This post started out much differently than it ended up. When I read a Salt Lake Tribune story entitled "Mormon bishop says church responsible for gays’ emotional wounds", I immediately saw red. I wanted this bishop released from his calling straightaway, because I got the impression he was publicly attacking the Church. That's because the Tribune quoted the bishop as saying that the way gays are treated and perceived by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is an “atrocity”.
The incident took place during a conference for gay Mormons, their family members, friends, and even sympathetic non-members, known as "Circling The Wagons". The conference, hosted by Mormon Stories and the Open Stories Foundation in Salt Lake City from November 4-6, 2011, was dedicated to the issues of homosexuality and same-sex attraction within Mormonism. To promote attendance by the widest possible economic cross-section of the targeted audience, Mormon Stories allowed people to pay less than the standard registration cost if they felt they couldn't afford it.
It was on November 6th that Bishop Kevin Kloosterman delivered his remarks. Bishop Kloosterman said he recently became aware of LGBT issues and that his views had changed from that of the church — that acting on gay urges violates its moral code — and had a mighty change of heart. He also implied that straight members of the Church had some repenting to do.
But did he really mean that LDS policy towards gay was an "atrocity"? Fortunately, Mormon Stories editor John Dehlin published a written transcript of Kloosterman's address; here's the applicable portion:
Over the past year, I have felt promptings from the Spirit that I needed to learn all I could about these issues. To listen, finally, to many of your stories. Some of them I’ve read in books. Some of them I’ve read on the Internet. And as I took the time to listen and as I took the time to learn, I began to have a mighty change of heart.
But it was not without some pain. As you know very well, the stories that have been written, your own stories, are extremely painful. Some have called it a tragedy. I call it an atrocity, what has happened. And as I read these stories and as I learned more about these issues, I began to see the emotional wounds and the scars that many of you still have today. And I seem to ask the question, “Where did you get these wounds?” and unfortunately the answer was, “In the house of my friends.”
From this excerpt, we see that the Tribune got a few things wrong. First, the term "atrocity" was used in relation to the experiences of some gays within the Church, and not in relation to official Church policy. Second, there's no evidence that Bishop Kloosterman said he differed from official Church policy; his remark about "in the house of my friends" simply meant that some gays had been mistreated by individual ward members or the occasional bishop, and his remark about a "change of heart" was in reference strictly to his own attitudes. And finally, Bishop Kloosterman expressly stated that he was speaking only for himself.
There is NO EVIDENCE that Bishop Kloosterman does not sustain official Church policy or that he is out of harmony with the Brethren. Consequently, if I was his stake president, I might call him in for an informal chat to ascertain that he does still sustain the policy and the Brethren, and if so, I would not release him from his position. He has not engaged in ark-steadying or spoken evil of the Lord's anointed. Shame on the Salt lake Tribune for misrepresenting this man.
Yet some damage was done. While most of the 689 comments posted to the Tribune (at least the ones that were on topic) are sympathetic towards Bishop Kloosterman, a few faithful Mormons were offended:
cayman_island_dweller November 6th 10:05 P.M:
This man does not deserve to be a bishop and should be released. He has said nothing worthy of excommunication. If this man no longer believes that homosexuality is a sin then he does not support the teachings of the church and should not hold a leadership position. No different than if I were a Boy Scout leader and no longer believed that pedophiles should not be den leaders.
Golden November 6th 9:15 P.M:
I see a bishop who will not have a job in the LDS Church come Monday morning.
The Church will act very quickly on this and a new bishop will be installed by next Sunday.
When will people finally understand the Lord's, and His Father's position, on gay marriage?
Any sexual activity, outside of a marriage between a man and a woman, is sin.
Chatter14 November 6th 8:15 P.M:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints does not have an anti-gay policy. In following God's laws it teaches acceptance of the individual not the act of homosexuality. The Bishop or ex-Bishop does not understand that the Church organization is perfect but the people in it are not. There is no perfect human being. The Bishop must have ulterior motives for speaking against the Church he is supposed to uphold. He is free to join any Church that does not follow God's laws, nobody forces him to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
ruthpan November 6th 7:10 P.M:
Kloosterman has to repent, too. He is accusing me of hurting gay people. He cannot go around accusing people. I do believe in personal responsibility: I cannot get depressed because someone said unkind words to me. Many gay people have said unkind things to me and I didn't cry or complain. I don't think they will fight for my rights, but they want me to fight for their rights. I don't care if people are gays or polygamists but they should take personal responsibility.
While I am a traditionalist when it comes to using the power of procreation, I don't like to see the media misrepresent people and trigger unnecessary division and polarization.