Op-ed: How Mormons Evolved From Prop 8 to Pride
In the Mormon world, the term “mighty change of heart” describes that light-bulb moment when a human understands, at a soul-deep level, the true message of unconditional love taught by our Savior.
Often, the term is used to describe conversion to faith in our Savior by someone not of our own religion. But it’s also an ideal description of what’s been happening inside the Mormon culture over the past five years; literally thousands of Mormons across the country are re-thinking the way they understand their LGBT brothers and sisters—both in and outside the faith.
Five years ago, many Mormons rallied behind Prop 8. There’s no denying it—Mormons said some cruel and ugly things to LGBT individuals during the campaign, and our involvement branded Mormonism as a hateful religion in the eyes of world.
The outside world watched images of Mormons holding Prop 8 signs and going door-to-door to garner support for the measure. But what went unseen was the bitter turmoil it caused among those who practice our own faith. In Mormon families throughout the country, secret battles waged—fathers were pitted against sons, mothers against daughters, and brothers and sisters against one another.
In our zeal to hammer shut the Pandora’s Box of gay marriage, we stood in direct opposition to one of our own core values: The importance we place on family. And as a result, we damaged some family relationships so deeply they may never heal in this lifetime.
But life seldom sends us a problem that doesn’t have a gift in its hands for us. And so it is with the ugliness that surrounded Prop 8. The gift, left in its wake, is Mormons' mighty change of heart sweeping the country.
The change of heart takes the form of Mormons marching in more than 20 pride parades in 2102, and several more this year, holding signs that range from, “This Mormon Mom Supports Your Right to Marry” to “Sorry We’re Late!”
The change of heart takes the form of Mormons standing in respectful disagreement to public policy measures for the same reason the Supreme Court found last month: Because discriminating against any family is wrong. These same Mormons mobilized in Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington to staff phone banks and engage in letter writing campaigns to public officials to express Mormon support for marriage equality.
The change of heart takes the form of Mormon congregations throwing their doors open to everyone, and welcoming our LGBT brothers and sisters back into their family of faith—whether they’re partnered or single—without fear of being excommunicated for being their authentic selves.
Perhaps best of all, the change of heart takes the form of Mormon support for recent court rulings on DOMA and Prop. 8, which show us that marriage equality is a question of when, and not if.
I am not an official church spokesperson, and my words don’t reflect the formal position of the LDS Church. But the great news is we now live in a world where my opinions are shared by countless Mormons across the country. We celebrate the recent court rulings alongside our LGBT brothers and sisters—rulings that for many of us better align with our Mormon faith, which states that it is unjust for a particular set of religious beliefs to be used to deny the civil rights of others (D&C 134 and 11th Article of Faith).
We have come a long way in the past five years. The pride marches are especially symbolic for us as Mormons—we have pioneer roots, and our history is rich with accounts of Mormons pulling handcarts, marching place to place to find a location where we were free to be ourselves.
So it is with the pride marches. We put one foot in front of the other as a symbol of the steps we're taking to help ensure inclusion for our LGBT brothers and sisters. For the San Francisco Pride march every year, we reach the completion of our short journey down Market Street in a little over an hour. But from a larger metaphoric sense, we're still marching to open doors to a place where each person is safe to be their genuine self.
When will we reach the end of our journey? We don't know. But what we do know is that this is the journey our Savior wants us to be undertaking right now, and like the handcart stories of our ancestors, this one will also be filled with wonderful accounts about the kindness of friends we meet along the way.
So to our brothers and sisters in the LGBT community, when our group of Mormon pioneers—equipped with a mighty change of heart—crosses your path, we hope you’ll extend the hand of friendship many of us were unable to extend to you five years ago.
After all, I’m pretty sure that’s what our Savior would do.
MITCH MAYNE is an openly gay member of the Church of Latter-day Saints. He is the executive secretary of the Bishopric of the Bay Ward of San Francisco.