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A mass resignation from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) is planned on Saturday in Salt Lake City, Utah, after the church released a new policy that bans baptizing children of same-sex couples and labels those couples apostates - people who renounce their faith.
Church Elder D. Todd Christofferson did an interview posted on the church's website in which he said the church believes same-sex marriage is a significant sin that requires church discipline, and he wants to remove doubt over the issue, especially after this summer's Supreme Court decision.
"With the Supreme Court’s decision in the United States, there was a need for a distinction to be made between what may be legal and what may be the law of the Church and the law of the Lord," he said on the church's website. He also said the policy reflects a desire to protect children.
Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson speaks with two people who are debating this issue - a father and daughter in Salt Lake City. Leah Leavitt was raised Mormon. She's heterosexual, but after she heard about the new policy, she organized a resignation party at a bar in Salt Lake City. Her father is Gary Leavitt, a devoted member of the LDS Church.
What were your initial reactions to the new policy?
Leah: “First initially, it’s feelings of shock, rage, sadness and definitely mixed emotions. There’s also the added element of, it’s kind of hostile for how much people are arguing about it. Just because – I understand ideologically being against gay marriage, I don’t agree with it but that makes sense to me – but to bring children into it conflicts a lot of church doctrine and common sense and morals to me that it just seemed really unwarranted and out of nowhere.”
Gary: “My first reaction was shock, and then it was, ‘wait this ain’t right,’ and then it was sadness, and then confusion. Those four rapid fire. It didn’t compute. It was hard to reconcile with teachings about children not being held responsible for the actions of the parent. There’s a lot of things that went through my mind that I’m having a hard time articulating.”
On the concept that homosexuals are apostates of the church
Gary: “Personally, I see the logic behind it – there’s only a few things that could be classified as apostasy within the LDS church, and one of those is continuing to go against an established doctrine. That’s why I felt that shifting to the territory of apostasy seemed congruent. After those initial reactions from me, I put it in the suspense category, letting it play out and see what happens and suspend judgment if you will.”
Leah: “I’ve been inactive probably since when Prop 8 came out, is about when I started questioning my faith. I’ve been keeping my records just out of respect for my parents, and kind of put it off because it didn’t matter to me. But because of the policy change I feel I morally need to disassociate myself just because it’s something I don’t agree with and I want to speak against that.”
Why is this an issue of the church at all?
Leah: “I feel very strongly about it. I think without even this new policy we have a serious problem. I guess the issue is they’re basically saying same sex couples aren’t fit to raise a child, and it’s more or less dangerous and it’s going to cause contention and break a family up if a child tries to get baptized. What’s so infuriating to me is how the church’s attitude, and culturally how they treat homosexuals. The leading cause of death in youth here is suicide, and you’re four times more likely if you’re LGBT, so it’s really offensive to me to say that these same sex couples are going to tear up families more than the current situation where they are already disowning their own children, so I think they need to focus on that.”
Gary: “I think the doctrines and policies of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are geared towards its members, and I think we’re dealing with humans here as members of the church and as leadership of the church, and I think that policies are just the leadership’s attempt and desire to have policies of the church comply with doctrines of the church that comply with underlying principles. I’ve got to believe there are personal interpretations that comes with that, and in time that can be fluid on the policy level.”
Is there a problem with the Mormon Church being anti-gay?
Leah: “My issue with that is that, you know, Mormons are a good hearted people, and I don’t think they intend ill will, and even if the church really truly doesn’t intend any malice, perception is reality. And by definition, if you’re calling out a certain group of people or children, you’re marginalizing them. So even if it does come from a good place, there are real effects of it. There have been increased suicide attempts and even if that’s not the intention, that’s the message they’re sending. That puts members in an uncomfortable place, because I know they don’t come from a bad place, but it’s coming off that way.”
Gary: “From a theological standpoint it boils down to, ‘is homosexuality a sin or is it not.’ And if in the minds of church leaders, it is a sin, then doctrines and policies are going to follow that, and the church would rather stand up against the storm than go against what they determine is underlying principles, doctrines, and policies. And if it turns out that it was exactly wrong, then everybody has egg on their face so to speak.”
- Leah Leavitt, resident of the Salt Lake City area who is protesting the LDS Church's policy on same-sex marriage.
- Gary Leavitt, resident of Salt Lake City and member of the LDS Church.
This segment aired on November 13, 2015.
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