A guest post by EmJen
“With my parents, I feel like [coming out to them in a private Facebook message] was the best way. They could read it, they would be able to think about it in their minds and have their reactions without me seeing it.” - Xian Mackintosh
“It gave me time to take it in, to get rid of all the anger.” - Scott Mackintosh
Last Thursday, the Mormon Channel released a new video to Mormonandgay.lds.org: “The Mackintoshes’ Story - A Son Comes Out and a Family Loves.” (The video is embedded at the bottom of this post.)
While this family’s story beautifully exemplifies how Mormon families often react in love to gay loved ones who come out, leave the church, and have romantic partners, Mormons’ diverse reactions to this video reveal tensions in LDS attitudes—not just toward homosexuality, but also toward religious authority and change. The resulting confusion can tell us a lot about the mixed messages the church is sending to members.
Some of the first reactions were gratitude, relief, and surprise. One commenter remarked, “This is so refreshing. It's even put out by the church I believe.” And another said, “I was so surprised when I saw the church’s logo at the end!” (Yes, this is really from the church, as this direct link to LDS.org itself proves.)
Other reactions were along the lines of “this could have been my story”:
- “The day I asked my son for his forgiveness for how I had been treating him was the day my heart was healed! I could FEEL the love of the Saviour enter my soul and all other feelings of pain and anxiety melt away!”
- “This is wonderful! (My) father was a gay man. We can ‘defend the plan’ and still love everyone no matter what!!”
- “Thank you. We have almost the exact situation, and have reacted in the same ways. Reassuring to know someone else understands.”
But another set of reactions showed an element of outright confusion that this could be church teaching. A Deseret News commenter called “Overdubbed” summarizes:
“I can't put my finger on it. No one thing about it. But this video bugs me. I think, perhaps, it is trying to make some sort of statement about families must love and support their members. But maybe that message is drowning in lots of other included messages that seem to be promoting apostasy.”
On Facebook, a commenter wonders “(H)as the church changed their stance on homosexualality [sic] being a abomination?”
We even already have a full blog post decrying the video as opposite to what the church teaches: “Indeed, in the end the parents do accept homosexuality---as their son's immutable identity! How cruel is that! These are people who know better (see the Family Proclamation) [than] pretending a despicable, age-old sin is somehow a young person's identity.”
And finally, one commenter just cryptically said, “I’m out.” Out of the closet? Out of the church? Out of this discussion becauses it’s complicated and contentious?
So why would the LDS Church’s message about lovingly accepting a gay son cause confusion?
One answer might be the abundance of lessons and talks related to the 1995 statement “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” This has been cited as the church’s stand on homosexuality and describes how only a one-man, one-woman-led family is acceptable to God as a marriage form.
Mormon leaders have denounced gay marriage repeatedly as it has become more acceptable in the wider world. Even in the upcoming April 2017 Ensign, there is an article by Elder Larry Lawrence where he describes gay marriage as “only a counterfeit. It brings neither posterity nor exaltation.”
Another answer might be that the last time a church leader talked directly and publicly about the question of welcoming children who are actively gay into their home was in 2006. In an interview Elder Dallin Oaks answered a Public Affairs question about this scenario:
“I can also imagine some circumstances in which it might be possible to say, ‘Yes, come, but don’t expect to stay overnight. Don’t expect to be a lengthy house guest. Don’t expect us to take you out and introduce you to our friends, or to deal with you in a public situation that would imply our approval of your “partnership.’”
Finally, the biggest critique of the video is that there is no allusion to the November 2015 policy update to Handbook 1, which names those who enter into same-sex marriage as apostates and requires them to have a disciplinary council. As one tweeter snarked in response to the video:
If your child comes out as gay, it is important that you love them. They will especially need this love when we excommunicate them.
— Fake LDS Newsroom (@FakeLDSNewsroom) March 19, 2017
While the video itself is a positive step forward, it will take more clarifications like it from church leadership to help members understand ways to be more Christ-like with this issue and especially for the families involved.
The message that the Mackintoshes send that “At the end of the day, we are family” is vitally important for the church that celebrates “Families Are Forever.”
OTHER GUEST POSTS BY EMJEN:
- No gays in heaven? Avoiding new Mormon folk doctrine
- Mormon young women and priesthood: “Change the rhetoric or change the rules,” says guest blogger