The LDS Exclusion Policy, One Year Later

One year ago today, a policy change from the LDS church handbook was leaked onto the internet. This policy is referred to as “the exclusion policy” by many. Before the policy change, I really believed the church was taking strides in including its LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters; I had seen progress before.
I was a BYU student from 2005 to 2008. Pre-2007, the honor code read as follows: “Advocacy of a homosexual lifestyle (whether implied or explicit) or any behaviors that indicate homosexual conduct, including those not sexual in nature, are inappropriate and violate the Honor Code.” This meant that if you were a gay BYU student, you couldn't even admit it out loud without fear of being kicked out of school. There were multiple instances where friends of mine were looked at by the Honor Code Office, and friends of friends would be called in to find out whether or not the individual was gay. When called in, we would deny that our friend was gay to help save their academic standing. It was a big, gay witch hunt.
In 2007, the Honor Code was updated to read: "Brigham Young University will respond to homosexual behavior rather than to feelings or orientation and welcomes as full members of the university community all whose behavior meets university standards … One's stated sexual orientation is not an Honor Code issue.” For a moment, it felt as if my friends and I could breathe. I started slowly coming out to more friends at school. I told my roommates my last year of school, and they were nothing but kind and accepting. Then Prop 8 happened.
Just when it was getting easier to be a gay BYU student, letters to the editor were printed in the Daily Universe comparing gay individuals to rapists and murders. Tables encouraging California students to vote for Prop 8 were all over campus. I heard a number of times people, guys especially, say things to the effect that if they had a gay roommate they would “beat his face in” and forcefully claim that they had no gay friends. I wanted to shake them and say, “you probably do have gay friends! But of course they haven't come out to you knowing your position on it."
Growing up and attending church every Sunday, I was used to being told the same thing before every election: “Latter-day Saints as citizens are to seek out and then uphold leaders who will act with integrity and are wise, good, and honest. Principles compatible with the gospel may be found in various political parties...The Church affirms its neutrality regarding political parties, platforms, and candidates.” How was telling people to vote for Prop 8 and funneling money into the campaign inline with what I'd been told my entire life?
I remember people celebrating when Prop 8 passed, exclaiming that marriage had won. I was heartbroken. I was coming to realize more and more that the LDS church would never want someone like me. Some friends and I went to the protest and marched around Temple Square. There were signs that read “pulpit politics” and “we didn't vote on your marriage." It was a powerful experience to be around other gay mormons and straight allies.
Once graduated from BYU, I moved home and my church attendance started declining. I came out to more and more people and felt like I was really coming into my own.
In 2012, the church launched the initial Mormons and Gays website. I saw that as progress. It asked for members to have love and compassion for their LGBT sons and daughters. I didn't love everything about the site, but I saw it as a step in the right direction.
Between the time when the Mormons and Gays site launched and the exclusion policy was released, I finally came out to my family. While they weren't necessarily thrilled by the news, they weren't shocked either. I was happy with myself. I was fine with where the church was. I'd seen progress, and while I thought it was behind the times, I believed that eventually the church would not merely tolerate its LGBT members, but embrace us. Then came the exclusion policy.
It's ironic the “exclusion policy” came nearly 7 years to the day after the church funded Prop 8 passed. Reading that policy was like a slap in the face. Seeing “homosexual relations” listed among “serious transgressions” including rape and murder infuriated me! Suddenly I was at BYU again, hearing that same homophobic rhetoric.
I'm saddened that once the policy came out, the suicide rate among LGBT mormons sky rocketed. But it's unfortunate that it doesn't surprise me. I get it. I've been there. I've thought about it, a lot. I remember being 15 and really coming to understand that I was different than the other girls in my stake. I started coming up with excuses to stop doing baptisms for the dead after I heard folklore that a temple worker could tell who was unworthy to be there and would share your sins with everyone else, even though I hadn't done anything wrong. Had the policy come out when I was a teenager, it's very likely that I wouldn't be here now.
I'm still flabbergasted when friends of mine don't understand why I'm hurt and outraged by the policy. They don't see it as hurtful that a baby with gay parents can't receive a name and a blessing in the church. They don't think it's unreasonable for a child with gay parents to have to wait until they're 18 to be baptized. They don't see that waiting until they're 18 isn't the issue. A friend of mine explained it like so: “It is not simply a delay of baptism. The child can only get baptized if they denounce the same-sex marriage of their parents and no longer live with them...I guarantee you that those children love their parents even if they are gay married. Having to choose between denouncing their parents and joining the church is a violation of agency and an unjust imposition to a child who was nurtured, loved and supported by such parents who still love and cherish them. Imagine if the church required you to denounce the union of your own parents as a prerequisite to joining. Your love for your parents is no more valid or real than that of a child of gay parents.”
A few days ago, the church updated the Mormons and Gays site, changing it to “Mormon and Gay." It's like they were trying to put a band-aid on the gaping wound that is the exclusion policy. The inclusive name may be the only positive from the revamp of the site. Sure, it's full of videos showing supporting families with gay members which is great, but the gay members shown are those who have chosen to live a celibate life to remain in the church: never to fall in love and get married to a same sex partner. There's a lot of feel-good effort on the site, but not a lot of action.
Mitch Mayne explained it better than I could in a Huffington Post piece: (…/new-mormon-website-says-i_b…)
“The opening video 'God Loveth His Children' features Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy. Elder Clayton reminds Mormons of the second great commandment: Love thy neighbor as thyself. This, he says, is at the very heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
But as Mormons, we don’t really love LGBT people as ourselves. We love them as something less than us. Every article, video, and section of the website is underpinned with a single notion: LGBT people are, at their core, broken, afflicted, and a little bit less than whole.
That’s not love — certainly not the kind of love that’s at the core of our Savior’s Gospel. It’s a misshapen disdain for LGBT people based in ignorance, fear, bigotry, and elitism. That’s offensive at its best, and at its worst it can be deadly to the vulnerable among us. You simply cannot teach someone that they are broken and expect them to have a healthy, happy life.”
While I haven't been an active member in a while now, I still ache with this policy. I gave so much to the church, a church that I loved, only to be labeled an apostate. Do I still have hope that the church will change? Some. But I think the reality of that happening is slim to none.


Me said…
It's okay if they don't change. Their hard-line BS will just drive LGBTQ+ and allies away from the church, away from the mindset, and away from cultification. I hate the policy and the leaders who decided on it, but all in all, I'm relieved that it's helped to free so many minds from the tyranny of the church. <3 Jess

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