Thursday, November 5, 2015

The New Handbook

I would not have been surprised by a change in the LDS Church's General Handbook of Instructions that required Church discipline for individuals in same-sex marriages. Many of us have actually been waiting for that shoe to drop.

I guess I was a bit surprised to see being in a same-sex marriage labeled as apostasy.

What really made my heart sink was to learn that the child of a gay couple cannot receive a name and a blessing in the Church. A child of a gay couple cannot be baptized or confirmed, ordained, or recommended for missionary service unless they are of legal age and do not live with their parents, and unless, in an interview with a Church leader they disavow the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage.

It is almost as if same-sex marriage has now been officially labeled an infection that must be cut from the body at all costs. If the children can't be separated from the infected tissue, then they are cut off too.


A dear friend of mine messaged me minutes after the news hit the queer Mormon social media. "Talk me down," she pleaded, "Lots of angry tears right now."

For the first time, it was hard to see even a glimmer of a silver lining anywhere.

What really upset me was the children.

Surely the Church would never prioritize boundary maintenance over ministry to children.

I hear Jesus upbraiding his apostles, "Forbid them not to come unto me."

That to me was the sign that there must be something wrong with this. This can't be the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a culture of fear. It is cultural war.


Shock and the hurt... I was on the phone with my husband. Verbally, he shrugged his shoulders. What should I expect? I ache right now at the thought of a husband and a son permanently alienated from the Church that I love. I am shocked that because of our love, they might be forbidden to come unto Christ.

And yet, I can't feel hopeless or despondent about this. A lot of people I know were hoping to see the Church's stance on homosexuality change gradually toward greater openness, with a first step being bishops simply welcoming same-sex couples to worship without excommunicating them. I have always known, deep down inside, that progress would not occur in this way.

There has been deep and dramatic change in the LDS Church in relation to this issue: not in terms of policy or doctrine, but in terms of attitudes. Mormons have crossed a threshold that is making it increasingly impossible for them to think of their gay family members, neighbors and friends as "other," as "apostate." A critical mass of Mormons know first hand that our love doesn't look that much different from theirs, that our families are as much a shelter from the storm for us as theirs are for them. They've seen our hopes and dreams, and our faith, our love for Jesus Christ intertwined with our love for our families. They've only just started to come to grips with the cognitive dissonance that realization is creating.

The cognitive dissonance just got a lot worse.


Roger Leishman said...

Defining marriage equality as apostasy is merely petulant and self-limiting, like denouncing dancing or Galileo. (E pur si muove) But withholding baptism to an 8 year old child because of her parents' marital status is pure evil.

Anonymous said...

Stuff and nonsense.

And what do you call subjecting a child to a doctrinal course of teachings, social circumstances, and beliefs to which one or both of its parents themselves do not fully subscribe, do not follow? and in point of fact often will seriously criticize and depart from? Think about it.

But you are not thinking, and more to the point: you are especially not thinking of the children, are you? So what are the next steps after blessings, baptism, and in the long years to follow, the formative years, maybe torturous years, when the huge schism develops between parents and church teachings, maybe wider and wider each day? You think that is just going to be a cakewalk for these kids? Which of you can tally up right now the cost of that process, even if ultimately this comes out the way you want? are the children just so much collateral damage to the "cause?" (Seems a point worthy of consideration)

Have you thought about what happens to a child pulled and tugged between doctrines, beliefs, teachings, and church friends, on the one hand, and their parents, their beliefs and dissatisfaction, and militating for doctrinal changes, on the other? Forecasting blue skies for these kids or tough sledding?

Look, anybody can make this argument about the children, right? but who is actually thinking of the child's welfare in this debate? Certainly not many of the knee-jerk, slogan-spouting commentators I've tracked on this and other blogs. They appear to be more in the business of child sacrifice than anything remotely christian.

Frankly, this whole society--hetero, homo, bi and trans sexual--has lately become so gonadcentric and self-interested, that you have to suspect that the culture has begun to think with organs that were not properly designed for it.

THINK people, slow down and THINK.

What did you say? "Pure evil?" --yeah, right. Glad you got that off your chest.

John Gustav-Wrathall said...

Anonymous -- I think with my heart as well as my head. If you think this is about gonads, you're not seeing much, or thinking much if you're seeing. My heart and head tell me this is wrong. The Church can't change the reality of what it means to be gay, no matter who it excommunicates or excludes. And it can't change the fact that we are members of families. Will they next start expelling our parents and siblings unless they disavow us? Our friends?

If thy heart or thy head offend thee, cut them off?

dave sandberg said...

The comment by anonymous is strange on several levels. In a, perhaps naïve, attempt to influence their thinking, I pose the following
1. Should this Same standard apply to all children who may have nonmember parents? They too are possibly subject to a parent who is critical or unsympathetic to the church, I remember well the anguish of a fellow Boy Scout troubled because his father subscribed to Playboy and was not a member of the church. Should we have for bade him from being baptized, and likely prevented him from having the love and affection of fellow Boy Scouts who cared about him and allowed him to verbalize his concerns?
2. Since the above example may imply that having a parent is similar to a moral transgression, the same principal would apply to children whose parents follow different political beliefs or whose fathers or mothers are too busy with work or other hobbies to be involved with their children.
3. What if a child sees his or her parents praying for God's blessings to be available to all of his children? Who, in a patient and a humble manner accept the vulnerability and sorrow that results fromr persecution or misunderstanding of their views because they find comfort in God Christ and the Holy Spirit? This was the case for many of those who questioned the practice of the blacks and the priesthood. Why were those children not spared the conflict and anguish of seeing their parents lobby for a change in practice? I I suspect there are many faithful members who are grateful their parents did not spare them.
4. From my own experience it is out of sorrow that are born the sesds of salvation.and I do find myself feeling more sorrowful for anonymous than angry. The pain that is being felt by many is profound and I pray it may yet bear much spiritual fruit for those willing to journey through it.

alan said...

You're surprisingly realist about this. Indeed, without a change to the doctrine, the first part of the Handbook change toward same-sex marriage was inevitable. The Church did not have policy toward the familiness of same-sex households; it merely condemned the "sin" that formed them. But with same-sex marriage as a law of the land, the Church was forced to confront them, even if by way of exclusion.

However, the second part of the change concerning children is more a head-scratcher. The stated goal is to reduce cognitive dissonance for families, but this seems to be an example where the "top-down view" (less cognitive dissonance for the Church) clashes with the "bottom-up view" (more cognitive dissonance for families). This clash opens up a path to revelation because it puts a strict limitation on bottom-up advocacy, re-wresting the power to make change to the upper echelon. It's a tricksy social psychology move that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth, especially since there is no indication that the Church (by which I mean, its organizational structure) could actually adapt to such a revelation, and therefore is less likely to "ask" for it, and instead might double-down on this matter in perpetuity. But, a lot can happen in 20 or even 10 years.

Anonymous said...

"From my own experience it is out of sorrow that are born the sesds of salvation.and I do find myself feeling more sorrowful for anonymous than angry."

Anonymous thanks you, Mr. Sandberg. (I'm not exactly sure what all that means, but it sounds very... magnanimous and poetical, which I’m certain was the aimed-for effect.)

You likely presume I am LGBT prejudiced. Sadly, the LGBT community reflexively cry “prejudice!” when they confront principled opposition. So, let’s see if it proves up:

I have immediate family who are deeply pained because of their same-sex attraction. And I share that in every way I can. It is the object of daily thought and prayer. Not a day passes but that some shade of that very real grief presents itself to me or another family member. We trudge on.

So, you see, you cannot afford me any “sorrow” conjured for rhetorical purposes that is greater than the sorrow i bathe in daily.

Moreover: I did not grow up in Utah or in some insular, homogenous Midwestern town. I grew up in one of the largest LGBT demographics of another state.

As a result of my former association with LGBTs, I have worked for and professionally defended LGBT civil rights to those who have views contrary. Yes, I believe in and have been vocal in support of Gay civil rights--aligned with the church's recent support for anti-discrimination measures to be extended to address/remedy gender preference discrimination. And I’ve earned a few stripes over the issue.

But I argue civil and religious rights are not the same thing. No, not by a long shot.
It is clear to me that the LGBT community believes that the Church’s recent pronouncement is uninspired. Ok, fine, but the LDS church is a church which teaches (and I affirm) is founded on revealed doctrine. Its leaders do not put a finger in the wind and then write policy.

Lastly, I am amazed (Mr. Sandberg) when church members/others cite the "blacks in the priesthood" issue as support for the proposition that they can taste-test church doctrines or policies--like the Church was some kind of smorgasbord where they can leave off their plates the more difficult things (like tithing) and just go with stuff we like--a great health code.

The fact is, no one knows the bottom of the "blacks in the priesthood" issue. Period. Yet, those who prefer to rationalize religion, while often not practicing any of it themselves, freely pronounce or imply that the whole Blacks in the priesthood thing was merely “error correction.” Really? And how, exactly, do they know? Really. How do they know?

Irrespective of your answer, the “Blacks and the priesthood” canard conveniently furnishes each fair- weather member a ready excuse to cherry pick the doctrines, policies and principals one prefers, and smoothly reject the more difficult stuff with a wave of the hand and the whispered code phrase: “Blacks and the priesthood.” Other self-assured fair weather saints nod approvingly.

How they will all scatter when a strong wind blows.

Coming back to the point: Was not the change in the handbook consistent with, or at least foreseeable because of, the Church's Proclamation on the Family, and---given the more militant way the LGBT community moves for changes in doctrine—perhaps necessary at this time? That's what we are talking about, right?

This isn’t about the poor, poor children or boy scouts with fathers who have a soft porn problem, right?

This is about a group of individuals who are dissatisfied with a fundamental, core pronouncement of a religion which disagrees with their world view and their notion that all religion must conform to societal norms of civil rights on the LGBT issues.

This is not about unbaptized/unordained kids. It is about their parents. And those parents should not be using kids as either a human shield or a wedge issue.
Whether you feel more sorrow than anger for it, or the reverse, that is my central point, and no one is fooled by the rhetoric.

LCannon said...

Fortunately for all of us, we don't NEED to be LDS in order to follow Christ. "Come Unto Christ" Oh, but there are stipulations. I am very certain that Christ is not the one who put them there.