Today as I write, my heart is breaking, but not for myself as a lesbian and acting step-mother to four children. I have made my peace with my Mormon childhood and conversion to Judaism. My heart breaks for my family, for my parents, who are faithful members of the LDS church, my siblings, nieces, nephews and all the Mormons who love me.
The LDS church has given my family and countless other families a challenge: choose between faithfulness to an institution or love and accept your family. And it is not just my family facing harsh condemnation by the Mormon Church but thousands of families, who have quietly loved their gay family members while still faithfully attending LDS services.
Now, according to revisions to the LDS Handbook, which guides each LDS congregation’s leadership: “A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may not receive a name and a blessing.”
This new rule is interesting in light of the second of the 13 Articles of Faith canonized in the Mormon Scripture, the “Pearl of Great Price,” which states: “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.” So, babies are not punished for Adam transgression but are punished for the “sins of their parents?” This new ruling sets precedent. Now, even new born babies will be treated differently depending on who their parents are.
An 18-year-old young adult may only have membership in the LDS church if, continues the handbook, “1) The child accepts and is committed to live the teachings and doctrine of the church, and specifically disavows the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage. 2) The child is of legal age and does not live with a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same-gender cohabitation relationship or marriage.”
This phrase, “who has lived or currently lives,” implies that even parents who have in an LDS context repented, been re-baptized, and stopped living in a gay relationship will still be stigmatized and bring condemnation down on their child. It implies that there are some things for which there is no forgiveness in this life.
Tens of thousands of families will be further pushed into fear mode. Fear will not only change people, it will silence them and shame them. This policy does not make the world a better place for Mormons, gay people, children, or anyone else.
Before this policy the number of children of gay parents attending LDS services or wanting to join the Mormon Church was a small number. After this policy, the number will drop to zero. This policy sends a strong message to church membership that children will be held responsible for the actions and beliefs of their parents. Some parents will hold more tightly to the iron rod of the laws of the church in order that their children not be punished. Others will simply walk away from a church as harsh as this.
No one’s children are safe from condemnation, if parents must be perfect in their actions and beliefs. In a famous quote, Martin Niemoeller explains why no one is safe when people are silenced, “First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a communist; Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist; Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist; Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew; Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out.”
Every parent and community should speak out in support of their own children and the children of every other parent.
In this 2012, “It Gets Better at Brigham Young University” video we can see some of the young people who will become parents in the next few years. Are they going to raise their children in the faith tradition of their own childhood? Is this a precedent and policy that will see the LDS church continue into even one more generation?
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