The re-vamped Mormon and Gay website went live today.
If I had discovered the website as a newbie I might give a wee yip of approval.
But I’m not new to the Mormon church’s misguided and historically painful past on the matter, and anyone who has paid attention might be all too aware that the Church has made it NOT OK to be LGBTQ and Mormon – over and over again. In a thousand ways, in a thousand talks, in a thousand micro-aggressions, in millions of conversations across the world the church has made it NOT OK to be, to support, or to disagree with church leaders on matters of LGBTQ sexual practice, policy and identity.
But the problem right now isn’t that there are different views ricocheting around the Mormon world. That’s just symptomatic. The problem is systemic. The problem is that the vertical, power based, governance system that has been so central to the church is failing, out-dated and no longer serves our grand religious or spiritual purposes. Because its not trustworthy.
We know its not trustworthy because the message of the website, while an improvement of sorts does not square with the November policy which tells us the heterosexual children, THE CHILDREN of an LGBTQ person may not receive the church’s saving ordinances. Yet this website asserts the right of an LGBTQ person to all of the ordinances, participation and blessings of church membership. And that doesn’t make sense. In fact so much of what the church does in response to this hot button issue is incomprehensible, and in that confusion there is pain, vulnerability, and risk for everyone involved.
As a result people are turning their backs on the Brethren. The very entity that once gave the church cohesion, stability, and reliability has become its greatest liability. Yet, the digital world that we live in today simply will not allow for a blind obedience, exclusion, wilful ignorance and the kind of authoritarianism that served us well before we knew better.
Organisational studies are abuzz at the moment with two powerful ideas that could transform Mormonism; Complexity theory and trust based leadership. In short, complexity theory argues that organisations listen to and trust the ideas, questions, pain and wisdom that come out of human interactions. Allowing for these complex and often seemingly irreconcilable differences produces an adaptive system rather than a system rigidly committed to right or wrong.
Trust-based leadership argues that if you can drive up trust through integrity, honesty, empathy and inclusion the health of the organisation recovers and you can make a safe space for dialogue, and problem-solving that is shared across the community.
The trouble is that people like to out-source their power to a third party. They like to hand over all of their internal and external affairs to a church that makes guarantees and promises in exchange for a kind of hazy-eyed, unquestioning bliss. The trouble is, bliss is easily ruptured, often by one small question that a podcast, post, policy or a friend might propose. Besides which, if protecting a bliss means you have to beat off your own soul’s need for development and expansion, that bliss comes at a price – spiritual maturity.
I say this in the spirit of generosity. I don’t think the brethren are badly disposed men. But it seems that they are collectively dysfunctional. I think they are stuck in a system that doesn’t dignify everyone’s best thinking; a system that is poorly culturally resourced; a system that is too vertical, too power based, too patriarchal, and too rigid. Turning that around will be the Brethren’s greatest prophetic task. Holding onto the status quo because it worked once is not a hat tip to the viability of modern revelation and its trustworthiness. Its just sad, desperate and lacking in intelligence, compassion, youthfulness and creativity.
I’m not being mean about old men. I’m just saddened by the idea that I likely won’t be able to keep my children in the church without holding them in a tight, inoculated space that actively denies the very wisdom that they need to guide their walk in a world with more generosity, compassion, kindness, clear-eyed thinking and open-heartedness than today’s LDS church seems to allow for. I simply can’t side with the church on this issue and it might very well cause my children to leave – but that’s a spiritual risk I am willing to take in order to raise good, kind men.
So I, along with many others are bit heart-sick about the new website – because it really doesn’t feel like the church has repented, nor has it had a change of heart. It feels like business as usual, that the church is hard and impermeable and despite their terrible mistakes still can’t admit that they did wrong to so many, many dear, dear souls who only wanted to belong.
This sentiment is beautifully captured by a friend who so eloquently offered:
“I think I have some kind of condition, anytime I hear the church or mormon in the same sentence as gay I just get super emotional. It’s like a pavlovian reaction. I want to curl up in the foetal position and sob. I want to tell the church to stay away from the topic entirely because it’s done such a bad job of it to date. Can we file a restraining order or something against the church so they can’t be within 100 yards…I’ll stop there because we know how this ends #foetal.”
I hope I’m wrong. I hope I’m just being cynical about the church leadership. I could stand being corrected. If someone gave me some proof that the hierarchy is responsive open and wanting to review their dogmas because they haven’t held up over time – that’d make me happy.
I’d even write a repentant retraction – and I’d do it joyfully. Because I love this maddening church.