This letter was written by Elle Mills-Warner on February 21st, 2023. It was posted in several places, and Heart of Discernment was given explicit permission to post it here.
The First Presidency’s immoral actions are having real-world consequences. If they do not immediately rescind this unchristlike policy, others will inevitably leave the church
To whom it may concern,
I have been wrestling with my faith for a while. Not my faith in God, not my faith in the message of Jesus Christ, not my faith in the ongoing revelation of God amongst their people. Instead, I have struggled with my faith in the institution of the Church.
The past several months, I have watched this church enact spiritual violence upon people within consensual, non-monogamous relationships. I will not go into further details about any individual as it’s not my story to tell and I feel well known in Community of Christ circles at this point.
Given a new policy issued from the First Presidency of Community of Christ, I feel I must express my deep sorrow and hurt. Here in full is the policy:
“The First Presidency has received questions about married priesthood members involved in consensual nonmonogamous relationships such as polyamory, polyandry, polygamy, and open marriages.
Monogamy is a basic principle for marriage in Community of Christ and should be upheld in all instances.
Therefore, Community of Christ priesthood members should not be involved in consensual nonmonogamous relationships.”
That’s it. Three whole sentences and the discussion is over, at least on their end. But here is my say on the matter. This is not inspired counsel.
I have not shared this in a format as public as this. I am in an ethical non-monogamous relationship. The details of my relationship do not matter. That is between me, my partners, and our loved ones. None of it is the business of Community of Christ nor any other religious body.
I used to believe in monogamy. I thought non-monogamy was all about sex, lacking commitment, and devoid of the sacred commitment involved in monogamy. All of this is wrong.
The Church has yet to reckon with its history with polygamy. Its response to this subject has been one of a negative identity. The Church set itself up as the Latter Day Saint church that was specifically not polygamist. The early RLDS Church denied Joseph’s polygamy despite a mountain of evidence. The Church gaslit its own members into accepting that narrative and I don’t feel it has ever truly dealt with the subject matter in a healthy way.
Mormon polygamy, particularly as practiced by modern groups such as the FLDS church or the Kingstons is not in any way what we are talking about with consensual non-monogamous relationships today. Mormon polygamy in these groups has often been about the ownership and subjection of women.
My non-monogamous relationship is about the liberation of all parties. We specifically do not own each other. We specifically don’t belong to anyone. Our relationship is one of open communication, trust, love, friendship, etc. What I don’t experience in this relationship is jealousy and entitlement. I honestly can’t see myself in a monogamous relationship again, especially since my gender transition.
Too often, I’ve found as a woman that men are extremely possessive of women in a relationship. I think there’s a level of suspicion and possession in monogamy that I am not comfortable with. I also think that it is an unrealistic expectation of me and my partner that we will never love or be in a relationship with another person. What I have learned is that my relationships with people are all unique and that nobody could replace him and nobody could replace me. Likewise, his relationships are each unique. Love takes many forms. Relationships take many forms.
I have also found God and community in being in a non-monogamous relationship. It has provided me with a second family, a chosen family, that has given me love and acceptance I could not have found elsewhere.
So, this policy from the First Presidency is an affront to me and to my family. It has implied that my relationship is subpar, unfit for the priesthood, unfit for the standards of Community of Christ. They have spat in my face and made the most holy and loving relationships of my life feel like something I should hide in embarrassment. They have cast my home as a scene of sin and iniquity.
In my confirmation message, I shared with my congregation that I felt like I was coming home and that I had found my people again. The people of this church will ALWAYS be my family. But, just as with my own family, I have had to walk away from toxic situations. If this church is insistent on this crusade of vilifying me and my beloveds as well as other families in similar arrangements, then I will not chase after them hoping they will change. I will not put in the labor to change them. They must do this soul searching alone. I hope one day we can reconcile, but for now, I must do what I know I have to do.
Therefore, it is with a truly broken heart, that I resign from Community of Christ. I am writing this through tears because this is like walking away from my own family. But I can’t do this anymore. I’ve been wounded too much by religious traditions of my past. I can’t endure another battle. As a transgender, pansexual woman in a polyamorous relationship, it’s too much. I’ve been fighting my whole life. I can’t stand up for one more battle.
I hope that one day we can reconcile, but it must be Community of Christ which reaches out the olive branch. I will not seek you out. You will have to approach me with an apology in hand and ask for the healing work to begin. You started this. You chose violence. The burden is on you.
May God be with those affected by this unnecessary decision of the priesthood to go after people who were harming nobody. May God inspire grace and growth within this church. And if the church will not grow, its numbers deserve to continue shrinking, and the institution deserves its slow death.
Signed with a broken heart,