We’ve had nearly two months of discussion about the recent policy change regarding same-gender, committed couples and their children. The “wheat and tares” analogies are flying, with each side sure it is the wheat and the other, the tares. Just like in politics. That can never be a good thing within a religion. So, for a moment, I’d like to put aside arguments about the policy and talk about our kids. Not our gay kids. Not our straight kids. Not the kids of same-gender couples. Not the kids of traditional Mormon marriages, of mixed orientation marriages, or of divorce. But all of our LDS kids, regardless of orientation or circumstance. Let’s talk about what happens to them in the aftermath of the policy change because what happens to them affects us all.
What happens to them is the sum total of our reactions to the policy change. The good news is that Mormonism creates people with a strong moral compass. Our children take to heart our messages of love and service. Because of this, if we fail to integrate our post-policy behavior with the message of Christ—if we condemn homosexuality with a loud voice and only murmur a sentiment of inclusive love—the moral compass we strive diligently to instill in our children will point south. They will clearly see the conflict between our message of love and any of our behaviors that demean or exclude. They will count that conflict as hypocrisy.
The likelihood, therefore, that they will reject us is quite high. As our children go, so goes the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If we want this two century’s old church to survive, we have to get this right or we risk losing generations.
Remember, our children are growing up with LGBT peers who are, as the popular phrase goes, “living authentically” from the get-go. This is a monumental social change I see represented in the experiences of my own children. My two oldest, now adults, are separated in age from their younger brother by a decade or more. Growing up, my older kids knew of LGBT peers by rumor only. My 14-year-old 8th grade son, however, says he knows LGBT people at his school because they are already out of their own accord.
Statistics indicate two or three out of every 100 people is LGBT. Inevitably, then, some among our children’s peers—the kids they grow up playing with and loving—will seamlessly grow into adolescents who live their sexual orientation and gender identity as openly as their cisgender, heterosexual peers. Perhaps your child or grandchild will be one of those two or three percent. We know how we want our children treated, so we have taught them to behave with kindness toward everyone. And they will. Our kids will not compartmentalize their love for their friends; they will not say, “Hey, now that I know you’re gay, I have to tell you, you aren’t God’s ideal.” Instead, they will want to say, “Hey, why don’t you come (or keep coming) to Church with me?”
The chapel door has to be open for that to happen. But how can we keep it propped when the revised church policy has made the door heavier than ever before?
There are two ways I can see. First, we can hold the door open by admitting out loud (not just in our internal monologue) that we don’t have all the answers. This kind of humility can go a long way, especially if it is paired with a growing desire to receive those answers.
Second, love always open doors. I know many LDS are frustrated because they proclaim love for LGBT people, only to be told that they don’t, in fact, love them. My response is to remember the words of M. Russel Ballard from his October 2015 General Conference talk:
The love the Savior described is an active love. It is not manifested through large and heroic deeds but rather through simple acts of kindness and service.
In other words, we love who we serve. As individual members, we should ask ourselves if and how we serve the LGBT community. If love is not active in the way Elder Ballard suggests, it remains an intellectual love—and intellectual love is never fully felt by either the intended recipient or the person offering such love. To overcome this, mainstream Mormons need to increase their “simple acts of kindness and service” toward the LGBT community.
This doesn’t mean changing anyone’s moral conviction. It means acting on the feeling of love. It may mean you go out of your way to speak with and listen to LGBT people. It may mean knocking on doors or making a phone call, giving a hug, delivering a plate of cookies or wearing a rainbow scarf or tie to church. It may mean voicing that you want LGBT people with us without attaching any caveat. Or commenting positively on something stemming from the LGBT online community without offering correction or justifying an exclusive policy. What it definitely must mean is improved, expanded loving behavior that is seen and heard by LDS children, be they yours or those around you.
Put simply, serving the LGBT community means forgetting about sexual orientation altogether and treating everyone the same. THIS is what our children will grow up doing.
They will lead us. If we don’t follow, they will leave us.
We must show our children by word and deed that we want the door open. If we close the door to their friends, they will almost inevitably feel we close the door on them. Our hypocrisy will turn them away, precisely because of the moral compass we have given them.
“…a little child shall lead them.” Isaiah 11:6
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