The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and How Its Policy Affects LGBTQ Members and Their Families December 11, 2018 | Shaley Fleming PRESS RELEASE On November 5, 2015 news of some changes to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Bishop’s Handbook Number 1 broke. Tweets rang out from notable members and ex-members of the church alike. It is said that John Dehlin, founder of the Open Stories Foundation and producer of the Mormon Stories Podcast, was the first person with a large audience influence to break the news. Tyler Glenn, front man of the band Neon Trees also posted a tearful video to Twitter giving his feelings on the changes. What were the changes made? It is being referred to by some as the “Exclusion Policy” because of its omission of members in the LGBTQ community and their children.
The policy states that Children with same-sex parents will have to wait until they are 18 to be baptized, and will need to be interviewed by their bishop or stake leaders to do so. Both of these requirements must also be met, “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. [And] 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.”4 This is a change from the average baptismal age of 8 for traditional Latter-day Saint families. For some LGBTQ members of the church “The policy was spiritually and psychologically traumatizing.”5 Many had planned to raise families in the church and struggled now to find their place in it. Three years later, and not much has changed.
The policy is still currently in place. In the October 2018 General Conference Elder Dallin H. Oaks reiterated the churches stance in the following statement, “We are beloved children of a Heavenly Father, who has taught us that maleness and femaleness, marriage between a man and a woman, and the bearing and nurturing of children are all essential to His great plan of happiness… Satan’s most strenuous opposition is directed at whatever is most important to God’s plan…he also seeks to confuse gender, to distort marriage, and to discourage childbearing.”9 For those trying to remain in the church, while also being a member of the LGBTQ community these words are difficult to hear. Minutes after the address was given the site affrimation.org, a site that affirms Latter-day Saints in the LGBTQ community, posted suicide hotlines to their Facebook page.
This issues is “To many… the civil rights struggle of our time, to others… it is seen as a sign of the moral decay of our time.”5 Since the November Policy was released members of the church are still trying to find their place. People are trying to take two communities with vastly different cultures and make them into one. Growing up as a Latter-day Saint makes it difficult to fit into the ‘gay culture,’ but it is also difficult to fit into ‘Mormon culture’ if you are gay. D Christian Harrison says “As a gay man who understands that my orientation is a gift and not a curse, I’ve often been asked how it is that I could possibly be part of a church that so thoroughly misunderstands who I am and my value in the eyes of my Father in Heaven. It’s Hard.”7 He goes on to talk about how being a member of the church is a choice, but his orientation is not. This is a newly accepted idea in the church.
It 2012 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints took strides to say on their mormonandgay website that “Same-sex attraction is experienced along a spectrum of intensity and is not the same for everyone. Some are attracted to both genders, and others are attracted exclusively to the same gender… a change in attraction should not be expected or demanded as an outcome by parents or leaders.”6 While this is improvement from the idea that a person’s sexual orientation (or gender orientation) was a sinful ‘choice,’ many members continue to struggle. The thought of celibacy being the only path to the Celestial Kingdom leads families to struggle with the acceptance of their LGBTQ members, and leaves many LGBTQ members feeling lonely and displaced. Some of the arguments surrounding the argument for the traditional family include the need for procreation, complementarianism, and the further break down of the family unit.
Some problems with these arguments include the fact that “There is no modern apostle or prophet who has expounded on how to live a celibate life.”5 This not only causes problems for LGBTQ members, but also for single members of the church who grow into middle adulthood and are required to follow the Law of Chastity. Many members of the church are asked to refer back to the For Strength of Youth pamphlet though they may be well into adulthood. This pamphlet is vague on its teaching of the application of the Law of Chastity. It is used to teach the youth of the church, and as such the proper language required for adults is not provided. The first counterargument is that intimacy in marriage is for the purpose of expressing love to each other. Bryce Cook counters that “If heterosexuals who have no ability or intention to procreate are allowed to marry solely for love and companionship, why can’t homosexuals also be allowed to marry solely for love and companionship?”
It is also argued that Males and Females are divine romantic compliments to one another. Romantic relationships are held by homosexual companions and work in a very similar manner to their heterosexual companions, and have for years.5 Relationships have the same capacity for romantic partnership, and to last for the same length of years as their heterosexual counterparts. There is also the argument for the breakdown for the family unit. If we look again at couples who cannot procreate, or choose other options such as foster care or adoption, family units are built. Children are taken from unstable and unpredictable environments and placed into loving homes. Heterosexual couples who cannot have children seek the same options as their homosexual counterparts and vice versa. Church teachings and policy impact arguably most dramatically parents of those who are in the LGBTQ community.
Elijah Nielson did a case study with an active Latter-day Saint couple and their gay son to see the effects of heterosexism in 2017. When their son first came out they felt a “True, [and] real feeling of loss [and]… a mourning period.”8 They took him to a “councilor who specialized in sexual addiction.”8. Their aim was conversion therapy, or therapy that would promise a hope of a change in their son’s sexual orientation. What they had envisioned for their son had died, as well as a real worry of a spiritual death. In the study the therapy eventually did not work as is often the case. The American Psychological Association stopped condoning conversion therapy in 1997 and reaffirmed their stance that homosexuality was not a mental disorder.
While the church affirms that homosexual feelings should not be expected to change, they do state “For some, feelings of same-sex attraction, or at least the intensity of those feelings, may diminish over time.” John Dehlin found that “about 38% of men and 27% of women reported [reorientation] therapy as not effective or harmful… *0% of those whose therapy focused on sexual orientation change efforts evaluated the experience as either ‘not effective at all,’ (42%), ‘moderately harmful,’ (21%), or ‘severely harmful’ (16%).”2 Over time this family was able to find ways to reconcile their relationships with each other. Their son has a boyfriend and they have “asked, you know, [that public displays of affection they do] not in our home.”
They also have a “rule that they cannot sleep over here, that is our boundry.”8 They continually reaffirm their faith in the belief that marriage is ordained by God and is between a man and a woman. They do say that because of this affirmation they “would be there”8 if their son were to marry his boyfriend. Not everyone receives this kind of promise from their parents. Some are completely cut off from their families unless they live in accordance with church policy. The communities are difficult to navigate together. They said they felt peace when their son or his boyfriend would call and ask them to pray for them. Peace came in the hope that even though their son had chosen a path they would not have for him, he was still holding to familiar principles.
There was not a complete release of their son’s faith. Through all of these examples we can see that policy has an impact on communities. The Latter-day Saint and LGBTQ communities are very similar to tribes. They both subscribe to a set of ideals, expressions, and practices. Because of the vast difference between the two a person can be hard pressed to feel completely welcomed into both. Members of each will likely continue to hold fast to their ideals, and also their hopes that the other will change. We will likely see a blending of the two as the outside world and culture continues to move in a more progressive direction, but it is likely quite a few years off.
The hope is that those in both communities can find peace, not only in themselves, but within both tribes. Why some LGBTQ Members of the LDS Church Want Their Labels Back December 11, 2018 | Shaley Fleming PRESS RELEASE “There are no Homosexual members of the church… We are not defined by sexual attraction. We are not defined by sexual behavior. We are sons and Daughters of God,” Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said in a regional meeting on February 23, 2016. If you ask most LGBTQ people if their sexuality defined their entire being, most would quickly tell you no. They may subscribe to a particular faith, they may be a mother or father, may work a particular job, love a particular hobby, or be a spouse.
Many things make up who we are as individuals. I am a daughter, a student, a novice Norwegian speaker, hard of hearing, Irish and English, a dog lover, and am a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. In response to this statement D Christian Harrison expresses his poignant feelings in the following statement “Elder Bednar effectively erased the lived experience of hundreds of thousands of members of the Church, a rhetorical sleight of hand that will only ever be used against queer members of the church because other scenarios are ‘perposerous.’”7 It is often believed that when an individual identifies or labels their sexual, romantic, or gender orientation they will act on those feelings. This is simply not true. On the mormonandgay.org website it states “The most common labels are Lesbian…gay…and bisexual. Some women may also use the term gay to describe themselves.”
The website affirms that it is okay to describe yourself as one of the following terms. Gay is in the title of the website itself. What is the big deal? For some having a word for what they are feeling, or even a community helps them feel less alone. This sense of community can help increase self-worth and reduce shame. Some feel they do not need or want a label for themselves. Some feel more comfortable with the term Same-Sex Attraction. Some people prefer to be labeled as nothing other than a child of our Heavenly Father. D Christian Harrison ends with these words “I refuse to be forgotton.”7 In the end, the importance lies not with the label itself but the ability to do so. With or without a label a person still has the same feelings. Those feelings can change and transform, but they are there and LDS Church members want the choice to label those feelings freely and without shame.
- Barker, M., Parkinson, D., & Knoll, B. (2016). The Lgbtq Mormon Crisis: Responding to the mpirical Research on Suicide.
- Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 49(2), 1–24. Retrieved fromhttps://byui.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=118409803&site=eds-live 2.
- Bradshaw, K., Dehlin, J. P., Crowell, K. A., Galliher, R. V., & Bradshaw, W. S. (2015). Sexual Orientation Change Efforts Through Psychotherapy for LGBQ Individuals Affiliated With the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
- Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 41(4), 391–412. https://doi.org/10.1080/0092623X.2014.915907 3. Bradshaw, W. S., Heaton, T. B., Decoo, E., Dehlin, J. P., Galliher, R. V., & Crowell, K. A. (2015).
- Religious Experiences of GBTQ Mormon Males. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 54(2), 311–329. https://doi.org/10.1111/jssr.12181 4.
- Changes to LDS Handbook 1 Document 2 Revised 11-3-15 (003). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.scribd.com/doc/288685756/Changes-to-LDS-Handbook-1-Document-2-Revised-11-3-15-28003-29 5. Cook, B. (2017). What Do We Know of God’s Will for His Lgbt Children?: An Examination of the Lds Church’s Position on Homosexuality.
- Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 50(2), 1–52. Retrieved From https://byui.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=126175700&site=eds-live 6. Frequently Asked Questions. (n.d.).
- Retrieved from https://mormonandgay.lds.org/articles/frequently-asked-questions?lang=eng 7. Harrison, D. C. (2016). In Our Lovely Oubliette: The Un/Intended Consequences of Boundary Making & Keeping from a Gay Mormon Perspective. Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 49(2), 51–60.
- Retrieved from https://byui.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=118409806&site=eds-live 8.
- Nielson, E. (2017). When a child comes out in the latter-days: an exploratory case study of Mormon parents. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 20(3), 260–276. https://doi.org/10.1080/13674676.2017.1350942 9. Oaks, D. (n.d.).
- Truth and the Plan. Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2018/10/truth-and-the-plan?lang=eng