Why I am not at church today, or, behold the broken camel

Partially it is because I am very tired, having worked without a weekend off for about a month now. Mostly, though, it is because I feel shattered by the latest policy announcement from Salt Lake and feel compelled by my conscience to register a small token of protest. (In this, I speak for myself, and not for this blog. For those bothered by the policy but still at church today I say go and be the best Mormon you can be.)

While I quietly disagree with it, the church’s stance against Same Sex Marriage does not bother me much. I think it’s an honourable thing to feel concerned about the status of marriage and the church is certainly not alone in this — it’s a policy shared by the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England. One can agree to disagree and it’s moot anyway given that it’s legal now.

Alas, I find this new policy to be beyond the pale. To make a disciplinary council mandatory for gay married members when it is not mandatory for rapists or child abusers; to deny the naming and blessing ordinance to the children of gay married members; and to refuse baptism to the same unless they disavow their parents’ marriage . . . I am frankly reeling.

This is not some liberal whimsy. I was taught by my parents and at church that children are not responsible for their parents’ transgressions; that all worthy people deserve the ordinances of the gospel, the fellowship of the Saints, and the companionship of the Holy Spirit; and that children are particularly welcomed by the Saviour. I believe this policy to put forward a wholly un-Mormon view of things, as demonstrated by George Q. Cannon:

“In some minds there seems to be an idea that there should be a different form of blessing for children born of non-members and for those who are identified with the Church . . . This is all wrong. If we take the example of our Lord and Redeemer, who is our pattern and whose example we cannot too closely follow, we find that He blessed all who were brought to Him. We have no hint that He asked whose children they were, or the standing or faith of their parents.

“His remark was, ‘Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven;’ and He laid His hands upon them and blessed them. All little children, no matter what their parentage may be, are innocent in the sight of heaven, and they should be received as such and blessed as such.” [The Editor [George Q. Cannon], “Topics of the Times,” Juvenile Instructor 34 (March 1, 1899)]

I find the shift away from this bedrock principle to be alarming and so I simply cannot be at church today. What makes it worse are the very weak justifications for the policy which seem to take as their starting point the principle that the church can never do any wrong. Our historical policy on gays proves this to be untrue: whether it is the electro-shock treatments meted out against gays at BYU or the failure of the policy of encouraging gay people to marry heterosexually, we have demonstrably been wrong at every juncture.

Don’t worry, I will be at church next week although I shall be removing my assent from the institution in certain ways private to me. I love the ward and I have a testimony of the gospel. I don’t want to make a fuss. I am really grateful for the good the church does in the life of my family and want that to continue. I wonder, though, is the church aware that these things cause real hurt, or does it see it as the necessary winnowing of the unfaithful? Right now, it’s all too depressing to contemplate and I can’t bear the thought of the rhetoric I fear we may hear at church today.

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