Monday, November 23, 2009

Ben's Berkeley Project / Lloyd

Carol Lynn Pearson

Carol Lynn Pearson is a bright and talented woman whose poems, books, screenplays, and plays have been published and well received by the Mormon Community. In our family we’ve often quoted her poetry ("On Nest Building" & "The Steward") and we’ve enjoyed over and over again her musical My Turn on Earth.

Sister Pearson became well-known beyond the Mormon community for her book Good-bye, I Love You: The True Story of a Wife, Her Homosexual Husband—and a Love Honored for Time and All Eternity. Recently she interviewed with our son Ben about her feelings and experiences with gay men and their families. Ben is exploring a proposal for an honors project in theater at UC Berkeley on this issue.

Ben has unique qualities of intellect, caring, and expression. One professor who is both gay and supportive of this project advised Ben that to be authentic his theatrical piece would have to be a report of his personal journey as a straight and committed Mormon as he interacts with persons caught between homosexuality and their Mormon background. If accepted, Ben's project will be a significant experience undertaken in a highly charged emotional and political environment.

I have read, reread, and again this morning read Same-Gender Attraction, an interview with Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder Lance B. Wickman. They respond to very frank questions:

Let’s say my 17-year-old son comes to talk to me and, after a great deal of difficulty trying to get it out, tells me that he believes that he’s attracted to men — that he has no interest and never has had any interest in girls. He believes he’s probably gay. He says that he’s tried to suppress these feelings. He’s remained celibate, but he realizes that his feelings are going to be devastating to the family because we’ve always talked about his Church mission, about his temple marriage and all those kinds of things. He just feels he can’t live what he thinks is a lie any longer, and so he comes in this very upset and depressed manner. What do I tell him as a parent?

Both of you have mentioned the issue of compassion and this feeling about needing to be compassionate. Let’s fast-forward the scenario that we used earlier, and assume it’s a couple of years later. My conversations with my son, all our efforts to love our son and keep him in the Church have failed to address what he sees as the central issue — that he can’t help his feelings. He’s now told us that he’s moving out of the home. He plans to live with a gay friend. He’s adamant about it. What should be the proper response of a Latter-day Saint parent in that situation?

At what point does showing that love cross the line into inadvertently endorsing behavior? If the son says, ‘Well, if you love me, can I bring my partner to our home to visit? Can we come for holidays?’ How do you balance that against, for example, concern for other children in the home?

Often, however, there is no reasoned shift into a homosexual lifestyle as depicted in the interview above because too often very young men are introduced early to these sexual practices under threat to not tell. I have worked with families at church when this has happened and come to light and as a professional group facilitator with incarcerated men who have reported their experiences from an early age. 

As a Church we must not be so defensive by attacks against our doctrines and beliefs that we fail to build interpersonal bridges of caring to our own. I recommend reading Good-by I Love You and also a well written article about Sister Pearson that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle.

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