trusts, and marital deduction trusts.
• Obtaining priority if a conservator needs to be appointed for your spouse -- that is, someone to make financial and/or medical decisions on your spouse's behalf.
• Receiving Social Security, Medicare, and disability benefits for spouses.
• Receiving veterans' and military benefits for spouses, such as those for education, medical care, or special loans.
• Receiving public assistance benefits.
• Obtaining insurance benefits through a spouse's employer.
• Taking family leave to care for your spouse during an illness.
• Receiving wages, workers' compensation, and retirement plan benefits for a deceased spouse.
• Taking bereavement leave if your spouse or one of your spouse's close relatives dies.
• Visiting your spouse in a hospital intensive care unit or during restricted visiting hours in other parts of a medical facility.
• Making medical decisions for your spouse if he or she becomes incapacitated and unable to express wishes for treatment.
• Consenting to after-death examinations and procedures.
• Making burial or other final arrangements.
• Filing for stepparent or joint adoption.
• Applying for joint foster care rights.
• Receiving equitable division of property if you divorce.
• Receiving spousal or child support, child custody, and visitation if you divorce.
• Living in neighborhoods zoned for "families only."
• Automatically renewing leases signed by your spouse.
• Receiving family rates for health, homeowners', auto, and other types of insurance.
• Receiving tuition discounts and permission to use school facilities.
• Other consumer discounts and incentives offered only to married couples or families.
Other Legal Benefits and Protections
• Suing a third person for wrongful death of your spouse and loss of consortium (loss of intimacy).
• Suing a third person for offenses that interfere with the success of your marriage, such as alienation of affection and criminal conversation (these laws are available in only a few states).
• Claiming the marital communications privilege, which means a court can't force you to disclose the contents of confidential communications between you and your spouse during your marriage.
• Receiving crime victims' recovery benefits if your spouse is the victim of a crime.
• Obtaining immigration and residency benefits for noncitizen spouse.
• Visiting rights in jails and other places where visitors are restricted to immediate family.
That is a pretty big list of non-religious rights you gain, that currently in the majority of the US are only rights that are given to people who marry a person of the opposite sex. This is why there is an issue of MARRIAGE EQUALITY. Why should people who have such strong feelings for each other, who are willing to link their lives with another person, regardless of gender, all have access to the same rights and benefits afforded through the government?ReplyDelete
In my personal opinion, we really only have two fair options. We need to do away with ALL of the government benefits and have it only be a religious right, then each specific religious can decide who they want to afford that right based on that to religious specific beliefs OR we need to give all of the rights and benefits of marriage to all couples regardless of gender so that all people are allowed the same entitlements as others. Although with more than 50% of Americans being married at least once in their lifetime (according to a December 2011 article: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2011/12/marriage-rate-falls-to-record-low-in-u-s-pew-says/) it would be very difficult to removed the rights already granted so the obvious choice in my eyes is to give those rights to everyone. Again, I am not addressing anything religious because this is not a religious debate; this is a debate over equal rights within our own nation’s government system.
I am in no way trying to sway your vote, regardless of what I feel is correct, you do need to vote on what you feel is best but I also want people to understand more of the opposite side and understand why people for marriage equality feel so strongly about the matter regardless of your religious belief, take it or leave it.