Blog, Two Degrees off Center

Two Degrees off Center: If at First You Don’t Succeed…

Two Degrees off Center” is a monthly blog by Rich Keys about the personal struggles, issues, and topics that speak to the LDS/LGBT experience.  Sometimes it will be serious, sometimes humorous, but will always approach things from a slightly different perspective.

Apology Note

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 submissions@affirmation.org. You can also read other stories and reactions to the reversal of the exclusion policy.

by Rich Keys

We are a forgiving people. Down deep, most of us want to see our fellow man succeed, to overcome, to rise up from the mess they’ve made of themselves and change for the better. We applaud them even when they only make baby steps, because their fall is our fall, and their success is our success. We see them, and we see ourselves. But the mortal in us isn’t unconditional. We want to see a broken heart and a contrite heart, a “sincere sincerity,” not some prepackaged press release from their attorney. If they publically confess even before the wrong goes public, even better.

Many of us who grew up in the LDS Church (or any church) remember being taught the simple but important lessons in Primary: Be honest, do the right thing, play nice, and say you’re sorry. We even teach our kids from the womb how to repent. They don’t need to repent until they turn 8, but we want to prepare them for what’s ahead.

“How do you feel when you’ve done something wrong?”
“Sad.”

“What do you do?”
“Say you’re sorry to Heavenly Father.”

“Then what?”
“Say you’re sorry to the person you hurt.”

“Then what?”
“Show your love for them.”

“How do you do that?”
“Be a friend, share, help them so they know you for the good you do for them and they don’t remember the bad thing anymore.”

A perfect approach to repentance, one that reflects the Savior’s atonement and how He would handle it, and when you take a complicated topic like mortal sin and man’s reconciliation to God and simplify it, even a young child can understand it.

So it seems ironic that the Church that taught us all of that stuff about saying you’re sorry and seeking forgiveness doesn’t always practice what it preaches. According to Dallin H. Oaks, who was an apostle when he said it and is now next in line to become president/prophet, the Church doesn’t “seek apologies, and we don’t give them.”

In a 2015 video chat interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, he also said, “We sometimes look back on issues and say, ‘Maybe that was counterproductive for what we wish to achieve,’ but we look forward and not backward.” i

And there’s the problem: A church that proclaims to be the True Church, being led by a prophet who gets his marching orders from the Lord Himself, can’t keep that image alive if it has to apologize all the time for past mistakes. That’s what man-made churches do. It’s another reason why we’re a peculiar people, led by a peculiar church. So we never apologize or focus on the past, but just move on.

In November 2015, the Church issued an infamous policy labeling all married gay couples “apostate,” a serious and harsh term meant in earlier times to signify those in open rebellion to the Church. As such, they were subject to immediate excommunication. The policy also barred the children of these “apostates” membership in the church, including blessings of record, baptisms, the Gift of the Holy Ghost, the priesthood, etc., until they turned 18, moved out of their parents’ home, and denounced their lifestyle, and then only if their request for baptism was approved by the First Presidency. At the time, they said these new policies were done to make their status consistent with those in plural marriage.

Now, less than four years later (a nanosecond in Church time for this), the Church announced last week that those policies from 2015 were being rescinded. Ironically (there’s that I-word again), it was the same Dallin H. Oaks who made this official announcement. But he kept his word, didn’t apologize, and didn’t focus on the past. He didn’t mention the exodus of so many good, faithful members who considered the 2015 policy the last straw and left the Church, and others whose testimonies were put on life support because of it.

So I assume the Brethren got the answer they were seeking when the Lord told them, “Maybe that was counterproductive for what you wish to achieve,” and they were all in agreement—no apology, don’t look back, just move forward.

For those of us who are hoping for a formal apology, I wouldn’t hold your breath. Personally, I’m hoping the next baby step is for them to stop using the term “same-sex attraction” and just call us Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (I doubt they’re ready for Queer anytime soon)…and then label polygamists as those having “multi-wives attraction.” That seems fair, doesn’t it?

[1] Peggy Fletcher Stark, “No apology?  Really?  Mormons question leader Dallin H. Oaks’ stance,” Salt Lake Tribune, 1/30/2015

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out all posts in the Two Degrees off Center blog series.

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