It’s difficult to believe that it’s only been a year since the leak of the policy changes in regards to LGBTQ+ members in our church.
I remember having a guest in our home I had never met before — one of the wonderful things of LDS communities… she needed a place to stay since she was auditioning in our city… friends through trusted venues connect us… next thing you know we are having a lovely time connecting and sharing stories. It was she who alerted me to the Facebook posts…. “Natasha, have you seen this?….” “what does this mean?…” “what is going on?…” We just kind of looked at each other in dismay and shock…
The following weeks and months seem like a haze to me now… Clients, friends, acquaintances, family, colleagues… all reeling from the news. National headlines alerting the world of what had happened in our small Mormon corner. Clients in particular… literally sobbing in my office. For hours… Sobbing… Angry… Hurt… Betrayed… What now?…. What did this mean?… Trying to hold the burden of the meaning… Trying to make sense of what was coming from church headquarters as we received more clarity from leaders… Realizing that things were becoming unfortunately crystal clear… in ways I had never imagined would come from my own church. They were not claiming a mistake had been made… Turning away our own members in ways now made official was exactly the intent… Turning away children in ways that went against our very own basic doctrinal understandings… Seeing bully-like behavior be touted as loving and protective…, a classic sign I have been trained to see as manipulative and abusive. Seeing the obvious discomfort of some of my leaders’ body language while they still tried to support those that pulled rank… Seeing active, believing members who were not even involved with the LGBTQ+ community pause and question, even separate themselves from the church officially resigning… Starting to hear about more and more numbers of LDS LGBTQ+ youth and young adult suicide… Sitting with Tyler Glenn and seeing his distress that he so beautifully made public through social media and ultimately his new record, Shameless….
For me the word “tragedy” has always included times when there is what I would deem “unnecessary pain.” Pain inflicted by others that could easily be avoided. This has been one of those types of tragedies for me. No need for this. No doctrinal foundation for this. Truly, no doctrinal foundation… when you read the basic teachings of Christ that trump every other supposed religious detail people can get ridiculously caught up in… we can start to understand what is truly prophetic and what is not. “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40. And how we know if scriptures that have to do with shellfish, jewelry and/or “spilling one’s seed” in certain ways have anything to do with what God is truly worried about.As the church just recently released its new website: mormonandgay.lds.org – I have been revisiting the pain we have all endured. And I know I have been talking about this issue for years. However, I will no longer parse words, give the benefit of the doubt, or try in any way to soften the reality of the abuses our church is this very day doling out to thousands of our members and their families. It needs to end.
I know I am not alone as a member of this church when I call for the immediate retraction of the abusive policy we became aware of last November. An immediate clarification that this never was nor will never be any type of revelation that came from God. An immediate recognition that the policy (especially if it is now being touted as revelation) was never put forth to a “common consent” process which is part of our official church governance. An immediate apology for the abuses our church has systematically been doling out to our LGBTQ+ members and their families. And an immediate course/plan/action of offering therapeutic resources (i.e. clinically sound referrals, finances, etc.) for those who are suffering due to the social harm and marginalization we have caused.
To any of you who might read my words and are suffering yourselves due to this awful of anniversaries… know that there are many of us LDS members who love you, support you, believe in you and know that the Church is more than likely not currently a healthy space for you. Please do whatever is necessary to protect your livelihood. And please use the many resources that have been developed by many of us in unofficial ways (see Mormon Spectrum link below) to seek the help you need and deserve. You are precious, worthy and deserving…. Nothing about your orientation, behavior, gender, etc. changes that. Nothing.
Natasha Helfer Parker, LCMFT, CST can be reached at natashaparker.org. She authors the Mormon Therapist Blog, hosts the Mormon Mental Health and Mormon Sex Info Podcasts, writes a regular column for Sunstone Magazine and is the current president of the Mormon Mental Health Association. She has over 20 years of experience working with primarily an LDS/Mormon clientele.