Leaving Mormon church over ‘cruel’ policy on gays’ kids (COMMENTARY)

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Mormon temple is seen with a brown lawn, which church officials have not watered because of the drought, in Los Angeles, California, United States on May 11, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson 
*Editors: This photo may only be repblished with RNS-KENDELL-COLUMN, originally transmitted on Nov. 10, 2015.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Mormon temple is seen with a brown lawn, which church officials have not watered because of the drought, in Los Angeles, California, United States on May 11, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson *Editors: This photo may only be repblished with RNS-KENDELL-COLUMN, originally transmitted on Nov. 10, 2015.

(RNS) I just did something I thought I would never do. I resigned my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) and asked that my name be removed from the records.

Even at the height of church involvement in the passage of Proposition 8 in California, I never seriously considered removing my name. It just didn’t matter that much to me. Spiritually and emotionally, I left the church I grew up in decades ago. And despite being a “known gay activist” to the church, I was never excommunicated, so my name remained on the church rolls as a member. Not anymore.

On Thursday (Nov. 5), it was revealed that the church issued policy changes to “Handbook 1,” the guide for its lay leadership. Under the changes, same-sex couples who marry are apostates and are unwelcome in church congregations. Going further, the new policy states that the children of same-sex couples cannot be baptized in the church until they are 18 and then only if they disavow their parents. It was the gratuitously cruel and stigmatizing treatment of children that pushed me to disavow the church of my childhood. It is impossible for me to be a part of a religion that would attack its own members and punish them by denying their children involvement in the church. The move is as clever as it is draconian. Members seeking to live lives of integrity as openly LGBT people must not only leave the church, but take their children with them. It requires a particular streak of evil genius to manufacture such a “Sophie’s choice.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Mormon temple is seen with a brown lawn, which church officials have not watered because of the drought, in Los Angeles, California, United States on May 11, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson *Editors: This photo may only be repblished with RNS-KENDELL-COLUMN, originally transmitted on Nov. 10, 2015.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple in Los Angeles is seen with a brown lawn, which church officials have not watered because of the drought, on May 11, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
*Editors: This photo may only be repblished with RNS-KENDELL-COLUMN, originally transmitted on Nov. 10, 2015.


READ: Mormon apostle stands by new policy barring children of same-sex marriages


The supposed justification for these policy changes is to make clear that the church does not support marriage for same-sex couples and to assure that the church isn’t forced to perform such ceremonies. No one ever assumed otherwise. The church has long condemned LGBT people. Its opposition to marriage equality is voluminously documented. And no less authority than the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that the church will never be forced to perform or recognize any marriage it objects to.

No one was seriously seeking or expecting a change in church doctrine, so something more disturbing must be happening. The church has just lurched to the extreme margins, far from its core values of love, toleration and mutual respect.

In the wake of the Mormon church’s active involvement in 2008 in passing Prop 8, which eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry in California, legions of faithful Mormons left the church or expressed profound sadness at its unprecedented involvement in pushing Prop 8. Up until Prop 8, the church avoided explicit ballot measure battles, preferring to undermine LGBT equality quietly and behind the scenes. After Prop 8, the church was demonized and widely criticized, and its reputation as a loving, family-centered and kind religion suffered.


READ: Mormons 50% more likely to accept homosexuality than in 2007, says Pew study


Since then it has been clear to me that many within the church sought to moderate its stance on LGBT issues. The church launched a website and materials encouraging parents to embrace and support their LGBT children, and it supported a bill in Utah to expand employment and housing protections. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision recognizing the right of same-sex couples to marry, church officials were muted in response and suggested that this was now the law of the land and should be followed.

Two months ago, when I attended a conference in Utah sponsored by Affirmation, a support organization for LGBT Mormons and friends and family, I met many non-gay Mormon officials who supported their LGBT congregants. I met a lesbian couple from Seattle who are married and who attend services with the blessing of their Mormon bishop. It was a happy conference, and there was a clear sense that the Mormon church had softened its positions toward LGBT members while still holding fast to its core doctrine opposing recognition of same-sex marriages.

Kate Kendell is Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and a Public Voices Fellow of the Op-Ed Project. Photo courtesy of Kate Kendell

Kate Kendell is executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and a Public Voices Fellow of the Op-Ed Project. Photo courtesy of Kate Kendell

Against that backdrop comes this repugnant and deeply stigmatizing pronouncement. I can’t help but think how crushing this news is to everyone who had begun to believe that they could both love their church and love themselves or their LGBT family. I can’t help but think about that lesbian couple in Seattle and their bishop, who tried to do the right thing and now must turn this couple away. The consequence of these policy changes is emotional carnage to individuals and families who simply wish to live as their authentic selves and remain part of a religion they love, but which does not deserve them.

My sister, who is a devout Mormon but who also loves me unconditionally, was one of the first to reach out to me when the news hit. In a text she wrote: “I’ve been very sad all day since I heard of the Church’s pronouncement on the children of same-sex marriages. I feel like we are going backward when I thought we were moving forward slowly.”

My sister’s response echoes the reaction of thousands of faithful Mormons. My mom, who died in 2003, would have been one of them. When I would ask her how she reconciled her faith, which condemned me, and her love for me, she would say, “God gave me you and my testimony. I know my job is to love both. He’ll figure out the rest.”

Today, God, and my beloved mother, weep.

(Kate Kendell is executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and a Public Voices Fellow of the Op-Ed Project.)

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  • Jon

    I have to admit that I’m continually perplexed by developments like these.

    First and foremost, I applaud Kate for her bravery & resolve. I know it’s not easy.

    At the same time, religions believing in the supernatural such as the Abrahamic ones have always been forces of division, hate and cruelty. I know they don’t mean to be, but their focus on holy texts and supernatural delusion prevents rational thinking, so of course they come to wrong conclusions, & then enforce those wrong conclusions with holy zeal, thinking they are from some super sky-daddy.

    That’s why throughout history, every advance in humanity has been opposed by churches. Slavery, the crusades, women’s rights, African American rights, & so on through the ages – the churches were forces for continued oppression & privilege even through today.

    Yet, millions still feed these pernicious & harmful social parasites with their time & money, hurting future generations. Reader, are you still doing so?…

  • Bernardo

    Kate Kendall, why did you stay so long to begin with? Said religion with its absurd theology and flawed history would make anyone else jump ship long ago.

  • Erik

    Active Mormon my whole life, and saddened by this policy, still struggling to understand. There were three formal policies changed or clarified (apostate nature same sex marriage for LDS people, church discipline process for such, and the one on the treatment of children living in LGBT couple homes). It is the latter that is the most difficult for me to come to grips with. That said, portions of this article are mischaracterized: a) kids do not have to disavow parents, just acknowledge the Lord’s law of morality as professed by the LDS religion, and b) LGBT individuals are welcome to attend in LDS congregations as often as they would like.

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  • verumpeto

    The new policy does not require the children to “disavow” their parents in order to get baptized.
    It asks them to disavow homosexuality and same-sex marriage but not their parents.

    Also, this new policy shouldn’t come as a surprise since it parallels the policy for people who want to get baptized who grew up in a polygamous home.

  • Neon Genesis

    Progressive Catholics who are placing all their hopes on Pope Francis to reform the church should take note of this.

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  • Sir

    There is a bad premise in this article–that gay parents would actually want their children to go to this church. Furthermore, the church very wisely comes forward and explains that they aren’t changing their beliefs–and that those same beliefs would be taught to the children of gay parents. Is it any wonder than-that what appears to be cruelty is actually kindness? How much objectivity can a child have that truly doesn’t understand this Gay lifestyle? The church would teach them that it is wrong–and then they go home and have to confront their parents with that information. It is clear to me–that the church is only wanting to make sure that when this child is an adult and understands the difference–that then they could make a decision to be a part. That is kindness–not cruelty. Gay folks–go find a church that teaches that being Gay is OK. Adam and Steve–rather than Adam and Eve.

  • Frank W. Hays

    Thank You so much. I am a 61 year old Gay Mormon. Although not in a relationship, I suppose it make me an Apostate at heart. I am devastated, mourning, depressed and despondent. It is tuesday and I just cannot seem to move forward. Not sure what to do, but pray this policy will soon be gone. When will Latter-day Saints realise church leaders all make errors in all generations. We all need to examine this and give church leaders honest feelings. Although there seems no valid way this can be done without putting yourself at risk in the membership area. Suffer the little Children to come unto me…In the end no matter our age etc. we are all still infant and his children.

  • Richard Rush

    Hopefully, those children now being rejected because they have gay parents will someday realize that they were actually fortunate to have been rejected. And if the parents have any self-respect at all, they will reject the LDS Church.

  • Many years ago I left the Mormon religion, but it was not for the same reasons. I left because they lied to me:

    http://downtownministries.blogspot.com/2015/09/a-different-jesus.html

  • Larry

    It would probably be easy for gay Mormons and those who sympathize with them to leave the church, if not for the coercive nature of its relationship with its flock.

    There is the automatic financial demand for tithing, the numerous social/political/economic forms of entanglement the church has with civil society in areas where Mormons are plentiful. All of which allows the church to get its hooks into people even when it is obvious that its goals are destructive.
    (You know things are messed up when legal representation is considered a necessary part of leaving a church).

    Its interesting how they try to spin this repugnant policy in light of the LDS’s constant attempts at mainstream respectability.

  • tahnl

    Ms Kendell,
    You have embarrassed yourself and your employer. You openly stated: “Even at the height of church involvement in the passage of Proposition 8 in California, I never seriously considered removing my name. It just didn’t matter that much to me.” So, it was no big deal for your church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to overstep any separation of church and state and attempt to influence secular law BUT when your church comes out with nothing more than an internal policy you are all up in arms. In my opinion you truly should review your standards. I cannot see how you can justify the LDS support for Prop 8 but go ballistic over something that is nothing more than an internal policy.

  • Kate your words have echoed my heartfelt emotions. While not being active in the Mormon Church for many years, I too have continue to have my name on the records. I had such a visceral response to the latest announcement I just could no longer have my name associated with the LDS Church. It has been a very heartfelt, emotional week as I choose to move away from the church of my youth. There is a God he loves all of his children and I chose to worship in privacy or with two or more gathered in his name in love. The optimal word is love. Thank you for your words.

  • Doc Anthony

    Even in the LDS religion, there is no such thing as a middle ground on the gay marriage issue. Everybody has to make a choice here.

    Either gay marriage is totally right, all the time, or it is totally wrong, all the time.

    No 50-percenters on this one. Period.

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  • LDS by Choice

    Consider other aspects of the policy; Don’t teach children one thing at home and another at church. Rather than increase membership the CHurch respects the gay couples’ families, understanding the doctrinal “tug of war” in gay couples’ homes. Christian doctrine is that the PRACTICE of homesexuality is a sin. Yes, we ALL sin. We all know we all sin, but when the practice is contrary to doctrine, any such practice is, by definition, apostasy, because the couple maintains the same sex marriage.Same sex attraction is not a sin, acting out contrary to commandment is. No one here argues that a compulsive need to fornicate should be excused. Heterosexual attraction is not a sin unless it manifests in fornication, adultery, rape, pornography, masturbation and/or sexual abuse. The consistent teaching at home AND at Church is that acting out on any thought is a sin, which sin continues within a gay couples’ marriage. Same for polygamous families. Cling to your testimony? of a living…

  • LDS by Choice

    Consider other aspects of the policy; Don’t teach children one thing at home and another at church. Rather than increase membership the CHurch respects the gay couples’ families, understanding the doctrinal “tug of war” in gay couples’ homes. Christian doctrine is that the PRACTICE of homesexuality is a sin. Yes, we ALL sin. We all know we all sin, but when the practice is contrary to doctrine, any such practice is, by definition, apostasy, because the couple maintains the same sex marriage.Same sex attraction is not a sin, acting out contrary to commandment is. No one here argues that a compulsive need to fornicate isn’t sin. Heterosexual attraction is not a sin unless it manifests in fornication, adultery, rape, pornography, masturbation and/or sexual abuse. The consistent teaching at home AND at Church is that acting out on any thought is a sin, which sin continues within a gay couples’ marriage. Same for polygamous families. Cling to your testimony? of a living prophet!

  • Brooke

    I have been a member since I was a baby. I am resigning today because of how cruel they are being. I can’t believe that they are saying this in the Lord’s name. I don’t know whether I believe in God or no, but if there were a God he would be ashamed by this. That is why along with thousands of others I am resigning because and I will say this in God’s name. I know that if he is real that he is smiling down on me. But for you others that stand for this bull carp, He is giving you a rude finger. And I am giving you one right now for him.

  • Carlos

    With this policy,the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is neither rejecting gays as people, nor their children. For us Mormons, the covenants that we make with God through baptism and the Temple are sacred and most serious. If someone is not willing to fully abide by them, it is best for them and for us that they stay out of the Church. Nevertheless, anyone regardless of membership status is always welcome to attend our worship services and participate in our activities and service projects, as long as they don’t behave contrary to the standards of the Church. As for the children, they are spared the conflicts that inevitably would arise between the examples and teachings of their parents, and those of Church members. The Church is not asking children to disavow their parents, only disavow practices that the Lord doesn’t countenance. Also, using children to put pressure on the Church to change its policies should not be allowed. May God give all understanding and…

  • Benjamin

    Claiming that “every advance in humanity has been opposed by churches” is quite incorrect. It is accurate to say that churches are human institutions, and that many human institutions have “always been forces of division, hate, and cruelty,” but only someone with a truly limited understanding of history and religion would try to assert that these terrible things are uniquely generated by religion while the nonreligious world radiates only goodness and light.

    P.S. to Kate: I just mailed in my letter of resignation to the LDS Church, too. “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6, KJV)

  • Benjamin

    Sigh. This may come as a shock to you, but not everyone is a binary thinker. The Mormon Church is a massively complex institution. It’s a great archipelago with islands of holiness and islands of mistakes, and it has enriched and nourished millions of people over the years. Even I could see that as a less-active convert who hasn’t set foot in a Mormon meetinghouse since 1998.

    But they blew it big time with this policy on same-sex families, which injures harmless children for no good reason.

  • Please join the Southern Baptist Church or the Assemblies of God. No excuses please .

  • DougH

    Matthew 10:34-38:

    “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn

    “‘a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
    a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
    a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

    “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

    I am sorry how you have made your decision in this case, and am happy that the Church is mercifully arranging that the children put off that decision until they are adults.

  • Carson

    We sometimes fail to realize what exactly the LDS church hinges on. Did God the Eternal Father and the Savior Jesus Christ, in fact, meet with Joseph Smith and call him to be the Prophet of the Restoration that was prophesied in the New Testament? Did he or not? Either he did or didnt.

    If he did than Thomas S. Monson is the called Prophet of these latter days, and this revelation from this policy is from God and Jesus Christ. We may not know why he did this but HE DID DO THIS.

    If Joseph Smith did not see Jesus Christ and God, then go find a different religion to participate in. We are still waiting for a restoration of Jesus Christ’s church that, once again, was prophesied in the NEW and OLD testament.

    Not saying I am Know everything guy, but there are things the LDS church preach. Figure it out. Or we can live in a “pitty party me” life and get offended for the church helping out those that are living apostate.

    The world should bend to God. Not the other way around.

  • Pam

    Why would any gay person in a SSM arrangement want their children to go to a church whose doctrine does not support their life choices? I am LDS and my children attended other faiths as guests and sometimes they were ridiculed but they were merely guests for special events and taught not to take it personally but I certainly have not wanted them to be baptised and told every week that I Was not a real Christian. Even children of other faiths have to wait till 18 or have parental approval to be baptised even if they have attended for many years. Cannot understand why a person who doesn’t believe in a Churchs’ tenets would feel like their child was deprived.

  • Mark Giroux

    From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

    Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?

    Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.

    KJV John 6:66-68

  • Robin

    My twin sons are 19 and both are gay. They are smart, kind amazing individuals. I have been a member of the LDS church my whole life. I tried to go to church today with a great attitude to focus on the positive and also support my sons. I lasted 30 minutes. The children (primary) program was today. One by one as each child stood up and talked about their baptism (8 year old class) I felt actual physical pain. I know God does not discriminate against my future grandchildren. Nor does he against my sons. I do not know what the next step is for me. Yes my family is strong in the church and believe anything from the pulpit is of God. I cannot swallow this pill. I cannot teach my grandchildren to turn against their parents and be baptized at 18. I cannot watch my sons be labeled “apostate” for simply being who they are – amazing!! I am a Christian to the core and I know God does not create policies which tear families apart.

  • Eliezer Pennywhistler

    The Jewish People would be glad to welcome you.

  • Eliezer Pennywhistler

    Get a life.

  • Gary

    What we need in this country, is some separation of STATE and CHURCH..!

  • Kathy

    God’s ways are not man’s ways. These are God’s laws, not man’s. So tired of the whining of those who don’t make the effort to have a personal relationship with their Savior. If they did, they would know how much He loves His children and gives us laws because He loves us. He sees eternity, not only mortality. You want to leave, fine. Personally, I’m cool with it. I know if you decide to return you’ll be welcomed with love, but God will not change His laws for you.

  • THERED

    Perhaps readers will consider the following with open minds.

    1. Children are best raised by original parents who share virtuous, spiritually-committed male/female matrimonial relationships.
    2. The Sacraments (including Holy Matrimony) of the Historic Church are “… visible sign(s) of an inward grace, … solemn Christian rites considered to have been instituted by Jesus Christ to symbolize or confer grace …”
    3. The Declaration of Independence and Constitution provide liberal protections of individual citizens’ rights to live life as we see fit.
    4. For our Nation to be a Free Nation wide populations of individual citizens must practice traditional/practical virtue.
    5. An individual who sees that any social or religious organization is not suitable to his/her interests should eschew membership in such an organization; but practice tolerance.
    6. One who argues against historic standards of personal virtue cannot be trusted to look out for the best interests of others.

  • SanAntonioRob

    This policy does not spare conflicts. The children are not barred from attending Church and hearing their parents’ lifestyle condemned. That will still happen whether they are baptized or not, whether they receive a baby blessing or not. This policy does absolutely ZERO to fix that.

    What it does is:
    A) Bar people from making a covenant, even if they are worthy and at an accountable age.
    B) Bar people from receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, which I was taught over and over is essential for kids in adolescence.
    C) Make it far less likely a child of gay parents will want or be allowed to come to Church. If the Church really didn’t want to have conflict of teachings vs. parents’ lifestyle, then Church leadership should have had the balls to actually bar them from attending. As it stands, they may get the results (by making children of gay parents not want to attend) while still appearing to the “no questions” crowd as tolerant. It’s dishonest.

  • John

    The LGBT lifestyle is “repugnant” to God. I pray you will be granted repentance and trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.

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