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A few months ago President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency in the LDS church threw out the first pitch in a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game marking a high point in what has been called the “Mormon Moment” as well as a 25 year tradition of having “Mormon Night” at the ball field.  It was a happy moment for LDS families to watch a familiar summer sporting event and at the same time also seeing a beloved leader of the church engage with the crowd and throw out the ceremonial first pitch.  As Mormons continue to make their way into mainstream America we can look back and recognize that we have come a long way.  But what would have happened that night if President Uchtdorf and the Mormon families looked up into the sky and saw a plane with a message trailing behind it saying in big bright red letters:  WARNING MORMON NIGHT.  What might have been the reaction?  Would President Uchtdorf’s face have been as jovial?  What would LDS children think as they looked up at the plane and the message?  What would their parents have told them?  Would we as Mormons have objected to it privately or would we have objected to it publically?  Would we believe that those who hired the plane had our best interest at heart?  Would we consider it hateful, ignorant, or just misguided?  Would it have received news coverage and made the headlines?

A few weeks before this Mormon Night at Dodger Stadium my family and I had the opportunity to go to Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando Florida.  It was a great time for our family and we had so much fun.  We were all surprised to find out that we were there at the same time that it was “Gay Days” at the Orlando parks.  What I saw was probably very similar to what was seen at Dodger Stadium, happy individuals, couples and families having a good time.  Those who were LGBT wore red shirts to be recognized.  When we found out that it was Gay Days I was excited because I had come out as an LGBT ally last November in Salt Lake City while serving as a bishop.  My excitement changed to indignation as I looked up in the sky and saw a plane flying overhead with a clear message in red saying:  WARNING GAY DAYS.  I wondered to myself how things could have become so extreme that some individual or group would hire a plane to send this hateful message.  Was there no sense of decency any longer?  Was there no sense of civility or goodwill?  Though it was the summer, I heard the lament of Henry W. Longfellow in my mind:

  And in despair I bow'd my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."
Regaining my composure and knowing the remaining lyrics to the song I took courage and smiled at the individuals, couples, and families seeing them and their families as my equals and knowing that I had made the right choice to come out as an ally.  I was practicing the Golden Rule because I knew what it was like to be a minority and to be persecuted and for myths to be created about me and about my family and friends. 
I also remembered the words of Michael Otterson, official spokesperson for the LDS church when he said this in October 2010:

We join our voice with others in unreserved condemnation of acts of cruelty or attempts to belittle or mock any group or individual that is different – whether those differences arise from race, religion, mental challenges, social status, sexual orientation or for any other reason.  Such actions simply have no place in our society.
This Church has felt the bitter sting of persecution and marginalization early in our history, when we were too few in numbers to adequately protect ourselves and when society’s leaders often seemed disinclined to help.  Our parents, young adults, teens and children should therefore, of all people, be especially sensitive to the vulnerable in society and be willing to speak out against bullying or intimidation whenever it occurs. …Each Latter-day Saint family and individual should carefully consider whether their attitudes and actions toward others properly reflect Jesus Christ’s second great commandment - to love one another.

As we made our way through the parks that day, I took comfort from the Spirit knowing all would be well and that love would conquer hate, goodwill would dissolve rancor, and decency would neutralize this poisonous venom.  I knew in my heart that more and more Mormons would stand against this hate and walk away from it as they would a plague.  I felt a peace come over me and as Henry D. Longfellow said “the world revolved from night to day”.  I once again had confidence in the vision and the dream that so many others have had before me of peace on earth and goodwill to all of humanity.

Kevin Kloosterman, LMFT is a mental health professional who has worked in a hospital setting for over 15 years.  He has been an LDS bishop and is an advocate for LGBT individuals in and outside of the LDS church. 

Out of the Blue

The phone rang the other day.  The area code was a bit curious and when he answered it, my husband had a puzzled look on his face.  We were in the car an hour from home.  He stopped, parked on the side of the road, and chatted with a young LDS missionary for several minutes.

I wondered a few times over the past four years if this was ever going to happen.  In the beginning of my journey out of the Church, I thought a lot about it.  What would I say if someone tried to reconvert me, or one of mine, to Mormonism?  In the beginning, I would have been snarky.  I would have been angry.  I had a list in my head of the things I would bring up, problems with the doctrine, historical issues, and challenges to the glistening white Seminary version of the history.

Since then my anger has been ruined, spoiled for lack of a better word.  All of the frustration toward a representative of the Church (anyone will do, even a starry-eyed kid from Provo) simply melted away like a chocolate ice cream cone in July.  Oh, curses! 

When my husband turned the phone over to me (he was actually working and required to get out of the car) nothing snarky found its way into my brain.  No harsh words for Joseph Smith and his practices in polyandry, nothing even from Brother Brigham and Mountain Meadows Massacre.

All I could think about was the young woman, sitting on the phone with her name tag glowing in the light of her enthusiasm.  I thought of the person who put our names in for the referral, and, as hard as I tried, I was not even able to conjure up harsh feelings toward him.

As I spoke with the young missionary, warm words came out of my mouth.  I recalled many of the good things that come with being a Mormon.  I thought about the sense of community, the service-ready hearts that come at the first word of a need or a tragedy.  I thought of the quiet stillness in the Celestial Room, and the hush that falls over the chapel during the passing of the Sacrament. 

I didn’t set an appointment to meet with the missionaries.  I’m not reconverting to the Church.  My worries and issues with history, homophobia, and misogyny didn’t disappear in a single phone call.

I thought back to the 2011 Mormon Stories Conference, to Joanna Brooks talk.  I am a former member of the Church.  I resigned my membership in 2008.  But still, parts of my Mormon upbringing and heritage go beyond a name on a database.  Like she said, you can’t wash that out.

Like Joanna, and John Dehlin, and Mitch Mayne, and people who continue to talk about bridge building, and finding a place for everyone have made their mark on my heart and mind.  Sitting in the car with the phone up to my ear, I heard the earnest sincerity in the young sister’s voice; her beautiful testimony passed through my ears and curled up in a warm place inside my heart.  

After the call ended, I looked up another number.  The missionary gave me the name of the person who had referred us to the missionaries.  As I dialed that number, I pictured heads bowed around a dinner table asking for the spirit to bless my family, to open our hearts to the truth once more.  I expected to feel irritation, insult, and annoyance.  But I came up with nothing.  Except that I was touched, greatly moved by the love that accompanied the thought.  I called the person, and I thanked him for his love and thoughtfulness, and I told him that I know where the desire had come from.

The interesting thing is that I would have traded anything for someone to have tried to reach out when as my testimony died a slow and painful death.  In those days I was met with disdain, misunderstanding, even bitterness from people who used to have me over for dinner.  It might sound counterintuitive, but I prefer this.  I prefer the olive branch.  Anger is overrated.

I am for peace.  I am for those in The Middle Way.

who we are

Welcome to The Peacewriter.

We all want to belong somewhere, to someone. It is a basic human need.

If you have ever experienced a period of doubt or questioned your beliefs in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you know that this is not a minor thing. It is tantamount to a crisis, and one that can be life altering.

Lose your testimony, and you stand to lose everything that matters.

There are those who exist on the fringes of the Church, who feel disenfranchised, even unwanted. If you are single, gay or lesbian, feminist, atheist, or uncorrelated, it can be tough to feel like a part of the community. You may feel that you do not belong.

You belong here.

If you have ever loved someone who endured a faith crisis, you know that there are a lot of gray areas. Uncertainty is the dominant force; black and white become moot points.

Those who have walked the same path share a common bond, understood by few who have not traveled the same road.

This is the place to share common experiences, to find a voice, to be heard. This is the place to seek after peace, and to find it in the common ties we share.

This is The Peacewriter.

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