A fiction sadly far fetched

I haven’t posted here in a long time, but I wanted a place for this piece, which originally appeared as a Facebook post. Because who blogs anymore?

In a yet unwritten novel the opening chapter shows a reporter at a Mormon baptism, because one of those joining the LDS church is a gay, married man. It’s the first such baptism in the area, so it’s historic. It obviously takes place far enough in the future that those in charge of the church today are serving missions in Spirit Prison. It’s near enough in the future that newspapers still exist.

Before the baptism the gay man, still dressed in a white jumpsuit, postpones the event. I won’t tell you why, because that would spoil the most important part of a book I haven’t written.

The story was based on a trajectory I predicted. Throughout the story Mormons are presented as kind and welcoming. They become some of the gay man’s best friends, even though for years he would be forbidden from joining the church. It was fiction, but not far fetched.

For some time I saw the church’s proactive stance on some gay rights, its outreach to gay members and individual localized cases of acceptance of gay people as evidence that one day the church’s policy on gays and marriage would change dramatically, just like it did on blacks and the priesthood. We would see gay marriages solemnized in LDS temples, which would necessarily mean women would be getting the priesthood, too. Bonus!

Others warned that instead the church would double down on its anti gay stance, and despite some signs of hope this year, it appears that I was wrong and they were right. Following the news of the LDS church’s policies declaring gay married couples “apostates” and making children of gay couples unfit for a baby blessing or baptism, I must admit my own prophetic powers are defective.

For some of you it will make no sense that this policy bothers me, because I’m not a believer anymore. I became convinced that the church was, to put it gently, “not true,” in 2011. When I made that conclusion I stopped going to church for a while, but because I love my wife I went back, except for the weeks it just felt too heavy to go. I got value from some of the lessons and the service I rendered not near enough of.

Mormons themselves are exceptional in service and often in compassion. They helped us move, once again in great numbers. When we disclosed that our oldest child was transgender, there were only a few instances of anything other than amazing support. Even though I didn’t believe in the truth of the church, I believed in its goodness and in most of its people.

But this year, after a post Prop 8 lull, it seems that the church as a whole really is doubling down on its stance against gay and transgender people. This most recent development has been by far the most crushing blow. If you haven’t seen the heartbreak and real-life consequences, read the stories Jerilyn Hassell Pool is compiling. https://www.facebook.com/Jerilyn.Hassell.Pool?fref=ts

All of this is ironic to me, because the first place I learned to show some level of respect to gay people was not in my home or my school. It was at church.

A man who would become bishop told my class of teenage boys that when he was a kid he had a gay scoutmaster. This being the 1970s we were repulsed, wondering aloud how our future bishop had escaped being raped. This man, who could hardly be considered evolved, disabused us of the idea that being gay makes a man a pedophile. It was a wakeup call for me, a chance to set aside my own prejudices and consider the humanity of people I had seen as evil and disgusting.

It was a great moment in a church, a Christian moment, the kind of a moment that helped begin a personal evolution. I see that evolution happening with other church members, too, with true believers. I had hoped there would be more of that.

For me the disclosure of the policy marked a moment to grab a microphone. I do it with some trepidation. I’ve been in the habit of withholding, mostly, because of the old job, the new job, Story Night and a general revulsion to my own piety. The one exception I’ve made has come as a result of my son. Family trumps everything.

Since the news of this policy broke there have been millions of people commenting on it, some of you several times. I know that what I’m saying might not add a lot and runs the risk of being as long as a Mormon Stories podcast or another in a long line of manifestos. But it’s important to me for a couple of reasons.

One is that I want my friends to know where I stand. It gives you the option of dismissing my views from here on out, if you like, or reconsidering your own. I hope we stay friends. I also hope this helps others of you who might feel like I do, but felt you were alone.

You’re not.

None of us should have to be.

Encourage the Heart

Sound of the Day: What if I Couldn’t Ask ‘What if?’

I told the story on an earlier Field of Steve podcast about a moment of personal infamy on the football field. That story dealt with all the things that led up what, to me, was a decision to fail. What I didn’t get into in any great detail is what might have happened had I succeeded. I might have played more as the season wore on. I might have had other moments of glory that year.

It never occurred to me that one of the main reasons I think about that is because the English language gives me the ability to speak about that.

That’s because we have what we call the “subjunctive” case. Phuc Tran, whose parents emigrated to the United States from Vietnam, discusses how some of what we employ as language gives us strength, or limits us in ways we had not imagined. He says his parents’ Vietnamese language doesn’t have subjunctive, so they don’t have the burden of worrying about what might have been. The link here gives you access to the TED Radio Hour segment on Tran’s talk, and video of the talk itself. I do recommend.

The resolution will not be televised

Nothing about what the woman said to me this morning should have bothered me and in the moment I took it as a timely way to say “Hello” on the trail. As the day wore on it ate at me, though, because the comment reflected nothing of what I accomplished in 2013, or how what I was doing was part of a long process, not the start of anything.

From the outset I should be clear that the woman was just being friendly. That I’m bothered by what she said is more about me than her. But I went jogging on the Clear Creek Trail this morning and the woman, who was walking with her partner, said “New Year’s Resolution” to me. I laughed, failing to come up with something that better reflected the truth in a 2-second sound bite.

It is undoubtedly true that the gyms are fuller today and will be more crowded for the next few weeks. Hordes of folks set resolutions to get healthier now that the new year has begun. People are dieting, managing their money, giving up soda, exercising and throwing out cigarettes. It’s true that most will fail. Perhaps that’s what bothered me most, the implication in her statement that in a few weeks the trail is the last place I’ll be found.

But here’s the truth of my place on the trail. That path has become a familiar place for me. It is true that I didn’t get there much in December and that my weight loss efforts endured a setback in the last couple of weeks. I did not do nearly as well as I wanted during the holidays. No matter. I’m back to doing what helped me lose 95 pounds last year. I’m eating differently and I’m exercising.

This morning’s run was not part of some resolution; it was training for the half-marathon I’m signed up to run in October. A half-marathon has been part of the plan all along, as is a marathon. I signed up for the half event weeks ago, long before the new year, so the suggestion that what I was doing was some half-baked effort that will flame out in weeks was just wrong.

Then again, the only way to prove it is to prove it. So here I go. See you on the trail, at the gym and at my half-marathon.

Sound of the Day: A Perfectly Broke Christmas

In case you were wondering whether I would include my own work in “Sound of the Day,” the answer is a merry “Yes!”

The Field of Steve Podcast offers you a musical Christmas story within a Christmas story, sure to warm that cheese-addled heart of yours. In this month’s episode I tell of the time I tried to replicate, kind of, a wonder I experienced as a child. So hurry on over and hear the story and some song versions that probably don’t make the rotation of those radio stations playing the same Christmas songs over and over and over and …