Thursday, February 22, 2007


I received an email the other day from BYU-Idaho which stated that a Gay and Lesbian political organization would be staging an event at the university.

This is just silly.

The group's name is Soulforce and they made a similar visit to BYU in Provo last year. Suffice it to say, the news media reported that it was they, Soulforce, who caused a disturbance, NOT BYU. The following statement is from a recent edition of the Salt Lake Tribune, Utah's "liberal" newspaper:

Soulforce Equality Riders were allowed on BYU's campus last year to speak with students individually, but administrators warned they would be escorted away if they attempted to assemble and use the campus as a public forum.

Several Equality Riders let administrators know they intended to break school policies and subsequently were arrested for civil disobedience.

BYU administrators said Monday they will not allow a repeat performance.
I think it's incredibly disrespectful for them to set aside BYU's courtesy in allowing them to come onto campus. I think that their attempt at "civil disobedience" probably lost them ground instead of moving them forward. What are they trying to do?

As far as I know, neither BYU nor BYU-I holds anti-gay rallies. They don't teach hate or discrimination.

While I have some respect for the gay movement, the respect comes from the American mantra that people should be allowed to live their lives according to their own desires without fear of retribution. If the gay movement is asking for tolerance, why then, are they intolerant of religion? Soulforce's mission, according to their website, is:

[T]o open a dialogue about the painful consequences of discrimination and the religion-based prejudice that sustains it.
To me, this basically says, "To force a dialogue, by flouting rules and showing no respect, about how religionists are bigots." How can the gay and lesbian community ask for tolerance, while at the same time showing no respect for the way the way in which the religious community wishes to live? Plus, as a liberal Mormon, I'm offended at being called a bigot.

I'm a convert, and at no point has anyone asked me to be homophobic, bigoted, or discriminatory. In fact, I've been taught the opposite: I've been taught to love, to feel compassion for, and to treat all people the way I want to be treated. So, if this ethic is inherent in the Church, why is Soulforce coming? They are coming because we teach that homosexuality is a violation of God's plan for His children. We teach religious doctrine, not political activism. We teach people, that, if they believe the principles of our Church are true, then they have the choice to follow those principles — one of which is to live a heterosexual lifestyle.

I've been attending BYU-I for a while now, and it has been my experience that the vast majority of religion professors teach religious principles, not discrimination, hate or bigotry. Any experiences contrary are surely to be rare and in the minority.

Let me conclude this tirade: I'm not asking Soulforce to tolerate inequality, discrimination or hate. But, I do ask Soulforce to allow me to live my religion. Just as homosexuals feel that their sexual orientation is not something they practice — it is something inherent within them; my faith is who I am.

I won't trade my faith for their sexuality. I will gays and lesbians just as I treat hetero's, with a little 'bit of sarcasm and spite.


Cameron said...

Groups like Soulforce behave the way they do because they perceive religion as opposing their movement. They want gay marriage legalized and most religions, including BYUI's owner, actively oppose it.

Blake Roberts said...

What I think is the saddest part about this matter is that there will inevitably be students here (just as there were at BYU), sooner or later, who develop a deviant view of the gospel such that they go along with the message that this group is teaching.

While they claim to be trying to raise awareness of the "LGBT" members of the Church who have committed suicide and to build tolerance, their main motive is very clear.

On another section of their site (in reference to their earlier protest at BYU-U, or BYW as I might start calling it), they state:

"It is time for the LDS to realize that their policies against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are also part of an unacceptable history of religious discrimination."

Their goal is not simply to build awareness; they want to start a grass roots movement within the youth of the Church with the intended goal of changing the Church's doctrines about marriage, family, personal identity, personal cleanliness, Church discipline, and standards.

I just hope that students keep in mind that in this Church one must choose to either follow the words of the world OR the words of the Prophets. There is no middle ground; a member cannot pick and choose which Doctrines are "out of date" and which ones they like. It is the role of the member to conform to the Church, and not the other way around.

Anonymous said...

How is Soulforce not allowing members to live the Gospel ? I would say its BYU thats full of farce. Lets try this analogy. Missionaries try talkig to people in public (on-campus, on public squares, etc) and they get arrested simply because a crowd has gathered around them. How would any of you feel if so much hate and condescension was heaped on you and the Church? How in the world do you expect others to even listen to you when in reality you choose to dismiss an opposing view ? I worked with the Honor Code office for a brief while and was appalled and disgusted how heterosexual misconducts were let off on warnings or probations whereas any little admission of homosexuality ( a man telling his roommates that he was a non-practicing homosexual and a lesbian renting out Brokeback mountain) lead to not only dismissal from BYU but also from the Church (initiated by their respective Stake President)? I have had 3 of my dearest friends try committing suicide as their BYU Bishop/roommates treated them like trash simply for admitting that they felt same sex attraction. Guess what happened when one of these lesbian girls went to the honor code office to report her roomie for fleecing BYU by clocking in even when not working ? The room mate outed her by reading her journal and she got off on a warning whereas a faithful returned missionary who hadn't even ever acted upon her sexual urges got expelled without a firm explanation ! BYU has a very hostile climate for the faithful LGBT members and nobody can deny that. Most of them have at least once tried to commit suicide or thought of it because of the vilification,fear,hate and discrimination they face everyday.

I am ashamed to identify with all of you as a fellow Democrat.

Blake Roberts said...

First, your analogy of the missionaries is completely different from this situation. A better one would be if missionaries went into another Church, are asked to leave, are told that if they return that they will be arrested, and are then arrested when they belligerently defy the law.

When Soul Force was on BYU campus last year they were asked to leave, and told that if they were to come back (in violation of the Church's right to control it's private property) that they would be arrested for trespassing. Soul Force returned the next day, and openly broke the law. They were not arrested because we didn't like them, they were arrested because they chose to violate the rights of others in order to further their own agenda.

What Soul Force does is encourage members of the Church to protest against the policies given by those called of God to receive revelation. Those policies are not a matter of public decision making, our involvement in them is simply to obey or not.

I cannot comment on Church disciplinary decisions for the obvious reason that I wasn't there, nor fully informed on what actions carry what consequences, nor informed about the details of the situations. I do trust Church leaders to make the right decision though, and it is neither mine, nor any other member's place to backbite against those who have stewardship over us. That being said, I have met more members then I would like to remember who say that they were punished by the Church for one reason, only to learn from those who made the decisions that it was made for something far, far worse.

Further, I do deny that the Church schools are hostile environments for those who have such urges. However, people must realize that members of the Church are not perfect, and that if we as members decide to air our dirty laundry to each other, we can expect them to react imperfectly.

As for your friends, I am sorry that they are having problems, but that is not the Church’s fault. Someone who commits or attempts to commit suicide does not do so because they feel persecuted. They do so because they either have a mental/emotional problem that needs immediate treatment by trained professionals, a lack of understanding of what the Atonement is and how it works, or both.

Next, it is not at all unusual for the Church to handle homosexual sins differently from heterosexual ones. Anyone who has ever served a mission, or conducted a convert baptismal interview knows that.

To be quite honest, it sounds like you are more angry with the leadership of the school and the Wards/Stakes involved then you are about the actual policies.

Anonymous said...

And you actually call yourself a liberal/democrat ? You sure you just didn't get the Republican party confused with the Democratic party ?Perhaps at an ultra-conservative university such as BYU-I, you must be a liberal (but even then ! ). Blaming homosexual members for attempting suicide after they have been rejected/persecuted actively by their roommates, family, friends, bishopric, etc takes a lot of hate and homophobia. Wow ..what a fine way to exhibit your Christian faith !

Soulforce wasn't here to make any of us "gay" (nor is that even remotely possible). They were simply here because of number of suicides for LGBT students is incredibly high and they wanted to create an awareness that being gay/lesbian doesn't equate one to a criminal. Besides, I have rarely come across a faithful,practicing BYU student who is actually engaging in active gay lifestyle. Perhaps you shouldn't comment if you haven't really had 5 years of living in Provo in BYU wards and bumping into homophobes almost all the time.

As for you claiming that a lot people trying to belittle their crimes, I sat on the Honor Code committee as the student representative and I had to vote to either let them off on probation or have them suspended. I was appalled at how some of the people on the committee were rabidly homophobic. However, in the end I guess no matter what, you'll either call me biased/angry/stupid, etc and simply dismiss my point of view (or any point of view that doesn't fit into your parlance of "correct Church principles"). I guess I shouldn't even bother to have a dialogue with people such as yourself. Afterall, any opposing viewpoint being engaged in a dialogue is a farce, isn't it my dearest so called "liberal" ?

PS: The policies of BYU are not made by the Quorum necessarily. Also, it is explicitly stated by them that when they make these policies, they don't decide in the capacity of Prophet or Presidents but simply as the Board of Trustees. If we went by everything BYU did, then the Church would be construed as corrupt and myopic (which, its not !). BYU publicly refused to host Dalai Lama (even though the Prophet met with him) and lets not even get started with the corruption that exists in BYUSA.

Blake Roberts said...

First of all, I have never called myself either a liberal or a Democrat, nor do I make any claim to be either of them. Please do not attach labels to me based upon information that you have made no effort to gather.

Second, my stance on homosexuals committing or attempting suicide is the same stance I have for ANYONE committing or attempting suicide. I feel that to take such actions demonstrates a mental, spiritual, or emotional disorder that needs immediate treatment.

I do not make this determination based upon hate, homophobia or any other form of phobia. I make it because I sincerely want them to get better, and I do not feel that healing can begin until the problems are addressed.

As for "blaming" them for committing suicide, I have done no such thing. Blaming someone for a mental or emotional disorder makes as much sense as blaming someone for having Down's syndrome. I am not blaming them for having those urges, only the Lord can judge whether they did all they could to resist them or not.

Finally, I have not called you biased, stupid, dismissed your opinion, nor censored your attempts at dialogue. Just as you are free to express your opinion I am free to express mine, and in this case we seem to disagree with each other.

My remark about you sounding angry is because you do in fact sound angry. You have called me hatful and homophobic for urging medical treatment of those attempting suicide; you stated you were ashamed to be associated with those who disagreed with your opinion, and you were very patronizing towards me with your remarks concerning my ideology. You have expressed your "disgust" at the actions of Stake Presidents, who have been called by revelation to receive revelation in these maters.

If I misinterpreted your mood, then I'm sorry. The nature of the internet is such that inflections cannot be transmitted properly, and so it's harder to judge someone's mood when they write something.

But I stand by everything I say, I have said nothing out of hatred, and would like to point out that there is a big difference between supporting the Church's policies on homosexuals and being homophobic.

And don't even get me started on my dislike for the BYUSA.

Brian said...

As one of the riders from the 2007 Soulforce Equality Ride, I'd like to take a little time to comment on the ride in general and the 2007 visits to BYU-Provo and BYU-I.

I know it's a little bit dated but it came up in a Google search I was running...

I hope that the students of BYU-I had time to speak with the riders as we stood oustide of the school or at BYU-Provo as we walked around it for hours. I'm sure if you did you would see that we neither forced a dialogue with anyone we talked to nor did we ever call a person a bigot. Conversations must be two-sided and all of the conversations that I engaged in were consensual, civil, and mutually enriching--even when I spoke to individuals with views different from my own.

I was raised Protestant Christian but over the course of the ride, spent weeks speaking with our LDS riders about the Church and the faith. It is such a beautiful faith, I wish I had been exposed to it earlier in life. I even procured a Book of Mormon which I have begun to read. The RM that I spent the most time speaking with once called attention to the Holy Ghost witnessing to me as well... it was a surreal experience.

But now I am at a crossroads. I am gay. That is an anthropological fact of my existence. The First Presidency and The Twelve Apostles recognize that sexual orientation is often beyond conscious choice and often cannot be changed. They even recommend against opposite-sex marriage for those individuals who have a homosexual orientation.

So now what do I do? I have been presented with this beautiful faith. A faith with much purpose. A faith founded on family. But a faith that tells me I have no place in it. Where do I go and what do I do?

I have seen what other GLBT Mormons have done. They have tried to change themselves--and they have failed. For every major medical, psychological, and sociological organizations agrees that it is impossible to change one's orientation (and the General Authorities tacitly agree).

I have seen them try to hold down relationships with members of the opposite sex. Hoping for normalcy and to fit into this beautiful theological system. But that is not honest. It is not honest to the partner, to the person, or to God.

I have read statements that say there will be no homosexual desires in the next life and that an individual should do everything in his or her power to avoid "sinful behavior." I have known bright, rational, grounded individuals be gradually driven to either contemplate or attempt suicide because they feel it is their only option. And I have seen that once they make peace with the way Heavenly Father created them, once they find supportive family, friends, and Church members... thoughts of suicide would never enter into their mind. These are not clinically depressed individuals, they are individuals who have been pushed to the edge and who know no other option.

Soulforce and the Equality Ride is sometimes misrepresented by school administrations or the media. I have heard it said that we just want to create a media spectacle to further "our agenda." Our only goal truly is to engage in conversations. That is what we do everywhere go. Look at MidAmerica Nazarene, Pepperdine, Fresno Pacific, George Fox, Seattle Pacific, Northwest, Northwest Nazarene, Dordt, and others. We spent hours and sometimes days in honest, Christ-centered dialogue about who we are as individuals and what we believe in and why. I know that at every school stop where the West Bus was on campus, administrators told us that they were happy to have us and that while we disagree, the conversations were mutually enriching. I would second that opinion. We can still learn from one another and grow to understand one another better.

In places like Provo, Rexburg, Billings, and Ellendale where the schools would not let us on campus, we had conversations nonetheless. I attended a student discussion group in Provo with over 75 BYU students present. We hosted dinner conversations and picnics in parks. We talked in restaurants, coffee shops, and on street corners. We listened and we learned.

At each stop I learned so much about the denominations of the school and of the individuals in attendance. I took away so much from the past two months, from every encounter that I had, and I'd like to think that I made an impression on at least a few people along the way.

Change happens. In society, slavery was abolished and so was segregation. In the LDS faith, blacks were allowed to enter the priesthood and plural marriage came to an end. Only the Prophet has the power to enact sweeping change but in the meantime, we are allowed to talk about it. There was discussion about blacks in the priesthood long before the change took place. Learning more about our GLBT brothers and sisters is not sinful, nay it is necessary. Nor does engaging in this conversation mean we must abandon our beliefs. Just because change happened in the past, doesn't mean it will happen in the future. Even if no one ever changes their attitudes (which, is entirely a person's right), conversation and growing understanding will still be beneficial. We are all Heavenly Father's children...I can't imagine Jesus not wanting to know us better!

I understand that we are all imperfect humans and thus sometimes people react in less then Christ-like ways when they find out someone is gay, but only through openly and candidly addressing these issues can we hope for improvement.

It was my honest desire at every stop not to change anyone's mind but to learn more about them and tell them more about myself. To hear about their faith journey and to share my own. Four GLBT youths take their life every day, this is something we need to talk about.

I hope if the Equality Ride returns to BYU-I next year you will take some time out of your schedule to go speak with them. I think you'd find we have much in common. And if not, feel free to email us. I would be happy to talk with you or put you in contact with one of our LDS riders.

This is an issue that is dividing the country and ripping families a part. I would like to be a part of the solution and I would like you to be as well. And I think that the first step is talking to one another. That's all I'm asking.


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Anonymous said...

Struggling with homosexuality? Gay men have no choice...supposedly and lesbians DO have choice according to them. All I can say is..AVOID STRAINING YOUR BRAINCELLS!! All mormons are going to HELL for believing in FALSE DOCTRINE ANYWAY!! Than... 'KYEWW!"

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