by Zac Jones
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also read other stories and reactions to the reversal of the exclusion policy.
The week of November 4th, 2015, changed the course of my life, the dynamic of my family, and the way I saw the world. The November policy had permanent effects. I have been publicly open about my sexuality since I published my blog, Tales of an Anxious Soul, on October 1, 2014. I was trying to make sense of religion and sexuality. In the beginning, I was trying to find any way possible to be Mormon and gay. According to the Bishops I had during that time frame, it was just not possible. I went back and forth trying to reconcile being celibate for the rest of my life because, at the time, I thoroughly believed my eternal salvation was on the line. I was taught to have blind faith, follow the prophet; he is the voice of the lord. Don’t question it. I was taught that if you struggle with any sinful thought, feeling, or behavior you talk to your bishop.
The first time I was heavily set on leaving the LDS church was when I went to see my bishop shortly after I was raped.
I went to my friend’s house to hang out, I wasn’t attracted to him I just wanted to have a friend. I didn’t have many guy friends. He had poured a couple of glasses of wine, but he never drank. Instead, I drank and he kept offering. Some parts of that night are blocked out from my memory. After the assault, I was suicidal zombie and needed to talk about it to somebody. All I had known growing up was to go to your bishop for counsel and guidance. I went to him and he did not want to hear about the assault. He was more intrigued as to why I was drinking. I chose to drink and since I knew he was gay it was supposed to be obvious to me that things were going to be sexual. I chose to have sex with my “friend” the minute I decided to hang out with him according to my bishop. He told me my rape was my fault with such a matter of fact tone. He told me he would need to discuss it with the stake president. I would more than likely need a disciplinary council (where they would decide my fate in the church I stood up and walked out of his office and slammed the door. I called my parents after and said I was done. I’m not subjecting myself to that. I stuck it out though. I kept my name in the church. You can’t create change if you leave (I was told) so I stayed. There was no need for me to go to the bishop because any bishop would be more concerned with my homosexuality instead of any other issue. Since sexual sins are so severe and Homosexuality is a “grievous” sin why go and confess anything else, right? But I kept showing up to get whatever good I could out of the services. Until the exclusion policy was released.
My suicidal ideation and plans of suicide have never been stronger. At this point, my mom and dad had become aware of the thoughts I had been having. There were multiple nights I was brought home by friends shirtless, vomit and pee soaked. Sometimes with blood on my face from falling. My mom and dad had to bathe me because I was so inebriated and the smell was potent. I kept sobbing and apologizing I was gay. My mom was cradling me while I sobbed in my bed and I just kept repeating that to her. I’m so so sorry I am gay. Eventually, I asked my mom if she would love my kids the way she loves the other grandkids. Will my kids be worthy of love? She said, “Yes, of course, Zac. I will love your kids just the same.”
My parents have been very loving and understanding through all of this. Things may have been rocky with them in the beginning but they came around pretty quickly. Soon after the exclusion policy was released we had a family meeting. My mom had me share the thoughts I had been having and she made it clear her stance on the policy. Family comes first before anything, including religion.
I had spent my whole life trying to live up to this unnecessary and unrealistic standard. I had been committed to the church even when I had every reason not to be and I felt like this was just a big barb wire electric fence that was put up. My true self was not welcome and I was certainly not lovable in the eyes of the Mormon god. If I was to have a family, it would be seen as fake, make-believe. This policy was supposedly revelation from God. However, the majority seemed to have had a gut feeling it was wrong or at least wouldn’t last very long. Then several unnecessary suicides later and after a downshift in membership, God changed his mind. I didn’t get excited and wasn’t happy about the policy reversal because it has nothing to do with LGBTQ individuals at all. Lives were lost, people suffered, and nothing about it was positive. I believe this was about numbers in membership and they don’t see the hand they have in the damage that was done. They want to keep as many people in as they can, so they are laying out little bread crumbs. The day before the announcement was made you were an apostate, and the next you’re just a grievous sinner. I get it! The stance can’t change. At least not right now, but a little compassion for the damage done would be nice, even just a little glance back at the rubble.
At the same time, I am grateful for everything that has happened. Not because of some revelation, but because of the growth that I had to experience. My eyes were opened up to some truths and I saw my escape route. I have begun really finding myself, thinking freely, and separating dogma from my life. Three years ago I wanted to kill myself based off words from a 90-year-old man. I planned my death and looked up the prices of funerals. I was at peace with death because I thought I would be saving my soul if I died. In Mormonism, homosexuality is a bigger sin than suicide, or at least that’s how some have believed and taught. It sadly makes sense why we’ve lost so many brothers and sisters to suicide. I was not meant to endure life, but to enjoy life, hopefully, with the love of my life by my side. I have since then resigned from the LDS Church. Now I am working on loving myself and not planning my life around being celibate. There is something freeing about just seeing people as people and not as sinners and saints. Nobody is a saint and sin is subjective.