Dear Young Jane

“When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?”

  • John Maynard Keyes

Dear Young Jane,

I watched a video by Tyler Glenn today about the recent increase in gay suicides in the state of Utah (see this NPR article for details) and I felt compelled to speak to you, Young Religious Jane.

I still love you just as much as I love me today. You did a great job with what you had, you built amazing friendships, some of which continue to this day. You’ve always done your best to love and embrace others without judgment. You’ve come a long way down some very bumpy roads and lived to tell the tale.

And believe me, I remember how hard it was. I remember how hard I tried to make it work, I really do. You try to convince yourself every day that it’s okay; being gay is wrong, but you can still love gay people fully and completely. All the venom thrown at your religion over that topic is unwarranted because you love them fully just like Jesus would.

Except you don’t.

I know you try. It’s an impossible endeavor, but you believe you are up to the task. You have very close, very dear LGBTQIA friends that you work very hard to love even while maintaining this belief that a fundamental part of who they are is a sin.

But there is always that distance. As much fun as you have, as many deep conversations as you participate in, there is a constant wall, a constant nagging in the back of your head reminding you that you can’t fully accept everything about them.

Some might say that’s a personal problem, that they’ve been more effective. They might say its a problem of perspective or immaturity. They’re not wrong. And that’s okay.

I still remember the day you found out about the high suicide rate of gay LDS teens. You tried to ignore it, to say it was just the result of awful people who didn’t know how to love people they “disagreed” with, that it was depression, or a misunderstanding of the gospel, or horrible parents…

You did everything you could to wick away the fact that your own belief on the matter was the problem. It got to the point where when people would ask you “how can you believe that there is a ‘wrong’ way to love another human being?” you would respond, “I don’t know. It’s what my church believes, but I don’t like it.”

I’m here to tell you, Young Religious Jane, that it’s not possible. This is hard to hear and even harder to say, but you simply can’t fully love someone who is gay while believing being gay is wrong any more than you can love someone who is Italian while believing being Italian is wrong. You’re taking a fundamental part of who they are and tell them it is unacceptable. You’re wonderful at putting yourself in the shoes of others: would you believe a person who purported to love you but said that it was wrong to be a woman? Or that it was okay to be a woman as long as you didn’t “act in womanly ways?”

Soon, your church will coin the phrase “same-sex attraction.” Don’t buy into that either; it makes the problem worse. Would you accept it if another religion said that black people suffer from “altered skin pigmentation?” or that people with blue eyes suffer from “genetic eye discoloration?” No, of course not. Because it makes it sound like it’s wrong, like it’s a disease. Like they were born wrong. How can that be right?

I know you feel a lot of pressure – from church, family, friends – but changing your mind on this matter is easier than you think. See, the LGBTQIA community doesn’t need everyone to accept their actions, choices, or behavior. None of us expect that, do we? They need what you and everyone else gets every day from most every person we meet: acceptance of who we are as a human being, the person we’ve been from birth; we can certainly screw the rest of it up from there with little effort!

You can give that to them (and to yourself) quite easily. It doesn’t have to be drastic. The areligious and former religious often make the mistake of pressuring you on this topic as much as your beloved religion does. They talk as if we you must give everything, as if they want your testimony, for you to fight for the LGBTQIA community, to shout it from the rooftops.

You don’t have to.

It’s enough to stop fighting for it, Young Religious Jane. It’s enough to have one less voice talking about the “gay agenda”. It’s even enough to shrug and say “It’s what my church believes, but I don’t like it.” instead of trying to justify it.

Just stop justifying it. There are many greater uses for that brain of yours.

You will come to find that the strongest members of the LDS church that you know now actually believe strongly that the church is wrong in their view of gays. They have an individual power you haven’t cultivated yet; a power that makes their relationship with God even closer and more intimate than yours. Just wait; someday they’ll show you.

You don’t have to let go of everything else to embrace your LGBTQIA brothers and sisters. Keep the good and give yourself space to embrace what you know is right.

You don’t have to stop being religious

You don’t have to leave the church

You don’t have to change anything else in your belief system

You don’t have to start marching in parades or posting rainbows on your facebook profile pictures.

You don’t have to stand up in church and proclaim your disagreement

You don’t have to argue about it with your friends

You just have to reach inside and let go of this out-dated idea about the LGBTQIA community that, frankly, is doing you plenty of harm too. Imagine how freeing it would be to accept your gay friends and neighbors exactly as they are, no holds barred? Remember how that idea used to make you want to dance? But you thought it wasn’t an option. It is. It is an option, and you don’t have to give up anything.

Changing your mind doesn’t have to change anything else. It can be just between you and God. That’s where every spiritual relationships begins anyways, isn’t it?

Believe me, I understand your pain. I remember it so well, I often wonder if I have PTSD (haha..ha..ahem…). You will eventually leave the church altogether, but for now, you can do this. You can be you and believe what you think is right without losing what makes your relationship with the church so precious. It just takes one small step forward.

Trust me, you won’t regret it.

– Old Crotchety Jane

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9 thoughts on “Dear Young Jane

  1. I am so confused! At first I thought I was reading a letter to myself: “Did she hear my entire conversation with my husband on the way home from the temple on Saturday?” And then I wondered who this person was who seemed to have spent a lot of time in your head. It was kind of creepy. Then I read the closing line, burst into tears, and had to re-read it twice. I’ve had some recent experiences that just seem to fit this moment. I keep trying to carve out time to blog about it all.

    However, I then read your dialogue with a Greg Pulley following your post about a gay man in the LDS faith who nearly committed suicide. And you sounded completely different. Which Jane are you? I’m so confused. Can you please not have any sick dogs, children or self and come talk to me Friday? I think it would be good for both of us. Or I can come there. I’ll be returning from the airport around 11 am.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha – well, Gregg is an interesting character. I have a tendency to adapt to people maybe more than I should sometimes. I definitely subscribe to similar opinions that he does, but he’s much harsher about it (I debated even responding to his comments because I knew other people would read them – perhaps I should have followed my instincts!).

      I’m so touched that you related to this so much. This was very much an attempt to not only understand and relate to my younger self who was much different than I am now as well as to remind myself to be understanding and compassionate towards those who are working through this struggle right now. I have a tendency to be far to judgmental and uncompromising on subjects like this while forgetting that oh, I once held a completely opposite opinion on this topic than I do now. How did that feel? Why was that so hard? Is it really necessary to do a 180 or were there other options I didn’t consider because there was so much pressure from both sides?

      Anyways, lets do Friday! No more dog poop!!!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I should say – I subscribe to similar opinions as Greg on the subject of my own personal belief system, but I think he’s far too judgmental when it comes to people who belong to religious traditions. But I don’t think he has anyone close to him who is religious to kind of reign that in. Diversity is always a good thing, IMO. The more diverse our friendships, the less likely we are to turn people who are different than us into “idiots” or “the enemy”.

      That is admittedly difficult when you feel your former religion has done (and does) damage to yourself and others. But I place the blame on religion, not the people. There are too many smart and beautiful people within Mormonism and other religions to believe that only idiots and “sheep” can be religious.

      Does that clear up the dichotomy lol? I do have some very harsh feelings towards the church and sometimes towards people who aren’t very understanding of where I am now in my life. But I don’t extend that to all the other members, many of whom I am close with and I find to be quite amazing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It clears it up some. It was hard when I read your response to Naked Nate’s blog post and realized that your letter to yourself was not a literal pronouncement. I went on a very steep roller coaster ride between confusion, amazement, puzzlement, and then reliving (or finally arriving at?) heartbreak that accompanies loss. And that was all in the space of last evening. It’s especially hard to tentatively look up a term like “TBM” and have to wonder how many of my loved ones and people over whom I have a responsibility to nurture and tend in their own spiritual journeys that you may be including in such a harsh pejorative.

        I am not one to say that I am consistent from one conversation to the next–whether online or in person–in how I present my thoughts, beliefs, opinions and experiences; but I do like to feel safe in sharing those things rather than wonder if they’ll get used to belittle or condemn me when I leave the (figurative or literal) room. I could tell that you were considerate of me in your desire to moderate the conversation with Greg, and I appreciate it. Friends stand up for each other, and in this attempt at renewing our friendship, it assuages some of the fear I feel that I might come under attack for continuing to believe as you once did.

        Shoot! Just looked at the time, I gotta fly! Keep writing 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Understood. I didn’t realize TBM was considered disrespectful. I don’t see it any different than “less active” or “nonmember”. I suppose I don’t like those terms either and labels typically group people into “us” and “then” categories. So I suppose the frustration is two-way. There are simply many different ways to be Mormon these days. NOM is another known term for Mormons who don’t believe the standard doctrine but are still active participants. So I suppose it’s a means of separating out the variety of ways of believing.

        That said, I can see now how that could be hurtful just as “less active” or “lost” as I’m often called (not by you, just in general) might be hurtful to me. I will put forth efforts to strike that term from my vocabulary. Thanks for bringing that to my attention. There’s likely to be a lot of difficult conversations and feelings in our relationship already without adding in useless terms that only serve to belittle.

        I’m working to straddle two worlds right now and I admit, it is difficult. I can’t escape the fundamental beliefs of many of my member friends and family (and I think that’s a good thing) but I also can’t escape the lessons I’ve learned and the ways I’ve grown. And neither can you. It’s a fundamentally treacherous journey to tread. For example, Greg’s comment that religious institutions try to suppress critical thinking – I’ve found this to be true as well, but how do I, as an agnostic nonbeliever, express that without inadvertently implying that my friends and family who are religious are in some way less capable of thinking critically than others? And how do you, as a devoted believer, express that one must listen to the spirit to believe in the teachings of the church without inadvertently implying that the rest of us are not listening to the spirit?

        I don’t have answers to those questions. At least not good ones. I’m hoping we can find solutions to that together but I don’t think it will happen without hurting each other’s feelings at points along the way. But maybe it’s worth it.

        I’m sorry to have sent you on such a roller coaster. It wasn’t my goal. I wanted to get back in my old shoes for a few minutes and explore some options I thought I didn’t have back them. I didn’t have them (and the issue is no longer an issue) but others who are still active do. It’s a doorway that could have made my life a lot easier back then and could potentially have extended my activity in the church.

        Anyways, I hope that you feel safe discussing things with me. I think it’s human nature to vent and I fully expect that my LDS friends often vent about me in perhaps unflattering ways and I accept that as something we all have to do to survive our conflicting emotions and beliefs. That said, I have not such with you. I feel our relationship is quite unique and special with a level of respect and understanding that I haven’t felt with any other member friends or family. So though I may be insensitive and perhaps a bit harsher than intended, it’s not you. Most of my religious conversations are quite conflicting and very blunt because that is what works in my other relationships. But it doesn’t do a lot to build understanding and I’d rather have that.

        Liked by 1 person

      • (And of course this is all exacerbated by the fact that we barely have time to breathe much less take part in lengthy philosophical discussions!!! We need an Elissa-Jane retreat…)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Whew! I am so proud of myself for finding time to read all that, but you actually wrote it! Thanks for taking the time:) I seriously think you should take an evening next week that hubby (I actually despise that word, perhaps I should strike it from my vocabulary) can watch kids and just let’s talk until late and laugh about ourselves nearly a quarter century ago.

    And TBM was totally brainwashed Mormon when I looked it up. Maybe I chose the wrong source? I have never liked the terms “non-member” (we’ve been reminded as members in general to not even use that term, so I try to help unteach that one where I can), and I’m sure less active is a tad kinder than inactive, but no one is ever just stagnant in their search for meaning and that is implied in the term. We can’t really know what someone’s inward activity might look like just because their name isn’t showing up on an attendance list I also wonder how many people use the word “membership” simply to mean “being a member” but then sound like they’re talking about an exclusive club or shopping warehouse.

    I learned to use critical thinking in IB and then in college. It was vital to being a critical care nurse–imagine that! And I have had a lot of conversations with friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, other church members and even my children that revolved around critical thinking. But my hub is and always will be my faith. Not because it keeps me feeling safe but because it constantly thrusts me into the unknown–a place where I know I am being led there and I don’t feel adequate for the journey, but something deep within me finds the guide to be worthy of my trust.

    I had to work through a lot of superfluous reasons and justifications for my faith before discovering that what resonated with me was that the answers just kept coming–through scripture, through sudden insight while washing the dishes, through conversations, through the words of strangers, through scientific studies when I get a chance to read up on those, through the stunningly simple truths my children speak, through inspired leaders at all levels of the church, and through constant study of what I deem worthy of my time and energy. My faith began as a possibly good habit and has developed into a very deliberate choice among other paths I may have chosen.

    I want to read something to you when you visit that is non-religious and gave me great comfort this morning as I contemplated how I can feel totally ok about finally accepting that you’re not coming back while realizing that is not the same thing as giving up on you.

    Alright, there’s a kid asleep next to me and laundry to move. Thanks for listening again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well and please understand – while my experience has been that religion has a tendency to suppress critical thinking, I no way believe that all members are affected by that! I couldn’t possibly know you at all if I didn’t know that you are a critical thinker (oh geez, too many double negatives. Translation: I know you are a critical thinker!). I’m continually pleased to seen that many of my LDS friends are quite proficient at that and you and your family are better than most (not pandering – I honestly believe that. You guys have serious brains!). If I can come up with a comparison that might be more relatable and less personal, I see it as being similar to the way the U.S. was very intense in building loyalty through school education when we were growing up. We were taught to support our country under all circumstances and while criticism of our country was never explicitly denied us, we knew it was not part of being a “good citizen”. But despite that, many of us grew up to be quite capable of seeing that our country isn’t perfect and that even much of our own history hasn’t been accurate. I don’t personally believe our government was acting unethically, but as the Internet has appeared and grown, they can no longer stick to that narrative. You likely became better at analyzing world politics before I did in the IB program. So while I see our country being “to blame” so to speak for coloring the past and deterring critical thinking, I in no way see the citizens as all being non-critical thinkers.

      Does that make sense? Bottom line: we have had many awesome enlightening conversations over the years. I don’t think anyone delved into church doctrine as deeply as we did. That’s not something one can do without a critical mind. That particular criticism applies only to the church’s “follow the prophet” rhetoric, but I know that was never the mantra of any of us. We were always quite determined to make our own way (though I know that I personally was not immune to blind obedience).

      I love and respect everything you said. I think we still know each other quite well, we haven’t changed all that much, it’s just viewing each other through a new paradigm. Honestly? Saying that you’ve accepted that I’m not coming back is one of the most heartwarming things any member has ever said. It is extremely important to feel accepted and validated after leaving. I know you can’t necessarily validate my reasons and I’m totally fine with that, but just knowing that you’re willing to embrace it is an extremely loving action.

      So yes – let’s take a break from all this serious talk, get together, and have some old-fashioned fun! Turn on some Beatles and play War perhaps??

      Like

    • Oh! And I understood TBM to mean True Blue Mormon!!! I’ve never heard it called Totally Brainwashed Mormon before!!! That is quite judgmental and insulting! True Blue Mormon is in reference to Joseph Smith’s “true blue through and through” quote. It just means that you accept the basic fundamental tenets of the church. An NOM (New Order Mormon) would be a member that is active but advocates that there be changes i.e. Women holding the priesthood or allowing gay marriage, etc.

      Goodness, I’m glad we cleared that one up!! I never would call you that!!!

      Like

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