In the small world of transgendered Mormons most of them have experienced some level of rejection, from outright consignment to hell by church leaders and other members to more subtle forms of ostracism. Some have been excommunicated or disfellowshipped while some have just been told they are not wanted. It is not surprising that many of these people have left the Church discouraged. My personal thought whenever I hear of a new such instance is something along the lines of, “I can understand their discouragement but I know the Church is true while also knowing that many of the people in it, myself included, are imperfect.” There is no easy resolution but when it’s an adult that is going through this I try to trust that they can see that one member, or one leader, or five or more members and leaders do not constitute the entire Church. Nobody can ever truly think the entire Church is against them because of the poor behavior of one member or leader. The Church and the everlasting Gospel which it administers are far bigger than any one member, ward or stake.
But the situation is very different when we are talking about children. In my mind every child should feel safe around any adult. Jesus Christ very emphatically stated, “Whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.” So it was particularly affecting to find out last night that Kaydence Rudd had left the Church due to the poor treatment her 4-yr. old transgender daughter Atty has received within the Church (see the blog report). The decision was made largely so that Atty would not be subjected to any further hostile treatment at church. Is this the length that parents have to go to to protect their children? Much of said treatment comes from a vague understanding of transgender issues in the Church and local leaders acting on their own, usually in a knee-jerk hostile fashion, as well as from members simply picking on those who are different and often children will follow the examples of their parents. From many accounts I have read there is usually a distinct element of unrighteous dominion present as well with a bishop or stake president becoming a law unto themselves and insisting that they must be obeyed and that they don’t care if there are transgendered people accepted in other areas in the Church because it certainly is not going to happen in their ward or stake.
It may be that the Church is on the verge of a paradigm shift that tones down decades of exclusivity and welcomes those who don’t always neatly fit into the “perfect little Mormon” box. This should never be done to excuse sin but to provide a sanctuary for all. How can this be done when even the smallest among us are driven away? Attitudes of elitism are to be done away with. Christ taught the parable of the shepherd who left the ninety and nine sheep to go after the one who was lost to emphasize that there will be unique cases in the membership of the Church who need special attention. With the way some (not all) of the people in the Church act the parable would state that the shepherd stayed with the ninety and nine sheep and yelled out, “So long!” to the one sheep who had gone astray. But even this “shepherd and his fold” analogy breaks down somewhat when referring to children because children under the age of 8 cannot be tempted of the devil, so temptation from Satan does not explain Atty’s condition (and may not even explain the similar condition some adults find themselves in). As I read more from their blog Atty actually strikes me as being very spiritually in tune (see here and here for examples).
Let us all hope and pray for better understanding of this issue and a more consistent and loving approach on the part of Church leadership and less ostracism from the general membership.
True disciples of Jesus Christ have always been concerned for the one. Jesus Christ is our greatest example. He was surrounded by multitudes and spoke to thousands, yet He always had concern for the one. “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost,” He said. “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?”
This instruction applies to all who follow Him. We are commanded to seek out those who are lost. We are to be our brother’s keeper. We cannot neglect this commission given by our Savior. We must be concerned for the one….
Some are lost because they are different. They feel as though they don’t belong. Perhaps because they are different, they find themselves slipping away from the flock. They may look, act, think, and speak differently than those around them and that sometimes causes them to assume they don’t fit in. They conclude that they are not needed.
Tied to this misconception is the erroneous belief that all members of the Church should look, talk, and be alike. The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world. Every instrument is precious and adds to the complex beauty of the symphony. All of Heavenly Father’s children are different in some degree, yet each has his own beautiful sound that adds depth and richness to the whole.
This variety of creation itself is a testament of how the Lord values all His children.
Joseph B. Wirthlin, April 2008 General Conference (emphasis added)