The Responsibility of LDS Members after Same Sex Policy Changes

mourn_-300x226Yesterday the world became aware that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will now classify any member who joins in a same-sex marriage as apostate, or as one who has renounced the Church’s teaching that marriage is defined as a male/female relationship.  This will have difficult repercussions for LGBT people and their families, especially their children, who will be denied saving ordinances unless the permission of the First Presidency is gained. This is an extremely controversial decision and will bring a great deal of criticism to the formal Church, which had, of late, seemed to be making strides toward inclusion through the support of gay rights initiatives. The Church is large and powerful and will withstand these attacks. As the controversy runs its course, however, there are those who are small and powerless who will feel the words we speak as either daggers to their hearts or balm to their wounds.

Each of us, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, have covenanted to mourn with those who mourn. This includes mourning with our LGBT members, married or not. It includes mourning with those LGBT former members and those who will, because of this policy change, quickly become former members, in spite of their love of God. It is too easy for those of us who are straight, heterosexual people of faith to reduce this to a matter of obedience and wipe our hands of it. This policy change has, in many ways, tied the hands of our local leaders, but it does not tie the hands of the membership. Each one of us who sits in the pews, Sunday after Sunday, have our hands free to extend, our arms ready to embrace and support those who are suffering today. This isn’t the time for harsh words and arguing, but a time to listen, to understand, and support in whatever ways we can. Find those in need. Reach out.

Late last night, John Bonner gifted readers of the Mormons Building Bridges Facebook page with an open letter to the First Presidency and apostles. His words are gentle, loving, full of faith and (it should be no surprise) pain. His voice is representative of many within the LGBT community, but, of course, not all. Many LDS LGBT people are feeling too wounded to speak up, much less speak up with the degree of respect they feel denied. I know by name some who are preparing letters of resignation today because they feel rejected and unwelcome at the table; they feel they must leave for their own mental and physical health. Although John’s voice cannot represent all LDS LGBT people, his is a voice we should all hear as we work toward compassion. His message may be intended for the highest leadership, but these sentiments will have meaning for all practicing Latter-day Saints. With his permission, I repeat his letter here:

Dear LDS Church Leadership,

I have something to say. We are not your enemies. Our spouses are not your enemies. And our children are not your enemies. We are your sons and daughters. We have loved this church, been devoted to it, and we honor the rich heritage it brings to our lives and our cultural and spiritual identities. There are real enemies out there. Poverty, abuse, famine, war, genocide, human trafficking, climate change, pollution, cancer, Alzheimer’s, gun violence, addiction, teen suicide, mental illness, homelessness, global terrorism, and on and on.

You are in such a unique position of power to effect dramatic, needed change in the world as we face these formidable foes. You have done so much already to address many of these plaguing issues through remarkably generous humanitarian aid and relief efforts and volunteerism and community organizing and education. The astounding capacity you possess to organize and create a direct positive impact in the lives of so many is one of the things I love most about my Mormonism. It makes me feel proud.

I’m honored to have come from this tradition and prize my deep and abiding Mormon roots. I see in you a community that abounds with more grace and beauty in its home to home, heart to heart, expression of true religion and unrestrained Christlike love for family and neighbor than I’ve witnessed anywhere else. I see that exemplified in my faithful LDS mother and father, and in my dearest friends, and former mission companions, and BYU classmates, and ward members, and coworkers.

Today I saw something different than that. Today I saw fear and discrimination as you rolled out decisions and policy that hurt and exclude and oppress. They don’t just hurt me and my fellow LGBTQ members; they hurt the family and friends of whom I spoke who love and support me just as I am, who embrace and welcome me without limits or conditions, who extend to me the gifts of love personified by Christ, in whose name they go about their daily work of living and loving as saints in these latter days.

What they know, because they have stayed with me even as my path has diverged from orthodoxy, is that I am the same person they have always known and loved and accepted into the warm embrace of their fellowship. It is the first call of the Gospel: to love God and each other with fearlessness, with fierceness, and with fidelity. They see me. And I see them, in all the intricate beauty and wonder embodied within their lives of faith.

And so, I extend to you an invitation: to see us, to know us, to sit across from us and break bread with us. Because it is only in so doing that any of us can ever come to understand that those we once viewed as our enemies–as the strange and suspicious other to be feared and kept at bay or constrained and punished–are actually part of the same human family to which all of us belong as vital and indispensable pieces of a beautiful whole. I learned that from you. It may be the most valuable lesson I carry from my religious upbringing. It is written upon my heart. It’s what allows me to write this letter to you now, in sincere love and with considerable emotion. Because despite our, at times, despair-inducing differences, I still see you. Please see me too.

Love, John 

Certainly, not all LDS LGBT people will be able to muster this kind of compassion at a time when they face rejection. But the rest of us–especially those of us who are heterosexual and in relationships sanctioned by our church–should be able to muster such compassion and extend it to those who hurt.

If you are an LGBT person who is suffering today, please reach out to one of the many people who stand ready to mourn with you. You know who they are. If you don’t feel you have someone in your life who can be there for you, right now, in the ways you need, please use these phone numbers. You are precious in God’s eyes.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255

Trevor Project: (866) 488-7386

Trans Lifeline: (877) 565-8860

**Please note that comments that demean LGBT people or denounce their faith are not welcome.**

“As a church, nobody should be more loving and compassionate. Let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion and outreach. Let’s not have families exclude or be disrespectful of those who choose a different lifestyle as a result of their feelings about their own gender.” -Elder Quentin L. Cook

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24 thoughts on “The Responsibility of LDS Members after Same Sex Policy Changes

  1. Rebecca

    Thank you for this compassionate and loving post. I am so saddened by the heartache this policy is causing and will cause. Just today I heard of an 8 year old little girl whose baptism (that was supposed to be tomorrow!) is cancelled because her parents share joint custody and her dad is in a same-sex relationship. My heart is broken for this little girl and for her mother–who surely has already suffered so much and has been obviously trying to keep her family together and keep teaching them the Gospel and now her children are denied entrance into the church?!? It is just WRONG.

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      1. Jim

        Ana, There are those who hope for such an exception to the rule stated in Handbook 1 , 16.13 but the language of that rule does not allow for it. Until the rule is changed, such an exception would have to be based on a presumption that the Brethren responsible for the rule intended such an exception and failed to state it and on an assumption of authority to ignore the rule as written.

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  2. Although love and compassion are always the basis for ANY relationship, this does not mean we cannot love someone without not loving their behavior. Despite the heartfelt reply from John, he is asking the church to change its doctrine, not just policy — that the church should recognize gay marriage as being the same as eternal marriage. And please don’t tell me I cannot love and grieve for John unless I condone same-gender marriage.

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  3. FreedomWins

    Interesting that you don’t post all messages to this board. I could see you censoring them if they were vulgar but I know of others, not vulgar that you’ve omitted.

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    1. I have posted every message submitted, but it is correct that I will not post those that I deem might cause emotional harm. It is no exaggeration that this policy change is the catalyst for suicidal ideation and action. I simply say I do not welcome comments today that will be harmful. People read here for comfort, not argument. You may find that elsewhere, Freedom Wins. As the private owner of this blog, it is within my right to use it as I see fit.

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  4. Chris

    I can not stop crying. My unwavering faith, what held me together as the winds of the world blow against me, was stolen today. Holding onto the iron rod is impossible for me now because the rod got moved, not because I let go.

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  5. Freedom Wins

    Chris, I must admit I don’t understand why you feel ‘the rod got moved’. This has always been a commandment and acting on it has always caused Church intervention and guidance. As far as the children of these relationships I’m guessing in light of the Supreme Courts decision the Lord wanted to protect them from the emotional confusion. Imagine as a child going to church learning about chastity, mommy and daddy being the Lord’s way, sealed together as a family, etc., then going home to two daddys. Personally, I would think THAT kind of pain and emotional upheaval would be far more damaging in the eternal nature of our lives here on Earth.

    There’s no doubt that these blanket statements were necessary with marriage laws here changing. There’s no doubt the pain on every level will challenge everyone. Please don’t let go of the rod. The rod hasn’t changed; the mist of darkness has become so dense that you can’t see ahead yet. That mist becomes dark for MANY of us during different times in our progression. Please hold on, the light will come…

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  6. Melissa

    I have read as much information as I could on this and talked to many people who have varying opinions on this topic and I have few things I would like to point out. The first thing not many people are taking note of is the fact that this policy has been policy for many many years with muslim children and polygamist children. I find it very interesting that there has been no outcry for these children. The second is a point that I don’t think many people have thought about. I believe that our religious freedom is at stake in this country. I believe it is possible that this policy is directly related to the battle for our religious freedom. Is is altogether impossible to think that if we allow children of SSM to be baptized that down the road legally we will have to allow ordinances for parents? I believe that the LDS church needs to draw their line in the sand now as to protect our religious freedom down the road.

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  7. Cami

    Draw the line, you mean, as they did with the African Americans? How much things change and yet they stay the same. I am not quite speechless but almost.

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  8. Freedom Wins

    Just wanted to say to everyone I’m sorry for my typos. In some cases, spell-check has turned into spell-change. In other cases my headaches overwhelm me. Hoping Lisa will add an ‘edit’ feature for those of us suffering! :{

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