The 8 things I’d like to ask

I know…I have resigned my membership. So why do I care about the new Mormon church policy update that impacts LGBT Mormons? Why bother stressing about it if I don’t even belong or believe?

Because this was my faith community for 46 years. Because it was how I was raised. Because I have active believing children (and now grandchildren), parents, a sister, extended family and friends that do continue to believe and participate. Because the Mormon church continues to impact those relationships. I have a gay brother whose married to a wonderful man and they’ve been together for a lot of years. During my faith transition, I reached out and made many friends online and became aware of their struggles and pain. I’m a Mama Dragon, even if I don’t have any gay children myself, because LGBT issues have impacted my life. I’ve received private messages over the past couple of years about what it means to be gay in the Mormon church. I have listened to stories of unimaginable pain and anguish. And the most basic reason is because I’m human and I care about people.

So I’ve examined this policy, as currently written (with no clarification issued yet), and engaged in a lot of discussions. While doing this, I’ve compiled a list of questions – questions that the video the church released with Elder Christofferson left unanswered. Here they are:

#1 – Since the primary reason for the policy given by Elder Christofferson was to protect the children from mixed messages, how does this policy accomplish that when it only bans them from saving ordinances while allowing/encouraging them to attend church? If this is the primary concern, why not ban them from attending our church services all-together until they’re 18? How does the church reconcile the mixed messaging happening for children in other families that are living in situations where parents are living in ways that don’t align with church doctrines/policies? Like non-members, those engaged in sexual activity outside of marriage, those with addiction issues, those living with partners but unmarried, those that have left the church, apostates, etc. If the church is trying to prevent mixed messaging or family conflict, why aren’t these same rules applicable for all children under age 18? Are they still working on policy updates for those children/families as well? Because there are many children currently participating in the church the hear messages that conflict with what they hear and see at home.

# 2 – Does the church anticipate that the children of gay parents will still attend church with these new rules? Do they hope that grandparents, family members and friends will continue to bring these children to primary, church and youth activities? Will the church be encouraging that? If so, how does the church envision this experience working for both those children and the adults teaching primary/YM/YW? Because the messaging will be the same. And they won’t be able to fully participate in some things (baptism, blessing/passing the sacrament, temple trips, ordinations). Does the church plan on altering the manuals to help teachers and leaders prepare for these situations and how to make the children feel truly involved/included?

# 3 - Since baby blessings are not a saving ordinance, and viewed as a celebration of a child’s birth, and are done for children whose parents are inactive/non-members, why is this different for children with gay parents? The reason given, during the video, was it creates a membership record and starts ward responsibilities for that child. But that happens with other children, as well, whose parents may not even be attending or believe (and living in situations where mixed messaging will happen). Is the church concerned about having the gay couples names on the certificate of blessing? Or in the church system listed as a family unit?  If so, why? Wouldn’t the church want primary/ward leaders and members to reach out to these children, just like they do for inactive families?

# 4 - Why is the church just now enacting these changes when same-sex marriage has been legal in roughly 20 other countries for anywhere between 1 year and more than 10 years? The total church membership in those countries is about 2.5 million. The church has said this is to protect children and families. Was the church concerned about the children and families in these other countries as well? And, if so, why did they wait until marriage laws changed in the U.S. when this is a global church?

# 5 –  How does the church view support of same-sex marriage for members now? In this interview with Elder Christofferson in March 2015, he stated:

“Our approach in all of this, as (Mormon founder) Joseph Smith said, is persuasion. You can’t use the priesthood and the authority of the church to dictate. You can’t compel, you can’t coerce. It has to be persuasion, gentleness and love unfeigned, as the words in the scripture.”
There hasn’t been any litmus test or standard imposed that you couldn’t support that if you want to support it, if that’s your belief and you think it’s right,” Christofferson said after a Jan. 27 news conference.

We have individual members in the church with a variety of different opinions, beliefs and positions on these issues and other issues,” Christofferson said. ” … In our view, it doesn’t really become a problem unless someone is out attacking the church and its leaders — if that’s a deliberate and persistent effort and trying to get others to follow them, trying to draw others away, trying to pull people, if you will, out of the church or away from its teachings and doctrines.

The current policy update states that children with gay parents, in a same-sex marriage, will need to disavow this practice in order to be baptized or serve a mission. Does that mean regular members can support it, but children with gay parents can’t? What about after they are baptized and 18 years old? Or after they return home from their mission? At that point are they allowed to support it like the rest of the members?

# 6 – Now that the church has included same-sex married couples in the definition of apostasy/apostates, are the temple recommend questions going to be altered to reflect this? Especially the question that asks:

“Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” 

Does this mean belonging to a group like Mama Dragons is a violation of this? Since they support their children and others that live with their partners or get married? What about parents who support their gay children that are doing this? What about being a member of a LGBT support group that supports these as valid options like Affirmation?

# 7 – We’ve heard rumblings that there will be some clarification or additional training coming forth to help expand on this written policy. If this is the case, and the church was planning on doing this from the start, why didn’t Elder Christofferson mention this during the video? The video was released late the following evening and the media and online discussions had been happening for 24 hours. Many people were upset, confused, surprised and honestly shocked at this update and wording. The church would have been well aware of this by the time they began filming the video. Wouldn’t it have been good timing for the church to reassure the members that further clarifications would be forthcoming? And that the church recognized there were a myriad of individual circumstances that would need to be taken into account? That the church was aware of the pain and anguish this policy was resulting in, and that they would work hard to expand on the language to help local leadership understand how to implement this? The policy change became public on November 5, the video was released on Nov 6, and it is now November 12. There has been no clarification. If the church had these exceptions/clarifications prepared, why is it taking so long to release them? Or is this delay due to not anticipating the need for these?

# 8 – If the church provides additional clarification, and allows exceptions for children who have divorced parents (mixed-orientation marriage), how will these exceptions work? Will it be based on specific percentage requirements for the amount of time they can live in the home of the parent that is cohabiting or in a same-sex marriage? After they turn 18, does this requirement end (say, for instance, a student at BYU that lives with a gay parent during a term break)?

OK so perhaps it was more like 8 groups of questions I’d like to ask!

10 thoughts on “The 8 things I’d like to ask

  1. As someone whose membership dates back 53 years, who has been out of it for the last 15, after years of involvement with the liberal wing – Sunstone, Dialogue etc., let me say that I think we are approaching a ‘watershed moment’ of some kind. Three times in its history, prior to this, the LDS church has found itself facing in the opposite direction to the way that wider society was moving. In the 1890s it involved polygamy. In the 1970s it was the race question. And many people don’t realise that prior to the feminist movement getting underway in the 1970s, that the Church had invested heavily in what they called the Priesthood Correlation Programme. Many saw the social ills of the period as deriving from mothers going into the workplace. The PCP would have relieved mothers of many church duties, with more being done by the priesthood – allowing mothers to get back where they were needed – baking and cleaning and caring for children. With the onward march of feminism the Church was obliged to rethink its policies in this regard, which has led to women having a bigger role to play than otherwise would have been the case. So these were the three great struggles the church has had in society. Now it is faced with its biggest test yet – the gay question. Eventually – as night follows day – they will have to go with the mores of the wider society. The alternative would be to separate the Church (as the Amish are separated) from society. and that will not happen. Eventually Mormonism will accept both women in the priesthood and gay marriage. That is my prediction. It is only a question of time.

  2. I’ve wondered if the church will consider NOT ex’ing me if my wife and i divorce, given that we got “gay married” two months before god decided it was apostacy. Im half serious.

  3. Great questions!

    Does that mean regular members can support it, but children with gay parents can’t? What about after they are baptized and 18 years old? Or after they return home from their mission? At that point are they allowed to support it like the rest of the members?

    Seriously, it’s hard to make sense of this. There even exist endowed adults who have parents who are in same sex-marriages. Now are they required to stop supporting gay marriage, and instead disavow it, to renew their temple recommend?

    And there are plenty of other ambiguous cases, like @3 above — I wouldn’t recommend getting a divorce to find out, but I’d be curious to ask what the answer is…

    Since the primary reason for the policy given by Elder Christofferson was to protect the children from mixed messages, how does this policy accomplish that when it only bans them from saving ordinances while allowing/encouraging them to attend church?

    Honestly, I don’t think the leaders ever meant to encourage these kids to continue to attend LDS church in spite of the policy. I think the clear interpretation of the “protect the children from mixed messages” rhetoric is that the writers of this policy meant for those kids not to go to church anymore at all.

    I’m going to be completely cynical about this, but I think the post-mixed-orientation-marriage-but-still-co-parenting families were really the primary target of this policy.

    When the believing parent keeps bringing the kids to church, it makes the church look bad. The ward members see the straight, believing parent trying to continue to live the gospel, against all odds — while it is abundantly clear that the church’s own crappy advice brought a world of hurt on this innocent parent. And the church has basically nothing to offer this person to make up for it. The leaders can’t even admit to being wrong and apologize.

    It would be so much simpler for the church if the people hurt by its advice would just get angry and go away. It’s so much easier for the church to (figuratively) point its finger at the apostate’s back and say, “See? The bitter fruits of apostasy! Not everyone is strong enough to live up to the church’s high standards,” rather than having these sweet folks show up every week to serve as living, poignant evidence of the church’s villainy.

    The most logical thing for the CoJCoL-dS to try to say at this point would be to “clarify” that kids in shared-custody situations won’t be denied ordinances. Maybe they have already. Because kicking these families some more (after having been the root cause of the problem in the first place by directly or indirectly encouraging mixed-orientation marriage) is one of the most immediate and blatant effects of this policy.

  4. Wow, check those timestamps! lol, and I’d been calling the CoJCoL-dS unpredictable! Yet I anticipated the “clarification”. That or the CoB has finally figured out that MSP is the blog to follow for analysis of the church’s strategy options! 😉

  5. Ha….ya I’m sure they were answering my blog!

    Sadly there are still so many of these questions that weren’t answered. We are left with most of these still hanging out there. Instead we have some minor clarifications written in vague language. What exactly is primary residence in joint custody cases? What is a “similar relationship”? Why does the church have a handbook if it doesn’t include specifics? Are you saying it’s a book of guidelines and for all these years it’s been OK for local leaders to implement these how they see fit (and feel inspired)?

    They handed it back to local leaders which will roll open the door for leadership roulette. Members in more progressive areas may get luckier than those in conservative wards/stakes. The newsroom blamed social media/media reports for these questions and implied we were just misunderstanding this despite the reality that we were discussing the ACTUAL wording in the written policy.

    Now members are just buying all of this and saying see we told you – you were just jumping to conclusions and blowing this out of proportion. See it’s done in love.

    Gads…..

  6. I’m going to be completely cynical about this, but I think the post-mixed-orientation-marriage-but-still-co-parenting families were really the primary target of this policy.

    When the believing parent keeps bringing the kids to church, it makes the church look bad. The ward members see the straight, believing parent trying to continue to live the gospel, against all odds — while it is abundantly clear that the church’s own crappy advice brought a world of hurt on this innocent parent. And the church has basically nothing to offer this person to make up for it. The leaders can’t even admit to being wrong and apologize

    Wow. That’s really depressing, but you just might be right.

    I came across a passage yesterday in The March of Folly by Barbara Tuchman that reminded me of all this crap going on in the church–not just this particularly egregious policy, but the deception and the “history vs. heritage” and all the disastrous decisions by men who are supposed to be direct recipients of divine guidance and wisdom:

    The specters that thronged [the the imagination of the architects of the Vietnam war]–which have so far fallen rather short of being realized–raise an important question for the study of folly. What level of perception, what fiction or fantasy, enters into policy-making? What wild flights soar over reasonable estimates of reality? What degree of conviction or, on the contrary, conscious exaggeration is at work? Is the argument believed or is it invented rhetoric employed to enforce a desired course of action?

    I think the LDS church is a terrific example in the study of folly. They are guilty of it so, so often.

  7. @7 This is a big part of the reason I can’t look away. I think the CoJCoL-dS is a truly exceptional and fascinating example of what happens when one is constantly in the public eye and can never admit to being wrong.

  8. Agreed. It’s been unsettling to watch the various reactions to this update.

    Orthodox/Traditional believer – distrust that it’s really from the church, discomfort, confusion—–Watch Elder C’s Video—-See this is done in love and for the children just like he said, church had to do this for {insert vague legal reasons}—–read clarification and newsroom piece—-This is revelation, prophetic, you guys just misunderstood and misinterpreted this {insert don’t trust media and members that have been analyzing this}, it’s only going to affect a few children {meaning of course children with a straight parent are now probably OK so this is just fine now}. Fall in line and let others know that disagreement means they are on the road to apostasy because the brethren cannot lead church astray.

    It’s as if we watched in very real time as they bypassed their conscience and initial gut instincts and “made it work” because the church said so. Fascinating.

    For many of the progressive Mormons this process has been somewhat similar except the ending is more like – Well we know the brethren make mistakes but we still believe the church is guided {at times} by God and inspired, this is hard thing but we can push through this, we need to trust that God is slowly changing hearts {insert hope that future leaders will be more liberal minded and effect change}, we need to stick it out to be there for others.

    I’m honestly not sure how to view this group because for some of them it truly resembles an abusive relationship that they are unable to leave.

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