Facetious though it may be, there at least five kinds of Mormons: liberal-, genuine-, conservative-, orthodox-, and nazi-Mormons. Which Mormons are the real Mormon? The ones who only take the sacrament with the right hand, only bring bland and colorless Cheerios to church to calm their kids, and object to French kissing within the bounds of any marriage whether legal, lawful, or celestial.
Who are the fake Mormons? The ones who believe it’s okay to march along the side people you love and care about. In short, fake Mormons fall left of moderate (and some even have one foot on one side and the other foot on the other side).
That is, at least, how some view the world of Mormonism: you’re either blue or red, cold or hot, black or white, unworthy or worthy. And to love someone (i.e., to be related to someone) who is anything but red, hot, white, or worthy makes you a not-real Mormon. The following is a real-life example of how this ideology plays out in my life.
I’m gay. I have a partner. I was raised in the LDS Church. Members of my family attend LDS meetings, practice their faith, and worship with other Mormons. They love me. And that creates difficulty for them. This is a gray area: there are few official guidelines on how to act and what to say when someone you love is gay and “acting on it”.
There’s also an unwritten rule within Mormonism that you can’t love someone who is living “the gay lifestyle” because you might inadvertently support or condone their sin. This unwritten rule, quite often, plays out in statements made during church meetings and other places Mormons gather.
“I can’t believe Mormons would march in a gay pride parade and still consider themselves Mormon! That is so awful.”
“It’s one thing to love someone with same-sex attraction but it’s another thing to love someone who is acting on it! And it’s disgusting that Mormons would march in gay pride parades!”
What impact do these statement have on the person with a family member is gay, whom they love independent of anything they are or do? It probably creates a hostile church environment, a place that doesn’t feel safe, and a place that should be avoided. As one LDS blogger who marched in a gay pride parade stated:
“[it’s] the attacks from within that have given me more pause about continuing my membership in this gospel than anything else. Be careful with your words. You might think you are just stating how you believe, but there are times when it is truly hurtful and does not work to bring people closer to Christ, but push them further away.”
Ironically, Mormon children around the world sing I’ll Walk With You while Mormon adults chide other Mormon adults who walked with gays.
If you don’t walk as most people do,
Some people walk away from you,
But I won’t! I won’t!
If you don’t talk as most people do,
Some people talk and laugh at you,
But I won’t! I won’t!
I’ll walk with you. I’ll talk with you.
That’s how I’ll show my love for you.
Jesus walked away from none.
He gave his love to ev’ryone.
So I will! I will!
Ironically, Carol Lynn Pearson wrote the song.
“as I wrote [I’ll Walk with You], I also had in mind the little children who, as they grow up, will find themselves of a sexual orientation sure to present a challenge for them in our church and our society”
What impact do these actions have on Mormons with family members who are gay? And what impact do these actions have on gays and lesbians? One Mormon who marched in Capital Pride recalls that we was accosted as he marched.
“one guy in a dark blue shirt busted through several rows of spectators and ran into the middle of our contingent, giving me and a few others HUGE hugs. With tears in his eyes cried out, ‘Oh my gosh, the Mormons are here!… I’m Mormon! I can’t believe you’re here. THANK YOU, SO MUCH.’ He just kept repeating, “‘ can’t believe it… thank you!’ as he cried softly on my shoulder”
Ironically, he was accosted with hugs, smiles, and tears.
I wrote about my experience at Capital Pride here. It was cool hearing people cheer on the Mormons screaming things like, “MORMONS! We love you!” They got a lot of attention and way more cheers and high-fives than any other group of people.
This movement of Mormons walking with people they love will continue.
You wouldn’t expect that actions seemingly contrary to Mormonism are having a huge, positive impact on many. That’s irony. And you wouldn’t expect well-intended statements made by real Mormons to have such a negative impact. That’s also irony.