Amy Roberts: Apostles and apostates
Earlier this year the Mormon Church declared what seemed to be a partial truce in the clash against equality and religious freedom. In January, LDS leaders announced support of anti-discrimination laws for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. The support came with a caveat: laws also had to protect the rights of religious groups. But it still felt like a big step forward for supporters of equality. At the time, church leaders even said, "We must all learn to live with others who do not share the same beliefs or values." And they strongly condemned discrimination against gays, noting centuries of "persecution and even violence against homosexuals."
But you know what they say about one step forward and two steps back? Last week, the LDS church didn’t just take two steps back, it turned around and started walking the other way. The olive branch it extended just 11 months ago is now being used to whip gay people in the face.
I’m sure you’ve heard the news by now — last week church officials announced a policy switch. Mormons in same-sex marriages are considered apostates and can be kicked out of the church, and if that’s not intolerant enough, children of same-sex couples will not be able to join the church until they turn 18. They also have to move out of their parents’ house, disavow all same-sex relationships and receive approval from the church’s top leadership before they can be members.
To that I would like to say, "Dear LDS Church: It’s not a compliment when the Westboro Baptist Church thinks you’re on the right track."
And I’m pretty sure when Jesus said He wanted us to love others as He loved us, and do unto others as we’d have done to us, he didn’t stutter. It didn’t come with an asterisk or a footnote that said, "unless they’re gay, then you can be a self-righteous jerk."
Regardless of how you feel about homosexuality, a policy like this can have dangerous and life-threatening consequences. Suicide rates among LGBT Mormons are exceptionally high, with some even calling it an epidemic. And Utah has one of the highest rates of teen suicide in the country, with many people acknowledging this is likely because gay teens are trying to reconcile their sexual orientation with their Mormon upbringing, and don’t see how they can ever be accepted in the church they grew up in. They are also often bullied. Presumably by kids who feel empowered by policies like this.
So instead of confronting this issue and finding a way to help people accept who they are and still practice a religion they believe in, the church decided to make it worse by forcing people to choose between who they are and the God they believe in.
What kind of message does it send when the church will baptize children whose parents have murdered or raped someone, but not a child who was raised by same-sex parents?
The church recently put out a video to clarify its policy, and in it, Mormon apostle D. Todd Christofferson said there is "a parallel" in the way church leaders view polygamy and same-sex marriage.
Stuart Reid, a former public relations employee of the LDS Church and a former Utah lawmaker (shock level = 0), said the church is treating this "exactly like they are treating polygamist marriages and the children from polygamist marriages."
But here’s the problem with that logic. Polygamy is illegal. Same-sex marriage is not.
Christofferson tried to downplay the policy of boycotting kids of gay parents by saying, "nothing is lost to them in the end" if these children join the faith when they turn 18.
Seriously? Nothing is lost to them? What about the part where the church makes them leave their parents home and disavow the two people who have raised them and loved them? I would argue that something would certainly be lost to me if I had to tell my parents I rejected their lifestyle.
So much for the LDS "Article of Faith" that reads, "We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression."
If that’s what they believe, how can they justify punishing children for their parents’ "sin."
Personally, I do not believe your sexuality is a choice. But I know for a fact religion is.
Amy Roberts is a longtime Park City resident, freelance writer and the proud owner of two ill-behaved rescue dogs, Boston and Stanley.
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Did you enjoy the Historic Home Tour last weekend? Park City Museum Executive Director Sandra Morrison says there are a number of people and organizations in the community to thank.