A discussion came up in my Facebook news feed recently about a policy within the LDS Church (published in the LDS Church Handbook of Instructions) that basically considers gays as lesbians as threats to children. I’m not surprised. When I was an active member of the LDS Church, I sat in on a meeting designed to teach leaders of the LDS Church how to work with gay and lesbians members. Several leaders raised concerns about protecting children from the gay and lesbian members of their congregations.
Here is the policy (as shared by Jana Riess at Religion News Service):
6.13.4 Records with Annotations, pp. 70-71
In areas authorized by the First Presidency, an annotation may be placed on the record of a member whose conduct has threatened the well-being of other persons or of the Church. An annotation helps the bishop protect Church members and others from such individuals.
When a bishop receives an annotated membership record, he follows the instructions in the annotation. Church headquarters will automatically annotate a person’s membership record in any of the following situations:
1. The stake president or bishop submits a Report of Church Disciplinary Action form showing that the person was disciplined for incest, sexual offense against or serious physical abuse of a child, plural marriage, an elective transsexual operation, repeated homosexual activities (by adults), predatory conduct, or embezzlement of Church funds or property.
2. The stake president or bishop submits written notification that the person has been criminally convicted for one of these transgressions.
3. The stake president and bishop jointly submit written notification that the person has committed one of these transgressions before or after excommunication or name removal.
In addition, the stake president and bishop may jointly recommend that a person’s membership record be annotated for other conduct that threatens the well-being of other persons or of the Church.
In all cases, an annotation on a membership record is removed only with First Presidency approval upon request of the stake president.
I’m not sure the Church Handbook of Instructions is using as strong of language as some think, but I can speak about my experience as an LDS youth. Because of how leaders of my church treated me in interviews (as a threat to children and peers despite zero sexual contact with anyone), I feared I was or could be a threat. I felt as though I was only welcome to participate in church activities so long as the bishop could see my every move. Despite other evidence, I believed what leaders of my church told me about me. Benji Schwimmer recently discussed his reaction to the policy in a recent Mormon Stories podcast.
I echo Jana Riess’ closing statement:
“I read the CHI policy for myself, and was saddened, even disgusted.
“This needs to change. Adult homosexual behavior is not any more inherently predatory toward children than adult heterosexual behavior is. While it’s important that the Church protect children against known child molesters, it’s appalling that homosexuals are placed by default in the category of abusers.”