Softened Hearts toward Wonderful Souls Deserving Unreserved Love
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.
When a friend called me to tell me about the “Policy”, I could not process it at first. I thought, “Surely something will follow that will fix this or soften the blow.” I waited for a “showing forth of increased love” from those who had just seriously reproved me. However, nothing but rationalizations came. Finally, the “Policy” was declared as a revelation.
It might seem odd to those not LGBTQ that someone of my sort would feel any negative feelings about the Policy. After all, I was (and am) a temple recommend holder active in the church, faithfully married for decades in a mixed-orientation marriage. However, I have since learned that others in my position felt equally hurt by the Policy as, once again, the Church seemed to employ a well-worn tool in its tool belt toward LGBTQ people — fear.
The Policy triggered in me an existential response. One that I had experienced to one degree or other countless times over my life growing up in the Church – in hallways, in classrooms, from over the pulpit, in my family, from friends. It is difficult to describe all of the facets that go into making this existential response. Nevertheless, one thing is critical. It is that a part of me, as intrinsic as my personality traits or physical appearance is being censured and spoken of negatively, often in the name of God.
Even though I was not in danger of being excommunicated, or labeled an apostate, I knew something about what LGBTQ people in same-sex marriages that were now at risk of being censured as apostates and excommunicated went through in their lives, because in a real sense, I have too. I knew something of their pains and suffering of finding themselves as LGBTQ in a world that did not accept or understand them. And, I knew something about the worst pain of all, which comes from those loved and trusted, including from leaders of a beloved church.
So I made it through the first day in a daze. Then I read the news and commentaries, including the apologetics that rapidly materialized. It made me realize how far we truly are from love and understanding of LGBTQ people in the church. There is an exclusion of LGBTQ people in the Church with or without the Policy. It wasn’t only the policy that mattered, it was what it revealed about the Church, its leadership, and those who rely on them to be informed of the LGBTQ experience. It was the expanse of distance that the Policy revealed between those who claimed to be God’s very mouthpieces and LGBTQ children of God.
That is when I started to spiral down. I couldn’t sleep. I prayed fervently, continuously and long, but I was in such a deep emotional state I couldn’t feel anything. I pleaded for understanding and inspiration, but felt nothing. All the long-held pain I had suffered as an LGBTQ child of God trying so desperately to feel loved in the Church came to the surface. I felt alone, and in mortal terms, I was. Except for my wife knowing my sexual orientation, I am closeted to the rest of my family.
I became despondent and had suicidal thoughts. I feared because of the Policy what would now happen to me if I ever slipped. Perhaps more importantly, I feared a future in the Church where LGBTQ people would be forever misrepresented and misunderstood. In reality, I had been living a life of fear, with its accompanying existential responses, for 50 years since my early teens dealing with being gay and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The details of what happened next are not important except for one. At a certain point, not during the hours of prayer and pleading with God, but later, the Spirit of God descended on me and for a moment I saw or felt that God understood as well and stood with the many people who had suffered long. I understood that God knew the depths of my anguish and of theirs. He had seen it many times with many children. He did not condone the words and actions that inflicted such suffering.
The Policy is now changed. Do the pains of LGBTQ people in the Church because of the Policy (and before) matter? Will things be better? I believe God is making things better for all LGBTQ people in general. Thus far his method does not seem to be to direct Church leaders to show the way in truly understanding LGBTQ people, in being more compassionate, and in teaching others by word and deed how to do likewise.
The immeasurable suffering of LGBTQ people, in all their many imperfections, has been sanctified by God to do the teaching. People in the Church are at least talking about an issue that for most of my life was taboo. LGBTQ people are increasingly being seen as the good people they are. Old myths and hurtful ideas are holding less sway or have been abandoned by some. Hearts have softened at an increasing rate toward these wonderful souls who deserve to be unreservedly loved, included, understood, and appreciated. Still, when God’s LGBTQ children feel fear, lack of understanding and acceptance from the highest levels of the Church, or simply from within the Church, we are not yet where we should be.
Yes, things will get better, because God wants it to be so.