I find myself in the uncomfortable position of being out of step with my church, and it’s tying me up in knots. As my Facebook friends already know – and I’m taking a short weekend-long sabbatical from Facebook in order to calm down – I am deeply troubled by the Church’s new policy to withhold blessings from children of same-sex couples. I find all the explanations and justifications for this policy that have been hitherto offered to be unpersuasive. I see this policy as a fundamental contradiction with one of our most basic Articles of Faith.
I love and sustain the Church and its leaders. I have been richly blessed by my association with this church which has done immeasurable good in this world. God’s hand has been clearly visible in its work. I wish to remain a member in good standing. I have no interest in tearing my church down. I have defended it repeatedly on this blog and elsewhere, and I will continue to defend it as often as I am able.
That said, I cannot escape the conclusion that this policy is a profound error.
As I thought what I would write about this, I saw an essay on Facebook written by Utah State Senator Steve Urquhart, who was one of the primary movers and shakers behind the legislation protecting LGBT individuals from discrimination that recently passed in Utah with the Church’s full support. Steve was my neighbor when I lived in St. George, and he’s one of the finest people I know. He’s also one of the brightest, most clear-thinking individuals on the planet, and what he wrote on this subject expresses my own opinion perfectly. With his permission, I am reposting his words here.
I want to explain why I care that the Mormon Church has decided to ostracize (i.e., exclude from privileges and rites) the children of gay parents (e.g., parents in committed same-sex relationships).
The Church’s decision will hurt individuals. It will hurt families. And it will hurt the Church.
Let me be clear upfront. To my core, I love the Mormon Church. My life is immensely better because the Mormon Church—and so many of its loving, giving, beautiful, Christ-like followers—was there to guide me, my mother, and one of my brothers. My childhood was sloppy. My family was messy. After our already-unsound foundation was rocked by tragedy, my mom, my brother, and I joined the Mormon Church. We were in free fall, and the Mormon Church caught us, supported us, and saved us. Yes, it is flawed, but the Mormon Church is a glorious institution.
Also, the Mormon Church does much, much, much good in this world—most of it very quietly. The leadership of the Church and the members of the Church are consumed with doing good things. Though the Church sporadically frustrates the bejeebers out of me as it struggles to find the right place on issues involving women and gayfolk, Mormons are my people. They are my tribe. And if any of you bastards dare to storm the gates of the temple, I’ll dust off my Triple Combination (scriptures) and use it to beat the living hell out of you. Got it?!
My fellow tribesmen and tribeswomen, I hope you know that many gay members of our tribe need the Mormon Church. They believe in the Church. They draw strength from it. Like the rest of us sinners, they fall short but keep going because of their faith. This policy change will deny their kids rites and blessings.
In addition to our gay tribes(wo)men, there are gayfolk who want nothing to do with the Church themselves, BUT they fully support and appreciate their children’s devotion to the religion. This beautiful reality should be easy to grasp. My dad, for example, thought the foundational claims of the Mormon Church were total bullshit, but he 100% appreciated and supported his boys’ devotion to the religion. He encouraged and paid for my mission. Why? Because he realized that he fell short. He knew that we needed help. And he was proud that we had the discipline to believe and live according to our faith. If he weren’t in Sailors Paradise, I guarantee you he also would defend the gates of the Temple. (He’d have some hilarious asides, but he loved that crazy-ass institution, because it was good for his boys).
Okay? That’s point one. You shouldn’t cut people off from full participation—especially if you believe that they need an extra portion of help and salvation.
Point two. This hurts the Church, because it is bigoted and small. The Church has actively ostracized two groups: polygamists (those who stayed after we got out) and blackfolk.
To justify the decision to ostracize kids of (some) gayfolk, people argue that the same policy applies to kids of polygamists. Yes. That makes my point about bigotry. Honestly, we can’t stand plygs. Our religiously hillbilly cousins claim the same genealogy, name, scriptures, traditions, and stories, and it drives us crazy. People confuse us for them, and we really don’t like it. So, we ostracize them. We are prejudiced against them. And our leadership handbooks reflect that bigotry.
We have been trying to put behind us our ostracism of blackfolk. Just like we now do for kids of gayfolk, for over a century we ostracized blackfolk, denying them rites and privileges. Just like members are now doing regarding kids of gayfolk, members spent a century explaining away the racial bigotry as a mystery of God, something to be cured in the next life, etc. But it was just bigotry. The Church recently took the healthy step of admitting that. The racism of Brother Brigham found its way into church practice (and leadership manuals) and was, then, unfortunately, followed for generations. It was never of God. It was fear, misunderstanding and bigotry.
And that’s what the ostracism of children of gayfolk is: fear, misunderstanding, and bigotry. It’s not of God. It’s of man. And it needs to change. Members of the Church don’t need to explain the denial of rites and blessings as somehow good for a targeted, ostracized group of people. That’s transparently wrong and embarrassing. It is now clear–Church approved–that anyone truly in touch with God’s will would have known that the ostracism of blackfolk was wrong. They would have been right to speak out against it.
I don’t know the will of God. He doesn’t speak to me. But it seems his messages must get garbled in Google Translate at times. When I tried to tell my dad the Joseph Smith story, he said, “Son, you seem reluctant to talk with me about the idea of God talking to a man. I believe it. I see it every day. I know lots of people who talk with God. It is an undisputed fact. But . . . from what I can tell, he must tell them some crazy-ass shit.” It must be difficult to clearly hear and interpret the will of God.
The Mormon Church has learned some lessons from its history of ostracizing blackfolk. We now know that the prophets Brigham Young, John Talyor, Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow, Joseph F. Smith, Heber J. Grant, George Albert Smith, David O. McKay, Joseph Fielding Smith, and Harold B. Lee all struggled to find God’s actual will regarding his black children. We had it wrong for a long time. Similarly, the Church is struggling to find God’s will regarding his LGBT children.
Suffer not the children in my tribe. Let’s continue to work on this issue. The Mormon Church really has made some good progress on LGBT issues. Really. On this one, though, we shanked it into the woods. Let’s retee, adjust our stance, and swing again.