Reacting To The LDS Church's Latest LGBT Policy Change
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
This past week, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced it will reverse a controversial policy that labeled couples in same-sex marriages apostates, saying they had turned their backs on the church. It also banned their children from being blessed or baptized until they turned 18. Jason (ph) Manwaring is gay, and he grew up in the LDS Church. He took a painful step back from the church after that policy went into effect in 2015. But now he's feeling some relief.
JAMISON MANWARING: Yeah, I was - I'm - was and still am cautiously optimistic about the change. When the policy was put in effect 3 1/2 years ago, it had a very negative impact. But it's good news, right? It doesn't change the pain that was caused for people and the angst and the anxiety in families. But, you know, we want to look forward, and that's how I view it.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You talked about the policy change in a Facebook video and let's listen.
(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)
MANWARING: This morning's announcement is certainly not an announcement of support for LGBT people, a support - an announcement of support that you should come out and that you should be feel - you should feel welcome being gay at church. It isn't because the church still does not believe that you can be in a gay relationship, a same-sex relationship and be at one with the church policy and essentially at one with God, that that does not work, is not possible.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what other steps do you hope the church will take to fully support the LGBTQ community?
MANWARING: Well, it isn't a place today where I feel comfortable as an out gay man. The teachings that are there from a spiritual level have benefited me a lot throughout my life. But when it comes to this specific issue, even though this is improvement over a policy against gay folks, they're - it is certainly not affirming of gay families. And that's something that, you know, when you think of a 15 or 16-year-old - in fact, I have a nephew who's in high school who has recently come out, and his family was active in their local congregation. It's a very difficult environment for a gay person, young and old, still today to be an active participant in the church.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Leaving the leadership aside, are you finding that the Mormon church community is becoming more receptive to people of the LGBTQ community?
MANWARING: I really do. So my partner and I had been quite involved in my congregation. And when the policy was announced and that really began to sink in and my partner and I were discussing what that meant to us, we had several folks in my neighborhood, in my congregation reached out and and said, you know, we love you being here, and we don't want you to go anywhere. And that is - that's what I miss, quite frankly, is the community of Latter-day Saints who have that sort of love. And I have never personally felt unwelcome as a gay person in my congregation. But the policies that flow from headquarters are a different story.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: The original policy in 2015 prevented the children of those marriages, same-sex marriages, from being blessed or baptized until they turned 18. One of the things that you've always talked about is wanting a family of your own. So how does this change inform your thinking on that now?
MANWARING: Yeah. You know, I - when the policy was announced, it was a challenge for me because I - it clearly said to me that I would not be welcome raising children in the church. And I have - since that time, I've been to many churches, other churches, trying to find a spiritual home for myself and for my future family. And so this doesn't mean that I come back, you know, Sunday with my shirt and tie on ready to re-engage. I'm not ready for that yet. But I want to kind of wait and see, and I'm cautiously hopeful that they will find a way to allow and to support and affirm gay folks - youth, adults and families - in the church.
And I'll speak for myself. I want to be close to God. I want to follow and live a life where I can feel his presence and direction. And if I have a family, I want to be able to have support in doing that from the church community. So I don't think that this change changes everything for me today, but I remain optimistic that as people continue to be open, that that understanding and that that love will increase for people like myself.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was Jamison Manwaring. Thank you very much for being with us.
MANWARING: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.