The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has really been through the mud this past week. Their leaked policy prohibiting the children of gay parents from baptism (and requirement for 18-year-old children of gay parents to disavow their parents’ relationship before being permitted church membership) has completely reversed any small steps the church took in recent years to appear more loving of homosexuals, and has instead pushed them further into the “hate group” category of organizations.
The church never planned to make their new Handbook policy public, so they were ill prepared to defend it so publicly. On Friday, after several hours of delay, they released a video of a staged interview between Michael Otterson (head of church PR) and Elder Christofferson (taking one for the team because he has a gay brother.) This video was an opportunity for an “apostle of the Lord” to speak to the world about this widely-despised new policy, and calm down members of the church who failed to see Jesus Christ in this change from so-called inspired men.
The video did a poor job of doing that. Rumors circulated that even certain bishops and stake presidents did not stand by the new policy, with some suggesting that they wouldn’t be implementing it in their ward/stake. National and international news covered the story, with the general response from the world being something along the lines of, “Go figure. We already knew they hated the gays.” Resignations poured in by the thousands, and the whole thing was generally just a bit of a Nauvoo Expositor.
After what I’m sure was a tornado week at church HQ (that poor PR department), the church released a “clarification” to the new policy today. This band-aid over a bullet hole, as John Dehlin said, “has downgraded the new policy change from terminal to chronic”.
The statement from the First Presidency said that the policy would not apply to those who had already been baptized, or to those whose primary residence was not with a gay couple. Never mind that this puts insane social, emotional, and familial pressure on kids from divorced families to live with their straight parent so they can be accepted by their peers in LDS-dominated communities — no, this policy is all about “protecting families”.
The church had the opportunity to “clarify” these things a week ago when Elder Christofferson filmed his little video, but for whatever reason, they didn’t feel the need to. From that, I can only assume that they genuinely didn’t expect the public outcry to be so widespread for so long, and were forced to further tweak things as people continued protesting. (Like when the XBoxOne was announced and people had complaints so they made a few tweaks, as one Redditor said.)
In true victim-blaming style, Mormon Newsroom felt it necessary to mention, “the dangers of drawing conclusions based on incomplete news reports, tweets and Facebook posts without necessary context and accurate information.” One of your apostles had the chance to provide the necessary context and accurate information you speak of a week ago, and failed to do so! Can you really blame anyone for their reactions?! It’s the “We all knew about the seer stone and if you didn’t it’s your fault!” all over again. Oh, and you really want to play the “accurate information” game, Mormon Newsroom?
I don’t believe the church ever had any intention of making these “clarifications” — I think it’s pretty clear that they came in response to upset members’ and non-members’ reactions to the leaked policy. Churchsplaining Mormons who are currently using this new statement from the First Presidency to demonstrate how biased and inaccurate the media can be fail to realize that these clarifications probably wouldn’t have even been given had it not been for those who were brave enough to speak out against the injustice of this new policy. Just like the convenient new revelation on blacks and the priesthood wouldn’t have been given had people not began speaking out against the church’s institutional racism.
In their final paragraph, Mormon Newsroom was bold enough to claim that, “Church doctrine is consistent with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.” Ok, cool. So show me where Christ taught about polygamy. Or polyandry. Or needing to know certain Masonic handshakes to get into heaven. Or special underwear. Heck — even show me where he talked about the sinfulness of gay people! Show me where he mentioned that you should obey church leaders before him. Show me what he said about little children. Now show me your doctrines, and try and convince me they are aligned.
Further Reading: “The Brethren Don’t Take Opinion Polls”