This seems like a fitting day to repost this blogpost. It was originally posted on 11/8/2015, just 3 days after the 5th of November LDS church (Mormon) policy change regarding LGBT members of our community. I remember; We remember; the 5th of November. We’re 3.5 years past that policy, and it was just reversed today by nearly the same LDS church leadership that instituted it.
You can read about it here. https://kutv.com/news/local/lds-church-rules-change-reverses-2015-revelation
Was there damage done? Yes. Gaslighting? Yes. Shunning and judgement? Yes. Have people killed themselves because of this policy? Yes. Have people been kicked out of the LDS church on grounds of apostasy because of this policy? Yes. Can the damage be reversed? No. Can the LDS church forge a new path, one that is more loving and more inclusive? Absolutely.
A good reminder that actions have consequences. Some intended; maybe most, unintended. Unintended or not, this doesn’t dissolve us of our responsibility to act out of love.
Perhaps we’ll get an update from Tracy regarding her current thoughts. But for now, here are some of her 3.5 year old thoughts.
My Unconventional Journey: An uncorrelated view of the new LDS policy on baptism.
by guest writer Tracy Giles
I spent half of my childhood in a gay home and found the gospel as a teenager. My story is very different from many. As a daughter, a mother, a Primary President, and a friend, I would like to tell my story of conversion and how having the gospel as a teenager was an incredible blessing. Included in my story is a different perspective to the new policy that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS church) has issued regarding children from same-sex marriages not being allowed to be baptized. My heart is very heavy.
I was raised in a Bible loving, Christian home. I remember reading the Bible as a young girl late at night, next to a small night light in my room. One particular night when I was about 8 years old, I got on my knees and prayed the most earnest prayer. I asked the Lord sincerely why there were not prophets and apostles leading and guiding people in our time. I prayed for an answer to know why we were left alone in the world with only scripture stories of people from the past to guide us. If God wanted to speak to His people on the earth today, I believed whole-heartedly he would. That prayer stayed with me for many years.
My mother and father loved my brother and me very much. I know they tried to make their marriage work, but ultimately it ended in divorce and my mom in a same-sex relationship. It was an earth-shattering experience to go through. My world didn’t make sense any longer. I chose to stay with my mom, and my brother moved in with our dad.
At the age of 13, we moved to Laguna Beach. My mom owned a coffee shop with her new girlfriend and I started my freshman year of high school. With my father absent and my mother and her partner spending every waking hour at their cafe, I spent many hours alone. I was alone and in a downward spiral. My family was gone.
This was a very dark time in my life. I found myself in really troubling situations multiple times. A girl from school, who was a member of the LDS church, befriended me and on one occasion when we were hanging out at her house, she explained to me that a prophet leads and guides her church. I told her that only God can call prophets and apostles. She explained that Jesus Christ sat at the head of the church doing just that. Upon hearing this news, tears swelled in my eyes. I had found it. I knew I had found what my heart so desperately needed. The Spirit overcame me and I knew that I needed more.
Naturally, my mom took notice that I was spending time with LDS friends, and wanted to know about their views on homosexuality. I was given the answer that you can be gay in the church, but you just can’t practice it. I spent time pondering this and ultimately decided that as long as I was welcome with open arms and had a place in the church, I could move forward. I felt like this was the path Jesus Christ wanted me to take. Everyone at church knew me and knew that my mom was in a same-sex relationship. They were accepting of our family life, so I felt like I had found a home. My complete conversion didn’t happen fast. My home life was still very confusing for many reasons. However, every time I needed clarity and comfort, I found it in the LDS church. I found it in the scriptures. I found peace through the Savior, Jesus Christ.
My parents were not supportive of the doctrine of the church, so I met with the missionaries at church buildings or in members’ homes. While my mom didn’t like the church, I was still allowed to go. We were able to make it work. It was those fundamental years in high school when things could have gone really bad for me, but didn’t because I had found something that brought me so much joy. Having the church and knowing I had a place in it changed my life in high school. I still made mistakes, but It was such a good environment for me.
After high school I was on a spiritual high, so I moved to Provo, Utah to experience as much of the church as possible. I was so saddened by what I found there. I was never invited to church. Dates ended when guys found out I hadn’t been baptized or that I had a gay mom. I would hear members of the church idolizing the general authorities (highest church officials). They treated them like celebrities. They were put up on pedestals and made infallible. With the exception of a few people, I felt the members to be judgmental, gossipy and competitive. I was really disturbed by what I found in Utah. I left after 4 months, without any interest in joining the church. Side Note: Obviously, this does not represent all members in Utah. This was just my own personal experience as someone investigating the church. There are many wonderful people there.
Forgetting Mormonism, I ended up moving to Los Angeles and started working in the music industry for a famous music producer. Life was back on track, or so I thought. A year or so later, I was at the gym trying to get in a good workout and a girl on the treadmill next to me started up a conversation. She was a member of the LDS church and discovered I had once lived in Utah but was not LDS. Though she extended an invitation for me to come to church with her, it was several weeks before I felt a prompting to attend. I couldn’t find the girl’s information, but the name of the ward popped into my mind. Back then we had to use the yellow pages, so I looked it up and off I went. Sitting quietly in the back of the Relief Society meeting, I was asked to introduce myself. I stood up, gave a brief introduction and sat back down. The girl in front of me turned around, smiled and said, “I’ve been waiting for you.” At the age of 20, I was baptized.
My family has some different beliefs than I do, and they truly didn’t want me to get baptized. Differences set aside, they were able to support it, and I’m thankful that the choice was always mine. I’m thankful for a loving Heavenly Father who saw fit to give me the challenges I‘ve had in life because they’ve only made me stronger. As a teenager, I learned how important it is in life to respect the life choices of other people. Even though my mom and I don’t see eye to eye when it comes to spiritual matters, we can treat each other with fairness and kindness. I didn’t learn that lesson in a Sunday school class, I learned that lesson because I was living it. It was my life.
The church has come out with a new policy that doesn’t allow children of same-sex marriages under the age of 18 to be baptized. This new rule makes it so that even if a child living in a same-sex marriage household receives permission from their parents, they will not be able to receive the ordinances of the church. The child and family are no longer allowed to exercise their agency in this matter. Reasoning for this policy has been explained by Elder Christofferson, “We don’t want the child to have to deal with issues that might arise where the parents feel one way and the expectations of the church are very different.”
My story in the church began when I was 14 years old; a child. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has built its foundation on the vision of a 14 year old boy who prayed in the woods. He overcame great adversity both in the grove and defending his testimony until the day he died. Children carry greater strength than most people give them credit for. The goal of the new policy is to protect them so, “they’re not placed in a position where there will be difficulties, challenges, conflicts that can injure their development in very tender years.” I don’t know of any teenager in or out of the church that isn’t faced with incredible challenges in these latter days that could injure their development. It’s a dark world right now and children today are faced with hardships that are beyond what other generations ever had to deal with. Why would a church exclude a group of kids that so desperately need a place of fellowship in these dark times? If the LDS church is truly God’s kingdom on earth and the only place to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, why would they want to exclude children that so badly need the blessings the church claims only it can offer? If their parents are ok with it, gay, straight, whatever, with a parent’s consent they should be allowed to be baptized. If the same-sex parents aren’t ok with it, then they don’t have to give consent. Why the need to take away their agency to decide?
What I find very interesting about Elder Christofferson’s explanation of this policy is that he never quotes the Lord or talks about how this came as revelation. Referenced in his explanation was a sociology professor and a member of the board of directors of Affirmation, but not scripture or the Lord. The philosophies of men were used to justify it to the world. If the Lord is truly at the head of the church, then do we need to rely on the the opinions of experts? Again, if the Lord is at the head of the church and He leads a child to the gospel, He will provide a way for that child and their family through the difficult times. There may be hard years, but the Lord will provide a way. As Elder Eyring said, “If you are on the right path, it will always be uphill.”
Some may say that the children of same-sex couples are more than welcome to still attend church activities and be apart of the LDS community. Isn’t the point of not allowing these children to be baptized to protect them and their family? If they are still welcome to attend church activities won’t that place them in an environment that will provide opportunities to learn things that will confuse them and cause conflict in their homes? The only way to truly protect them then is to have them not come at all. The church’s new policy labels same-sex marriage partners as apostates and forbids the ordinance of baptism to their children. What a sad thing that is.
If you have ever read the scriptures, then you must be familiar with the fact that prophets have been known to make mistakes. It’s written throughout history. Joseph Smith made mistakes, he admitted to them. Old Testament prophets did things that needed to be corrected, which is also true of Book of Mormon prophets. There are examples in the New Testament of Jesus Christ correcting his apostles. In today’s church, it has become all or nothing. Either you believe the church is run by Jesus Christ and therefore every single thing that is said by one of our church leaders is of God, or you don’t. If you don’t, you become labeled as someone who doesn’t support your church leaders. I believe that our church leaders can make mistakes. Big ones. Not giving blacks the priesthood was a huge mistake. You can still be an active member of the church with an understanding that our church leaders are human beings. They are men. They are not perfect and they will make mistakes. Instead of blindly following them, we should be praying and pondering all things, then letting the Spirit testify to us if it is true. Follow Jesus Christ and let Him lead you.
To all the children who this directly affects, I’m so very sorry. I’m brokenhearted for you. I mourn with you and your families. Please know our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ would never reject you. They love you and they want you to experience the fullness of His love. I love my mom and all my friends and family who are or were in a same-sex relationship. They are some of the most amazing people I know. They are kind and loving. They are funny and brave. They are charitable and selfless. They are incredible examples of unconditional love. I have seen them first-hand teach and live some of Christ’s most important lessons. It’s been an honor to have them in my life. You also can have both in your life: the gospel and the people you love who are gay. This journey you are on may seem hard at times, but Heavenly Father will never leave your side.