Many LGBTQIA+ Mormons shun General Conference because they expect condemning messages to be preached over the pulpit. Some attend and listen faithfully to every talk. Some wait until after General Conference, and then tune in on-line to talks that receive positive reviews from friends and family.
The talk from the October 2017 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that generated the most discussion within the community of LGBTQIA+ Mormons, their families and friends was Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ talk, “The Plan and the Proclamation.” Many expressed concern that Elder Oaks’ talk would be divisive within families and cause a hardening of attitudes toward members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and expressed concern about his talk being particularly influential because of his prominence within the Quorum of the Twelve. Others expressed belief that the deepening dialogue and growing openness to LGBTQIA+ experience and the growing family acceptance many are observing within the LDS and allied communities will continue to expand, regardless of the vicissitudes in church leader statements.
Here are some things that LGBTQIA+ Mormons, their families and friends have been saying in social media in response to the recent General Conference.
I have given Elder Oaks’ talk some thought and I’m not offended by it. When my partner and I got together I prayed and I prayed that I would know where I stand in the plan of salvation. Brothers and sisters, I got that answer. I know without a shadow of a doubt that my Heavenly Father has a plan for me and Simon. As LGBT members we know the view of the church leaders. We already know the Family: A Proclamation to the World. There was no new news here. I am not offended by it. My partner and I go to church. Everyone knows we are a couple. We get and feel so much love from everyone we know. Change starts very slowly. Remember the youth in the church today. Someday one of those will be prophet. I strongly believe Heavenly Father will change things when we, the LGBT community, prove that there needs to be a change made. My partner and I are gay and we live the Word of Wisdom, pay fast offering, and we try to be good Latter-day Saints. We read and we pray. We are trying to prove to Heavenly Father through our actions that we desire change. So we can receive the full blessings of the Gospel in time. I often think about black members and the priesthood. This was changed when Heavenly Father felt it was time to change. It took a very long time… In 10 years, 30 years, maybe even 50 years we might look back on today and find it crazy what things were like today. But we need to fight for it NOW and show and prove to Heavenly Father (no one else) that we need change to happen. This is our trial. I’m not a scholar or good with words but I hope I have expressed what I’m thinking and feeling just now. I have hope that through time, if we keep the faith, then we by being active will make things change
— Stewart Penman
I’m so disheartened by this talk. It’s not even necessarily the topic. I’m absolutely not surprised it was addressed so early on in the conference. But what is so sad to me is how he framed it…his emphasis on the need for church members to stand up for what is “right,” even against family members and friends who oppose their “right” and “righteous” views. The “us vs. them” rhetoric is so damaging. How is this supporting LDS families? He’s forcing family members to take an “us vs. them” approach, even against their own family members. It’s so ironic, when he spent the whole time quoting The Family: A Proclamation to the World…and yet, his rhetoric rips families with LGBTQ+ members apart. Talks like this tend to negate positive effects of affirming videos, like the Mackintosh’s story…especially because the affirming video only reaches so many ears, while conference addresses have a far wider reach. Ugh. Just…ugh. Sorry for venting. I’m just overwhelmed with sadness.
— Crystal Noel Perry
For those who were either listening or watching conference and heard Oaks talk, please remember that you are loved and we need to stick by each other.
— Ethan Mills
When I read the words of Elder Oaks, it was like a gun pointed towards my head telling me, either you have to be like this, or you cannot live. I don’t deny that I felt as if all that I had to hope for was overthrown. I saw a huge gap between my religious life in the church and the church itself. I felt excluded, banished from the love of Christ. But remembering other church leaders in their speeches and the advance that some LGBT Mormons have achieved within the church, made me think that, what Elder Oaks said was his own thinking about the LGBT Mormon community and not a law spoken by the Lord. Because I truly believe that Heavenly Father loves me as I am and how I live today. I feel that every time I go to church. I feel my heart smile, for the Lord is happy when I gather with others who belong to him, even when those others do not consider me to belong to him.
— Luiz Correa
Having served my mission to Brazil I was able to befriend a handful of the Brazilian delegation [to the Affirmation conference]. Their presentations were inspiring, full of love and devoid of hurt and bitterness.
Oaks’ talk in their presence spoiled what was otherwise an uplifting once in a lifetime opportunity for these brothers and sisters. One of them just messaged me saying, “I was so uncomfortable. Nothing was good about it.”
While I’ve long since dismissed my emotional connection to the church I hate to see good people hurt like this. Not like this.
— Dennis Kelsch
I felt as if Oaks failed to heed the advice of Uchtdorf, given in a previous GC talk: “Stop it!” I look to an Apostle of the Lord to raise people up, not kick them while they’re down.
— Drew Stelter
This statement right here to me is so incredibly problematic and takes anything that might have been good from conference and puts it in perspective,
“Inevitably, the actions of those who try to follow God’s plan of salvation can cause misunderstanding or even conflict with family members or friends who do not believe its principles. … Whatever the cause of conflict with those who do not understand or believe God’s plan, those who do understand are always commanded to choose the Lord’s way instead of the world’s way.”
The us vs. them narrative runs strong in the Church and this is yet another example of the Church pitting us against each other. I would be fine to leave the Church alone or not engage on issues of Mormonism if the Church leadership would actually stop attacking the LGBT community at every turn. It would take decades of “good” talks to make up for the damage that the current leadership of the Church does. What will people remember from this conference in 20 years? Elder Oaks. They probably won’t even remember Elder Ballard’s talk that called out nationalism and racism.
— Jacob Newman
I avoided General Conference except I did watch the full video of Dallin Oaks talk. It honestly feels like walking into beautiful blue waters of the ocean to be bitten and attacked by a great white shark. The church presents such a beautiful picture and inviting atmosphere. Most of conference is warm and comforting including that amazing building and the choir, but there are predators and sharks in those pristine waters and they are dangerous. That’s how I’m feeling this morning. Research the origins and reasons for the Proclamation on the Family and you will find that Dallin Oaks is completely misrepresenting how and why it came to be. His talk is a lie and he is a shark. The Oaks talk was whitewashing and a refabrication of history to serve his current purpose.
— Mark Smith
[Dallin Oaks’ talk left me with the sense that] our marriages somehow aren’t real.
— Todd Brady de Garcia
I fell in love with Zwick’s talk, and Ballard’s was powerful too. To me, it sounded just slightly like they were calling out Oak’s talk. (Probably because I also lightly associate homophobia with sexism.) They were well put together. I think Oaks’ real problem was that, he’s talking about something that’s been talked about a million times before, but we are reaching a point in the gay “movement” that, people realise that we are equals. We just love different people.
— Masen Brandon
You know, we really expect a lot from our prophets. I also have to keep reminding myself that they are talking to the world, not just to me. That being said, talks like this and accounts like Lehi’s dream, which Elder Oaks referenced, present a picture in which life is black and white. Truth is black and white, but life is not. In a separate talk, President Ucthdorf referred to light and our ability to experience God’s light, naming trauma as one of the things that can limit our ability. When we are talking about matters of the human heart and the motives behind the decisions people make, and LGBT issues are very much matters of the heart, and when looking at ways to increase people’s faith in Christ, if we do not take into account trauma and mental or emotional illness as well as other factors such as understanding of principles and support in being able to handle the challenges of life, then we can come across as cold and insensitive, and can inadvertently contribute to a state where the seed of the gospel cannot grow. Taking Elder Oak’s talk by itself, while I personally agree with it doctrinally, leaves a tremendous amount to be desired by way of support. It tells me WHAT, but not WHY or HOW to live. While yes, he did seem to address WHY, being the purpose of preparing ourselves for eternal life, I have found that when someone doesn’t know how to make it through today, the promise of eternal life in a state that doesn’t feel natural to them right now, or seem possible, holds little warmth. I know many straight people that feel this way, not just LGBT individuals. The real WHY, the WHY that brings about the change in people’s hearts is not finite points of doctrine but the love of God. I personally did not feel much of God’s love in that talk, I am sure because of my own weaknesses. Also, in large, because it also lacked any amount of HOW to do what he is proposing. “Just pray more and read your scriptures more” only got me so far in life. However, it would be a mistake for me to take Elder Oak’s talk as a stand-alone epistle on the Doctrine of Christ. It’s not. When I put it together with other talks and listen to the spirit then I can begin to piece together God’s love and messages that he is trying to convey, and I will get a personal message from it.
— Lucas Jones
I was encouraged by Elder Anderson’s talk that it is the themes that were addressed that we need to ponder and consider in the coming months. Certainly, I will ponder what the Spirit (and the testimonies of my LGBTQ friends) whisper to me about the great and important things that still need to be revealed about my human family and our heavenly family. And I will continue to ponder Pres. Monson’s other benedictory counsel to practice and develop kindness for all. This was the other theme which continually echoed throughout all the sessions beginning with the opening session a week ago.
— Dave Sandberg
A friend brought up a quote from one of my dad’s (Eugene England) essays. She did a very slight modification.
It is as timely as ever.
“What can we do? What if religion teachers or priesthood and Relief Society leaders—or even General Authorities—teach these false ideas? Lowell Bennion has articulated a useful guideline when the scriptures, or Church leaders, apparently contradict each other. He suggests we look for the great central principles that are repeated again and again, especially by Christ, and judge all other claims or notions by them. He writes, “I do not accept any interpretation of scriptural passages that portrays God as being partial, unforgiving, hateful, or revengeful. it is more important to uphold the character and will of God than it is to support every line of scripture.” In that spirit, it seems to me we must not accept any interpretation or scripture, or any statement by a Church leader or teaching in a Church meeting or Church school class that denies or diminishes the clear, central doctrine that all are alike unto God, black and white, male and female. it is more reasonable, as well as ethical, to give up racist and sexist and (homophobic) theology than to cling to every statement by every Church leader as authoritative.
— Jody England Hansen
“I have thought a great deal about the comments from Elder Oaks and felt a need to share some thoughts.
I first feel a deep need to honor each of us and the pain being felt. And so, my thoughts, prayers and heart go out to each ofyou who felt pain and rejection. I love you!
As I pondered these comments, my thoughts were filled with the Savior and I was reminded of a moment in His ministry where the children wanted to be with Him.
As they sought to be near Jesus, they were told by the apostles, to not bother him and to go away.
The Savior beckoned the children to come unto him.
As I thought about this, I imagined that the Lord, reminded His apostles of the value and worth of all children.
The Lord accepted and received each of these children and likened them unto the kingdom of God.
We are all precious in His eyes. When all is said and done, that is what will matter the most. Please know that you and your children are loved by Him, the Savior of the world. He died for each of us, unconditionally!
I pray that each of you will feel peace and comfort in this heart breaking moment.”
— George Deussen
To my fellow Mormon LGBTQIA+ dears:
You are Divine. You are beautiful. You are fine just as you are. You are loved and celebrated in your queerness, not despite it, by me and so many others in your faith tradition, and by your Heavenly Parents. You are the only person who can be absolutely and completely you in this world and beyond, in all your shining, queer glory. You are the only one who has the right to choose your path because you are the only human who knows what you have been through. You deserve to listen to words from your faith tradition that affirm and lift you up and give you the strength to keep living and find your happiness. And you have the right to reject any words that do not.
We deserve to have our faith tradition recognize the truth and complexity of who we are in its cosmology, in its vision of the eternities. Anything less is spiritual and existential violence.
We are as worthy of a direct link to spiritual guidance as anyone else. We are allowed to push out anything that gets in the way of learning to trust ourselves in listening to that direct connection, that “still, small voice.” This includes de-internalizing the ideas of those who purport to speak for God about our situations when they have not done the work to truly know us. Only God knows us in our “innermost parts”. And guess what? We are all Gods in embryo. Trust yourself to dig deep, to come to know yourself and what you need. Trust the communications you receive from the Spirit as to your own individual situation. The promise of “ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you” is available to all of us as we figure out our paths. You got this. We got this.
With love and solidarity
— Beth Mikel