The Handbook Changes from the Institutional Perspective

My default setting when digesting controversial news about the Church is defensive. I’m just emotionally-mentally-psychologically-whatever wired to identify with the institution, its leadership, its interests, and the status quo,  at least at first. So I’ve been trying to think this thing through from the point of view of Church leadership. Obviously I’m not privy to any official insight whatsoever, and these are just my own ideas thought through the institutional perspective. Consider every possible caveat covered here.

I see at least two possible rationales, from Church leadership’s point of view, for the changes in policy with regard to gay couples and their children. The first is that, now that the legal battles are settled, leaders felt the need to standardize the Church’s handling of gay marriages. Not a lot of scriptural guidance there, so they settle on plural marriage as the model and precedent. Gay marriage is analogous to polygamy inasmuch as it represents a positive departure from (rather than simply a malfunction of, as in divorce or single parenthood) the Church’s sanctioned form of marriage and family formation, and thus it would make sense to group them under the same set of policies. This kind of thinking is categorical and locally consistent in the way that correlation likes.

I have two objections to this line of thought: the first that our rather draconian treatment of plural marriage stems from the difficult historical events surrounding the end of the practice, and from the Church’s institutional need to definitively separate itself from fundamentalist sects. Because there is no threat of schism from a gay-marriage Mormon sect, there is no need to adopt the same draconian institutional response to individual gay marriages.  The second objection would be that the pain this policy causes to gay families is substantially higher than the pain it causes to polygamous families. Plural marriage is embedded in an existing, competing faith community, and to enter plural marriage is to enter this community; few polygamous families seek baptism or mission service in the LDS Church for their children. Gay marriage for Latter-day Saints is not embedded in an existing, competing faith community, and many families who place great value on baptism and mission service in the LDS Church will find themselves caught in this policy if it is enforced consistently according to its plain language.

The other possible rationale for Church leadership could be a forward-oriented desire to preserve the doctrine and cultural character of the Church in the future. Perhaps they look at the lessons of accommodation over the past half-century and realize that yes, in many cases when Mormon culture changes, usually in response to larger cultural change in the US, the doctrine does eventually follow — on the priesthood ban, birth control, working mothers, and any number of other issues. In order to preserve the purity of the doctrine over time, they realize they must preserve a traditional (that is, exclusively heterosexual) Mormon marriage culture now. I think it is quite clear that a live-and-let-live approach to gay families in the church — don’t excommunicate them, withhold temple recommends and priesthood privileges, but allow them to participate otherwise to whatever extent they choose and welcome their children as full members — would indeed over time, even a pretty short time, lead to growing acceptance of gay marriage in Mormon culture. So these steps are intended to safeguard the family culture of 2015 into the future, by limiting exposure to gay families in ward settings.

I find the latter explanation much harder to swallow but also harder to refute. I recognize that my own position, itself deeply shaped by a Mormon ethos — valuing a traditional family culture in both the Church and society at large and suspecting that ungendering marriage will contribute to the ongoing decline in that culture; but favoring the live-and-let-live approach outlined above and unconflicted about socializing with and celebrating gay families in my circle — is unstable. I want my cake — a robust culture of conjugal marriage and child-rearing to aid my children in finding mates and raising families — and I want to eat it, too — that is, I want to freely welcome all shapes and sorts within the walls of the church.  It’s one thing for an individual to live with this kind of basic incoherence in her worldview; it’s another thing for a huge, slow-to-change institution to build its policies over this fault line.

Regardless, I think the new policies will not succeed in halting cultural change on gay marriage within the Church, if that is their aim.

There are strong forces at work on the good ship Zion, that’s for sure– both the inexorable cultural drift from without, and the formidable but ultimately brittle power of authority from within. May the Lord watch over her.

115 comments for “The Handbook Changes from the Institutional Perspective

  1. Steve Evans
    November 6, 2015 at 1:07 am

    Rosalynde, your post misses the mark for me, not because the analysis is incorrect – I suspect it’s quite right – but because right now, I’m thinking about the LGBT members that will commit suicide, the children excluded from the Church entirety and a policy that smacks of scorched earth tactics. This was an unnecessary move and a hurtful move. Quite frankly, it has caused me to have serious reflections about the institution in ways I’ve never entertained before. So I guess I’m not that interested yet in concocting a rationale for the thing.

  2. clark
    November 6, 2015 at 1:36 am

    Actually I disagree with your analysis as it supposes that the changes in the priesthood ban, and so on were brought about by changes in the culture, which belief diminishes the idea that the LDS Church is led by inspired leaders doing the Lord’s work as best they can. Taking the latter approach allows for an understanding that while there is room for all in the Church, not all are eligible to enter. I believe this is also the law for the Kingdom of God in Heaven where by our choices we can lose our ability to dwell in God’s presence. Rather than taking a view of merely defending the Church, perhaps is would be beneficial to ask to understand how this could be an inspired move. Yes, it might be similar to the reasoning behind the policy for children in plural marriages, not due to the reasons you state, but to the impossibility of the children being sealed to an unsealable couple. Certainly divorce creates similar problems regarding the sealing of children, yet we really don’t know what is going to happen during the Millennium as far as sorting all those situations out. But we do now have Church leaders telling us that same sex marriages are off the table, seemingly forever. I suppose that just as I will hang on to my beliefs, you will continue to believe that culture determines doctrine and it’s just a matter of time until folks like me are gone from the discussion.

  3. Cameron N.
    November 6, 2015 at 1:45 am

    This seems pretty sensationalized to me. This comment I saw on facebook is a more comprehensive perspective:

    “Did you know that, in the LDS Faith, a child cannot get baptized without their parents’ approval? A spouse cannot be baptized without their husband’s or wife’s consent? And, in addition, if the parents practice polygamy, the child cannot get baptized? The church does a TON to protect children and spouses from being taught one thing at home and another thing at church.
    Did you know that the LDS Faith is very careful in how it proselytizes Muslims? Even in countries that protect the religious freedom of both Christians and Muslims, there are cultural differences that make it dangerous for Muslims to convert to Christianity.
    Each of these boundaries provide protections for the church, the prospective member, and the family. For the church, it allows them to clearly teach God’s plan of Salvation (centered on Jesus Christ and marriage between a man and a woman) without worrying that those they teach will face conflict at home. For the family members of those involved, it allows family autonomy and reduces conflict and secrecy. For the prospective member, it helps them not have to lose vital family relationships (and, if they are under 18, food and shelter).
    While Christ does ask us to be prepared to give up family to follow him, (Matthew 10:37), he never teaches that one should attempt to be both a good family member and a good church member, if those two are at odds.
    Let me explain one more thing before I address the reason I wrote this post, if you’ll bear with me. It is not a small matter to become a member of the LDS Church. As I explained above, if an adult Muslim wants to become a member of the church, the church may still decline to baptize the candidate simply because of cultural conflicts. Those who were raised in polygamous households also have extra requirements asked of them if they wish to be baptized. This policy is not a sign of a lack of love, but rather, in the context of the plan of salvation, a recognition that the doctrines and ordinances of Christ are for all in His time, not ours. See Isaiah 55:8-9, Proverbs 3:5-6; Alma 40:8; Moroni 8; Doctrine and Covenants 88:73.
    In this context, two policies accurately leaked to the media today– and, in at least one case, reported sensationally– make more sense. I (and the media) say two policies, but I will split them into three policies.
    The first policy is that choosing to be married to a same-gender partner is incompatible with church membership (“apostasy”). As I mentioned above, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is centered on the value of Christ’s atonement to the bond between a husband and a wife and their children. While individuals may experience and act on same-sex attraction without being apostate, the church considers the step of being a party to a same-gender marriage as a sufficient repudiation of the doctrine of the plan of salvation to constitute apostasy.
    The second policy, like the ones I began the post with, has the effect of not putting children at the center of a conflict between their household and the teachings of their church. The policy is that any child who is being raised by a same-sex couple may not receive baptism or be blessed as a baby. Like with the policies I mentioned above, it protects not just the child, but the church and the household who is raising the child. Conflicts are inevitable if a child is taught that those the child’s legal guardians are sinners– and the only way for them to stop being sinners is by ending their relationship.
    The final policy is that those who are adults and were raised by same-sex couples must meet extra standards before becoming baptized. This, like the policies regarding adults who are/were Muslims and adult children of polygamous parents, serve to protect the candidate. In the context of the plan of salvation, this policy will aim to help people come closer to Christ by helping them be baptized in an environment where they can spiritually grow.
    I sustain these policies.” (end of re-post)
    I know there has been a lot of pain expressed over the last few years – when it comes to same sex marriage, Church policy and laws and policies about religious freedom. Now, there may be more that will struggle with this clarification in the Church Handbook. This re-post provided some clarification about past policies and the Church providing current boundaries so children won’t be caught between conflicted teachings at home and Church.

  4. Bro. Jones
    November 6, 2015 at 2:07 am

    Cameron: that’s all very noble, but the church only takes this hardline stance of “protecting children from conflicting beliefs” when it suits its agenda. I took the missionary discussions at 17 (in Utah) and was told by the missionaries that although strictly speaking I was required to get verbal assent from my parents to receive baptism, the mission president was prepared to allow it even if my parents refused. Wasn’t much talk about protecting me or respecting my parents then.

    In later consultation with counsel, we came to the conclusion that the Church was well aware of the law but knew that a (Utah) court would be unlikely to award anything to my parents since I was close to the age of majority and continued practicing my new religion into adulthood with no obvious harm to me or my family.

    So this was acceptable but had one of my parents been gay, I assume that my baptism would have been more complicated.

  5. Mark Williams
    November 6, 2015 at 2:09 am

    But what this seems to require is a repudiation by a child of a gay married couple of his/her parents. How can that protect the child, let alone foster familial ties? Essentially this will end up pushing gays out of the church and nudging members who long for a more accepting and diverse community closer to the exit doors.

  6. zjg
    November 6, 2015 at 2:40 am

    You seem to think that creating a pocket of “traditional marriage” culture in Mormondom will prevent or slow the cultural decline that you think might come from “ungendering” marriage. I’m not entirely sure what aspects of cultural decline you have in mind — a decade worth of litigation didn’t seem to turn up anything particularly persuasive, although that doesn’t mean that it won’t happen. But putting that to one side, why do you think that these policies, which banish gay people and their kids from at most a teeny, tiny sliver of the broader culture — i.e., Mormon congregations — will serve that goal of cultural conservatism? And against any such “benefits” (such as they are), how is one to weigh the policy’s no doubt significant costs alluded to above by Steve Evans (not to mention the spiritual costs that come from banishing anyone from the church, which we are told is to be a hospital for sinners)? It seems to me that you’re left with a policy whose “benefits” are vanishingly small (assuming they exist at all) and whose costs, both temporal and spiritual, are unfathomably large.

  7. Dave
    November 6, 2015 at 2:51 am

    Clever thoughts, Rosalynde, but the Church really ought to publish its own explanation or defense of these changes rather than just throw it out there to let the media run with it (and they are running) and to force members to come up with their own explanations (few of which are as reasonable as yours).

    And maybe letting the general membership lead the way, revelation from below, isn’t such a bad thing. The changes you referenced above terminating the priesthood and temple ban, making family planning a strictly personal decision for couples, and de facto tolerance of working mothers — in retrospect, these all seem like positive changes, for the Church as an institution as well as the membership.

  8. Brad L
    November 6, 2015 at 2:54 am

    So these steps are intended to safeguard the family culture of 2015 into the future, by limiting exposure to gay families in ward settings

    This explanation makes some sense to me. But I could also see it from the other perspective. The LDS church requires special permission for Muslims to be baptized because they are probably at higher risk of social repercussions. And it would be probably be likewise for the children of same-gender parents. I mean, I can’t imagine any same-gender couple in today’s LDS church environment, wanting their child to get baptized in the LDS church (maybe there are some exceptions, but they’re hard to imagine). In some ways, I could see this policy as a protection for same-gender parents. Imagine a couple of scenarios:

    1) An LDS person marries someone of the opposite sex, and they have kids. The couple later divorces because one of the partners is gay (let’s call her Sarah) and wants to be married to someone of the same gender. Sarah receives custody of the children and marries another female. However, Sarah’s parents are active LDS and want her children to be baptized and raised LDS. This new LDS church policy protects Sarah’s children against overreaching grandparents.

    2) A gay man who was raised LDS (let’s call him Todd) marries another male. They adopt a newborn child. Todd’s family feels it essential to have the baby blessed, and they want Todd’s father to do it, against Todd’s wishes. This new policy makes it easier for Todd, for he can just go to the bishop and tell him that the high LDS leaders forbid all children of same-gender couples from being blessed and baptized until they are 18.

    Consider it a win-win. The LDS church now doesn’t have to deal with any situations of children of same-gender parents (who probably think that their parents are normal) interacting with other LDS kids and rubbing off on them. And same-gender couples can invoke this new policy against any meddlesome LDS family members who might try to take it upon themselves to raise, in essence, their kids LDS.

  9. JimD
    November 6, 2015 at 3:22 am

    The other possible rationale for Church leadership could be a forward-oriented desire to preserve the doctrine and cultural character of the Church in the future. Perhaps they look at the lessons of accommodation over the past half-century and realize that yes, in many cases when Mormon culture changes, usually in response to larger cultural change in the US, the doctrine does eventually follow. . .

    Maybe so; but it’s also perhaps worth noting that Mormon toleration of a cultural “decline” within broader society does not necessarily translate into acceptance of a similar decline within the bounds of Mormonism itself. For example, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Mormon today who said fornication should be criminalized–but 79% of us (as of 2012) still said it was wrong, even though only 35% of non-Mormons thought similarly. The recently-documented growing Mormon acknowledgement that “homosexuality should be accepted by society” does not necessarily mandate an identical increase in the number of Mormons who believe that homosexual relations are morally acceptable.

    Then again–a third possibility is that the Church leadership sincerely believes that on this matter, the doctrine cannot “follow” regardless of where an increasingly liberalized body of the Church chooses to go. Perhaps the leadership has decided that if a schism is inevitable, it’s better to have it now than later. Which would kind of put the whole “hastening” thing in a new perspective . . .

  10. Miles
    November 6, 2015 at 3:43 am

    I think Rosalynd’s second rationale is correct. It appears the church wants to draw a clear line in the sand. It seems entirely unnecessary however. We teach against premarital sex and adultery while both practices are widely acceptance outside the church. I don’t see any doctrinal dilution here.

    It’s things like this that make me want to conceal my Mormonism. How can you possibly explain this policy to a non-member without the church – and myself by association – coming across as homophobic? Cameron makes a valiant effort but I’m afraid that his arguments simply don’t hold water to an unbiased observer. Your parents can be pedophiles, prostitutes, crack-dealers, murderers, abortion providers, torture experts, etc. and you don’t need any special permission to get baptized…. so long as your dad’s not gay.

  11. BradM
    November 6, 2015 at 4:21 am

    While I identified quite thoroughly with your fifth paragraph, i wish to make one short observation. The two rationales set forth here only make the *most* sense if you don’t give any benefit of the doubt that the Church was attempting to tread unsure ground with charity. Other rationales – ones that imply the move was intentionally hurtful – only make sense if you view the church as entirely willing to abdicate its christian principles. I’m unwilling to do either, at least not until i’ve seen some convincing evidence to the contrary.

    But what if we give the church the benefit of the doubt? There are three interests at stake in a policy such as this. The child’s, the parents’, and the Church’s. And if you look at it, this policy actually privileges those interests in that order, though there are tradeoffs. Children of gay parents in a heteronormative church will encounter an unending sea of tensions and contradictions on top of all the normal questions children must grapple with. This policy, by encouraging children to wait until a more mature age before making serious covenants, helps these children more properly assimilate into their family, community, and, if they so choose, church. There’s a downside, of course. If the child really wants to get baptized, the Church won’t let her without First Presidency approval. But even this has an answer, as 18 years is small potatoes in the grand scheme of the plan of salvation, while on the other side, the risk of teenagers mishandling these tough questions of identity and family is particularly great. I know I was not cut out to grapple with questions of that sort at that age. I still wonder if I am.

    What about parents? For this, it’s easier to think about a teenager child of a gay couple. Suppose the child, facing criticism from friends at school about the gender of her parents, acts out against her parents by up and joining the mormon church. “That’ll teach em.” Well, it’s easy to see where this is going.

    What about the church? Some of the interests Rosalynde mentioned now come into play. But these now seem subsidiary to the interests of the parents and the children.

    I feel comfortable assuming this policy was well-intentioned. Not because I’m a Polyanna, but because it actually seems like the most likely explanation. Put this in context with Elder Holland’s talk and Elder Oaks speech on Kim Davis, it seems a particularly odd time to retrench through an intentionally hurtful policy. It also seems unlikely that the motivation behind this was *merely* to draw a moral line in the sand, considering how this policy is of a piece with the other policies we have that render the church subordinate to families (parental consent to baptism, spousal consent to baptism, etc.)

    Perhaps I’m wrong, which I’m open to. But i have to wonder if this is a classic case of the narrative spinning out of control.

  12. Dave K.
    November 6, 2015 at 6:20 am

    What happens to a child who is baptized, one of their parents comes out, the parents divorce, the gay parent cohabits or marries a same-sex partner, and the child lives within that household? Or what of the same situation but the child spends every other week in the same/sex home?

    Does this child get excommunicated? Is she required to denounce her gay parent to her bishop?

  13. Dave K.
    November 6, 2015 at 6:47 am

    This is a tangent, but how does the church address same-sex marriages within genealogical records? I ask because the ban on blessing children raised in a gay family is explained by church spokesmen as necessary to prevent a membership record from being created that would list same sex parents – something the church does not recognize. So I assume the same logic would exclude such children not only from our membership database but also from our genealogy database. Talk about being cut off. Even more strange, assume the child becomes an adult, renounces her gay parents, and joins the church. How is her genealogy entered at the point? Or is she forever cut off because we can bring ourselves to make a record reflecting a same-sex marriage? Somehow we include records of chistenings, even thought the BOM calls that an abomination.

  14. Michael W. Reed
    November 6, 2015 at 7:05 am

    Baptism is not just a cultural ritual as implied by some. It is a solemn covenant between God and man. Man promises to keep God’s commandments and God promises salvation and communion with the Holy Ghost. If a candidate’s personal circumstances would make obedience problematic, undertaking a covenant might not be the best choice.

  15. Mortimer
    November 6, 2015 at 8:18 am

    I’m not sure the noble family-protective rationale floats because there is no policy or encouragement to not attend church. The potential divide can still take place with or without baby blessings or baptisms. Of course the D&C strictly forbids banning persons from attending church.

    I am extremely interested to know what the Primary General Presidency thinks of this, and whether they approved of or participated in the decision. For generations, the Primary has been adamant that their loving work changes the future.

  16. Joel
    November 6, 2015 at 8:20 am

    I appreciate the analysis. I think your second reason is probably correct. This is Cortez scuttling his ships, leaving no means of retreat. This is the hill the LDS Church (current leadership) has decided to die on.

    Some of the comments have talked about how this policy might benefit gay parents who don’t want their children to be baptized, isn’t it already the policy of the LDS Church that children cannot be baptized without the parents’ consent? As long as that policy is respected (which I know is sometimes not the case), this wouldn’t add any additional protection to parental rights and wishes.

    I think the really interesting hypothetical, and one very likely to come up, is a child of a heterosexual marriage, where both parents are Mormon, and the parents subsequently divorce and then one of them enters into a gay marriage. The clear reading of the handbook policy seems to mean that the child at that point would not be able to get baptized until age 18, regardless of the custody arrangement or the parents’ wishes.

  17. at
    November 6, 2015 at 8:46 am

    One thing is for sure. Those who already know that the church is “wrong” about this did not come to that conclusion after consulting with the Lord through much study and prayer.

  18. D. Fletcher
    November 6, 2015 at 8:57 am

    Once again, I’m mortified. But it is clear to me, this is meant to offend me, so I’ll leave the church, and take my children with me. The church is separating the wheat from the chaff. They want me to leave. They are simply “purifying.”

  19. Britain
    November 6, 2015 at 9:17 am

    Question: Can a baby of an excommunicated heterosexual couple be made a child of record? If not, then isn’t this just the clerical consequence of excommunicating gay marrieds?

  20. Britain
    November 6, 2015 at 9:23 am

    Methinks this also means that the children of same-sex couples are granted the “Lamanite Insurance Policy” that Lehi provided his grandkids.

  21. Dave K
    November 6, 2015 at 9:27 am

    Until this moment, I never thought the church would face a more difficult experience than it did through renouncing polygamy.

    Rosalynde, you are correct in pointing to the striking similarities between the new policy for children of SS couples and the long-term policy for children of polygamous families. However, there is one huge difference. In 1890-1910, the church was a huddled mass located in the mountain west which implemented the policy in an attempt to integrate within larger society. In contrast, today we are a world-wide church that is implementing the new policy in an attempt to withdraw from larger society. I don’t see it working out in the long term.

  22. J Town
    November 6, 2015 at 9:46 am

    “And maybe letting the general membership lead the way, revelation from below, isn’t such a bad thing.”

    This is horrifying to me. When Jesus’ apostles died, how well did the general membership handle things then? And how, precisely, would today’s general membership, who often can’t agree on where the bathroom is much less anything more substantive, possibly lead the church? Certainly they can’t lead in accordance with the will of the Lord, who has set for the method of organization in His church. I hope we’re seeking to take counsel from the Lord, rather than attempting to counsel him.

    “Essentially this will end up pushing gays out of the church and nudging members who long for a more accepting and diverse community closer to the exit doors”

    Those individuals who are practicing homosexuals would not be able to remain within the church in any event, by their own choice, since such conduct conflicts with the doctrines of the church and the expressly stated will of God. It’s not something to celebrate, to be sure, but it’s the natural consequence of that choice. Codifying it doesn’t change that. Caring for these brothers and sisters is good and right, but caring does NOT mean saying that whatever they do is ok. If we care for them and love them, should we not instead speak of repentance, that mighty change of heart, that could bring solace and joy to their souls? Do we think a call to repentance is a negative thing, rather than a necessary step on the path to God that all must pass through?

    And members who desire, first and foremost, an accepting and diverse community should be extremely careful what they wish for. There are plenty of churches who let people do whatever they want, but the church of Jesus Christ has never been so permissive, nor should it be.

  23. Dave K
    November 6, 2015 at 9:59 am

    One last comment (sorry for taking more than my share). There is another significant similarity between today’s policy and the post-manifesto policy: the brunt of the weight will fall on our women and children. In the 1890s, it was plural wives who were left without home or husband and no prospects for finding such again, children left without fathers.

    Today, it is the sisters who learn that their husband has SSA, wrestle for years with him to find a solution, eventually crumble as he leaves, and are left to face a world with little prospect for re-marriage and where her children will be raised by her alone or through split custody. But apparently that was not enough of a test for these good sisters. Now they have added to their cross the reality that their children are cut off from the saving ordinances and the heart of church service opportunities. I simply can’t imagine facing that world.

    The reality is that the church is losing upward of 50% of its youth between the ages of 12 and 18. For children who will be denied baptism, ordination, temple trips, etc. under the new policy, I have to imagine the rate will be 95-99% (especially for boys). The SS relationship will become THE defining aspect of their (the children’s) relationship with the church. When other kids ask “why aren’t you getting baptized” or “why can’t you pass the sacrament” or “why can’t you come on temple trips” or “why aren’t you going to missionary prep” – the child’s identity will become wrapped up with his/her parent’s sexuality. We will lose them. Essentially, we’re choosing to cut off all children with a parent in a SS relationship. There better be a very good reason.

    So the next time that you hear of a friend who’s husband came out as gay, realize that, statistically speaking, her children also just left the church. She may need more than a casserole.

  24. Rosalynde Welch
    November 6, 2015 at 10:01 am

    Zig: “It seems to me that you’re left with a policy whose “benefits” are vanishingly small (assuming they exist at all) and whose costs, both temporal and spiritual, are unfathomably large.” This indeed is my assessment as well, which is why I object to both of the explanations I floated.

    D.: It’s hard to read it any other way, isn’t it. I’m so, so sorry. You have contributed so much to your local church community — particularly to the children, through the music you’ve written for them. You deserve better than this from the church you have loved and served. FWIW, it appears to be a hugely unpopular move — even among those, like me, initially disposed to support the Brethren. We love you.

    Mortimer: I too would love to know whether the Primary General Presidency was consulted or involved in any way.

    Joel: I agree that all manner of totally unnecessary and counterproductive — not to mention painful — situations are likely to arise from such a poorly-conceived and poorly-constructed policy. Let’s hope it’s clarified, minimized, and ultimately replaced in relatively short order.

  25. Gort Maringa
    November 6, 2015 at 10:14 am

    I tried to post my question at Millennial Star, but they deleted it, so I’ll try here:

    Help. I’m confused.

    People are saying a couple things.
    1. “If this is the policy for polygamous families, why aren’t people upset about that?”

    I am upset now, as I didn’t know about the policy for polygamous families. I didn’t know that we could withhold blessings from 8 year olds for the sins of their fathers. I didn’t know that that policy existed, but I am hurt by that.

    2. “It makes sense that kids need to get adult permission. We have restrictions on who and when we baptize, like Muslims and legal permission.”

    But first presidency approval? I don’t understand, but I’m sure others can help. When I was a missionary, the only first presidency approvals were for people considered murderers. Is the same level of severity to be tied to both murderers and to children of faithful, committed, legally married couples? I can’t put innocent children and people who have murdered in the same category in my mind.

    3. Some are sharing “well, kids can still come to church, just without baptism”

    Technically, yes. But calling their parents apostates will not likely make that easy. Would we be okay with any other 12 year old girl being told she can’t go an do temple baptisms because of her parents? While indeed she can wait, I can’t think of another sin of parents that I would be okay with depriving opportunities for children to come closer to Christ. We are saying that we are okay with the most spiritual and formative spiritual development being withheld from children: during the time of life that they need it most. I feel like we are being nonchalant about this: for me, my testimony was formed through these experiences! I don’t know where my testimony would be without them. I struggle here for my own personal experiences. Children of parents who are actually apostate, excommunicated, aren’t subjected to the same punishment: my aunt and uncle were excommunicated, but their kids still got baptized without a hitch by members of our extended family.

    4. “We have a policy on gay marriage. It is this way because it is the law of chastity: the law tied to our highest ordinances.”

    Ultimately, this hits me hardest, and where I am struggling the most. Until this point, children, teens, and members who are gay have had at least the phrase “love the sinner, but hate the sin” to seek refuge under. But now they feel more conflated. We don’t have the same policy for children of adulterous couples, couples who have had various levels of infidelity, couples where pornography used, family abuse, marital rape, or other law of chastity-breaking situations. Children only of polygamous or gay marriages are denied access. The argument that we have held for gay marriage, that it is against the plan of salvation along with the other family-destroying practices, doesn’t hold as strongly for me, because we don’t take the same stance on other practices that are damaging to families. Where is the hope for our gay children and teens? We have decided that they are worse than so many other sins, as I understand it.

    I think this is particularly fresh for me, because, as a teacher, I recently had a child confide in me that they were gay and were scared to tell their parents.

    Have to go to work, but please help.

  26. Gort Maringa
    November 6, 2015 at 10:16 am

    Also, if nothing else, can someone help me know why Millennial Star deleted this? I wasn’t trying to be incendiary. If I am, please help me know how to write this so I’m not seen as destructive.

  27. john f.
    November 6, 2015 at 10:22 am

    D., we love you and need you. But I understand how this affects you. Sending love and prayers your way.

  28. Dave K
    November 6, 2015 at 10:22 am

    Gort, don’t take it personally. I’ve been banned from both M* and RfM. That’s how I know that I’m a normal, reasonable adult.

  29. Rosalynde Welch
    November 6, 2015 at 10:25 am

    Gort, your comments are welcome here. Alas, I have no satisfying responses — I share your dismay! I think your comments are perceptive and heartfelt and point to real problems in the policy.

  30. el oso
    November 6, 2015 at 10:34 am

    Good analysis on many fronts. Of course the quibbles all get the attention.
    You state the following:
    “Gay marriage for Latter-day Saints is not embedded in an existing, competing faith community, and many families who place great value on baptism and mission service in the LDS Church will find themselves caught in this policy if it is enforced consistently according to its plain language.”
    I would take issue with this statement on several levels. First, those who enter gay marriage are most definitely embedding themselves in a competing faith community. This community is just not organized as a church that I know of.
    Second, those who place value on baptism etc. in the LDS church are probably not going to be entering into gay marriage.
    There are several grey areas where this might impact minors with biological parents who disagree about gay marriage. If a non-gay parent has primary or joint custody of a child, they will probably insist that the child’s records remain in their ward and keep the child as a member of the church. The local bishop could then not take notice of the apostates in another jurisdiction. There could also be significant influence on family court decisions in the mormon areas of the western US.

  31. Josh Smith
    November 6, 2015 at 10:36 am

    At some point, I can’t be a part of this.

    Personally, I think more of us should wait until age 18 to be baptized in the Mormon church. Maybe all of us? Baptism seems like something we should do after we have more of life’s experiences. (Like meaningful literacy.)

    Apostates? Really? Disavow your parents’ relationship? Really? No baby blessings? Why? Because maybe people in the congregation will be exposed to the gawd-awful truth that homosexual couples love their children? Unbelievable.

    This morning I really feel in my heart that I must speak up. I feel I have a moral obligation to say, “I”m one heterosexual fellow in South East Idaho who lives a pretty orthodox life, and I completely disavow the LDS church’s shaming and exclusion of parents and children based on sexual orientation.”

    Does anybody else out there have a good idea how to voice disgust? I’m game.

  32. Rosalynde Welch
    November 6, 2015 at 10:44 am

    Josh, my sense is that this move angers and confuses otherwise on-board LDS (not just those who have ongoing quarrels with COB on the perennial topics — not that I am discounting the validity of those views or the right to express them) in a way that is new and signals trouble for Church leadership. Wise church leaders understand that their social authority is actually quite limited, and based on its persuasive, not its coercive power. Pushing too hard against the prevailing mainstream membership of the Church is futile and in fact possibly dangerous, as it can quickly erode the prestige and goodwill that characterizes ecclesiastical authority in the Church. I’m hoping for quick and wise corrections.

  33. November 6, 2015 at 10:47 am

    Gort –
    I know it’s fashionable to portray M* as a bunch of conservatives who ban and delete everyone who disagrees with them (and ignoring the fact T&S and BCC actually do it more often than we do), but all I can see is that your comment is stuck in the approval queue at M* – and for some reason, I’m having server issues and am having issues logging in to approve or delete comments. Perhaps the author of the post has been able to log in and has since deleted the comment, but if so, take it up with that specific author, since the policy at M* is to generally allow post authors to handle their own threads.

  34. Owen
    November 6, 2015 at 10:50 am

    Does baptism have salvific force for someone who is apostate in their beliefs? Over the years I have seen so many parents and grandparents seek blessings and baptisms for their children with absolutely no intention of raising them to believe or participate in the church. They just think it’s a golden ticket into heaven, which to me makes a mockery of blessings and ordinances. The only result is to swell the lists of the inactive membership. This policy simply serves to make clear that these blessings and ordinances aren’t just magic–they are meant to create relationships with the divine based on faith and obedience. That just doesn’t make sense for someone who is going to be raised to believe in a practice that is diametrically opposed to the basic doctrines of the church concerning chastity and the purpose of life.

  35. Will
    November 6, 2015 at 10:51 am

    The real way to protest business men is to boycott their business or simply not contribute. So stop paying these guys. They are clearly without any power or authority, unless you give it to them.

  36. D. Fletcher
    November 6, 2015 at 11:01 am

    I’m not leaving the church over this. And it does strike me (perhaps for the first time), here’s something that might be reversible (for those of you drawn to activism).

  37. Josh Smith
    November 6, 2015 at 11:12 am

    Rosalynde and D. Fletcher,

    I’m not proposing activism for the sake of enacting change. I’ve been around long enough, and coherent enough, to recognize that social pressure is not how the LDS church operates.

    This isn’t about changing the LDS church.

    For me, this is about personal catharsis. This is about saying, “I am a human being. I have experiences in life that are valid. My experience is that same-sex attraction is not taboo or unnatural. It is a part of being human. Even if I don’t understand homosexuality, same-sex attraction is human and should be treated with dignity. Good heavens, just treat people with dignity!”

    Basically, I’m less interested in what they do and more interested in what I choose to do. So, if anyone out there has a good way to publicly say what I said above, please let me know.

  38. zjg
    November 6, 2015 at 11:16 am

    Owen — I “believe” in gay marriage (as you put it). IN other words, I think that as a public policy matter in our current time and place as a society, it is a net positive. I’m also a very active, pretty traditional Mormon father and a member of the stake high council. Based on my own experience, this combination — pro-same sex marriage as public policy, active member — is not as rare as one might think. How do these facts not undercut your explanation of the new policy? More generally, the church has been pretty clear that one can favor same-sex marriage as a policy and still be a temple recommend holder. Are we now saying that whether this is true depends on how one’s position on gay marriage was formed? If based on first-hand experience from living with gay parents, then you can’t even be baptized (unless you’re 18, out of the house and willing to disavow something that is undoubtedly central to your family’s identity, in the same way that heterosexual marriage is central to a heterosexual family’s identity). By contrast, if one’s position is based on something other than first-hand experience, then you can be baptized and go to the temple.

  39. palerobber
    November 6, 2015 at 11:18 am

    Rosalynde, i don’t often agree with your take on things, but i think you really hit this one out of the park.

    a lot of people of shaking their heads in confusion this morning, asking themselves “what were they thinking?” i would direct all such people to this blog post. well done.

  40. palerobber
    November 6, 2015 at 11:37 am

    @ Brad L #8

    The LDS church requires special permission for Muslims to be baptized because they are probably at higher risk of social repercussions. And it would be probably be likewise for the children of same-gender parents.

    you forgot to mention the social consequences a baby might suffer at the hands of their gay parents if they were allowed to be blessed.

    I can’t imagine any same-gender couple in today’s LDS church environment, wanting their child to get baptized in the LDS church (maybe there are some exceptions, but they’re hard to imagine).

    you don’t have to “imagine” it — just go visit any Affirmation or BYU USGA meeting and you can meet real life mormons who would love to be both married and raising their kids or future kids in the LDS Church. strange, but true.

  41. Rosalynde Welch
    November 6, 2015 at 11:42 am

    Just echoing what paleorobber said times a thousand — lots and lots and lots of gay couples, and their extended families, would run, not walk, back to the LDS church, if there were an opening to do so.

  42. palerobber
    November 6, 2015 at 11:42 am

    Brad L, i re-read your comment and realized it was probably tongue in cheek. if so, please ignore my reply above.

  43. Sharon
    November 6, 2015 at 11:50 am

    I have two thoughts:
    1. D, as I said elsewhere this absolutely kept me up at night, and one of the people I thought of most was you. I’m so sorry, and I hope you know that you’re wanted at church.
    2. To those who say that people in same-sex relationships or marriages probably wouldn’t want baptism or other ordinances for their children (or, by implication, for family members or children of friends, etc.), that’s an unhelpful and simply untrue generality. My applause to those who are LGBTQ and are still trying to have a relationship with the church in various ways, usually because they deeply love and value the church.

  44. Anonymous
    November 6, 2015 at 11:58 am

    A full third of my ward’s high priest group are registered sex offenders or convicted of sex offenses before there was a legal requirement to register.

    To the best of my knowledge, their children were fully acknowledged as LDS in all church rituals and were never asked to disavow their fathers.

    (And sex offenses are actually illegal, unlike same-sex marriage, which is, like, completely legal.)

    Just sayin’.

  45. bmj
    November 6, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    I don’t know for sure, but I’d imagine my parents (and other extended family members) are heartbroken right now. My parents have renounced my “lifestyle” and refused to attend my wedding, but I’m sure they hoped that my two kids would eventually get baptized. Even the most devout LDS members with gay children would want the option to try to bring their grandkids into the fold.

  46. Mark Williams
    November 6, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    JTown: I understand your position as it relates to the Church’s stance against gay behavior. That’s the Church’s prerogative, even if it applies to gay married couples. If that is defined as sin, the Church can protect the purity of its doctrine. However, how is the policy that withholds rights to the child of a gay parent (with whom that child might not even live) to be baptized, confirmed, ordained to, or advanced in, the priesthood until that child reaches the age of majority at 18, and then only if he or she disavows his parent’s lifestyle, consistent with Christ’s teachings or even the 2nd Article of faith? The argument that this is protecting the rights of a gay parent as it relates to parental consent appears to be a smokescreen. The child will be ostracized and punished for the decision of his or her parent. And only because the child’s father or mother is a special kind of sinner: not a murderer, adulterer, fraudster, or child molester. But because of the child’s parent’s same-gender attraction. This has nothing to do with the sinful state of the child. Yet we punish the child for the parent’s sin. This is wrong.

  47. Rosalynde Welch
    November 6, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    bmj, I’m so sorry you are estranged from your family. I suspect that you are exactly right about their response, and the way this policy will ripple outward to affect devout, supportive members points toward a real problem for Church leadership. (The more emotionally pressing problem, of course, is the pain the policy causes for gay members and their children.)

  48. Eve of Destruction
    November 6, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    While I think it is nice that many rank-and-file LDS want to treat others better than this policy from the top would imply, I think there is a deeper wisdom that must be realized before this can happen. When asked “how should we treat others?” a sage replied, “There are no others.”

    [i]I want my cake — a robust culture of conjugal marriage and child-rearing to aid my children in finding mates and raising families — and I want to eat it, too — that is, I want to freely welcome all shapes and sorts within the walls of the church.[/i]

    I hear my siblings and cousins who are raising children in the church make remarks like these all the time and I just stare because do they even think about what they are implying about my single no-kids life? That I’m not part of the culture they want to be part of? Okee-dokee then. I hope they don’t strain anything from patting themselves on the back for having been so broadminded as to allow me to be part of the family still.

    So I go play among my niblings and junior-cousins and know in my heart that not all of them are straight. I couldn’t say for sure which ones, because they may not have realized it themselves yet, or may know it but aren’t ready to come out, but statistically there are just so many of them that it’s impossible that none of them are L or G or B or T or Q etc. Some of them already are of the “other” shapes and sorts for whom there will be no mate, or no children, or a same-sex mate, or children in a same-sex home, etc.

    The church is teaching them now, how to treat themselves as they grow into these futures. It is teaching them how to treat each other, when it later becomes clear which ones of them will not be fulfilling the “ideal” of the family. I mean, my siblings and cousins learned it well: keep harping on the ideal, keep harping, give some lip service to the “other,” and then harp some more on the ideal, invite the “other” to be part of your gathering, where you all express gratitude for having achieved the “ideal”… [Eve waves goodbye with much relief, at least until the next family gathering]

  49. bmj
    November 6, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    Rosalynde – After my kids were born, my parents became a lot more welcoming. In fact, my girls have gone to church with them on a number of occasions.

    As for me, I worry about the young people. Another motivation might be to dissuade LGBT youth who are “considering” coming out. If you know that not only you, but also your children, will be denied salvation, you may re-think your “choice” to be gay.

    As for me, it’s kind of a relief. If my kids (not 5 and 3) wanted at some point to get baptized, that would be a very difficult decision. We live in Utah, so now they will likely not be invited by classmates and friends to church activities. Saves us a lot of drama!

  50. Owen
    November 6, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    zjg #38, so are you saying you don’t believe it is a sin for two men to have sex with each other and cohabitate? Because that’s different from accepting gay marriage as a matter of public policy, which I think is what you’re focusing on. What I’m talking about is disbelieving the Law of Chastity.

  51. Dave K
    November 6, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    (Sorry, I’m back). I’m curious how a parent should approach the new church policy in light of this canonized scripture:

    “And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents. For this shall be a law unto the inhabitants of Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized. And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of the hands.”

  52. Gwen
    November 6, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    Rosalynde, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on this matter here. I also appreciate that you acknowledge your inclination is to defend the church and the institution, because I have to admit that my first response is the opposite. It’s for that reason that I looked forward to hearing your thoughts on the matter.

    I am not an intellectual, or particularly well-versed in Mormon history, and I often feel that I am not eloquent enough to get involved in online discussions on these issues. But just on a gut level, if you really believe in the importance of these ordinances for salvation, punishing children for the actions of their parents is wrong. I find the rationale, “Well there are so few children to whom this actually applies, so what’s the big deal” particularly upsetting. I particularly identify with Josh Smith’s comments from above. I don’t know the answer, but I do feel like just sitting quietly in the pew and not bringing this up on Sunday so as to not ruffle any feathers isn’t a good option either.

  53. Rosalynde Welch
    November 6, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    bmj — wishing you all the best for peaceful family and community relations as your sweet kids grow up. And though I wish you no drama, I fervently hope the neighborhood kids will continue reaching out in friendship to yours.

  54. Rosalynde Welch
    November 6, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    Gwen, glad you spoke up here. I have found that speaking up in Church, combined with an increase of love and service in the ward, can be a positive experience for me and other members. Hope you’ll find your voice and find your way forward in your ward. I have a feeling you won’t be the only one who is motivated to speak up for the first time by this policy.

  55. Gort Maringa
    November 6, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    Thank you to those who replied to my questions. I’ve had so much to think about today.

    Dave K- Lol. I have always been a reader (non commenter of M* till today). Apparently still not a commenter.

    Rosalynde- Thank you for your kind words.

    Ivan Wolfe-I worry that the removal of my comment may have spurred the author to write an article that starts with, “If you are feeling angry and emotional about Church policies, my advice is not to comment at M* because your comments will not be seen by anybody. If you have sincere questions (and are not a troll pretending to ask sincere questions), then hopefully this analogy will help you. If you already understand the role of modern-day prophets…” I don’t know if others had the same experience this morning, but I don’t know if I will be returning to read. This blog is helping me work through the dissonance and didn’t see my plea for help as “trolling.” I don’t know if Geoff B. had my post in mind, but it feels accusatory on levels that I wasn’t happy with.

  56. Nepos
    November 6, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    Well, at least the Church was quite clear this time: If you’re in a gay marriage, you are cutting off your children from salvation (unless your children are willing to disavow you–and assuming they don’t die between the ages of 8 and 18.)

    I seem to recall Jesus saying something about letting the little ones come to him, but I guess that’s been superseded by modern revelation.

  57. C.
    November 6, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    Rosalynde, thanks. I always find your comments interesting, and well-written, and carefully considered. And your effort to be charitable is admirable. And I am always in favor of seeking reconciliation. For me, at a certain point, or age, I just don’t have the energy anymore for the mental gymnastics required to even try what you’re trying here. You just get to a point where you’re just tired of apologizing, in both senses of that word. You just get numb.

  58. pa
    November 6, 2015 at 2:19 pm


    Ivan was trolling you. M* is the Randy Bott of the blogosphere. Being banned there is a badge of honor among normal Mormons. You have much better things to do with your time than worry what the M* editors/readers think of your comment and much better places to find answers to your thoughtful and good questions, imo.


    Thank you for your level headed and well put thoughts on this subject. My phone lit up all night as my college-age kids across the country from east to west read about this. They are uniformly shocked and disappointed. To say it has created a wedge between them and the Church is an understatement. Right now they don’t understand the animus towards kids of gay parents. My kids ask “What have the kids done to deserve this kind of segregation and ultimately discrimination.” I don’t have a good answer or any answer really.

    I also feel bad for the Bishops and Stake Presidents who are on the front lines of enforcing and defending this really bad policy. Thanks to google and the internet they will be forever linked to this disaster for current and future employers and community activities. They could easily become the person described recently by Elder Rasband in his BYU talk who was treated badly b/c she stood up for traditional marriage. Unlike the Brethren responsible for this policy, the Bishops and SPs do not enjoy a phalanx of PR flacks, adoring members (M* readers) and apologists, as a buffer between them and the real effects of this policy. The Brethren responsible for this change are firmly ensconced far, far away from the front lines of this very personal issue. Bishops and SPs become the face and enforcer of this awful policy. That will potentially be a very high cost to them personally and professionally. Unless I am missing something (very likely) these men have been left out to dry on their own to carry out this thankless task: “I am sorry Johnny, but your Dad and Dad are in love and married so you cannot be baptized/ordained until you turn 18, prove you don’t support your Dad and in fact renounce your Dad and his lifestyle. Oh, and don’t worry about that kid whose parent is a sex offender but consented to letting his minor kid get baptized without having to renounce his pervert Dad.” Thanks a lot SLC.

    But, the kids affected here and their families are the real victims of this draconian policy.

  59. Jake Cox
    November 6, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    My uneducated guess is that Cameron N.’s facebook re-post (comment #3) probably comes closest to the explanation the Brethren would give if they were inclined to give one. But I think this reinforces Rosalynde’s point about the Brethren perhaps deciding that this is an area where they must promote strict doctrinal purity.

    Cameron N. says this “has the effect of not putting children at the center of a conflict between their household and the teachings of their church.” True. But there are lots of contrary-to-Church-teachings things parents may do that do not prevent a child from being baptized.

    As far as I’m aware, there’s no policy against baptizing the child of a heterosexual mother cohabiting with her boyfriend, so long as the mother consents to the baptism. That child will face tension between what she learns at Church and what she sees at home, and may even come to believe that cohabitation before marriage is a good thing.

    As far as I’m aware, there’s no policy against baptizing the child of an abortion doctor or outspoken advocate of abortion rights. Consent from such a parent might be harder to come by, but if it comes, there are no special procedures that I know of. (Wouldn’t be surprised if priesthood authorities inquired more deeply of this child, but again, there’s nothing formally required. Not sure what would happen if the child — let’s imagine a 16-year-old girl — says “I won’t advocate for abortion or help others to get one or get one myself, but personally, I disagree with the Church’s teachings on abortion, although I’ll keep those feelings to myself.” Can this child be denied baptism? I honestly don’t know.)

    Or consider the probably-quite-common example of the child of parents who drink coffee. That child might already believe that drinking coffee is totally harmless. Although he’s willing to obey the Word of Wisdom and he has no intent to advocate for loosening the coffee restriction, he doesn’t personally see coffee drinking as wrong. As far as I know, he can still get baptized, even before age 18.

    But the child of same-sex parents is something different, under this new policy. Even if the child is willing to live the law of chastity as prescribed by the Church, the child may not be baptized until age 18 and must renounce any belief that her parents are doing something acceptable (and then must receive First Presidency approval).

    It’s been a while since my mission service, but I don’t recall any baptism interview question requiring the candidate to agree that a specific doctrine is correct. Hence my agreement with Rosalynde that this looks like a doctrinal purity issue.

  60. your food allergy is fake
    November 6, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    Are we to believe there is unanimity among the FP and Q12 on this? Or do some sort of abstain or go along because they are outranked or outnumbered? This policy does not surprise me but the idea that there is complete unanimity surprises me.

    It suggests to me that the LGBT movement alarms the church like no other, probably in part due to its rapidity. These other various and sundry sins of parents have been around, and some are increasing, but nothing like the pace of the now widespread acceptance of homosexual families. This seems like a desperate defensive maneuver, like an intentional foul on a rapidly counterattacking Atletico Madrid to prevent Antoine Griezmann from a certain goal.

  61. Dave K
    November 6, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    Here’s another thought on why the brethren may have felt it necessary to add SSM to the definition of apostasy. Perhaps there are bishops or stake presidents who take the view that a married same-sex couple is not violating the law of chastity and so is not subject to church discipline (or at least as severe a discipline as excommunication).

    By placing same-sex *marriage* itself within the definition of apostasy, the handbook takes away any room for local discretion. Leaders must excommunicate such members post-haste, just as they would for other charges of apostasy.

  62. November 6, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    Gort –

    Well, I’m not Geoff B and I can’t read his mind, so I have no idea. I managed to get a post on M*, but for some reason, I still can’t access comments, so I have no idea. I know I would have allowed the comment, so if you want to post that comment on my recent M* post, go for it – I won’t delete it.

    As for the other commentators who brag about being banned at M* – you really aren’t reasonable adults. Every single time someone claims they were banned at M* for mere disagreement, when I go look at their deleted posts, they are hateful, nasty, and spiteful attacks. I don’t want to de-rail the conversation off the main post, but they “M* sucks” meme needs some pushback, since it’s false.

  63. your food allergy is fake
    November 6, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    Quite right Dave K. It prevents a practicing gay father from blessing his son in church, a scene the church would rather avoid with its implied legitimizing of that family’s relationships.

  64. palerobber
    November 6, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    Dave K, the handbook already stated (and still does) that “homosexual relations,” regardless of marital status, are to be considered a “Serious Transgression” that may require official discipline. if some bishops or stake presidents were confused about that, the brethren could have just reminded them.

    i suppose the only reason SSM was added to the Apostasy section was to spare local leaders having to ask gay couples whether or not they’ve consummated their marriage.

  65. November 6, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    For those who “can’t imagine” a gay couple choosing to raise their children as Mormons, I would encourage you to read this essay: A New Kind of Pioneer by Kelly Montgomery, a lesbian woman, who along with her partner, are active Mormons raising four children in the church.

  66. November 6, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    Dave K (13) – FamilySearch (The Churches’ genealogy database) does not allow marriage between people of the same gender. It allows for additional fathers and mothers beyond the biological ones, but no recognition of a relationship between said parents.

  67. Pete
    November 6, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    I’m reminded of the talk by (ironically) Boyd Packer about battlefield commissions, and wondering if it has some application here, in that the parent/child relationship is more important than the ordinance.

    Another time I was in a distant city. After a conference we were ordaining and setting apart leaders. As we concluded, the stake president asked, “Can we ordain a young man to be an elder who is leaving for the mission field?” The answer, of course, was yes.

    As the young man came forward, he motioned for three brethren to follow and stand in for his ordination.

    I noticed on the back row a carbon copy of this boy, and I asked, “Is that your father?”

    The young man said, “Yes.”

    I said, “Your father will ordain you.”

    And he protested, “But I’ve already asked another brother to ordain me.”

    And I said, “Young man, your father will ordain you, and you’ll live to thank the Lord for this day.”

    Then the father came forward.

    Thank goodness he was an elder. Had he not been, he soon could have been! In the military they would call that a battlefield commission. Sometimes such things are done in the Church.

    The father did not know how to ordain his son. I put my arm around him and coached him through the ordinance. When he was finished, the young man was an elder. Then something wonderful happened. Completely changed, the father and son embraced. It was obvious that had never happened before.

    The father, through his tears, said, “I didn’t get to ordain my other boys.”

    Think how much more was accomplished than if another had ordained him, even an Apostle.

    I’m not suggesting that a gay parent would change his/her orientation because of being allowed to participate in or witness an ordinance, but that the higher purpose of turning the hearts of the children to their fathers (and mothers) would be facilitated.

  68. Eve of Destruction
    November 6, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    Well, so I just put two-and-two together. I was in a mixed-orientation marriage to a gay LDS man who had been through reparative therapy. Before we met, he went through a period of inactivity in the church during which he cohabited with another gay man. Then he left that relationship, returned to church, went through years of therapy, met me, and we married in the temple. If we had stayed together, we might well have had children who would now be of age to be getting baptized and going to the temple to do baptisms. This policy would mean that my children–MY CHILDREN–would have to get First Presidency permission. And all because I followed my bishop’s advice in a priesthood blessing to trust that my then-fiance’s repentance was real and that he was indeed temple-worthy. Good thing we divorced before having those hypothetical children. I would not want to bring them into such a church.

  69. Anonymous
    November 6, 2015 at 4:16 pm

    My situation is similar. My husband and I split up and he soon remarried a wonderful LDS woman with her own children. With the best interests of my children at heart, I agreed in the divorce settlement that they could be baptized into the LDS church, even though a reason for the divorce in the first place was that I wanted to leave the Church and my then husband requested that we divorce so our children could be raised LDS (there were other reasons for the divorce as well).

    But now, despite our agreement, our biological children will not be allowed to be baptized because of my current relationship. We share joint custody and my children live with us half the time. I find it incredibly sad that my children will not be allowed to be baptized along with their step siblings – who all attend church together on alternating Sunday’s. I have been supportive of my children’s participation in the LDS church thus far because I do not want to introduce more conflict into an already difficult situation.

    For those of you defending this policy because it protects children and families – this is just not true in my situation. It is putting my children in a horrible position of choosing one parent over another. My ex and I have worked so well together to shield our children from this kind of conflict and I am very concerned about how this is going to play out. Please pray for all of us.

  70. FarSide
    November 6, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    A few questions:

    1. Why did the church do this? I mean, was this necessary? Today? Are the children of gay parents beating down the door to get baptized and go on missions?

    2. Why wasn’t the church open about this? Why publish it in a handbook distributed only to bishops and stake presidents? Did they think no one would notice? Were they clueless as to the optics once the truth came out? (The church’s past efforts to conceal, and discouraging members from learning about, unpleasant episodes in church history suggest that the answer to this question is probably “yes.”)

    3. In all seriousness, isn’t the church wasting its time and money sending missionaries to anywhere in North America and Western Europe?

  71. D. Fletcher
    November 6, 2015 at 8:02 pm

    So sad today. Grateful for the kind words. Never expected this day to come, but, it has.

  72. Wondering
    November 6, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    I think both Elder Nelson and Elder Oaks have two wives. Just wondering about doctrinal purity in their case.

  73. November 6, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    After thinking about it for awhile, and deleting several very negative responses before I posted them, I think I am actually happy about this. As much as I like to pretend otherwise, the church does not like people like me, simply based on the fact that I am attracted to people of my same gender. At the same time, the church has culturally deified the concept of the opposite-sex monogamous nuclear family, to the point where it is not at all uncommon to hear people say, “The Gospel is about families,” replacing the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ as the cultural core of our religion.

    As a practical result of this, I can only have, at best, a half-membership in the church. If I find and marry a person I love, I get excommunicated. If, as I am currently doing, I decide to jump through all the hoops, I am still only considered half a member, since I am not married nor actively dating, and am relegated to a welcome-but-other category, and have to fight extra hard for a level of inclusion.

    All of that existed before Handbook 1 was updated, and those are the sentiments that led to the new child-exclusion and you’re-definitely-an-apostate policy. Before now, though, it has been easy for most members to justify and rationalize church anti-gay discrimination, pretending it is all done out of love. A policy that excludes children from baptism, blessings, or missions is clearly not done out of love. It is done out of fear. The church may consider us gays to be people, but it definitely doesn’t consider us saints. This policy is clearly not, “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” as people have been tricked into believing was the policy.until now. It is unequivocally “Hate the sinner, the sin, and the sinner’s children.”

    For some reason, the church is afraid of me. And now that’s out in the open.

    So why am I happy about this? Admission is the first step to change.

    It’s all public now, and my fellow members will be forced to confront how they really feel. And the truth is, I think most members don’t hate me or fear me. They understand that this policy is irrational.

    But thank you, John Dehlin, for not abandoning us Latter-day Saints, even though some have sought to exclude you. And thank you to the brave bishop, stake president, or general authority who leaked this. Because I really do think whoever instituted this policy thought it would stay a secret, at least for few years, and that’s the only reason it happened. And thank you in advance to all the bishops and stake presidents who ignore these new policies, because I know there will be a lot who do so.

  74. Jack
    November 6, 2015 at 11:32 pm


    You’re more a true follower of Abraham than most of us here, I’d say.

  75. anitawells
    November 7, 2015 at 12:23 am

    I assume you’ve watched this interview with Elder Christofferson now:

    How do you think the changing apostasy definition will impact the temple recommend question? ( Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?)

  76. November 7, 2015 at 4:18 am

    There if a good analysis here that may answer some points:

  77. Tim
    November 7, 2015 at 7:41 am

    I think this is one of the most problematic scenarios:

    Husband and wife have young children. Husband is gay; they divorce, and husband gets remarried or cohabitates with a man. Children continue living, either entirely or mostly, with their mother.

    Just like that, according to the new language in the handbook, the children are not able to be baptized, confirmed, or ordained until they turn 18. Even though they live with their mother. A bishop that allows these children baptism will be in violation of the Handbook.

  78. November 7, 2015 at 8:19 am

    Rosalynde, I agree with your analysis. I would add the following:
    (a) My spin-it-nice version would be: “Please go away and take your children with you. You and your children’s presence is confusing to us and to the children. This is about us, not about you.”
    [Not to say I agree. I’m alternating between tears and rage.]
    (b) The new policies do not appear to be casual or spur-of-the-moment (not that I ever thought otherwise) and are not likely to be reversed in the near term.
    (c) Apart from (in addition to?) being un-Christian, I believe the new policies are a tactical misstep. That is, I believe they will do more harm than good to the Church.
    (d) These policies will support the legal argument for the Church not to be compelled to perform marriages or otherwise recognize same-sex couples. Probably over-the-top and unnecessary in the United States with First Amendment protection, but it’s a big world and some non-U.S. countries take a more nuanced approach to religion.

  79. ji
    November 7, 2015 at 8:40 am

    Tim (no. 76),

    The child in your scenario could be baptized. The stake president could seek the needed permission. Your sample scenario will be one of the easiest for permission to be sought and granted. The policy kindly covers your sample scenario.

  80. Tim
    November 7, 2015 at 8:59 am

    ji–the stake president can’t seek the needed permission until the child turns 18.

  81. Pete
    November 7, 2015 at 9:34 am

    In the Christofferson interview, he claims that nothing is lost in the end to the child by denying him or her baptism before the age of 18. If that’s true, then why do we push so hard to baptize every other child at 8 years old? Isn’t one of the major reasons so they have the gift of the Holy Ghost?

    Will we now start denying baby blessings and baptism to children of single mothers? Of couples who are living together but not married? Baptism Interview Questions I guess they’ll have to change question 4 to include “Have your parents?”

  82. gq
    November 7, 2015 at 10:08 am

    “but statistically there are just so many of them that it’s impossible that none of them are L or G or B or T or Q etc. ”

    This is the kind of philosophy that I find hurtful. The church is right to be distancing itself from a people who seek to perpetuate this terrible perspective. Yes, everyone of the kids someday will commit all manner of sin; tragically and unfortunately.

    But it’s so sad to see these labels applied to a person as if they were some manner of “ite” rather than a child of God. The last thing I want is someone teaching or even projecting thoughts as to what struggles my kids might have and redefining that struggle with a label linked to their personhood. You are wrong on so many levels. But I’m sure you take comfort in knowing that I’m just a dinosaur of a bigot who you hope will die off sooner rather than latter so you can get on with confusing a new generation of children.

  83. Paul
    November 7, 2015 at 10:24 am

    Now the questions are rolling. How does one reconcile all of this with the idea of free agency and the second article of faith? Then a multitude of prophets both ancient and modern have issued prophecies, statements, and policies that deal with blessed or cursed seeds. Cain killed Abel. Cain and his seed is cursed. Esau’s seed is cursed and they become Edomites. I forgot the reference, but their’s a scripture I think in Kings where it talks about how Ammonites, Edomite’s, and a bunch of other ites are cursed and so is their seed. Jesus only preached to the Jews. It took a revelation to get to the gentiles. In the Book of Mormon, it says and cursed shall be the seed of him that mixeth with their seed; for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing. And the Lord spake it, and it was done. For 126 years in this dispensation we did not ordain blacks to the priesthood or receive temple ordinances. There are many scriptures in D&C section 98, 103, and 124 that talk about wicked men’s seed being cursed down to the 3rd or 4th generation and that they wouldn’t have the gospel or the priesthood. Now how is this just? The only way Mormon thinkers have justified these two beliefs is through the idea that those who were extra faithful in the pre-existence get extra blessings and are born in chosen lineages. Then those who aren’t as faithful don’t have that chance. Just consider, let’s say a high proportion of those of British, Scandinavian, or German descent have a high concentration of Ephraimite blood (multiple apostles have stated this). That means they would be blessed. In fact, even non-members of these lineages have been blessed (look at who’s who for highly developed countries). Now consider this, even in 2015, all apostles called in this dispensation have been of British, Scandinavian, or German descent. Coincidence? Nope, Ephraimites are supposed to lead in this dispensation. So anyways, back to our queer friends. What if they’re children just weren’t as righteous in the pre-existence? I’m not saying it’s true, just wondering what you think about it and if you could prove it to be false from statements from general authorities.
    Now onto my real questions directed for All the fans at T&S or anyone else who thinks this subject is interesting. I believe it is quite likely that the church became tougher all of the sudden with these new policies as a result of revelation. It makes perfect sense that a seriousness of homosexual marriage amounts to apostasy because it goes against the teachings of the plan of salvation. Basically it comes down to Exalted Man and Women create Spirit Children who will experience mortality (by having real, physical, and biological families) and then prepare for an eternal family that is clearly not homosexual. Homosexuality has no place in the eternities. Period. Therefore, having such a marriage goes against everything we believe and is thus apostasy. The policy with children can by explained comparing it with the church’s stance on polygamy and possibly now with the idea of being less faithful in the pre-mortal life. The biggest and most important question I have now is do you believe the church will ever go 180 and accept Gay Marriage? Do you believe it is still possible? Personally, I think it’d be way too big of a stretch. Could you imagine the PR nightmare? The church could not survive if it did that. Liberal members would still leave because of its history towards homosexuality and conservative members would leave because it would change it. With the social media in this info age it would just crash! So for any board members that disagree with the policies, what is your take on us being lead by prophets, seers, and revelators? How prophetic are they? How much do they see? How much are they revealed? Do you believe they’ve seen God in vision or even talked to him face to face? If they have, do you believe it’s possible they could still be wrong about such a big issue? For those that disagree with the church-do you still feel like you are sustaining the brethren? Here’s how I see it; they are either frauds or they are men of God. If they are frauds, they would’ve backed down to political correctness long ago. But because they are of God they are doing God’s will. I’m just wondering how someone could reconcile their belief in the prophet if the church does something against what they believe. God’s standard on homosexuality is tough. The world wants to change that. But because God is in charge it won’t! Final comment: President Lee said that “The Prophet will never lead the church astray. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may conflict with your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life … Your safety and ours depends upon whether or not we follow … Let’s keep our eye on the President of the Church”. I realize that prophets are mortal men that make mistakes, but how can those that disagree with the church’s view on same-sex marriage and homosexuality still maintain that those men are actually prophets, seers, and revelators? Do you actually believe they receive revelation for important matters that effect the church like this? Disclaimer: what I wrote isn’t necessarily what I believe but it’s stuff I’ve heard so I’d like a lot of long responses to all the questions I brought up.

  84. ji
    November 7, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    Tim (no. 79), You’re right. I understand the policy and the need for it, but I regret the circumstances that necessitated it.

  85. November 7, 2015 at 7:25 pm

    Paul, thank you so much in 82 for equating the new policy with the racist policies about priesthood and the old doctrine of premortal fence-sitters. I had wanted to do so myself, but felt it would seem too heavy-handed. Thank you for pointing out how this policy hearkens back to the blatant racism of the 1950s, which God wisely had us abandon.

  86. D. Fletcher
    November 7, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    We sang “Abide with Me!” #166, just last Sunday. My favorite of all the hymns. Isn’t that funny?

  87. D. Fletcher
    November 7, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    #82 I was thinking how lovely it might have been if the Church had been the first in the world to publicly accept gay marriage, and families of gay couples. The PR for the Church would explode into bright fireworks, thousands of people would join our ranks (or rejoin), and the angels would rejoice in the righteousness and grace of it all. It’s still a beautiful dream of mine.

  88. Cameron N.
    November 7, 2015 at 11:03 pm

    ^ The path to discipleship is not a popular path. The PR will never be favorable overall, and that’s the way it is meant to be. Your dream is a false, misplaced one.

  89. November 7, 2015 at 11:37 pm

    So, just got back from Saturday Evening Stake Conference, and at least anecdotally the church is doubling down on this. The entire meeting by the Area Seventy was a defense of Brother Todd’s video, which we watched in its entirety. At least in my stake, the love rationale is the one they are sticking with, despite all the obvious holes in it that have been pointed out. I raised my hand when he asked for thoughts about it, but unfortunately wasn’t called on. The one woman who did offer a more nuanced view was mostly ignored, though, so it was probably better I wasn’t called on. It would have been hard for me to be summarily dismissed about something I have really been struggling with the past couple of days.

    Ironically, the Area Seventy ended the meeting by talking about how much he was in love with his wife, and how amazing their life was, and all I could think was, “Good thing neither of you are gay.” He also made a joke that if anyone recorded the meeting, he would contact Church Headquarters with a false accusation about us.

    So, yeah, for those of you dealing with excommunication, for one Area Seventy at least it is something to joke about. “Love,” indeed.

    I just hope it rings as false for other people as it did tonight for me.

  90. sjames
    November 8, 2015 at 5:04 am

    #56 #59 #76 #80 the age of accountability for these children is now arguably 18.

  91. Rosalynde Welch
    November 8, 2015 at 10:57 am

    D., “Abide With Me”– it’s almost too painfully ironic to contemplate. The Church is supposed to be the body of Christ.

    mirrorrim– I share your extreme distaste for the child protection rationale, and I truly regret that it appears to have become the central official explanation.

  92. Jack
    November 8, 2015 at 11:44 am

    I can tell you from personal experience that catastrophic dissonance most certainly can arise in the mind of a child from being brought up in a home that is at odds with the foundational teachings of the church. I won’t share the specifics of my upbringing because I think they’ll be misconstrued in this argument. But I will say that I’ve experienced no small amount of mental illness and anguish in my later years because of my upbringing. And part of the mental illness was brought on by, as a child, not knowing how to close the gap, the dichotomy between the teachings of the church and the behavior of my parents.

  93. Jill
    November 8, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    #91 – That is the point. All children, to some degree, suffer that dissonance in childhood. Why single out the children of gay parents? Because of the “sin” of their parents? Do you wish you had been punished for the behavior of your parents?

  94. November 8, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    I think the policy shows that child baptism is not really necessary.

  95. Aaron
    November 8, 2015 at 6:21 pm

    Let’s face it. Our church has always been exclusive, not inclusive. Anyone who doesn’t fit the mold doesn’t fit in and is at best a second class citizen.

  96. Just sayin
    November 8, 2015 at 6:51 pm

    Fulfillment of prophesy? Luke 12:53, Matthew 10:35. We all want things to be easy, popular and consistent; but as long as there is a need for opposition in all things they never will be.

  97. November 8, 2015 at 8:52 pm

    Rosalynde, setting aside for a moment the actual rationale for the changes in the policy, I have been thinking about what other way the church could rationalize the new policy of prohibiting the baptism of children of gay marriages to insiders and outsiders while still claiming to represent the teachings of Jesus Christ.

    I couldn’t think of a single one. The church has done away with its previous rationale for categorical discrimination: the Fence-Sitter doctrine. Some people still believe it, of course, but it isn’t officially taught anymore, and I think the majority of church culture has rejected it. Plus, outsiders would find it absolutely abhorrent.

    If the church were to say they feel threatened by having gay families in their wards, that very admission would enormously delegitimize their position, and they would find themselves in an unwinnable position of having to justify, statistically and otherwise, how that fear is not irrational. By Common Consent has a great post that shows all the problems of using this potential explanation.

    In my Stake Conference last night, the Stake President used the justification of saying we don’t always know why God tells us to do something, but we need to do it anyway. And that is viable for lower-level leaders, although it remains to be seen how effective it is. But for an apostle like Brother Todd, it is untenable, since the very next question (from a real reporter, and not the managing director of public affairs) would be, “Okay, so where’s the revelation from God commanding you to do this?” There is no such revelation from President Thomas that can be produced, so it immediately becomes necessary to try to find justification in existing scriptures. Such justification will be contestable, and even if they can convince some of their justification (which is unlikely—good luck finding a scripture clearly stating someone should put off entering into a personal covenant with Jesus Christ because of who their parents are), they are still left with the question of, “If this has always been there, then why wasn’t this the policy to begin with? Why the change now?” So another unwinnable situation.

    So for apostle-level leadership, what is left? This farce, about love for gay families and desiring to keep them together. It still falls apart, but you have to look at it critically for a couple of minutes, which is more than any of the other options. Brother Todd seems to be wagering on the bet that a significant number of people, mostly inside the church, but also outside of it, won’t take that time. He’s hoping insiders will guide themselves before then to the line of thought, “Trust the apostles; not one of them will ever say anything to lead you astray, so even thinking about what they say shows your lack of faith. Besides, you don’t know any gay families with children, anyway.” And outsiders will move on to an article about football, the pope, or the presidential election.

    Maybe there are other options to explain the policy, but I honestly can’t think of any.

  98. Dave K
    November 9, 2015 at 9:44 am


    I’ve been ponderizing (TM) the “why” question as well. Here’s the best I can think of. The base concern is to avoid creating a church record that recognizes the de facto existence of a gay relationship. This concern could stem from worry that such a record could lead to legal problems, worry that it could cause doctrine confusion, worry that it could invalidate our book of records to be presented to the Savior, or something else. I really don’t know. But the fundamental desire is to avoid creating a record.

    I come to this conclusion because the ordinances that children are excluded from under the new policy are ordinances that have been identified by the church PA, and by Elder Christofferson, as ordinances *which create a membership record.* For children, our membership system requires entering the parents’ information, even if they are not members. In contrast, once the child turns 18, she could be her own head of household.

    If I am correct, then I come to the following conclusions:

    (i) I am hopeful that the policy will not effect most children with a gay parent in a SS relationship. In most cases, children have two hetero parents who have divorced over the SS issue, with the SS parent in a new relationship. In those instances, the both natural parents listed on the church record. The record would not reflect the SS relationship.

    (ii) I am hopeful that, even for children who are raised by two SS parents, the brethren can find a less draconian measure if they take some time to reconsider. Perhaps for such children the church could list only one parent (often the birth parent) as the *sole recognized* parent and thereby avoid creating a record reflecting a SS relationship. I’m sure there are other ways.

  99. Rosalynde
    November 9, 2015 at 11:55 am

    mirrorrim, Dave K, I’ve been thinking about this more as well. It remains to be seen whether the Brethren intend to eliminate or drastically minimize *social participation* of gay families in wards — Elder Christofferson said in the video that it would “likely not be appropriate” for these children to attend Primary, etc. We’ll just have to see.

    But at a minimum, as Dave K, suggests it is *membership* in the Church is at stake. For whatever reason, the Brethren don’t want gay families qua gay families to constitute any part of the body of Christ. There may be a thought of preserving the purity of the mystical body of Christ by ensuring that it expresses, enacts and preserves the core doctrines of the gospel through its constitutive makeup. (PLEASE NOTE that I am not advancing or defending this rationale as justifying the policy, which I find repellent.) One could read scriptures like 1 Cor 6:15: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!” or MAtthew 18:8 “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire” as instruction to keep the body of Christ pure from “structural” impurity or error.

    I see all sorts of problem with this explanation, foremost its direct conflict with Christ’s injunction to allow the children to come to him, and forbid them not. Nevertheless, it may be another way to make sense of the policy.

  100. jill
    November 9, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    Children can’t be and aren’t forbidden to come to Him because of any policy.In 1970 ,I found the church on my own and wanted to be baptized. But I was 11 years old and my parents were not LDS. So I had to wait until I was 18 or have their permission–which they denied. I waited 7 long years and really appreciated my membership because it did not come easily. I was always close to the Lord in my childhood and not being baptized right away did not make me a child who couldn’t come to Him–I had always been with Him and other children can too. Anyone living the commandments ,regardless of baptism, is able to feel the influence of the Holy Ghost and be guided. After baptism one receives the gift of the Holy Ghost to be with them always, if they are worthy. Children come easily to the Lord and stay with Him. With adults, it’s harder.

  101. Rosalynde
    November 9, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    jill, thank you for your personal experience, it’s an important one and something that I cling to as I contemplate what these changes mean. Child baptism is not necessary for *salvation,* in Mormonism. I do think an experience like yours may have been different had it been the Church itself, rather than your parents, who were refusing consent for baptism. Nevertheless, I believe that the Lord will never leave his little children comfortless.

  102. Nate W.
    November 9, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    My small piece of comfort:

    But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac.So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.” The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.

    When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink.

    God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow.

    Genesis 21:9–20 (NRSV).

    Was Sarah right to insist that Hagar and Ishmael be cast out? I don’t know—my personal opinion was that it wasn’t, and that God’s direction to Moses was making the best of a bad situation, but you may disagree. At any rate, even though Hagar and Ishmael were cast out of Abraham’s household, they were not forsaken by God. Whether this policy was God’s will or not, we can be assured that God is still with those who are cast out as a result. God will send his angels to attend to them, and make a great nation out of them, for they are also the seed of Abraham.

  103. Josh Smith
    November 9, 2015 at 3:55 pm

    Nate W.,

    What’s your opinion on going with Hagar and Ishmael?

    (Assume this is a hypothetical question, though maybe it’s not.)

  104. Nate W.
    November 9, 2015 at 5:06 pm

    Josh Smith:

    If one believes that there are those that are called and prepared to join the Church, then one must take seriously the possibility that some may be called and prepared to leave the Church. If God’s place for me is to minister to Hagar and Ishmael, I will go where he wants me to go.

  105. Josh Smith
    November 9, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    On this thread, it’s not my place to say what I’ve personally done, and I absolutely do not advocate what others should do on this thread. I’ve done that elsewhere. though.

    I have found peace with my decision. I find meaning in your example up above, Nate W. I’ve seen those deserts. They are formidable. There are no guarantees, but you get to write your own story and have your own experiences. When you leave into the desert it can seem as though you are losing everything, and it can seem as though you’re left for dead, but there are miracles that comfort. New friends. Fiercely loyal family.

    I like your metaphor above, Nate W. Thank you for your thoughts on this.

  106. November 10, 2015 at 8:27 am

    Dave K, that’s an interesting reason, about the membership records, and one I hadn’t considered. It actually makes a lot of sense. Of course, I would love it if the church got rid of the entire “Head of Household” system entirely, because of how patriarchy-oriented it is. But at least it provides an option for the new rules to be slightly less capricious.

    And honestly, I can see some of the more liberal members of the Quorum of Twelve and First Presidency being swayed by that rationale and keeping silent over the changes.

    However, I can see at least one hole in that rationale. It doesn’t explain the part where you have to disavow your parents’ marriage and stop living with them after your turn 18. On my mission, I was one of a very small percentage of missionaries who hadn’t lived at home right before going on their missions. Even those who had been away to college usually moved back home right before leaving as missionaries. Realistically, this policy makes it nearly impossible for most women or men with gay parents to serve missions until at least their mid-twenties, which is just one more way it seems to contradict already-established doctrine. First it says it is bad for you to be baptized between the ages 8 and 17 if your parents are gay. Then it says it is bad for you to serve a mission unless you are financially independent and have moved away from your childhood home if your parents are gay. It also probably adds at least a year for men who wanted to go at the age of 18, since they will have to wait a year after being baptized before they can go to the temple. It will also potentially delay temple marriages for women who are 18.

    Jill, I am also grateful for your story. It gives me hope that at least some children of gay families will still find their way into the church, even if they have to wait a decade. And I am glad for the reminder that even if my church pushes children away, God does not, and there will be absolutely no impact on His ability to call them unto Him (I know that’s not exactly what you said, but that’s how I took it; I hope you’re not offended by my difference of opinion).

    Rosalynde, I was very worried when I heard Brother Todd’s comment you mentioned about it probably not being appropriate for the children to attend Primary. Even when talking about children after they turn 18, and them being baptized if they wish, it didn’t really sound like he was particularly invested in that happening. But I didn’t exactly have the most positive filter on when I listened to it, so I really hope I was just misconstruing things.

    Unfortunately, I think there is enough there for a particularly ambitious bishop to take both of those mindsets, and to actively prohibit children who cannot be baptized from attending Primary, and to not seek to help 18-year-olds with gay parents prepare for baptism and to serve missions. I still know of bishops who make sure the closing speaker is always a male priesthood holder, even though that hasn’t been policy for decades, so I’m sure a lot of bishops and stake presidents, for both good and bad, will make of this policy what they want to, based on their own ideas and preconceptions.

    I can very easily see certain mission presidents telling their missionaries not to teach married gay couples or their families, just as many mission presidents and even apostles before 1978 didn’t want their missionaries teaching people of African descent, because they would not be eligible for all the blessing of the gospel.

    And it worries me that, even before this change, there were already so many wards and members that were actively prejudicial against gay people. I only see this making things worse, no matter what its original rationale was.

  107. Clark Goble
    November 10, 2015 at 10:51 am

    MirrorMirror (97) asking where the revelation is seems to presuppose a textual conception of revelation I’m not sure is accurate. For instance there is no textual revelation for opening priesthood to all worthy male members. We just have OD2 which isn’t a revelation.

  108. Pete
    November 10, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    I’m confused. Elder Christofferson said this,

    “I have heard a few parents state that they don’t want to impose the gospel on their children but want them to make up their own minds about what they will believe and follow. They think that in this way they are allowing children to exercise their agency. What they forget is that the intelligent use of agency requires knowledge of the truth, of things as they really are (see D&C 93:24). Without that, young people can hardly be expected to understand and evaluate the alternatives that come before them.”

    Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Moral Discipline,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2009, 107.”

    How does that fit with the policy changes? They seems incongruous with his earlier statement.

  109. November 10, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    Clark, that’s a good point. So, alternatively you could have President Thomas describe the experience of receiving the revelation, much as was done with Official Declaration 2. Honestly, I think a two-hour interview with the president of the church, on what the church believes about gay marriage, and why, would be extremely valuable.

    As it is, our prophet hasn’t mentioned the topic once in General Conference. Not once. And his physical health is clearly not good, as we saw last Conference. So we as members are left to wonder what actual policy is, who it comes from, and how they decided on it. Remember, the only reason non-bishops even know about this change is because of a leak by a recently-excommunicated member. The whole thing is shrouded in secrecy.

    Truthfully, a change that prohibits children from being baptized warrants a written revelation, in my opinion, since it seems to fly in the face of so many other ones. Official Declaration 2 was getting rid of something that never had a firm scriptural basis to begin with.

  110. November 10, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    Peter, Elder Christofferson’s comments were about the role and conduct of parents in the home, not the role of the Church *toward* the home. His comments about the policy change are completely consistent with this approach.

  111. Clark Goble
    November 10, 2015 at 5:55 pm

    Mirrorrorrim (109) it’s certainly possible they could do that. I don’t think they do or should feel a need to make such a discussion. I think the revelation behind OD2 is a bit unique in that it repudiated a lot of GA comments. It was a major change. However take forever the changes in the 70’s which is arguably also a big theological change but one that frankly most people don’t care about. You haven’t ever seen a discussion of the revelation on that.

    It does seem this is an issue Pres. Monson is driving. Admittedly that’s just a guess but the Prop-8 actions were under him as were more recent actions. Of course a lot of the liberalization on other elements (such as the civil rights compromise in Utah on discrimination) were also under him.

    As to what warrants a written revelation, I’m much more skeptical on that. Very little outside of the D&C is written revelation of that sort. Seriously, almost nothing in the New Testament is. Even much of the OT arguably are texts written in response to revelation. In the Book of Mormon while we presuppose inspiration little of the text is written revelation. That seems a very rare event. I’m not sure why you see it as so important.

    This seems a much broader issue than the current issue. It would seem to me that the change of 70’s and making members of the quorum of 70’s High Priests actually is more significant in terms of change than either the children issue (which seems in keeping with a lot of past practice – such as the polygamy restrictions) or the priesthood issue.

  112. Clark Goble
    November 10, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    Sorry. Stupid autocorrect makes me appear even stupider than I am. That should read, “take for example the changes in the 70’s…”

  113. November 10, 2015 at 11:04 pm

    Clark Goble, I understand the argument you’re making, but it seems to leave out the fact that we are dealing with real people, real people who are having a very real deprivation of opportunity imposed on them. No one talks about the changes in the Seventies because no people were hurt. Here, children and parents of children are being deprived of real things. Children are being excluded from what is supposed to be a universal ordinance for people past the age of accountability, which is eight, per our written scripture.

    That’s why I see a written revelation as so important, because it is going against so many other written revelations, from the Doctrine and Covenants, which is supposed to be our guide to run the modern church.

    As for polygamists, the policy concerning their children has been around for so long, it is impossible to know how much it was opposed when first instituted. Now that I know about it, I do oppose it, too, even though I can understand the very understandable reasons it was implemented. Historically, most polygamist groups look for their converts from among mainstream Latter-day Saints, and many will attend mainstream Latter-day Saint meetings and go to Latter-day Saint temples. I disagree with the solution, for the same reasons I disagree with the new policy, but at least there is a legitimate concern being met. But to make sure I am clear, I believe polygamists are the one group Latter-day Saints persecute as much, or more than, gay people, and I feel that persecution is atrocious, and has helped foster the secrecy that has spawned so many problems for polygamist groups. I hate secrets in all their forms, and persecution is a huge cultivator of secrecy.

    But with the new policy, such a concern as is legitimately present with polygamists is entirely absent. Gay marriages are monogamous, in every instance I have heard of. I do not believe there are a significant portion of gay women, men, or children who are attending Latter-day Saint meetings in order to convert people to a homosexual lifestyle. I have never heard of large groups of missionaries being converted to practice a homosexual lifestyle. There is just no threat, at all.

    As others have kindly and not-so-kindly hinted, people like me, who are are active members, who do not live a homosexual lifestyle, but who encourage tolerance and acceptance of people who do, are a much greater threat. Excommunicate me before some innocent eight-year-old child. As much as such action might make certain people happy, no church leaders are calling for it. It just doesn’t make any sense.

    If you’re going to make some members disavow gay marriages, why not make all members do it?

    Because that would be brave, and would result in a real loss of membership, unlike this, which is cowardly, and targets only a small percentage of members and potential members.

  114. Clark Goble
    November 11, 2015 at 12:20 am

    But there’s two issues here. One is the significance of written revelation. The other is the nature of doctrine or policies that appear to harm people. I think we should keep those separate. It’s just not clear to me why we need a written revelation here. I also don’t quite see it at odds with existing revelation – a separate issue from whether it’s right, wrong or hurtful. I’ve not addressed that latter question and don’t really have much of an opinion on it. I’m just skeptical of the need for texts as signifying anything more than a statement.

  115. Clark Goble
    November 11, 2015 at 12:22 am

    To add, it seems fine to ask if this was based on revelation or not. That’s different from requiring a text ala most of the D&C.

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