by Jeff Laver
Submitted to Affirmation following The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint’s reversal of their November 2015 policy changes that prohibited children of LGBTQ parents from being blessed and baptized and characterized members of the church entering into same-sex marriages as apostates. These changes became known within the LGBTQ Mormon community as the “exclusion policy,” “policy of exclusion,” or “PoX.” The day after the reversal of this policy was announced, Nathan Kitchen, President of Affirmation, invited anyone willing to and share their authentic feelings and all their stories of grief, anger, relief, sadness, happiness, confusion, whatever they may be that surround the rescinding this policy. “As President of Affirmation, I want to be sure Affirmation does not hide you or your stories as we move forward,” wrote Kitchen in his invitation. If you have reactions or a story to share about the reversal of the exclusion policy, please send to [email protected]. You can also read other stories and reactions to the reversal of the exclusion policy.
On a Monday, I received news of the tragic suicide of a young, gay, Mormon, Colombian in a Mormon church in Cali, Colombia. He died because he could not reconcile his faith with his homosexuality. At first, I fought back the tears, but soon broke down bawling—loud sobs. And while I frequently get teary-eyed, loud outbursts are not something I usually do. All queer, Mormon suicides upset me, but this one has affected me more than others—and I’m still not sure why. Although I was Facebook friends with Leonardo, we never met, never chatted online. But…before Leonardo was even born, I was a Mormon missionary in Colombia—Cali was my first city. After my outburst, I wondered, and still do, is my grief partly guilt? Were my two years building Mormonism in Colombia partly to blame for this young man’s misery? I didn’t really know Leonardo, but I know he didn’t deserve the sad life we gave him.
And then the following Thursday, April 4th, 2019, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announces new inspiration reversing the gay exclusion policy Pres. Nelson said was revealed to church leaders in Nov. 2015. Sorry, Mormon leaders—too little, too late. Wendy Williams Montgomery and Thomas Palani Montgomery are aware of 32 suicides within two months of that Nov. 2015 policy. I agree with Thomas when he says, “The Lord had no hand in the implementation of the Exclusion Policy. You (Nelson) abused your calling and authority by claiming revelation.”
Although I am glad to see this April 2019 a baby-step in a somewhat less horrible direction, there will be no high-fives from me. The sixty-year war the Mormon Church has waged on the LGBT+ community has cost people their lives. And even those of us who are survivors have suffered tremendously.