The Human Cost of Doctrine

This is from a former mission president:

The phone rang late one night. My wife answered it and shook me with some urgency, something about one of the elders really needs you. Rising from the fog of sleep and forcing myself to pass into consciousness I mumbled a groggy hello.

“President, it’s over. I can’t I just can’t …… I think you need to send me home”, he nearly yelled into the phone. His despair quite apparent.

“What’s wrong elder, what has happened”, I was suddenly very much awake.

“President, I’m GAY ok? I’m GAY! I thought Heavenly Father would fix me if I was a good missionary. I’ve done everything I can, but it’s just getting worse. Why am I like this? What did I do? It’s not fair. I need to go home”.

“Elder, bring your companion and catch the early express train. It get’s here about 9:00 AM. I’ll send your comp with one of my AP’s and we’ll go have breakfast. Don’t worry elder, don’t panic, it will be ok”, I said.

He started to cry and agreed to meet me. He was a great missionary, one of my best., and a wonderful person. My heart ached, I never fell back into sleep that night.

Over breakfast in a quiet European sidewalk café he told me he’d known from a very early age that he had an attraction to the same sex. He’d never acted on it, in fact had gone out of his way to date young women, and yet there it was. Constantly gnawing at his desire, men catching his attention. We talked into the afternoon. I helped him to understand that this was not something he had chosen, Neither was it punishment for some sin. It simply is the way it is. He did have a choice though, His choice was whom or what would have his allegiance. He could be true to himself, or he could be true to his religion. I didn’t see how he could do both. Although Mormonism has made some progress, it has not arrived at the point of embracing it’s sexually active homosexual members. The two concepts are mutually exclusive. I didn’t at the time know which choice was best. Both choices seemed to have their pros and cons. He began to sob, his body convulsing.

I put my arms around him and held him until he regained his composure. I told him I loved him. I felt his tears soak through the fabric of my shirt and onto my shoulder, the tenseness of his body ridged with pain. He cried and with each tear he seemed to release years of pain, of hiding, of shame and self loathing. He’d endured a lot to cover his secret. Why? It made me angry that he or anyone should have to endure such meaningless anguish. It was then and there at that very moment that I finally and forever understood bigotry and it’s power to destroy.

What kinds of gods do people create, so often full of hatred, anger and bigotry? Members of the LDS faith were once persecuted, hated and driven from their homes, in part by other religious zealots repulsed by unconventional “marriages.” Now, come full circle, the once-bullied have joined themselves with the bullies in the voice of bigotry as they battle their boogeymen.

American youths and innocent civilians continue to die in an unjustifiable war. Greed leads to gas prices climbing into the stratosphere. Millions of innocents die of still uncured viruses. Religion- and ethnic-induced hatreds rage worldwide. Poverty runs amok and the poor starve. Yet when the Mormon God speaks, he speaks out against two people who love each other and want to express that love in a committed formal way.

I imagine a day will come when the LDS Church will regret lending its support to a failed president and a failed constitutional amendment that did nothing more than divide a nation and rally bigoted and frightened people to the ballot box. The attempt to amend the constitution of the United States failed, Utah and it’s Mormon theocracy would still march forward, reaching out to hate someone. Mormon legislators in the Utah State Government continue even today in the crusade against the rights and pursuit of happiness of those they fear and misunderstand.

There is a parallel with the way the LDS Church today marginalizes the gay community much as it once marginalized the black community. To previous generations of Mormons, blacks were descendants of Cain and less valiant in their pre-mortal days, a lower class. I wonder what future prophet will become enlightened as to the fact that all are equal in the eyes of a just creator? Who or whatever that may be.

All the time I hear LDS church members dismissing homosexuals as “perverts” who are just dealing with a temptation to sin in a specific way. The reasoning is that the “natural man is an enemy to God” and that homosexuals just need to conquer their natural desires, and everything will be fine.

Frankly, the idea that there are two “yous” inside of you, the good spirit and the evil “natural man” of the flesh, is one of the most pernicious teachings of Mormonism. This doctrine puts people at war with themselves and forces them to deny their true selves. As the writer puts it, “He could be true to himself, or he could be true to his religion.” That’s a really awful choice to have to make.

Thomas Monson has often repeated Polonius’ advice to Laertes in Hamlet: “To thine own self be true.” But Polonius, obsequious hypocrite that he was, didn’t really mean it. And neither do the Mormons.

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25 Responses to The Human Cost of Doctrine

  1. Chris says:

    Is it possible to get a link to the original?

  2. K*tty says:

    Along this same vein is the reported letter that is to be read in each ward this coming Sunday.

    SALT LAKE CITY — Mormon church leaders will ask California members to join the effort to amend that state’s constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman. A June 20 letter sent to Mormon congregation bishops and signed by church president Thomas S. Monson and his two top counselors calls upon Mormons to donate “means and time” to the ballot measure. A note on the letter says it should be read during church services June 29, but it was published on several Internet Web sites Saturday, June 21. A spokesperson for the church is not denying the story.

    Reading letters of questionable enlightenment, in Sacrament, is starting to look like a pattern.

  3. GBSmith says:

    I read this earlier today and am afraid it doesn’t ring true. The first part is so well written it could be from a short story or novel and the MP is more enlightened that any high level church official I’ve ever see. Then he goes on to mention the Iraq war, AIDS, gas prices, same sex marriage and the constitutional amendment in the same post. Runtu, I totally agree with your comments at the end but I think something is bogus about this.

  4. runtu says:

    The original is on the message board at exmormon.org. They don’t keep stuff longer than 2 weeks, so it won’t be there much longer.

  5. runtu says:

    I know this guy, GBSmith. He wrote it about an episode that happened years ago, but he’s talking about the war and the economy because he wrote it down recently. It’s not bogus, just written in hindsight.

  6. K*tty says:

    Runtu, all past articles from exmormon.org can be accessed. They keep it all, and you can always do a word search.

  7. jr says:

    I agree with what was written but like GBSmith I wondered if it was really from a former mission prez….so was the author really a mission president? If so I commend him.

  8. runtu says:

    Yes, the poster is a former mission president who has since left the church. As I said, I know who he is, and I don’t believe there’s anything fictitious about the story. He’s told it before, but the stuff about the war and the economy is new to this retelling.

  9. zackc says:

    Yes. Misquoting Polonius. Most misinterpreted part of Shakespeare I guess.

    [although most people probably don’t know that “to be or not to be” is basically a long winded way of considering suicide. Hamlet was basically a vacilitating whiner I think. And yes I too was a vacilating whiner in my depression era. The depression stigma continues LOL]

  10. measure76 says:

    Hah. You steal my idea for a post. That I stole from RFM. heh.

    You get more comments than me, though. Then again, my blog’s pretty new and I don’t advertise it much.

    If any of you want to see some other posts stolen from RFM (with links!), click my name above.

    Rufu’s right, though, the links will only work for a short time, as RFM does kill inactive posts after 10 days or so.

  11. measure76 says:

    That didn’t work. try http://rfmorg.wordpress.com/

  12. jr says:

    I can’t help but think if more leaders had the vision and genuine concern that your friend has, far fewer people would ever leave the Church, even when they find out it isn’t true.

  13. GBSmith says:

    I’d really be interested in reading his (the MP’s) exit story if he’s done one. Thanks.

  14. evenflow says:

    It is not confirmed that this man was a mission president. He posts on many ex mo boards but no one has confirmed his identity. I only say this because it so easy to pose as whoever you want in anonymity. Take it for what it’s worth. the guy’s stories are fun to read. just not sure if i really believe he was once a mission pres.

  15. andrealudwig says:

    If someone has the Holy Spirit inside of them they do not have to succumb to the lusts of the flesh. This poor missionary who was struggling probably was striving by his own willpower to overcome temptations, without the power of God. Very sad.

  16. runtu says:

    evenflow: Actually, a good friend of mine (whom I trust implicitly) knows this man quite well personally and has confirmed to me his identity. Not a big deal.

    Andrea: Did you even read the post? What’s sad is the attitude like yours that says this poor kid just didn’t have enough faith or didn’t have the spirit with him. Sickening.

  17. sideon says:

    He’s one of offended Wandering Nephites, posting on RFM boards.

    Good grief, people.

    Can Runtu bring up any topic without someone wanting DNA samples, three sober and unrelated witnesses, and proof of voter registration? A story is a story is a story – the message and content are up to the readers. You get it or you don’t.

    Jeebus.

  18. sideon says:

    “He’s one of THE offended…”

    I can’t drink and type. My apologies.

  19. K*tty says:

    Remember the short lived Joan of Arcadia? The premise of the show was that God came to her in all types of people. Well, once my husband and I ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere. My husband got out and preceded to walk to the next small town, up the hill. He no sooner walked a few steps and a truck coming the other way with a gas can in the back, flipped a U and asked if we needed help. Long story short, every time I told this story, I would say, “And then along came God, driving a white Chevy truck, pulled over and ………….” Of course, I was kidding, but I wish you could have seen the stern faces on most of the people I told this story to. sideon, I should have said it was one of the three Nephites.

  20. Ray Agostini says:

    Thomas Monson has often repeated Polonius’ advice to Laertes in Hamlet: “To thine own self be true.” But Polonius, obsequious hypocrite that he was, didn’t really mean it. And neither do the Mormons.

    What does “to thine own self be true” mean?

    Hitler was true to himself, and so is Robert Mugabe, who just held a general election with one candidate: Robert Mugabe. Very true to himself.

  21. runtu says:

    Sure, it doesn’t work for people who are evil. Fortunately, most folks aren’t. 🙂

  22. Ray Agostini says:

    Sure, it doesn’t work for people who are evil. Fortunately, most folks aren’t.

    I don’t think they (evil people) are true to themselves anyway. I think we all recognise certain “standards”, based on our sense of right and wrong. However, it becomes difficult to distinguish between right and wrong if something like watching TV on Sunday is considered “wrong”. That’s when Pharisee-ism chips in with manufactured “morals”. Strangely, I think Jesus said something about this when he “broke” the Sabbath by pulling some Ox out of a mudpile (in parable anyway), and going out of one’s way to assist horrible Samaritans who should be BBQ with hellfire because they’re late for Church. Or, heaven forbid, vote Democrat.

  23. Odell says:

    GBSmith:

    The person posting the story was a mission president for the LDS church in Portugal. He is now public about his resignation. I’m curious as to why the story doesn’t ring true to you? The LDS church has a long and continued practice of mistreating gay people. As I understand, LDS gay members suffer a higher rate of suicide than others.

    Good points Runtu.

  24. GBSmith says:

    Odell:

    It didn’t have anything to do with the elder being gay. It was the way it was written. The dialogue between the MP and the elder seemed more like a well written story and the MP’s attitude seemed too enlightened for a high ranking church official. And then the digression in the following paragraphs about AIDS, gas prices, the Iraq war, etc.. That’s all. As I mentioned above, I agreed with Runtu’s comments about the piece and am glad for the clarification about it’s veracity.

  25. Runtu, you’ve got a nice blog here. I’ve enjoyed reading your stories and the comments have been interesting discussions. The posting about your encounter with the homeless man in another post was moving…and this story was also moving.

    The commentary was discussing the veracity of the story and as I thought about it, I came to an insight about LDS culture/faith. I am a non-member but have had much exposure to LDS during a certain point in my past. Reading these posts I realized just how important it is for LDS to know that something is “true”. Meetings are full of people going up and saying “I believe this is true…”. I found it subconsciously quite perplexing since it was a very different paradigm than my own religion. I had never worried about whether or not my religion was true…and even if it was not, it wouldn’t have mattered to me (in fact there are quite a few doctrinal things that I don’t believe to be historically accurate or even possible). I don’t know how to explain it. The actual historical truths of the origin stories of the religion really don’t mean much to my willingness to participate in the faith, but I suppose I also don’t believe that a certain church holds the Truth and the only path to salvation. Now, I do have a huge problem with current day abuses, excesses, and generally questionable behavior by clergy and congregation. I have wondered if the “church is true” emphasis has any relationship to the great need to prove or disprove all the details about the founders of the church by those who are members or trying to leave. And I wonder if that emphasis is also part of the great anger that former members feel when they find out that things aren’t true in a historical accuracy sense.

    See, someone close to me used to say “this is true, why can’t you believe it?!” This person’s repeated testimony meant absolutely nothing to me, other than making me feel inadequate. However, some of the friendly, loving actions of my Mormon friends towards strangers DID move me and demonstrate to me the truth of their faith. Also, reading the Book of Mormon, I did not see it as historically accurate, but I saw many true principles in there, which was, to me, the same thing as being true. It didn’t really matter to me how horrid or blessed Joseph Smith was for me to be able to appreciate that the religion and sacred texts that has produced some of the most kind and loving people I have met in my life…not to say they don’t have their flaws and blinders, as we all do. To me the Truth of the faith lies in the behaviors of those practicing the faith. (And the “faith” I refer to is the one that the practitioners have in their hearts, not necessarily the one that their church tells them to believe, because I’ve seen very kind, loving, spiritual people from all sorts of religions as well as judgmental, rigid and unmerciful people from those same faiths…each interpreting their faith differently) I’m not sure I’m making any sense and I’m kind of rambling on. I’ve often felt that my faith organization could learn a lot from the Mormons. I know I had from my time among them. Thank you for your writing.

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