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The Matthew Gong Letter

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Anybody know if he is still a member?

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6 hours ago, Duncan said:

Anybody know if he is still a member?

I hope so, my daughter still is. Unless someone pushes the issue, or removes their name, one cannot be excommunicated just for being gay. All have it in their power to live the commandments, regardless of how they feel.

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7 hours ago, pogi said:

2 days ago Matthew Gong, Elder Gong's son, wrote a letter and published it on facebook.  Apparently he is gay. I was not aware of that.  He came out to his family 7 years ago.  He eloquently describes his experience of being gay and having his father become an apostle of the church.  It feels honest and genuine.  It is refreshingly not hate filled but is respectful of his father, his family, and he even graciously acknowledges the good in the church.  He states - "I believe at the religion’s core is an immensely powerful set of values that drive human progression. In that core, I see an elegance that is beyond human intention."  He paints an interesting comparison of the early church to the church today, calling the early church "punk rock" and "radical", which it kind of was.  Overall, I think he is an exceptional writer. I think his approach is effective at stating his perspective without putting members on the defensive.  I feel empathy for him.  I feel empathy for his father and family and am thrilled that they have been able to keep a happy and healthy relationship.  What a trying position for all of them to be in!  It will be interesting to see how Matthew chooses to proceed from here and what the reaction will be to his letter.  I hope that people will be gracious.  I think about Elder Gong and what his approach will be and I wonder how he feels about President Oaks approach to the whole issue. This will certainly be a more sensitive subject for Elder Gong having a son go through all this.  I am always happy at the opportunity to peek into the perspective from another side, especially when it feels genuine.

Any thoughts?

Here is the letter:

https://m.facebook.com/notes/matthew-gong/birthday-letters-27-28/10158377175735021/

I've not read the letter, but why do you wonder how Elder Gong feels about President Oaks's approach? 

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14 hours ago, Duncan said:

Anybody know if he is still a member?

I don't know if he is officially still a member, but read this quote from his letter:

 

 

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Last year was a revelation. I started dating someone who truly changed my outlook on my history, and who has loved me as I am. He has loved me without pretense, and in the totality of my strengths and weaknesses. The greatest gift of being queer is the necessity to build your own template. So, we’re making a go of it. We’re writing our own story, together. There are still many chapters to write, but I think I’ll call the template for this chapter: Matt-unapologetically-queer-and-happy.

 

I can't imagine most Bishops would consider someone who is acting in this way to be a member in good standing.  

 

Whether you agree with what he said or not, he is a very good writer.  He clearly put a lot of time and thought into his letter.

Letters like his give me hope for the future.  In a time when the world seems so angry, it is refreshing to read a letter that is introspective, humble, and vulnerable.  

 

 

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8 hours ago, Bill “Papa” Lee said:

I hope so, my daughter still is. Unless someone pushes the issue...

Unless he removes his name from the church there is no issue that can be pushed to remove him from the church.  He may receive church discipline for immoral conduct, but gay marriage is now only considered a "serious transgression" and not "apostasy" for purposes of excommunication.  They are treated the same as heterosexuals who sin sexually (but not on par with adultery), in other words, they are not usually excommunicated but do receive church discipline.  Whether or not he considers himself a member anymore is a different story all together though - it doesn't sound like it to me.

Edited by pogi

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8 hours ago, Scott Lloyd said:

I've not read the letter, but why do you wonder how Elder Gong feels about President Oaks's approach? 

I know many, many people (very conservative I might add) who while they may technically agree with most of what President Oak's says, feel like his approach is...off-putting, unrelenting, overbearing, and almost obsessive.  They don't even have gay children and so may not be nearly as sensitive as those who are in the middle of struggling with these challenging issues and dynamics like Elder Gong is right now with his son in an active relationship with another man.  It is one thing to clearly delineate boundaries, but when the majority of your talks focus on one group (even when it is couched in "but we need to be nice to them"), it starts to feel like something more than simply delineating boundaries.    

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1 hour ago, hoo rider said:

I can't imagine most Bishops would consider someone who is acting in this way to be a member in good standing.

Maybe I have missed it. Is there something official from the church that says gay people are not allowed to date?

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45 minutes ago, pogi said:

Unless he removes his name from the church there is no issue that can be pushed to remove him from the church.  He may receive church discipline for immoral conduct, but gay marriage is now only considered a "serious transgression" and not "apostasy" for purposes of excommunication.  They are treated the same as heterosexuals who sin sexually (but not on par with adultery), in other words, they are not usually excommunicated but do receive church discipline.  Whether or not he considers himself a member anymore is a different story all together though - it doesn't sound like it to me.

I thought that was the point I made? 

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6 minutes ago, Bill “Papa” Lee said:

I thought that was the point I made? 

My apologies then, I must have misunderstood.  I thought you were saying that no one can be excommunicated for simply being gay (not sexually active), but that if the issues was "pushed" they may be excommunicated for being sexually active in a relationship. 

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I have not read Matthew Gong's letter yet, but Elder Gong is not the only leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter -day Saints who has a close family member who is gay: Elder Chrisofferson's brother also is gay.

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33 minutes ago, Kenngo1969 said:

I have not read Matthew Gong's letter yet, but Elder Gong is not the only leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter -day Saints who has a close family member who is gay: Elder Chrisofferson's brother also is gay.

Of the ten women in the Church Relief Society Presidency and Board, six of them have family members who are gay.

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1 hour ago, pogi said:

My apologies then, I must have misunderstood.  I thought you were saying that no one can be excommunicated for simply being gay (not sexually active), but that if the issues was "pushed" they may be excommunicated for being sexually active in a relationship. 

No the opposite, the “pushed comment”, had to do with other circumstances. 

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There is wisdom in the letter.

I appreciate his honesty about how family relationships were strained...the fact that they weren’t broken seems to me to be the result of his willingness, and the willingness of his family, to focus on each other’s best intentions, words, and deeds and not the most unfortunate ones.

His realization, and articulation, of the “false dichotomy” is insightful.

His determination to choose creation over consumption and his resolve not to allow his voice to be co-opted are both laudable.

That voice is worthy of attention and I wish Matt Godspeed as he continues to share it.

 

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The Church… That’s a complicated subject… It needs context. In my head, the Church is three distinct entities: the organization, the religion, and the culture. The organization is embodied by the institutional hierarchy—the general authorities, the first presidency, and the quorum of the twelve. The religion is the collection of beliefs, dogmas, and practices that comprise worship and daily living of latter-day saints. The culture is dictated by the local congregations, and is often the lens through which the organization is filtered.

==I like this summary.  Concise.  I don't totally agree which his characterization of each "entity," though.

Sometimes I wish I wasn’t a moderate. It would be easier if I could speak in absolutes. Black and white thinking is easier; it’s concrete and well defined. It’s also brittle and reductive. I see so much potential within the organization to affect powerful change and good in the lives of members and people. In many places, functional wards and stakes are strong communities that care for one another. I have seen participation in church service inspire people to become kinder, more compassionate, and change despite the immutability of their own past. These positive aspects are not unique to the Church, but they are common. I believe most members of the Church are trying their best to live virtuously to their experience and beliefs. From a grassroots perspective, the Church is built on good intentions and succeeds in many ways. However, the Church is a hierarchy, a power structure. Power structures are always vulnerable to the mistakes of the fallible and the corruption of the malicious.

==He seems to be treating the Church as just another socio-political construct.

==Also, I think he is not paying enough nearly attention to the influence of the "religion" entity, the doctrines and ordinances and practices.  The belief in the reality of God, the Atonement of Christ, continuing revelation, etc.

The monolithic rigidity of the religion today makes me super sad. The old school doctrine was punk rock and radical. The idea that everyone was an embryonic god? Wild. 

==We still believe this.  So juxtaposing the the Now-Church with the Then-Church on this basis does not work.

When they said everyone was worth saving and actually meant it? Unapologetically universalist.

==This is just backhanded nastiness.  A false characterization.  Disappointing.

The beliefs were molten—shifting and evolving—in fascinating and weird ways. The possibility of change was exciting and hopeful. But the inertia of tradition quenched the radical spirit as each generation left a patina on the Church. The religion calcified—rigidity replaced flexibility—and the organization became anchored in its conservative position.

=="Conservative" here is misused.  He is importing political terminology, but it doesn't work.

==And our beliefs are still "molten."  We still claim to be receiving further light and knowledge from God.

==I think the references to "the religious calcified-rigidity replaced flexibility" is a flowery way of saying "Society has radically altered its perspectives on sexuality, and the Church is not going along with those alterations, which it should in my opinion."  

A truth behind any power structure is that the power of the system is proportional to peoples’ belief or adherence to the system. As much as the organization appears to be top-down, meaningful changes in the lives of individuals start from the bottom up. This gives me hope that even while the organization and religion remain unyielding, the culture can be the impetus for change.

==Again, he is not paying enough nearly attention to the influence of the "religion" entity, the doctrines and ordinances and practices.  Namely, the role of continuing revelation.

==For him, the Church is on a set and inexorable path toward his preferred sociopolitical objectives.  He's sounding like Kate Kelly, or Julienna Viegas-Haws.

==The piece, though written well, is all but devoid of any meaningful reference to God.  For me, this weakens the substance of his overall perspective.  This is akin to discussing the merits of Abraham Lincoln while studiously omitting any reference to his law practice, his presidency, or the Civil War.

==The existence of God, His relationship to and dealings with us, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the priesthood, continuing revelation, saving ordinances.  These things, and our beliefs in them, and our choices to act in accordance with them, are the sine qua non of the Church and its members.  And yet the letter gives them essentially no attention.

There are parts of the religion that I still hold to and cherish. I am a consummate humanist and fiercely devoted to the belief that we have true agency. While I believe actual uses are rare, I maintain that it is possible. By extension, I value my own ability to make choices and accept the consequences of my actions. I believe we are responsible for more than just our own happiness. I believe that humans are fallible, but not that we are inherently corrupt. Despite our imperfections, there is inherent value in humanity and that value is not infringed upon by a litany of labels and asterisks. The religion taught me to be intentional, patient, compassionate, forgiving, repentant, and to strive to better myself. I believe at the religion’s core is an immensely powerful set of values that drive human progression. In that core, I see an elegance that is beyond human intention.

==No reference to God, or God's interactions with man.  His perspective is that of a "consummate humanist."

==Again, he is not paying enough nearly attention to the influence of the "religion" entity, the doctrines and ordinances and practices.  Namely, the role of continuing revelation.

The struggle to reconcile my history with my reality has shaped me in ways deeper than I can comprehend. I will carry those marks, both good and bad, forever. It will always play some part in my life because of my family, and that’s… how it is. I don’t hate the Church because, distilled to its essence the Church is its members, striving for meaning and a better life. Beautiful in their attempts, terrifying in their potential, and human in their efforts.

==This is nice.

For a long time, I tried to shoehorn myself into different “straight” templates. I lived the template and, for a while, things would be going well, but then I'd see a couple kiss in public. "You will always be nervous that kissing your spouse in public will draw unwanted attention." It jolted me back to my reality. It didn't matter which template I tried. I didn’t fit.  The carriage always turned back into a pumpkin. Learning what being queer meant, and finding a path through life took me a long time. The only queer life templates I had heard of were tragic: died-young-of-AIDS, estranged-from-family-with-trust-issues, celibate-and-self-loathing. I never imagined being-happy-as-you-are was even a possibility.

==This is illuminating and sobering.

==Overall, the author starts by correctly observing that the Church is "a complicated subject" that "needs context."  He then proceeds to provide very little context, or at least omit quite a bit of very important context.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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20 minutes ago, smac97 said:

==The piece, though written well, is all but devoid of any meaningful reference to God.  For me, this weakens the substance of his overall perspective.  This is akin to discussing the merits of Abraham Lincoln while studiously omitting any reference to his law practice, his presidency, or the Civil War.

Smac, he is writing an assessment of the church from his perspective, and not a biographical account of the claims of the Church.  While I don't know his position on God, I feel comfortable saying that he doesn't believe that the Church is what it claims - the one true church, led by God, holding priesthood authority, and continuing revelation to guide the church.  To Matthew, the church is as he describes it, and it is a fair description of how probably most non-members see the church.  This is his perspective.  Respect it for what it is.  Of course he acknowledges that we, active members, see the church as you describe it, but this is not about us and our perspective, this is about Matthew and his perspective. 

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14 minutes ago, pogi said:
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==The piece, though written well, is all but devoid of any meaningful reference to God.  For me, this weakens the substance of his overall perspective.  This is akin to discussing the merits of Abraham Lincoln while studiously omitting any reference to his law practice, his presidency, or the Civil War.

Smac, he is writing an assessment of the church from his perspective, and not a biographical account of the claims of the Church. 

I get that.  But if I were to write a book about Abraham Lincoln from my perspective, and if in so doing I refused to explain to my readers anything about his law practice, or his presidency, or the Civil War, or their influence on him and his life, wouldn't that be a bit . . . weird?  Wouldn't such an assessment be materially impaired by refusing to address such central issues in his life?

Quote

While I don't know his position on God, I feel comfortable saying that he doesn't believe that the Church is what it claims - the one true church, led by God, holding priesthood authority, and continuing revelation to guide the church. 

Yes, that's the vibe I got as well.  But his assessment of the Church purports to characterize the Church.  Its purpose and motives.  Its governance.  Its objectives.  By omitting salient, even vital elements of what the Church claims for itself, well, he ends up providing a fairly distorted, and hence inaccurate, characterization of the Church.

He doesn't have to believe in the tenets of our faith.  But it sure would help if he acknowledged they exist, and that we believe in them.

Quote

To Matthew, the church is as he describes it, and it is a fair description of how probably most non-members see the church.  This is his perspective.  Respect it for what it is. 

I do.  That does not mean it is immune from commentary, though, right?

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Of course he acknowledges that we, active members, see the church as you describe it,

Actually, I don't think he does that.  At all.

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but this is not about us and our perspective, this is about Matthew and his perspective. 

When his perspective extends to substantial mischaracterization (by omission) of our Church, I feel that warrants attention.

He's offering his perspective, and I'm offering mine.  Both are acceptable, yes?

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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1 hour ago, let’s roll said:

That voice is worthy of attention and I wish Matt Godspeed as he continues to share it.

It will be interesting to see what comes of this.  It seems as though Matthew is using this letter as and introductory foundation to continue writing from, as it didn't really seem to address any issues that he sees.  It is more of an introduction to himself, his experience in and with the church, and a heads-up that he is going to become more visible and vocal, speaking his truth.  

At the core of his letter is this:

Quote

There was some trepidation about becoming visible. More than the fear of unwanted negative attention, I didn’t want to risk what I had worked so hard to reclaim. I am afraid that speaking truth to power will strain important relationships. By choosing to become more visible, some people will think that I’m a radical dissident, while others will be annoyed that I’m not critical enough. The Church’s treatment of LGBTQ people needs to change, and I can’t sit on the sidelines any more.

I suppose the future will show how he chooses to address these issues as it is still unclear what they are.  It will be really interesting to watch this play out, but I pray for the Gong family as this will no doubt create strain on important relationships.  To speak out against the church as the son of a living apostle is gutsy, if he wants to maintain that relationship.  I trust that Elder Gong will handle things well, and Matthew seems respectful enough to make things work, but to have a father (an apostle) and son actively and visibly on opposite sides of a very sensitive issue in the church will not be without tension.     

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17 minutes ago, pogi said:

It will be interesting to see what comes of this.  It seems as though Matthew is using this letter as and introductory foundation to continue writing from, as it didn't really seem to address any issues that he sees.  It is more of an introduction to himself, his experience in and with the church, and a heads-up that he is going to become more visible and vocal, speaking his truth.  

"His truth?"  What does that mean?  How is it different from "the truth"?

17 minutes ago, pogi said:

At the core of his letter is this:

Quote

There was some trepidation about becoming visible. More than the fear of unwanted negative attention, I didn’t want to risk what I had worked so hard to reclaim. I am afraid that speaking truth to power will strain important relationships. By choosing to become more visible, some people will think that I’m a radical dissident, while others will be annoyed that I’m not critical enough. The Church’s treatment of LGBTQ people needs to change, and I can’t sit on the sidelines any more.

I suppose the future will show how he chooses to address these issues as it is still unclear what they are. 

Phrases like "speaking truth to power" and "I can't sit on the sidelines any more" are pretty clear indicators, IMO.

17 minutes ago, pogi said:

It will be really interesting to watch this play out, but I pray for the Gong family as this will no doubt create strain on important relationships.  To speak out against the church as the son of a living apostle is gutsy, if he wants to maintain that relationship. 

Yep.  I hope he doesn't burn bridges.  

17 minutes ago, pogi said:

I trust that Elder Gong will handle things well, and Matthew seems respectful enough to make things work, but to have a father (an apostle) and son actively and visibly on opposite sides of a very sensitive issue in the church will not be without tension.     

What "sensitive issue" do you have in mind?

Thanks,

-Smac

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22 minutes ago, smac97 said:

"His truth?"  What does that mean?  How is it different from "the truth"?

His lived experience and beliefs are "his truth".  Show me the "the truth" and I will show you your iteration/interpretation of it (your truth).  See parable of the blind men and the elephant.

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9 minutes ago, pogi said:

He grew up in the church and his father is a living apostle, it goes without saying that Matthew acknowledges that we (as a church) believe in these things. 

I'm not sure "it goes without saying."  It does for you, and for me.  But for the vast majority of the world, it very much needs to be said.

9 minutes ago, pogi said:

Some things are so obvious they don't need to be stated.  It is not a mischaracterization of a tree to discuss a tree without mentioning its leaves - we simply take the leaves as a given.  

You do.  I do.  Because Matthew isn't plowing any new ground.  He's not telling us anything we don't know.

For those unfamiliar with our faith, however, I think his characterization of the Church is lacking.

Thanks,

-Smac

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29 minutes ago, smac97 said:

Phrases like "speaking truth to power" and "I can't sit on the sidelines any more" are pretty clear indicators, IMO.

 Thanks,

-Smac

Yes, I think it is a pretty clear that he will continue to write, what remains to be a mystery is what specific changes he wants to see.  He wasn't very clear with that.

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 Yep.  I hope he doesn't burn bridges. 

What "sensitive issue" do you have in mind?

The issue where bridges are in danger of potentially being burned as both father and son follow their conscience.  Clearly, homosexuality and the church's stance on the subject is a sensitive issue for families dealing with them.  

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3 minutes ago, pogi said:
Quote

"His truth?"  What does that mean?  How is it different from "the truth"?

His lived experience and beliefs are "his truth".  Show me the "the truth" and I will show you your iteration/interpretation of it (your truth).  See parable of the blind men and the elephant.

2+2=4.

Donald Trump is currently the President of the United States.

I am a lawyer licensed to practice law in the State of Utah.

The earth is an oblate spheroid.

I posit that these are "the truth," and not "my truth."  What I believe about them does not alter their status as "truth."

Thanks,

-Smac

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