yesterday, my social media accounts exploded with updates about the lds church’s policy change regarding children of members in a same-sex marriage. in a nutshell, children of same-sex married or same-sex cohabiting parents are not eligible to receive a blessing (which usually happens some time in the first month of life or soon thereafter). in addition, those children are not able to be baptized into the church until they are 18, and even then must receive approval from the office of the first presidency, which is the highest leadership in the church, and first they must disavow the “lifestyle” of their parents.
i was sure at first that it was a hoax, that someone, somewhere had gotten false information and spread it to defame the church. but news outlet after news outlet picked up the story, and i became more and more dejected as i slowly came to terms with the fact that it was true. and now, i am so heartbroken and confused that i’ve spent most of my day on the verge of tears. my blog has always been an outlet for me in times of emotional turmoil, so here i am.
i don’t want to be divisive. i am not trying to tell anyone they are wrong for how they feel about this, or that they’re stupid or ignorant or faithless or naive for believing whatever they believe. i am simply trying to come to terms with the significant anguish i feel over this, and writing things out might help me process.
first, i want to say one thing, and this might be the most important thing, as far as i’m concerned. when stuff like this happens and people get upset, members often resort to asking, “why do you even care?” or “if you don’t like the church, leave! there are lots of other churches out there, go find one of them.” to a member struggling with their place in the church, this is incredibly hurtful to hear,even if it’s not directed at them. and here’s why that kind of language is so, so wrong: you cannot have it both ways. you simply cannot. you can’t say that the church is true and the gospel is for everyone one day, then the next day tell people that they should go away if they disagree with the way you personally interpret doctrine.
not only that, but it seems to me that anyone who advises a person having a faith crisis to “just leave” the church has never actually had a faith crisis. because let me tell you, i’ve tried to leave the church, for that specific reason–i kept hearing people say we don’t want you, go somewhere else. and guess what? i could not leave. why? because it would have effectively meant sacrificing my family. i would have lost my family, and that was unacceptable to me, so i stayed. and on the overwhelming majority of days, i’m glad i did. but today i’m hurting.
here’s the thing: when i wanted to leave the church, i knew that even if i did decide to disaffiliate myself, i would continue to attend in order to raise my kids lds. i had a wonderful experience as a child, even though my biological father wasn’t a member, and i was both blessed and baptized by wonderful men who were not my dad. i want those experiences for my children, because i love them. it was a commitment to keep my children in the church that sustained my fragile faith during the darkest times of my life. and it has been seeing their simple yet powerful testimonies of god and jesus christ grow in a church setting that has helped my own faith reemerge and expand to fill places i thought were lost for good.
so seeing that the church has chosen to institute a policy that would withhold covenants from children who want those blessings is really, really devastating to me. they say all the time in church that when you’re young and are developing your own testimony of the gospel, you cling to the testimony of your parents and others in order to help you along the way. well, it’s been the opposite for me. i have looked to the faith of my children to help me understand god’s plan for me.
maybe that context will help you understand why i care so much, and why other people may care. there are good people, amazing people, who are lds or formerly lds, happen to be gay and in a loving same-sex marriage, and also have children. and maybe they want those children raised in the church, for whatever reason–perhaps something similar to my reasons. to me, that is real faith, love, devotion: to want to give your child the blessings you believe are possible, even though you are not eligible for them yourself, and even though those blessings come at your personal expense.
i keep seeing comments like, “why would a gay person want their child in the church anyway?” the answer is, who knows. but the fact is, those people do exist, and they are being singled out and told that not only are they not good enough, but neither are their children. i fail to see how this is just or christlike.
and then there are the arguments that the policy is the same for polygamists, or children with parents of faiths that are directly in opposition to the doctrine of the church, and that all children must have parental consent to be baptized, etc. these arguments claim that this policy change is one of love, to protect children. while i intellectually understand this argument, i reject it wholly. first of all, polygamy is illegal and same-sex marriage is not. second of all, there are gay parents who would absolutely give their children permission to be baptized, but they are basically being denied that possibility now. third, this policy seems to contradict the church’s recent, more progressive stance on homosexuality (that it’s not a choice, that being gay is not a sin in and of itself) by reinforcing the false notion that it’s a lifestyle choice, and in order to be a member you have to renounce it. being gay is not a lifestyle choice.
but parsing the language of the policy aside, the thing that’s breaking my heart the most is seeing people i call friends be so completely insensitive towards those who are genuinely struggling with this issue. telling a person to pray about it, or go read the scriptures, is not only condescending, it’s also not helpful. people have prayed. people have studied. and people still feel betrayed and ashamed and bewildered. don’t confuse your moral superiority with actual authority. just because my faith is different doesn’t mean it’s worthless.
and don’t make any mistake about it, there are lives at stake here. we can debate endlessly about the meanings of words, but the fact of the matter is, there are people who have formed their identities around their membership in the church, whether purposefully or not–i know, because i’m one of those people. and to have my identity buffeted about at every turn by the winds of change, especially when those winds feel like they’re blowing in the wrong direction, is painful, to say the least. i can only imagine how this policy change must feel to lgbtq members and their families. they are all in my thoughts today, and i hope for peace and comfort for them, and for all of us.
“but Jesus said, suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
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