They, the builders of the nation,
Blazing trails along the way;
Stepping-stones for generations
Were their deeds of every day.
Building new and firm foundations,
Pushing on the wild frontier,
Forging onward, ever onward,
Blessed, honored Pioneer.
Today is Pioneer Day. 164 years ago today, Brigham Young and the company of settlers traveling with him set sight on the Salt Lake Valley. They had left their homes and had left the United States, had defied the religions and churches in which they had been raised, and in many cases had split from their families, over the issue of refusing to accept the idea that marriage could only be between one man and one woman, and out of a desire to practice a more pure form of religion.
Today is pioneer day. Today, marriage equality becomes the law of the land in New York. And among the first LGBT people to be married in New York, at 12:00:01 AM in front of Niagara Falls, were Mormon grandmother Kitty Lambert and her partner of over ten years, Cheryle Rudd. Kitty left her home, left Utah, and left the LDS Church over the belief that marriage could be only between one woman and one man, and out of a desire to escape religious persecution.
The LDS Church devised a plan in Hawaii in the 1990s to fight equality and to try to force people –members and non-church members alike– to obey the Church’s concept of chastity and morality. Using false identities, or hiding behind the identities of others, often in flagrant disregard of both state and federal laws, the Mormon Church has spent literally millions and millions of dollars on this fight. The LDS Church is the only religious organization in the United States to ever be found guilty of federal election law violations. Along the way, families have been split and lives sacrificed.
Pioneers seldom have an easy journey. They tend to be vilified as weird or evil or stupid or foolish. Preachers and politicians may rail against them at times. But pioneers who persevere in a just cause often do manage to eventually reach the mountain top and have the unrestrained joy of looking across the valley and knowing that the journey was worth the price.
Today, we salute the pioneers. Affirmation chapters from Hawaii to Florida to New England will celebrate with picnics, with song, and with fellowship. And in New York City and New Palz and Buffalo, there will be celebrations in the streets, church bells ringing, and much hugging and kissing as new families are formed. And along the trail, the bones of the pioneers will sigh and smile for a moment, knowing that the top of the mountain is in sight and that the valley is green.
Come; come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear,
But with joy wend your way;
Tho’ hard to you this journey may appear,
Grace shall be as your day.
‘Tis better far for us to strive
Our useless cares from us to drive;
Do this, and joy your hearts will swell–
All is well! all is well!
Come, Come ye Gays and Lesbians, rejoice!
Join in song, hearts will tell.
We stand as one and raise a mighty voice,
In the light we shall dwell.
As we share with pride this message true,
We’re God’s gay children and we’re loved too!
Affirm this truth and spirits swell–
All is well! All is well!
If you haven’t already done so, please be sure to get your registration in quickly for “Visions and Blessings,” the 2011 Affirmation Conference, being held in historic Kirtland, Ohio, and nearby Cleveland. Plan to travel to arrive early enough on Friday to attend special events for first time conference attendees, chapter leaders, people of color, women, Gamofites, and those interested in leadership opportunities. Schedule your return flight to leave time for travel back from Kirtland on Sunday afternoon. See you in Cleveland on September 16!
With hope, faith, and love,
Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons