How does It Get Better, exactly?

By: Andrew S
April 11, 2012

On Facebook, I’ve been linked several times to the BYU student group USGA (Understanding Same-Gender Attraction)’s contribution to the It Gets Better video project. Despite that, I haven’t seen too many blogs formally discussing the video. Nevertheless, from less-formal Facebook conversations primarily between Mormons and from forum discussions elsewhere primarily between non-Mormon, people seem to like the video and its message. Perhaps this could become the sign that the church and BYU have truly overcome sordid pasts on the homosexuality front? Not only that, but this is a grassroots message (Neither videographer Kendall Wilcox or the previously mentioned USGA are official representatives of the church), so even better!

Here’s the video:

However, if you read my personal blog, you should already know that I’m not quite so sure this video is all that positive.

 It Gets Better BYUI haven’t seen every It Gets Better video that has ever been made, but I would be willing to guess that most of them don’t begin with a person who, if he’s “going to be authentic”, can’t say that it gets better. And I mean…yeah, I know…people can’t know the future, much less the futures of other people, so in some ways, it’s just intellectual humility to say that you can’t know if it’ll get better for random youtube watcher. But the last line for that individual (near the end of the video) is his saying that he hopes it gets better.

It hasn’t gotten better yet for him.

That troubling message made me ask what it means for things to “get better.”

My guesses are that it means something slightly different for the active, faithful, believing BYU students than it might for the average viewer or producer of an It Gets Better video.

Some things that I think all of them share in common:

  • It gets better because the jerks drop out of your life. (Think of how bullying works for most kids…the unpopular, nerdy, geeky, or awkward children are preyed upon by more popular, jock types. But after high school, the unpopular nerds become successful engineers/doctors/lawyers, while the popular jocks get a beer gut. [No offense to athletes.] I’d venture that the stereotype of gay people as being creative and successful has something to it…if at the very least the fact that good art requires suffering.)
  • It gets better because you also become better able to tune out haters. (I’m not saying to blame the victims, but I can say that when I was a teenager, I cared a whole lot more than I ever should have about what other people thought of me. As a part of maturation, I learned to stop caring as much. So even though I definitely have people who don’t exactly like me, I’m in my zone and they are in their zone. But I had to live long enough to grow up enough to put this in perspective.)
  • Salladhor Saan

    OK, so I don't have that many options for cosplaying in what essentially is a fantasy-setting of medieval Europe. But I'll take the pirate, Salladhor Saan.

  • It gets better because you find people who like you for you and who don’t think a fundamental part of you is broken. (To continue the nerd analogy: you go to a comic convention, or find a set of friends to cosplay as Game of Thrones characters to Ren Fest with).

That being said, I think that there is another hope in most of the It Gets Better series that probably diverges from what faithful gay and lesbian Mormons can hope for: it gets better because one day, you may find the someone with whom you share your life, your joys and your sorrows.

Companionship.

The problem here isn’t necessarily that the church frowns upon gay relationships. I think there are religious traditions that place a high institutional value on celibacy for certain of its members and provides them with important theological roles. The problem is that the LDS church isn’t one of those religious traditions. Marriage and family is a Really Big Deal in Mormonism, so the extent that one is single is always a less-than-ideal situation that should be rectified. Young men should not put off marriage.

I think that sometimes, people like to analogize. Gay and lesbian members aren’t the only ones who may find themselves without companionship, after all. Nevertheless, the approach toward the (perpetually?) single member is one of pity. It’s just too bad they aren’t married. And we could have so many posts on just that, but still, I digress…

…One Mormon blog post that I saw that addressed this video was that of (Gay) Mormon Guy’s. As he has noted, he edited his post, but I’ll try to summarize some of the before and after.

Before the edit, he had reservations against the video. (Many of the comments on the page were written before his edit, so they can still capture why he and others had reservations against the video):

I guess I should include at least part of the original post to put comments in perspective. I felt uneasy that the movie didn’t make the distinction between having same-sex attraction and acting on those feelings… and that is the point around which the controversy broils. I, the Church, and most of us are extremely clear in the understanding that keeping the commandments will bring happiness, no matter what temptations you are overcoming. But sinning doesn’t bring happiness.

Where people are departing (and trying to determine the background or goal of the video) is on the face – are they supporting the Church or supporting activities that go against it?

Honestly? I don’t know. I haven’t met the members of USGA and doubt I will. I don’t know what they’re trying to teach or promote. But if I ever do meet them, I’ll definitely suggest that they make it clear what the Church’s doctrines are… whether or not they support them on an individual basis.

Now, however, Mormon Guy enjoys the video. In his modified post, he writes why:

The video wasn’t designed to teach the world about what Mormons believe about same-sex attraction. It wasn’t designed to reaffirm members who wonder about those same beliefs. It was created for one sole purpose – a purpose that matches the reason I began writing (Gay) Mormon Guy – to reach out and help those who are struggling inside the Church… and to help them realize that, if you can make it past the hardest years, it really does get better. Life isn’t over. You can have faith that life will go on, you can find happiness, follow your dreams, and… whatever else you want to make of your life.

That’s why there isn’t a distinction or any doctrinal teaching in the video… because it is designed only for the people who already know. It speaks to them, and even if everyone else doesn’t understand, it still speaks to their hearts. Yes, there is a distinction between living the gospel and breaking it – and that’s where the video lays. Staying in the Church, staying in life, staying on BYU campus, it gets better, and staying in the Church or on campus means staying morally clean.

For those of us “who already know,” as Mormon Guy describes, what we know is that the video doesn’t have to make any distinction between whether it’s OK to be gay (e.g., attracted to the same sex) and whether it’s OK to be gay (e.g., engaged in relationships with those of the same sex)…because those who already know know that it “getting better” means staying morally clean. Celibate and companionless.

Is that the message non-Mormons are getting?

As I mentioned earlier, I noticed that both Mormons (like Mormon Guy) and non-Mormons liked the video…but did they like it for the same reason?

Conversations on the MetaFilter discussion of the video lead me to suspect not.

After I made some comments to clue people in that things “getting better” for these students might simply be their acceptance of a life of celibacy, others commented:

I have to say, when I watched this video it didn’t occur to me that the definition of “better” could include lifelong celibacy. That would put it in somewhat of a different light.

and

Thinking about the video in retrospect, it’s striking what wasn’t said. No one said anything about having a family, getting married, raising children. No one said anything about boyfriends or girlfriends. No one said anything about having their family accept their same-sex life partner.

They just dodged the whole question of what it means to get better. How does it get better? They don’t say. I feel like I’ve been conned.

How very strange. At a certain level it’s an awesome exercise in sending two entirely different messages to two different groups of people. That filmmaker should go into politics.

What struck me was how naturally each audience assumed certain things, and only questioned those assumptions later in the conversation. When they watched the video again, they realized that the assumptions they had made were never explicated. And, given later comments by BYU administrators (that really just restate what we already know about BYU Honor Code policy), we can’t comfortably assume these things at all. No one said anything about having their family accept their same-sex life partner because that’s not in the plan.

…but what struck me about the second commenter’s comment was his comment that he felt the video was an exercise in “sending two entirely different messages to two different groups of people.”

Code Language

For whatever it’s worth, I don’t think that the video is a “con.” I don’t think that Kendall Wilcox should go into politics (I mean…unless he wants to?). But I do think that the idea of coded language that is meant to be taken one way by insider Mormons than it is by non-Mormons is something that has a long tradition in the church.

At the most critical end, you can see disaffected and post-Mormons decrying “lying for the Lord.” But even faithful Mormons have discussed whether Gordon B. Hinckley was downplaying deification or if he was just carefully constructing his answers, keeping in mind a listening public that doesn’t exactly have a reputation for nuance.

In some ways, it makes sense. For many LDS beliefs, it would take a long time to appropriately explain the foundations and reasons behind those beliefs. The problem is that in the meanwhile, the snapshot that people can get will be distorted. (And consequently, church critics throw out distorted soundbites whenever they can.) But just as well, even if the church is able to explain some positions, the fact is that these positions will be unpopular with some people. Liberal progressive folks aren’t going to be too fond of the church’s position on homosexuality, regardless of if they hear the nuance that the church finds same-sex attraction to be morally neutral (it’s just acting on those attractions that is considered sin.)

So, at some point, it’s best not to address that issue at all.

The same thing, ultimately, applies for the USGA group and BYU. Perhaps some of these students do look forward to relationships in the future…but the fact is that BYU isn’t going to be too fond of these relationships regardless of any nuance the students might put to it (e.g., they are still committed, etc.,) So it’s best not to address that issue at all.

Questions for Today:

  1. What do you think of the BYU It Gets Better video? If you like it, why? If not, why not?
  2. From the video, what were your thoughts regarding the students’ positions on gay relationships?
  3. Could they or should they have been more forthright about that position, or would it simply have brought undue backlash and hurt their message?

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51 Responses to How does It Get Better, exactly?

  1. Stephen M (Ethesis) on April 11, 2012 at 5:40 AM

    I’m curious to see the comments, given the perspectives we as permabloggers had in discussing this previously.

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  2. Bob on April 11, 2012 at 7:48 AM

    Andrew,
    Watching the videos in the light of your Opening Post,also made me very sad. I hope we are both wrong__that in five years, they will still be making the same upbeat videos.

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  3. ha on April 11, 2012 at 9:18 AM

    i never thought of it. but in what way does it get better? either they’ll be celibate or leave the church. niether way sounds super easy..

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  4. Nick Literski on April 11, 2012 at 9:28 AM

    Not to be too blunt, but in this video, “it gets better” really only means “You don’t have to kill yourself—you can survive, even if your faith condemns you to perpetual celibacy and isolation.” I applaud the bravery of these students in making their video, but the message isn’t all that hopeful–it’s merely “not complete despair.”

    Personally, I’m heartened that the video has gotten enough media coverage that BYU is afraid to take action against the students for allegedly “promoting” homosexuality (as if gay students somehow could “sell” straight students on “turning” gay).

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  5. Kevin on April 11, 2012 at 9:54 AM

    So I felt like I needed to make a comment given I am one of the individuals in the video. Part of the reason there is such ambiguity in the film is that what it means for it to get better at BYU is very different for the various individuals in the film. Some of them plan on being celibate while others are looking forward to the time when they will have the opportunity to date and marry an individual of the same gender. At BYU we are not allowed to be in relationships and thus why a family is not discussed. However, that doesn’t mean we will never be in a relationship. Thanks so much for your honest thoughts!

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  6. Nate on April 11, 2012 at 9:54 AM

    You might say that it’s “getting better” because the church’s stand on homosexuality is evolving in a positive way. More and more Mormons are accepting that homosexuality is often an irreversible identity. BYU changed their policies to make it OK to state that you are homosexual. Gay men are teaching cosmetic techniques on Enrichment Night for Relief Society. That’s a sign that it’s getting better. It’s getting better because new church manuals now discourage marriage as therapy, and there is more and more dialogue and greater understanding.

    While that doesn’t solve the doctrinal paradoxes inherent in that claim, it does make it easier to be homosexual in the church. We’ve got a long way to go, but actually, it is getting better.

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  7. Mike S on April 11, 2012 at 9:58 AM

    Our treatment of blacks in the Church also “got better”. It took a few decades and the deaths of a few hold-out leaders, but it eventually got to the point where you could be black AND be a fully engaged member of the LDS Church. And from what I have read about that struggle, it generally started with well-meaning members who clamored for change in the policy.

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  8. Nick Literski on April 11, 2012 at 10:06 AM

    Why does this post bring “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” to my mind?

    Sir Bedevere: What makes you think she’s a witch?
    Peasant: Well, she turned me into a newt!
    Sir Bedevere: A newt?
    Peasant: Well…..I got better!

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  9. Jeremiah S on April 11, 2012 at 10:52 AM

    This post is right on about one thing: The videos leave “how” it gets better vague.

    Nick is right on about the suicide thing. We have an entire group of people within the church who have been taught to deeply, deeply despise themselves, based on what Camille Fronk calls “an ungrounded social theology that perceives same-gender attraction as an unforgivable sin”. The tension of this internal conflict often builds to such a crescendo that suicide seems like the only option.

    It gets better when these young men and women realize they are not alone, and truly internalize that their orientation is not a sin; unfortunately, they often have to learn this through their own search, without institutional support from the Church because many church members still believe the orientation itself is a horrible sin!

    It will get better as the the church as a whole begins to make the distinction between orientation and behavior, and starts to be more compassionate about the whole issue. I think it’s coming.

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  10. Nick Literski on April 11, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    I’d take it a bit further, Jeremiah. It’s not just a matter of LDS members distinguishing between orientation and sexual activity, nor is it just being “compassionate” about the issue. Is it really “better” for these people to live within a community that “compassionately” pities them, as if they have a birth defect or disease?

    In many cultures, people we’d now refer to as GLBT were recognized as uniquely gifted, to the degree that they served as advisers to leaders, mentors/teachers to children, and religious healers/ritualists/leaders to the people. They were seen as “gatekeepers,” who could bridge the gap between men and women, as well as between this world and the eternities. This high regard only ended as “christian” explorers found these cultures, and executed these individuals as supposed “sinners.”

    It will “get better” when LDS grow beyond either contempt OR “compassionate” pity, and begin seeing GLBT people as fellow “saints” with their own special gifts.

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  11. Chino Blanco on April 11, 2012 at 1:21 PM

    Carri Jenkins, assistant to the president of BYU: the honor code is “based on conduct, not on feeling, and if same-gender attraction is only stated, that is not an honor code issue.” Sadly, that’s actually a big improvement on the BYU I remember from twenty years ago and now that it’s so clearly OK to talk openly about one’s orientation, the genie’s out of the bottle.

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  12. Lucy on April 11, 2012 at 1:41 PM

    Who started the “it gets better” campaign? One author of an article in First Things definitely disapproves of his campaign: http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2011/07/the-doorknob-chronicles-of-dan-savage/joe-carter

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  13. Howard on April 11, 2012 at 1:45 PM

    I love this video! They are real, authentic, likable and they’re talking about IT: I’m Mormon and I’m gay! No apology, no shame, here I am, deal with it! “I tried to be the perfect Mormon, I prayed…but it didn’t go away! Yet I know God loves me!” That could have been said by a gay or a woman or any Mormon struggling with literal belief. If you’re anti get to know someone who is gay, it will begin to soften the way you think and I think this is part of the value of this video.

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  14. Henry on April 11, 2012 at 1:45 PM

    It gets better because

    1. You live.
    2. You can avoid sexual transgression which does even more damage.

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  15. Brian on April 11, 2012 at 2:57 PM

    The fact that BYU students are openly talking about the issue shows something is getting better. Individually, if these students are saying it gets better, who am I to disagree with them. Knowing you are not alone makes things better. Being able to discuss your innermost feelings with someone else makes things better.

    I have found that many, many church members are much more loving to gay people than official church rhetoric would lead you to believe. I love watching the “It gets better videos”. Parents reach out to me in the area in which we live when their children finally come out. I have a gay son and I make sure people know it. One of the first things I tell these parents (and their sons or daughters) to watch is the Pixar video of It Gets Better.

    The best and brightest among us are gay. The sooner the religious accept their goodness, the better off we will all be.

    I feel for these young people as they decide how they will interact with the church. I have been to Evergreen seminars and I have watched Affirmation videos and read a number of things on their website. From what I have seen (and this may be a totally incorrect second-hand perspective) is that the Evergreen crowd (those who are trying to overcome their homosexuality) is a younger group of men and women than is the Affirmation (group of gays that wants to keeps their ties to church, get the church to accept them) person. I take from that grossly simplistic characterization, that most young people hang on to the belief that they can change into their twenties. At some point they realize that isn’t going to happen. The vast majority of them leave the church (who wants to live alone). The affirmation group holds on to hope that the church can change so they do not have to give up something they very much love, while not denying who they are. I am sure there is a very small percentage who decide to live a celibate life.

    From what I have experienced it does get better. However, for someone who stays within the influence of the church it can only get so much better.

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  16. Cowboy on April 11, 2012 at 4:07 PM

    “The best and brightest among us are gay.”

    I don’t like this statement. Not only because it probably isn’t true, but because it was stated in a zealous desire to overcompensate for the discrimination against homosexuals. Being “best” and “bright” is most likely not much affected by sexual orientation, depending on what exactly is meant by those descriptors. It should be enough to recognize that homosexuals are equally capable in their ability to contribute in a positive way to the world and society.

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  17. Nick Literski on April 11, 2012 at 4:08 PM

    Henry, straight man that you claim to be, have you ever looked at a woman and lusted after her? I thought so, you sexually-transgressing adulterer!

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  18. Brian on April 11, 2012 at 4:17 PM

    “The best and brightest among us are gay.”

    Obviously hyperbolic. I’m in the middle of doing tax returns. I look here during breaks that I shouldn’t even be taking.

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  19. Porter on April 11, 2012 at 5:13 PM

    I have no faith that the LDS Church will ever change its position on this issue. I think they privately regret the decision to take such a public position on Prop 8, but otherwise they’re not backing down, and no amount of public pressure will change that. I hope i’m wrong.

    But as far as the video goes I saw it as an attempt to provide HOPE and support for BYU students who are struggling with this issue. Its no secret that LGBT people in the LDS church have high rates of depression and many have committed suicide.

    I see the video as saying to them “hang in there, it will get better as soon as you leave that awful bigoted environment.” If the video prevents even one suicide its producers should count themselves as heroes.

    But can someone explain to me why in the hell anyone who is struggling with same-sex attraction would even apply to BYU of all places, let alone go there? Its totally baffling to me.

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  20. will on April 11, 2012 at 5:23 PM

    Great Post.

    All of us have our challenges and temptations in life and I can’t image a more stressful or agonizing challenge than to have same gender attraction and be a faithful member of the church. My heart goes out to those that struggle with this challenge; and, as long as they don’t engage in any homosexual activity they can hold recommends, service missions and other calls within the church. As such, they should be accepted just like anyone else if they follow the straight and narrow path. They need our love, encouragement and support; not our condemnation, judgment or criticism. They are children of God and some of the best living people that I know struggle with this issue.

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  21. newlyhousewife on April 11, 2012 at 6:04 PM

    i like the fact they atleast made a video, but i dont like the fact that ‘better’ is never explained. either tell me im going to get married or tell me ill eventually have the guts to leave. saying oh dont worry youll find a way to be happy does no more help than telling me to enjoy it when my kid wakes up every hour because shell eventually grow up. how exactly am i suppose to put her to sleep?

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  22. Remlap on April 11, 2012 at 6:05 PM

    “…as long as they don’t engage in any homosexual activity they can hold recommends, service missions and other calls within the church.”

    Sure, just live a nice long celibate life void of any romance. Just push all of those sexual feelings way down inside of you. And for heaven’s sake don’t masturbate. We all know what that leads to.

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  23. Heber13 on April 11, 2012 at 6:34 PM

    “It gets better” doesn’t mean it is perfect or even that it is all better. But when I watched it, in a few sections, I got some chills, thinking that to have BYU lift the ban on certain things, and people are able to start slowly coming out about it and say that their true friends accepted them anyway, is a step in the right direction.

    It seems if the conversation can be started, that is better than hiding or stiffling. But that is only the start, now the conversation needs to continue to push the issue until there is acceptance and love for people.

    That is getting better, step by step. I hope it is not the only step, but I find it positive and hopeful, and would imagine it inspires others who may directly be affected by this issue, including relatives and friends who need to also get better at dealing with it.

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  24. Rigel Hawthorne on April 11, 2012 at 6:35 PM

    I like the title of the post. I watched the video and thought of that question as well. One thought I had is that their formation of a group and seeking of campus recognition seems about where my non-church/non-Utah state university was about 25 years ago. I remember a few students of the gay and lesbian student group participating in a discussion in my sociology class and watching class members make faces of disgust as basic questions about their relationships, sexual practices, and dreams for family and children were discussed. So, if BYU is at that point where my alma mater was 25 years ago, then one might assume that a wider point of social acceptance will follow, as it has in other academic institutions.

    Also, the ‘student ward’ function is a unique ecclesiastical strata where all but 3 callings are usually filled by students. (speaking strictly from non-BYU experience) This means that for routine week to week church experience, your congregation is composed largely of peers at the same point in life that are likely aware of this recent openness. If those in the video can come out and be accepted by their peers who are their Elder’s quorum president or RS president, I would think they could say that at their current point in life, it has gotten better. To them, they may equate marriage and potential church discipline with future life that seems in their youthful minds, far away. They are celebrating the ability to be who they are where they are…cheers to them.

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  25. Andrew S on April 11, 2012 at 6:35 PM

    Hey everyone…sorry I haven’t been able to respond more promptly…I’ll try to go through and address a few comments now.

    re 5,

    Kevin,

    Thanks for coming by and commenting!

    I guess one thing that I would consider is that even though the BYU environment is particularly rough, for anyone of you all who plans to remain in good standing with the church (which, maybe that’s not in the long-term plan, and that’s ok), then celibacy is really the only accepted option. I still think that is sad.

    re 9,

    Jeremiah S,

    What you said in your comment about becoming more “compassionate” reminds me of this recent post at Zelophehad’s Daughters. I think everyone here should check it out.

    re 12,

    Lucy,

    That also pretty well summarizes why someone like (Gay) Mormon Guy is against the overall It Gets Better project.

    But I would say that here is an opportunity. The church wants to advocate for committed monogamy. So far, it has only shared this messages to its straight members — but why not share it to its gay and lesbian members as well?

    re 16,

    Cowboy,,

    Although Brian has already confirmed hyperbole status, one thing that came to my mind was this: the best artists often have suffered greatly.

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  26. Andrew S on April 11, 2012 at 6:39 PM

    To everyone,

    I would really like for everyone to consider this question, and find some way to answer it:

    Do you think that the students in the video could have been more clear about what it means for things to “get better,” or do you believe that explaining any further would have decreased the effectiveness of the video?

    For me, I feel like many of you that there were ambiguities…and I think I can understand that those ambiguities had to be there, or else the video or the students might have action taken against them by the university (e.g., if anyone of them had said, “It gets better because soon you’ll leave BYU”…that probably wouldn’t go over so well).

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  27. Bob on April 11, 2012 at 6:44 PM

    #22:Remlap,
    “….just live a nice long celibate life void of any romance”.
    That’s one of the things for me: I don’t want to tell Gays they can’t have romance because they can’t have babies. I don’t want to tell Will(20), he must stop sex with his wife when they are no longer having children.

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  28. Heber13 on April 11, 2012 at 7:05 PM

    [b]“Do you think that the students in the video could have been more clear about what it means for things to “get better,” or do you believe that explaining any further would have decreased the effectiveness of the video?”[/b]

    I think explaining it further would have decreased the effectiveness.

    In a 9min segment with multiple people, there isn’t time to really get into specifics. There were messages about who to go talk to if you need someone. That is as specific as it should get because so many situations are different. The idea is to give hope that it can be better, there are options to talk to people, and it is better than terrible alternatives. Now with that info, go talk to someone.

    I think that was good. Sure they could have started getting into things that aren’t all better yet, or things that specifically they struggle with, but I think they would have lost the message had it started getting more personally specific.

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  29. Heber13 on April 11, 2012 at 7:42 PM

    Interesting that CNN frontpage had an article about this.
    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/04/09/byu-student-video-on-homosexuality-is-not-in-violation-of-honor-code-says-administrator/?hpt=us_t3

    It quoted Bushman:

    “Richard Bushman, a pre-eminent scholar on the doctrine and history of Mormonism, echoed Jensen. He says the fact this debate is even allowed to occur is a signal of liberalization in attitudes toward homosexuality in Mormonism.

    “The last 10 years have been a huge sea change in terms of willingness to accept homosexuals,” Bushman said. “Gay kids are still going to have a tough time in the church, but this level of acceptance and acknowledgement, that is really that last decade I would say.”

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  30. CRW on April 11, 2012 at 9:01 PM

    As others have noted, there is a huge generational sea-change in acceptance of gays in our culture. I’ve seen it in my (currently 19 year old and straight) son’s Utah County peer group – from the casual use of “that’s so gay” as an insult 3-4 years ago, to no insulting talk anymore. He has openly gay friends who are accepted by active LDS boys and girls. As a psychotherapist who sat in my office across from suicidal LDS gay clients for way too many years, I can only applaud the changes. This clock is absolutely not going to turn back. I am, for the first time since Prop 8, full of hope.

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  31. hawkgrrrl on April 11, 2012 at 11:17 PM

    In a hurry, so I’ll write this without having read all prior comments. I love Andrew’s point about the double speak or multi-faceted nuance to what the video is saying. Obviously, “better” means different things to different people. This video is, as Nick points out, primarily addressing that it gets better than the moment in which a gay LDS person feels like committing suicide. It gets better whether one finds a way to stay in the church or not. Don’t kill yourself; it gets better. What I love is that all Mormons can get behind that message.

    I also love the hope for the community, that examples are shared of straight Mormons advocating for gay Mormons, of empathy despite the doctrinal and cultural legacy.

    And lastly I think there’s a broader “it gets better” that is hoped for (and that comes in time). We are at a social crossroads. We are at a time of change in broader society and acceptance of our gay brothers and sisters. This is an important time as a world, a nation, and yes, also as a church. If we truly live in Christian love we will take the time to understand others and that can only lead to more acceptance.

    I found the message hopeful from every angle. Will all gay LDS people stay in the church? No. Will they all stay celibate? No. But it gets better than the day in which one feels hopeless, misunderstood, persecuted and repressed, hated for who they are – including by themselves.

    This is a very important project, and we are on the cusp of some exciting changes.

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  32. Julie on April 12, 2012 at 1:42 AM

    I think one thing that is not made really clear is that these videos were not produced or supported by the mormon church. The members of the unauthorized USGA group supported them and participated in them and they did not want to say anything that would get them kicked out of school or censored in any way. This is not church propoganda. I say this because my son is one of the young men in the videos. He participated truly to help other gay mormons know that there are a lot of them out there, and they are not alone and that God loves them no matter what they choose to do. He had no other hidden agenda. If they had gotten explicit in supporting any kind of open gay lifestyle (which some of them are considering down the road) then the video would not have been accepted as well by mormons and their target audience might not have seen it, defeating the purpose. I am proud of my son. We are mormon and my son is gay, and I am OK with that.

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  33. Trev on April 12, 2012 at 2:05 AM

    What do you think of the BYU It Gets Better video?

    I love it! I think it is a positive (if ambiguous) message, and any attention that can be brought to the reality of homosexuality in the Church is great.

    From the video, what were your thoughts regarding the students’ positions on gay relationships?

    I knew before I watched it that the people in it had different plans for how they would approach this question in their futures outside of the jurisdiction of the BYU honor code.

    That said, if I hadn’t known that and just watched the video, I think I would have been too captured by the excitement of BYU students publicly saying that they are gay and Mormon and happy about it that I wouldn’t have thought about it too much. I think, particularly for their target audience, among whom I would be included during my time at BYU, it does exactly what it means to: give hope and a sort of encouragement to be more open about my sexuality, if nothing else. At that time, I wasn’t thinking very far ahead, as it were, and the reality of celibacy didn’t really sink in until I had left and lived on my own for a while, so the video would have given me more than enough to improve my situation a lot at the time.

    Could they or should they have been more forthright about that position, or would it simply have brought undue backlash and hurt their message?

    No. I don’t think it was necessary to be “more forthright” to do what the video seems to have set out to do. I think the answer to the second part is yes. I think the reason dealing with homosexuality is so difficult for so many in the Church is because our predominate culture does not recognize the reality of homosexuality or appreciate the degree to which sexuality insinuates itself into our everyday lives. That realization has to come before any productive discussion can happen, and this video helps us move closer to that understanding.

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  34. Mike S on April 12, 2012 at 8:03 AM


    What do you think of the BYU It Gets Better video? If you like it, why? If not, why not?

    I like the video. I think it can serve an important role. For gay Mormons, it can serve as a message that they are not alone. I think it is far too easy in the Church to think that if you are not the “picture-perfect” TBM Mormon than you are “less”. As you realize that there are many others with the exact same issues as you, it makes things more tolerable.

    And for non-gay Mormons, it will hopefully make them more tolerant. I think it is harder to condemn “gay people” as a generic group once you see real people with real faith in God struggling with real issues.


    From the video, what were your thoughts regarding the students’ positions on gay relationships?

    They were necessarily vague. I expect that the majority of them will “someday” have a relationship. I suspect that the number who maintain life-time celibacy will actually be quite low – but I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. I suspect that many of them will at least try to follow the same concept as a straight Mormon – no sex before marriage, faithfulness after marriage.


    Could they or should they have been more forthright about that position, or would it simply have brought undue backlash and hurt their message?

    Absolutely not. Besides affecting their message, there is a very real threat to their livelihood. BYU is a strange place. It is one of the few universities I can think of that can withhold your diploma after 4 years of hard work for something you think. If, after 4 years of studying something like geology, you tell your bishop that you don’t believe any of this anymore, or if you drink coffee, or whatever – he may withhold your ecclesiastical endorsement – and then you don’t get your degree. So, regardless of what you think, once you start down that path, you have to at least fake it until you have a degree in hand.

    So, absolutely, the students were limited in what they could publicly say if they wanted to remain students at BYU. Once they leave and the sword isn’t hanging over their head, they can be even more authentic and it “gets better”.

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  35. jks on April 12, 2012 at 11:00 AM

    Kevin’s comment #5. That was my impression of the video. I think it is vague because each person in the video is different and is dealing with their challenge in a different way. But it is a message of hope that many need. I appreciate it for what it is. I don’t think it needs to be some sort of lesson on the right way for individuals to deal with their challenge….don’t they get enough of that already (some advice better than others, and some advice helps one but doesn’t help another). Some mormons actually don’t know any gay people (that they are aware of). It is good to have something like this.
    I don’t think it is a con. It is an important message.

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  36. Lucy on April 12, 2012 at 3:50 PM

    An article for those interested in where the “it gets better” campaign originated: http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2011/07/the-doorknob-chronicles-of-dan-savage/joe-carter

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  37. Douglas on April 12, 2012 at 11:30 PM

    I am utterly revolted that the Church’s stance on homosexuality could be perceived as “evolving” towards acceptance as a legitimate alternative. Pernicious nonsense.
    It’s one thing to be sensitive to the struggles that LGBT members go through in dealing with their sexual desires (re: “pre-versions” as the fictional Col. “Bat” Guano put it in “Dr. Strangelove”). I see no problem with differentiating between the inclination (which is a challenge, not a sin of itself) versus the (mis)behavior.
    Methinks, though, at some point faithful members have to make a choice between being popular versus doing the right thing. Or as the hymn sez it, “Who is on the LORD’s side, WHO?”

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  38. Trev on April 13, 2012 at 12:10 AM

    I have never understood the type of thinking in Douglas’s #37 comment. It always seemed so… [i]presumptuous[/i] to me, in relation to [i]whatever[/i] topic: issues of science (e.g. evolution), doctrine, whatever.

    Too often, I think, people presume absolutely to know the mind of God at any given point… and cause unnecessary contention and other harm. Based on the three uncontroversial–right?–premises that 1) God is all-knowing and unchanging; 2) human beings are imperfect, have a limited understanding, and cannot comprehend the mind of God; and 3) God provides revelation and other methods through which our understanding of Him and His plan and the world in general increase; I would EXPECT our understandings of all the above to continuously grow and change “line upon line and precept upon precept” (even to the point where what we know at different points seems to contradict what we know at previous points) as necessary evidence for the correctness of those premises.

    As a gay Mormon I have spent thousands of hours of emotional and spiritual discomfort and lost much sleep agonizing over what the “right things” in life are. These questions are not easy. If they seem easy, frankly, you don’t grasp the reality of them. Why couldn’t going against what is “popular” for what is “right” conceivably occur within the context of going against popular Church culture for a further revelation of God’s [i]actual[/i] will.

    I’m not implying that I know the mind of God, but we can’t really know the mind of God unless we’re open to it, whomever’s “side” we think we’re on.

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  39. Brian on April 13, 2012 at 6:55 AM

    No intelligent comment ever follows “methinks”.

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  40. Nick Literski on April 13, 2012 at 10:52 AM

    #30:
    I am, for the first time since Prop 8, full of hope.

    Twenty or thirty years from now, when we can all have clear hindsight, I suspect we’ll see Prop 8 as the watershed moment. The shock of “liberal” California passing the amendment shocked the conscience of many Americans, shifting public opinion to the point where a majority now favor marriage equality and several states have enacted it legislatively.

    Even LDS leaders can’t help but see that Prop 8 backfired dramatically. Hundreds (perhaps thousands, since obviously not all went public) of LDS resigned their membership over the issue, and for many Americans, Prop 8 made the LDS church an icon of intolerance in the public eye. That LDS leaders are paying attention is evident in the damage control. Suddenly the LDS church very publicly (note–by messenger from the public affairs department!) supported a city ordinance barring discrimination against GLBT people in housing and employment. When LDS members received notice via their church’s internal email network that they should fight against a civil unions bill in Illinois (arguing that civil unions would somehow cause little girls to be raped in public restrooms!), LDS public affairs reps were quick to deny any official direction from headquarters. The “I’m a Mormon” campaign was launched in an effort to portray LDS members as diverse and accepting. BYU changed its “honor code” twice to loosen restrictions against GLBT students. Several alleged “insider” sources claim that LDS leaders say they’ll never take such a public role again in anti-gay politics.

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  41. Douglas on April 14, 2012 at 6:44 AM

    #38 – “Presume”???? Try convey the same messages about homosexuality as revealed by prophets old and modern. It’s WRONG! Period!
    To INDULGE (versus having the inclination) is condemned and those that do are encouraged to examine their lives and repent? What part of don’t do it do you not get? Or are you so enthralled in your sin(s), and have you let it fester in your heart like a cancer, that you look for every excuse to continue indulging in sin? That’s what it comes down to, Trev. Now, I’m assuming, and if wrong, I’m wrong, that you’re looking for reasons to indulge in homosexual behavior and still somehow reconcile it as acceptable to the Lord. You can’t. Deal with your homosexuality as you aren’t going to change the Lord’s mind.

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  42. hawkgrrrl on April 14, 2012 at 7:50 AM

    Trev – glad to have you here!

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  43. Trev on April 14, 2012 at 1:44 PM

    Thanks hawkgrrl. I’m glad forums like this exist and that the cross-section of people who use them have this opportunity to communicate they might otherwise not have–and support each other, often, at least :).

    Uh, Douglas, your comment deeply offends me. I normally wouldn’t trot it out, considering it being entirely irrelevant to any discussion on a forum like this, but I hold a temple recommend and somehow manage to stay active in the Church despite the ongoing and utterly unnecessary perceived(?) persecution of people like you who assume that I and others like me are “mired” in the “cancer” of “sin” because I [i]dare[/i] to articulate my own life experience!

    I’m only 26 and have a lot of life decisions ahead of me. I guess you’ve had your say and influence in this comment. Is this how you will respond to a child or a confused youth who trusts you with their “deepest, darkest secret” and plead with you for guidance? Is this how you’ll respond to a relative you’ll eventually find out is gay?

    I really hope not.

    I suggest you read these:

    - http://zelophehadsdaughters.com/2012/04/11/compassion/
    - http://bycommonconsent.com/2010/10/14/what-i-wish-i-had-said/

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  44. Douglas on April 14, 2012 at 9:17 PM

    Trev, be offended if you insist. I made it clear that I was condemning PARTICIPATION, not inclination. I’m well acquainted with a gal that has struggled with lesbianism most of her life, yet she too holds a recommend. In fact, if you hold out against baser desires and live the law of chastity, I’ve nothing but praises to say of your steadfastness. Do persevere.
    I give you credit of being at least literate and of moderate intelligence. Therefore, you didn’t read a damn thing that I wrote, you simply have an axe to grind because somehow you’re not being “understood”. And you’re right, I can’t understand for the life of me how any man could nuzzle up and get freaky with another man. It’s damned icky to even think of. Still, I have my own struggles, and were I to indulge in them I’d be no less an offense to my Lord and Savior. It’s not a “holier-than-thou” thing, no sir. Please also don’t trot your struggles as if you’re some kind of victim, because at 26 you’re a grown man and responsible for your actions. I’m double your age and I get zilch from my Priesthood leaders. In fact, have been recently separated (this time for good, at an end is this miserable marriage, and, in the words of Grand Master Yoda, not short enough it was…), I get badgered about not even talking to women (especially the good friend I just mentioned, because it’s “sin”…). So grow up and suck it up. Read I Nephi 3, especially verse 7. Trev, you are more than capable of dealing with your homosexual inclinations. Despite my utter disdain for the gay lifestyle, if any brother like yourself comes to Church anyway, he’ll have my support to live the Gospel. Not IN his sin(s), but to be delivered from them. Remember, the Savior paid the ultimate price for both our sorry butts, now let’s give HIM his due…

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  45. FireTag on April 14, 2012 at 10:43 PM

    Douglas:

    As a perma can see full comments in the order written without going to an individual post, I’ve just noted your comment here to Trev in the context of your near simultaneous comment on the Friday Potpourri thread.

    Permit me to relate my response to both comments here, because I, too, found your response to Trev to be offensive.

    Rather than seeing Harry Truman in you, I’m seeing a little more of Harry Mudd of Star Trek lore. “Harrrcourttttt!” When you cease to be an irritant, Harry…

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  46. anon on April 15, 2012 at 7:03 AM

    Douglas,
    Thank you for being the solitary voice of reason, and not giving into the pressure of calling good, evil, and evil, good.

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  47. [...] now for the grab-bag of topics!!! Dealing with Mormon parents when you leave the church. How is it that gay marriage harms my [straight] marriage — has anyone ever figured it out? It [...]

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  48. Taryn Fox on April 15, 2012 at 5:44 PM

    Remember, it’s okay for you Mormons to feel the Spirit, so long as you don’t pray or act on it. You also aren’t allowed to have your own church. As long as you don’t do any of that, we will tolerate you and welcome you with love and open arms.

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  49. [...] The BYU “Understanding Same-Gender Attraction” Group’s “It Gets Better” video (which also was the topic of my last article at Wheat & Tares). [...]

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  50. JonJon on April 18, 2012 at 12:54 PM

    Answering this question:

    “Do you think that the students in the video could have been more clear about what it means for things to “get better,” or do you believe that explaining any further would have decreased the effectiveness of the video?”

    I think it was a good thing that the students didn’t provide more details about why it gets better. I think the subtle ambiguity allowed the video to reach a much broader audience. Plus, there are plenty of people and groups who will tell you specifically what you have to do for your life to get better. The reality is though, each of us has to do the work of figuring out for ourselves how our lives can get better.

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  51. JonJon on April 18, 2012 at 12:56 PM

    Also, I think the ambiguity opens up more and fantastic discissions like this one.

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