To my friend who accepts the church handbook changes

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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.

My social feed is filled with other dear friends who expressed shock, worry, sadness–and in the same breath, expressed acceptance (even defense) of the new church mandates.

Why not sit with that feeling a little longer? Why not hold up your discomfort and examine it from different angles? Our founding story begins with a lengthy, uncomfortable wrestle of belief, a question asked in the midst of congregations who claimed to know the truth. Scripture promises that God will answer us in both our minds and our hearts—-and if all our hearts feel uneasy, there must be a message there.

I feel deeply uneasy, startled, heartbroken. I am astonished at the new grounds on which the church will not allow the blessing of a baby—-a scenario that makes the argument of “protecting the children” ring particularly hollow.

As I wrestle with my sadness, please rethink inviting me to quickly accept the news.

Please do not pity or patronize me for not accepting immediately, or ever. Resist your urge to hint that someone like me just “doesn’t understand.” Please consider that the same impulses that came up in you—the desire to be faithful, to follow Christ, to endure to the end—are the very same impulses that arise in me.

Just because you do not experience faith the same way I do does not mean my faith does not exist.

I want to be a disciple and I cannot accept this announcement right now and truthfully call myself one. If you want to understand why, let’s please talk about it.

You may find we’re not so different, you and I.

Kathy

Kathy is a writer living in Phoenix, AZ.

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55 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    Thanks for these thoughts, Kathy. I hope many LDS read this post and think twice about quickly throwing their voices and support behind this policy change. Since this new policy is so troubling and problematic, I suspect that feedback up to the top will lead to some sort of softening on this. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

  2. Pandora says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I appreciate the reminder that our early church was founded on questions. Our core theology promises that we will evolve through the struggle, through the desire to understand more and gain clearer insight. We are expected to be intelligent beings and yet so many people mistake thoughtful faith and blind obedience. Your request to respect, to pause, to consider our reaction as possibly spiritually inspired, is kind and wise.

  3. Lorrie says:

    Beautifully said. This has been the last item on my shelf, and my shelf is now broken. I’m heartbroken. I can no longer say I believe the Church is true, because I don’t and I won’t live a lie.

    • Kathy says:

      Much love to you, Lorrie. That can be such a painful place. I hope you’ll be gentle with yourself and surround yourself with people who are kind while you find your way forward.

    • LKD says:

      Apparently the broken shelf analogy is the new “buzz word.” My son used the exact same terminology in March, when he chose to leave the church. I wish you the best and hope you find eternal happiness.

  4. Libby says:

    We need to be so gentle with each other.

  5. Sara says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful response. I have shared these same sentiments as I have read through so many posts about coming to acceptance of the policy changes. I am actively wrestling with my own feelings and I know many others are doing the same. I can no longer come to a quick conclusion that everything will be OK.

  6. Rachel says:

    Thank you.

  7. AE says:

    I love this. Over the past day I have read so many posts on this subject and I haven’t been able to comment on or write my own thoughts. It’s not that I haven’t prayed and studied and pondered about it…it is just that it is taking me time to process, understand, and come up with my own witness of what this will mean. I wholeheartedly believe in our prophet and apostles and know they are disciples of our Savior. However, just because I know that, doesn’t mean that I don’t have to build a testimony of their teachings for myself.

  8. Allyson says:

    I really liked this. I know the church and members often equate faith with speed. If you are faithful you will understand quickly. Not all of my anxiety has gone away although some of it has. But if you need more time than me….take it. Eternity is a long time:)

    • Kathy says:

      Good point about eternity. We Mormons can be in a rush to say “I know” when perhaps we would be well served to take a minute to say, “I wonder.”

  9. Ziff says:

    Wonderful post, Kathy. It’s unfortunate that the Church is so authoritarian that the only way to show one’s faithfulness is to fall in line with whatever leaders say.

    • Kathy says:

      Thanks for sharing. I’ve definitely seen rigidness in conversation within my church experience. I’m hopeful that members can cultivate spaces where more nuanced exchange can take place.

  10. Violadiva says:

    I noticed several initial reactions along the lines of, “Oh, this whole story is a hoax. This is just something some progressive member made up to make the church look bad. If it were real, you’d see a press release or something about it. Don’t give it any credibility”

    very much in the discomfort feeling you describe. And then, when the story was confirmed by credible sources, I can’t imagine their initial reaction just went away *poof*….. but where it went, and what it will do next is anybody’s guess.

    Sometimes we need to listen to those inner voices of discomfort, or “stupors of thought” to figure it all out.

    • Kathy says:

      I saw a few consistent patterns of response online (including the one you shared) and was surprised to see how similar certain reactions were. I hope that as a faith community, we can continue a conversation that acknowledges real feelings, sits with them, and investigates their source.

  11. Kat says:

    I appreciate this so much. My own feed has been filled with quotes from the general authorities, memes, articles, very personal stories of people who are having their memberships revoked, and flat out lies on the subject.
    I’ve wondered why are people so out there with this topic that is so personal. I know people like the one you refer to, they seem to be hasty to prove their faithfulness. I won’t get into my own feelings on the subject, because I feel like my feelings are between me and the Lord. In other words, I feel no need to justify my impressions to anyone. There may need to be a dialogue, but I don’t think Facebook and Twitter are appropriate places for this kind of discussion.

    • Kathy says:

      Facebook and Twitter can be such echo chambers. It’s hard to have a meaningful conversation that touches anyone’s heart in front of the internet. Good for you for not broadcasting your opinion when it doesn’t feel right.

  12. Joni says:

    I have no solid basis for this, of course, but the “this is for the protection of the children” explanation seems hasty and made-up. I don’t think the Church ever expected to have to justify this – after all, Handbook 1 is a pretty closely guarded secret, available to only a few elite (mostly male) members of the Church. (It does make you wonder how hard they are going to look for the source of the leak, and if excommunication will be involved.)

    However, I have to chuckle a little when dozens of friends and family members post things like “God is omniscient” or “I trust the prophet and apostles 100%” because, well, it seems really unwise to base your testimony on the correctness of Church policy. Because policy can and does change over time (on everything from interracial marriage to women praying in Conference). I wonder if these friends will post the same thing when the Church eventually bows to pressure and reverses their awful policies. I’m sure there’s a way to put a faith-promoting spin on ANYTHING, but it still makes me wonder.

    • Kathy says:

      Interesting point. I wondered myself where the leak happened since this handbook is technically inaccessible to the vast membership of the church. I’m glad the change was made public so that we can have this conversation. Thanks for reading.

      • Joni says:

        Paradoxically, I wonder if this will lead the Church to put all of HB1 online. That’s certainly one way to avoid embarrassing, high-profile leaks. It used to be unthinkable that even HB2 would be online and now it’s there for all the world to see.

    • Jon says:

      Joni, The ‘protection’ angle you suggested was hasty and/or made up is very real. I can tell you from personal experience that the church approaches children from polygamist families the same way. Where a family structure conflicts with church doctrine (i.e. Polygamy, Same Sex Marriage), the church acts with deference to keeping children out of possible intra-family conflict by not permitting a situation where they will be faced with the complexity of split loyalties before they are of legal age to decide for themselves. This policy change mirrors the approach to polygamists and Muslim families as well. While there is no legal restriction to children of Muslim parents, there is a real safety issue that arises should a child turn from his/her Muslim background. I hope this helps.

  13. Lauren says:

    I love you so much. I do not usually struggle to articulate how I am thinking and feeling in a way that others can understand on a deep level. This situation has left me unable to do a very good job of that, and I appreciate some of the words that echo within my soul.
    We are not faithless and I do not feel the disappointment of God at my inability to reconcile the pain of conscience this is causing me.

    • Kathy says:

      Love you too, Laur! For someone who’s feeling inability to articulate, you sure said something beautiful anyway and I appreciate it: “We are not faithless and I do not feel the disappointment of God at my inability to reconcile the pain of conscience this is causing me.”

  14. Whitney says:

    Please let me begin by saying thank you for expressing such kind, tender feelings over such an emotionally sensitive subject, and being so respectful of everyone in doing so. I would like to attempt to offer insight in one small thing. I don’t expect anyone to feel the way I feel, or process this news the way I processed it. Personal conversion is just that, personal. So when people ask others to come to the same conclusion, I think they’re temporarily forgetting how personal their experiences were that brought them to where they are. That being said, I also think a majority of those people are saying what they’re saying from a place of genuine love and hope for their fellowman. When I first heard the news of the policy change, I hesitated over my concern for the children involved. But in my personal experiences, I’ve learned that when something in the church doesn’t resonate right or truth with me, that it’s because of lack of information and understanding on my part. But as I’ve read more and prayed more, I’ve been able to come to those personal witnesses of truth. Perhaps that is what those people are experiencing and asking others to search for. I’m not asking others to ignore or quickly dismiss these feelings of discomfort they have. But I would also hope they won’t let those feelings completely negate any positive spiritual experiences they’ve had in the past, and instead use this as an opportunity to sincerely search and discover for themselves whether there is truth to be found. I did, and I found the truth and love behind this new policy. I pray this won’t cause divides in friends, families, and church relationships, because I truly believe that ultimately that is the opposite of what the church is trying to accomplish with this.

    • Kathy says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughtful insight, Whitney. I can think of instances in my own life when I did as you described and temporarily forgot how personal my own experience was when I shared it as a template for others. And I agree that most people are coming from a place of genuine desire to express love.

  15. Matt says:

    The following is a conversation between me and a dear friend struggling with this issue I’ll share my thoughts.

    Fwd: Hi Lisa (name changed) this is Matt oh, I hope it’s okay Tina (name also changed) shared this with me.
    The church leaders are fundamentally wrong on the issue of homosexuality. (Mainly because a large portion of the church is prejudiced against homosexuality and the leaders can’t afford to offend them)
    That statement raises a doctrinal question about the infallibility of the leaders, would love to discuss that.
    That being the case it puts the leaders of the church in a very difficult situation: the leaders are wrong and how do they cover their mistake when it comes to the innocent.
    Having made a mistake and being belligerent about that mistake they are making the best decision they can when it comes to protecting the children. It is not a smart decision to put a young child in a situation where he or she is being taught that their parents are bad sick and wrong. So although they are wrong about their stance of homosexuality I agree with them on not baptizing or naming children and bringing them into a place where their children are taught that their parents are wrong.

    Fwd: Let me back up just a bit.
    I know God lives I know he loves all of us. I know that he has a beautiful place that he personally has prepared for Jarod (again name changed) in his kingdom.
    My my personal belief, something that is backed up by all of my studies and personal prayer, and the answers to those personal prayers. Is that Jarod’s sexual preference will not bar him from the Celestial Kingdom.
    And I have Scripture both modern day and ancient and current revelation from modern Prophets that will back that up.
    I also have answers to personal prayers that will absolutely back that up.
    So how do I love the church and still believe that the leaders are wrong in this situation?

    Because the doctrine that states the leaders will not lead you astray does not mean that they are perfect and that they are infallible. In fact we can see through historical evidence many times were the leaders have made almost outrageous mistakes. (Brigham youngs removal of the priesthood from certain races) But my faith in God is not based upon man or what other people say about him. It is based on my personal relationship with God. My Heavenly Father. Who loves me, blesses me, and answers my prayers. Especially when I come screaming to him that what my leaders taught and what my son showed me dont match. Especially then when he wraps the warmth of the holy ghost around me and tells me “Matt there is a place in my kingdom for your son. Why isn’t there a place in yours”.
    The doctrinal answer is the Celestial kingdom has 3 degrees only one has a defined entrance requirement of being in the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. (Currently defined as a Man and a Woman married for time and all eternity).

    Okay, so how do we move forward?

    We acknowledge that the true barrier is not the leaders. They are caught between a rock and a hard spot. The true barrier is the vast majority of the members of the church and their bigoted prejudiced hatred towards something they don’t understand. So our fight, our struggle, is to change that tide. To love one person at a time until that majority is a minority. To interact one person at a time. To change one heart at a time. Just like God did with me by giving me a son who showed me that he could be different and still godlike.
    This is a struggle that will not end in one day. This is a fight of the heart to be caring instead of judgmental. To be forgiving instead of heart broken. To be patient even when it hurts. And most of all to lean on that God who gave us life.
    There is so much hate in this world. If we want it to end we have to be the change.

  16. Kirsten says:

    Thank you so much for this. It so beautifully expresses the feelings I have right now regarding the “immediate obedience” stance I see happening. I find that the most growth comes from wrestling with discomfort. To dismiss it robs us of the chance to grow and become more.

  17. Julie C. Moore says:

    Comment

  18. David Petersen says:

    I am Kathy’s father. First, being a proud father, I must say she has been very articulate ever since she was able to write, and this article was no exception. As she ended the article with “let’s please talk about it” I did that, because I know her phone #. One thing this article and my conversation brings to me is this:
    How do we come to believe, understand, have faith in or conviction to follow a principle, law, doctrine or even just a policy? I see part of the answer in the Book of Enos. (A very short part of the Book of Mormon) Verse 2 – “and I will tell you of the WRESTLE which I had before God” In verse 4 “And my soul HUNGERED” and he ” CRIED….in mighty prayer and supplication”. Even after he received an answer, in verse 10 he says “And while I was thus STRUGGLING in the spirit” In verse 12 Enos was given an answer after he “had prayed and LABORED with all diligence.” (Capitals are my emphasis added)

    There is value in the wrestle, hungering, crying in mighty prayer, struggling, and laboring with all diligence to know, understand or have faith in something.
    Become knowledgeable, look at things from all sides before making snap judgements on either side of an issue. And when it comes to things of faith and doctrine, the best advice is in Moroni 10:4-5 (the last book in the Book of Mormon)

  19. Michelle says:

    A thought to add to the discussion: the church has consistently said that gay marriage is not acceptable in the eyes of the Lord. Those that invest in those relationships will not be able to continue in them into the eternities. The two ordinances of giving the child a name and a blessing and including them on the records of the church as well as the baptismal ordinance would require parents names being listed on the records of the church. If the church list same sex couples in the records of the church, wouldn’t that be on some level validating that relationship? I’m not sure if that was part of the reason for this policy change, but it made sense to me for the church to have a boundary there. That being said, I think it places a greater burden of responsibility on all members everywhere that we love and include with greater kindness every single person in our midst. If children of gay couples want to enjoy friendship, activities, blessings, meetings… it will be up to us to help them feel every bit as loved as any other child in our congregation. It will be up to us to teach our children to love and include them for the individuals that they are. We currently have a girl in our ward who was not baptized, but likes to hang out with us and she is every bit part of our group as any of the other kids. Zero social stigma. It is possible and it is right to love all of the kids regardless of the decisions that their parents are making.

  20. Tanya says:

    I found for me the situation was very personally driven. Literally drove me to my knees in prayer, and I pondered on it, all night. I prayed again in the morning. As I went through my day, the spirit it taught me, and I understood the policy without hearing any of the reasoning from anyone else, including Elder Christopherson. Frankly it is sad that it had to get to this point. I imagine there were tears as this issue would have been discussed and prayed over. Are we to not feel the same? It was the baby blessing that bothered me, how can we not do that, but then as I heard and understood the need to place homosexual marriage and relationships on the level of apostasy I understood. Babies can still be blessed, and loved, and cared for. Just not that Name and blessing that goes on the official records of the church. Do we bless other babies of parents that are not members? It is unfortunate that the militant movement that would love to push churches to accept and condone gay marriage pushed policy to this level. They probably thought that they can force the issue and it back fired. Unfortunately children do suffer for the choices of their parents, but is it suffering to withhold something that is done out of tradition, probably because parents in the past could not let go of the concept of Christening? Honestly a child’s name could have been placed on church records without this policy I am sure. Let Grandfather’s, uncles, fathers that have priesthood authority give blessings. I don’t deny the hurt and confusion we feel and felt, but for me the peace I felt the other day as I was taught but the spirit was instructive. It was the first time I felt the need to do that for something I did not understand and I felt peace and blessing because of it.

  21. Carefully Hesitant says:

    Such a thoughtful response. I too have struggled with this policy change. I am a faithful member and I have a personal testimony that God wants me to support his apostles and to refrain from sweeping statements of anger or rejection when something like this happens. That being said, I believe it is important to question, ponder, and pray over things and expect that God will answer me in his way and in his time.

    It’s been hard for me to be silent on social media over this–but I have seen too many examples where a few quick and heated keystrokes in the virtual world have ruined real relationships.

    I watched with my heartbreaking as a friend of mine (gay, formerly LDS) and his mother (a sweet and supportive mom, active LDS) got in a huge drop-down drag-out fight on facebook over this issue.

    It ended with them saying hurtful things to one another and she unfriended him.

    Because they both took it personally, but then exploded publicly.

    So, yes. We need to be gentle and kind with one another.

    We need to be careful and hesitant about the things we say on facebook.

    We need to pray for guidance, talk in person to our trusted friends, and work through this. “Working through this” will look different for each of us–and we need to allow for that. We need to allow ourselves and each other to have the journey that we need to have.

    Anyway, thank you for your words. It helped me feel confident in being carefully hesitant.

  22. Katrina says:

    Thank you

  23. Ashley says:

    Actually, I felt uneasy about the policy and then a lawyer explained the complicated legal situation to me. I realized that the church is between a rock and a hard place. It must uphold the laws of the land and at the same time, uphold God’s standards. This, believe it or not, was probably the best compromise they could find. It IS about protecting the children, but not necessarily in the way that everyone is saying. It is in a legal way. It is also about ensuring that they can maintain control over who is married in the temple; something they have a right to do (I believe every religion has a right to establish their rules).

    It really was no longer a matter of faith for me. I get why they’re doing it – it is actually logical; and intentionally ambiguous to allow room for case-by-case examination. It sucks, but what else can they do? And then a small amount of guilt swept over me as I realized that I had felt anger toward the bretheren. I asked myself how this could possibly be God’s will. I learned a personal lesson over this and will no longer speak up publicly about a church issue that I do not understand.

    You asked, I answered.

    I wish you well.

  24. Daniel says:

    The way I look at it. I believe 110% Thomas S Monson is a prophet of God. Never once did I doubt this policy change. However, it did take me awhile to understand it. I truly believe that Gods love and Mercy are behind this change 100%. This is only the beginning of moments like this where it will seem as if you are the only one who believes there is a prophet of God on this earth. If tomorrow the prophet were to come out and say the Sun is blue I’m prepared to follow that council. I realize that’s a pretty far fetched idea. But once again if you believe this Church to be lead by God through a prophet on earth then you shouldn’t doubt, but seek to understand and learn what God would have you learn. That gift is available to all those who want to know.

    • Ashley says:

      Kudos to you, Daniel. I wish I would have been as faithful as you are when I heard the news. As I stated above, it took a lawyer to explain this to me before I understood the reasoning, which is very logical. This was a lesson to me. My testimony has increased because of it. It is unfortunate that things have to be this way, but it is what it is.

  25. Nathan says:

    Matthew 24:24

    For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

    Sounds to me like many “elect” souls are being deceived by others and offended by Christ.

  26. Cam says:

    Love this! Thank you for writing and sharing this!

  27. Havilah says:

    I haven’t posted nor commented anything in regards to this topic thus far, but I would regret it if I did not comment on this one. This entry which you’ve written Kathy has touched my heart in so many different ways. I actually served a LDS Mission in Mesa, AZ around Fall of 2013, I came home early due to post surgical problems. After being home a few months I acted on feelings that I had been in denial of and am now openly a Lesbian and no longer active in the LDS Church. I have still carried with me endless respect for the church expressing that “They are living life best they know how just like everyone else.” While much of me still believes this, I am hurt. And the policy change was made all too timely(2 years and 1 day after I reported for my mission). I just want you to know even if I do not share via social media or reblog your post, please know that I will be sharing it in my personal life. I have saved it, and it is something I truly hold close, as a writer, as a former active LDS Member, as someone effected by this Policy change, and as a daughter of Our Heavenly Father. Thank you so very much. And, I am more than open to exchanging thoughts, if that is something you would ever be interested in. Again, much gratitude to you!

  28. Sarah says:

    Just to clarify: Babies can still be blessed. A “baby blessing” is an ordinance that puts an infant’s name on church record. This is what the church is refusing to do. If same-sex couples want a blessing for their baby, they can still get one. Possibly even in sacrament meeting.

    • Ashley says:

      This is only my opinion but…

      A blessing certificate and record shows the names of the parents. If a baby has gay parents on record, I think the church would see that as a first step toward integrating the acceptance of gay marriage into the church. For a religion that does not accept gay marriage, it makes sense.

  29. Larry Lawton says:

    May I raise a different voice here? My concern is for the many, many members of the church who are faithfully living the law of chastity, despite the temptations of same-gender attraction. They are serving mission, attending the temple, magnifying callings and bearing great burdens we cannot comprehend. (For those of us who do not have that struggle, can you imagine serving a mission with a companion who is not only physically attractive but a spiritual giant? How could one survive, much less keep the spirit?)
    It seems to me that anything less than a ringing declaration that the world is wrong and the Lord is right sets at naught their struggles, and risks setting them adrift on a sea of doubt that their sacrifices are necessary. Having seen the sacrifices made by these faithful members makes me focus on the many who remain faithful in the face of unimaginable temptations.

  30. Homosexual behavior and homosexual lifestyles are wrong. Plain and simple. While we love all our brothers and sisters in and out of the Church, right and wrong are not dictated by personal views and opinions, nor are they set by social trends or consensus. Right and wrong, moral and immoral, are clearly defined and declared by God. We can come to terms with that and be reconciled unto Christ, and chose liberty and eternal life. Or we can remain stubborn and offended and choose the opposite.

    The Church Handbook is directed by Jesus Christ through his prophet and apostles. It is as vital to the members of the Church as are the scriptures.

  1. November 9, 2015

    […] The Exponent: “To My Friend Who Accepts The Church Handbook Changes” (LINK) […]

  2. December 31, 2016

    […] 2. Guest post by Kathy: To My Friend Who Accepts the Church Handbook Changes […]

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