This post is specifically for friends and family who are Mormon. To start out, I want you to feel comfortable reading this post. I am not criticizing the church in this post. I am asking you to think about a principle of Mormonism.
There is a well-known Book of Mormon scripture that describes what Mormons promise to do when they get baptized. It indicates that people become qualified for baptism by desiring “to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.”
When I was Mormon, I found this to be one of the most beautiful passages of scripture. I loved it and I tried to live it. It helped me survive the aftereffects of abuse I suffered as a child, cease to be the abusive person I was raised to be, and to become an advocate for victims of abuse.
The new policy bars children of members who have ever lived in a same-sex relationship from being baptized until they are 18, have moved out of their parents’ home, and disavowed same-sex cohabitation and same-sex marriage.
This has understandably traumatized many people. Yet I have seen so many people deny that this new policy is hurtful in any way. I have seen incredible burdens placed on those in same-sex relationships. I have seen incredible burdens placed on their parents, siblings, children, and friends. I have seen excruciating mourning on the part of gay people, their family, and their friends over this new policy. I have seen desperate pleas for comfort from the church and from members of the church.
To be fair, I have seen a few examples of kind and loving responses where church members have picked up the burdens to share them with those who are so weighed down, where church members have mourned with those in mourning, and where church members have comforted those in need of comfort. But from my vantage as an observer of the posts on social media, comments on news coverage, and commentary by church members, this is the exception, not the rule.
I have been bewildered that this has not been the rule. I have to ask what happened to bearing each others’ burdens? What happened to mourning with those who mourn? What happened to comforting those in need of comfort? Is not this the essence of standing as a witness of God, particularly in a time of incredible pain? Even if you feel that defending the policy is standing as a witness of God, does that mean that it is OK to deny the grief and mourning of others by denying that the policy legitimately causes pain and suffering?
Even if you still personally agree with the policy is it asking too much to see it from the perspective of those who are so terribly hurt by this new policy? Is it too much to try to step into their shoes? Is it too much to bear each others’ burdens, to understand that people are in terrible pain, to forgo defending the policy that is so hurtful to them when you are in conversation with them?
Is it so important to defend this new policy that you can’t mourn with those who mourn and comfort those in need of comfort without also hurting them further by defending the policy?
Though I no longer count myself a believer, I can’t help but put myself back into my old believing mindset in which it is difficult to go against the authority of church leaders and hope that I would have been a representative of Christ, to stand as a witness of his unfailing love and care for others. I particularly hope I would have done so in this time in which people are in so much pain, in which the burdens are so heavy, the mourning so excruciating, and the need for comfort so obvious.
One reason I hope that this would be the case is that I knew that church leaders had made terrible mistakes that God could not possibly have sanctioned, such as denying full membership to black people for over 150 years, the institution of polygamy, and the treatment of women. I know I was on the fringes of Mormonism for believing this, but you no longer have to be on the fringes to believe it. At a minimum, the church has disavowed its past racism and disavowed even its past prophets who supported the racist policy. It has stated publicly in general that its leaders have made terrible mistakes consistent with the culture of those leaders’ times.
You don’t have to stop believing to believe that this new policy is a terrible mistake. The church has given you permission through its admission that church leaders have made terrible mistakes.
You don’t even have to stop standing as a witness of God if you believe that this new policy is correct. You could simply acknowledge that based on past leaders’ mistakes that it might be mistaken, even if you personally don’t think it is.
That might make it easier to take that first step toward Christlike behavior of sharing the burdens of those whose burdens are too heavy right now, of mourning with those whose mourning is unbearable right now, of comforting those in desperate need of comfort.
I’m asking my Mormon friends and family to please consider this.