What do you think when you hear “gay-friendly Mormon”? Does it have a strange ring? Do you think of Prop 8, and nothing else?
Mormons unhappy with their church’s stance on gay rights have launched a website (ldsapology.org) to gather petition signatures for their “Plea for Reconciliation.” Organized by two California residents in the wake of the Prop 8 campaign, this coalition of active and former members of the Church of Latter-Day Saints state that “the time is right for healing.” Their hope: to convince the church to ease up on its antigay policies, and especially its political intervention and fundraising.
My mother’s side of the family, all being Mormon, have made me more personally familiar with the Church of Latter-Day Saints than the typical non-Mormon (I was baptized Catholic, am now atheist). As a result of these family ties, I’ve frequently found myself correcting misconceptions about the faith: no, they don’t practice polygamy; yes, they are Christian; no they’re not that much crazier than other religions.
BUT I’m also a harsher critic of Mormonism’s problems because, well, they’re family. While bothered by extreme prejudice against Mormonism (often coming from other conservative Christians) that is based on misunderstanding its history and practice, I’m all too aware that it is a predominantly right-wing faith with serious flaws—homophobia being the biggest of my frustrations.
So it was a relief to encounter a more progressive face of Mormonism. A few days ago, the website had a little over 100 signatures; now it’s close to 800, and growing daily. This pressure, coming from the church’s own constituents, is harder to brush off than outsider criticism, and this is exactly what needs to happen to cause a change in harmful conservative religious stances. And the website doesn’t shy away from demonstrating just how harmful this antigay stance can be, with a list of gay and lesbian Mormon suicide victims and links to heart-wrenching–and sometimes horrific–personal stories.
Right now, ldsapology.org is a small step in a positive direction, but, hopefully, it will inspire other members of the Mormon church uncomfortable with its direction on gay rights to stand up—so that, as time passes, the term “gay-friendly Mormon” doesn’t sound so strange.
Update June 29th: A recent Nation article (disclosure: I’m an intern there) discusses the push for LGBT rights in predominantly-Mormon Utah, including the visibility of queer Mormons in Salt Lake City. While these activists aren’t confronting church policy as directly as ldsapology.org, their political fight certainly sends a similar message. Cheers for more people coming out of the Closet of Latter-Day Saints.