2 Steps Forward
In 2012, the Mormon Church launched a website called “Mormons and Gays.” I saw that as HUGE progress. It asked for members to have love and compassion for their LGBT sons and daughters. Sure, I didn’t love everything about the Mormons and Gays site. The Mormon Church still believed that marriage was only between a man and a woman, so those of us who are gay should either remain single and celibate or be in a mixed orientation marriage. Neither of which felt authentic to me.
After the site launched, I finally came out to my family. While they weren't necessarily thrilled by the news, they weren't shocked either. I was happy with myself. I was fine with where the church was. Eventually, I believed it would not merely tolerate its LGBT members, but embrace us. And that overall sentiment of love was a win in my book. That feeling of gratitude did not last long because then came the “exclusion policy.”
In a nutshell, the “exclusion policy” labels “homosexual relations” as “Serious Transgressions” alongside attempted murder, forcible rape, sexual abuse, spouse abuse, intentional serious physical injury of others, adultery, fornication, etc. Mormons who enter into same-sex unions are considered apostates, subject to ex-communication, and their children are barred from blessing and baptism rituals without the permission of the faith's highest leaders. Even then, to participate in such rituals, the individuals must wait until they are 18 years old and have disavowed their parents.
Seeing “homosexual relations” listed among “serious transgressions” including rape and murder infuriated me!
I'm saddened that once the policy came out, the suicide rate among LGBT Mormons sky-rocketed. But it doesn't surprise me. I get it. I've thought about it, a lot. I remember being 15. I started coming up with excuses to stop doing baptisms for the dead after I heard folklore that a temple worker could tell who was unworthy to be there and would share your sins with everyone else. Even though I hadn't done anything wrong, I was scared of being found out. Had the exclusion policy come out when I was a teenager, it's very likely that I wouldn't be here now.
I'm still flabbergasted when my friends don't understand why I'm outraged. They don't see it as hurtful that a baby with gay parents can't receive a name and a blessing in the church. They don't think it's unreasonable for a child with gay parents to have to wait until they're 18 to be baptized.
My friend explained it like this: “It is not simply a delay of baptism. The child can only get baptized if they denounce the same-sex marriage of their parents and no longer live with them. I guarantee you that those children love their parents even if they are ‘gay married.’ Having to choose between denouncing their parents and joining the church is a violation of agency and an unjust imposition to a child who was nurtured, loved, and supported by such parents who still love and cherish them. Your love for your parents is no more valid or real than that of a child of gay parents.”
Last year, the Mormon Church updated the “Mormons and Gays” page, changing it to “Mormon and Gay." It's like they were trying to put a band-aid on the gaping wound that is the exclusion policy. The inclusive name may be the only positive from the revamped site. Sure, it's full of videos showing supportive families with gay members which is great. But the gay members shown are those who have chosen to live a celibate life to remain in the church; never to fall in love and get married to a same-sex partner. There's a lot of feel-good effort on the site, but not a lot of action.
Mitch Mayne explained it better than I could in a Huffington Post piece. Basically, he reminds Mormons of the second great commandment: Love thy neighbor as thyself. But, he points out, we don’t really do that. We love LGBT people as something less than us. The videos, articles and websites, he says, are “underpinned with a single notion: LGBT people are, at their core, broken, afflicted, and a little bit less than whole.”
He’s right. That’s not love. “It’s a misshapen disdain for LGBT people based in ignorance, fear, bigotry, and elitism. That’s offensive at its best, and at its worst it can be deadly to the vulnerable among us.”
Every time I think that the LDS church is making progress or taking a step in the right direction, they do something to undo the “good” that was previously seen. Not long ago, The Mormon Channel on YouTube released “The Mackintosh's Story - A Son Comes Out and a Family Loves.” While I don’t love everything about the video, it did prompt the release of more like it. It showed families embracing their LGBTQ+ family members. It was beautiful.
But after that, the Mormon Church magazine, “The Ensign,” published an article titled "The War Goes On" by Elder Larry R. Lawrence. In a section called “Lies and Deception,” he talks about the devil being “the great deceiver” and the use of counterfeits for every true principle the Lord presents. He says counterfeits are not the same as opposites because the opposite of white is black; but a counterfeit for white might be off-white or gray. He gives other examples like lust is the counterfeit is love and superstition the counterfeit of faith. And, then he finishes by saying that same-sex marriage is the counterfeit of marriage between a man and woman. And, he says, “like counterfeit money, [it’s] worthless…It brings neither posterity nor exaltation.”
Just when I thought the Mormon Church was taking another step to include their LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters, they demean our love and relationships, referring to them saying they bring “darkness.”
Such language and rhetoric that the church continues to use only furthers the “us vs. them” dynamic and truly hurts the LGBTQ+ community. That is not the love of God coming through. I know that God loves me.
I would urge people to consider Matthew Vine’s words in the 2014 Time article titled “10 Reasons God Loves Gay Christians.” He wrote, “Condemning same-sex relationships is harmful to the LGBT community. Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount that good trees bear good fruit, while bad trees bear bad fruit. The church’s rejection of same-sex relationships has caused tremendous, needless suffering to the LGBT community—bad fruit. Those harmful consequences should make Christians open to reconsidering the church’s traditional teaching.”
This back and forth, yo-yo toleration concerns me. It’s shows me that voices for equality are needed more than ever. And I’m determined to be one of them; within my religion and throughout the world.