Anyone who browses social media knows about the policy changes recently made in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There has been a sort of uproar about it, with people yelling on both sides. I guess that is what always happens with something so controversial. For me, the hardest thing is trying to figure out what is really going on. I have read things from both points of view, and many seem to contradict each other. As I have tried to figure out my own point of view, one comment stuck out to me that I have pondered on a lot. I tried to find it again to be able to reference, but was unsuccessful. Luckily, I found another one that was similar, but even more specific than the first. Usually I like to summarize an article, then give my opinion and response to some of the comments made to it. However, I have read many well written articles on the topic. It would be hard to pick one. Also, I don't actually want to talk so specifically about the policy as all these other articles have.
Instead of summarizing an article, I will quote from a comment I read:
"A woman I love very much does not get to have her child baptized, who was set to be baptized this Saturday. Her and her husband got a divorce because he could no longer pretend he wasn’t gay and is now happily married to a man. They are all happily coparenting together. The gay father was in complete support of the child getting baptized and had given his consent, even bought scriptures with the child’s name on them as a gift and was planning on attending the baptism. Because of this new rule, this child is not allowed to be baptized. The child is staying home from school today because the child was up all night sobbing. This child does not understand why he cannot be baptized when a week ago he would have been able to. Everyone else in his class will be getting baptized, everyone else in his extended family will be getting baptized. He is not allowed, despite going to church every Sunday, even with his father on the weekends he spends there. Despite paying tithing faithfully. Despite looking forward to this for as long as he understood was baptism was."
Does this make anyone else's heart break? What a difficult time for this young child. His baptism had already been scheduled and arranged. And now it has been taken away. (as a sidenote, I have not found any information about whether or not it matters if the child actually lives with the parents involved in the same gender relationship when they turn 8 and want to be baptized. I can only find that it specifies they cannot live with that parent when they turn 18 if they want to be baptized. Maybe further clarification will come on this later.)
I assume many would use this example as proof of how horrible and punitive the Church policy is. Without diminishing this child's pain, I wonder at the stories of children who would be adversely affected if the policy were not put in to place. I don't think an example on either side necessarily proves that the policy is good or bad for the church as a whole. Those who lead and direct the church have a very difficult responsibility of trying to make policies that will help the most. I don't know if they try to help the most people, or help avoid the biggest problems, or how they decide how to define what will actually help "the most". However, I do know that it is their job to set the policies. I also know that specific policies of the church are not the way to attain exaltation. True, certain policies may hinder or help specific people along their way, but faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ and participation in saving ordinances (whenever they come) is what really saves us. And we have our agency regarding how we will respond to all the challenges and blessings we encounter.
To be clear, the fact that I am not questioning my membership in the church does not mean that I am a "blind follower." I understand that there are people who will willingly follow and obey without much of a second thought no matter what the Church does. I do not fault them. There are others who challenge anything that isn't immediately appealing to them. Some of them choose to leave the Church. I do not fault them either. I am of the type that considers the things that come up, evaluate my faith in Christ (not necessarily my faith that a church administered by men is perfect), and tries to figure out how I need to move forward to be more like Christ. My own personal opinions about "hot-topics" actually tends to change from time to time. I ask that you do not fault me.
So the Church as an organization has to make decisions that will affect its members on a world-wide level. That is a difficult task. I do believe those involved in making these policy changes were trying to do the right thing, regardless of whether or not it was right. So I will not try to persuade anyone of the validity of the changes.
Instead I would like to point out something that has a much bigger impact on the individuals that make up the Church's membership. There has been a change made that affects us all on large scale. But how will we respond on a personal level? Isn't that what determines our own, personal salvation? People keep talking about the second Article of Faith. But that only talks about punishment for sins, not challenges we all face. Every one of us faces trials because of the actions of others. So rather than focusing on the challenges some children will face because of the choices of their parents, lets focus on ridding ourselves of any sin of commission or omission in regards to those sweet souls.
In the story quoted above, what do you think the ward has done for this boy? I hope that his Primary President has come to cry with him. I hope she assured him that he is loved and cherished and worthy. I hope his bishop came by. His primary teachers. In a case like this, I hope his Stake President came over to show his love and support. Perhaps none of these people understands why this child will be left out of many opportunities within the ward. I hope they all promised that wonderful boy that Jesus Christ is aware of him, and knows how to heal him. That the Savior will always answer when that boy knocks at the door.
I hope in the years to come that the Ward Council makes a special effort to ensure that the boy and his family are well taken care of. I hope it opens up a dialogue within the ward about LGBT issues. That people are able to address it openly and with love. That at least in this boy's ward, the members learn to show love and compassion to people affected by it. That as they come to know the boy's father and his father's husband, they will see that people who choose to live this lifestyle are often wonderful, kind, and generous. Even if the only contact with the boy's gay parents are during special events like the boy's primary program or scouting award ceremonies, perhaps barriers will be broken down.
I hope no one is allowed to make this boy feel inferior because of his background. I hope that it doesn't become a scarlet letter that he feels is posted on his chest. I hope that everyone can know what the situation is, and treat him just like all the other kids. I hope he is never made to feel ashamed. And I hope that in ten years, after participating in scouts and church, after developing friendships with other young men and women as well as adults, after testing the power of prayer and learning all he can about the scriptures, that he will be able to focus on the day of his baptism with joy. I hope he will have been so loved and included that he was able to forget the bitterness of having to wait. And that he will come out stronger for it.
It is my personal opinion that an outcome like this would only happen if this boy is treated with true charity. The Church clearly teaches that we should love and treat everyone with respect. Many of us still have a long way to go in figuring out how to do that when it comes to the LGBT community. I should hope that we would realize that this is an opportunity for all of us to reach out more and understand better something that makes many of us uncomfortable.
I know that some have scorned the idea that children of parents who are in a gay or lesbian relationships can still participate in church activity despite not having the blessing of baptism. I assume this is because of the fact that the child will be left out of some situations. That is a fact. But if that child truly has a testimony and a desire to participate in the gospel, it is our responsibility to support them. Even if we don't agree that they should have to wait. We need to include them in every way possible. To ensure that they know that the love of their peers and leaders is unconditional. To accept them where they are. To teach them about Christ.
It is easy to point at the leaders of the Church and explain why they have made mistakes. Perhaps they have. Whether you believe that or not, it doesn't change your responsibility. Be like Christ. Love everyone you encounter. And show your love through action.
Regardless of whether or not a child has been baptized, it is our job to comply with the Savior's request- "Suffer little children to come unto me" (Luke 18:16). We can do that by showing them how to trust and rely on the only One who truly understands where they are, and who they can become.