The Church released their new “Abuse Help” website and from what I have read, I am impressed. It seems thoughtful, helpful, and sincere. This would have been something I would have liked to see when I was assaulted by a priesthood holder as a teenager. I applaud this effort made on behalf of the Church and its leaders.
The Church’s “Abuse Help” website defines abuse as “the neglect or mistreatment of others in such a way that causes physical, emotional, or sexual harm. The Lord condemns abusive behavior in any form.” Handbook 1 also affirms this stance, “The Church’s position is that abuse cannot be tolerated in any form.” I sustain this effort and hope to see this strong stance fulfilled.
However, I can’t help but feel this is slightly misleading. I can say from first-hand experience that being barred from participation in my religious community on account of my gender and sexual orientation has been abusive. I am no longer ashamed to say it has caused me “physical, emotional, and sexual harm.” This wasn’t my fault. What do LGBTQ+ abusive victims do when our religion has abusive policies and teachings embedded into its practice? What happens when your abuser is not acknowledged as an abuser but a benevolent patriarch?
As a child, I did not have a say in whether or not I wanted to participate in the Church. Even at age eight, most queer children are not granted serious autonomy to refuse the communal and social pressure to be baptized into a religious organization that will condemn their gender and/or sexual orientation. It is child abuse to be taught by trusted adult leaders that your gender and/or sexual orientation will keep you out of heaven, needs to be fixed, is a sin in the eyes of God, or less godly than another. I was born and raised in an LGBTQ+ abusive environment. Who will be held accountable? If Latter-day Saints are genuinely committed to ending abuse, how do we eliminate the sexism written into our policies, culture, rhetoric, and rituals that harvest an environment of abuse against queer Latter-day Saints? Like most children who are victims of abuse, I didn’t see the abuse until I developed the language to describe what happened to me. I have the language now, and the abuse I have sustained as a queer member of the Church should not “be tolerated in any form.”
I believe the Church and its leaders are sincere when they say, “The Church’s position is that abuse cannot be tolerated in any form.” However, I doubt they understand what this means for LGBTQ+ Latter-day Saints, especially for queer children learning to loath what they are before they even have the vocabulary to explain what’s happening to them.
If the Church really condemns abuse in all its forms, I am requesting serious and solemn introspection from the Church to consider that they are abusive to queer folks, especially queer women and children.
There’s still time. I still believe in forgiveness.