The spiritual adventures of a gay man recently returned to Mormonism
(I wrote the following post for publication in the blog of Affirmation: LGBT Mormons. It represents my own opinion and not necessarily the view of Affirmation.)
On the evening of October 5, I broke down sobbing in my apartment. A few hours earlier, I had walked with my sisters in Ordain Women to the Tabernacle on Temple Square. I watched as men and boys strode by to attend the priesthood session, but the huge wooden doors were shut tightly to prevent even a single woman from entering.
This touched a very tender place in me as I remembered being rejected by the church I loved deeply because of something I couldn’t change about myself.
It occurred to me then that there is a relationship between the church’s exclusion of gay people, its devaluation of women, and its silence around Heavenly Mother. The common denominator is a rejection of the feminine: in women, in men, and even in heaven.
Every person has both “feminine” and “masculine” characteristics. Our psychological and spiritual health depends on our acceptance and balancing of these aspects of our personality. As psychoanalyst John A. Sanford points out, Jesus perfectly balanced the feminine and masculine within Himself.
Patriarchy is a system that prevents such balance because it insists that the masculine is more valuable than the feminine, that males must preside over females, and that men degrade themselves when they “act like women”—for example, by having sex with other men or by using “feminine” gestures.
Affirmation is doing a wonderful job of helping interested LGBT people—myself included—re-enter the church. It may be tempting for gay men in particular to hold on to the male privilege we have enjoyed in the church. We may want to distance ourselves from issues of female equality because identification with the feminine could threaten our standing with the male hierarchy that controls the church.
This we must not do. There are two reasons we must resist male privilege as we rejoin the church. First, as I have pointed out, placing the masculine over the feminine is what leads to rejection of both gays and women in the first place.
The second reason has to do with social capital—the amount of standing a person or group has within society. It is human nature to gravitate toward those with more social capital than ourselves. But Jesus taught us to do the opposite: He spent His precious time not with the powerful but with the disempowered. Gay male Mormons who are following the Savior’s example may wish to use whatever male privilege we have in the church not to perpetuate a system of inequality but to remedy it.
The Mormon church will not achieve the ideal of Zion until it comes to value women and LGBT people as equal members. That is its great challenge. Although LGBT folks could theoretically be included in the church without helping women achieve equality, that would not be Zion. We without them cannot be made perfect.
How can we help our Mormon feminist siblings? We can recognize and value the feminine within ourselves. We can notice how we consciously or unconsciously discount the words and contributions of women. We can examine our churches, workplaces, and families for imbalances of power. We can seek a relationship with our Heavenly Mother, the source of the divine feminine within each of us. We can seek out our feminist sisters and brothers, join their groups, come to know and love them, and thrust in the sickle with them.
The church is an important instrument of salvation. But one day—having fulfilled its function—the church will cease to exist and we will stand naked before the judgment bar of our Heavenly Parents. In that day, the only thing that will matter is whether we held up the hands that hung down.