I’ve been a fan of your content for a while now, and it’s very heartwarming to know that you’re open to answering questions submitted to you. That’s so kind of you, and I hope it brings you joy!
I’ve been having a rough time recently. I grew up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (mormonism), which is definitely a high demand christian religion. I still practice and attend the well known church funded university BYU. Religious deconstruction among mormons (the term used among historians for people who believe in the book of Mormon) is facilitated somewhat by the obvious dissonance between the hierarchical, cult-like structure that modern church leaders have built around themselves, and the de-colonial, anti-capitalist, anti-racist messages found in the Book of Mormon. I find joy in those teachings, and would normally love to share some specific passages that share those ideas, but I’ll restrain myself to avoid disrespectful evangelism.
In the last year I took up drag artistry as a hobby. I started volunteering with a local non-profit that holds lgbtq events and sponsors lgbtq advocacy at my university. I’m on the verge of bridging the communications gap between on campus poc advocacy groups and off campus lgbtq+ advocacy groups, which I’m really excited about. The meeting is on Friday!
In the last year I’ve also been sent death threats for the first time. My friends have had letters threatening to make them disappear sent right to their doorsteps. I’ve been called multitudinous slurs. People who know nothing about me have called for my excommunication from my church and my expulsion from my university. A professor sprayed the inside of a friend’s car with lethal herbicides and sent him to urgent care with chemical burns and lasting nerve damage. To top it off, in May after President Dallin H. Oaks (first presidency of the lds church and board of trustees of BYU) gave a “we love the gays and the trans but they live in confusion and sin,” devotional to young single adults, the World Congress of Families (the board of which Oaks is on) got the Ugandan anti-homosexuality act passed.
It’s been so much to take in. Everyone in my community has been impacted by mormonism in some way. So many of my friends in lgbtq circles are wont to project trauma from rape, gaslighting, abusive marriages, traumatic mission trips, conversion therapy, etc. Sometimes I feel like I can barely trust my ability to discern spiritual truth through the dark cloud of what could be trauma or worry for my friends or any number of things. This is definitely something I’ll discuss with my therapist (who was excommunicated about a month ago for practicing polyamory *eyeroll*), but I’d like to hear your perspective on the matter. How do you discern spiritual truth from fantasies your wish to be true? What helps you hope for a better world to come?
Something that I consider unique about mormon theology is our concept of utopia, or Zion. Our scripture clearly describes cities and communities of people who do not fight, who have all things in common, who remember the teachings of Christ to live them, who dissolve their socioeconomic divisions, set aside ethnocentrism and racism, and who live in joy for a time before socioeconomic hierarchy is reintroduced and the people becomes wicked and miserable. That formula, which I lament to observe is more important to me than for many members of my church, lends itself to the organization of worship communities and organized activism complemented by individual worship and study rather than isolated discipleship. Do you think it is possible to build Zion from the ashes of this fire while the flame still burns?
I’m very familiar with progressive mormon scholars (Kate Thomas, Eliza R. Snow, Emmeline B. Wells, Eugene England, Mike Quinn, Eloise Bell, Taylor Petrey, Dan Mclellan and so on). I feel like I’m less familiar with progressive christian scholarship more broadly outside of CJ the X and a few instagram accounts I follow. Are there any progressive christian scholars whose work you particularly admire? Who should I be reading up on?
Much love and well wishes,
A transgender student at BYU