Sunday, March 25, 2012


The San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus recently made an "It Gets Better" video, with original music ("Testimony") by Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz. The music distinguishes this effort from other such videos, as does its unusually frank treatment of the subject of youth suicide. It's definitely worth watching.

I can relate to the pain portrayed in this video. This was me some 30 years ago. As an adolescent and young adult I had done everything I was supposed to and after my mission found myself at the brink of despair. It’s not sexual frustration or a desire to sin that makes so many young gay Mormons take their own lives. "Testimony" gets close to the reality of the experience.

I look back on that despairing returned missionary with compassion and would tell him that things did indeed get better, unimaginably so. I only wish I could say that it happened with the love and support of my Mormon tribe. It didn't, and that's a shame. The wagons were circled, to use Carol Lynn Pearson's metaphor, but they were circled with me on the outside.

Honestly, it's their loss. : -)

Of course, one would like to think that times have changed in the intervening three decades since my own time of youthful crisis. I've certainly seen a big change in social attitudes of acceptance for sexual minorities in society generally in this period, and I think the attitude of young, well-educated Mormons has changed dramatically. In fact I think we are now at a point where there is a significant divergence of views between these young, educated Mormons and the general leadership of the Church.

I noticed, for example, that the April 2012 edition of the New Era magazine contains a harshly worded article by Boyd K. Packer that calls gay people "the enemy." (This in a magazine meant for readers as young as twelve years old!) Packer's words focus exclusively on sexual acts and deny the compelling effects of sexual orientation (gay or straight) on the dynamics of human pair bonds. His view is out of touch, and it's harmful to gay youth.

Here's a reaction of another blogger to the New Era article:

It’s all a little confusing. And it’s all a little silly. But it’s just religion, right? It’s not really “real.” It doesn’t really matter that much.

Until I think about a 11-year-old boy, old enough to know he’s different than other boys, crying himself to sleep, wondering “who made me?” Convinced, of course, that God wouldn’t have created a perversion. Or of a grown man, doing his best to talk between sobs, telling us how years ago his bishop had promised him that if he married a young woman he was dating, God would lift the burden of being gay. He did–but God didn’t. I try not to think of what it must be like to believe that an intrinsic part of who you are is a “temptation that must be resisted.” I can’t imagine what it must be like to look into a future with no possibility of sanctioned companionship or intimacy. How much do you have to pray before you get calluses on your knees? How much “love the sinner, but hate the sin” can a person take? When does it all become too much?

But it’s just religion. It’s supposed to be simple and neat and tidy. Theology isn’t about complexity or exceptions. It’s about grand statements. It’s about truth with a capital T. So what if things don’t match up perfectly? So what if a few people fall into the cracks?

I put down The New Era. I log into Facebook. The first link I see is to an obituary of a young man.

He was Mormon, and he was gay. And he killed himself yesterday.

Where are the LDS-produced films, training materials for leaders or public service advertisements that deal compassionately with the issues faced by gay youth? It's crickets chirping, folks. What the LDS hierarchy likes to call "local members" are far ahead of the Church itself.

Via: Mormon Mentality