Salves from hurtful teachings

This weekend was the LDS General Conference, where the leaders of the church gather and give speeches about the church's doctrine, policy, and commandments.  I'll probably make a few posts about the things that were said during this conference, and this will be the first.  If you would like to read/watch/listen, you may do so here.  At the moment, they have all of the video content available to stream.  During the course of the next few days, they will be putting up video/audio and transcripts for each individual speaker for download or streaming.

Elder Shane M. Bowen spoke in the Saturday Morning session.  He's a member of the Quorum of the Seventy, which is (basically) the third-highest body of leaders in the church, right underneath the First Presidency (consisting of 3 men) and the Quorum of Apostles (consisting of 12 men).  One of the things he talked about was the doctrine of infant baptisms.  One of the major ways wherein Mormonism differs from Catholicism (and many other mainstream Christian religions) is that it teaches that young children are saved by the grace of Christ and do not need baptism until they reach the age of 8, which is the "age of accountability".  According to Mormon doctrine, prior to becoming 8, a child is innocent and doesn't know enough to be able to distinguish between right and wrong and therefore cannot be accountable for eir own actions.

So, Mormons teach that children do not need baptism.  The most common reference when teaching about this doctrine is found in the Book of Mormon in Moroni chapter 8, in particular vv 5-16.  In his talk, Elder Bowen related a story about a woman he met while he was a missionary.  She had a baby who died in infancy (I don't recall the particulars, feel free to look up his talk) and was taught by the preacher in her previous church that her child would be going to hell because he was not baptized.  This tormented the mother for years and years, until Elder Bowen met with her and taught her that the Mormon doctrine is that he is saved by the grace of Christ, that little children (under the age of 8) who die without being baptized do not go to hell but go to heaven.

This was very comforting to the woman.  She was overjoyed, and thrilled at the news.  And I know several people in my own life who have been comforted by this very teaching.  My dad's youngest brother died shortly after birth, and the whole family believes the Mormon doctrine that he is in heaven now, awaiting everyone else in the family and will be there to greet them when they come.  Karen has a sister who lost her first child and believes the same thing.

Whether that is true or not is a separate issue.  The point I would like to bring up here is that the teaching that young children do not need baptism is very comforting to a woman who has been taught her whole life that her child will not be saved simply because he died in infancy, before the baptism could be performed.  Someone may be tormented with that kind of horror eir entire life, but then ey hear the teaching that eir child will be saved and it is so relieving.  Mormons brag about this very phenomenon all the time.  They pride themselves on this doctrine, that the Christ they believe in is merciful enough that he will save children who die without being baptized.

Now, I wish to make an analogy.  As I was listening to Elder Bowen relate this story, and I heard him describe the despair this woman felt at believing her child's soul was lost, and the subsequent joy she felt when she was taught that his soul was not lost but was saved, I thought about the teaching that homosexual behavior is sinful.  Over the last two years, I have come in contact with literally hundreds of MoHos (gay Mormons).  Some have left the church, like me.  Some are still in.  Some are closeted, some are out, some are in a gay relationship, some are in a straight relationship, and some are celibate (by choice).  But one thing was common among all of them.  Every single one either currently felt, or had felt in the past at some time, that ey were "less than" because of eir orientation.  Ey felt that ey had done something wrong to make God curse em by making them homosexual, or that if ey were righteous enough God would take away eir homosexuality and make em straight.  This teaching had caused them great torment over the years.

And, just as in the case with the infant baptism doctrine, each of these people felt an immediate relief, and immediate surge of self-confidence and self-worth upon making the realization that it's okay to be gay.  That God had not cursed em.  That ey were a whole person, not less than anyone else.  This is the point that I wish to make.  The LDS church prides itself on providing relief to people, and it does a great job in so many ways.  It provides relief to mothers who lost their children in infancy, in telling them that their children are not in hell.  It provides relief to those who have suffered through natural disasters.  It provides relief to members who are below the poverty line and would otherwise be going without food.  But, it fails to provide relief for members who are homosexual.  It makes them feel less than their straight brothers and sisters.  It makes them feel evil for being who they are.  It makes them feel guilty for their sexual attractions to people of the same sex.  This is not right.  This needs to stop.

If you are gay, know that it's okay.  You don't need to feel bad about yourself.  You don't need to feel bad about your feelings.  You are not evil.  You are not immoral.  You didn't do anything to bring a curse upon yourself.  You are not forsaken by God.  You are just as valuable as any other person.  Your feelings are just as real and just as worthy of being acted upon as any other person's.  The feelings you feel are love for other people.  Love is never wrong.  Love is good.  Love is beautiful.  And that's what you're feeling inside.  Embrace it.  Enjoy it.