Wednesday, June 17, 2009

It's Only Beginning to Find Release

I'm tired of listening to Mormons talk about the divine "One Man, One Woman" only definition of marriage. I might punch the next person I hear spouting this hypocrisy. Wasn't that one of the roles of Jesus? "[F]eeding the hungry, healing the sick, rebuking hypocrisy, pleading for faith — this was Christ showing us the way of the Father," said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. That's right. Rebuking hypocrisy was not only one of the roles of Jesus, it is the way of God.

Well, I'm gonna play God here and rebuke some hypocrisy.

Do any of these arguments sound familiar? (Maybe you read them here, here, or here) Have you ever heard a Mormon say something like . . .
  • Same Sex Marriage is wrong because marriage has always been between one man and one woman.
  • Same Sex Marriage will bring upon our society all the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.
  • Homosexuality was part of the fall of the Roman Empire. This social experiment to redefine marriage will be the end of America.
  • Homosexuality denigrates the family. Same Sex Marriage is an affront to morality and traditional values.
  • Homosexuality leads to the spread of diseases like AIDS. It spreads all sorts of filth like pornography, prostitution, fornication, and promiscuity.
  • Same Sex Marriage is a recent union created to justify immoral men's desires.
  • Homosexuals who flaunt their lifestyle ought to be ashamed of their weakness.
Well, those arguments should sound familiar, because the Mormons have used them before--when fighting the evils of monogamy. (You know, one man and one woman). The exact same arguments used to defend the only acceptable definition of marriage as one man and one woman were once used by Latter-day Saint Prophets to fight that very definition.
  • "It is a fact worthy of note that the shortest lived nations of which we have record have been monogamic. Rome...was a monogamic nation and the numerous evils attending that system early laid the foundation for that ruin which eventually overtook her."
    Apostle George Q. Cannon, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, p. 202
  • "Since the founding of the Roman empire monogamy has prevailed more extensively than in times previous to that. The founders of that ancient empire were robbers and women stealers, and made laws favoring monogamy in consequence of the scarcity of women among them, and hence this monogamic system which now prevails throughout Christendom, and which had been so fruitful a source of prostitution and whoredom throughout all the Christian monogamic cities of the Old and New World, until rottenness and decay are at the root of their institutions both national and religious."
    The Prophet Brigham Young Journal of Discourses, Vol. 11, p. 128
  • "...the one-wife system not only degenerates the human family, both physically and intellectually, but it is entirely incompatible with philosophical notions of immortality; it is a lure to temptation, and has always proved a curse to a people."
    Prophet John Taylor, Millennial Star, Vol. 15, p. 227
  • "Monogamy, or restrictions by law to one wife, is no part of the economy of heaven among men. Such a system was commenced by the founders of the Roman empire....Rome became the mistress of the world, and introduced this order of monogamy wherever her sway was acknowledged. Thus this monogamic order of marriage, so esteemed by modern Christians as a holy sacrament and divine institution, is nothing but a system established by a set of robbers.... Why do we believe in and practice polygamy? Because the Lord introduced it to his servants in a revelation given to Joseph Smith, and the Lord's servants have always practiced it. 'And is that religion popular in heaven?' it is the only popular religion there,..."
    The Prophet Brigham Young, The Deseret News, August 6, 1862
  • "This law of monogamy, or the monogamic system, laid the foundation for prostitution and the evils and diseases of the most revolting nature and character under which modern Christendom groans,..."
    Apostle Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, page 195
  • "We breathe the free air, we have the best looking men and handsomest women, and if they [Non-Mormons] envy us our position, well they may, for they are a poor, narrow-minded, pinch-backed race of men, who chain themselves down to the law of monogamy, and live all their days under the dominion of one wife. They ought to be ashamed of such conduct, and the still fouler channel which flows from their practices; and it is not to be wondered at that they should envy those who so much better understand the social relations."
    Apostle George A Smith, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 3, page 291
  • "I have noticed that a man who has but one wife, and is inclined to that doctrine, soon begins to wither and dry up, while a man who goes into plurality [of wives] looks fresh, young, and sprightly. Why is this? Because God loves that man, and because he honors his word. Some of you may not believe this, but I not only believe it but I also know it. For a man of God to be confined to one woman is small business. I do not know what we would do if we had only one wife apiece."
    Apostle Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses Vol 5, page 22
  • "Just ask yourselves, historians, when was monogamy introduced on to the face of the earth? When those buccaneers, who settled on the peninsula where Rome now stands, could not steal women enough to have two or three apiece, they passed a law that a man should have but one woman. And this started monogamy and the downfall of the plurality system. In the days of Jesus, Rome, having dominion over Jerusalem, they carried out the doctrine more or less. This was the rise, start and foundation of the doctrine of monogamy; and never till then was there a law passed, that we have any knowledge of, that a man should have but one wife. "
    The Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses Vol. 12, page 262
To my knowledge, changing the definition of marriage from one man and several woman to one man and one woman did not bring the downfall of Utah, or of the United States. It did not destroy the family as an institution. Changing it again to be inclusive of all families is not going to hurt Latter-day Saints any more than monogamy did. Allowing other Americans to live the lifestyle of their choice and have their families protected by the government will not hurt society! And if the Mormons want to jump on the bandwagon and join in, great! It might take a generation, and it might cause a splinter group, but I'm sure we can bury all the homophobic publications under the rug and start over with a new revelation broadening marriage once again.

Sorry for the rant. I realize I'm not the first to make these connections and accusations. I just wanted to be in on the rebuking fun. Don't blame me, I learned it from Jesus.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

And There Were Flashes of Light

It seems lightning has struck the Mormon's newest Temple this past week. We were warned by NOM that a storm was gathering.

The Oquirrh Mountain Temple, which is to be dedicated in August, was struck by lightning, leaving a black stain on the face, arm, and trumpet of Angel Moroni. It's nothing a little soap, water, and maybe some re-gilding can't fix. It does make one wonder, though, how happy God is with the Mormons. There's a message in here somewhere. Judging from the black stain, it might have been a more timely message any time before 1979. Although, there is another issue plaguing the Church now with an awful lot of similarities to the pre-1979 ban on black priesthood and Temple rites, including marriages.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Rainbow Coalition of People from Every Creed

When I graduate in December, I will most likely be moving to New England. There are so many art opportunities around New York and in New England, and I could get married there (you know, just in case). High on my list right now is New Haven, Connecticut. It's only an hour and a half drive to art galleries in New York City, and two hours from Boston. I've been doing a lot of research on the area. One thing that I've discovered is that there is a huge presence of the United Church of Christ, and I've been learning about the Church. I like what I've seen so far, which has made me really question how I feel about God, spirituality, and religion. This has been intensified by the fact that many people within the gay rights movement have been pushing gay activists to redefine their arguments in religious terms. Gay rights won't happen if it is a fight between religious arguments and secular arguments (regardless of whether that is right or wrong). Gay people must, the movement says, be affiliated with religion. But I just don't know how I feel about religion.

When I came home from my mission, it wasn't long at all before my experiences started contradicting what the LDS Church had taught me. Church leaders told me that things would be a certain way if I did things a certain way, and I found them to be wrong. This lead me to question whether or not the Church could be the only true Church of God. I came to the conclusion that there is no one way to live, nor is there one authorized group that speaks for God and that one must belong to in order to be right with God. At the time I became quite certain that because there were so many different problems and situations in the world, God must have different solutions for different groups of people. I viewed religions as tools God created and used to help different groups of people in different circumstances. In a sense, all Churches, then, were true.

All while I was seriously questioning the LDS faith, though, I maintained somewhat vehemently that I was a Christian regardless of how I felt about Mormonism. I maintained a belief in God--that He guided people and had a big picture plan for them, and I believed in Jesus--that His Sacrifice made forgiveness possible. To me the most important elements of Christianity, both inside and out of the LDS Church, were revelation, forgiveness, and compassion.

Then Prop 8 happened. Hateful and clearly false rhetoric was spouted from pulpits, TV, youtube, and facebook. People I had once thought of as friends said nasty things about homosexuality to me, not knowing I was gay. As I made my orientation and my stance more clear, I lost friends and received hate mail. I watched administrators in Church, school, and even local government flat out lie. And the end goal of these people who used their religion as their authority was to prevent the families of gay couples from being recognized as equal (or as legitimate). It was to take away from my people the right to marry in the State of California. Prop 8 was like a war, and religion was the enemy.

My impressions of both the Latter-day Saints and Christianity as a whole changed drastically. Where as I once viewed Latter-day Saints as one "true" Church of many used by God to help people, I now viewed them as an institution that strategically fought to hurt myself and others like me. Where I was viewed Christians as a group that included me, I now viewed them as a group that excluded me from their table and actively opposed my right to sit at any table. I couldn't be a Christian because Christians were people that were against me and my future family.

I wanted to feel like I was a part of a group that would include me, so I began ordering books about gay spirituality. I knew I was always included in the gay camp, and I thought I might be able to tap into some gay religion that could tie me to the community. One of the books I ordered turned out to be really out there. It read almost like a Kama Sutra, detailing how homosexual sex could bring back memories of past lives and could take one on a spiritual journey to other worlds in the Universe. As much as I wanted to fly the "magic carpet" past Kolob and check out the other Mormon worlds there, it just wasn't for me.

So since that failure, I have wrestled with humanism. Instead of tools formed by God to help men, I have seen religions as organizations formed by men to reach God and explain their pre-existing emotions and beliefs. I stopped associating God with inspiration, and I stopped associating Jesus with forgiveness and compassion. Instead, I began to associate Jesus with symbol and mythology. I have read about Mithra, and Horus, and a dozen other mythological deities who share common stories of divine birth, miracles, ministries, and universal sacrifice. It's as if all civilizations need these archetypal stories, but they are still stories.

Having now unloaded my religious feelings for the past two years onto you, I'm asking for feedback. As I study the United Church of Christ, I am realizing that this is a huge body of people who believe in God, and in Jesus Christ, but who also affirm the legitimacy of homosexual individuals and families. They can do this in part because they believe in modern revelation, that God is still speaking. (God's word, they say, didn't end with a period, but a comma). Their Churches are almost always beautiful, especially in New England, and beauty has always spoken to me. Quite frankly, if I had known of this Church and if it had been available to me before Proposition 8 hit the ballot, then I would have joined it in a heartbeat, and would likely be an active member in that Church right now. But instead, I grew jaded and critical with religion and with God Himself.

So what do I do now? It would be nice to have a community to belong to. It would be nice to keep many of my childhood traditions. It would even be nice to keep Christian mythology. While I don't view it as literal or as absolute, I do view it's message as universal, applicable, and relevant. Would it be acceptable to investigate a Church under that pretense? Should I let the distrust and the distaste for religion left in my mouth after prop 8 keep me clear of religion, or should I do what many in the gay rights movement suggest and try to build bridges with Christianity? What do you think?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Look into Your Heart and You'll Find Love

Last night at Scott and Sarah's party I unveiled “Community,” a painting commissioned by Alan. The painting was meant to represent the support and hope found in the Moho community. So often Latter-day Saints focus on all the angst and conflict of being gay and Mormon. Alan asked me to create an image that would depict the positive qualities of the gay Mormon community. I decided the most positive aspect of the gay Mormon community was the sense of community itself. Regardless of what individual gay Mormons choose to do or believe, there is a shared experience that unites them all. It binds them together and gives them support.

I remember a candlelight vigil that I attended during the horribly divisive campaign for prop 8. The vigil was meant to show support to the gay population in Utah and to acknowledge the pain the election had caused. It was one of the most spiritual experiences I have ever had. It was powerful to feel the love and hope of so many people, united by the light of their candles which shone in their cheerful and peaceful faces. I hope that image will speak to this community, and to all communities, of the strength and hope that comes in being together.

Community, by Daniel Embree

I will be selling reproductions of the painting. Please Contact me at if you are interested in purchasing a reproduction of “Community.”

High Quality Giclée Canvas Print (22.5″ x 30): $200 (standard) $170 (prepaid) $300 (framed)

High Quality Giclée Paper Print (22.5″ x 30″): $150 (standard) $250 (framed)

Poster (18″ x 24″): $30 (standard) $50 (mounted)