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Mormons Build Bridges, Then Dance Across Them

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Most of my community is feeling all warm and fuzzy because today was SLC's LGBT Pride Parade. I went because the parade route passed quite close to my apartment, and because I had friends who were marching, and I wanted to be supportive, even though I'm not all that fond of parades. (Being in marching band and having to march--not just walk, but really truly MARCH, in rhythm, on the same foot as everyone else--for miles in a wool band uniform in September in Arizona will do that to a person.)

Nonetheless, this was awesome, and I'm totally glad I went, mostly because a group called Mormons Building Bridges arranged for active, straight Latter-day Saints to miss church in order march in the parade in their Sunday best. Some carried signs that said "LDS Loves LGBT" and other such positive messages, some carried their scriptures, some handed out candy. The SL Trib reports that over 300 people marched in the group; someone in the group reported in a facebook conversation that he counted close to 500.

Parade organizers were excited enough about the group that they arranged for it to march second, right after parade marshal Dustin Lance Black. I knew that a lot of my friends planned to march in this group and I hoped to see some, but there were so many people in such a large mass that I didn't actually recognize anyone in this particular entry.

Instead, I just cried. It surprised me, frankly, because I've seen Mormons do good things before, and I've been to Pride parades before. But this was still special. It was brave, and generous, and good. It deserves nothing but praise.

Telling a Lie Long Enough

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First, watch this trailer for Tabloid, one of the weirdest Mormon stories you'll EVER encounter:

Did you catch the bit about how a woman can't rape a man because "a guy either wants to has sex, or he doesn't," where Joyce laughingly dismisses the idea of a woman raping a man, saying it's "like putting a marshmallow in a parking meter"?

Then read this bit about Ms. Joyce McKinney showing up at a screening of the film in SLC.

I wasn't there, but I wish I had been. When Joyce asked

"How many people in here think Joyce McKinney kidnapped and raped the 300-pound, 6-foot-5-inch Mormon missionary?" She counted five people who raised their hands, and then quipped, "You're Mormons, huh?"

I would have said, "I can't say for sure that you raped the guy, but I most definitely believe it's possible for a woman to rape a man. You're making a facile and inaccurate conflation of arousal with consent. One does not automatically signal the other. As all those ads for Viagra and Cialis help to demonstrate, impotence doesn't mean a man has no interest in sex. In the same way, the fact that a guy has an erection doesn't mean he wants to do anything with it."

Which is basically what I did say in my review of the film.

And I must also add that it's feminism that helped me be able to see and articulate the fact that "arousal does not equal consent"--for both men and women. One more way feminism helps to dispel darkness and provide real equality.

Sacred vs. Profane


One of the highlights of my trip to New York a few weeks ago was an evening with my friend PR. PR is one of the reasons I love Facebook--we have truly delicious arguments there about all sorts of things, and a few people have told me that any time they see PR's name on a thread I've started, they read it, because they know it will be good. It had been ten years since I had last seen him, but we are much better friends now than we were then, and it's all thanks to Facebook.

PR is getting a PhD at Yale in early medieval religious history (6th to 9th century), so of course we talked about religion. He grew up black and Episcopalian in New York, and over martinis I asked him if he liked going to church. "I did," he said. "I liked taking time for the sacred. And you could tell it was sacred because you could look around at the building you were in and the clothes the priest was wearing and you could listen to the music being played on some magnificent organ and you could notice the rituals you were engaging in, and it all obviously wasn't profane, so it had to be sacred."

"That's an incredibly good point," I said, "and it helps me understand part of my dissatisfaction with Mormonism. Because you could look at everything in a contemporary Mormon worship service, and it clearly was profane, so it couldn't be sacred."

Him and Her (But Mostly Him)


First, check this out:

Then, consider this point: It's not the least bit surprising that Parker and Stone get so much about Mormonism right, in ways that entertainment produced by Mormons for Mormons never can. Parker and Stone have talked about doing and obviously indeed do a great deal of research and fact-checking about Mormon doctrines, attitudes and behaviors. Their interest is in discovering and portraying Mormons accurately--including LDS contradictions, such as their arrogant niceness--instead of reinforcing the basic tenets of the faith and avoiding difficult questions. So it's not surprising that the South Park guys arrive at all sorts of great insights about Mormons, and that their portraits of Mormons and Mormonism are faithful and accurate as opposed to faith-promoting and proper.

Over on Main Street Plaza, I've been involved in a series of discussions of mixed-orientation marriages between gay Mormon men and straight Mormon women (or gay man/straight woman MOMs, aka gm/sw MOMs), which many of you will know is a topic I've been writing about for years. Indeed, the discussions were prompted in part by an essay I published in Sunstone a few years ago the subject.

One of my contributions to the discussion was this comment about "You and Me (But Mostly Me)," one of my favorite songs from The Book of Mormon musical. I wrote:

It works perfectly in the show with two male missionary companions, in part because it's an attitude enough 19-year-old Mormon guys have. But imagine it sung with a young Mormon man and his fiancee: it works even better. Both of them very likely accept that she is "the side dish on a slightly smaller plate," precisely because that's how they've been trained to see marriages: he is the captain, she is the mate.

In a subsequent thread, Chanson wrote


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Via a friend on Facebook: the opening song of the BOM(M).

It's pure aural joy! I cannot stop listening to it.

You'll be able to buy the whole soundtrack soon.

Watch this, watch this, watch this. It's by my friend Troy, and it gave me hope at a time when I find it frankly hard to come by. On top of which I laughed; I cried; it was better than Cats.

As Troy says:

Why is this worthwhile, for activists to engage faith communities? Imagine if other progressive groups in Utah were as effective in engaging the Church as the gays? What if Mormons were having Sunday school lessons on environmental stewardship? What if Mormon magazines shared stories about the economic reasons why Latinos migrate to our country illegally? What is the Church used their influence to speak out against war and imperialism with the same passion that they spoke out against gay marriage? Utah would be a very different state. Idaho and Arizona, which also have large Mormon populations, would also become very different states.
It may seem like an impossible goal, but why not empower and embolden those sympathetic voices within the Church to stand for justice as part of their religious convictions?

Originally posted at States of Devotion, a terrific new "interactive forum for news, analysis and opinion-making about religion and politics in the Americas."

In Praise of the Male Body


I don't remember where, but about a year ago, I came across the blog naked men, happy women and added it to my reader.

I guess because it's a blog tending toward arty photos that could be praised as "erotica," it seemed more innocent and safe than certain other kinds of sites that publish photos of naked people, some of whom are doing stuff to other naked people. But at some point I realized that the images on it could be considered porn--and probably would be by most of the people I grew up knowing. Does finding one photo of a naked or nearly naked guy in your google reader once a week constitute a porn habit? It's a regular thing, but it's not exactly excessive or anything, is it?

Simply Not Have Had the Stamina


Thanks to my friend Spike for the link to this story in the Observer on low fertility rates among Mormon polygamists. My favorite bit:

the more women partnered with a man, the fewer children each of those women had. Exactly why is not clear. Like the Soay rams, men may simply not have had the stamina.... The failure of the Utah polygamy experiment should therefore not be seen as that surprising.

A Good Mormon Is a Good Socialist


check out this terrific SL Tribune op-ed by my friend Troy. Entitled The Case for Book of Mormon Socialism, it argues cogently that LDS scripture clearly roots ethics and righteousness in socialism, and that the apparent "de facto 14th Article of Faith" so many members believe in--namely, "the unquestioned virtue of unregulated capitalism"--is actually antithetical to what LDS scripture really teaches.

Very good stuff. Let's hope it actually sinks in.

A Kind of Koan

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One of my favorite things anyone has ever written about Mormonism is this little section from "The White Album" by Joan Didion, which I had to look up recently:

I recall a conversation I had in 1970 with the manager of a motel in which I was staying near Pendleton, Oregon. I had been doing a piece for Life about the storage of VX and GB nerve gas at an Army arsenal in Umatilla County, and now I was done, and trying to check out of the motel. During the course of checking out, I was asked this question by the manager, who was a Mormon: If you can't believe you're going to heaven in your own body and on a first-name basis with all the members of your family, then what's the point of dying? At that time I believed that my basic affective controls were no longer intact, but now I present this to you as a more cogent question than it might at first appear, a basic koan of the period.

It always cracks me up.


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