By Lilith: Mormon studies scholar, ethnographer, and feisty heretic. Deeply and queerly Mormon.
I know the missionaries were disappointed to hear that I have strong feelings about certain Church policies and cultural practices. I know this in part due to the way one of the sisters literally melted into her chair as I spoke indicating how my position deflated her pre-conceived notions about me, and maybe even the Church. As a new member, the missionaries are always challenging me to pray about the things I am unsure about or uncomfortable with. They tell me that I must have an open heart and be willing to set aside my own ideas and convictions, and be willing to be personally wrong so I can listen to what God’s plan is. So, when they gave me that challenge regarding my questions, I complied and I discovered that indeed, I was wrong. Not about the policy, not about “revelation,” but about the much bigger picture, and the surprising discovery of my own bigoted position. Let me explain.
I am totally convinced that the policy never came from God – it came from extremely misguided legal advisors wanting to cover the churches collective as….(ahem) “bottom” should the church ever be challenged on its stand against same-sex marriage. I strongly believe that the plan was to quietly slip the policy into Church handbooks and only fully enforce it when some boldly courageous LGBTQ couple wanted to do something so radical as to ask that their family be recognized through ordinances such as baby blessings, baptisms, or even (gasp) ask that their legal and committed marriage to one another be blessed with a temple sealing. The glitch in the plan came when some “yeah, but disciple” (disciples who always choose to follow God, despite contradicting orders from Church leaders) leaked the new handbook pages to sources that could expose them to the public uncovering the ill-conceived plot at codifying bigotry. Naturally, there being more “yeah, but disciples” in the world than Church leaders counted on, there was a huge public outcry. This just didn’t feel right, in fact, this felt immoral and unchristian! The policy didn’t feel like it came from God and many people openly stated as much.
Now the leaders were getting concerned; their authority was being openly questioned. Surprisingly (ok, not surprising at all), the hastily constructed broadcast wherein the Church leaders interviewed themselves, and attempted to claim love for children and families as the guiding thought behind the policy, did not quiet the murmuring crowds. In fact it only seemed to make them speak a bit more clearly. Now the leaders were really in a pickle! Obviously they were trying to defend an indefensible position and had painted themselves into a corner. It was clear that the leaders had two choices: either admit their mistake, fix it and move on. Or, find a way to justify their actions by producing an irrefutable source that could not be challenged, even by the “yeah, but disciples.” ” Sadly, they chose the bigger mistake, and claimed the policy was “revelation” and from God. Now their actions went from being a mortal mistake to an egregious abuse of ecclesial power. Satisfied that the murmuring would stop, they sat smugly back in their red velvet chairs expecting to hear the wonderful sound of compliance.
At this point in the story we can safely assume that those leaders now know exactly how the Grinch felt waiting on the top of Mount Crumpet to hear the sound of the Whos down in Whoville all crying boo-hoo and instead hears something unexpected. A correlated hush does not fall upon the crowd. Naturally there are some that are willing to sit and quietly wait for God to actually intervene, but there are still many more “yeah, but disciples” than the Church leaders are comfortable with – and they are still shouting about the fallibility of Church leaders. The Church leaders must be thinking: “how could this be?! Before the internet quieting the murmuring was so much easier!”
It is at this point in the story where I realize my mistake – realize how I was wrong, and acknowledge that now it may be quite possible that God does indeed have a bigger plan. You see, before this point (and it pains me more than a little to admit this), I would have been totally OK with the LDS Church keeping its LGBTQ members outside the temple doors. That is wrong. I see now that I too was guilty of my own form of bigotry, and for that I apologize to all my LGBTQ brothers and sisters and hope they can forgive my narrow-mindedness. Upon realizing my complicity I see the bigger, more divinely appointed, plan.
The plan is to throw open the temple doors to all families and in the process to change archaic approaches to gender and recognize that even in the temple there is “neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:28-29). As Abraham’s heirs we are all children of God, all part of the human family Joseph Smith so radically envisioned.
By allowing same-sex sealings to take place in the temple will mean that the temple scripts (and even doctrine) will have to change; namely, that the archaic gender roles will have to be abandoned. It will be impossible to make women covenant with their husbands instead of God if they are marrying another woman – which of course call into question why heterosexual couples would have to stick to the old script while same-sex couples could enjoy a truly equal partnership with each other AND God. It will mean that the Eve story Mormons tell in Sunday school class, where Eve plays a crucial and active role, will have now have to be told in the temple as well.
Women may finally get a voice inside the temple as Eve is granted a speaking role in the temple’s ritual of the telling of the creation story! Giving Eve a literal voice will allow Eve (and all Mormon women) to speak directly with God. Speaking with God will allow women to make covenants with God – women will no longer be subjugated to men inside the temple doors and in the eternities. This idea is so radical and goes so counter to thousands of years of mortal social custom that it will certainly take a divine being to bring this about. Instituting full equality in the ability to form binding relationships with God is the bigger, more divine plan.
Equality in establishing binding relationships with God is a radical act of following Christ’s teachings. Of having such Christ-like love for others that we throw open not only the Church doors, but the temple doors as well. It is a radical act to invite all to enter into a deeper relationship with the divine and to share more equally in the power of the atonement. If the temple building project of the past fifty years has been all about getting ready for the millennium, where Mormons are expected to be doing massive amounts of temple work, it may be time to start unlocking the temple doors now. If temple work is so important that Mormons do it for their dead, maybe it is time to let more of the living enjoy the blessings of the temple as well. I apologize for being one of those willing to lock the temple doors against some LDS members. Please accept my most humble apologies – I was wrong, and I am sorry.