Letters

A Letter To My Parents (Dad, Don’t Worry! This is Entirely Fictional)

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I was moved today to write this. In case you missed the title, this letter is NOT written from my personal perspective, but from the point of view of the many young gay men and women who have chosen to end their own lives because they were unable to reconcile who they chose to love with their religion. This, of course, comes just from my assumptions and my imagination. It may read a little bit like a suicide note, but I write it more from the perspective of someone who has already died. This is dedicated to them.

Before I begin, I want to say how grateful I am for my own parents, and for all the love and acceptance I was shown. I feel very lucky for that, and it literally saved my life on more than one occasion.

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Dear Mom and Dad,

Don’t worry, I made it safely. The deed is done.

Before I move on, I wanted to let you know how much I love you and maybe explain a little more clearly why I chose to leave you.  I really didn’t intend to cause you so much pain, but it was the only way I could alleviate my own pain. It may seem selfish, but I couldn’t stick around anymore knowing I had disappointed you or made you ashamed of me in any way. I really did do my very best to make you proud. I’m sorry I fell short.

When I was a little kid, Dad, I remember walking along the beach in California holding your hand. It was the very first time I had ever seen the ocean. I’ll have this moment burned into my memory forever: you paused and looked out at the horizon for a moment, then looked thoughtfully down into my eyes that were unblinking and wide with awe and said, “Look out there. As deep and wide as that ocean is, God’s love for us is a million times deeper and wider. And I love you even more than that, and nothing you could ever do or say would change that.” You smiled, tousled my hair, and gave me a kiss on my forehead before leading me down closer to the water so we could feel the cool sand beneath our feet and the waves fall against our ankles.

How I wish I could have stayed in that moment eternally. I felt so loved, so safe, so strong. Even as I grew older, each time we visited the ocean it never seemed any smaller. It still stretched vast and wide toward the horizon, and even now all these years later, I can still feel the strength of your hand holding mine and the waves lapping against my feet. You were the closest physical manifestation of God that I could have grasped at that age. There were many times through the years, especially toward the end of it when things were at the very worst, when that memory was all I had to hold onto.

As I grew up, I had all these emotions building in me, and feelings I had always been taught were unclean and perverse. The only way I could make sense of it was to assume that I had done something to make God angry at me; that he was punishing me for skipping church or forgetting to say my evening prayers. Good people don’t have those feelings for no reason.

They say hindsight is twenty twenty. I’m not so sure. Even now, I am still unable to pinpoint when things changed. The older I got, the the more abnormal I felt. In church, we were always taught that God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle. For awhile, I had myself convinced that this was just a “challenge” God was giving me to test me. After a long time, I lost faith in that.  I had a really tough time ever really believing that a God who claimed to love me would deliberately hurt me so much. I suppose I even stopped believing that there was a God at all. Obviously, given the outcome of my life, I couldn’t handle whatever “test” this was. Up until the day I took my last breath I was still down on my knees night and day pleading with God anyway even though I knew he had given up on me altogether. Either I wasn’t paying close enough attention or I never actually received an answer to my prayers. I still don’t know.

I would love to be able to tell you that none of this was your fault, and there’s nothing you could have done to prevent it, but I would be lying. Given what I have done, there’s no point in trying to spare your feelings now. It took me such a long time suffering with this by myself. When I first decided to tell you about the feelings I was having, I was prepared for you both to be shocked, disappointed, even disgusted. What I didn’t expect was to be forced into a “therapy” program that involved so much physical, emotional and psychological pain and humiliation, with the threat of my eternal soul.  I didn’t think anything could be worse than grappling with these feelings on my own, but the way they tried to “fix” me was the worst hell I never even imagined. I wish I could tell you I have forgiven you for all of it, but I haven’t, and I’m not sure I ever will. I suppose time will tell.

Mom, there were so many times I wished you would just take me in your arms and let me cry and tell me everything was going to work out, like you did so many times when I was little. Sometimes my eyes would meet yours and there was such a look of pain and disgust I began to avoid you because that look stabbed me so deep. I don’t say this to hurt you, Mom, I just wish you could have broken through and just loved me, instead of placing conditions on that love.

Love. Ultimately that was the only thing I truly needed and craved, and the thing that was the most elusive. I never even had the opportunity to try and love myself. I’m convinced both of you did and do love me, but what good is that when it’s not shown or felt? It becomes a bit of a worthless emotion.

Eventually, I couldn’t bear all of these things. All the praying, all the tears, all the physical pain, all the humiliation, all the self-hatred…all because I couldn’t be what you and God wanted me to be.

And so I ended it.

Please understand, I do love both of you more than anything, and I always will. As you told me so many years ago on the beach, Dad, nothing you could do or say would ever make me love you less. I know I have caused you pain with my decision, but it was the only way I could think of to get even a small level of relief from the constant hurt I felt every day.

Before I go, I just want to say thank you for giving me life. Thank you for taking care of me the best way you could. Thank you for the all the good things that happened because of you when I was a child.

I’m going to be all right, and so will you. I know the pain will ease with time, and life will go on for you. I hope now I can move toward something better; to finally be able to be at peace with myself. I hope someday we will see each other again, and all this will make sense.

Until then, please know that I love you. I hope somehow, someway I will be able to love myself as well.

A Letter to the Most Hateful Woman Ever to Slough Her Uteran Lining

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Robyn-

It’s been years since I have lived in the god-awful 4th ward and haven’t seen or spoken to you or your family in years, praise the Lord, but some information was recently brought to my attention concerning some things you said to my brother the day my mom died, and I can’t sleep until I confront you about it and finally tell you what I really think about you.

“So, your mom finally overdosed, huh?”  Imagine my surprise and abject horror when my brother K informed me this past Saturday night that these were the words that spewed out of your gossip-mongering, hateful mouth the morning my mother passed away. How DARE you? In the 12-odd years that my family lived just a few doors down from you, you were nothing but hateful, acidic, nosy, and downright evil toward us; spreading HORRIFIC gossip throughout the biddies in the bitch-den Relief Society, and airing out my family’s dirty laundry throughout the entire ward.  Apparently not much has changed in the 8 years since we’ve been gone.

The things that happened to my family leading up to my mother’s death were some of the darkest times of my entire life so far, and to have it all thrown back in my face by hearing the horrific bile that bubbled up from you made me want to throw up. AND NONE OF IT WAS ANY OF YOUR GODDAMN BUSINESS, LADY.  K was 17 years old and completely alone when he discovered my mom had passed away. He attempted mouth-to-mouth resuscitation for 20 minutes while on the phone with the paramedics, who wouldn’t tell him ANYTHING about what was happening. Then to have you come running down the street like a screeching vulture so you can get more fodder for your fucked-up gossip and assume that my beautiful mother had OVERDOSED? FUCK YOU, ROBYN. And to say that to a seventeen-year-old kid who just discovered his mother’s lifeless body? How low are you willing to stoop? THEN, you had the nerve to show up at her funeral? You sick fuck.

It has also been brought to my attention that you CONTINUE to ask and badger several people that are close to my family about how my mom “REALLY” died. Again, THAT INFORMATION IS NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS, ROBYN. YOURS OR ANYONE ELSES. PERIOD. For the record, she did NOT die of an overdose, or ANYTHING ELSE self-inflicted.

Your behavior during the invasion of our house by the Relief Society in the name of “service” was nothing short of appalling. You and all those other horrible women came swooping in like seagulls with syphilis to see what goodies you could lay your hands on and what gossip you could gather up to spread around.  Did you get what you wanted? Did you learn all the deep dark secrets about my family?

I’m not getting this information second-hand either. I WAS THERE while it was going on. I vividly recall my dad throwing you out of our house because of it.

Oh, but the bile kept coming. I have also learned that the question of my sexuality came up between you and a couple other ladies, and you said that they should keep their kids (my friends) away from me. Yes, I’m gay. Feel free to spread it around; I don’t give a flying fuck at this point, lady. My life is my business, and I’m happy and comfortable in my own skin, and there’s nothing you can say or do to take that away from me. Air it out all over the ward you evil piece of trash, I know you’re going to anyway. Now you have my blessing to do just that.

In a nutshell, you are a deplorable cunt. I can’t say it any more plainly than that. You claim to be a good, faithful, God-fearing Mor(m)on, but you know absolutely nothing about Christlike behavior. Quite the opposite, in fact. I can only imagine you 4thward bitches sitting around in Relief Society and dreaming up ways to make other peoples’ lives miserable. When were ANY of you (other than Mxxxxx Cxxxx, who is a SAINT) there for my mom? ALMOST EVERY SINGLE CUNTY WOMAN IN THAT ENTIRE WARD abandoned her when she needed support the most. All you bitches could do is judge, judge, judge, gossip, gossip, gossip and then shed fake tears at her funeral to make yourselves look and feel like good Christian women.  So you and 95% of the 4th ward can all go fuck yourselves. You made our lives there a living hell for over 12 years.

Leave my family alone. Don’t ask about us, don’t contact us, don’t think about us, don’t do anything. Find some other poor family to aim your hateful words and thoughts at. We have had enough. Find something more constructive to do with your time instead of trying to wriggle more gossip out about my family.

Yours with utter and complete disgust

My Letter of Resignation from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

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To Whom It May Concern:

Consider this my formal resignation from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints effective immediately. Upon receipt of this letter, I am no longer subject to the rules, discipline, beliefs, policies and ordinances set forth for active members of your organization. I do not request, but DEMAND that my name be completely and permanently removed from the membership rolls of the church.  This is not a decision I have made lightly.  It comes after years of prayer, debate, heartache, anger and tears. While I appreciate what you consider to be the “grave consequences” of my decision, the bottom line is I am no longer under any obligation to live in fear of these so-called repercussions.  To be perfectly clear: this letter is to be processed immediately, without delay. A waiting period is completely unacceptable and I’m not going to tolerate having to participate in one.  This is not a local ecclesiastical matter, either. Considering I have never even met the bishop of the ward I am currently in the boundaries of (after living there for five years), he has absolutely nothing to do with this situation, as he does not know me or anything about me. I will ignore and deny any and all requests to meet with him or communicate with him or any other local church leaders in any fashion. The only communication I will receive is a letter from your office confirming my resignation.  Once my membership has been removed, you will promptly mail me confirmation informing me that my resignation has been processed.  I should also inform you in no uncertain terms that any delay, unsolicited communication, contact or anything resembling a violation of my privacy concerning this situation will be met with RELENTLESS LEGAL ACTION, and I will not hesitate to involve the media as well.

If you’re at all interested in finding out why I made this choice, feel free to continue reading. If not, that’s okay too. My feelings won’t be hurt. With that said, let’s get to it.

I am gay. Simple sentence, right? Ah, not so.  While I am not a resident of California, I legally married my partner of almost 9 years in Los Angeles on the first day it was legal to do so back in June of 2008. What should have been a period of celebration for not only the gay community in California, but all over the country, was defecated on by  the LDS church’s underhanded, subversive, evil, corrupt, and not-so-cleverly-clandestine political backing of Proposition 8.  This is beyond reprehensible. For an organization that touts honesty, love, fellowship, love-thy-neighbor blahblahblah, the fact that the LDS church hierarchy used such sneaky tactics to make this proposition pass completely negates this so-called doctrine of love. By supporting this piece of legislation in the name of “protecting the family unit” I cannot even begin to imagine how many families you have ripped apart in the process. How dare you be so arrogant as to belittle the family I have made with my husband? Your definition of the word “family” is anything but all-inclusive. What amazed me most about this whole Proposition 8 debacle, was to see that ultimately not even the overpaid, Ivy –League-educated public relations professionals the LDS church employs could gloss over how inherently evil this act was and is.  The attempts at damage control were and are pathetically transparent. Evidently the leadership of the LDS church underestimates the intelligence of the general public.

Whether you believe that being gay is a choice or something genetic or what have you, any  religion’s definition of what is moral and immoral should not have any bearing whatsoever on legislation. Particularly here in Utah, separation of church and state is virtually nonexistent. The laws of this state are enacted primarily by middle-aged, white Mormon men, and there is little to no consideration of the non-Mormon population.

The LDS church has always said that most apostates leave the church because they were offended in some way, as if this isn’t a legitimate enough reason for wanting to leave. I can’t think of a more appropriate reason to sever ties with the LDS church. I have been offended by your church in every way imaginable. My family was very nearly torn apart because a bishop in our ward decided my mom was a drug addict, that our house was unfit for human life, and that there were devils living there. He used extortion tactics to force my brother and me (very young children at the time) into emotionally blackmailing my mom into going to rehab for an addiction she didn’t have. He recruited the Relief Society to come in and “clean” the house, which meant a group of twenty or more women coming into our home, going through every private drawer, cupboard and closet and taking what they wanted. All because of the mandated “1000 hours of service in every ward” decree handed down by Gordon B. Hinckley. This had nothing at all to do with service or charity, it was so the harpies in the Relief Society and the bishopric could come in and air out all my family’s dirty laundry, as was a common practice in that ward.  All this while my dad was in the hospital recovering from triple bypass surgery and my mom was conveniently stashed away at a rehab facility in Washington State. My mother has since passed away from a congenital heart defect.  When I relay this story to anyone who is an active member, the typical response seems to be, “Well, the church is perfect, the people in it aren’t.” While I agree that no one is perfect, the men and women who are “called” into leadership purportedly represent the church and its beliefs.  There is no justification strong enough to dismiss or explain away this kind of behavior from anyone, let alone people who are supposedly representatives of God.

Perhaps you remember the story of Stuart Matis? Probably not, so I’ll refresh your memory. Stuart Matis was a FAITHFUL member of the LDS church living in California. He abided by all the mandated chastity rules, prayed, paid his tithing, went to church and the temple, everything he was supposed to be doing.  And he was gay. He could never reconcile his sexuality with his love for the church. He ended up shooting himself in the head on the steps of the stake center near his home. He hated himself so much, and couldn’t understand why the church he had devoted his life to hated him too and viewed him as evil and unclean. He felt there was no other way out than to end his own life.  One of his close relatives described seeing Stuart’s knees rubbed completely raw from the hours he spent kneeling in prayer, pleading with God that this “affliction” would be taken from him. If that isn’t bad enough, his parents proceeded to write Stuart’s story in the book “In Quiet Desperation”. They had the gall to say that even though Stuart killed himself, they were so happy that he died with his temple covenants intact. That statement is disgusting.  If he had been able to be true to himself and live the life he should have lived, I know in my soul he would still be with us today.  How can you as a church justify that? There is blood on the church’s hands, and not just Stuart’s. The blood of every LDS gay kid who has decided to end his or her own life because their church told them they were an abomination (for the record, Utah has the highest rate of gay teen suicides in the nation. Coincidence? I think no.) For every LDS gay person, whether adult or adolescent, who has been kicked out and ostracized by their family because of what gender they were attracted to.  Every kid that was ever called a faggot, queer, dyke, lesbo, fudgepacker sissy, or any number of derogatory anti-gay slurs by their so-called “righteous” Mormon peers because they didn’t fit into what the LDS church deemed as “normal”.

This issue was very recently thrust back into the spotlight in October, 2010 by Boyd K. Packer and his now infamous General Conference talk. In the wake of the highly publicized gay youth suicides throughout the country at the time, there was no excuse for Mr. Packer to make the highly defamatory and downright ruthless statements he made about the gay community, inferring that it is a condition that can be “changed” despite massive evidence to the contrary. We were referred to as evil, dark, wrong, immoral, that we are perverts, sinners, unworthy, harmful, just to name a few things.   If that wasn’t bad enough, after the backlash from that talk, it was ‘edited’ to “clarify [Mr. Packer’s] intent.” No, it was edited because the LDS church received so much negative press about Mr. Packer’s comments. He didn’t stop for a moment to think that possibly his words would fall on the ears of a young man or woman who struggles to reconcile their religious upbringing and their “abnormal” sexuality? Did he give pause as he was writing his talk and think for just a brief second that maybe his words would cause irreparable damage to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Mormon kids and adults who are already on the ledge, wondering how they will ever be able to exist in their church and their own families because of who they love? The most disturbing thing is, I’m quite sure Mr. Packer indeed thought about all these things and knew exactly what he was doing. It was very calculated and I’m sure he chose his words very carefully. He had an agenda, and damned if he’d stray from it. This man is next in line to be the prophet of the LDS church. That, to me, is utterly terrifying. For a church that goes out of its way to make sure everyone knows they follow the teachings of Christ, your leaders do a great job at making Him an afterthought.

Speaking of editing and backpedaling, the history of your church has been glossed over and rewritten so many times; I don’t think anyone really knows the truth of it anymore. Drawing from the very substantial amount of research I have done over the past two years, I can only be left to believe that Joseph Smith was a lying, philandering, conniving, perverted, pedophiliac con-man who manipulated and used women and underage girls to satisfy his depraved sexual appetites, then had the audacity to cite revelation from God as justification for his actions. Even his wife, Emma, knew what kind of man he really was. He “translated” ancient texts (i.e.The Book of Abraham, which was actually nothing more than a very common ancient Egyptian funerary text) fraudulently claiming they were the words of God, and he had been chosen to translate them and give them to the world.  I guess maybe he figured no one around him would be educated enough to be any the wiser.  Going even further, Joseph Smith plagiarized the entire LDS temple ceremony from the ancient rites of the Freemasons. Ah, but of course, there was an excuse for this, too: Joseph Smith learned the ceremonies and because God told him to, returned them to their original and “perfected” state, as they were in the days of King Solomon. Sheer arrogance. Joseph Smith kept numerous wives, much to the chagrin of his first wife, Emma. Among Smith’s wives were underage girls (Helen Mark Kimball, May 1843. She was 14 years old at the time), as well as women who were already married to other men. This information is generally unacknowledged by the LDS church, or explained away as anti-Mormon propaganda, however, most of these things are historically documented.
Despite all the evidence that Joseph Smith was not a good man by most peoples’ standards, he is the man you base your entire religion and view of eternal happiness on, and claim that his every disgusting and vulgar action and word is flawless and ordained by God, and yet, because I’m gay, I’ve fallen out of favor with God. I don’t know whether following a man like Joseph Smith is based on denial, stupidity or just downright naïveté. The bottom line is, I’m done staying around and trying to figure it out. It’s become vastly apparent to me that the LDS church will only change when said change suits the church’s purposes, or when the issue is a matter of political correctness as it was in the 1970’s when the church received revelation that black people were fit to receive the priesthood.

The way women are looked upon and treated in the LDS church disgusts me. They are viewed as commodities and trophies. They are taught to be subservient, homemaking baby machines that should not have jobs, outside interests or anything else that detracts them from serving their husbands and taking care of their families.  In fact, they are required to covenant in the temple to do these things, otherwise they are breaking God’s law. It’s the spiritual equivalent of having a gun held to their heads.

The moral of the story is, you’re damn right I’m offended. Nothing good has ever come out of my experience with the church. I was born in the covenant and an active member for almost twenty years, and in that time I witnessed things that would make any person cringe, and never once received any kind of apology or show of remorse for any of it. And why? Because not one person believed they were doing anything wrong. How can the supposed “one true church” condone these things, and yet disfellowship or excommunicate wonderful, bright, loving and accepting people because of who they love?

I’m tired of the lies you tell. I’m tired of the backpedaling on doctrine. I’m tired of your presumptuous definition of who God is and what He wants. How can the so-called “prophet, seer and revelator” be so arrogant as to claim that his word is God’s word? Your “prophet” is only a man, after all.  How can the leaders of your church use extortion and threats to get members to donate money they don’t even have to a political referendum that denies a group of people their constitutional civil rights because it goes against your shortsighted definition of what family means? How can you claim to be a church based on love, service, forgiveness and fellowship when no one, including the leadership, demonstrates any of these qualities? How can you continue to treat women like cattle? The hypocrisy is epic and wholly unforgivable.

I will state this clearly and plainly once more: Remove my records immediately. Do not refer me to my local bishop or stake president. Do not send missionaries or other members of the church to my home. Do not call me.  Do not contact members of my family concerning this matter; it is to remain completely and unequivocally confidential. I expect a confirmation from your office in my mailbox no later than thirty days from the receipt of this letter.  If it is not received within this time frame, or any unreasonable delay occurs, I will have my attorney be in contact with your office.

Thank you for your time.

An Open Letter to Dallin H. Oaks, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church

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Elder Oaks:

This morning I had the distinct and, uh, interesting privilege of reading the transcript of the talk you recently gave to the students at BYU-Idaho.

Let’s examine this a little closer, shall we? Come sit down here on this pew with me and let me tell you a thing or two.

Your talk is chock full of every kind of hole imaginable. I’d like to address a few key points; however, before I get started I would like to state for the record that I am openly gay. I am a Christian. I was raised in the LDS church but no longer consider myself affiliated with it. I have been with my partner for over seven years, and we were legally married in the state of California in 2008. I am happy. I am well-adjusted. I am a valuable member of society. Above all, I have a very close relationship with God. Having said all that, however, this letter is not about just me, so I’ll get to the point.

You speak of being persecuted and in danger of losing religious freedoms for supporting Prop 8?

To quote you: “An 1833 revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith declared that the Lord established the United States Constitution by wise men whom he raised up for that very purpose. The Lord also declared that this constitution ‘should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh.’”

This is precisely what the LGBTQ community and its supporters have been trying to get across to the LDS church and the entire nation for quite some time. The constitution of the United States guarantees equal protections under the law for all people, and yet you openly complain about your religious freedom being infringed upon by people who oppose your support of a legislation that denies them said equal protections? Give me a break. This persecution complex that the LDS church has been fostering for almost two centuries is getting more than a little old. You want to talk about a people who have been genuinely persecuted throughout history for thousands of years? Brush up on your history of the Jewish faith, Elder Oaks. The Holocaust alone is reason enough to fully negate anything that the LDS church has had to endure since its inception. Your ‘persecution’ in comparison is pittance. Don’t misunderstand, I am not in any way marginalizing the worth of the people in your religion who have lost their lives defending their faith, but please put this into some modicum of perspective.

In this same vein, it was stated by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland at the last session of LDS General Conference that– and I’m paraphrasing here– the Book of Mormon is the most persecuted and picked-apart of any religious book in history. Really? Have you people heard of the Bible? Historians, theologians, kings, peasants, scientists, emperors, popes and religions have been picking that book apart for two thousand years. The Book of Mormon has been around for less than two hundred. The inference that the Book of Mormon has undergone more scrutiny than the Bible is egotistical and pretentious in every facet.

Quote: “Along with many other religious people, we affirm that God is the ultimate source of power and that, under Him, it is the peoples’ inherent right to decide their form of government.”

The constitution mandates a separation of church and state. This is something that most religious organizations, including the LDS church love to ignore. In the state of Utah, for example, the majority of the legislature is run by middle-aged white Mormon men whose legislative decisions are almost always rooted in the beliefs of the Mormon Church. If this is a separation of church and state, I’ll eat my own head and call it chocolate ice cream. In your talk, you quote the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It seems to me that you are only paying attention to the second half of that statement: “…prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Did you bother considering the first half, that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”? For example: Larry H. Miller managed to pass a law in Utah some years back making it illegal to sell cars on Sunday. He didn’t want his employees to work on Sunday because of the LDS church’s teachings about keeping the Sabbath day holy, and therefore didn’t want any competition to be able to sell cars on that day either. The law was passed because again, who runs the legislature here in Utah? White. Heterosexual. Middle-Aged. Mormon. Men. Where is the church/state separation there?

Elder Oaks, no one is denying you the right to practice your religion. Neither the government, nor anyone in this nation is telling you that you can’t congregate in churches and temples whenever the mood strikes you. No one is standing in front of your churches and temples not allowing you to go in and worship. No one is stopping the presses on the Book of Mormon. No one is LEGISLATING against your right to believe what you want to believe. It’s when your religion infringes on rights that have nothing to do with God as far as the law is concerned, you’re damn right people are going to protest and make a lot of noise.

Quote: “Religious belief is obviously protected against government action. The practice of that belief must have some limits, as I suggested earlier. But unless the guarantee of free exercise of religion gives a religious actor greater protection against government prohibitions than are already guaranteed to all actors by other provisions of the constitution (like freedom of speech), what is the special value of religious freedom? Surely the First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion was intended to grant more freedom to religious action than to other kinds of action. Treating actions based on religious belief the same as actions based on other systems of belief should not be enough to satisfy the special place of religion in the United States Constitution.”

So basically you are saying that religious organizations should have carte-blanche access to twist that amendment whatever way they see fit? If I start a religion, and my doctrine and dogma involve ritual human sacrifice and cannibalism, am I still protected under the law because it is part of my freedom of religious practice? You completely contradict yourself in this statement. You say that the practice of religious belief must have some limits, and yet in the same breath you say that actions based on religious beliefs should have more far-reaching privileges than those actions that are not? What reasoning warrants that kind of thinking? It makes absolutely no sense.

Quote: “Atheism has always been hostile to religion, such as in its arguments that freedom of or for religion should include freedom from religion. Atheism’s threat rises as its proponents grow in numbers and aggressiveness.”

So according to you, Atheists should not be allowed to voice their opposition to things they do not believe in? They are being too aggressive and you are feeling threatened? Have you bothered to pay any attention at all to the Evangelical Christian movement in this country and how much power and influence they wield? Politicians continually pander to the Christian Right because losing their support can mean losing an election altogether. You defend the LDS church’s position to vocally and actively support Proposition 8, but Atheists should remain silent about the position of religion dictating how this country is run just because the idea of that scares you? No matter which way you slice it, it doesn’t add up.

Quote: “As noted by John A. Howard of the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society, these voices ‘have developed great skills in demonizing those who disagree with them, turning their opponents into objects of fear, hatred and scorn.’”

This is precisely what the Mormon Church has done to any group of people who disagree with its principles; most notably in the state of Utah, where the LDS church is the dominant religion. Atheists, gays, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, unwed mothers…the list goes on and on and on. Why do you think so many children and families from other religions are so commonly ostracized in Utah communities that are predominantly Mormon? Because these people exhibit a difference in opinion or religion or ideology, Mormon parents frequently teach their children both in word and in action that these people are to be feared and judged because they drink, or smoke or swear or whatever else they do that differs from what the members of the LDS church believe. As humans, we are given the innate ability from birth to question everything. We are conditioned throughout childhood to accept what we are told at face value, because “that’s just the way it is”. In my experience, this is exceptionally common when these questions pertain to religion. Even a devout member of your church who questions what the prophet hands down as doctrine is looked down upon and encouraged to keep quiet and “have faith”. To me and so many others, this is not an acceptable answer. How can you expect anyone to have faith when information is so readily withheld?

Quote: “Such forces — atheists and others — would intimidate persons with religious-based points of view from influencing or making the laws of their state or nation.”

Here you go again, further blurring the now almost non-existent line between church and state. According to the United States Constitution, religion should have zero bearing on any laws that are passed in the United States. Throughout your entire talk, you quote the Constitution, but conveniently ignore the parts that contradict the bits and pieces you choose to use to your advantage.

Quote: “The Proposition 8 battle was not about civil rights, but about what equal rights demand and what religious rights protect.”

Whatever stance you choose to take about the word ‘marriage’ and its ‘definition’, the bottom line is every couple, gay or straight, should be allowed the same legal rights and benefits that come along with legal marriage. Since a majority of your diatribe is related to the United States Constitution, you should read the document a little more closely. The Prop 8 battle encompasses the fight for equal protection under the law for every single person in this country; not just heterosexual couples. Proposition 8 was introduced to deliberately deny certain people CIVIL RIGHTS. How can you say that it had nothing to do with these rights?

Quote: “The marriage union of a man and a woman has been the teaching of the Judeo-Christian scriptures and the core legal definition and practice of marriage in Western culture for thousands of years. Those who seek to change the foundation of marriage should not be allowed to pretend that those who defend the ancient order are trampling on civil rights.”

We keep coming back to this same issue Elder Oaks: the separation of church and state, or more appropriately the lack thereof. The Judeo-Christian scriptures or any other religious document should NOT be bleeding into the legislation of this country. This is largely why the First Amendment was added to the Constitution. The fact that a large group of people are working against you to keep scripture from governing the laws of the land is in no way infringing on your right to religious freedom. You can speak out in support of moral issues until your lips fall off- no one is denying you that. What we are denying you is your attempt to FORCE AND INTIMIDATE PEOPLE INTO PASSING LAWS THAT REQUIRE EVERYONE TO CONFORM TO YOUR DEFINITION OF JUDEO-CHRISTIAN MORALITY. Telling your members that they need to contribute every available amount of time and money to help this proposition pass is coercion. “Do this, or fear for your immortal soul.” “This is what God wants; the prophet said so.” Sounds like spiritual extortion tactics to me.

This great nation of ours was built by people who wanted change. They wanted freedom from religious oppression. It’s horribly ironic to me that this oppression is precisely what the LDS faith and other religions are trying to impose on everyone. The basis of the Constitution is this: if it ain’t working, change it. Since you seem to be so versed in the Constitution, re-read Article V. After all, this is what you and the rest of the Christian Right are trying to accomplish, isn’t it? Your goal is to amend the Constitution to legally define what marriage is based on your specific religious beliefs. You argue that one man and one woman has been the basis of the idea of marriage for thousands of years. History should also show you that the status quo can’t work forever or our society would crumble. The LDS church in particular should be very familiar with this concept, considering your rather colorful history. Change is what drives civilization forward. Progress, Elder Oaks. Progress.

Having said all that let me be perfectly clear here: I absolutely irrevocably do not believe the vandalization of churches and temples to be right or justified in any way. In fact, I think it’s beyond reprehensible. However, the people that chose to do this do not represent the LGBTQ community or its supporters; any more than a group of violent white-supremacists represent every Caucasian individual in the world. The fact that you choose to pigeonhole all of us who are opposed to Prop 8 as a group of vandals is disgusting and cowardly.

The majority of our community and its supporters are not trying to “intimidate” you or any other organization into silence or keep you from any religious practice you choose to participate in. What we are trying to do is get OUR voices and OUR opinions heard because for countless years, WE have been intimidated into silence and forced to remain in the shadows. We were taught to fear using our voices and demanding the rights, privileges and protections we are entitled to as citizens of this country. I’m here to tell you: that ship has sailed.

Take a look at the staggering statistics of people that have chosen to end their own lives because their church taught them that their feelings are evil and morally unclean. With all the electronic information at your fingertips, spend some time researching Stuart Matis, who committed suicide on the steps of his stake center in California because the LDS church supported a similar piece of legislation to Prop 8 a few years ago. How long do we pretend these people don’t exist? We not only fight for CIVIL RIGHTS for ourselves, but also in the name of those people like Stuart Matis who aren’t around anymore to join the battle because their religion told them they were less than human and their lives were cut tragically short as a result. I cannot be any more blunt that this on this topic: Your church has blood on its hands, and it’s time to acknowledge that, not gloss over it with a sliver-tongued press release you people are so notorious for spewing.

Take a look around you Elder Oaks. The walls continue to come down with every passing day. People are ending their silence. It’s crystal clear based on your talk that your church is in a panic about it. I will say most of the time historically speaking, your attempts at damage control have been notably impressive to the untrained eye and ear, but this time, it’s infinitely more transparent that these attempts aren’t holding as much water as they used to. Basic civil rights and human dignity aren’t things that can be pushed under the rug in the name of God no matter how many Harvard-educated public relations professionals you employ. No matter how much money and time you throw at legislation like Prop 8, I want to tell you in big block letters that will be easy for you to read and understand: WE WILL NOT BE SILENCED AGAIN. WE WILL NOT SLINK BACK INTO THE SHADOWS. WE WILL NO LONGER ALLOW OUR LAWMAKERS TO PASS LEGISLATION THAT INFRINGES ON BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS.

This past weekend I was lucky enough to participate in the March for Marriage Equality on Washington DC, and let me tell you…out of the tens of thousands of people there, NOT ONE PERSON was intimidated into being quiet. No one was deterred because religion continues to be the driving force behind the legislature in this country. We will continue to fight for our basic human rights as Americans. We will push forward raising our voices demanding not special, but EQUAL rights under the Constitution that you so dearly love. Feel free to exercise your religious freedom all you like. Despite your unfounded whining, no one is trying to deprive you of that in any way, shape or form.

Lastly, I want to say that I am appalled at your audacity to compare your so-called lack of religious freedom with the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. Your organization and the people in it are protected by the laws of the land. Your members are not forced to sit at the back of the bus, or drink from different fountains, or attend separate schools. Was it not your church who denied black people the Priesthood until the 1970s, not long after the Civil Rights law went into effect? Interesting timing to receive so-called “revelation” on that topic, wouldn’t you say? That is the really convenient aspect of a religion that in its own words is continuously receiving “revelation” from God. You are able to change your stance on any particular subject at any given time to coincide with socially acceptable themes when it suits you. Your alleged “struggle” for religious freedom has absolutely nothing to do with racial inequality or anything close to it. Shame on you Elder Oaks for actually having the nerve to make that comparison, and shame on the other leaders of your church. You wonder why your members are resigning in droves? It’s a direct result of crap like this that keeps coming out of your mouths.

Having been an active member in the LDS church for the first eighteen years of my life, I am well aware that the root of LDS doctrine is encompassed in a single word: Love. Instead of just preaching it, try living it for a change. Talk is cheap, my friend. Don’t try and backpedal and hide behind the fragments of the law that allows you to portray yourselves as persecuted martyrs when you are anything but. Take some time from your busy schedule and sit down with Dennis and Judy Shepard. Talk to them about their son Matthew, who was brutally tortured and murdered by men (one being a so-called ‘devout’ Mormon) because he was gay. He is as much a martyr for the Gay Rights movement as your ‘prophet’ Joseph Smith was to you. Try going back to the central theme of what your church claims to believe in. For a religion that is centered in the teachings of Jesus Christ, you seem to have forgotten what he actually stood for.

You ask us to respect your right to religious freedom? Respect our right to fight back and do our damnedest to pull this nation out from under the Puritanical thumb of religion.

Respect begets respect. Truth begets truth. Love conquers hate.

Your pal,

Mikey

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