The Tipping Point and the Penny


Last night–just after I wrote down a few thoughts for this blog–I watched the second in a three-part series on PBS called “The Abolitionists.”  It ended on a challenging note: a bill had been passed that promised to secure slavery forever in the United States.  But the narration gave us a hint of the sunrise to come.  “The abolitionists–Frederick Douglass–William Lloyd Garrison–Harriet Beecher Stowe–could not know it, but their long struggle had passed the tipping point.”

“That’s us,” I thought.  “We are abolitionists, we who have created this blog (and others who have been working in their own way).  Some of us have been laboring for decades to abolish ignorance, abolish prejudice, abolish inhumane cures for a non-existent illness, abolish soul-crushing and family-destroying rhetoric born of a commitment to maintaining a position rather than seeking Truth.

One difference.  We do know that our “long struggle has passed the tipping point.”

Is it too much of a stretch to compare our work to that of the abolitionists who fought to end slavery for African Americans?

In a telephone conversation I had with a General Authority at the time our church jumped into the battle to pass Proposition 8, I said, “It is abundantly clear in which direction the movement for gay rights is going and will continue to go.  And not because Satan has us by the throat, but because it is the correct thing to do.  When we Mormons are able some decades hence to get a better vision of our own history, there will be a very long list of things we will be deeply proud of, and I can make that list as well as anyone.  There will also be a list of things we are not proud of.

“We will always be uncomfortable with the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

“We will always be uncomfortable with polygamy.

“We will always be uncomfortable with our history with racism.

“We will be uncomfortable, I believe, with the fact that at a period of time when we could have taken a leadership role in what we conveniently called ‘women’s issues,’ such as bringing back the concept of God the Mother, we instead chose to actively work against it.

“But I believe our greatest shame will be reserved for how we have treated our gay brothers and sisters in these last few decades.

“I do not know of any black man who took his life because he was not allowed ordination to the priesthood in our church.

“Neither I nor any of my feminist friends have taken our lives over our church working against issues that were and are deeply important to us.

“However hundreds–and I do mean hundreds–of our best and brightest LDS gay men–some women but mostly men–have taken their lives because we have made them feel so helpless and hopeless, and when we truly get a bead on that our shame will be enormous.”

The good news is that on LGBT issues the Mormon community–like our nation in general–has “passed the tipping point.”

As I was leaving church one Sunday last year, I met on the steps a friend who happens to be a member of the Stake Presidency and also my former bishop.

I said, “Guess what I was doing during Sacrament Meeting today.”

“What?” he asked.

“I was calling myself to repentance.  I found that I was sitting there, ranting as I often do on the subject life has called me to address.  I was going over for the thousandth or so time this thought–why is our church ‘of the last wagon’ on gay issues?–why are we digging in our heels against movement that is inevitable and correct?  Why were we not the leaders?  Why are we bringing up the rear?

“Then I remembered the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, and I opened my Bible to Matthew, chapter twenty.  The householder goes out to get laborers for the vineyard.  Some come early, some at noon, some later, and some about the eleventh hour.  When the work is done every man receives a penny.

“‘What?  We worked all day and these guys come in at the last minute and they get as much as we do?’

“‘Surprise–it’s my money and I do with it what I choose.’

“So I’m calling myself to repentance.  If Jesus doesn’t discriminate against those who come at the eleventh hour, then I shouldn’t either.”

“Good work,” said my friend.

I honor the leadership of our church for the improved rhetoric, the shifts in tone and in approach evident in the new website  And in the new Bishop’s Guide:

I also honor those who came early, the abolitionists who have been working for decades to prepare the fields for the good work taking place now and in the future.

We have passed the tipping point.  We each get our penny.  Tomorrow is a new day and the Master still needs laborers in the vineyard.  If we can, let’s try to get there before noon.




13 comments for “The Tipping Point and the Penny

  1. Cary Crall
    January 22, 2013 at 7:39 am

    Of all the beautiful points made above, I appreciate most the example of repentance and aggressive introspection you give. What a phenomenal way to use Sacrament meeting. Thank you for sharing!

  2. EdwardJ
    January 22, 2013 at 8:35 am

    The idea of the tipping point feels right on to me. So many people in my ward have not only welcomed me—as a gay man—with open arms, but say they are ready for the church to change its positions regarding LGBT folks, women, and Heavenly Mother.

    The field is indeed white, already to harvest!

  3. Cherie
    January 22, 2013 at 8:58 am

    You are a treasure to us Carol Lynn. Thank you for so clearly saying what needs to be said.

  4. Dennis
    January 22, 2013 at 10:41 am

    I don’t at all see the church at the tipping point. I was recently excommunicated for being gay. I was told that by being gay I was ruining the good name of the church. Ostracized throughout the community. I continue to be shunned by Mormons throughout our community. I’m a chiropractor and virtually all of my Mormon patients have left my practice, except for 2. I even had a nonmember patient come and tell me that his boss, who I do not know, told him not to come to me anymore because I was an excommunicated Mormon. I also had the Second Counselor in the Stake Presidency out me to my mother in law before my wife and split. I was married for almost 20 years. I get along well with my wife, which I am grateful for and my children have seen through the horrors of the way the church has treated me.

    • EdwardJ
      January 22, 2013 at 11:40 am

      Dennis, I am so, so sorry to hear about that. The only reason I wasn’t excommunicated years ago was because I left the church before I got on anyone’s radar.

      Out of curiosity, where do you live? I’ve noticed that wards in certain areas of the country are more gay-friendly than others.

  5. Pablo
    January 22, 2013 at 10:42 am

    Carol Lynn Pearson, I am grateful to you for your efforts to help save lives, create safer spaces for LGBT people from Mormon backgrounds, and open the discussion among non-LGBT Mormons. I also appreciate your thoughtfulness and generosity.

    This piece is in that thoughtful tradition. But I think you are being too generous to LDS leadership as a whole. The parable of the laborers in the vineyard can rightly be applied to individual Mormons who are coming around at the eleventh hour. However, it is a false analogy when it comes to the LDS leadership. Their work in “the vineyard” is not yet to be trusted, and not yet worthy of reward. So far, their work has been focused on cleaning up the charred remains of the part of the vineyard that they and their predecessors have burned. When all of them put down the torches, that will signal their willingness to do work of real substance.

  6. spiderlady
    January 22, 2013 at 10:56 am

    More and more, I feel drawn to this work. This effort to save the lives, literally, of so many of our brothers and sisters. I want to help any way I can. I feel the need to call out to the Lord, “use me in this work. Use me.” I don’t know yet which way it will take me, but I know a great deal of my remaining time on Earth will be taken up in this effort.

  7. Mary Bassett
    January 22, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Except that coming late won’t un-dead those that took their life nor remove the heaps of emotional and mental suffering. There must be accountability, and I don’t see the church apologizing for the pain caused by racism or sexism either. They don’t apologize when they change policy, because to do so would be too close to admitting they were wrong.

  8. Carla Hoffman
    January 23, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    As always, Carol Lynn, your writing is clear, compassionate, full of truth, and forthright. The conviction with which you write and speak helps me to continue speaking out in my conservative little corner of California. Most Sundays I sit in church feeling increasingly frustrated, disappointed, and sad in my struggle to reconcile my personal spirituality and faith with the Mormon religion I know so well. Rather than linger on those feelings, I will focus on the hope and light that come from our Heavenly Parents. And I will not be quiet.

    I do believe it may be time–in the spring–for another hike up the mountain with you.

  9. Anonymous
    January 24, 2013 at 10:23 am

    I am so grateful for the work that you have done, Carol Lynn. I hope you are right that we have passed the tipping point as a church. But I’m afraid that being a lesbian and living in Utah Valley has taught me otherwise. I can’t come out to anyone but my closest friends. My family relationships are strained. When I told my sister that I was dating a woman she looked at me as if I had just killed a puppy. We haven’t spoken since, and I haven’t seen my nieces or nephews in months. I’m in love with a wonderful woman but neither of us can tell our parents without fear of not just social ostracization but excommunication and job loss. We have to lie to everyone about our relationship. Either we will continue our relationship and face the awful consequences, or we will have to break up and go back to lives of loneliness. I’m stuck and I don’t know what to do. Change in the church won’t come fast enough for me, or for my girlfriend. I know that progress is being made elsewhere, but not in Utah Valley. Not for me.

    • February 4, 2013 at 5:25 pm

      This is to “anonymous, or to any other lesbian reading this. Just got this today. Contact this producer (“Showtime”) if you are interested.
      Hi Carol Lynn,

      We’re producing a documentary for Showtime and were hoping you could help us out.

      We’re looking for lesbians who live in conservative areas and have a compelling story about the tribulations of nonacceptance.

      Ideally, you could assist us in three ways:

      1) Tell me about any women that you may know of who could be a good fit
      2) Direct me towards an area or group I should be contacting
      3) Post and pass along the information below

      Thank you for the consideration and helping us highlight the best stories possible.

      Much appreciation,

      Amy Hutchinson
      Casting Producer
      Magical Elves, Inc.

  10. Leon D Berg
    February 2, 2013 at 10:07 am

    That resource has been taken off line.

  11. David T. Reid
    September 4, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    Carol Lynn,

    Your words profoundly touch me. I am not a threat to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Nor am I threat to His church. However, in return, I was treated as if I was an evil monster lurking in the shadows of darkness to steal away the goodness of God’s Kingdom. Yet, it was men of god that chained and shackled me inside a dungeon to silence my heart. That perhaps without food and drink I would wither away into dust; and hence, without freedom and sunlight, I would beg for mercy to spear my life. Instead, I was stripped naked before them to stand accountable for the spirit in which god had made me. How is it that their god can say that their works were done in His name?

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