The Reversal of the Exclusion Policy Means Nothing to Me, The Damage is Done
by Craig Willmore
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.
Background: I was speedily excommunicated from the church mid-August 2001. I struggled for a year with the sting and hurt of being exiled from the church and the members. This was the only thing I knew was living in the church. I didn’t really want back into the church because I knew that I would never be able to live up to their demands, plus the reaction of the Ward members aided me in deciding that I never wanted to be associated with that kind of people. I was hurt, but I picked up the pieces and started to look forward. I attended church only when one of my four children was involved in something special. In my excommunication letter, it was specifically stated that I could not play the organ, piano or sing in any choir in the church without specific Bishop approval. A year after my excommunication, my oldest daughter came of age to be baptized and she asked me to play the piano for her baptism. My ex-wife talked to the bishop to get permission and he denied me the right to play at her baptism. I went anyway to support my daughter. I was never allowed to play the piano at any of my children’s baptisms or ordinations or mission farewells. Each time it was a dagger to the heart and soul and added frustration and anger towards the church. They, the church, were punishing my children for me being excommunicated.
Fast forward to 3.5 years ago. The church makes a horrifying statement that children of a gay/lesbian couple may not be baptized nor ordained in the priesthood until they attain the age of 18. Also, any members currently living with a same-sex partner are labeled as apostates. What a harsh title to place on people just trying to live and to love the person they have found a bond with. It was at this moment that I knew that the leadership of the church was speaking from their minds and not the will of God. This even goes against one of the Articles of Faith written by Joseph Smith, “We believe that man must be punished for his own sins and not the transgressions of Adam.” The church was blatantly punishing innocent children because of their gay/lesbian parents who were living together. I was particularly worried about my son who was 16 years old at the time and was planning on going on a mission and whether or not the stake president might forbid him from serving because his dad was living with his legally married husband.
I knew a lesbian couple in the neighborhood who had been sending their children to church on Sunday as they wanted to go and be with their friends from school. This announcement rocked them and they stopped sending their children to church. My LDS neighbors were mortified at the announcement and made every effort possible to make us feel loved and welcomed at their Ward meetings. God bless them as they were more Christlike than many.
My thought at the announcement 3.5 years ago was, “This is not possible!” God would never do this to a loving gay couple by forbidding their children from participating in a church that contains his son’s name. God is all about love. A church is supposed to be a hospital for the spiritually weak. A place to learn about God, a place for refuge, a place to sing praises to him on high. This church became the church of exclusion and alienation of children from their friends, divide between family members. My mind said loud and clear that this was not right, this was not God’s will. This was purposeful and intentional to try and use fear to coerce people into changing who they are to fit the mold of the church.
April 4, 2019, the “no longer Mormon church” retracts their statement about the children of gay/lesbian couples allowing them now to receive the ordinances and blessings offered by the church, and we as gay/lesbian couples are no longer labeled as apostates, however, these beautiful and loving gay/lesbian couples as parents are still treated as adulterers even though many of us are legally and lawfully married. The minute I wish to touch my husband’s penis or have intercourse with this man that I love, I am considered a sinner and adulterer. How can the church tell me that I am a sinner when I am being intimate with one man whom I love and am legally married to? The church has admitted that many GLBTQ are born this way and they wish to embrace and love us. Why does it stop there with words? Why is there always an exception to the rules in the church with GLBTQ?
The decision by the church to rescind the statement of 3.5 years ago is infuriating, to say the least. How do you start to mend the broken hearts and souls of those whose children were swallowed up by exes that didn’t approve of same-sex relationships and therefore used that to separate children from the gay/lesbian parent? How do you bring back the lives of those who hurt so badly that they saw no other way out but suicide? how do you mend the heartache and the void created between family and friends because of this statement 3.5 years ago? YOU CAN’T and YOU DON’T. The hurt, the pain, the damage is done. I hear and have seen many posts yesterday and today asking that the church should make an apology, but I ask, “What good would that do?” Booo to you, the Church, for making an irrational decision 3.5 years ago based on a so-called prophets feelings and not God’s will or his love. I do not hate the church, but I have no respect for it today. Four years ago, I still had some respect for the church. Today, I tolerate the church because two of my four children still believe and one is a missionary. Two of my children were devastated by the church and its members who treated them so poorly as teenagers because they have a gay dad so they want nothing to do with the organization.
What does the announcement of April 4, 2019, do for me? NOTHING. I am angered, I am hurt, I am concerned for those who have lost love, lost hope, lost connection with family, lost a loved one to suicide. I used to hold the church in the highest of esteem. I believed everything that came out of the mouths of the brethren and I did everything I was told to do so that I could feel God’s love and have a place in Heaven with him. Now I look today at the church as the Great and Abominable Whore of the world that is talked about in the scriptures which leads its’ people down a road of high and mightiness, holier than thou attitude, laughing and mocking those not partaking of the church.
I am sorry this is raw and painful for many to hear and read because I do know that many of you still believe and that is great. I’m glad that you do have your belief. For me and my house, we believe in a God of Love. We believe that we were created in God’s image and we are supposed to be GLBTQ. We believe that there is a place in heaven for each of us. I believe that each one of us is beautiful and special and needed for this world to function normally. I praise my blood brothers and sisters for working together over the past 17 years to finally accept my husband and me as husbands and gay. It was not easy for them especially since they are very LDS. They have managed to separate church and family. I feel nothing but love towards them. I feel love and compassion to my friends and people I don’t even know who are suffering because of the way they have been treated by the church or members of the church who don’t understand what it is like being GLBTQ.
Believe in YOU. If you want, believe in the LDS church or any other church, but please, please, please, believe that you are a child of God and that God loves you no matter what.