My journey in Community of Christ has been like a day which began at midnight, I enjoyed the sunrise, worked during the day, became tired at sunset, and now the day is done at midnight
When I initially looked into Community of Christ, I read the entire Doctrine and Covenants; I started with the most recent sections, and loved what I found. I also studied the Enduring Principles, Mission Initiatives, and listened to Project Zion Podcast non-stop. I wanted to learn everything I could about this church, because it felt like a bold, dynamic, and progressive religion that had enough room for me. I thought that this could finally be the place that would love me exactly as I am.
I am polyamorous. While there are many nuances, generally speaking polyamory is a type of relationship structure where you can have multiple partners at the same time and REQUIRES respect, consent, transparency, honesty, and communication with all parties involved. Polyamorous people view their partners as fully formed individuals; not as possessions to claim ownership of. We view love as something to be shared; not restricted. I have had, do have, and will have multiple relationships simultaneously, because I love being close to people and refuse to restrict that love.
So, when I read D&C 150:10B I was discouraged at what I found. This section described non-monogamous families as a burden to be endured by the church, and prayed that one day they will be free from the sin of their familial structure. There was so little compassion, so little understanding, and it was so against the Enduring Principles of “Unity in Diversity” and “Worth of All Persons”. I re-read D&C 164:6A and felt like “Principles for Behaviors and Relationships” were the most up-to-date revelation on the topic of relationships, but I couldn’t shake this feeling that there would be a caveat to my acceptance. Sure enough, the 2012 Statement on Sexual Ethics (made official in 2019) reiterated this bias. This seemed to indicate to me that there wasn’t truly a place for me in Community of Christ.
This bias exists because Joseph Smith Jr. used his ecclesiastical position to sexually extort and abuse people. The Smith family, who led Community of Christ for most of it’s history, tried to rewrite history to hide that fact instead of learning from it. In the process they have further made their familial trauma an institutional trauma and instilled a hatred for non-monogamous individuals and families.
I reached out to multiple friends in the church and none of them could tell me with confidence that I would truly be accepted. I was heartbroken, and stopped my studies for several months. However, I craved community and heritage within the Restoration, so I lamented my despair to a friend and they recommended I talk to John Hamer. I chatted with John, and he told me that I would be welcomed in Beyond The Walls, without the asterisk. John explained Faithful Disagreement to me, and illustrated how the conservatives of the church have historically used it to not ordain women or other LGBTQIA+ folks. He then stated that his congregation would be willing to go into a state of Faithful Disagreement to ordain me if I felt a call to priesthood. He assured me that even if the international church did not accept me, his congregation would. I felt comfortable enough to join, and actively pursued confirmation.
Before I joined Community of Christ, I sent Steve Veazey a letter introducing myself, and also came out as polyamorous. I was extraordinarily nervous to do this, but I took a chance because I believed that Community of Christ accepted me for who I am. I anxiously awaited a response, and I eventually got one back several months later. Among other things, Steve said that my story “illustrates the great need in our world to promote communities of faith and spirituality that truly affirm the worth and giftedness of all people” and that “the church is being enriched by your participation and giftedness”. I was elated, and again felt like this was the home that I would unconditionally be loved and valued in.
With my anxieties alleviated, I poured myself into studying my permanent home. I read history books, magazines, commentaries, journals, and literally anything else I could get my hands on. I gave a Sunstone presentation on Community of Christ in 2021 and 2022. I put forward legislation that is being debated on the World Conference floor in 2023. I started a social hour through my congregation and ran over 80 events. I transcribed historical documents such as the Position and Presidential Papers. I even did first-hand historical research that hadn’t been done before, such as finding when the Lectures on Faith were decanonized and the church’s membership statistics throughout the years. I was told that ordination was right around the corner for me once some administrative policies were ironed out on the Canadian level.
To say that I was “all in” is an understatement; my chief hobby was doing things within this church. I loved it, I loved the theology, and I loved that I was loved.
Then, On August 17th, 2022 the husband of Monica English committed suicide. Monica is a pillar in the Salt Lake City congregation, and by extension, all of us with an ExMormon background. Before he lost his battle with depression, John outed himself and Monica as polyamorous to family members, but didn’t clarify what that meant. Families assumed that she was cheating, and she felt like she had no choice but to come out as polyamorous on Facebook to clarify what their relationship structure had been for years and what kind of support she was getting from her boyfriend.
While this widow and her 10 children were mourning, multiple church leaders tried to take action to remove Monica from priesthood. The church seemed to be more concerned with punishing this widow for being polyamorous than providing pastoral care to her and her family. This was an act of spiritual violence, even by the First Presidency’s own definition, and this injustice echoed around the entire church. Pastors stepped down, people turned in their priesthood cards, people secretly recorded church leaders because they felt like they could no longer be trusted, and church leaders doubled down on their bigotry toward the widowed woman. Throughout all of this, the First Presidency remained silent.
I felt like I needed to speak out, and I believed in doing so I would be heard. I wrote out a letter to my apostle and expressed my concern and begged him to help advocate for my liberation and equality in Community of Christ. He in turn recommended that I modify my letter and send it to the First Presidency. I took his advice, and sent a letter to each member of the First Presidency on November 16th, 2022.
I literally begged the First Presidency not to oppress me. Because of the letter that Steve Veazey wrote me in 2021, I was hopeful that my pleas would be heard and they would refrain from creating a policy which would specifically codify me as a 2nd class citizen in my own church.
I received no response from the First Presidency. However, on February 19th, 2023 I was made aware that the First Presidency had indirectly responded to my letter by creating a policy on January 28th, 2023.
This policy was not released anywhere until a week after it was made official, and even then it was done so secretly. This policy was not announced through any newsletter, social media post, or notification that the general membership would know about easily. Community of Christ has not publicly posted this policy anywhere except their policy repository, “Our Ministry Tools“, but even then the church has to explicitly approve your request to create an account which is needed to view any documents. The First Presidency gave the policy to the Apostles with instructions to have them give it to Mission Center Presidents, who in turn give it to their pastors.
I was made aware of this policy before most people. In fact, members of the church’s communications team, who are in charge of Our Ministry Tools, weren’t aware of this policy until I told them. I posted in a couple of group chats, but made and published this post which truly announced it to the general membership of the church.
The similarities to the LDS church’s “November Policy” were stark and immediately noticed by those who endured it.
I was so, so hurt. I was told that I would be loved and accepted, but instead I was met with cold indifference. Dismayed, I reached out to many people for support, including members, priesthood, and hierarchical leaders. I was met with many different responses:
- Some suggested that having this policy officially codified is a silver lining, because we now explicitly have something to push back against. I feel like this is a rather privileged point of view to take, because I do not feel like my oppression being written down is a silver lining.
- Some said that this policy could only be overcome through legislation, and recommended creating nation-specific legislation. The problem with this is the obnoxiously long time it took for LGBTQIA+ inclusion to be officially codified. I am not confident that this is a realistic and practical avenue for change, because it is still so unused that no one really knows how it works.
- Others suggested legislation on an international stage. However, Article III, Section 6B of the Community of Christ bylaws specify that legislative action cannot modify administrative functions, meaning no legislation could be passed that has anything having to do with priesthood. This was attempted in 2016 by trying to eliminate to the equally secretive “Co-habitation Policy”, and was ruled out of order and not even allowed to be debated on the Conference floor. Any attempts made in this instance would inevitably meet a similar fate.
- I begged leaders to follow the First Presidency’s example by unilaterally and explicitly creating policies for their jurisdictions which stood in Faithful Disagreement to the First Presidency’s policy, and cited the congregations who refuse to ordain women and LGBTQIA+ folks as a precedent for such a policy. However, I was told that those don’t actually qualify as instances of Faithful Disagreement and that Faithful Disagreement only applied on a personal level, not on administrative levels. Even when it was pointed out that technically the National Policies regarding LGBTQIA+ folks are Faithful Disagreement, I was told that the conservatives are permitted to use this policy but not the progressives.
- I was also told that the Canadian church would create administrative policies which would stand in Faithful Disagreement to this policy. While this is lovely, I have literally been told that since I joined. When asked for an updated timeline, I was told that the absolute earliest that this could happen would be 2024. I keep feeling like a carrot (liberation) is being dangled in front of me, but I will never truly get it, especially since it has already been 2 years that I’ve been waiting.
- I was told that the church wasn’t educated enough and the church wasn’t in a place to create an inclusive policy. While I understand the need for more education about the interrelatedness between being queer and being non-monogamous, I also pointed out that in the meantime the First Presidency shouldn’t be issuing policies like this. Their silence on the topic indicated a willingness to learn, but by issuing a policy such as this they signaled that they’ve already heard enough to make a decision.
- While I didn’t reach out, in my research I was inspired by the words of the church’s theologian. I extrapolated from his inspiring words in a way that could help create a theological framework that could help the church accept polyamorous people such as myself. However, he started a group chat with me and an apostle and asked me to remove the post. When I did not immediately comply he reached out to several of my friends and told them to pass the message along. It felt like a powerful man bullying a marginalized person begging for liberation.
- Many, Many people said that “they heard my pain”. This phrase has felt like the Community of Christ version of “Thoughts and Prayers“. It is a meaningless platitude which has no action or intention behind it. It makes the person saying it feel as if they are doing something, when in reality it is simply alleviating their guilt of inaction; it is textbook “slacktivism“.
- Many people have said that they want to do something, but are unwilling to vocally be an ally in public, leaving me and the few other non-monogamous church members exposed without defenders in public dialogue.
- Some even outright said that this topic wasn’t as important as caring for those who are inevitably going to leave the LDS church due to their $5M SEC fine. This makes me feel as if I am disposable within the church, and since I have fallen from grace they are more interested in replacing me with someone who isn’t quite as familiar with the interworkings of the church.
- Some recommended that I work towards creating committees to revise policy documents such as the problematic Statement on Sexual Ethics. I created a draft of what I thought was a good revision and shared it with a couple of close friends to get their advice for improvement. However, it seems as if someone leaked the existence of this draft to the wrong people, and now my and my friends’ names are being smeared.
- People told me that the policy was scripturally based on D&C 111 and 150, and as a result I will always be excluded. However, Community of Christ’s 3rd scripture affirmation recognizes that “Scripture is a library of books that speaks in many voices. These books were written in diverse times and places, and reflect the languages, cultures, and conditions under which they were written. God’s revelation through scripture does not come to us apart from the humanity of the writers, but in and through that humanity.” I have exhaustively tried to illustrate the bias of the people who wrote the scriptures which are being used to oppress me, which itself is a direct contradiction of D&C 163:7C, but it seems as if the church is more interested in theological orthodoxy and purity than it is love and inclusion.
- A few said that I should simply endure this abuse because of all the time, effort, and money I have invested in becoming a part of this community. Ultimately, I am a universalist, and the spiritual knowledge that I’ve gained in the last couple years will continue to be applicable in my spiritual journey. Therefore, I am unwilling to tolerate discrimination.
- Others said that the First Presidency’s policy was so totally uninspired that it shows how hard their hearts were, and that they are no longer qualified to lead the church. The implications ranged from just disregarding the policy to full-blown calls to schism.
I was lured into this church with talks of enduring principles such as “Unity in Diversity”, “All Are Called”, and “Worth of All Persons”. However, I can’t help but feel like I was baited and switched. I have talked with others and many feel this way as well. The church gave us their aspirations and yet hid the lived reality from us until we were already committed to the tradition.
Initially I wanted to give my friends time to push back against this policy while I continue to advocate for this change. However, once I found that people were trying to smear me and my friends’ names for this advocacy and desire to problem-solve, I knew it was time. It felt like a trap door had just opened into a bottomless pit in my stomach. I was nauseous and shaking from the level of rage and pain that I felt. This community has hurt me, declined to embody their own principles, and has not stood up to the injustice. Instead, they have just hurt me even more.
When I came to Community of Christ I consistently said that the church accepts all of me or it accepts none of me. While the church said flattering things to get me to stay, the “February Policy” was the church reiterating the fears that I had regarding this church when I was first investigating: It accepts none of me. This policy is an attack on me and my family, especially in light of me literally begging the First Presidency not to create such a policy. After the initial outcry, the First Presidency modified the policy on February 23rd. Instead of making it more inclusive and compassionate, they quadrupled down on their bigotry and in true Orwellian fashion did so in a way to make it appear as if this policy had always been in place.
I pray that one day Community of Christ can overcome its unaddressed Nauvoo-era trauma, and seeks to make amends with the people it in turn hurt due to this trauma. I pray that one day the members of this church will realize the power that they have inside them as individuals and as congregations and stand up for justice despite the consequences that may follow. I pray that one day I will TRULY be accepted in this church. Until that day comes, however, it has been made clear to me that I do not belong here. While I will not be formally removing my membership, I will no longer be participating in this church until it can truly live up to its aspirations, such as the one that Veazey expressed in the Herald:
My time and energy is a gift that I get to give to whomever I want. I do not want to give this gift and then only receive poor treatment in return; I want to be given the love and acceptance that I was promised and deserve. My polyamorous family has ALWAYS given this to me, and I refuse to let their value be diminished by a church that doesn’t treat me with dignity and equality. I know our worth and wont tolerate anything less than respect.