Landon Lee is a 19 year old member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. With one year of schooling behind him at USU Eastern, He is currently preparing to serve a mission for the church, and doing his best to stay warm with his loving family in his hometown of Wasilla, Alaska.
In November of 2015, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a policy (informally known as the Policy of Exclusion, or PoX) “that restricts priesthood ordinances for minors… whose primary residence is with a couple living in a same-gender marriage or similar relationship.”
This policy received a great deal of negative attention from the media, LGBTQ activitists, and most interestly, members of the church. Thousands left. I have spoken to faithful members today who considered leaving after it was announced. I myself was incredibly disheartened by this policy.
I was 15 years old at the time. I was in the thick of battling to maintain my identity as member of the church, and also learn who I was: a gay person, despite how contrary those things felt. I had close to zero resources, beyond what I had been taught at church about how serious of a sin being gay was. My mental health was also at one of the lowest lows I had ever experienced; I felt beyond hopeless, and utterly alone.
This policy struck a lot of anguish within me when I learned of it. But to hear family, friends, and adults I admired at church try to defend it… that was pain, if I had ever felt it. Feeling so disgusting and wrong to one of the only sources of light in your life, with no means of controlling the source of those feelings, is one of the hardest things I know. It’s something I am still coming back from.
Despite my experiences, and the similar (and often worse) experiences of other LGBTQ members, church leaders involved in the makings of this policy affirmed that they felt it was inspired. Current President of the church, Russell M. Nelson, said, “Each of us during that sacred moment felt a spiritual confirmation. It was our privilege as apostles to sustain what had been revealed to President Monson.”
To my (and many other’s) relief, the policy was retracted in April of 2019.
Despite the hardships of that time in my life, I have found much peace & solace in my faith over the course of this year, as I’ve learned who my Savior is and the immensity of His love. I feel that I have developed a personal bond with Him and my Heavenly Father, especially as I have learned of this love, and how it even includes my sexuality. I now am blessed with many resources pertaining to my gayness and my faith, and I am so grateful for that. I have come to love my church and its purpose: bringing us closer to the Savior. The Church is true, y’all!
I believe that the PoX was antithetical to that purpose. At face value, it was exclusionary, “othering”, and not rooted in love, the central precept of Christ’s Gospel. In this post, I’d like to give four possible explanations for why the PoX was implemented, with one that I find particularly useful, which I will save for last.
Explanation one: The policy was simply a poor judgement by the brethren.
This explanation establishes a safe assertion to give to those who are critical of the church because of this policy, while not necessarily forsaking faith in the church and its leaders. If the blame can simply be shouldered by the humanity of the prophet, then there’s no reason for me to defend it any further! Thomas S. Monson was getting old, after all, so it was just a product of the clouded judgement of old age, right?
This is what I chose to believe for a long time, and It was a huge strain on my testimony of prophetic revelation. Believing this explanation required me to discount the testimony of President Nelson, quoted above, who affirmed that it was a revelation from God. Believing this left a lot of ambiguity between “revelation” and “poor judgement”. It was a confusing and hard way to perceive revelation.
Subscribing to this next explanation seems like a good remedy then, right? Well…
Explanation two: There is no such thing as prophetic revelation, which also means that the church is not true.
This explanation establishes an even safer, conflict-avoiding assertion for our LGBTQ friends and their supporters outside of the church. In fact, its probably the one they’d be most likely to believe. This explanation avoids any and all defense of the faith, it is certainly the most passive approach to present to those who are critical of the church.
However, believing this would require me to forsake the many spiritual experiences that have testified to me the truthfulness of the church. It would also require me to dismiss instances of undoubted revelation given to prophet’s previously (i.e. when God revealed exact details of the Civil War to Joseph Smith, decades before it happened, see D&C 87:1-8).
This is something I simply couldn’t do, perhaps making explanation three more appealing.
Explanation three: The policy protected families and children, and was only withdrawn because of the dissent and backlash the Church was still facing.
This is perhaps the safest explanation, if the intent is to side with the church; this was the original rhetoric that the brethren used to justify the policy. I have several thoughts about why this is not the best explanation:
- God does not direct the church to be favorable with the world. My understanding is that He would never, and has never retracted revelation because of “dissent” or “backlash” from critical voices in or outside the church.
- If God’s intent was really to protect families & children, there’s no reason that would have changed in just three and a half years, so it would not have made sense for it to be removed, let alone that soon.
- I have an issue when members of the church beat LGBTQ people with phraseology that insists that we are a “threat” or “danger” to the church, and that the God-sanction family needs to be “protected” from us. It’s what I was so hurt by when I would hear people defend the policy. It is not helpful or loving, and I certainly don’t believe it is what Christ would say or want to be said. We are part of the God-sanction family. We need to feel included, not pushed away and demonized.
Now, the one I find most helpful:
Explanation four: The policy was used as a catalyst by God to prompt discussion of LGBTQ issues within the church.
It got Latter-day Saints thinking.
LGBTQ issues are some of the most important social issues of our day. God knows that. The place where our faith and these issues intersect is very very important, and there has been a beautiful, dramatic change at this intersection over the last five years. I’d like to think that the PoX is the reason for this, and that God used it to help his LGBTQ sons and daughters, as ironic as that may seem.
If He could get more traditional, conservative members of the church to hurt and ache with us because of the policy, if He could make it a point of discussion between Latter-day Saints in and outside of church settings, and in so doing, start a long term change within the church to make it a more inclusive place for LGBTQ members, then those few years of hurt might have been worth it. This theme of temporary hurt for the purpose of being blessed long-term is repeated many times in scriptures and church history; it is a central part of our theology, with the most important example being the atonement of our Savior.
I believe He was with those who were the most hurt and negatively effected by the PoX. It is still so disconcerting and hard to hear of those who faced such hurt because of it. I’d like to think that they will be blessed in the eternities because of their courage.
For me, its safe to say that God has been, and is with me. As I’ve reviewed the last several years, it has become abundantly clear how he directed and was part of my life, even when I felt furthest from Him. He has been leading me along. (see D&C 78:18)
God loves all of His children. He wants all of us to come unto Him. This is not contingent upon sexuality, the gender of your parents, or any other aspect of your livelihood. He knows this, and has always known this. I hope that as we grown and learn and change together as a church, we can also continue to change the atmosphere of our congregations to most closely reflect Christ’s message of love, the founding principle of the Gospel. Everyone should feel welcome in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.” – 2 Nephi 26:33
“There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.” – 4 Nephi 1:17
“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” – John 14:18