by Scott Sessions
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.
I had already left the LDS church in spirit before the November 5th policy was leaked, but that day put the final nail in the coffin. Despite my personal disagreements with the LDS organization, I have deep respect for Mormon culture and history (pioneer ancestors on both sides of the family). I don’t have children, but I had always assumed that, whether I attended church or not, my babies would be blessed in an LDS church building like I and nearly all members of my family have been for generations. This assumption came to an end on November 5, 2015, when the leaders of the church made public that they would withhold such a blessing from any of my progeny.
I’m used to the leaders of the LDS church publicly devaluing me because of my homosexuality. Heavens, I grew up in the suburbs of the Salt Lake valley, and knew that something about me was “wrong” even before I knew the word “gay”. By 2015, I’d done some of the work to separate myself from those damaging narratives and could stomach the usual blows: people praising the Proclamation on the Family on social media, my father telling me it was inappropriate to hold my boyfriend’s hand at his house, and hearing basically any talk from Dallin Oaks or Boyd Packer. Those attacks were aimed at me, and I had grown a thick enough skin that I was no longer surprised. The November 5 policy was different–it attacked my future babies, and the already-born children of other queer Mormons like myself. It removed me from my family’s baby blessing tradition without my consent, and attempted to mark me as “apostate” because of the conditions of my birth, completely regardless of my choices or beliefs. That was the final straw, and I found myself completing the process of “removing my name” from church records in early 2016.
On April 4, 2019, as we know, the LDS Church reversed that policy, claiming it was a revelation from Heavenly Father. My reaction to the newest proclamation is mostly one of skepticism. While I’m glad to see the progress, and am especially heartened by the turnaround time (3.5 years is basically lightspeed in Mormon time), I can’t help but think we are worse off today, April 5, 2019, than we were on November 4, 2015. The LDS Church has basically returned crumbs to the queer community: crumbs that they stole a few years ago, all the while withholding the loaf of nourishing and life-saving bread that we crave, the bread of understanding, acceptance, and encouragement. Many of our queer siblings died in despair because of the November 5 policy, and many friends and families were torn apart. For the leaders of the church to reverse the policy without an attempt at public apology or reconciliation is, at best, woefully ignorant, or, at worst, hideously cruel. For a church that preaches so often about the repentance process, the leaders are remarkably bad examples of such.
When I sent the letter that would officially rescind my membership in the LDS Church, I wrote that I claimed my Mormonism as a birthright and heritage that no institution could take away. I still cling to Mormonism as a crucial piece of my identity, and I always will. I am a child of Mormon pioneers, raised in an active Mormon household, who loves many folks inside and adjacent to the Mormon community. Yet, regardless of the policy reversal of April 4, 2019, my future children will not be blessed in the Mormon church. I don’t know where I’ll celebrate the birth of my children, but there are several sacred spaces I might choose, perhaps a chapel of the Community of Christ or the Episcopal church, both spaces where I’ve recently found spiritual refuge. I might bless my child on a mountaintop or in a meadow, God’s country, surrounded by friends and family. I might do it in my home, close to a table overflowing of potluck dishes, including our treasured funeral potatoes (or “company potatoes”, as my mom calls them at non-funeral events). Regardless, my children will indeed enter into the Mormon community because it is their birthright, as it was mine. No matter what revelation any 94-year-old career-apostle might claim to have received from deity, the truth rings clear in my heart: We, the LGBTQ+ members of the Mormon community, are inherently valuable, worthy of praise, and celebrated in God’s sight. We deserve love, intimate companionship, and full acceptance. We need not wait for any more crumbs from the church leadership to claim our rightful place in Zion.