A few weeks ago I made my own version of the “I’m a Mormon” ads the Church has been running and put it up on my friends YouTube account. [Note: The video ends with the words “I’m pro gay-rights, and I’m Mormon.” See it here.]
Making that video seemed like a great idea at the time. I got a lot of good responses at first. Then, I started to get Church members telling me I’d be excommunicated. And now the only people who seem to be viewing are hardcore Mormon haters. I tried to ignore them and deleted most of the comments, but you can tell by the dislike count that I’ve been getting a lot of ridicule now.
I should have just ignored all the comments, but one person told me about a video with Bill Maher and Craig Ferguson. I watched it and it had too much in it for me to just toss aside. I will admit, though I have a testimony of the LDS church, I don’t know as much about it as a lot of nonmembers apparently.
Bill talked about so many things I’d never heard of before. And he of course had to make a point that we are all extremely weird and something about how we ignore science and anything intellectual. I hate that stereotype more than any of the others because I am an intellectual.
Anyway, I don’t know if you’ve seen the video already, but he made a lot of really short points that supposedly proved our entire religion wrong. I’m sorry to bug you about this, but I can’t think of anyone else. All the members I know personally will only slap me on the wrist for watching the video and tell me that it was Satan or something. I don’t want to live the rest of my life just brushing these things off – I want to fully understand all of it so that I know my beliefs are justified.
Do you have any advice?
Oh, dear, SRK. The web is a crazy medium, isn’t it? Instantaneous, anonymous, addictive . . . and it sure can bring out the mean and crazy in people.
A friend who works in some geeky but profitable sector of internet technologies told me that even on geeky tech discussion boards the comments quickly degenerate into outright flame war and insanity. Just over geeky tech stuff! Mixing Mormonism and gay rights on YouTube? Way more potent.
But you did it! With all the bravery, heart, and idealism of the 19 year old you are. Your video warmed my heart. You’re smart, you’re talented, and you have a terrific story to tell about how Mormonism teaches values of compassion, hope, and respect. I’m proud of you for using your voice.
The dizziness and self-consciousness you’re feeling now? Let’s call it an internet hangover. It comes from overexposure and the confusing erasure of personal boundaries that happens in virtual reality. You stood up for your values. You told your story. And now hundreds of people motivated by everything from boredom to vengeance to grouchiness to self-righteousness to clinical insanity are weighing in on you and your beliefs. What to do?
You’ve got to learn how to protect yourself and create healthy boundaries as you continue to explore and learn how you will live your Mormon faith as an adult.
First, put aside the excommunication thing. You should know that during the height of the Proposition 8 campaign, the Church openly stated that Mormons who favored same-sex marriage rights should not be disciplined just for favoring gay rights. So take a deep breath and relax.
Second, while you’re still under the influence of your internet hangover, make no major decisions about your religious life or practice.
Third, step away from the YouTube for a week or two. If not six months. Maybe a year? Stop reading the comments. I repeat: stop reading the comments. Resist the urge to dial back in for the electric thrill of seeing yourself loved or hated by strangers. If strangers knocked at your door and asked to come into your house so they could tell you what was wrong with your Mormonism, would you let them in the house? No? Good. So then, why let internet strangers get into your head?
Fourth, kick Bill Maher out of your head too. He’s talking trash about me, and you, and your grandma, and my grandma . . . and I love my grandma! No one talks trash about my grandma! Kick him out of your head! Plus, Bill Maher is no expert on Mormonism. He is a man who mocks all religion and who has selectively cherry-picked (in this video) two of the most random horrifying bits of Mormon racism I’ve never heard of, and one teaching (about Native people as a lost tribe of Israel) that has nothing to do with the core principles of our faith. People who have no understanding of Mormonism have no clue that ours is a living, evolving tradition capable of recognizing and setting aside its own errors. Just because a Mormon—even a Mormon with a title—once said it does not make it true for Mormons today.
Fifth, buckle down and focus on your studies. You’re a college student (and a Utah State University Aggie, I see). This is a very natural point in your life to start learning more about Mormon history, doctrine, and culture. And you don’t have to do it alone. Check out the Mormon Stories podcast (produced right there in Logan by your fellow Aggie John Dehlin) for in-depth interviews from a Mormon point of view with Mormon experts on some of the trickiest and most fascinating aspects of the Mormon world. Plus, USU is a great place to take Mormon Studies courses with faculty expert Phillip Barlow. When the New York Times wants to understand Mormonism, it calls Phillip Barlow, not Bill Maher. Walk to his on-campus office, find his office hours, and pay him a visit in real-time. Tell him about the Bill Maher incident. Tell him that you’re ready to take your understanding of Mormonism more seriously. Ask for a list of books that you can read.
Your Mormon upbringing taught you that you have the power to receive inspiration and make decisions for your own life through study, contemplation, and prayer. Do not give that power away. Do not assume that strangers know more about your life and your faith than you do. Especially not strangers who post mean comments on YouTube. Or Bill Maher.
SRK, you have all the makings of an incredible Mormon woman. This is the time in your life to prepare to kick butt. Don’t waste it by allowing others to exploit your open-heartedness. Be wise, protect yourself, and use your powers for good.
Anything I’ve forgotten, readers? Any words of encouragement or guidance for SRK? (And please, be gentle—the girl has an internet hangover, after all.)
Send your query to firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow askmormongirl on Twitter.
9 responses to “Ask Mormon Girl: My pro-gay-rights Mormon YouTube video is drawing heat. Help?”
Always impressed at how you answer these questions Joanna. You do a great job.
I got to agree – your beliefs are between you and the Lord. And you will find some who agree and some who disagree. Finding what you believe in makes you stronger — at least it does for me. Finding allies is good – but you can’t look for validation because while you might find it, you will also find naysayers.
I admire your courage for posting that video
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Whether we dislike Bill Maher or think his comments are in poor taste doesn’t make up for the very real issues with Book of Mormon historicity and the Church’s past history with racism.
In a nutshell, I would say to SRK: yes, the particular issues you have stumbled across are real. Many people are able to put information like this in context and proceed within the faith. Here’s a secret they don’t tell you: even though the culture of the Church doesn’t allow for much public variation in belief; you will find that many divergent views about the Church’s ‘controversial’ issues are privately held by active LDS people.
If you study the issues for yourself and have open discussions with people you trust both inside and outside of mainstream Mormonism, you will discover a variety of ways that people deal with these and other problem areas in LDS history and doctrine. Over time you will develop your own set of beliefs; your beliefs may not always be exactly the same as the answers you hear in Sunday School, and that is not as unusual a state of affairs as you may now think. Good luck, and welcome to adulthood.
Comments on YouTube usually start getting nasty very quickly. The best thing to do is ignore them.
I’ve been deleting negative comments as they appear… I mean, the ones that are pure hate and no logic. Also, I’ve gotten some private youtube messages that aren’t too pretty… but I guess it really doesn’t matter what strangers think so long as I don’t let anyone or anything change my beliefs. Thanks again Joanna for your amazing answer! 😀
Just one thing that wasn’t really addressed in what I read here, and I think you understand it, but others here may not. The idea that we ignore science and intellectualism is completely false. There have been very interesting studies on correlations of higher education on religiosity, and at least one study that I’ve read (very laboriously, it was scholarly) that broke down individual religions. The results were that higher education generally increases religiosity in general. When you break in down by religion however, most ‘born again’ styles of Christianity had increased education correlated with decreased religiosity. The LDS Church had the strongest correlation that increased education corresponded with increased religiosity. Essentially, the findings were that the LDS Church is the most intellectually compatible religion out of all of those sampled.
I just want SRK to know that’s she’s not alone out there. I’m a 22 year old gay-loving Mormon. I’ve had struggles finding my place in Mormon-topia especially in polarized southern Utah. I know what I believe about the church. I know the doctrine, but the fuzzy areas come when concepts and personal biases are presented as doctrine. I support the purpose of the HRC and I feel hurt and confused when they post something anti-Mormon. It makes me question my choices. But you just have to remember that your faith isn’t actually based on the church, but on the pure love of Christ.
I have felt, for a long while, a pull towards the LDS faith. I am not LDS (yet?), but I have been studying the faith and find so much of it attractive. I do, however, have an intellectual and liberal bent, which keeps me from making a full commitment to conversion. I have a hard time reconciling the aspects of the faith that I feel are so right when I see actions (both past and present) taken by members or the leaders that in my gut feels so wrong. There are so many parts of Mormonism (from my non-member vantage) that are beautiful. I cling to those rather than the proclamations that seem so not what Christ was about. Thank you for these posts, from someone who is wondering where she fits.
Every group has its crazies; its intellectually-challenged blowhards; its cocksure ignoramuses (ignoramii?) who feel it their duty to tell everyone bluntly how stupid they are if they disagree. Ignore them. Joanna gave you a *great* answer.
One last thing: Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert (no matter how funny he is), and others engage in spin. Anyone can take any event or concept and twist it into an ugly pretzel. Ignore them and determine for yourself what you feel and believe.