Posted By Eric Ethington (Author) on January 29, 2011
Salt Lake City, UT – Got to tell you this story folks. Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak to a group of Social Worker students at the University of Utah about what it means to be LGBT and the experiences we face growing up in Utah. Afterwards, an active Mormon man approached me.
I made a point while speaking to mention my true feelings about the Mormon (LDS) Church. I won’t deny or try to hide it, many would classify me as anti-Mormon. I’m opposed to virtually every policy they enforce on their unsuspecting neighbors. I have seen too many deaths, too many families destroyed and lives broken directly because of them.
But perhaps my feelings towards the Mormon organization, which are highlighted rather frequently here at PRIDEinUtah, have not made it clear the differences I draw between the religion as a whole and the individuals within the Church.
After the question and answer in front of the class, a young man named Steve approached me with some private questions. He identified himself as a straight active-Mormon who was struggling with how to combine his religion and his growing feelings of support for the LGBT community. The question he asked me brought me up short, after hearing my views on the Mormon church he asked, “How can you expect me to support you, if you don’t support me?”
Very poignant question, and he raised an excellent point. How can we expect members of the different faiths to support us if we refuse to support them in their religion. I took Steve to the side and did my best to more fully explain my position.
“Am I a fan or in any way supportive of the Mormon religion? No.” I said, ” but that has nothing to do with me supporting your right to believe the way you do. Your personal relationship with your God is sacred even to me, because it is in your heart and it is your undeniable right. There is a large difference between opposing the policies and doctrine of a religion, and being opposed to the people within that religion.”
There is a very distinct and clear line between members of an organization or religion and the organization itself was the point I was trying to get across. While I may (and do) protest publicly the Mormon church, march around their temple and call them on their bullshit, that is not an attack on any individual.
I know far too many “true Mormons” who have good hearts to say that I want to turn all Mormons away from their religion. Believing in a god can be a comfort to millions just as not believing in a god is a great comfort to myself.
Steve then asked me how he could reconcile his religion with LGBT issues. I confessed that I didn’t have a solid answer for him, as the Mormon organization has drawn very distinct battle lines and have even crossed into illegal activities during campaigns such as Proposition 8 (they were later fined for their illegal use of monies in the campaign).
“The best advice I can give you Steve, is just to remember the one word that your Christ taught above all else: Love. Love your fellow human beings without qualm or hesitation. For if you don’t and you let the words and feelings of hate spread through you, the one person you are guaranteed to damage is going to be yourself.”
“Steve, no matter what any religion may tell you. We are born this way. I don’t care that science hasn’t proven it (they also haven’t proven that people are born heterosexual either) because that really doesn’t matter. All you have to do is ask one of us and we’ll tell you. Who would know better than ourselves what is truly in our own hearts? And what would your Jesus say if you were to stop loving or accepting someone just because they are different from yourself?”
I gave Steve the URL for PRIDEinUtah as well as my phone number and email, I sincerely hope that he reads this and contacts me.