1. Short of a total withdrawal, this is about a good a result as I could have expected.

  2. I guess that makes it sound a bit better. Less of a scorched earth policy than I was thinking.

  3. “All children may receive priesthood blessings of healing and spiritual guidance.”

    Says so, so much.

  4. Clark Goble says:

    As expected. Discretion is left with bishops and clearly the intent wasn’t all children of gay people.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    I want to make sure I understand. My reading is as follows:

    1.No change on a same-sex marriage or similar relationship constituting apostacy and warranting a disciplinary council.

    2. Policy only applies if the chil’s primary residence is with such a couple. The modified “living” suggests the past relationship no longer applies. And this also avoids the common joint custody situations.

    3, A grandfather clause for children already baptized and active in church.

    4. Decisions about future ordinances to be made by local leaders, the prime considrations being the prepration and best interests of the child.

    This last provision, coupled with the invitation for leaders to request guidance, moves away from a bright-line standard and towards local discretion, as I predicted in my recent post.

  6. It’s not everything, far from enough, but it’s some small thing. I find measure of comfort that this letter actually signed with with names of leaders I’ve raised my hand to the square and sustained contains none of the reprehensible language and just references it.

  7. When parents have 50-50 custody, the children don’t have a primary residence. That’s my situation, so the policy clarification doesn’t help much.

  8. Discretion is not left with Bishops except in the cases where the child has already been baptized. Beyond that the policy of waiting until you’re 18 stands.

    This is what I hoped they meant if we were going to proceed with a policy of restricting ordinances. My heart is relieved but I’m still pained. The consequences are real.

  9. Clark Goble says:

    how is disavowing someone’s sins answering for those sins? And wouldn’t you disavow any sin your parents did if you thought it a sin? It seems fundamentally the question is merely asking someone whether they think a sin actually is a sin. Again the parallel to polygamy apostate groups is pretty pronounced. Further as we know from the polygamy discussion a few weeks ago that lots of polygamist kids get baptized but those not willing to renounce a parents behavior to the First Presidency aren’t.

  10. Kevin Barney says:

    Eponymous, yes, I only meant discretion for the grandfathered cases. As you can see from my typos I’m try8ing to process this too quickly.

  11. Clark Goble says:

    Eponymous, it seems to indicate that the First Presidency will consider special cases. Further it even deals with the case where they may live part time with gay parents but it’s not their primary residence. Also those already baptized who then move in with gay parents can have further ordinances at the discretion of the Bishop with the focus being on the children’s development.

  12. D. Fletcher says:

    I don’t have any children.

  13. Anon, the FP letter says the policy applies only if the child lives primarily with a SS couple. So kids in a 50-50 arrangement should be fine precisely because they don’t have a primary residence. Still talk with your bishop, but I think this is good news for you.

  14. BlueRidgeMormon says:

    in addition to the immense problem you mention, another huge remaining problem is the unresolved issue of why this particular “home life” situation is the only one (besides being raised by polygamists) that merits the sanction on (or, “protection of”) affiliated kids. So: children of the convicted murderer (or the adulterer, or the smoker, or the drug dealer, or the spouse abuser) can still be blessed as infants and baptized at 8, but not children of gay parents? This is what continues to trouble me.

    (In other words: Am I the only one that’s underwhelmed by the clarification? So: not as bad as it could have been, that’s the point?)

  15. Kevin Barney says:

    I would read it as does Dave K. 50/50 does not not equal “primarily.”

  16. D. – next time you’re in town, I’d like to introduce you to mine. They would love to have a new pair of uncles, if you’re willing.

  17. I guess I hoped for too much when I thought this “clarification” might state that adults in a same-sex relationship would be denied a temple recommend (or even the sacrament) but not be automatically excommunicated.

    On the flip side, I am glad to see the policy narrowed substantially (for children), and to see signatures on it from people I have the opportunity to sustain.

  18. Do we know if this clarification will be incorporated into Handbook 1? I worry that a few years down the road this letter may be forgotten (at least by some), and the harsher wording of Handbook 1 will be all that is left. This could lead to an uneven application of this policy by local leaders.

  19. Michael Otterson has a post in the newsroom adding some commentary on this clarification and in general hyperbolic response.

  20. Hula, I’m glad you have been so level headed.

  21. A Happy Hubby says:

    So they pulled the knife out. Anybody still feel some pain?

  22. Here is a link to an article by the church which also includes the text of the letter posted above.

  23. So what this clarification does is narrow the group of innocent children to which the unchristian new policies may apply. Sorry. Not impressed.

  24. I’d expected and hoped for a clarification in this regard. Still, it is frustrating that it takes so long for the church to handle these situations, especially on sensitive topics. This clarification should have been made a week ago.

  25. Clark Goble says:

    fuddy-duddy (10:57) I don’t think the church is going to change its stance on what chastity is – no sex before marriage and marriage only between a husband and wife. Go beyond that and there’s discretion about whether you’ll be told to repent, be put on probation or get excommunicated. That’s the way it’s always been.

    I don’t see why this is troubling. Some acts are political (broadly speaking) in a way that other often horrendous acts aren’t. So murder is the worst thing a person can do arguably. But it’s not necessarily a political act. Yet polygamy is a political act that questions the church in a way that murder doesn’t.

    Now one may not agree that such political acts should matter. That’s a reasonable position to take. But I’m not sure we can’t recognize that such acts are going on. That is effectively the issue is that apostasy as apostasy shouldn’t matter.

  26. I also am underwhelmed. Still tasting vomit.

  27. Perfect.

  28. Thanks for the clarification. I think it’s still a problem because in many custody situations the time spent in one household may fluctuate over the years. Although the legal and physical custody may be 50-50, sometimes children prefer to spend more time with one parent over the other or work and travel schedules make it more of a 70-30 split. Hopefully bishops will be flexible, but I still don’t see this clarification as changing the underlying problems of denying baptism and blessings to innocent children.

  29. The newsroom release is also quite an important part of the clarification. Link here:

  30. Clark Goble says:

    Am I the only one who found Otterson’s explanation dead on? I thought it was very well written and was what many of us thought all along.

    That said I agree that this clarification should have come out sooner.

  31. D. Fletcher, it’s not enough. I’m sorry. I apologize. The heaven I know still weeps.

  32. Clark Goble says:

    Anon, it seems like that is addressed in the clarification as well. If you’ve already been baptized then it’s the discretion of the Bishop about further ordinances based upon a focus on the child’s needs. So if living arrangements shift such that they then are living more with the gay parents they’ll likely still get callings and priesthood offices and so forth.

  33. And the newsroom release does at least some of what Kevin was discussing in a prior post, i.e. talks about how ENTIRE HANDBOOK should be read as much more a guide subject to the Bishop’s discretion rather than as brightline rules. The key language: One difficulty was a general lack of understanding of the Handbook itself, which is a guide for lay leaders of the church in 30,000 congregations across the world. A purpose of the Handbook is to provide bishops and other leaders with a standard reference point when they make decisions. Because it is a policy and procedural manual, the Handbook is not written in language that is necessarily contextual or explanatory. Church leaders are encouraged to use the Handbook in conjunction with the guidance of the Holy Ghost. Sensitivity to individual circumstances is learned through the Spirit, Christ’s teachings and example as found in the scriptures, from talks and teachings of General Authorities, and from the leaders’ own experience and exposure to real-life situations.

  34. Bye, Hula.

  35. BlueRidgeMormon says:

    Clark: yes, some acts (and responses by the church) are politically motivated. Candidly, that’s the only explanation I can come up with why this standard would be applied in this case but not in the case of felonious parents, etc, as you point out.

    The problem with THAT, of course, is that the stated justification for the policy is that it is about protecting children, not protecting the church. If this is a political statement (which it appears to be to me), then it’s about protecting the church.

  36. D. Fletcher says:

    The best thing about this clarification, is that it has happened, the first time in my lifetime. A change has been brought about by members’ voiced concerns. I can’t think of another example of this, in the LDS church.

  37. your food allergy is fake says:

    One point to be gleaned from this is that the initial policy was in fact written with significant errors despite having been supposedly approved by the Q15. So some problems with the bureaucracy here.

  38. While I’m glad that the children former mixed-orientation marriages can get blessed and baptized at 8, I still disagree with the definition of apostasy used here. Gay marriage is not apostasy.

    Also, I don’t believe bloggers et al. jumped to any conclusions regarding this policy. It appears to me that they determined the potential landmines quicker than the Brethren and, to some degree, have been a further guide to them, resulting in the clarification here. It was all the people arguing that there was nothing wrong with the policy when everyone was still assuming that it applied to the children of former mixed orientation marriages who should examine their heart. Well, actually, we all should do that anyway but you get my point.

  39. Clark Goble says:

    BlueRidge I don’t think that’s the case. Rather it’s saying that gay marriage is a political act of apostasy and further a type of apostasy that is viewed as a threat that say the apostasy movement of Denver Snuffer is. Once you have that in place then you have to deal with the cases of questions dealing with affiliation with apostate groups. Effectively you’d be asking very young children to renounce their parents acts when those acts aren’t obviously sins to a child the way murder, theft, domestic abuse, or other such acts are. It’s a lot to ask of an eight year old.

    So to turn the question around (and this applies to polygamy as well) how do you expect a young child to understand the notion of apostasy and renounce it?

  40. Kevin Barney says:

    Although I would have preferred a full repeal of the provision, that simply was not going to happen. In order to save face some sort of a rule was going to remain. All things considered, I think this is about as good a clarification as we could have hoped for. The improvements are substantial.

    Personally, I disagree that gay marriage is sin. To me sex within a legal and lawful marriage is not at all sin. I’m disappointed we didn’t take this opportunity to normalize gay marriages in our wards and communities and bring these people more fully into the life of the Church. This would have provided a way to move forward constructively with the issue. It’s an opportunity lost, in my view.

    Although the rule will now only apply to a very small set of children, that set is not zero, and the rule still doesn’t make any sense given the other living situations in which we still allow children to become members of the Church. So yes, a mixed bag, but I’ll take this over what we had over the past week.

  41. Clark, well that may be. I think the church is lucky that the original policy was so needlessly harsh and poorly written, because people are eating up this “clarification” like it actually changes the policy. It doesn’t. Frankly, I’m sick of the posturing. The church is not protecting children with this policy. At the very least, George Orwell would be impressed.

  42. How could the language in the handbook have been so poorly worded if this clarification letter was the original intent? And why did it take a week to clarify? I’m so grateful the leaders responded but the delay and poor launching of the changes caused a lot of unnecessary heartache and irreparable damage for many people. There was a family coming back to activity after 20+ years away. A weak, but developing, testimony. This was too much for them. They probably won’t care to read the clarification letter. For long-term members this will help. But for those who left before they had a chance because they didn’t yet fully understand, the damage is done. And that’s sad.

  43. I’m still struggling with the fact that, per the unseen writers of the Handbook, consensual same-sex relationships are still regarded as more offensive than rape or abuse, and that this has not been “clarified.”

  44. I am so relieved that some of the more troubling doctrinal implications about children and innocence and the atonement have been walked back, but whats left — branding our brothers and sisters who want to be at church as “apostate” and triggering automatic discipline for them — is still really, really tough. I have been so moved this week by D. Fletcher’s posts here and elsewhere. My heart breaks for him. I am trying to have faith that it was just kind of a bumbled roll out and not intentional, but a more cynical part of me feels like the bad language with the children and the drama of this past week was almost a smokescreen, a distraction so we won’t notice what is left behind. The seasick feeling remains.

  45. Still struggling with this idea. If I read it and understand it correctly, a 16 year old young man who has already been baptized and is living with a parent(s) in a same sex marriage can receive the priesthood (if not done already) and be ordained a priest with just local leader consent, but a 16 year old young man with similar living conditions who has not been baptized cannot even be baptized (let alone ordained) until he is 18 unless he gets consent from the First Presidency. Does this make sense to anyone? Why even make this an issue to begin with?

  46. To build on what Clark Goble stated, what makes a child from a same-sex marriage household different from children of murderers, etc. is that in order to repent, that SSM household would have to dissolve. The church’s stance on SSM is opposed to that child’s family situation in a way that it isn’t when a parent commits some other serious sin. When someone commits murder or some other serious sin, repentance does not demand divorce, legal separation, etc. as it does with SSM.

  47. It’s a good time to be a custody lawyer in Utah. If nothing else, this policy (and clarification) will operate as a meaningful employment bill for such lawyers.

  48. I appreciate the clarification and the softened stance. However, I am still disturbed by the fact that a child with same-sex parents who are okay with them getting baptized and wishes to join the church cannot do so until they are 18. This still seems quite contra-doctrinal, and I still don’t accept the position that it is a protection against the child feeling too much conflict between church and home. While Clark above says “It’s a lot to ask of an eight year old,” we should remember that this applies too to a 17-year-old. As someone who wished to join the church at 16, and had to wait until 18 for parental approval, I can say with much confidence that a 17-year-old can make that decision and can handle that conflict. Which only points to the fact that this should have been left to the bishop’s discretion, with decisions made on a child by child, family by family basis.

  49. your food allergy is fake says:

    Kevin Barney, serious question, do you think polygamous marriages, if legal and lawful in a given country/government, are sinful?

  50. Here is what would have helped avoid this cluster:
    Standing up in General Conference a few weeks ago and explaining the proposed policy change, then asking us for comments and feedback. Once that has been done, incorporating some of that feedback into the proposed change.

    In other words, treating us like we’re adults and actually have a say in the policies of the church – especially since we are the church.

  51. While this clarification solves some problems, it creates others. I fear that the Church has just awakened a decent number of custody disputes and inserted itself into the middle of them. Idea for a further clarification: the policy does not apply to children who has one parent who is a member in good standing.

  52. Kevin Barney says:

    Dear food allergy: No.

  53. J. Crown, it’s never a good time to be a custody lawyer.

  54. Clark Goble says:

    Anon I fully agree the changes to the handbook were poorly written. I was expecting a clarification and kept having people tell me the original text was perfectly clear and there wouldn’t be a clarification.

    Layne, I don’t see anything in this that says gay marriage is worse than rape or abuse. Quite the contrary. However they are saying it is more political in that apostasy as such is fundamentally a political act. (I recognize we’ve extended the term somewhat beyond it’s political sense such that any falling away is sometimes misleadingly called apostasy)

    I think the error many are making is in seeing “sin” along only a single axis. There are many aspects to sins. When we think of it only in terms of “worse” or “not as serious” I think we tend to mislead ourselves.

    Kevin, I think that’s a good question. I didn’t expect those issues to be clarified. I suspect the difference is that a non-temple marriage is still the same relationship, just not done with the appropriate authority whereas they see a gay marriage as fundamentally not the same kind of relationship and thus more akin to fornication. It’s not just an issue of authority. That said allowing civil marriages for time and letting God work it out in the hereafter is likely the only possible resolution without major doctrinal change. I’m just not convinced that is a live option. But again, I make no claims of knowing what God thinks on this issue.

  55. Oh, and then asking us for a sustaining vote as D&C 26:2 directs.

  56. BlueRidgeMormon says:

    ABM: you’re wrong. One of the problems in reacting to this whole thing is the conflation of direct consequences to the individuals vs consequences to affiliated individuals. That’s the rub. In other words, what one believes about SSM may be largely irrelevant here. (I know many probably won’t agree..) But what troubles some of us is the idea that, come what may vis-a-viz church status and consequences to the gay individuals themselves, be they in either SSM or cohab, the biggest problem here is the seemingly poorly-justified implications for family members who themselves may not be gay. And again: if the church wanted to generally change the standard for baptism writ large, to include some assessment of the “safety” or “supportiveness” of the child’s home life, one can think of many home situations that might pose cognitive dissonance problems that we might also want to pay attention to. What’s troubling is that we’ve singled out this one, and the “protect the children” justification is hard to buy, when it would so easily apply to other home situations as well.

  57. I appreciate that this clarification letter was further contextualized via the Otterson statement (a clarification of the clarification?), but the Otterson statement is problematic in that it seems to reinforce the perception that this policy in some ways is intended to weed out not only LGBT folks but also to smoke out progressive members. The last sentence reads:

    “Church members who believe in modern prophets and apostles understand and appreciate the intent of their leaders to guide the Church through the complexities of diverse societies and rapidly changing social circumstances.”

    So the line in the sand is that if we don’t understand and appreciate the way the leaders are guiding the Church on this issue, then we don’t believe in modern prophets and apostles. That’s a pretty bright line.

  58. “It’s never a good time to be a custody lawyer.” As an attorney who has just this passed week stopped taking new custody cases, I can say that that’s possibly the most true thing Steve Evans has ever said. Seriously, kids. Don’t do custody law.

  59. Re the children.

    I don’t recall much from my years in Primary, but I’m reasonably certain that I wasn’t taught anything about gay marriage. Or anything gay, or sexual, at all. Has the Primary curriculum changed so much over the years that a child of gay parents would feel uncomfortable there?

  60. Eve of Destruction says:

    I suspect the hardliners will view last week’s policy as God’s higher law but now those tablets are broken and the clarification is given due to the people’s murmuring. The guidance to consider the best interest of the children still rings hollow when the justification is still that ordinances should sometimes be denied for children’s own good. for their own good = in their best interest = same result, ordinance denied.

  61. Clark Goble says:

    Katie M (11:29) While I might be misreading the FP letter and Otterson’s explanation my reading is that could be done on a case by case basis as the spirit directs. At a minimum they could request a First Presidency response via the Stake President. Clearly many 17 year olds are mature enough to handle this but not all are. But that’s why this is a directive. I think there’s a big difference between the typical maturity and sophistication at 8 than as a person nearing adulthood.

    While I recognize many are skeptical that the focus really is on children I do think that’s likely their honest aim even if perhaps the way they did it wasn’t ideal.

    J. Crown (11:41) It’s interesting you shifted from Otterson’s “appreciate the intent of their leaders” to “appreciate the way the leaders…” Surely that’s a significant change. I can appreciate intent while being questioning of the implementation.

  62. The word “intent” in Otterson’s explanation is certainly interesting.

  63. Good intentions or not, how can we be comfortable overriding the Savior’s explicit commands regarding baptism, what’s required for baptism, and who qualifies for baptism?

  64. Color me underwhelmed and unimpressed.

    Furthermore, it took EIGHT DAYS to come up with THAT? They could have put that together in a few hours. What have they been doing for the past week?

  65. @ Clark Goble

    I agree with you that the intent element is an important distinction and you are correct to point that out.

    I’m not as optimistic that many Church leaders will read that as carefully as you have..

  66. Clark, I am referring to the screenshot from the Handbook that has been circling around, with text that declares disciplinary councils as mandatory in cases of apostasy, which now includes same-sex marriage, but as optional in cases of rape and abuse.

  67. Clark: You’re a class act, and I appreciate your comments here.

    In response to your response (at 11:05) to my response: I understand that. To clarify, I understand there will be church discipline. But I get the sense the new policy calls for excommunication rather than mere probation or disfellowshipment.

    I have a gay friend who hasn’t attended in years (since settling down with his partner), but who informs me this week that he’s saddened that this new policy means his membership may be discontinued. He and I just wish he could keep that thin strand of formal membership tying him to the church, even if he can’t have a recommend, the sacrament, a calling, etc, as automatic disfellowshipment (rather than excommunication) would imply.

  68. Re the snarky Newsroom release: even if it just reflects Otterson’s quirky personality, it’s still pretty disturbing. Every time we get this kind of defensive and accusatory comment from the Newsroom, I’m struck that the general authorities seem not to appreciate the extent of their influence and persuasive power. An institution with the Church’s size and reach should not indulge in passive-aggressive swipes. On a related issue, the Church should be able to anticipate the consequences of releasing half-baked policy changes. In these matters, the Church’s seriousness does not seem to have caught up with its size.

  69. Perhaps the response took so long because the brethren weren’t all agreed in how to respond. We have a letter from the First Presidency, but I’m not convinced the entire 12 were also immediately on board with that. Perhaps the end result was a compromise. And that sort of thing takes time.

  70. For those concerned about the policy treating murder and gay marriage differently it seems to me that the difference may be twofold:
    1) take a stand against acceptance. Gay marriage is accepted by society as normal to a degree while murder is not. The church may be trying to make clear the difference to the children
    2) sinner versus sin. LGBT community has over the years taken great pain to position SSA as something you are, not something you choose to do. Usually we speak about choosing to sin. This may be a reaction to this positioning.

  71. Clark Goble says:

    Cody, I think people are selectively reading the NT. Don’t get me wrong, we all do, privileging texts that confirm our own practices and neglecting those that go against them. There’s a set of sayings that scholars usually call the hard sayings of Jesus. While Jesus called everyone to come to him in baptism we should also realize that his call was far more radical than what we require today. In particular we tend to gloss over passages like Matt 10:33-38.

    For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

    Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying this applies today or to this situation. There are reasons why the hard sayings are glossed over. However if we’re talking the Jesus of the Gospels and getting into the question of the history we can’t gloss over as easily. What we tend to do (and again we all do this) is create a model of what the real Jesus is like and discount everything else. However that mental model probably owes more to the society and subgroups we participate in than the texts themselves.

  72. D Fletcher (11:15a) – “The best thing about this clarification, is that it has happened, the first time in my lifetime. A change has been brought about by members’ voiced concerns. I can’t think of another example of this, in the LDS church.”

    On the bright side, this is the third I’ve seen in the past 5 years. They might not have received so much publicity, but there was the “pants” movement, which got a letter stating that people are quite welcome in pants. Before that was an initiative started by FMH that got clarification on women doing baptisms for the dead while on their period.

    Granted neither happened with such speed, but I feel they were important milestones.

  73. Blueridgemountain- it is totally different than the case of children of a convicted murderer for example. A convicted murderer is in prison and has been convicted. In other words, his or her sin has been very clearly recognized by society, and the child does not live with that parent (he or she is in prison). On the other hand, society has all but accepted same-sex marriage as moral and legal. There is a huge difference.

  74. Clark, I don’t see the leeway you speak of in this clarification, but yes, they could apply for baptism up to the FP.

    As to your most recent comment — doesn’t the scripture also cut against your argument? That is to say, you’ve been saying it’s too much to ask children to renounce their parents’ acts, but here Christ is saying the ability to do just that is part of his standard. Or maybe you think he’s only speaking to grown children? Knowing how hard his hard sayings can be, I’m not sure he would have made that qualification.

  75. Clark Goble (11:46), I agree (and you and I often don’t agree) that the policy should be read to allow for discretion as the Spirit directs and that exceptions will apply.

  76. Clark, I appreciate your feedback and agree with you regarding avoiding selective quoting. The NT is an interesting beast because we cannot be sure of what is Jesus’ actual saying vs. what was interpolation by the authors of the Gospels. Indeed, you are correct.

    Where things get a bit trickier is when we refer to the Book of Mormon and D&C, where we have yet more examples of Jesus stating what is required for baptism and speaking of personal accountability. I would think that, were we to override those pretty explicit accounts, especially taken in aggregate, we would need to resort to a higher standard than lawerly working around the texts to find some gray area for our proposed policy change. I think we need to be far more careful with such changes than we seem to be.

  77. KevinBarney- it is offensive, to me at least, to suggest the First Presidency was merely saving face with the clarification. The information from last week came through a person who is a clear antagonist to the church and its leaders. In other words, we don’t know exactly how the change in the handbook was supposed to be communicated to local leaders. It was a “leaked” document that has raised all this fuss. And to assume the brethren are merely saving face now is unfair.

  78. Clark Goble says:

    Layne, that doesn’t imply rape or abuse is worse. Just that a church court is as much a political act as anything. If some member murders someone and goes to jail the Bishop doesn’t always feel obliged to hold a church court. Perhaps because it’s pretty obvious that the person has disconnected themselves from the gospel. What the brethren are saying is that in cases of apostasy precisely because they are more political acts where their evilness isn’t always obvious it’s important to hold the courts. That’s because the courts are themselves partially a political act.

    The reasons for that make sense, especially if one looks at the history of apostate movements in the church through history. (Think the Godbeites in the 19th century on up through the recent Denver Snuffer excommunication) The church courts when held are simultaneously dealing with the merits of the person in question as well as signifying the problem of the apostate movement as a warning to the Church as a whole.

    Again, I fully understand those who think SSM shouldn’t be viewed as apostasy in the sense that Denver Snuffer was. Clearly the brethren disagree. However it seems to me we should then discuss that idea instead of focusing on making comparisons between murder and apostasy. As I said earlier that tends to treat all sinful acts as merely having a meaning along one axis – that of seriousness. I just think that incorrect. Some acts are public and social in a way that other acts that might be more serious are not.

  79. your food allergy is fake says:

    Joseph, how about children with hetero unmarried co-habitating parents? Society approves. Why does the church allow baptism here?

  80. Joseph, it was leaked on 11/5 but was sent to bishops and stake presidents on 11/3, which seems to indicate a desire to slide it into a handbook that is available to a very small portion of the membership.

  81. Clark Goble says:

    Joseph, I agree. I think there were strong indications at the time that these clarifications were the original intent. We can of course discussion how well or poorly written the changes were. But let’s be honest, it’s not as if there aren’t a lot of poorly written sections in the handbook. The assumption that this clarification isn’t merely explaining their original intent is a big assumption. As Hanlon’s razor states, never attribute to malice that which can adequately be explained by stupidity. (Not that I’d apply stupid in this case – but I think most people think it was poorly written)

  82. BlueRidgeMormon says:

    Joseph et al – this is my very point. The church appears to want to take a political stand on this one, and that’s what this appears to be. (My point is that given this, I have some discomfort over one of the Q12 suggesting a rationale about protecting children that is therefore potentially disingenuous.)

    And again: we can perhaps set aside the “dad’s in the federal penitentiary for murder” example, for the reasons you articulate, and instead focus on lived-in situations in which the home life might be seen as producing mixed messages or a sufficiently unsupportive or less-than-ideal environment. Substance abuse on the part of a parent? An overabundance of contention among spouses? In other words, if it’s really about protecting children from things, where do we draw the line? Single parent homes?

  83. as long as the conversation is about who to exclude from the infinite reach of the atonement and how, I won’t come back. I suppose somebody somewhere will be delighted that I’ve been sifted out, but after nine years of inactivity before and after this policy, I will continue to mourn with those that mourn that we don’t have a more inclusive church. It never stops being devastating.

  84. @ Joseph

    There are many convictions for murder that result in less than life without parole sentences, and some children live with their convicted parents upon their release, so I’m not sure your analysis holds.

  85. Some questions that are helping me frame my thoughts about this clarification:

    1. Do I take at face value the repeated claims that these policies were created out of concern for protecting children?
    2. If I feel that there are other motivations, what do I feel those are?
    3. Do I believe that the original intent of the original policy was to bar any children who had ever lived with gay parents in any situation from naming blessings and baptism?
    4. What did take so long for the Church to issue a clarification that, if expressing the intent of the policy all along, should have been issued much faster?

    I have to say, upon reflecting on my answers to these questions a bit, I’m encouraged in a cynical kind of way.

    Still heartbroken and appalled…but ever so slightly hopeful.

  86. In regards to the automatic calling of a disciplinary council for apostasy, I had a discussion with one of the counselors in our stake presidency last night during my recommend interview. As he and I have served on a number of different disciplinary councils together over the years, he reminded me that a requirement for holding a council is one thing, but determining the outcome will always be excommunication is not a given. Some stakes may view it that way, but others may find differently for various reasons. We both have sat in such councils where we thought at first that one particular outcome was likely, but in fact, it often was different than we would have expected. I may live in a particularly enlightened stake, but after serving on such councils with three different stake presidents, I have seen mercy and compassion prevail over stricter and harsher justice more often than not.

    Overall, though, this letter of clarification helps relieve some of the worst case scenarios that we all imagined. I still have questions about raising same sex marriage to the same level of polygamy, and branding it apostasy.

  87. Clark Goble says:

    Katie M (12:03) I think if our policy were merely determined by scripture you’d have a point. However I think we clearly have a theology where what’s appropriate at one time isn’t always at an other. That’s why we need living prophets. So while I think the hard sayings are a big problem for Protestants while a sola scripture theology it isn’t for us. We can easily say that might have been the case in early first century Palestine but doesn’t apply today.

    My point was less about policy than portrayals of what the real Jesus would or wouldn’t do. Clearly (ignoring the historical accuracy issues of authorship) the real Jesus did far worse. (He didn’t allow divorce either)

    Cody (12:05) It’s hard to respond at that level of vagueness. I’m just not sure what texts you’re referring to nor how you are interpreting them. In any case I’m not sure we can just discount the NT and say only the D&C applies. Rather any doctrine will have to balance all the cases including historical ones with Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.

  88. Kevin Barney says:

    Joseph, just gauging the realpolitick of the situation as I saw it.

  89. Clark Goble says:

    (Sorry for all the typos everyone – going silent for a while)

  90. If children who have already been baptized are grandfathered into the policy, it would make sense (in light of the policy’s rationale) for their siblings to be grandfathered in also.

  91. Between this and the recent Boy Scout fiasco, it’s pretty clear that the people involved in church public affairs are not doing their jobs properly or the Brethern are not listening to them. They couldn’t do a worse job of handling those two situations if they tried.

  92. D. Fletcher says:

    I’m still an apostate. ApostaD. Kind of got a nice ring to it. ;)

  93. Clark@12:07 – “The church courts when held are simultaneously dealing with the merits of the person in question as well as signifying the problem of the apostate movement as a warning to the Church as a whole.

    Again, I fully understand those who think SSM shouldn’t be viewed as apostasy in the sense that Denver Snuffer was. Clearly the brethren disagree. However it seems to me we should then discuss that idea instead of focusing on making comparisons between murder and apostasy.”

    Sorry for the long quote, but this is a crucial point and must indeed be a point of discussion. Since SSM apostasy can only be committed by LGBT members, who chose to be members but not LGBT, this means they can apostasize in a way that non-LGBT members cannot.

  94. Sleepless in Sandy says:

    Could it be that the real problem for the Church is that blessings and baptisms generate membership records? Listing two women or men as the parents shows that the church acknowledges and recognizes same-sex marriages. Perhaps they worry this would lead to lawsuits. It’s the only rational justification for this policy. I wish the leaders would just say this is the reason. It’s still not the right policy and my heart still weeps.

  95. And also, a same-sex married couple are not necessarily excommunicated, but their children may not be blessed or baptised? What kind of sense does that make?

  96. Sleepless: So, it’s really just a system coding problem? Makes sense.

  97. Alex S (1:07p) – “Since SSM apostasy can only be committed by LGBT members, who chose to be members but not LGBT, this means they can apostasize in a way that non-LGBT members cannot.”

    There isn’t an attraction test for SSM. (which is another reason we should just call it marriage, rather than SSM, as if it’s a special kind of, but not really, marriage) Pretty sure of two cis & straight people of the same apparent gender married, they’d still be considered apostate.

    Trans is in a weird state with the church right now, just barely fitting within the theology. Results so far, even those that have gone through the FP, have been inconsistent, but I’m still optimistic.

  98. Can we stop with the murder analogies? The point is not that the parent has committed a sin. The point is that the children are being taught something is not a sin that the LDS church teaches is a sin. Find me a convicted murderer who teaches his children that murder is OK and I’ll show you some kids that are definitely not going to pass a baptismal interview.

  99. Actually, I don’t think this is a political stance per se. Marriage being between man and woman (or multiples thereof, cough) is undeniably a core tenet of Mormon doctrine, more so than most Christian denominations (where marriage ends at death.) While one could fiddle with things to make gay marriage compatible, it is certainly not unreasonable for the Brethren to draw a line here–in fact, I find it more logical for them to do so, given the Temple, etc., then to try to “make it fit.” It is, of course, harsh towards gays–but really, the LDS church has never been gay friendly.

    It even makes sense, to me, to limit baptism of children living with two gay married parents–not a question of sin, really, just a question of whether the parents can even raise a child according to LDS principles when they are violating such a core principle. Same idea with polygamists, really.

    The truly ridiculous part of the policy–banning baptism for any child with a gay parent–seems to have been “clarified”, and rightly so. I’m not even sure this represents a change in policy, so much as a correction in a poorly worded policy.

    Which doesn’t change the pain of gay Mormons, of course–but this was pretty much inevitable once gay marriage was legalized.

  100. Disappointing. Disappointing substantively, because it is totally unnecessary. The rule of parental consent applicable to all baptisms under the age of 18 provides adequate protection. Children of same-sex couples are unnecessarily being singled out. Disappointing technically because, even assuming the need to have a separate rule for the children of a gay or lesbian parent, it has internal arbitrary distinctions. What about the child who splits weekly custody, spending 4 days with one parent and 3 with the other? And what if that changes? There are a many variations of that category. And what if a gay parent has “primary” custody and is not co-habitating with or married to someone of the same gender, but is promiscuous.

    Also disappointing is Michael Otterson’s tone, which seems to be “if you got upset about it, it’s because you were just reading headlines and social media, rather than having a real grasp on the issue.” Granted, his tone is a small issue as compared to the question of the Handbook rule, but, as with the press releases concerning Ordain Women, it is belittling of those who expressed genuine concerns. The trickle-down effect of this is that some people may interpret this tone as a license to treat fellow ward or stake members who express concern over certain matters with similar dismission. His tone can make the discourse more divisive at the ground level.

  101. Sleepless in Sandy (1:11pm), neither the Membership System or FamilySearch can accommodate two parents of the same gender. They could conceivably handle multiple fathers and/or mothers, but with no connection between those of the same gender aside from the child. No sealing to parents can be done without two parents of different genders also being sealed to each other.

  102. lastlemming says:

    On the bright side, this is the third [change] I’ve seen in the past 5 years. They might not have received so much publicity, but there was the “pants” movement, which got a letter stating that people are quite welcome in pants. Before that was an initiative started by FMH that got clarification on women doing baptisms for the dead while on their period.

    Neither of those were changes. They were reminders to leaders (and overreaching members) not to enforce policies that didn’t exist in the first place. Of course, the official spin is that this isn’t a change either. It is a request that leaders enforce the policy that they meant, not the policy that they wrote.

    In fact, Otterson’s whole piece reminds me of Mayor Daley’s press office after the 1968 riots. As reported by Mike Royko, Daley had given orders to shoot to kill, giving rise to the following quote after the riots had ended: “It was damn bad reporting,” he said, “they should have printed what he meant, not what he said.” (See here for the full context.)

  103. BlueRidgeMormon says:

    Owen: this is why maybe the convicted felon/murderer analogy isn’t the best one, because you’re missing the point. Again: let’s go with something else, from a long list of home-life circumstances that might risk “teaching children” that “something isn’t a sin” when church doctrine says it is. Part-member family where the nonmember parent smokes or drinks? Grandparent wanting to give a blessing to grandchild in situation where the parents are inactive or wayward? Again: the point isn’t to assert that any of these analogies are the same thing as a child being raised in a SSM home. The point is: why is the church apparently concerned about protecting the children from cognitive dissonance, but only as it relates to gay sexuality? (For heaven’s sake, kids can be blessed when they’re the child of nonmarried, living-together hetero parents who are also by definition committing sexual sin, and therefore representing that their domestic arrangement is A-ok..but that’s not a sanctioning offense from the church’s standpoint, apparently…)

  104. This is kind of tangential (because I don’t have the emotional capacity to discuss any of the substantive issues right now) but it gives me a bad taste in my mouth every time the Newsroom clarifies doctrine. The Newsroom’s job is PR and media relations, it shouldn’t be explaining and elucidating doctrine to members of the Church. It’s just not right.

    The Newsroom’s analysis should be seen as one possible interpretation. I prefer coming to my own conclusions rather than using those sponsored by a PR organization.

  105. Anyone think this clarification is going to hit the cover of the New York Times?

    BlueRidgeMormon, how many of those things involve “cognitive dissonance” over the fundamental purposes of life? That’s the heart of the matter that you are glossing over. Smoking or drinking or even fornicating are much less likely to screw up a kid’s understanding of the nature of exaltation. And in the grandparent example you gave, permission is often withheld, particularly when it comes to baptisms.

  106. Frank, it may take awhile, but the situation will arise where a child has a membership record and her legal parents same-gendered. What will the church do then?

    As one example, imagine a child who is adopted by a single mother who is a member of the church. A year after the child is baptized (and a record made) the mother gets married to another woman. The mother may be excommunicated, but the child is still a member with a record.

  107. Dave K – the Church simply won’t recognize it, and there’s no way anyone can make them do so.

  108. Owen, in my experience, kids in the church don’t really struggle with dissonance over SSM. A few years ago my wife and I invited a lesbian couple and their son to have dinner with our family in our home. Our kids hardly took any notice. They were not troubled at all. Mostly they just played video games and kickball with their new friend.

  109. Opps, hit send to soon. Just saying, this raises many new theological questions about both apostasy and unique theological requirements attached to being born LGBT. If LGBT people are (universally?) assigned by God at birth to be celibate, unlike heterosexuals, is that seen as a curse or divine calling? Which position causes more theological chaos for us? Disciplining LGBT members for SSM apostasy, if correctly seen as having a political dimension, is a warning only to other LGBT members about violating an LGBT-only doctrine. There is of course no reasonable concern that SSM marriage will spread to non-LGBT members, unlike polygamy, Snufferism, etc. In that context, then, what is the polical and theological content of SSM apostasy? What theology would be sufficient to justify the specificity of LGBT-only rules for fellowship and salvation without that theology being bigoted? Or will we just retreat to the reductio, as we have at times in the past, of evidence for God’s bigotry (it’s a mystery + shame on you)? Julie Smith is of course right that a whole new, rich field of apologetics is being born. Is that a good or bad thing for building a Zion people?

  110. BlueRidgeMormon says:

    But see, Owen, I think here you slip into the more fundamental underlying debate about the morality of homosexuality itself. And i’m not suggesting that you’re incorrect in this being a fundamentally important issue. But in my comments I’ve taken a slightly different approach, in which even those who may be less troubled about accepting the existing doctrine of homosexuality = sin might STILL be conflicted about the new policy’s guilt-by-association approach of limiting children’s access to blessing and baptism.

  111. Frank, I don’t think the church should be forced to do anything. I’m just curious how the situation would be handled. Would we continue to list only the first adoptive mother, but not the second?

    FWIW, I think we could acknowledge the legal fact of the relationships without undermining our doctrine. The church acknowledges contra-doctrinal facts all the time in its records. As one example, we record catholic christenings as important geneological data even though the BOM is crystal clear that infant baptism is an abomination.

  112. Frank@1:22 – A valid theological point, but not sure how productive it is in this context unless you accept some kind of contagion theory. Most people don’t. I assume you’re not suggesting this is an actual problem, just theoretical.

  113. Have a cousin who’s heterosexual, unmarried, cohabiting, and they have a daughter. Neither he nor his girlfriend want to get married — they say they don’t “believe” in marriage. Their daughter has been blessed (by her grandpa). Assuming parents consent — not sure they will; daughter is still under 8 — she can get baptized, etc., without special permission. Even though parents specifically disavow the importance of (heterosexual) marriage.

    The only difference between this and same-sex marriage, as I see it, is that the parents can “fix” the situation by marrying, which the Church will recognize. Doesn’t matter if the parents still don’t believe that marriage is important. Doesn’t matter if they’re doing it solely for, say, tax advantages. Doesn’t matter if they feel no remorse whatsoever for having cohabited before marriage. Doesn’t matter if they have no intention of teaching their daughter to abstain from sex before marriage (or from sex altogether, if she turns out to lesbian). All that matters is that the parents could get married, thereby . . . what? Magically eliminating all disharmony? Ensuring a “proper home environment”?

    I don’t get it . . .

  114. BlueRidgeMormon says:

    Jake Cox: exactly.

  115. So you are saying that you want the church to deny baptism to your cousin’s children.

  116. D. Fletcher says:

    We hate gay people. Go away. Take your children with you. Any other way to read this?

  117. D. Fletcher. Nope.

  118. This is even worse. This “clarification” does nothing but make a bad situation even worse. In a split custody decree one parent will be designated as the primary custodial parent. You need that to determine child support, among other things. So what this does is setup parents for pretty vicious custody battles, arguing in court that a certain specific parent must be the designated “primary” for sake of the child maintaining their ties to their childhood religion, etc.

    The same people are still affected in the same ways. But now add pressure over custody. The only good thing here is that kids already baptized won’t be held back from progression in the church. Although that’s strange itself. If them being a part of the church is the problem, why let them advance? Isn’t that creating the very conflict we’re supposedly trying to avoid? Plus it totally goes against the language.

    There is already a policy of requiring parental consent for minors. What does this “clarified” policy accomplish that isn’t already accomplished by that rule? The rationale here literally makes no sense whatsoever. Harmony in the home? If the parent is consenting what does this have to do with harmony? What they are saying is, “we’re kicking all the gays out of the church, and therefore, their kids also have to go.” That’s it. It’s segregation dressed up as “for the children”

    This response upsets me even more.

  119. Jeannette brings up an interesting point. “The rule of parental consent applicable to all baptisms under the age of 18 provides adequate protection.” IOW, what the policy means is that if you are a gay parent, your consent is not valid. Only straight parents can consent to their child being baptized. Both your marriage and your support are not recognized by the LDS church. We literally can’t see you.

  120. Dave K (1:52p) – The main reason Christenings are in the system is because those were the events most recorded historically. FamilySearch also allows bar mitzvah, bris, and user defined fields for individual records. For connections of marriage, however, it is simply not possible to join two people of the same gender. You can add as many fathers or mothers as you want, but making that connection just isn’t possible.

    For the membership record (which wouldn’t be public data in FamilySearch for 100+ years), they’d put in the first adoptive mother, likely just asking which would be preferred or at worst flipping a coin when which came first couldn’t be determined. Not satisfactory, but it’s not like it’ll be hard to work out.

    Alex S (1:57) – Absolutely not inferring (or accepting) “contagion theory” (scare quotes intentional). This is the part where the Trans ambiguity comes in. If we have a couple of two individual genders sealed in the Temple, and one of them reveals they believe themselves to be the other gender, does that put them automatically in violation? If two people born the same gender get married and one of them reveals they believe themselves to be the other gender, are they now in conformity with the handbook? I know of several people dealing with the first question, and hope the instances of this remain small enough that they can be handled individually, rather than have another rule added to the handbook. The handbook is way too thick already.

  121. D.,

    “I’m still an apostate. ApostaD. Kind of got a nice ring to it. ;)”

    I don’t know. You might have to formally tie the knot before you get to claim that title…. (Also, the new statement didn’t use the A word for SSM, but didn’t repudiate it either. I’ll bet Michael Otterson really, really wishes they hadn’t used that word to begin with…)

  122. Pick one:

    A. Gay married parents who want to “make it work” for themselves and their kids in the Church, so they attend Sunday meetings every week, serve wherever permitted, teach their children to abstain from sex before marriage and to obey the Word of Wisdom, etc.

    B. Heterosexual cohabiting parents who don’t care about religion or the Church’s standards but are willing to let their kids be baptized (willing in the “whatever” sense).

  123. I think that Clark Goble is absolutely correct about the “political act” point, which allows us to logically explain why gay marriage is treated differently from these other sins. And yet, I find this cold comfort indeed. As is always the case with apostasy, the apostate label here will lead to implicit or explicit shunning of gay members (perhaps even the single ones). And that simply can’t be right. A few months ago, I had a truly distressing interaction with a church member whom I otherwise quite like. She was telling me about how she and her kids had spent the weekend at her sister’s house in another city and how she had had a huge falling out with her sister (screaming, yelling, really ugly stuff). What had happened exactly? After arriving at the sister’s house, this member discovered that her nephew had recently come out of the closet and that she and her kids were going to have to spend the weekend under the same roof as a gay man (who, once again, was her nephew). I was absolutely dumbfounded. And yet, I can’t help but think that this policy will only confirm the rightness of such behavior and engender more of it and worse. Surely there are ways of maintaining the church’s position on the sinfulness of sodomy and gay marriage (obviously an important goal for the church) without at the same time implicitly validating such mistreatment of our gay brothers and sisters. Don’t let married gay people have a temple recommend. Don’t let them hold a calling. Whatever. But don’t tell the world that they are apostates who are to be feared, ignored and avoided for our own protection.

  124. Don’t let married gay people have a temple recommend. Don’t let them hold a calling. Whatever. But don’t tell the world that they are apostates who are to be feared, ignored and avoided for our own protection.

    You are conflating “Gay people” with “Married gay people.”

  125. Bryan, that’s true, it’s a conflation. And there will be gay people that stay. But do you think that this won’t have a tremendous chilling effect on any LGBT person wanting to remain in the Church, knowing that the options are 1. Celibacy 2. MOM 3. Apostasy or 4. Death? Further, that those choices are unlikely to change in the afterlife?

  126. You’re right, Bryan S. The conflation is intentional, because I assume that the apostate moniker will have some spillover affect on how members treat non-married gay people. But even if I’m wrong about that, I still don’t think that we should treat “married gay people” in the way that is likely to result from labeling them with the scarlet “A.”

  127. Every child is precious. Every child deserves the comfort and companionship of the Holy Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. If this policy affected only one child it would be one child too many.

    What can I do? How can I show that I am still among those opposed to this policy? How can I show love to the children and families still affected by this policy?

    The church’s humanitarian aid is always accepting homemade quilts. What if I made a beautiful RAINBOW quilt and sent it to Salt Lake City? What if I did this to show my love for the children and their parents and my opposition to this policy, even with its clarifications? I know I have no control of who my quilt would go to or even what the church would do with my quilt. But I would know why I made it. And God would know. And maybe someone would see my rainbow quilt (or see someone else’s rainbow quilt) and know that I love them and see their pain. What if Salt Lake City was flooded by rainbow quilts?

    Y’all at BCC have my forever gratitude (even in the face of grumpy Newsroom publications) for all the thoughtful responses to this policy change. If you think that rainbow quilts are a good idea would you put it out there? If you think it is not in good taste to say anything about it, I respect that.

  128. Nah, I wouldn’t. They don’t need your quilt. But your gay and lesbian friends might.

  129. Which gets to the real heart of the matter. The church considers SSM to be a sin. You and Steve do not and many others here do not. That pretty much sums everything up.

  130. I’m a sinner. We are all sinners. But the church makes room for me and the church doesn’t punish my children for my sins.

  131. Bryan, don’t presume to know my stance on same-sex marriage.

  132. Clark: “Am I the only one who found Otterson’s explanation dead on?”

    Nope. Though I’m not always great company, I agree.

  133. The interesting part to me is that we’ve seen behind the curtain. This policy was certainly not inspired or it wouldn’t have been modified the way it has. The clarification shows that the leadership realizes, now, not before, how much of disaster this was. Frankly, it shows that they are stumbling around and not lead directly by revelation at least most of the time. They are human and act like human beings, including reflecting their biases. Their fallibility is what is crystal clear. Sometimes they make mega-mistakes and aren’t reigned back by God. They retreat when they fear the public backlash from what they have done.

  134. “But do you think that this won’t have a tremendous chilling effect on any LGBT person wanting to remain in the Church, knowing that the options are 1. Celibacy 2. MOM 3. Apostasy or 4. Death? Further, that those choices are unlikely to change in the afterlife?”

    Steve Evans, do you have some new information about the afterlife you can share with us? How do you know that even one of these four options is likely to exist in the afterlife?

  135. Clark Goble says:

    Steve, while I’d love more revelation on the subject, it does seem that the doctrine is this would not be true in the hereafter. Regardless of what one thinks about homosexuality and sin in this life, the very notion of a resurrection entails those wouldn’t be the choices after death. It would seem that most of these gender issues are tied to human biology and its variety. While I’ve not a clue what pre-mortal gender means it’d presumably be operative when we were dead, without a body (biology) and in the spirit world. Likewise while we’ve no real clue about the biology of a resurrected body (beyond Alma 11 saying it resembles us) it would seem to follow that it could be made anyway God wants. Likewise it seems reasonable that any instincts we didn’t like would be removed.

    Now that theology and cosmology might be offensive to some. It may not end up being the way things are. But I don’t think we can say that within the theology all this persists in the next life.

  136. Clark Goble says:

    Steve, isn’t that confusing the policy and the representation of the policy? After all many don’t see any change in policy from today and last week. Just that the way the policy was expressed was done poorly. Again we should beware of a textualist view of revelation. Even if the policy was inspired it doesn’t mean it was given in the words used to modify the handbook. Indeed it would be very unlikely it was.

  137. Let’s keep our Steves straight!

    Clark: you’re right that it might be offensive to some! Like, super duper offensive.

    It also contradicts scripture (11:43) and the Proclamation (gender is eternal). The notion that homosexuality will be reversed a) implies it is a defect and b) is not supported. There’s no doctrine beyond that.

    T: for LGBT to have different options in the afterlife, either their very natures will be changed, or God will offer them human relationships compatible with their sexuality. We have no doctrine on either, but I bet you a Butterfinger that the latter is not what Church leaders would say.

  138. Bryan S., I’m not totally sure that your last comment was directed at me (along with Steve Evans), but it seems likely that it was. You’re right of course that one’s views on the underlying moral valence of SSM will affect one’s views on how the church should treat it. But there’s nothing inconsistent in acknowledging the sinfulness of SSM while at the same time rejecting the apostasy label and all that goes along with it. There are so many analogies illustrating the church’s relationship with sinners (the hospital is a particular favorite of mine). But all of them suggest, to me at least, that sin is the reason we need the church, not the reason that gets us excluded from the church. I’ve also always been under the impression that this is true no matter how open, rebellious or repeated the sin happens to be. This new policy is requiring me to reevaluate this understanding.

  139. Clark Goble says:

    Steve Evans, could you be more specific about how it contradicts scripture? (I’m not sure what 11:43 means – was this a typo for a scripture?) As for gender being eternal, why do you think the meaning of gender in that context entails homosexuality as a gender? (Earnest question – I think contextually it just means something akin to sexual dimorphism at the spirit level but since there’s no biology there’s no sex for spirits so that’s why I presume they chose the word gender instead)

    Regarding offense, I think we agree there. The problem is again without a revelation on the matter what’s been revealed is that marriage is just between a man and a woman, is required for exaltation, and anything else is considered fornication. Baring a revelation it seems clear the church’s hands are tied on the issue. At best people are asking them to just look the other way on the issue.

  140. Steve Evans,

    I don’t have any information about what sex or sexuality will even mean in the next life. Maybe we’ll all be pan-sexual. It is hard to imagine that we can become immortal beings without our very natures changing in lots of ways. Maybe there will be other options that we haven’t thought of yet. Maybe you’ll lose that Butterfinger one day. Not trying to be contrarian, just saying we don’t know much, so maybe we shouldn’t despair too much yet.

  141. Clark Goble says:

    Zjg, I’m not sure that’s changed. The church would love even excommunicated members to attend church. However they’ll put them under restrictions until they’ve met the conditions to put that status back to full activity. This isn’t uncommon. People talking with Bishops might be told not to take the sacrament. Someone disfellowshipped or on probation might be told they can’t have callings or give prayers. Someone excommunicated might be under further restrictions. In all cases though the Church thinks that Church is the place they will be healed best.

  142. I would love to lose that Butterfinger. But I won’t.

  143. Clark, I was thinking Alma 11:43, which refers to how we are now, but “perfect” can mean lots of things. I personally find it repugnant to think that homosexuality will be perfected away.

    As for why they chose gender in the Proc and its relationship to homosexuality, I don’t think they had the faintest clue about this when they wrote the Proclamation, but my understanding is that they are saying that human sexuality is part of who we are and it always has been and always will be. Its applicability to beings of spirit is unclear at best, and I refuse the notion of viviparous spirit birth.

    And I agree that the Church’s hands are now tied on the issue, barring a revelation. But that’s from our own doing, just as it was in 1978. You do enough policy work and folk doctrine and you end up painted in a doctrinal corner, needing revelations for lots of things. That’s not to deny the doctrine — I happen to believe that families are forever and essential to happiness — but in terms of operational freedom, we have now committed to a course that will flush out gay people from the Church. I hope it was worth it.

  144. Fair point, Clark. But I’ve always been under the impression that apostasy is different. In other words, we’re not just saying that SSM is an excommunicable offense. That part of the new policy is not surprising in the least. It seems like a possible (although in my opinion not a theologically necessary) implication from the premise that gay sodomy is sinful. What’s new is that we’re saying they’re apostates. I don’t think that when we label someone an apostate that what we’re saying is that “the Church thinks that Church is the place they will be healed best.” To the contrary, I think that we’re saying that we don’t want you around under the current circumstances. Am I wrong about that?

  145. D. Fletcher says:

    Maybe not apostate, but… George and I have co-habitated for 13 years.

    “Revealed doctrine is clear that families are eternal in nature and purpose. We are obligated to act with that perspective for the welfare of both adults and children. The newly added Handbook provisions affirm that adults who choose to enter into a same-gender marriage or similar relationship commit sin that warrants a Church disciplinary council.”

  146. anon this time says:

    Every Sunday I got the message that my inactive Dad who smoked and drank beer was sinning. I also got the message loud and clear that my un-sealed family was to be pitied. I still managed to stay in the church and even managed to get sealed to a returned missionary and have his babies, just like I was always taught to do. This protecting the children business isn’t holding water for me.

  147. In my ward, we had a Beehive who was the daughter of an inactive mom and a nonmember dad. She had been found by the missionaries and encouraged by them (and me, as a YW leader) to come to church. Her home life was often poor, with her father a verbally abusive alcoholic, and she was bullied at school. Church became her refuge, and she came to all meetings and activities with excitement. Her father wouldn’t consent to her baptism, so it became the mission of the entire ward council to make it happen. We prayed that his mind would be changed. We bargained, we set dates, we made promises–because we KNEW how much baptism and the gift of the HG would be a comfort and a strength to this YW, right?

    Her father eventually consented. But what if she had had two moms instead? What if her home life was just as bad, just as abusive, and she had no church? Would the missionaries have even tried, seeing her two moms at the door? Would they have cared? And if they had, and if she had come, who would pray for her baptism? Who would pray that the brethren would revoke the policy? Who would be her refuge? Who would explain to her why she couldn’t come on temple trips or have the constant companionship of the Spirit?

    If we don’t believe baptism is important for those children, then we don’t believe baptism is important. We’re shutting out the 1 to protect the 99. This “clarification” means nothing to me.

  148. If I didn’t trust that the brethren act in genuinely good interests and not from a place of manipulation, I would say they released the more severe policy first so that the softer clarification would seem better–like asking your parents for a car to soften them up before you downgrade to asking them for a ride to the mall. I feel like there still would’ve been outrage if the policy had initially been released with these qualifications, but now we feel better because it looks better. Frustrating.

  149. Kevin Barney says:

    A lot of folks are feeling disillusioned because they saw in real time the sausage being made, and it wasn’t the pure revelatory process they had assumed it to be. As Sterling McMurrin once said, I don’t feel disillusioned because I wasn’t illusioned in the first place. Which is to say from the beginning I considered this a bureaucratic policy decision made by fallible men of a certain age with a certain cultural background, not something dictated by the breath of God.

  150. Deep Think says:

    Kevin Barney: I’ve never understood the folklore that people hold that somehow “prophets, seers and revelators” means that they somehow channel heaven in the form of revelation. It is a rare thing indeed for revelation to come spontaneously, without a lot of hard work. Beyond that, it is terribly common that when we do receive that whisper or nudge of the spirit that we layer on top of it all kinds of interpretations, language and context that may never have existed in that revelatory moment. Revelation is hard work, and while I believe and hope that the brethren have matured their discernment processes beyond my own, I would never expect that they too are not subject to the hard work of receiving and interpreting pure revelation.

  151. Clark Goble says:

    Kevin, I know you’re right in terms of expectations and perceptions. It just constantly surprises me in a Church where we are supposed to be led by personal revelation that people are so unfamiliar with how revelation often works. Especially when so many have been on missions where they had to depend upon revelation regularly. I’d have hoped that many have been in leadership positions, told to listen to the spirit as a guide and yet are surprised that things aren’t done correctly the first time. Anyone ever in a leadership position you’d think would be very charitable to other leaders over figuring things out with personal revelation and inspiration.

    Maybe it’s a perception that somehow things are different for the Apostles. But if so I’m not sure why they’d think that. Don’t get me wrong. Clearly the Apostles have a greater mantle than any calling I’ve had or any spiritual gifts I’ve exercised. I remember sitting on the stand with a member of the First Presidency (I was the opening speaker at 13). I felt like he could see through me into my soul. But even then I never imagined something like fallibilism.

    I’ve also noticed in a lot of the discussions in various places that there’s an assumption of a certain textuality to revelation. Like real revelation is dictated word for word by the Lord ala the D&C. Of course that’s not even how much of the D&C came about and it seems a definite minority of scriptures we have. The pattern for revelation seems more often Moses feeling like he can’t express his inspiration and having Aaron become the ancient the equivalent of Otterson. Then Moroni in Ether 11 complaining about his inability to write. Considering Moses and Moroni’s communication limitations it’s hard to be surprised that someone did a bad job with writing the handbook modification.

    To me revelation seems much more often to be the model of Ether 3 where God gives you a vague direction and we have to figure the rest out and then ask for help with what we’ve decided. While this situation may not have been as successful as the Brother of Jared’s lightbulbs, it does I suspect fit the pattern of God telling them something vague and letting them figure out the implementation.

  152. Clark Goble says:

    zig (4:55) See my recent comments in the T&S thread for some of the answer. I there agree with Julie that the word “apostasy” isn’t ideal. It has several senses that can confuse us. While I think the typical LDS use was for something more than falling away, it has come to mean that quite often recently. Yet I think there’s a notion of a kind of organized attempt at systematic change from a political stance that is strongly at odds with what the leadership think is correct. Heresy comes close but again missed the nuance and connotation. I don’t think English really has a good word beyond perhaps “rebel.” But that again misses some of the nuance.

    We can of course disagree with the the First Presidency on whether SSM is this threat. However I think they clearly think it is. They see this as a deep political threat to the church that goes well beyond individual sin.

  153. Clark Goble says:

    Steve (4:45) There’s clearly some sense in which we’re restored to ourselves. Yet simultaneously it seems impossible to read Alma 11:43 as meaning everything is the same. If I was born with Downs Syndrome due to extra chromosomes, will I be resurrected with Downs Syndrome? If sometime during my life I lost a limb, will I be restored just to how I died? If I die at age 90 with all the problems due to those shortened telomeres such that my body barely works is that how I’ll be restored? Or do I get my 20 year old body or better back? If I was born with Schizophrenia does that mean I’ll have it restored to me? I don’t think anyone thinks any of those things.

    Further Alma 11:43 is about the restoration prior to judgment. Even assuming that Alma may have had a more limited understanding than we do, he’s clearly also seeing change. Verse 45 says the mortal body is made an immortal one with the spirits unable to be divided, “the whole becoming spiritual and immortal, that they can no more see corruption.” Now what that means in the details is unclear. But clearly it means some sort of change. (No problems with pesky telomeres and DNA at mimimim)

    So if your exegesis of Alma 11 entails everything being the same, that just seems wrong according to Alma’s own words. Throw in other scriptures like 1 Cor 15, D&C 88 and so forth and there appear to many differences in the resurrection. Again, we have at best very vague information. But it seems enough to strongly imply that most of instincts, inclinations and structures entailed by the neurology of the brain won’t apply.

    As I said, many people find it repugnant that homosexuality might disappear because of this. I’d note that there appears to be a pretty wide range of sexual responses due to our brains. Some people have no inclination for sex at all and just aren’t attracted to others. We’re made up of lots of instincts, inclinations and more. Exactly what we’ll be like the next life I can’t say. However I do suspect judging it upon what is normative now is a mistake.

    As to the proclamation on the family, I’ve long found the section on gender confusing. At best it’s pretty ambiguous. I’m not sure we can say it means sexuality was always part of us. I may well be wrong but it seems odd to consider spirits with no ability to reproduce and no biology as sexual beings. Further stuck as sexual beings for a ridiculous long length of time. If that was the case that seems much more horrible than a short mortal lifetime of no sex. Again, I’m not taking a position here. The nature of pre-mortal spirits is a bit of a mystery to me. I don’t think we know much at all.

    My sense is that people are drawing ontological and physical implications from what they think ought be the case for fairness. That’s understandable. The problem of natural evils is a big one for all religions. I think looking at our biology though it’s just pretty difficult to look at the range of human biology and say it’s fair in any way. That’s not an excuse for any belief or policy. Just a logical implication of what I see the science as indicating. This is a big reason I think why many scientists tend towards agnosticism and atheism. Perhaps the Mormon theodicy that this fallen world has some utility for our personal development points a way out of that conundrum. But it does so at best vaguely. It just seems odd to point to biology as a source of fairness when so, so many suffer because of it. That doesn’t excuse actions in the least towards gay people. It ought undercut any appeal to biology as a source of ethical ground though.

  154. I need some clarification:

    CurrentGayList = currently living in a gay married or gay cohabiting relationship.
    LeprosyList = have EVER lived in a gay married or gay cohabiting relationship.

    Paragraph #1, No baby blessing for a child of someone on the CurrentGayList.
    Paragraph #2, No baptism, priesthood, or mission for someone who has a parent on CurrentGayList
    Paragraph #3, Stake President can request approval for someone with a parent on the LeprosyList or the CurrentGayList to be baptized, priesthood, or mission service. As long as they don’t reside with another someone on the CurrentGayList.

    Wait, Paragraph 3 has more specific language, so paragraph #2 will be interpreted as “No baptism, priesthood, or mission for someone who has a parent on LeprosyList.”

    With this clarification:
    Paragraph #1, No baby blessing for a child of someone on the CurrentGayList which baby primarily resides with someone on the CurrentGayList .
    Paragraph #2a, No baptism, priesthood, or mission for someone who has a parent on CurrentGayList which someone primarily resides with someone on the CurrentGayList
    Paragraph #2b, No mission for someone who has a parent on CurrentGayList.
    Paragraph #3, Stake President can request approval for someone with a parent on the LeprosyList or the CurrentGayList to be baptized, priesthood, or mission service As long as they don’t reside with another someone on the CurrentGayList.

    Did I misunderstand?


  155. I loved that Otterson blamed the confusion on the media and the Internet. This seems to be the go-to defense. Take responsibility for the problem? At all costs…Never! Also, I love how they used the word “clarification” when “change” is more accurate. Admit that they made a mistake and are changing it? At all costs….Never!

  156. This kind of implies that there was, somehow, a lack of discussion of all the ramifications of the original Handbook change last week. I was concerned that some Bishops were going to basically Excommunicate children who have been Baptized, but have a parent in a Gay marriage.

  157. Eve of Destruction says:

    Clark, when I was on my mission and I acted on what I thought was revelation to me, but the result was so awful that it clearly must have been my mistake in interpreting the revelation, or my mistake in assuming a thought from within me was a thought from the Holy Ghost, do you know what I did? I freaking apologized. I said I was wrong. I reached out immediately to try to undo the damage as much as possible and reopen doors. Since the brethren never ever ever admit errors or admit that any course reversals are due to their own errors, that’s probably why people hope that the leadership’s ability to receive revelation and interpret it into action is somehow better than their own.

    Jesus chose to be resurrected with nailprints in his hands. The nailprints are evidence of what makes him perfect. Maybe people born with Downs Syndrome or who acquire some literal battle scars will choose to keep them (minus any aspect that causes continued pain), because that’s part of what makes them perfect, even as the Father and Jesus are perfect.

  158. Wheat Woman says:

    Unless and until this policy is evenly applied to all children living with sinful parents (and that’s all of us, folks) it is cruel and unfair. But, I don’t expect any changes to the policy in the near future. That’s not how things work in our church. Regardless, I think the policy will be discarded in the future and it’ll be explained by the same sorts of arguments that always accompany change in our church. I guess the real question is what larger issue will be distracting us when the church decides to quietly make that change?

  159. Clark Goble says:

    Eve, I think the situation here is the brethren don’t think they are making a mistake.

  160. Eve of Destruction says:

    Right. I knew elders on my mission who never thought they made a mistake, either. The bishop who told SLC that I requested name removal when I hadn’t, doesn’t think he made a mistake either.

  161. Eve of Destruction says:

    That probably sounds like an accusation that I don’t mean, and I’m sorry. I’ll try again. The brethren *never* say they made a mistake. In the instance of this policy, that is because they don’t think they are making one. I don’t apologize when I don’t think I’m making a mistake, either. But what I do is, I recognize that my revelatory link to God is a flawed one. I check myself with scripture and experience and input from others (on my mission that included those beside or below me in the hierarchy — companion, investigators, members). And when any of those is giving me feedback, even if I still think I’m right, I force myself to say “you may be right” or “I could be missing something” and try to listen and not do anything until we are on the same page, because I know God doesn’t channel pure wisdom straight into my brain nonstop and no one else’s. So because the brethren *aren’t* seeking out such feedback and acting in a tentative manner until all systems read green lights, and the brethren *aren’t* a bunch of jerks who refuse to listen to anyone but yes-men, then you can see how believers are forced to assume that God’s revelation must be trumping all of that.

    But even in situations when the brethren do think mistakes were made, they’ll only go as far as saying “we express profound regret [for what was done; for the victims’ suffering]” but that is not the same as, “I apologize. I am so sorry for doing that. I led you down a wrong path. I thought God was telling me to do it, but I was wrong. It wasn’t from God. It wasn’t revelation. Please don’t blame God; I take full responsibility for the mistake. If there is any way I can make it up to you, I will try.” Have you ever seen the kind of public apology from the brethren on any issue ever when they expressed the kind of cognizance of wrongdoing that would be expected for repentance? Me neither. So, I am not saying they have done anything to repent of, because that’s between them and God and is none of my business, but I’m just pointing out to you why members of the church think that the Brethren must have some sort of special link to God. Ordinary leaders need lots of repentance.

  162. Clark Goble says:

    Eve, earnest question. Why do you think they aren’t doing that sort of study? Just because they don’t offer a public “call for papers” type of feedback doesn’t mean they aren’t doing that sort of things. Again judging from the example of Kimball it seems they did seek a lot of feedback. Just not publicly.

    It’s also simply incorrect to say the church doesn’t apologize. A good recent example was apologizing baptisms for the dead for holocaust victims.

  163. “I don’t feel disillusioned because I wasn’t illusioned in the first place.”

    Starting with low expectations is how I weather storms such as these. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is what I try to make the center of my life, not the church. There is so much outside the church that is uplifting, edifying and joyful.

    No matter where I go in life, people disappoint me (and I often disappoint myself). Only a fool would expect anything different from the people run, and inhabit, the church.

  164. Eve of Destruction says:

    Clark, I’m sure they do invite priesthood leaders to filter information to them in various ways. But I said scriptures, experience, and input from others, and I said I don’t move forward until all are in agreement. Look at John F’s many comments about scriptures and doctrines that aren’t in accord, and Julie M. Smith’s lists at T&S for examples of possible input based on experience that she was able to put together in a remarkably short time. So whatever the brethren did to gather input, there are still some really faithful members scratching their heads, which means that the brethren moved forward when not everyone was on the same page yet. It’s like me on my mission, I certainly tried to “resolve concerns” in a way that invited feedback, but if I forged ahead when there were still some unresolved concerns, there was always a mess waiting for me. A mess of my own making, that I needed to apologize for my role in causing.

    “We regret the actions of an individual member” is not what I’m talking about. Think about what you were taught in Primary about taking responsibility for wrong actions as part of the repentance process. “I regret the actions of my sibling” doesn’t cut it. How about: “we failed to hold up our end of the bargain. The buck stops with us. We are sorry for the pain we caused.” That would have been the sort of apology that might possibly make some faithful members think wow, the brethren really are as fallible as I am.

  165. “I think the situation here is the brethren don’t think they are making a mistake.”

    Clark, they never do. That is why their letter yesterday was styled as a “clarification” instead of a “correction,” the implication being that if we were as spiritually attuned as they are, such a “clarification” would not have been necessary.

    Church leaders talk in the abstract about the possibility that they could make a mistake, and they’re willing to throw their predecessors under the bus when it’s expedient to do so (e.g., Brigham Young and the priesthood ban), but to actually take ownership of a blunder, to admit that perhaps they hadn’t thought through a decision carefully enough? Not gonna happen. Ever.

  166. Clark Goble:

    It’s also simply incorrect to say the church doesn’t apologize.

    Elder Oaks disagrees:

  167. Indeed. Except when we do.

  168. Clark Goble says:

    As the thread you linked to noted, there are lots of examples of apologies. I confess I’m still not sure what Elder Oaks meant. An other interesting one was Pres. Hinkley apologizing for racism.

    I think it’s just demonstrably wrong that the brethren never think they make a mistake. Even a quick google finds many examples as did that linked to thread.

    Regarding requiring consensus for change – with a large body that means no change. You’ll never have consensus. I just don’t think that an appropriate way to make decisions.

  169. Eve of Destruction says:

    Oh wow, we are really getting into the weeds of what it means to apologize. I am talking about a specific situation in answer to Clark’s question. What would it take, to get those members who treat the brethren as if they were infallible, to really get on a deep level that the brethren are every bit as fallible as they are? If you think the right way to confess and take responsibility to those whom you sinned against is “maybe that was counterproductive for what we wish to achieve” then I don’t know what to say. But what I learned in Primary, was you take full responsibility by saying, “I’m sorry. That was my fault. I was wrong.” Since the membership has never heard the brethren do *that* and since individual members find themselves doing that pretty frequently when they screw up, and leadership lottery winners sometimes hear it from low-level leaders when they screw up, of course they think the brethren aren’t screwing up as much as they and their local leaders are. Maybe the brethren do that kind of “o wretched man that I am” style of repentance in their private prayers, I have no idea–but the membership does not hear them do it, and that’s why so much of the membership continues to think the brethren have no need to do it.

  170. Eve of Destruction says:

    Clark, it’s fine if they don’t govern by consensus. They just need to be *inspired* to act unilaterally, and that’s why some members assume the policy was inspired. Or if they act unilaterally without inspiration, then when they see the hurt and damage, they should say I am so sorry for the hurt I caused, I will try to undo it.

  171. This whole fiasco has been for me another shove towards the door. I never thought that I would feel ashamed of my Mormon heritage, or seriously consider simply not going to church anymore. I fear that all this handwringing and agonizing – in which I participate – is completely internal to the progressive niche of the church, but that from now on when people outside the church notice or think of us, it will either be with revulsion at our blatant bigotry, or even worse agreement with it, neither of which has anything to do with the gospel of Jesus. I’ve already figured out I’ll have to go elsewhere for my spiritual nourishment. Just two weeks ago I could not have imagined that to maintain my personal integrity, I might have to give up my weekly church activity altogether.

  172. You are correct, Eve. The most church leaders have done is apologize for mistakes made in the past to which they were not a party (e.g., Mountain Meadows Massacre, racism, some bureaucrat who inadvertently allowed holocaust victims to be baptized, etc.). And some of those apologies are so carefully worded, they sound hollow.

    Clark, men who tell you that they are wholly incapable of leading you astray will never admit to making a mistake of any consequence.

  173. Clark Goble says:

    FarSide, the quote is lead the church astray. And you’re wrong on this further point to. Bruce R. McConkie is a prime example of repudiating things he’s said.

  174. scott roskelley says:

    In the clarification by Otterson he references Holland’s talk on cost and blessings of discipleship. Similar to Oak’s talk on Love and Law, and then Christofferson’s explanation that his ministry is motivated by love for the Savior, that “He [the Savior] wants people to be helped and fed and lifted, and that’s the whole motivation that underlies our effort.” When I study the Savior’s teachings, he spoke out against many kinds of sin which emerge from within – from a person’s heart including “evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.” He also spoke out against greed and self-indulgence, hypocrisy and lawlessness, and against causing “one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck.” So my question is why Christ did not speak out explicitly against gays who love someone of the same gender? In Luke 10 if we understand the teachings of Christ we could easily replace the samaritan with a married homosexual and the parable still works.

  175. Eve of Destruction says:

    Clark, I think what Elder McConkie said by way of repudiation was “forget everything I ever said…”? Is that how you take responsibility? Or is that how you move on without ever addressing the specific harm you caused and it’s hurtful effects on real people?

  176. Eve, further to your point, even after the 1978 revelation McConkie continued to publish his race-based theories for the priesthood ban. Armand Mauss, in his excellent work, “The LDS Church and the Race Issue: A Study in Misplaced Apologetics,” states:

    “Ironically, the doctrinal folklore that many of us thought had been discredited, or at least made moot, through the 1978 revelation continued to appear in Elder McConkie’s own books written well after 1978, and continues to be taught by well-meaning teachers and leaders in the Church to this very day.”

    Sometimes wrong, but never in doubt. Not quite what I look for in an apology.

  177. I was going to respond to several comments on the previous thread but the new clarification has closed that off. To those who spoke of the church stopping its growth because of this, do you still feel that way? Many people spoke up with a major misunderstanding of the history of organized religion over the past 60+years. Liberal denominations have consistently lost membership, while many more conservative denominations have grown. Embracing liberalism by an institutional church leads to major loss of membership and there have been no major denominations that have shown an ability to reverse this.
    I predict that the LDS church will continue to grow over the next 10-20 years. The exact nature of the growth, I cannot foresee.

  178. Eve of Destruction says:

    All the liberal denominations had or are still having big internal arguments over women’s ordination, or gay rights, or both. Those churches had/have their ways of handling the fallout. The Mormons are handling it their way. But in both cases, the hurt feelings from seeing one’s own denomination at its worst can be devastating to individual church attendance, participation, and donation.

    The Evangelicals may argue as much as anyone else within congregations or on blogs and such, but they hop from congregation to congregation freely. Kind of like moving to a ward that’s a better fit, except they can attend without having to move because they don’t have the “ward boundaries” concept. Most importantly, there isn’t an overarching organization for them to get disillusioned with. They’re not going to get mad at Evangelicalism, because there’s nothing there; they’ll only get mad at their pastor and go find a new one. I suspect Evangelical growth will outpace both the LDS church and the mainline denominations due to this flexibility.

  179. I think the growth in North America and Europe will be stagnant (it pretty much already is). The Kate Kelly excommunication and the church’s stance on gay marriage will hurt its efforts to recruit—and retain—millennials, who are becoming increasingly disenchanted with organized religion. As to the rest of the world, I’m uncertain.

    I’d love to see the church gain access to China and have something more than a token presence in India, but the barriers to entry are significant in those countries and are not likely to change in the near term.

  180. The LDS is the largest church in the US that is still growing. Southern Baptists have stagnated in terms of numbers and Catholics and Methodists are declining, although some immigrants are boosting the attendance in many Catholic parishes. Also note that 3 of these 4 are on the conservative side of the religious spectrum among the US Christian churches. Even the Methodists are not on the far liberal side.
    With the millennials trend toward agnosticism, even staying the same from year to year takes significant effort. Teaching the tried and true gospel message as much as possible is the best way to still grow and spread the good news. I know a church that is well known for their missionary effort around the world… They also are on the front lines in the effort to maintain the basic biblical values in our society.

  181. Clark Goble says:

    Eve, I raised it as an example of saying one was wrong and repudiating what one has said. I did not raise it as an example of apology. My point is just that people are raising generalization which are demonstrably false. To show them false I need only point out a counterexample. From what I can tell despite these counterexamples people prefer to maintain the false generalizations.

  182. While this thread is still open, I want to second something that commenter reaneypark wrote a couple of days ago. The fumbling of the SSM policy is the second time in the last few months that the Church has had a major fiasco because it released a document that was not vetted properly. (The first time was the tempest over the Boy Scouts.) These blunders needlessly damaged both people and programs in the Church. The damage is likely to be lasting. These are not mistakes that leaders of an organization like the Church ought to be making. In fact, it suggests incompetent management somewhere in the system – especially when it looks like they didn’t learn from the first mistake. I’m concerned about this. My prayers for the brethren right now include this apparent problem of mismanagement.

  183. Eve of Destruction says:

    No, Clark. You’re interpreting my statements in the broadest possible fashion rather than in the spirit intended. This allows you to paint my statements as ballooning overgeneralizations that only need a pinprick from you to be deflated as false. But if you chose to receive what I’m saying in the spirit it’s intended, it would explain what you’re asking about: “Especially when so many have been on missions where they had to depend upon revelation regularly….Maybe it’s a perception that somehow things are different for the Apostles. But if so I’m not sure why they’d think that.”

    The type of full-responsibility-taking and heartfelt forgiveness-seeking I did when I inadvertently offended mission companions, investigators, or members. The sincere and humble contrition my mission president showed when he apologized at zone conference for changing a mission rule without having gotten enough input to understand the impact of it, and then changed it back within two months; we do not see that *same level* of forgiveness-seeking from the brethren. We see a pale shadow of it from them on occasion, good on you for proving that, though I never denied it. But the fact that they do not exhibit the same level of vocal cognizance of wrongdoing that we exhibit at the lowest levels–not in depth and not in frequency–explains why so many members continue to think the brethren are slightly imperfect, sure, yet somehow closer to God than the rest of us.

  184. Eve, I think what church leaders so often fail to realize is that the vast majority of members (especially people like you and me) would not lose respect for them if they were to publicly admit that they screwed and take ownership of their, and the institution’s, blunders. Indeed, the exact opposite is true—my respect for them would be enhanced. When a church leader assures me that he will never lead me astray, I count my spoons. But a guy who fesses up to his mistakes and says he’ll try to do better the next time, him I will follow to hell and back, though I will always retain my agency to question the wisdom of his subsequent decisions.

    (By the way Clark, you are wrong: the original quote, as uttered by President Woodruff in 1890 is: ““The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead YOU astray.” And it has been expanded over the years to not just apply to the prophet but the individual apostles as well. Interestingly, President Woodruff never claimed that the Lord told him this; rather, this was something he came up with in an effort to prevent a schism within the church as a result of his decision to abandon polygamy—a practice that all of his predecessors had promised the membership would never be taken from the earth, that the Lord would not permit it.)

  185. Clark Goble says:

    FarSide, you’re right on the quote. My mistake. I was thinking of a different quote by Benson. I’d still argue that it deals with the big picture rather than any small error. But you’re right that quote doesn’t establish that.

    Eve, I think different apostles have acted differently. I think though that often they just don’t think they’ve made the types of mistakes you think they have made. But I fully agree I think it’d be helpful to be clear where they have made mistakes and take ownership. However I also think that individual apostles have done what you want even if not on the particular issues you want them to.

    Tom, I do agree that there is something wrong in how these statements are getting crafted. Obviously I don’t know the process behind the scenes but someone should be looking these over and trying to see how they might be misinterpreted.

    El Oso, it’s a bit more complex than that. For one “church” doesn’t necessarily apply within Protestantism the way we think of our faith as a Church. (Switching from say a southern baptist congregation to a non-denominational congregation really isn’t much of a switch, for instance) I will be very intrigued to see what the next ARIS survey shows about religion though. The last survey was in 2008 so we’re getting close to the time when they’ll be doing an other one I’d imagine. Looking at 2008 “generic Christian” is the fastest growing group. Pentecostals are also growing faster than LDS. (3.2% in 1990 to 3.5% in 2008 considered grouped together and 1.8% to 2.4% considered formally) We’ve more or less maintained our relative population (1.4% to 1.4%) Buddhism went from 0.2% to 0.5% and Muslims went from 0.3% to 0.6%. And of course the Nones went from 8.2% to 15%.

  186. Eve of Destruction says:

    “I think though that often they just don’t think they’ve made the types of mistakes you think they have made.” I’m referring to this type of mistake, no more no less (Clark’s words again): “Especially when so many have been on missions where they had to depend upon revelation regularly. I’d have hoped that many have been in leadership positions, told to listen to the spirit as a guide and yet are surprised that things aren’t done correctly the first time.” I must be misreading you, because the only people I’ve personally encountered who didn’t think they made such mistakes on a regular basis were a few immature blindspotted elders and one rogue bishop. I’m sure you’re not accusing the apostles of being like them.

    “However I also think that individual apostles have done what you want even if not on the particular issues you want them to.” I never said I want them to apologize on particular issues, I only responded to your examples. I said if they don’t apologize with the same frequency and depth of contrition as ordinary members and low-level leaders when they make the same kind of mistakes, then many members are going to assume that they don’t need to apologize as often, due to not making as many of those mistakes, due to greater access to inspiration.

    “But I fully agree I think it’d be helpful to be clear where they have made mistakes and take ownership” I’m going to call this a win! Clark Goble agrees with me! I’m bowing out of this conversational thread now.

  187. Clark Goble says:

    Eve, I think the majority of those types of mistakes an apostle would make would, as with me on my mission, be private situations. For public situations where a lot more consensus is needed I just don’t think it happens as often. Now don’t get me wrong there are cases where I think apostles in the past should have apologized for personal action and didn’t. But that seems a different question from what I was addressing.

    Regarding the examples, I just was giving an example of apostles apologizing and repudiating statements. Nothing more or less. That is they were examples to invalidate a general claim. Your point about apostles setting a good example on the issue I’d agree with. I can but say my experience with general authorities is that they seem pretty concerned with this. The examples where they didn’t seem more tied to more political issues where clearly they didn’t think them wrong in a way they need to apologize for. So for instance McConkie never apologized to George Pace as far as I know, and a few other examples of that type. However maybe I’m just being naive but those examples seem precisely the exception rather than the rule. I think with McConkie for good or bad he truly felt he was right on that and a few related issues like evolution. Maybe it’s just me but I really don’t expect someone to apologize to me if they think they’re right even if they’re wrong. So I agree apostles should be setting the example and I think most do. Even those like McConkie that don’t usually have other strengths and are an exception due to a certain role they play. (More recently Packer played a similar role and bothered a lot of people with not apologizing for many conflicts) I don’t consider myself to be in a place to criticize them simply because looking back at my life I see far too many places I’ve not apologized when I probably should have. So I’ll avoid the hypocrisy charge and merely agree with the goal and recognize we fall short.

  188. Wheat Woman: “Regardless, I think the policy will be discarded in the future and it’ll be explained by the same sorts of arguments that always accompany change in our church.” Rest assured that our tone will be self-congratulatory when this happens.

  189. Clark,
    Yes, we have not grown much in the USA relative to the population in the recent past. Most other large denominations have actually fallen in absolute numbers.
    I just see the LDS maintaining slow growth in the USA, contrary to the overall population trends against organized religion that you cite. The only fast growing Christian group you cite is a broad array of actual organizations and is quite conservative. The muslims and buddhists are growing quickly, but primarily through immigration. I suspect that hindus are also growing quickly due to expanded immigration from India.

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