There’s an awful lot of “hate” being thrown around on-line and in the media these days. Mormons and evangelicals hate gays. Chick-fil-A (the business and apparently, every employee of the company, by definition), hates gays. A deranged gunman hated Sikhs. Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church and his cronies hate Sikhs—even tweeting that “God sent another shooter.” Haters gonna hate. Don’t be a hater. You get the picture . . .
I’m not a Sikh and I’m not an evangelical Christian, but I am a Mormon, so I want to weigh in on this issue. I’ve known a lot of Mormons in my life. I’ve known some pretty dogmatic ones; I’ve known some (ha, who am I kidding?: many) very traditional ones. I’ve known some pretty fearful ones (like the one who recently told Stuart that he should be scared to go to the movie theater in our po-dunk town because movie theaters are no longer safe after the Aurora shooting). But I actually haven’t known any Mormons who hate gays.
I don’t want anyone to think I’m making excuses for the Mormon church, so let me be very clear: I disagree with the institutional Mormon church’s position on homosexuality and on same-sex marriage. I disagree vehemently with many Mormons that sexual orientation is something we choose and that it’s a “challenge” some people just have to deal with in this life. I disagree that it’s a “burden” that will be taken away from gay people in the hereafter. I disagree that we should be advocating for “traditional marriage” to continue to be codified legally as being between one man and one woman. I disagree with and deeply regret the Mormon church’s involvement in the Prop 8 debacle in California.
And I disagree that Mormons hate gays. That word just doesn’t feel right to me. It doesn’t apply, in my experience.
I learned to love people—all different kinds of people—from Mormon parents and from Mormon Sunday School teachers, Mormon youth group leaders, and Mormon bishops in backwoods East Texas. We’re talking good ole’ boys here. We’re talking about some of the most conservative people you could find. We’re talking “Bubbas.”
Yet none of them taught me to hate. They taught me that we are children of God—each of us—and that the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.
So I cringe when I read or hear discussions wherein people assert that Mormons hate gays.
Make no mistake: I want desperately for my church to lead the way on a human rights or a social justice issue rather than dragging our feet behind us decades after everyone else. I want my church leaders to say—loudly and clearly and unequivocally—that we want and need all the currently-marginalized people (the smokers, the people with tattoos, the gays, the feminists, the “so-called intellectuals,” the women in pants or—God forbid—sleeveless dresses, the men in our former Spanish-speaking congregation who passed the sacrament in Raiders jerseys, the “partially-active,” the men with facial hair, the men in purple shirts rather than Peter-Priesthood-white, and the non-literal believers) to stay in our congregations.
And I want them to create policies that reflect that need.
Despite all those wishes and disagreements, and despite the harm wrought upon many current and former LGBTQ Mormons, I don’t think hate is the best word to use to describe Mormons’ attitudes and behaviors towards gays. Let’s find another word that more accurately reflects most (many? some?) Mormons’ position on homosexuality because hate just doesn’t ring true for this backwoods east Texas Mormon girl.