The recent policy change in the church surrounding children of gay parents has made me think a lot this weekend.
This season of my life has been a season of a lot of changes. Four-and-a-half years ago I wouldn’t have batted an eye at this announcement, but right now it has been a hard thing to read. I’ve had a couple of nights to sleep on it. I guess here’s how I feel: this rule makes it harder for individuals and families to make the choices that are right for them, not easier. I hope the church realizes that and changes it’s policy.
This policy really doesn’t effect me personally much. But it does make me feel like more of an outsider. If children of gay parents have to disavow the practice of gay marriage and cohabiting before being allowed to be baptized…where does that leave the other members of the church who are fine with the idea of gay marriage? Are we all free to support gay marriage and still participate fully in the church? Is it enough to just say, “I’m not going to marry someone of the same sex, but I understand everyone needs the ability to make the choices that are best for them, and I think gay people who get married are making a fine choice for themselves”? Life is too complex for these sort of hard-line rules.
This is the excerpt from the interview with Elder Chistofferson regarding the new policy change:
Michael Otterson: Why are the children of these same-sex partners an issue here?
Elder Christofferson: Well, in answering or responding to your question, let me say I speak not only as an apostle in the Church, but as a husband, as a father and as a grandfather. And like others in those more enduring callings, I have a sense of compassion and sympathy and tender feelings that they do. So this policy originates out of that compassion. It originates from a desire to protect children in their innocence and in their minority years. When, for example, there is the formal blessing and naming of a child in the Church, which happens when a child has parents who are members of the Church, it triggers a lot of things. First, a membership record for them. It triggers the assignment of visiting and home teachers. It triggers an expectation that they will be in Primary and the other Church organizations. And that is likely not going to be an appropriate thing in the home setting, in the family setting where they’re living as children where their parents are a same-sex couple. We don’t want there to be the conflicts that that would engender. 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. And so with the other ordinances on through baptism and so on, there’s time for that if, when a child reaches majority, he or she feels like that’s what they want and they can make an informed and conscious decision about that. Nothing is lost to them in the end if that’s the direction they want to go. In the meantime, they’re not placed in a position where there will be difficulties, challenges, conflicts that can injure their development in very tender years.
Compassion for the child is the reasoning the church is giving for this policy change. That sounds nice, it just doesn’t really make sense.
Is it going to be complicated for a child of a gay couple who would like to be a member of the church? Most likely, yes. Is it also complicated for children of straight couples where one parents actively dislikes the church and the other parent believes fully in the church. Yep. Is it complicated for me, as the wife of someone who actively dislikes the church, and as someone who has many doubts, to still have a strong desire to participate in the church. I certainly find it complicated. So I feel like there is no one right answer. Do I wish my friends and cousins who had part member families had been required to wait until they were 18 to be baptized? No. Membership and baptism in the church was a blessing for most of them. I feel like the same would be true for children of gay parents who were being raised in the church. If the kids are at church, there’s probably a good reason, so why prevent them from enjoying all the blessings associated with the church?
In my situation, Ricardo would rather my kids had nothing to do with the church. On the other hand, I attend regularly and I want our kids involved. He’s now very respectful of my reasons for wanting this. I have a really complicated relationship with the church, to the point where I am completely unsure if I would call the church”true.” This is still an ongoing process for me, as I figure out my spiritual life. But the church teachings about eternal families, temples, and a loving, involved God are rooted at my very core. My spirituality is very Mormon. It is also very meaningful to me. So take a look at my situation. We have a child–Andrew, with two parents, neither of whom is your typical Mormon. There are things going on in our home that are not congruent with church teachings because of this. Yet, Andrew was blessed by my father as a baby, he goes to church every week we are healthy and able, and at eight, I will probably want him to be baptized. It is setting him up for a complicated life to be sure, but do I think it would be better for him to be out of the church or to not have these ordinances done? Well, I must not, because we’re still going to church.
Life is complicated, but I can see thousands of situations where a gay couple with kids could be in this very same position. Maybe one partner in a gay couple has a strong testimony and dedication to a majority of Mormon beliefs, but sexuality was too important a part of their life to live a celibate life. Maybe they made the best choice they could for their situation and got married to a same sex partner they love, and yet they continue to find their spiritual life in the LDS church. I could foresee this couple wanting their kids raised in the church. This sort of thing actually does happen sometimes. I don’t see the point of preventing these kids from full participation in the church.
There are better ways to show compassion. How about primary lessons about baptism that include stories and examples of children who choose to wait or who are asked to wait until they are adults to be baptized, and how that is okay sometimes. How about young men’s and young women’s lessons that talk about reasons it’s okay to choose not to serve a mission. If it’s really about compassion, then the change should help the people we are supposedly showing compassion to, not hurt them or make their lives more difficult.