Some Lament, Others Resign: Latter-day Saints Cope With the LDS Church Making Its Controversial Gay Policy a Point of Proselytizing
Alison Chen Yee grew up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She is also openly lesbian. After praying and studying LDS scripture at great length, Yee came to a decision.
“I came to the determination that the policies in place are flat-out wrong,” the Salt Lake City resident told The Seer Stone. “There is no reason for (them) besides to protect (the church’s) own hide. The effects are detrimental and I have witnessed first-hand families being ripped apart. I could go on and on.”
Yee, a staff member at Salt Lake Community College, decided Dec. 1 to withdraw her membership. One of the church’s policies regards sexuality like Yee’s — it forbids the children of gay parents from being baptized without unique allowance, and called gay couples “apostates.” Gay Latter-day Saints have since committed suicide. (The church put the policy a handbook for leaders without notice.)
Now, the church is making that policy part of its proselytizing efforts, perhaps signaling how intent it is on the policy in June by putting it in “Preach My Gospel,” its missionary manual.
Under a section titled “Do I need permission to baptize a minor child, PMG says that “for additional information regarding children of parents in same-sex relationships, see First Presidency letter, Nov. 13, 2015.”
That letter, which followed a leak of the policy eight days earlier, reflected the policy.
Just five months earlier, the Supreme Court, in Obergefell v. Hodges, ruled gay marriage legal across the United States.
Additionally, church prophet Russell Nelson made national headlines when he said in Jan. 2016 as an apostle that the policy was revelation from God.
An excerpt from that talk was put into the church’s seminary curriculum two years ago and again in September, though on each occasion, the policy was pulled, Wheat & Tares blogger Mary Ann Clements said. It was removed the second time after a “charge” led by a Michael Benjamin, said David Doyle, a Tampa, Fla. man who is gay but a practicing Latter-day Saint.
Each of the nearly 70,000 missionaries, nearly all of whom primarily proselytize, has a copy of PMG they are supposed to reference daily.
Doyle has “hate” for the “POX,” or “policy of exclusion,” and how it is “attempting to spread,” he said.
“But actually, that may be a good place for it, for those who are learning about this church to have an idea of where it stands on LGBT topics,” he said of the policy being in PMG.
Doyle doesn’t understand why the church didn’t explain the policy as a revelation when it was announced. Now, the church is making “an attempt to double down, to show they’re really serious and want this to stick, to make it more difficult for future leaders to make changes,” he said.
Noting the timing of the policy with the Supreme Court decision, Doyle said that there appeared to be “a space opening up inside the church” for gay LDS, but the policy “slammed the door on it.”
The church is trying to “amputate” such members, Doyle said.
“I hoped that it would be something that leaders would see is an error and walk it back at this point, but they seem to be wanting it to be more difficult for it to happen,” he said. “It doesn’t feel like a policy of love.”
“I believe that God is the author of diversity and I can’t believe heavenly parents would create LGBT children and keep them from acting on these inborn traits,” Doyle told The Seer Stone. “That seems like something bullies would do. If God is the God of love, then that doesn’t make sense to me.”
“The way church leaders would describe it,” Doyle said, is that children would go to church and learn one thing about homosexuality, only to go home and get the opposite. The children would love and respect their parents, but have a disconnect given the LDS doctrine they get, Doyle said.
The church could try to figure out what happens to LGBT people in God’s plan. (“Heaven is for heterosexual couples,” Doyle pointed out, in a church that can change due to its belief in revelation.)
Instead, the church’s message is that LGBT folks will be “wiped out of existence,” Doyle said.
Nonetheless, Doyle said “policies can change,” as he still believes the church could change its policy despite what the Salt Lake radio station KUER described as the church “doubling down” on the policy.
“But it’s really disheartening to see this,” Doyle said.
Doyle does not act on his homosexual attractions and has held “some higher-profile positions,” but is out to his fellow Latter-day Saints, he said.
“So much of the people I know in church know this about me and I disagree with my church on LGBT topics,” Doyle said. “I’ve had to develop some spiritual independence and reject the toxic messages. Because if there is a God, God made me this way.”
And Doyle believes he is “meant to have happiness and joy in my life,” saying he is “meant to be a bridge-builder.”
“It’s a tough way to go,” Doyle said.
“Joy and happiness also come with relationships,” he said. “While I’m here, I try to make it a safer and loving choice, but I have to make choices that others do not have to.”
It’s not only sex that Doyle abandons because of his beliefs in the church, he said.
“It’s companionship,” said Doyle, “and everything that goes with the relationships.”
The church’s media-relations arm did not return a callback for comment after returning an initial request.
Carson Tueller, the president of the gay Latter-day Saint organization Affirmation, Utah Commission on LGBTQ Suicide Prevention Project Lead and gay LDS Kendall Wilcox, Out In Zion Podcast contributor Erika E.p. Munson, and bisexual LDS Blaire Ostler did not return requests for comment. Christian Harrison is a gay LDS who organized a vigil for the policy. He nor Restore Our Humanity Founder and Director Mark Lawrence, who sparked the legalization of gay marriage in Utah, did not return callbacks for comment after returning initial requests.
Imagine Dragons leading singer Dan Reynolds has emerged as the leading voice against the suicides and the church’s regard of gay folks. The band’s manager directed The Seer Stone to Reynolds’ publicist, who did not return a request for comment.
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