To my former ward brothers and sisters:
To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, here we go again. I thought that my posting of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's "Tongue of Angels" talk a few months back when rumors were swirling about me in my former ward might have had some impact. I thought perhaps you, my Mormon friends, would "listen to a prophet's voice" even if you would not listen to mine. I thought maybe those of you who claim to follow Jesus Christ would stop engaging in gossip and rumor-mongering. I guess I was wrong. It saddens me to learn that a rumor concerning my personal life is being spread around in the ward where my son still attends Scouts and my daughter attends Activity Girls.
But what really saddens me is not so much that people would spread a lie about me but that the lie itself is considered scandalous in your Mormon culture. That's exactly what I think needs to change. You see, the rumor burning up the ward phone lines is that I left the church to take up with a gay lover!
I look forward to the day when a rumor like that will be about as salacious as a rumor that, say, I sometimes forget to floss, or that I don't make my bed every morning, or that I re-use my dryer sheets. That a rumor I am gay is considered so scurrilous by the members of my former ward is itself a commentary on today's Mormon culture: narrow-minded, bigoted, and homophobic. To his credit, one person from the ward (yes, only one) has risen above such pettiness, alerting me that the rumor was spreading. But what of the rest of you? You who hear something like that and, instead of sending me an email or picking up the phone to call me, call up someone else in the ward and ask "have you heard it? Is it true?" What do you have to say for yourself? You who call yourselves disciples of Jesus Christ. Are you not ashamed?
And what of you who started this rumor? Did you think it would hurt me? It hasn't. First, it is not true. Second, if it were true, I would not hide it as I think being gay is not something one need hide or apologize for. So, if I were gay, I'd be more than happy to let everyone know it. I'll go one step further. Not only am I not hurt by the suggestion, I am actually a little flattered. All the gay people I know are exceptional. I enjoy their association and value their friendship and admire their courage as they deal every day with bigots like you. I stand by them in their struggle for equal rights and the full acceptance in society. I'm not gay but I am honored to know that some people might think I am.
I know why you started this rumor. I have been torn about how much I should say about that. I don't want to hurt your wife and children, so I have decided, for their sake, to say nothing here to reveal your identity and motive. It was, however, monumentally stupid for you to start this rumor, knowing as you do that I really have nothing to lose by revealing your own secret.
The rumor itself is interesting from a sociological standpoint, in what it says about Mormonism. I have been very open about my issues with the LDS church. I have chronicled my journey out of the church here on this blog for the last 2 1/2 years. I've posted about Mormon history, doctrine, and practice. I've identified 96 specific reforms I think the church ought to adopt. And I've talked about the value differences I have with Mormonism. I believe in freedom of thought and expression; the church does not. I believe in honesty and openness in teaching history; the church does not. I believe in the equality of the sexes; the church does not. I believe in racial equality; the church does not. I believe in science; the church does not (when it conflicts with dogma, which is often). And so on.
But many Mormons seem to have a very hard time believing that anyone could really leave the church because (a) it's simply not true and (b) personal integrity demands it. No, for many Mormons people leave the church only because (a) they want to sin or (b) they were offended. The rumor that I am gay fills a cognitive need for some true-believing Mormons--it provides them with a "reason" for my departure that they can understand. Brother Equality didn't leave the church because he discovered the truth about its doctrinal and historical claims, or because the church is lacking in ethical values. No, Brother Equality really left because he wanted to sin--with his gay lover! It's a much more satisfying reason for the devout believer. It requires no examination of the church, no self-reflection about the things one believes and the values one embraces. My departure can simply be attributed to my own personal weakness and moral failure. And to a believing Mormon, what epitomizes better a condition of personal moral depravity than homosexuality?
So, I understand the allure of the rumor, and I understand why it would be almost impossible for a believing Mormon to resist spreading it. But it's still disappointing to witness it. And it confirms to me, once again, that the decision I made to resign earlier this year was absolutely the right one. I am so glad to be free from the mindfuck that makes people think that way.