24 A Mormon in the Cheap Seats: “We know that. . .”

I see The New Era, the April 2012 issue, on the top of a stack of mail. I pick it up, open it, and read this sentence on page 3: “We know that gender was set in the premortal world.”

“How do we know that?” I ask myself. There is an endnote, so I check it out.  Four sources.  First, the Family Proclamation.  “Well,” I think to myself, “there is that line that says that gender is an ‘essential chracteristic’ of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity.” “I’ll come back to that,” I think. Next up, a reference to a recent conference talk given by the author of article.  I skip that (just because you said something before doesn’t mean you get to cite yourself when you say it again). Then there are two scriptures: Moses 3:5 and Abraham 3:22-23. The verse from Moses is interesting, but as I read it, I’m reminded of this scene from The Princess Bride. The verses from Abraham are familiar–and it’s nice to know that there were “intelligences” that were organized before the world was (even if the phrasing sounds a little science-fictiony)–but I’m not sure I see the relevance.

So, I think, we have a glorified press release (The Family Proclamation) that everyone wants to treat as scripture (and since we spend so much time talking about an open canon, maybe the folks in the dark suits should go ahead and add it, just to make a point, since no one has added anything since 1918).  We have a self-reference (which doesn’t count), a verse that states that everything was created spiritually before it was created physically, and another scripture that’s off topic.

It adds up to a religious institution that really really wants the world to match its imagined reality. Intersex people don’t exist (and we have a proclamation to prove it). Homosexuality doesn’t exist in nature (don’t confuse us by asking us to acknowledge reality) and there aren’t any people that are homosexual (just folks that “suffer” from same-sex attraction). Everything was created spiritually before it was created physically (just in case anyone thought God didn’t put sufficient thought into it).  Of course, this verse creates an interesting problem, because it implies that not only did God create a lot of gay swans spiritually, but then he went right ahead and created them physically (Note: It’s estimated that 25% of all pairings of black swans are male-male).  ”Could he really have created Roy and Silo on purpose?” I ask myself, and then I think of the scene from The Princess Bride again. . .

It’s all a little confusing.  And it’s all a little silly.  But it’s just religion, right?  It’s not really “real.”  It doesn’t really matter that much.

Until I think about a 11-year-old boy, old enough to know he’s different than other boys, crying himself to sleep, wondering “who made me?”  Convinced, of course, that God wouldn’t have created a perversion.  Or of a grown man, doing his best to talk between sobs, telling us how years ago his bishop had promised him that if he married a young woman he was dating, God would lift the burden of being gay. He did–but God didn’t. I try not to think of what it must be like to believe that an intrinsic part of who you are is a “temptation that must be resisted.” I can’t imagine what it must be like to look into a future with no possibility of sanctioned companionship or intimacy. How much do you have to pray before you get calluses on your knees? How much “love the sinner, but hate the sin” can a person take? When does it all become too much?

But it’s just religion. It’s supposed to be simple and neat and tidy. Theology isn’t about complexity or exceptions. It’s about grand statements. It’s about truth with a capital T. So what if things don’t match up perfectly? So what if a few people fall into the cracks?

I put down The New Era.  I log into Facebook.  The first link I see is to an obituary of a young man.

He was Mormon, and he was gay.  And he killed himself yesterday.

 [Last Post: 23 A Few Questions?]