On November 5, 2015, one of the most
challenging and painful moments for my relationship to institutional Mormonism,
The Church, occurred. A Policy (labeled the Policy of Exclusion or PoX) was
leaked that explicitly labeled same-sex married couples as apostates, subject
to excommunication. The Policy continued to define children of those couples
ineligible for baptism and other official saving ordinances until their 18th
birthday, or with First Presidency approval.
I’ve written more than once about the PoX
in the years since. I felt then, and reiterate now, that the PoX is harmful,
and I cannot believe in the God that would reveal it. For a couple of months, I
felt hurt and upset, but could pretty comfortably label the PoX as “policy” and
therefore more from man than God. That all changed in January 2016.
Pres. Nelson at a youth devotional
explicitly went out of his way to describe the PoX as “revelation.” Suddenly,
the “policy” was elevated to something explicitly coming from God (for some
this move was immaterial, but it felt significant to me and instituted another
wrestle with the PoX and God, trying to suss out if I was wrong. I concluded I
wasn’t and that all I could do was to continue to love my fellow queer Mormon
comrades and be there for them whatever they decided to do).
Today, 4 April 2019, the PoX was
reversed. Mostly without fanfare. Less than four years after it was first put
into place and barely over three years after Pres. Nelson explicitly described
it as revelation.
So where does that leave us?
As Paul taught, seeing through a glass
darkly. Once again. Perhaps even murkier than before.
To be clear, I’m glad the PoX is gone.
It is a good thing to no longer have. But we never needed it in the first
place. And countless queer Mormons and their families and friends have had
mental, emotional, and spiritual violence done to them by the PoX. Married
queer Mormons were excommunicated, cut off from their covenants. Their children
were denied access to holy, saving ordinances. Others felt pushed out and
unwelcome by language that described their hoped-for future as “apostate.”
No apology for this harm was to be
I ache for my queer Mormon comrades who
were told that they were unwelcome and have unceremoniously been given the smallest
entry point without a word concerning their pain and suffering.
I sorrow at the continued pain and
suffering my queer Mormon comrades experience at the hands of the institutional
Church and its members.
We can and must do better.
I celebrate for those that will never
know the pain of the PoX, but ache for the pain of those that have and are
already being forgotten. We must remember what we have done. We must never
forget. We must be better.
Where is God in all of this? What is
God saying and to whom?
We, as a culture, are facing a crisis
of revelation on multiple fronts. This crisis has been ever-present in the
Church, but seems to be boiling over in ways I have never seen (but certainly
have some historical precedents).
At the root of this crisis is one of
the fundamental paradoxes of Mormonism: the Liahona and the Iron Rod, or
personal revelation and institutional authority (Terryl Givens’ book People
of Paradox and David Frank Holland’s essay “The Triangle and the Sovereign:
Logics, Histories, and an Open Canon” from The Expanded Canon: Perspectives
on Mormonism and Sacred Texts are insightful reading to this tension, as
well as Richard D. Poll’s two essays in Dialogue: “What
the Church Means to People Like Me” and “Liahona
and Iron Rod Revisited”).
The institution gave us PoX, explicitly
describing it as revelation. I received what I can only describe as personal
revelation, that the PoX was not, in fact, God’s will.
Where do we go from there? I was in
conflict with the institution. I spoke up about the PoX on my blog a few times,
on twitter, and in personal conversations. I was never in a position of
authority where I would be called upon to enforce the PoX, and even before I
was married had straight-passing privilege. My queerness is of a more subtle
variety that makes the overt navigation of these moments easier (even if it
does little to ease and may even aggravate my inner turmoil and navigation.
There’s more to be said about that and the luck of my straight-passing marriage
and the guilt and lack of belonging I feel in the queer community, but that’s
for another day. May all queer relationships receive the respect, love, and
institutional support that mine has received).
Today, what was once described as revelation
has been repealed, implicitly describing the decision as revelation and
explicitly referring to the revelatory nature of the process by which the
decision was arrived at, which leaves us, dear reader, with many questions.
Was the PoX ever revelation?
If so, why did God change His/Her/Their
If not, did Pres. Nelson lie? Or did he
sincerely, yet wrongly, believe that it was revelation?
Was it right to oppose the PoX from the
beginning, like I and countless others did?
How are we supposed to navigate the
messiness of personal revelation and institutional authority?
If the PoX was never from God, why is
there no open acknowledgement that it was wrongly presented as God’s will?
How does a Church that believes in
continuing revelation maintain continuity?
How do we allow for continuing change?
How do we create a culture of prophetic
fallibility without totally crumbling the authority of the institution? A
culture that allows for loyal opposition, that calls out harm and pain caused
by ideas and doctrines, even when they come from the highest echelons of the
How do we empower people so that they
no longer need to be commanded in all things and build their own personal,
How do we heal the wounds caused by the
missteps that we have taken along the way?
How do we continue to heal and grow as
we inevitably make mistakes in the future?
How do we hold powerful people and
institutions accountable for the pain and suffering that they have caused? How
do they make restitution?
I don’t have answers, but these are the
questions that I can’t quite shake.
I’m reminded of the opening verse and
chorus to the powerful Jack’s Mannequin tune, “The Resolution”:
“There’s a lot that I don’t know
There’s a lot that I’m still learning
But I think I’m letting go
To find my body is still burning
And you hold me down
And you got me living in the past
Come on and pick me up
Somebody clear the wreckage from the blast
And I’m alive
And I don’t need a witness
To know that I survived
I’m not looking for forgiveness
I just need light
I need light in the dark as I search for the resolution”
This shift is some of that light and it
illuminates the wreckage from the PoX’s blast. That light is in the truth that
my queer Mormon comrades live and breathe every day, that they and their
relationships are holy and good. That light is in our scriptures that remind us
that “all are alike unto God.” That light is in art and music and film and
literature. That light is truth. That light is love.
May we all be and shine some more of
that light as we join together to search for the resolution.