This past Sunday, a member of our high council came and spoke in my ward. And if there was any doubt in my mind about the importance of having a good, strong Mormon presence at Gay Pride this coming Sunday (June 30!) before his talk, there was none after.
I wasn't the only one who made the connection. Another member of my ward and I talked about his talk afterwards, and we had both independently come to the same conclusion. This talk was about Gay Pride, and why we need to be there!
I get the objections to Pride. I have on occasion admitted to preferring Church to Pride on a Sunday morning. I'm not always comfortable with everything at Pride.
Mormons Building Bridges made me feel differently. Once I realized I could bring all of who I am to Pride, the sense of conflict I felt evaporated. And the lessons I learned marching with our Mormon Allies contingent are driving me to participate again this year.
Our high council speaker this past Sunday offered us an interesting interpretation of the "standing in holy places" concept which has become a common theme in Church-correlated materials lately. (See Psalm 24:3; Matthew 24:15; and D&C 45:32; 87:8; 101:22 for the relevant scriptural texts.) The more conventional LDS interpretation is that the imperative of "standing in holy places" means we should spend lots of time in temples, ward meeting houses, and in prayer-filled homes. Which is a fair enough interpretation! Spending time in these kinds of places fills me with peace, and anchors me in right thinking and love.
But our high council member prodded us a bit by suggesting that maybe the ultimate holy place, the holy place where we always stand is within us. It is the place we make holy by living our lives in such a way that the Spirit of the Lord always dwells in us. He said (according to my journal): "To stand in holy places is to receive the Holy Ghost and follow its promptings."
He went on to talk about how the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not "a one size fits all" gospel. Each of us faces different challenges and has different needs. My journey as a gay Saint has meant a journey through wildernesses that most straight Saints have no concept of. This is why the Gospel is not complete if we are not actively seeking the Spirit's promptings so that it may "show unto you all things what ye should do" (2 Nephi 32:5). We each need that personally for ourselves.
I particularly loved our high council speaker's example of Samuel the Lamanite. Samuel belonged to a race/group of people the Nephites assumed to be lost and fallen. He compared Samuel preaching to the Nephites to something like if a prophet from Guatemala showed up in Salt Lake City and started telling all the good, white Saints their failings.
He speculated that the wall Samuel preached from was probably not as high as it is in the classic Arnold Friberg painting. The stones flung at him and the arrows shot at him were probably much more up close and personal, and non-miraculous missing would have been much less likely.
Later that evening, I attended the special broadcast from Salt Lake City, announcing some of the new ways the Church was going to engage in missionary work, with an ever-growing emphasis on full-time missionary - member cooperation. Missionary work, the broadcast emphasized, was about relationship building. Bridge building.
An artfully prepared montage that showed individuals reaching out to friends -- over lunch, at a basketball game, on a school bus, at a children's birthday party -- drove the point home. In my mind, I saw Mormon Building Bridges as part of that montage, marching in Gay Pride.
Like the message delivered to us by our high council speaker, a core message during that Sunday evening broadcast was that there was no one "right way" to do this. That we needed to be attentive to the Spirit, to listen and follow the promptings of the Spirit and go where it told us to go.
It still feels risky to many Latter-day Saints to participate in Pride. After my last post on Pride, some individuals pointed out to me that there had in fact been at least some documented instances of threatened discipline for participating in Pride -- though fortunately none were carried through. There's still a lot of misunderstanding among Latter-day Saints about what participation in Pride means. Some of us feel a bit too close to the stones and arrows that might come hurtling at us... From both sides of the wall!
Yet, this past Sunday I knew, with that miraculous, peaceful,
clarity-inducing warmth of the Spirit, that the place I need to be this
Sunday is at Gay Pride. I invite you to prayerfully consider if the
Spirit might be speaking to you to come join us as well.
If you are here in the Twin Cities, come join us. We have plenty of t-shirts for all participants, emblazoned with our "Mormon Allies" logo, and the slogan, "Where Love Is, There God Is Also."
Contact me via Facebook if you're interested in joining us!