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.

What is most tragic to me is that we don’t have to play a hypothetical, if/then game with my life. There are children today who are suffering because of this incomprehensible and thoroughly unjustifiable policy. I know of two children whose baptisms were scheduled for tomorrow but have had their saving ordinances cancelled because their fathers are in gay relationships. Think of what we have just done to their lives. We should be so ashamed.

One more thing, the church has just thrown a bomb into our midst without one word of explanation or clarification. There are very real people who no longer know what their status is in the church and in the eternities. Our stories changed last night. I, myself, have to wonder when I will have to start paying for the proverbial sins of my father? My mother is several years older than my father and has a chronic illness; it is within the realm of possibilities that my father could have a male partner at some point. And what then? Do I have to disavow him to keep my temple recommend? Is it possible that I could lose my membership and saving ordinances? If I refuse to condemn my father–which I absolutely do–why should I be able to keep my covenants when another child of a gay parent who does the same thing isn’t allowed to make them? This policy is so cruel and ill-conceived that I cannot even begin to articulate the depth of my anger and contempt.

I don’t like to write posts like this. I like to approach hard things from a measured and thoughtful place. Perhaps I should have taken the time to work through my anger and grief. But I have to be on record as saying No to this. If there is anything the Mormon church has taught me it is that my family is worth defending.

I will not be silent.

This is wrong.

This is not of God.


  1. Thank you for sharing your story. I am so saddened by this policy change. The Mormon faith will miss the wisdom, love, and goodness of those it is shutting out. And it hurts babies.
    Who hurts babies?

    • No. They do not hurt babies. Try not to sensationalize things. That’s the most reductions comment I’ve read on this entire debate.

      • I guess it depends on what you consider hurt, Devin. While giving a baby a name and a blessing is not a savings ordinance, it is arguably how we induct and welcome new babies into our community. By not allowing the children of gay parents to be blessed in front of our congregations it sends a message that those children are not welcome and part of our community. And that is deeply hurtful to those children who could find comfort in our community and their parents.

      • This shows what it’s all about.

        It’s about love for families. If a family is of same sex couple then they aren’t living in harmony of the church . they don’t want to come in between family’s during the hard ages in children’s lives. They do have a chance to get baptized later in life when they aren’t in the situation anymore. Your dad chose to stick with the gospel and not to choose other paths. That’s not what it’s pertaining to. I feel like people aren’t looking into it fully and they are just hearing that they CAN’T get baptized and that’s not the case.
        Here is another situation that I feel is the same. My sister is devorsed and her husband has to say it’s OK for their son to get the priesthood. He doesn’t want to let him so my nephew has to wait until he’s 18. Because the church doesn’t want to come in between family’s decisions.

      • Did you read my post, Denise? Specifically this part: “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.” Also, your nephew’s situation is really not comparable to the majority of children who will be affected by this policy.

  2. A beautiful, thoughtful and measured post in every way. Thank you for putting real faces, real lives, real sorrow behind this abhorrent new “policy.” Sending so much love to you and all of us who are reeling as we consider all the “if’s and thens” of our lives.

  3. Seriously, how can it be anything but damaging to deny youth the gift of the holy ghost, the sacrament, and temple attendance during the critical teen years? We’re currently losing 1/2 our kids during that time period. What percentage will make it through if they are systematically excluded from the very heart of the youth program? My guess is 1-2% tops.

    • I think you’re probably right, Dave K. I also can’t imagine that kids and teenagers make it to 18 and want to be baptized when fitting in with your peers is so important during those stages of development. It hard not to feel like the leaders of our church have decided that these children are collateral damage in whatever fight they are fighting and losing them is a price worth paying. And that, for me, is breathtakingly painful.

      • Toni, if you’re referring to what Dave said about youth leaving the church, I think he meant youth that becomes inactive or resigns from church because they lose or never gain a testimony or find the church to be a wrong place for them.

  4. Thank you for sharing part of your life and heart with us. You provide a much needed perspective to this unfathomable decision.

  5. I know there is so much sadness over this. I just want to clarify that there is nothing about disavowing family members, only to disavow the practice of same-sex marriage/cohabitation.

    • I understand there’s a rhetorical difference but that’s not really a helpful distinction when being in a same sex relationship is so central to who our gay family members are as human beings.

      • But isn’t that why the church doesn’t want to make these children choose between loyalty to our religion and loyalty to the identity of the family that they belong to? At least that was the message that I got after listening to Elder Christophersons interview. Thought?
        My other thought after reading your post and a topic that I would love to hear your view on is this: have we as a primary organization and a church culture made baptism into a right of passage and social status more than a covenant process of a deeply individual nature. No one NEEDS to get baptized right at 8 years old, because no one looses out by being older. But we teach 8, get baptized at 8.

      • actually I want to retract my first question, as I re read your story with new insights. You already stated how you would have felt. But I do see how even more remarkable a person you are and I hope to be a friend as you come to whatever resolve in this.

      • Thank you, RWoods, I really appreciate that. It’s an interesting question about the baptismal covenant. I think you’re right that setting our baptismal age at 8 makes it more a right of passage rather than a covenant making ordinance. Even though we teach them about covenants, knowing and having an 8 year old myself, I feel like they just don’t have the emotional maturity or sophistication to know exactly what they are covenanting–that comes much later. I’m fine with the discussion of changing the baptismal age but it has to apply across the board to all children of the church. It’s really complicated but it means a lot to me that you are willing to engage on this.

      • RWoods, I’m not sure you have considered all of the ramifications of getting baptized at 18 vs at 8. For a young man, this also means he will not receive the priesthood and will not advance through the ordinations like the other young men his age. While he may be welcome to show up to the meetings, he will not be able to fully participate by doing the things that the other deacons, teachers, and priests will be doing (passing, preparing, and blessing the sacrament, among other things).

      • If children of record are NOT baptized at 8, we drop them off the membership rolls of the church when their 9th birthday comes. IF they are baptized after that, it is considered a convert baptism. So, yes, it IS a rite of passage in our Church. I’ve been an active member for 60 years and I can only remember ONE active child who was not baptized at 8 — she was terrified of water and it took her more than a year to have the courage to go into the water. This was in the 1960’s, before their names were dropped from membership at age 9.

  6. I just thought of something else: What about those children & teens already members of the Church, who also now have a parent in a Gay marriage? Does the Church go back & Excommunicate them, & tell them to join again when they are aged 18? No Primary, Priesthood, or YW advancement for those children & teens in such a situation?

    Some Church Leaders & members have read too much into what they are allowed to do, from such Policy announcements.

    • Exactly! There has been no clarification on what this means for children in this situation. Leadership roulette is a real thing and I would not be surprised in the least if we see this kind of overreach from a few bishops. I already know of one situation where a BYU student is being threatened with the loss of their ecclesiastical endorsement if they go home and spend the holiday with their gay parent. I expect we will start hearing more of these stories over the coming weeks and months.

  7. As a counterpoint, it is interesting that many who are gay/lesbian support this. The policy doesn’t preclude anyone from attending an LDS church or its activities. It doesn’t prevent babies, or anyone, from receiving blessings of health, comfort, guidance, etc. it does, however, strive to protect peace in the home and not add discord to a situation that may difficult and tensions. Many people have to wait until they’re 18 to be baptized for different situations anyway. This just isn’t surprising to me. And before anyone thinks I don’t “get it”, there are two gay people in my family. I have only heard from one at this point, and he supports this new policy.

    • I never claimed to speak for all gay people or families, Devin. I shared my perspective as a child of a gay man and how this policy could and does affect me. The argument that this is to protect the peace in the home is unconvincing to me because it I think we are not accounting for who is going to be most hurt by this policy. While there may have been some children of gay parents who would go to church and be baptized, the majority will be the children from mixed orientation marriages. As I stated in my post, this policy would have been devastating to me and my mother and would have caused more damage to my family.

    • Devin, most rationalizations that I read seem to focus only on the 18-year-old requirement, as if that was the only one. But that is not the case. A young man must also physically move out from the home of the gay parent(s) and disavow the parents’ relationship entirely. This would fall into even a very narrow interpretation of the word “shunning.” It is driving wedges into families.

    • Devin, I am the father of four children whose mother left to live as a lesbian. I have sacrificed a great deal to follow the counsel of church leaders and ensure they stayed active and got baptized, ordained, etc. Now you and the church are telling me it was a stupid thing to do–that I hurt my children.

      Good heck, man, why don’t you realize that after being effectively shunned, hardly any kids are going to hang around, just waiting for the chance to effectively turn against their parents at age 18 so they can finally be baptized?

      Please point me to all the interviews and blog posts from believing gay and once married to gay parents who are thanking the first presidency for their wise, inspired policies that will protect their kids. I haven’t seen one, because these parents know that the best chance their kids have for developing a testimony is full engagement in the church during their childhood.

      I don’t know if you are married and have kids, but please get to that place then become gay and remarry to a man bit keep your testimony even though you hate yourself. Then you will understand when someone tells you your kids can come to church if they can bear the emotional pain of being treated like a second class member.

      • C – I am so sorry for the plight of your family. Either the Brethren fail to see what you said about children in your family’s situation becoming second class members or then they just judge that opposing equal marriage is more important than a few lost and hurt souls. What happened to the worth of souls being great in the eyes of God?

    • John Dehlin was the one who “dropped this bomb” on the LGBTQ community that he professes to love and support. As the church has had multiple statements, explanations, and even a video from the Apostle who has a gay brother, I think it is clear that the church wasn’t trying to hurt anyone. John Dehlin needs to create headlines to drive traffic to his Mormon Stories group and make money on the pain of our brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community. To masquerade as a supporter, but then to drop a bomb, is the ultimate deception in my book.

      • Shooting the messenger? John told us there was a bomb coming, but he didn’t create the bomb or send it off, either. The “bomb” would have hit whether or not John alerted us to it.

      • Sabrina said “I think it’s clear that the church wasn’t trying to hurt anyone…”

        I couldn’t disagree more. One only need look at the number of Mormons who at first denied this policy’s existence and then witness the abrupt about face they made and seized upon the excuse that it was “about protecting the children.”

        This policy is “institutionalized bigotry”

        You don’t choose to be gay…but you can choose to be a Mormon bigot.

      • Oh, so it’s Dehlin’s fault for telling the world, not the fault of the church expelling gays and their children. Such backwards logics!

        The real question is why did the LDS Church want to keep this a secret? Because they spent a lot of money creating a smiling image of acceptance, while privately excommunicating gay couples and banishing their children.

        Too bad these so-called prophets don’t understand social media and the 21st Century.

      • John Dehlin has amazing powers! In his posting quotes from the handbook, he was able to completely enslave people’s thinking, inserting his opinion into major publications all over the world.

        Beware of John Dehlin! His mind control powers are unassailable!

  8. I spent years in the LDS church. When I found they were not worshipping Christ on Easter a few years ago, I fled into the arms of my true Christian friends. What a comfort! I now worship in true Christian church. Much happier! Less depression for my new sisters. Check it out!

  9. The church is not true. In my mind, it’s that simple. Coming from a 30+ year extremely devoted member who has since left the church, it is amazing to see how the policies of the church and decisions of its leaders make so much more sense when you view them as not being from God but just from people. Doesn’t mean it’s not a meaningful social and/or spiritual organization with a lot of good people, but I don’t believe God cares if you get their ordinances done or not.

    • I’m glad that thought brings you peace, Bob. While I agree with you that this policy is not from God that will probably be cold comfort to the 8 year old child who wants to get baptized or their parents/grandparents who do believe in the importance of the ordinances. This will be a hurtful, sad thing for many many people.

  10. Thank you. I remember your original story from years ago and it’s the story of so many, some of whom feel they can’t speak and others who are reasonably too angry to contribute discussion. Like you, I can’t be quiet even though I’d rather. Thank you.

    • Thank you, GK. I’m sitting here with your wife right now and she is bringing me so much comfort. Thank you for sharing her with us this weekend.

  11. 100% agree with this!!!
    The LDS church is rationalizing/justifying this decision.
    A certain amount of Kids from gay parents WILL be in church meetings WILL hear about the blessings of baptism/preishood & how are they going to feel? Not worthy? Yah, try to tell em that all you want, nevertheless, they still have no choice. Meanwhile the kids next to them may have a parent in prison for a horrible crime, they will be baptised, & celebrating will commence with songs, the kid being brought to the front in sacrament meeting AND primary AND being presented with gifts of candy, a ctr ring and a picture of Jesus.
    Honestly, nothing anyone says will convince me on any level that excluding a child for any reason is “ok”.

    • While I do think it will be hard for kids in this situation, I think it would also be hard for kids to get baptized and hear over and over again about the sinful nature of a homosexual lifestyle and then go home to gay parents and still have a good relationship with them. I think they are both situations that w0uld be extremely difficult for a kid to deal with and that would cause a lot of heartache and conflict. But I think the message is being misinterpreted. I think the message is respect your parents. When you are in their household, don’t join some group (the LDS church) that goes against everything they believe in. That would be a disaster for the parent/child relationship. But when you are older and are out on your own, chose for yourself. As mentioned above, I think that’s why some in the gay community support this. They support the fact that the church is willing to set boundaries and not try to invade and divide their household.

  12. Thank you so much for writing this. I have not been active for about 30 years but finally resigned my membership officially over this horrific ruling. I was 17 when I joined and would have felt as though there was something wrong with ME if I had been told I couldn’t get baptized until I was 18 because of my parents… and it would have made a difficult situation much more so. The church filled a need at the time. It is wrong to punish children for what their parents are doing, regardless of what it might be. It is just wrong.

  13. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story. It’s clear to me that while the church is trying to spin this to be about families, it’s really only about one thing – protecting the children of straight parents, from the “evil” influence of children from same-sex parents. They simply don’t want these children in their youth programs talking about their two moms or two dads, because it will then become accepted as normal.

    I’m grieving the religion I was raised in, and what it has become.

    • I think somehow they are trying to “cleanse” the church of any LGBT members – whether they are off-spring or practicing non-heterosexual couples. It does feel like the church is trying to minimize and neutralize any contact with alternative lifestyles.

  14. Thanks for sharing this. I grew up in the church. My parents divorced when I was five. My dad left the church(probably sometime before they split). My mom had a baby out of wedlock. She became inactive in my teenage years, yet she encouraged me to remain active (even taking my little sister with me). It was really hard wondering if I would even have a chance of being a forever family with my parents. But as hard as that was, I’m sure it would have been even harder if I had been denied baptism because of my parents lifestyles.
    Also, I think the church should stop picking on just the homosexuals(and the polygamist kids). Even better would be to wait until all kids were 18 before they made any covenant with the church. Kids don’t know what they are doing at age 8 when they are becoming members of the church. When I left at 19 they told me I wasn’t old enough to know the decision I was making to leave the church, and refused to take my name of the records (even though I didn’t find out they did so until years down the road).
    Anyway, my cousin is gay and left the church, and they already have been dealing with the church and his ex pitting his kids against him. This will only make it worse.

  15. Thus far I have not read any comments from gay parents who actually have children that would be affected. I would be interested if someone has a link. My partner and I have 2 sons ages 8 and 13. We were recently exploring returning to the Church. So many people have commented about this being a loving gesture on our behalf. You do not know our family. You don’t know MY children. You don’t know OUR struggles. You don’t know anything about us. I say to those who are proclaiming what is best for my family. Stop! Just stop. I really want you to TRULY consider applying this new rule to your own children. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. We are ALL sinners in the sight of God. Look put at your children folks. If the new argument that none of these ordinances and milestones in a child’s life really mean nothing, then stop them for all.

  16. MRaynes, I have loved you as long as I have known you. 18 years I believe. I deeply appreciate your feelings. I do not think that it is possible for a single policy to protect everyone and that is hard. I understand how you feel and I think I too would have felt excluded. You and I took baptism very seriously and were baptized for ourselves. My husband’s cousins were children of a lesbian mother and an lds father whose mixed marriage disintegrated. They loved with their mother and were socially pressured into the “you get baptized at eight because you’re supposed to” thing. It was horrible for them. They weren’t ready and did not have the ability to deal with the complex issues they faced as a result. None are active today. I saw the policy as looking out for them.

    That being said, I feel like we could do so much more by making baptism not a rite of passage but a when you’re ready and understand it thing and by teaching more compassion and understanding of the LGBT community. I think it CAN be done even without a change in doctrine.

  17. I don’t know you at all, and just stumbled on this (I think from design mom), but I’m so glad I did. Thank you for sharing such a vulnerable and real part of your life. Your story and others like this need to be heard and understood!

  18. My heart is heavy after reading this. It seams like a few a amazing faithful member have lost sight.
    If you are a member of the church and you have ever had a testimony then you know our prophets have put so much prayer into this. They are doing the Lords will. It never was the will of God to have children raised in this type of home.
    This is human nature! Why is it OK for humans to break God law and put those special spirits in that situation in the first place!

    • You are judging the prophets of God
      You are no different than that what you are complaining about!
      If you are feeling contention then only Satan is winning in your home.

      • This policy has been in place for many years and I think you guys really do know that this is put in place so that a child doesn’t turn against their parents and the parents doesn’t turn against the child this protects the family unit that the child is being raised in. And you are being so judgemental on the church and its policy that has been around for years for polygamy for Muslims for all sorts of reasons when a family is divorced and the father doesnt let the child to get baptized but the mother does there’s so many situations where are the child has to wait till they’re 18 to make that choice on their own you’re just jumping on the bandwagon because this happens to be for gay and lesbian couples God has not changed his definition of marriage or the family unit it has not changed he has not come to the earth and said this is going to be different and that gives me comfort that the Church does not bend it stays firm it stays solid as a rock with the laws of God. If you don’t like the laws in this church go somewhere else don’t come go to a church where the religion suits your feelings and your needs. If you are LDS and you do have a testimony of the Church you know that it is led by the prophets of God so have faith that they prayerfully went through this and know that it’s a good thing for the kids to not have to decide that until they’ve left the home. stop gossiping and gnashing your teeth on something that if you don’t want to part of you don’t have to be a part of it. But I love my face and I love my prophets and I know this hurts them the pain in the add me that people are going through when they really don’t have to go through it it is a simple simple policy in place to protect children even gay and lesbian couples understand what this policy means and how it will help their family unit until the child can decide for himself where he wants to go to church and how he wants to be baptized.

      • Yeah, and you’re idolizing them. It’s better to retain one’s conscience than to turn it over entirely to an earthly authority. Any earthly authority. They blew it here. It’s unfortunate that you’re not able to let yourself see this.

    • Whisper, your assumptions are illogical, if not pretentious. I have had a testimony, but I don’t see why that means the brethren have put so much prayer into this. I’m not saying they haven’t and if you’ve received personal revelation about it, then good for you. Just try not to present your personal revelation as everyone else’s guiding light–unless you really do mean to take upon yourself the role of prophet and judge as your comments suggest.

  19. What exactly did they blow…the church didn’t command a man to marry a woman. The church didn’t set forth the plan for family.
    They stand by the law…
    Has the law changed.
    The Bible is still the word of God.
    The family unit is being changed by the world and because some one feels bad or its not fair. But God’s definition of marriage still remains unchanged and the church remains unchanged changed.
    Will you hold your knife to my throat because I have faith and I’m loyal. What wolf are you feeding

    • Sheesh, you don’t have to be so accusatory. But you do have some points. Choose to look with an eye of faith the church is lead by a prophet and you see something quite different. And its true that this policy has been around a long time and applied to several situations and has not been created to strike out at gays or purge the church of gay influence.

  20. […] shifted the community of those associated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I wrote then of my anger and horror over the action and though things have mostly settled into the new reality, I have been left with a constant ache […]

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