The Power of Testimony


I know that we who are queer are always stronger than we think we are. We are resilient and determined. Our love is stronger than our enemies’ hate.

How do I know this?

I can bear witness that the moment a queer person can proudly say, “I am who I am, and I’m not going to be someone I’m not,” that person welds an eternal connection with the sacred name of the living God (Exodus 3:14).

I can bear witness that the most modest hope of a queer person can thoroughly eviscerate the devil and render him powerless, as this disrupts his plan to make us miserable like unto himself.

I can bear witness that the smallest tear that plops from the eye of a queer person will not reach the ground before being noticed by our Heavenly Parents, and all the angels of heaven, too.

I can bear witness that centuries of heterosupremacist tradition go up in flames when ignited by the simply spoken insistence, “I, too, am a child of God.”

I can bear witness that the most sacred forms of prayer on earth derive their authority from the cries of those who are oppressed: “Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth. For strangers are risen up against me, and oppressors seek after my soul.” (Psalm 54:2–3)

I can bear witness that queer people exist, not so that they might become straight, but that they might have joy (2 Nephi 2:25).

I can bear witness that the Lord did not send me into this world only to forget about me.

I can bear witness that there is more room for me in the plan of salvation than there is in the closet.

I can bear witness that no one can blame their homophobia on the God who created me gay.

I can bear witness that I would not have accepted the plan of salvation in premortality if there were not a place for me in it.

I can bear witness that anyone who prays the following prayer and knows the meaning thereof will never die: “For thou lovest all the things that are, and abhorrest nothing which thou hast made: for never wouldest thou have made any thing, if thou hadst hated it.” (Wisdom of Solomon 11:24, which is applicable to us with the Spirit’s enlightenment according to D&C 91)

I can bear witness that the only place for homophobia in the Church is in the Church History Museum.

I can bear witness that a handful of people can change the world, and that’s exactly how the Lord has always worked in the world.

I can bear witness that no matter what earthly experts do to me because I don’t fit into their building plan, I know that the stone that the builders rejected will become the chief cornerstone. (Psalm 118:22).

I can bear witness, to those who think that we are in last place, that the first shall be last, and the last shall be first (Matthew 20:16).

I can bear witness that I can never attack the leaders or members of Christ’s Church, because I have no weapons of pencil or pixel with which to attack. I am completely disarmed by Christ’s example on the cross. I have no weapons; I have nothing but the unarmed truth of my people and unconditional love for all people. And this will change everything.

I can bear witness that this is my Church, too.

I can bear witness that Satan screamed and cried the day I joined this Church, because he HATES to see gay people happy.

I can bear witness that revelation is not an exact science, but requires an enormous amount of human input and readiness. I am patient with Church leaders and members, and my solemn expectation is that they will be patient with me. My patience is based on the fact that our prophetic gifts and our knowledge are limited, partial, and imperfect, and will be until the end of time. “Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” (1 Corinthians 13:8–10).

I can bear witness that we are all members of a diverse body (1 Corinthians 12). When a anyone attacks, condemns, or dehumanizes an LGBT member, it’s not “us vs. them,” it’s “us vs. us.” They are making the body of Christ engage in self-cannibalism.

I can bear witness that the Church can change and will change and always is changing, as growth and development is the whole point of our mortal journey, and our Church is founded on the rock of revelation.

I can bear witness that the Church is true. I can prove neither this truth nor my hope, but I do not need to. There is never enough proof, but there is always enough revelation.

I can bear witness that nothing, neither my orientation, nor my opponents’ heteronormativity, can deprive me of access to my Father’s unconditional love. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38–39)

Somewhere I read that “all are alike unto God,” and I know that we will be ever more fully living into this truth, line upon line upon line. Let’s walk this journey together, hand in hand.

In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Temple as an “Inside-Out” Closet


The highest and noblest ordinance of the temple is the sealing of couples for eternity.  This ordinance, the culmination of the New and Everlasting Covenant, is performed in special rooms that are adorned with mirrors on the walls facing each other, reflecting and re-reflecting each other forever. This represents our conviction that the marriages consecrated therein are eternal, farther than the couple can see or imagine in the mirrors. This particularity of temple design means that, in one real way, Latter-day Saint temples are bigger on the inside than they are on the outside.

When we enter the doors of these magnificent temples, we leave behind all the ugliness and worry of the world. We encounter the beauty and peace of the temple. Outside the temple, there are so many duties, distractions, and difficulties that we cannot be fully ourselves—which in other language is called being “in the closet.” Only within the temple can we put aside the constraints of the world and be more closely reunited with our Parents in heaven. This is the sense in which the structure of the temple is an “inside-out” closet.

Then, zooming out to a larger framework, we see also that mortality on earth is actually a closet experience itself! In the time between our pre-mortal existence and our resurrection, we are trapped within the limitations of mortality. We are apart from the presence of God. In the closet of this world, we can’t be all who we are intended to be. Our truest identity is as divine beings of eternal origin and infinite potential, but these identities cannot be fully expressed at this time. In time, we will each emerge from our chrysalis and become more manifest as the Offspring of God. The temple gives us a heavenly foretaste of that reality. It teaches us how to pass through the veil and come out of the closet of this world.

Accordingly, by planting a little piece of God’s celestial dwelling-place here on earth, the temple is a blurring of the boundary between earth and heaven. It is an ambiguous space that defies categorization. Noting that earth and heaven are interqueered with each other is the only way of grasping the reality that when you are outside of the Temple, you feel inside a closet, but when you are in a temple, you are out of the closet.  (Indeed, God has a peculiar way of reversing our expectations: “the last shall be first, and the first shall be last,” 1 Nephi 13:42. Compare Matthew 19:30, Luke 13:30, and also another interesting parallel, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted,” Luke 18:14).


In Psalm 118, the Temple is a place where God surprises the world and frustrates the rigid categories of the “experts” who built it.  Within its architecture is an amazing truth that God vindicates all those who don’t fit in. “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone” (Psalm 118:22, see my further analysis on this here).  There are “experts” in Christianity that will be surprised when God elevates queer people to our rightful place. (For the threshold as an architectural embodiment of queerality, see my post on the threshold as the holiest place in the temple.)

The temple is a refuge from the world’s closets in so many ways. This is seen in the symbols of equity-among-diversity within the temple. At first, the universal wearing of white clothing might not be seen to represent diversity. But it does. What we should remember is that the clothing does nothing to change the actual individual. All the people in the Temple exhibit the same diversity that they did in the outside world—the only difference is that they now are all treated equally. From the president of the church down to a new convert, and from the richest among us to the poorest, we all wear the same thing. This is precious.

Furthermore, people of all genders attain a measure of equality not seen outside the temple. Even the living and the dead are treated equally in the temple, in that we ensure that no one is left out. This spirit of inclusiveness should never be forgotten as we labor in the world outside, fighting injustice and inequality. When we are in the temple, we should never forget all those who are suffering out in the world because they are not fully who they are intended to be, because they are trapped in the structures of homophobia, transphobia, racism, ableism, poverty, and so forth.

Temples are needed as a refuge now, but that will not always be true.  There are examples of several signs in this dispensation that will pass away.  Prophesies, speaking in tongues, and knowledge will be set aside; so when what is perfect comes, the partial will be set aside.  But love never ends (1 Corinthians 13:8–10).  I sense that the temples are another example of the signs of this dispensation that will pass away.  No refuge from the closet will be needed in heaven, because all of heaven is a refuge from the closet of mortality. Perhaps this is why John the Revelator reports in his vision the New Jerusalem, “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it” (Revelation 21:22).

May our experience of freedom in the temple remind us to pray for the end of closets everywhere.

The Threshold as the Holiest Location of the Temple


Many people might be surprised by the proposal that the most profound, mysterious, and holy place in the Temple could be the doorway! Of course, from one perspective, the Holy of Holies (or the Celestial Room) may be seen as the most holy place, but from another angle, the entryway, as a liminal space, may be the most precious feature of the Temple. The beautiful praise of the temple in Psalm 84 is the prompting for this idea:

“For spending just one day in your temple courts
is better than spending even a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather stand at the entrance to the temple of my God
than live in the tents of the wicked.” (Psalm 84:10).

The verb translated “stand at the entrance” is סָפַף and is derived from the noun סַף (“threshold”), which we will encounter later. This verb could refer to serving as a doorkeeper at the temple, or it could perhaps relate the experience of a pilgrim concluding the beautiful Song of Ascents (Psalms 120–134) after journeying to the Jerusalem Temple. The temple courts referenced in the first half Psalm 84:10 are likewise an amazing place of ambiguity, as a person in the courtyard is not quite in the temple yet, but still on the temple grounds. Either way, the temple courts and the threshold of the temple are both transitional spaces. They are the ambiguous places that blur the boundaries between inside and outside, between special and normal. It is a queer place, if we understand “queer” as referring to whatever doesn’t fit neatly in one category or the other. Just a moment in either place feels more satisfying than eternity anywhere else.

The doorway of the temple is also a place of both splendor and compassion. One of the temple gates is called “Beautiful” by the author of Acts.  Perhaps it was named for its physical beauty, but it is also a focal point where grace is expected: “And a man disabled from birth was carried up and placed at the temple gate called ‘Beautiful’ every day so he could beg for alms from those going into the temple” (Acts 3:2). May we always remember the marvelous power and significance of the temple doorway.  It is the only thing in the Bible that has “Beautiful” as its actual name (Acts 3:2, 10).

Furthermore, the doorway to the Temple was a miraculous place in two separate visions recounted in the Hebrew Bible. Isaiah describes his experience: “They [the seraphim] called out to one another, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts! His splendor fills the entire earth!’ The sound of their voices shook the door frames [אַמּוֹת הַסִּפִּים], and the temple was filled with smoke” (Isaiah 6:3–4. See also 2 Nephi 16:3-4). Secondly, Ezekiel experiences two wild and marvelous visions while he was at the threshold (סַף) of the temple, where the glory of the Lord visits: “Then the glory of the LORD arose from the cherub and drifted to the threshold of the temple. The temple was saturated with the cloud while the temple court was filled with the brightness of the LORD’s glory” (Ezekiel 10:4. The second vision is recorded in Ezekiel 47:1). Indeed, the Lord chooses the threshold as a place of special miracles.

It is no surprise, then, that according to latter-day revelation, the threshold is where the holiness of the Temple and the power of the Lord hit you in the face when you enter. As D&C 109:13 declares: “And that all people who shall enter upon the threshold of the Lord’s house may feel thy power, and feel constrained to acknowledge that thou hast sanctified it, and that it is thy house, a place of thy holiness.”

In modern LDS Temples, the entrance is the place where one sets aside the cares of the world. It is also a place of connection and unity, because it is the portal through which the people entering meet the people leaving. It is also the place where newly married couples greet those waiting outside. Even so, I plan to take some time to dwell and pray in the entry of the Temple, or the waiting room, and drink in the glory and profundity of encountering God in the mystery of a transitional space. Spending a moment in the doorway is better than anything else the world can offer (Psalm 84:10). Won’t you join me there sometime?

[For an analysis of the temple architecture as an “inside-out” closet, see here.  For an application of the “stone which the builders rejected” in Psalm 118, see here.]

Who is the Church: What does the Book of Mormon teach?


If you search for the word “church” in the Book of Mormon (where it appears 194 times), you notice that the word is never used to identify a group of leaders. It always refers to the common people gathered around Christ. (The word for church in Greek, ἐκκλησία, is used of an assembly, gathering, or community.) This is also the understanding of “church” the Book of Mormon, whether in the plural or in the singular: (1) “Therefore they did assemble themselves together in different bodies, being called churches” (Mosiah 25:21). (2) The faithful converts who were baptized in the Waters of Mormon “were called the church of God, or the church of Christ, from that time forward” (Mosiah 18:17).

Many Latter-day Saints are in the habit of saying “the Church says” or “the Church teaches,” but to me that oversimplifies an important gospel truth, the truth that we are the church. When many people say “church” they only mean leaders or publications associated with the church. However, the church is not a building in Salt Lake City. We should be cautious not to imagine it that way. We have never taught that human prophets are infallible or inerrant. No one is mistake-free except Jesus Christ, the real head of His church.

Remember, Jesus declares: “And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel” (3 Nephi 27:8). Thankfully, my church is not called “The Church of Thomas S. Monson.” In fact, there are only two identities mentioned in the official name of our church:  (1) “Jesus Christ,” our infallible Lord, and (2) “Latter-day Saints,” which is us, all the faithful of this dispensation.  (That’s why I don’t ever say “I disagree with the Church.” We don’t disagree with the church, we are the church!)

Certain relative clauses throughout the text of Book of Mormon define the church to be the people: “I beheld that the church of the Lamb, who were the saints of God, were also upon all the face of the earth” (1 Nephi 14:12). Also, “I would speak unto you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven.” (Moroni 7:3). From the first book of the Book of Mormon to the last, this is its constant teaching.

This is also the only way that I make sense of the “great and abominable church” of 1 Nephi 13, which cannot be identified with any tangible institution. Rather, the great and abominable church is an attitude, a direction, and a destination.

This realization leads to a mature and profound understanding of what we mean when we say, “the Church is true”: the truth of the Church is its orientation, not its accomplishment. “The Church is true” symbolizes that we seek after truth, even though we don’t have it all. The reality that we don’t have all truth is taught firmly in the Ninth Article of Faith: “we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” The restoration of truth is not a past event. It’s ongoing: “Behold, ye are little children and ye cannot bear all things now; ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth.” (D&C 50:40, see also John 16:12).

So, because the truth of the Church is our orientation, not our accomplishment, we realize that we do not have a correct knowledge of all things. But we seek after these precious verities, wherever they come from, and then strive plant them back in Zion. Mark well the humble and sincere witness of two of our prophets:

“We are willing to receive all truth, from whatever source it may come; for truth will stand, truth will endure.” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 1).

“It is our duty and calling, as ministers of the same salvation and Gospel, to gather every item of truth and reject every error. Whether a truth be found with professed infidels, or with the Universalists, or the Church of Rome, or the Methodists, the Church of England, the Presbyterians, the Baptists, the Quakers, the Shakers, or any other of the various and numerous different sects and parties, all of whom have more or less truth, it is the business of the Elders of this Church (Jesus, their Elder Brother, being at their head) to gather up all the truths in the world pertaining to life and salvation, to the Gospel we preach, … to the sciences, and to philosophy, wherever it may be found in every nation, kindred, tongue, and people and bring it to Zion” (Discourses of Brigham Young, 248).

This eclectic and curious attitude is why we pursue truth, not a church. You may be surprised to learn that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not have any converts! We are not converted to “the Church.” We are converted to Christ, and we simply walk with the church. Elder D. Todd Christofferson recently explained: “We do not strive for conversion to the Church but to Christ and His gospel, a conversion that is facilitated by the Church. The Book of Mormon expresses it best when it says that the people ‘were converted unto the Lord, and were united unto the church of Christ.’ [3 Nephi 28:23]” (“Why the Church,” October 2015 Conference. See also Helaman 3:26).

I have chosen to follow Christ and walk with the Church. Together, we will seek after truth, no matter where we may find it, and no matter who had it first. The “Church” is not a building in Salt Lake City; the church is the smiling faces of all the gentle people of my ward, who love one another and walk with me along our journey toward Christ, history’s only perfect prophet. And he is not only a prophet, but more than a prophet: the incarnate Son of God, fully divine, who is our Prophet, Priest, and King.

The Lost 116 Pages, Backup Plans, and LGBT Hope 


Have you ever lost your work because you didn’t save in time, or because you didn’t have a backup? I imagine that would lead to a small taste of what Joseph Smith felt when he learned that his 116-page manuscript of the plates of Lehi was lost (with no backup copy) while in Martin Harris’s custody. In fact, Joseph Smith’s mother said that after learning of this disaster, Joseph “continued tracing backwards and forwards and weeping and grieving like a tender infant untill about sunset.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 7, p. 6-7). His ability to translate was taken away (D&C 3:10-15). He didn’t know what to do until the Lord revealed that He had foreseen all this and had prepared a backup plan: Joseph was not to translate from the plates of Lehi again, but rather was to translate from the plates of Nephi, which cover the same time period (D&C 10:29-45). The Lord had a backup plan even when the Prophet didn’t.

Many Church leaders today have realized that some people are seriously and legitimately attracted to the same gender, and this is not changing. They also admit that they have no idea what to do now. The only idea they have is about what not to do (break the Law of Chastity), but other than that, they don’t have any comprehensive clue what queer people should actually do instead. Our Church leaders, working with several sources that assume that everyone is “straight,” are caught without a backup plan. Until one is found, they are advising queer people to follow the Law of Chastity for straight people.

Some of our Church leaders are in much of the same position as Joseph Smith before the revelation of the backup plan in D&C 10. They have been surprised by the actual existence of LGBT people, but there have been no additional scriptures yet to address this. They are frantic, scared, and defensive, much like Joseph Smith, whose entire world was undone with the loss of the 116 pages. And much like how Joseph lost the precious pages, our church leaders have “lost” a world near and dear to them — a world where everyone is straight.  And just like those 116 pages aren’t ever coming back, their heteronormative world is never coming back either, no matter how familiar and comforting it was. Let us pray for our leaders.

Our Lord has always provided backup plans that his closest servants on Earth could not foresee. The Lord provided a ram in the bushes as a substitute for the sacrifice of Isaac, when Abraham had no way of anticipating it (Genesis 22:13–14).  Esther did not realize that if she refused to come out of the closet as a Jew to save her people from her husband, the Lord would still bring protection and deliverance to the Jews through another way (Esther 4:13–14).

The Lord even has a backup plan for those who do not fit norms for gender and procreation.  Eunuchs, who may have been Jewish victims of persecution or military defeat, were promised that if they were faithful to the Lord, they would receive a name and a place in the Lord’s kingdom that was actually better than the ability to have children: “Neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off” (Isaiah 56:3–5).

Anyone who knew only the biblical exclusion of eunuchs in Deuteronomy 23:1 would have no way to predict this generous backup plan.  While the situation with eunuchs is very different, Isaiah’s promise still gives hope for all people who don’t fit in the standard “plan” that others would impose on us, whether we are LGBT families, childfree couples, or people who are single by choice or circumstance. Assuming that queer people should follow the same plan for straight people without any adaptation leads to absolute misery and alienation from Christ.  On the other hand, the Spirit is leading LBGT people to a backup plan that’s right for us, and that brings peace, joy, and closeness with the Savior.

The tragedy of the lost 116 pages teaches us two very important lessons.  First, that even leaders called by God can make serious mistakes and errors of judgment.  Second, that God has a backup plan even when His servants don’t, and His backup plan is more glorious and genius than we could have ever imagined! This has always been true. Every time we read the amazing words from the Plates of Nephi (1 Nephi through Omni), we should be reminded that we serve a wise God who has beautiful backup plans and will not let human mistakes ultimately defeat the joy of LGBT people.  God’s purposes for LGBT families cannot be foiled by anyone, and the providence of the Plates of Nephi is one reason why I know that the Book of Mormon is a true resource for queer people.

Let us pray that God’s glorious backup plan for us will be made clearer to the whole world:  “And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.” (Isaiah 40:5)

What Does the Church Want Non-LDS Gay People to Do? | Zelophehad’s Daughters

Posted on 16 July 2015 by Lynnette
I’ve read a lot of posts on gay marriage in the last few weeks, and seen a lot of arguments. But I have a question about the subject that I haven’t ever really seen directly addressed. So I’m going to jump into the fray, and ask it. My question is: what, exactly, does the church want non-LDS gay people to do? For members, the requirement is currently either celibacy or a mixed-orientation marriage. Though I find this situation problematic, I want to set it aside, and ask what the church might realistically hope for when it comes to the vast majority of gay people who aren’t LDS.

Here are the options I can come up with:

1) Celibacy. If this is a requirement for Mormons, one might ask, why not for everyone? But I think even the church would realize that this isn’t a realistic requirement for those not of our faith. Many see the rejection of same-sex marriage as imposing our values on others; such a move would be taking that to an extreme.

2) Mixed-orientation marriages. This is an unlikely scenario, given the high failure rate of such marriages, and the fact that gay people who don’t have the religious views of Mormons aren’t really going to be motivated to enter into such marriages. The church has actually come to recognize that this is a problematic prescription even when applied to members; it’s unlikely to be a satisfactory solution for non-members.

3) Go back to an earlier time, when gay people had to remain closeted and homosexuality was much less socially acceptable. In other words, sweep the problem under the rug and hope it goes away. But the tremendous toll this takes upon not only gay people themselves, but also families which include gay parents and spouses, should make this a questionable option.

4) Live the “gay lifestyle.” By this I mean, engage in promiscuous sex and don’t enter into committed relationships. (I’m not seriously saying that this is a fair term, by the way; I’m using it because I think many LDS imagine it as meaning that.) I don’t think the church explicitly wants this, but at least for some, this is equated with homosexuality—if you’re gay, this is inevitably what you do, and that’s one reason why it’s a problem to be gay. This also might arise as the alternative once you assert that marriage is bad for gay people. But given its teachings, I think it would be odd for the church to not have issues with this as the norm.

5) Enter into civil unions. I imagine this would be a common answer, but it raises some questions. For one thing, it leaves a certain group of people as having a second-class status when it comes to their partnerships. Maybe the church doesn’t care about that. But I don’t see how it’s consistent to be in favor of civil unions while rejecting gay marriage when your basic argument is that tolerating homosexual behavior is bad for society. On a practical level, what is it exactly that makes civil unions acceptable when gay marriage is bad? It’s also worth noting that because they are easier to dissolve, civil unions are less likely to lead to committed, enduring relationships. The church may not care whether gay unions have those qualities, but I think on the basis of what is good for society (by their own reckoning), they should. To put it another way, why is it worse for straight couples to live together without marrying, but better for gay couples?

6) Gay marriage. The church, as we all know, is vehemently opposed to this.

But here is my question. Given that it’s unreasonable to expect non-LDS gay people to follow church standards on this, how is gay marriage not the best of the remaining options? It might still be seen as sinful and detrimental to society, but it’s surely the lesser of several evils. It’s more likely to encourage stable relationships—and I think there is widespread agreement that those are preferable for children, and I think arguably better for society as a whole. It also has the advantage of giving all people equal treatment, which I think in general the church doesn’t necessarily see as a bad thing, especially given our own history of being persecuted for socially unacceptable marriage practices.

Another important question is what the church would expect from the many already-existing families in which the spouses are gay. Should they divorce, in the interests of what is best for society? Especially if they have children, this seems a problematic option.

I think one of the problems here is the church currently makes no moral distinction between promiscuous, extra-marital gay sex, and gay sex in the context of a committed relationship. It’s all indiscriminately bad. But I think this position needs to be seriously questioned, if the church is going to make the case that it wants not only what is good for its members, but what is good for society more generally.

via What Does the Church Want Non-LDS Gay People to Do? | Zelophehad’s Daughters.

Christian Persecution

Many Mormons feel that the liberation of queer people is “persecution” for them. We know better, though, because Mormons experienced real persecution in this country in the 19th century.

Seeing others get the same rights as you does not mean you are persecuted. Thank you for sharing this!

Gay Christian Blog


Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.1 Peter 4:16

Lately in the news, we’ve heard a lot about religious freedoms laws, because people are afraid they will be persecuted for being Christians. The idea that in America that people would be persecuted for being a true Christian who follows a loving God, is preposterous. Sadly, however, Christian persecution in the United States is real. It’s just not what you think.

Christian persecution isn’t about having to offer birth control to women. It’s not about having to serve wedding cakes to gay and lesbian couples. Christian persecution isn’t even having people call you out when you spout homophobic, sexist, or racist opinions, veiled blasphemously as biblical.

Real Christian persecution is having your church burned to the ground because black people worship there.

Real Christian persecution is…

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Seer stones as tools of the disempowered

Recently, the LDS Church brought forth a small brown “seer stone,” which I assume came out of a Gringotts-style vault in Salt Lake City. Because this curious stone came out of a dark chamber, the Church is literally “coming out” about some aspects of its identity that could be embarrassing. (As queer people know, coming out is difficult and stressful. Those you tell may feel frustrated that you were “hiding” something all along. They may also be disturbed and confused by your sudden transparency. Nevertheless, queer people can handle both.  I suppose that the Church should develop a sense of its queer narrative to frame these disclosures as it continues to “come out” about its core identity. As a queer person, let me reassure the Church with these words: “You will be okay. You think you will be rejected, but those who love you will understand and never leave you. As a queer person, I promise you, coming out is hard, but it is worth it. Tell the truth; don’t try to be something you’re not. It gets better.”)
My primary interest, though, is to articulate the role of the seer stone as a device of the disempowered.
The historical background of this seer stone includes a stratification of the Enlightenment thinkers (those with access to money, social class, and education) in contrast to the common people of the frontier (those with access to hard work, character, and thrift). Many people of Joseph Smith’s time and locale used various implements such as stones, crystals, dowsing rods, and so forth for divination and exploration.  These things were ridiculed as “magic.”

Historically, “magic” is not a neutral term. It presupposes a power differential. People with access to authority had the power to publicly brand practices as “magic” when they were done by the disempowered, even when they themselves were doing similar things. Almost everyone in the 19th-century had pseudo-scientific or sub-scientific understandings about the world. It’s only the native practices of the lower classes that were disparaged, disregarded, and dismissed as superstition. The use of the now-disclosed seer stone is one of those precious practices.

As a non-material parallel, the practice of gay pride truly empowers a disempowered people. Our symbols, such as gay pride parades, marches, and rainbow apparel, help us survive and navigate this world. Importantly, their function is not understood by those who ridicule them. Just as the intellectual elite found no need for the seer stone, so also many heterosexist people today see no need for gay pride parades. From the perspective of people in power, peeping into a little brown stone and prancing down the street in thongs (perhaps only the size of that stone) are both silly, unnecessary, and foolish. But we, at the bottom of society, are the ones who know the power of these treasures in clay jars (see 2 Corinthians 4:7). Those with privilege often stigmatize queer art, literature, and music as distasteful and uncivilized. Queer people, with our unlikely treasures, can definitely empathize with Joseph Smith and his seer stones.


We should also consider what the existence of the seer stone teaches us about God. We believe in an incarnate God, one who bends down to reach us where we are. Joseph Smith already had a favorite seer stone that he used for other divining purposes long before it was used to translate the Book of Mormon. This was something safe and familiar to him. In order to reach all people, not just the elite, the Lord works through the language and concepts of the common people. Jesus healed others with the fringe of his cloak, with spit, and with mud.  Though he certainly didn’t need those tools, the people he served appreciated them, and Jesus accommodated them.

Similarly, since God reaches people where they are, Christians are most God-like when we meet people, including LGBT people, where they are, and incorporate their understanding into our interaction with them. A Latter-day Saint should always be open to reaching LGBT people on their own terms, with grace, poise, compassion, accommodation, and patience.

Joseph Smith used the “power” of the seer stone to access what little power uneducated people could have at that time. The rediscovery of this unusual stone teaches us Latter-day Saints more respect for the unusual, especially when the “unusual” comes from a non-dominant population. It also teaches us that we should be more like God and meet people where they are and talk to them according to their understanding. Both of those are brilliant lessons for how to appreciate LGBT people.

(For more information about how queer people can empathize with the young Joseph Smith, see The First Vision as a Queer Emblem.  For another way an unusual stone can serve as the pride of people who don’t fit in, see The Stone which the builders rejected.)

The Brother of Jared as a Queer Hero


The narrative of the Book of Ether includes a number of inspiring and strengthening resources for queer Latter-day Saints. The Jaredites, and especially the brother of Jared, endure a significant closet experience, have their requests granted by the Lord, and then come out with joy into a promised land.

First of all, the “brother of Jared” is never mentioned by name. The brother of Jared’s name is hidden from us, much like how the true identity of many queer individuals is not fully known. Queer people may be in the closet. Trans individuals may not be known by their real name. Calling a main character the “brother of Jared” conceals something about him, and that is something that resonates with the lived experiences of queer and trans people. One thing we do know about the character of the brother of Jared is that he had the courage to ask the Lord for what he needed. At the Tower of Babel incident, the Lord had determined that the languages of all the people should be confused, so that no one would understand anyone else and they would be scattered over the earth (Ether 1:33). This was a decree that initially included the Jaredites. But the brother of Jared pleaded to the Lord not to do this to his family and friends. “And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did cry unto the Lord, and the Lord had compassion upon Jared; therefore he did not confound the language of Jared; and Jared and his brother were not confounded” (Ether 1:35, see 1:34-39). There was something different about the brother of Jared, and this difference gave him special insight. What I learn from this is that the prayer of someone different can actually change the Lord’s decree on something.

God also made provision that He would deliver the Jaredites to a land which is choice above all the earth.  So commanded them to build barges that were “tight like unto a dish.” They were watertight, and thus airtight, even when the door was closed (Ether 2:16-17). “And it came to pass that the brother of Jared cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, I have performed the work which thou hast commanded me, and I have made the barges according as thou hast directed me” (Ether 2:18). However, even though the Jaredites followed the Lord’s commandments to the letter, they still ran into a problem: the threat of darkness and asphyxiation. This problem was resolved only by appealing to the Lord for a change: additional clarifying commandments. God modified the plans to the barges to include a hole in the top and bottom of each barge to provide fresh air (Ether 2:19-20).

Next, when the brother of Jared pleaded with the Lord about the darkness of the barges, something even more profound happens. Not only did the Lord grant the request, but He even asked what the brother of Jared thought the Lord should do: “Therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?” (Ether 2:25). God valued the input of the brother of Jared, and asked for his idea of how to solve the problem. So Jared offered his idea that the Lord should touch 16 stones and endow them with the power to give light, two for each barge. And the Lord was pleased with the brother of Jared’s idea and fulfilled it (Ether 3:4-6).

In both of these dire situations, the Lord amended His instructions in response to the asserted needs of His people. Even when we follow the Lord’s commandments to the letter, as relayed by church leaders, we still run into a problem.  I pray that we, too, will have the faith that God will modify His revealed plans for LGBT people, or in other words, modify our current understanding of His plans.


The unchanging character of our loving Heavenly Father is to give His children life-giving accommodations. But for many churches, not just the LDS Church, the current understanding of the Lord’s commandments is unlivable. Most straight people  realize that their knowledge is incomplete on this issue. So we are waiting for more light. We are longing for space to breathe. Right now, our space in the Church is dark and we can’t breathe. LGBTQ Mormons are pleading with God for a life-giving accommodation, for more light and fresh air in our Church, so that we can live as full humans, with all that a full human life entails.  This of course includes the basic human joy of a partnership with another person that we love. We are simply asking for the same opportunities that straight people have. We trust that the Lord will hear our cries, and in due time give us what we need. Luckily, our Church is unique among other churches in that we believe in an open canon and living prophets, and thus we are prepared to receive new revelation on this issue.

The second part of the Jaredite narrative yields another pearl for faithful LGBT children. To put it plainly, the Jaredite barges were literally a closet experience. The people and their animals were cooped up, along with food and animal droppings, for 344 days (Ether 6:11). They were constrained. While in their ocean-going closets, they were also tormented by wind and waves (Ether 6:5-6). God’s plan, though, was that the strong wind would blow them swiftly to a promised land, a land where they would be free to be themselves (Ether 6:8).

Savor the description of their joy and relief when they came out of their barge closets: “And they did land upon the shore of the promised land. And when they had set their feet upon the shores of the promised land they bowed themselves down upon the face of the land, and did humble themselves before the Lord, and did shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of the multitude of his tender mercies over them” (Ether 6:12). That’s what it feels like to come out of the closet. That’s what it feels like to be free. That’s what it feels like to be in a place where you can be yourself. No wonder they praised the Lord with overflowing joy, celebrating God’s fatherly responsiveness. This lesson teaches us that our closets and our constraints will not last forever, but the Lord will deliver us. And I know that God is faithful to do the same for His LGBT children as he did for the Jaredites long ago.

I pray that God will listen to our idea of how to solve the problem: to make queer people equal to straight people in the church by granting the equivalent opportunities, to reveal that same-gender love and marriage are not sin, and to celebrate our eternal LGBT families with sealings in the Temple. I trust that the Judge of all the earth will do what is right and deliver our request at an opportune time.

Project: Queer Scripture Mastery

I’m in the process of working on a “Queer Scripture Mastery” project.  I will select a list of verses from the scriptures, as in the regular scripture mastery.  However, these will be verses of special support and encouragement to queer Latter-day Saints.  Queer people can be easily attacked verbally and emotionally, both from inside ourselves and from outside as well.  But by memorizing these treasures, queer people will have ready defenses hidden away in our hearts.  We can deploy these verses when we hear awful things from ourselves, other members, or the world.  We can also incorporate phrasing from these verses in our heartfelt extemporaneous prayers.

As Jesus taught, “Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old” (Matthew 13:52).  Yes, we can bring out new things from the scriptures! We will also be able to serve other queer people at a moment’s notice, with a comforting and encouraging word from the Lord.  I’m sure this project will increase my affection and appreciation for the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price, as I’m learning more from all of these.   (Along with each verse, I will provide a discussion of the context and application, to motivate the mastery of these texts.)

Then I’ll make these available to LGBTQ Mormons with the challenge to meditate on all of them and memorize any that feel relevant and useful.  Then we can ponder these life-giving words at any time, day or night, even when a book/phone is not available. “But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” (Psalm 1:2)  Jesus himself in his temptation by Satan (Matthew 4, Luke 4) used memorized scriptures to repel the lies of the evil one.  All of the awful things said about us are lies, and we can easily be tempted to believe them.  We can respond as Jesus did when we hear or think those falsehoods about ourselves.

Here is just one example of a queer scripture mastery verse:  Alma 34:26 on prayer: “But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.” Crying out to God is instinctive for people in the closet.  When you are most isolated and most pressed in upon, God will still hear you.  The Atonement means that the Savior has suffered everything that you ever could.  He has walked with you every step of the way.  You are not alone.  Whenever you feel trapped in a closet, pray and God will be there for you.

My question for all of you: What verses from any of the scriptures (especially the Book of Mormon and D&C) really inspire, energize, or soothe you? Especially, any that are liberating and go against the grain. I’ll be looking for verses that celebrate alternative identities and roles, cross boundaries, strengthen persecuted/misunderstood people, celebrate diversity, encourage critical and responsible thinking, etc.  Post in the comments!