Saturday, June 24, 2017

Savannah and coming out over the pulpit

There's a story that's been making news lately, and a lot of the sensation is because of simple misunderstanding of LDS conduct, tradition and rules.

Here's an excerpt from a paper on the story:
 On the day in May that Savannah stood up to speak in front of her Mormon congregation, she did not get through everything she had wanted to say.

The 12-year-old was telling other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that she is a lesbian. “No part of me is a mistake,” she said during a testimony meeting, a monthly event at her church in Eagle Mountain, Utah. “I do not choose to be this way, and it is not a fad.”

As Savannah, now 13, was nearing the end of her comments, after she had come out to her fellow worshippers, her microphone was switched off. She tapped it and then looked to a church leader to see what had happened.

He told her that she could return to her seat.
Edit:  Here's a version I like better because there are more details:  USA Today version

So, what's going on here?  Why was the choice made to cut off Savannah's microphone?

It isn't so uncommon, and it wasn't a matter of silencing her.  I've seen the microphone cut off in Sacrament meeting before, and it's always been for a specific reason:  to prevent a congregant from saying something they might regret later, usually something about which they should counsel with parents and leadership before discussing with an entire congregation.

Anybody, straight, gay, bisexual or questioning would have their mic cut off if they started talking about personal sexuality.  We don't do that.  They'd have their mic cut if they went off on a political rant.  We don't do that.  Those are personal things we don't share with a congregation.

Oh, and we don't record during Sacrament meeting.  Not when our child is giving a talk or singing or playing an instrument.  We. Do. Not. Record.  We do not have our friends record.  Our family doesn't record.  It isn't done. The congregants around Savannah's friend should have asked for the meeting to be paused until recording stopped.  It's not okay to do that in one of our meetings.

As usual, LGBT advocates are jumping to call members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hateful.  This shows a deep misunderstanding of why we do what we do.

Remember some time ago when the Church clarified that we won't baptize children living in homes with same-sex parents?  It was quite an uproar.  It shouldn't have been.  Below is a quotation explaining it, but the short version is that we don't want to put children in a confusing position where what we teach regarding the Law of Chastity is at what odds with what they see at home.  We don't want to cause confusion, anger, or harm to families. Here's a quotation, and the full interview is available through this link:  Church Provides Context on Handbook Changes Affecting Same-Sex Marriages
Michael Otterson: Why are the children of these same-sex partners an issue here?

Elder Christofferson: Well, in answering or responding to your question, let me say I speak not only as an apostle in the Church, but as a husband, as a father and as a grandfather. And like others in those more enduring callings, I have a sense of compassion and sympathy and tender feelings that they do. So this policy originates out of that compassion. It originates from a desire to protect children in their innocence and in their minority years. When, for example, there is the formal blessing and naming of a child in the Church, which happens when a child has parents who are members of the Church, it triggers a lot of things. First, a membership record for them. It triggers the assignment of visiting and home teachers. It triggers an expectation that they will be in Primary and the other Church organizations. And that is likely not going to be an appropriate thing in the home setting, in the family setting where they're living as children where their parents are a same-sex couple. We don't want there to be the conflicts that that would engender. We don't want the child to have to deal with issues that might arise where the parents feel one way and the expectations of the Church are very different. And so with the other ordinances on through baptism and so on, there's time for that if, when a child reaches majority, he or she feels like that's what they want and they can make an informed and conscious decision about that. Nothing is lost to them in the end if that's the direction they want to go. In the meantime, they're not placed in a position where there will be difficulties, challenges, conflicts that can injure their development in very tender years.

The situation with polygamist families, for example, and same-sex marriage couples and families really has a parallel. For generations we've had these same kinds of policies that relate to children in polygamist families that we wouldn't go forward with these ordinances while they're in that circumstance and before they reach their majority. That's the same sort of situation we're dealing with here, so it's something we have had a history with. It's a practice that really is analogous that's been the case over many generations.
This is the same situation for Savannah.  She chose the wrong forum and method to come out of the closet.  To prevent regret and misunderstanding, the leadership chose to pause the discussion to be resumed in a more appropriate setting.

There are gay Mormons, and it isn't an easy road.  Of course, being gay rarely is.  Here's one person's story and how he chose to deal with it:  Club Unicorn: In which I come out of the closet on our ten year anniversary

Note that Brother Weed didn't do this over the pulpit.  He knew that wasn't appropriate.  He did it in an appropriate forum.  The Church hasn't tried to silence him.

Savannah won't be silenced, either.  She also won't be allowed to talk about her personal sexuality over the pulpit--again, we don't do that.  Her parents should have known better and realized the inappropriateness of the forum.  In this case, though Savannah was also expressing faith in God and her belief in the perfection of His creation, she chose to put her coming out of the closet before God.  This is an act of pride.  We have a lot to say on that subject, and if you're interested, here are two great talks:

Beware of Pride
and a decades later follow-up by President Uchtdorf:
Pride and the Priesthood

In short, we do not put our personal feelings or challenges before our adoration of God.  To do so is prideful, and will slow or halt one's progress in drawing closer to Him.

I wish Savannah the best.  I wish the media would cease making her heartfelt expression into a circus.  I understand that they feel they're supporting her, but they're also using this as a way to advance their agenda.  That won't help Savannah or her family.  Unfortunately, unlike her congregation and its leadership, the media doesn't actually care about Savannah's well-being, but only how they can use her and her story.

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