11 ways leaders can make non-binary youth feel welcome at church

11 ways leaders can make non-binary youth feel welcome at church

Having two LGBTQ+ children makes me hyper aware of the challenges they face growing up in the LDS church.

Growing up gay in the LDS church is problematic enough. Identifying as a gender outside of the conventional binary of either male or female adds even further complexity to the challenges queer youth face in the church.

The LDS church strongly adheres to the typical gender binary. It’s reflected in their scripture stories, in their temples, in how they approach parenting, in leadership responsibilities, and so on. Segregation of the sexes begins at 8 years old, with boys being shipped off to weekly Cub pack meetings and girls being shuffled to biweekly Activity Days. This segregation continues into adulthood, right to the day one dies.

This is problematic for people who don’t identify as male or female. They feel out of place when forced to segregate, and the discomfort (to put it mildly) can lead them out of the church ultimately.

Few resources are provided to youth leaders to help them address the unique experiences of the non-binary youth they are asked to lead. This goes not only for young men and young women leaders, but bishops and stake presidents, too. So, it’s not surprising, then, that leaders do little to accommodate their non-binary youth.

I reached out to our gender-fluid child, Ash, who will be entering the youth programme next month, and we worked together to compile these 11 tips on how leaders can make non-binary youth feel welcome at church. Continue reading “11 ways leaders can make non-binary youth feel welcome at church”

9 church initiatives for the inspired activist

9 church initiatives for the inspired activist

This guest post is written by Kate Harveston, a writer and political activist from Pennsylvania. She blogs about culture and politics, and the various ways that those elements act upon each other. For more of her work, you can follow her on Twitter or subscribe to her blog, Only Slightly Biased.

The good works of holy disciples have always been a point of pride for religious organizations. While it might seem like a touchy subject in today’s polarized America, faith can provide opportunities to contribute, even for those with non-traditional views.

The church is nothing without people, and many of those responsible for inspiring a return to community service are young people. Spurned by what they feel is a commercialistic approach to faith — the televised megachurch approach — new church leaders are opening up to new ideas and promoting community involvement for people from all walks of life.

Here are a few great examples. Continue reading “9 church initiatives for the inspired activist”

4 things to remember about the church before you judge

4 things to remember about the church before you judge

This guest post is written by Kate Harveston, a writer and political activist from Pennsylvania. She blogs about culture and politics, and the various ways that those elements act upon each other. For more of her work, you can follow her on Twitter or subscribe to her blog, Only Slightly Biased.

Christians in today’s society have been given a bad name, often because the loudest, most judgmental ones are the people who capture the headlines and make others think that all people who subscribe to the faith are against entire demographic groups, such as the LGBT community, Muslims, or even women.

However, Christianity is a more diverse religion than you may realize, and it’s important not to become overly closed-minded and make assumptions by getting too focused on the downsides when examining the faith.

There are numerous admirable things associated with Christians, some of which are outlined below. Continue reading “4 things to remember about the church before you judge”

An Evening with a General Authority

An Evening with a General Authority

Last night, in a devotional directed at Church Educational System (CES) employees, Elder Ballard spoke of challenges that many youth face, including questions asked on social media.

(Kids these days and their FaceSpace, amirite?)

From a Deseret news article about Elder Ballard’s talk:

“Drawing on the scriptures and the words of the prophets, [students] will learn how to act with faith in Christ to acquire spiritual knowledge and understanding of His gospel,” he said. “And they will have opportunities to learn how to apply the doctrine of Christ and gospel principles to the questions and challenges they hear and see every day among their peers and on social media.”

Applying the doctrine of Christ to questions of church doctrine makes sense. Is it true and is it helpful? Does it follow the golden rule?

Elder Ballard continued, comparing faithful interpretations of history to vaccinating the youth against topics that are “sometimes misunderstood” — a polite way of saying, negative toward the church.

You know, we give medical inoculations to our precious missionaries before sending them into the mission field, so they will be protected against disease that can harm and even kill them. In a similar fashion, please, before you send them into the world, inoculate your students by providing faithful, thoughtful and accurate interpretations of gospel doctrine, the scriptures and our history, and those topics that are sometimes misunderstood.

And in a praiseworthy show of transparency, Elder Ballard listed a few topics which in some circles (or at least in the not so distant past) would have been considered anti-mormon.

To name a few of such topics that are less-known or controversial, I’m talking about polygamy, and seer stones, different accounts of the first vision, the process of translation of the Book of Mormon [and] of the Book of Abraham, gender issues, race and the priesthood, or a Heavenly Mother. The efforts to inoculate our young people will often fall to you CES teachers.

Perhaps if I’d been further inoculated as a youth, I wouldn’t have found these topics so difficult to digest when I finally found them too hard to swallow. So roll up your sleeves while I share with you what I remember being taught about this list while at the same time you’re going to get inoculated.

Before you run off searching high and low looking for how far the rabbit hole goes, Elder Ballard warned of the dangers of access to too much information:

It was only a generation ago that our young people’s access to information about our history, doctrine and practices was basically limited to materials printed by the church. Few students came in contact with alternative interpretations. Mostly, our young people lived a sheltered life. Our curriculum at that time, though well-meaning, did not prepare students for today — a day when students have instant access to virtually everything about the church from every possible point of view. Today, what they see on their mobile devices is likely to be faith-challenging as much as faith-promoting. Many of our young people are more familiar with Google than they are with the gospel, more attuned to the Internet than to inspiration, and more involved with Facebook than with faith.

For the sake of Elder Ballard’s concern about Google, I’ll only use church approved sources for the inoculation and I’ll stay far away from Facebook.

Continue reading “An Evening with a General Authority”