This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
I feel compelled to add my voice to the discussion over the policy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints not to baptize children who primarily reside with same-sex couples. For me, this topic is very personal. I was raised in a polygamous community, and an analogous church policy did not permit me to be baptized until I turned 18 and disavowed the practice of polygamy.
Many commentators assume that the LDS policy is meant to punish the children of same-sex couples. Many also assume that the policy will exclude these children from the LDS community, and that if a child should choose to join the church, she will have to disavow their parents. I heard very similar criticisms while growing up in the polygamous community of the Apostolic United Brethren (AUB). I was taught I would have to disavow my family, leave my friends and denounce any beliefs I grew up with if I ever associated with or joined the LDS Church.
At 16 years old, I started college in Cedar City, Utah. I moved in with LDS roommates who all knew of my background. At the time, I still attended a branch of the AUB. But despite this, and to my surprise, I was invited to attend LDS seminary, weekly singles activities and Sunday night firesides. I was even asked to be the president of an institute class. Never once after telling someone about my family or beliefs was I asked to denounce them.
When I began meeting with LDS missionaries at age 18, I was honest about my background, and because of this I followed the standard church policy which, for me, included meeting with the mission president as well as a personal interview with a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Throughout the entire process of meeting with the missionaries, not once did I feel ostracized or criticized because of my background. Even during my interview with an apostle, the only question he asked concerning my family was about my relationships with them. I answered that my relationships were fine, which they were, and he said, "Good."
I have been an active member of the LDS Church now for 10 years and have never once felt like an outcast because of my background. Every time I have opened my mouth or told someone about my background, they have always treated me with love, kindness and understanding and have, in all honesty, simply asked me questions wanting to know more about how I was raised. Based on my discussions with other members of the AUB and other polygamist cults who also left their religion and joined the LDS Church, their positive experience is consistent with my own.
During my childhood, I was taught that the LDS Church would require me to disavow my family and friends, but in my experience that was not true. Instead, I have seen family and friends ostracized and disavowed by their polygamous community for joining the LDS Church.
At a mature age, I was prepared to disavow the practice of polygamy, but I never disavowed the parents who raised me and loved me. I can't really know what it would have been like to be baptized at an earlier age, but I know enough to know that it would have been very difficult. Like many children, I felt very loyal to my parents and the community in which I was raised.
LDS leaders have stated that the policy for children residing with same-sex couples is motivated by a concern for the children's "current and future well-being and the harmony of their home environment." I believe similar concerns underlie the policy for children of polygamous communities, and I can understand and appreciate those concerns.
It is a very challenging decision to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is even more challenging when one must consciously choose to disavow marital practices that one was raised to believe in. It requires maturity and independence to make that decision honestly and freely.
Steve Washenko is a 2016 candidate for a JD/MBA at Brigham Young University.