Nov 5

screen-shot-2015-11-06-at-11-00-03-amLast November, the Church abruptly changed the Handbook of Instructions. It added being in a same-sex marriage to the definition of apostasy. It also stated that children of married (or cohabitating) same-sex parents cannot receive a name and a blessing, be baptized, ordained, or serve a mission without First Presidency approval, and even then on conditions that the child (1) is committed to living the doctrines of the church, disavowing the practice of same-sex cohabitation and marriage; and (2) is of legal age and not living “with a parent who has lived or currently lives” in a same-sex marriage or cohabitation.

I do not personally agree with this policy change. I think it was wrong. I do not understand how this is what God wants from His Church, and I don’t ascribe this to God. I have tried, but I can’t get an answer that this is right.

These are my personal views, which should not be ascribed to anyone else. I simply felt the need to publicly describe my feelings on the topic. While I believe this policy is wrong, I do not believe the Brethren are without God’s light and knowledge. It’s complicated. I desperately love this Church, but I don’t think Mormonism requires that we all agree with everything that comes out of Salt Lake.

Friends of mine have expressed their opinions already, at BCC and elsewhere. Ronan in particular has written some very powerful things, which have weighed on my mind enormously:

No

Behold the Broken Camel

How Abrahamic Tests Work

Don’t Reap Me Bro

I am figuring out what it means to be an active LDS person who does not agree with this policy. A number of people feel lost and dismayed by this policy, and you may see some more posts at BCC about searching for Mormon identity in this new world. I must find a way to survive and even thrive in a Church that I love, even if I cannot agree with everything the Church does. I am not leaving; I am trying to find my way. I’m hoping that by writing about this, I can set the stage for navigating it all a little more clearly.

Thanks for your understanding.

Comments

  1. I don’t like this policy. I sure love the Church though. I’ve kind of just put this policy on the shelf for a bit. Not sue if I’m wrong on this and need to come around, or if the policy will change.

    I fear in some ways the gay issue is being used as a grenade . LGBT folks deserve a voice, but in many critics are using disluk of this policy as a Trojan horse to destroy faith and treat the leaders of the Church unfairly.

    Thanks for bringing this up and framing it respectfully.

  2. Shelving things is a way of dealing with them. I’ve shelved lots of things and sometimes I think that’s exactly the right thing to do, especially when the other option is to just blow it all up. I don’t want to destroy faith. I want to understand how my own will function (and grow) in this environment.

  3. Steve. Amen.

  4. Thanks Steve. It has been so vital to me to be able to actively work through new definitions and parameters together with other people who still find some beautiful things in mormonism, but don’t agree with everything.

  5. Yes. These are my people, and I know no other way than to forge on into the headwind that this has created, with a hope that somehow, we’ll come out the other side.

  6. Doug Rollins says:

    The 1st Presidency and the 12 aren’t infallible, but I believe they got this one right. I was sick when I first read it, but then about 30 minutes later I had an experience that made me think maybe I had it wrong…maybe. The next morning I got my answer that it was in fact the right decision. So for me, it’s been a very faith promoting experience. That said, I know a lot of people have genuinely struggled with this one.

  7. To paraphrase and expand a prior comment from Ronan – when LGBT persons are so far removed from God’s economy that we are required to deny the sacraments to even their straight children, how is the same God also “weeping” for them? I’m afraid that the secondary victims of the policy are the Church’s own teachings.

  8. Since I heard about this change, I decided to take a bit of a break from church. I asked for a release from my calling and I haven’t attended church since Christmas. I can’t say this is the only reason I have done so, but I am still processing a lot of mixed feelings that I have on this and so many other matters about the church. There is a lot about the church that I hold dear and I have had some wonderful experiences at church. I can’t say that this is the right approach for everyone, but I think it was the right choice for me. I’m not ready to come back yet. Maybe soon, I don’t know.

  9. Doug, I dunno. Your experience suggests to me a variety of responses here.

  10. For me, the new policy doesn’t pass the “As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” test. And while I am sure that the Brethren adopted the Handbook changes in order to protect the Church (the justification that it was done to protect children simply doesn’t make sense), I fear that more damage has been done by the new policy among the faithful rank and file than would have occurred had a very small number of children from LDS-friendly SSM homes been allowed to be blessed, baptized, confirmed, and ordained. I grew up during the days of the Priesthood/Temple Ban and I take comfort in the experience of a friend of similar age who reported that when she was young, her father told her, “We don’t believe that withholding the priesthood from Blacks is right, and we will never defend that policy, but we’re not going to leave the Church over it either. Eventually, it will change.” That is my faith as well on this issue.

  11. I have no issue with the policy. Given my understanding of how God has always dealt with his children and what he expects of us I see no reason that this couldn’t be ascribed to God. I’m not looking for an argument, just thought that the brethren deserve some support on this issue and that they aren’t very likely to get it with this OP.

    Well written and respectful Steve.

  12. Putting things on the proverbial shelf is a valid approach while one navigates their faith journey. This issue, however, is one that cannot go on the shelf. Unlike other popular topics that have become permanent fixtures on our collective sills, such as polyandry, magic origins, etc., this one has real consequences right now. For other shelf items we have the luxury of time to sort out what is essentially a mental exercise, but The Policy is creating hurt today. As you’re reading this, there are LGBT members that are thinking about this and hearing “You are not welcome. You are not worthy. You are not good enough.” As you’re reading this, some of our LGBT siblings in the gospel who are contemplating taking their lives because they cannot bear another day of hearing the church has no room for them. As someone who deals with this every day, I can tell you there’s nothing more heartbreaking.

    We don’t have the luxury of time, of waiting it out. We have to wake up and do something more than dream of our mansions above. We have to tackle this issue head on, today.

    Thank you, Steve, for teeing up the topic.

  13. Jax, the Brethren get plenty of support, including from yours truly.

  14. Jessica says:

    I have struggled for years with doctrine I believe to be true and where that places everyone else that doesn’t fit into the perfect family mode. When this policy was released, I felt sick. Besides being unnecessary to single out a particular group of people (a general policy about minors living in situations where the parents aren’t members and not supportive would have covered it), the language used was so harsh. If there was somewhere else to go, I probably would have gone, but there is no where else that has the depth of doctrine and understanding of our purpose or our relationship with God. I can’t give those things up. I finally decided it will all one out right in the end, and if it isn’t right, then it isn’t the end. Until then, our job is to be the body of Christ. We are called to love and serve all our brothers and sisters. We are called to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort. Someday we will have a perfect understanding of this situation and see why things had to be this way. Until then, I continue on in faith with love and concern for all those negatively impacted by this policy change.

  15. I continue to attend church weekly, to pay an honest tithe and fast offering, to hold substantial callings. But I believe that this policy is repugnant and offensive. I truly don’t know what to do. It makes me feel that I may not belong in the church. Still I attend.

  16. Mortimer says:

    HDP, amen.
    Doug, you make me want to scream. Your experience is no more valid or invalid than others who similarly prayed about it and feel it’s wrong. Citing something that you won’t describe helps no one and is not a testimony. Similarly, the brethren don’t get to drop a bomb like this without testifying. ’cause I said so” is not a testimony.

    I can’t digest the policy because it contradicts several explicit instructions from the savior and scripture including “suffer not the little children”, not denying baptism to the repentant, and the golden rule. In order to go against explicit instructions from the Savior, the circumstances need to be extremely exceptional and a rationale is needed (e.g. Nephi and Laban). Until that time, just as a full house beats two 3s in poker, the Savior beats any of today’s servants, or any brother or sister citing, “because I said so”.

  17. Tiberius says:

    At the outset I should note that I don’t have a particular problem with this policy, as least not any more than I had one with the previous policy for polygamous children. There are some Church issues that one struggles with while still trying to retain Church activity and faith, and this doesn’t make it on the list for me personally.

    What I’m wondering is why people weren’t going through these existential Church crises with the policy for the children of polygamist parents? The rhetoric surrounding the discomfort with this policy is that it targets the children who are not responsible for the sins of their parents. Under this logic, assuming that Bob, the bright friendly child who loves basketball and has [polygamist] deserves baptism as much as Bob, the bright friendly child who loves basketball and has [same-sex] parents, what you stick in the brackets shouldn’t matter.

    This was brought home last week when a family friend from a polygamist family was finally baptized after nearly 30 years of attending seminary, church, etc. with hardly a peep from the online discussion community about her personal situation.

    I may be wrong, but I get the sense that much of the gnashing of teeth isn’t so much because of the “sins of the fathers,” logic–otherwise we’d have seen the exact same response with the children of polygamist parents–but rather because the Church engaged in “costly signaling” that demonstrated that they were indeed serious about maintaining the heteronormativity of the Church. For individuals that saw same-sex union recognition in the Church as some direction of history inevitability that they needed to simply wait out, it was a clear signal that that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. The fact that responses to The Policy conflate the “sins of the parents” with a barely disguised “this is no sin” argument I think shows the different rationales at play here, and some on the liberal side were getting a little optimistic with their “this too will pass” attitude towards the Church’s considering of same-sex behavior as a sin.

    Just my two cents for what they’re worth in a thread that I’m sure will explode with posts.

  18. Tiberius, good question – for my part, it wasn’t until November 5 that I learned of the way we treat polygamous families.

  19. Deborah Christensen says:

    What crossed my mind when this policy came out is that this is merely a policy. While I love policies and procedures and appreciate there usefulness in a system, it should have no impact on my behavior towards any person. It doesn’t justify any form of abuse on my part. This new policy is an opportunity for me to examine my actions towards any who don’t fit the mold.
    Shortly after this new policy was announced I was made the primary secretary. This change reminded me to remember all the kids regardless of their home life. I have a couple of families that attend two or more different wards due to divorce. I make sure the are included as much as possible. I haven’t found any children not attending due to the new policy. But I’m still on the look out.

  20. The policy forbidding ordinances to children of polygamous families was wrong as well, though it got much less attention because there are many fewer polygamists than LGBT people, and because outside of the Intermountain West Mormon-heritage polygamy is virtually nonexistent. But in any case, polygamy and legal same -sex marriage are not equivalent situations since only SSM is legally recognized; since same-sex attraction is not a cultural artifact that is passed from parents to children or from primary children to others in the ward; since same-sex marriage is not a vestige of former LDS practices with potential justifications from scriptures and past prophets; since same-sex couples do not claim higher priesthood authority than current Church leaders; and since same-sex couples are not organized into underground religious networks or rival churches. Same-sex marriage is not the existential threat to the Church that unauthorized polygamy once was. The idea that same-sex couples and polygamists qualify equally for the label of “apostate,” and hence their children must be treated in the same way, doesn’t hold up to rational analysis. And that sort of analysis itself doesn’t hold up to simple compassion. I teach the eight-year-old CTRs in our ward and I know what baptism means to children of that age.

  21. Tiberius,

    I’ve heard a lot of people paralleling the new policy to a similar policy regarding polygamy. And there are parallels. But one thing we are missing in these discussions, at least as Handbook 1 reads is that the new policy is more stringent.

    If you read the above, compare it to the text of the polygamy restriction, which says: “Children of parents who have practiced or are practicing plural marriage contrary to the law must receive approval from the First Presidency before they may be baptized and confirmed. The mission president may request this approval from the Office of the First Presidency when he is satisfied that all three of the following requirements are met: 1. The children accept the teachings and doctrines of the church. 2. The children repudiate the teachings upon which their parents based their practice of plural marriage. 3. Minor children are not living in a home where polygamy is being taught or practiced.”

    Does that mean a blanket policy should be enacted for children of polygamous policies? No. And one was not. The First Presidency is the final say in making the call of whether or not a child should be blessed, baptized, etc. as they consider each case individually because denying such to children is a pretty big First Presidency-sized deal.

    There is no similar wiggle room regarding children of SSM or cohabiting couples, which means no gift of Holy Ghost during the years they very likely need it (and a myriad of other blessings we tout as the most important things ever for people throughout our church services).

    When they are adults, then things can change but as it is written the way is completely shut for children.

  22. Tiberius says:

    @ Alan: I agree and disagree with some of your comments about polygamist and same-sex families, but instead of going through them point by point, I’ll just point out that none of them are relevant if reservations about the policy is arising out of a “sin of the fathers” rationale. The CTRs in your ward know what baptism means to children of their age–whether they’re coming from polygamist or same-sex households. Again, it seems like much of your argument is based on a “same-sex households aren’t sinful” premise (e.g. “the idea that same-sex couples…qualify equally for the label “apostate.”) I can respect that argument, but then make that your argument! If you’re operating off of different premises than the FP and Q12 regarding the sinfulness of homosexual behavior, then you’ll just be talking past them.

    I didn’t want to be mean and accuse people of bad faith, but the reality is that I had a hard time taking the concerns of visiting the sins of the fathers on the heads of the parents as sincere when it was clear that they didn’t see the parents as being sinful. I would respect that argument more if the argument was being made either by 1) people like Steve who weren’t aware of the polygamous policy until last year and are willing to interchange the same-sex brackets with polygamist brackets, and/or 2) people who believe that same-sex sexual behavior is sinful. There’s not much point invoking the “sins of the fathers” argument if you believe that the fathers aren’t in fact sinning.

    I don’t want to threadjack this post and turn it into one on the polygamy thread, I just wanted to point out why I’ve had a hard time getting worked up about this.

  23. Tiberius, is part of the reason you’re not worked up because you’re straight? Do you have any LGBTQ friends or family? Wondering if that is a factor. My personal story has been pretty deeply informed by gay friends and family.

  24. Loursat says:

    Good comments on Tiberius’s question. Here’s one more reaction:

    The anguish over polygamy happened a long time ago. There is no longer a living memory of the immense upheaval and destruction that the Manifesto caused. It took two generations to establish that polygamy had no place in the mainstream church, and now those generations are gone. What is left is a settled understanding that the church will do what is necessary to preserve its separateness from those who practice polygamy.

    However, the question about how the church should address LGBTQ issues is very much unsettled. The church’s position on these issues is in flux. Considering the church’s halting movement—and sometimes incompetent public messaging—on these issues, it seems to me very likely that there is meaningful internal disagreement among the church’s most senior leaders. It’s no surprise that members would be confused and disappointed in these circumstances.

    I’d rather have the present confusion and disappointment if the alternative is an attempt by the general authorities to just shut down the whole conversation. We’re going through this because the church’s previous positions on these issues were inadequate. Let’s endure the pain if that’s what it takes to find better answers.

  25. There is a very significant difference between the policy in regards to children of SS couples and the children of polygamous families. At least as I understand it. I don’t doubt that the SS couple policy was based on the polygamous family policy and thus I think it was likely that our church leaders were surprised at the strong emotional response to the new policy.

    Here is the difference:

    For some period of time, polygamous families were seen as the “enemy within.” That is, polygamous members wanted to maintain their membership in the church WHILE continuing to maintain and add to their polygamous relationships. Moreover, there were instances of polygamous families trying to use temple ceremonies to “legitimize” their relationships. (For the next comment, keep in mind that I am almost 60 years old and grew up in SLC.) When I was growing up, from time to time, a polygamous family would be “outed.” It would be learned that some family that seemed otherwise “normal” were in fact under-the-radar polygamists. We suddenly learned that Brother So-and-so had three families, and that he had been quietly recruiting for his secret relationship even while he continued to teach Gospel Doctrine, or work for the CES.

    Thus, there was a sense that there were polygamous families that were living in and among us, secretly, and that they were using their church membership to keep their life-style mainstream. (There were of course other polygamous families that lived and maintained outside mainstream Mormonism, as today.)

    With this in mind, our church leaders took great care to make sure that children of these polygamous families were not aiming to use their church status as a way to get into the temple, or as some sort of way to maintain their membership and their life-style. (Thus they couldn’t live at home, and had to announce their disapproval of the lifestyle.)

    I see no parallel to this among our SS couples. First, it isn’t possible to maintain such a relationship “under the radar.” I know of no instances of SS couples trying to use temple rites for “sealing.”

    There is another reason why the comparison fails: Because of our unusual history and heritage our church leaders continue to be supersensitive to polygamy. They go to great lengths to separate ourselves from “them.”

    Thus, the hostility or wariness extended to children of polygamists is understandable (although likely not really justified today.) The church is not “haunted” by a period of time in the 1800s when a large number of members lived in SS relationships, at first in a state of public denial, and later openly. We also do not have a current history of members maintaining SS households secretly.

    Thus, the comparison significantly fails. We have no “baggage” of wide-spread and now dis-avowed SS couples from the past. And we have no known instances of secrecy being used to maintain and recruit further “converts” as has been the case with polygamy.

    It is still an awful policy, as stated nicely by Mortimer, above.

    I believe that you can almost hear the “Gospel Topics” essay about this policy being written. Such an essay will be written someday when the Church will need to separate itself from such a un-Christ-like policy.

  26. “I am not leaving; I am trying to find my way.” — Best wishes on your journey, Steve. As a fellow traveler (aren’t we all?) may I suggest that there are quite a few signposts. This post is one of them. Resigning? (Clearly not.) Sustaining? Callings? Teaching? (In the classroom? In your home?) Speaking for or against or in avoidance? Carrying out the policy? (Active, as in summoning to a disciplinary council, or passive, as in not baptizing?) There are few easy answers. You’ve staked out a position that’s neither all in nor all out. Some will say “don’t”; some will argue that such a position doesn’t exist; I simply applaud and wish you well and sympathize.

  27. Tiberius says:

    @EmJem: I wasn’t aware of that subtle but important distinction. Most of the anxiety I’ve noticed, however, has stemmed from the “disavowal” language, which is still there. Still, that is an important distinction.

    @ Steven Evans: For what it’s worth, I am a privileged straight, white, male, and have no idea if I’d stay in the Church if I were gay. I have several gay relatives and friends, (and one asexual relative–another interesting sexual demographic in the Church!), as well as that polygamous one. However, I’ve noticed that there’s a double standard with the appeal to minority associates, since if somebody conservative is making the argument it becomes a joke (“some of my best friends are gay!”). So either the fact that you know members of the group you’re discussing matters or it doesn’t, regardless of the position. The ones I do have all left because the’ve recognized the intrinsic heteronormativity in the Church that served as the logical extension of the policy.

  28. Tiberius says:

    Correction, “that the policy served as a logical extension of”

  29. Tiberius, my point is neither liberal nor conservative – simply that familiarity leads to empathy. And empathy on this matter leads to a conclusion that it is not right.

  30. Christian – I don’t know. With respect to the Church, I’m “all in”; I believe in it and intend to remain active. I’ll have to think about how it works.

  31. Tiberius says:

    @ Loursat: I think they’ve been misreading the tea leaves, but that’s my opinion. I see no evidence that the brethren are seriously considering same-sex temple sealings (the logical final result of getting rid of all heteronormativity in the Church) anytime soon.

    I suspect that such beliefs might be more harmful than good in the same sense that conversion therapy does more harm than good. It inculcates a false sense that things might change when in reality everybody might be better served assuming that they’re going to stay gay and the Church is going to stay heteronormative, and base their life decisions on those premises, instead of getting hurt time and time again. The Church has been nothing if not clear that the heteronormative premises themselves aren’t going to change. You may disagree, but you can’t say that they haven’t made a point of being clear about it.
    @ mortimer: I get the historical baggage associated with polygamy, and I agree with much of your logic, but I can’t help but notice that for many of your statements you could simply exchange “polygamous” for “same-sex,” and it still works ( That is, *** members wanted to maintain their membership in the church WHILE continuing to maintain…their *** relationships. Moreover, there were instances of **** families trying to use temple ceremonies to “legitimize” their relationships.) Again, it hinges on the premise of whether the Church should legitimize same-sex relationships.

  32. Tiberias, I appreciate your gentle pushback, but just to be clear, 1) I have known about the polygamy policy for more than two decades because I have been in several bishoprics over the years, I have had authorized access to Handbook 1, and I was the kind of counselor who tried to follow the Handbook closely. But living outside the Book of Mormon belt, I have never been in a ward, or even a stake, with any polygamous members. 2) I do believe that same-sex sexual activity is a sin, but not all sin rises to the level of apostasy, and it’s that equivalence that triggers the “children punished for the sins of their parents” situation that is the subject of this blogpost. (Or “children denied blessings and ordinances because of the sins of their parents” if you want to be more precise.) The two issues are not separable, which is why both of them were included in the recent changes.

  33. All, I guess I’m not really interested in debating the merits or origins of the policy. It exists, it is devastating to many and we are living with it. I am interested in discussing how we live as Mormons with that policy in place. Let’s move the discussion along, please.

  34. To get back to the point of the OP, it seems to me that the way forward for faithful Latter-day Saints who are bothered by the Policy, and who value their church activity and associations, is trust, patience, reaching out to those affected, and a willingness to openly express concerns, especially when those expressions of concern will be seen in the context of years of faithful activity and service.

  35. Well said, Steve. Both the original post and your subsequent comments. Best of luck with your journey (bon voyage).

  36. Thank you all for your respectful approach to this tender topic. Let me tease out one more component to the discussion: individual action. Whether we think this policy is a huge deal or an overblown straw man, whether we think it’s divinely inspired or a product of mortal biases, I think we all agree on one thing: the impact it has had is to cause people to mourn, it has burden people with the idea they don’t belong, has caused discomfort within our family.

    We have all covenanted to mourn with, comfort those, and bear the burdens of these individuals. How do we do that? What specific actions do we take to lighten the load of those impacted? Irrespective of our belief on The Policy, this is one area we should all be in hearty agreement, that we must act, individual to individual. How do you comfort those who stand in need of comfort? How do you bear their burdens?

  37. Loursat says:

    Tiberius:
    The whole situation as it stands now, is a much more complex leadership problem than you acknowledge. It is not possible for LDS leaders simply to say that the church will be “heteronormative” and that’s the end of it. As soon as one admits that our previous policy of complete intolerance (a policy that we shared with everyone else in the mainstream culture) is unacceptable, one must begin to fill in the details. The current anguish is largely about those details: What does it mean to be both heteronormative and tolerant? Where do we draw the lines? And simply drawing the lines is not enough; one must explain persuasively why the lines go here and not there. One must persuade those like Steve Evans (and me), whose convictions about this are shaped by our empathy for loved ones. For many of us (I hope for most of us!), that kind of empathy is at the very root of our commitment to the gospel. Appeals to raw authority won’t get the job done for everyone.

    Steve:
    I live with the policy because I believe that the empathy of the saints is what roots the church. Our love is what endures, and our love will, in the long run, shape the church’s direction. I don’t know what the right policies are. I can only say that I’ve been studying and praying about homosexuality and the church for nearly thirty years, and I don’t believe the church has it right yet. Discussions like these are essential. We need our leaders and our leaders need us. These discussions help us to hear each other. Thanks for this.

  38. This hits too close to home for me to comment at length. Just want to say, Steve, that I am grateful for your post. The original heartbreak of learning about the policy has been compounded by the number of people I love who have left since it was released. It is comforting to know that there are others who believe this policy to be wrong and the church to be true and who are staying.

  39. I suspect this policy is more administrative than ecclesiastical and that the impact, while real, is actually fairly limited.

    It affects only those who are living “in defiance” of Church teachings on same sex marriage/relationships who want to take their child to the church for a name and a blessing. I suspect that is a vanishing small subset only noticeable if we include those wanting the blessing for political not religious reasons. This policy has no impact on a grandfather taking his precious grandchild and blessing it at home while surrounded by family and friends who love one another and care deeply for that child.

    What it prevents is a membership record being created for the child from the blessing certificate and all the attendant administrative hassle that could result in succeeding years. The policy also forestalls those wanting to use a Sacrament meeting blessing to make a statement about themselves rather than about the child.

    The reasoning doesn’t change merely because the child is older. Those who truly believe the Church is wrong regarding same sex relationships most likely will not seek baptism for their child unless they want to make a statement. Again, it’s them not their child that is the focus.

    The policy appears to accommodate times when the child is the focus, but you have to plan ahead.

  40. Jason Sager says:

    Great post Steve. When I learned of the change, I was extremely bothered by it and feels that it is not of God. But like you, I can’t leave the Church. It is still my tribe and family. There has been so much that is good in life as a result being a part of the Church that I can’t abandon it.

    I actually spoke to my bishop about the change during tithing settlement, which is a huge thing for me. I wanted to know how, if we now define homosexual relations as apostasy, I could answer that question in the TR interview, because I am not about to stop associating with my married gay friends. I fortunately have a very good bishop and provided some some insights.

    As with you, I am not leaving, but at the same time I can’t simply shelve this away. It just may have to be one of those things I will not be able to fully reconcile.

  41. Angela C says:

    Tiberius: Like Steve, I found out about the policy for polygamous children about three minutes before the November Policy (thanks to a blog post about a young women who was on one of those reality shows about polygamists and was denied baptism at 18 due to her celebrity). For me the key difference and where the policy causes me to feel torn up is that gay children are born into LDS families all the time. Polygamous children are not. It’s a choice to enter a polygamous marriage, but people aren’t inherently polygamous–it’s not a sexual orientation. This leaves gay people with two devastating choices: lifelong celibacy or a mixed orientation marriage (with a very high rate of divorce and all its accompanying misery); we know this is a reason many gay youth take their own lives (although I agree with E. Oaks that the motives for suicide are more complicated than one thing).

    The policy both creates mixed orientation marriages and adds stresses to them when they fail in the form of custody battles, because if the gay parent becomes the primary custody, the child’s soul is seen as literally at stake. That’s a pretty big bargaining chip to throw into the mix when family tensions are already fraught (during divorce).

    The policy actually privileges gay promiscuity over gay marriage. If you are gay and promiscuous (including a gay person in a mixed orientation marriage committing adultery), you are sinning. If you are gay and faithful to a same sex spouse, you are apostate which is considered worse than normal sin and automatically grounds for a disciplinary council. That hierarchy of sin just doesn’t make sense.

    I was too young to know what it would have been like to live under the priesthood ban, but as soon as I heard about it (about the time it was repealed in 1978) I knew it was wrong–like “did not compute” wrong (sort of like why the church fought against ERA). Likewise with this policy. Our gay young men and women deserve better options than this.

  42. Observer says:

    When I was on my mission, in my greenie area, we were teaching a family with a 9-year-old boy named Mateo (IIRC). Mateo was eager to be baptized, as was his mother. However, there was a problem. His mother was married to a man in Argentina, even as she was living with a man (with whom she had children) here in the US. Our mission president told us that we were not allowed to baptize Mateo, even with his mother’s permission, until the mother was able to get baptized as well. The reasoning was that especially with a young child, they need significant support in learning the doctrines at home, and it would be worse for the child to be baptized and then fall away for lack of support from the family.

    It broke my heart to tell him that he couldn’t get baptized at that time, but his mother wasn’t willing or able to try and divorce her husband in Argentina, and wasn’t willing to separate from her then-companion so she could get baptized (and we wouldn’t want to separate a family that way either). But, especially looking back, I recognize the wisdom of my mission president’s decision. Mateo’s family came to church one or two more times, but stopped coming shortly afterwards. To this day, I still hope and pray that he was able to find the Church later in life.

    Because of that experience, I find it hard to criticize the policy announced last November. (The way it was announced and the PR fiasco that followed is a different story entirely.) As my mission president explained to us at the time, the Church doesn’t just want people to get baptized. Baptism alone will not save them, unless they are then given the support that they need to live up to their covenants. For such people, it can be far better to have them wait, and trust that the Lord will take care of them either later in this life or in the next. He won’t penalize them for things that are beyond their control.

  43. It’s not the grown-up gays that I worry about, although many are suffering. The gay kids born to straight, deeply-committed, believing Mormon parents and they can see that their church, their Gospel?, is cutting them off from a future worth having.This is why putting this issue on the shelf doesn’t work.

    If you stay, what will you* do for gay kids growing up in Mormon families?

    And will you* be allowed by Mormon leaders to stay when you* stand up for those gay kids?

    * “You” as in the general, broader “you,” not just Steve.

  44. But me too, AuntM.

  45. The major impact for me has been a significant reduction in how much I respect the leadership of the church. This has as much to do with how they screwed up the release of the policy as much as it has to do with the actual policy itself.

    The fact that they failed to predict either the “leak” or how much backlash they’d get on this tells me that they do not, in fact, understand how things work in 2016. If they did understand how things work in 2016, they would have been better prepared to address it immediately following the leak. Their protests of “we may be old but we understand what things are like in today’s world” are no longer convincing. And the fact that the policy required a “clarification” (in fact a rather major revision) very soon after its release is also troubling.

    In fact, I’m not convinced they put much thought into this policy at all. My most generous approach is that they told one of their attorneys at Kirton McConkie to “write up a policy that treats gays like we treat polygamists.” The attorney writes up the policy, expecting back-and-forth feedback, but instead the first draft just gets thrown into the Handbook without additional oversight or edits.

  46. “As my mission president explained to us at the time, the Church doesn’t just want people to get baptized.”

    Unfortunately this claim is contradicted by decades of LDS practice. Literally decades of missionaries were trained that baptism numbers were the most important measure of religious success, and that the bar should be extremely low for baptisms. So as much as many of us would like there to be easy answers like Observer and others are trying to give, we are going to have to live with a much more complicated state of tension, particularly any of us who are actually affected by the policy, and to whom it is not an academic or administrative abstraction.

  47. AuntM, you’ve just described my family. Some have suggested the impact of The Policy is limited, because in the narrow scope it applies to few. But pulling the lens back the impact becomes widespread pretty quickly. The church I love has set in motion a chain of events that almost guarantee my grandchildren will not be part of the church. That is a direct impact on my wife and me, who are straight, cis gendered, pioneer stock, respected, privileged white folks.

    But even closer than the future, practically every Sunday we deal with the aftermath of our kid coming home from church in tears, whether it be insensitive comments, or their realization that their future offspring will not be able to do what they just did. The people in the know in the ward is a small circle of trusted friends. They see/hear these comments and situations through the lens of my kid, and I know they hurt. Last week my kid’s friend, also an LGBT teenager, took his own life. It’s an understatement to say this is devastating. For the past week this small group of friends has circled the wagons to protect my kid. These angelic people, whose connection to The Policy is, on paper, removed, have lived the pain.

    I asked earlier, what do we do? This is not rhetorical, I desperately want to know, because in my kid’s case, it’s literally a matter of life and death.

  48. dcharrison says:

    I wasn’t there when Joseph decided to lie to Emma about polygamy. I wasn’t there when Brigham decided to deny our black brothers and sisters their priesthood and temple blessings. But I was there when the 15 decided to toss innocent children into the fires of this woe-begotten campaign.

    This isn’t something that can stay on the shelf.

    Let’s set aside the question of whether this policy is inspired. There are real consequences to this policy that aren’t being addressed by anyone north of a stake president on the org charts:

    1) Queer Mormon youth—who often have no choice whatsoever—are being raised in an increasingly hostile environment. No good can come from this. And, frankly, I personally know of a couple dozen suicides committed within the confines of this freshly stoked pressure cooker.

    2) Precious doctrines are already being distorted to accommodate the moral violence of this policy. Case in point: baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost are, suddenly, less vital than they were on November 4th.

    3) The tender-hearted are withdrawing or altogether leaving. In the five weeks following the announcement of the Policy of Exclusion, my stake had 110 resignations. And for every person I know who’s resigned, I know 10 who are on life support.

  49. HDP: I’m so sorry for the loss of your kid’s friend. These losses reverberate through our communities, highlighting both the weaknesses and the strengths. Thank you for reaching out. Thank you for loving and fighting for your child.

  50. mikerharris says:

    Rabbi Lapin has an interesting response to a sensitive and controversial subject. While not of our faith and while not address the SSM handbk change, I think he has some relevant points. Here it is:

    I’m debating a Christian on Facebook about homosexuality. I asked him, “What is sex for,” hoping to approach this from a Natural Law standpoint. His response was, “Sex is for intimacy and closeness, to become one flesh. The most common byproduct of heterosexual unions is pregnancy, but this is by no means what sex is for.”

    How can I respond to this? Thanks for all your help! God bless you and your family!
    ∼ Ryan

    Dear Ryan,

    We hope you take the following answer in the spirit in which it is offered. We are not trying to be unkind, unhelpful or unsympathetic when we say, “You can’t.”

    We have sometimes given the following example: Two people have a competition to see who can cause a brick to move the farthest distance. If one of those people is standing on top of a tall building and can drop the brick from there and the other person is standing on the ground, that competition cannot be fair. A brick dropped from a height is going to go father than a brick thrown upwards by even the greatest athlete. One of them has an invisible ally called gravity.

    Facebook favors short sentiments, not deep ideas. If someone is willing to work hard to understand a concept, there are books and articles to read, material to view and listen to, and arguments to absorb. You can suggest resources to someone on Facebook, but we doubt that it is the right place to discuss sensitive and controversial subjects that demand deep analysis.

    On Passover, we talk of the questions of the four sons: one wise, one evil, one simple and one who doesn’t know how to ask. All of us are made up, in different degrees of the characteristics of all four sons. The ‘evil’ son is described as someone who tells questions rather than asks them. He isn’t interested in what you have to say; he is only intent on his own words. We shouldn’t spend time answering such a person.

    We would suggest you analyze your Facebook acquaintance. Is he a friend who is truly questioning and wants to hear opposing views? Is he someone who just likes arguing and hearing his own brilliance? Is he just a name on Facebook and you actually know nothing of his personal motivations and experiences? What about you? Are you able to truly listen or do you just want someone to listen to you? We did not see your friend’s words as an automatically outrageous statement.

    Whatever the answer, either there is no point in the conversation or it should take place in a different venue.

    We appreciate your blessings and encourage you to deepen your own understanding of natural law, God’s word, and how the world really works.

    Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin
    https://www.rabbidaniellapin.com/ask_rabbi.php#6101

  51. I’m with dcharrison. I can’t just put this on the shelf. It’s not an isolated historical curiosity like Adam-God theory. It’s actively harming people and the church. I’d feel complicit by putting it on the shelf.

    At the same time, I’m not a person from whom empathy magically flows. I don’t know how to “be there” for people or even present myself as a friend or ally. It’s not one of my strengths.

    I don’t know what to do. I feel like a coward for doing nothing.

  52. I am someone that thinks the policy is an unfortunate necessity in today’s cultural and political environment. But as far as what all of us active, believing members should do? Be more Christ-like. Love and welcome those that walk in the door, no matter their sin. Get out of our comfort zone to speak to others. Find LGBT youth and adults and put an arm around their shoulder so that even if they decide to leave at some point, they know that members do not hate them and make a genuine effort to be loving. Search your soul on how you treat those in your ward and stake.

    I think the difference between those of us posting here is that some of think these actions are contradictory to the policy and some of us do not.

  53. “Let’s set aside the question of whether this policy is inspired.”

    Ummm… no! The answer to the question of inspiration here would answer the “what do we do?” question in pretty definitive terms. If it IS inspired than we accept and follow and carry on. If not, then we return to “what do we do now?”. Putting aside the inspiration seems foolish.

  54. Olde Skool says:

    HDP: I’m so, so sorry. I’m heartbroken, sickened, and have a stupor of thought about this policy, but I’m not ready to leave the church. I want to contribute to making congregations safe spaces for families like yours.

  55. “Unfortunately this claim is contradicted by decades of LDS practice. Literally decades of missionaries were trained that baptism numbers were the most important measure of religious success, and that the bar should be extremely low for baptisms.”

    While that has certainly been true in some missions at some times, I think you are overstating it a bit to the extent that you are suggesting that this was a general church policy that is only recently being questioned. The truth is that the pendulum has swung back and forth on this issue almost from the beginning, but certainly over the past 5 decades or so, with periods of intense baptism activity with little in the way of retention, followed by periods of focus on reactivation, followed again by a periods of high baptism.

    The attitude that the church wants people to be converted before baptism has not always prevailed, but it is not exactly a new idea, either.

  56. It’s not that such actions are contradictory to the policy; it’s that they seem inadequate. But I’ not sure what else to do. It’s hard to imagine further changes coming from Salt Lake until the discomfort–as seen in declining convert numbers and retention, as well as increases in personal and family tragedies–becomes much more acute.

  57. My last comment was in response to ABM.

  58. The thing I had the hardest time with with the policy, was Elder Christofferson saying that having to wait a decade to get baptized and get the gift of the HG was essentially no big deal — that nothing would be lost if you didn’t have the HG for all that time. I just don’t know how they could say that with a straight face — it seems so contra-doctrinal. I found it deeply disturbing and offensive.

    I’ve had some good friends who were also very hurt by the policy for their own reasons, but who have found a way to put it on the shelf, feeling there is ultimately nowhere else to go. My husband and I have struggled more. I think it is because once something is presented as a revelation, but you feel it is wrong, you begin to wonder what else might be wrong and not truly inspired. The church asks so very much of us — 3 hours on Sunday, calling, tithing, Word of Wisdom, and on and on, and one can only justify saying yes to these commitments if you truly believe they came by revelation. But once you start to question that inspiration, you question what else might be simply opinion or administrative. What else really isn’t what the Lord has asked us to do, but what flawed men have.

    Obviously, the fact that there have been “revelations” that probably weren’t revelations is nothing new in our history, and I’ve been aware of past issues. But there’s something about this kind of thing coming from your current leaders that pangs you much more acutely and causes you to question everything. It just feels like once you start to pull the string, your whole ball of yarn begins to unravel.

    We’ve continued to limp on, but barely, and are really lost as to how to move forward. “Life support” is a good way to put it.

  59. Loursat says:

    I grew up in California in a thoroughly Mormon family. When I was in the fifth grade, in the mid-70’s, I had a schoolteacher I really liked and admired. One afternoon my mother told me that this teacher would be coming to dinner at our home. Awkward and weird, I thought. We had never breached the wall of separation between home and school so dramatically. I remember two things from that dinner. First, though I never quite relaxed that evening, my teacher was a gentle man, and he and my parents were comfortable with each other. I also remember that when my teacher said goodbye, he seemed genuinely grateful to have come.

    A few years later, when I understood something about what homosexuality meant, my mother told me the rest of the story. My teacher was or had been a member of the church. I don’t think he was fully out, but my parents somehow knew that he was gay, and he knew that they knew. They invited him to dinner just so they could tell him that they were grateful for his good work as a teacher and for his good influence on me. What my parents did that evening was not earthshaking, but it was so much more than most others would have done, and they did it out of love.

    The November 5 policy does not prevent us from following the dictates of love. If anything, it should prompt us to do more—to act as my parents did toward my teacher, and to teach our children as my parents taught me. Voicing doubts and questions about the policy is appropriate; agitation has its place. But the foundation for peace in these matters will be in the personal bonds we forge with people both in and out of the church. We, the church, will resolve these questions only when we who remain—or who return—know by our own experience what the path of love requires.

  60. @AuntM. Yes. You nailed it! Let’s talk about the young gay Mormons who are just coming to understand they are gay. Here is a hypothetical:

    An “orthodox” Mormon family has 5 children. One teen (let’s say 13-15 years) comes to the dreaded realization that he has same sex attraction.(This is not an unusual situation. According to some research, more gay children are born to LDS families than the national average. The Mama Dragons – an organization of mothers of LGBT Mormon kids- now has over 900 members. It has only been in existence for 3 years.) This young man is horrified. What is he to do? He keeps his awful secret deep inside. He has grown up hearing of the abomination of homosexuality. His parents have disparaged gay people in their counsel and conversations all of his life. At church every week he hears talks and lessons about Eternal Marriage (but NOT for gays), serving a mission (but NOT for gays), belonging to a righteous family in the Celestial Kingdom (but NOT for gays), even the proper principles of dating (but NOT for gays).

    This sweet young man has grown up in Primary and Mutual. He has a testimony. He loves the Savior. But he now realizes, because of the arbitrary chance of biology, he is an abomination to the Lord. What is he to do?

    Unfortunately, many of these innocents (having never acted upon their natural tendencies) are choosing to end their lives because they believe there is no place for them, either in their families or the church that they love. (FOUR young men in the last week alone – the numbers vary. Some say it’s over 30 since the November Policy. The CDC has listed suicide as the number one cause of the death of teens in Utah. It is now being labeled an epidemic.) How many children of polygamists have committed suicide because they could not be baptized? (Side note: I have been a member for almost 50 years. I don’t live in the Watsatch front. I have NEVER met a polygamist or the child of one. But I am not able to count the number of LGBT Mormons I know.)

    I am 68. I remember the restoration of Priesthood to all worthy males. I wept and rejoiced. But again I ask, how many black men committed suicide because they were denied these blessings?

    The argument is often, if these children remain alone and celibate throughout their lives, all will be added to them in the next life. To the unfinished mind of a teenager, this is not enough comfort for them. Most gay (and straight) adults feel that this is asking more of them than any other group of Heavenly Father’s children. What if all blue-eyed people were told they were an abomination to the Lord – but if they willingly blinded themselves for duration of this life they could have full blessings in the next ? If you are blue-eyed, would you be willing to do this? I cannot imagine the Savior asking my brothers and sisters to endure such pain.

    I love this church. It has been my life for almost 50 years. BUT CHILDREN ARE DYING!! Families are mourning. People are leaving. There is no time to put things on a shelf for later contemplation. PLEASE can we not find a way to include our LGBT brothers and sisters and save our kids?

  61. Trevor, as a starting point, I’ll tell you what I do, which I acknowledge is not nearly enough. Maybe it’ll prime the idea pump.

    -Assume that any group of people you’re with has LGBT people in it. Set your radar and listen to what’s going on from their point of view. Awareness is critical.
    -Monitor language, attitudes, implications. If something is said or implies that marginalizes LGBT people challenge it. Assume the LGBT people in the group feel powerless to do so. Use your privileged position to push back. This doesn’t have to be confrontational, it can be something like “it just struck me that the (idea, wording, etc) can be interpreted by an LGBT person to be dismissive or hurtful. Let’s talk a little more about that.” Or “If I were gay, this is what that would sound like to me, and it’s uncomfortable.”
    -Be especially aware of young people. LGBT adults are more likely to stop coming to church, but the youth have less choice. Be particularly sensitive to kids being/acting disrespectful, and call them on it. Use your adult authority to let them know homophobic slurs, actions, are simply not tolerated.
    -If you know any LGBT people in your ward, go out of your way to shake their hand, smile, and genuinely be happy they’ve decided to stay. It’s a big deal.
    -Wear a discreet rainbow tie tack, or scripture marker, plastic bracelet. This will be like a beacon for the LGBT in your ward to know they’re safe with you.
    -Attend LGBT community events. Be seen doing so. You don’t necessarily need to march, or hug (although it’s great if you do), but simply being there together in “their turf” gives you credibility.

    That’s a good starting point. I’m hoping others pipe in to share their ideas on actions we can take to lighten the burden.

  62. Jax, no. Also, not interested in that discussion, thanks.

  63. Jax, my point is that talking about the origins of the policy seems to divert our attention from the real life application of it. So for the sake of the discussion, let’s say that it is inspired, what does “accept and follow and carry on” look like? How do you apply your baptismal covenants to your LGBT fellow members?

  64. orangganjil says:

    I pray I do not come across as negative and apologize ahead of time if I do, but I’m less charitable on this topic than many of you. I so wish I could be where you are at, but I’m simply not there. I really hope I don’t come off as a crank because I sincerely wonder if God expects more of us than to simply pray for change.

    Not only do I disagree with the policy but I also dislike how it was handled. Sliding something like this into a generally unavailable handbook without a peep to the membership shows a disdain for the concept of common consent. It leads me to believe that our leaders feel _they_ are the church and we are merely here to follow. I know I’m likely wrong in that assessment but if it walks like a duck it is difficult not to conclude that it is a duck, especially given the many overreaches in our past. Where is the respect for how this would affect members? Why was there no effort at persuasion? Why no vote of the body as common consent requires? This wasn’t handled as a church, as a community – it was handled by decree and slid into a generally unavailable handbook. How can I sustain leaders who treat the other members of the church this way? D&C 124:144 shows that God has given us the agency and ability to act. At some point, could it be possible that God expects us to use the tool he has given us to take action?

  65. orangganjil says:

    I would also add, for my wife and me, the fact that our children will be raised in a church community saturated with the fallout of this policy, has give us pause as we consider how active to be within the church. The recent Gospel Mastery teaching material is saturated with the doctrinal underpinnings of this policy. Elder Nelson’s claim that the policy is a revelation from God is given as an example of continuing revelation to living prophets.

    How do I raise my children in such a community? At what point does this church become spiritually harmful to my children?

  66. Great ideas, HDP!

  67. Lady Didymus says:

    Two gay LDS young men took their lives in the past week. Their names are Stockton Powers and Wyatt Bateman and their obituaries are online.

    I can’t in good conscience put this on a shelf.

  68. pconnornc says:

    Steve (and others) – I get the concern and frustration over the policy, but let me ask this…

    From what I understand, the policy was put in place to help address some of the issues below (among others). How would you suggest these issues be addressed w/out the policy as is? I would counter that “do nothing” probably would not suffice.

    o Baptizing youth into a faith that runs fundamentally counter to the fundamentals of their home (SSM is much more at conflict that WoW, general membership, or even infidelity). There is concern that membership/doctrine could cause conflict for a young person.
    o Concern over a parent in a SSM would use the baptism/membership/church in retaliation against a non-SSM parent who allows the child to be baptized
    o Concern (as explained previously w/ polygamy) that an activist might use these ordinances (or temple/etc) as a way to legitimize their cause, inclusion and acceptance of lifestyles within the church.

    I heard a general authority involved in the group who worked on this suggest there were other alternatives looked at, but at the end all recommendations were sent to the First Presidency/Twelve and the policy was put in place.

    I ask this in sincerity, because my perception is that “doing nothing” was not what leaders felt was an option at all. I’m also not “testifying” that the policy is the best solution, but I can’t seem to think of a better one myself. Balancing the letter of the law and the love of the individual is much easier one-to-one, but policy helps provide consistency & guidance for our lay ministers.

  69. Thanks for expressing this, Steve. I’m in a similar place, at least when it comes to church activity and disagreeing with the policy. I appreciate you saying this, that you’re active and that you disagree, and casting a vote for this being a position people can be in.

    I have no idea what the way forward is either. What the policy reminds me of is ballot propositions that seemed to show up every election when I lived in Arizona. One was to declare English the official language of the state. Another was to instigate a “stop and check papers” of people suspected of being illegal immigrants. The meta-message of all these propositions was “We hate Mexicans.” I think the effects of the propositions varied (they always seemed to pass), but I voted against them for the meta-message alone. I didn’t want to be sending that message. I feel like with the policy, Church leaders are fairly shouting the meta-message “We hate gay people.” People have argued on this thread about how many people the policy actually affects, but I think the meta-message is what dominates. It’s the meta-message that’s helping induce gay Mormon kids to kill themselves.

    So I’m just appalled that the leaders of the Church would not only let the policy stand, but they would reiterate their conviction (e.g., President Nelson). It’s hard for me to draw any other conclusion than that they really do want to send this message, and they really are fine if it drives gay people out of the Church. I guess I’m just echoing what Tim said. It makes me lose respect for Church leaders. I’m still here, but I feel like they’ve worn out my ability to give them the benefit of the doubt any more.

  70. pconnornc says:

    Lady Didymus – I think most everyone mourns w/ the tragedy for these YM and their families. I’m not sure that even w/out the policy that LGBT members would feel complete inclusion – these things run up against foundational items of the gospel. Though the policy could just happen to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back for them – regardless it is sorrowful.

  71. CS Eric says:

    We talked about this a bit in my seminary class shortly after it came out. The main point I wanted to make was that, no matter what else this policy does, it does not mean that the Church has decided that we have to hate gays. I have a brother-in-law, a sister-in-law, and at least one niece who is openly gay. My sister-in-law was in a monogamous relationship for at least ten years, and my niece married her high school sweetheart/best friend. Whether we love someone shouldn’t change depending on who it is that they love.

    Maybe because it was at 6 in the morning, or for some other reason, but none of them seemed interested in either the specifics or any nuances to the policy. I wasn’t that interested in that point anyway. I wanted to be sure that they understood that we still loved them, friends or family, and that the new policy didn’t (or shouldn’t) change that.

  72. Lady Didymus says:

    “According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the state dropped from 7th to 27th in this year’s child health ranking. Terry Haven is Deputy Director for Voices for Utah Children. She says the other major reason why Utah dropped in its child health ranking is an alarming rise in youth suicides here.
    ‘We’ve improved in some of the reasons why children die, but in terms of suicide rates, we’ve almost doubled since 2008. So that’s the big huge issue that we’re looking at,’ Haven says.

    http://kuer.org/post/youth-suicide-drives-down-utahs-child-health-ranking#stream/0

  73. Kristen says:

    Steve,
    “I am figuring out what it means to be an active LDS person who does not agree with this policy.”

    I find it interesting that Mormons are in such a place of discomfort when they find themselves at odds with any particular thing in the church. I have friends from all different denominations and I would say all of them disagree at one time or another with something that their church is doing and it is rare that it causes them even a moment of anxiety or unrest. They just simply disagree.

    So I have a question for you:
    Why is it so hard for Mormons to find themselves at odds with things within the church?
    I definitely have my own opinion on the reasons for this but I would love to hear yours.

  74. So if we don’t leave it on the shelf, what do we do?
    Many will say leave, but where does that leave the believers, or at least those who don’t want to divorce themselves from the church?

    I think my problem is that no matter how much of an ally or support I am to my immediate family members and friends that are gay, I still feel complicit. And because like many others have pointed out, the hetero-normative culture of the church is very unlikely to change, putting it on the shelf feels like the only answer for those who don’t want to leave and don’t know what to do.

  75. Kristen, because we have a very strong culture of conformity and obedience. We’re a small religion that doesn’t allow for a lot of variations.

  76. Is this really happening. I don’t know this young man’s background. Frankly I don’t care – I feel his pain and don’t know what to do with my sadness.

  77. Pconnor, I disagree with your belief that doing nothing would not suffice. But again, dissecting the policy is not what I’m interested in discussing.

  78. I’m going to be interested to see someone do a really thorough study of suicide among gay LDS members. This is not the sort of phenomenon that ever is as it seems. Society *always* gets these things wrong in the heat of the moment. The numbers I’ve heard have always sounded suspect (lots of counting cases with little information about them, citing numbers based on social media reports that don’t ever square with state tallies), and now there has been so much talk about it that the discussion itself is almost certainly prompting people to do it. Suicide clusters are common for precisely this reason. “Our kids are dying!” is such a powerful rhetorical tool that it just isn’t possible that it isn’t being abused in the name of a good cause.

    I know that’s going to sound like I’m discounting the problem or being callous, which is exactly why the rhetoric around this concerns me. When it’s impossible to challenge data without being labeled insensitive, it also becomes impossible to find the true causes of the problem as it really exists. There are huge political incentives to make people believe that gay LDS teens are committing suicide. If you want some evidence, take a look at the Trib article from last week in which state officials noted a rise in suicide rates but also stated that they had no evidence of a specific cause for that spike. What did the commenters conclude from the statement that there was no known cause? Why, it’s the Mormons persecuting the gays! But isn’t that exactly the kind of thing that would be apparent to state officials tracking the numbers? A disproportionate increase in suicides among children from a specific religious community isn’t exactly difficult to detect statistically.

    So how might this line of reasoning relate to the OP? Perhaps a clear-eyed investigation of the premise that gay LDS teens are in danger of suicide could identify specific patterns of bullying that could be prevented by changes in church programs. Perhaps it would turn out that the existence of the Nov 5 policy itself is prompting suicides. Perhaps a specific sub-demographic of gay LDS Utahns (e.g. those with Nordic ancestry) would be found to be at particular risk. Perhaps it would correlate with spikes in air pollution. Or whatever. Identifying those things and dealing with them as best as possible would be a huge step forward from putting the issue on a shelf. The church could facilitate such research, and the body of the church could demand that political leaders devote more resources to research and addressing whatever it turns up.

  79. Owen, even if not a single suicide were attributable to the policy, it would still be wrong and I’d feel the same.

  80. Kristen says:

    Steve,
    You don’t strike me as a person who buys into a “culture of conformity and obedience.” And yet, you can’t disagree with this policy without a lot of angst. Why do you think that is?

  81. I’ve written (too much??) already on the subject elsewhere and I don’t want to impose my ideas here. But two things to add to my general best wishes to Steve and applause for the effort (above, way up):
    1. Cheers for HDP at 11:25 a.m.
    2. Regarding “why is it hard” and “[can’t] leave it on the shelf” and even Steve’s “I’m all in” (recognizing that these words mean different things to different people and this is all about my take), one small but not dismiss-able reply or rejoinder is that in the Church as currently functioning the fully engaged adult men among us have to think about how you/we might work in a bishopric or high council or stake presidency. If you find yourself in that pool of prospects, the chances are quite high that you’ll have to deal with it sooner or later. When I include in my thinking my father, my sons, and my brothers, the chances approach certainty plus (more than one at any one time) that we are talking about this.

  82. I actually do believe that our church leaders are inspired, and I believe they are prophets, seers and revelators. That’s an enormous amount of spiritual capital invested in them. Once you view someone as a prophet it is a fairly big step to disagree with that person.

  83. Kristen says:

    But it seems your disagreeing with them hasn’t changed how you view them, so what difference does it make?
    Btw, I really am genuinely interested in these questions. I’m not trying to be difficult.

  84. Thanks for this post, Steve.

    My family is grappling with this too. It isn’t about gay children. This is about *all* children. My wife and I are hanging on despite our frustrations, but a lot of our friends aren’t, and our kids’ generation certainly isn’t going to stay in a church that has these kinds of policies.

  85. Kristen, answering your question is precisely what I plan on doing in the months to come.

  86. Kristen says:

    Steve,
    Okay. I’ll hold you to it!

  87. Hey Jax… my response to you never posted. So let me try again: in talking about “setting aside” the question of inspiration, I was speaking only for the purpose of my comment. It is my assertion that whether or not the POX is inspired, there are negative consequences that need to be addressed sooner than later.

  88. Kristen says:

    Debs,
    Yes, unfortunately this is really happening. I personally know family members of one of the boys that is pictured in this video. It is beyond tragic.

  89. Anonymous Today says:

    Steve:
    Thank you, first off, for many helpful and thoughtful posts over a long period of time. I hope that comment might be one of those things, or both.
    I am gay. I am also married, an active Latter-day Saint, and a father of several children of just about all ages.
    I am pretty sure that I am not alone in this situation, but I am also aware that talking about it would be too expensive for most of us –even me, notice my name is not attached to this comment when usually it would be. Unfortunately, our silence amplifies the notion that we do not exist.
    I am quite certain that if I had been raised in a religious community supportive of homosexual relationships, my real children, my real marriage, and my real life, would not exist. I am grateful that the possibility of having the life I have was offered to me by the Church.
    It is not a life I would have chosen without Mormonism, and it is a good and valuable life.
    It seems that the dominant morality at the moment is that of being true to one’s sexual proclivities. There are other moralities; and it is becoming more – not less – important to emphasize this.

  90. Christian Harrison, I disagree. If it IS inspired than rather lay this at the hands of the FP/Q12 it lays at the hands of the Lord. Then paragraphs like this one from Ziff above (12:26) would need to sound completely different.

    “So I’m just appalled that the [Lord] would not only let the policy stand, but they would reiterate {His] conviction (e.g., President Nelson). It’s hard for me to draw any other conclusion than that [He] really do[es] want to send this message, and [He] really [is] fine if it drives gay people out of the Church. I guess I’m just echoing what Tim said. It makes me lose respect for [the Lord]. I’m still here, but I feel like [He’s] worn out my ability to give [Him] the benefit of the doubt any more.”

    I think most LDS people don’t want to think about let alone make such a statement, but if this policy IS inspired and how CAN we address the negative consequences? I can’t fault anyone to address this aspect, because it means facing the terrifying idea that the nature/character of God/Christ are different than the ‘unconditionally love everyone’ character that is often ascribed to them. That would be very hard to do – to contemplate that maybe God IS trying “drive gay people out of the Church.” Who wants to contemplate that?! I think it is a vital first step with every policy/doctrine though, to determine its source/inspiration. The point of the OP was to ask what do we do? I think the first step is to find out if it is inspired/God-given.

  91. ** can’t fault anyone for not wanting to address this aspect **

  92. I think the policy is repugnant, un-Christian (maybe even anti-Christian), and it is clear that it does damage every day that it stays in force.

    I continue to attend church, pay an honest tithe, and serve in (multiple) substantial callings.

    I don’t know how long I can keep this up.

    As others have said, my membership feels like it’s on life support. Like Christian, I know many who have officially left over this, and for each of those I know 10 more who are on life support.

    Some have discounted the number who have officially resigned membership over this, saying those people were overwhelmingly totally inactive anyway, so it doesn’t matter. What I have observed is that the inactive but still members have resigned (which *does* matter, by our own doctrines!); the marginally active have gone totally inactive, the active but sort of questioning have become marginally active or on life support, and even many of the most stalwart are for the first time really starting to question and object. Nearly everyone who has any heart at all for LGBT people has been knocked down a rung or two or three in terms of their faith and formal commitment.

    Those with most fundamentally Christian charitable impulses cannot in their consciences abide this policy, and they are being forced out. I wonder if the church that remains after such a hemorrhage of these folks is a place that I would want to be. I always thought the primary punishment of being in the Terrestrial or Telestial Kingdoms would be being forced to hang around people who are without the Celestial qualities of love, charity, warmth, and so on. Who wants to be stuck with a bunch of jerks for eternity? That’s hell. I’m having analogous concerns about the community this policy as a filter creates.

  93. Church employee posting anonymously says:

    I am a full-time employee of the church and a believer in the Restoration of the gospel. At the time this policy was publicly affirmed by the brethren I feared I would either have to quit my job or I would be fired because I fundamentally disagreed with it. When I prayed about it the answer was clear: I do not have to believe the policy was God’s will. At the same time, because I work for the church, I cannot publicly affirm that I disagree with the policy or that I believe it will change in the future. I believe the work I do for the church is what Heavenly Father wants me to do and so I remain.

    One of the most tragic things for me is that I am a strong life-long member of the Church. I hold a temple recommend, I attend church with my family weekly, I fulfill my callings diligently, but none of that would make any difference if my disagreement on this issue was known to the church. None of my testimony or actions would make a difference if I was a gay person, either, and obviously they carry the brunt of the pain in this circumstance because they are the ones immediately affected. But I truly hope the brethren know that there are many members like me who are remaining mostly silent out of respect and sometimes out of fear, who work for the Church, who diligently pray that this policy will go away and that all of the harm we are doing to gay church members will cease.

    We sustain the brethren, but we do not always agree with them. We recognize they hold the keys and have the right to make such decisions for the Church, but we do not believe they are perfect, and in this case we believe they have made a harmful mistake. I pray that God will hasten the day when this can be rectified.

  94. I have such a hard time getting on board with the idea that this policy is “un-Christian (maybe even anti-Christian)”. Christ said some pretty frickin’ hard things for the people of his time to hear. I’m not arguing that this policy is or isn’t his will. It just seems to me that it does in fact fall within the range of things Christ did in our scriptural record and could do now. And I’m not talking Jehovah type stuff, just New Testament. He showed compassion for the sinner, but he was also pretty up front about sexual sin being sin and having consequences. This new thing we have where people are making binding legal covenants to break the law of chastity can’t not be a big deal, even if it is complicated.

  95. Owen, on this we disagree. Jesus bid the children come to him.

  96. I don’t know, Jax, old testament prophets like Abraham and others didn’t seem to hesitate too much to disagree with the Lord, or to negotiate or try to bargain with him, and sometimes they changed his mind (okay, fine, Abraham, I won’t destroy Sodom if you can find 10 righteous people in it). Reverence is great, and something we should strive for, but at the same time, I think the Lord wants us to question him, wrestle with him, if we can’t wrap our minds around something that he’s said or done. So assuming that the policy is dictated by God does not necessarily mean that we shouldn’t keep questioning until we understand it.

    I’d also add that whether the policy is inspired or not is not necessarily a black and white thing. The Book of Mormon itself recognizes that revelation is limited by weaknesses of language. On one extreme, you might say that the policy was just made up by the brethren with no inspiration, on the other extreme you might say that it was dictated word for work by God, but there’s a lot of middle ground between those extremes. For example, you might say that the Lord gave something to the brethren and they have attempted to put it into words, but haven’t quite gotten it right.

    In any case, I agree with Christian and others that regardless of where you come down on the policy, whether you think it is uninspired, or whether you think it is inspired and necessary, I don’t think either view releases us from the obligation to try to express love to all, and to mourn with those that mourn. I guess I see your point if you are saying that maybe God wants to hurt gay people, but even the strongest defenses of the policy that I’ve seen have treated as a necessary thing that isn’t designed to hurt gay people, or as something that helps children of gay couples in the long run, even if it is painful now; I haven’t seen anyone say that it is inspired, and hurts gay people and drives them out of the church and that’s exactly what God intended it to do.

  97. Church employee posting anonymously says:

    To Katie: “I’ve had some good friends who were also very hurt by the policy for their own reasons, but who have found a way to put it on the shelf, feeling there is ultimately nowhere else to go. My husband and I have struggled more. I think it is because once something is presented as a revelation, but you feel it is wrong, you begin to wonder what else might be wrong and not truly inspired. The church asks so very much of us — 3 hours on Sunday, calling, tithing, Word of Wisdom, and on and on, and one can only justify saying yes to these commitments if you truly believe they came by revelation. But once you start to question that inspiration, you question what else might be simply opinion or administrative. What else really isn’t what the Lord has asked us to do, but what flawed men have.”

    Katie, I believe the Book of Mormon gives us a key to this conundrum. Moroni 7 talks about the possibility that some things we think come from God actually do not, and that some things we think are of the devil may actually be good. And we are given the responsibility to judge:

    “14 Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.

    15 For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.

    16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.”

    Me again. So I don’t believe this policy comes from God because it prohibits young children from the saving ordinance of baptism, it prevents children from receiving a blessing when the scriptures say “suffer the little children to come unto me.” I do not believe the policy invites us to do good, or that it persuades us to believe in Christ.

  98. Thanks for being brave Steve.

  99. (shrug) not brave at all.

  100. Church employee posting anonymously says:

    Oops, I published the comment too soon. I was saying to Katie I do not believe the policy invites us to do good, or that it persuades us to believe in Christ. Most of the other things the Church expects me to do have contributed to my faith in Christ in some way.

    So I follow the brethren as they point me to Jesus Christ, and no further. They are special witnesses of Christ. To me that does not mean everything they do witnesses of Christ, or that I can tell what Christ wants simply by listening to them. After all, throughout Church history various Apostles have disagreed with each other, even in the New Testament, and I doubt Christ is so contradictory.

    So I look for a witness of Christ in what they do and say, but I do not equate everything they do and say to being Heavenly Father’s will.

  101. I agree with anonymous church employee. Once you believe that a recent “revelation” was not that, or was in error, other things start coming into questions. For me the church essays caused a lot of questioning because it revises so much of what were past doctrinal teachings. Now this…

  102. Steve, Jesus didn’t baptize children. He didn’t give them names in front of their congregations either. He blessed them, which any priesthood holder can still do for anyone gay or straight, member or nonmember, child or adult. I know I’m splitting hairs, but the range of responses Jesus had to various situations was quite broad and frequently surprising. We’re kidding ourselves if we think it’s obvious what he would do in this situation. As soon as he starts intervening in natural disasters and terrorist attacks, I’ll start believing you or I have him figured out.

  103. Church Employee – Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I find myself in a similar situation to you so often (although I’m employed outside of the church) and have come to the same place of understanding.

  104. Bro. B. says:

    I thought someone would address STW’s comments (July 6, 2016 at 9:08 am). Is this really a widespread issue for the children of LGBT married couples, or the people around them?

  105. Nobody is addressing STW’s comment because it’s silly and naive.

    Take this for example: “Those who truly believe the Church is wrong regarding same sex relationships most likely will not seek baptism for their child unless they want to make a statement. Again, it’s them not their child that is the focus.”

    For one, “those who truly believe the Church is wrong regarding same sex relationships” includes many more straight couples in the church than gay ones! Yet their children can still be blessed and baptized.

  106. What Cynthia said.

  107. I have to hope that we as a people and the leadership would not be willing to deny a child a blessing or baptism simply to avoid “administrative hassle that could result in succeeding years.” I don’t even know what this means.

  108. SB2, never underestimate the power of administration.

  109. Angela C says:

    “Our kids’ generation certainly isn’t going to stay in a church that has these kinds of policies.” This is another large part of my own angst. This isn’t a trivial matter. You can’t manufacture prejudice in a post-prejudicial world. Why would we want to? My kids have learned their whole lives to befriend gay kids and prevent bullying. Those are good values, superior to what they are hearing at church from older members who feel duty-bound to defend the policy.

    Prior to the policy, I was already concerned that the church didn’t understand the plight of gay Mormons. The position at that point wasn’t tenable, and the policy only moved us toward antagonism. It’s also a vote of no confidence in the plan of salvation to deal with innate and natural variation. Our kids, who are friends with gay people, aren’t going to be convinced that the plan of salvation is an accurate worldview if gay people aren’t factored into it. They don’t buy that being gay is a disease.

  110. Like Angela, I’m worried about the testimonies of my (straight) children because despite a very active Mormon upbringing–complete with daily family prayer and scripture reading, early morning seminary, multiple trips to the church every week, EFYs, youth conferences, service projects, temple trips, Eagle Scout awards and Young Women”s medallions, education at BYU, and the examples of parents who have been serving for years in major leadership callings–they do not view gay people the way that the Brethren do. They all have LGBT friends that they care deeply about and rush to defend when they are discriminated against. So in defending the family, it seems like the Church is putting my own family at eternal risk, despite the best efforts of my wife and myself.

  111. Steve G. says:

    I don’t need to shelf this issue. D&C 74 (pay close attention to verse 5) came up in my reading just as this issue came about. It was my answer, and I share it with all those who come to me for advice on this topic. I’m a Bishop, so it does come up, though not as often as I expected.

    I see it as a policy of men for administering the church just as happened in days of old when Apostles wrestled with ways to protect the church as an institution. I know that calling this a policy of men was refuted by a living apostle in January, but that doesn’t change my mind. That refutation, I might just have to shelve for another day though.

  112. Angela C.

    You use words and phrases to describe the policy’s intent like “being gay is a disease”, “moving us toward antagonism” and “manufacturing prejudice”. I disagree that any of those things are a necessary consequence of this policy. Can’t we befriend gays and prevent bullying while believing that same sex marriage is a sin?

  113. ABM: no.

  114. According to our stake president, the apostle (one of the new ones, I can’t remember which) who visited our stake at the height of the uproar last November, explained it thusly: Tons of grandparents were baptizing their grandchildren whose gay parents had no interest in the church, which left those children in an awkward position. To lessen the pressure on those children, and to put the kibosh on those grandparents, they came up with this policy.
    This seems reasonable, if we accept a few premises:
    -That ordinances are neither urgent nor necessary, at least in this life. Can’t get baptized right now? NBD. Considering how much we pressure converts to get baptized, no matter how much opposition they face, I would not say we currently believe this.
    -That living in an SSM marriage household conflicts with harmony in the church more than, say having an abusive parent. Or coming from a country where there are no churches to attend once you leave America. Or living with gang members. Or having your life threatened for joining the church. None of these circumstances prevent baptism.
    So what bothers me about this policy is the sense that SSM households are singled out.

  115. Steve,
    Seriously?
    Well then, I guess we have to abandon the concept of sin right?

  116. ABM: you asked if we can be friends to gay people if we believe same sex marriage is a sin. The answer to your question is no.

  117. Steve, perhaps if you are talking about the cause of gay rights. I was referring to individual gay people and couples that we might encounter.

  118. FarSide says:

    The thing that baffles me most about this policy is how unnecessary it is. Were young LDS children being raised by same-sex parents experiencing existential crises with such frequency that the church needed a formal “no-baptism policy” to address the problem? Were same sex couples who were active and accepted members in their wards prior to November 5 such a corrupting influence that it became necessary to label them apostates?

    This whole thing seems like a solution in search of problem that doesn’t really exist. Why couldn’t they have privately told all bishops to deal with these situations on a case-by-case basis, as guided by the spirit? Remember that quaint notion about teaching them correct principles and letting them govern themselves? I kind of miss that.

    If this isn’t a quintessential illustration of an organization shooting itself in the foot, I don’t know what is.

  119. M. Todd says:

    At this point I’m choosing to sustain the prophet (and Q12). For me that means speaking up when I think they get something wrong. So for now I’m speaking up on this issue. I sure hope they start listening soon because my children won’t stand for this nonsense.

    Overheard in my living room (teenage son with friend): “I mean I like boys. And I like girls. And I really like ravioli.”
    Friend’s response: “I’m with you man. Especially on the ravioli.”

  120. M. Todd says:

    I suppose though that the rising generation’s not seeing homosexuality as an issue may be part of what drove the policy. Which is too bad. I’m proud of my children for loving everyone or at least trying to

  121. Anonymous Today @ 2:10pm – As someone who is also aware of how different their life could have been in different circumstances, I applaud your choices and echo your sentiment. You are not alone.

  122. N. W. Clerk says:

    Steve Evans is simply wrong when he says that we can’t be friends to gays and believe same sex marriage is a sin. Jesus was famously a friend of sinners, and not because he believed that the sins they committed weren’t sins.

  123. I’ve been wrong lots of times. Maybe I’m wrong here. But perhaps you should ask a LGBTQ person their thoughts as to the bona fides of a friendship that opposes a key part their identity?

  124. Another Anon says:

    Excellent post, Steve.

    Your general question was how we stay after this. Count me among the conflicted who just don’t know. This whole episode has caused me to lose so much faith in church leadership. The way they rolled this out was sloppy, which is a real competence problem. And I think their defenses of it have been both disingenous at times (thus calling into question their honesty) and, at times, plainly contrary to our other core doctrines (thus calling into question those doctrines themselves). But most damning for me is the simple substance of this. The policy is blatantly homophobic–I just don’t see any way around that. In simple terms, it’s an act of bullying.

    I have been taught my whole life (often by this very church) to fight back against the bully, to defend the little guy who is being hurt. But now it’s my church doing the bullying, a church that I have loved and defended and praised.

    So what now? Do I push back against this policy and/or leave the church over it, knowing that doing so will cost myself and my family the blessings of continuing to belong to this faith community? Or do I stay silent and enjoy those blessings, but then wake up every day feeling like a moral coward?

    I honestly don’t know what to do. I have been hurting since November over this, and I don’t see that stopping any time soon.

  125. By that logic Steve, I can’t be friends or friendly with anyone that thinks Mormonism is wrong or thinks that religious influence should be curtailed. It is a key part of my identity.

  126. That’s sort of up to you, I guess.

  127. Another Anon says:

    And as a side note: perhaps this belongs as a separate post, but it would be interesting to start a list of all the unintended consequences of this policy.

    Here’s one: I’m professionally connected to a lot of BYU grads who have professional careers on the coasts. One of the things I’ve heard many of them say is that they’re worried that this will devalue their educations. Say you’re attending BYU’s accounting grad program, for example. It’s a fairly highly ranked school that does a decent job of placing grads at bigger firms. The school takes pride in this, as it should.

    Now the November policy comes along–a policy that is not just conservative on gay rights issues, but is really in the far extreme nationally on this (Kids have to meet with a bishop and disavow their parents relationship to be baptized? Seriously??). I mean, we’re now comfortably in Bob Jones territory, at least as far as national perception goes.

    Well, suppose you’re a BYU grad and you want to work for one of these firms. Most of them have gay partners by now, or don’t want to be seen as being blatantly homophobic, or both. Don’t you think there is going to be at least some pushback about hiring a BYU grad? Just from a “fit” perspective, there will be legitimate worries at those kinds of places about bringing someone on who is affiliated with a church that has such extreme thinking on this issue.

    So back to the OP: how *do* we deal with this? The church hasn’t just changed our relationship to it. It has changed our relationship with our friends and neighbors and colleagues. We look like bigots in a way that we didn’t on November 4. I think a lot of us have a right to feel a little betrayed by that, and that can’t help but matter in terms of how we interact with our church going forward.

  128. pconnor says:

    Far side – you comment that the policy is for a problem that does not exist. Do you know this for sure? I called out three “problems”, another mentioned a fourth (grandparents). It is possible that even though we may not have personal association with any of those 4 (or more), it does not mean they don’t exist? By the way, yes I have seen some of those problems wrestled with already.

    Even if the problems are not wide spread, there have been times that leadership has made changes or announcements that in hindsight were extremely timely.

    I respect Steve’s desire to not dissect the policy and also I acknowledge what makes it hard for others, but would sincerely like to see suggestions for these problems aside from “do nothing”. It would help me understand what would be reasonable to others – especially in sensitive issues like this.

  129. pconnor, you’ve got it backwards. The question we have is what to do with the situation we’ve stuck ourselves with, not what would we do without the policy.

  130. I’m not sure that Steve’s post says anything new here. But I’m so grateful for him giving renewed voice to this issue. How to disagree and stay? I appreciate you not letting this die, Steve.

  131. Hunter, I’m certain it says nothing new!

  132. pconnor says:

    Steve, hopefully not backwards (but maybe so). I hope this comparison is appropriate – I would compare it to personal frustrations with welfare as we know it in the US. My frustrations are lessened when a) I realize the problem they are trying to fix and b) the success, even with collateral impact, that the welfare programs have. I recognize the problem, don’t have a fully baked better solution (or transition plan), nor the time or responsibility to make those changes. This helps me to be less harsh and more patient with a current situation that I think is well intended but wrong headed.

  133. Lady Didymus says:

    I’m staying despite my hatred of the policy and they holes it’s ripped in my testimony. I now have doubts about the church I never thought I would have. But I’m staying because I’ve prayed and felt there was good I could do in the church. I have gay friends who are staying who’ve comforted me when it should’ve been the other way around. I want to show my love to all and be a voice for those afraid of speaking up. I live in the South in a very strict, extremely conservative stake. (We’re talking hedges to hedge in hedges to hedge in hedges kind of stake). I feel there is a great work to be done inside the church that I can’t be a part of if I leave (as tempting as it may be at times). I’m thinking of it as a mission of sorts …. bringing the gospel of inclusion to those in my stake who struggle to see our LGBT+ brothers and sisters as just that: our brothers and sisters.

  134. Eric Facer says:

    pconnor, the problems you “called out” are hypothetical scenarios, situations that could conceivably arise. My question is: where is the evidence that these circumstances were occurring with such frequency that they cried out for a new policy? How often does a non-same sex parent baptize a child in order to retaliate against a same-sex parent? (Those, by the way, are rhetorical questions, since no one has presented any such evidence.)

    Do some of the situations actually occur that you hypothesize? Probably, but there is no evidence that they are prevalent, that they required a diktat from Salt Lake. Advising bishops who may confront such circumstances to prayerfully handle them on a case-by-case basis, with input from their Stake President as needed, is all that seemingly was necessary, especially since a “one-size-fits-all” approach, such as embodied in the policy, will produce inconsistent and inequitable results, as Julie Smith at Times and Seasons (among others) has demonstrated in excruciating detail.

    Frankly, this policy almost seems to be a visceral reaction to the numerous legal and political defeats the church has suffered on the same-sex marriage issue. It’s almost as if they are saying: “Well, at least we still get to decide who walks through our chapel doors!”

  135. I’m staying too. I’m struggling but I’m staying.

  136. Thanks, Steve. I’m grateful for you and BCC, who have given me hope these past few months while it’s been so hard. I’m scared to think of where I’d be without you.

  137. Thanks Darrow.

  138. ABM: if someone told me, “I think your interracial marriage is a sin, and your mixed-race children shouldn’t be blessed or baptized, but I like you and I want to be your friend,” I’d probably tell them a place where they can shove that sham offer.

    And no, you can’t simultaneously teach that a minority group is destroying the moral fabric of the nation and an abomination that will bring about Old Testament style calamities on the world, and prevent bullying of that group. That’s not how sociology works. Ever.

  139. Yes, yes, yes, Eric Facer.

  140. I stay active (go to church weekly and fulfill a music calling) because my husband is a church employee and is stuck, because my siblings and parents are all in, and because I love my neighbors and don’t want to create a fuss or be labeled a troublemaker. I wear a rainbow bracelet to remind myself to have the courage to speak up when I hear egregiously bigoted statements at church or anywhere else. I don’t talk about it much with my husband because the issue is too painful for him. He and I both have a lot of contact with LDS LGBTQ young people professionally, and both of us see the increasing damage done. Our children – who have all had gay friends – have left the church one at a time since Prop 8. None of our grandchildren are being raised in the church. A couple of years ago I decided I couldn’t in good faith pay tithing to support the church’s efforts against gays and their stringent gender role enforcement. My husband still pays tithing because of his employment. I don’t know if we will continue to be active after he retires. Most of our friends are in a similar position re: the church. My heart hurts at the loss of my spiritual home, but I can’t in good conscience go along with it any more. Although of course on some level I do go along with it by still going to church.

  141. Attn: any church office building type people who might be reading this:

    PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF PETE, do not conclude from this sad parade of comments like Karla’s and all the others that what the membership needs is to be “taught” “the doctrine” even more ad nauseum. I teach youth Sunday school and I have literally had youth go inactive over very specifically the issue of too many lessons on The Family and they just couldn’t take it anymore. Others are also full to vomiting of it but either can’t (while still living at home) go fully inactive over it. Please please please just give the topic a test so hearts can have a little breathing room to heal before sustaining more injury, which is what happens every time this issue is raised at church.

  142. *rest

  143. Yes. The fatigue is real.

  144. Cynthia L.,

    I don’t know… It can’t be all that different that growing up in the south with many of my friends thinking that Mormons were lost and likely going straight to hell, but they still invited me to birthday parties!

  145. I really appreciate all these suggestions on how to show love and support to our LGBTQ friends. Although I struggle to know what it means to be an ally, I do appreciate the promise in D&C 121 that an “increase of love” goes a long way in tempering the “sharpness” of this policy. Increase love to one another, including those whose views make us bristle. Increase love to our gay family and friends. Increase love, to mourn and comfort anyone who requires it, no matter where they stand. Increase love, to show faith in a hoped-for reconciliation between us all—a reconciliation that will require all of the love, grace, and forgiveness drawn from the farthest, darkest reaches of Christ’s atonement.

  146. Purely a step to solve a possible future legal problem. If homosexual couples with or without children are allowed to come to church, pay tithing, participate, serve in callings, and allow ordinances for children to occur, we have, for all intents and purposes, recognized these folks as active members of the church. So the day will come when these active homosexual members, identical to heterosexual members in every way regarding activity in the church, decide they want a temple marriage. They have put in the time, the service, participation in ordinances, and belief in the sanctity and eternal nature of families. When the church denies this ordinance, the will have to prove in court somehow that the homosexual couple is different than the heterosexual family when all the time the church has been accepting them equally. The church may have explicitly accepted this family based on doctrine or policy, but their lack of action regarding this couple and allowing them to participate fully in LDS life means they in fact accept this family and their orientation. A judge and jury would be hard-pressed to delineate between two couples who behave like LDS members except in the bedroom.
    By calling homosexual marriage apostasy, a bright line has been drawn for which the church can refer to when and if a court case seeking equal treatment occurs.
    This is equivalent to the actions of Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin as they determined what to do with one Jesus of Nazareth who was preaching doctrine that upset the status quo of the current church of God.
    I am also troubled that this addition to the handbook moved from being policy, to wisdom and common sense, and finally to revelation as stated by President Nelson some weeks later. I didn’t know that’s how revelation is given to the church-based on committee discussion and response to public pressure.

  147. Anonymous says:

    For me, it is simple, and hard. My understanding of the gospel requires me to give the benefit of the doubt to the 15 (knowing sometimes that they will get it wrong). whether they got this one right or wrong, I don’t honestly know. In the absence of specific revelation on the matter – which I have not received – that is unknowable, and also in some sense irrelevant, because my model of the Gospel and the Church allows for the 15 to be wrong without impugning the truthfulness of the Gospel and the Church.

    The policy offends my natural sensibilities every which way. But I try to be careful not to assume that God’s will perfectly mirrors my own, not to walk after the image of my own God.

    So I stay, and believe. With difficulty, and doubt.

    And yes, I’m watching this all from the cheap seats, as a straight white man. My hearts breaks for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, and I have no answers for them.

    It often feels like an unsustainable, indefensible position.

    But I’m in this position for the simple reason that as irrational as it seems, it’s the most rational one I can come up with.

    I don’t have answers. I have some ideas and some theories – just how good I feel they are depends on the day.

    What I have is faith, and some love, and some empathy. (For gay people, as well as prophets.)

    It’s enough for now, because it has to be. To whom shall I go?

  148. governingmyself says:

    I am in Steve’s boat. I am absolutely against the policy. I am an active member. My position, in general, makes no sense to both active members and members who have left.

    What to do with me (an active person who despises this policy) is not my burden to bear. It is the church’s burden to bear. They will have to put energy into what to do with me. I have relieved myself of that burden.

    Gay Mormons bear a terrible burden for simply being born both gay and Mormon. Allies bear a lesser burden (but still a burden) by putting themselves in the line of fire in defense of their LGBTQ brothers and sisters. In my opinion, the church should bear a burden as well. If they want me to leave, they will have to remove me. I have served them, my family serves them, and they will have to walk the thorny painful path of determining what to do with me. I will not leave because that relieves them of this burden.

    Many of my liberal friends have accused me of being complicit for not walking out. I respect their position. It takes great courage to vote with one’s feet. I think, however, there are other courageous ways to look at this and staying cannot only be defined as complicit.

    I am sitting up to the lunch counter of my faith with my gay brothers and sisters at my side. We want access to the beautiful aspects of Mormonism. I am going to come every week and partake in all that I deserve to partake in because I am a child of God. I am taking that place and carving out space for others. This is my testimony.

  149. I am scratching my head about this sudden high bar for baptism where the kids need to be in an ideal LDS family to get baptized. On my mission we were told to baptize anyone, been to church for 1 week? Get them in the font. Living with drug addicts? Get them in the font.
    Some Elders on my mission would scout out care homes for the mentally ill and got a lot of baptisms. Endless praise from the mission president.

    That was just my mission, I know missionaries who did baseball baptisms, soccer baptisms and taking advantage of certain cultures to get the “easy dunk”.

    I wonder if the same standards that apply to the children of gay parents will be applied to everyone else who is invited to come to church, I somehow doubt it.

  150. Steve Evans @ 6:55pm:

    “But perhaps you should ask a LGBTQ person their thoughts as to the bona fides of a friendship that opposes a key part their identity?”

    Except those are not the only identifies we might be asked to accept. Who decides whether an identity is legitimate, and should therefore cause us to accept its bundled behavior, or whether an identity is just a tool used to force a change in our morality? I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the identities you list just so happen to be the same identifies championed by progressive politics, and I don’t think it’s a leap to expect that when the progressive crowd adds a new letter to the LGBTQ acronym, you’ll go right along with it and bury one more sin in favor of your belief in identity.

    No man can serve two masters. Many on this thread serve as living examples of that. You are tearing yourselves apart. That cannot go on forever.

  151. Here’s a thought experiment. What if the Church had never changed its priesthood policy–affirming its rights under freedom of religion and standing firm against all social pressure–so that today in 2016 black members were still excluded from holding the priesthood and participating in temple ordinances. Would you still be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? I can see commentators to this post going both ways, and I think, truly, that there would be an admirable integrity to both positions. The Church would be smaller, but fiercely committed. This may be where we are headed with our current attitudes towards LGBT people, and the sorting may be coming faster than the leadership in Salt Lake assume, for better or for worse.

  152. “Children deserve a mother and a father.”

    So, then, refuse baptism to children of single parents. Logical next step.

  153. The Lord also weeps for children missing a parent. Neither A#4 or myself make the decision about who can or can’t be baptized so that’s a pointless red herring.

  154. Eric Russell says:

    We’re into thread closing territory here, but before we do, one question for you, Steve.

    I have friends who are gay members of the church – and are actually fairly ardent in their advocacy of gay rights – who nonetheless believe that gay marriage is morally wrong. What is it that you’re saying to these people? It sounds like you’re suggesting that there’s an illegitimacy to either their friendships and advocacy or to their beliefs.

  155. I don’t know, Steve, and Cynthia, I’m kind if with ABM on this one. There should be space to at least try to be friends without renouncing the teaching that gay marriage is a sin. Whether that friendship is accepted by individual members of the gay community may be another question, and for many it may very well be that such friendship is unacceptable, but that may not be the answer for everyone. And really, in a broad sense, a key part of everyone’s identity is sinful. I know we’re big on the fortunate fall, but in spite of the good that comes from the fall, it still means that our “natures are continually evil before God,” as the Brother of Jared says.

    For me, the difficulty with the policy is not that it categorizes gay marriage as sinful, but that it categorizes it as so sinful as to merit special condemnation above and beyond that given for other sins, and a require a policy to remove all discretion from bishops to decide whether to baptize not those guilty of such sin, but their children.

    No question, that makes it extremely difficult, maybe even impossible, in most cases, to be friends with gay people. But the belief that gay marriage is a sin, should not, by itself, makes it impossible to show genuine love and friendship to our gay friends and acquaintances.

  156. JKC, maybe so. I’m not sure I agree with you in this instance.

  157. Eric, I’m not saying anything to those people. But I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a gay man who was “fairly ardent” re gay rights but against gay marriage. That’s a bit of a unicorn.

    PS you are quite astute about us being near thread-closing territory! You have the gift.

  158. “The Lord also weeps for children missing a parent.”

    Does He also weep for the parents missing their gay children who have died by suicide? Does He weep for those who are in an almost impossible situation, theologically and culturally, because they are gay?

    To be clear, I am not arguing for or against the handbook policy — I’ll leave that to those in a higher pay grade — but I would suggest that we need to be wise in how we talk about the doctrine of the family right now, particularly with so many members of the Church feeling lost and broken, and not just those who are gay, but also those who are single or divorced or otherwise living in nontraditional homes. Wouldn’t now be a better time to concentrate on the pure doctrines of Jesus Christ, particularly those found in the New Testament and Book of Mormon, and on service and love and fellowship?

  159. Let’s move on. A#4, your last sentence is important, I think.

  160. Eric Russell says:

    Perhaps rare, but not impossible. They simply feel that their personal religious beliefs shouldn’t be forced on others and that everyone should be free to embark on their own journey. I think it’s possible for straight people to feel the same.

  161. Not sure how that belief leads to opposing same sex marriage, but (shrug)

  162. Indeed, one cannot serve two masters. Who will you serve, the Church, or Jesus Christ? Which is more important, taking a stance against homosexuality, or letting all the little ones come to Jesus, as He commanded?

  163. Steve, maybe we do disagree on this (though the area of disagreement seems rather narrow) so I won’t argue it further, but does that mean that for those members of the church that are not prepared to dissent from the teaching that gay marriage is sinful, efforts to show love and friendship are wasted? They should make no effort to show love and friendship unless they are prepared to accept gay marriage not only as legally acceptable, but as morally acceptable also? Does that mean that there is no way to build bridges with the gay community unless the church fully accepts gay marriage as morally equivalent to hetero marriage?

  164. Before the thread closes, I will throw in the observation that the problem *I* have with the “love the sinner” argument–which has a lot going for it in general–is that in this case the Church is defining status sins. Being married. Being a child of. In all practical effect, being gay. If you imagine sexuality (gay or straight) as a choice or a disorder then you can kind of make sense of status sins. (“Kind of” as in I can see how people do it, not as in I like it or agree.) But since I recognize sexuality as an inherent characteristic of being, the Church’s definitions and actions, the POX in Christian Harrison’s useful coinage, feel to me to be about the person, not the sin, and I feel like there’s no room left to make the distinction.

  165. JKC, I don’t know the answers to your questions. I suspect that it is really hard to establish meaningful friendships with people or communities when we have declared opposition to what is a fairly core principle for them (and legal right). Mormons should not expect to have a lot of LGBT friends.

  166. FWIW, I absolutely agree that being gay is not and should be called sinful. I think there is a distinction between being gay and choosing to get married, but I see your point, Christian, that that distinction is exceedingly fine.

    Steve, maybe you’re right that there never really was much hope, only a fool’s hope, that we can be friends with LGBT people, and maintain a belief that hetero marriage is the only acceptable form of marriage, but I still think we should try, even if we’re not prepared to give up that belief. But your point, that we should not be surprised if our efforts are seen as insincere, is well taken. I just hope that if that happens, our reaction is to try harder to express love unfeigned, rather than to give up.

  167. I am a supporter of the policy. I see boundary maintanence going on.

    I wanted to offer my opinion on why the policy vs poly families was non controversial. It is my view that there is no sympathy for poly families. They dress bad. Have bad teeth etc. They are reviled by everybody in our culture. They are isolated. These are the nerdy losers at school. On my mission in Africa we were not allowed to baptize folks in poly families.

    Gay families are cool. Trendy . Attractive. Well dressed. Tv hollywood glorifies them. Liberals protect them admire them. They are more widespread in the culture. These folks are the cool kids at school.

    You give off positive social vibes when you are seen as a supporter of gay families vs poly fams.

    I do think this is a very large factor in this discussion.

  168. I mean. I just… I got nothing. Wow.

  169. Bbell – Very few people knew about the policy on poly families and there’s a lack of familiarity with those situations barring TV shows like ‘Sister Wives’ (where the families don’t meet your criteria of bad dress/teeth).

    Our family lives in a world with gay next-door-neighbors, gay co-workers, gay friends at school. LGBTQ is familiar (and TV has made this more so as well). Personally, I think the policy is just as awful for poly families (I learned about it a week or two before the POX arrived), but since there aren’t any Poly families in my state, that I know of, it doesn’t hurt anyone I know directly, making it less familiar.

  170. Bro. B. says:

    Steve I think you’ve painted us into a bit of a corner if we can’t try to do as Jesus did, be a friend to sinners while acknowledging the sin (in this case, apostasy). Doesn’t mean the LGBT will accept the friendship. Also, this policy is not the first time baptism has been discounted by church leaders. Consider Elder Holland’s characterization of Pres. Hinckley’s talk about the futility of baptism without retention–he said he’d never heard a prophet of the Lord express such “utter disregard for baptism.”

  171. Oh, by all means we must try. I’m saying (1) we should not expect to be welcome and (2) we need to consider whether our friendship is actually genuine. I submit that it is not. These are the fruits of a bad policy. We cannot sow discord and hope to reap harmony. C’est la vie.

  172. With all the back-and-forth, Steve, I never said thank you.

    For this post, of course—which is a powerful reminder of what the POX has done to the fabric of our community and, more importantly, a reminder of the resiliency of our members—but also for your friendship during what has been a dark time for me.

    I love this Church with all my heart. And it’s nice to know that I’ve got some amazing people sitting shiva with me in the dark corners of the chapel.

  173. “I love this Church with all my heart. And it’s nice to know that I’ve got some amazing people sitting shiva with me in the dark corners of the chapel.”

    Amen to that, Christian.

    “Oh, by all means we must try. I’m saying (1) we should not expect to be welcome and (2) we need to consider whether our friendship is actually genuine.”

    I wholeheartedly agree.

  174. Even though the comments sometimes went off the rails, I’m glad this is a conversation we’re still having. We cannot allow this hurtful policy to ever feel normal. Thanks for facilitating the discussion, Steve.

  175. Karen H. says:

    It is so heartening to me to see good people struggle deeply over hard questions of ethics and theology. I gives me hope. Thank you for the original post and for honestly asking really hard questions.

  176. Many thoughtful contributions here about a difficult problem. Thanks all. I’m closing the thread.