Dalley: No Apology Will Come To LGBTQ Latter-day Saints


Salt Lake Temple (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

By Nathan Dalley, Opinion Writer

In a recent address to a crowd at Brigham Young University, the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stated that, “The truth is, however, that in the beginning in the beginning marriage was ordained by God! And to this day it is defined by Him as being between a man and a woman. God has also not changed His law of chastity.”

President Russell M. Nelson then went into a defense of the infamous November 2015 policy that excluded the children of queer families from being given baby blessings, entering the waters of baptism and participating in other ordinances performed within the church. This policy has brought deep, lasting grief and harm to LGBTQ people and their families. Yet, through the devotional, Nelson was defensive, clearly stating that the role of church leaders is to teach “only truth,” even when it is unpopular and it causes members pain.

Many still feel the pain caused by the policy of exclusion against LGBTQ people and their children. Some may hope that an apology for the policy is coming, but it is unlikely that one ever will. The church has been unapologetically anti-LGBTQ in the past and Nelson’s speech at this BYU devotional hardly brings evidence of change.

The church has a long, proud history of sabotaging the progression of LGBTQ rights in the United States. In the 1970s, members were recommended to only vote for candidates that opposed the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, partially on the grounds that it might open doors to legalize same-sex marriages. In 1981, the “Homosexuality” handbook was released, stating the church’s “unequivocal position” that homosexuality is morally wrong. According to the handbook, “homosexuality in men and women runs counter to divine objectives and the intended destiny of mankind.”

In 1993, same-sex marriage laws were being challenged in Hawaii. During this time, several religious groups, including the Latter-day Saints, actively fought the legislation with volunteers, public statements and money.

In 1995, the church released The Family: A Proclamation to the World, which warned of the perils of legalizing same-sex marriages, accepting non-binary or varying gender identities and specified the gender roles members were expected to fulfill. This proclamation was a direct response to the feminist and gay rights movements, which had been gaining social traction since the 1960s. The proclamation has since stood as one of the main church doctrines against such liberalizing social values.

These efforts were eventually thwarted. In 1997, same-sex couples were granted reciprocal beneficiary relationships for any adults who were prohibited by state law from marrying, including both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. These benefits included inheritance, health insurance, hospital and jail visitation rights, the right to sue for wrongful death and the right to jointly own property.

Gordon B. Hinckley, the President of the Church at the time, claimed that while leadership wanted to help and strengthen LGBTQ members, they “cannot stand idle if they indulge in immoral activity, if they try to uphold and defend and live in a so-called same-sex marriage situation.” He struck out at “so-called gays and lesbians,” declaring that their marriages would “make light of the very serious and sacred foundation of God-sanctioned marriage and its very purpose, the rearing of families.”

In 2008, the church infamously supported Proposition 8, which would have officially defined marriage as between one man and one woman in the state of California. It spent nearly eight million dollars on that campaign alone, claiming to be coming to the defense of the moral standing of the family.

Even this brief history illustrates the bigoted stance the church has consistently taken against LGBTQ individuals, a commitment that is unlikely to change. Even if there was a change, the formal leadership of the church will never offer an apology for the harm and wrong-doing they have caused the LGBTQ community for decades. Current LGBTQ members and their families continue to be harmed by their teachings. Former members who have since rejected the church and resigned from its membership also need to stop asking for an apology that will never come.

Giving attention to the church leaders’ bigoted remarks, even while asking for an apology, does nothing but cause more pain and suffering. It further entraps LGBTQ individuals into believing the false claim that they will be safe and accepted within congregations just so long as they wait and downplay their identity. While it might feel good to comment and fight back against the homophobic and transphobic remarks facilitated by church leadership and perpetuated by bigoted members, we only further the reach of the harm. The only way to reduce the pain that the church inflicts upon others is to leave it and to encourage those that it is directly harming to leave it as well.


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