Tomorrow is a big anniversary. I’ve been trying for a couple of weeks now to pen my thoughts about everything that has changed since “the policy” was leaked on November 5, 2015. My thoughts about it have become all tangled up in my reaction to the new Mormon and Gay website. This is a lot to unpack.
Peggy Fletcher Stack recently wrote in the Salt Lake Tribune that there is a ward in Seattle that functioned for a long time as a spiritual home for LGBTQ members. After the policy, many of them left. That feels like the theme. I’ve read lots of stories about both resignations and excommunications in the last year.
But, of course, it gets worse than that. Suicides in Utah have become a real problem. There is a lot of debate about the cause. You have to be doing some bizarre mental gymnastics to deny there is a relationship between these deaths and the church’s stance on LGBTQ issues. You can read some excellent analysis about the relationship between Mormon culture and the crisis LGBTQ youth are facing in Utah in this piece and this piece.
Will the new website help? We’ve got to give it time to see. My skepticism is strong. While there is a gentler, more inclusive approach to the topic, the narratives have not changed. The underlying messages still promote an erasure of identity as God’s will. I don’t see this as fundamentally life-promoting. For the sake of disclosure, I don’t see anything less than complete acceptance as life-promoting. But even still, the tiny baby steps that this website makes are superficial.
I think it is like this: This site gives members of the church a tool to use when telling others that the church loves and accepts LGBTQ members. And it tries really, really hard to make it seem like asking them to live a life of celibacy is not hateful. I just can’t buy it. While watching the videos and reading the stories on the site, I really wanted to take an open-minded position. I want to respect and honor the choices of others, including those LGBTQ people that choose to stay members of the church in good standing, despite all that this requires of them. But I just can’t shake the sadness. I think believing in a God that wants you to be alone is sad. I wish that no one believed that.
What’s more, I can’t shake the mixed message presented with both the policy and the site. One says, “we love you and accept you” while the other says, “only as long as you’re not really yourself.” One says, “we accept that God made you this way” and the other says, “deny that, or you’re out.”
The other thing I can’t get past is the way this policy was represented after it leaked. Always in the past, I tried to see the best in the leaders of the church. Sure, there is a lot I disagree with and a lot I would change. But I’d always told myself that they are doing what they think is right. I’d always told myself that they are saying what they believe. But then the policy was leaked, and the details of its creation trickled out. It may be unclear who initially commissioned it, but it is clear that it was written not by the Q15 but by the church’s lawyers. The are rumors that not all of the Q15 had even seen it, much less approved of it. Either way, the motivation behind it seemed to be about how the church would handle the legality of marriage equality moving forward. Elder Christofferson said as much in an interview released on Nov 6th. And then months later, Elder Nelson announced that the policy was revelation.
What? Since when do we receive revelation from the church’s lawyers? And since when was revelation added to the handbook in secret (do not forget the implication of learning about the policy through a leak) instead of presented by the leaders of the church to the body of the church? And since when is the handbook scripture? That seems unfair since so few of us have access to it.
Either Elder Nelson lied to us, or he has done some remarkable mental gymnastics to get to the point where he believes what he’s saying. And everyone just seems to be going along with it. Most of the active members of the church just accept it. Meanwhile, I’ve almost entirely lost faith in my church leaders. I’m not sure how to come back from it.
And I’m straight. I’m not at the center of this story. My reaction is tertiary, really. How must it feel to have the policy excluding not just you, but your children, from membership in the church, touted as revelation from God? I’m not sure how anyone can come back from that.
The policy did not come from lawyers. It’s origin is not ambiguous. The matter before the Q15 was obvious: What to do about same-sex marriage? What is the Lord’s will in the matter? Do you not think the Church leaders were engaged with this? After legalization the matter was front and center.
Here is Pres. Nelson:
“We sustain 15 men who are ordained as prophets, seers, and revelators. When a thorny problem arises—and they only seem to get thornier each day—these 15 men wrestle with the issue, trying to see all the ramifications of various courses of action, and they diligently seek to hear the voice of the Lord. After fasting, praying, studying, pondering, and counseling with my Brethren about weighty matters, it is not unusual for me to be awakened during the night with further impressions about issues with which we are concerned. And my Brethren have the same experience.
“The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counsel together and share all the Lord has directed us to understand and to feel individually and collectively. And then we watch the Lord move upon the President of the Church to proclaim the Lord’s will.
“This prophetic process was followed in 2012 with the change in minimum age for missionaries and again with the recent additions to the Church’s handbook, consequent to the legalization of same-sex marriage in some countries. Filled with compassion for all, and especially for the children, we wrestled at length to understand the Lord’s will in this matter. Ever mindful of God’s plan of salvation and of His hope for eternal life for each of His children, we considered countless permutations and combinations of possible scenarios that could arise. We met repeatedly in the temple in fasting and prayer and sought further direction and inspiration. And then, when the Lord inspired His prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, to declare the mind of the Lord and the will of the Lord, each of us during that sacred moment felt a spiritual confirmation.” (Becoming True Millennials, Jan 10, 2016)
I have said this on previous blogs that in my opinion, for what its worth, homosexuality is a sin. The fact that there exists same sex attraction is not a sin but the acting upon it is, if one believes in the bible. Men and women were constructed by the Creator to ‘fit’ for procreation, pleasure etc.
I feel very badly for those afflicted by this but all of us have crosses we have to bear. I understand the sadness of not being able to be intimate with someone you love because it’s a “sin”. That kind of unrequited love can be felt in the heterosexual world as well That still doesn’t mean you act upon it, if you’re married, for instance.
This seems very plain to me. Im sorry, I don’t mean to be unfeeling. But there are things that all of us have to wrestle with that are sins. Why is this different? I do realize that the church has a history of trying to “counsel” homosexuality “out” of people but I think that was its way of dealing with the topic as best as they could. When I was going to nursing school in the 70’s homosexual behavior was considered a sexual deviancy and may still be in the text books. I do have to say I was very upset about the action taken by the church against children of same sex couples. Thet’s like punishing the children for the sins of the parents. And please dont respond to me about the rationale for this decision Ive heard it and I still think it stinks.
I do have to say that I feel the Church is in a state of apostasy but not over their stand on same sex marrage. Thats another topic for another time.
As I was sitting in an Iraqi restaurant yesterday in the DC area I found myself puzzled and saddened over the fact that we cant seem to get along very well in this world. The middle east has so much to offer in the way of their cuisine, other countries as well. Where we seem to get into trouble is when we try to force our religious beliefs on other people. We need to love each other. That doesn’t mean we have to be abused in our love for each other. We need to use our common sense. We need to love those who are different in whatever ways. But….that doesn’t mean we accept as right the sins of those we love. I love you but not what you do in your sinning. It seems to me that we should love our children, parents, acquaintances, etc. regardless of their sexual jprefrences. But they need to understand our love doesn’t condone a sinful behavior regardless of the type. I think you can still love someone and stand for what the ‘right’ is in that situation.. We’ve all done that as parents when our kids have screwed up. So it shouldn’t be too hard.
Anyway, my love to you all at the beginning of this holiday season.
The church not letting children of same sex couples get baptized isn’t just punishing the children for the sins of their parents. It’s telling the parents that they and their families are not welcomed in the church. And it’s telling gay members that their “welcome” is conditional on celibacy.
The thing about celibacy is that not everyone can do it. And for many of those who decided they couldn’t, they still held true to their testimony of the restored gospel and participated in church the best they could. Now they are being told that their families are not welcome, that their children cannot be baptized.
And then a year later the church comes out and says that they value diversity and love all of God’s children? The cognitive dissonance is deafening.
Leah Marie, I agree with your comments. I’ve lost all confidence in church leaders over this issue. I never thought I’d reach the point where I’d feel that accepting the General Authorities’ position on something was the immoral thing to do. That was a painful realization.
“it is clear that it was written not by the Q15 but by the church’s lawyers. The are rumors that not all of the Q15 had even seen it, much less approved of it.”
What are the sources for this? I would be very interested to see. Thanks.
In the radio station NPR 90.1 FM October 1, there was 2 days interview with 4 people about this issue, and they said that when this decision came out, not all the Q15 were present neither they knew about it. Two of them were travelling and find out about the decision when they came back without their opinions about the subject. Elder Udirft was on a trip
It is this exact issue that started my faith transition. Even setting aside the question of whether or not homosexual romantic relationships are sinful, it’s been abundantly clear that the Q15 do not understand the topic at all.
As a bisexual member, I do not “struggle” with SSA; I am not “afflicted” in any way. The phrase “SSA” really needs to go away. For one, it makes us sound like we are diseased. And second, it’s a misnomer. Speaking from my own experience, sexual attraction is just sexual attraction. I do not experience two types of attraction, rather, I experience the same attraction to people without regards to their gender. If homosexual attraction is a shameful affliction, then the same is true of heterosexual attraction, as they are the exact same emotion.
No, I do not struggle with SSA, but what I do struggle with is people who insist on teaching me that I’m mentally ill, or pitying me, or spreading untruths like “celibacy is normal and required of heterosexual members”, or passing judgement on my brothers and sisters who leave the church because they’ve decided that that’s the only way for them to live the gospel and have an authentic life. It is not a trial to be queer. It’s a trial to deal with harmful teachings and judgmental members.
I am rather unimpressed by the MormanAndGay website. It carries the same harmful attitudes about LGBTQ individuals that are so prevalent in the church. I hope it doesn’t take an entire generation for things to finally change.
Regardless of how it came about, it’s shameful.
There’s a really long list of things the church deems sins. But children of murderers, adulterers, smokers, coffee drinkers, etc are not excluded from baptism. ANY argument about how the policy is supposedly “kind” to the children it targets raises the question: Why is that “kindness” being denied to children of other types of sinners?
And we’re ALL sinners.
Agree with you!
I am with you!!! Well said!!!