When The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Mormons, made a donation to the Utah Pride Center a few weeks ago you could hear the cries across the coffee shops and congregations of Utah; I don’t believe it? WTF! Oh. my heck!
The donation was made in response to a request by the Utah Pride Center for perishable food items to supplement a program put in place and staffed by community volunteers that feed homeless youth. The Utah Pride Center asked the church for a small amount, because that was what was needed. And it was a beginning, a step. The church responded, first with "Are you sure you don’t need more?" and then "We’d be happy to help."
The Mormons and the gays are not exactly like wine and cheese when paired together. They will continue to view the world differently. We, as gay people, celebrate marriage equality; they, with no ironic nod to their polygamous past and celestial future, say marriage should be limited to one man and one woman. They think religious liberty is under attack; we don’t. They go to a churchwide conference twice a year; we go to the Pride festival. We all like wedding cake.
Still, this event is important. It marks, just in this year, another step forward between our two communities. The first a nondiscrimination bill passed by the Utah legislature with church support this past March, the second giving food to the hungry this past month.
The blowback at both organizations began quickly following the announcement of the donation. Social media lit up. News organizations called. Some in the LGBTQ camp saw it as a cynical PR gesture, others called it stingy. Some Mormons saw it as capitulation, another step toward the slippery slope. The common sin — engaging with "the other." As with the biblical lepers or the portable bathroom at Pride, cautious approach is the common behavior. But amid all the judging and nattering, there was a cheer to be heard. A cry of affirmation from both sides. This is a good thing.
Many know the stats. LGBTQ youth constitute 40 percent of homeless youth. The suicide rate of LGBTQ homeless youth is 62 percent, compared to heterosexual homeless youth at 29 percent. In Utah many of these kids are from Mormon homes. Declining the goodwill of the LDS church for the sake of ideology or to nurse past wounds denies us the chance to help the hungry and those at risk. Bodies in distress are the wrong battleground.
You can get tied up in your underwear pretty quickly if you examine the provenance of good and evil. Trace back far enough and you’ll find a poisoning moment in even the purest of legacies. Deciding how far down the stream you have to go before the distance is sufficiently sanitizing is thinking about the wrong thing, and it denies us all the moment to make a better choice, as organizations and as individuals. We can only absolve the past by changing the future. When a homeless kid asks, “How will I get through this day?” let’s put our differences aside and together answer, “May we offer some help?”