Jacob Newman: LGBT Mormons hear their leaders and feel a twinge of pain

In the Oct. 15 edition of The Salt Lake Tribune, Stuart C. Reid published a piece criticizing the critiques of Elder Dallin H. Oaks and his recent comments about the LGBT community.

In this piece, Reid falsely asserts that Oaks has always been on the side of being more accepting of LGBT individuals. Unfortunately, my lived experience as a gay man and a former Latter-day Saint informs me otherwise. Many Latter-day Saints cannot comprehend the profound spiritual pain that my LGBT siblings have experienced because of the words and actions of Oaks and other LDS leaders.

Mormonism is my spiritual heritage. Try as much as I can, I cannot wash off my Mormon identity. I cherish my time in the LDS Church, especially my missionary service in Thailand. These formative experiences taught me values that I hold to this day: love, acceptance and patience. But my Mormon experience, nor the experience of countless other LGBT Mormons, was not without its pain.

I remember when Oaks told families to not allow same-sex couples to be introduced publicly. I still recall his words that LGBT acceptance was a sign of the decaying world we live in, along with unwed mothers. I still get a knot in my stomach when I think of his address in June 2019 in which he equated “a culture of evil and personal wickedness” with LGBT identity and values.

Since I started at Brigham Young University in 2008, I have seen the LDS Church side consistently against LGBT individuals in political battles. From Proposition 8 in 2008 and filing an amicus brief to the Supreme Court opposing employment protections for LGBT individuals under Title VII earlier this month, the LDS Church has drawn a line in the sand: LGBT protections cannot supersede the protections for the religious who have moral objections to LGBT relationships and identity.

In public religious rhetoric, Oaks has made LGBT rights the focus of many talks in the last several years, focusing on how LGBT identity and behavior are inconsistent with Latter-day Saint belief. In his most recent address, he stated: "Regretfully, some persons facing these issues (LGBT identity) continue to feel marginalized and rejected by some members and leaders in our families, wards, and stakes. We must all strive to be kinder and more civil.”

LGBT individuals hear these words and feel a twinge of pain. We have seen the LDS Church’s actions in the political arena. We have heard the words from leaders that have attacked us. These words permeate throughout the culture in every LDS meetinghouse throughout the world.

Being kinder and more civil needs to begin with the actions of the LDS Church as an institution and a political and social force in our local and national politics. Oaks continues to use microaggressive language to attack the LGBT community, all while simultaneously asking LGBT individuals to be more civil to religious people, claiming “fairness for all.”

LDS leaders continue to use the church’s Family Proclamation to negate our existence. The marginalized are constantly asked to be kinder to abusive systems and individuals.

The LGBT community is weary of the culture war waged by Oaks. We want protections in employment and housing. We want equal treatment under the law. We want to feel safe with our families who are still devout Latter-day Saints.

I implore Oaks to stop attacking and mentioning LGBT individuals in every conference, unless he is going to repent for his past words that have wounded us. Oaks has divided families and cost us dear souls of LGBT Mormons. Both God and history are watching.

Jacob Newman

Jacob Newman, Millcreek, served an LDS mission in Thailand and now lives with his husband of three years.