Lessons from the Margins: More Thoughts on “The Policy”

MarginWith the rest of Mormonism, I’ve been thinking a lot about “The Policy”. This has led me to think more deeply about the Plan of Salvation – and where we all fit.

As a single woman in the church, it is moments like these that lead me to reassert (again) that I do fit in and that I am essential – just as all Saints are essential: queer saints, childless saints, single parent saints, etc.

In recent years there has been more and more talk from church leaders of “the family”; talk that leaves little doubt as to what sort of family our church leaders see as “ideal”. I love families and the idea of families, but I see the Mormon ideal of families as too tidy to be useful. (I’m quoting Kristine Haglund here.)

The reality is that we live in a world and in a church where we have a range of families. Families that cannot be changed into the ideal simply for the wishing or the wanting: single families, single parent families, queer families, childless families. These are the people and the families in the margins.

So, I propose to my reader four lessons that we can learn from those who live in these margins – and why, in fact, we are essential to the Mormon Body of Christ.

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On RS Lessons, Vulnerability, and Love

Lost LambPreface

I taught Relief Society this Sunday, with a fully broken heart. It was extremely painful, but it was also moving, to be vulnerable before my sisters, and to witness moments of light, and grace, and burden sharing.

It was Ezra Taft Benson’s lesson 20, “Feed My Sheep,” which Suzette previously posted about here.


We began by singing “Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd,” as per a good tip from TopHat and her own excellent RS teacher. I told the sisters that my favorite line in the hymn, and the part I wanted to focus on was this: “Make us thy true under- shepherd[esse]s.” Because it is, and was.

President Ezra Taft Benson suggested that

Sisters also have callings of “shepherding” in the charitable and loving service they render to one another, and to others. Thus, we must all learn to be true shepherds. We must manifest the same love to others that the Good Shepherd has for all of us. Each soul is precious to Him. His invitation beckons every member—every son and daughter of God.

After reading this, I asked a few simple questions, and the sisters answered.

Who are the sheep?

The first said simply, “We are.” Two more added, “Our Relief Society.” “Our Ward family.” Still another said, “Everyone.” I agreed. Lambs are like neighbors, and Jesus showed us who the neighbors are, that we are commanded to love as ourselves.

What then, do they need to be fed?

Again, various responses flooded in: “The love of God.” The word of God.” “Not always, but sometimes, real food.” I paused at the last one, because 1) Jesus did this, when he gave loaves and fishes, and recognized that people could not be fed spiritually until they were fed physically, and 2) I’ve experienced it, when my daughter was born, when Mormon Feminism was due to the publisher, and the very night I taught this lesson, though I had no way of knowing it, then.

What if they don’t want to be fed, or the food doesn’t seem nourishing to them?

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A Souvenir of Sobriety

This past week has been difficult for me and for most of the people I love, including my family and friends who do not necessarily identify as “left leaning,” “feminist,” or any other label that I tend to wear as a badge of honor. Like many others, my family is personally affected by the policy on children of same-sex couples. Two of my brothers are gay and joined our family in their late teens and early twenties because they were rejected by their biological families, in part, because they are gay. They have been in our family for over 20 years and to say that they have blessed the lives of our family would be a gross understatement; we have learned to love more and widen our hearts.

News of the policy, and subsequent articles, blog posts and interviews, has left me feeling sad, challenged and angry. Yet, I find myself able to attend church services and perform my calling. Yesterday I started to wonder how these two disparate ways of engaging could coexist within myself? I realized that I was employing a skill I was taught over twenty years ago when I began my road to recovery.

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Guest Post: Adoption, Baptism, and Rainbows

Guest post by Desiree, cross-posted at Feminist Mormon Housewives

I am from Massachusetts. I strive for intersectional feminism because societies often don’t treat all humans as though they are actually human.

“A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship…”

All adoption is trauma, but adoption from foster care and other situations in which the child is older is especially traumatic. I was adopted from foster care by a straight LDS woman.

When I first realized gay people existed, I was around the age of accountability (eightish).

I visited a distant cousin. He lived with a man. They had many adorable cats and a few Disney movies. That was my overall impression of them. They were average people with boring movies and funny cats. (I believe the cats were Persians.)

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To my friend who accepts the church handbook changes


by Kathy

My dear friend,

You and I both read the same news, the same changes to the church handbook. And within a day of the announcement, you came to social media to say you were surprised, confused, and sad when you first read it. In the next line, you expressed your commitment to the church, even in the face of troubling news.

And then you invited others to find the same acceptance that you just did.

I can see where you’re coming from. I can see admirable things in your words: a desire to show devotion to God, to remain faithful to this church, to be constant even when faith is tested. And I admire that.

But I’m having trouble understanding your quick dismissal of your own discomfort–and why it’s something you would recommend to me.

You are not the only one who felt uncomfortable.

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If and Then

Photo Credit: D'Arcy Benicosa

Photo Credit: D’Arcy Benicosa

Up until last night this has been my story.

But the reported and confirmed changes to the Church Handbook of Instruction in regards to the children of gay parents has thrown me into a bizarro, Sliding Doors world and now it is impossible for me not to write my “what-if” story.

What if this policy had been in place in 1991, the same year I turned 8 years old? What if my parents’ marriage had disintegrated, as most mixed-orientation marriages do? And what if my father had done the entirely human thing and pursued a new relationship with a man he loved and was attracted to?

The policy is clear…I could not have been baptized.

Then what? I know I would have been devastated. In my existing story, church was one of the few places of comfort for me as a child–I can only imagine it would be more so if I was dealing with the break up of my family. Don’t, for one second, think you would have been protecting me from anything–not being allowed to be baptized would have been a source of deep sorrow and shame for me. Not to mention what this would have done to my mother, who was and is a committed member of the church. This would have absolutely broken her heart. To add that burden on her after all that she carried…there are no words for that cruelty. And I have to wonder what it would have done to my relationship with my father? Would I have resented him? Would I have been able to overcome the awful rhetoric we use towards our LGBTQ brothers and sisters and actually see my father for the amazing, Christ-like man he is? I hope so but I don’t know. I am absolutely certain that this policy would have destroyed my family in ways I cannot even fathom.

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