I know…I have resigned my membership. So why do I care about the newÂ 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.Â 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 theÂ videoÂ the church released with Elder ChristoffersonÂ 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?Â 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 -Â 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? Â 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 -Â Why is the church just now enacting these changes when same-sex marriage has been legal in roughly 20 other countriesÂ for anywhere between 1 year and more than 10 years? The total church membership in thoseÂ countries is about 2.5 million.Â 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 – Â How does the church view support of same-sex marriage for members now? In this interviewÂ with Elder ChristoffersonÂ in March 2015, he stated:
“Our approach in all of this, as (Mormon founder) Joseph Smith said, is persuasion. You canâ€™t use the priesthood and the authority of the church to dictate. You canâ€™t compel, you canâ€™t coerce. It has to be persuasion, gentleness and love unfeigned, as the words in the scripture.â€
There hasnâ€™t been any litmus test or standard imposed that you couldnâ€™t support that if you want to support it, if thatâ€™s your belief and you think itâ€™s right,â€ 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,â€ Christofferson said. â€ â€¦ In our view, it doesnâ€™t really become a problem unless someone is out attacking the church and its leaders â€” if thatâ€™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?”Â
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 cohabitingÂ 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!