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In response to the LDS Church's bewildering new Handbook 1 obligations, a mass resignation came together Saturday in Salt Lake City. I don't live in Utah, so I missed the event. I expect that if I had been there I would have attended, in solidarity with folks with whom I strongly identify.
But I'm not going to resign my LDS membership.
The United States has done some perfectly awful, disgraceful things. Centuries of slavery ought to be enough to make any U.S. citizen burn his or her passport. Then there's all the other stuff, but I'll leave you to fill in the blanks.
Even though I see that the United States has engaged in some of the worst imaginable behavior, I think I can make a good case for not renouncing my U.S. citizenship. My U.S. identity is my identity. I was born to it, I own it, I gladly inhabit it, in spite of Ferguson and a host of other disgraces.
Among other things, my U.S. identity calls me to help make the U.S. a better place. As ugly as things might be in the U.S. these days, history suggests that the country can get better. Maybe by staying, I can help prevent the next disgrace.
I'm not so confident, anymore, that I can help prevent the LDS Church's next grotesque blunder. They're coming faster and more furious, and I've mostly lost hope that I can keep up. This may mark lights out, indeed, on the notion that the LDS Church's aim is to contribute to the ever-increasing joy of the world. But I'm staying anyway, as painful as it is.
I'm not only glad that same-sex marriage is legal, I also support it as a moral, ethical, spiritual institution. Furthermore, I'm in favor of the development of same-sex marriage, and the same-sex sex that often goes with it, into a perfectly not-strange arrangement, accepted by all as just as normal as other-sex marriage and other-sex sex.
Further furthermore, I'm in favor of the "naturalization" of same-sex marriage as an LDS-Mormon person. My hopeless LDS-Mormon hope is that in the coming decades, I will find myself standing in a circle at the front of an LDS chapel, alongside my wife, to give a name and a blessing to the child of married, same-sex friends whose temple sealing we will have attended.
If my approval even advocacy of the normalization of same-sex marriage makes me an apostate, so be it. But the LDS Church, people in the LDS Church, real human beings who know me, will have to make a deliberate effort to certify this as fact. Some individuals in my ward, in my stake, will have to talk to me to me, the person, writing these words they'll have to prepare the paperwork, they'll have to examine the relationship they presume to have with Jesus the Savior of the World, they'll have to wrestle with their consciences over the weight of my sin, and with the consequences to themselves if they weigh wrongly. In the end, they'll have to choose to damn me.
I think no one should resign. I think it is a great service to the LDS Church, and to the world that the church continues to wound, to make people in the church choose to excommunicate their friends and family in every single case. I think the process should be difficult and miserable, and that the folks who would cleanse their church should be forced to look into the eyes of each person they want to eliminate and say, "We don't want you."
Where I am in favor, hopelessly, of a same-sex Mormon future, I am against, realistically, I think, a heartless, vindictive Mormon future. My less-than-hopeless hope is that the people who constitute the church can't undertake the cruelty of current policy and that the task of spiritually executing their family and friends, face to face, one after another, will transform them, and the church, too, as a matter of course.
I'm staying, because there is a joyful Mormon vision, and because I'm certain that making people in the institution carry out the inhumane policies of a soulless handbook is the best chance there is to change those policies that strangle that joy.
David Mason is chairman of theater and director of Asian studies at Rhodes College in Memphis. He is the author of "Brigham Young: Sovereign in America," "Theatre and Religion on Krishna's Stage" and "My Mormonism." He writes the Aestheism blog at Patheos.com.