In November of 2015, in a move that shocked both Church Members and the rest of the world, it was announced that my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (more commonly called, the Mormon Church), would no longer baptize the children of gay couples.
Today, April 4, 2019, as I sent the kids off to school, I received text messages and Instagram DMs letting me know the policy has been reversed.
This is wonderful, wonderful, anxiously awaited news.
There are lots of times I’m embarrassed by something that happens in the Mormon Church — and I know the Mormon Church is not the only organization or group I’m a part of that does embarrassing things. But I have never felt the kind of deep shame I felt when that horrendous policy was announced. The cruelty of the policy was shameful. The clear picture that it was a totally unnecessary policy was shameful. The substantiated rumors that it was created by the Church’s law firm (Kirton McConkie), and then defended as if it came from God, was shameful. And seeing some of my fellow Church Members, choosing blind obedience to fallible leaders, instead of listening to their own consciences, left me ashamed.
I still remember how Church Members reacted to the news. In general, no one believed it. Whether you were a super-Mormon or a sort-of-Mormon, we all thought it was a bad joke — or like an Onion article. We couldn’t even imagine it was real. But then, we discovered it was real; that it was an actual policy. And many Church Members did a complete one-eighty, and convinced themselves there were good reasons for this policy.
In the aftermath I wrote a short piece, structured as a conversation between Church Leaders and Church Members, and shared it with Ben Blair. He ended up putting it on his Facebook page, and hoo boy it made a lot of people angry. But I stand by what I wrote. Blind obedience is harmful, and speaking out in disagreement is not apostasy.
I’m truly grateful the policy has been reversed. I will pray that it comes with a vocal and public apology by Church Leaders. I think the best thing they could possibly do — for Church Members, and for anyone else watching —would be to take this opportunity and model repentance.
I hear religious people (not just Mormons) talk a lot about repentance, but rarely model what repentance actually looks like. Modeling perfection never works. No one, and no organization, is perfect. But modeling repentance is hugely helpful. This is true if you’re a parent, as a teacher, or if you’re any kind of human being. Have you ever watched someone acknowledge they made a mistake, ask forgiveness, make restitution, and then move forward committed to doing better? It’s a powerful thing to see someone repent; to watch them truly change.
I realize in the case of The Church, repentance and making restitution might mean years in legal battles, and a major loss of resources. So be it. Part of repentance is facing the consequences of our actions. There are many families who were torn apart by this policy. People killed themselves because of this policy. Where possible, restitution needs to be made.
Moving forward, if you are a Church Member, I encourage you to see our Church Leaders as human beings first. I know it seems like it’s respectful to think of them as better-than-human, or more perfect than other humans, but in the end it’s actually harmful. They are human. Most of them are older, so they have lots of valuable life experience (which is a plus!), but they are still very, very human. And as humans, we need to allow them the space to make mistakes. It’s not fair to expect them to be perfect; we know that’s impossible and if they were to attempt it, that they would fail.
A mental exercise I’ve found helpful when discussing Church Leadership and fallibility is to put things into percentages. What percentage do you consider President Nelson to be a human being, and what percentage do you consider him to be a Prophet?
This is a question each person will answer differently, but it’s a helpful place to start so that you can gauge how much you yourself allow Church Leaders to be fallible, and to gauge how the person you are talking to views Church Leadership. As for me, I consider President Nelson to be 99.99999% human being, with a dash or “sprinkle of prophet” on top. : ) I am grateful that he has lots of life experiences to draw from — including many spiritual experiences and many leadership experiences. I’m grateful that his brain does not seem to be affected by dementia. I am grateful that he loves the Members of The Church and wants to do right by them. I also think he is first and foremost a human being, and I believe I would be disrespecting him to not allow him to be totally human. You of course can use whatever percentages you would like to use.
A daydream of mine is to see The Church publicly apologize not just for this awful policy, but for other painful things as well. For polygamy. For keeping the Priesthood from Black Church Members. For Mountain Meadows Massacre. For excommunicating people who shouldn’t have been excommunicated.
How wonderful it would be to see The Church act as a model for institutional repentance. How wonderful it would be for Church Members to be able to shout out the good things The Church is working on — like the support they offer the City of Oakland as it works on finding housing for our population of homeless people — without having to constantly apologize on the organization’s behalf.
Your turn. How are you feeling about the news today? Do you remember the reactions back in November 2015? Are you part of an organization where leaders are held in super high regard? If yes, how do you handle that?
75 thoughts on “LDS Church Policy Reversal”
I left the church over the exclusion policy. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I am never going back.
I LOVE your comments about apologies. They teach repentance and they should set the standard. Show us how it should be done!
I was a young brown teenager when I read in Mormon Doctrine that blacks had been less valiant in the pre-existence. What a terrible shameful, heartbreaking experience for a young kid trying so hard to be the perfect mormon girl. I am deserving of a real apology too. I understand that people make mistakes. But apologizing when you recognize your errors is real Christlike behavior.
Thanks for your super honest and thoughtful response.
You are absolutely deserving of a real apology. One hundred percent.
Thanks for your comment, Jessica.
That breaks my heart for you. My dad always said that book should be called “McConkie Doctrine” not Mormon Doctrine. I think anything that doesn’t reflect love or inclusion is not Christlike and therefore not okay.
I am happy for everyone for whom this will mean peace and relief but I also feel kind of jerked around. The exclusion policy broke my heart. I stopped going to church. That was a HARD decision. And they’re just gonna take it back? Why’d they have to put us through this? I get that they’re human and nobody’s perfect but I think I really need that apology.
It would be amazing if like you said they could show up for the people they hurt and show true Christlike love and humility. I’m still figuring out how I feel about all this.
Thanks for being a safe space Gabrielle!
I don’t know how members wouldn’t feel jerked around — especially without any kind of public statement.
Just one word for you!
Right?? It’s weird.
I loved this, on the Church newsroom website:
“Previously, our handbook characterized same-gender marriage by a member as apostasy. While we still consider such a marriage to be a serious transgression, it will not be treated as apostasy for purposes of Church discipline. Instead, the immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated in the same way.”
This was the first I had heard of this. It brings my heart joy as well.
Am I correct that the church still believes gay marriage is a “serious transgression?” How is this really changing anything?
I am also confused. If this policy was so damaging to people’s relationship with the church, why were they not already turned off by the wider policy of just straight up homophobia? I’m having trouble understanding how this is actually an improvement when at the base level the LGBTQ community is still not accepted. “Love the sinner hate the sin” etc is not a loving inclusive policy to start with (Obviously an outsider)
“I’m having trouble understanding how this is actually an improvement when at the base level the LGBTQ community is still not accepted. ”
Yes, Gabrielle, this is 100% what I’ve wondered this whole time as well. I agree with the commenters that this policy seems more for those in the church who were not thrilled with the policy than the actual LGBTQ community or children of LGBTQ individuals.
Granted, any policy that prevents potential suicides is a good place to start, and 100% necessary. But this policy still seems like an incredibly low bar.
Good question, Gabrielle, and I don’t pretend I have an answer. I know that what I see in my actual real-life congregation doesn’t match up at all with what Salt Lake City has to say. Meaning, even if the church says homosexual relationships are sinful, the members I know don’t actually believe that, and assume the church needs to catch up. Gay couples are truly welcome in my congregation and always will be. I’m trying to think of an analogy. Maybe what’s going on in Georgia right now? I don’t live in Georgia and don’t know much about it, but based on headlines, it’s easy for me to assume Georgians hate women. We could ask: How can you be a feminist and live in Georgia? But of course, just because the state is doing something awful, doesn’t mean the citizens are on board. (I know that’s not a perfect analogy.)
It seems clear that among Mormons from Gen X on down, the vast majority of people have no issues with gay marriage or gay relationships. But that is not reflected in official church policy. And this is not the first time this has happened in the history of the Mormon church. At different points, the majority of members have believed that polygamy is wrong/harmful, that prohibition shouldn’t be the law, that priesthood should be available to all — even though church policy says otherwise.
I have to say that there is so much more choice involved with choosing your religion and church than there is with where you live, and indeed most people are not lucky enough to move anywhere they’d like. There’s even something to be said for progressively minded people staying/moving to states that have difficult and troubling laws if they feel like they will be able to advocate and make change for those who aren’t fortunate enough to be able to choose where they live. A poor woman who lives in Georgia and needs an abortion really doesn’t have the option to say “I’m getting out of here!” and just go, but she or others who support women like her can work to improve the system. That system (our government) is pretty much set in stone (unless we embrace anarchy haha) and needs people to fix it from the inside out.
A particular sect or church doesn’t hold the same finite status as state government. If its members don’t condone its actions again and again and again, they are free to go and can hopefully do so without a huge financial burden (unlike moving). May I respectfully ask if you think the Mormon Church will ever truly catch up to your own progressive beliefs? Isn’t there a point that a bigger and more effective statement is made by people leaving? To put it bluntly, government is necessary (debatable I guess) and here to stay and is somewhat designed to reflect the will of the people. Any particular church or religion is not and you don’t have to support it if you feel it harms others.
Yeah. When I said the analogy wasn’t perfect, that’s what I meant.
As someone who has moved many, many times, when you wrote, “I have to say that there is so much more choice involved with choosing your religion and church than there is with where you live,” I found it laughable. It’s way, way, way easier to choose a new place to live than it is to reject a religion that you take seriously. Did you miss the part where most wars are fought over religion? Are you not aware of the people who left Europe in the 1600s and came to an America, a place they knew almost nothing about, so they could practice their religion? You may not be a religious person (I have no idea if you are or if you’re not), but for those of us who take religion seriously, it’s a big deal.
Lastly, your question is outright disrespectful, which you are well aware of, and it’s an easy bet you would never ask it of Muslim or a Jew or anyone but a Mormon. That said, you’re in luck, because I’ve actually answered it before in depth, and you are welcome to look it up. You are clearly here for a fight, and I have no interest in debating religion with you. But again, you’re in luck, because there are loads of places on the internet where you can complain at or about Mormons. This is not one of them.
Does your suggestion that this commenter would not ask the same question of a Muslim or a Jew mean that you believe that Mormons are “more persecuted” than Muslims and Jews? I would say that such beliefs are the absolute number one most dangerous and offensive thing happening in the United States today. This “white Christian persecution” thing is racist, dangerous to all marginalized people, and insane. This country is run overtly and covertly by white Christians, and that includes Mormons. I’m fascinated by “progressive religious” blogs in a can’t-stop-watching sort of way, but it is so disturbing to me that someone who rejects racism and homophobia would hang on to this religion. I’m sure you are a very kind person who loves your family, just like me, and I don’t mean this to be a personal attack.
“Does your suggestion that this commenter would not ask the same question of a Muslim or a Jew mean that you believe that Mormons are “more persecuted” than Muslims and Jews?”
Of course not. Mormons aren’t persecuted, just treated as a punchline. Some people treat Mormonism like it’s a pretend religion; a joke; not something worth serious consideration. They believe Mormonism should be a simple thing for church members to discard, and assume it’s easily replaceable.
Despite your weak protest that it’s not, I perceive your comment to be an intentional personal attack.
Please discontinue reading Design Mom. I have no interest in providing fodder for your “disturbing fascination.”
Oh my word! Can I just say amen to your words and sentiments!! This policy was hard!!! for me. I was lectured by several for my “lack of faith” over my disagreement and frankly disgust over this policy. I spoke with a wise older member in my childhood ward (the awesome Oakhills 4th) about the policy. I asked him how he reconciled his testimony with these things. He’s been a faithful member all of these 80+ years of his life and is respected by many, from apostles on out. He told me matter of factly “I don’t!”
He wrote letters to the top when the priesthood was withheld from all worthy members. He kept writing and didn’t accept it! He said he felt the same with this. I feel the same. I don’t have to reconcile or even put on a shelf.
I understand people who leave for these and other reasons and I can’t blame them. Nevertheless, here I am. In it for the long haul. Little changes.
Like you, none of the organizations that I associate with from my citizenship to my family, to my community, and so on are perfect! Acknowledging those imperfections is key for me. It’s not comfortable but it’s where I am. I long for repentance on the grand scale on behalf of the institution and whole heartedly agree with you that it is not only possible but necessary!
I love the line “improvement and progression is one eternal round”. I hang my hat on that. This progression is a welcome one for sure!
This policy, plus that of many others, led me to question many things in the church. The same topics you mentioned, and many others. Ultimately I left (recently), and it was because I knew that these “revelations” were wrong and had no place in my heart or life. What matters most is to be the best person I can be, without the dictates of a so called true church. It’s sad, and it has been difficult to leave.
Good grief, this is nothing more than a PR move to stem the exodus of younger members from the church. Gens X, Y, and Z won’t put up with the exclusive, fear-mongering, elitist white patriarchy that runs this church. As for the president, he is most definitely 100% human. His “revelation” is simply a savvy business decision to keep padding the coffers of the machine.
I did not see this reversal coming. I’m thrilled it did, but somehow feel like I spent a lot of mental energy trying to understand the November 15 policy, just to now be allowed to discard it. I’m reeling a little. Also, being in Norway, where same-sex marriage has been around for a while, and hasn’t adversely affected heterosexual familie as far as I can tell, I get the impression that the whole policy was a little US-centric, and had more to do with working around changes in US legislation, than Gospel doctrine. I may be off base, but I think this reversal is putting the church more in line with it’s international presence and members – recognizing that the cultural aspects of ‘living the gospel’ affect members differently depending on where they live.
As a non Mormon, this is what my first thought was. Church is a religion but it can only succeed because of a sustained and increased following (Quakers are a good example of one that disappeared). I’m glad they reversed it but I think it just adds more questions.
For the record, Quaker’s are still around :)
My grandfather-in-law goes to Quaker meeting every week in Pennsylvania.
Aks: Thank you for the info. You reminded me that years ago I took a quiz that tried to match personal spiritual beliefs with a religion and Quaker came up at the top for me!
Jeane, is it possible you meant the Shakers and not the Quakers?
Melissa…Yes thank you! I was on the way to catch a plane flight so I was typing as fast as I could while my husband was yelling from the garage “What in the heck are you doing?! “
Cynthia, I’m laughing because you’ve commented on Design Mom over a hundred times and I had no idea you were Mormon.
Glad you’re chuckling but I am most definitely NOT a Mormon.
You’re not? Wow. I can not imagine commenting the way you did on a religion I am not a part of, and presumably have no significant personal experience with.
Do you speak with such open contempt for all religions, or just Mormonism?
I grew up as a Lutheran and even went to a Lutheran college as an undergrad. Religion classes were required. Once I was educated, I began to think for myself and saw all formalized religion as business and intentional community for surrounding oneself with like-minded individuals. The older I get, the more disdain I have for the business of religion. Obviously, one can have a spiritual practice and relationship with God without the business and politics of formal religion. I love to debate this with a person of any faith but only do so when debate is invited as you do on this blog. And you’re absolutely right, Gaby…most wars (and most hatred) is directly related to religion.
“I love to debate this with a person of any faith but only do so when debate is invited as you do on this blog.”
I think you’ve misunderstood. Though I’m happy to discuss religion, the idea of debating something so intensely personal is of no interest to me. I’m especially uninterested in debating religion with someone who implies that since I take part in organized religion, I’m uneducated and unable to think for myself.
Obviously I don’t know you at all and have no idea how you comment on other religions, but I find it hard to imagine you would approach a practicing Catholic and say: “As for the pope, he is most definitely 100% human. His “revelation” is simply a savvy business decision to keep padding the coffers of the machine.” Or. “As for Jesus, he was most definitely 100% human. His “revelation” was simply a savvy business decision to keep padding the coffers of the machine.” Or. “As for Muhammad, he was most definitely 100% human. His “revelation” was simply a savvy business decision to keep padding the coffers of the machine.” Or. “As for the dalai lama, he is most definitely 100% human. His “revelation” is simply a savvy business decision to keep padding the coffers of the machine.”
Perhaps you would.
Before November 2015, I thought that I would go to church regularly and participate for the rest of my life, even though my husband (who I married in the temple) did not go to church. I was 100% good with being in a happy mixed-faith marriage and still showing up, being a little unorthodox.
That all changed overnight 3.5 years ago, and even though I still attend a couple times per month (usually only for RS), and don’t swear, and keep the word of wisdom, everything else has changed. Even though I wasn’t directly affected by the policy, it was the catalyst for me moving farther away from the church than I would have though possible in October 2015.
I saw the news today in an odd way–I’m a teacher, and I had the NY Times on the projector so that we could look at a different article, and there was the picture of the temple with the headline. I’m pretty sure that I played it cool enough and no one noticed that the news meant anything to me one way or the other, but it was definitely not something I was expecting to encounter in the middle of my lesson!
I’m glad for the change, but I don’t think I’ll ever go back to being as active in the church as I once was.
I have a few LGBT friends who shared a post saying that today, all of the cis/het Mormons are SO HAPPY, while the LGBT ones are feeling triggered. The post says that the effect of the reversal was to ease the consciences of orthodox Mormons, not to make the LGBT ones magically feel welcomed and included again. My guess is, that’s a pretty fair generalization.
“that the effect of the reversal was to ease the consciences of orthodox Mormons”
I can totally see that. And it’s why I think a public apology and institutional repentance would go a long way in making things right.
Wow Emily…I could have written this comment! It describes my experience exactly….except I’m not a teacher and I DO swear, haha! But I think it’s really important that you mentioned the way this reversal is triggering to LGBT Mormons and the pain caused by the November 2015 ban.
I feel so ragey today. The policy was one of the last straws for me to stop attending the LDS church completely. While I respect those who stay in the church as a valid life path, I just couldn’t continue to affiliate with a church that so blatantly discriminates against the LGBTQ population and then pretends it is a gift from God to protect the children. And while I am happy that the backwards policy has been rescinded, like you said, institutional repentance is still needed. It feels abusive to have hurt the LGBTQ community in this way and then simply take it away without an apology. In a small way it reminds me of the recent temple changes for women- I am happy that my nieces will not have to go through the extent of sexism that I did, but also aware that it is a tactic to keep women/members in that might otherwise leave. No apologies were made to all the women who were deeply hurt by the sexism in the temple. This change seems like it is pandering to the younger generation who support gay rights (not necessarily even to the LGBTQ members themselves TBH). Overall, the more I distance myself, the more the institutional church just looks so abusive and toxic to me. I really love my mormon friends and family, but have a hard time not eye rolling when I think or hear about the leadership and their “revelations.” I join in the mourning for the beautiful LGBTQ souls that have been lost as a result of the exclusion policy and treatment the last few years- for many it is too little too late.
All right…commenting right before dinnertime was not the wisest decision ever. “I love this” is the wrong phrase to use.
And I don’t know what I would replace it with. Guess I need to ponder upon what exactly I think about that section I included. But I read it out loud and highlighted it and copied and pasted it. And I’m not certainly not homophobic or bigoted….
I’m just going to stop now and go to bed. Thank you, Gabby, for the news.
!This was a reply to my previous comment.)
Maybe just Maybe, the mormon church is not the only “true” church, whatever that really means? And Maybe you can live an absolutely beautiful, deeply spiritual life filled with love, compassion, joy, empathy and service without it? Just a thought from an divinely happy ex-Mormon.. and know it’s ok to follow your heart even if it seems impossible to leave.
I get that there are Mormons who grow up being taught the church is the only “true” church, but that’s not universal. That wasn’t part of my upbringing. My whole dad’s side of the family wasn’t LDS and had different beliefs, attended different churches, than I did, and the idea that they were attending “untrue” religions was not a thing.
Growing up without a lot of black-and-white thinking about the church has definitely affected my current relationship with religion. I can easily see how if someone believes the Mormon church is the only true church, and then sees the church/church leaders make a mistake, how that would totally change their belief system. If the church has always held a lot of grey areas for someone, then institutional/leadership mess-ups, or additional grey areas, aren’t as impactful.
This was my experience as well. My parents , and my dad in particular, was always very vocal that church leaders were simply people and they were not to be worshipped or deified in any way. As an example, I didn’t grow up with having photographs of the First Presidency or the Twelve on the walls, and I don’t do that in my home. I will be purchasing this print, however, and getting it up on my walls asap:
I’m very comfortable in the gray, and I’m comfortable saying, “You know what? I disagreed with this policy or the application of this doctrine. I don’t think it’s okay and I don’t think it’s right.” In this case, it clearly wasn’t, and this is a pretty stunning reversal in such a short amount of time. I do hope they apologize or make some reference to this in in General Conference this weekend, and even then, that’s a mere bandaid on the wounds that have been caused since 2015.
Gabby, once again, thank you for talking about the things that matter to you.
Pam your comment really resonated with me. I grew up in a Catholic household, not devout but Catholic all the same. As a young adolescent I realised that organised religious practice was not for me and stopped participating. I could not reconcile the hypocrisy of many strongly held beliefs of the church with the underlying principles of love and tolerance that seem to be at the heart of most religions. I cannot imagine how stressful it must be when you are at odds with your religion and I am glad that I not burdened by that. There are enough stress points in life as it is without the overlay of a religious construct that does not fit with your own beliefs. Recently George Pell, one of the most senior Catholic clerics in the world was jailed for sexual assault in Australia (where I live). The local response from the church has been abhorrent IMO and I wonder how practising Catholics actually process that in the context of their faith. I see people really struggling with their feelings and for what purpose? They are intrinsically good people and will continue to be so even if they let go of their labelled faith which seems to cause them so much grief.
Thank you for articulating so much of what’s in my head. I live in. When the policy came to light (and I think there was some naïveté that it wouldn’t come out to the whole wide world and not just stay in a leadership booklet forever —remember, this was leaked, not announced) I was in a position of leadership and visited a few members reminding them that all leaders were humans and fallible, that I didn’t support the policy and stood with the families the policy directly impacted, and I didn’t have to agree with it to be a member of the church. The fallout from my visits is, well, shocking and embarrassing to me. I didn’t realize it at the time how close it would hit home, but the two years to follow are so painful that I can’t write the words. Am apology would go a long way to heal a hurt I will be working on for the rest of my life. Either way today is a day of vindication. Maybe if the apology doesn’t come from the church, maybe those members who ostricized abs judged our family can pick up the phone. Maybe those who were so incredibly quick to justify that horrible, unchristian policy can realize they have to, shocking, think for themselves. Thank you for being a place of sanity in a sometimes insane place of Mormonism. It will take some time to process this happy/sad day for me.
I think the big differences between the Mormon church and other organisations are that the Mormon church claims to be the only true church on earth and also claims direct revelation from God. How many of the other organisation you belong to make those claims?
Now, if the Mormon church makes a statement or a new rule one expects it is the result of revelation from God and not just an idea from church leaders. Also, one would reasonably expect that the Mormon church leaders would go to God in prayer and discuss matters between the First presidency and Quorum of the Twelve to have any ideas they have about changing church rules confirmed before announcing them to the world. That is the way the Mormon church is supposed to work. To claim that church leaders are ‘only human’ really goes against what the church teaches i.e. direct revelation from God. And if the church leaders do not in fact have direct revelation from God and answers to their prayers on important matters such as the one you refer to (not baptising children of gay couples), then what does that say about the ‘only true church’ ? You can’t have it both ways – either the church is true and the church leaders receive revelation from God and receive answers to their prayers for the church, or the church leaders are just ordinary human beings who make mistakes, in which case the Mormon church is based on lies.
“To claim that church leaders are ‘only human’ really goes against what the church teaches i.e. direct revelation from God.”
You are certainly not the only person with this thought, but I see it differently. I’m aware there is totally a problematic culture in the church where leaders are practically worshipped. This is something that seems new in my lifetime. I don’t remember it being like this when I was a kid. But it’s not at all how it’s actually supposed to work. If nothing else, the scriptures make clear that prophets are very fallible and mess up in big ways frequently.
I agree with Gabby. After my husband left the church I spent months looking up every scripture available on prophets. Both describing what a prophet is and reading about their lives. It was transformative for me and deepened my relationship with God in real ways. As a friend said, “I think blind obedience is a cultural thing”. That said, my husband thinks I’m crazy and that there is no room in the church for that kind of belief. I see it differently.
Debbie, your argument that the church is either “true” or “based on lies” is an example of a false dilemma or false dichotomy. This is a logical fallacy or error in reasoning that presents a forced choice between only two possible scenarios or choices when in fact there are more possibilities. Its worth noting that this logical fallacy is often employed as a manipulative tool to polarize the argument. (“You’re either with us or against us!”) You don’t have to believe the church is either “true” or “based on lies”…there is a whole lot of grey there in between.
I choose to believe that the Mormon Church is led by people who are earnestly (TRULY) trying to seek revelation and direction from God. These are people who are 100% human but have cultivated a practice of being sensitive to the quiet whisperings of divine guidance. As 100% human beings, however, they are not immune to the conflicting influences of their own biases, prejudices, fears and life experiences. This doesn’t mean that their revelations aren’t truly from God, nor that they are “based on lies” but rather that they are coming through a very falliable human filter.
I think the 2015 policy was incredibly shameful. The fact that they reversed the policy is good news ONLY in that they righted a wrong of their own making, but I am not surprised that the LGBTQ community isn’t dancing in the streets about it. I think there is still a lot of institutional bigotry and homophobia (among other things) in our church. Again, I’m not surprised because of the conservative make up of the leadership. But institutional change will come, it IS happening, albeit slowly.
And as a point of fact, the Catholic Church also teaches that theirs is the “one, true church.” And that they get direct revelation from God through the Pope.
Thank you, Anna. You put into words that I couldn’t have.
I have vehemently negative feelings toward the church (I was a member for over 40 years). I think that it is an iniquitous cult which amongst other terrible things has actively and knowingly protected the predator who molested me as a child for more than 10 years along with untold numbers of others, and duped good sincere humans who would be just as well served by simply living Christianity according to Christ’s example. I find this reversal to be nothing more than a gaslighting move in the face of a mass exodus. ALL THAT SAID. I respect your response to all this tremendously. Thank you for not being an apologist. This was thoughtfully written, honest, humble, sincere, genuine. Everything the top leadership has failed to model. Gabby for President. I might join *that* damn church
So very sorry for your hurt…
Yes, gabby for prophet. Count me in!
I appreciate your thoughts on this. I appreciate you spoke up when the policy began. It doesn’t compute to me how in the world these men speak for God and come up with a policy like this and then reverse it a few years later. I don’t think this policy change is something to celebrate. It shouldn’t have happened in the first place. I agree with Debbie. I also am having hard time understanding how some were so angered by Brett Kavanaugh (I was) and felt judges should be held to a very high standard (I do). These same people are now giving a pass to these Mormon leaders. I think that’s a double standard and the whole ‘they’re human’ is a bad excuse. Prophets should be held to an even higher standard than judges!
I wasn’t raised Mormon. but Catholic, and I’m no longer practicing for a number of reasons that feel similar. The ongoing revelations of systemic child abuse and the coverups thereof. The church position on homosexuality. The patriarchal hierarchy. I saw no place for myself, and more importantly I did not see mainstream leaders wrestling with these issues of extreme inequity and violence in a remotely critical way.
I miss the sense of community and ritual. But moves like the one you address here, Gabrielle, they are incomplete without repentance as you say. Too little too late.
I definitely get the too-little-too-late feeling from my church quite a bit lately and I have to keep reckoning with it. I’m vocal about fighting for changes, and then when they happen (this policy reversal, some positive changes to our Temple ceremony, etc.), if I’m honest, I find myself at least as irritated as I am joyful, if not more so. Like: See? We’ve been telling the church this is wrong for ages! Why didn’t you listen? Why did it take so long? You’ve known this is a problem for many, many years!
If the church accompanied these changes with sincere apologies to the people who have been hurt, and a call for members to make room for questions, and acknowledgement of those who have fought for the changes, I have no doubt all these new things would go down more smoothly.
I’m so happy the policy has changed. However it does feel like the change is more about making Mormons feel better about the way their church treats LGBTQ+ people rather than actually including them and treating them equally. They said in the statement that it is still “serious transgression” so their attitudes are still the same. Until they fully affirm and include LGBTQ members it isn’t enough.
I hear that.
What a great post because I always love to learn more about different religion beyond headlines and stereotypes and two, I think your discussion around repentance is so important. In Canada, our current Federal Government has made reconciliation with First Nations a top priority. It’s SUPER messy and a political nightmare but absolutely a critical requirement as a country. Demonstrating meaningful apologies are hard but necessary and being gracious around the messiness can be hard but I think makes our communities stronger.
I mentioned I’m always interested in learning about religion beyond the headlines. You’re comment above (I know that what I see in my actual real-life congregation doesn’t match up at all with what Salt Lake City has to say. Meaning, even if the church says homosexual relationships are sinful, the members I know don’t actually believe that, and assume the church needs to catch up. Gay couples are truly welcome in my congregation and always will be. ) is interesting to me. How does your congregation demonstrate “truly welcome”? And is there LGBTQ members attending your church?
Thanks for such an interesting and open space!
“And is there LGBTQ members attending your church?”
Yes. And they are made welcome like any other members. When they have birthdays they are celebrated. When they need meals (like after a surgery), they are given meals. When they have a baby, we throw a baby shower.
Thanks! That’s amazing! I was raised in an Anglican church but have become seriously invested in Unitarianism while my husband and some extended family are Catholic. We have lots of discussion around reconciliation of faith, spiritualism and community building. How can we ensure organized or faith/organized religion/spiritualism/community represents the most of what you need it to represent but also investing personally in making it what you want it and believe it to be? Even as I write this, I’m overwhelmed:)
I was raised without religion and have always felt a little wonder and envy for people that were and, more than that, have some kind of faith.
This is sidetracking a bit, but I find the struggle to reconcile personal beliefs with those of an institution incredibly meaningful and even beautiful. It seems wonderfully human and so difficult but worthy of the struggle, like it forces a refinement of personal beliefs, which could then influence an institution – a conversation. I feel like I can see the work of faith, which I don’t have an opportunity to see often, playing out here. Thank you so much for sharing.
That is beautiful. Thanks for sharing that perspective. We often learn the most when there’s tension.
I agree! Meg, love this perspective!
FYI the Church has apologized for MMM.
Yes! Thank you for putting this into words. I grew up in a similar situation. My husband left the church two years ago and at first I was flabbergasted. But he grew up believing this was the one true church and if it messed up it wasn’t “true”. Which is a valid belief to have. TBH it devastated me initially to realize how different or beliefs are. But we’ve come a long way since then. How you grow up obviously colors your view and I think sometimes we Mormons don’t realize that we didn’t all grow up the same, when everything else is so similar.
A member in Japan here. My husband stopped attending the Church just 2 yrs ago for the very same reason. Like if Joseph Smith did something fundamentally “wrong,” everything falls apart, he said. And like you said, we’ve also come a long way. Patience is key…
This was meant to be a reply to the comment about how you grew up. I’m not sure how it ended up down here 🤷♀️
Last night I was reading through the Instagram Honor Code Acct (horrifying) and wondered if being in that Gestapo environment for your formative college years is a huge root of some of the problematic church culture and policies. It becomes normalized and even righteous and ideal and then this policing culture continues further into adulthood and ward leadership, stake leadership, curriculum and policy. Thinking of the recent Come Follow Me lesson with Luke chpt 7 when Jesus is dining with Simon the Pharisee and the woman comes in and washes the Savior’s feet – the Pharisee’s worldview/hierarchy is based on not sinning while the woman is focused on the Atonement. I think the church encompasses both the Pharisee and the woman – perhaps the nature of the beast of a large organized religion is pharasaic policies, and the gospel it tries to embody is the woman/the Savior/the Atonement/the hope. I think you can see both factions in your self, your ward, and in the General Authorities – and for me, not only do I cling to the woman for comfort in the face of the Pharisee and his policies, but I think it’s important to stand up for the woman – keep the Pharisee in check – keep him to a bare minimum in whatever sphere you can. However, it’s my experience that there are people who actually like and prefer the pharasaic, the Old Testament God, the fire and brimstone, and destroy all the Canaanites and their cattle – and some of that might be their inherent nature, but I wonder how much was reinforced/augmented.
Thank you for this post. Your voice and courage means a lot more to some of us than you may ever realize.
Don’t worry, Gabrielle, not to downplay your feelings of shame (and I am wowed by your honesty), I can do you one better: as a life-long Evangelical, the vast majority of my spiritual brethren have lined up to bow down to the orange idol of the presidency (and yes, I do mean idol–putting one’s faith and trust in political power instead of God is idolatry). It’s been a rough two years spiritually, to say the least, and I’m just starting to come out of it. I haven’t lost my faith in my deep disappointment, and since it’s still sticking around, I expect to always have it. While I am not LDS, I resonate with your feelings of shame and absolute, gut-wrenching sorrow and disappointment. You are not alone.
Thank you for your post. For me a prophet is 100% human, as a calling (even as a prophet) does not take away any of his/hers humanness. (They are not part unicorn either, they use bathrooms and everything, seriously it helps me to think about how everyone still also has to go pee. Actually when I went to the temple the first time, I was baffled that there are restrooms right in the middle, but now they are my favorite rooms in the Lords house.) His calling adds a dimension to his thinking and feeling maybe, adds or strengthens a connection. Revelation is really hard, even personal revelation. I can not quite imagine how to receive instructions for a big organization or the whole world. (I am not saying that to excuse, I am just acknowedging that I don’t understand a lot). I am glad it is more and more acknowledged how hard it is and I am glad that there is a lively conversation about culture and the gospel, because I too second the sentiment that this policy had something to do with culture more than with doctrine which I don’t really get as a german convert living in Germany at all. I love that you did’t grow up in a black and white culture in your family because that is what repelled me when I was new and still I find it really heartbreaking at times. Thank you so much for your brave, honest and clear voice. I would love the leaders to model repentance in the church as well. Institutional and personal repentance and forgiveness is my dream.
Yes, yes, yes! Thank you for this. I cried for weeks when the November policy was announced and then cried tears of joy when they rolled it back. I feel like a lot of members were praying for this. I agree on the much needed apology. It would truly help our church begin to heal. We still have much work to do but I feel like the needle is slowly moving in the right direction.
Did you seriously delete my comment? Sheesh. Maybe I need to reevaluate my opinion of you after all…
Yes, Katy. Of course I deleted your comment with the very personal, intrusive, and offensive question.
My husband wrestled with his Mormon faith due to the numerous policies that didn’t align with his own personal beliefs. He eventually came to the conclusion that he couldn’t ignore the issues any longer. After wrestling with a faith crisis and subsequently having one foot in and one foot out, he happened come across the “Mormon Stories” podcasts. The podcasts are interviews from current members, former members (Including those that held high ranking positions in the church), struggling members, people directly and indirectly affected by the LGBTQ policy and other policies, etc. It is made up of a community of people much like my husband that have the common thread of wanting to be loyal to (and with a strong affection for) the church yet finding themselves increasingly disappointed and disillusioned. I recommend it to everyone. Indeed there are even people that have chosen to stay in the church despite their doubts. My husband, however, was not one of them.
A member in Japan here. I personally don’t think the change was enough for LGBTQ members, but, I could only imagine, there were people up there, inside, who worked so hard to make this policy change happen. I thought about leaving the church in 2015 like many others but my gay friends said I should stay so I could be of any help for LGBTQ members within the church. I’m still figuring out how far I could publicly go about being vocal about, well, anything within the church (we’re behind with everything pretty much in Japan; in this day and age, yes.). So thanks for being open and vocal about your beliefs. You’re truly setting a great example.
I’m a little late to responding to this post, but wanted to share our experience. We were a part of a church organization for over 25 years, and finally chose to leave because the church leadership would not acknowledge or work through their failures well. There was little to no repentance, constant blame shifting, and a lack of ownership. I had enough. It grieves my heart how often those who claim to be believers are the last to demonstrate these qualities. We should be the ones at the front lines of humility.
Gabrielle, I love the way your brain works! It’s so interesting and helpful to see unique perspectives on these issues. I’m one of those “grey” people- I think there are many grey areas in the church just like there are in life. I am a faithful member of the LDS church but I was raised in northern CA by an awesome dad with maybe a more objective view and life experiences. I see The Church as holding hands with but a separate being than The Gospel, always reminded that the church is run by humans which is very frustrating to me- pretty much on a weekly basis! For me, the bottom line always goes back to LOVE. If a person has a good heart and is kind, that’s pretty much all I care about, no matter your race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. When the first policy came out, it was confusing to me and I couldn’t understand it although I tried. Then when they changed it again, it finally felt right, because it never made any sense! I sustain the HUMAN brethren of the church AND I agree they should put their money where their mouth is and apologize!
Thanks for this deeply insightful and brave post. I left the church after the policy in 2015 was announced. My son is gay and it was heartbreaking to watch him go through everything growing up in the church. If I had any doubts that children are born gay, that doubt was obliterated watching his devastation. I felt so heartbroken when that policy was announced since those infants and children would be my grandchildren.
I love my LDS family and friends. And I believe that mormons in general are such great people. Being in Utah I have seen many young people resort to suicide and families break up as a result of this stance. My sister is deeply involved with a group called the Mama Dragons – a resource for mormon or ex-mormon moms of LBGTQ kids and it’s an awesome organization. If anyone has kids and is trying to reconcile being a member, it’s a wonderful resource.
Leaving the church was and still is incredibly hard. It’s like a death and it’s been years of mourning. I miss the community. I was happy to hear of the reversal of this policy but I feel there was so much hurt and anguish over this policy that the church leadership needs to acknowledge the damage they did and try to rectify it somehow. I also feel the same about the changes in the temple. These are HUGE changes and it feels like the church leadership is trying to sweep these changes under the rug.
Thanks for sharing your feelings and perspective.