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Do you hear what I hear?

I like sharing videos such as this one but I often hesitate to do so because the way they are received.  I have many friends who think I merely do so because I am bitter at the church.  One friend told me that he thought I just wanted to make people fight, and that I enjoyed the contention.  One person told me that he thinks I just hate religion because my church didn't let me do what I wanted to do (namely, have a boyfriend).  There are many other false impressions people have had.  And I find that to be unfortunate.  I do what I can to try to clear up these misunderstandings.

I didn't just simply post this video on my Facebook wall because I want to give this disclaimer with it.  I have very little hope that many of my family or Mormon friends read my blog anymore, but with that tiny spark of hope, I write to them to try to explain why I feel that sharing these kinds of things is so important, and why I wish so very much that they would watch these videos that I post.

First and foremost, I share this because I want people to understand me.  I want people to see things from my perspective--not just what they think my perspective is, but actually to take the effort to see things the way I see them.  The man in this video describes what it is like to lose faith in the Mormon church, and to leave the church.  I feel that in many ways my experience was similar to his.  Therefore, I feel that if someone will watch this video and try to see what this man is expressing, that they will also understand a little bit better how I feel.  And I think everyone wants to be understood.

Secondly, I share these things because I think that they are true, and I think that everyone should share what they believe is true.  I do not think that we should selfishly horde truth to ourselves.  I think we should share it--as lovingly and politely as is reasonable, but to share it openly and honestly nonetheless.  I honestly believe that the LDS church is not what it claims to be.  And I honestly believe that my life is better now as a post-Mormon than it was as an active Mormon.  I think that my family and friends who are currently Mormon would benefit from learning the truth and leaving the church, so I have that as a goal.

I share because of empathy for other people.  I know many gay men who are active members of the LDS church and I see how tormented they are between their belief in the church and their sexual feelings.  It pains me to see someone in such turmoil.  I do not enjoy seeing people suffer--physical pain or emotional pain.  I spoke with one young man who was so hurt inside that he felt a strong need to lash out and be cruel to everyone in his life.  It was literally destroying his relationships with people he loved.  I wanted so much to help him get out of that situation.  The man in the video describes couples where one spouse may not believe in the church but is essentially spiritually blackmailed into maintaining activity in the church in order to preserve the relationship.  I have a friend who is active in the church only because his wife wants him to be, not because he believes that the church is true.  I don't think that's right, and I don't think that he should be asked to go through that.

I share because I am an activist.  In all things, I seek justice.  I just watched the movie Milk, for the second time.  I recommend it to anyone who has not yet seen it.  It shows the progress made by the activist Harvey Milk back in the 70s concerning gay rights, and his eventual assassination because of that activism.  Every injustice that I saw in the movie, I felt a personal need to right.  I wanted to go to San Francisco, back in time, and to stand up with those gay people who (literally) fought back against police who were brutalizing them.

And so I do what I can to stand up for what I feel is right.  I see people that I love attending the Mormon church and care for them very much.  I believe that they are being lied to by their church leaders--that they are being taken advantage of.  I feel that is unjust, and so I speak up about it and let it be known.  What harm is there in their participation in the church?  In what way are they being taken advantage of?  There are many things.

First, there is the financial matter.  They are asked to give 10% of their income to the church.  I have loved ones who are barely making ends meet as it is, and they give 10% of their income to the church.  10% may not seem like a lot, but when you're going through a rough time or on a low salary/wage, it can mean the difference between being able to pay the cell phone bill or not, and in some severe situations, even being able to afford the basic necessities of life.  I don't think that's right.  I think it's fine for a church (or any organization) to ask for donations from its members, but to oppress even those who have very little to give and teach them that they have a duty to god to pay a full 10% does not seem right to me.

Second is the time commitment.  Members can spend several hours every week in service to the church.  When you're working a full-time job (or two) and maybe trying to go to school as well, and you have young children in the home, time is very precious and every moment that you have to spend with your family (or alone--most people need "me time") is valuable and important.  Being asked to spend 3 hours at church services on Sunday and several hours throughout the week doing other callings can be very taxing.  Many people "burn out" doing this high level of activity for the church.

And lastly, as much as the LDS church talks about the importance of family, its actions contradict those teachings.  The LDS church indoctrinates its members to exclude family members in many instances.  For example, Mormon weddings are very exclusive events.  Only adult members who have been to the temple (which is a very small percentage of the total membership) are allowed to attend LDS weddings.  In fact, I was unable to attend the wedding ceremony for any of my siblings (two of my siblings married outside the temple, so I was able to attend the one--the other eloped).  Four of my siblings (and myself) did marry in the temple and I was unable to attend any of them.  The three of my older siblings who married in the temple did so before I had been to the temple, so I was not able to attend.  When my younger brother married, I didn't have a current recommend.  I was deemed "unworthy" by my bishop because I was looking at pornography and masturbating.  That is to say, I was unable to attend my own brother's wedding simply because I was doing something that the church labels as "sin".  These are anti-family values.  This policy excludes families from being together at key events in their lives.

But, even with the temple marriage issue aside, the church is anti-family.  The reason for this is that of all of the members of my family (6 siblings plus spouses, nieces and nephews, and 4 parents--counting Karen's) only one has expressed interest in attending my wedding with Conrad.  My own parents and Karen's have expressed quite plainly that they have no desire to attend.  (I'm not too disappointed about Karen's parents not wanting to be there, although I am sure they would be happy to attend if I were marrying a woman instead of a man.)  The church has successfully taught my family that they should not be with me during one of the happiest moments of my life.  That is an anti-family teaching.  These are not good family values.  These are values which are in direct opposition to the concept of family.

And so, I share things like this video because I want so desperately for people to understand how I feel, and why I do this.  I want so much for them to see what I see.  Many times I feel like John Adams in the musical 1776 where he sings "Is anybody there?  Does anybody care?  Does anybody see what I see?"  It is hard to feel so passionately about something (such as gay rights, for example) and not see the same passion reflected in other people.  But it's okay.  Even without the passion, all I really want is to be understood.  Just try to comprehend how I feel and why I feel that way.

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