Mormon LGBT policy “isn’t love,” says Mette Harrison

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Mette Ivie Harrison

(courtesy of Mette Ivie Harrison)

Mette Ivie Harrison

Mette Ivie Harrison

Mette Ivie Harrison

A guest post by Mette Harrison

I truly believe that the leaders of the LDS Church meant it when they said that the new policy changes of November, 2015, were done out of love. I truly believe that they are trying to figure out a way to show love to a marginalized group.

I also think that they are wrong, and not for a reason that is malicious or hideously backward. It is simply because love is the greatest and most difficult commandment of Christianity. To love truly is something we all strive to do and we all fail to do well on a regular basis. Loving our enemies is only part of the charge Christ gives us. We have to love all, and we have to find a way to love ourselves.

This is the work of more than a lifetime. This is the work of the eternities.

I try to love my children. When one of my daughters was in first grade, she took multiple medications a day, for ADHD, for Oppositional Defiant Disorder, for constipation, and on and on. Every day was a battle between us, and I reached a point where I honestly was not sure I could keep going. She was the most difficult child I had to parent and I was doing a terrible job of it. All I could focus on was all the things she was doing wrong. If she got bored (which was frequently), she would use her pent-up energy to hit and bite the other children in the family. She would explore abandoned buildings in the neighborhood if I didn’t lock her inside the house. She had toilet training problems and sucked her thumb until she was a teenager. I struggled to show love to her because most of my time and energy was spent in managing her behavior.

When I finally went to a therapist, he asked me and my husband to make sure that we spent 15 minutes a day with her telling her we loved her and talking only about good things that had happened that day. This wasn’t his only strategy, but I believe this is the one that worked the miracle in our home afterward. I learned how to really love this child in 15 minutes a day. The other problems didn’t go away immediately or entirely ever, but I stopped being angry with her and learned how to see the world from her perspective.

Today, she is a wonderful young adult who is preparing to teach in the public school system. Other parents tell me how jealous they are that I have such a child. If only they knew . . .

Sometimes as Mormons we have a strange way of showing our love. Nearly twenty years ago, a family member left the church and I was sad, but I sincerely believed that of course “Susan” would return. After Susan experienced a terrible personal disaster, I thought in my heart, in an attempt at love, that this bad thing was God’s way of pushing Susan back to the church.

I had spent my whole life hearing people in church talk about tragedy as God’s way of teaching us and refining us. I still hear this every week at church—that cancer, MS, Parkinson’s, car accidents, sudden heart attacks, paralysis—all these are God’s way of showing love to us. Because many people who go through terrible things learn great wisdom and humility.

I now reject this. We have many opportunities to learn and grow, but I cannot believe in a God who shows love in this way, and I do not believe that we show love to others by hoping for bad things to happen to them to turn them back to Mormonism.

Susan never did return to the fold because of this disaster. In fact, she became more bitter about the church and for ten years refused to speak to anyone else in the family because of the hurtful and unloving things we had said and thought — and because of our lack of action in helping her, because we thought this trial would refine her.

There was no love in the way we behaved. It was only a twisted idea of vengeance, I think now. And a way to imagine that I could only really love someone who was like me and agreed with me.

Real love requires much, much more from us. It requires us to step outside of ourselves, out of what benefits us, and to see the world from the viewpoint of those who are utterly unlike us. Love demands that we embrace others without judgment, which is perhaps as impossible a commandment as the two God gave to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, to not eat of the tree AND to multiply and replenish the earth.

Life is about contradictory commandments, I think, and choosing to find our own way and to live with the consequences. It is also about doing what we think is right without demanding that everyone else be on the same path.

Love is seeking light and goodness. Love is stepping into darkness to help another. Love is repenting of wrongdoing. Love is speaking truth, even when it isn’t comfortable. Love is admitting always when you are wrong.

Dr. Caitlin Ryan of the Family Acceptance Project asks family members of the LGBT community to consider how their actions make their loved ones feel. Feeling that we love others isn’t enough. We have to also work on letting them experience that love, which means listening to their reality.

It’s something the Mormon Church has a long way to go on, but perhaps we are starting the journey.


Other guest posts by Mette Harrison:


 

  • I want to believe it was done out of love, and that may indeed be the case, but it doesn’t really matter to me what the intentions were/are. What matters to me are the results. The results are horrific to behold. I don’t feel inclined to express that I “believe” they’re wrong or that they “may” have made a mistake. I “know” that they’re wrong and that this is still based on a faulty understanding of human sexuality and sin. Further light and knowledge won’t come until Mormon leaders entertain the thought that maybe they don’t know all there is to know about the plan of salvation/plan of happiness. Maybe, just maybe, God wants ALL his children to be happy and find health and happiness in loving and stable relationships, not just his straight kids. There doesn’t need to be a double standard for the law of chastity when there can be and is healthy sexuality and unhealthy sexuality for people all across the Kinsey Scale. They just need to open their minds.

  • QTT

    Mette, Mette, Mette, you give the Brethren far more credit than they deserve. For the past 5 to 6 decades they have spewed their hateful vitriol from the pulpit to marginalize, demean and hate the LGBT community. It’s only been in the last few years that they have used the words “love and compassion” and only because their prior tack came back to bite them in the ass…and pocket book. It’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks and Mormon Apostles the real meaning of love and compassion. To claim Divine revelation clearly demonstrates how desperate these men are and the real intent of this change.

  • ben in oakland

    Would you please stop making sense? It makes my head hurt.

  • ben in oakland

    Yet another person pointing out the obvious and making sense. I need an aspirin.

  • OFT

    Hey QTT, I’m not sure where you came off with such a vicious accusation of the brethren. 5 to 6 decades of spewed “hateful vitriol from the pulpit to marginalize, demean and hate the LGBT community?” Oh please! Can you back that up? I’ve been listening to Church authorities for decades and not once have I heard anyone bashing and demeaning those with same sex attraction. Instead they often spoke of loving the sinner but not the sin. Isn’t that how God feels about us too? Your blatant disgust and obvious irreverence of the Lord’s anointed is appallingly apparent. “…their prior tack came back to bite them in the ass…and pocket book?” How rude and disrespectful!

  • Sam

    I don’t think the brethren meant well. How can you deny children access to blessings under the guise that it’s best for them? I think they took advice from their lawyers and calculatingly drafted a policy to draw a line in the sand and, from their perspective, prevent future lawsuits. Then they were caught, they backpedaled and tried to say it was an “act of love.” As you so eloquently said, love is something different than what this policy enacts.

  • Heidi

    Fantastic post – thanks.

  • Use your critical thinking skills

    It’s because Morminism isn’t really above love, that’s just part of the facade. Strip that away and you find that this organization is really just about control.

    Not all religions are this way, as some people would have you believe. There are liberal religious institutions, compatible with universal liberal values. One example here: http://www.elca.org/JLE/Articles/237

  • I’m assuming you do know better than church leaders about the plan of salvation and have got divine inspiration on the matter yes?

  • Aaron

    The policy was about children from a family with parents in a homosexual relationship so this doesn’t even make sense since the church tells parents not to show love to everyone anyway especially their children gay or not. The policy was to prevent a potentially toxic environment for a child in the home if they were to convert to the church since a gay couple would likely strongly disagree with church views on homosexual relationships and potentially harm the relationship between child and parents and make an even less harmonious atmosphere for the child to learn and grow until they reach adulthood. It’s the exact same type of policy with polygamous families but I doubt you’d be saying that was not out of love and because the church doesn’t know what it’s doing because you most likely disagree with it anyway.

  • Scott

    I would argue that the leaders misinterpreted the inspiration and perhaps even that the inspiration was in fact just a manifestation of their long held beliefs and bias’ based on a lifetime of experience isolated from LGBTQ humans.

  • Aaron

    How would you know the inspiration was misinterpreted? Have you got the same inspiration or are you just saying it because you dont like it and disagree with it?

  • Elder Anderson

    “…prevent a potentially toxic environment…”

    This sounds very hypothetical to me. Did any of the straight men who designed policy actually ask families with LGBT parents about this “toxic environment”? Did anybody ask the LGBT parents how they explained LDS theology to their children? Did anybody ask children in these families whether they felt their family life was toxic? Never crossed their minds to ask the people who actually had real life experience, did it? No. Some straight old men made up a convoluted and wrong-headed policy that needed to be “clarified” and then was called a “revelation” (although nobody has ever seen the actual revelation itself… just a second-hand description).

  • Richard

    Leave, leave, leave find a faith that conforms to your desires. Anyone who needs to use vulgarity, dishonest or hateful rhetoric neither believes in the Church, revelation or the basic tenants of the Saviors teaching. No one forces you to remain in the Church, go practice what you want, but please stop pretending you are concerned either for your wounded faith or your children’s pain. It is disengenuous and painful only for you and those you suggest you love.

    G

  • Wayne Dequer

    Wonderfully thoughtful and thought provoking article. While I question one of its words, I like it very much. We should all write and consider more articles like this one.

  • Aaron

    “This sounds very hypothetical to me. Did any of the straight men who designed policy actually ask families with LGBT parents about this “toxic environment”?” I’d say it sounds very real when both the pro gay marriage and the anti gay marriage side feel very strongly about their position and tension is likely to flair up especially when one of its younger members joins a church known for being anti gay marriage. So quite simply its down to common sense. They also probably decided to make it a policy due to what home and visiting were reporting back from visiting members or what children may have told their bishop or branch president. So asking and carrying out a survey would be unnecessary when children of LGBT families are already telling. It’s also highly unlikely that LGBT parent have said anything about the church other than it being wrong to their children at the very least if anything at all. I’d also like to know how you know the policy (includes polygamy as well) is…

  • Well said, this is a great article that should be read by more churches, not just the LDS membership.

  • Scheherazade

    Mettle,

    Your comments about what real love looks like and require are lovely.

    I understand your desire to demonstrate the kind of empathetic love you describe in your evaluation of the brethren. But I happen to know that this policy change was a legal calculation designed to avoid lawsuits, and nothing else. They recognized that there would be what some correspondence referred to as “human consequences” but naively decided that the policy would negatively affect a tiny minority. The policy was never meant for public consumption, and the church was caught off guard when it was leaked and then felt compelled to create first a moral rationale and then a revelation narrative to justify it after the media widely covered the story to national and international outrage.

  • Andrew

    This would be a sensible reply except the leaders aren’t actually claiming inspiration on the matter. Not in the sense you think. I would encourage you to dig into the history of Official Declaration 2 and banning blacks from the church. What you’ll discover is that the “revelation” amounted to nothing more than negative confirmation. Essentially they prayed, “hey God, we feel like this is the right thing to do, if it’s not, please tell us”. When they got nothing but silence they moved forward. And this was actually the second time they repealed the ban. The first was in 1969, when a single hold-out apostle left town so they convened a vote with the remaining 14 and repealed the ban. This came undone though when that lone ranger came back to town and pitched a big fit. Our church doesn’t actually have a prophet in the biblical sense, it has a council of 15 men that are called a “prophet” then they agree in unison.

  • Aaron

    Except that black people were never banned from the church. They simply were not allowed to hold the priesthood and get temple blessings. Also they all prayed rather than one praying and then asking everyone else. You also can put down everything to bias simply because you disagree with it since that’s a bias as well so no one gets anywhere like they didn’t with regards to black men getting the priesthood. The leaders clearly wanted to know what they were to do and they found out unanimously. Also it does say it was REVEALED doctrine in regards to the handbook changes and went through the same steps as any other church policy.

  • Andrew

    Blacks were banned. I am personal friends with with a brother in the church who served his mission in Brazil in the 60s. He literally had a color chart like you’d find at the hardware store to determine whether someone could be batized or not. This same person also happens to be from one of those mormon royalty families, he had personal interactions with President Kimball and was friends with many of those involved in OD2 and the debacle in ’69. I have no bias other than the truth. And the truth is there is no basis for blaming this horrid policy on Jesus, which, by definition, would be taking the Lords name in vein.

  • Read the history of race and the church and you’ll find out you’re completely wrong.Read the Official declaration 2 and you’ll find out you’re completely wrong since it mentions no where about baptism and nor does any policy or declaration prior to it mention blacks getting baptised. The new policy is to prevent a child growing up in a harmful environment if they joined the church and their parents didnt who were LGBT since they’d be an anti gay marriage in an LGBT household which generally isnt a good mix at the best of times since same sex marriage is considered a serious sin. The children can do partake in most activities but must wait until they can legally make their own decision rather than rely on parents approval. It also stop children being taken away from their parents if they come from a family of at least one divorced since joining the church could be considered custodial interference which could be seen as far worse and more horrid wouldnt you say?

  • Sam

    That sounds very Christian.

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  • Marty Oakeson

    I have been a member of the Church for all 58 years of my life. I have a college degree, I have owned and run a small business for 25 years, I have a family, I am as good a “critical thinker” as the next person. I sympathize with those influenced by Church’s varied positions. After I read this article I went back and reviewed the most recent General Conference talks. As a whole these most certainly represent the overall position of the Church. Each one talks of following Christ. They talk of loving your spouse, taking care of your children, looking for the good in life, serving others, getting an education, being kind, being a good example, rising above difficultly, finding peace, and so forth. My many years of “critical thinking” have shown me that the clear and comprehensive doctrine of doing good to others and finding peace in Jesus Christ far and away surpasses the issues that I am uneasy about, such as this topic. Because of the preponderance of good, I can suspend my unease.

  • yoh

    Of course!

    When church leaders act in an ignorant and patently malicious way, one should assume to know better than them. You grant people authority in a church based on arbitrary measures.

    Claims of divine inspiration means their thoughts should never be questioned no matter how they go against reality. Plan of salvation means simply that they want others to follow their direction. None of this amounts to any sanr reason to grant people such authority over their lives

  • yoh

    Decades of codifying prejudices as church doctrine makes such accusations well founded. The LDS church is actively attacking gays here and in past efforts.

    “I’ve been listening to Church authorities for decades and not once have I heard anyone bashing and demeaning those with same sex attraction.”

    Your claim is not remotely credible. Just by the fact you are calling it “same sex attraction” is in of itself demeaning. It denotes an attitude towards gays which is both marginalizing and patronizing.

    Somehow “love the sinner, hate the sin” always comes down to treating people with malice and spite. Finding excuses and social sanction to attack others. It is a worthless phrase to cover damaging acts of hate.

    Rude and disrespectful attitudes are to be expected when a church acts with spite and hatred. It is an underreaction to the bad behavior of the church.

  • Aaron

    Explain how the church is being malicious to homosexuals when they have told members time and time again to show love and respect. And of course they should be questioned by looking at Gods commandments in times gone by and if it’s in line with his doctrine. I also think church authorities have authority of the church they are recognised by everyone to have authority over. It’s not over people’s lives since they can choose but they can’t force the church to do what they want. Also homosexuality is people of the same sex having attraction to each other so it’s same sex attraction. Grow up and stop acting offended by a phrase that’s accurate to what it is.

  • yoh

    Spending time and resources towards attacking the civil liberties of all gays isn’t malice towards them? Making pronouncements that they nor their children are worthy to be members in a meaningful way is also malicious. People want to invest church leaders with authority do so for purely arbitrary reasons.

    Calling homosexuality, “same sex attraction” is a euphemistic way of denying it is part of one’s identity. Falsely describing it as a purely mental or physical act which is voluntary in nature. It is demeaning by its nature and a way to deny gays as a group.

    It would be nice if you were honest in your approach to the subject. But churches and religions in general like to wrap themselves up in apologia rather than do such things.

    What the church says to the general public and how they act privately are two different things.

  • ben in oakland

    But that may be because you are speaking from the point of view of privilege of a white (probably), heterosexual, Mormon male, living where Mormon is the dominant culture.

    You are not on the receiving end of Mormonism. Walk a mile in the shoes of a gay person who has been listening to the bigoted declarations about us for decades, calling us threats to everything good and holy.

  • Aaron

    Since I am expected to be honest, why dont you? The LDS church supported a bill that banned discrimination in employment and housing, supported equality, helped introduce bills to try and stop bullying especially of those of the LGBT community and even set up a website to allow discussion about it. The church doesnt stop homosexuals or their children being members so long as they arent in a homosexual relationship. The only thing the church has refused to do in regards to homosexuals is permit homosexual relations within the church which is not really a civil liberty unless you want to concede child marriage to be a civil liberty as well. What the church says in public is how they generally act in private since the church is public and anyone can go to it. So stop being a hypocrite and telling me to be honest when you blatantly lie.

  • ben in oakland

    Aaron that bill the Mormon church supported Excluded small business owners and small landlords– the very people most likely to discriminate. Big businesses want the most valued employees, for the most part. Big landlords don’t care about anything but keeping up the property, not annoying the neighbors, and paying the rent. Neither cares if you are gay.

    Meanwhile, the church is on record for calling my quite boring marriage ca threat to marriage and family, calling my family counterfeit, and sponsoring antigay initiatives, complete with a nice set of lies to go with it.

  • Windewaan

    Exactly.!!

  • Elder Anderson

    “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”

  • Robert Versluis

    I see so many opinions about gay people and the gay lifestyle, the simplicity that this boils down to is that *WE* believe the Church to be true. WE have felt the burning in the bosom. Yet, because we are gay, we are not allowed to be”normal” or we are not perceived to be “normal”. No one has addressed the simple fact we are in fact, normal. It is a basic, yet complicated reality. It would be similar to telling a Woman or Man who cannot have children that they are expected to remain celibate and single or cannot be a part of the Church. Imagine how that would make you feel? It’s the same exact concept for us (I know it’s different, but to us it feels like the same to many gay people). I am not here to debate the “but” they might have had children if they could. Well guess what, they cannot. It’s the same.

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