Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

A Farewell Mission: Mormons Mass Defections Follow a New Provision That Denies Membership to the Children of Same-Sex Couples

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

A Farewell Mission: Mormons Mass Defections Follow a New Provision That Denies Membership to the Children of Same-Sex Couples

Article excerpt

Karen Paglio arrived at the mass resignation early, clutching a sealed envelope addressed to the records department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"This policy was the last straw for me," she says, referring to a new provision in the LDS Handbook introduced on November 3, 2015, that bars children of same-sex couples from joining the church or being blessed or baptized until and unless they turn 18, move out of their parents' home, and disavow all same-sex relationships. "I also included a personal letter to let the records department know how I felt about the policy and its effects on the community."

The slippery-slope argument against same-sex marriage, that it will inevitably lead to polygamy, bestiality, incest, etc., has long been cited by opponents. Polygamy-as-cautionary-tale is being employed again--ironically, this time, by elders in the Mormon Church--to defend the new provision.

"For generations, we've had these same kinds of policies that relate to children in polygamous families," explained David Todd Christofferson, one of the church's highest administrative and ecclesiastical authorities, in a video released by the church on November 6. He explained that children raised in polygamous households who want to go on a proselytizing mission must first disavow the practice. "We think it's possible, and mandatory, incumbent upon us as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ to yield no ground [...] maintaining the standards he maintained."

Lauren Elise McNamara yielded less ground maintaining her own standards when she learned about the policy, which was leaked to social media on the evening of November 5.

"You can really judge the Christianity of an organization by how easy or hard it is to leave," says McNamara, who immediately engaged with Mormon and ex-Mormon online forums. "Everyone was posting similar messages, using similar expletives. I jokingly wrote, 'Maybe it's time for another mass resignation.' The response was immediate and definitive. So I created a Facebook event and went to sleep. When I woke up, it had over 2,000 RSVPs."

Nine days later, on November 14, across the street from the LDS church's international headquarters in downtown Salt Lake City, thousands of soon-to-be former Mormons from 20 states and multiple countries gathered--some with resignation envelopes already signed and sealed, others planning to complete them with assistance from Mark Naugle, a 30-year-old immigration attorney on-site offering his services pro bono. Naugle, who left the church with his family when he was 15, explained that doing so can be as cumbersome logistically as it is emotionally.

"You start receiving what can only be described as harassment from your community, your family, and everyone you know," Naugle says. "The church sends local ecclesiastical leaders to attempt to sway you back into the fold. I don't think they do it maliciously, necessarily. They feel that your eternal salvation is on the line. It is not an easy thing to escape from. But when you use an attorney [to submit the resignation], you receive no contact and your resignation is usually processed within a couple of weeks."

Naugle says he personally mailed 1,830 resignation letters to the LDS records department, including 1,300 from the November 14 event and more than 500 he's received via fax, mail, and email since the policy announcement. …

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