03 June 2015


Sunday evening I attended a fireside given by Carol Lynn Pearson at the LDS Institute in Berkeley. A Mormon poet and speaker who was married to a gay man before his death, she is essentially the godmother of the Mormon LGBT community. In many ways I don’t consider myself Mormon any longer, but the Church was an important part of my life for many years and for both good and bad, it has left deep influences on me.

Carol Lynn read from, and spoke about, a short book she produced recently that is an allegory for the gay person who travels through Mormonism. Her allegory was structured after the hero myth articulated in literature from ancient times to the present. Concisely, the myth centers around the hero who leaves his or her tribe on a journey of discovery. Propelled internally to seek something more, the hero leaves the tribe for an unknown destination. Arriving in an unfamiliar place, he or she struggles and must choose to confront self doubt – the voices of defeat.

One symbol of the struggle is the sword – a weapon that could either be turned on oneself for destruction or that could be used to destroy the self doubt that brings darkness. Though not all people on the journey will necessarily gain the liberating self confidence they need, those that pass successfully through their own personal transformation could then chose to return to their tribe of origin to share their new understanding. The hero was transformed, and members of the tribe, also each on their own journeys of enlightenment, could be transformed too.

I’d like to share two points that impressed me from Sister Pearson’s words. The first was a simple concept – it was her advice that LGBT people strive to be so confident in their path, so fully at peace with themselves that others around them, no matter their views on sexuality, could not help but be impressed. In essence, to help change the culture of the tribe, the gay messengers have to be completely transformed themselves.

Her second point, surely more difficult than the first, was that to be successful the hero needs to return to the tribe disarmed. This was an admonition for forgiveness, for peace with those who may have intentionally (or unintentionally) wounded another. I think most gay Mormons could rightly say that they have been wounded by a Church (and a society) that at times acts more as an enemy than a refuge. But for the wounded gay person to find happiness and wholeness, forgiveness is required. 

I confess that right now I am not yet at such a place with respect to the Church. Perhaps I feel betrayed in a sense (and not just by sexuality, but by conflicts with history and science too). I feel sad that Church culture and doctrine are still such an unhealthy place for many gay Mormons. But moving beyond those negative feelings it is a worthy goal and the direction I want to go over time. When the sword of bitterness and hostility is tossed aside, again the tribe cannot but be impressed with who the gay hero really is.   

As I left the fireside meeting Sunday evening and began to browse social media on my phone, I quickly saw that two good gay Mormon friends of mine had just become engaged to be married. Since they’ve been dating seriously for several years, that wasn’t unexpected, but learning of the news really filled me with happiness for them. As we’ve talked over the years, I’ve come to know some about their own personal struggles of self acceptance, family acceptance and journey through Mormonism. So, it is wonderful to see them in a place of happiness and fulfillment. I feel a tinge of jealousy too when I learn such news - a happy same-sex relationship is a significant dream of mine. But I mostly feel happiness for my good friends, and I wish them the very best in the future.

As Carol Lynn noted Sunday evening, our tribe (Mormonism) doesn’t make it easy for us. Almost simultaneously coming out as gay, leaving the Church, navigating raw emotional experiences, and working through changing realities in a mixed orientation marriage is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. In many ways gay people are not heroes. We are ordinary people with the same fears and need for love and acceptance as anyone else. But we go through an unusual journey, one not shared by most people in the world. To pass through that journey, emerging with greater self acceptance, maybe a partner at one’s side, and love in one’s heart is the best possible outcome for LGBT Mormons. 

1 comment:

  1. I've heard about CLP's work but have not dug into it--thanks for sharing her concepts.

    The part of returning to the tribe unarmed in the name of forgiveness resonates with me. I spent too many years taking shots at the LDS church, I was angry for all the reasons above and vengeance seemed to be the only value feeling when it came to the church, but I've also seen the good that it has done to a lot of people I know (family, friends) and let's face it, even myself. One day I realized I was tired of the proverbial fight I kept having with it and the energy spent doing that was of no real value to me--after that it was interesting that I could go to a Mo-Tab concert and enjoy it for the musical/artistic value, go to see the Christmas lights at Temple Square and even attend a baby's blessing or church function for the sake of being supportive to my family and just let things be and get back to my life--I didn't have to nit-pick everything.

    Seems to work for me in my current situation, my relationships and where I live.

    Thanks again for sharing this.