This entry is of a more personal nature than the usual fare. I want to acknowledge and apologize for desecrating the sacred text of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, something I did approximately twelve years ago.
The context and details of the act are included in an essay of mine that was published, “Without a Trace.” That essay characterizes well and thoroughly the mindset I was in at the time, but I will provide some context. I had spent two summers working as a closeted gay man for a Boy Scout camp, becoming increasingly frustrated by my complicity in my own oppression (by not speaking out) and by the surrounding forces that contributed to my oppression. I feared coming out, or being discovered to be gay, and losing my job.
A friend of mine wore a Rainbow ribbon as a sign favoring gay rights, with no other comment, and received a complaint from an LDS Scout group. At the same time, most LDS Scout groups provided us the staff with copies of the Book of Mormon. This inequality between what was allowed to be promoted was a problem for me, as was my understanding of the Mormon church’s influence in continuing the Boy Scouts’ policy excluding gay membership and leadership.
My experience of oppression and feelings of powerlessness ultimately led to an impulse decision, toward the end of my last summer, to publicly burn one of the Mormon texts. The act was petty, hateful, small, and I regret it completely. We have every right to disagree with and criticize each other, even to work against each other’s values in favor of our own, but what I did disrespected a faith tradition and source of meaning and purpose for many people, including people I have since come to know and respect, both within and departed from the LDS faith.
As the act was done publicly, and recorded in a published text, I have thought that at some point in my life I would need to publicly apologize for it. I wrote it into the essay because it was true, because it was part of that experience. I do not think I glamorized or attempted to justify the action. Recently, however, I have been thinking about the incident a lot, and my own sense of integrity, and decided I needed to make an additional step. The Mormon church recently gave tacit approval to changing the Boy Scout policy to including gay youth, a step I acknowledge and celebrate even as I would wish for more change toward inclusion of LGBT adults and trans youth.
Ultimately, I want to acknowledge this because what I did has weighed on my heart, and I do not know any way to make it right. I cannot pretend to have come around to a great understanding of the Mormon faith or sudden appreciation of our differences. What I realize now, with the luxury of more than a decade’s reflection, is that my anger was used destructively, out of pettiness, when I could have directed it toward constructive conversation. I also realize that I value the existence of spiritual and faith traditions, and my actions were not in accord with the person I want to be or the society in which I want to live. I’m not a public figure and have but a few publications, and perhaps fewer people will read this than read the essay, but I need to say this.
I am sorry, and I will try to do better.