I am very disappointed in the Mormon church for formulating a policy that consigns children to a burden of judgment and exclusion because their parents are gay. (And legally married, I might add.)
Before I say more about that, I need to raise up my “credentials,” as a non-LDS religious leader, who has supported Mormons publicly on numerous occasions. (I am a Unitarian Universalist minister.)
In 2007, risking censure by a few of my fellow progressive-minded folks, I spoke up strongly against the generalized anti-Mormon prejudice, supporting an inclusive view that embraces all faiths, even if we disagree. I said this about my experience with the LDS church:
▪ Mormons know that being a part of a religious community involves attending communal worship, so they attend church very regularly. What a concept.
▪ Latter-day Saints understand that everyone in a congregation has a responsibility to make the community work, and everyone contributes energy, time and a 10th of their income, joyfully. If a Mormon of any age has committed to play a part in a public event, she or he will always be there and will do a good job. This is not quite so true for the rest of us.
▪ Mainstream LDS are not polygamists.
▪ Although I disagree with the doctrine that only men can be priests, I find the LDS attitude toward family, toward women and children, refreshing. There is genuine respect for homemaking and child-rearing as honorable vocations, something our society does not communicate.
I have repeated myself at least a couple of times, one way and another, in columns since 2007.
In addition, I admire greatly the way that Utah Mormon legislators and lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender activists worked together to create LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination legislation in their state. (Would that Idaho could follow their example.)
Having said all that, I need to say that I am genuinely scandalized and deeply disappointed that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has chosen not only to strongly re-emphasize its opposition to gay marriage, but to say that children of gay marriages may not be blessed or baptized in the church, and must disavow their parents’ marriage if they wish to join the church when they are 18 years old.
What on earth has gotten into the leaders of this honorable religious tradition? This is the church that chose not to respond adversely to “The Book of Mormon,” but to advertise whimsically in the programs, “You’ve seen the play, now read the book.” This is the church that sat down with LGBT activists and exchanged stories over many meetings, learning not to define others by their sexuality. This is the church that — up until now, anyway — has cherished children as dear ones to be brought up in the ways of faith and love and civil behavior to fellow humans.
Repeating my oft-iterated respect for the LDS church (even as I do not share their actual belief systems), I also say again: I am horrified, saddened and even puzzled at this anti-child position. A church spokesman said the policy “originates from a desire to protect children in their innocence and in their minority years,” which makes no sense. If a church genuinely wants to bring up children in its ways, would it not accept them, whatever their parents’ situation?
If a major institution in our culture rejects a class of children, does this not rend the very fabric of our society?
In most institutions with which I am familiar (churches of all kinds, schools, social services), we accept and love children, regardless of what their parents are or do. In fact, if parents are — for example — lawbreakers or addicts or mentally unstable, we do our best to give the kids affection and fun and ethical guidance and lots of acceptance.
I so wish the LDS Church could see its way to doing the same.
Rev. Elizabeth Greene is Minister Emerita of the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.