Protecting the Children (from Cognitive Dissonance)

My response to the recent policy change as well as the subsequent “clarification” has been one of surprise, sadness, and disappointment.

For someone already in the midst of a faith crisis, one of the hardest parts in all of this has been the Church’s response to all this.

  • The fact that it quietly inserted such a drastic policy change into the handbook without any discussion…
  • The fact that they claim their letter was just a clarification and contained nothing new (“there has been no doctrinal change with regard to LGBT issues”). Rather, we’d all just misunderstood the clear wording of the original, or taken it without context (i.e. “has ever lived”).
  • The fact that the earlier video response from Elder Christofferson did nothing to “clarify” the policy, but rather just defended it.  If it was only intended to apply to a tiny subset of those affected by the original wording, why didn’t he “clarify” then?
  • Finally, the fact that this has been represented as simply an effort to protect the children in these households. This is the most outrageous of all.  (see #1 below)

Personally, I feel like the entire policy contains nothing but harmful and hurtful language, and sadly I feel like that was intentional.  In the last week, I have come to an understanding that does make sense as to why the church would move to change the definition of apostasy to include entering a SSM.  The parallel to polygamy initially felt to forced, but now I can see that there is one strong link: Both of these to forms of marriage represent a rather explicit repudiation of the authority of the Brethren over issues of marriage.  That may be due to seeing them as fallen prophets or as stodgy, out-of-touch old men, but the result is the same.  Both acts do represent a deliberate defiance against the leaders in a way that most other sins (fornication, murder, abuse) don’t.  These other sins of passion are seen as “serious transgressions” and may warrant discipline, but these two forms of marriage are somewhat unique. (I’d be curious if anyone ever made the same arguments about inter-racial marriage in the past, when such marriages also flew in the face of counsel from the brethren – see #3,4)

Children:

The defense from the leaders, including Elder Christofferson and the LDS newsroom via Bro. Otterson, the primary reason for the policy was to protect the children from growing up in a house where they’d get mixed messages at home and at church about the appropriateness of same-sex marriage. These poor kids we’re worried about are those who have a parent in a legal same-sex marriage, who are involved and spiritually inclined enough they’ve given consent to have their 8-18 year-old child baptized/ordained/etc.  What we are supposed to worry about, is that when they go to church they’re going to hear all kinds of (hateful) things about gays, and the abomination that their parents marriage is.  This could leave them to question the moral authority of their parents and cause discord in the home.

Granted, such a situation is not desirable.  Cognitive dissonance is no easy thing to handle as a child/teen.  However, why is it that this is the only (relatively tiny) group of children we’re concerned about protecting in this way.  What about the child who:

  • Has a part-member family where the non-member parent smokes or drinks, or smokes some marijuana?
  • Has one parent who’s gone inactive after reading Rough Stone Rolling and deciding that Joseph made it all up?
  • Is the child of a single-mother who was recently baptized but hasn’t given up her old job as an exotic dancer.
  • Has two heterosexual parents who are no longer together who both are promiscuous and bring home a new partner every week?
  • Has a mother with a new live-in boyfriend and a father they see once or twice a year when he’s not in drug rehab?
  • Has a father who’s been in jail multiple times for embezzlement, fraud and other white-collar crimes.
  • Has a mother who’s a physician who regularly performs elective abortions?
  • Has active Mormon parents who think that a day on the lake in their speed boat is a good Sunday activity?

The list could go on essentially forever.  The point is, ALL kids have to learn to deal with cognitive dissonance. Some kids have to deal with more of it than others, but there is no reason I can see to single out THESE kids, the children of gay parents, and place extra stigma, shame, and confusion into their already difficult lives.

So if it’s not about cognitive dissonance, what is it? On the MormonsAndGays website, the church basically admits that homosexuals do not choose to be gay… it’s either something they’re born with, or a combination of genetics and early life experiences.  Studies clearly show that kids are no more likely to grow  up gay when raised in a household with gay parents… so, what are we so afraid of. We’re afraid that some heterosexual kids of gay parents are going to grow up and be in favor of gay marriage?!?! And that’s reason enough to deny them membership in the Church, the all-important (at least per all prior Church teachings) Gift of the Holy Ghost during these ever so important formative years when they’re trying to get a good foundation of what is right and wrong?

Hmmm…. paradox.


  1. “So this policy originates out of that compassion. It originates from a desire to protect children in their innocence and in their minority years. When, for example, there is the formal blessing and naming of a child in the Church, which happens when a child has parents who are members of the Church, it triggers a lot of things. First, a membership record for them. It triggers the assignment of visiting and home teachers. It triggers an expectation that they will be in Primary and the other Church organizations. And that is likely not going to be an appropriate thing in the home setting, in the family setting where they’re living as children where their parents are a same-sex couple. We don’t want there to be the conflicts that that would engender. We don’t want the child to have to deal with issues that might arise where the parents feel one way and the expectations of the Church are very different. And so with the other ordinances on through baptism and so on, there’s time for that if, when a child reaches majority, he or she feels like that’s what they want and they can make an informed and conscious decision about that. Nothing is lost to them in the end if that’s the direction they want to go. In the meantime, they’re not placed in a position where there will be difficulties, challenges, conflicts that can injure their development in very tender years.” —Elder Christofferson 
  2. Where the Church Stands: The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.
  3. “God has commanded Israel not to intermarry. To go against this commandment of God would be in sin. Those who willfully sin with their eyes open to this wrong will not be surprised to find that they will be separated from the presence of God in the world to come. This is spiritual death… To intermarry with a Negro is to forfeit a Nation of Priesthood holders… It reminds me of the scripture on marriage, ‘what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.’ Only here we have the reverse of the thing – what God hath separated, let not man bring together again.”–Apostle Mark E. Peterson, Race Problems – As They Affect The Church, Convention of Teachers of Religion on the College Level, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, August 27, 1954
  4. “Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.”(Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Volume 10, page 110.)
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