The moment I saw the news release, I felt stunned. Hurt, maybe. Certainly confused.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, my church, which I love, has recently updated its handbook, introducing a policy stating that children of gay parents may not receive a name and a blessing, cannot be baptized before the age of eighteen, and may only serve missions with consent of the First Presidency and a complete renouncement and disapproval of their parents’ choices.
Honestly . . . I don’t get this. How big of a concern do we have here, really? Do you know of any children of gay couples in the church, at all? Because I certainly do not. Even if it was a huge problem, what’s the danger here? That these kids will infiltrate the church with a pervading and influential culture of homosexuality and moral deviance? Because I don’t see it. The church is firm on its marriage doctrine. Temple marriage is for opposite-sex couples only, and I assume the majority of devoted members understand why.
That said, I am really wondering why the church is making policy changes on such oddly-specific, unlikely topics. Sure, there is a chance that church policy-makers predict future problems in this realm. Maybe they just wanted to re-clarify their stance on gay marriage for the umpteenth time this year. Maybe they wanted to take guesswork away from bishops and stake presidents who may have to deal with the child-of-gay-parents issue at some point. I don’t know. I’ve never had to make choices like that.
But I do have some questions: Is it worth it? Is any of this, at all, worth the PR hell our church will go through in the coming months? Is it worth perpetuating the (I had come to believe believe, inaccurate) stereotype of backwards-thinking, hateful homophobic Mormons?
Perhaps what surprised me the most about this was that the church has recently been supporting laws that help same-sex couples attain equal rights. Openly-gay, worthy students have been accepted at BYU since 2007. Elder Oaks, to my delight, just made a statement claiming that Kim Davis was wrong by denying gay couples marriage licenses as a public servant. I saw progress. I saw love, compassion, and understanding reaching out to others in a very Christlike way. I was proud of my church.
But this new development of essentially punishing children for their parents’ socially-acceptable living situation doesn’t sit right with me. I am in no way advocating a allowance of gay marriage within the church and its sacred marriage covenants. I understand the divine roles of the sexes and the centrality of family and potential for family in marriage. But this? This seems entirely unrelated.
We also need to understand that gay marriage is legal, and generally accepted throughout our country in the present time. Gay couples are adopting children who wouldn’t otherwise have homes. I may be in the LDS minority here, but I truly think two dads or two moms are significantly better for any child than no dads and no moms. I’d even go as far as saying that, in many households, two parents of the same sex might be more beneficial to a child than a single parent. Of course this all depends on circumstances, but why, oh why, are we demonizing the children here?
Are we going to start denying blessings to children with unmarried mothers, too? Their parents committed a serious sin. Do we need to reconsider baptizing them? Letting them serve missions? I grew up with lots of Mormon kids born out of wedlock. The church and its members, at least where I lived, were nothing but absolutely supportive of them. My ward helped single mothers and their children through rough times, even if they were inactive. This is Christlike behavior, helping the downtrodden, feasting with sinners, loving those who need it most.
And what about children of alcoholics, and chain smokers? Children of prostitutes? Children of murderers, drug lords, or abusive men? Is there a new policy about them? This is a world church, and there are some crazy stories out there of sinners having babies that might potentially want to join the church someday. How do we choose who to accept and who to deny?
Even if a gay household is the worst thing that could happen to a child, why on earth would we deny them blessings if we pitied their life situation? Does this seem wrong to anyone else? Am I the only one taking some serious issues with this? It’s hard for me to accept. It’s likely something I’ll never accept, let alone understand.
But you know what? I’m still very much a Mormon. I might struggle. I may see ex-members wagging there fingers, declaring that policies like this are what made them lose their faith. I might wonder what these new policies could possibly to do help the members of the church. I might think a lot of negative thoughts.
But at the end of the day, I know the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. That’s part of what makes these changes so hard for me. In my understanding, our new policies are not Christlike, plain and simple. I take Jesus and what he wants from us as his servants really seriously. Jesus treated children with love. He treated women with love. I have no doubt that Jesus would treat gay people, and their children, with love, because Jesus is LITERALLY ALL ABOUT LOVE. Unconditionally. Part of Christ’s love is allowing blessings to those who are worthy, regardless of sins that are not their own (Article of Faith 2, anyone?).
Of course I don’t have a perfect understanding of Christ. Who on this Earth does? I’m willing to admit that I’m stubborn and often misguided. I’m twenty years old and headstrong. It’s practically unavoidable. Subservience and blind obedience are not things I’m particularly good at.
I’m also extremely willing to admit that our leaders are not at all perfect, either. Our church leadership has done horrible things in the past. The whole “blacks and the priesthood” debacle comes to mind. We should be more than a little ashamed that such a restriction of blessings to such a large group occurred for any amount of time. Even the church has come out and said it made a mistake.
I think an important thing to understand amidst all this commotion, as a confused member of the church, is that things change. Policies change. We have a core set of doctrines that are absolutely, 100% pivotal to our faith and unchangeable: The Godhead. The Atonement. The Priesthood. Families. Temples. The Scriptures. All great things. All pivotal things. All doctrinal.
But this? This is policy. This is “the church.” All those other things are “the gospel.” We could all benefit from learning the difference.
I can’t say that the church will draft an apology letter a week from now, six months from now, or twenty years from now, but it could happen. Many of these “the church” things are not nearly as permanent as we may think.
I’ve been in a ward where all three members of the Bishopric were Ghana natives, i.e., about as black as it gets, and of course they were just as devoted to the church and its principals as anyone else, righteously using their priesthood to serve their congregation and share Christ’s love. Granting these good men the priesthood is a blessing to both their families and their wards. Anything denying them that blessing in the past was simply not of Christ.
I tend to feel the same way about children of gay parents.
I know the gospel is true. I know our prophet and his apostles love us very much, and are inspired by God. I know that they do their best at teaching us gospel principles accurately and with the spirit. I have a lot to love in the church; a lot that keeps me in the church despite my frustrations. I have the spirit to tell me that, no matter what, things will be okay, even if I can’t see it now.
I hope that others like me, hurt and confused at these recent events, can see that. Things will be okay. It might sting now. It might sting ten years from now. It might sting until we’re all dead and Heavenly Father can finally explain to us what exactly happened here. But don’t let this take away your faith.
Your faith is so much more valuable than a paragraph written in an updated church handbook. It’s more valuable than the sometimes-unfortunate history of our church’s imperfect policies. I’ve found that if you root your faith in the gospel–those things that do not change, cannot change–burdens become lighter, doubts lose some of their crippling powers, and it’s easier to see things from an eternal perspective.
I know it’s hard. I know that this policy will inevitably cause anger and hurt feelings inside and outside the church. It will likely become a big, scary polarizing issue, and I absolutely dread that. Really.
But I haven’t a doubt that with faith, we will make it through this difficult time, emerging with strength and hope, all the better for experiencing the challenge and remembering who we really are: children of our Heavenly Father–never quite agreeing on anything, but loved unconditionally nonetheless.