Saturday, December 1, 2012

I love gay people,...but....

While Heavenly Father loves you and me without reservation, many members of our Mormon community are not so open or so tolerant. While they might say they love us and accept us, they often end their expressions of love with a three letter word that is every bit as foul as any of the four letter words that I try sometimes unsuccessfully to avoid. That three letter word is the word “but”. The typical phrase is, “I love and accept you, but…”

How many times have you heard some well meaning Mormon say something like "I love gay people, BUT I will NEVER condoned their actions." Or, "I've always made it very clear to my Lesbian friends that I love them, BUT I don't support their lifestyle."

When I was young, I learned something that has stayed with me my entire life...a little insight into English grammar. I learned that when we use "but" in a sentence, we in fact generally negate most of what we have said before the "but".

When we say "I love LGBT people" and then say "but", we are in fact saying that we really don't love "LGBT people" unless it's on our terms. The question I’d like to ask those of you who use “but” statements, do you really love LGBT people?

It's interesting that in all the words of Christ, he never made a statement that was followed by "but". He never said, "Love thy neighbor, but..." He simply said "Love thy neighbor." He never said, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, but…” He just said, “Come unto me all ye…and I will give you rest.”

The problem with many today is that they insist that relationships and approval are granted on their terms with a HUGE "but" conspicuously hanging in the middle. This seems especially true when dealing with LGBT issues.

I don't think Christ or His Father would be too pleased.

The problem with “but” statements is that any reasonable person recognizes the patina of hypocrisy that drips from the statement.

What’s even more important to understand is that using “but” statements creates situations with consequences. Generally, these consequences impact people and lives, often in terrible or heartbreaking ways.

Over the next several posts, I will share a few of the most common "but" statements and the consequences that often transpire.

Adapted from the keynote address given by Allen Miller at the 2012 Salt Lake City Circling the Wagons Conference.


  1. Look . . . nothing personal, but this post has happened four or five times in the gay blogs over the past couple of years, and every time, I choke on the new iteration. Anyone who has studied literature or rhetoric will tell you that no matter what you learned in grade school, "but" is not a negation marker in phrases like this, it's a contrast marker.

    For example: "I love my brother, but sometimes he's an ass." Both statements are true. His occasional assiness doesn't negate my love for him. Because "love" and "being an ass" are contrasting concepts, "but" is the appropriate conjunction.

    Putting myself in the straight religious person's shoes, if you told me that Christ said "love one another," not "love one another, but . . ." I would remind you that while he didn't use the conjunction "but," he did use the contrasty ideas--"love one another," yet "stand ye in holy places," "“What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul," "Surely the Lord will do nothing save he reveal his secrets unto his servants the prophets." You don't think those statements are contrasty? Your straight friend does.

    Challenging a person's assertion that they love their lesbian friends does absolutely no good, because "loving" them means something different to them than it does to you. Perhaps you think it's impossible to both love a brother and say that they are sometimes an ass. I don't. Good luck convincing me otherwise.

    Instead, how about asking your interlocutor how they show their love?

    1. Matt,
      I do understand where you're coming from in this post...BUT...if someone's brother is an ass that's a personality trait. I doubt that brother has prayed to Heavenly Father to change his "assness" to the extent of sobbing and contemplating suicide (it's possible, but doubtful). The common person does view the "but" as a negation marker...including those that use the "I love gay people but..." line. It's so patronizing to hear those words from someone that claims he/she "loves" or "likes" you. I'm thankful for those who truly understand the Gospel and understand that love should be taught in the scriptures.

    2. That's a valid question, but I don't think you'd like the answer. Not any more than you'd like to be patronized, treated as broken your whole life, and kept from ever having children or a romantic relationship, because of something that even the people doing so acknowledge is outside your control.

      If that's the love that you have to offer, you can keep it. I don't want any.

    3. Thank you TJ and Taryn. The point of this series is to help those who are Mormon and really want to build bridges to the gay community understand that communication for communication's sake is worse than meaningless. If Mormons want to build bridges, they have to be willing to actually open their hearts, reach out, and show a little understanding on OUR terms, not on theirs.That's what reaching out is all about...moving from a safe space to the place where you feel a little discomfort.

  2. To me, the "I love you, but..." phrase puts a condition on that love. Love should be unconditional, right? One might as well say, "I love you only if you live according to my moral standards."

    1. I think that's the foundation for true love...the unconditional element. We're all worthy of this love and deserve it. I don't need or even want someone to love me in spite of who I am. I want to surround myself with people who love me for who I am.

  3. Good post. Sometimes the word 'but' is implied, like 'love the sinner, hate the sin.' In this case, you wonder how much a person loves the sinner if all they can see is the sin.

    Here are a couple of examples that maybe true blue Mormons can better relate to.

    "I sustain the brethren, but I think they are behind the times on ..."

    "I don't think that the Mormon church is a cult, but why do they worship Joseph Smith?"

  4. I was an active "card" carrying Mormon for the first 51 years of my life (before I "came out") and I never worshipped Joseph Smith, nor as a missionary did I encourage others to do so. Rather I revered him as a prophet of God, respected him for what he tried to accomplish against all odds and looked up to him as great leader. Did he have his faults and make mistakes, sure...but don't we all?