I had a dream

I dreamed I was ready to go back to church for the good community and support we could find there. I woke up and thought, maybe I can do this. I dreamed that maybe we can make it here, in the South. Maybe, with strong, loving community, we can live full lives here.

Then I remembered all the reasons I left. I remembered all the reasons I would share with my community if they would give me a voice. But they spent years silencing me. My dream is gone, now, and I'm lying awake wishing I could share my life with you, but you would have to show me you hear me. Without that I can't give my body, my time, and my soul to you, even if it would feel safe to quietly partake of your love for a returning lost lamb.

You would have to hear my cry

You fear immigrants

Many of you fear immigrants. You grab on to the carefully worded caveats of cowardly leaders that we must welcome immigrants while respecting laws. So you say they have to come the right way.

What is the right way to come?

What is the right way to flee starvation? What is the right way to leave when your farm dried up because of climate change? What is the right way to flee gangs that will kill or conscript your children? What is the right way to flee a government that can't or won't protect you? What is the right way to run to a hope of freedom? A hope that with hard work you can raise your children in safety, and maybe rise from poverty and fear? What is the right way to come to America?

You are riled up with fear

In your fear, many of you support a man who kidnapped children to keep their parents from coming to America. In your fear you think we can't integrate so many foreigners into our way of life. In your fear you think leftists are trying to replace true Americans with foreigners. Love has no room for these fears.

You fear women

You fear trans women

Many of you fear women who weren't born looking like women. You fear they are making a mistake or sinning when they change their appearance or body to become the woman they are. You fear that a trans woman might win a sporting event because she has some extra testosterone. You fear a man might pretend to be a trans woman to sexually prey on girls. You fear they will decide they are men after all and regret their previous choices. You let this fear make laws to oppress these women and control them.

And if you don't fear these women, you still silently let your neighbors fear them, and let them vote for politicians who oppress trans women without calling them to repent, as the gospel commands.

I do not fear trans women.

If a trans woman or girl makes a mistake, I will do what I do with anyone close to me. I will love and support her in her hard decisions and in her ever changing life.

If one wins a sporting event, I will say, you go, girl!

If one wants to use a women's bathroom, I will remember that men have been sexually preying on girls for millennia without pretending to be women to do it. I will remember that men are the biggest danger to girls, to women, to trans women, to boys, and to other men. I will vote for laws that actually keep people safe, not those written by and for fear.

If my neighbor speaks fears and lies about trans people, I will not let it pass unchallenged. I may be gentle. I may not fight. But I will speak. I left because I could not speak by myself to the every week drum beat of “you are wrong, you are wrong, you are wrong.”

I tried to speak with patience, love, kindness, and generosity for years. I know you knew I was different. You heard the dissonance with the love, and you accepted me. But you never spoke up with me. You never changed. You made me say the same things, over and over just to protect myself. Just to be myself among you. And you would never let a trans woman be herself among you.

You fear women's bodies

Most of you fear a woman's sexuality. You teach that, unless tightly controlled through proper dress and behavior, it will corrupt men and boys.

I trust women to dress themselves. I trust men and boys to decide wisely and respectfully how they will interact with women, and to not blame women for their choices. Of course we will all make mistakes, but I'm not going to blame a woman for mine.

You fear women making choices

While women are encouraged more to have a voice on councils, every decision ultimately rests with a male priesthood. Any decisions made by women are a gift from God sanctioned by men. Men control the money. Men control who speaks. Men are instructed that it is their duty to regulate speech and to correct “doctrinal errors.” Institutional choice ultimately rests with men, without exception.

I do not fear women making choices. I support my women bosses and respect the expertise of my women colleagues. I vote for radical women that you speak of as cautionary tales of how our nation is falling from truth and righteousness. I believe women should have the priesthood and be equal voices in number, wealth, and position in the church and in our government. You fear such change will be our destruction. I believe it is our only path to salvation.

You fear abortion

You recognize that there are times when abortions are right. But you fear so much that women will make a bad choice that you vote for politicians who try to stop all women from making any mistakes.

Not only are you wrong to deny your trust to mothers in deciding what is right in their lives—that is Satan's plan, after all, to stop anyone from sinning—but you are wrong that very many of them are making a mistake when they choose an abortion.

It is a hard choice. I would never want to be faced with it. That's why, after four kids, when my body, my wife's body, and our time, energy, and patience were stretched so thin that we questioned our ability to raise the children we have, I had a vasectomy. Another child would have destroyed my wife's health, both physical and mental. It likely would have done the same to me. It would have stretched out finances to breaking—pretending that other circumstances weren't already pushing us to constant insecurity. And we are in so much better of a position than the majority of women who seek abortions.

I'm 2022, 87% of women seeking abortions were unmarried. 66% were racialized women (Black or Hispanic), and another 8% were foreign. 61% already had at least 1 child. You all know the problems that come with being a single mother of color. If you don't speak of it outright, you speak about it in code often enough. These are the women your laws want to control.

I do not fear these women, with trained professionals assisting them, making the best choice they know how in circumstances that I have been spared. Let God judge them, and let us show them love, compassion, understanding, and support.

You fear that taking our guns is taking our freedom

I drove through a small town where a mortuary displayed gravestones for sale unironically behind a sign for a gun shop.

I do not fear common sense gun regulations. Universal and enforced background checks. Denial of gun rights to domestic abusers and others with violent pasts. Limits on ammunition sales and magazine size. Requirements for training and safe storage. If we need a new amendment to make it happen, we can do that. Making amendments is supposedly part of the Constitution.

And if you think it's a mental health problem, I support widely available, government funded mental health care. You can, too. You don't have to be afraid of it.

I do fear weapons

I fear politicians endlessly funding the military industrial complex. I fear weapons manufacturers using their taxpayer funded wealth to lobby for more taxpayer money.

I fear disaffected and disillusioned men with weapons. I fear for them, too many taking their own lives with guns. I fear their using their easily acquired, easily lethal guns to kill innocent children. I fear arming everyone, thinking that if everyone is ready to shoot the bad guys we somehow will magically stop shooting people.

I fear for the young men who feel that the military is their only chance at a good, financially stable life. I fear at our willingness to take advantage of their need. I fear at our willingness to scrimp and save on caring for them after they gave their health for us. The hoops we are willing to make them and their families jump through to get the benefits we promised them when they signed up.

I don't fear someone like Bernie Sanders who calls for an end to our endless wars and at the same time calls for us to respect and fully fund our promises to our veterans.

You fear equity and diversity

When others raise up women and people of color in large numbers to lead us, you run the other way with your votes. You elect white men. You elect a few women and people of color who exactly toe the party line. If one steps out of line, even if it is to tell the truth about a liar, a rapist, a thief, and a would be dictator, her political career is ended—no matter how quintessentially Republican she is in every other way.

And if you aren't running to elect the next white, male, Christian, anti-abortion, wealthy businessman to office, you don't feel like you can say anything about it at church. So you don't, except to a few sympathetic ears. And nothing changes. No one repents, or even knows they should.

You fear government

You think that government is corrupt, that it wastes money, that taxes are theft, and that regulation and government run services are anti-freedom, anti-capitalist, and anti-American. So you elect corrupt leaders, who prevent the IRS from collecting taxes from the wealthy, who (since Gingrich in the mid 90s) never compromise to get government work done if it doesn't help the party, who try to break government services like Social Security and Medicare, and who deregulate or turn over regulation to the wealthy and to the businesses being regulated. You let rich people and corporations run our government. You let judges who are bought by wealthy men rule on our laws.

Then after fulfilling your own prophecy, you self-righteously reassure each other of how you knew you were right and how it's all a sign of the times that the world is ending and God is coming, soon.

And if you don't believe these things, you still can't call it out as evil. Or at least you won't be heard. Or you'll be reminded how the things you say are what the Soviet Union did—even though the truest similarity between the Soviet Union and American policies are how repressive and exploitative, authoritarian policies destroy peace and prosperity.

I do not fear government

Government is our way to work together to usher in the Millennium. As Brigham Young taught, we have to prepare the world for Christ's return by building Zion. Government is our way to build Zion with others who don't share our religion.

Government is our way to build a society without rich and poor. A society that is no respecter of persons, but treats all equally. A society that is peaceful and safe for all. I believe we can build Zion through the hard work of democratic government, and that we can never build it through authoritarian government, or government run by money. I believe we can build Zion through respecting diversity and choices that don't oppress or harm others. I believe we can build Zion by giving voice and power to the many, diverse groups that live within our country.

I'm awake now

I wish my dream could come true. I can't go back. I miss your community. I miss people who would love and look after our children, as we looked after yours. I miss singing with you. I miss believing we could build Zion together.

But Zion is a place where there are no rich or poor. Zion is a place where those fleeing violence can find safety. Zion is a place of love, where we trust God to save us from our fears. We have to act like a Zion people to build Zion. I'm awake now, and I can't go back, even though I miss you.

“I won't stop short for common ground that vilifies the trodden down.” -Become You, Amy Ray, Indigo Girls