It’s Not Enough to Change Policy: My Church Needs to Repent
April 6, 2019
by Nelson Negron
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.
For this post to make sense I need to do something I’ve delayed doing for too long. I’ve decided to finally do it not because I think it’s anybody’s business or because I need anyone’s approval, but rather because it’s time I join my people in the fight for our existence, our rights and equal treatment. Nothing special, just equality.
I am and always have been a part of the LGBTQ community. Yes, I was born this way. I too was bullied and mistreated as I was growing up. “Maricón”, “pato”, among others were the insults accompanied by inappropriate jokes I had to listen to and was forced to laugh at (so as not to blow my cover) my whole life. Feeling “less than” and tortured by the pain of having to keep a secret that was bigger than me was a heavy weight to carry since childhood. Getting my feelings hurt by friends and family members that didn’t know or understand the things they were saying, or who they were saying them to, was a regular problem.
I have always believed in God and loved and respected His teachings and influence in my life. At the age of 16, I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which made me a target for more bullying and isolation within my school, family and even some friends. However, what I had found in the gospel of Christ was larger and more important than anything I had ever experienced before. I had to share the good news with others, so at the age of 19, I accepted an invitation to go preach the gospel in California for two years.
My feelings and attraction towards the same sex never went away, no matter how hard I prayed, no matter how much faith I had. During my mission and after I was told by leaders that, if I married a woman, those feelings would go away. I did. After letting her know about my secret, we gave it a go, but after 12 years and two sons, we decided to end our marriage. The attraction never went away.
It has been very hard to keep my faith in an organization that led me to this major life failure, but not once or for one minute have I doubted the truthfulness of the true teachings of Christ or the love of God for me and for all. The imperfect people who run this, and any other organization, have caused imperfect decisions to be made and many people have been hurt.
I am glad that my church has reversed the policy put in place 3.5 years ago. A step in the right direction indeed. However, there’s more that needs to happen. One doesn’t get to just change something and walk away without apologizing for the damage, and fixing the problem, we caused.
Why do I think I get to ask such an organization to apologize to me?! Because it was my life that was altered because of the policy. My sons, in an attempt to support me, left the church and had their names removed from church records. My older son was getting ready to go on a mission and decided that he couldn’t preach a message from a church that would make him renounce his father’s source of love and happiness. It tore me apart.
Because it was me who wondered if I’d be better off dead. It was me who questioned my existence and felt unwanted, unloved and “less than” on a daily basis for a long time.
Because it was me who was under incredible and unhealthy amounts of stress and pressured to make decisions about my happiness in relation to my eternal salvation.
It was me who tried to process the message of the gospel as a message of hope and happiness that simply didn’t apply to me.
And because, to me, it’s personal.
Yes, this is a step in the right direction, but the process of repentance I was taught, ironically by the organization, included an apology and fixing the problems caused to the most possible extent.
Yes, I am gay and I have learned to love myself. More importantly, those whom I love value me, love me, and accept me just as I am.