Saturday, November 28, 2015

A Young Gay Man Speaks Out

Bloggers note: Three weeks after the controversial policy change, I'm posting the thoughts of my friend Kade Kimber. Even though the LDS church clarified some things about their policy change, they left some of the most hurtful aspects in. I won't try to defend an indefensible policy. My heart broke along with many, many of my friends' hearts who been hoping for a more inclusive church.

The following is Kade's response. 

As with many of you who are LDS or have close ties to the LDS community, these past few days have been surprising, confusing, and perhaps disappointing after it was revealed that Church policy now excludes the children of same-sex couples from participating in religious ordinances (such as naming blessings for infants and baptisms for children who are eight years old) until they are adults, leave their home, and disavow the practice of their same-sex parents' relationship. Additionally, those in same-sex marriages (or, as I like to call it, "marriage") are also now considered to be apostates. If this is the first you're hearing of this: A) you don't have many LDS friends in your news feed, and 2) you can imagine it is a lot to digest.
For those unfamiliar with the LDS Church, there is a difference between doctrine and policy. Policies are put into place to reenforce doctrine. In this case, the doctrine is that same-sex relationships are a sin; this specific policy relates back to that. While doctrine doesn't really change, as the gospel is the gospel, policies can change--and the Church has a very robust history of altering policies over time. So, it's certainly not the first time a new policy has been implemented. Some context was added when a representative of the Church conducted an interview in which he tried to explain that this policy was designed to help protect children from being taught religious beliefs that are a direct contradiction to their home life.
So, with that as background, this is what I know to be true:
1) God loves all of us. Even us gays. And any children we may have. (By "we", I mean the gay community--not me and Artis specifically. Sorry, Mom. You'll just have to be content with the two adorable, brilliant grandsons you already have...)
2) The Atonement transcends any Church policy, regardless of if it's ill-conceived or not. It all works out in the end. The interim may suck, but big-picture it's merely a blip in time.
3) This policy's existence does not make every Church member a gay-hating bigot, even if they agree with the policy as a matter of unquestioning faith and/or as a religious principle. Hurtful blanket statements about a very diverse group of people--many of whom truly love their brothers & sisters, regardless of sexuality differences--doesn't help bring peace to anyone or a troubling situation.
4) Those who don't agree with the policy are not anti-LDS, faith-lacking individuals, nor are they apostates for questioning the policy. (I find commentary and articles that state otherwise to be a bit ironic, given the fact that the Church was founded because Joseph Smith questioned what he was hearing around him. Additionally, as a general practice, anyone in or out of the Church is encouraged to question what they're hearing in order to gain their own personal testimonies. So, I'm much more troubled by those that are against others questioning this than I am by those who are most vocal about struggling with this policy.) God's a big boy. He can handle any questions or anger thrown His way. There's no need to tear down those who are already hurting in some sort of attempt to defend God or your religious beliefs. If you're solid in your beliefs, you shouldn't feel threatened by others seeking to form their own.
5) This hurts a lot of people--on both sides of the fence. You may not be one of those people. You may not even have many ties to people who are hurt. But, please don't for a second think that this doesn't hurt others. So, compassion and an extra measure of love can go a long way--and that's true in both directions.
As far as where I'm at with it... Very few of you reading this will understand what it's like to be gay and Mormon, nor do I expect you to. I don't talk about it much, but I'll just tell you it's far from easy & I wouldn't wish it upon anyone. (For those outside of the Mormon faith, it's hard to explain just how much cultural impact and personal identity is associated with one's membership in the Church. Suffice it to say, it extends far beyond religious beliefs.) I thought I'd made about as much peace with it as anyone could do and that I'd found a space in which I could comfortably exist. That peace was shattered this past week & quite frankly, I'm struggling mightily to make sense of it. I can't tell you how many times I've had to remind myself these past few days of the mantra to keep calm and carry on, as it is weighing so heavily on my mind & heart.
For me personally, this policy makes it that much harder to want to be associated with the LDS Church. From where I sit, this does not feel right, it does not feel like something Jesus would do, it does not align to how I interpret scripture (such as Matthew 19:14--which has long been a personal favorite of mine), the defense of its existence feels like a feeble attempt at justification, it certainly doesn't feel like it comes from a place of love, it feels political and not remotely inspired, it does not feel like it's protecting anyone but the Church, it feels exclusionary and like a targeted attack, and it undoes any goodwill I feel the Church was beginning to make with the gay community. (Just this past week, I was telling a friend that I was encouraged at how much progress the Church was making in regards to relations with the gay community. I take back every single one of those words.)
I fully recognize that I'm in an emotional place right now and that the hurt side of me is talking. I don't know how much my opinion will change once more time passes (it took me two days to calm down enough to even address this without completely losing it), but in the current space I'm in, I'm struggling. And I know I'm not alone. So, I would ask that you please show some compassion & regard for others' feelings when you're posting, reposting, or sharing social media content related to why this policy is such a wonderful blessing and inspired revelation. For some of us, the world isn't so black and white & we have to work extra hard to make sense of all the gray...