I am a 60-plus, returned missionary, temple married, father of eight, lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The church taught me we are all brothers and sisters, our highest calling is parenthood and we emulate God as we truly love our children.
The rate of church membership growth has slowed markedly in my lifetime. Today, three-fourths of millennials leave the church alongside many from earlier generations. Reasons for this exodus include a lack of trust that church leaders are truthful regarding controversial issues, the inaccurate portrayal of church history and the unfair treatment of the LGBTQ.
After a daughter disclosed her homosexuality, I was motivated to study the teachings on homosexuality of church leaders I revered, from President Spencer W. Kimball to Russell M. Nelson. The uninspired and ungodly teachings on homosexuality of these leaders were in opposition to what I know about my daughter. She is a beloved daughter of heavenly parents who was born without sin and homosexual. This absolute knowledge created cognitive dissonance and led me to question whether church leaders are truly inspired.
The original November 2015 policy – same-sex married members are in apostasy and their children cannot receive priesthood ordinances – closely matched the policy on polygamous members and their children. The ensuing confusion required clarification via First Presidency letter just one week after the original policy was leaked. Yet two months later Elder Russell M. Nelson stated that the policy was a revelation from God.
In April 2019, the church changed the policy and announced these same married same-sex members are only transgressors and, with bishop approval, their children are ordinance eligible. Five months later, Nelson stated that both the original policy and the reversal are revelations.
I disagree. God’s inspiration feels absent in this timeline.
The uncanonized Proclamation on the Family has been weaponized in opposition to LGBTQ rights, particularly by President Dallin H. Oaks. He has led the church’s anti-LGBTQ efforts with unscientific and un-Christlike rhetoric for decades. These teachings damage precious spirits and destroy faith. Is the resultant spiritual harm to members just collateral damage; and the membership resignations and LGBTQ suicides acceptable losses in the church’s battle?
Do we comprehend that faithful LGBTQ members must sacrifice their right to fully love another person in a legal marriage relationship, a core part of our earthly experience, when choosing lifelong celibacy? Alternatively, if they choose love and marriage; they are judged and shunned by the church, fellow members and family. Something precious is lost with either choice. What would you choose if faced with this situation?
This policy of lifelong celibacy for LGBTQ members appears to be based on church leader’s lack of godly empathy and prophetic vision. Rather than envision expansive doctrine like Joseph Smith or President Kimball, church leaders declare “that’s how it’s always been” or “the world may change but God does not change.” Proverbs 29:18 states “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” The church continues to repeat past mistakes, again subjecting a minority to un-Christlike treatment.
Church members sustain the First Presidency and Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers and revelators. Church teachings state these leaders will never lead us astray. However, if church leaders cannot distinguish revelation from confirmation bias or personal opinion, can we trust their teachings and pronouncements? Have church leaders truly and humbly petitioned God – following President Kimball’s example – to understand His plan for the LGBTQ?
I again implore the leaders of the church to emulate the Savior’s love to seek true revelation with empathy, strength and humility regarding God’s plan of salvation for the LGBTQ.
Dave Winslow is a civil engineer with 35 years of experience. He is inspired by the courage of all who struggle for equality.