In the few days since the LDS church announced its new policy regarding same-gender couples and their children, I’ve been stunned beyond words. Not because of the status change of gays and lesbians to “apostates,” but because the leaders of the Mormon church are now openly punishing the innocent children of such parents by denying them what the church considers to be “saving ordinances.” Not only is this an egregious act of discrimination toward children, it flies in the face of three of the LDS Articles of Faith.
2 We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may
12 We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
If the church is going to deny children the “blessings” and “saving ordinances” of the gospel of Jesus Christ as a viable consequence of having immoral parents, doesn’t that beg the following questions?
- Why are the babies of unwed mothers allowed to be blessed in the church?
- Why are children who have heterosexual parents that are cohabiting outside the bonds of marriage allowed to be baptized and ordained to the priesthood?
- Why are missionaries allowed to serve when they come from homes where parents have been unfaithful to their spouses?
I’ve seen all these scenarios played out in my extended family. These people are just as guilty of breaking the moral code of the church as those who are living a gay/lesbian lifestyle. Why haven’t they been labeled as apostates and excommunicated? Why is full membership in the church allowed for their children while others are denied?
I’ve read a number of articles and posts over the last couple of days from differing points of view, both inside and outside of the church. Some of them were well thought out and offered perspectives I’d hadn’t considered. One proposes that the motivation for the church to do such a thing is to weed out the weak and strengthen the stalwart members by forcing them accept this as “inspired revelation.” Another sees it as a means to exert power and control over the adults by exploiting the children. Whatever the reason, it’s a travesty when children are used as pawns, and then denied rights due to the actions of the parents.
I received a rare phone call today from a friend whom I met about seven years ago. She was concerned that I might be upset by the recent news given my passion for protecting children. She spent 20 minutes sharing her perspective on how this change is for the benefit of the children. She was of the mindset that it would protect them from the cognitive dissonance that arises from learning one set of values in the home and another set of values at church. She expressed her hope that this new policy wouldn’t shake my testimony and that I’d be able to accept this “revelation” from God to His living prophet. I challenged her by saying I believed this was a policy change made by the board members of a corporation and not a revelation from God as He would never deny children access to Him. And if the church is really concerned about the welfare of children, why aren’t they protecting the cognitive dissonance of children being abused at the hands of ward and family members “in good standing with the church?” Why are they brushing reports of abuse under the rug rather than holding the perpetrators accountable for their actions?
I reassured my friend that my testimony was unchanged by this latest news as I’d already resigned my membership a few months ago. Needless to say, the conversation ended shortly after that.
Now that the shock is starting to wear off, I’m wondering why I was so surprised. For decades, the church has sacrificed the well-being of children to maintain their reputation. They give lip-service to the evils of abuse, but I’ve seen little evidence of them taking appropriate action when they are confronted with the reality of such abuse among the rank and file of its members.
Utah has the highest ratio of LDS members per capita in the nation. Utah also has the highest rate of child abuse. Coincidence? I think not! Anywhere there is a hierarchy that requires unquestionable obedience, children are at risk. And punishing victims isn’t new either. I’ve heard several stories both in and out of the church where that has been the case. But I’ll only share one of my own.
When my husband and I had moved our family to a new city, I went to the bishop with a request. I was distressed by my husband’s lack of enthusiasm regarding the church and was hoping a bit of fellowshipping from our new ward members would rekindle his testimony. Imagine my surprise when the bishop demanded that I tell him the reasons why I thought that was the case. In spite of my repeated stammers of “I don’t know,” he continued to badger me. “Why don’t you know? You’re his wife. You should know what the problem is.” After several minutes of heated interrogation, I finally made a guess as to what could be contributing to the situation, though I confessed that I didn’t know if it was accurate. I said, “I think it’s possible he’s angry with God over the abuse I suffered as a child.” As soon as I’d spoken those words, the table turned. No longer was the discussion on how we could bolster a husband’s faltering faith, but my culpability in the childhood abuse. I was blindsided by the accusation he flung at me that I “should’ve known better.” When I tried to explain the psychology of abuse on young children, I was immediately silenced. He stated that he would set up a disciplinary council and have me excommunicated for immorality. He demanded that I hand over my temple recommend immediately. When I told him I didn’t have it with me, he ordered me to turn it in on the following Sunday. His verbal assault continued with the threat that if I didn’t turn it in, I’d be guilty of apostasy for failure to abide by his orders as my “judge in Israel.” Either way, he’d see to it that I was excommunicated.
I was dumbfounded! A simple request for supportive friendships in a new ward turned into one of the worst living nightmares of my adult life. Once again, I was blamed and shamed for the sins of my father and attitude of my husband, and threatened with the loss of my church “blessings.” Suffice it to say, before a council could be convened (as the church was in the process of realigning our area ward and stake boundaries), the bishop was released to fulfill his new assignment as a Mission President. Because of these changes, I was able to maintain my membership and temple recommend, but not without experiencing yet another traumatic event at the hands of church leadership.
So again, this policy change shouldn’t have shocked me as much as it did. In fact, maybe the church should consider raising the age of baptism for all their members to 18. That way the children can disavow all the sins of the parents before joining the church. The apostle Paul reminds us, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:28) But what if someone dies before their 18th birthday? Oh, yes! Someone in the family can do the temple work by proxy…unless that family is gay. In that case, too bad.
I realize I’m a relatively new believer in the Christ of the Bible and its teachings. So I’m wondering if I’ve somehow missed the stories of Christ withholding blessings from sinners and denying children access to Him. I can only recall Christ turning from the Pharisees and spending time with the undesirables of society, and those with a desire to follow Him. If we claim to follow His teachings and example, wouldn’t we be doing the same?
I see this new policy as fuel for the fire of judgement that burns through our communities. Children are already shunned and ridiculed by neighbors and classmates for having different religious beliefs. Now these people will feel justified in their actions of exclusion. But there are a couple of silver linings in this newest development. Fewer children will be raised in a controlling LDS environment, and more members will be removing their names from the records of the church. God is on the move!
Clarification: A more accurate statement would have been that this policy change was “leaked to the press,” rather than announced by the church. It was never intended for anyone’s eyes except the priesthood leaders in hierarchical positions. The church is doing damage control…again.