Many people have posted their feelings and thoughts about the tragic death of Todd Ransom yesterday. I especially appreciate Rob's post yesterday, which inspired me to post the following. Many others have written deeply touching words too, but Rob's words were stirring. I'm not sure what I can add, but in tribute to Todd and countless others whose lives were cut short or clouded by despair, I am compelled to write something.
This is sad and infuriating beyond words. On hearing the news, my first feelings were for Todd Ransom's family and loved ones who bear this loss most deeply. I wish we who have felt similar anguish as a gay person or the loved one of a gay person could each embrace them, shed our tears together, and then allow them their private moments to grieve and reflect. My feelings moved to anger that this could happen in 2010. My initial bonfire of emotion has refined into the flame of a jeweler's torch with a resolution to create rather than destroy or be consumed.
I did not know Todd Ransom. But I know this, gay or not, Mormon or not: We are all Todd Ransom today.
His suicide is not entirely the fault of the church or the toxic parts of church culture. Yet without any doubt, the church bears it's full share---in an amount roughly the size of the allegorical hill on which its shining city of Zion sits so prominently. The church and its stewards are responsible for fostering the winds and storms that Todd Ransom and so many others have had to endure day after day after day after day. Just like the shining city on the hill, that responsibility cannot be hidden. The church must act to redeem itself and its people--all of its people--before it's too late. Otherwise, the church is simply another whited sepulchre, gleaming from a distance, yet tarnished. That tarnish can be removed only by the princes of the church themselves.
It really doesn't matter anymore whether the church's stance on homosexuality or its advice to gay members is well-meaning, misguided, doctrinally sound, hateful, based on an agenda, or decisions made in the upper rooms of the Salt Lake Temple or within the Holy of Holies itself. Gay Mormons are dying, suffering, despairing, abandoned to the streets, promised the impossible, shunted to the periphery of "worthiness", and told they are loved, accepted, valued and cherished by the church only to discover those words become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal because they have not love and therefore are nothing.
The church doesn't need to figure out this "issue" of homosexuality. It doesn't need a program to minister to gay people. It doesn't need a new policy statement, news release, magazine article or general conference address. It needs to get the hell out of the business of building "pathways to perfection" with good intentions. It needs to stop being willfully blind and deaf to the realities of being gay in this world, and especially being gay in the increasingly ironically-named Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is time for the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to arise from the dust and be men---men of the manner of the Christ of whom they proclaim to be special witnesses.
The church must reject the notion that some may be lost along the way to serve the supposed greater good. Collateral damage is unacceptable when it comes to the human soul. Unfortunately, it's all too easy to buy into false notions and accept alternative versions of reality when we are in a siege mentality.
We are all human. Too often each of us is blinded or distracted by our upbringing, our prejudices, our heartfelt hopes, our best intentions, our worst fears, our most fervent dreams, and the other limitations of our humanity. But the church, its leaders and its members cannot continue, even accounting for human foibles, to profess to value the worth of a soul as a matter of doctrine but decide to reject or denigrate that soul in practice. If God is love, then how can his church be any less.
All of this goes beyond the church's beliefs and actions regarding gay people. It goes beyond the church itself. All the same, right now we are talking about gay people and the church. I don't have the one true answer to what we are facing as a people. But the sooner the brethren admit the same, the sooner we begin to shake off the chains that continue to bind us to so much needless despair, suffering and, yes, death. We owe it to Todd Ransom today. We owed it to Stuart Matis ten years ago. We have always owed it to the known and the unknown among us. Let us remember. Let us stand up and do something before once again it's too late.