Saturday, March 07, 2009

Wedding Crasher

Well, it didn’t take long for trouble to find me back here in Utah.

I did not sleep all night on the red-eye flight back from Hawaii, and my sister was getting married the day we got home. By the time I had to be there for pictures I was in that fuzzy sleep-deprived state that I remember from our boys’ infancy. Which is fine; the twins taught me I can go months in that state :-), and I was happy to be there.

All my brothers and sisters were there and it was nice to see them outside the usual holidays; we met up in the mezzanine of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. My sister, the bride, was to be married there and not in the temple as her first husband died long ago. That building holds very fond memories for my family. As a kid we used to go there for dinner every Christmas Eve, back when the LDS church ran it as a hotel (with a big bar and all :-)). I would come to find, however, I don’t much feel welcome there anymore.

She looked beautiful, and, as I always do at weddings, I got caught up in the emotion of it as our dad walked her down the isle. But then everything went downhill. The LDS Bishop, literally in his first sentence, started out by going off on marriage for gay couples . He said that the institution of marriage was under attack, and “the family” was being “mocked”, but look how lucky his audience is to know the value of a real marriage. He read from the President of the LDS church, quoting that marriage between a man and a woman is the only union that’s ordained by his God, and I’m fine with him thinking that, but he went on to say how only that union contributes to society and only that union raises healthy children. The guy was disparaging our children, and my marriage, and as a matter of course in his wedding ceremony for my sister. Furthermore, this sister has a newly out gay child, who I could see tense up as the man spoke.

I'm left wondering if this is part of other LDS Bishops' marriage ceremonies?

I actually considered I might be dreaming, being so tired and out of sorts (who'd do that while performing a wedding, right?) but a hand on my leg by another sister brought me back to knowing this was an actual event. She, a very faithful LDS woman too, leaned over and whispered she loved me and my family and that she believed my family matters too. She wanted me to know the Bishop wasn’t speaking for her. Just then I noticed my mom, a couple seats away. I heard her voice and looked over. She was visibly upset, and I could hear her voicing her objections to our dad. It sure did feel like a dream.

I tried to get back into the spirit of things as the Bishop finally got away from political attack to the actual ceremony. This was my sister's wedding and I knew where she stood and I'd not let this jerk get in the way. Funny thing is he actually gave some of the same advice I do. Then we all cheered as the couple was presented and the bride was kissed. But I knew that was not the end of it.

As the crowd dispersed, I decided my sister's wedding day was not the time to get into a political argument with her bishop. I just hoped she was too nervous to notice what he said. However, I know my dad as well as anyone, and I knew he was going to come to a different conclusion. I searched him out in the dispersing crowd, to head him off. I've had to get between him and anti-gay advocates before. I’m grateful to have such an advocate and friend in my father, but I asked him to not make an apparent issue of this at the wedding and he agreed he’d only take the Bishop aside quietly. That he did, and it was a good thing it was done in a quiet corner of the room, as the Bishop said worse and made it clear he wasn’t misheard or misunderstood.

As they were at it, an in-law came up and apologized for the Bishop, and I realized everyone probably felt the hostility in the man; it wasn't just my close family. Worse, as I went up to give the bride a congratulatory hug, she apologized as well and said she was thinking of us through the ceremony because of the guy’s words. That’s what burned off my dreamy haze and finally got to my temper. I’m so used to such “loving” assault on my family from the LDS church that I took it as just another arrow from just another sanctimonious stranger… but to think this worry had to be brought into my sister’s mind during her wedding, when she should have been thinking of her union and the importance of the ceremony. That’s just horrible; real pro-family and pro-marriage of the guy, right?

Of course, some family didn’t acknowledge any of that. I bet some agreed with that Bishop, maybe not with all the legal ramifications of their church’s position but with the spiritual superiority of their family over their brother’s, at least. They were off socializing together, probably thinking it unfortunate we had to hear the tough love “truth”, but that it was good for us? It doesn't really matter.

In the crowd I eventually ran into my mom and she gave me a hug and I could see she had been crying. I was glad to see it wasn’t just for me as I’d hope she knows I can and do take far far worse than that :-). She was with her gay grandchild and was upset about us both sitting through that. I told her not to worry about me, but I know, as a parent myself, that’s kind of useless. Regardless, gay relatives and supporters eventually coalesced at our table, and we enjoyed the company and the rest of the evening. But the wedge in our family was palpable.

I often defend my LDS family against non-LDS family, even before I came out and even as an agnostic. It’s how they make it through the day and how they feel significant and secure in the world and their hoped-for world to come. I remember what it’s like and if they enjoy thinking obeying some organization during their brief time here will lead them to being immortal gods and goddesses, why should anyone pull threads from that sweater? But when those beliefs become attached to others that hurt and demean my family and my kids, I have a hard time trying to get the side that supports and loves us to see the point of view of the other.

I still, however, try to keep peace. Should I? Half way through the night a very LDS brother-in-law approached me and told me he has always respected the way I’ve juggled family in this area, but it kind of made me feel like I've sacrificed what's right for peace. Should I have felt like my dad and went for confrontation, even at my sister's wedding?

I’m in an odd position in my family. So often my home is the issue, though not the only issue, that causes LDS family to harden up and, as often, I’m the one who tries to connect both sides. It feels as though, perhaps with too much self-importance, that if I’m not the ambassador and just treated those family members like I would any stranger who supported a group that attacks my family, then a future split in the larger family would be on my shoulders, my fault. I’m a bone of contention that thinks at least he can be the link that brings together the two beasts pulling on it :-).

Or maybe any bone of contention is just a source of, well, contention and all would be happier if it snapped, halted attempts to smooth over? Even though I can’t get angry with the other side—I know they’re under significant psychological pressures here—maybe, again, we should act as though we were angry, for the sake of both sides. I mean, I’m sure most LDS at that wedding would have been much happier to have only folks there who’d nod in agreement when told how superior their families and children are, and I don’t want to be an issue at my sister’s wedding.

I also hate how it can bring out a similar ugliness in me. I love my sister, and respect and support her union, but I admit the thought crossed my mind: how can her Bishop insult our 16-years together and 6-years of parenting, while performing a marriage after for a person who has divorced twice and is well past the age to raise children. I adamantly want her to have all the same legal rights and privileges and responsibilities I want to have for my family in marriage, but, if the Bishop wants to argue which marriage will produce more for society, then these “ideal family” arguments cut both ways. Fact is we should not be measuring our sibling’s or our neighbor’s marriage like that and especially on bias about inborn traits like sex, but that’s the weapon the LDS church wants to use here, making it hard not to pick it up as well. I regret feeling that temptation.

Anyway, how should people socialize with siblings who choose to belong to a group that teaches that their children are somehow defective? Should people even go to a building owned by a group that wants their family to be legally invisible or second class because of their sex, and has said so with pride, pretending to defend from us what we have and cherish too? What if the issue was race and not sexual anatomy? We know this same church was doing this for race once before; how was that best handled back then by those families?

I still don’t know, and, along with my sadness, I will have some relief in making the question less important once we move from family.

It’s just sad.

21 comments:

D. said...

I am sorry you're sad. :(

This world is a crazy place and I hope one day more people will be understanding. You have such a beautiful family and you should be so proud of that! Don't let ignorant people tell you otherwise!

Love you guys!

Sarah (Serendipity) said...

Scot, I am so mortified that this happened to you today. It is definitely a good thing that I was not present at this wedding. I feel for your dad.

I blogged about a day at the end of December when I sat through a baby blessing where the high council speakers mentioned prop 8 and indicated that anyone in the church who was against it was being deceived by wolves in sheep's clothing. By the end of the meeting, I was sobbing. Scott's family all wondered what was wrong.

My sister-in-law mentioned weeks later that she was embarrassed that she had to explain to some people in the ward why I was crying and why I talked to the high councilman after the meeting, even though she had no idea what I said. (I told him he should keep his political opinions to himself, and that I was not a bad person for believing the way I do.)

Maybe it was wrong of me to confront him, but I could not having him leave the meeting thinking that everyone was in solemn agreement with his words.

Scot, you and Rob have a beautiful family. I am sitting here with tears running down my face as I think of everything you have to put up with in this Mormon culture of ours.

I was trying to decide if I should go to Stake Conference tonight. I don't think I can handle anything churchy tonight after reading about your experience.

May God bless you and your family, and your parents and extended family that love and support you.

Amanda said...

I'm so sorry you had to go through this, but I think you did the right thing not making confrontations at your sister's wedding. While it isn't the same thing exactly, I recently went through a similar pain. My aunt died in January, and she and her husband, and one of their kids, are LDS. She wanted to be cremated, but after her death, the bishop of their ward convinced my uncle that she ought to be buried, because he said the church doesn't like cremations. This upset my family a lot, but I understand why my uncle chose to bury her, knowing she would have yielded to the bishop had he brought this up when she was alive.

Unfortunately, this was not the end of the bishop's meddlings. There was an LDS funeral ceremony, and I expected there to be LDS themes. That didn't bother me. What bothered me was that when the bishop got up to give his talk, he told all of us that we'd never get to see my aunt again unless we converted to the LDS faith. He spent 20 mins advertising the church. It was horrible. Everyone was so upset that he was capitalizing on my aunt's death to proselytize. One of my aunt's sons almost got up and began to yell at the bishop during the ceremony, and afterwards all anyone talked about was how we all felt violated, rather than comforted or simply sad about my aunt. Ironically, that bishop probably made sure none of us will ever go near the LDS church.

I've thought about writing that bishop and letting him know how much he hurt everyone. It's been really hard to sit back and just let it go. It's been two months, and it's still hard to let it go. It seriously interfered with my grieving process and wrapped it up with anger and bitterness. But I haven't written that letter. I know it would just cause trouble and more pain. I'm not the sort of person that will usually back away from confrontation. Usually, I'm a little too hotheaded and I mouth off when provoked too easily. So this has been hard.

Like I said, it's not exactly the same as what happened to you at your sister's wedding, but in some ways, it's similar. The families in both places, to a certain extent, felt violated, unwelcome, and angry. I can sympathise, and am so sorry for the weapons that people wield in the name of God.

Captain Midnight said...

It upset me reading what that bishop said, but it gave me hope reading how your family reacted. I'm so glad that you have such a supportive family. I only hope my family can be as supportive when they learn that I'm with someone.

Queers United said...

You are such a strong person, don't let a few bad apples spoil your life. You know you are surrounded by love with your family and that is all that matters.

Abelard Enigma said...

I'm left wondering if this is part of other LDS Bishops' marriage ceremonies?

FWIW, our bishop performed the wedding for my son and his wife a couple of years ago - and it was a wonderful ceremony.

Chester said...

I've never been more riled up reading a blog post than this one. The balls on some of these guys! I often think, in situations like this, that karma is screaming at me to be its agent.
"What's that bishop? Someone slashed your tires? How unfortunate..."

Alan said...

Gaaaah! I want to puke! All over that "bishop" because the title is purely ex officio as far as I'm concerned. Obviously he's forgotten the verse in his own scripture that says no power of the priesthood can or ought to be exercised except by kindness, gentleness, and love unfeigned, and that any "priesthood holder" who tries to exert any sort of compulsion thereby forfeits his authority. What a jerk.

I don't think I would have had the patience you had, Scot. I would probably have stood up in the wedding itself and said "Bishop, stop it right now. You are here to perform a marriage ceremony and celebrate the love of the two people in front of you, not to give a political speech. Now get on with your real business."

Sometimes public shame is the only thing that gets through to such people.

Sheesh.

MoHoHawaii said...

Were Rob and the boys there with you? If so, it makes the offense even worse.

I'm glad your parents (and you) are there for your nephew. Families do need to circle the wagons around their gay youth. This is so important.

I'm sorry that the bishop was a jerk. Many bishops would have focused on a more positive message. They are not all like this one, but the Church gives the mean-spirited ones plenty of ammo.

Guy said...

OMG, Scot, I so feel for you. That is just amazingly insensitive and cruel! I have many of those same thoughts and deliberations in my own head and wonder if I should be less conciliatory and peacemaking, too. It's so hard to know sometimes what is best to do in such situations. I do think you're right that a move away will help, if nothing else, it makes such experiences less frequent.

Scott said...

The bishop's remarks might have been made in complete ignorance of the situation (unaware of the fact that the bride had a gay brother and a gay child) as an attempt to integrate current affairs into his little sermon on marriage.

But I'm more inclined to believe (especially given the fact that he appeared unapologetic about what he said when confronted by your dad) that (whether he actually knew that there were gay people in the audience or not) he fully intended his remarks to be a sermon on the evils of homosexuality. I find that reprehensible and inexcusable.

Unfortunately, this attitude is not uncommon, and it appears at weddings and funerals (as Amanda indicated) and anywhere else these overzealous proselyters think they can get a word in edgewise. They're actually following the words of the brethren.

Elder Packer once said (referring to funerals): "Many attend funerals who do not come to church regularly. They come subdued in spirit and are teachable. How sad when an opportunity for conversion is lost because a funeral is less than it might have been."

He finds it sad when a teaching moment is lost. I find it sad when what should be a special time for family and loved ones is turned into an opportunity for proselyting and indoctrination.

I'm sorry you had to go through this.

Sarah (Serendipity) said...

Scott, I was reading your comment in my feed reader, so I did not know it was from you. But then I clicked on it to come comment about it because I thought of Elder Packer as well when I read Amanda's comment.

Of course I have already told you how ticked off my mom was when Elder Packer gave that talk in conference. She personally feels it is completely inappropriate to force church doctrine on the attendees of a funeral.

I thought that I might like to share Amanda's comment and then Scot's blog post with my mom, opening up the dialogue again a bit from the night I outed you to her. What do you think?

Abelard Enigma said...

Elder Packer once said (referring to funerals) ...

I believe that is from a talk titled The Unwritten Order of Things. The fact of the matter is, there are things which are deemed appropriate and acceptable - even encouraged - that we will never see written down as formal church policy. Most of these things are innocuous (such as using full names rather than nick names when sustaining); however, a few are bothersome, such as using a funeral to proselyte. Unfortunately, in the wake of proposition 8, it seems that in some corners of the church, bashing homosexuals is being added to the list of the unwritten order of things.

Amanda said...

Ironically, that quote from Elder Packer (which I've never heard before, so thanks for enlightening me) actually did exactly the opposite of what it intended in our case. We all came to that funeral "subdued in spirit," and an opportunity for conversation certainly was lost - no one will want to even meet with the missionaries now. But reading over that quote, it seems to imply funerals where the people there are all LDS, perhaps some less active than others, but still members. I can see a funeral incorporating elements that will help dwindling interest to pick back up, however, beating non-members (or even inactive members) over the head with basic doctrine is completely uncalled for and rude. As is pushing a political platform at a wedding.

Sarah, you are certainly welcome to use my story if it will help you. I don't mind at all. The more people who know about these type of things, the better. Hopefully the insensitivity will stop.

Scott said...

@Amanda: The worst part about your experience (assuming I've read it correctly) is that the bishop was wrong. There's nothing in LDS doctrine that says that non-members will never see their deceased loved ones again. It's true that the LDS practice of "sealing" family members to each other in the temple is meant to guarantee that those family members can remain together in the hereafter, but there's nothing in the doctrine that says that those who aren't sealed will be forcibly separated and never allowed to meet. To suggest that such is the case is to attempt to capitalize on mourning and grief and is absolutely wrong. Any "sermonizing" that is done at a funeral should focus on the hope of the resurrection (which LDS doctrine teaches is given to everyone)--not to tearing down the hopes of the non-member relatives of the deceased.

And any "sermonizing" at a wedding should be limited to extolling the positive attributes of a family (the love, the nurturing, etc.)--not to tearing down families that don't fit the Church's mold.

Amanda said...

@Scott - I am in agreement 100%. It's just like weddings should be used to praise love and commitment, and even, at an LDS ceremony, praise the virtues of marrying in the temple, but shouldn't rip apart families or couples who don't properly fit the mold.

Scot said...

Ah, thanks D.

Sarah,

Thank you for the kind words too.

"Maybe it was wrong of me to confront him,"

It's such a tough call. A baby blessing, I'm sure, has similar considerations as a wedding. Still:

"I could not having him leave the meeting thinking that everyone was in solemn agreement with his words."

I'm glad this happened at the wedding too even if I wasn't the one to quietly pull the Bishop aside. Thank you.

Amanda, Oi, that's no good either; I'd rather have such happen at a wedding actually.

I'm compelled to give a little PSA here: Such should be a stark lesion to ALL same-sex couples. Get your will and your power of attorney and all that set up now and by a lawyer familiar with our issues. It will cost you but I've known of too many instances where a gay person dies and his partner's spouse's family end up taking all the deceased's possessions and giving a LDS funeral, sometimes alienating and even excluding the people most important to their gay family's life. Even if you've expressed your desires to your spouse, without official papers, it will be your legal "next of kin" who decides, and even spouses are not kin in Utah unless they have the right sexual anatomy.

Captain Midnight: "but it gave me hope reading how your family reacted."

Thanks for highlighting that. It really is where I should keep focus here.

Thanks, Q.U.. It just takes venting and a couple days and I'm back to normal :).

Abe: That's good to know.

Chester: "What's that bishop? Someone slashed your tires? How unfortunate..."

Lol... Utahcog and its subsidiaries neither advocate nor condone the slashing of tires of jerky Bishops :-).

Alan:

"I don't think I would have had the patience you had, Scot."

I'm still not sure I should have. It's just that... it's my sister's wedding! Ugg...

Still, someone took him aside and let him now, if even in private, he hurt or insulted a lot of people there, from the Bride to her nephews. I hope he'll remember our dad's words and change his approach on his next union performed.

MoHoHawaii: "Were Rob and the boys there with you?"

No, Rob got sick on our last day in Hawaii and was knocked out in bed from it that day and kids were not invited. I'm glad they were absent, though.

Guy: "I have many of those same thoughts and deliberations in my own head and wonder if I should be less conciliatory and peacemaking, too."

I hope you let me know when you find that magic solution that will make everyone happy :-). I feel I've been looking for it for too long.

Scott: "The bishop's remarks might have been made in complete ignorance of the situation (unaware of the fact that the bride had a gay brother and a gay child) as an attempt to integrate current affairs into his little sermon on marriage."

I wondered the same. It was her family bishop and her child is out, but I don't know how much she'd have told him. In fact she had told her gay child that he was "gay friendly" in an attempt to get her to go to church. Seems that won't be happening.

Come to think of it though, he did ride up the elevator with us and the sister who gabbed my leg during the ceremony; while riding she asked where Rob was and I said he's home sick with our kids and talked a bit about our trip. But I can't know if he eavesdropped enough to decide to start out like he did.

Anthony said...

that someone would even say such things during a wedding ceremony shocks me beyond belief. thank god I live in a tolerant country where my husband and I will not have to face such situations.

Scot said...

I'd love to know how we'd do in Vancouver. Do you know a lot of same-sex headed families up there?

I expect moving from Utah would help the bulk of what we face but would love to also think we could find a place where being gay parents was just as politically and socially boring as not being gay is for the rest of the population :-).

Anthony said...

Scot, we will let you know soon enough. but the gay parent I do know have faced nary a problem

Scot said...

Good luck, Anthony, in your path to parenthood. For us, getting there was a roller coaster ride, but all well worth it in the second you first hold them.