Two years ago this November 5th, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints applied a mallet to a chisel and created a crack in the ability I once had to apologize for it. That day initiated what people like me call “the exclusion policy.” People not like me don’t call it anything. They ignore it. They say, “These men are called of God, and I have a testimony of that.” I can say I have a testimony of that as well, but I can also say I have a testimony that the exclusion policy is wrong, no matter who passed it down or who passes it off as God’s word. Every day I read words of LGBTQIA children of God whose faith in God is whole, but whose trust in the leadership is shattered. Across the past two years, there’s been an exodus of members who, like me, see a church leadership that can’t embrace the most important, the most basic, teaching of the Savior, namely to love others as we love ourselves, as equals. I can’t speak for the LGBTQIA community, nor for their families. I can speak only for myself–a cisgender, heterosexual female member–and today I’d like to answer a question I’ve been asked repeatedly, either in the form of “Why do you stay if you disagree with the prophets of God?” or “Why do you stay as if nothing ever happened on November 5, 2015?” I stay because I will not abandon what is rightfully mine. I stay because I own my relationship with the Divine Being, and the formal church does not. I stay. But I won’t stay quiet.
Sometimes “allies” like me are cast as staying to “fight for change.” In reality, I don’t think there is a darn thing I can do to change the policy or the hearts or minds of the men who choose to impose it. I don’t think the exodus that has occurred over the last two years will cause change either. I don’t think the drop in tithing income will change anything, considering the formal church is as wealthy as it is. In fact, these things seem to make supporters of the exclusion policy dig in, including those in the top tier of leadership. Humility doesn’t seem the strong suit of men who consistently remind us that their words should be taken as scripture direct from God. Or who gaslight those who call them out, pretending the recognition of their fallibility is the sin of record. Unfortunately, we have accepted gas lighting as a similitude of the light of Christ.
Victims of gas lighting are robbed of power and influence. As a woman without position in the church, somewhere deep in the Bible belt, as a member who speaks openly in opposition to the exclusion policy, I am of little consequence. So no, I don’t stay because I’m fighting for change, as flattering as that may be to tell myself. I stay because I will not allow them to destroy what I, as a convert, fought to achieve. I stay because I have the same gift of the Holy Ghost as every other member, including the leadership, and that light tells me to be what my leadership is not—to be open and welcoming of any and all LGBTQIA members as equals, as beloved children of God who have as much right to sit at the table with our Lord as anyone else, under equal terms. I stay as an ensign of hope that other regular, unimportant, run-of-the-mill, inconsequential members can and will be directed by the Holy Spirit of promise toward full inclusion. And I stay to cast light on things in the shadows—the crumbs cast under the table, the marginalization, the excommunications, the suicides. I stay to make people uncomfortable in their bigotry if they are bigoted; and to help people rethink devotion to misshapen ideals in order to maintain their social standing in the Church. I stay because I’m called to stay.
I also stay because I don’t see church authorities as anything but human, and I know every human disappoints at times. Grace allows me to feel compassion for them, living as they do under such unusual conditions and with great responsibility. I’ve never needed them to be flawless, and I can and will continue to celebrate their goodness. But I won’t applaud them when in error. I won’t applaud them when their iron rod acts as a prison bar that separates wonderful people from Christ. To sustain them requires something entirely different of me than that.
For the record, I don’t accept the claim that all the top authorities are on board with the exclusion policy. The policy seems out of character for some of them and travel schedules reportedly may have had some in distant places when the sustaining votes were taken. Of course, I can’t know this because transparency isn’t part of the culture of their authority. The mask of unity is, and that mask prevents us from seeing clearly.
Regardless, I don’t need to see their faces to see the face of God. No mask of unity, or veil of secrecy, can dim the light of Christ in me, or extinguish the burning in my bosom that confirms my testimony that I must continue to stand with the LGBTQIA community; or that I must point ears toward their outcries for inclusion. If we don’t develop ears to hear those cries, we won’t hear the voice of God responding to them. And He is responding. Those in authority will tell you that the voice I follow is the voice of the world, but I know my Master’s voice. LGBTQIA people know the Master’s voice. They are testifying to us that God has space for them here and hereafter, even if the apostles can’t yet hear.
I can’t change the exclusion policy. I can’t change the culture or behavior of the top leadership. But I can take command of my experience in the pews and own the responsibility I have to press my shoulder to the wheel and help bear the burdens of the faithful. I can do the very Mormon thing of bearing witness to light.
So why do I stay? I stay to be true to myself, to my testimony of all that is good and true, and to the God of Love I worship. But no, I won’t stay quiet. ~~
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me…
42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. (Matthew 25)
Be sure to like and follow Outside the Book of Mormon Belt on Facebook by clicking here.