For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

- Mosiah 3:19

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Unicorns, Gay Men, Straight Women, Marriage between them, God, and Bathos

Last night, the 22 year old kid who has been courting me, sent me a text message asking me if I wanted to watch a movie with him. I had worked most of the day and felt I deserved some reward. So I agreed. I collected him from his apartment and we went to watch Battleship. Turns out we had different things we focused on in the movie. He was giddy about the arms of the sailors, I was giddy about all the explosions!

Afterward, we went to get a bite to eat and we talked for a while. It was very nice! He finally did the Elmer Fudd laugh, it was great! And he felt more at ease with me, brushing up against me with his arms and hands. I think we are getting to know each other in a good healthy way.

As we talked, we broached the subject of Josh Weed  and his exit from the closet The kid pointed me to two posts by the beloved Dan Savage. Be forewarned, there is crude and crass language in these slog posts!



I think there is a point to be made about this. I thanked the kid for pointing these to me. But since I came across it the last Thursday and observed the immense traffic in the Mormon and non-Mormon blogosphere, I was hesitant to read the blog. The longer I waited, the more frustrated I became at the many people sending me emails, text messages, facebook links to the blog. Most were from my friends who are quite active Mormons. I paused for a moment to reflect on why there was so much affirmative fascination with this story.

I asked myself why is the Mormon community, by and large, so excited, interested, compassionate, and fascinated by this story? What is it about this story of a gay man getting married that is so compelling to them? So I acquiesced and read the blog. I found it an authentic personal story, despite its incoherent and weak logic. As I read, I couldn't help but ask about the implications this story (despite its personal/individuated nature) would have on the Mormon community.

Many have read this and rightly asserted that this story will raise and elicit questions and declarations from family members, friends, and ecclesiastical leaders of gay men and women, "See Josh did it, and for that matter Ty, so can you!" (for Ty's story see the following

I agree that is one implication, but not the only one. As I reflected on the traction this story gained, and the amazing responses from the Mormon community about this story, I couldn't help but be chary of that optimism and overwhelming positive energy. What is the cause of this interest?

I quickly realized that this story and others like it simply reify or reinforce the assumptions that all people ought to fit the heterosexual Mormon mold. In other words, it reinforced for them what they already believed about sexuality, it reinforced for them their beliefs about gender norms and roles, it reinforced for them their beliefs about what constitutes happiness, it reinforced for them that problems such as "homosexuality" is a "personal" struggle and can be overcome by the correct use of agency. Josh's account reinforced this for them. This story is an Uncle Tom account of gay men in the church. By this I mean, an account of an individual that is overly eager to gain the acceptance of the dominant order, by uncritical acceptance of the logic of success laid out for them. This story gained traction in the Mormon community, because it does not threaten, it does not give pause for members to think critically about their church culture, their worldviews, their paradigms. Rather it's a story of acquiescence. This story simply says the Mormon institutions and systems and culture are correct and good. As a result, for many this story is "great," "interesting," "faithful and hopeful," precisely because it does not "rock the boat."

Yet, the boat itself, I think is in serious need of remodeling!

The culture in which the gospel is practiced is largely heteronormative. Heteronormativity is defined as “the organisation of all patterns of thought, awareness and belief around the presumption of universal heterosexual desire, behaviour and identity” (Baker, 2008, p. 209). This inevitably leads to interpreting the doctrine in a very restrictive manner. Happiness is predicated upon this very notion. Let me try to suss out, if I can, what I mean by this relative to the church. I think there is a difference in how we (as mortals with our limited perspectives and understanding) and in how Father views doctrine, sexuality, and so forth. I'm inclined to believe that there are ways the doctrine can be viewed that may be far more accommodating to GLTBQI individuals than is presently understood from the very limited scope of the heteronormative paradigm. 

I am NOT saying that the doctrine will ever allow same-sex marriage, that is quite clear, but what I am saying is that there may be ways that the doctrine can stretch our imaginations to create new spaces for homosexuals in the church, beyond the dichotomous trope of "don't act on it." What that space looks like, I'm not sure. But to invest intellectual capital, spiritual energy and agapic love to see beyond ourselves and to think critically of the institutions we build around ourselves, the formal and informal norms that structure our interactions with others, and the paradigms that cast long shadows on how we interpret and implement doctrine, will provide the much needed catalyst to contemplate the doctrine in new and more expansively loving ways. 

However, stories like the Weed's gained considerable traction, precisely because it does not offer a critical narrative of the existing institutions, the informal and formal norms and protocol, and the various systems and worldviews held by and practiced in the church. Rather this story simply reinforces these things, it validates for Mormons everything they feel to know about how Mormonism ought to be practiced. 

I find this story and others like it do an incredible disservice to increasing revelatory capacity, to practicing love in ways currently unknown to us. One of the implications of this story is the didactic manner in which it is passed on to others like me, where the implicit message is "they did it, so can you." But the larger implication, with which I'm concerned about is that this story reifies and does not question the very foundations of the culture in which the gospel is practiced and does not lead to questioning the ways in which it can expand or restrict our vision, access, and connection to Heavenly Father, the Savior and the Eternal realms. 

A subpoint to the above...Brother Weed implicitly defines happiness and joy with the fulfillment of the tasks of marriage and children. In other words, while I'm happy Josh is married (and perhaps envious because Josh has children, I want children), his definition of happiness is rather uncritical and too narrow and restrictive. I'm inclined to believe that happiness and joy comes in complete submission, rather than in the attainment of the sacrament of marriage. His definition of happiness ends at marriage (this is where his logic lost me, he may not have intended that to be so, but this is what he implicitly defined). But this definition of happiness is part of the larger Mormon narrative of success, and is inherently tied to that heteronormative paradigm. I would argue that happiness is not defined by attainment of marriage or offspring as Josh Weed implicitly submits. 

Rather I would argue that happiness in the church comes from true submission. President Boyd K. Packer, who I adore (I know, I know), it was his remarks in 2000, after I returned home from my mission, that sent me seeking new answers and love, anyhow he said the following, "Perhaps the greatest discovery of my life, without question the greatest commitment, came when finally I had the confidence in God that I would loan or yield my agency to him without compulsion or pressure, without any duress, as a single individual alone, by myself, no counterfeiting, nothing expected other than the privilege." It is in this humble submission to God's will, that we find happiness. The Savior in 3 Nephi 26:13-17 defines the gospel, and the gospel is the atonement, and the atonement is the love of God, and the love of God is happiness. Therein the Savior explained, "Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is my gospel which I have given unto you - that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me. And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men [and women and children] unto me, that as I have lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil..." While we may not always connect this passage to a definition of happiness, I argue that it is the heart of happiness. Marriage is simply acquiescing to God's will, and it's submission to His will that produces joy and happiness, not the marriage and the children, necessarily.

There are individuals like me who have received confirmation from God that celibacy is His will. Thus, the definition of happiness Josh puts out, discounts any version of happiness I might experience as counterfeit. This is highly problematic. Further the heteronormative church culture does not know how to respond to celibacy, it is continued to be viewed as a failure to fulfill God's mandate to "multiply and replenish" the earth. Yet, if it's given by God, why is the Church having such difficultly accomodating it within doctrine? As noted, I argue it's because of the restrictive nature of the heteronormative paradigm that is uncritically used to evaluate, assess, and interpret the doctrine of the Heaven. 

Ok. So this was much longer than I anticipated. But the point is, I'm deeply concerned by the attention this story gets precisely because it does nothing to address any of the real problems faced by homosexuals in the Church. Rather members who read it and find they agree with it, will only reinforce for them that the existing framework in which the gospel is practiced is accommodating and tolerant of homosexuals. Yet, a closer and deeper look at it suggests otherwise. Happiness is complete submission to God's will, "nothing expected other than the privilege." I agree. However difficult it is. 

But I'm thankful for a God who understands me and understands why I do and think the things I do better than I do. He understands better than me why I am where I am and loves me regardless. He understands why I feel the need to find a partner, He understands the tension this causes inside better than me. And He loves me still, He accepts me still. And I accept there are certain privileges I must give up, but He understands better than me why I am willing to give them up. Isn't that amazing? This God of ours, so loving, so kind, so majestic, 


  1. I have one concern about Josh coming out of the closet with this Unicorn Club as he states clearly and he writes clearly in #8 that there is no incorrect path for gay religious to live out their lives, although Josh choose to marry. According to God there is only one straight narrow path if you know what I mean. The Weed's will be harming many gay and homosexuals if they don't understand that clearly sex was meant only in marriage with a man and woman. Outside of God’s plan for marriage sex is very destructive, including fortification, polygamy, homosexual activity etc... I praise God Josh has controlled his same sex attraction feelings and has married, but telling others there is no incorrect path for gay religious to live, is going to harm his family and the world. May God bless Josh and his wife to guide others to the one and only narrow path paved by God.

  2. Lisa thank you for you perspective and your thoughts on Weed's story. Though I am confused with you're comments. I'm not sure how his coming out and being authentic to himself and leaving others to come to an understanding of a "correct" path of their own is detrimental to his family and the world? I think you may have missed the point of Josh's post and mine for that matter. I have no equivocations about the doctrine of heaven, but simple and vague responses such as "the one and only narrow path" is incredibly disheartening and unloving, showing a great deal of misunderstanding. The presence of homosexuality in the plan of God and its resolution is more complicated and deeper than either you or I can imagine, as it gets to the very foundations of what gives our religion meaning and life. While I have misgivings about how the Mormon community will respond to his story, I thank Josh for add a voice that complicates this issue beyond the simple trope of "controlling his same sex attractions" whatever that means.