Sunday, November 8, 2015

The new Mormon policy of exclusion

The LDS (Mormon) church recently published a new policy regarding individuals in same-sex relationships and their children. Given the church's involvement in opposing same-sex marriage over the past few decades, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the church considers homosexual cohabitation to be sinful and inappropriate behavior for members of the church. What's noteworthy, however, is the church's choice to also generally exclude the children of gay couples. To wit,  this pertains to "a natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting." For brevity, I will refer to such children as "children in The Circumstance."

Church representatives and members are saying that it is for the children's protection. It would be harmful to a child in The Circumstance for their church to tell them that their family is sinful, and to tell them that the only way for their family to stop being sinful would be for their parents to break up. On this point I agree, such a situation would be harmful. For this and other reasons, when I have children of my own, I will not permit them to join the LDS church (until they are adults and can make that decision on their own). However, parental consent has always been required in order for children to join the church. Why does the church have to enforce this exclusion from their end?

Church representatives and members are also comparing this situation to the similar existing policy regarding children of polygamous parents. This comparison is quite apt. Once again, it would presumably be harmful for the church to condemn a child's family structure. But once again, the parents already have the power to prevent their children from joining the church if they feel it is harmful. So again, why does the church have this policy?

I do believe that church leaders and members care about the well being of children in The Circumstance. I do think that may have had some role to play in creating or at least justifying this policy. However, this is not the whole story. There's another motive that seems very clear to me. It is the cult-like tactic of thought control.

The church isn't trying to protect those children from itself, so much as it is trying to protect itself from those children. Those children, and the dissenting ideas that they will bring from their deviant homes. The church doesn't want its members to have to even be exposed to the concept of children in The Circumstance. The church wants to create a bubble, a safety zone where they just don't have to think about viewpoints that contradict the official narrative.

Let's look at some of the details of the new policy that drive this point home. First off, babies in The Circumstance cannot be "given a name and a blessing." This is a Mormon custom, where the baby is presented to the congregation, and usually the father pronounces a blessing, accompanied by various male family members that hold the priesthood. I find this exclusion to be the very telling. What harm is there in this? The excuse given is that it is to prevent the accompanying clerical work of adding the child's name to church records. What a weak excuse. Surely one could simply exclude the clerical work but permit the "name and a blessing" tradition to be carried out if the parents are willing. Clearly the true intent here is to begin the "othering" treatment by not even granting the baby recognition in front of the congregation.

Next up, let's consider the conditions under which a child in The Circumstance can join the church. They must be of legal age. They must specifically disavow "the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage." Okay, we've officially left the "think of the children" territory. We're talking about adults now. Regular old members don't have to adhere to this requirement. Regular old members are allowed to hold dissenting personal opinions on this matter, as long as they aren't too noisy about it. But children of The Circumstance must specifically disavow The Circumstance. This is culty mind-control tactics right here. You have to really convince them that you're not going to bring any dissenting ideas from The Circumstance with you into the church.

Finally, a very odd requirement. Read this over carefully. They must "not live with a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same-gender cohabitation relationship or marriage." That's right. Even if you are an adult. Even if you specifically disavow same-gender cohabitation. If you live with a parent who currently lives or even just in the past has lived in a same-gender cohabitation relationship, you can't be baptized into the church. This is just messed up to the extreme. Once again, we are way outside of "think of the children" territory. Once again, this is cult tactics 101. They require you to literally, physically separate yourself from any parent that is or was responsible for placing you in The Circumstance. I find it absolutely absurd that the church feels the need to go so far as to tell an adult that they cannot live with one of their parents. I'll say it once more: this requirement is cult-like.

Oh, and to top it all off, you still need special approval from the First Presidency of the church.

In summary, the LDS church has employed various policies intended to alienate anyone who might have personal experience interacting with parents in a same-sex relationship. As babies, children of such untouchables cannot be presented in front of the congregation for a name and a blessing as is Mormon tradition. As adults, if they want to be baptized, they must specifically disavow same-sex relationships, to a degree that they cannot even live with a parent that has ever been in one. Finally, their case must be presented to and approved by the highest earthly authority in the church. The clear purpose of all of this is to shelter members of the church from people who have real-life experience with same-sex parents, and who come out of that situation thinking that it was OK.