This morning I am sitting here at my kitchen table in a melancholy mood. It’s an anniversary, but not one to be celebrated in the least.
My youngest who is 12 is next to me watching Lego Batman clips, my oldest is in the study and my 16 year old is still, of course, sleeping. My thoughts also go to my 20 year old son serving his mission in England as well as my daughter who is a Junior at BYU. Surrounded by my children, I will write first draft, raw, unedited thoughts on this anniversary of the exclusion policy.
One year ago today I was betrayed by my church, no… more specifically my children were betrayed by church policy.
On Thursday, November 5th, 2015 I saw a story come across my Facebook news feed. Seeing that it was a handbook change I read it with interest. Until the day I die I will remember the enveloping darkness as my curiosity turned to a crushing disbelief. This handbook change was so unbelievable I initially dismissed it as an obviously sensationalized story. It wasn’t scriptural. It wasn’t kind. It wasn’t doctrinal. I had an instant testimony that it wasn’t true.
My church would never do this to children… to my children. This was not the church I knew and had a testimony of.
But as the day wore on and the story was confirmed, the words sunk into my soul like a millstone. The policy, initially presented, targeted ALL children of a parent married to someone of the same gender.
There were no qualifiers or exceptions. It very plainly included all children. It was a cowardly move in the very adult conflict of this new civil rights movement for the church to reach for my children and involve them, excluding them. It was a legalistic defensive chess move using my children as pawns to force a choice between marrying again thereby damning my children’s progress in the church or using my absolute love of my children to control my behavior to stop me finding a partner and marry according to my orientation.
I sat on my couch that Thursday evening feeling my family was being attacked. My baptized, fully believing and faithful sons were preparing to be ordained in the priesthood, one a deacon and the other a priest…both wanting to serve missions. My youngest had seven years before he was 18. Seven years is a long time. If I were to marry again in that time span, instead of being a joyous ceremony, the event would trigger, through no fault of his own, immediate damnation in his progress.
The policy did trigger me to action, but instead of the love for my children causing me to bow to the policy, it awakened a love so deep that it erased all fear. It awakened a love that would not be silenced. My children needed a voice. They needed to be heard. The policy awoke the strength and courage to stand and protect my children from harm.
Love is extremely powerful and cannot be used as a weapon of control.
Suddenly the impact on my private dental practice in the heart of Mormon Mesa if I were to speak out publicly against the policy didn’t matter any longer. The whispers in my Stake concerning my divorce erupting into a wildfire of gossip didn’t matter any longer. The fear of church discipline for speaking out against the policy didn’t matter any longer. The only thing that mattered was my children needed an advocate and I was going to speak as loudly as I could so that it would reach Salt Lake.
Then the next Friday after a whirlwind week of many voices expressing concern and alarm, the First Presidency issued a clarification that ALL children only meant SOME children. If the child has already been baptized and is actively participating in the Church, the policy does not require that his or her membership activities or priesthood privileges be curtailed or that further ordinances be withheld.
A bittersweet clarification, but suddenly as quickly as my children were affected, they were not.
Despite unknown personal and professional risk, I stood as a voice for my children. More importantly my children saw me stand for them.
I do not know if my words helped soften the policy. I will never know if my words reached Salt Lake as intended. But they reached my Stake President.
November 18: Hi Nathan, I don’t know if this is still your cell phone or not but just wanted to reach out. I would love to have a chance to visit with you. I can come to you if you would like. I hope we can visit soon.
Pit in stomach.
When he came to my home we spoke at length about the November events, each calibrating the other on our policy position. It was obvious that my children would no longer be affected by section 16.13 of Handbook One, but he was crystal clear about one point.
“If you ever marry a man, I will excommunicate you.”
I understood that the exclusion policy would brand me an apostate if I were to marry again, triggering a mandatory disciplinary council. But the outcome of the council is not spelled out in the handbook, only that a disciplinary council must be held.
However, here in my living room the Stake President already pronounced the verdict.
It was suddenly clear to me that the danger to my children from the exclusion policy was not gone, only masked and hidden in rules of excommunication.
The church was prepared to unseal my children from me. Like a chess master, who’s strategic moves are only felt later in the game, the church threatened check mate.
It was still using my love of my children as a controlling measure. Only this time, instead of an immediate earthly damnation of my children’s progress, the effects were much more violent on an eternal scale. It was pitting the love of my children against the love of a spouse. The church was prepared to remove my children from me for eternity… all the while never taking any responsibility for such a spiritually violent act if I were to legally marry. The church had checkmated my next move. If YOU choose to remarry, then YOU are choosing to be excommunicated. Because YOU are making that choice, YOU will be unsealing your children from yourself. You chose a spouse over your children, You did this to yourself. You made the choice. You. You. You.
Stay where you are and you will be safe. Your children will be safe. However, any move on your part and we will remove your king from the board.
The inequality of this position is glaring. President Nelson could not bear the loneliness of his few remaining years on earth after his first wife died. No one lectured him that he needed to be single and alone until he died. He never had to worry once that dating would be dangerous, because if he developed feelings he would not be faced between choosing a companion or his children. Yet here we are one year later and President Nelson, enjoying a remarriage and the knowledge that his children are still his for eternity, is casting the exclusion policy as a revelation from God.
One year after the exclusion policy leaked we have a new church produced website out showing that the only way to be Mormon and gay is to be celibate or in a mixed orientation marriage. Otherwise you are out.
The way to solve inequality is NOT to remove the unprivileged. The way to solve inequality is to offer the same privileges to all.
After the policy dust settled a year ago, I started asking myself a brand new question when I would date. Never important questions such as “Can I be fully authentic with him?” “Will he be good with my kids?” “How is our connection?” “Do I love him?”
No, the question became “Are you worth getting excommunicated for?”
This is an unfair and insurmountable burden to place on another person.
However, this question is now on the lips of every LGB member of the church as they are forced to choose to be an acceptable mormonandgay.lds.org gay or date and marry according to their orientation.
One year later, sitting here at my kitchen table, surrounded by my children, I realize that I must re-frame that onerous question. No longer do I need to look at a guy and ask if he is worth getting excommunicated for.
Instead, it’s time to feel of my Savior’s love. It’s time to remember that “In the end, love overcomes all.” In my Eden can I overhear the conversation that it is not good for man be alone? I am a son of Heavenly Parents who love me and they love my children. I am of infinite worth.
It is time to stop asking that question of others.
It is time to ask that question of ME:
“Are YOU worth getting excommunicated for?”