As soon as I heard about the new anti-gay policy of the Mormon Church a little over a week ago, my mind immediately went back to five years ago when another policy was announced that changed my world and further shook the foundations of my belief in the Church. I had just begun the process of coming out, and I wrote on my Invictus Pilgrim blog about the policy and what it meant to me and my two children whom had been adopted as infants from Russia. Here is that post (slightly edited, with pictures and names added):
This past Sunday, I went to church just like I have for almost every Sunday for the past 20+ years since becoming a member. I went to priesthood meeting, just like I always have. The opening announcements were made, just like they always are.
Then, everything changed.
The bishop announced that a worldwide priesthood leadership broadcast had been held the previous day and some important changes to the Church Handbook of Instructions had been made, one in particular being relevant to the priesthood holders then assembled. He then went on to paraphrase the following passage from the new handbook:
“Only a Melchizedek Priesthood holder who is worthy to hold a temple recommend may act as voice in confirming a person a member of the church, conferring the Melchizedek Priesthood, ordaining a person to an office in that priesthood, or setting apart a person to serve in a church calling.
"As guided by the Spirit and the instructions of the next paragraph, bishops and stake presidents have the discretion to allow priesthood holders who are not fully temple worthy to perform or participate in some ordinances and blessings. However, presiding officers should not allow such participation if a priesthood holder has unresolved serious sins.
"A bishop may allow a father who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood to name and bless his children even if the father is not fully temple worthy. Likewise, a bishop may allow a father who is a priest or Melchizedek Priesthood holder to baptize his children or to ordain his sons to offices in the Aaronic Priesthood. A Melchizedek Priesthood holder in similar circumstances may be allowed to stand in the circle for the confirmation of his children, for the conferral of the Melchizedek Priesthood on his sons, or for the setting apart of his wife or children. However, he may not act as voice.” (pg. 140, 2010 CHI)
I felt as though a rug had been pulled out from under me. Suddenly, and devastatingly, the church no longer looked the same to me as it had five minutes before. Something very profound had happened to me, and I knew I would never be the same again.
A bit dramatic? Perhaps. But I’m entitled. Let me explain. But before doing so, I want to say that a number of things could be and have been written about this new policy, mainly by people who aren’t directly affected by it. I will let others expound in the abstract on the whys and wherefores of this new directive. Their voices are valuable, but they aren’t mine. This post is my voice. The voice of one LDS father who, as with the stroke of a pen, is no longer worthy enough to exercise his priesthood on behalf of his family.
I’m going to drop a veil or two in this post, but I feel like it is worth it. My voice is only my little voice, but I feel it needs to be heard in sincerity, in broken-heartedness, in pain and sorrow at losing something that, I fear, can never be regained.
Over the past seven years, my wife and I have adopted several young children overseas. We had biological children; but as a result of a series of events that I won’t go into, we felt compelled to seek out and adopt these children. We didn’t have the money to do it, but we did it anyway, trusting that God would provide.
Unfortunately, the financial crisis and the Great Recession hit us hard. We had borrowed money to finance these adoptions, and we found ourselves between a rock and a hard place as we struggled to pay off this debt. Still, we tried to trust. But we got to the point where we had to make some hard choices, and we reluctantly reduced our charitable donations, including tithing. We just couldn’t do it and survive. Some might have said that we needed to exercise more faith. To those I say, Sorry, we’d already been there and done that (i.e., with the adoptions) – in spades.
A few months ago, my temple recommend expired and I was not in a position to renew it. I felt badly about that at the time. However, I felt that God understood our situation, and I hoped that, someday soon, I would be able to become a full tithe payer again. It was unfortunate that we would not be able to go to the temple for a time, but we could live with that.
That was then. Before the announcement of this new policy.
You see, two of these children that we adopted just turned eight. I was planning to baptize and confirm these children. I had been looking forward to pronouncing a blessing upon their heads. My wife and I had been through so much with them. Starting down the adoption path. Going through all the paperwork. Travelling overseas. Meeting the children. Making the decision to adopt them. Bringing them home.Integrating them into our family. Dealing with serious and long-lasting attachment issues that were so stressful and affected our family so deeply that I wondered at times if we had made a terrible mistake, wondering if our family would ever be “right” again.
Then, the good times. Seeing them make progress. Seeing them start school. Watching them learn and grow. Looking forward to the milestones of their baptisms. Thinking that perhaps the Spirit, in the course of their confirmation blessings, would share some clue as the wondrous mystery of their adoptions, how the fates had brought us together. Looking forward to that time when these two little orphans would become members of the church.
That was before the announcement of the new policy.
Now, I will not be able to confirm my children. That is certain. If the bishop is so guided, I may be allowed to baptize them. I also may be allowed to stand in the circle as someone else confirms them, if the bishop feels so guided.
But I ask myself, why would I want to merely stand in the circle? After the humiliation of being denied the right to act as voice because of a new policy, why on earth would I want to stand in the circle with other men who are not even related to this child and listen to a blessing pronounced by someone who had not been through what I have been through in raising Aaron and Esther? If this was meant to be some sort of consolation, then I’m afraid that, as far as I am concerned, it has rather widely missed its mark.
When I first heard the announcement on Sunday, I felt sick inside. I left the meeting. I not only felt betrayed, I also felt like the church – not the bishop, mind you, and not the stake president, but the CHURCH – had suddenly and without warning cast me out into the street as no longer being worthy enough.
NOT WORTHY ENOUGH. Even though I have been active ever since joining the Church. Even though my wife and I have made huge financial sacrifices in adopting these children. Even though we have been paying tithing consistently for over 20 years. Even though, in every respect except the payment of a full tithe, I consider myself worthy enough to perform these ordinances, and I would have been considered such – prior to the adoption of this new policy.
Some might say (and have so written online concerning this policy) that this change should serve as an incentive to me to exercise more faith and pay my tithing so that I can then be “worthy enough.” There might have been a time in my life when I might have agreed with this statement.
But not now.
Why? Because, in my situation, for me, right here, right now, after feeling like I have been cast out into the street, to embrace such an attitude would be tantamount to purchasing the right to confirm my children, or to ordain my son (who will shortly turn 12). And for me, that simply makes me feel sick inside. Nauseous. Empty. Gutted. Disillusioned. And very, very, very sad. Because something inside of me that once was very precious has been lost, and at this point, I fear it will never be found or regained.
Postscript: What I thought was precious at that time never was regained. But through the process of time, I gained many things of far greater worth.