HB 1 16:13

In April of this year the First Presidency repealed the captioned Handbook policy, commonly referred to by many members as the “Policy of Exclusion” (or the “PoX” for short). This was an absolutely stunning development. The Church is not in the habit of overturning policies buttressed with claims of capital R Revelation within four short years of promulgation. The Church hates to be put in the position of appearing fallible in some sense, even though our leaders are human beings and therefore our leadership is by very definition fallible. I give the Church a major fist bump for this action. Sure, it would have been better not to have promulgated the policy in the first place, and yes, i’m sure it wasn’t easy, but it was very much the right thing to do.

But now we have a (growing) problem. That verbal repeal occurred in early April of this year, or seven months ago. And what do we find when we turn to the Handbook provision? The text of the PoX is still there.

I have seen a lot of people on social media starting to take the position that the April announcement was nothing but a bait and switch, that the Church never had any intention of repealing the PoX, and it remains in effect to this day (because, hello, it’s in the HB). I for one disagree with that position. The 1P are not fools; they would have had to be insane to make such a public repeal of the provision but then never put it into effect, as if no one would ever notice. No, the PoX has definitely been repealed. But the Church has left itself open to this criticism and conspiracy theories by leaving the thing on the books all this time. Why? What in the world is accomplished by doing that? It’s simply not a smart move (or should I say non-move). The non-action is keeping this going as a topic of discussion, which in my view is a self-inflicted wound.

So why is the old, repealed language still there? One theory I’ve heard is Church leaders can’t decide on the language to replace it with. I would suggest they replace it with nothing. If you try to replace it with other language which ends up being tone deaf, you risk forfeiting much of the goodwill you gained by repealing the policy in the first place. (And that goodwill is evaporating as the policy remains on the books all this time later.) If they really, really think they need to put some words in that slot, they could just use some of the language Church leader used when they announced the repeal.

As a helpful service, here are some suggestions for what they should put in that slot of Handbook 1:

16:13 [Reserved]

16:13 [Intentionally Omitted]

Or, if you really must,

16:13 [Forthcoming]

But whatever you do, take the existing PoX language out of the electronic Handbook. The longer the wording of the PoX reamains in the electronic HB, the more goodwill the Church is losing for no good reason.







  1. And President Nelson spoke about it in September at BYU in what insiders tell me they viewed as an apology, or as close to one as the Church ever makes. I agree that reversing course yet again is almost inconceivable.

    The speculation that appeals to me is that the Church is struggling with how to put definitions or terms to “immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated in the same way.” Arguably gratuitous—a step beyond reversal—but in fact said.

  2. I’m in a leadership position and am privy to Handbook 1. The church stopped producing hard copies of the handbook this year (probably to stop leaks of Handbook 1). All changes, amendments, updates to the handbook now happen as a digital updates that gets pushed out every month or so. I check my Handbook1 periodically. On my ap, under the action for church discipline in Handbook 1, the definition of apostasy no longer says same sex marriage. It must’ve been removed when my app updated.

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    Yeah, Derrick, when I went to see whether the PoX language was still in the HB, I signed in again to make sure I was getting the current version and not old text that was later changed.

  4. There have been Handbook 1 updates subsequent to the April 4 announcement. I am unable to imagine any good reason why they didn’t simply delete 6.13 (which was a new section when the PoX was adopted) and delete “4. Are in a same-gender marriage.” from 6.7.3 (the Church’s special purpose definition of “apostacy”).
    I doubt there is any difficulty in the minds of the COB about what “immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships” is. That was already in place before 6.7.2 listing “homosexual relations” along with adultery and fornication as “serious transgressions”. The PoX simply added “(especially sexual cohabitation)” after “homosexual relations”. It could be retained or deleted with no change of meaning.
    It seems clear to some that the “treated in the same way” meant no more than taking same-gender marriage out of the special definition of “apostacy”. There is no good reason to think the Brethren meant to delegate the Church’s position on morality of same-gender sexual activity to the civil government. In the early Church, “legally and lawfully” as used in the temple definition of the law of chastity was not a reference to civil authority and that definition has now been clarified by explicit reference to the law of God.
    So what is any excuse for not getting on with simply deleting everything that was added to Handbook 1 by the PoX? or everything except “(especially sexual cohabitation)” which made no difference to the meaning of pre-PoX Section 6.7.2 anyway?

  5. Derrick, That deletion had not happened when I checked in late August. Has 6.13 been deleted or modified? Was any change made to 6.7.2? Has any change been made to the parental consent section? Whether or not the changes have now been made, the failure to do so from April 4 to late August while making other changes to Handbook 1, did not encourage trust in the 1P.

  6. JR, as I hear it (second and third hand), the problem with defining “immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships” is that in some minds *any* physical contact between two people identifying as both male or both female is immoral conduct. Holding hands, for example. In those minds “treated the same way” is a big change.

  7. Chris, Whatever would such people (I’ll assume they’re out there) think of your grandfather (or 10 million Frenchmen) kissing men on the cheek?. But, yes, that could be a big change, though I very much doubt it is what DHO had in mind in using those words.

  8. Here’s the BYU/CES Honor Code standard:

    “One’s stated same-gender attraction is not an Honor Code issue. However, the Honor Code requires all members of the university community to manifest a strict commitment to the law of chastity. Homosexual behavior is inappropriate and violates the Honor Code. Homosexual behavior includes not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings.”

    I think the issue is the gap between this standard of physical intimacy and the forms of physical intimacy that give expression to heterosexual feelings but are not considered immoral or serious transgressions or violations of the law of chastity.

  9. No access to Handbook 1 says:

    Is there a compelling reason to continue to restrict access to Handbook 1 from all adult members? If we are to be judged by its contents, what is the rationale for limiting who can see it, especially now that the print version is phasing out?

  10. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks for the speculation on what the hold up may be. That sounds very plausible to me. It also drives home my point, that the church is at serious risk of completely blowing the goodwill they gained by repealing the PoX.

  11. I agree that there is no excuse for still having that language in the handbook. I’m just an average Joe, but I think the policy of the church towards homosexuals is:

    Any physical expression with the same gender is strictly condemned and disqualifies you from a temple recommend or from holding any calling in the church or exercising your priesthood for the males.

    Any sexual sins that would require a heterosexual person to have church discipline, would also apply to homosexuals.

    Heterosexuals can love and associate with homosexuals, they just can’t publicly promote their own ideas in a church setting or they could be subject to some sort of discipline.

    Children of gay people are to be treated in every way the same as children of straight people, cohabitating people, divorced people, and apostate people (unless the parents are Mormon Fundamentalist Polygamists)(If the parents are Polygamists in Africa they don’t need special permission).

    Homosexuals can have a temple recommend and hold a calling as long as they do not act in any way on their same sex attraction.

    The church teaches that only a man and woman can reach exaltation and that will never be changed.

    I am not saying I agree with all of this, I just think this is their current policy as far as I can tell.

  12. Can someone help me catch up….WHY is Handbook 1 restricted?

  13. Ryan Mullen says:

    Jennifer, Peggy Fletcher Stack wrote up on article available at SL Trib when Handbook 2 was made available online back in 2010. She wrote:

    Until now, the handbook was available only to these church leaders. That still holds true for the first volume, which is available online to bishops and stake presidents.

    That blue volume includes information about counseling with members. LDS authorities worried that if it were widely read, some members “might decide they don’t need to go see their bishop,” says Michael Otterson, managing director of LDS Public Affairs. “It made much more sense to reserve that volume for leaders.”

    But the church is putting the second, red volume online for everyone. So, for the first time, members and outsiders can read for themselves the church’s position on a panoply of social issues.

  14. Ryan – thank you. I appreciate the information. Is there a way to understand which topics are in Vol 1 vs. Vol 2? Are they more sensitive in nature? Would it be correct to conceptualize of Vol. 1 as a counseling Manuel?

  15. Once again, time for some Elton John.

  16. Ryan Mullen says:

    This discussion from Wikipedia comports with my experience:

    Handbook 1
    Handbook 1 is subtitled Stake Presidents and Bishops. It contains information that is primarily relevant to the functions and duties of stake presidents, bishops, mission presidents, district presidents, branch presidents, and their counselors. …

    The topics in Handbook 1 include guidelines involving general, area, and regional administration; duties of the stake president; duties of the bishop; temples and marriage; missionary service; administering church welfare; church discipline and name removal; interviews and counseling; physical facilities; creating, changing, and naming new units; military relations; Church Educational System; Perpetual Education Fund; records and reports; finances; stake patriarch; ordinance and blessing policies; and general church policies on administrative, medical and health, and moral issues.[6]

    Handbook 2
    Handbook 2 is subtitled Administering the Church. It contains information primarily relevant to the functions of the leaders of the church’s priesthood quorums and auxiliary organizations. …

    The topics in Handbook 2 include guidelines involving families and the church in God’s plan, priesthood principles, leadership in the church, the ward council, the work of salvation in the ward and stake, welfare principles and leadership, Melchizedek priesthood, Aaronic priesthood, Relief Society, Young Women, Primary, Sunday School, activities, music, stake organization, single members, uniformity and adaptation, meetings in the church, callings in the church, and priesthood ordinances and blessings. Handbook 2 also contains some of the general church policies on administrative, health, and moral issues that are contained in Handbook 1.[2][8]

  17. Ryan – thank you!

  18. Left Field says:

    Does the text still have the original wording stating that it applies to all children who have a biological parent in a same sex relationship? Or does it have wording based on the “clarification” that it only applies to children whose primary residence is in a same-sex household?

  19. Left Field, When I looked in August, the original wording had not been changed, but at some point a footnote style reference to the “clarification” letter was added. I did not discover when that addition was made, though I think it was not in November 2015 when the “clarification” letter was issued. That original wording was not only with respect to biological parents, it also covered adoptive parents. I do not currently have ready access to Handbook 1. Maybe Kevin or Derrick will report on current status of each of the affected sections of Handbook 1.

  20. Is it just bureaucratic slowness? I pulled up handbook 2 just now (10 Nov), and Sec 21.1.34 still says that “When referring to members of the Church…”Mormons” is acceptable.” which, according to this blogger (https://wheatandtares.org/2019/08/30/we-can-call-ourselves-mormons-again-um-no/ ) predates Pres. Nelson’s public statements that “Mormon” is not acceptable (Aug 2018, so well over a year ago).

  21. Rereading my comment, and maybe, rather than bureaucratic inertia, it shows that keeping handbooks up to date is a fairly low priority.

  22. Kevin Barney says:

    JR the link to the clarification letter is still there. I don’t believe 5he text of the section has changed.

  23. The “clarification” reduced the scope of the policy by probable a couple of orders of magnitude. As written, it would have raised all kinds of weird scenarios where the policy would theoretically apply even if the gay parent and the child were unknown to each other, or even if he were unknown to the other biological parent. The church is usually pretty good about writing precisely-worded policies that say exactly what they want to say. They clearly failed in this case.

  24. Eric Facer says:

    “The Church hates to be put in the position of appearing fallible in some sense, even though our leaders are human beings and therefore our leadership is by very definition fallible.”

    Kevin, I’m not sure President Nelson agrees with the second half of your statement:

    “Prophets are rarely popular. But we will ALWAYS teach the truth!”

    (From his recent devotional address at BYU where he discusses the Exclusion Policy. Emphasis in the original. And, no, it doesn’t contain anything resembling an apology.)

  25. The Other Mike says:

    A little late to the game here, but in a recent area training meeting we were told that massive and complete overhauls of the Handbooks were forthcoming. So maybe they just don’t feel it a priority to update.

  26. Other Mike, It is possible that such a massive overhaul is forthcoming. However, that doesn’t explain why other sections of Handbook 1 were updated after the April 4 announcement, and these were not. Why are those other updated sections a priority and these are not? In the meantime, some local leaders may continue taking their marching orders from the Handbook. If aware of the April 4 announcement, they should not, but my experience of local leaders includes some who are both unaware, uncharitable and unthinking. Not updating these sections amounts to telling local leaders that either the PoX has not been changed or the Handbook is not to be relied on — for this or anything else. It would be easy to include in the on-line version a single line as to each section comprising a part of this hot-button topic: “This is in process of change in accordance with the April 4, 2019 announcement. Do not apply this former policy.” Or better yet Kevin’s suggestion; delete the text and add “forthcoming.” Hugh Nibley once complained about the Brethren being a bunch of managers. If this were typical, he should have complained about them being a bunch of mismanagers.
    I sit all amazed.

  27. Eric Facer at 7:35 am:
    On the apology(?) point, in a small group recently I started into “didn’t sound like one to . . .” and saw such a strong reaction–in both directions–that I stopped in mid-sentence. Cowardly, I know. But not a group I wanted to blow up. Take it as an indication that this is a sensitive subject.

  28. More speculation (with no inside information):

    (a) I wouldn’t be surprised if the April announcement was intended to “make this go away.” And when it didn’t, President Nelson’s devotional was intended as the last word on the subject. In that light, Kevin Barney and others of us commenting and writing at BCC are being bad. We’re supposed to let it go now.

    (b) I wouldn’t be surprised if the internal view is that the error in the first place was only promulgating a general policy. That a case by case Bishop by Bishop approach, but in the same general direction, would have been preferable. And that the intent now is not to change practice or policy in the main, but merely to shift from global to local decision making.

    (Reading this with a cynical tone would be correct.)

  29. Still sitting says:

    On being bad:

    “We could’ve been anything we wanted to be
    But don’t it make your heart glad
    That we decided, a fact we take pride in
    We became the best at being bad…

    We could’ve been anything
    That we wanted to be
    And it’s not too late to change
    I’d be delighted to give it some thought
    Maybe you’ll agree that we really ought …”

    Paul Williams, “Bugsy Malone”

  30. The Other Mike says:

    Sitting–good questions. Of course I don’t have any idea why they have updated some sections but not others. But I will tell you that in coordinating councils I’ve sat in since the repeal it has been very clear that the policy was “adjusted” back/changed etc. And also the overwhelming reaction was one of relief. So at least in our neck of the woods I’d be surprised if any of the leaders were to define “same-gender” marriage as apostasy under the Handbook.

  31. Eric Facer says:

    chrisitankimball, sensitive subject or not, the notion that RMN or the church has expressed any remorse or sorrow for the POX is, to quote Colonel Potter, one of my favorite 20th century philosophers, horse hockey.

    His devotional address at BYU is devoid of any expressions of sorrow or remorse, and the words “we’re sorry” or “we apologize,” or anything remotely similar cannot be found. To the contrary, he simply declares that they did the will of the Lord in 2015 when they instituted the POX and when they repealed it in April of this year. Indeed, he goes so far as to say, and I quote: “. . . . the 2015 and 2019 policy adjustments on this matter were both motivated by love—the love of our Heavenly Father for His children . . . .”

    Boy. That is one fickle deity.

  32. Sitting still says:

    “Though it may not have looked this way to some, the 2015 and 2019 policy adjustments on this matter were both motivated by love—the love of our Heavenly Father for His children and the love of the Brethren for those whom we serve.” —President @NelsonRussellM #BYUDevo

    Perhaps the full sentence is a little better than the part Eric quoted. Maybe one love, however misguided, applies to 2015 and the other to 2019. What do you think?

  33. Eric Facer says:

    I’m not persuaded, Sitting still. When he categorically states that the 2015 and the 2019 adjustments were BOTH motivated by the love of Heavenly Father and the church leadership, he was making it clear that EACH policy was divinely inspired, especially when he references the Lord first. And when you place this statement in the context of the unequivocal declaration he made in November 2015 that the POX was Revelation from God—one that he has never disavowed—I’m hard pressed to believe that President Nelson intended to convey any message to the students at BYU other than the one I described.

    The only other possible reading, based on the sequencing of “2015/2019” and “God/Brethern” in the sentence, is that the Lord’s love was responsible for the first policy and that of his servants the second, which is the reverse of what I think you’re looking for.

  34. Stting still says:

    Eric, I’m not persuaded either. I think we’re dealing with words of someone who is not careful with words or logical or historical analysis, given to rhetorical exaggeration (like many others), and hyperconfident of his own understanding being the same as God’s, the latter, of course, being supported by a culture of adulation. I would suspect horse hockey if we could limit it to exaggeration and nonsense and dump its connotations of lies and deceit. I think there’s plenty of room of mistake and rhetoric without attribution of intent to deceive.

  35. Eric Facer says:

    Sitting still, I generally agree with your characterization, with a few minor differences.

    I am inclined to rule out deception for two reasons: (1) I believe President Nelson genuinely believes everything he has said about the POX, and (2) if he were trying to be disingenuous, I think he’d do a much better job of it. Indeed, he is so consistent and forthright about his views on this issue, without regard to the logical inconsistencies or public perception, there is little or no evidence of guile.

    I do believe, however, that the words he used in his speech at BYU accurately reflect what he wanted to say and, based on outward appearances, it seems that the echo chamber in which he lives rarely, if ever, provides him with negative feedback. Further, while the culture of adulation perpetuates this problem, it is not discouraged by the leadership. Indeed, the opposite is the case, periodic statements from Salt Lake to the contrary.

    Having said all this, I still sustain Brother Nelson as the President of the church and applaud many of the the long overdue changes he has made (e.g., removing many elements of sexism from temple ceremony). But his inability, and that of his colleagues, to take ownership of a mistake is troubling. Someone who openly acknowledges an error they made and pledges to do better in the future, that person I’ll follow to hell and back. But someone who comes to my home and assures me the Lord won’t allow him to lead me astray, well, I’ll count my silverware when that guy leaves.

  36. Nothing has changed. The Brethren have simply pushed the decision of baptisms of children with gay parents down to local leaders. Bishops are the ultimate arbiters in the final approval.

  37. President Nelson and many members are obedience first, with love on top. With this understanding you can discriminate against gays and women, while claiming to love them.
    To really love, as God does, does not allow or require you to obey my rules as part of love. Gods love that we, and our leaders need to aspire to, is love as God does. Matt 5:48. And all are alike unto God. God loves everyone perfectly, the leadership need to catch up to Gods standard, rather than claim they are already at his standard.

  38. “God loves everyone perfectly”

    Yes. Do you think obedience has nothing to do with that love?

    So because thou art lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spew thee out of my mouth.

    Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not … in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

    Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.

    Thou wicked and slothful servant…
    … Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.
    … from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
    And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

    Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels…

    I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generations of them that hate me…

    Clearly obedience is extremely important in how the Lord demonstrates his perfect love.
    “nevertheless, the Lord will be merciful unto them, that when they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer, they shall be gathered together again”

    You might ask why this all is? Why can’t the Lord just countenance that sin and love us unquestionably in a manner we’d expect. We’ll he loves a perfect love that is fully understanding of the consequences from sin not just to self but to all society. When the consequences of your disobedience not only harm you, but society around you and create pathologies that can echo across generations (because your sin never ever only affects yourself)- you start to see the tragic nature of sin. And now we have many within our gathering arguing that it’s ok, God loves us anyway, without understanding what that love entails.

    God is perfectly merciful, his hands always outstretched. There is more joy in heaven over the repentant then 99 who need no repentance. That’s how perfect God’s love is.

    You need to integrate all these aspects of the Savior’s teaching, and more, to understand him if you want to fully understand his church’s position in this issue.

  39. Lcn thanks fir your response.
    My point is that love of God, shown by love of fellows, are the first commandments, and the others hang off them. And there is no commandment to be obedient. When you love as God does your life will become in conformity with his.
    All you quotes could apply to someone who thinks being obedient to church rules will lead to exaltation, when in fact they will not. Loving as God does is what is required, and then no disposition to do evil.
    The original post talked about leaders discriminating, against gay marriage, and women. There is no scripture or modern revelation to support this, just ideology. Discriminating against people on the basis of race, sex, or sexual orientation is not allowed if you claim to love your fellow men as God does. RN claiming to be doing so is not possible. Like saying I live the wow and enjoy a beer after work. Discriminating can not be done lovingly.
    The family proclamation would be a Declaration if it claimed to be revelation.

  40. Coming to this discussion late–
    “But his inability, and that of his colleagues, to take ownership of a mistake is troubling.”

    Yes. It is very troubling.

    But not only did Pres. Nelson not apologize or take ownership of the PoX mistake, when he gave the speech at BYU, he threw God under the bus. If you don’t believe me go read/listen to it! The hubris of RMN is unreal.

  41. Geoff Aus
    Here We Go Again.
    Gay marriage is not compatible with the gospel.
    Gay marriage is not compatible with the gospel.
    Gay marriage is not compatible with a gospel.

  42. I learned recently (and since I’m a woman, I’ll never be given access to Handbook 1) that instructions about church discipline privilege the soul of the transgressor over the well-being and care of the innocent or victim, and that anyone (read man, because women are excluded from this role too) who is a mandated reporter (i.e. law enforcement, teacher…) should be excluded from participating in a disciplinary council because they’d have to report any illegal act or abuse.

    These are not cool at all.

    The handbook should be open and available to all church members. Where’s the accountability?

  43. Geoff - Aus says:

    Jon, Gay marriage may not be compatible with the present church. I don’t believe God sees it as you do. I think I have heard your arguments, and was not persuaded.

  44. Geoff aus
    Whether by my voice or the voice of my servants it is the same.
    This is not clear to you?
    If you were of the mind I would like to chat personally by email

  45. Paxton Hernandez says:

    16:13 is officially GONE from Handbook 1. It’s replaced by a chart of ordinations.

  46. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks for the note Paxton. And thanks to the Church for removing the old language. There was no good reason to keep it in place, and it’s continued presence was needlessly burning away the goodwill Presidents Nelson and Oaks generated for the Church last April.

  47. Have any changes yet been made to 6.7.2 and 6.7.3 to reflect the rescission of the November 2015 changes to those sections?

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