Same-sex guidelines come from Mormons’ feeling as ‘a people apart’

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Members of the Mormon church march in a gay pride parade in Salt Lake City, Utah, on June 2, 2013. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-MORMON-SAMESEX, originally transmitted on Nov. 11, 2015.

Members of the Mormon church march in a gay pride parade in Salt Lake City, Utah, on June 2, 2013. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jim Urquhart *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-MORMON-SAMESEX, originally transmitted on Nov. 11, 2015.

(RNS) Gay marriage is now the law of the land and, increasingly, a line in the sand conservative churches say they will not cross.

The latest is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Last week (Nov. 5), it issued new guidelines, saying Mormons in same-sex relationships will face possible excommunication and their children will not be permitted to join the church until they are 18 — and then only if they reject their parents’ relationship.

The new policies make the LDS church, with about 15 million members globally, the largest Christian denomination to enact such a formal — and some say draconian — policy. Children of same-sex couples are effectively denied baptism and other ordinances of the church.

“I am sure everyone feels regret about this,” said D. Michael Quinn, a scholar who was excommunicated by the LDS church in 1993 but still considers himself a Mormon. “The leaders who have instituted this have done so without any relish. They have done so with regret. All Mormons down the line will look at it as regrettable.”

Mormons are not the only religious group that strongly rejects gay marriage. The Roman Catholic Church does not condone same-sex marriage and its priests may not perform them. The United Methodist Church, the largest mainline Protestant denomination, does not embrace same-sex marriage, and neither do many evangelical groups.

But none of those groups has gone so far as to have a formalized policy targeting children of gay couples. While local Catholic officials have fired teachers and other church employees in same-sex marriages, Pope Francis has called for recognizing the “gifts” of LGBT Catholics. And while a majority of evangelicals reject gay marriage, a growing minority supports LGBT rights.

There were indications the LDS church was on a similar path.  In 2012, it established the website Mormons and Gays and officially rejected the idea that same-sex attraction is a choice. Multiple church officials made statements interpreted as supportive of LGBT Mormons, and last month, Dallin Oaks, a high-ranking LDS church official, said Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis was wrong to use her Christian faith as a reason to refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

The new policy has brought a feeling of whiplash, said Randall Thacker, president of Affirmation, a support and advocacy group for LGBT Mormons and their families.

“Their credibility is lost,” Thacker said of church officials. “There is a feeling in the LGBT Mormon community that they can’t trust their leaders. They hear (church) elders say everybody is welcome here and we love diversity and the next thing you know the same people are proposing things that exclude us. It is, like, what can I trust?”

Why would the LDS church, which has come so far to now be considered part of the American religious mainstream, take such a seemingly radical step?

Quinn says it’s because of the historical Mormon notion of being “a people apart.”

“There is a tribal sense of who Mormons are and what their identity is,” said Quinn, whose own homosexuality led to his excommunication. “Same-sex marriage is a dividing point that the church cannot allow. This is boundary maintenance.”

In a video statement defending the new guidelines, LDS Elder D. Todd Christofferson said the Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling on gay marriage made them necessary.

“There was the need for a distinction to be made between what may be legal and what may be the law of the church and the law of the Lord,” said Christofferson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the church’s governing body. “It’s a matter of being clear. It’s a matter of understanding right and wrong. It’s a matter of a firm policy that doesn’t allow for question and doubt.”

While the new policy shocked and angered many Mormons, it has some precedence within the church. In the late 1970s, as the church expanded across sub-Saharan Africa, where polygamy is legal, it required that men who wished to join the church dissolve their extra marriages. Quinn, who has studied Mormonism and polygamy, said whole families were sundered, legal wives were shamed and legitimate children were abandoned.

Another reason for the same-sex guidelines is the view of marriage in the LDS theology. Mormons believe they are children of heavenly parents and that only by being married to a member of the opposite sex can they become like their Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother and be eternally exalted. Mormon scripture states, “If a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law … then shall they be gods.”

Members of Affirmation gather during a candlelight vigil held across the street from the New York City LDS Temple. Photo courtesy of Affirmation

Members of Affirmation gather during a candlelight vigil held across the street from the New York City LDS Temple. Photo courtesy of Affirmation

Thacker, of the Affirmation group, said he has heard numerous Mormons — both LGBT and heterosexual — say they already have or will leave the church over the new policy. He said some will join the Community of Christ, a group formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that split with the main church in the 19th century. It approves gay marriage and ordains LGBT persons.

Thacker and other Affirmation leaders have been holding fasts, candlelight vigils and call-ins with therapists in response to the new policy. But he’s not ready to leave the church.

“I’m going to be patient with myself and with others as I figure out what feels right for me,” he said. “My DNA is Mormon and I’m not afraid of what can happen to me at church.”

But, he added, “I think it would be really difficult for me to take any future children of mine to church if they will be excluded from full fellowship.”

JS/MG END WINSTON

  • Atheist Max

    “children…will not be permitted to join the church until they are 18 — and then only if they reject their parents’ relationship.”

    This is yet another example of religion using love to manipulate; to coerce. Religion isn’t in favor of true love or tolerance – but it knows how to use love against people. For what motive? The most selfish of ambitions:

    “… then shall they be gods.”

    It is sad that the Mormon church will survive this. It doesn’t deserve to.

  • Larry

    Wait about 10 years when the LDS finally renounces such discriminatory policies in public (but not privately) as they did with their official racism. Then they will claim the church was always friendly to gays. That the religious laws never changed.

    Being religious means never feeling guilty about acting badly in service of your faith or being compelled to be honest in its dealing with others.

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  • Jim Matteson

    Homosexuality is a sin (period). Nowhere in scripture is the church to sanction sin as OK, to give it a wink and a nod just because it may be socially acceptable outside of the church. LDS leadership has made the right decision. I only wish Christian church’s had the courage make a strong stand.

  • Cole

    The large majority of LDS support these leaders. I also would recommend you listen to the LDS view on the matter. They are not targeting children, they are putting policy in place to protect them and not create potential issues with their parents. just another biased article on religionnews.com.

  • Larry

    The excuses for the policy have run into several patterns such as:

    1. “I fully support treating gay families badly, but I will say its just the will of God, because it eases my conscience on the matter”

    2. “They aren’t forcing children to disavow their parents….just the people and conditions which they were raised in and made them the upstanding people they are today” (Seriously how does one “disavow the practice of marriage equality” to gay parents without being offensive?)

    3. “Its for their own protection…to protect them from our bigoted actions”.

    4. Just plain old “God hates gays and anyone who might have “gay cooties” so who cares?

    5. Bad analogy with polygamy (which unlike marriage equality has never been legal but was an integral part of the church)

    6. “The Elders have said so……and I have no opinion or moral conscience beyond what they tell me”

  • Jack

    Mormons are a people apart. It seems evangelical members of a church are al

    Mormons ARE a people apart. Just because Jesus is in the title doesn’t mean Jesus is their hearts. Any new beliefs are the creation of man.

  • Bob

    ” . . . largest ‘Christian’ denomination . . .” As one who respects the commonalities of theists the following is not meant to be pejorative.

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Ladder Day Saints is not a “Christian” denomination as implied by the above article. It does not teach the understanding of God as Trinity as taught in Christianity since the Council of Nicea in 325 and the Council of Constantinople in 381 as these are summarized in the Nicene Creed. It does not teach Jesus to be one person with two natures, human and divine, as taught since the Council of Chalcedon in 451. These teachings are basic to historical Christianity.

    While all of us theists believe there is something larger than finite “me” whether we are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Jehovah Witnesses or LDS, my guess is that we don’t want to be lumped together inappropriately or homogenized, either.

  • Seattle Saint

    The sins of the parents cannot be answered upon the heads of the children:Moses 6:54;

    Members of the church believe in scripture over administrative rules and it is very clear that even if you believe that homosexuality is a sin you can’t blame or hold the children accountable.

  • James

    Those who are not baptized are not in full fellowship??? That simply isn’t true. I have a mentally handicapped child who is 14 and is not baptized. It simply isn’t necessary due to unique circumstances. The fact is the policy alleviates the need for children living in the home/custody of same sex couples from having to negotiate a very conflicting message from church and from parents. It is a compassionate solution that does not dis-invite or dis-fellowship a child. They are welcome and will participate in any and all activities they and their parents are agreeable with. It is a deception that the LDS Apostles are in effect, kicking the kids out. Could not be farther from the truth. It is a thoughtful and considerate position that respects the rights of parents and the difficult situation such children are in, without alienating them. They are so welcome. As with my son, they are entitled to fellowship & can’t be denied God’s blessings if baptism is exempted.

  • James

    It seems to me that the dishonest reports that children are being dis felllowshiped or alienated by the church. It is the skewed media reports and anti-church people who are perpetrating that false talking point. They are doing more harm to the children than the policy is. That is selfish. Remember this was all initiated by an anti church campaign my an enemy to the church. Let’s look past the smoke and really think this through my friend. We will if the kids truly are our greatest concern. Not an anti-church agenda.

  • James

    Exactly. The children are not be alienated or excluded from fellowship. The church is simply saying the children are exempted from the requirement. That is showing great love for the minor children. It also eliminates the conflict of mixed messages from parents and church in this situation. They are so welcomed! I know some children in such a situation and they ARE TOTALLY WELCOMED in their church family! This false message that it is in effect kicking the kids out was perpetrated by a known anti-Mormon source. Not a surprise.

  • James

    http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/commentary-understanding-the-handbook?cid=HP_FR_11-13-2015_dPAD_fMNWS_xLIDyL2-1_

    Here is the church’s statement. I think if someone is unwilling to listen to the church’s position and reasoning is not not an honest person or just is lazy. “No pancake is so flat that it doesn’t have another side.”

  • Edward Needham

    the worst persecutions are those wrapped around a holy book or a flag or both.
    Christianity has lost Christ, at least with the evangelicals (or Christianists) and Mormons who desecrate Christ’s tenets while pushing an agenda that prays on fears and attempts to legitimize the persecution of others based on how their creator made them..
    pray for the Mormons and Christianists.
    pray for the rest of us.
    God will forgive.
    It is far harder for us to forgive, once we see these mislead sheep doing their best to destroy the lives of God children..

  • Todd

    Wrongo. Christ was actually pushing killing of certain people himself. His deluded followers just gloss over that part.

  • Larry

    We are singling them out based on a negative association with their parents, we aren’t alienating them. Not at all. They are welcomed provided they renounce their parents and the way they were raised. /sarcasm

    There was nothing remotely honest sounding in your take on the policy here.

  • Shelly

    James, wake up. The media is mostly just reporting what gets observed. It’s a free country, and while the media isn’t perfect, it’s pretty good and open to inspection. It is the church that is the real problem.

  • Shelly

    That “you must show the other side” scam you are trying to pull has already been exposed. It is not two sides that must be shown. The truth and the facts are what should be shown.

    The Mormon church is plainly a scam. No sides there, just the truth.