*Because of the large amount of traffic this blogs gets from search engines, I did not want to add to the frenzy described below. I’ve deliberately left this article completely without tags and without a title, which means perhaps only subscribers will initially see it; but we’ll also link to it on Wednesday and on Twitter.
This article started out as part of my weekly scan of blogs and news sites looking for material for the Wednesday Link List, a process which usually starts late on Sunday afternoon and continues right up to Tuesday evening. In the process this week I discovered that much has been written lately about the suicides of gay Mormon teens, youth who are part of the LDS Church who are also LGBT, or perhaps LBGT-friendly.
I started to type the link item:
- Trend-Spotting: Suicides among LGBT Mormon teens under-reported?
with the link, and then realized I had a much bigger subject to wrestle with. Coincidentally, last week I picked up a title in a recent review book box, Living in a Gray World: A Christian Teen’s Guide to Understanding Homosexuality which I have to assume is the youth edition of People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just an Issue released the same week in December by the same author, Preston Sprinkle, and the same publisher, Zondervan.
I’ve been reading the chapters a little out of order, though I did listen to the interview Preston did on the sometimes irreverent Drew Marshall Show (scroll down to February 13) which discussed the adult version.
I realize that for everyone this is the biggest social issue facing the church right now. It’s to the present generation of Christians what divorce was in the 1960s and ’70s. And for a variety of reasons, it impacts tweens, teens and twenty-somethings in a major way, though many of those reasons have either a direct or indirect connection to the social changes that have been brought about because of the internet.
Recognizing that much has already been written on this elsewhere, I want to return to the present item, the impact on Mormon teens. Here are just a few stories from January and February and some opening paragraphs.
The first is a general news story that has been reproduced in various forms in various media over the past two months:
While there are conflicting reports regarding numerous suicides involving LGBT Mormon youth, there’s no question that there’s been an increase of suicidal teens and twenty-somethings following the Church’s new antigay policy.
Instituted in November, the new rules label any Mormon in a same-sex marriage as an “apostate,” which could include excommunication from the church, and bars children of all same-sex couples from being baptized. Reaction to the new rules was swift, with thousands severing ties from the Church of Latter-Day Saints in response.
Three months on, the mental effect on Mormon youth is becoming clearer. “Therapists have seen an uptick in clients who reported suicidal thoughts,” the Salt Lake Tribune reported recently. “Activists have been bombarded with grief-stricken family members seeking comfort and counsel.” …
The second piece introduces the official change that took place in the church that has triggered the present situation.
[Note: This article is from a gay website]
I’m not your typical gay man – but I’m also not your typical Mormon.
From 2011 to 2013, I served as executive secretary in the bishopric of my home congregation in San Francisco as my authentic self – an openly gay man.
A major emphasis of what I’ve worked to accomplish over the past several years is mending the fences between the LGBTI community and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the wake of the Church’s misguided and damaging involvement in California’s Proposition 8.
And progress was indeed being made…
…But that took an abrupt turn in November of last year, when the church announced a new policy making apostates (people who renounced or abandoned their belief) of any LGBTI individual married to someone of the same gender.
…If that wasn’t bad enough, in January this year, a talk given by Russell M. Nelson, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and next in line to be prophet and president of the entire church, pronounced the administrative policy a revelation from God, elevating it to near doctrinal status…
The third item indicates the problem is very widespread and goes beyond the number of kids who resort to suicide.
A disproportionately high number of homeless youth trying to survive on the streets in Utah identify as something other than “straight.”
Homeless youth counselors say a large number of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teens also come from Mormon homes — kicked out because they are gay.
“It’s awful. The stories we hear are just terrible,” said Marian Edmonds, the director of Ogden OUTreach, an LGBT community center in northern Utah.
At a panel discussion Tuesday night, Edmonds and others who work with these children spoke out about the problem — noting that as many as 40% of the estimated 1,000 homeless youth in Utah identify as LGBT…
I do not for a minute believe that the problem is limited to the LDS Church. I think it is a microcosm of what’s taking place when we extended the broadest definition of Christian, but that the recent Mormon pronouncement simply caused rapid acceleration of a trend that was already there.
For the rest of us, the issue is fraught with complexity. We don’t want to drive kids away from the church or from Jesus. Condemnation does that. On the other hand, we want them to see God’s ideal for family life. I often discuss this people in terms of
It avoids the use of “wrong” and is in fact closer to the Biblical definition of “missing the mark” (sin) which I touched on briefly in this article.
But we also don’t want to see parents, grandparents, siblings and extended family go through the pain and loss caused by suicide; or live with the knowledge that their son or daughter’s perceptions of the Christian message drove them to that act.
It’s easy to dismiss this as a “Mormon problem” when in fact I believe we haven’t yet seen the full impact of today’s Junior Highs and Middle School children who daily face social realities that are 180-degrees opposite to traditional Christian teaching.
I don’t — and I hope you don’t — believe for a minute that the intention of Jesus is that the standards set in Leviticus or in the Sermon on the Mount or in Paul’s writings were ever intended to drive children to live on the streets or even end their lives.
Compassion, not condemnation is what is needed at this stage.
title slide: Patheos