Processing

I haven’t been sure what to post about this. There have been so many excellent, thoughtful, articulate posts that have tackled the problems of the new church policies regarding gay members and particularly their children that I’m not sure I have much to add. But I find myself wanting to say something anyway. This is where I am and what I am thinking.

I am stunned. Honestly, my first reaction wasn’t anger or sadness, but simple disbelief that this could be for real. There is part of me that still can’t entirely take it seriously, because I keep thinking, surely they wouldn’t go through with something so draconian. Surely the church is better than this, wouldn’t stoop this low. But as I have seen stories from people who have already been harmed by this new policy, it has started to sink in that this is actually happening. When the church delayed and delayed their press release, I hoped they were thinking of a way to walk things back a little, to soften it. My heart sank as I heard Elder Christofferson reinforce the policy and possibly make things even worse, and more confusing (are these children not welcome in Primary, for example?)

I’m astounded at the poorly thought out nature of this change. The way this has been framed strongly suggests to me that the church is oblivious to the realities of its current makeup. My guess is that they are thinking about potential converts who have parents in same-sex marriages. But they don’t seem aware of the fact that there are already many, many children being raised in the church who have parents in such marriages, often the result of a divorce because one parent was gay (a situation frequently caused, it is worth noting, by the church’s own previous counsel to gay members to enter mixed-orientation marriages). Those children are getting hammered. They also seem to assume that gay people would be anti-Mormon (thus the stated concern for family harmony); I’m not convinced they’re really aware of the many gay members who still care about the church and would be interested in raising their children there, given half a chance. Such members have incredible testimony and commitment, and attacking them seems particularly harsh.

I am angry about many of the responses I’ve seen. People who are initially uncomfortable ease their troubled consciences with half-baked internet articles which they then prescribe to everyone around them. It bothers me how many seem unwilling to sit with difficulty and ambiguity for even a day or two, but immediately start coming up with ever-wilder justifications (are we really going to go back to the argument about who was more valiant in the pre-existence?)

I am angry about the reasons given for this move, which feel incredibly disingenuous. The argument that it’s about protecting the children seems particularly egregious given that it’s the children who are being the most harmed by this, and given that the church has exhibited absolutely no concern for children in the past who come from non-ideal families and have had to sit through painful lessons.

I am angry about the dismissal of the difficulties of this coming from people who aren’t affected by it. I am always suspicious when I see people glibly say that life is meant to be hard, or that the church requires sacrifice, when they’re not the ones faced with the challenges or being asked to make those sacrifices. I hate seeing Latter-day Saints throw their sisters and brothers under the bus and explain that it’s just the wheat being separated from the tares. I am angry about the idea that emotions are irrelevant and this is a matter of cold logic, as if any of us were immune from emotion affecting our thinking. Emotions are messy and complicated. They’re also what makes us human, and allow us to even use reason in the first place. And to glibly dismiss them is to be cavalier and callous about real suffering.

I am frustrated that the church is spinning this instead of saying flat-out that they simply don’t want gay families to feel welcome. I actually appreciated Elder Christofferson saying that gay marriage is a particularly grievous sin—I appreciated the directness and honesty. The church sees homosexuality as a uniquely bad sin (and I think the distinction between orientation and behavior is ultimately untenable), one that makes anything else positive irrelevant, one that calls for a drastic response that isn’t triggered by rape or murder or abuse. Gay people do get singled out and treated as uniquely problematic. It’s time to own up to that.

I am heartbroken over the kids who are already getting hurt by this, who’ve had their baptisms cancelled. I am heartbroken over my LGBT sisters and brothers who are feeling even more unwanted, hopeless, and even suicidal. It hurts to watch person after person in my circle of friends and acquaintances decide that this is it, and send in their letter of resignation.

I am discouraged over the ever-bleaker situation of gay members. Consider this:

1) If a gay/ssa Mormon marries a person of the opposite sex, we are statistically at least twice as likely as our peers to divorce.

2) If a gay/ssa Mormon marries someone of the same sex, we are now officially identified in LDS policy as an apostate of The Church of Jesus Christ and all that comes with it.

3) If we remain single and celibate, the largest study of LGBT/Same sex attracted Mormons found that on average, we have the same life quality scores as someone with the chronic autoimmune disease, lupus.

One a more positive note, I feel deeply appreciative of all the people in my life who have been supportive of me, who have reached out and made sure I was okay, who have expressed that they want me in the church regardless. I am so lucky in both family and friends, and I have been reminded of that. I am also encouraged by my fellow Latter-day Saints who are raising their voices in objection, who are saying this is not okay and I’m not going to pretend otherwise. Thank you for that.

And in the end, I am not sure what to do. I find myself faced with two questions:

1) Can I be part of a church which doesn’t want me? I think the answer is yes. As a gay, feminist, progressive Mormon, I haven’t felt for a long time that the institutional church really wanted me around, and I’ve managed to weather that storm largely due to a good support system, and a spiritual conviction that God wants me there. This is a blow, but I can survive it. The more difficult question is,

2) Can I be part of a church which is acting in ways I find unconscionable? This is a harder one. What does it mean to support an institution that is doing things I see as deeply harmful? I suppose this isn’t a new question, either—I’ve certainly wrestled with it in the past—but it’s fresh again, and I don’t think I can easily avoid it.

This isn’t getting easier with time; at least this far, it’s getting worse, as it sinks in more and more. I care deeply about this church. I can’t imagine my life without it. I believe in it in some fundamental ways. But I feel as uncertain about my relationship to it as I have in a long time.

14 thoughts on “Processing

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    2) Can I be part of a church which is acting in ways I find unconscionable?

    As a white-straight-male I hold a position of privilege in the church because of how I was born. This question of how the church takes away privelege from certaim groups has been weighing heavily on my mind. My heart goes out to all hurt by this policy. I haven’t decided what I’m going to do about it, but staying silent is becoming less and less an option.

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    I am sad and confused and don’t have any wisdom to offer. But I just wanted to say how much I love and appreciate your thoughtfulness, your insights, and your faith. I’m so glad that you’re a sister in the gospel with me. I have followed your blog for years, (and got to hear you in person once, too, which was a treat), and through all the words you’ve shared, you’ve strengthened my own faith and made me want to be a better person. I don’t feel like it’s my place to try to convince you to stay and endure more pain, but I will say that it will be a devastating loss to me and many others if you decide to leave.

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    I always appreciate your candid thoughts, Lynnette! Your second question is what ultimately prompted my formal resignation and yet I still find myself heart broken that that decision is strengthened as time goes on. I think I had hoped I would eventually be “proven wrong.”

    I do fear that this will lead to entrenchment rather than listening and compromise, though. At least for a while. There will be a lot of casualties with this one, and you are right, those casualties will be too easily dismissed as tares, goats, etc. Heartbreaking.

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    I think the least a person can do is speak to their Stake President and ask him to convey your dissatisfaction with this course to SLC. Perhaps stop paying tithing until we are all treated equally. black and white, bond and free, male and female, gay and straight. all equally, as in the sight of God.

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    After finding out about all of this last Friday, I finally had to do something. So I wrote a letter to Pres. Monson. I haven’t sent it yet. The writing itself was hugely cathartic, a place where I could put down, in my best Mormon-ese, why I was so upset. My ardor cooled over the weekend (I’ve been on sabbatical from church attendance, for exactly reasons like this) but I’m feeling a renewed urge to send it. I know that he won’t read it, that it’ll be forwarded to my local leaders, but him reading it isn’t the point. I want to make a statement, lodge a complaint, make as much of a stink in the institutional church that I can.

    You know, Brigham Young is a problematic figure, but he was right about one thing, prosperity is sucking the life out of the church. The privileged members dig their head into the sand and pretend that all is well in Zion when we clearly have a dark, growing tumor in our heart. How can our leaders be so willfully obtuse?

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    Thank you for this beautiful post. For selfish reasons, I hope you stay. We need people with compassion and understanding and thoughtfulness. So many members failed the empathy test this weekend as they bent over backwards to justify and defend a painful church policy. Even those who have accepted it as inspired could have done a lot more to mourn with those who mourn instead of trying to prove to everyone else how dedicated to the Church (Handbook) they are.
    While I understand if you must leave, I hope you don’t.

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    You were the first person that I thought about when I heard the news. Obviously our approaches to the issue differ greatly, and the different ways in which this policy effects us obviously account for some of these differences.

    That said, I can’t pretend to know how you’re feeling or how you should feel about it. There is, however, Somebody who does know these things, and I sincerely hope that you confide in and listen to Him. I sincerely wish you the best in your struggle to cope in these difficult times.

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  9. Pingback: So, You've Heard Mormons Don't Like Gay Couples and Their Kids? (or, The New Policy Sucks) - Nearing Kolob Nearing Kolob

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    Thanks so much everyone, for reading and listening and responding with thoughtfulness.

    Rockwell, yeah. It’s a weight. I’m trying to figure out the best way of not staying silent that doesn’t just antagonize people.

    Michelle, wow—that’s one of the nicest comments I’ve ever gotten. Thank you so much! I’m happy to have you as a regular reader.

    Enna, it really is heartbreaking. I was hoping too that they would see the damage and back down.

    Geoff – A, I just moved and don’t know my current leaders at all, but I am thinking about how I can communicate my unhappiness. I desperately want Salt Lake got some feedback about just how much this is affecting people.

    Megan, I totally hear you about wanting to make a statement, even if they’re unlikely to listen to it. I so often have wished that there were a way to communicate with the GAs, that we didn’t feel trapped in the bubbles of our stakes, that we had a voice in our own church. I’m glad writing the letter helped.

    Stacy, thanks. I appreciate that. I’ve been frustrated too with many of the reactions I’ve seen.

    Jeff G., I appreciate the good wishes. Unorthodox I may be, but my relationship with God is very important to me, and this issue is definitely coming up in those conversations.

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    I don’t know if this is appropriate, since you are using a pen name, but I just wanted to share something. I don’t know if you remember me. I had just moved into the ward and was having an eye opening experience. I will never forget a RS lesson you gave talking about religion, other churches, and all good things from God. I know I am who I am today because of the wonderful people I met and was taught by in that great little ward. I miss that ward and all those people, you as well. I don’t know how you are feeling, but I know we need everyone who wants to come in our church. I am so sorry for your pain and when I think that these kind of statement could remove wonderful people like you, or Paul, from my life I am saddened.

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    Jenn, thank you so much for sharing that. It means a lot to me to hear. I moved a few months ago, and I miss that ward, too!

    Clean Cut, thank you.

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