Change in the Mormon Church is glacial. So the slightest hint of softening from South Temple on the issue of homosexuality and cock-eyed optimists sense a seismic shift.
Turns out, it was more like a sneeze.
Several events of the last few weeks clarified the limits of the Church’s pre-Scientific Awakening doctrines and 1950s policies on homosexuality:
More than 300 Mormons marched in Salt Lake City’s Gay Pride Parade. Josh Weed became an unofficial mascot for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ “good” gays when he came out June 7 on his blog. And a former church leader from California is offering an unapproved pamphlet for Mormon parents struggling to come to terms with their children’s sexual orientation.
Mormons Building Bridges kicked things off with an unorthodox call on Facebook for volunteers to march with their “LGBT brothers and sisters” in the Utah Pride Parade. “Each step we take will be an outward demonstration of our commitment to loving our neighbors.” There were tears all around the day of the event, but reaction to The Salt Lake Tribune’s story showed many Utahns weren’t quite ready for such a show of acceptance.
Then, Weed made his announcement. It wouldn’t have been news, except: He also happens to be married, father to three beautiful girls and gay. In that order, apparently. Instantly, Weed, a marriage and family counselor from Seattle, and his wife, Lolly, offered themselves up as the embodiment of modern-day Mormon homosexuality for a worldwide audience. Like seeing the Elephant Man, or, as Weed puts it, a unicorn.
The response was overwhelming. “The highs and lows of this experience are stunning,” Josh Weed wrote on his blog Sunday. “It’s still difficult for us at times. Sometimes the comments are very biting. Sometimes my sweet Lolly cries at things people say and it breaks my heart. Sometimes it feels frustrating to have things said about you that are patently untrue. But these were all risks we knew we were taking in being more open. (We just didn’t realize the magnitude to which it would occur.)”
Technically, Josh Weed is following all of South Temple’s rules. By overcoming his same-sex attraction, marrying a girl he met in high school and procreating the conventional way, he’s a model young priesthood holder. And his efforts to conform are heartbreaking.
Finally, former LDS bishop Robert Rees drafted a self-help booklet for parents with a San Francisco State University researcher. Given the chance, a Church spokesman certainly couldn’t endorse the Family Acceptance Project’s common-sense guidelines for loving your children. Instead, he repeated the same-old noncommittal platitudes about “treating all of God’s children with love and respect.”
All of which goes to show: As much as things have changed in Mormondom, South Temple and many of the faithful still cling to the old ways…