Gay Danish Group Visits LDS Chapel
"I'm looking forward to seeing the first Danish gay Mormons come out, to be proud and visible both in their own church and in the Danish gay community”
by Jann Kuusisaari
Jann (Ian) Kuusisaari is a Finnish-Danish writer with a special
interest in religion and homosexuality. He has written articles and
arranged visits and meetings related to this issue. Besides his personal
interest in religion, his goal is to remove prejudice at both ends,
by both bringing spirituality to the gay community and getting religious
communities to be more accepting of gay people. If you have any comments,
questions, or just want to say hello, you can find his current contact
information at www.kuusisaari.com.
On April 28 2005, a group of gay Danes visited The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Copenhagen, Denmark. The visit
was arranged by the Danish National Association for Gays & Lesbians1
as part of a series of visits to different churches; the visits were
later described in a webzine on the topic of religion and homosexuality.
There are several LDS churches in Copenhagen. The one we visited is a small chapel in one of Copenhagen's residential areas, surrounded by a garden with lawns and some flowerbeds. The building is humbly integrated to the area's architecture; if you just happened to walk past the building, you might not even notice it is a church. But if you look up, you see the spire on the roof, which makes the building very different from others in the neighborhood.
But it wasn't the architecture that we came to study. We came to learn about Mormons' beliefs, practices, and their views on homosexuality. We also wanted to show that we, as gay people, are normal human beings with spiritual needs like anyone else --and perhaps even help people in this church rethink some of the prejudices they may have about us. The underlying idea was that we should all try to be accepting and open-minded.
"Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them, for this is the law and the prophets." (Book of Mormon, 3 Ne. 14: 12)
At first sight the church looked empty, but some bicycles parked by the entrance suggested that there were at least some young people around. I went inside and was met right away by our host Ellen, who was on her way out looking for us. She welcomed us, and told us that the branch president would also participate. He showed up shortly after.
When one enters the building, one notices that it isn't so small after all. The lobby opens into a relatively large church hall, some classrooms, and the kitchen. The church hall is really a multi-purpose room, which can be used both for church meetings and for recreational activities. In the back of the hall there were a couple of women chatting intensely, and in one the classrooms there was a youth group. There was lot of life in the building, and yet everything felt very peaceful.
First we heard about the practical things: Why the church hall is arranged as it is, how the "sacrament" (communion) is administered, how you get baptized, who can lead and talk in the meetings, how you can become a member of the church, what are the requirements, etc.
After seeing the church hall and hearing about the practical things, we went down to the basement, where there are more classrooms and meeting rooms. There was also the branch president's office, a storage room, and some other rooms.
The decoration was quite simple. There were some posters on the walls: pictures of Jesus, the church leaders, some informative announcements, etc. There was also a picture of Noah's Ark with a large rainbow2 bending over, but we don't think our hosts understood the symbolic meaning of that in the same way as we did ;-)
Beliefs and practices
We were shown a short video about the life of the prophet Joseph Smith and the early years of the LDS church. Afterwards we heard about our Heavenly Father and his children, about the meaning of our life here on earth, the resurrection, eternal life, and the three different kingdoms in heaven.
It was very informative. Although I had been trying to examine the topic before on my own (in preparation for my article about Mormons), I learned many new interesting things and aspects of Mormon belief.
The fundamental unit in the church seems to be the family, composed of a man, a woman, and children. For Mormons, this family has a chance to be together forever. The LDS view on homosexuality seems to be based on this concept of family.
Views on Homosexuality
As one of the themes of the visit was Mormon views on homosexuality, we talked about that too. Like the rest of the population, heterosexual Mormons of course have homosexual family members and friends. And there is no doubt that the number of gays and lesbians in the church reflects the number of gays and lesbians in the rest of society3.The fact that a percentage of Mormons are gay should come as no surprise
The LDS Church says that they are not against gay people, but that they are pro family. With their description of a family being what it is (husband, wife, and children) it seems that being pro-family and against gays is rather the same thing.
The Mormon concept of family has experienced a dramatic change in the past: Until 1890 Mormons allowed polygamy! So maybe the concept could change again --this time to accept same-sex couples. When we asked our hosts if they think that the Mormon family pattern could some day change to accept same-sex couples as a family, unfortunately they were very doubtful.
It may sound paradoxical: On the one hand, Mormons strongly believe that people should live in a solid relationship and live a family life; on the other, homosexuals are required to live alone.
But at least they don't force gay people to live in heterosexual relationships. And as long as you don't act on your homosexual tendencies, you can be a faithful devoted Mormon and an appreciated member of the church. Until now, no Danish gay Mormon has publicly come out. Until this happens, it is difficult to know for sure how he or she would be welcomed.
We had a good, honest, and open talk about homosexuality. Although our views on homosexuality are quite different, we felt welcome in this church.
The process of arranging a visit and writing about the LDS church was very constructive. I learned many things and got new viewpoints. By this I mean not only new information about the Mormons, but also new ideas about the purpose of life and what might come after this life.
Families staying together for all eternity? It makes you think who is the real family. Is it the biological family --who often thinks you are weird because of your sexuality-- or is it your partner, your friends, or maybe the whole gay community around you?
I find the concept of eternal life with my boyfriend very appealing. But until the LDS Church gets more gay-friendly and accepts same-sex marriages, I'll have to search for our eternal relationship somewhere else.
If our purpose here on the earth is to be happy, to do good things, to learn and grow, to love and be loved --why should it make any difference whether you are gay or straight?
And what about religious people in the gay community? Are they welcome? I can't, of course, speak on behalf of others, but I'm quite sure there is room for everybody. When I asked about this to the leaders of the Danish National Association for Gays & Lesbians, their answer was very clear: All people --including Mormons-- are very welcome :-)
So I'm looking forward to seeing the first Danish gay Mormons come out, to be proud and visible both in their own church and in the Danish gay community.
1. The Danish National Association for Gays & Lesbians (LBL, Landsforeningen for BÝsser og Lesbiske), founded in 1948, is one of the oldest gay organizations in the world. Because of the LBL's work, Denmark became the first country to introduce registered partnerships for same-sex couples. Website: www.lbl.dk.
2. The rainbow is widely used in the gay community to symbolize our unified diversity. Gay places and gay people around the world indicate their identity by using a picture of a rainbow, rainbow colors, or a rainbow flag.
3. Research suggests that between 5 and 10 % of the population is homosexual. Since the LDS church has about 4,500 members in Denmark, there should be several hundred gay and lesbian Mormons in this country.
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