By now it seems virtually certain to me that the Mormon Church will eventually bless same-sex romantic relationships. Not everyone agrees, and that’s ok, but for me the “if” question has passed. The “when” and the “how” questions still loom large, but the “what then” question is the one currently poking at me.When the Church ended its priesthood and temple ban on black congregants, people throughout the Church rejoiced. I’ve seen the seminary video about the guy in Africa who miraculously heard about it on the radio. It was a big deal.
But that didn’t solve the problem. To this day, we are left with ambiguous explanations for how the ban came about and whether it was divine. The Church is officially unable to admit wrongdoing, which leaves the impression that arbitrarily excluding a minority group from certain privileges in the Church may, in fact, be appropriate. Beyond that, I can only imagine the number of black people pushed outside the Church by distorted official teachings over the last century and more, along with their children and their children’s children.
A policy like that ban, or the current ban against same-sex couples, wounds the body of Christ. It hurts real people, and human wounds don’t just go away when the injuring stops. They can continue for generations.
I learned in Primary that sincere regret compels me to do everything within my power to make amends for my wrongdoing. By that measure, merely cancelling an unjust policy feels quite a bit short of full restitution. Yet history suggests that when the same-sex ban is removed, that will likely be it. The news will flood social media, and it will be lauded as a job finally completed, a correction fully made. In reality it will only be the beginning of the work.
The follow-through I’d hope to see, but most likely will not, would include a real admission of error by Church leaders. Explicitly owning the mistake is the only real safeguard against a reversal. Without that guarantee, the Church will never be safe for gay people.
I’d love to see a corrective course of study, in seminary and/or Sunday School, teaching the truth about the diversity of sexuality and the place all people have in the Plan of Salvation. There will be lots of correcting to be done.
I would also hope to see a portion of Church funds set apart to address the various needs that inevitably arise for gay folks who have passed through the church, from mental health resources to legal aid for events like adoption and divorce. Growing up gay in the Church tears individuals and families apart, and it often costs a lot to clean up what is left.
For good measure, I would hope for the Church to set up an endowment to provide scholarships to gay students at Church-owned universities–universities that currently enforce honor codes prohibiting gay couples from holding hands.
I also hope for, but will likely never see, a robust discussion within the Church, perhaps even in the form of an official Priesthood/Relief Society lesson manual (fifth Sunday lessons??), of how the Church errs, learns, and changes over time. It would include a call to the entire Church body to contribute to the ongoing doctrinal growth and development of the Church by identifying concerns wherever they appear and preparing themselves to adapt to changes as they come.
And all that would still be just the beginning of the work.
[Update 9/30: I composed this post before Elders Oaks today reiterated his position on The Family during his General Conference address. Regardless, his talk changed nothing for me and what I wrote here.]