News broke last week of the LDS’s flip flop on baptisms for children of same-sex parents AND that the Mormon church will also update its Handbook to reflect this new decision to no longer characterize same-gender marriage by a member as apostasy (read about apostasy below) and that while the church still considers same-sex marriage a “serious transgression,” it won’t be treated as apostasy, and instead the church will treat “immoral conduct” in both “heterosexual and homosexual relationships” the same way. When that happened a good friend and an AMAZING ally texted me in all caps “THE LDS CHURCH JUST REVERSED THEIR POLICY AGAINST LGBTQ!!!!!” Jeremy Hinks, writer of many of our spotlights on LGBTQ musicians and Ally musicians, has impressed me from the first day I met him (he’ll explain that below). He himself is an ally, an ally that I know cares more about our community than many of our members, so I asked him if he wanted to write a piece from within Utah, from within the Mormon faith, from within the battle that has been going on. Here’s his piece that has educated me, informed me, inspired me, and made me cry at least twice each read.
Divergent, Insurgent, Prophets, Profits, Scars, and Casualties in Mormon Utah.
Faults from Above, here the people down below
People in this world, we have no place for.
No, I’ve never met anyone quite like you before.
– New Order: Temptation, FACTUS 8. 1980.
I am going to have to step away from writing about music at the moment, though it is my joy to write on music for Instinct, a different matter has come to the top of my world.
I am a staunch ally of the LGBTQ movement, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to write for Instinct Magazine, it is an honor for me to do so. I have been able to meet and get to know so many wonderful people through this, and have talked to so many wonderful musicians (I have 6 months of interviews ready to publish). I’ve also come to see and learn more, though I thought I knew a great deal about the Queer world, as I considered myself an outsider, just having queer friends and loving them. Through this experience, I have come to really see, enjoy and LOVE the real beauty and diversity in the Queer community, and what you all bring to the world. For that, I have no ability to say thank you enough. What I have learned from all of you in being able to just ask questions, is far greater than the enjoyment I have had in the music side of it. Truly, from the bottom of my soul, I thank Instinct for letting me do this, and for all of you, to share this all with you, and for what I have learned from you
I will explain a little about myself, my history, the situation that got me here in the first place, then my thoughts on the matter, even though as I am writing this, at this very moment, I am still not sure what my feelings are. Adam Dupuis asked me to give the thoughts of someone in the middle of what has just happened (Mormon Church Now Allowing Baptisms for Children of Same-sex Parents).
Being the child of a French Mother, and a Scottish Father, being Scottish, why use one word, when you can use 27? AND, well, quietly and politely keeping our thoughts to ourselves is something we Scottish people have NEVER been any good at.
I was raised in the Mormon Culture, I was a devout Mormon for the first 40 some odd years of my life. I live in Utah, and have it all, married to a wonderful woman, a couple of kids, house, dog, picket fence, (that is rotting and falling apart). I served my Mormon Mission in Hamburg Germany, and I am sure most of you have met missionaries, white shirts, nametags, bicycles, the works. That was me too.
I went to Harvard Divinity School, studying religion and philosophy. (I dropped out, but at least I got in, right?). I was setting out to prove Mormonism true, and Harvard would be the place to learn that. (It backfired, I learned it is impossible for the Book of Mormon to be true).
The Mormon church, AKA “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” or just LDS, has long since the beginning claimed certain ideas. First, God spoke to a young man, thus, the heavens were opened, and has since provided more scripture and revelations to prophets. God is actively speaking to the leaders of the LDS church, and thus, what they say, is straight from Gods mouth, should be accepted as truth, loved, and NEVER questioned. They have played this last card over and over again, and the church enjoyed for instance, a long history of racism, denying blacks the rights of the priesthood, and real salvation. They said it was the Will of God, it was revealed directly to them with his own voice, from his lips, THEY heard it, so it was going to stay that way.
They faced so much criticism, and backlash, that lawsuits, and multiple colleges refusing to play BYU in sports because of the policies against blacks, the church leaders “received a revelation” that the ban on blacks was to be immediately lifted. This was back in the 1970s, Now the church PR department pretends it never even happened, and that with the wave of the hand, the history is erased.
The leaders have also had a long history of condemning anyone as they see it “Afflicted with Same-sex Attraction”. It has been brutal in their treatment of LGBTQ people, as they have said in various times that it is a choice, that people indulge in such perversions, because they have deeply seeded sinful desires. They have said it can be “cured,” and in every way, called it an abomination. They have taught until the last few years that people are by nature straight, and “Same-sex Attraction” (they never will actually say, homosexuality, or GAY) is just a sinful practice, and that no one REALLY is that way, unless they decide to give in to their “love of sin, being greater than their love of God.”
In the late 1970s, and early 80s, the church wanted to be the forefront in the scientific world, as having been the ones who “cured Same-sex attraction”, thinking that their moral stance and strength would attract more members maybe. At BYU the church owned university, the church leaders would pressure men and women, who had come out, and been struggling with their sexual issues, to take part in conversion therapy. Mostly at this time electroshock therapy. Many people I have talked to said that the highest church leaders would personally tell them that the Lord wanted them to do this, and that maybe they were gay, so that they could be cured by this, and the world will see them as an example. Whatever they came up with, they had countless people do it, and all of whom suffered greatly. Funny note on this, or not so funny, not a single case of success in all of this. NOPE, NO ONE HAD CHANGED THEIR SEXUAL PREFERENCE. All of them were paid large settlements out of court.
In the last few years, the highest echelons of church leadership have openly stated so many differing “opinions” on the subject that clearly, none of them bothered to talk to each other before they said something in public. One says “Well, you are born with this attraction, but it’s not a sin to feel that way, only to act on it”. Others will turn around and say it is a “choice.” One will say, “we really don’t know why” and another will say, “animals to not pair with the same gender, thus man should not either” (not having read his biology, Boyd K. Packer was clearly scientifically wrong).
Dallin H Oaks, now in the top 3 positions of LDS Church leadership, was previously a supreme court justice. He has said recently, “it is wrong to criticize church leaders, even if the criticisms are true.” He also said that the church does not ever apologize for anything, nor seek forgiveness.
The hard-nosed approach has kept millions of people in line for a very long time. Anyone who has recently been asking questions, just asking questions, loudly, are being summoned in for church discipline, and excommunicated for apostasy.
Apostasy in Mormonism is the worst sin possible, without going into detail, apostates are sent to the outer reaches of hell, never to be redeemed by Christ. Christs love applies to everyone in the universe, except apostates. Even Murders can be forgiven, apostates can’t.
I remember on a Friday afternoon, December 2013, I got a text from an attorney friend “WE WON! The 12th district court has struck down the ruling against same-sex marriage, ruling it unconstitutional.” Utah turned upside down that weekend, as the governor within a half an hour, (who had probably received a threatening call from church leaders to stop it) had said he was going to immediately file an injunction against the ruling. Needless to say, every courthouse got sacked in the entire state, as same-sex couples hurried to marry, before the governor could enact anything. My best friend, who’s devout Mormon family had abandoned her for being gay, asked me to give her away at her wedding, whenever she found the woman of her dreams. That night I was on the phone with her, sobbing, telling her that if she could get married that night, to do it, in the courthouse, even If I couldn’t make it. That Monday morning, I was able to give her away to her wonderful bombshell of a wife. It was one of the most beautiful days of my life, a midst so many other instant weddings. Within a year, the ban on same sex marriage was ruled on by the supreme court and gay marriage was legal across the country. Utah got stooged, and pushed it to the supreme court, and it backfired on them, and the LDS church.
Switching gears, in November 2015, I received a phone call from a friend who is very active in the church, and is openly gay. He begged me, pleaded with me not to leave the church over the new policy that had just been leaked. I had not heard yet, so he explained it to me. It is in a nutshell, as follows. Any gay member of the church must remain celibate, should they chose to marry someone of the same gender, they are to be immediately excommunicated for apostasy. Any child of a gay couple or a single gay parent, would have to wait until age 18 for baptism in the church, and would be required to disavow their parents’ union as sinful. The policy was in effect telling everyone, should someone who is gay actually find love, and marry, they would be sent to the furthest reaches of hell. It was designed to scare any Mormon kid to stay in the closet, and that they will never be happy should the actually be who they really are. The church saw it as a way to “save the children from their gay parents” (one leader said off the record).
Not all Mormons were happy with it, myself included. Within weeks, countless members sent in letters of resignation having their names removed from church records.
Not all leaders were happy with it either. My wife’s cousin is the president of a group called “Affirmation,” an active gay community of Mormons. He is a great guy and has been married to the same man for 25 years. He was devastated with this announcement, as he was beloved by his congregation, and was even teaching Sunday school. When he arrived that first Sunday after the announcement, the entire congregation stood in respect as he walked in, showing their love and support for him. People hugged him, and said they were sorry about all of it. His bishop simply said, “I am going to ignore this policy, there is no Christ-like love in this, no one needs this.” My current bishop said he would happily welcome a gay couple, ask them to stand up in the services, and introduce them to the congregation and give them service or teaching callings. He WANTS a gay couple to attend.
I had to realize that if this policy had been in place when I was 8 years old, and thus a candidate for baptism, I wouldn’t have been allowed the blessing of it. Nor would I have been allowed to serve a mission, unless I were to disavow my father, and disown him. My inner turmoil came boiling to the top, cause suddenly, I am a loophole they would wish to ignore.
A few days after the announcement of “The Policy,” the church tried to defend it. One leader, David A Bednar actually said in a televised interview, “there ARE no gay members of the church.” A week or so later, a man took his life on the steps of an LDS chapel with a note pinned to his chest, “Now you can baptize my son.” The suicides in Utah skyrocketed, mostly among the LGBT youth. This was ignored by the church and mostly the state. I actually had a Mormon leader say to me that unless he saw it stated as a reason of “Gender Issue” in every note left behind, he would consider it one-offs, it was anecdotal. The Utah State Public Health Department published a report of their findings on all of the suicides to be because of the high altitude causing depression. No one responded to inquiries comparing the considerably lower teen suicide rate in cities like Denver that were higher than Salt Lake City. The deaths of young queer people continued, and were brushed off at the highest levels. Kids were getting kicked out of their homes, for being gay, living on the streets, or wherever, because their parents were following this idea that they are an abomination, they should not even live at home unless they “Repented,” according to church beliefs.
Walking in the Gay Pride Parade with a group of 300 Mormon supporters 2 years ago, my girls were on razor scooters, having a good time, and we passed by Ruben Israel, the “Street Preacher” of hate. I taunted him, screaming “Where are my Donuts Ruben? I was promised Donuts!” I saw a young woman on the sidewalk, shorter, blonde, looked like Pink, cropped hair, muscular, but still feminine, tattoos, and just beautiful. I walked up to her and said, “You know, I can see you crying behind those sunglasses” and hugged her. She just cried, and I said, “You earned this hug, you deserve it.” She said in tears barely able to hold it together, “Thank you. Then I said, “Its ok, we love you, all of us do.” She said, “I have so much anger, and I have been so hurt, and seeing you, I can’t be angry with you, but you bring all this up, god it hurts so much just seeing you.” I had no idea why I said what I said. “It’s ok, you can go and heal now.” Did I give her permission? Or was she now, ABLE to heal? I didn’t know why I said it. She kissed my cheek, and I said, “I love you”, she said, “I love you too,” and I looked in her eyes, stepped away holding her hand for a few more seconds, then I let go. I ran off to catch up with our group. A few weeks later, a friend told me she saw the exchange, and that after I had walked off, this girl collapsed, just gave out, sat there sobbing. People came over and held her, and she cried uncontrollably, again being comforted by strangers. The pain from this policy that we suffer through cannot be measured. It is real, and it has clearly destroyed so many people.
That brings us to here and now. Dan Reynolds, after seeing too many suicides of queer youth, decided enough is enough, he got the LOVELOUD Foundation together, and its sole mission is to bring an end to LGBTQ suicides. Fighting an uphill battle in Utah, he uses the stage as his soapbox. If you ever watch it on YouTube, he turns into a sobbing mess, begging everyone to stick around, that their sexuality is pure, and fills the stadium to do it. I am a volunteer for LOVELOUD, shooting the show and other events for them. I do it out of love, not charging them a dime, because we all believe that one suicide is one too many. I became acquainted with the Managing Editor of Instinct Magazine at LOVELOUD in the photo pit, and here we are at this moment.
It is human nature to fear things that are different than ourselves, if it cannot be explained. History is full of more carnage and suffering, because of things that just at the time could not be explained. A redhead was burned as a witch, because … well, redheads didn’t look like everyone else, so they must be cursed. Henry VIII kept tossing his wives, because he didn’t understand it was HIS problem they were not bearing him a son, not theirs.
I am afraid, the fear against LGBTQ people for thousands of years, is the same way. It is the inability to understand it, how it happens, why, that scares people, and thus, it has been the one thing, mankind has tried to rid itself of. The insanity behind it knows no bounds, as history shows.
In the film Divergent, there is a group of people, born not to fit in. They have no place in society, to be in one group or another, because they just could be anyone. The system in place had no place for them, and thus, sought out to destroy them. Anyone found to be “Divergent” was hunted down and killed, for the simple crime of not being like everyone else, that was threat enough. In the sequel, Insurgent, at the end there was an explanation, they got a message from the creators of the whole society, that was thousands of years old, it explained simply that the “Divergent” class of people, were a gift, a simple gift, to everyone, so that they could bring everyone together, regardless of their place in social order. The Divergent, the ones who did not fit in, were never meant to, their purpose was to unite all of the different groups, peacefully. The problem is, because no one had gotten that message from the creators of their society, the Divergent class of people were a threat, and hunted down. The LDS leadership and the world, has seen the queer world the same way for so long. And failed to understand, almost by choice why LGBTQ people are all here.
In the last few years, the LDS leadership has dug their heels in, defended this policy as having come directly from God, his will his word, and will never change. They have come up with some really stupid revelations as of late, one is that “Satan claims a major victory when someone uses the word Mormon” so you now we are to say, “Member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” Or “Christ is wounded when someone refers to themselves as Mormon.” In the face of so much pain and grief from the teen suicides, that is what the Lord feels the world needs to know? I have asked that if God will tell them something so trivial as that, maybe they should ask God, “Why are people gay” or “What is the actual cause of it?” All they can agree on is that it’s an abomination, that is revealed, but how it happens, they don’t get that? They won’t ask? These types of things have eroded the faith of so many Latter Day Saints as of late, that the leadership had to make some changes.
On Thursday April 4, 2019, it was announced that the church has reversed the exclusionary policy against Gay members, as revealed by the Lord.
Now, why am I here in this mess? I spent most of April 4th crying, in pure joy for a while, and then the pain set in. It was the feeling of grief, that after a long bloody struggle, the war is over, a victory was claimed, but somehow, now we are assessing the cost. Counting the casualties, and wondering why any of this happened in the first place. How many deaths had to happen, families destroyed, lives cut short, wonderful things these kids could have given us, and SHOULD HAVE GIVEN US, to get us right back to where we were. It’s like a firefight between military units, once the battle is over, we are glad the shots are not flying anymore, but now we have to turn around, and count our dead.
This was a real battle, with real casualties, but for us, it was real, lives were lost, an emotional toll is paid by all of us who lost anyone. My personal total of suicides of people I knew, is now 24 (not all were in this religious mess, but still 24 is a statistical anomaly). I know that grief, it is unspeakable, and we are feeling it now, at the same time as a breath of relief.
The Church only suffered in numbers, and bottom line members paying their tithing. They lost membership and fought a bad PR campaign, but they as a whole, never lost like so many others did, and they refuse to even accept their part in it.
I guess those are my feelings about it right now. I fought so hard to get to today, claiming a victory of sorts, but I never thought I would feel like this. It was all so senseless, they wanted to prove a point, we needed to prevent suicides. So many other people are crying like me, we are crying together, unable to understand our feelings. Only hoping for a quieter road ahead.
I will soon be on my way out of the Mormon Church, not just over this, but, because I know it is not true, and I have to be true to myself, like so many of you. I do love all of you. We all hurt the same, we all feel pain the same way, we all feel love the same way. I clearly do not understand you, but I am in constant wonder of what I learn from you. This piece did not turn out how I thought it would, but, I hope I got my feelings across to you, and… me.
I consider all of you to be like the Divergent, in your diversity, your beauty, and wonder, to be a gift from God to the rest of us, I hope that the rest of us can see that, and soon.
About the Writer – An indie GONZO music journalist in Salt Lake City, and an Anarchist behind the Zion Curtain. Jeremy Hinks is an obnoxious Type-A Male, who is embarrassingly straight and a staunch LGBTQ Ally with little tact, and a big heart. He has supported his LGBTQ friends since he was a teenager. The Gayest thing that ever happened in his life was winning Lady Gaga concert tickets on a radio contest. (because he knew insane amounts of rock and roll trivia).
He is writing a book about every concert he has been to (GONZO STYLE), but wonders if the world would want to read about all 46 U2 shows he has seen. He has made a name for himself photographing Pink Floyd tribute bands, and is a local concert photographer in Salt Lake City. (He even shot U2 a few times)
He is one of the photographers for the LOVELOUD Foundation in Utah, an organization to bring awareness and support for the young LGBT community in Utah, and to bring an end to the epidemic of suicides there.
He also drives a Vespa, and wears kilts, is rarely seen wearing pants, should be considered armed and dangerous, so do not approach without extreme caution.