If Ye Have Love

A woman I deeply respect but haven’t seen in over a decade messaged me on Facebook recently. She asked, ‘”How do you reconcile church teachings about marriage/gender/same sex attraction with support for the LGBT community?” This was a sincere question from a compassionate woman of faith. I don’t know the deeper, underlying impetus behind her question, but I do want to respectfully and clearly explain why I stand and side with LGBTQ+ members even when the LDS church threatens me for doing so (which it has several times).

To put it simply, I know that the church’s policies and attitude toward their queer brothers and sisters are wrong. To anyone who gasps or glares at my assertion, remember that there is a precedence for the belief in the fallibility of our leaders. They’ve been wrong before, and they’re wrong now.

I believe that someday, their stance against gay marriage and trans rights will change. It won’t be any time soon, but when God is actually consulted about how we are to treat His beloved queer children, we will see just how backwards and harmful our existing policies are. Someday we will quietly renounce homophobia, like we did racism and all racist doctrine once we began allowing Black members to enter the temple and hold the priesthood.

Of course, there won’t be any apologies or restitution for all the pains caused by our leaders’ mistakes, lest testimonies in our infallible, God-led leaders should be shaken, but there will be a change in Christ’s restored church because it is the right thing to do. We just have to wait for a shift in leadership or an increase in social scrutiny, as we did when it came to abandoning polygamy and finally allowing Black members the same rights as white members.

You might wonder how can I say all this and not be an ex-Mormon apostate. Well, I sustain the leader of my church the way I sustain the president I voted for. I acknowledge that he (or someday she) is the chosen leader of their given stewardship, and that there is much we foundationally agree on. I don’t, however, feel any obligation to swear unflinching loyalty to a flawed man who says insensitive, toxic things on a regular basis. He is not perfect, by his own admission, so why should I treat his every word as if it came from God?

If God doesn’t give us perfect leaders, why should I trust them perfectly? God is not the one asking me to be blindly obedient to His sons when I sustain them–they’re the ones doing that, even though their entire religion was founded by someone who was inspired by God to ask questions. I can sustain a divinely appointed human leader and expect him to improve while living up to his calling. Anyone who says otherwise (you must believe and follow every word the prophet says forever) doesn’t follow Christ, they worship an institution that claims to both a) have everything figured out and b) rely on further revelation. Two highly incongruous claims.

This whole “never doubt our leaders” culture is yet another testament as to the obtuse fallibility of our current church leadership. They don’t have the complete restored gospel, so why should I reject the possibility of them getting something wrong? They are not an omniscient God, so why should I obey and believe them as if they are? I, for one, can absolutely believe that God chose these flawed men to lead us because those are the only men on earth we’ve got.

I do not, however, buy for one second that He has revealed every last thing to these men. Not when the restoration is on-going, and further truths remain to be revealed. (Article of Faith 9, anyone?)

As such, I don’t feel any need to accept everything the prophets say as the word of God. When Joseph Smith restored the church, he did not exempt Black men from holding the priesthood–Brigham Young did that. I don’t believe for a second that God is wishy-washy enough to change His mind again, and then again about something so obviously wrong. Our prophet is the one who got it wrong, and that had devastating consequences. Our modern prophets’ attitudes toward the LGBTQIA+ community are, to me, more of the same bigotry that is causing more harm than God could have ever wanted.

At the end of the day, I am obedient to my Savior, and He said to love everyone. I will not make a mockery of that word by adding conditional clauses that do not come from Him. He said to love others as He loves me, and He loves me perfectly.

It is because I believe that Jesus loves me perfectly, and that I am to love others the way He would, that there is no room in my heart for judging or disapproving of queer children of God. “As I have loved you” says it all, doesn’t it? If God loves you and your loving heart the way it is, then that is the way you ought to love others.

That is why I openly and unflinchingly support my LGBTQIA+ friends despite the doctrine of the church. Because “As I have loved you” means no ifs, ands, or buts.

Loving others the way Jesus loves me means doing more than “accepting” or “tolerating” queer people. It means valuing their hearts as equals to my own. They are not degraded, depraved, or broken. They are beautiful, healing, and powerful. Why on earth would I believe that God has conditional love for these choice souls? Why would I think that He made them flawed when I’ve seen the purity and power of their hearts?

More importantly, if I truly believe that these people are lovable the way they are, why would I let anyone else devalue them? That’s not how Christ shows His love to you. Tell me what, exactly, is evil about being born queer? The fact that it makes you, a (likely) heterosexual cisgender individual, uncomfortable? Perhaps it’s because you think it’s unnatural to be queer (which is a label only our Creator gets to use, not you). Maybe it’s because gay couples can’t produce children to fill this increasingly emaciated planet, and therefore are an abomination. I’d like to see you present that same reasoning to infertile couples, or those who have decided (between them and God) that having children is not something they’d like to pursue.

At the end of the day, the only arguments against embracing LGBTQIA+ individuals are hypocritical, short-sighted, cruel, and fallacious. God’s greatest commandment, on the other hand, dismantles every excuse we have for harming His children in His name. If you don’t think He makes exemptions based on your sexuality, child rearing, or “naturalness” as one of His own creations, then stop doing the same to those whom you are commanded to love in His name.

Anyone who believes that queer love for others is un-Christlike, or worse yet a sin, is suggesting that God’s greatest commandment to love everyone is discriminatory. I don’t believe that God’s love discriminates, or that queer love is deficient or counterfeit in any way.

That’s why my stance is not, as the woman who messaged me wondered, as simple as: “It’s not my place to judge people,” or “I want all good for all people.” To me, the decision to love, protect, and normalize the existence of my queer friends isn’t a struggle at all. It’s the only way to be a true disciple of Christ. That is how I reconcile my love and support for LGBTQIA folx with a testimony in Christ’s restored (and purposefully incomplete) gospel.

To me, love for queer children of God should mirror the Savior’s. Because this church is led by Him, I believe that it will only grow closer to Him, which means someday changing its policies about LGBTQIA+ members. Until then, I will obey His greatest commandment without pause, deterrence, or shame.

That is how I want myself and others to know that I am a disciple of Christ–through my unconditional love. And when the church someday changes its stance, I do not want to be counted among the millions who will quite suddenly lose their faith or, worse yet, stand horrified at the sins they have committed against God’s beloved children. In the end, I sustain leaders, but I will always, first and foremost, follow Christ the way they should.

“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

-John 13:35

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