Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Were their parents another sinner

There are a myriad of easy ways to be a bad Mormon: drinking coffee or tea, smoking the pot or cigarettes, drinking alcohol, masturbating, premarital sex, not giving 10% of your money to the organization, and disagreeing with leadership. Point of fact, most Mormons would tell you there are no good Mormons - everyone endureth to the end and screws up constantly along the way.

There are different levels of sin of course. Some offend God worse than your average sinner. Felons and the gays are not in the same boat as, say, someone who refuses to pay tithing because the church paid to build an upscale mall (Jesus Christ Superstore, or City Creek Center to the layperson). Knowing certain sins are more egregious, it makes sense that some are excommunicated and others just told not to take the blood and body of Christ the next time they're in sacrament.  

Since coming out as gay, I've been compared to all other excommunicable sinners: felons, pedophiles, rapists, adulterers, murderers, and heretics. These are obviously false comparisons since those sins involve taking agency from and directly harming another being. Except the heretics; I'm comfortable with that comparison because I do consider myself a heretic. I believe leaders' demands of total acceptance with consequences for otherwise makes them authoritarian. This isn't to say Mormon leaders are cruel or tyrannical; to my knowledge there aren't Mormon Killing Fields. Rather than any corporal punishment, Mormon authoritarianism uses the one legally available - expulsion. 

In all cases, from smoker to criminal, each person is held accountable for their own actions. God wouldn't judge someone for something for which they weren't responsible. If my dad were a murderer (he isn't, unless you count livestock), my siblings and I wouldn't be condemned for being related to him. As you've all probably heard by now from the unproductive Facebook reply wars, the Mormon church does not always operate by the same principle. Some people are punished (or rejected) for Adam's (or their parents') transgressions, despite it being against the church's second tenant.

The policy to deny children of gay parents membership in the church is commonly justified with: "What's the big deal? This isn't new; we already ban polygamist kids." Ironic that Mormons feel so justified in banishing this group of people, including their children, when Mormons were banished from several states or executed for practicing polygamy. The church predetermines the polygamist child's eligibility for acceptance into "God's fold" because of something they've not done wrong. If polygamy were a sin (perhaps they'll one day excommunicate the dead, starting with Joseph Smith), the children have not carried out that action and yet suffer the consequences. Should we not allow them to make that mistake before they pay for it?

This leads to the second, and more cruel, justification: "What's the big deal? They can get baptized when they're 18. If they die before then they'll just have to wait in Spirit Prison to be baptized. And it's not like Spirit Prison is hell." Perhaps that's true and it's like being stuck at the airport, uncomfortable and sad but not legitimate torture. Assuming that is actually the case, the parents (gay or polygamist) still would like their children not to wait in that place. They'd like to know their child has what they believe are the necessary ordinances to prevent that shitty time in the airport. By the way, those who are baptized into the church and try to be good people wait for judgement in Spirit Paradise, which I imagine is a lot like a country club in Switzerland. These children don't get Switzerland because their parents deserve LaGuardia.

I've also heard "What's the big deal? A lot of straight parents don't let their kids be baptized." This is very true but doesn't apply. In the case of gays and polygamists, the church tells the parents that even if parents support it, the child is not eligible for baptism. If a child from a Jewish family wants to get baptized Mormon and their parents consent, the church isn't the one saying no. Likewise if a parent who's been excommunicated for adultery agrees to their child's baptism, I've never heard of the church being the one to deny them. The church is now the party responsible for forcing the ultimatum between faith and family.

Finally we come to the crux of the situation - what is it about polygamists and gays in particular that justifies the banning of their children, guilty of nothing? Someone said to me the other day: "Jewish families consenting to baptism is different because those parents don't actually believe the church. They think their kid and the church are nuts for believing. Polygamists and gays still believe in the church but want to change it. They're like a cancer destroying from the inside." I ended the conversation before it went further. I've already been compared to a pedophile, I didn't want to continue with a life-threatening disease analogy. The troubling part is that I agreed with their point.

Children of gay and polygamist families are a threat to the authoritarian nature of church leadership. The church says these families will put ideas into the child's head that are in direct conflict with the church's teachings. If enough children become members and stay in the church until adulthood, there will be more pressure for church to change policies, more pressure on members to question leadership. "The church is protecting the kids from being confused." The church is not protecting children by denying them entrance into its gospel. It's protecting itself from those children growing up and standing in defense of their families.

So this policy isn't acceptable because it also happens to polygamists, or because kids aren't banned forever, or because waiting in Spirit Prison isn't that bad, or certainly because parents can also choose to deny the child. This policy is wrong because the church determines a child's worth in the church based on another person's life and decisions. If only their parents were another sinner, their parents could consent to their baptism. If only their parents were another sinner, the church would likely grant them access to the gospel. As it is though, their parents are sinners who will raise their children to question. The ultimate justification for this is preventing a generation of believers who force leaders to see that their families, too, have a place in God's eternal family.

I don't need or want the church to accept my lifestyle; I am happier and feel God's love without membership. This is about kids who haven't done anything wrong and the leadership's reprehensible decision. I'm also not saying the church is entirely false. That "all right or all wrong" dychodmony is part of the problem. Any human, no matter the faith or priesthood level, is capable of error. Jesus wouldn't turn these kids away, but leadership has decided to do just that. Mormon members trying to condone the church for doing so doesn't make them noble, it makes them spiritually lazy. In its attempt to stymie the questioning spirit, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has sacrificed part of its soul. Such is the opinion of this lowly heretical homo.