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  1. Dan, in a discussion about a website titled “Mormon and Gay”, I was disappointed that your panel included only one actual gay person. Christian is a wonderfully articulate fellow, but his perspective of course is not representative of all.

    Wendy’s comment that this is not a site for LGBTQ folks is spot on and should have been the core of the discussion, yet this observation was a mere footnote to the conversation. Shouldn’t we be asking why a site called “Mormon and Gay” is, as Wendy observed, likely to be hurtful to LGBTQ? Having better LGBTQ representation on your panel would have allowed for a fuller discussion. I guess I am a bit exhausted of hearing straight people speak to these issues (no offense to 3/4 of your panel, they were great); but the truth is, LGBT folks have voices and are capable of speaking for themselves.

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        Kim, as you said, the site only had that one mention of trans persons, and that it recognized that fact. I have to at this point take at his word something Elder Oaks said a year or so about how the leaders recognize they need to do a lot more reflecting on transgendered persons and how to teach about them, include them in the community, etc. I’m sure they just weren’t ready to include that at this time, in this site.

        Now we all can say the need to to A LOT MORE reflecting on LGB persons, as well, with this site as evidence Number 1. Still, when possible, we must recognize this site as an improvement on the previous one, as potentially helpful for LDS parents just learning their child is gay, and for a percentage of gay Latter-day Saints who are still willing to consider remaining active within the LDS community and live according to its guidelines. Ultimately, my sense is that most of them, and perhaps even their parents, will come to see it’s healthier for them to be outside the community and its messaging, and within a committed marriage or partnership with someone to whom they are attracted, but until then, this site can be a helpful early step (IMO). Hence the basic conclusions of this panel in this very early reaction to the new site.

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      Appreciate several of you pointing out issues with the composition of the panel. Certainly things I’ll keep in mind going forward, even as some of it was definitely on my mind already.

      Timeline of this episode. I’d been getting a heads up the day before the site was going to launch today. At 11am on through 2pm I was out on appointments, heard the site was launched, and made phone calls from my car to people I knew had been consulted at some time in the planning of the site, so I knew they would have been familiar with it. I got home at 2, dove into the site as much as I could before starting our call at 4pm. This was never intended to be a “final word” evaluation sort of episode, and I even indicated that on the show, talking about possibly doing others related to the Gospel Topics essay on same-sex marriage, etc. I also plan a 1-year anniversary of the November policy episode for next week.

      Finally, Mormon Matters has its own “lane” of sorts within the podcasting and online world of Mormonism. We don’t shy away from controversial issues or sharing critiques as we have them, but its lane is generally to be constructive in all its conversations, to give benefit of the doubt when it is possible to do, to trust in the essential goodness of leaders and members, to have empathy for the sorts of jobs leaders have as well as the lived experiences of various persons as they encounter challenges in their LDS religious lives. I think Mormon Matters should stay in this lane, but I know it’s important that other voices with other approaches speak their truths, as well. Hence I encourage the continuation and creation of other podcasts (and there are even others within the Open Stories Foundation umbrella) to address a wider variety of stories and perspectives. I would go crazy, and the show would lose its identity, were I trying to navigate every call for every perspective to get voice here, all those saying that only this group has a right to speak on this topic or that. That territory is too fraught for my temperament and what I feel are worthy and important goals for Mormon Matters.

      Thanks, again!

      1. Dan,

        I really appreciate your response and I appreciate your efforts on this podcast. I have listened Mormon Matters since its inception, and I greatly value your thoughtful approach. I also recognize the time constraints that you were dealing with for this particular episode, however, I have noticed that most discussions of LGBT issues on this podcast contain just one person from the LGBT community.

        It seems that you have misconstrued, in part, the thrust of my earlier comment. I was not suggesting that you change “lanes,” or that certain people do not have a right to speak on LGBT issues. My point is simply that adding LGBT folks to these types of discussions, given that they are the subject, would provide for a richer discussion.

        To use an example from a different context, I notice that your panels for discussions of issues of women’s equality in the Church have always feature panels entirely, or mostly, of women — which makes sense. In fact, I am willing to bet that it had never crossed your mind to create a panel for such a discussion comprised mostly or entirely of men. By the same token, it seems logical that discussions of LGBT issues should handled the same way. Surely, Tom Christopherson and Mitch Mayne aren’t the only gay folks who can engage in constructive and polite conversation about these issues, right? 😉

        Thanks again for all you do, Dan.

      2. Dear Dan

        First let me say that as a non Mormon with relationships with TBMs for many years and a great admirer of all the persons with this site (in fact at 80 years of age I feel love for all of you like you were my children) I was deeply alarmed by the church’s new stab at being “loving”. This is very dangerous stuff and I hope you can help these beautiful people who are being USED in this aggrieved manner. God help you.

      3. Actually, I was amazed that you pulled things together so quickly! I had heard positive and negative comments about the site on FB, and your podcast helped me to understand that it makes a difference who the audience is as to how helpful they find the site. I appreciated hearing how it did a good job speaking to parents, gays hoping to stay active, leaders, and conservative or uninformed ward members. Sadly, with all that, I couldn’t help feeling the glaring absence of any mention of the November policy. It’s the right hand offering unconditional love while the left hand snatches back any hope of sharing that kind of love with a companion of their choice. The label “Apostate” (the scarlet letter A of Mormondom), on the other hand, can never convey any sense of loving acceptance to gays, and I can only imagine them feeling it suspended precariously over their heads like the sword of Damocles.

  2. The webpage address shows that this site is already off to a bad start. One cannot be a Mormon and gay just as a person cannot identify as a Mormon and an adulterer at the same time. Rather than using “Gay,” the church should have used “Mormon and SSA” in order to avoid confusion and ambiguity…and in order to make clear that the issue is not sexual attraction but rather whether one is intentionally practicing and celebrating an unethical lifestyle, like in the case of LUGs.

  3. A metaphor:

    When I despair I remember that all through history, the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible. But in the end they always fall. Think of it. Always.

  4. I really appreciated this podcast, and the insight provided by the panelists.

    Yet there is an aspect of this that I believe was missed. It may sound conspiratorial, and I do appreciate that Dan tries to keep a positive focus on these issues.

    Yet I have to ask a very important question: Why would Von Keetch, Dallin Oaks, L. Whitney Clayton, and D Todd Christopherson all be actively involved in setting up and launching this new site?

    What could they all possibly have in common? As it turns out, they are all very powerful attorneys. And, they are the very same people who have led the charge to deny marriage equality to LGBT people.

    And we’re not just talking about peripheral involvement. Von Keetch authored the amicus brief representing all those opposed to gay marriage — he has been the Church’s chief counsel at Kirton McConkie from the efforts in Hawaii, the Family Proclamation, Prop 8, and all the way to Obergefell. Oaks authored the PR and legal strategy in 1986, and L Whitney Clayton led the church’s organized mobilization efforts in Hawaii and California. D Todd Christopherson has often been the spokesman for the church’s anti-LGBT policies, perhaps leveraging the fact that he has a gay brother.

    This cannot be about Public Relations. If it were, then featuring President L Whitney Clayton as the first face you see when you go to the new site would be really bad PR strategy. This is the same man who this year said that the church should rid itself of LGBT “distractions”. And to feature Elder David Bednar on the site, the same man who recently said “There are no homosexual members of the church”, is the height of PR hypocrisy. From a strict, public relations point of view, this site is an absolute disaster in featuring the very same men who have led the charge to vilify and deny equality to LGBT, and have proactively excluded them from the church.

    So, what is this about? If I try to be generous, and give them the benefit of the doubt, then I might say that this move is indicative that they have had a change of heart, and by prominently promoting LGB inclusion, they are attempting to undo the fatal harm they have done to so many.

    But if they have had a change of heart, then the single most credible thing they could have done is to remove the policy at a very minimum, and apologize for it. Ok, I realize that Elder Oaks has said the church doesn’t apologize, but as the panel noted, the unmention of the policy makes it very clear, as Elder Christopherson implied, that the policy will remain fully in effect.

    And in this way, the website creates a false promise, almost a kind of grooming of vulnerable LGBT youth, promising them love and acceptance when the nearly inevitable result will be emotional abuse. Again, as the panel noted, this isn’t about supporting the LGB (and T) youth or adults. For them, and for those of us who have very close relationships, this site will be patently harmful.

    So if this site isn’t about PR or helping LGBT what is it?

    The key clue is that the people driving this site are the key lawyers among the twelve and seventy (Oaks, Christopherson, and Clayton), along with the Church’s chief counsel from Kirton McConkie (Keetch). This isn’t accidental. This is about the liability the church has for its policies, and the need to establish a legal defense when the church is inevitably sued over its policies and the resultant suicides. Let’s look at the historical behavior of the church:

    1. When the Church and BYU could no longer continue with its anti-black stance in the 70s, they responded. It took the NCAA threatening to push BYU out, and with a temple being dedicated in Brazil where assuring that people didn’t have a single drop of black blood was impossible — the church had to change its policy.

    2. When the Church in their Hawaii amicus brief was found to have no standing in terms of doctrine stating that marriage is between man and woman, Kirton McConkie (likely, and under Von Keetch’s leadership) authored the Family Proclamation, that suddenly appeared in the General Relief Society meeting as new revelation. It was simply the means whereby the church could establish standing in its legal strategy.

    Within the past months, BYU has faced key public rejection in major decisions over both it’s policies toward LGBT as well as its punitive action against raped women. BYU was denied entry into the big 12 over its LGBT policy — resurrecting the NCAA ghost of the mid-70s, and they faced legal action by not implementing an amnesty policy on the honor code for victims of rape. As well, the publicity around suicides of LGBT LDS youth has created an undeniable problem for the church — if they don’t take visible action now, they will not only lose a vast number of millenials, they will be subject to class-action law suits. With the Policy of Exclusion being hardened into revelation from the Lord by virtue of President Russell M Nelson’s unfortunate speech in January that has become an Ensign/Liahona article, they cannot any longer hide the fact that the LDS church by very policy and doctrine is the source and cause of gay suicide.

    So amidst this perfect storm of pending legal doom, we suddenly see news that BYU will invoke amnesty for rape victims, and we have a new, shiny website all about love for gay people.

    This is NOT about PR. This is NOT about love or inclusion. You don’t bring in the Church’s entire legal A-Team to organize a major initiative without a reason. This is entirely about legal protection and standing when (not if) the Church is called into court to account for the death and devastation caused by its Policy of Exclusion.

    Now, all this said, is it a bad thing? Was it *bad* that the Church reversed its position on Blacks in 1978 largely due to pressure from the outside? Not at all. I think all of us our grateful the Church eliminated the doctrine about blacks being neutral in the war in heaven (taught at times, but not generally) and that was the reason for blacks not having the priesthood.

    In fact, given the way the policy sort of “happened” and then became “revelation”, there may be no other way to undo the harm done by the Policy. To admit they were wrong, from a lawyer’s point of view, would be to invite lawsuit by an a-priori admission of guilt. As well, to admit that the apparent next prophet of the Church exaggerated about the Policy being divine revelation, would be to undermine the fundamental “follow-the-prophet, he cannot lead you astray” paradigm of the church. The Church painted itself into a corner on marriage equality, and there is no clean way out of it.

    Yet there was something really different about 1978 and this new website. Really, two things.

    1. The policy of exclusion has not been removed. In 1978, the *doctrine* of the church was announced that “the time has come that all worthy men can receive the priesthood”. This approach did not repudiate the prior doctrine — perhaps an unfortunate necessity — but at least it formally changed the doctrine in a way that eliminated the exclusion. This has not happened here.

    2. There has been no apology. After the 1978 revelation, the key doctrinaire of the Church, Bruce R McConkie, was willing to go on record admitting that he was wrong. McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine in its first edition had codified the apologetic excuse that the black exclusion was based upon war-in-heaven neutrality and a less-valiant status for black people. He, at least, repudiated his prior doctrine. Nothing like that has happened today. In fact, having the very same analogues to Bruce R McConkie today being the face of the new website, without an apology, really serves to say, “We are excluding you, excommunicating you, and causing your children’s suicides out of our Divine Love for you…”

    So as it stands, I believe the new website, while being helpful to bishops and members in their need to understand and be more inclusive, is very much of a missed opportunity. Given the way that both the Family Proclamation and the Policy of Exclusion have been amplified to appear to the Saints as direct, verbatim revelation from God, there may be no way for the Church to do the right thing on this. But if it were possible, they could make all the difference in the world if they but did the following:

    1. Publicly remove the policy in its entirety.

    2. Elders Clayton, Oaks, Christopherson, Bednar, and Nelson should apologize for what they have said and done regarding the exclusion of gays, their non-status as members of the church, and that God’s love is indeed unconditional. It would go a long way for them to do a McConkie here: “We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.”

    Frankly, without these additional actions, this site is but a grooming exercise that will perpetuate the tragedy of LGBT suicides.

    1. I agree wholeheartedly with Terri. Please, please, please consider writing an op-ed for ALL local newspapers in Utah and including everything you have written here. It is perfectly stated and might give the needed “ideas” to all concerned whom were mentioned by name. Outstanding comment.

    2. To offer a different perspective, I’ve always seen Elder McConkie’s visit to BYU in 1978 as making the most vehement opposition take the most supportive position, in part to teach him to be more careful about the kinds of positions he publicly takes, and in part to show that the Church was serious about making a change. (Uncharitably, you might say they sent him to publicly eat crow.) Perhaps having Elders Oaks, Bednar, and Whitney is a way to help them (and other hardliners) see that the Church is serious about changing direction, if only on some issues. To quote Spock from Star Trek VI when Kirk really doesn’t want to be the one to lead the peace efforts with the Klingons, “Only Nixon could go to China.”

  5. Agree with Timothy. Why didn’t the panel consist of mostly LGBTQ people with maybe an ally? Instead the panel was mostly allies with one cisgender gay man. This continues to be a problem in mormon progressive forums. Please, the next time you do a podcast about an issue focus on the people who are the most affected by the issue, instead of allies.

  6. This was a great podcast to listen to! These are inspired folks who took the time to thoughtfully consider this topic. Thanks for the time and sharing this with everyone!

  7. Mark- you have some critical insight and “inside” information that opened my eyes more on the chess game at all play. Some may call it a conspiracy theory and others will dismiss as LGBT anger, yet as you so articulately note, the players are major players at the forefront with no change in policy only a softer tone in rhetoric. Publish it!

    And Dan, thanks as always for your hosting, civility, and large heart.

  8. Thanks Dan for the discussion. I do value your goal to approach things in a way that tries to give people benefit of the doubt, (though I don’t always agree).

    I can’t compare this new site to the old one because it has been awhile since I visited the old site, so I will defer to the panelists on that issue. However, I still find this new site disappointing. I liked Sister McKonkie’s message,
    emphasizing love and welcoming everybody. I like Jessyca’s story for the powerful message of how important and powerful unconditional love is and that merely finding someone to listen was very valuable. I found it curious that Josh’s taped message was edited as it was and not accessible the same as the others? Though I don’t begrudge anyone’s path–life story–I find it “interesting” that of the 4 personal videos, two were in mixed-orientation marriages. What message will this convey?

    I wasn’t aware of Elder Clayton’s history and caution about listening to personal stories. Wow. I’ve long had a sense leaders operated at a detached level from the rank-and-file, especially from those who are the “one” and not the ninety-and-nine. Sadly, this really explains a lot.

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