Recently, my sister’s faith has been called into question. She came by this faith, your faith, in a solitary way: my father was reared Catholic, my mother was reared Jewish; they disavowed organized religion in 1974 when they could not find someone from either of their religions to marry them. My sisters and I celebrated Christmas and Hanukkah, Easter and Passover, but in the most secular of ways. Christmas was about Santa, Easter was about an egg hunt; Hanukkah and Passover were lessons in history that omitted any talk of faith or God, but focused on persecution and survival. My parents reared us with open minds and encouraged us to study and learn about and pursue whatever faiths felt right to us. When my twin sister fell in love with a Mormon man, and joined the church through baptism at the age of 21 (two things that occurred concurrently but also independently), it sent ripples (waves; whitecaps; a Tsunami, really) through my family. I shudder to think of the words that she endured from my mouth about her choice of church, faith, and fiance. It seemed that she had been brainwashed into a cult of sorts. I couldn’t understand how she could throw reason and rationality and logic to the wind to follow the preachings of a man, Joseph Smith, who had what appeared to me to be a psychotic episode in a field in upstate New York, upon which an entire religion was built. I do not exaggerate when I say that she faced something of an Inquisition, the cost of which to our relationships is still visible and wrought with pain. Despite this, Emily’s answer to us, her family, remained unchanging: devout and passionate love, and faith in a benevolent God could not be wrong.
Through 15 years of fraught familial relationships, five miscarriages, a seemingly unending bought of depression that carried with it more suicide attempts and hospitalizations than I can remember to count, many medical challenges, three beautiful children, med school, and all the challenges that come with a marriage during these times, her faith endured. Your Church, your members, your God sustained her. Imagine, then, what could possibly shake her faith in a church for which she fought so hard to sustain.
Last week, you, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — men Mormons sustain as “prophets, seers, and revelators” – decreed that children of married or cohabitating LGBTQ couples are prohibited from receiving blessings as infants, becoming baptized at age 8, or receiving the Priesthood at age 12. My sister spoke plainly of this issue, and her words broke my heart: “I always believed that God was at the head of our Church. I don’t believe that anymore. There is no God in this decision, no Christ in this.”
Indeed, where is Christ in your Church that now deliberately prohibits children from Jesus’s graces by denying these children blessings and baptisms and the priesthood as punishment for the perceived transgressions of their parents? In Luke 18:16, Jesus said, “Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not.” We may ignore these words of Jesus, but not the words that speak of homosexuality? And what of your founder and prophet, Joseph Smith, who said, “When we … exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved, and when it is withdrawn, Amen [the end] to the priesthood or the authority of that man” (Doctrine & Covenants 121:37)? Sirs, Joseph Smith prophesied that the Lord would be grieved upon the exercise of control over the souls of the children of men; is this not what you’ve done? Should not your authority end when you presume to know better what to do with the souls of children than Christ himself? Your reasons for saying that homosexual marriage is apostate lie in the same scripture that states that attempting to see a menstruating woman naked is also an abomination. Will you now prohibit children born to fathers who have seen their naked wives during menstruation?
Furthermore, while not Christlike in nature, this policy also is in direct contradiction of your second Article of Faith: “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.” I take this to mean that children will be punished for their own sins, not the sins of their fathers. So the children of thieves and rapists, liars and murderers may gain access to Jesus’ grace through the ordinances of blessings and baptisms and the Priesthood, but not the children of two cohabitating parents of the same gender? Where is Christ in this?
If my sister chooses to leave your Church, my heart will break for her. In her attempt to live the most Christlife like that she can, to be accepting and loving and non-judgmental, to see all of her brothers and sisters as equal, and to encourage all to find and love Jesus, she will be forced to leave a Church that does not support her desire to be Christlike. She will lose not only her Church but her community, a support system for her and her family, a shining Northern Light in the moral lives of her children. Mormonism is not just a church but a way of life. You know this. Think of the heartbreak and upheaval in my sister’s life, and the lives of others who seek to live their lives as Christ did, that is the result of a policy that pushes away and excludes those who you seem to believe need Christ the most. In your Church that values missionary work above all else, this policy is hypocritical and simply incongruent to what you preach is the mission of your Church. It is incomprehensible and utterly devastating to the lives of the Christlike men and women who sustain you as leaders of their faith.
Sirs, my sister believes that Christ was perfect. He was the only one free of sins to ever live and die on this earth. He was perfect; we – my sister, I, every other human being, and you, Sirs – are imperfect. We are not infallible; you are not infallible. For my sister, I ask that you ask again for guidance on this issue from God, and when you do, I ask you to reflect upon Jesus’s words in John 8:7: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” It is not your place to cast judgement, Sirs. That right alone, according to God, belongs to Jesus.
With hope and love,