Karine Jean-Pierre
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Changes Within the Mormon Church Are Too Little, Too Late

Mormon Church

The Mormon Church announced an abrupt about-face on Thursday by reversing a punitive antigay rule now widely dubbed “the exclusion policy.”

Mormon antagonism toward LGBTQ folks has ramped up for decades, and this policy, introduced in 2015, was one example of its harshness. It famously stated that all gay people in relationships were apostates and children of same-sex couples could not be blessed or baptized as Mormon until they turned 18 and disavowed their parents. Current Mormon prophet Russell M. Nelson specifically said this policy was divinely inspired and the “will of the Lord.”

The church’s high-profile attempts to block LGBTQ equality — like when it infamously supported Proposition 8 — have all failed, and with the church now winking at potential changes for queer Mormons, it’s all too little, too late.

Damage is already done.

It’s hard for secular people to understand. “Why do these old Mormon leaders have any power over your life?” they ask incredulously. But it’s difficult to sashay away from a lifetime of homophobic indoctrination. Mormonism doesn’t rinse off so easily, and the negative impact of learned cultural hate can be lifelong.

I have held a shaking and sobbing friend because her family was too sanctimonious to accept her lesbian “lifestyle.” I have witnessed the mental weight a person who has been subjected to conversion therapy carries long after the harmful treatment is over. And I have attended the funerals of queer Mormons who have died by suicide.  

There is nothing more soul-crushing.

To outsiders, something like the exclusion policy can seem harsh but also perhaps harmless due to it just being words on a paper: stagnant, bureaucratic, and devoid of power. But for Mormons, these procedural machinations have robbed us of our self-worth and people we love.

And now it feels like they are callously thrown away by the Mormon Church like the tissue we use to wipe our tears — without truly acknowledging the violence they created.

My dear friend Berta Marquez was a gentle, soft-spoken powerhouse in the community. She spent countless hours ministering to other queer Mormons through the group Affirmation. Berta had a huge and loyal heart, and due to the exclusion policy, one of the major concerns weighing on her was the fear that she and her wife, Kathy, had become apostates by marrying.

Berta took her life last year in part due to the weight of the exclusion policy and other false teachings of the church. Their sudden change of policy now will never undo this. Berta is gone.

Despite our collective pain, it is the resilience of queer Mormons that gives me faith and hope, not change in the church as an organization. My friend Samy Galvez, former president of the unsanctioned queer club (USGA) at Brigham Young University, recently told me, “We, LGBT Mormons, have always known we are not apostates.We value ourselves as fabulous, queer, wonderful, radical, defiant, and challenging.”

“Some of us also have deep faith and identify as children of a God,” he continued. “Regardless of how we vocalize our worth, we know our worth and will continue to shine.”

Queer Mormons are inspiring and resilient, but punitive policies are not just dead letters on the books that can be wiped away like writing on a chalkboard. New policy reversals do not eliminate the church’s position that homosexuality is a sin. The First Presidency reiterated just yesterday that “we still consider [same-sex] marriage to be a serious transgression.”

So the Mormon Church continues to create harm and trauma in this community and beyond.

Queer Mormons and their children deserve more. They deserve a religion that values them as they are instead of one that flip-flops on whether they are “worthy” of God’s love and acceptance. They deserve an unequivocal apology for the long legacy of hatred taught in the community and serious damage done.

Mormon leaders must choose a different path than the one they currently walk on and repent of their sins that have harmed us for too long. To do so, they must make concrete steps toward restitution (see below) for the blood of my LGTBQIA+ siblings that is on their hands. They have broken so many hearts, they must repent with a contrite spirit.

And until we get that, queer Mormons will continue to fight to thrive, in spite of religious bigotry, and we will keep telling the church that this small policy reversal will not suffice.
 

~~~

Restitution for their gay exclusion policy and decades of harmful actions toward the LGTBQIA+ community would include:

• Change their doctrinal stance that gay relationships are sin, and embrace people of all genders and sexual orientations.

• Compensate the families of gay Mormon suicide victims.

• Award honorary college degrees to gay students kicked out of Brigham Young University for acting on “same-sex attraction.”

• Create a fund for mental health services for queer youth, particularly in Utah, where the youth suicide rate is one of the highest in the country.

• End gender discrimination in the Mormon priesthood and allow all women and trans+ people to participate as equals.

• Fully support a complete ban on gay conversion therapy.

• Hold public church events where queer Mormons are openly celebrated for who they are.

If you are a trans or gender-nonconforming person considering suicide, Trans Lifeline can be reached at (877) 565-8860. LGBTQ youth (ages 24 and younger) can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at (866) 488-7386. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 can also be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities.
 

KATE KELLY is a human rights attorney and founder of Ordain Women, a group dedicated to gender justice in the Mormon Church. In 2014 she was convicted of apostasy in a Mormon trial and excommunicated. Follow her on Twitter @Kate_Kelly_Esq.

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