The children of apostates and the church: An addendum

In my fairly recently published Power of Godliness, I have a chapter on the blessing of babies (and children) in the church. This was a surprising chapter for me to research and write, and it turned into a very useful lens to analyze many important aspects of church belief, practice, and teaching. Near the end of this chapter, I also have a brief section on the 2015 exclusion of children of LGBTQ parents from the liturgies of the church. I mention in passing the similarity in restriction to the children of polygamist schismatics, but didn’t take the time or space to elucidate that history. Here I’d like to flesh out that earlier restriction a bit.

Schismatic polygamists and the rise of Mormon Fundamentalism was a very serious concern for Heber J. Grant and subsequent church leaders. [n1] In 1935 the church made a major push against individuals who began settling in the Short Creek area. That same year the First Presidency released a statement that the children of parents who had been excommunicated for “having entered into illicit relations under the guise of plural marriage” were not to be baptized until they had sufficient understanding to assure an acceptance of church teachings and “express regret” for their parents’ opposition to the “rules of the church.” Giving the basis of the policy, the statement concluded: “There is no consistency in baptizing a child and having him re-enter a home, the spirit of which is antagonistic to the authorities of the Church, and out of harmony with its principles.” [n2] This was quoted directly in the 1940 and 1944 handbooks, and the 1946 revised edition of The Missionary’s Hand Book. [n3] The policy was then summarized in the 1963, 1968, and 1976 editions of the general handbook.

The Presiding Bishopric wrote to ward leaders in 1957 instructing that while “children should never be disfellowshipped or excommunicated from the Church because such action has been taken against their parents,” and that “unbaptized children cannot be excommunicated,” children of parents who had been excommunicated “for practicing plural marriage” were not to be baptized until they were adults and “then only when they are willing to obey the teachings of the Church.” [n4]

On December 7, 1967 the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency met in their regular meeting and discussed a query from leaders in Southern Utah on the propriety of enrolling children of polygamists in Primary, MIA, and other church organizations. A statement which President McKay had previously delivered at a 1954 St. George Solemn Assembly was read to the council and approved for distribution among the Twelve for the purpose of responding to similar questions:

The Authorities of the Church felt the necessity years ago of depriving these offspring of these Cultists of the blessings of the Priesthood, and, therefore, when they are eight years of age or when they are twelve, they are not entitled to the blessings of the Church, and you Bishops should not accept them. That instruction has been given out.

Now there is another question coming up and you are meeting it in this area. These little children are being enrolled in Primary and their mothers are taking part and some of your Mutuals are inviting these seemingly good women to come and speak to them and their children are invited to participate in the exercises. Well now, that shouldn’t be done, and some of your members in the wards say, ‘Well, you will let non-members come.’ Yes, we do because non-members are earnestly seeking the truth, but here you are dealing with an apostate group who deliberately charge the Authorities of the Church with having apostatized and that the Church is an apostate church. Now we suggest, and this is in keeping I am sure with the views of all the General Authorities, that not only do you deprive these boys of having the priesthood until they arrive at the years of accountability so that they may choose between the truth of the Church and the teachings of their parents. We do that, and some of them are on missions now. They have found the light and are serving, but until they do they are no treated as members of the Church, and the children should not be enrolled in our Primary departments. Now if we leave it just at that point, you bishops are going to meet some of our own members who will say that is uncharitable and we do not want the Church to carry that responsibility. So here is one condition which you may note: If the father and the mother come to you and acknowledge the parentage of that child in the presence of the Primary teacher or other witnesses, you may enroll that child, but let them own the offspring in honor and not teach the offspring to lie. Tell the father to come with the mother of the child and say, ‘I am the father of this child and she is the mother’, and you may enroll that child in the Primary, but not until that is done, even though he be an excommunicant. That is as far as the Church can go in dealing with these apostates. The law of the land should pick them up then for they are violating the law of the land, but seemingly some of our officials up north are not eager at least to arrest these violators. If they are so heroic in defending the truth, let them come and acknowledge their parentage. [n5]

In 1983 the handbook was revised to include a requirement that the baptismal candidates must “repudiate the doctrinal teachings of their parents” and that specific questions on cases should be elevated to the First Presidency. [n6] These instructions were included in the 1985 and 1989 editions. The 1998 Handbook revision stated that all children of polygamist excommunicants required First Presidency approval for baptism, then only after the stake president had verified the child’s commitment and repudiation of polygamy. [n7] This policy was reiterated in the 2006 and 2010 handbooks, the latter of which is currently in force. The 2010 edition also added the requirement that candidates must not be “living in a home where polygamy is being taught or practiced.” Moreover it categorizes people living in unlawful plural marriage as being in “apostasy.” [n8]

_____________________

  1. Martha S. Bradley, Kidnapped From That Land: The Government Raids on the Short Creek Polygamist (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1993).
  2. Handbook of Instructions for Stake Presidencies, Bishops and Counselors, Stake and Ward Clerks and Other Church Officers, no. 16 (N.p.: N.pub., 1940), 119.
  3. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Missionary’s Hand Book, Rev. ed., (Independence, MO: Press of Zion’s Printing and Publishing Company, 1946), 137.
  4. “Excommunication of Parents Does Not Include Children,” Messenger (September 1957), 2.
  5. General Handbook of Instructions, (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1983), 31.
  6. David O. McKay, diary, December 7, 1967, MS 668, David Oman McKay Papers, JWML.
  7. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 1: Stake Presidencies and Bishoprics, 2006 (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1998), 27.
  8. Handbook 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops, 2010 (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2010), 57, 145.

Comments

  1. Bro. Jones says:

    Very interesting, thanks for sharing this. On the one hand, it seems to express a more consistent message than what’s happening now: it directs wards to essentially shun children of a group that the church has designated as apostate (rather than take the awkward current stance of trying to welcome children that it can’t actually include in membership or full activity).

    On the other hand, I’m still bewildered by the analogous treatment of families with married same-sex parents and families with parents polygamous marriages.

  2. This was enlightening, but it also makes me even more frustrated with the current policy. Gay parents are not a homogeneous group, and they aren’t getting married as an act of rebellion against the church. That has been my biggest frustration with the policy all along–despite the brethren saying that they are in touch with the world as it is now, they still seem really tone deaf on all the complexities of modern families. The way the policy is talked about, including President Oaks’ recent statement (which described parents as ‘custodians’ for some reason), seems to assume that gay families are some distant ‘other’ who only exist in direct warfare with the church.

    Also, the assumption with the current policy still seems to be that the ‘gay lifestyle’ is somehow a choice or a belief system (like polygamy). I’m not even clear on what kids are supposed to ‘disavow’ when they want to be baptized–if they are gay, they are gay. It’s not a choice.

    More than anything, I’m horrified by the idea that if anything were to happen to me and my kids were to live full-time with their dad (and his husband), their progress in the church would be suddenly blocked because they are now living full-time with a gay married couple. Right now, things have been fine because they go to church with me most of the time and they like church. Our local leaders have told me multiple times that the policy does not apply to my kids and my family, which is both a relief and a horrible slap in the face. Families and people are complex and dynamic, and this policy is so tone-deaf.

  3. J.

    What do you think are the important differences between the old children-of-polygamists policy and the new children-of-gay-parents policy, if any?

    Bro. Jones mentions one — the different attitude toward “welcoming” the children. Do you see any others?

    Aaron B

  4. Aaron Brown says:

    ExSpouse,

    I’m sympathetic with the rest of your comment, but this paragraph makes no sense:

    “Also, the assumption with the current policy still seems to be that the ‘gay lifestyle’ is somehow a choice or a belief system (like polygamy). I’m not even clear on what kids are supposed to ‘disavow’ when they want to be baptized–if they are gay, they are gay. It’s not a choice”

    The policy assumes that the choice of gay parents to pursue a family configuration headed by two gay parents is a choice. Because it is a choice. Kids are supposed to disavow their parents’ marital configuration as being against the will of God. Yes, “being gay’ is not a choice, but “being gay” isn’t what the Church frowns on. “Getting gay married” (among other gay things) is frowned on.

    My point isn’t to defend the policy, which I oppose. But it isn’t helpful to conflate sexual orientation and marital/family status, which are separate things.

    Aaron B

  5. J. Stapley says:

    Aaron, speaking strictly about the respective policies, both categorize parents as apostates, and both restrict participation in the liturgies of the church. However, it appears that in the current handbook the LGBTQ-related restriction is more detailed. The polygamist-related restriction currently only discusses baptism (I believe, I only have the 2010 edition, not the subsequent revised edition).

  6. (No subject)
    JA

    J. Armstrong <jbarm@ho
    Wonder where the outrage was with the progressive LDS members when this policy was enforced over the past 80 years or so with regard to the polygamous folks? Ed Firmage and Lowell Bennion (amongst others), where were their voices on this policy?

    I suppose the argument is that LGBTQ+ individuals and their cause are more popular with the progressive members of the Church and society today and therefore the popular will is that outrage should be expressed towards their treatment while the polygamous folks are not popular and so we should ignore their supposed plight?

    I agree with the logic in the original policy: the families involved are actively engaged in what the Church considers to be apostate behavior. Bringing their kids into baptism in that environment does not make sense.

    Despite the protestations of the progessive LDS wing, folks who are in a gay marriage are active apostates against Church doctrine. No gray area involved here folks.

    Sacrificing their children on the altar of political correctness by having them baptised into an organization that actively opposes their parent's lifestyle is nonsensical. All you get out of that exercise are confused and conflicted children.

    Progressives can hope for full recognition of gay marriage in the temple some day, but until that unlikely event happens the policy with regard to gay married folks and their children is consistent with the polygamous family policy and basic logic.

  7. J. Stapley says:

    Jb, I imagine most observers would say that polygamist schismatics assert authority over church liturgy in the continued plural sealings. Some have apparently wanted to sneak into temples to perform sealings there. I think those same observers would say that there is no LGBTQ organization or theology that asserts claims of authority over the President of the Church. Moreover, I imagine most people agree that same-sex marriage is legal and lawful (whereas polygamy is not), and that particularly the blessing of children has been open to all, including non-members for the entire history of the church.

  8. Thanks for this additional context, J. I wasn’t aware of it. I mean, I knew about the polygamy restriction, but I didn’t know that it had been articulated in such specific terms as being about avoiding confusion like the 2015 policy has been.

  9. This is a spectacular snapshot. Thank you very much.

  10. “I’m still bewildered by the analogous treatment of families with married same-sex parents and families with parents polygamous marriages.”

    I’m not. I think it’s pretty analogous. It seems to me that church leaders then and church leaders now are concerned about the same things: 1) protecting the children — that children growing up in families whose structures are in direct conflict with the teachings of the church will experience significance turmoil trying to reconcile what’s normal at home with what’s unacceptable at church, effectively causing them to be inoculated against the church, and 2) protecting the integrity of the church — that the more gay lifestyles are seen at church, the more they’ll become normal and accepted, in direct contradiction to church teachings. 2) follows from 1), but is undoubtedly the far bigger motivator.

    In this context, I don’t see much difference between polygamous and same-sex unions. You can’t say that in one case someone’s rebelling against the church and in the other, someone “can’t help being gay”. To willingly enter into either marriage is to rebel against church teachings, and to say there’s nothing wrong with it is to come out in direct opposition to current church doctrine (not saying it won’t change, just saying what is). You can be gay and not enter into a gay marriage. You can be absolutely positive that polygamy is ordained of God, and still choose not to be a polygamist.

    They’re in a tough spot, though, because allowing the children of such families to participate in church, yet not receive the ordinances undermines both 1 and 2 above. Not allowing them to do so simply ostrasizes them from a young age and creates a lot of bad feelings toward the church.

  11. In one of the polygamy reality TV shows, one of the sons is leaving for his mission, hugging his parents, and doesn’t seem to be repudiating anything.

  12. The third paragraph is very interesting.
    ‘Children of parents who had been excommunicated “for practicing plural marriage” were not to be baptized until they were adults and “then only when they are willing to obey the teachings of the Church.”‘
    It seems to me that the extension of this policy to the children of same-sex couples is ALSO an extension from orthopraxy (correct conduct) to orthodoxy (correct belief).
    While previously, the children of polygamous households were not allowed baptism until adulthood and commitment to not choosing/doing polygamous relationships, the current policy as applied requires a disavowal and commitment to believing/proclaiming that gay relationships are wrong.
    Should I be concerned about the creation of policies that extend from orthopraxy into orthodoxy?

    “Preserve, then, the freedom of your mind in education and in religion, and be unafraid to express your thoughts and to insist upon your right to examine every proposition. We are not so much concerned with whether your thoughts are orthodox or heterodox as we are that you shall have thoughts.”
    An Eternal Quest–Freedom of the Mind, BYU Student Body, May 13th, 1969. Hugh B Brown

  13. Martin, nobody worries about the cognitive dissonance my children experience when people (like Elder Oaks) say that parents who get divorced do so because they are selfish and don’t care enough about their children. I’d be willing to bet that they didn’t (for instance) consult with Primary Presidents to see if this was a real problem in their wards. I just don’t buy the notion that they care all that much about kids.

  14. Martin, I agree with Kristine. Why is gay marriage singled out as a particular threat to children? If kids have gay parents who aren’t married, they can get baptized. If they have non-married parents, divorced parents, alcoholic parents, anti-Mormon parents, they can get baptized. My dad is inactive and my parents were not married in the temple, yet somehow my siblings and I were still allowed to get baptized and attend church. And yes, there certainly was some cognitive dissonance between what we heard at church about ‘the only path to happiness being temple marriage’ and teachings about the word of wisdom and my home life, but we dealt with it.

    JD, I think you articulated well what I was trying to get at. The difference seems to be policing belief rather than practice–that’s what I’m stuck on with the ‘disavowal’ language. What would it look like for my kids to ‘disavow’ their dad’s marriage? How are they supposed to go about doing that? Like I was trying to say earlier, gay marriage is a thing you want to do because you are gay and love someone, or it’s just not even something you are interested in. Asking people to ‘disavow’ it seems weirdly extreme.

  15. President McKay bemoans the fact that the Feds don’t take care of the illegal polygamist but President Oaks just threw the law of the land—which at one time, he swore to uphold—under the bus by referring to gay parents as “custodians.” Whatever view the church holds of same-sex marriage, those couples are legally married and are “parents” under the law.

  16. Kevin Barney says:

    That was a really interesting text. The end seemed a bit garbled to me; it was unclear whether the parents acknowledging the child was enough, or whether they also had to allow themselves to be arrested.

    This is a tangentially relevant post:

    https://bycommonconsent.com/2015/10/11/polygamy-and-baptism-policy/

  17. J. Stapley says:

    Kevin, I didn’t copy edit very well, and I’ve cleaned it up a bit.

  18. JD:
    “It seems to me that the extension of this policy to the children of same-sex couples is ALSO an extension from orthopraxy (correct conduct) to orthodoxy (correct belief).
    While previously, the children of polygamous households were not allowed baptism until adulthood and commitment to not choosing/doing polygamous relationships, the current policy as applied requires a disavowal and commitment to believing/proclaiming that gay relationships are wrong.
    Should I be concerned about the creation of policies that extend from orthopraxy into orthodoxy?”

    I see what you’re saying here, but the distinction between how the Church handles children affected by the two policies could also be described as follows: In the case of polygamy, asking an 18-year-old whether he is willing to remain monogamously married isn’t too different from inquiring if he or she “disavows” plural marriage. Because the refusal to enter into a polygamous union is taken as prima facia evidence that one rejects the belief that plural marriage is divinely sanctioned. The same can’t be said for children of gay married parents, however, because statistically, most of these children are likely to be straight. So their subsequent failure to enter into gay marriages tells us nothing about their attitudes toward gay marriage.

    That’s an alternative framing anyway.

  19. In other words, under the plural marriage policy, the inquiry “Do you reject plural marriage as a matter of belief?” is arguably built into the question “Will you live by church standards regarding marriage?” in a way that the inquiry “Do you reject gay marriage as a matter of belief?” is NOT built into the question “Do you agree to not get gay married yourself?”

    Aaron b

  20. @Aaron B
    Thank you for that, although I’m not exactly sure what you are stating – your explanation still seems to be a baptismal orthodoxy rather than orthopraxy requirement (“Their subsequent failure to enter into gay marriages tells us nothing about their attitudes toward gay marriage.)” (Doesn’t needing to find out their attitude toward gay marriage = orthodoxy requirement?) Although Kevin Barney’s linked post implied that in her situation, the policy application was also a baptismal orthodoxy requirement. That happened before the November policy as well.
    Orthodoxy requirements beyond the Articles of Faith, baptismal interview, or temple recommend interview are usually disconcerting to me.
    And are there two Aaron B’s?

  21. Martin:
    “2) follows from 1), but is undoubtedly the far bigger motivator.”

    I agree with this. A lot of critics of the Nov. 5 policy have noticed this. It’s unfortunate that LDS leaders don’t acknowledge it though.

    There’s another problem with the claim that Church leaders care about children’s cognitive dissonance, independent of the one Kristine raises. The cognitive dissonance to which they refer is undoubtedly real, but it exists regardless whether the children in question are baptized or not. It’s present as long as they attend church. So there’s something seemingly disingenuous about justifying a policy as motivated by combating cognitive dissonance, and then “welcoming” the very children who suffer from the dissonance to attend the very meetings that contribute to that dissonance. It would have been more consistent to just tell the children of gay couples not to attend church at all.

    Aaron B

  22. J. Stanley: Thank you for this. I value every tidbit (and more) from your research. History speaks volumes.
    I found it helpful in understanding the recent Policy (note that understanding does not detract from violent disagreement) to hear in conversation with an insider—not Q15, but consulting—that he felt a starting point was an assumption that married gay couples are actively hostile, outspokenly antagonistic, in a way that parallels the assumptions made about polygamous “cultists.”

  23. Martin, all I was saying is that you can argue that the “orthodoxy” requirement isn’t new, but was there all along; it was just implicit in the questions posed to children of polygamists, and it could remain implicit unproblematically because children of polygamous families could signal their assent to monogamy doctrine, their orthodoxy, by remaining monogamous themselves. Not so in the gay marriage context — most children would never dream of becoming gay married, no matter how sympathetic they are to gay marriage as an institution (because they’re straight), so their subsequent marriage choices aren’t presumed to be demonstrative of their beliefs about gay marriage.

    It’s not a perfect argument, I admit. It’s just an alternative framing that downplays your claim that orthodoxy (as opposed to orthopraxy) concerns are new.

    Aaron B

  24. Kristine, ExSpouse, I think “protecting the children” is absolutely a motivator, and you can come up with it whether you talk to primary presidents or not. It doesn’t have to be accurate to be a motivator. There’s also a qualitative difference between a gay marriage, and say, a divorced or part-member couple. The latter are perceived as departures from the ideal, whereas polygamous or gay marriages are perceived as wholesale rejection of it. But again, I don’t think that’s the primary motivator. I think the primary motivator is resisting the normalization of gay marriage within the body of the church. If the policy of exclusion (as referred to on this blog) is considered inspired (as claimed), I’ll bet that’s the basis.

  25. This is a fascinating look at the origin. I’m a bit bewildered by those who assert (including Oaks) that these policies are similar in the groups involved being somehow similar and in purpose (avoiding conflicting messages to children).

    Polygamists are a religious schism from Mormonism. We created this problem, and essentially forced many monogamous heterosexual women into these unions with social, financial and spiritual pressure. I don’t believe that any women are born polygamists. These Mormon fundamentalist groups are a monolithic community offering an “alternate” Mormonism to their members (ever since the official repudiation of polygamy, well, the second one that they actually meant).

    Gay people are individually being born into LDS families. This isn’t a group of people who split from Mormonism. There’s no alternate LGBT LDS religious movement that has emerged. There are LGBT church members with testimonies. It’s not a schism. Aaron’s distinction between orientation (which is inherent) and entering a gay marriage (a choice) is important, but only because our theology doesn’t know what to do with gay people. God made them gay, sent them to LDS families, and all we can do is tell them “LOL. Sucks to be you–enjoy life-long celibacy” and “maybe you’ll be heterosexual in the eternities” (anyone who thinks that’s a comforting notion needs to imagine how they would feel if heterosexuals were told they would become homosexuals in the afterlife, after they live a life alone). And even so, that was fine (!) until society stopped saying more or less the same thing to gay people. The church just hasn’t got a better script yet. We are still OK with gay people marrying heterosexuals, despite the fact that most of these unions end in divorce, and many involve self-deception and deception of one’s partner. And many of these broken marriages are the reason that LDS children have gay married parents.

    This looks pretty clearly to me like 1) we are resentful and lashing out because we lost the fight against gay marriage, and 2) we still don’t have a clue why God keeps making gay people and sending them to LDS families, so maybe if we treat them poorly enough they will quit existing and we won’t have to figure out how they fit into God’s plan.

    God didn’t make polygamists; Mormons did. OTOH, God keeps sending gay children to LDS families.

  26. The thing is, no one else has to disavow gay marriage to be baptized. I support gay marriage, but no one has a problem with me being a member and a temple recommend holder. None of my kids have to disavow gay marriage to be baptized or ordained to an office in the Priesthood or go on a mission or anything else, because I’m straight. Only children of gay couples, who are no more likely than other children (including mine), to be gay or to choose to enter into a same sex marriage, have to disavow gay marriage. That’s not analogous to children of polygamous unions, who (I assume) would be more likely to enter into polygamous marriages because they’ve been raised that way.

  27. Here is the current Handbook 1 policy on children of parents practicing polygamous marriage:

    ##
    16.3.9 – Children Whose Parents Have Practiced or Are Practicing Plural Marriage
    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.
    ##

    And the current Handbook 1 policy on children of parents in a same-sex marriage:

    ##
    16.13 – Children of a Parent Living in a Same-Gender Relationship
    A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may not receive a name and a blessing.

    A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may be baptized and confirmed, ordained, or recommended for missionary service only as follows:

    A mission president or a stake president may request approval from the Office of the First Presidency to baptize and confirm, ordain, or recommend missionary service for a child of a parent who has lived or is living in a same-gender relationship when he is satisfied by personal interviews that both of the following requirements are met:

    1. The child accepts and is committed to live the teachings and doctrine of the Church, and specifically disavows the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage.
    2. The child is of legal age and does not live with a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same-gender cohabitation relationship or marriage.

    (See First Presidency letter, November 13, 2015.)
    ##

  28. Dog Spirit says:

    Declaring that you won’t get polygamously married is not at all the same as disavowing the concept of polygamy! Lots of members of the church believe in polygamy, including Pres.Oaks himself. Orthopraxy and orthodoxy are not at all the same in the polygamy game. It’s just that in one case, we don’t care what you believe so long as you don’t actually marry more than one living woman at the same time. More or less. Weirdly, for polygamy the law’s definition of marriage matters more than the church’s, seeing as how the church doesn’t mind a divorced man being sealed to more than one woman. Consistency just doesn’t appear anywhere in this picture.

  29. @Aaron B 2:12 pm
    Thank you for this addendum, I realized that you were stating that it was orthodoxy all along. It doesn’t sit right with me, though, because to explore this further, these specific orthodoxy requirements are only applied to these groups.
    1) The Gay: To echo E’s 2:54 comment, no other group is required to disavow or state this orthodox belief for baptism or advance within offices of the priesthood.
    2) Polygamy: Nobody else is actually required to “disavow polygamy” – just to “live by church standards regarding marriage” – to not currently practice synchronous marriages. We (the church) ostensibly still believe in polygamy, just that the Lord has rescinded that commandment for us to practice it in mortality at this current time.
    I think this is one of the things that doesn’t sit right with me – this targeted application of specific required, additional orthodoxy to groups within Mormonism/Ziontology/The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
    How do I address this concern? Particularly since it is still my impression (and apparently Martin’s) that this is less an attempt to “protect the children” and more an additional attempt to “resist the normalization of gay marriage within the body of the church” – an “inoculation” for the members, as it were.

  30. I do believe there is usually active antagonism toward the Church and its leaders being shown by same sex married couples. All I want to know is why then would they want their children to be baptized LDS.

  31. @Emma 3:29 pm
    To be honest, the couples that DO have “active antagonism toward the Church and its leaders” don’t want their children to be baptized LDS. It is the couples that don’t have this antagonism that do want ordinances for their children. The couples that have a testimony of the Gospel, and have strongly felt that the Lord has directed them toward this path. Perhaps that concept is the most insidious one of all – a same-sex married couple raising children in the church, interacting normally with other parents and families. If anything were to increase normalization of that relationship within the body of the church, I surmise that would do it.

  32. Jack Hughes says:

    As I understand it, Church leaders throughout the 20th century were concerned about polygamist groups infiltrating the mainstream Church, getting temple recommends, climbing the leadership ladder, and living ostensibly righteous lives while practicing polygamy in secret. There was a fear (either real or imagined) that it would undermine the authority of the leaders and eventually cause the Church to schism and collapse. They were worried that these polygamists were quietly recruiting their fellow ward members.

    Meanwhile in the mid-20th century, homosexuality was considered a mental illness, gays were considered deviants and perverts, and were often conflated with child molesters. There was an irrational fear in society about gays being predatory, trying to recruit new “converts”, and lurking in the dark corners of public restrooms and locker rooms. This was the social environment in which most of the current leaders of the Church developed their formative opinions about LGBT people, so naturally they conflated the polygamist problem with the supposed gay problem. Like the polygamists, they see gays as potential infiltrators, seeking to undermine the sanctity of temple sealings and eternal families and such. Yes, it’s ridiculous, but it might make sense to a Utah-born nonagenarian who grew up believing that both polygamists and gays were existential threats to the Church.

  33. Strange that you “believe” that, Emma. Do you actually know any gay couples, in or out of the Church?

  34. JD is right about that. Also, our stance on gay marriage means that we prefer (and don’t discriminate against) those who are promiscuous gay people. We only care if they are successfully monogamous and committed to their partner.

  35. The phrase “offspring of these Cultists” is highly problematic.

  36. E – I like your reasoning, but I do believe they have a temple question in there to weed people like you out. Do you support, agree with, affiliate with etc…

    I have a dear friend who believes that polygamy will not only be practiced in heaven, but also is looking forward to the time that it is reinstated here on earth. I guess that means he agrees that the polygamists are right, just that they don’t have the wink and nod from God. So he can truthfully answer the question, where you can not.

    What a mess. I hate that temple question BTW.

    Thanks J. Stapley. This was great.

  37. Zach,

    I told the stake presidency member during the interview that I support gay marriage and he didn’t blink an eye in giving me a recommend. Of course, leadership roulette.

  38. Suburbs of SLC says:

    I’ll add a couple of thoughts. For context, I’m a gay man who is hoping to marry my partner soon-ish (though apparently he gets a say in the timeline of when that happens, for some reason). We’ve talked about kids, and the general plan is to have them be involved in church to the extent we can make it work, though I have lots of fears about whether it will actually last.

    People have already noted that as long as the kids of gay people go to church, they will still experience the disconnect the exclusion policy is supposed to prevent (thus demonstrating the policy doesn’t do a great job of satisfying its stated goal). I’d also point out, however, that even if those kids never go to church–which seems to be the hope of the Q15–the disconnect remains. My kids’ cousins (my nieces and nephews) will all be blessed and baptized and ordained and go on missions. That’s a lot of family get togethers we would have to explain to them. Its one thing to not want to go to church, and choose to raise your family apart from the church. When it comes time to explain what the extended family is doing, its on you to provide your kids with your justifications for choosing not to be involved. It would be much more difficult, I imagine, to explain to the kids, ‘yeah, we wanted you to attend church and get baptized just like your cousin, but the church said they didn’t want you.’

    On a similar note, as some people have mentioned, its pretty bizarre to me that my nieces and nephews don’t have to disavow me to be baptized. I obviously don’t know precisely what my siblings will say to their kids behind closed doors about me; maybe they’ll teach them I’m living in a state of great sin. But as far as I’ve observed, they’ve been nothing but kind and supportive, and frankly I don’t really see them toeing the church line on homosexuality. I don’t mind the church treating me (the one actually engaging in actions the church opposes) differently from my siblings, who are supportive but not actually doing anything wrong. But its weird to treat my kids different from my siblings’ kids, given that their views on homosexuality are likely to be pretty similar.

    Finally, conversations about the exclusion policy often ignore the feelings of extended family. Having kids who can’t get baptized really bothers me, but it makes my parents even angrier. Plenty of grandparents in the world step in to make sure their grandchildren get blessed/baptized, even if their kids (the parents) are unworthy or inactive, but that’s not an option for my parents. Similarly, when my partner came out to his sister, she said something to the effect of: ‘I see you as having four options. You can be celibate, and keep going to church; You can marry a woman, and keep going to church; You can marry a man, and keep going to church; or You can sleep with lots of men, and keep going to church.’ I thought it was an adorable response, a way to show some support, but also reaffirm how important the church was to her. But the POX makes keeping her advice a whole lot harder.

  39. Ryan Mullen says:

    Suburbs of SLC, thanks for chiming in with your lived experience. Stories like yours take this whole mess out of the hypothetical and into the real for me since I’m not directly affected by the POX.

    Angela C, I really appreciated your break down of the two policies.

  40. “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 policy with respect to children of polygamous parents appears only to apply where polygamy is illegal. Unless I misunderstand, that means that in countries where polygamy is legal, their children may receive all of the ordinances of the gospel without requiring disavowal of polygamy or reaching adulthood. Have I misread the policy?

  41. The exclusion policy is harmful to LGBT+ kids and teens who are born into LDS families. What are they to think of themselves and their future in light of the policy? It’s hurtful to straight siblings of these kids, and to straight kids and teens who have LGBT+ friends and extended family members. The policy also hurts parents of LGBT children/youth. I agree the church is desperately trying to not let gay people become normalized at church, but they can’t stop it everywhere else.

  42. Kevin Barney says:

    Suburbs, great point about the grandparents and other relatives. We’ve been so focused on the nuclear family we tend not to think of the family in a broader perspective. And you’re quite right; I can well imagine devout grandparents being royally pissed that their innocent grandbabies can’t be baptized and so forth.

    DavidH, I read it the same way you do. But I don’t know whether that is fully intentional or a result of overly local thinking.

  43. I appreciate the post and the historical context. It blows my mind that we claim the name of Jesus Christ and fail at the most basic level to “suffer the children.” This policy is cruel.

  44. Here’s my one issue with your conclusion, J. Stapley. I am what your church calls an “apostate” because I used to be a member of your church and chose to leave it due to no longer believing in it. I’m not an apostate who practices polygamy or in an gay marriage. I’m just your regular old run-of-the-mill nontheist ex-Mormon.

    However, if my active Mormon wife decided to have our future kids baptized, they could be baptized. They could even be baptized without my permission. The LDS church would GLADLY allow JUST her permission to be good enough to baptize the child. So denying baptism to children of polygamous and/or gay parents is not about apostasy and its’ not about preventing family conflict, otherwise the church would at least require both parents to sign off on their kids getting baptized. I won’t say exactly what I think it’s about because I have no proof of my theory. But it’s clearly not about merely apostasy.

  45. D Christian Harrison says:

    This is a great snapshot, J., and will likely spur lots of fruitful conversations—as it already has, in the comments above.

    In the end, both policies of exclusion trifle with saving ordinances and the tender feels of children in unforgivable ways—all in pursuit of goal that flies in the face of Joseph’s wise approach that he taught the Saint correct principles and let them govern themselves.

    Nelson et al are right to fear the children of gay couples: our wrongheaded teachings about the nature of Godly love won’t survive children of queer parents and queer children of straight parents singing in the ward Primary program. As long as we can otherize them, we won’t hear their stories and the Spirit is frustrated in their ability to testify to our hearts the beauty and truth found in queer love. In that sense, the policies of exclusion are sins against the Spirit in addition to being sins against innocent children.

    God help us.

  46. D Christian Harrison says:

    Gah. The typos! Sorry folks.

  47. D Christian Harrison says:

    Also, Kristine is absolutely correct: the Church has long invested great effort at baptizing and retaining the children of part-member households (not to mention households where one or both parents are less active). The idea that a child of two gay parents who wants her to attend church and to be baptized is somehow more conflicted than the child of parents who drink or carouse or are divorced or who attend different churches or who have been incarcerated are who peddle Doterra at ward functions — the idea that these children don’t ALL experience the natural conflict that comes from loving other flawed human beings — the idea is laughable.

  48. Buendia, Does your quoted policy mean that the “primary residence” qualification of the “clarification” letter has been withdrawn? Or does it mean the handbook has not been updated to include that qualification?

  49. Suburbs of SLC: Your comment is very helpful to understanding the situation these kids are in. I know gay people who served in my mission. Their stories are like yours. There are gay people who love the gospel and have testimonies and strong spiritual experiences, but they can’t live their entire life alone or marry against their inclination and live a lie, and I don’t blame them! That goes against everything we as a church culture teach is important in life.

    When the policy came out, an older man in my ward, someone I barely knew whose name I don’t even remember just started bawling as he talked about his gay son and his son’s partner. He said now his grandchildren wouldn’t be able to be in the church, and he was just wounded to the core over it. He loved his son, and nobody knew he had a gay son who was married. Another man was upset because his ex-wife is gay married and they have joint custody of their kids. His daughter was about to be baptized. He did get approval, but when the policy came out, the baptism was in question.

  50. Jeremiah Stone says:

    Angela C has touched on the key problem with this policy:

    “Gay people are individually being born into LDS families. This isn’t a group of people who split from Mormonism. There’s no alternate LGBT LDS religious movement that has emerged. There are LGBT church members with testimonies. It’s not a schism….God made them gay, sent them to LDS families, and all we can do’is tell them ‘LOL. Sucks to be you–enjoy life-long celibacy’ and ‘maybe you’ll be heterosexual in the eternities’….The church just hasn’t got a better script yet. We are still OK with gay people marrying heterosexuals, despite the fact that most of these unions end in divorce, and many involve self-deception and deception of one’s partner. And many of these broken marriages are the reason that LDS children have gay married parents….we still don’t have a clue why God keeps making gay people and sending them to LDS families, so maybe if we treat them poorly enough they will quit existing and we won’t have to figure out how they fit into God’s plan.”

    Gay and Lesbian LDSs are not “other”. They are us. They came from us. Many of them still want to be us. They just can’t do it. And the Church doesn’t have any good answers for them. And meanwhile, God keeps sending them into our families. Why? Why, when we know the terrible endgame? There seems to be a lot of cruelty and lack of empathy going on here, and I’m not ashamed to say it.

    Polygamists (maybe…) are choosing a doctrine that is in conflict with revealed truth. Gay and Lesbian LDSs who choose same-sex marriage are often merely choosing not to be alone. To have some kind of family….the thing the Church teaches is the purpose of life and the only way to really be happy. I suspect the PoX is a way to quarantine happy same-sex parented families away from the body of the Church so that we are less likely to realize they are just like us. They are us. They may only be hostile to the extent that they have been treated poorly by us. Who can blame them?

    And LGBT children will continue to be born among us at the same rate as before. We can’t stop it. Why is God doing this? I suggest we attempt to find out.

  51. “And LGBT children will continue to be born among us at the same rate as before. We can’t stop it. Why is God doing this? I suggest we attempt to find out.”

    A good place to begin this inquiry is with a primer on prenatal physiology. Diety would rather we think & research our way through these conundrums ourselves. Q15 should be leading the way on this instead of issuing harmful, short-sighted, ill-informed edicts. Between the two extremes of expulsion & full fellowship there are a huge range of options for the humane and loving treatment of gay members and gay couples – options that will at once preserve institutional integrity AND honor the direction of the Savior that we love one another regardless of who we or “they” are.