Revelation as Individuals or as a Church Never Divests Us of Our Agency
April 15, 2019
by John Gustav-Wrathall
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.
Yesterday I went to church for the first time since the retraction of the November 2015 policy. The Spirit was present. I felt the same love and support from members of my ward that I felt before the policy and during the policy. So grateful to feel it still there after the policy. It felt really good just being there. The Spirit taught me as it is wont to do when I show up at church.
This morning I took an old flash drive I don’t use any more. For me, it was a perfect symbol of some old ways of thinking that I want to be done with. I took a walk down to nearby Powderhorn Lake, with a stake and a hammer in my backpack. I walked right down to the edge of the lake where the mud is soft and wet, where the reeds grow. I used the stake and the hammer to make a hole in the ground and then I dropped the flash drive into it and buried it and offered a silent prayer to my Father in Heaven. I want to be done with old ways of thinking. In the name of Jesus Christ, please make me new again.
This morning I reflected with gay Mormon brother Michael Haehnel on what it means for the Church to be guided by revelation. The Lord was guiding Joseph Smith by revelation when he granted permission to release the first 116 pages manuscript to Martin Harris. And the Lord was guiding by revelation again when he chastened the prophet Joseph after the manuscript was lost.
To be “guided by revelation” as individuals or as a church never divests us of our agency. The Lord never uses our leaders as “divine puppets” or suspends their (or our) capacity to make mistakes. The Lord may keep back-up plans ready so that his designs can’t be subverted by human stupidity or intransigence, but he also tends to let us learn the hard way—even as he’s there with us through the process.
From now on, the implementation in 2015 of that policy on gay families that was subsequently retracted less than 3 1/2 years later by the same men who implemented it will be a reminder to me of what it means to be a church governed simultaneously by revelation and by human delegates with agency.
It will remind me of what it must have been like to be a member of the church in the 1st century A.D., when leaders and members alike struggled with what it meant to include Gentiles and to give up the Law of Moses, when Peter received “guidance” from the Lord, and then occasionally backslid, just because we are human and because old habits and old ways of thinking die hard.
I want this moment to be a rebirth for me—to let go of old hurts, old anger, and old judgments. I love the Lord, and so I love his Church. I love the prophets, seers and revelators he’s called to particular roles. I have a testimony that he’s called them, so I sustain them and bear with them. I’m so grateful to them. I’m committed to stay on this trek with them until the Lord brings us safe to Zion and comes to dwell in our midst.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.