The Advocacy Work Is Not Over, There Is so Much Still to Do
by Jerry Chong
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 and a lot of my friends heard the news but the church has changed its stand on children of same-sex married couples being able to be baptized without objection and that their parents would no longer be considered apostates. We also understood that same-sex marriage is still considered a serious transgression in the eyes of the church. My first reaction was that I was relieved that the church has changed its stance towards the queer community and their families. I felt that all of those members and their allies had made a difference by speaking up and sharing our stories. I felt that the grassroots approach to speaking with our local leaders and see if we can make a difference within our immediate community was being heard by our apostles and prophets. My hope was that these messages have been passed on up the chain to our president of the church and his apostles. I felt that our efforts to meet with our stake presidents and bishops about the impact the November 2015 policy update had on individuals and families would soften the hearts of those watching over us.
I did not feel that this was the end of these conversations. There is still a lot of advocacy work to do to open up understanding and compassion for all of Heavenly Father’s children young and old. I know the importance of putting a face to the subject matter. Bravely I continue to come out and speak up. I know that my voice comes with privilege. The privilege of being trusted and dependable in the eyes of my local leaders. My church callings have reassured the Stake presidency in Calgary that I am grounded in the gospel. That I have a testimony of the gospel and that I am not a radical thinker. I know where the line in the sand is. Knowing my boundaries, but am still allowed to be blunt and honest when asked difficult questions by my local leaders.
I doubt that the apostles and prophets will apologize or admit they were wrong in thinking that the November 2015 policy update was a mistake. That it caused so many to feel less than and that the solution for them was to leave this life and take their own. How can they deny the effects it had on so many individuals and families? We have all been touched by the loss of a loved one or the trauma caused by this policy that members have stepped away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ as we teach and find a safer place to worship and continue their relationship with God and the Savior.
Over the last fifteen years as a member, I have had to figure out how to cope and navigate my life in the church. I was out to only a handful of people from church. I have had to put up with some of the most horrific things said to me and about my community. I nearly walked away from church a few months after I was baptized. I was told that God does not have a place for me in the Celestial Kingdom if I do not get married to a wife in the temple. I questioned why I was trying so hard to be obedient. A member from church told me that until we return to be with our Heavenly Father we can not clearly say things like this that take away any hope for us in the eternities. The POX has given me the courage to speak up and be more brave and authentic. I have exercised patience in setting up meetings and discussions with my local leaders. Not all were open to these Sensitivity conversations. Some even denied that there were LGBTQ members in their stake and that it was not worth their time to spend discussing it. What kind of shepherd would you call these men? The thing that keeps me motivated to continue to advocate for the voiceless queer members is I try to be the role model that I needed when I joined the church and questioned my place in the gospel.