The appears to be no shortage, some a mix of just us gay folks and others a mix of well intended straight folks and gay. The discussions are generally nice, people sharing ideas and experiences.
Personally I've found some of the discussions a little odd, from my point of view. I should point out that I firmly believe that everyone's journey from the closet to "out" and then hopefully "out and proud", is a personal one. Everyone's journey is unique.
The part I've struggled with comes from one specific Facebook group called "Mormons Building Bridges". There is a concerted effort to conduct firesides and other church meetings for gay and straight LDS to attend. I think there is merit in doing this and the more tolerance it brings will make the world a better place, however I'm not sure I understand what the end goal is.
I'm particularly sensitive to young people, teenagers and those in their twenties who may be feeling depressed about their gender identity and feel stifled in an LDS environment where the only message they may hear is that being gay is "wrong" and that Heavenly Father doesn't love all of his children. For me, sitting in Sunday meetings and constantly hearing a message that I could never see myself a part of, was the tough part.
My personal journey consisted of being in the closet until about age 36. Prior to that I fasted and I prayed that heavenly father would take these gay feelings away. I suppose I was trying to "pray the gay away". That was a huge waste of time, in hindsight I think Heavenly Father probably wanted me to talk to him about far more important things.
Over the past five + years the comments from Church leaders has been softer, kinder and well, more Christian. I fully believe that any Church has the right to enforce a standard of living it feels appropriate to its position and understanding of the bible or other sacred text.
The challenge comes though when we move further down the leadership ladder, in my mind this is the 70, Regional, Stake and Ward leadership. Having read many gay LDS experiences on Facebook and other blogs there is a variety of implementations of the "rules". My own experience was a kind and loving Bishop who was empathetic to my situation and provided great care and love. Others have been dragged in front of High Councils and excommunicated.
While I appreciate there is room for "revelation" I understand that revelation can't go beyond what the LDS Church calls "The General Handbook of Instructions". This handbook is a guide and explanation for local lay leadership on how the "rules" are to be enforced.
In a Facebook chat with a friend who recently had her name removed from the records of the Church, she talked about her new found freedom and the impact of what she referred to as "indoctrination". I've always felt this word conjures up a negative context. One aspect of the LDS Church that I have always liked is the direction that one has to discover for ones self the truthfulness of the gospel and an understanding that Joseph Smith saw what he claims to have seen.
Once we arrive at that position and believe what Joseph says, we're in a position to then make choices about how we live. If this is "indoctrination" well I can work with that. But as I said to my friend, we're all grown ups and we make our own choices. Personally, I have no recollection of being in a position where I was being forced to believe anything that was presented to me. For the record, I still believe, I just can't figure out where I fit into the Plan. For me, that doesn't mean the whole thing isn't true. I often reflect on Those of African descent and their inability to hold the priesthood, their faith was strong.
A Mixture of Ideas
In Australia we have a TV show called Q&A, the tag line is "Adventures in democracy". There's a host and a panel of usually five people, a mixture of politicians, comedians, journalists and other notable members of the community.
Last week the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney was on the show. The Anglican Church in Australia has recently made available to its members a wedding vow that includes the word "submit". It's in the context of a women submitting to her husband. Well, this didn't go down well with most of the panel, the audience and the onscreen tweets that happen during the show, it's live to air.
Coming from an LDS background and with I'd say a reasonable understanding of the New Testament, I understood the doctrinal foundation for the use of this word. It refers to Christ and how he laid down his life for the Church, if a husband behaves in the same fashion then a wife is in a position to submit to that concept and to her husband as he submits to Christ. Now in an ideal world this probably works fine. But where we have men who dominate, rule over and squander their role as husband an patriarch, the wife's requirement to submit is null and void, I believe.
The reason I raise this is because with people's lack of understanding of the new testament they can misunderstand what is meant by submit. The imposition of Christian doctrine on those who don't adhere to a Christian faith makes no sense.
In this same program, the question of same sex marriage was raised. The Shadow Minister for Mental Health (Secretary in US terms) made a provocative statement about HIV AIDS and the life expectancy of gay men, an odd segue to say the least. There was an audible gasp from the studio audience that she would even go there. In Australia, HIV infections have been on the rise since around 2000. AIDS is actually on a decline for the same period was largely due to the introduction of effective combination antiretroviral therapy, which delays progression from HIV infection to AIDS.
The whole gay marriage debate seems like such a farce to me. Why are religious groups so anxious to impose their views on me and why are they so anxious to ensure that people who don't believe as they believe adhere to their view of the world. Joseph Smith said:
"We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."
I think Mitt Romney would do well to reflect on this concept a little further.
So Many Views
For the gay latter-day saint who is looking to live a full and rich life, my personal belief is that this can't be done while trying to be an active member of the Church. I think it's damaging to their mental well being and will generally lead to more angst and anguish as they try to reconcile themselves to a way of living that doesn't fit who they are. It's kind of like a square peg in a round hole. It just doesn't work.
However, the are many aspects and teachings of the Church that are very worthy to continue as part of our lives. A Christ like view of others, removing judgement from our interactions with others and generally being a good person. Our sexuality doesn't define who we are, it's simply part of the whole that makes us who we are. An attitude of service is great for the soul, giving of ourselves for the betterment of others is a great quality.
Well, I think I've rambled enough, hopefully I've made some sense. I'd love to hear your thoughts.