The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came out with a policy change Thursday that states that underage children of same-sex couples will not be allowed membership until reaching "legal age" and they "disavow the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage."
I first heard about this policy change while driving to work today and listening to the news. I'll be completely honest, when I first heard I thought maybe the media had misinterpreted something the Church had said, then I thought maybe I was misinterpreting what I was hearing. When I got to work, I looked it up, and sure enough the internet and media had exploded with news articles about it. So it was true, I hadn't misinterpreted and neither had the media (at least about the actual policy, the media almost always overexaggerattes or misrepresents).
So, still being completely honest, I felt really confused and worried. I even doubted a bit. But I didn't hyperventilate, and I kept calm. Some of the honest questions I had were "why is the Church holding children back for the actions of their parents?" "why can't these children get baptised until 18 and after they have disavowed their 'parents' lifestyle?" "aren't all people welcome in God's Church?". First, I feel it is important to point out that while I was having doubts and seriously considering these questions, I also wasn't immediately jumping to conclusions or becoming closed-minded or bitter.
After the confusion and the doubt, I started to ask myself other questions. "Do I believe in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Do I trust, follow, and sustain the prophet and apostles? Do I trust in Christ? Do I trust in God?" Etc. The thing is, despite the questions and the doubts, my beliefs I held yesterday didn't suddenly change just because of a policy change. My testimony, while not at its strongest right now, also isn't so frail as to be broken by something I simply don't fully understand yet. I trust in God, I believe in the Church, why should that suddenly change?
I ended up asking my best friend (who is a fantastic resource for me) about what his thoughts were. One thing he shared with me that totally hit me was that what the Church was stating is aimed at the opposition the Church has, not just to gay marriage, but more especially to adoption in same-gender marriages.
What he shared helped so much. While the Church hasn't necessary released an "official" statement about this decision yet (as far as I am aware), from what I did read this totally made sense. And you know what? If that is the purpose of this policy change (and I'll personally say that I believe that it is part of it, if not the main reason), then I totally back the Church. Why? Because I myself wished so strongly that during the years of legal battle over whether or not to legalize gay marriage in states or even nationwide, that those looking into the issue would look at adoption and marriage as separate issues. As strongly as I oppose gay marriage, I oppose even more the ability for same-sex couples to adopt children, and I feel it is fair and necessary that children have the opportunity to have a mother and a father. And, because I know there will be backlash from that last statement, let me just say I totally recognize that there are children with single parents because of divorce, death, or whatever. I totally recognize that, and have given my thoughts on it before, but don't feel it is important to rehearse again. In short, I know there are issues on both the heterosexual and homosexual side when you talk about having a mother and father, but it is much easier to have both in a heterosexual family, whereas it is practically impossible to have that in a homosexual family setting.
But Mitchell, how is that fair to the children? First of all, this policy does NOT mean that those children can't attend Church, they still can! Even excommunicated members can still attend Church. Furthermore, they can still contact the first presidency. This isn't a doctrine, it's a policy. If the first presidency feel it's appropriate, the child can still be baptized, but as a policy it goes through the first presidency. By the way, it's the same situation if your parents are polygamists, including disavowing your parents practice of polygamy. This isn't as unique as you may think, it's not utterly ground shattering. Also, while baptism is an essential ordinance, so are the temple endowments and receiving the priesthood, both of which don't happen until after 18 anyway. So, again, realize that it is STILL POSSIBLE for a child of a same-sex couple to get baptised before 18 years old, it just has to go through the first presidency. They can still come to Church, and if any members or ward kick them out, they are violating God's commandment that all men are welcome to learn of His gospel.
Ultimately, I believe that the Church is still true. How could something I believe in and dedicate my life to go from being totally true one day, and the next suddenly become false just because they changed a policy they still haven't released an official statement on or explained completely, and that many have misinterpreted and made their own opinions on? The Church is still true. God still loves His children. The world isn't ending (yet). The sky isn't falling. The prophets are still prophets. And I still follow the Church and have a testimony I cannot deny. If you're still having doubts about the Church, I challenge you to really do some introspection. Pray, ask God, review your testimony and what you know to be true, both past and present. Don't let a policy change that we still don't know everything about be enough to change your mind about God or the gospel.
I have a testimony of the Church. I have a testimony of my Savior. I have a testimony of the prophets. And I know, without a shadow of a doubt anymore, that this policy doesn't make the Church untrue, it isn't evil, and God will keep His promises and reveal all His mysteries in the end if we are faithful.
I love you all. Don't forget your Father in Heaven. He loves you no matter what your circumstance.
If you'd like to read an article that explains it better than I can, read this one: http://lds.net/blog/buzz/lds-news/myths-on-new-mormons-and-gays-policy/
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