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Since the LDS church’s new handbook for bishops was secretly leaked online yesterday, the internet has gone crazy. Ex-Mormons, kinda-Mormons, and Mormons alike have been taking to social media in droves to express their opinion on the fact that the children of gay parents can no longer be baptized until they are 18 and denounce their parents.

Reminiscent of the madness of prop 8, this incident, to me, is shocking but not that shocking. It’s true that the church has always had a policy requiring parental permission for a child to get baptized before 18, but it’s also true that they’ve pushed the baptisms of youths without parental consent before. Anecdotal evidence you’re free to dismiss alert: One of my friends served a mission in Africa, where missionaries (taking the advice of their mission president) would often encourage kids whose parents didn’t want them to be baptized to move in with an older sibling so they could be baptized with their permission. This, naturally, didn’t have a positive effect on the unity of families.

Personally, I feel that if this had occurred while I was still a devout member of the church, it wouldn’t have bothered me. I would have been able to rationalize it just fine, because you can make a pretty reasonable argument that the church just doesn’t want to create dissonance in the kids of gay parents. (Until you realize that the church doesn’t ban any other children from joining the church. Be they the children murderers, rapists, Catholics, Scientologists or even dare I say… atheists.)

“The rationale that gays are the only ones that will have a dissonance of beliefs while I spent two years baptizing the children of alcoholic Catholics in the slums of Chile in droves so the church could boost their membership numbers holds about as much water as apparently a baptismal font at a gay Mormon baptism.” – My friend 

While I doubt the church’s primary motivation is “keeping families united” (family shunning is incredibly common when someone leaves the church, and it’s not exactly been condemned in any general conference talks), I think most members create God in their own image to varying degrees and can make the assumption that this new policy came straight from a loving and all-knowing God.

So don’t worry, Mormons — I validate your ideas! I would probably have had some very similar ones a year ago. And to those of you who DON’T feel like this, and who oppose this policy change, good for you for standing up for what you think is right, even in the face of opposition.  I have made a few observations about this situation, while I will now offer.

Social issues are more important to members than the validity of the church’s original claims.

I don’t believe this applies to everyone, because as a member of the church, I certainly cared less about social issues than, say, whether or not Joseph Smith was a prophet (I always thought he was until I studied church history intensely). But typically, church members seem to get more hyped up about the latest development in the “Does the church hate gays or not?” saga than they do things like the incredible reveal of Joseph Smith’s seer stone. (Used to “translate” the Book of Mormon AND make him money not finding buried treasure!)

When the church revealed pictures of the seer stone in August of this year, I excitedly waited to see the reaction from members. This was a huge deal — there are people who were excommunicated for talking about this stuff in the past! In fact, Joseph Fielding Smith, 10th president of the church and former historian, said this:

“While the statement has been made by some writers that the Prophet Joseph Smith used a seer stone part of the time in his translating of the record, and information points to the fact that he did have in his possession such a stone, there is no authentic statement in the history of the Church which states that the use of such a stone was made in that translation. The information is all hearsay, and personally, I do not believe that this stone was used for this purpose. The reason I give for this conclusion is found in the statement of the Lord to the Brother of Jared as recorded in Ether 3:22-24.”

To my dismay, there wasn’t much of a reaction from members. I saw none of them posting about it on Facebook, though I’d seen about a hundred people posting about the church donating like 12 cents to an LGBT organization a few months before. Only my ex-Mormon or “anti-Mormon” friends shared the news articles from the church or other sites that discussed it, recognizing what a big deal it was that a story told by South Park before the church was finally being admitted. But when it came to Mormons themselves, either people simply did not care, or they were embarrassed. I’m guessing it was a mix of both.

Cognitive dissonance caused members to react in some pretty interesting ways with both the seer stone and the new gay handbook policy:

They denied it.

I remember when people started posting about the seer stone and Mormons were flat-out denying it because it seemed so incredible. I saw a similar reaction from members last night. Here are some of the many comments I read:

“This can’t be legit. No way.”

“This is false, and makes me sad that whoever wrote it is causing people to believe this claim is true.”

“This is false information.”

Apparently, their moral compasses work well enough to know that this is wrong, because they don’t believe the church they worship and believe is good could have done it. 

One person even accused John Dehlin of inventing the information in order to further his lying gay agenda. (I’d love to see their cognitive dissonance when they read the Deseret News today.)

Anyway, it’s interesting that denial has proven to be a pretty typical first response, because of what happened next…

They claimed they’d known it all along/that it makes total sense

Once Mormons began realizing that the pictures of the brown stone were, indeed, the instrument Joseph Smith used to “translate” The Book of Mormon without using the golden plates that were so vital for him to obtain, they began the rationalization process. Blog posts started cropping up, blaming members who didn’t know about it for not studying enough. Never mind that many seminary teachers and bishops alike had been denying it for years, labeling it an “anti-Mormon lie”. Never mind that people had been excommunicated for talking about it. Never mind that church artwork, conference talks, lesson manuals, and pretty much anything that contributed to the overall narrative of the church completely failed to mention it for years. No — in typical church style, if you have a problem, YOU are the problem.

With the new gay marriage policy, I saw members suddenly offering their explanation for it, even claiming that it was “nothing new”. They likened it to the policy stating that children of polygamists can’t be baptized (BRIGHAM YOUNG IS ROLLING IN HIS FREAKING GRAVE), and gave their opinion on why it was a totally justified change that really wasn’t a change at all because isn’t it so obvious why we should be punishing kids for the sins of their parents?!

But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 19:14

Some Mormons even went so far as to condemn anyone who doesn’t agree with the new policy change, with one blogger going on a multi-post rampage against “silly anti-Mormons” who are obviously being super hateful by showing so much compassion to this marginalized group of people, right?

Sigh.

Cognitive dissonance is a bitch. I was extremely grateful to rest my head on my pillow without it last night, confident in the knowledge that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a fraudulent organization, that Joseph Smith wasn’t a prophet of God, and that I don’t have to worry about what bizarre or hateful or illogical things the church says or does next. And to any Mormons reading, I know this is slightly off topic, but if you have to hide yourself from negative information about your church in order to continue believing it, or if you have to rationalize things that seem wrong to you, or justify why your church’s policies make others feel hurt and further marginalized,  it might be time to spot the red flags. I recommend the CES Letter.

PS. To the children of gay parents — this is nothing but a blessing for you.



Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young
Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young
Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young would have been a millennial blogger, but she died in 1901. The wife of Brigham Young, and prior to that Joseph Smith, and prior to that Henry Jacobs, who was sent on a mission by Brigham before he married her, Zina loves writing, long walks on the beach, and playing the field.

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