The Turing Test

I’m indebted to my friends for these thoughts.

Are you familiar with the Turing test? The trouble with the Turing test is that it’s a very unsatisfying test. It doesn’t seem to be able to demonstrate definitively what we would want it demonstrate.

But the other trouble is that it’s the only possible test. To decide against the Turing test as a measure for the reality of Artificial Intelligence is to decide in advance of any test or evidence that Artificial Intelligence is impossible and, thus, can never be demonstrated by way of any test or evidence.

But this is what the new church policy does.

Its obvious to everyone what would happen if we let gay families be part of Mormon congregations: they would look like normal, happy, healthy Mormon families, they would talk like normal, happy, healthy Mormon families, they would serve and love and mourn and give their lives to the church like all the other normal, happy, healthy Mormon families.

In other words, they would be happy, healthy Mormon families and people would stop caring altogether that they were gay. They would pass the Turing test. So we can’t let them take the test.

This policy change stinks to high heaven because the policy transparently acknowledges that this is the case.

We have zero confidence in the capacity of our doctrines to speak for themselves and win the day. We have zero confidence in the ability of the church as a whole to judge for themselves good from evil.

If we’re wrong about gay families, then let’s at least have the guts to trust our doctrines through to the end without signaling up front that we don’t actually trust them by procedurally rigging the test from the start.

The policy looks and feels and smells like cowardice. And though the Turing test is pretty unsatisfying on a lot of levels, I don’t see any other possible test. It must be the case that we’re actually cowards.


  1. Steve and friends,
    Thanks. Something has just broken in me and I don’t think it will be mended any time soon.

  2. Trusting in the integrity of concepts like “by their fruits you shall know them” and “wickedness never was happiness” was the impetus for me to question whether homosexuality was such a vile sin in the first place. I think the presence of happy, healthy, functional gay couples is indeed a threat to our doctrine.

  3. Aaron Brown says:

    “We have zero confidence in the capacity of our doctrines to speak for themselves and win the day. We have zero confidence in the ability of the church as a whole to judge for themselves good from evil.”

    This, for me, is the central point. It’s what I keep coming back to again and again.

    Is this lack of confidence justified? Are church leaders who fear they won’t be able to persuasively sell the notion that gay family formation is immoral in a world where gay families are visible and seemingly happy … are these church leaders correct in their assumption that church members in greater and greater numbers won’t buy it over time? I think they are. And therein lies the root of these policy changes, methinks. They’re framed as protections of minors who will face confused, incompatible messages from home and church. And to be sure, those confusions will be real. But I think the real parties being “protected” are the rest of us. Protected from influences that will erode our moral belief in heteronormativity over time.

    I think this is a battle of ideas that the church will eventually lose. And I suspect many church leaders know this. Or at least suspect it. They could perhaps win if we retreated from modern society, like the Amish, and didn’t interact with the outside world. But we’re not doing that, so even a congregational life largely sanitized of gay families’ presence and influence won’t overcome the fact that our lives outside the church will feature interaction with and exposure to gay families who seem just like the rest of us and whose marriages and families will strike us as worthy of honor and respect, rather than “disavowal”.

    One can find this vision of the future morally bright. Or one can find it morally bleak. But either way, I think it’s going to be our reality. Despite all the Herculean efforts of Mormon progressives, I don’t believe there’s a slamdunk moral theory that has the potential to fatally undermine traditional LDS moral views about homosexuality and gay marriage. But long term, they won’t need one. It isn’t going to matter.


  4. 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 BCC 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.

  5. Rob Osborn says:

    I disagree. There is no eternal truth in a happy gay family. Thats an oxymoron. True happiness is only found in homes where the spirit strives and its members live in harmony to Gods comnandments.

  6. That’s not going to happen, Paul. But you are right to ask.

  7. Rob, I guess we’ll never know, now, will we?

  8. I haven’t solidified an opinion on this specific policy, but I have to disagree with the principle of your argument. There are things complex enough that on the surface can appear good, even for decades +, and those things can be embraced meanwhile the subtle detriments take effect and are only fully recognized once the damage is already done.

    If our prophets are not allowed to identify the wolves in sheep’s clothing so to speak, while the general populace might be deceived, and even the very elect, what are they doing as watchmen on the tower? Does the existence of good and bad fruit in the vineyard render the purpose of the watchmen moot?

  9. We have zero confidence in the capacity of our doctrines to speak for themselves and win the day. We have zero confidence in the ability of the church as a whole to judge for themselves good from evil.

    Can’t this argument be used against all church discipline? Do you see church discipline as justified in any cases?

  10. Identifying gay families as wolves in sheep’s clothing is a bit of a non-starter, I’m afraid.

  11. “This policy change stinks to high heaven because the policy transparently acknowledges that this is the case.”

    Yes, that is one reason. The other is its flagrant contradiction of everything Jesus did or taught.

    My daughter is nine months old. We attend a parent-and-child class at the local preschool. Many family situations there. And my husband and I have colleagues and friends who are gay and in the trenches of new parenthood with us.

    When I read the policy, I saw those children so clearly in my head: Hailee with her blonde pigtails, Andrew who was Bruce Lee for Halloween and couldn’t stop smiling, Jaime and Javier who were adopted by their white, blonde moms who learned Spanish specifically so their sons could retain that part of their identity.

    The policy stinks because of Hailee and Andrew and Jaime and Javi.

    I’m an eighth generation lifelong active Mormon. All my life I have done all of the good Sunday School answer things. But this has brought me to the brink of leaving with all of the pain and estrangement that would entail.

    How can I be a party to the persecution of innocent children?

    And how could my staying be interpreted as anything else?

  12. Steve, I am acquainted with a fairly recent Bishop, who related how shocked he was upon becoming Bishop to learn of all the turmoil swirling beneath the surface of so many seemingly perfect Mormon families. To put it a different way, if your Turing test consists of how people appear in the hallway, the classroom, or at Ward activities, then it is an ineffective one. This policy is based on how they appear in the privacy of the Bishop’s office, because that’s where the real truth about a situation is revealed.

    You seem to be suggesting that the church take an entirely hands off approach to the sin of same-sex sexuality, that we should allow natural consequences to be displayed and therefore allow people to decide if a behavior is good or bad based on those natural consequences. I would suggest that church reaction itself is one of those natural consequences. Many of us base our morality on the church. If the church were to stop treating a behavior as wrong, it isn’t surprising that many of us would stop thinking of it as wrong as well. But if that behavior actually is wrong then it is the church that would have rigged the test you are describing, because it would have removed a natural consequence that we trusted it would apply to wrong behavior.

    Those who choose to be in a same-sex relationship are welcome in our congregations. They are welcome in Sacrament meeting. They are welcome in Sunday School. They are welcome in Priesthood and Relief Society. They are welcome at ward activities. I understand how difficult it would be for them to attend, given that the church will continue to teach that what they are doing is wrong, but I hope they come anyway. I hope they come because I will never give up hope that some day they will choose to reject actions that naturally put them in conflict with the church.

  13. In the recent 2015 seminary and institute training Elder Kim B. Clark said the following: “Let me give you an example of a plain and simple doctrine that our students need to learn far more deeply. Over the last seven years, BYU–Idaho has required a course on the family as part of their Foundations program. (Such a course is part of the new Cornerstone series required of all institute, college, and university students in the Church Educational System.) Because all BYU–Idaho students take this course, the faculty have had a window into what is in the minds and hearts of the students about the doctrine of marriage as presented in the proclamation on the family.
    What the teachers have found has been unsettling. Many students, perhaps 40 to 50 percent, have at best an incomplete and at worst a false understanding of this most crucial doctrine. These are good, active Latter-day Saint youth who have graduated from seminary and who have not sufficiently learned the doctrine of marriage either at home or in seminary or in Sunday School or in their Young Women or priesthood quorum classes and, in some cases, not even on their missions.
    The students not only need a better knowledge of the doctrine of marriage, they need to understand it in their hearts. They need a spiritual witness of its truth, and they need to act on that witness in the way they prepare now to be husbands or wives and mothers or fathers in an eternal family.
    They also need to know how to talk about the doctrine of marriage with their friends and with others who may not share their beliefs. And they need to grow in their capacity to discern between truth and error. They need increased faith in Jesus Christ, and they need increased hope in Him.”

  14. “Identifying gay families as wolves in sheep’s clothing is a bit of a non-starter, I’m afraid.”

    I did not do that. I specifically said I haven’t solidified an opinion on this policy and that I was addressing the underlying principle of your argument. Let me rephrase then as “wolves in sheep’s clothing” seems to have been a distraction from the substance of my thought:

    If our prophets are not allowed to identify those things that on the surface which appear good or of no ill effect, but in truth will have harmful effects now and/or in eternity, those things which can deceive even the very elect, what are they doing as watchmen on the tower? Does the existence of good and bad fruit in the vineyard render the purpose of the watchmen moot?

  15. If this is really about protecting children of gay parents, why not go further and post signs on the church doors telling them they’re better off not even stepping foot inside, since what they’ll hear is in conflict with their lived experience? For that matter, why not post signs telling all children that they might not want to come in because they might be taught something that conflicts with how their parents behave? Heck, why not protect everyone, not just children?

  16. Rob, even if that’s true, so what? How does that justify excluding gay families from our fellowship? There are plenty of people we teach, baptize, and love who are in suboptimal circumstances. (In fact, I suspect that all of us are.) If we only accept people who don’t need Christ’s Atonement, the church has no purpose left.

  17. Steve S,
    “If our prophets are not allowed to identify those things that on the surface which appear good or of no ill effect, but in truth will have harmful effects now and/or in eternity, those things which can deceive even the very elect, what are they doing as watchmen on the tower?”

    Our prophets have identified things in the past that they are now completely disavowed. Priesthood ban, and polygamy were both stated as God’s doctrine and proclaimed by the “watchers on the tower.”
    I think if you look closely at the church’s history you begin to be a little wary of the “watchmen on the tower.” You start to think that maybe if something smells bad…it’s probably actually rotten.

  18. Maybe I should set some ground rules.

    First, no disparagement of gay families.
    Second, assume that church leaders mean well.

  19. We could achieve consistency across the entire body of the Saints with two simple changes 1: adopt Shaker celibacy and 2: make 18 the new age of accountability. We would need to fiddle a bit with the Proclamation on Family and the whole idea of eternal families to put them in harmony with this change. This path is even harder to imagine than the acceptance of gay marriage.

  20. Steve, I have no doubt that the leaders meant well. That doesn’t mean that can’t get things wrong as history has shown.

  21. Marie, I have to agree with that.

  22. “We have zero confidence in the capacity of our doctrines to speak for themselves and win the day.”

    Does revelation factor into the equation? At all? Revelation is THE foundational doctrine, Steve. And it’s the one thing that can trump the Turing test.

    Re: Cowardice — Let’s not get the cart before the horse, bro. No doubt the brethren were expecting the visceral outrage from all quarters that we’ve witnessed over the last two days. And what has been their reaction? Composure.

  23. And it’s not going to work. In the broader society we see people learning and recognizing that marriage is a good thing and that gay families can be happy and healthy. Keeping them out of the church is not going to keep the membership at large from learning the same. I don’t think it will even slow the process.

  24. How does that justify excluding gay families from our fellowship? There are plenty of people we teach, baptize, and love who are in suboptimal circumstances. (In fact, I suspect that all of us are.) If we only accept people who don’t need Christ’s Atonement, the church has no purpose left.

    What part of the policy says we should exclude gay families from our fellowship?

  25. Marie,
    Given the Priesthood/Temple ban, I can understand why someone would lose confidence in the prophets. For me, I still have confidence in the importance of their role as watchmen and in their ability to fulfill that role despite their mortality.

  26. Jack, I see no evidence that the Church expected this response.

  27. Marie: Hear, Hear!

    The list of things the “watchmen” have gotten wrong since 1820 is long and leads to several possible conclusions, are: 1- God is not leading them, 2- God is not there, 3- God is very old, culturally-backward, narrow-minded…you get the idea.

    On the other hand, there is still a baby in this dirty bath water…all the good people, service, and caring we have within the church.

  28. I also see no evidence that revelation is behind this policy.

  29. Aaron put his finger on something that’s been bugging me for years now when he wrote that “this is a battle of ideas that the church will eventually lose…. They could perhaps win if we retreated from modern society, like the Amish, and didn’t interact with the outside world. But we’re not doing that….”

    What bugs me are the assumptions underlying the idea of “being in the world but not of it.” The explicit idea is that churches should be “in the world” as a force that can change the world for the better, which is fine. What’s not fine is the usually unspoken idea that the world can never change the church for the better. It’s a one-way street. What we’re looking at here is an instance where the church has a lot to learn from the world, but is trying to duck those lessons by putting up a “One Way” sign.

  30. Aaron Brown says:

    JT, Elder Christofferson makes it clear that blessing the babies of gay members is prohibited because it triggers a membership record (of a sort), an assignment of home teachers, etc. And that’s what he wants to avoid, because of the confusion engendered by the mixed messages from church and home — a home that teaches the acceptability of gay family formation, by definition. How is this NOT an exclusion from fellowship, in the full sense of that term?

    The policy doesn’t bar gay families from the building, or our meetings, but it certainly gives them every reason to see themselves as unwelcome (but for their own good, of course). I don’t see where the “fellowship” aspect of things gets retained here.

  31. This is perfect, Steve. Thank you.

  32. I went through this in 2008 and am struggling to find the courage to go through it again. On a practical level, do any of you have advice for those of us who will probably be going to church tomorrow and having to listen to all kinds of facile justifications for this policy? I am afraid I just can’t keep quiet anymore- which will have very negative consequences for my relationships. Any advice is appreciated.

  33. Anon, my advice is to do good and follow the Savior. That’s all I’ve got for you. We’re praying with you.

  34. So, would Christ now be more selective on which children he would bless and minister to? Would children of gay parents sit at the nether reaches of the feast while the children of approved parents sit at the head tables? Having difficulty understanding the context especially prohibiting children from all ordinances because of their less faithful parents.

  35. Steve,

    Whether or not the brethren expected this reaction is really beside the point (a point I made, I confess). What really matters is how they comport themselves in the face of such an outpouring of visceral outrage.

    That said, what about the main point of my comment: Revelation?

  36. Apart from the substance of this new policy, there two other aspects that baffle me, to wit:

    1. Why was this done? Is there an imminent threat of gay infiltration that mandated implementation of this policy? Are children of gay parents lining up in droves to get baptized, go on missions and serve in the temple? In other words, was it really necessary to make this change? Would the church’s existing position regarding gay marriage be imperiled without these additional restrictions?

    2. Why was this done so secretly? Did the folks at church HQ really think no one would pick up on the change in the handbook? More importantly, didn’t anyone stop to consider that the church, by burying this change in a lengthy, quasi-confidential publication, would be viewed as if it were trying to hide something? If they were genuinely convinced that this is truly the Lord’s will, why not proudly proclaim it from on high instead of relegating it to the obscurity of an instruction manual?

    To me, all of this seems like a self-inflicted wound, a misguided effort to address a problem that simply doesn’t exist. Please tell me why I am wrong.

  37. This was not revelation. This is a change to an internal policy manual. Next.

  38. ‘I see no evidence that revelation is behind this policy.’

    Is that how you judge a claim of revelation? By looking for what evidence you see?

    Have you inquired of the Lord?

  39. Yep! I have! And he told me, “nope.”

  40. As a missionary in Virginia, I taught a woman who was one of those “golden investigators” you hear about but don’t really believe exist. She loved the gospel, and we tore through the discussions fairly quickly. The things we taught really resonated with her; she’d obviously been prepared through her life for the missionaries to contact her (memory being what it is, I don’t remember how that happened–whether it was me and my companion or someone else that first contacted her).
    We were teaching the last discussion and planning her baptism, and we told her that she’d have an interview with the district leader. She got a little nervous, and asked what the questions would be. I’d been out long enough to know that that was a red flag, so we went through them one by one. When we got to the one about marriage (again, memory fails me about specifics), she said, “Oh dear. I was afraid of that. What do we do now?” The trouble was, the man we had believed was her husband, with whom she had two children (one a teenager), was not. They were cohabiting but unmarried. Her partner had been married previously and was adamant to the point of irrationality that he would never do that again (and he was also anti-organized religion to about the same extent, though he wasn’t anti-his-partner-joining-a-religion). And at the time at least, Virginia didn’t have a common-law allowance–we checked. We weren’t able to baptize her, but encouraged her as best we could to continue to attend church and continue to work with her partner to resolve the impasse. I heard through a convoluted series of “coincidences” years later that she at some point left her partner and joined the church. I don’t know that I could do that, and obviously the better resolution would have been to convince her partner that marriage (to her in particular) wasn’t the trap he believed it to be. But that’s what happened.
    And there’s something there that pertains to all this. Had we not had a policy about not baptizing those cohabiting, she would have made the baptismal covenant and then, days (or hours) later, have committed a sin that at least warrants disfellowshipping. Should we have set her up to fail? Was it “punishment” to not allow her to join the church? At least in the short term it was, or seemed to be. Would it have been a greater punishment to baptize her and then have her be subject to church discipline?

  41. As a computer scientist, of course I love the analogy to the Turing test. I would also point out, for readers who may not be aware, that Alan Turing, who invented the Turing test and made many other foundational contributions to computer science, and is often called the “Father of Computer Science,” was a gay man. Although he made crucial contributions to the Allies winning WWII by designing a computer that could crack Germany’s Enigma code, saving probably hundreds of thousands of lives, his country turned on him after the war. He was forced to take drugs and hormones in an attempt to suppress his orientation, as a condition of avoiding prison, and the crippling side-effects of the drugs drove him to commit suicide. How much has the world missed out on because of our convictions leading us to absolute cruelty and the loss of his gifts?

    How much do our congregations miss out on with this cruelty and the loss of LGBT members’ and their children’s gifts?

  42. Not even the leaders are claiming this is revelation, why is that even a question? It was a policy the church was forced to acknowledge via internet leak.

    Thank you for the post, I’m with RJH. I’m sad for everyone.

  43. Mark Brown says:

    Steve S, your “watchmen on the tower” argument contradicts Elder Christofferson’s statement. According to him, this policy change is not designed to protect the church, but rather to protect the children of gay parents.

    I listened to Elder Christofferson’s interview twice, just to make sure. He never uses the word *revelation*.

  44. I could not disagree more. It is courage to stand up for what we believe in the face or so many calling us cowards. The church is clear we do not support gay marriage and so to suggest that gay families would be held out as normal happy Mormon families is to deny the principle on which it stands. It takes courage to stand. And only if those who believe differently could be as tolerant of us as they want us to be of them then we would be moving closer to love and acceptance of all.

  45. I am unaware of anyone outside the church calling Mormons ‘cowards’. Our position has hardly been ambiguous. Prior to this policy, was there a single living member of the Church who thought that the Church was ok with gay marriage? The policy is unnecessary and hurtful. It does not take courage to enact such a policy.

  46. Cynthia said: “How much do our congregations miss out on with this cruelty and the loss of LGBT members’ and their children’s gifts?”

    This is where I am at this morning. We are missing out. There are so many people that I love that I can never invite or hope will join me in my faith. There are so many friends who have to leave this faith that they were raised in and loved and who have left specifically because of this. We are missing out on them, because we have told them there is no place for them here.

  47. N. W. Clerk says:

    “I am unaware of anyone outside the church calling Mormons ‘cowards’.”

    0.62 seconds of Googling gave this as the top hit:

  48. I stand corrected! Do you think that is the external consensus? Or, more germane to the discussion: do you think that the Church’s position on gay marriage was ambiguous or unknown in any way prior to the issuance of the policy changes?

  49. Cynthia: I’m no Turing expert, but I know that there was a lot of controversy after the “Imitation Game” came out about whether he actually committed suicide due to the hormone therapy. And the book it was based on has been criticized as having an agenda in that regard. (

    Not sure that does any violence to your overall point necessarily, but it’s maybe not the best example of what you’re trying to get at.

  50. Thank you for this post, Steve. There are many this morning who woke up trying to find their sea legs. Right now we are puking over the side of Old Ship Zion.

  51. I appreciate your thoughts Steve. As I was reading I keep thinking of how the the no true Scotsman fallacy has been used within Mormon rhetoric with regards to homosexuals. First no true Mormon would be homosexual. Then no true Mormon would believe homosexuality was a choice. Then no true Mormon would support marriage between homosexuals. Etc. Once again there is an attempt to draw a line in order to demarcate the institutional church’s boundaries with regard to homosexuals and by extension signal to the membership what the limits of Mormon tolerance ought to be. The church’s basic problem, however, is that it has taught its people too well to love others, to love our families and to think of every individual on earth as part of our family. The gospel of Jesus Christ is bigger–much bigger–than the church’s institutional boundaries. Whether its no true Scotsman or no true Mormon its still a fallacy.

  52. I just watched the interview:

    Some emphasis on the parallel with polygamy.

    The interviewer did not raise the question of divorce or joint custody (when one parent wants to raise child in church and other parent is in same gender relationship).

  53. stephenchardy says:

    Steve Evans: Thank you. Thank you for expressing your thoughts. You speak for many of us.

  54. Thanks be to the Academy that we have modern-day scribes who can determine when exactly a living oracle is inspired — or not.

  55. Sir Didymus says:

    Thank you for this honest article. It touched me heart in a time of personal turmoil. Anon–just know you’re not alone. I’ve prayed and felt that I needed to stay in the church because it needs people like us. People with empathy, with questioning minds, yearning to give and receive Christlike love. In many ways I don’t want to stay because I know a lot of opposition from friends and family lies ahead (I’ve already received a ton of opposition in the past few days). In the words of my girl Chieko Okazaki: “Sometimes I think we don’t create a very hospitable climate for questions in our Sunday School classes, Relief Societies, and priesthood quorums. Sometimes we give people the very clear message that there’s something wrong with them if they don’t know something already, or if they don’t see it the same way as the teacher or understand it to the same degree as the rest of the class. . . .

    So people lie. They say they understand when they really don’t. Or they say they agree when they really don’t. Or they find one point they can agree on and swallow the four points they disagree on. Or they suppress the perfectly wonderful questions they have, because they’re afraid that the questions may sound accusatory or faithless. As a result, no miracles happen. . . . If we don’t have questions, there won’t be any miracles for us. I don’t know about you, but I need miracles in my life. I want miracles in my life. I hunger and thirst for miracles in my life. So I think I’d better ask questions—questions from the heart, questions that hurt, questions with answers that I’m afraid will hurt.”

    -Chieko Okazaki, Disciples, p. 229-230

  56. Clark Goble says:

    I think there will be clarification coming on issues of where the children aren’t in the same home such as in cases of divorce. There are already rumors of cancelled baptisms with children of divorce which doesn’t seem like what they were attempting to do at all.

  57. Jack, we can, and must, weigh such things in our hearts and ask for the confirmation of the Holy Ghost. Your snide remark is unnecessary in a civil conversation.

  58. jimbob, the movie was crap and botched numerous key aspects of the story. But Turing was brutally persecuted by his government and during that time suffered and during that time died.

  59. Clark,
    Such are the fruits of an ill-conceived and poorly-managed policy announcement.

  60. The impact on children who aren’t in the same home may not have been the intent, but the language makes no differentiation at all, which makes me wonder how much thought they put into this. Many of the leaders of the 12 are lawyers. Writing handbook language that accurately reflects their intent should be their bread and butter. Either their intent is that children who don’t live in same-sex households be impacted, or they need some serious work on their communication skills, or they just didn’t think this whole thing through. Or possibly a combination of all of the above.

  61. “Not even the leaders are claiming this is revelation, why is that even a question?”

    The leaders do not have to say “Thus saith the Lord” to claim revelation. The leaders claim the authority to act in the name of Christ as Prophets and Apostles. The leaders claim that in acting in the name of Christ, with their authority, they do so in accordance with the mind and will of the Lord. This is a claim to the spirit of revelation. E.g., Bednar Apr ’11. They don’t bracket the command to “apply unto [the spirit of revelation]” when they are determining what to put in Handbook 1.

  62. Jesus Wept says:

    When separating the wheat from the chaff, one should not be throwing out infants who need a blessing and 8-year-olds at the age of accountability who must be baptized per D&C 68:27. This is madness, the devil’s work.

  63. at — you are in effect saying that the rule of thumb, or rather the standard that governs us as Mormons is, “We do it therefore God must want it that way.”

    Is that scriptural?

  64. JW, perhaps a very literal instance of throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

  65. Actually, john f., I said what I said, not what you are wresting from it.

  66. How is what you said different than “We do it therefore God must want it that way”?

    Do you believe that what we do is what God wants — that we wouldn’t be doing it otherwise?

  67. The Turing Test is full blown behaviorism. To support moral claims with an appeal to behaviorism seems… peculiar.

  68. Well, I’m glad you see it that way. I just get tired of the ostensible default position around here: That if the brethren propose anything that is contrary to the social philosophy of this blog it must be because they blundered into it blindly without giving it any serious forethought, meditation, or, dare I say, counsel with God.

    Sorry for the snide-ness. Must be an artifact of being a conservative artist.

  69. Jack, there are scriptures in both the Book of Mormon and the bible saying: “Do not put your trust in the arm of the flesh.” It is a crazy notion in this church that the leaders are infallible. You don’t have to look very hard or very long to see that this is just not the case. They have even at times admitted as much. At the end of the day, Jesus Christ is who we follow. I have no doubt the leaders of this church are doing the best that they can but they are mere men. We can choose to blindly follow them, disregarding all reason, or we can ask ourselves from time to time the simple little question of: “What would Jesus do?” I can assure you the Jesus I know, would never enact such a policy.

  70. john f.,

    Let’s just be glad that the brethren don’t (very often) shout from the roof tops, “thus sayeth the Lord.” Because, for most of us it could be more than we could handle. I mean, look how we’re doing with a mere change in policy.

  71. How is it the same?

  72. Another interesting point from Elder Christofferson’s interview: he said the apostasy requirement was there because it was important to ensure that a disciplinary council was held after any same sex marriage took place. He added that this did not dictate what the outcome would be.

    This seems to leave open the possibility that a local leader might decide not to discipline somebody in a same sex marriage. I suspect we may soon have the opportunity to watch how this actually plays out in a highly publicized case or two. I can’t say I’m looking forward to this.

  73. I don’t understand the need to consider the policy change a revelation. Policies change all the time. Would you now consider the temple & priesthood ban a revelation? How about policies about not using the church kitchens to cook anything? How far down do we need the revelation stamp to go? The approach is untenable and unnecessary.

  74. Marie,

    Don’t forget that those words about not trusting in the arm of the flesh came from the mouths of prophets. I certainly don’t believe the brethren to be infallible. But, on the other hand, I find it rather discomfiting to see so many of us play the “fallible” trump card every time our leaders pronounce anything that we disagree with.

  75. Y’all, what do we do? I don’t think this policy is right. I don’t think this exclusion of children is Christian. I worry at the hate this will fuel in my ward and in my church. I worry that this signals an okay to judge strangers and innocent children–friends and neighbors too. I want to love and accept. I want to love and not judge. I want to come to Jesus with my family and friends and strangers and worship him.

    What can be done? What can be done when suddenly your faith is turned into a vehicle to exclude little babies and children from Jesus Christ? I don’t agree with that. Where is Jesus in any of this? Where do I go to find him if my church is no longer mindful of his compassionate, loving example?

    Please, what do we do? I feel trapped. I feel like my leaders have scarified the best part of our church–our faith in Jesus Christ and our desire to follow him. What is left?

    What do we do?

  76. C’mon Steve. Is it possible that the brethren *did* importune God this issue? Now maybe they didn’t. Or maybe they didn’t do it to the degree that they ought to have — I don’t know. But I’d rather give them the benefit of the doubt on so sensitive an issue, especially when they are able to articulate there position on the matter so clearly..

  77. It’s not a question of benefit of the doubt! This is a policy. It’s not even a PUBLIC policy – it’s buried in a leadership manual! There is zero need to try and turn this into canon. It ain’t. Morphing policy into revelation only polarizes the conversation needlessly. If we’re talking benefit of the doubt, the Church will benefit when we do not attribute policies to God himself where His servants have declined to do so.

  78. Well said Steve.

  79. “the Church will benefit when we do not attribute policies to God himself where His servants have declined to do so”

    Very well said.

  80. Jennifer in GA says:

    “No doubt the brethren were expecting the visceral outrage from all quarters that we’ve witnessed over the last two days. And what has been their reaction? Composure.”

    Oh, I STRONGLY disagree on all counts.

    First, I don’t believe for one second they expected this this level of outrage. They were completely unprepared, as evidenced by the fact that they had no prepared statement, and when they finally realized they HAD to say something, it wasn’t released until almost midnight EST. From a PR standpoint, this went just about as bad as it could have.

    Second, they didn’t react with composure. They scrambled, and scrambled poorly. They delayed the time of the church statement by DTC three different times!! When have church officials ever said that something was going to happen at X time, and then it *didnt* happen?!!? That tells me that they weren’t prepared and were at a loss as to what they needed to do (press statement? Recorded video? Live video?) and what they were going to say.

    I think they seriously, SERIOUSLY underestimated how angry this was going to make people.

  81. This post is a pretty good reflection of how I feel right now. If we truly believe that “wickedness never was happiness” then we don’t need to go out of our way as an organization to institutionally ensure that people who fit under the “sinner” label have more limited access to gospel blessings!

    It would be like saying “redheads have awful tempers” and then constantly bullying or marginalizing redheads “because they are so temperamental” and dismissing them when they protest because they’re just proving your point.

    Moreover, the tone of the new policy seems rather unfair because it’s basically saying that you can’t be an active member of an LDS community if you have particular kinds of reservations or uncertainties. In my experience, people who struggle most with the church are often those who’ve been dealt more difficult struggles. If your life has been fairly straightforward–no unhappy marriages, no divorce, no abuse, no difficult children, no infertility, no discrimination on the basis of your race or sexuality, no unorthodox family situation, no major depression, etc.–then I think it can be easy to believe that that your good fortune is due to living strictly by church standards. But really, it might be that strict church standards are easier to follow without question when life has been relatively gentle to you in certain respects. I’m NOT saying there aren’t strong members who haven’t faced major challenges, but a lot of my LDS friends who are most aggressively defending the new policy are those who (at least to the public eye) have had no serious personal setbacks in building a very orthodox Mormon life. I feel like this policy could have the effect of driving away the very people who need the church and the gospel most, and leaving it with only a subset of members whose problems aren’t too messy to be resolved with simple Sunday School answers.

  82. Jennifer, I totally agree.
    I live in an area where there are very few Mormons, so most of my friends and social circle are non-Mormons. If the brethren had any idea of the reaction, they maybe would have thought twice. This is an utter embarrassment. My non-member friends are simply aghast. And I mean AGHAST. This news was in the New York Times and the Washington Post not to mention countless other media outlets. The damage this has done to the reputation of the Mormon Church (which was already regarded with much suspicion), is incalculable. And that is not even mentioning the damage it’s done to it’s own members. And how many more of our fragile LGBTQ youth will feel like they have no reason to live?
    I for one am so very proud of my fellow Mormons for being outraged. The Mormon church I know invites everyone to come unto Christ and forbids none. ESPECIALLY children. That fact and the pure love of Christ that has obviously been internalized by the members of the Mormon church shows in the degree of outrage at this policy. I have never simultaneously been so ashamed and proud of being Mormon.

  83. “Elder Christofferson makes it clear that blessing the babies of gay members is prohibited because it triggers a membership record (of a sort), an assignment of home teachers, etc. And that’s what he wants to avoid, because of the confusion engendered by the mixed messages from church and home”

    This baffles me. We don’t want to bless children because our church computers would explode if two dads or two moms were entered in the system? That’s a reason not to send home teachers?

    I am not a supporter of gay marriage. I don’t advocate for it. But I also don’t advocate for exclusion of those who “sin differently” than me. I cannot reconcile this policy change with Elder U’s “Come Join With Us.”

    I have a beautiful family. A wife I love. Three children. My wife is not a member of the church. When the rational given for not blessing or baptizing children of gay families is that they will be harmed by the mixed messages they receive at home and at church I am again baffled. I have to navigate the waters of being a part-member family on a regular basis. My children ask questions, I answer them. My wife asks questions, I answer them. I grin and bear it (and grind my teeth) through lesson after lesson about how non-temple marriage is less than. My wife gets to hear primary songs at the dinner table and she grins and bears it (and grinds her teeth). I go because I believe. I involve my children because I believe. My wife is supportive because she loves me, and see that the kids enjoy it. If the leaders of the church are telling me, prophetically, that my children are being harmed by mixed messages, and that our family structure is not ideal, then this is good to know as my oldest is 8 and ready to be baptized. More thought may be required before proceeding.

  84. The Turing Test is problematic in a number of ways, and some of them may be germane to this discussion. The chief one is that it’s really an admission of a vacuum when it comes to any practical working model of consciousness — that’s what we *should* have, that’s what we’d *like* to have, and some people are trying to develop one model or another…. but we don’t really have one, so we fall back on “well, it *seems* as conscious as a human being” because we don’t have anything more substantial.

    We are getting increasingly good at writing more and more complex domain-specific software that can, for short periods of time and some interlocutors and some set of limitations, pass a subset of the Turing test — but the developers, of course, have a pretty good model of how that software works and probably know that there’s no level on which the software is meaningfully self-aware. Maybe we’ll someday have a piece of software that no human can distinguish from a human no matter how long it’s in conversation. That would be a remarkable achievement and it would probably demand some attention to the model of how the software works — but I think it’s conceivable that model might simply be a very large number of heuristics worked out by a large number of researchers/developers over decades, a brute-force big-data more-processing version of what limited software can do now, and nobody is really going to be convinced that makes up a conscious being.

    Perhaps the parallel here is that we don’t have *really* great tests for happiness. We’re examining gospel ideas of happiness here — a “model” of happiness, if you will — and we already know they can easily tend towards epistemically closed: “wickedness never was happiness, so if you’re breaking our understanding of the commandments, you *can’t* be happy, it’s unpossible. And if it is, you could be happier.”

    Of course, every other method is problematic. We know external observation is certainly a flawed gauge — the idea of someone who has an outwardly great life but is inwardly struggling is almost a cliché.. And when it gets down to it, we know self-reporting isn’t reliable; we ourselves don’t always really know if we’re happy (or content vs happy vs *really* happy vs joyful).

    The church tends to double down on its models (until it doesn’t and refines them). A lot of Western thought tends to defer to self-reporting and autonomy because it recognizes the problems with letting someone else determine individual well-being. But is either one more reliable?

  85. I’m still thinking about how this will play out.

    If I’m a bishop and find out an inactive woman in my ward is entering a same sex marriage, my natural response might be “I’m not touching this with a ten foot pole.” Let lay members attend or not attend the ceremony, while I as loving but cowardly bishop stay out of the spotlight, make no waves, offend nobody, attract no press, and do absolutely nothing.

    Under the new policy, nothing is not an option. I must convene a council. I must accept personal responsibility for the decision under the glare of the local press. Whether I’m a 38 year old professor without tenure, or a lawyer who hasn’t made partner, or a restaurant owner in California, I have to stand up as righteous judge and accept the consequences.

    So, privileged heterosexual men with straight families… be a bit nervous.

  86. Steve: “It’s not a question of benefit of the doubt! This is a policy. It’s not even a PUBLIC policy – it’s buried in a leadership manual!”

    Well, then why do we need prophets at ALL when we don’t feel the need to follow their counsel — if they have to shout “thus sayeth Lord!” before we’ll even consider the slightest notion of taking them seriously? Why do we even need local leaders, for that matter, if we don’t feel that they’re inspired to SOME degree in what they do? Now, I’m not saying that God dictates His will in every detail — He doesn’t micro-manage (unless, of course, He does). But I simply cannot imagine that there was zero attempt to appeal to His counsel on an issue that is so incredibly sensitive.

    Your default answer of “no revelation” doesn’t cut it for me. I’m more comfortable giving them the benefit of the doubt before I shout my disapproval of the Lord’s anointed.

    Marie, I’m willing to be embarrassed for the Gospel’s sake.

  87. Jack, that is my point. This is a CHURCH policy NOT the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  88. Let us not forget the church has acknowledged that homosexuality is not a choice. And yet here we are (most of us, I assume) with our temple marriages and our kids and our callings, expressing opinions and judgements about people who, if they want to remain a member, can never hope to obtain what we have, at least not in this life.

    I’m feeling an awful lot like a star bellied sneetch right about now.

  89. Jack, Joseph Smith was the first to say that a prophet does not always speak as such. We also outlined the approach of teaching correct principles and letting us govern ourselves. You are jumping from one extreme to the other in your comments – either everything is inspired or we’re tossing everything aside – and that is just not how things work.

  90. Steve, I agree with all of that. It just seems like you’re saying (in so many words) that there couldn’t possibly have been *any* inspiration on this issue because, well, it doesn’t sit well with you.

  91. Marie: “Jack, that is my point. This is a CHURCH policy NOT the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

    The gospel is founded on revelation. I just think it would be better to let the brethren decide what is inspired and what isn’t as far as running the church goes.

  92. Jack, you can do whatever you think is best for you. I for one am sticking with Jesus instead of the brethren on this one.
    Matthew 19:14: “But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not…”
    2 Nephi 2:33 …and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him…”

  93. Marie, I think that’s a false choice. We need modern revelation and we need Jesus. The policy is wrong but there is safety and good with the Brethren.

  94. Steve, I’m talking about this particular instance. The brethren get a lot of things right. They got this wrong.

  95. Further more Steve, I’m not sure that gay people feel so much safety with the brethren.
    Okay. I’m done.

  96. Yeah, I’m done too. I’m gonna go watch Russian car crashes on youtube — very therapeutic.

  97. Jim Wallmann says:

    I am wondering what the new policy, assuming it stays more-or-less in place, means for the church. I think it definitely reduces the missionary harvest in North America and Western Europe. Our secular, unchurched, and mainstream Protestant friends who might otherwise listen to the missionaries will want to have nothing to do with a church that excludes same-sex couples and their children. Conservative Catholics, evangelical Protestants, and other social conservatives, on the other hand, may be receptive once they get past some of the distinct LDS beliefs. Perhaps the church is supposed to be more distinctive and exclusive than it has been. I don’t know. But it will be a different church than it is now if the new policy continues.

    I’ll stay on board the “old ship Zion,” but like others who have commented, I’m losing my lunch in these rough seas. Unfortunately it seems that same-sex couples and their children are to be thrown overboard.

  98. Steve,
    So the logic of your test is that if families led by a gay couple ended up apparently happy, healthy Mormon families, then our doctrines would be proved untrue. But if families led by gay couples struggled and were miserable, then our doctrines would be proved true.

    What doctrines could be tested that way? All I can think of is the combination of the following: (i) gay marriage is wrong and (ii) wickedness never was happiness. The biggest problem with the test is that if we fail, we don’t know which of the doctrines is the incorrect one. Also, with regard to the second doctrine, all that would really be tested is whether wickedness is apparent temporal happiness.

    But what about this doctrine: exhalation is reserved for people sealed in a male-female union? I don’t think that doctrine can be tested in the way you propose–outcomes are not transparent enough. And this policy doesn’t look like a lack of confidence in that doctrine. To the contrary, it looks like faith in that doctrine.

    I dunno. I guess my main objection is that I don’t think your test would provide useful information on the exhalation question. I would think you’d get the same results from doing the test with the doctrine that unmarried heterosexual cohabitation is wrong. If we accepted families led by unmarried cohabitating couples in full fellowship, I suspect we’d find that families led by unmarried cohabitating couples would appear more often than not to be normal, healthy, happy Mormon families. In that case, what conclusions could we draw? Seems like it would be more likely to do damage to the wickedness-happiness doctrine because we already have experience observing that lots of people who don’t follow our teachings are apparently happy and healthy. So I guess I don’t believe that your test is the only possible test because I don’t think it’s a test at all. I don’t think it’s cowardly to decline to do an unhelpful test.

    I know you already acknowledged that the test is unsatisfactory. But I think it’s worse than that–it’s useless. And, yes, that may be an acknowledgement that the exhalation doctrine cannot be demonstrated true by any test or evidence other than private, personal revelation. That doesn’t bother me much, though. I think that’s true of many aspects of the Gospel, down to the question of God’s existence.

    BTW, just wanted to say that I do understand the difficulty many are having. I hope for peace and understanding for all.

  99. My mind goes to how the policy is likely to affect behavior and whether it creates perverse incentives. Church members tend to be wary of perverse incentives in the context of welfare, but such incentives also arise elsewhere. This policy creates incentives that I doubt people would see as desirable. 1) It seems clear that while we spend a lot of energy trying to convince people they should get married first and then have kids, this policy encourages gay people to have kids first, and avoid any monogamous relationship until their children are at least eight and baptized. This is a real possibility in a culture in which people learn to highly value children and see raising children as the most important thing they will do in this life. 2) It also seems clear that this policy encourages lying. A divorced gay parent who is trying to have a constructive post-divorce relationships with their ex-spouse and children, and whose spouse wants the children to grow up in the church, has a huge incentive to lie — to have the apartment that the kids see and to have any romantic relationship occur somewhere else and in secret. This way the child can honestly respond to questions about what they know about parent relationships and still get baptized etc. And I suspect parents will lie for their kids when they wouldn’t for themselves –ie they might be willing to get excommunicated for their gay relationship, but lie about it rather than have their kid bear the costs. 3) The policy creates incentives for a straight Mormon parent to fight a gay parent for sole costody so that their child can be baptized –increasing the conflict and heartache associated with divorce.

  100. “I find it rather discomfiting to see so many of us play the “fallible” trump card every time our leaders pronounce anything that we disagree with.” I find it rather discomfiting to see so many play the “revelation” trump card every time our leaders pronounce anything that they agree with.

    It seems to me that we should be wise enough to be wary of confirmation bias on both sides.

  101. Eve of Destruction says:

    Steve asked if anyone was confused about the LDS position on same-sex marriage. I live in an area where most nonmembers might know only one LDS person or family. So if they happened to know an LDS person who supports same-sex marriage as a public policy, or if that LDS person had mentioned when asked, “oh yes there is a gay man who attends church with me every Sunday who is totally welcomed,” then yes, it would be easy to assume that the LDS were backing slowly away from the Prop 8 stance in sort of a Pope Francis-ish way. So yeah, I think this is pretty clarifying.

    On the question of whether it was revelation, how can the definition of the most serious sin (apostasy) be amended without revelation? Wouldn’t that be a terrible sin in itself, to claim that someone has committed apostasy in the eyes of God and to punish that person accordingly, when that person is in fact innocent of apostasy? To my mind, is impossible to say there was no revelation involved in this policy change while viewing those who made the change and enforce the change as merely mistaken and not sinning in so doing.

    The secrecy of the change impinges on issues of agency, too. The scriptures are full of promises and warnings about what will happen if you do something. Why did the watchmen on the tower not announce to the flock: if you enter a same-sex marriage, you will be guilty of apostasy? Why wasn’t this important warning given in General Conference so that people could exercise their agency with knowledge of what the consequence would be?

  102. The thing that has me most concerned (and I admit it may be a selfish concern) is how this changes the temple recommend question regarding sympathizing with apostate groups. The definition of apostasy has now changed. What happens to those of us who do not feel morally okay with “disavowing” same-sex marriage? Am I on my last temple recommend because of this change?

  103. gabuttercup says:

    The first two questions that came to my mind after reading the statement were:how does this fit with the 2nd AofF and does it contradict the doctrine of the age of accountability? My answers were:it doesnt and yes it does.

  104. Eponymous says:

    Steve, I feel the pain of many and see some unanswered questions here but like Ardis in her exploration of the historical precedent I think this is quite consistent with how the Q15 have dealt with such a major deviation by members from a core doctrine of our faith. I sympathize with you but I think some pointed questions are worth exploring.

    When I read the language the immediate parallel to
    Polygamy was evident because it is the exact same approach. Some have asked, where was the outrage toward a similar treatment of the children of polygamists? That policy has been in place for decades. For everyone you should ask yourselves a few questions: Was it because they were the unfamiliar, the exotic, a foreign group to you? Was it because polygamy isn’t yet legal or because it’s simply too icky to consider given our historical connection? Or did you accept that as appropriate because clearly polygamy was an aberration that the early leaders got wrong and anything that helps halt that pursuit and elimination from our faith is right? Or did you just not know about it? Well we discussed it yet again 3 weeks ago on this site but little reaction bubbled up.

    I want to deconstruct a few of your statements Steve.

    First, you see no evidence that the Church anticipated this response. Why? Because they didn’t get in front of it when releasing changes to Handbook 1? Perhaps that is exactly why they released it in this manner? Perhaps they trusted those in callings of leadership to hold true to their word with the expectation that the Q15 would share the change with an interview in a public announcement after they had informed those who hold the mantle of responsibility for Stakes and Wards.

    Second, you state you see no revelation here, only a vindictive policy change?

    So policy cannot be inspired? If we look at how the Handbooks were authored and presented Elder Oaks offered these words in training in Nov 2010:

    While handbooks do not have the same standing as the scriptures, they do represent the most current interpretations and procedural directions of the Church’s highest authorities. As President Monson just said, “They have been read and reread, corrected and reread.” Under the direction of the First Presidency, individual chapters were written, read, and approved by the Presiding Bishopric, by the general auxiliary officers, and by General Authorities assigned to the various Church departments. The proposed text was then reviewed and approved by the Quorum of the Twelve, assisted by the Presidency of the Seventy. Finally, the total text was read, modified, and approved by the First Presidency. Throughout this work we have been guided by a sweet spirit of inspiration. We know that these handbooks and their directions, as President Monson has said and as is stated in their introductions, “can facilitate revelation if they are used to provide an understanding of principles, policies, and procedures to apply while seeking the guidance of the Spirit”

    So is it not inspired just because it violates your internal belief that the only true direction is for the Church to wholeheartedly embrace homosexuality as it does heterosexuality? It really is an either or question fundamentally. As you state there is no middle ground here. Either we go one direction or the other. What if you are wrong? What if what the Q15 have stated is the correct doctrinal direction? What then?

    I think we have to be very careful about drawing parallels between how mistakes have been previously made and this particular scenario.

    Me, I don’t know the answer but I can see that it is possible this is the right path. That there is potentially a complete incompatibility between gay marriage and our doctrine of Eternal life. That to embrace gay marriage as a faith could jeopardize a foundation of God’s Kingdom in preparing us to return with Him. We do not embrace a man who violated his marriage vows and encourage him to bring his mistress to sit with him in Sacrament meeting and to continue in full fellowship with the priesthood because he is blatantly violating the commandments.

    I wonder if this is so much boundary maintenance as you claim with the Turing test as it is establishing and maintaining the purity of the doctrine as our Church leaders are called and have Covenanters to do. If it is wrong should do anything other than this? This is why I’m not surprised by their actions. It was inevitable. Whether or not we like the change.

  105. Leonard R says:

    This is it, Steve. This is it.

  106. I loved this post a lot, Steve. At the end of two traumatic days, it was just what I and my family needed.

  107. eponymous says:

    John, the simplistic answer to your question would be yes. Whether the presentation of the change was hamfisted, the ultimate answer, if we believe in prophets, seers, and revelators is that our doctrine can change.

    The other question is whether this a change of doctrine or a response of doctrine toward a change in the world? God did not redefine the definition of marriage here, man did.

    So what are your thoughts on the question of children of polygamists for whom this policy has been in place for many years? Do you feel the same way? Did you feel the same way prior to this announcement being made?

    I’ll be honest, I wondered why it was the case but I reasoned that it was related to ensuring that children were truly pursuing baptism on their own and not for some other reason and to ensure that they understood what it meant renounce the idea of polygamous marriage. That a question of acting as a major and not a minor was important here for the individual in accessing the covenants.

  108. Just as background, I have a gay parent and two gay children but am not gay myself. (Must be a recessive gene.) For years I have thought the church would need to standardize bishops’ treatment of gay people, since in my own first-hand experience it has varied about as widely as it can. At the same time, I dreaded the day when the church would issue standardized instructions because I feared it would be something like this. Not exactly like this, mind you, because this has turned out to be worse than I could possibly have imagined.

    I’ve given it a lot of thought over the past couple days and I’m wondering how things might have gone if the church had one of their more sensitive and compassionate brethren give a talk in general conference explaining what the church was going to do and why. And THEN written it into the handbook. Because the problem here is not just the policy but the execution of it, which was altogether too secretive, too heavy-handed, and just plain ridiculous. (Strange that a panel of fifteen prophets couldn’t see that coming.)

    And then there’s the policy itself. What if, instead of issuing a global command, the handbook instructed bishops to counsel individually with parents about the conflict that would inevitably result not just from the child’s baptism but from the teaching the child would get in Primary about the sinfulness of his/her parents — and then let the family decide? What a radical idea. I got it from, let’s see, Joseph Smith.

  109. Deep Think says:

    I awoke again today feeling like I’d been kicked in the gut. From this raw place it became such a blessing to attend the bat mitzvah of my business partner’s twin girls. For three hours we sang, danced, prayed and worshiped. In this liturgy there was not a single prayer, song or ritual that expressed anything but praise of God. It was freeing to be in a place where all we needed to do was love God and not spend one moment straining to know His mind. It restored my soul. It is exhausting to try to know God’s mind, and I’m not sure we’re meant to.
    And at the end we got to throw candy. Praise God.

  110. Since this is the first blog post on BCC that I’ve been allowed to leave a comment in response to the churches new policy against children of gay parents, please allow me to catch up a bit.

    UmmmBlahhhh!! Wretch!! Puke…ing… blaaah…in…my…mouth….!!! Horrible! MmmmmBlaaah!!!

    Maybe the LDS newsroom video explanation interview will help me understand…


  111. Geoff - Aus says:

    No the video with Elder christofferson won’t help.
    I was pleased with October conference because the references to traditional families and religious freedom from April were gone so I thought perhaps the leaders had moved on. If this was in their minds why was it not announced in conference?

    My wife and I were married in 1970, and so have seen racism, opposition to birth control, inter racial marriage, a very short opposition to oral sex, and now anti gay policy, and sexism..

    To remain a member I have come to underst6and that the church is made up of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, programmes to help us live the Gospel, and the conservative culture of the Leaders..

    This opposition to gay people is purely conservative culture and in opposition to the Gospel. It is concerning that the leaders don’t understand this, but they haven’t in the past either. I am also disappointed that we don’t hear from the more progressive Apostles. Is it more important to present a united front or to show a diverse membership that thay have a diverse leadership?

    The positive from this point of view is that, like the other obsessions from our history, it will either fade away or be disavowed. With the interweb time frames are reducing, so I will be surprised if this isn’t gone in 5 years.

  112. I take the Brethren at face value. When they claim to be speaking for the Lord, I double check with God and act according to the confirmations of the Holy Ghost. But, when they make no such claims, I don’t see it as my place to add into their words things that they are not saying.

  113. @Deep Think

    That sounds amazing! BTW, if we got to through candy at the end of church, I would stay for all three hours more often.

  114. D. Fletcher says:

    Steve, I LOVE this one. Really fascinating. What a wonderful thinker you are.

  115. D, like I said, these are the ideas of friends and I’m just the mouthpiece. I wish I could be there tomorrow to sit next to you.

  116. D. Fletcher says:

    I think my Dad would really appreciate this one.

    P.S. Not in Church tomorrow, working on a movie. *Not* making any kind of statement. In fact, I’ve never felt more motivated to GO and BE THERE and make it known that I’m a Mormon and proud of it, and feel the Savior’s embrace every day of my life. I’m going to return that love with energy, plenty of it, and LOUD. And also reverent.

  117. Eve of Destruction says:

    Redefining “apostasy” to include living in a legal gay marriage merits only a shrug

    What a casual dismissal of heartfelt concerns. The woman taken in adultery was being subjected to the church discipline of her day, and Jesus clearly felt that the question of whether or not she was to be condemned on that charge was worth more than a shrug.

    A good parent tells their child in advance what actions lead to what consequences, and follows through. An abusive parent flies off the handle unpredictably, and an abuse-enabling parent shrugs when they see that happen.

  118. D, may it always be so.

  119. John F’s point that many of these situations were created by the bad advice gay Mormons were given to enter straight marriages. Those marriages ended in divorce with children in joint custody and a gay parent entering a gay relationship. So much suffering: both spouses and the children. I can’t help but think of Commander Adama’s speech in the beginning mini-series of Battlestar Galactica:

    “You know, when we fought the Cylons, we did it to save ourselves from extinction. But we never answered the question, why? Why are we as a people worth saving? We still commit murder because of greed, spite, jealousy. And we still visit all of our sins upon our children. We refuse to accept the responsibility for anything that we’ve done. Like we did with the Cylons. We decided to play God, create life. When that life turned against us, we comforted ourselves in the knowledge that it really wasn’t our fault, not really. You cannot play God then wash your hands of the things that you’ve created. Sooner or later, the day comes when you can’t hide from the things that you’ve done anymore.”

  120. @Kristine A “Right now we are puking over the side of Old Ship Zion.” Nomination for favorite comment of the day (and I’ve read many).

  121. reaneypark says:

    I may grit my teeth at this and hope for some softening of this hard-line policy, but I will draw the line at holding a “God Hates (Insert Gay Slur)” sign at public events.

    Seriously though, I’m having a hard time believing that the Jesus of the New Testament and 3rd Nephi wants this.

  122. No one outside the the First Presidency and the Twelve can say that this is wrong with certainty.
    Admit it–no, you actually do not know. You were not in meetings with them nor did the Lord appear to you and tell you that this is wrong. You think you know but you don’t. What if this is designed to separate the wheat from the tares? What if there’s more to this than meets the eye? SSM is a sin. No, the Church is not wrong about that. And no, sin is sin and one day it doesn’t suddenly become okay–no, this is nothing like blacks and the priesthood. The Jesus of the NT and 3rd Nephi is also Jehovah of the Old Testament who sent a flood to destroy everyone but Noah and his family. He also sent the plagues on Egypt–with innocent firstborn children dying. Jesus in the NT said that He came to bring a sword. Families would be divided against one another. He said those who choose their mother, father or child over Him are not worthy of Him and all He has in store for those who love Him. Church leaders are not surprised at the “outcry”. Whenever innocent children are at issue, that’s what happens. It’s probably to persuade the straight parent to gain full custody, thereby getting the child out of a living arrangement that is contrary to gospel principles. The gay parent would still have visiting rights.

  123. Steve Evans, I have to agree with what many others have said already – these ideas you’ve presented here resonate deeply, in the way that only true thoughts can. Thank you for sharing them.

  124. mem–you realize that it doesn’t matter who has custody, the children still can’t get baptized–right?

    People should read the actually policy changes before commenting on them. Seriously.

  125. Just in case some people haven’t read it lately, here’s a paraphrase I quickly whipped up. (Matthew 13:24-30 if you’d like to read a proper version).

    The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares

    And so he told them another story. It went: “The kingdom of heaven is like a dude who planted good wheat seeds in his field; but while everyone was asleep, bad guys came and planted tares among the wheat and ran away.

    And then when the plants started growing and produced a crop, there were tares in the wheat!

    So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Dude, didn’t you plant wheat in your field? How the heck does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘A bad guy has done this.’

    The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull those tares out?’ But he said, ‘No, because you might also pull up some wheat by accident. Let them both grow together until the resurrection, and that’s when I’ll deal with it.

  126. There are so many people upset by this. Can we please start talking about ways to address it? Ways to communicate with our church leaders? Ways to show our support for our LGBT community, family, and friends? We are always stronger together than we are apart. So can we please do something together?

  127. If the problem identified by Elder Christofferson is that blessing the babies of gay members results in a membership record, assignment of home teachers, etc., surely a simpler “fix” would be procedural: no longer create a membership record due to the blessing of a baby.

  128. Sorry to have to say this, Rachel, but if you’re trying to communicate with any church leader above the level of stake president, I don’t think it can be done. As for showing support to the gay community, I’m going to the Family Homo Evening in downtown Salt Lake tonight. All are welcome. I’m also thinking about printing up some stickers saying “… unless you’re gay” that can be posted anywhere there’s an LDS platitude like “Visitors welcome” (unless you’re gay) or “Families Are Forever” (unless you’re gay). But this probably isn’t the kind of action you had in mind.

  129. I look at it more as “We’re not going to create cognitive dissonance in your children, and we’re not going to undermine what your are teaching them as their parents.” Family first. Surely when Jesus taught that (Luke 14:26) “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” surely he wasn’t addressing minor children.

  130. @Bro B.

    Thank you for posting that verse. You have helped make it clear that Mormonism isn’t about defending families; it is all about destroying them.

    Every single LDS church act, policy, and “commandment” regarding LGBT people has had the sole effect of hurting and killing innocents.

  131. All of you are complicit in my near-suicide, and in my LDS family shunning me. I hope it’s worth it when you get to the Celestial Kingdom, and none of your children are there.

  132. Jewelfox, I don’t know if “hate” is translated correctly. It’s a quote in the Bible that all Christians follow. My point is people shouldn’t ask minor children to forsake what their parents teach them.

  133. Jeff Brown says:


    This goes both ways. Admit it–no, you actually do not know. You were not in meetings with them nor did the Lord appear to you and tell you that this is right.

    The pattern very clearly followed in section after section of the Doctrine and Covenants (and the other scriptures) is that when the prophet speaks for the Lord, he very clearly identifies it as such. What I do know is that this announcement does not follow the same pattern as the usual pattern by which God reveals His word, and, given that God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, I take that as a pattern that this is a policy announcement given by the people at the head of the church who, while they may be acting according to their best judgement, are not acting according to divine revelation.

    BTW, I agree, it’s not like blacks and the priesthood…until it is. Or, maybe not. But, just remember…you have no more insight into the future than any of us–we’re all looking through the glass darkly and making guesses about the shadows that we glimpse from time to time, likely interpreted through our own hopes and prejudices. The Church’s long and repeated history of walking back words that previous prophets said (often in language proclaiming such to be core doctrines based on “thus saith the Lord”) is established enough that everyone should at least have the humility to recognize that putting the word “never” in the Lord’s mouth is probably more presumptuous than saying “perhaps someday”.

  134. The biggest contradiction in reasoning for this policy that I see here is part-member families. If children supposedly cannot grow up in a family where the parents don’t agree or follow church standards, in this case same-sex marriage, then how can they justify allowing part-member families? If what they stated is truly the case, why would they even any member of any family to be baptized without the rest of the family?

    I just don’t see the issue. In any family, church policy requires that any person who is a minor requires the consent of their parents to be baptized. So in this case, whether or not the gay couple were members or not, how can the church foresee issues cause by non-mutual standards? ESPECIALLY when part-member families are allowed. Doesn’t make sense.

  135. Jeff- exactly, so why be angry and judge when we don’t know?
    Jewelfox-I’m not sealed in the temple to my non-member husband or our family. If we comply,
    then we can be sealed. If not, then no. If I keep the commandments, repent and endure to the end, because of the Savior’s atonement, I can make it–you can too.
    Tim-sorry, there was alot to read! I’m a convert whose parents wouldn’t let me be baptized until I was 18–it didn’t hurt me. If anything, it helped me not take my membership for granted. And for people who think it harms the child not having the gift of the Holy Ghost, anyone living the commandments can feel the Holy Ghost and be guided. After 18, we really need the gift to be with us always!
    Wheat and Tares–yes, they grow together– they both already exist before separation. Keep the commandments and be on guard asking “Lord, is it I?” because we don’t always know.

  136. So, if I tell my sig other I want to have an affair because it will make me happier and a better spouse, if she protests it must be that she’s actually afraid I’m right and she’s wrong. “But sweety, you’re not following the Turing Test!” I say. To which she replies, “You’re trying to NOT live up to your sacred vows when we were married!” Total misapplication of the Turing Test in my example, as well as the authors.
    If a person is/claims to be LDS, but wants to change the definition of what it means to be LDS, perhaps they simply have not yet realized they are NOT LDS…
    Sometimes reality is uncomfortable. If you’re not comfy with LDS doctrine, then buhbye. If you really think this is Gods church, try conforming to Gods prophet. If you don’t think it’s His church, why do you care? Join or start a church based on your own ideals…like many others have done.

  137. Is the OP referring to the “test” that gay parents can form successful/functional/happy families?

    I think that’s probably true. I believe there have been studies about it that haven’t shown any significant difference between straight and gay couple households (but I don’t know the latest research). I think the OP is a little misguided as I don’t think this policy is because the belief that gay people can’t make normal, happy families.

    The problem is, if you are trying to determine if someone is from a “broken” household, shouldn’t that be the question? It’s not like straight parents can’t be horribly abusive or restrictive towards their children. What’s next, can we not baptize children with atheist parents either?

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