Today, November 5, 2017 is the anniversary of the infamous LDS Church policy regarding gay parents and their children. I was asked to speak at this event. Here are the words I shared.
A Lesson that Haunts Me
Einstein, a genius adult, said this: “If I were to remain silent, I’d be guilty of complicity.”
Rulon, a mentally handicapped child taught me this: “If I don’t dissent, I consent.”
In 1968, I entered my high school years. I was proud to a Layton Lancer. Like most kids, I was a bit intimidated. Nervous and super excited. Those high school years were very good years.
However, one HUGE regret has dogged me all the years since. The path of action that I’ve chosen, has been molded by a long lingering shame from that one incident.
After 50 years, it still brings tears to my eyes.
It occurred during my 9th grade gym class…in the locker room. My locker was located in the same row as Rulon’s. At least, I’ll call him Rulon here. There are very few individuals in this world who ALWAYS have a smile lighting up their face. I don’t recall ever seeing Rulon without his amazing smile brightly beaming.
Rulon was “retarded.”
Today, that’s not a proper way to refer to the mentally disadvantaged. That’s just the word we used back then. All of his classes were special education, except for gym. Kids will be kids. Boys will be boys. And that means constant teasing. Rulon was a convenient and frequent target. A victim of pure innocence. But, somehow his smile remained immutable.
Then, one day……Oh why did that day have to happen? It happened, just a few lockers away. Two of my friends were teasing, then taunting, then harassing the innocently smiling boy. They threw him up against the locker wall. I can still hear the dull thudding clank of his body against the metal. My friends roughed him up. The evergreen smile disappeared. Confused and distraught, he couldn’t understand what he had done to deserve such a beating. A beating……..by friends……..among friends……..witnessed by friends.
As for me, and several others. No…I’ll just focus on what I did. I sat there and watched. Uncomfortable and frozen. Repulsed, and passive.
When Rulon’s whipping was finished, he slumped. Gazed at the floor. Forlorn and smileless. I sat there. Then I turned away. Then I left.
I raised no objection. I offered no dissent. I stayed silent and watched. An innocent happy soul was harmed. After the damage was done, couldn’t I have apologized? Couldn’t I have reached out with words of comfort and love? I had four high school years to do it. I didn’t.
My high school career came and went. Once in a while, I would see Rulon in the halls. I don’t recall any conversations after that fateful day. This pure and radiant boy was never the same. That gym class had changed him. Skittish. Jumpy. Confidence and trust in friends were tarnished and tattered.
Many times, I’ve thought of my locker room failure. I’d like to personally tell him I’m sorry. But that chance is long gone. The boy with the ceaseless shining smile is no more. He died young….decades ago.
Today, I realize that I was complicit with my silence. By not standing for my friend, I gave my consent. By not speaking for my friend, I offered my consent. By just staring at my friend, I granted my consent.
The meek and lowly Rulon was among the “least of these,” of whom Jesus taught us to be mindful. Failing one of the least, has taught me a mighty lesson. If I don’t dissent…I’m giving my consent.
Today, Rulon, I WOULD stand up For you
Of course, I was a child back in 9th grade.
“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
I’m a man, fully grown. No more will I consent with my silence. That only gives harm its license. Nope. This time I’ll think & take action. I will not live out my remaining years in disgrace.
And how do I dissent? Let me recount the ways.
#1) For 2 years, I met with my bishop and stake president many times for hours and hours. Not to discuss truth claims. Rather, to explore how we could help those on the margins. These are very good men. Ultimately, they decided to take no action. It simply isn’t in their power to make any changes.
#2) Nov 5, 2015, I was angered and hurt by a policy that was privately perpetrated on me and the entire church. I was done. For the first time in 45 years, I went shopping for boxers. My garments came off. That night my poor wife was shattered and scared to death. The specter of divorce raised its ugly head. My wife and family are more important than my underwear or differences in belief. I redonned my garments. Stayed in the church. And went about healing family relationships.
#3) For the past couple of years, I’ve written my damn heart out: on my blog, on social media, and on my public Facebook page. As a result of being open and honest, I’ve lost business and many friends.
#4) For the last 1 ½ years, I have exercised my right and obligation to participate in the law of common consent. I voted opposed at every voting conference. On the ward level, on the stake level, and during general conference. In April of this year, I voted opposed in the Conference Center. There were 3 of us who stood and shouted ‘OPPOSED.’ I DISSENT, my friend Rulon, I DISSENT.
I wish everyone in the church would express their disapproval through a vote of Common Consent. Most members can’t do it for several valid reasons. Those that do vote are mostly doing it with their feet.
Many of you have left the church. Many will resign today. I honor, respect and understand your path. Actually, I can totally empathize. I’ve experienced the gut-wrench, the excruciating pain and the soul crushing loneliness of a faith transition. I consider you my friends no matter what your beliefs are. When I talk to people, whether TBM, atheist, or anywhere in between, it turns out that our core beliefs are almost identical.
Now, #5. I’d like to ask each of you to do something. Sign a petition. There is a dreadful practice in my church. It’s widespread. Yet not widely noticed. It should be.
Men in authority are taking our children behind closed doors, all alone, often without the knowledge or permission of the parents and asking them explicit sexual questions. “Do you masturbate?” This, to children as young as 11 years old.
“Do you masturbate?” This, all alone, behind closed doors.
This, happened to my children…without my knowledge….until 14 years after the fact. That is outrageous. I’m outraged. Shouldn’t everybody be outraged?
Today, in Mormon churches all across the country, little girls and little boys, are being shamed in bishops offices. Untold damage is being done to these kids. The harm will last for years. Sometimes for decades. Some of our children will consider suicide. Some will attempt it. Some will succeed.
I OBJECT. Rulon, I OBJECT.
I will not sit in silent shame as our children are shamefully thrown up against a wall of lockers and pummeled with sexual questions. All reasonable people know this is dead wrong.
So, there’s my request. Dissent with me. Whether a member or not, we have a vested interest in protecting all children. Especially our own children.
Sign the petition.
I love you my friends.
To my lifelong regret, my friend Rulon, is no longer here to love. For him, I Dissent!!!
Link to the Petition to stop Mormon Masturbation Interviews. Click HERE.
Testimonials of masturbation interviews. Click HERE.
Testimonials of interviews about orgasm and sexual positions. Click HERE.
Is masturbation a sin? Click HERE.
How to talk to your kids about masturbation. Click HERE.