What Can I Say?

I’ve been mulling over my response to the LDS church’s new policy of denying ordinances and sacraments to children of gay parents, wondering what I could say that hasn’t been said already. Honestly, as shocked and disgusted as I am with the policy, I am more interested in the reactions of individual people I know to it. Most former Mormons and non-Mormons who have an opinion agree with me that this is a misguided and needlessly cruel policy that does nothing but further divide families. On the other hand, I have seen quite a number of Mormons simply accept the policy at face value, some even applauding it as drawing a line between the church and the evils of same-sex marriage. But what has gratified me the most has been the reaction of faithful LDS friends who love the church and believe with all their hearts yet cannot reconcile this terrible policy. To be sure, I don’t enjoy watching them struggle, but it does my heart good to know that I’m not alone in being deeply troubled by all of this.

So, what am I supposed to say? The only thing I can think of is this: When I am asked to choose between conscience and obedience, I choose conscience. When I am asked to choose between love and policy, I choose love.

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39 Responses to What Can I Say?

  1. Agellius says:

    “When, for example, there is the formal blessing and naming of a child in the Church, which happens when a child has parents who are members of the Church, it triggers a lot of things. First, a membership record for them. It triggers the assignment of visiting and home teachers. It triggers an expectation that they will be in Primary and the other Church organizations. And that is likely not going to be an appropriate thing in the home setting, in the family setting where they’re living as children where their parents are a same-sex couple. We don’t want there to be the conflicts that that would engender. We don’t want the child to have to deal with issues that might arise where the parents feel one way and the expectations of the Church are very different. And so with the other ordinances on through baptism and so on, there’s time for that if, when a child reaches majority, he or she feels like that’s what they want and they can make an informed and conscious decision about that. Nothing is lost to them in the end if that’s the direction they want to go. In the meantime, they’re not placed in a position where there will be difficulties, challenges, conflicts that can injure their development in very tender years.

    “The situation with polygamist families, for example, and same-sex marriage couples and families really has a parallel. For generations we’ve had these same kinds of policies that relate to children in polygamist families that we wouldn’t go forward with these ordinances while they’re in that circumstance and before they reach their majority. That’s the same sort of situation we’re dealing with here, so it’s something we have had a history with. It’s a practice that really is analogous that’s been the case over many generations.”

    http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/handbook-changes-same-sex-marriages-elder-christofferson?HP_FR_11-6-2015_dPAD_fCNWS_xLIDyL1-A_

    I’m not a Mormon, but it makes sense to me.

    • runtu says:

      I guess I wonder why, if the situations are parallel, the church treats children of gay parents differently than it does the children of polygamists? The most common situation involving children of gay parents is when one parent is active LDS and the other has left the church and is in a same-sex relationship. Whether the child is baptized or not, he or she will still be attending church with the believing parent, so any conflicts will still be there. The only difference is that the child will be the only one in Sunday School who isn’t allowed to be baptized.

  2. Agellius says:

    Sorry, I’m not clear on how it’s different from how the Church treats children of polygamists. The quoted statement seems to be saying that children of polygamists can’t receive these ordinances either.

    • runtu says:

      It does seem to be saying that, but the restrictions are different (i.e., more restrictive for children of gays). If you’re not LDS, you’re forgiven for not knowing that. 🙂

    • David Macfarlane says:

      Polygamy is a life choice and homosexuality (I believe) is not. The church has a long and complicated relationship with polygamy, i.e., many of those who practice it today claim priesthood authority from a Mormon prophet before the manifesto.

      Previously, the church encouraged people with “same sex attraction” to live in traditional marriages and have children. Most of those relationships failed, and now scenarios with one faithful parent and one parent in a same-sex relationship are not that uncommon. Also, with polygamy, you are talking about a child or minor moving from one very structured environment to another with the consent of parents. This new policy mostly impacts children and minors within a structured environment where these ordinances are both rights of passage and means of evaluating faithfulness, i.e., ways of judging who is more righteous.

      The church is drawing rhetorical parallels that do not hold up in practice.

  3. Agellius says:

    I won’t argue how strong or weak the parallel is with polygamy, but the policy still makes sense to me. There is bound to be a conflict between what the parents think of their marriage and what the Church says of it, and the child will be receiving conflicting messages from the two sources, both of which he should be submitting to as an authority in one way or another. The parents will be undermining what the Church teaches the child, and the Church will be undermining what the parents teach him.

    • runtu says:

      Well, I’m not going to argue the point. The conflicting messages will still be there, whether the child is baptized or not.

  4. Agellius says:

    Maybe, but as the statement by Christofferson says, “the formal blessing and naming of a child in the Church … triggers a lot of things. First, a membership record for them. It triggers the assignment of visiting and home teachers. It triggers an expectation that they will be in Primary and the other Church organizations.”

    If I’m reading this right, it sounds like they won’t be doing all these things if they don’t get the blessing and naming, so the occasions for conflict would be less. Obviously the child will be hearing things from his parents that undermine what the Church teaches, but at least the Church won’t be constantly undermining what the parents say.

    In other words (as I see it), the Church doesn’t want to insert itself into the families of people who it does not consider to be faithful members (due to their SSM), nor teach children who are resistant to Church teachings due to what they are learning at home; nor, perhaps, have such children undermining its teachings among the other children by dissenting from or disputing them.

    • runtu says:

      You’re not reading it right. If the child has an active LDS parent (as is the case in the vast majority of these situations), they will be attending Primary, have home and visiting teachers, and do everything else except get baptized and be ordained to the priesthood.

      • Agellius says:

        I’m looking at this document: http://www.scribd.com/doc/288685756/Changes-to-LDS-Handbook-1-Document-2-Revised-11-3-15-28003-29

        Which indicates that a “child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship” may not receive a name and a blessing, which according to Christofferson triggers the home visiting, Primary attendance, etc. Are you saying that these kids will have those things without having received a name and a blessing? Or that they get the name and blessing despite having a parent living in a same-gender relationship, contrary to the handbook?

        Or maybe you’re reading some other source?

      • runtu says:

        The parent already has home teaching, etc. It would be bizarre for an active member of the church not to take their kids to church. I have friends in this situation: they share custody with their gay ex, and the ex has agreed they will be raised LDS. So, my friends will still take their kids to church, only they won’t be baptized, and so on.

      • Agellius says:

        I see. It doesn’t seem like the handbook addresses this situation. Thanks for taking the time to explain.

      • runtu says:

        It applies to people with joint custody with their gay ex, so, no matter the wishes of the LDS parent or the consent of the gay parent, the kids are not going to be baptized.

      • Agellius says:

        Ah. So it’s a matter of custody? If the LDS parent has sole custody then the child may be baptized?

      • runtu says:

        It doesn’t sound like it matters. As long as a child has a gay parent, they can’t be baptized, or so it seems.

      • Agellius says:

        “It doesn’t sound like it matters. As long as a child has a gay parent, they can’t be baptized, or so it seems.”

        That doesn’t seem to make any sense. What if the child has no contact with the gay parent? Or, what happens when the gay parent dies? Can he then be baptized?

        Either this is very sloppy drafting, or maybe the rest of this section of the handbook would clarify matters if we had access to it.

      • runtu says:

        It makes no sense to me, either.

      • Agellius says:

        Actually, it’s not “a gay parent”. It specifies “a parent living in a same-gender relationship”, so presumably if that parent left the relationship then the kid could be baptized. But the thing that doesn’t make sense to me is that it takes no account of the role of that parent in the child’s life, whether the kid is living with him or is under his authority in any way, has any contact with him, etc.

        I wonder if there is a way to apply for an exemption based on people’s particular circumstances.

      • runtu says:

        According to the policy, local leaders can petition for the child to be allowed baptism only after he or she turns 18, stops living with the parent, and explicitly repudiates the parent’s relationship. Even then, First Presiency approval isn’t guaranteed. Doesn’t sound to me like there is room for exemptions.

      • Agellius says:

        No, it doesn’t, if we’re going by the letter of the language that is available to us.

      • Agellius says:

        Hmm. A couple things of interest here. First, it says that the new policy applies to “minor children who reside at least part of the time in a home where a parent is in a same-sex marriage”. Any idea where they get the residence requirement?

        Second, they say that “Under the new policy, this makes him ineligible for most of the church’s rites until he becomes an adult—and even then only if he disavows his mother’s same-sex marriage. ‘That is just not an option for us,’ Paquette says. ‘My husband and I feel that it would be wrong to have him disavow half of his family.’”

        Clearly then, this family is in favor of same-sex marriage, which the Church teaches is seriously sinful. In other words, they’re rejecting the teaching of the Church. This is what I originally said might be the Church’s concern: That kids from families in which SSM is practiced will have the Church’s teaching undermined in the home, which seems to be precisely what is happening here.

      • runtu says:

        Again, the church has said members are free to support same-sex marriage. Now they’re saying kids whose parents are in a same-sex marriage must repudiate them and same-sex marriage. Again, it makes no sense. It’s OK to support same-sex marriage in the abstract only?

      • Agellius says:

        Does it say they must repudiate their parents? Or only the practice of SSM?

      • David Macfarlane says:

        Do you sincerely consider that a distinction with a difference?

      • runtu says:

        I was going to say something similar. I will just note again that the church is on record (and Elder Christofferson reaffirmed) that members are free to support same-sex marriage–except when they’re not.

      • Agellius says:

        Runtu:

        It’s not my place to argue what Mormon teaching is or is not — but then again maybe it’s not yours either. : )

        But just to play devil’s advocate, from the comments of Elder Christofferson’s that I’ve read (e.g. this: http://www.sltrib.com/blogs/2301174-155/mormons-free-to-back-gay-marriage), it sounds like you are free to support gay marriage as a personal belief or a political issue, in the sense that the Church can’t and doesn’t presume to compel people to believe one thing or another.

        But are you free to teach your kids that the Church’s teaching on gay marriage is wrong? I don’t see that in anything that he says, and he does say that you should not try to undermine or turn people against the Church’s teaching.

      • runtu says:

        As a high priest, I have as much right to discuss church policy as anyone. But I won’t argue anymore. I am just very sad about all this.

      • Agellius says:

        David:

        Certainly. Without question.

      • David Macfarlane says:

        Okay. I do not. I’ve heard more than a few mental health professionals expound over the past few days on the damage caused to malleable minds by asking them to separate and condemn a parent’s choices but not the parent. I think it is potentially much more damaging than it is anodyne.

      • Agellius says:

        David:

        You write, “I’ve heard more than a few mental health professionals expound over the past few days on the damage caused to malleable minds by asking them to separate and condemn a parent’s choices but not the parent.”

        What do you mean by ‘damage’, exactly?

        In any event, I don’t see it as ‘asking’ them to condemn a parent’s choice to enter into a same-sex marriage. First, they’re not required to judge any individual’s sinfulness and culpability as a condition for being baptized, but to affirm a moral principle. It’s widely understood among Christians of all stripes that one can affirm moral principles without judging every individual who violates them, especially since we admit that we sin every day.

        Second, affirming this moral principle is not a request that the Church is making, but a condition for receiving baptism. If someone feels more strongly about not wanting to believe his parents have violated a moral principle than he does about being baptized, he’s free to forego baptism.

        Finally, he doesn’t have to make this decision during his “malleable” years. It can wait until he has attained his majority.

  5. CAB says:

    I currently know of 9 situations with a father being Gay, advised by his priesthood authorities to marry and have children, he does so, the Gay does not go away, he is miserable. The parents amicably divorce; he finds a SS partner and is very happy; the mother and father share parental responsibility and custody; and the child continues to go to church regularly, even when with the father. The child has been preparing all his life so far to be baptized (in the case of two of these children that baptism was scheduled to happen this last Saturday with the other kids) And now suddenly he/she is not going to be baptized. One child apparently cried all night after his mother received the notice from her bishop that her son’s baptism was canceled.
    Explain to me how this is protecting the children. Explain to me how this is loving–to confuse a child, send him/her the message that something is wrong with him/her and thinking why would God not want him, because that is what children that age think.
    This does not prevent confusion, it cause it. Also, pain, sorrow and ostracism. If you are so naive as to think that the other children are not going to treat that child differently from no on you either are astoundingly naive, lying to yourself, or don’t know Mormons.

  6. CAB says:

    1) Polygamy is usually a choice–I say usually because there are a number of instances where some coercion was involved, including in the early days of polygamy with Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, et al.

    2) Science has clearly proven that homosexuality is not a choice.

    3) Although the church has attempted to distance itself from polygamy, polygamy is still “on the books”–see D&C 132, and talk with any woman who is still sealed to her former husband, although he is currently also sealed to another wife, or the second wife after the first wife has passed away.

    4) The LDS Church has never officially sanctioned “same-sex” relationships, although there is ample evidence that men were being sealed to men in the early days of the church.

    Claiming that parents who are polygamous and parents who are in a SS relationship are comparable is disingenuous, at best.
    This new policy was instituted, not to protect those innocent children from confusion, etc., it was to exert further pressure and control over adults with what the church is pleased to refer to as “same-sex attraction.” And it is an ugly, ugly policy.

  7. runtu says:

    It’s not gratifying to see people suffer. I find comfort in knowing people see this clearly for what it is. Sorry if I was unclear. I hate to see anyone suffer.

    • CAB says:

      Exactly.
      I grieve over the suffering, but I am gratified to know that this bad policy is causing so many to question the leaders and the truth claims of the church. For far too long, questioning has been unacceptable.
      “Obedience is the first law of heaven” is a profound evil.

      • David Macfarlane says:

        Yes, and a self-perpetuating evil at that. What would have to happen for this idea to die an ignominious death?

  8. cl2 says:

    Thank you, runtu.

  9. kmaramarie says:

    It’s terribly sad to me. From what i remember, as a child you are prepped for years that turning 8 means you are old enough and mature enough to make this important decision (an idea i have never been comfortable with, but not the point at the moment). After baptism you are praised for making the right choice and again the idea is reinforced that you are now able to choose right from wrong.
    They may change the policy but i doubt they will be changing the message, and to be 8 yrs old and on the receiving end of this new policy will be very isolating and confusing for kids. It makes me very sad to hear this.

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