Church leaders are going to great lengths to defend what they are labeling as religious freedom. In our church history, members of the church (including my own pioneer ancestors) suffered great persecution and were denied their right to practice their religion according to our conscience. It only seems natural that church leaders would continue to be engaged in efforts to defend this God-given right. However, there is much more to this than meets the eye.
In their current efforts to defend religious liberty, church leaders are running the church much more like a for-profit corporation rather than a church. The restored church should follow the mandate of the Savior and focus on ministering to its members and bringing them to Christ rather than spending so much time and energy on “protecting the good name of the church” and protecting its assets. The church faces significant litigation for its discriminatory practices against LGBT members, which could cost the church a lot of money, especially if its non-profit status is revoked as a result.
I’m fully aware of the persecution my pioneer ancestors faced and how they were deprived of their right to freedom of religion. However, when church leaders today talk about religious freedom, it is a completely different thing. They are not seeking freedom to practice our religion. They are seeking freedom from the political and economic consequences that come when you institutionally oppress and discriminate against 10% of the membership of the church simply because they are LGBT.
I totally understand the church’s legal strategy to hide behind freedom of religion as a way to protect church assets, but we as members of the church should recognize it for what it is. It’s not some high road morals or principles of religious freedom that our ancestors fought for that is driving this effort. The motivation is to protect the assets of the church and its non-profit status, because the church refuses to change its discriminatory and oppressive practices against LGBT members of the church. All the church has to do is stop oppressing LGBT members, and there will be no danger of losing non-profit status or of costly litigation.
I believe in the divinity of the restored church and that Christ is truly at the helm. But I also believe God allows flawed mortals to operate the church and gives them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. I have no doubt that the church will eventually change and do what is right, and discontinue its discrimination of LGBT members. The Official Declarations 1 and 2 in the Doctrine and Covenants are evidence that the church does and will continue to make difficult policy changes when they follow the revelations of God.
I am looking forward to Official Declaration 3 that will declare to the world God’s revelation that all worthy men and women are entitled to all the blessings of church membership, including marrying someone they love, ending decades of faith-destroying church discipline and exclusion for LGBT members. For many LGBT members, OD3 will end decades of living under the oppression of potential church discipline and ostracization if they come out and try to live with integrity with their sexual orientation or gender identity. OD3 will save the lives of thousands of young people who are at high risk for committing suicide. An estimated 10% of all of church membership worldwide will feel like they finally belong fully to the restored church. The fruits of OD3 will be sweet, and “by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matthew 7:20)