But what about the children?

How would you respond to a mother in this scenario: A woman marries a man in the temple, time passes, they have children, raising them in the church. One day the husband tells her he is gay, that he has always known it but tried to do the right thing and married a woman in the temple. He cannot go on in the marriage and they divorce. The couple share custody of their children who they continue to raise in the church. After time the ex husband finds a partner and they live together. Children still go to church every Sunday, they have family home evening every week, pray every morning and night, sing primary songs together on car trips and attend baptisms of all their friends, anxiously waiting for their special day to be baptized. Then this policy is made public. How do you respond to this mother and how does she explain to her children (at next Saturday’s baptism service of their good friend) that they can’t be baptized? How do the children explain to their friends why they aren’t going to be baptized?

This is one of many responses to my recent blogpost about the change in church policy. As I attempted to respond to her I realized that my response needed to be more than what I wanted to put in a comment. So here is a bit more about this policy change. I realize that to those who are asking questions like this to try to poke holes and condemn the church for the policy change will still have plenty to say. There is nothing that could be said that would help that. However, for those who ask genuinely out of concern for those difficult cases such as the one above I hope what I have to say can help.

First we have to look at the root of this problem. The problem is not that a child can’t be baptized until 18. the problem is that these children can’t and others can. And I can see why this would be a concern.

My family doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Growing up there was no Santa, no tree, no presents etc. Most of the time I didn’t really notice or care. When I was about 9 years old I started taking piano lessons and every year around christmas time we would go to group lessons and recitals and people would ask us what we got for Christmas. I was embarrassed to say nothing so my siblings and I would look at the catalogs find some things that we wanted and tell everyone thats what we got. This was just one of MANY ways that I knew I was different from all the other children around me. Honestly, it didn’t hurt me. I got a little envious sometimes and occasionally I felt embarrassed but over all it wasn’t something I considered a hardship.

It could have been different though. If I had a parent or two, or grandparents who felt like this was a major issues and a hardship for me I imagine I might have felt the same way.

Mother and Daughter Talking

Mother and Daughter Talking

I stand by my original position that there are very good reasons for this policy change. How ever there are many that will face some challenges because of it. So to literally answer this woman’s questions: If I found myself in that situation I would tell my children that their situation is unique and that the Lord has asked them to wait a little extra time to be baptized and then we would continue to go to church, attend primary, young men, young women, etc. the same as before. And when times are hard and they feel the difference, because they will; when their friends are getting baptized, receiving the priesthood, passing the sacrament etc. I would tell them stories of others who have faced difficult times in a similar way. I would tell them about the faithful black saints who attended church for years, some of them peeking in a window when they weren’t even allowed inside. They didn’t know when this would change but still they held on faithfully until it did. I would use it as a chance to teach a very important lesson that todays society in general needs to know. That life isn’t fair, was never meant to be “fair” and that we never had a promise that it would be. I would also teach them that those that face difficult situations with grace and dignity are the ones who we look up to and respect. When they ask “but why me?” which they probably will. I will tell them that the Lord had confidence that they could handle it. Just like he knew that Anne Frank could handle her challenges, that the stripling warriors could handle losing their fathers, that Joseph and Emma could handle losing so many of their children. Many people faced challenges that others around them did not and could have asked why me. And maybe they even did, but the point is you use faith and courage and face those challenges and you come out on top.

If they were old enough to understand, I might explain how important it is that the church keeps a clear line on where it stands on certain issues and that this policy really changes very little for them in terms of how they can participate in church, and how they will be perceived. And if that is the price that they are asked to pay to draw a clear line. Its not such a big one.

I’ve been asked to make similar sacrifices for similar reasons and I can tell you its not so hard. Our attitude is everything! We can make or break this experience for our children. Lets use it as an opportunity for them to show what they are made of!

Discrimination Against Children From Same Sex Marriages? What Is The Church Thinking?

imagesActually I don’t like to say what someone else was thinking since clearly I couldn’t possibly know. And since I haven’t personally spoken with the twelve or the first presidency about this I honestly couldn’t say. But I can tell you that this ISN”T uncharacteristic of the church. This isn’t NEW or even DIFFERENT from what people should expect. (all things that I have seen a lot on Facebook lately) Let me tell you why. Most people may not be aware but the EXACT same limitations have been in place regarding children from polygamist families for many years. Now having come through that process myself I can say that these guidelines are in place for a good reason.

To begin with, let’s make a few assumptions. Lets assume that the teachings of the church are true and as part of that lets assume that same-sex marriage is contrary to God’s laws. ( I guarantee you this was part of the thinking for the 15 men who made this decision) Let’s also assume that another teaching of the church that the spirit can not reside in the presence of sin is also true.

Now lets imagine that these guidelines were not in place. Imagine that you are a say fifteen year old living in a same-sex family. The missionaries come and teach you that your family is living in sin. The very foundation of your home is an abomination to God. As a fifteen year old that’s a lot to handle. So imagine that you actually believe the missionaries and decide that you want to be baptised. That puts a strain in your family that no fifteen year old should ever have to deal with. Your church, your religious beliefs are saying one thing, your family another and you are caught in the middle without the option of leaving home. Now I realize that  conversion to the LDS church or really any church for that matter would put many people in the same position. The key here though is that this is a pretty MAJOR part of your life. And you shouldn’t be put in that kind of position until you are truly old enough to deal with the consequences. I think 18 is the earliest something like this could be handled. Legally its the earliest that you could make the choice to live a different lifestyle.

Imagine you have just been given the gift of the Holy Ghost but your ability to enjoy that gift is hampered by the fact that you are constantly surrounded day and night by “sin” Imagine your religion tells you to honor and obey your parents and in the same breath tells you your parents are living in sin.

On the other hand imagine you are a member of a same-sex couple. Your child (who is not yet even 18) is being approached by missionaries who are teaching them that you are living in sin, that your lifestyle is offensive to God. I can tell you that I would FREAK OUT on those missionaries. I may even file a law suit. Either way they have NO right coming into my home and teaching MY children those kinds of things.

Looking at it from that perspective I would say that the LDS church’s position on this issue. Is not only typical of the church, it is brilliant, it is kind, and it is absolutely the right decision. If a person from such a family wants to join the church once they are legally an adult, ready to live on their own and take on the consequences of their actions then the church can give them a green light. Before then its NO for a very good set of reasons. I also love that the church gives any person who was a child in these or similar circumstances a chance to meet with a member of the 12 before baptism. They need a little something extra, they need the personal touch of that meeting, they need a chance to have their questions answered and their hearts touched by the men we sustain as prophets, seers and revelators. I love that the church offers this kind, loving, supportive set of guidelines. And I am glad they were in place for me.