The Choice is Ours
Me: Hi, I’m a queer Mormon.
Them: That’s fine. You can call yourself whatever you want, but you can’t come to heaven unless you act straight.
Me: Wait, I can be queer, but I can’t act queer?
Them: That’s correct.
Me: Got it. But when I get to heaven, as part of my heavenly reward, can I act queer there?
Them: No. Only straight people and people who act straight will be in heaven.
Me: I see. So why then do I want to go to heaven?
Them: To receive your heavenly reward, of course.
Me: But my heavenly reward is to not act queer and pretend to be straight. I do that now. How is continuing to act straight a heavenly reward?
Them: Well, you won’t want to act queer in heaven. You’ll just be straight like the rest of us. That’s your heavenly reward.
Me: So, you’re saying I should aspire toward a heaven where my heavenly reward is to not be me?
Them: Don’t be silly. You’ll be you. You’ll just be straight.
Me: The only problem is I’m not straight. I am queer. If you make me straight I’m no longer me, but someone else.
Them: That’s not true. You’re not your sin. Don’t let your sin define you. I don’t define myself by my sins. I won’t have the desire to sin in heaven either.
Me: But I don’t think my queerness is a sin. Why do you think it’s a sin?
Them: Because my church, religion, leaders, and God told me it’s a sin.
Me: That’s weird. God told me queerness isn’t a sin. Why would God tell you something different than what God told me? Could it be that we are the ones determining what is and isn’t sin?
Them: No. That’s ridiculous. Gods laws never change, and we don’t get to decide them.
Me: That may or may not be true, but what is true is that our perceptions of God’s laws certainly change. According to the Bible, it used to be a sin to mix wool and linen. Even too many steps on the Sabbath was considered a sin.
Them: True, but we have the Restored Gospel. We know they were wrong. We are the ones with the correct orthodoxy. We know God’s laws because orthodoxy is given to us by a living prophet.
Me: Orthodoxy? You use that word so causally. The Greek root of orthodoxy means “the right opinion.” Orthodoxy is literally a matter of opinion. Finding orthodoxy is a process of reconciling diverse opinions. It’s not finished and may never be finished. Orthodoxy never was or is static.
Them: You’re missing the point. The prophet has the correct opinion on the matter. The prophet’s opinion is orthodoxy. That’s how I know I’m on the Lord’s side. I’m following the prophet.
Me: But don’t you see how that line of thinking relinquishes us of accountability and responsibility to seek further revelation toward a better orthodoxy? If the prophet’s word is orthodoxy, why do we even need to think, question, or petition the Lord ourselves? If not, this makes the prophet an unquestionable demi-god.
Them: That’s okay with me, because I have been promised the prophet will not lead the Church astray.
Me: Who promised you that?
Them: The apostles and prophets.
Me: Don’t you see how it’s a conflict of interest to have an apostle or prophet claiming prophetic infallibility?
Them: Maybe, but I also have a personal witness and confirmation that it is true. I can know truth for myself.
Me: But what if God told me being queer isn’t a sin, but God told you it is a sin? How do we know who’s of the right opinion?
Them: Me, because I’m following the prophet.
Me: So, what I’m hearing from you is that you know your personal witness is true when it coincides with the prophet’s witness?
Them: Exactly. Each of us the agency to know for ourselves if what the prophet says is true.
Me: But what about me? I am granted the agency to know when the prophet says something false. I have a personal witness that prophets have said a lot of false things about my people and our queerness.
Them: No, the prophet is never false when speaking for the Church.
Me: Oh, so you would agree that a prophet is only a prophet when a prophet is speaking and acting as such?
Them: Yes. It’s unrealistic to assume the prophet never misspeaks or makes mistakes. Of course, the prophet is imperfect, but when the prophet is speaking as a prophet he will never lead us astray.
Me: Great! So now it’s just a matter of determining when the prophet is acting as a prophet. If that’s the case, the prophet is not acting as a prophet when he excludes queer folks from full participation in the Church as practicing queer members. He is acting as a false prophet and we should bring forth better prophetic visions and revelations.
Them: No, the prophet can never lead the Church astray. He is correct in excluding queerness from heaven. Plus, it is God’s law, not the prophet’s law.
Me: How are you so confident the prophet can’t lead the Church astray?
Them: As I said, I have a personal witness it is true.
Me: Oh, so your personal witness is contrary to doctrine and the standard works.
Them: Excuse me?
Me: According to the standard works everyone has agency. Each of us is free to choose damnation or salvation. Satan’s plan was to impinge on our agency and compel all people to salvation. He tried to exempt us from sin. If you claim that the prophet can never lead the Church astray, you are saying that God is impinging on the prophet’s agency or capacity to sin. If God is exempting the prophet from sinning while acting as a prophet, then that is not God, but Satan. So, you’re saying the prophet is under the influence of Satan because the prophet is exempt from the sin of leading the Church astray.
Them: The prophet is not under the influence of Satan. That’s ridiculous.
Me: Why is that ridiculous? Is that not what is said in our scriptures? That Satan tried to take away the agency of humans? If the prophet cannot sin by leading the Church astray, how is that not the influence of Satan taking away his agency? This is the story you are telling.
Them: Yes, the scriptures say that, but God nor Satan is taking away the prophet’s agency. The prophet is using his agency to never lead the Church astray.
Me: But agency means mistakes are possible, and you’re claiming the prophet leading the Church astray is impossible. That’s what prophetic infallibility is.
Them: Oh, it’s possible, but it’s just never going to happen.
Me: How can you be so certain?
Them: Because I have a personal witness.
Me: But what is the point of a personal witness if its only function is to agree with whatever the prophet says? If a personal witness is only right when it is in accordance with the current prophet and wrong when in discord with the current prophet, what is the point of a personal witness?
Them: No, you have agency and a personal witness. Your personal witness is wrong.
Me: Let me get this straight. You’re saying I have agency, and that agency should be used to agree with the prophet. If I use my agency to agree with the prophet, I will act straight. If I act straight, I can go to heaven and receive my heavenly reward where my queerness will be taken away. Yet, even if I don’t want my queerness to be taken away, my desires will be changed against my will and I won’t want to be queer anymore. But this will only happen if I use my agency correctly by following the prophet—even if that means agreeing with him against my personal witness from God that the prophet is wrong about queer folks.
Them: Most of that is correct. We all play by the same rules. I can’t use my agency to bring sin into heaven.
Me: Yes, you do. We all do. We all use our agency to determine what is and is not sin. We decided that mixing wool and linen wasn’t a sin anymore. We decided left-handedness wasn’t a sin anymore.
Them: No, Jesus did. God determines what is sin, not me.
Me: But how do you know what God thinks is sin?
Them: My personal witness.
Me: Exactly. It comes down to personal witness. Do we believe Jesus or not? He said there is a new commandment—to love each other. It is my personal witness that queerness is not a sin. In order to find an orthodoxy, the right opinion, you and I must reconcile our conflicting personal witnesses.
Them: No, my personal witness is right because it is the same as the prophet’s. Your witness is not.
Me: If that is the case, agency is lost and the pursuit of orthodoxy is relinquished to a prophet with impinged agency who is under the influence of Satan, or an imperfect man who is capable of leading the Church astray.
Them: What are you saying then? It’s not like I’m the one determining what is and isn’t sin. It’s not like I’m the one keeping queers out of heaven.
Me: Oh, but it is you keeping queers out of heaven. It’s all of us. I’m saying I believe in Mormonism and the standard works. The prophet is only a prophet when speaking as such. We all have agency to choose right and wrong, including the prophet and president of the Church. The safety net is gone. The training wheels are off. The prophet can lead us astray, but that’s okay because it’s not his job to command us into orthodoxy. The President of the Church should be a facilitator, not a dictator. We are in the pursuit of orthodoxy right now. God will not compel us into righteousness. We must choose it for ourselves and choosing righteousness for ourselves does not mean agreeing with the current prophet. Choosing righteousness for ourselves means we are deciding what is and is not sin in our pursuit of a better orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is the “right opinion” and we are still figuring that out. Whose test did you think this was? It is written in our scriptures that God will not save us from ourselves. We are out of the Garden of Eden. We are in the lone and dreary world discovering what it means to create and find heaven amongst the sea of sin. Determining what is and is not sin is a communal process. We are all prophets when we act as such. If there is to be queer people in heaven, it will be because we chose it as righteousness, not because we were compelled into righteousness. If we want queer people in heaven, we must use our God-given agency to open the doors.
Them: That sounds like hubris. That puts us on the same level as God. We are not God. We don’t get to choose what is and isn’t sin.
Me: Don’t we though? Is it not written in our scriptures that we are gods and children of the most high? Is it not written that we are joint-heirs with Christ? Is it not written that we have divinity flowing through our veins?
Them: Yes, but we must become gods through obedience to God’s laws.
Me: Agreed. So how are we to become gods? We do godly things. We act like gods. What does it mean to act like God? We follow the example of Jesus. Jesus gave us a new commandment—love. He said, as I have loved you, love one another. This is how we demonstrate we are disciples of Christ. We must be obedient to God’s law to love one another; no other law may conflict with the first command to love one another. This is a messy and complex process. Obedience to God’s greatest command is not simple, dogmatic, or easy. It requires our thoughtful engagement as free agents. At times we must disobey an unrighteous authority to obey a higher authority—love.
Them: But queer folks aren’t engaging in godly love. It’s counterfeit love.
Me: Oh, but our love is just as real and godly as any other’s. If you have loved as I have loved, you would not doubt its godliness. In fact, we probably wouldn’t even be having this conversation.
Them: But what you are saying shakes the foundation of everything I have come to believe about a safe and secure pathway to heaven. If God won’t compel even the prophet into righteousness, then we can truly fail. Everything I care about—everyone I know and love—it could all be taken from me upon my death. I have to believe the prophet will never lead me astray or else I will have to confront my own mortality and uncertainty.
Me: I understand. It’s scary. Very scary. Embracing our agency is like standing on the edge of a cliff and knowing you have the power to step away or jump. Without the consequence of failure, agency is meaningless. The anxiety of true agency is dizzying, horrifying, and messy. Yet, this is also a precious gift God has given us—so precious that God will not impinge on our agency. Some people choose to relinquish agency, push it away, or keep it at bay, but ignorance will not save us. The good news is we are not alone. We have each other.
Them: If I don’t have an infallible prophet telling me how to act, I feel alone and lost. Why would God do that? I must keep faith in an infallible prophet and my one true church.
Me: Again, whose test did you think this was? God will not compel us into righteousness. God will not take away our agency.
Them: But I’m scared.
Me: I am too. Robust agency is scary.
Them: What do we do?
Me: I choose faith—faith in people, faith in God, faith in a better tomorrow, faith in love. I choose faith that love will win. I choose to act on that faith and do everything in my power to make the most beautiful and prophetic visions of my religion a tangible reality. According to our own theology, any heaven we are granted will be according to our desires and works. This is far greater than embracing the queer members of our faith, or even people not of our faith. It means choosing love over fear. Is means casting out ignorance with understanding. It means charity, compassion, and kindness. It means we should put our faith in gods who are worthy of our worship. Gods are the projections of our desires. The question I’m asking you now is, will the projections of a heterosexist, cissexist God rule our theology, or will we choose a more loving and inclusive orthodoxy? Make no mistake, the choice is most certainly ours.