On November 5, 2015 Deseret News published an updated section of the Church Handbook which draws a hard line between the church and homosexuality, especially in relation to the children.
At approximately 1:30 am on November 6th, I read the news article online and immediately felt hurt, betrayal, fear, and much confusion. Within minutes I had posted my emotions on Facebook and then neglected to sleep for the next few hours before finally getting up to get ready for work. There were a few people who reached out and said, "I'm sorry. I don't understand. I can't decide how to feel right now, but I want you to know that I care that you hurt. All I know is that it doesn't feel right or good." Life-changing words from a few active, true-believing Mormons to me, a mostly-believing, inactive excommunicated member. I sobbed on my way to work, not knowing what this means for my children, and for their step-siblings. Not knowing what it means for my best friend's children and her family. In that moment I was aching for all who would be impacted negatively and pleading with my Father to help make sense of what seemed to be a very unnecessary line to draw. I calmed down within about one hour of work and then went through the motions, only to find myself a heap of a mess next to my tissue box the rest of the night. Alone in my house I cried out in agony to my Father "Why?!?!" Through the near convulsive tears, I poured my heart out and sat back to learn the answers. They didn't come.
Saturday, November 7th. Facebook was alive with varying sides, mine being the minority. There were hard-fast declarations of "this is what they said, so this is what we do!" but there were more gentle, "I don't understand but have to follow the prophet," and finally "this is and injustice and no child should have to be required to choose anything over their parents." The only thing that I was sure of was my lack of surety about what this will mean for my family and for all of us in a similar situation. I worked a full day and then ended up at Kendall's (my exH) house to have a parental meeting to see what we all felt and planned on doing with the latest news. Before I went inside, I watched the video of Elder Christofferson in hopes that I'd be blessed with clarity and in hopes that I had read it all wrong in the news, but ended up feeling just the same as before. So the five parents met in private as the children played outside.
Kendall (my exH) and Valerie (sealed in the temple, active, true-believers)
Steve (Val's exH) and James (his new husband) (both returned missionaries, no longer affiliated with the LDS church, and now members of the Episcopalian church)
Me (mostly believing, non church going, still having my children attend every week, somewhere in the middle)
We sat to discuss what, if anything, this means for our children and our families. We shared heartache and fears and ideas. We briefly talked of moving out of state because it at least feels better when not completely immersed in Mormonism everywhere we turn. We came away with the decision to not make any decisions just yet, but to wait for clarification and to see what we were truly looking at for our future and the futures of our children. I drove home and although I didn't have answers, I felt peace in the moment. Peace with the knowledge that I needed to take a step back and breathe - letting it all settle, and not deciding exactly what to feel just yet. Peace.
Kendall and I pulled our boys aside privately and discussed the new church policies. We weren't able to fully explain it which may have left them even more confused, but we sat as a family and reassured them that we'll still be a family. My youngest (almost 13) cried because the part he focused on was "in the future you may not be able to live with your mom if you want to go on a mission." I pinpointed the fear in him and put his mind at ease that he will still live with me 50% of the time as he's growing up and anything beyond that is a decision he would make as an adult. That brought comfort and relief. My oldest son (almost 18) had discussed everything with his father hours prior to my showing up and approached me to say, "Mom. Don't worry. I'll always choose you because you're my mom. You don't need to worry about the rest. It will be fine." I cried as he threatened to throat-punch me if I didn't stop (he's a funny kid and we have fun like that). As Kendall and I sat with the boys, I told them they would always be my children and I would always love them, no matter their choice regarding the church and disavowing their mother. Still, I had a limited understanding as to what it all meant a mere 24 hours ago. I told them both this:
"Your sister is on a mission in Peru and has already drawn her line in the sand as to what she believes and doesn't believe in relation to homosexuality. She has made it known that she does not agree with my choices to live as an openly gay woman, but she also still loves and accepts me. I do not agree with some policies of the church and I no longer attend meetings, nor do I plan on ever becoming a baptized member of the church ... but I completely support your sister in her beliefs and her choice to serve the Lord and give her all to the church. It's not something I want in my life, but I'm the first in line to support her because that is what brings happiness and speaks peace to her soul. I would do the same for you boys if it ever comes down to a choice between me or the church. If the church and everything that goes along with it is something you want in your life, I'm good with that and will support you fully. It doesn't have to mean that you walk away from me or that you hate me. You can have both if you choose to."
Today I understand that the children would have to disavow (not support) the fact that I live in a same-sex relationship, but would not have to disavow me. It's really exactly as their older sister is already doing. She loves me completely but has made it known that she disagrees completely with what I've chosen to do with my homosexuality. We still have a close relationship and respect each other - nothing changes that. This is really the same as most people in my life, both family and friends, with traditional Christian beliefs, and I'm okay with that. We all have our own relationships with our Savior and get to receive answers for ourselves because of it. As long as we treat each other with kindness and respect, the actual differing beliefs don't matter.
I hugged my boys and came home to contemplate. A few hours later I called Kendall to check on the boys and he said they were both sleeping but had been doing well. He then told me that his bishop had shown up at their door, bringing jerky and apples and said, "I know you must have questions and I wanted you to know I'm thinking of you." They had a nice discussion and decided that they would get together to try to come to an understanding. When Kendall told me that, I was immediately filled with love and peace and knew this was an answer to our prayers. I asked if they would mind if I came along because I was desperately needing to see how all the pieces fell together.
Sunday, November 8th. It was the primary program in Kendall's ward today and even though 24 hours ago I had decided to no longer claim any part of the LDS faith as a part of me, and to never again step inside a church, I found myself wanting to be there to watch my faux step-children share their parts in the program. I felt good. I felt strong. I felt peace. The opening song "Families Can Be Together Forever" began and tears started to flow. "I have a family here on earth, they are so good to me, I want to share my life with them through all eternity." I was overcome with a feeling of mercy and a beautiful feeling of solace. Valerie grabbed my hand and gave me a hug, whispering "we're a family and we're going to be taken care of - I know it!" I remembered the knowledge that I was given a few years ago directly from my Father in Heaven - that even though on the surface things seem black and white (I'm an ex'd member of the church without temple blessings, meaning I can't be with my family in the highest degree of glory after death) my Father's love for me is anything but. His arms are around me. His arms enfold my children. We are a family and we are together now and will be in the hereafter. I was blessed with that knowledge and promise directly through my relationship with my Savior. I hold onto that knowledge daily and while the new policies shook that briefly, they didn't change it.
Sacrament meeting concluded and Kendall, Val, and I met in the bishop's office. He began with a prayer and shared a few words. I told him I have many questions because I don't feel right making decisions or determinations until I have all the pieces. We all visited for the next 1 1/2 hours and he graciously listened, shared, and explained everything that he could. He and I hadn't ever spoken more than a quick hello before today, but he kept thanking me for coming in and being willing to share my story with him. He made the comment that he never would have guessed by hearing me speak, and seeing my approach, that I was an excommunicated gay woman. He kept saying that he was learning from me and that he appreciated it. I shared with him my belief that we'll all be taken care of and he agreed. More than once he would say, "I didn't understand why I had the impression that I did until today." I found myself a few times thinking, "what he is saying is going along precisely with the prompting I had just last night." We were in sync, all four of us, and the spirit was abundant. Although I didn't hear what I had initially hoped I would hear ("of course the youngest step sibling can still get baptized!" or "of course your boys can still go on missions while saying they support you!") the answers were sufficient for my heart and soul and I can continue on the path that I've been on, without interruption.
Yesterday Kendall didn't know if he wanted to go back to church. Ever. Yesterday I had decided to give up all affiliation with the church and to let go of the least part of it as part of my identity. Today we both sat in church with his bishop and it was confirmed to me again that although the "rules" are not in my favor as far as homosexuality goes, we are going to be alright. The biggest message that I came away with was to not look too far ahead but to live in the here and now. Although the bishop (and we) don't believe the church's stance will ever change, there are tender mercies that can happen along the way. More than a few times he acknowledged that our family unit is unique and possibly in the 1% of the population as far as how we're dealing with everything and continuing to nurture close relationships with each other. He has felt promptings for and in behalf of our family and I couldn't deny that as I sat and visited with him. I felt peace last night when I felt that I needed to stop worrying about the future and what this will all mean - and independent of that the bishop said to stop worrying about the future and what this will all mean. My spirit communed with his, and with Kendall and Valerie's, and we all left there on the same page. The bishop said he refuses to let our children slip through the cracks and he is going to make every effort to study, ponder, and pray about this policy and about how it should look for our family. He will continue to touch base with us and be available to discuss our feelings and questions any time we'd like. He welcomed me back to their ward and said he hopes to see me often.
The answers are the same as they were when I first read the news article at 1:30 am on Friday. The fear, confusion, and defeat has disappeared. I no longer have the need to understand everything as I have had confirmed to me that it will all work out for each of us. I don't understand why I want my children to still be affiliated with the church. I don't understand why even today I still claim the LDS faith as a huge part of my identity. What I do know is that I no longer need those answers as it's enough for me to follow the spirit and my heart and what brings peace to my soul. The Lord will fix the rest. We are in His hands and He is entirely mindful of each of us. As His servant said today, He will not let us slip through the cracks. Nothing else matters.