OPINION – I’m technically a member of the Mormon church – I converted when I was 21. I haven’t attended for seven years, but I haven’t bothered to formally resign either. The church will generally make the resignation process long and inconvenient unless you get an attorney to help you, and I didn’t want to pay for one.
But last week, two things changed.
The first thing that changed is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a new policy regarding LGBT members and their children. All lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members who are married or cohabitating are now considered apostates (people who have renounced their faith) and are subject to excommunication.
But the big issue for me is about their children.
There are certain ordinances (church ceremonies) that children go through at certain ages. These ordinances are not only religious but social rites of passage.
Babies are included in a ceremony where they are formally given their name and a blessing. When children are 8 years old, they’re baptized. When boys are 12 years old, they’re given the priesthood (the authority to perform certain ordinances). During this time, baptized children can also perform baptisms for the dead in the temple.
The church’s new policy bars children of LGBT couples from becoming members of the church or experiencing any of these ordinances. Children of LGBT couples can only join the church when they are 18, have moved out of their parents’ house, disavowed same-sex relationships (including their parents’ relationship) and are approved by the First Presidency (the three men at the very top of church hierarchy).
Now normally, I wouldn’t care much about children not getting ordinances. In fact, I think some ordinances aren’t appropriate for children. For example, the church says they baptize children children 8 years old because that’s the age children can make their own decision about whether to join the church.
But I believe an 8-year-old doesn’t have the ability to make a decision they’re told affects them for eternity, especially when they’re subjected to massive peer pressure from their family, friends and congregation. After all, there’s a reason we don’t let 8-year-olds drive, vote or join the military. Don’t get me wrong – there’s a time for baptism for anyone who wants it, no matter who their parents are. However, that time is not as soon as 8 years old.
But the denial of baptism and the priesthood aren’t what gets me most about the new LGBT policy.
What gets me is the denial of the baby blessing.
Babies are innocent. I don’t care who the baby’s parents are, natural or otherwise. I don’t care if the baby is planned or not, premature, overdue or deformed because of genetic issues or because the mother took drugs during her pregnancy. Babies are innocent. But the church is taking out on them the choices their parents have made.
And baby blessings are such a special thing for families – not just parents, but grandparents and extended family. It’s a way of saying to the baby, “Welcome to the world. God loves you. We love you. May you have a happy life.”
Children are so special in the Mormon church. Yet this policy denies a baby blessing to children of LGBT couples. Denying a baby blessing, of all things, doesn’t make sense.
This is what an apostle of the church (a very high ranking authority) has said about the reasoning about the new policy (quoted from the video at the top of the hyperlinked article):
This policy originates out of compassion. It originates from a desire to protect children in their innocence and minority years.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson, of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, then goes on to compare same-sex marriage to polygamy.
(By the way: Since the church’s new policy was announced, LGBT advocates have reported a spike in suicide crisis calls.)
Oddly, while children may not receive ordinances, they can and are encouraged to receive blessings when they are sick and when they need spiritual guidance.
The second thing that changed last week is I found out about an attorney in Salt Lake County who is donating his time and expertise to help people resign from the church.
As I mentioned before, resigning from the church can be a long and inconvenient process. If a member sends the church a resignation letter without very precise wording, the church will say that it’s an ecclesiastical issue and has been forwarded to their bishop. This happens despite the fact that legally the person is no longer a member as of the date church headquarters receives their resignation letter.
What happens after the bishop receives the resignation letter depends on what some people call “leadership roulette.” This is what that term means: Members have no control over whether their local leaders are understanding, kind men or men who are neither understanding nor kind. Some members don’t truly know who their leader is until they resign.
The bishop will conduct an interview, usually in person, about why the person wants to leave the church. If the bishop is understanding, afterward he will send a form to church headquarters and the person’s name will be removed from church records.
However, there are online reports of some bishops who are less accommodating. Some of them will tell the resigning member’s family that they’re resigning, leading to their family pressuring them to stay in the church. Other online reports say that the bishop can initiate a Court of Love, which is a trial where a church member can be excommunicated.
Hence, the process of resigning by yourself can take weeks or months. But if you resign using an attorney, the total turnaround is 15 days.
The attorney who’s helping people quit the church has been doing this quietly for a long time. Before the new LGBT policy was announced, he’d helped 200 people quit this year. After the policy was announced, he received over 2,000 requests, which he’s working through as fast as he can.
As I mentioned, I’ve considered removing my name from the church before, but I never did. I’m a Democrat and a feminist, so there are a lot of beliefs and practices of the church that I don’t agree with, to put it lightly. I never resigned … but this new policy has pushed me over the line.
I’m actually a little sad to do it. I’m surprised, because I didn’t expect to feel sad. But the church gave me food in college when I needed it. I have many Mormon friends who are dear to me.
The day I was baptized was actually one of the happiest days of my life. It was beautiful, even though my father threatened to kick me out of the house for doing it. Several people drove out to Mesquite, Nevada, from Southern California for my baptism, including a family I was very close with in high school. Three missionaries that ministered to me for over a year when I lived in California drove from Salt Lake City to baptize and confirm me (an ordinance similar to a baby blessing that officially inducted me into the church).
But while I have many Mormon friends I hold dear, I also have LGBT friends I hold dear. Some of them have children. Both my LGBT friends and their children have gone through enough struggle and discrimination. Why does the church need to add to it?
So though I feel a bit sad to officially leave the church, I’m far more sad for the babies of LGBT couples who can no longer have a blessing because of the “sins” of their parents. My heart hurts for the children of LGBT couples who are being made to pay for their parents’ “sins.”
On Saturday I’m going to an event in downtown Salt Lake City. It’s a mass resignation from the church. The attorney will be there, signing our resignation letters. We’ll listen to guest speakers, bear our testimonies, march around Temple Square and then mail our resignation letters right outside the church’s international headquarters.
The mass resignation has drawn the attention of major news sources, including Reuters, the Washington Post, the Seattle Times, the Huffington Post, the New York Times, The Guardian (UK), and the BBC, among others. Over 1,300 people have RSVP’d they are going, according to to the Facebook event page. The organizers are working to make this an event about compassion, not anger.
So that’s what I’m doing Saturday. I can’t do anything to change the new policy, but I can voice my opinion by resigning.
Submitted by Tracie Parry, Salt Lake County
Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them; they do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.