No More Strangers: A Forum for LGBT Mormons and Allies

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God. (Ephesians 2:19)

Paul, in this chapter of Ephesians, begins by reminding the Saints of the state of brokenness in which they had once found themselves. He reminds them that it was by no merit of their own that they were saved, but because of divine initiative. “You hath [God] quickened,” he reminded them twice in this chapter, “who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1 & 5).

Many LGBT Mormons know what it means to cross the valley of death.  Some of us have been brought back from the brink, back to life.  Too many of us have untimely passed the brink. Carol Lynn Pearson has shined a light on the epidemic of gay Mormon suicide in her anthology No More Goodbyes and in her play “Facing East.” But there are many different kinds of suicide. One of my closest childhood friends was shunned by his devout LDS parents after he came out; ended up in an abusive relationship that he couldn’t bring himself to leave because he feared being alone; and died recently of AIDS-related complications.  We LGBT Mormons know death.

Paul dwells for some time on the nature of the brokenness from which the Saints were saved.  He speaks of once dwelling in “desires of the flesh and of the mind,” “by nature children of wrath, even as others” (v. 3). Here he acknowledges the brokenness of human nature, which is most manifest in the social conventions that bind our bodies and our minds, that keep us from wholeness and joy. There are different ways to get trapped in sinful social convention.  For many LGBT people (as with other social outcastes), one of the most insidious traps – though not the only trap – is believing in others’ denigration of us.

We may or may not be able to free ourselves from the traps and pitfalls of convention. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (v. 8). God may reach out to us directly through the Spirit, or through the sacrificial work of others.

God created us for a fullness, a power and beauty that too often we fail to see in ourselves. When we figure things out, it is a miracle.  The ability to free our minds from convention, to see ourselves as full and equal children of God – free from fear, free from self-denigration, free from defensiveness – is a miracle. Paul revels in the miraculousness of the moment when our eyes and hearts are opened and we realize “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (v. 10).

But then Paul had to address a terrible irony faced by the Ephesian saints – one strangely analogous to the irony faced by LGBT people in the Church today, 2000 years later.  We have waded through sorrow and brokenness.  We have dwelt in the valley of the shadow of death.  And through some miracle beyond our own understanding, we’ve been saved.  We’ve caught a vision of the fullness, power and beauty for which God created us.  But when we gather with the community founded on the work of Christ by the grace of God, we find a “wall of partition” (v. 14), between us and our straight brothers and sisters. We find ourselves still “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel,” “strangers from the covenants of promise” (v. 12).

Paul’s post to the Ephesians was necessitated by the alienation between Gentile and Israelite saints, an alienation which he insisted had no place in the work of Christ.  Speaking of Christ’s unifying work Paul rhapsodizes: Christ “abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one.” He writes of “reconcil[ing]… into God,” “preach[ing] peace to you which were far off,” of granting “both” – both Gentile and Jew – “access by one Spirit unto the Father” (vs. 15-18).

Paul’s words build, crescendo-like, to the words we’ve chosen here as the name of this new blog: “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (v. 19).  We’ve chosen these words because we want this blog to be about unity across difference, about inclusion, peace and love, all hard-won on our journeys as LGBT Mormons, with families, fellow Saints and allies through the valley of death and back again to life.

Bob Rees gave a major address in 1991 entitled “No More Strangers and Foreigners: A Mormon Christian Response to Homosexuality,” later published in booklet form, which was a pivotal work in challenging the LDS community to seek greater understanding about the experience of LGBT people.  The title of our blog is intended to pay homage to this and other pioneering work of earlier generations.  Bob will write for this blog, as will other  pioneers like Carol Lynn Pearson and Bill Bradshaw, who have worked tirelessly for decades, making God’s grace real to us through their fierce insistence that our experience as LGBT people was real, that our stories were true, that we mattered, and that we belonged. Though all of us are pioneers in our own right, we acknowledge the huge debt we owe to folks like these who stood up boldly on our behalf when no one else in the Church dared.

All the writers who have been recruited for this blog are involved in healing work in the LGBT Mormon community: Randall Thacker and I through Affirmation; John Dehlin through Mormon Stories and his academic research about the well being of LGBT Mormons; Kendall Wilcox through the production of the Far Between documentary, the creation of the Empathy First initiative; Erika Munson through Mormons Building Bridges; Bridey Jensen through her work with USGA; Amanda Klein Nokleby, Kevin Kloosterman and Daniel Parkinson through Gay Mormon Stories; Mitch Mayne in his pioneering work in the San Francisco Stake; Jim Struve in affirming therapy work with LGBT folks; Laura Compton and Spencer Clark through Mormons for Marriage Equality; Berta Marquez through activism on behalf of youth in the state of Utah; Cary Crall through activism promoting LGBT health and Tom and Wendy Montgomery through Family Fellowship, bringing their passion as fiercely protective parents. We look forward to bringing others on board as this endeavor unfolds.

Some of us have been around for a long time; some of us are brand spanking new as advocates and activists.  We are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and straight. We are in different places in terms of our relationship with the LDS Church.  Some of us are active in the Church and fiercely committed to our testimony and to the Gospel; some of us wrestle with doubt and/or faith; and some are firmly post-Mormon, though concerned about the state of affairs in LGBT Mormondom.  We bring with us expertise as teachers, scientists, writers, coaches, therapists, activists, theologians, and thinkers.

We seek to address a range of topics, in diverse voices and styles.  Some of us bring an edgier, more political perspective to the table.  Others rely on laughter to dispel demons. Some of us love digging into the scriptures and bringing theological reflection to real-life struggles.  Others bring a more devotional, more spiritually connected perspective. We value science and faith.

We will reflect on the LGBT Mormon experience, but we will also examine larger questions in our Church and society from our unique perspectives, bringing our faith and our wrestling with issues related to sexuality and gender identity to our reflections on current events and the human condition. We hope to challenge ourselves and our readers.

Our one overarching commitment is that whatever we are or ever were to one another, the one thing we are no more and will never more be is strangers.

22 comments for “No More Strangers: A Forum for LGBT Mormons and Allies

  1. January 17, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    Thank you for establishing an inclusive community. I was going to do it if no one else was going to. This looks very promising, and I’m very exited for the possibilities.

  2. David D.
    January 17, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    Big woop. Another gay Mormon blog written by the same people that are already writing or podcasting about the same subject. The chruch still isn’t true. If it were, it would be leading the charge in defending all of God’s children from hate and discrimination. But instead, the “one true church” has been one of the loudest voices in spreading misinformation and teaching gay people like me to dispise themselves. The church could do a complete 180 turn around right now and I’d still see it for what it really is…a corporation run by uninspired old men calling themselves the kingdom of God on earth. What’s the point people?

    • January 18, 2013 at 2:11 pm

      David – I guess part of the point of comparing the conflict between gay and straight Saints to the conflict between Gentile and Jewish Saints in the first century is that these conflicts don’t just magically evaporate just because we claim the name of Christ. We still have to work out our relationships with each other.

      Below, one of our admins (I think John Dehlin) noted his statistical research to the effect that about 70% of gay members ultimately leave the Church. I guess considering the intensity of the rejection so many of us have experienced, I’m surprised that it’s not much higher!

      I understand why people leave and never come back… I also get how those of us who stay have an obligation to work to make things better, whether or not those who have left ever choose to come back.

  3. Randy
    January 17, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    I look forward to reading entries from Bill Bradshaw. He is a hero in my eyes for all he has done to raise awareness from the inside at BYU. There are times I wish I had stayed at BYU to help him but also knew I didn’t have the clout he had and likely would have hindered the process.

    • January 18, 2013 at 1:46 pm

      Randy – I was a student of Bill’s when I was at BYU after my mission (from 1983-1986). At that time, he still hadn’t quite evolved on this issue. But of all the professors I had there, he and Mike Quinn were the two that had the greatest impact for good on my life. I am so grateful he’s participating in this blog!

      • Jeremiah Stone
        January 18, 2013 at 5:28 pm

        BTW, John, I have been and continue to be inspired by your collection of essays “Why Theology Can’t Save Us.” Thank you.

  4. Alexei
    January 17, 2013 at 11:04 pm

    I’m glad to see this up and running. It will be great to read the variety of perspectives.

  5. George Windes
    January 18, 2013 at 3:53 am

    I wonder how many gay LDS have left the church through the decades (either forced or migrated away from hurt/injured feelings). I am thinking percentages. I would imagine it is high on the curve. Likewise, I know many LDS who have been underground, struggling in traditional marriages, while seeking clandestine brief encounters. The movie, “Same Time Next Year,” comes to mind. Gratefully both of my gay brothers established long-term relationships and knew love. My gay son is seeking the same, currently looking for Mr. Right. I will pay for the nuptials if he finds him. Love is the sweet mystery of life. It is very desirable… and healthy… and fulfilling…

  6. Tristin
    January 18, 2013 at 4:02 am

    This is very exciting. I look forward to seeing the great things that come from this community of superstars.

  7. Chris Mower
    January 18, 2013 at 4:26 am

    I’m looking forward to this; I think there is much work to be done and support to be given in regards to the church and the way it (in general) perceives the LGBT community and its supporters. Whether the LDS church is true or not doesn’t matter when it comes to defending and standing up for our fellow men. If this site moves acceptance and compassion forward it is helpful, and with the people who will be contributing, I cannot see this being anything but good.

  8. Admin
    January 18, 2013 at 4:40 am

    George – Our data put the number at around 70%, fwiw.

  9. George Windes
    January 18, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Amazing, seventy percentile is the exact number I visualized when I posted originally. For the thirty percent who remain, I stand with you. Having verbalized same, in my fifty-five years in the church, I had personally known two score of men (and women) who have lived double lives of danger and complicity. For most, the shelf eventually crashed, with serious injury to wives, children, their familial name. In a few cases, fatal injuries were suffered/inflicted.

    Sadly, though the commentary out of Salt Lake has eased, I see little change in active LDS members. Indeed, I often heard anti-gay sentiment among youth and see examples of slight bullying. Two weeks ago a member was very vocal on how her family would never attend the same gender marriage of a beloved niece. I don’t have answers, other than I can no longer be silence within my Mormon circle. And perhaps there is where the change will eventually come.
    I add no more. God Bless you all.

  10. Debbie
    January 18, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Nice to see this blog. How can I subscribe? Never mind, I guess I just have to check the box below?

  11. Tabitha
    January 18, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    Very excited to hear and learn from you all on this blog !

  12. January 18, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    I’m really excited for that blog! It seems like there are so many great individuals each doing the same kind of work, connected to each other in purpose, but not in a visible way to everyone else. This will be a great way for all the voices of this work–of creating a better atmosphere for homosexuals within the Church and the Church’s communities–to show solidarity, at the same time showing the diverse approaches they have.

    I look forward to reading each of the articles!

  13. January 18, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    Thanks for informative posting. I feel pleased positive this posting has improved me save many hours of browsing other related posts mention a few find what precisely I wanted. Just I would like to say: Thank an individual!

  14. Melanie
    January 18, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    Wonderful new project and great inaugural post! This project will save lives and heal many broken relationships. Thank you all for being courageous pioneers.

  15. January 18, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    I appreciate this new resource. I have no contact with the church yet have frequent contact with church members. Perhaps some of the posts will help explain things to them that I have not been able to clarify. Best wishes and thanks to each of you.

  16. Rob
    January 18, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    I usually never post a comment, feel I must say thank you! I am most fortunate and blessed as I have a wonder family grandchildren and my ex-wife and I are still friends. I used to pray that the priesthood would be given to the blacks as I thought that would usher in a millennium of love and acceptance but unfortunately that is only partially accomplished, my observation is that the Church fears the truth about homosexuality and avoids it by “new speak” using same gender attraction or SSA! They have finally realized that at least 5% of the Church is gay or lesbian and they have 2 parents = 10% and each of them have 2 parents= 20% which totals 35% of the Curch is gay, their parents or grandparents. Eve’s statement is true “It is better that we pass through sorry that we learn of our own expirience to prize the good!” These individuals have come to see the good in their children and grandchildren and ‘prize it’!!! That should cause concern or even fear in our leaders as many members can see for themselves the value and the beauty diversity brings to God’s creation! Another problem which is true is old people become rigid in their thought processes and find change difficult–another reason why God chose a 14 yo boy to open this dispensation! Change may not come until this generation of leadership passes away much like th children of Isreal had to wander for 40 years in the wilderness. I remember when the women of the Church vowed to follow the law of their husband and that mental illness was due to a lack of faith and prayer. The answer is obvious and exquisitely simple–charity–the pure love of Christ which require the individual receiving to love there fellowman as God loves us. Until gay members feel that love and acceptance (not tolerance) the Church is Not following Christ who came that men might have joy and an abundantce of life. Ask yourself do the gay or lesbian people known or unknown feel the love of God when in my presence? If not you have not used your ‘talent’ well and wil be found an “unprofitable servant” on that last day as they witness against you. By this shall men know ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. I grew up when a gay person definitely did not feel the love and only way to gain acceptance was to live a lie! The bravest thing I have ever done is to risk my eternal life to be true to myself and truly trust God who created me. I realized that I also was entitled to joy in this life and love! In finding myself and liking and loving that person I have found the peace that Christ promises and finally feel whole and at peace with my creator who I hated for a time granting me everything that I was supposed to attain, but denying me the ability to enjoy it and to feel at oneness with myself and God and His Son–that even the Church cannot deny me nor they facilitate. It is not what you do with the 99 but the 1 that determines if you are following Christ. While I laud the Church’s website, perhaps as a Church they need to follow the steps of repentance, having taken the first of recognition of their sin toward their gay sons and daughters, brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers. May you all have peace and know love!

    • Randall Christensen
      January 19, 2013 at 9:11 am

      marvelously stated, bravo!

  17. Randall Christensen
    January 19, 2013 at 9:13 am

    What a find! Thank you, John Dehlin, for all that you do, and for the link to this new site. Bravo to you all, and bless you all for the courageous things you are doing! Blessings will most certainly come to you, as you help, advise, comfort and inspire/lead the way (of thinking) for many of our LDS brothers and sisters who are struggling. Not to mention faithful hetero-saints who need this!

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