I grew up in polygamy through no choice of my own. And because of that, I was on the fringes, an "apostate." When my family moved to Utah from our polygamous commune in 1987, the Allred name was still fresh and synonymous with my grandfather Rulon Allred, who had been assassinated in 1977. My parents actually wanted us kids to attend the local LDS ward, because they wanted us to have a safer and more moderate upbringing. But we were turned away because of our family name and because my father was not ready at the time to disown his family, brothers and mothers.
Consequently, I was branded with a scarlet letter, the biggest kid in my grade with giant hearing aids and a funny way of talking. On top of all that, if there is one thing a Mormon doesn't like, it's a polygamist Mormon. The bullying and constant feeling of being "less than" among my classmates was brutal. This happened because I was paying the price for the choices and actions of my ancestors. I was being punished for my father's sins, and not my own: a direct conflict of the Second Article of Faith.
I was a pawn in the church's grown-up version of bullying and intimidation, and now the children of gay people are, too.
The most serious harm is not going to come from the kids not being in church, fully welcomed, it will come from the social ostracizing at school and their community. The LDS Church and its devout followers are playing coy and completely disregarding the social ramifications a child will endure when it flippantly says, "When they are 18 they can be baptized." Sure, when they are 18, after going through their most formative years as a teen, through a gantlet of mental abuse, developing who knows what kind of emotional complexes and illnesses. But, too bad, because their parents are apostates.
Eventually, after my father discovered serious abuse within the council of the Apostolic United Brethren, we did flee, and then and only then, after we were to denounce our heritage, our line, sitting through tough meetings with the First Presidency of the LDS Church, we were allowed to join the Mormon faith. For five years after my family left polygamy when I was 13, I was embarrassed, ashamed of my past, of my heritage. I had to disavow everyone. For fear of not belonging, I disowned my cousins, my best friends that I left behind, so my family and I could be accepted into the new world that we entered. I had tremendous guilt through my teenage years.
Yet, as I have grown and gained more perspective through my travels around the world, and as I speak of it onstage, I have become proud of my line, of my cousins, my family, my aunts and uncles, who chose or had to remain in polygamy. And to this point, yes, there are monsters in polygamy and many victims, especially children. Imagine how many of those, especially in the Jeffs or Kingston clans, who are in violent and abusive situations, would find the courage to leave if the LDS Church spent more time welcoming them, had an outreach program, instead of pointing a finger, alienating and drawing a line in the sand. People in need of help are never going to go ask for help from someone who has been judging them and calling them sinners all of their lives.
Lance Allred is a motivational speaker, author, host of "Culture Jock" on KRCL 90.9 FM and was the first deaf player in the NBA.