In June, ample amounts of Pride posts were floating around on social media — all in all, the past year gave Americans the opportunity to look back on many strides of progress. But when BYU-Idaho adjunct professor Ruthie Robertson shared her message of solidarity on Facebook, she lost her job. Robertson taught her last class two weeks ago after ignoring calls to retract her statement from the Mormon university’s administrators.
The decision to let Robertson go is certainly not this church’s only recent or outrageous reaction to homosexuality. In 1995, the Mormon Church released its Proclamation of the Family, which exclusively defined the family unit as a man, a woman and their children. This past June also sent into circulation the video of a young girl coming out to her Mormon congregation, only to be cut off mid-sentence while expressing her desire to feel loved.
And perhaps worst of all was in 2015, when the church also denounced the children of homosexuals as apostates, barring them from baptism until they turned 18, cementing the Church’s true resentment that ‘deviant’ family units exist.
Growing up Mormon, I quickly noticed with the faces that held power and gradually grew familiar with those that did not. The Mormon Church insists that women play an important role in the family, but only grants the priesthood, or the ability to lead religious communities, to men. The Mormon Church advertises itself as a “world religion,” but only ever deems white people as worthy of joining the foremost governing body and only allowed men of color into the most basic positions of leadership in 1978.
Many Mormons regurgitate the call to love the sinner while hating the sin, but expect their church to excommunicate people who engage in homosexual relations, ostracizing ‘sinners’ and reducing their value as a human to nothing but the ‘sin.’
Robertson’s termination is just a microcosmic example of how the Mormon Church will claim to love everyone but only grant power to those who uphold its patriarchal and homophobic power structures.
This exercise of power is the black-and-white, legal right of the church — but it might be costing lives. By negating LGBT identities and experiences, the Mormon church contributes to the isolating social climate queer people face in parts of the country. If Utah’s Department of Health cared enough to address the issue of LGBT suicide, activists claim we might even find a direct link to hateful Mormon policy enactment and LGBT suicide.
Whether or not people who identify as LGBT will ever achieve true recognition within their religious organizations is uncertain, and ultimately the responsibility of individuals that belong to those communities. So in the meantime, non-Mormons must show solidarity by opposing measures that heighten suicidal tendencies (like conversion therapy) in the courtroom. We must support organizations that have the potential to educate in all areas of the country. We must show solidarity in every way possible.
Larcher is a Plan II sophomore from Austin.