by Nathan Kitchen
You might have recently read a Huffington Post article in where I was interviewed in response to President Nelson’s BYU devotional. The article is entitled Queer Mormons: Church’s Exclusion Policy Did Not Feel Like ‘Love’. For those who are interested in a “behind the scenes” look at what actually makes it into a news story from an interview, I wanted to share my full interview with the Huffington Post.
Huffington Post: How are you feeling about President Nelson’s comments on the 2015 and 2019 policies — especially his comment that the moves were motivated by love?
Me: The week of the November 5th, 2015 policy I gathered my younger children around me and explained the policy. For the first time in their lives, my children felt exclusion from their church. It was confusing and crushing. Tears streamed down my face as my youngest exclaimed, “Why do they want to do that to us?”
I don’t know a lot of things in this life, but having lived in that moment, I know that was not love. I recognize it as a lot of other things, but I do not recognize it as love.
I do not doubt that President Nelson has a heart-felt assurance that the policy was given and then removed in love. I must remind myself that this is offered from a straight-centric point of reference. Part of the education of the general authorities in LGBTQ issues is to hear the cries of the marginalized and then make a course correction to policies they learn are harmful when they tried to be helpful.
Considering the treatment of LGBTQ members in the church over the past 50 years, this is just another in a constant parade of church missives and policies that change year after year as stereotypes are erased and the general population becomes educated concerning LGBTQ+ issues.
After the policy was rescinded on April 4th, 2019, Affirmation: LGBTQ Mormons, Families & Friends collected the stories of our community so it would not be forgotten what life was like under the policy. It offered a place to mark our grieving as we moved towards healing.
When I read these stories of life under the policy by LGBTQ Mormons, I do not discern the fruits of love. The policy may have been made out of concern, fear, managing an unknown, or as a response to the 2015 Obergefell ruling, but I do not see or feel love in the policy.
Huffington Post: What do you make of the reasoning Nelson gave for the policy changes? (He says they were trying to “reduce friction between gay or lesbian parents and their children” and then they saw that it was causing heartache for folks, so they prayed for guidance from the Lord and then adjusted the policy in 2019). Do you think this is a sign that church leaders understand the pain the policy caused LGBTQ Mormons?
Me: The reasons and concerns he stated are valid, however when it came to the execution of resolving such concerns through policy and governance, they just did not have the educational resources to make a fully informed decision concerning the pastoral care of LGBTQ Mormons and their families.
This process is not unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is part of a larger pattern of how straight-centric individuals and institutions make decisions concerning LGBTQ people in their lives.
Yes, after hearing of the heartache and rejection of the November 5th policy, they did make significant changes. However one of the weaknesses of this “line upon line, precept upon precept” management of LGBTQ members and their families is that it creates a vulnerable transition period between changes. Those caught in this transition period as the Brethren work things out have the continued and real possibility of trauma, rejection, and suffering as they stand at the intersection of their Faith. This is why LGBTQ led organizations such as Affirmation are so necessary to support our LGBTQ peers during such changes.
Do I think this is a sign that church leaders understand the pain the policy caused LGBTQ Mormons? I think this is a sign that the general authority’s policies completely depend on their education and understanding of LGBTQ individuals and their families.
Huffington Post: Ultimately, do you think this speech from President Nelson will help queer teens, or queer couples and their children, feel more welcomed in the church? Will it help encourage queer members who have left the church to come back?
Me: No. And I don’t think this was the intended message of this talk. This was more of a reflection for members and leaders alike to try and make sense of what they have done to their LGBTQ siblings. There are more effective means needed to make the church safer for queer members. My thoughts on that subject are here in this Salt Lake Tribune editorial.
Huffington Post: I’m noticing that in April, a lot of folks were wondering if the church would ever officially apologize for the 2015 policy. Do you consider this speech — the mention of “heartache” and weeping — to be that apology? If not, do you think an apology is necessary?
Me: No, this was not an apology. The LGBTQ Mormon community fully believes President Oaks when he says, “I know that the history of the church is not to seek apologies or to give them,” Oaks said in an interview. “We sometimes look back on issues and say, ‘Maybe that was counterproductive for what we wish to achieve,’ but we look forward and not backward.” The church doesn’t “seek apologies,” he said, “and we don’t give them.”
We will know an apology when we hear one. However, as a community, we do not require an apology as necessary to forgive, move on, and heal. This is within our power and we will not be held captive from our happiness and personal growth waiting for one.