Dear Mormon Church: These Are the Faces of Apostasy
My name is Brian Andersen and my husband and I are apostates. At least, that's what the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the Mormon Church) has labeled us — thanks to our gay family.
I usually just refer to my "gay family" as "my family" — the gay aspect of our lives is a minor element in the deep, dynamic matrix that makes up our family. The fact that my daughter’s parents are both men doesn’t detract from or lessen the strength of our connection, nor our commitment to her wellbeing.
The reality is that we are no more unique or special than any other American family. We are simply making our way in the world together, fueled by love, laughter, and hope.
But despite our "normalcy," my once-beloved faith has declared us deviants. My husband and I are, in the Church’s eyes, guilty of a "particularly grievous or significant, serious kind of sin that requires Church discipline," according to high-ranking LDS official Elder D. Todd Christofferson.
That disciplinary action ultimately results in excommunication. Because my husband and I have a child, our daughter is unwelcome and, according to a new policy from the Church’s ecclesiastical leaders, not worthy of a blessing or a baptism.
While I am still a Mormon, I no longer attend weekly Church meetings. But back when I was a dedicated and active member of the Mormon Church, I feared apostates and apostasy.
From everything I learned and was taught, an apostate member was the lowest of the low; someone who dared turn his or her back on the truth, on salvation, on the Celestial Kingdom (the highest level of the three possible heavens). To my then-shielded eyes, an apostate member was clearly the unhappiest person on Earth.
Funny enough, now that I find myself a living, breathing apostate, I have to say it’s not so bad. In fact, I’ve never been happier. This spiritually derogatory title does not make me a bad person; it just makes me a person — like I was before I joined the Church, and like I am since leaving it.
Although I firmly believe I am more than the sum of my parts, those parts are numerous: I’m a son, a husband, a brother, an employee, a father, a rabid comic book geek, a former missionary, a cat owner, and a hater of cheese. I’m usually flawed, and rarely perfect. I’m often good, and I’m occasionally bad. I am all of these things.
Like me, the LDS Church and its members are many things. The Church’s ultimate, stated goal is to be a force for good in the world. It is not, in itself, striving to bring harm to those who do not fit into the mold its doctrine prescribes.
But that doesn’t mean this insidious policy isn’t harmful and dangerous. While the Church attempts to mask it as "doing good" for children of gay parents, it's a policy that will prove only to further hurt and divide Mormon families with LGBT members.
It’s a policy that demonizes same-sex marriage, same-sex parents, and the innocent children of these unions.
This policy clearly communicates to my daughter — and many other children with a gay parent — that the Church finds our family abnormal, unhealthy, unholy, and simply not as good or worthy as families headed by opposite-sex parents. It should go without saying that this is the wrong message to send to families — gay or otherwise.
My daughter has extended family members who are devout and active in the LDS Church. I do not want her to feel unworthy, ashamed, or marginalized because her cousins have a mother and a father, which their faith declares makes them somehow superior to her and her two dads. When it comes to family and raising children, what matters is love, not gender.
This new Church policy will also further embolden those members who oppose LGBT people and our equal rights — like the pious Mormon blogger who launched a vicious, personal attack against my family earlier this year. A person who I have never met, who knows nothing of me and my family, blatantly and openly insulted us in the name of his beliefs. So it's not hard to see how policies like this one can be interpreted as justification for such antigay onslaughts.
This is wrong. No amount of righteous indignation is justification for hatred.
That truth, with which I am intimately familiar, is what prompted me to post a photo of my beautiful family on social media the day I learned of the new Church policy. The photo was accompanied by a caption: “This is the face of apostasy.” It was important for me to put a face to those who saw us only as sinners. It’s hard to hate someone once you know their story, once you see a face, a family, behind the "sin."
While we received plenty of support from my post, we also experienced comments filled with the usual, “I love you but…” statements. These faux-supporters, who profess their love for us while condemning us in the same breath, are keyboard crusaders who do more harm than good. And their behavior is validated by policies like the one the Church just announced.
When my daughter was a week old, her grandfather blessed her. The blessing of a newborn is an important tradition in the Mormon faith, a wonderful opportunity to come together and support a child's arrival into the world. It’s a chance for friends and family to gather, to reconnect, in love and celebration.
Even though I had left the Church, my daughter’s blessing touched me. My heart was full witnessing my family’s joy in the arrival of my daughter. It was a beautiful thing, regardless of my personal position towards my faith.
But it saddens me to know that the innocent children of other LGBT parents — other apostates — will no longer be allowed to bring this pure joy to Mormon families. This new policy is counterintuitive to the fundamental valuing of family that is central to the Mormon faith in which I was raised.
It's also directly contrary to the hymns I used to sing in church pews, where we proclaimed that all children are children of God, sent to parents on Earth solely to love and raise them up.
This policy contradicts the goodness of the Church I once knew and to which I had devoted my life. And that is something this lowly apostate is personally impacted by — and will struggle to explain to his daughter as she grows in her own faith.