Sunday, December 6, 2015

New Mormon Policy on Gay Families

I have now had some time to think about the new LDS church policy and do not feel so reactionary about it. For anyone who is still unfamiliar, though I am not sure how that is possible, it is a new policy that declares anyone who is LGBT and lives in accordance with that identification (for example, are in a same sex relationship) are considered apostates. Any children living in a household (at least most of the time) with a parent or parents who are living in a same sex relationship will not be allowed full membership until they are 18 and denounce their parents' homosexuality.

Many religions have always seen homosexuality as a sin and therefore any homosexual acts as sinful. This is not new, or a surprise to anyone. But what did surprise people is the way the LDS church leadership has chosen to deal with the children of these individuals. And for me there are two big issues that arise with this new policy that seem to be in direct conflict with other Mormon and Christian doctrine.

1. Blessings, Baptism, and the Priesthood: For the church to create a policy that prevents an innocent child from receiving these ordinances they are either saying that children of a LGBT parent are not worthy, and are therefore being punished for the sins of their parents, OR they are saying that these ordinances maybe aren't as important as they seem. Because if they really were essential to an individuals exaltation then they are damning these children for something they have no control over until they are 18. But on the other hand, maybe getting blessings when you are young, and being baptized at age 8, and doing temple ordinances like baptisms for the dead when you are 12, and (if you are a boy) also getting the priesthood at age 12 really aren't that important. At least not essential at the currently typical ages. Perhaps more children should be made to wait a little longer before participating in some of these things so you can really be sure they fully understand what they are doing and that LDS doctrine is not in conflict with other beliefs they may hold. Which brings me to my second issue, which is a harder one to get around...

2. Family Conflicts: The justification the church issued for not including children of LGBT parents in these ordinances can be summed up as "for their own good." The LDS church leaders say that they do not want to cause confusion with children who are living in a household that is in direct conflict with church teachings. This sounds like a noble gesture; they want to preserve the family. Until you realize that they are actively recruiting young people who are still living with their parents to convert to the church. These are children of parents who are not members of the LDS faith. There seems to be no concern for conflicts that may arise between the belief system of a parent in a heterosexual relationship and what the LDS doctrine teaches. Now those parents have to give permission for a child to be baptized if they are under 18. But the opportunity still is there for these children to be baptized with parental permission where this is not the case for children of LGBT parents. Is the LDS church going to agree to not recruit the children of non-members, or even the children of members who are not living in accordance with the doctrine? If this was truly their goal, then they should also have a policy not to recruit anyone under the age of 18.

I think this is why many people are struggling with the new policy on both sides of the church. For those who are not active members or were on the verge of leaving anyway, this is just one more example of the church showing exclusion and discrimination before love and acceptance. Which is hard to co-exist with the broader Christian beliefs that the LDS church is supposed to be based on. But the other side that is struggling are the true believers. They believe that this is inspired doctrine whether we understand it or not. However, it is not an easy policy to understand and so once again these true believers have to act as the apologists for the church. They try to reiterate the messages from the leadership that attempt to explain why these policies are good. But at the same time the LDS church teaches that we have agency, and we should be able to tell right from wrong, and even that we only need to rely on these feelings to know that the church is true. So if this policy is good, and from God, shouldn't it be immediately apparent to most people? After all, Mormon missionaries only ask investigators to pray for a feeling in order to know the entire church doctrine is true. Members should, then, be able to trust their feelings. But if they question, or think something doesn't feel right, they are taught that THOSE feelings aren't true feelings. Only feelings that confirm the church can be true feelings. So in reality, you cannot trust you own feelings - only what the church tells you to feel. All of this leads to a sense of cognitive dissonance and those true believing members get defensive about their beliefs because they don't like when someone points out the inconsistencies in their religion. So they either fight back through insults ("it's easier to question and give up than to do the right thing," etc...) or they avoid the topic altogether with anyone who doesn't confirm what they are supposed to believe.

I know there are some people out there who will feel that they do not fall into either of these broader categories, and that is great. If you believe in the policy wholeheartedly and do not feel defensive about it, or uncomfortable with it, then that's great. I am not seeking to tell anyone they are wrong. I am only reporting my observations and the questions I have for the church moving forward that this policy seems to directly conflict with. I clearly don't believe this was inspired by God, or even very well thought out by LDS church leaders. It is unfortunate that children may suffer due to these policies. I hope those who are hurting can find their own peace with the situation.

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