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.