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How A Mormon Bishop Became An LGBT Ally (With An Assist From Carson Kressley): VIDEO


This link leads to a funny, poignant personal essay from Kevin Kloosterman, an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights who also happens to be an ex-Bishop in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He came out as an ally to LGBTfolk two years ago, when he was still Bishopping. Life got weird, fast.

Kloosterman was not always an ally. He was turned into one by Queer Eye For The Straight Guy. Kloosterman describes his transformation like so:

I would watch the show and imagine what it would be like for them to be in a Mormon bishop’s home, which is probably considered the heart of enemy territory by some in the gay community since Proposition 8. There was something about the spirit of these men that seemed to break barriers of orientation, politics, and even religion. Perhaps like every other fan, I considered them to be more familiar than reality would dictate. Then something that Carson said in his cheeky manner struck me like a thunderbolt. He said, “We are very pro traditional marriage.” Those words echoed in my mind for months and months. It seemed to disrupt and challenge a deeply held belief that the traditional family was under attack by a so called “gay agenda.” 

That belief was dismantled at that moment and I realized that these good men had no desire to hurt me, my marriage, or my family. On the contrary, if they were in my home, I could only see them supporting me, my traditional marriage, and my family.  

(The contrapuntal statement to that one, it seems, would be that many conservative Mormons and other religious types really do believe that gayfolk want to hurt them, their marriages, and their families, which is a terribly sad thing to think about.)

Kloosterman is apparently not the sort of person who can recognize a grave moral wrong and do nothing about it. So he flew to Utah to share what he'd learned with his heterosexual co-religionists -- to tell them they'd misunderstood the gay community entirely. His message was not received with uniform friendliness:

When the story broke that a sitting bishop had flown from Illinois to Utah to call for straight members to do more to reach out to LGBT individuals in and out of the church, the two major newspapers in Utah saw the talk in radically different ways, which created controversy. The reaction continued to be mixed as the story moved to talk radio. Mormons of the more conservative variety called for me to be excommunicated. There was one extremist blog even wishing “apostates could be executed” juxtaposed with my name, my wife’s name, our home address and work address for all to see as well as calling for “blood atonement,” which is primitive Mormon talk for execution.

My coworkers advised me to file a police report and the blog was taken down soon thereafter. The trauma of that experience though has not been easy on my wife or our marriage.

... nor on Kloosterman's relationship with his church. His essay doesn't mention why he went from "Bishop" to "ex-Bishop," but it seems to have had something to do with his attitude towards the LGBT community. He now treats advocacy work as as a serious avocation, just as he once practiced ministry.

Please do take the time to read the article. It's a fascinating view of a transformation that most of us, for obvious reasons, need never undergo. (Also: Kloosterman's semi-obsessive paeans to each of Queer Eye's Fab Five somehow manage to be creepy and totally charming at the same time, which is a pretty rare feat.) 

And, if you like, have a look at Kloosterman's tear-soaked speech at "Circling The Wagons," last year's conference "in support" of LGBT LDS's. It's extremely religious -- one cause of Kloosterman's evident distress is surely that he's condemning his religion's conduct while trying to maintain his faith in its truth, which must require some painful mental contortions. I hope he feels better soon. Watch AFTER THE JUMP ...

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'Declaration Of Independence From Mormonism'; Faithful Leave Church Over Gay Rights, Science

450px-Ensign_Peak,_5-24-2008Yesterday afternoon, roughly 150 Latter Day Saints publicly resigned en masse from their church in Salt Lake City. The defectors ventured from Utah, Idaho, and Arizona to convene in a public park and tender their formal letters of resignation, which they gathered in a large basket to be mailed to LDS HQ by one of their soon-to-be-ex-co-religionists. They they hiked from the park up to Ensign Peak, where Brigham Young stood 175 years ago to gaze down at the place where he'd soon build a city. Once there, the defectors hugged and laughed and cheered, and yelled: "Freedom!"

The reasons for defection were numerous. From Reuters:

Among the reasons cited by those resigning are the church's political activism against gay marriage; doctrinal teachings that conflict with scientific findings or are perceived as racist or sexist; and inconsistencies in the church's explanation of its own history, including the practice of polygamy.

The church, which renounced plural marriage over a century ago as Utah was seeking statehood, often downplays the prevalence of the practice by early faith leaders, including Smith, who some scholars say was married to more than 30 women.

But it was in fact polygamy that John Larsen said began him on his journey out of the church. When doing research on the Larsen family tree, he was disturbed to find that a female ancestor had married Smith, likely while she was still married to another man, he said.

Zilpha Larsen said her questions began when she discovered that the veracity of an allegedly accurate translation of ancient Egyptian writings that were included in sacred Mormon texts were in doubt. "Once you start doubting one thing, then everything becomes suspect," she said.

300+ Straight Mormons March in Gay Pride Parade in Salt Lake City: VIDEO


As I noted on Friday, a group of LDS Church members called 'Mormons Building Bridges' marched in yesterday's Utah Gay Pride Parade in Salt Lake City as an act of reconciliation with the LGBT community, and made quite an impression, the Salt Lake Tribune reports:

Mormons Building Bridges followed right behind [Grand Marshal Dustin Lance] Black in the parade. The men in beige suits and ties and the little girls in white dresses were a sharp contrast to the pounding music and dancers behind them, but the crowd clapped and shouted their approval for the folks in their Sunday best. Erika Munson, a mom of five from Sandy, started the group a few weeks ago to show her support for the LGBT community and to encourage members of her religion to do the same in a public way.

Holly Nelson, a 38-year-old lesbian who lives in Murray, had tears in their eyes as the Mormons walked past.

"I think it’s amazing," she said. "It’s been so hard to be in Utah knowing the Mormon church is against the gay community."

Black also gave a speech talking about bridging the gap between Mormonism and being an LGBT person.

Watch a video of the group marching and the Black clip, AFTER THE JUMP...


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Straight Mormons to March in Salt Lake City Gay Pride Parade in Act of Reconciliation: VIDEO


A group of straight Mormons will march in Salt Lake City's Gay Pride parade on Sunday, FOX 13 reports:

They call themselves “Mormons Building Bridges” and they are planning to march in this year’s Pride parade. It is a move toward reconciliation between two communities that have had been at odds in the past.

“We are faithful, practicing Mormons who feel like it’s time to reach out with love and understanding to the LGBT community,” says group spokeswoman Erika Munson.

Munson has never been to a Pride parade before, but the devout Mormon is organizing more than 100 faithful LDS Church members in their Sunday best to march among the more colorful entries to show their love.

“We are following the greater commandment of Jesus, which is to love one another and love one another unconditionally, and we want to do that,” says Munson.

Organizers of the parade have situated the group behind the grand marshal.

Watch Munson speak about the effort, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Soul Force Equality Ride Members Meet with LDS Church

(via Soulforce - Facebook)

Members of gay Christian activist group Soulforce met with LDS legislative lobbyist Bill Evans, public-affairs representative John Taylor, former TV reporter Ruth Todd and LDS attorney Alexander Dushku in Salt Lake City yesterday as part of their Equality Ride, the Salt Lake Tribune reports:

The group, Soulforce’s 2012 Equality Ride, had four specific requests for the LDS Church: to cut all ties with and denounce Evergreen International, which continues to use "reparative" therapy in its treatment of gays; to stop funding groups that are fighting civil marriage equality across the country; to encourage LDS Business College to bring its policies on homosexuality in line with current Mormon teachings; and to add sexual orientation and gender identity/expression to the faith’s policies for church employees.

The Soulforce group members had hoped to meet with Church leadership, although they described the meeting as "overall positive":

[Jason Conner, Equality Ride’s co-director] said Mormon officials also agreed to work on using "more inclusive language" and to reiterate to members that no gay person should "question their worth or value or be kicked out of their home because of their orientation or gender expression identity."

The church, for example, should stop describing members who were "struggling with their sexuality," Conner said. "I’m not struggling. I am completely comfortable with my sexuality."

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LGBT Mormons Get Together

Slc_mormon_tempelAs you read this, "hundreds of gay Mormons, their families and friends" are gathered in Salt Lake City, UT, to talk about sexuality at a conference called "Circling The Wagons." According to The Salt Lake Tribune:

The purpose of the conference, sponsored by researcher John Dehlin, along with Mormon Stories and Open Stories Foundation, is "to create a space where LGBTQ or SSA individuals and their families and allies can gather to acknowledge, explore and honor shared experiences."

What kinds of folks are these LGBT Mormons? A poll conducted by Utah State University found:

... nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of the 1,600 respondents had tried to change their orientation, and 86 percent classified church counseling that sought to end their same-sex attraction as not helpful, somewhat harmful or severely harmful.

About a third (29 percent) of the respondents said they remained active in the LDS faith, a little more than a third were inactive (36 percent) and 26 percent asked to have their names removed from the church’s membership rolls.

Still, nearly 70 percent said they believed in God, 52 percent believed in Jesus Christ, and 36 percent believed that LDS Church founder Joseph Smith was "a prophet of God."

Some of the attendees include a former Methodist minister who became an LGBT supporter after some of his congregants came out, as well as:

... author and playwright, Carol Lynn Pearson, retired Brigham Young University microbiology professor Bill Bradshaw, Utah State Democratic Party Chair Jim Dabakis, filmmaker Kendall Wilcox, psychologist Lee Beckstead, as well as Dehlin, who has helped conduct online research within the LDS gay community.

Circling The Wagons is organized by Ms. Pearson's organization "Mormon Stories." Needless to say, it's not affiliated with the LDS Church.


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