Handholding At BYU: Just For Temple Marriage?

CES just issued a letter attempting to clarify its removal of the Honor Code section entitled “Homosexual Behavior.”  To further clarify BYU’s position, its Honor Code office posted a Q&A, which included this:

Can members of our campus community who identify as LGBTQ or SSA be disciplined for going on a date, holding hands and kissing?
Elder Johnson in his letter counsels, “Same-sex romantic behavior cannot lead to eternal marriage and is therefore not compatible with the principles included in the Honor Code.” Therefore, any same-sex romantic behavior is a violation of the principles of the Honor Code.

This raises a handful of questions, and I’d love it if the BYU Honor Code office could answer them:

  1. When I was at BYU (years and years ago), I learned about NCMO (non-committal make-outs). The non-committal part suggests that it cannot lead to eternal marriage. Therefore, is it not compatible with principles included in the Honor Code?
  2. For that matter, most dates and relationships aren’t going to end up in eternal marriage. So is most heterosexual dating incompatible with the principles included in the Honor Code?
  3. For that matter, hanging out with member of your own gender is unlikely to lead to eternal marriage. So are girls’ nights incompatible with the principles included in the Honor Code? How about guys hanging out playing Xbox?
  4. What about members who date and marry nonmembers? Those relationships are at best unlikely to lead to eternal marriage. Is dating a nonmember incompatible with the principles included in the Honor Code?

Ok, let’s be serious for a minute, BYU Honor Code Office. I get that eternal marriage is important. I really do. I’m married in the temple, so I 100% get it. And it’s definitely a worthy goal.

But it’s not the only goal. It’s not even the only goal in dating. Sometimes people date because they don’t want to go to the restaurant alone, or because they want to make friends, or because their mom/roommate/brother set them up. Sometimes people hold hands because they want the warmth of human contact. Sometimes they kiss because they’re stupid 18-year-olds who just went to college and learned the acronym NCMO. That people do these things without eternal marriage in their future does not make these things sinful. It doesn’t even make them bad.

And look, even if we want everything we do to lead toward eternal marriage, our gay and lesbian (and, I assume, transgender) brothers and sisters are not headed that direction as long as we continue to limit temple marriages to opposite-gender couples. (Our bisexual brothers and sisters maybe can.)

And what’s more, we don’t want them to. We’ve stopped encouraging our gay and lesbian members to get into straight marriages as some kind of cure: in a significant number of cases, those marriages are damaging to both partners. So it’s not like by holding hands and kissing, BYU’s LGBTQ students are going to accidentally miss out on temple marriage. Most of them (again, with the possible exception of the bisexual students) don’t have that as an option.

A couple weeks ago represented a step forward, granting permission to LGBTQ BYU students to live in their identity. It did not give them permission to have extramarital sex. It did not give them permission to sin. And honestly, I can’t think of a single reason for taking that away from them again.

So, BYU Honor Code Office, please reconsider this. The reasoning you use is deeply flawed, and the outcome is hurtful to the very people who most need our love and pastoral care.


  1. Anthony Roberts says:

    What He said⬆️

  2. What’s the percentage of temple married LDS? Not 100 %. So all hetero dating should be discouraged since it doesn’t seem to lead to eternal marriage either. Spirit of BKP lives on.

  3. Yep.

    Looks like DHO read the riot act to BYU.

  4. The excuse that “Same-sex romantic behavior cannot lead to eternal marriage and is therefore not compatible with the principles included in the Honor Code” is very disingenuous. Temple marriages for “time only” are often done when both people are already sealed to someone else from a prior marriage who has since passed away. These “time only” temple marriages are for those who are not seeking eternal marriage, only earthly companionship. Even though these marriages are more common among older people, I have a hard time believing that the honor code would have any problem with this practice, even though these relationships do not lead to eternal marriage.

  5. The excuse that “Same-sex romantic behavior cannot lead to eternal marriage and is therefore not compatible with the principles included in the Honor Code” is disingenuous. Temple marriages for “time only” are often done when both people are already sealed to someone else from a prior marriage who has since passed away. These “time only” temple marriages are for those who are not seeking eternal marriage, only earthly companionship. Even though these marriages are more common among older people, I have a hard time believing that the honor code would have any problem with this practice, even though these relationships do not lead to eternal marriage.

  6. Also, this just proves that these church policies about gay people are really about animus and discomfort with LGBT folks – not about the law of chastity.

  7. This is deeply depressing. BYU sort of accidentally backed into making a good decision, and after weeks of leaving people to think that maybe they were serious, they pulled it back. Nope! We still hate teh gayz!

    Also, what Elisa said.

  8. Yes to the OP and many of the comments above. In addition to being upset about a bad policy and harm to people I care about, I am distressed at the bad process. Although I should be used to it by now. This is just one more, in a set that includes the Proclamation on the Family and the Exclusion Policy. We know (at least I think I know) what the Church wants to say, but they make up doctrinal sounding statements that are not well founded in scripture or history to wind their way to a conclusion that we know is coming but they never quite say.

    Or, making new doctrine by way of a letter from CES is not the way it’s done.

  9. sidebottom says:

    PlayStation is the only true and living console.

  10. My twelve-year-old overheard us discussing the new ‘freedom’ allowed last week for gay people to hold hands. His response? A shocked, “You mean they couldn’t before?”

    What are we supposed to tell him now?

    Some of us in a slightly older generation are not impressed at all–many more of the younger generation are not only not impressed, but appalled.

    The church’s backwards positions on gay marriage are destroying a large portion of an entire generation of them.

    The church’s rejection of gay marriage is based on two premises: 1) marriage is about sex intercourse foremost and 2) sexual intercourse is foremost about children.

    Both premises are ridiculous. Come on, supposedly all sorts of things related to marriage and relationships can be worked out in the eternities, but not this?

    Not sure how much longer I can hold on, though I would like to. I honestly don’t think my children will even want to.

  11. Wondering says:

    Is same-sex kissing a “romantic behavior”? SWK kissed his son in the temple. He also greeted many other men with a kiss.
    Same-sex hugging occurs widely among friends with no romantic intentions.
    Maybe we need an encyclopedia of romantic behaviors and how to determine whether we or others have engaged in them. Some, at least those who eventually identify as bi-sexual, may not know themselves whether there is a romantic component to their same-sex behaviors. Maybe a massive hedge around the law would help.

  12. Sam,
    You were wrong in your outlook a couple weeks back and still wrong. You reject the words and teachings of the prophets and your fellow saints as biased, flawed, or judgmental, when they are only doing their best to give reason to the voice and will of the Lord on this matter.

    You can’t keep reading creeping acceptance of homosexuality into everything the church is doing. It’s clearly tactical maneuvering because the world is clearly maneuvering in a way to make “the church” (those who support it’s true teachings) the bad guys. Literally, calling good bad and light dark.

    The church has never been cruel or taught things that make people lose hope and want to commit suicide, The world teaches you are worthless or life isn’t worth living if you can’t have sex how you want, when you want, or engage in all kinds or pre-sexual activity with or without commitment, etc.

    The reality is, what the church has taught is the standard and has always been true and will always be true. Men and women are made for each other. Sexual relationships exist for a specific reasons and are to be engaged within bounds set by the Lord, and clearly evidenced to have the best outcome for unity and growth within a family.

    Culture mingles with a lot of this and quite frankly screws it up from over-dependence on birth control (I didn’t just say what some will now accuse me of) to NCMOs, or other nonsense. Certainly same sex activity would be an issue here because it’s willfully engaging in an activity that only leads to a negative end. Dating with no intent to get married to an opposite gender? Well, you don’t have to get a pre-engagement with someone to go on a date. Plenty of people get married to people they never expected to because they spent time with them over an extended period and that time grew into love.

    I have no animus towards “gay people” and neither does the church leadership. But clearly some within the church of animus towards me or “DHO” etc.

    You’re forcing us and others to patiently explain time and again eternal and biological truths here, and then rejecting it time and again, presupposing that you are being more charitable in making tens of thousands to tens of millions less happy across generations. Sorry! The burden is on you to demonstrate why the world is better off with less families producing children and learning to love and sacrifice in harmony. That creation process is the process by and large how the majority of us are made better. And as much as others have discomfort with that fact, having children and sacrificing for them has an impact on you that can’t be replicated in other ways. Life goes in a variety of ways, even certain for gay or infertile people. But society is better off with the traditional family not only at its core, but the majority. We should all support that. Those who choose otherwise, or have a philosophical belief that they are compelled to act otherwise, we can learn to to disagree without being the devil incarnate.

  13. The other line in their Q&A that is disingenuine is about the Tattling Clause:

    “Does the university expect students to report fellow LGBTQ or SSA students to the Honor Code Office for romantic behavior?
    One of the Honor Code principles states: “Encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code.” Encourage is not synonymous with “turn someone in.” Encourage is an action that means to give support, confidence or hope to someone. We are all members of the BYU community—thousands of people coming together to develop faith, intellect and character, and we should always reach out in love and support to those around us.

    What happens when someone reports a student to the Honor Code Office?
    For a complete description of the Honor Code Office investigation and review process, go to HonorCode.byu.edu. Please remember the office does not investigate anonymous reports and the reporting individual must agree to have their name be known, except where the reported behavior could impact the physical safety of members of our campus community.”

    From: https://honorcode.byu.edu/q-a-with-the-director-of-byus-honor-code-office

    So, Encourage = support, then immediately follow with instructions on how to report your fellow students.

  14. I’m disappointed. I thought that maybe BYU had finally realized that you can’t punish people into being straight. I understand that we have not yet received a big revelation that changes the rules and explains the purpose, path, and destiny of our LGBTQ family, but I felt like the new church policy tried to be as loving and accepting as they could be within those bounds. But now they are back to a policy that builds hedges around the rules that are meant to exclude and isolate, as if that would make it possible for people give a second thought to being LGBTQ.

  15. Like all policies at BYU, it was revelation two weeks ago, and revelation today. Just close your eyes and follow, follow, follow.

  16. sams, Respectfully, you have no idea what you are talking about for most of your post. You write that “The church has never been cruel or taught things that make people lose hope and want to commit suicide.” That is patently false. Do you even know the history of how the Church and BYU used to try to ‘cure’ homosexual people? It was awful.

    Also, you write, “But society is better off with the traditional family not only at its core, but the majority. We should all support that,” as if Sam and others here didn’t support that. Come on. We’re talking about people who the Church says shouldn’t get married anyway. So, by your logic, the church is already doing the bad stuff you are so worried about.

    And yet, we still have to keep explaining it to you. Strange . . .

  17. sams,
    Russel and Wendy Nelson are not able to produce a child. Neither are the Oaks. Their marriages are for companionship. Do you condemn them as well?

  18. Angela C says:

    I am appalled at this about face, yet not surprised. I’m only surprised at how quickly the homophobia rises to meet every challenge to its supremacy.

  19. sams, I’m only leaving your comment up because others have responded to it. I have no interest in vituperative attacks on marginalized communities. And I don’t frankly have time to respond to it.

    In spite of that, I’ll respond to your underlying assumption that there is something sinful here. There’s not. There’s no suggestion, in the OP or the comments, that BYU take out its Honor Code prohibition on extramarital sex. Handholding, dating, and kissing are not sex. And if we let unmarried opposite-sex students do those things—and we do!—it’s on you to propose a reason why that’s inappropriate for same-sex students. Very few dates at BYU (or anywhere else) eventually lead to marriage and children. Some dates won’t from the outset. Both parties know that there’s no spark there. That doesn’t make that particular date violate the Honor Code.

  20. Since there is another infamous CES Letter, how about a general bucket category for CES Letters as “poorly done and unpersuasive”?

  21. Even with the press release and Q&A document, it is still unclear whether gay BYU students will be punished for dating or not. It is clear that gay dating is not approved; however, it is not clear whether it will be punished.

    BYU seems to be trying to have its cake and eat it to; specifically, they want to be able to say that acting on SSA is against its morals (and please conservative members), but at the same time be claim to the outside world that they don’t punish gay students. They’re hoping to avoid future seminar cancellations, protests at sporting events, and denial of joining a major sports conference, while at the same time claiming to adhere to the LDS church’s moral teachings.

  22. Billy Possum says:


    Your last comment (to sams) hits the exact center of this problem: the law of chastity forbids extramarital sex, not extramarital romance. Nobody can articulate any chastity-based explanation of why some romance is moral while other romance is not. Because there isn’t one.

    Thanks for the OP.

  23. Billy Possum says:

    And again, in response to B-rad, what “moral teachings?” What is the doctrinal or moral basis for saying that two gay men can’t hold hands, but a man and a woman can? And you can’t use the law of chastity, because that’s about sex, not holding hands.

  24. I think there’s an explanation that would justify the policy (though it would still disappoint the commenters here), but this isn’t it. The easier rationale is that because we frown on all kinds of same-sex sexual activity, engaging in same-sex romantic activity should also be discouraged, since it can easily lead to sinful behavior–in the same way I don’t say I’m going on a diet and then buy a family-size M&M bag and put it on my table and then tell myself not to partake. Put more simply, to the extent CES is going to take a position here, the rationale should be that same-sex romantic behavior should be discouraged not because it won’t lead to celestial marriage, but because it can lead to sin.

    To be clear, I’m not taking a position as to this policy one way or another. But the messaging in the Q&A comment is problematic regardless.

  25. Kristine says:

    “You’re forcing us and others to patiently explain time and again eternal and biological truths here,”

    No, we’re really not. Please don’t go to any more trouble for us.

  26. jimbob, I’m not convinced that that would be a more plausible justification. It assumes that dating, handholding, and kissing are all on a continuum that ends in sex. And that’s just not the case.

    If it were, though, it wouldn’t justify the differential treatment of straight students, since before marriage, they’re also not permitted to have sex. If we really think there’s an ineluctable line with a determinate endpoint (sex), we should forbid all premarital romance and instead, idk, arrange marriages or something.

  27. jimbob @1:54pm, it is an intellectually interesting exercise to ask whether there is a letter or policy that would make sense. (I’m a little too close to white-hot anger at the moment to be comfortable with intellectual exercises, but still . . .)

    The problem with the M&M analogy (in addition to making light of a very serious subject) is that we talk about such arguments as advice, as hedging, as good practice, as encouraged. Not as moral right and wrong. Not as sin. As advice or good practice I could say exactly the same thing to gay couples and straight couples. And my mother did. But I don’t turn it into a differential rule or moral law or definition of chastity, especially one that treats same-sex and opposite-sex activities differently.

    Honestly I am at a loss for any way to rationalize or justify a differential except to forthrightly state (what I view as) the essentially hetersexuality of the current Church–“opposite gender relationships of all kinds are better, ordained, holy, right, and always will be.” That’s what I think people read into these statements. It’s the equivalent of saying to LGBTQ members “there’s nothing for you here and never will be.” Also what I think people read into these statements.

  28. Jack Hughes says:

    This reversal seems an awful lot like Mao’s Hundred Flowers Campaign, where the institution in power encouraged progressive thinkers and dissenters to come out of the woodwork and celebrate a new era of enlightenment, but secretly used it as a ploy to identify people to purge in a later crackdown.

    More likely, though, this is probably a manifestation of the ongoing disagreement about LGBT issues at the highest levels of the Church. A lot of resulting whiplash, but not much good.

  29. All these hedges and justifications for hedges are needed, because romantic activity leads to dancing.

  30. shy saint says:

    Beyond the question of what BYU students should and shouldn’t do there’s a lager question about how this church makes and communicates policy. We saw it in the POX and eventual reversal and now we’re seeing it within the stretch of a week on this matter.

    Did they release the first statement without sufficient consideration and approval?

    In any case, in both of their recent statements they’ve left people shaking their heads and wondering what they said and anxious about consequences that would fall if people found themselves on the wrong side of a very wobbly line. And then it changed. And will it change again?

    It really has to make you wonder who is making decisions, how they arrive at them, how they communicate them and why they can’t seem to be clear about important issues that divide the church and set it in opposition to the world they want to reach out to.

    I don’t think anyone’s in charge.

  31. Geoff - Aus says:

    Very discouraging; conservative culture wins again/gospel comes last again. Perhaps the leaders might think how the people who voted for Bernie feel about this.
    It does not need religious excuse it is not about religion, it is about excusing hate just like the excuses for racism.

  32. Rexicorn says:

    The gap between the announcement and the clarification is especially worrying because I’m betting there are BYU students who outed themselves and their relationships in the meantime under the presumption that it was safe to do so. It’s got to feel like a trap just closed.

    Even if the HCO doesn’t technically forbid people from being openly LGBTQ (as long as they don’t date, apparently), I know there are a lot of students who feel it’s dangerous to be out in any capacity at BYU. It gets you on the radar.

  33. Old Man says:

    The world is more beautiful if one doesn’t view everything through a political lens.

  34. I’m a big fan of the LDS Church (can I still call it that?) and a life-long, full tithe and offerings-paying member. The church is a great influence in my life and to me the spiritual wisdom of the teachings of its senior leaders is constantly evident. Some of our beliefs of lesser importance I view with a high level of skepticism (Garden of Eden was in Missouri. Really?). All that to say I consider myself to be an eyes-wide-open aware-of-controversial-issues true believing member. All that as pretext to say I think our Church leaders have no idea what they are doing on LGBT issues and the flip-flopping is pretty embarrassing. It just seems like really old out-of-touch men making stuff up as they go along. Not that I could do much better. I see the wisdom and inspiration of God in a whole lot that our Church does and teaches, but very little of it in any interface between the Church and LGBT issues. Maybe church doctrine and the existence of gay and/or gender non-binary humans cannot be reconciled, and that’s the end of it. But I truly feel sympathy for LGBT persons affiliated with our church because our doctrine has little to offer them in this life, other than making them feel defective. Despite our doctrine, many members do a great job of helping LGBT persons not feel excluded from our meetings. A further help would be less tone-deafness in statements like this CES directive. We can have our doctrines but let’s couple them with a lot more tact.

    I grew up thinking that same-sex attraction was either a choice or the result of having a wicked or degenerate spirit. It seemed totally unnatural to me. A person must be choosing to feel that way (“why would God do that to you?”, or wording like that, as Elder Packer once asked in general conference). Same thing more recently with transgender or non-binary individuals. Gender is eternal, I’ve been taught, so they must be making that up. It’s just so far outside my realm of experience as a cis-gender heterosexual male. And I know I’m completely normal so there must be something wrong with these others, or so I thought. As I’ve gotten older my personal views on these matters has changed and I fully accept same-sex attraction and gender-dysphoria as totally naturally occurring non-voluntary realities for many people. Or in our parlance, “God made them that way.” As David Foster Wallace said, “A huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded.” My views on many things have softened and changed as I’ve gotten older and my kids have gotten older.

  35. “It assumes that dating, handholding, and kissing are all on a continuum that ends in sex. And that’s just not the case.”

    I suppose that I disagree with that, Sam, though I’m not sure it’s the straight-line from A to B you’re describing. Meaning that at BYU you date, handhold, kiss, etc. to see if you’re compatible for something more serious with a partner, among many other compatibility tests. If you are, that leads to a more committed relationship, which ideally leads to marriage, which then typically leads to sex (Freda Payne’s experience notwithstanding). Not everyone you might kiss at BYU will you marry and have sex with. But at a macro level it’s part of the winnowing process towards sex with *someone.*

  36. Rexicorn says:

    Maybe I’m unique here, but in my youth/YSA chastity lessons I was very much taught that dating, handholding, and kissing are all on a continuum with sex. In fact, it was portrayed to me as if a certain amount kissing would just sort of magically transform into intercourse if we weren’t careful.

    Just saying, the concept that dating behavior is an extension of married behavior isn’t exactly out of line with how most church members see things, from what I can tell.

  37. Christainkimball: First, I agree that you are correctly assessing the motives involved–BYU wants to discourage homosexual behavior–though I’m not sure that anyone at BYU thinks that they are telling gay students that there’s “nothing” for them there. I suppose it depends on what you mean by “nothing.”

    Second, I disagree that my M&M analogy is flippant, and certainly wasn’t meant to be. My experience is that actual hunger (for food) is one of the few things that approximates the insistence of libido.

    I’m going to bow out now. I think I’m in danger of unintentionally becoming the apologist for this policy and it’s stated rationales, even though I’m not sure I agree with the former and certainly disagree with the latter.

  38. Bro. B. says:

    The letter referred to administration trying to use principle-based logic in the rules, the principles being from the Proclamation on the Family, and they’re promoting and hoping students will stress the spirit of the law. What I see here is the leadership from the top down to the CES trying to balance the established principles with compassion for lived experience and modern science, and struggling with it, no different than a regular guy like me would, without all the answers and trying to do the best they can. It seems fruitless to try to make fair comparisons in each situation, like how would this rule apply to a straight or bi-sexual student as opposed to a gay or queer student, if your core principles are that birth gender is an eternal identity, and any aberrations from that norm will be resolved in the next life. But the certainty that is often expressed, along with the shifts in policy are difficult to grasp.

  39. @Bro. B. that may be true, although it doesn’t really account for the mixed messages here that signal institutional infighting/incompetence and have absolutely done harm to BYU students who came out in response to the earlier interpretation. I don’t have a lot of patience for that.

    I don’t doubt that most people making these rules are working in good faith to balance church policy / teachings and the experiences and needs of students at BYU. But that begs the question: if it’s so hard to figure out how to help all of God’s children feel safe, loved, included, and connected at BYU and in the church, and we have to make a bunch of convoluted rules with very illogical justifications to try to make it work, and those rules leave many of God’s children out in the cold … maybe we are operating from an entirely flawed premise about birth gender and eternal identity and sexual orientation. Leadership’s apparent inability to even consider that possibility is discouraging.

  40. Blessed are the asexual, for they shall be called as leaders and lecture others on sex and make the rules of what is and what is not acceptable…

    There was an ensign article in October of 2007 by Elder Holland that was the beginning of all of this mess the church is in now. It admitted that being gay is not a choice, alluded to the fact that God will fix ones gayness if they remain faithful, and stated that identifying as homosexual does not limit anyone’s participation in the gospel. He specifically said that there is a difference between thoughts and actions. The first thought I had was, sweet Jesus was wrong. It is ok to lust as long as I don’t act on it. The second thought I had was what constituted action. As near as I can tell, it is ok for me to hug men, as long as I don’t get an erection and everyone around me knows that I am not gay. I have hugged gay men before, but under the criteria listed above, that action was kosher on my part.

    We are asking gay people to be celibate. I understand that everyone is different, but when I was dating, holding hands and hugging were not that big of deal. Anything beyond that, I was setting myself up for the long walk to the bishop’s office and the guilt that followed. There is no end game for gay people in the church other than celibacy. Why would they want to cuddle or make out if that was the end of it? Wouldn’t they just have a four year case of blue balls or blue ovaries. Who wants that? I know I am projecting my libido, hormones and experience onto others, but I guess I’m having a hard time figuring out how this all plays out. There is no room for old single gay people in this church. There is barely room for old single straight people. Exaltation better be a damn good reward for anyone who decides to give it a go. My hat is off to those trying to make that work.

  41. The Other Brother Jones says:

    It is tragic that the church response about seemed so good, but the specific application as expressed by CES puts us back where we were. I feel like the honor Code policy change was directed from or approved by the brethren at the top of the hierarchy, and was a serious attempt to relax the harshness of the standards as they have been applied. But as typical, the policy was a little vague, and some people asked obvious questions about details. (not saying that is a bad thing). But the specific response did not come from the top. It came from a CES guy trying to interpret and extrapolate. He trying to come up with a practical application that could be applied and still fit within some boundaries he was comfortable with. But that is how a hedge is created.

    I think a good thing about the church and its doctrine is that a lot of the time we get to fill in the blanks ourselves. Like paying tithing on gross or net. I like the idea of “teach correct principles and let them govern themselves”. I think that approach might work pretty well here. But it requires expression of true principles and a stronger resistance to interpretation applied to all. We have the first, but failed on the second. I would like it better if they said ” The Law of chastity is X, and it applies to all gender interpretations.”, Which they have done. Don’t address the details about dating and hand holding, which they failed on. But say that individual cases are handled on a case by case basis, which was done. The honor code needs to VERY closely mirror the law of chastity.

    That way they can deal appropriately with cases where the law of chastity was a problem. These would be the most serious cases, and in most cases the most obvious to judge. Did you have sex or not? If not, let it go. There is no room for judging gradations of how close you case to sex.

    The Church tripped up by trying to appease the people asking about specific behaviours.

  42. So frustrating and sad. Although it’s pretty obvious this wasn’t the Honor Code Offices’ doing–it came from above their heads, from the Church itself. If anything, the HCO seemed willing to defend the LGBT population.

  43. The Other Brother Jones says:

    I appreciate some of the connects in the last hour. I missed seeing them while I was writing my own (and holding down a job). But I think my thoughts agree pretty well.

  44. @the Other Brother I don’t think that “teach correct principles” works for the honor code. Students can be disciplined and even kicked out for violations so it is absolutely reasonable to expect clarity about what behaviors will result in disciplinary action.

    I personally know multiple LGBT folks who’d been at BYU who lived in terror that they would be kicked out for dating (not sex) and didn’t have a great transfer option because they were close to graduating. Many of them started at BYU intending to be celibate or not really having come to terms with being gay and found themselves in a difficult spot if they changed their minds (lots of us change in lots of ways during college; usually that doesn’t result in us fearing expulsion).

    Also your explanation doesn’t account for the overt about-face in the interpretation.

    This is incredibly harmful.

  45. The Other Brother Jones says:

    Elisa, let me flesh out my thoughts.
    I realize that the honor code needs to delineate bright lines that cannot be crossed. But I think those lines should align with the law of chastity. Step over that line and the HCO would have something to address! But everything up to that point should be left up to the individual. So if one couple thinks NCMO crosses their line, they can act accordingly. Another couple might want to stop at holding hands. That’s all fine. But the HCO should stay far away from that. This would definitely require changes to current policy and methods. I think most of us agree that the current HC needs to change. I think policies about how long your side burns can be should be off the table completely. (Unless there is a scripture defining it, but…)

  46. @the Other Brother ah, we are in agreement then. Thanks for clarifying.

  47. Segullah says:

    We really dislike your rhetoric regarding LGBTQ students. Claiming we need your love and pastoral care more than others infantalizes us. We are the same as all other young adults. Other young adults have faced much more difficult challenges than LGBTQ students at BYU.
    Some concerned students

  48. Perma Banned says:

    Brunson’s first instinct was to delete sam’s post. This is a great illustration about how little free speech, debate, and conversation are valued here at BCC. It’s a bunch of liberals patting each other on the back. It could be more. Try harder, please.

  49. John Mansfield says:

    If a man’s wife or a woman’s husband goes on romantic dates with other people, and shares passionate kisses with those other people, but only engages in sex with her or his spouse, than she or he is not an adulterer.

  50. Perma Banned, but he didn’t delete it. Sort of negates your comment.

  51. Similarly, John, if an unmarried person goes on dates and engages in passionate losing, that person isn’t engaged in fornication.

    You get where I’m going with this?

  52. Actually, just in case you don’t: that’s 100% inapposite. Single people, straight or LGBTQ, haven’t made the promises that married people have. Adultery is delivered having sex with someone who isn’t your spouse.

    A married person dating (but not having sex with) other people is bad, but it’s not adultery. It’s bad because of commitments and covenants that the married individuals have made, commitments that unmarried LGBTQ students at BYU have not made.

    So bringing that up as an attempted trump card is, at very best, disengenuous.

  53. rapidgrowth says:

    It’s not BYU. This is being forced on them. For the first time in my life I feel bad for the Honor Code office employees.

  54. Not since the November 2015 policy debacle have I felt an urge this strong to have my name removed from church records. The church better get its shhh-stuff together real fast because the rising generation and some of us in the already mostly risen generation are voting with our feet.

  55. Not since the 2015 policy debacle have I felt such a strong urge to have my name removed from the church rolls. The church better get its shhh-stuff together real fast because the rising generation and some of us in the already mostly risen generation are voting with our feet.

  56. Sorry for the double tap. The first comment seemed to disappear into the ether.

  57. Geoff - Aus says:

    When the pox was reduced, I thought there was a statement that the law of chastity was the same for gay and straight. I first thought that recognised gay marriage, because the law of chastity said no sex outside marriage. I wish we could have stopped there.
    Now we seem to be going back to nothing about being openly gay is acceptable. Get back in the dark and us straight leaders will be happy when we can’t see you, or have to acknowledge you.

    There should be a way to protest. The only time I wrote to an Apostle it came back to my SP. Is there a way to express my distress?

  58. Sam,

    I’m disappointed in the utter lack of logical examination of this issue. Yes, I get that you care about this issue, but the leaps of logic are astounding. The first is the notion that you have espoused that the deletion of language prohibiting something all of the sudden makes anything that fit in the prior language approved. That’s not how the law works, and that’s not how policies work. The deletion of the language makes the policy less proscriptive, true, but that doesn’t mean that doesn’t other rules and principles don’t also apply. It shouldn’t be necessary to clarify that behavior that approaches but falls short of technical definitions of fornication or adultery is suddenly approved. You’ve waived your hands at the adultery example, but I think the analogy is apt. A married person holding hands or kissing someone they are not married to is clearly not in keeping with the principles of the honor code, but it isn’t necessary to spell it out in the honor code.

  59. Dsc, I hate to disappoint. So let me first clarify and explain and then repeat myself:

    Your understanding of law is, at best, flawed. In fact, criminal law (which, given the consequences, is probably the best analogy if we must compare BYU’s honor code to the law) is strictly construed. We prefer not to punish people for disobeying an ambiguous law. So, in fact, deleting a particular prohibition from the law would, in fact, make it no longer illegal.

    But here there’s even more; a week or two ago, the Honor Code Office explicitly told students that there would be no penalties for dating, holding hands, or kissing. So the language was deleted with a specific explanation of what it meant. (Also, dating/handholding/kissing approaches fornication? Um, no it doesn’t.)

    As for the adultery example, there was no hand-waving. It was a stupid comparison, precisely because the reason adultery is bad is because married people have made specific promises to each other. If there were something inherently immoral about dating, it would be immoral for unmarried straight kids, too.

    I understand that you don’t agree with me. But where you choose to be condescending based on a poor understanding of the law and a lack of reading what I wrote, well, I’m not going to be super sympathetic.

  60. Geoff - Aus says:

    Elder Ballard’s Byu debvotional seemed to support the change of a couple of weeks ago. Surely he outranks this spokesman. Perhaps it will change back?

  61. No, Sam, that’s not how the law works. If there is a legal prohibition based on a relatively vague principle (say, “not in the public interest”), the removal of a specific example of a subset of that prohibition does not negate the first. The comparison to criminal law is inapposite. This is an administrative matter at a private university. It was clear from the beginning (to me, anyway) that the change was designed to get away from a formalistic approach and move to a principle-based approach with more flexibility. That has backfired due to people taking this in the completely wrong direction.

    As for what the Honor Code Office telling students, I’ve heard conflicting stories. I do know that at least one BYU professor went out on a limb and “repeated” stories that could not have possibly occurred the way he stated.

    The adultery example is not stupid, but a simple dismissal of it might be. Baptized members of the church make promises. Endowed members of the church make promises. And married people make promises. Technically, those promises for married people only specifically refer to “sexual relations”, but it’s obvious that kissing is not in keeping with that. Keeping the law of chastity is about more than specific actions. The context and the people involved matter.

    And I don’t know that you should be throwing stones about condescension from your glass house of “stupid” arguments.

  62. While an imperfect example, I can see some comparison with state and federal laws to BYU/CES (Honor Code) and the LDS Church. Like state laws, the Honor Code contains some restrictions that do not apply to the LDS church at large. And like federal laws there are some LDS church “laws” (i.e.-principles, practices) that supersede what’s outlined in the Honor Code. The removal of the specific LGBT language in the Honor Code was timed with the changes in the Handbook, and I suspect that it was presumed from the top that it would be understood to not change much in how the Honor Code was applied. Somehow that message didn’t make it to the Honor Code office.

    I believe that removing the specific language was a somewhat proactive step to appear to be less punitive towards LGBT students, a desired goal from BYU’s perspective. Shifting jurisdiction (if that is what this is leading to) to bishops–gatekeepers via ecclesiastical endorsements–allows BYU to point northward to church HQ as to where the buck stops. Hence, the CES letter and the associated church spokesperson backing it up. This isn’t something that BYU cooked up on their own. The idea that cases will be individually reviewed allows for varied interpretations of what constitutes “romantic behavior.”

    In a similar vein, those BYU students who are afforded amnesty for Honor Code violations that occur around the time they experienced a sexual assault are not left alone, but are tracked for a period of time and might still be subject to restrictions as imposed by their bishops. I would think that BYU would gladly shift these decisions to bishops instead of having the school be responsible for them.

    My first thought when reading media reports about the changed Honor Code language and the subsequent jubilation was “Uh oh. This isn’t going to last.” Certainly the FP & Q12–four of whom have been presidents of a CES university–have a good understanding of running one. Which does not mean that everyone in the Honor Code office (or elsewhere in BYU’s administration) always understands what a policy is supposed to mean. BYU seems to have to learn things the hard way.

  63. Baffled says:

    1. I’m not a liberal, I’m a fairly conservative TBM.
    2. I’m not seeking any change in doctrine.
    3. I have LGBTQ kids who have self harmed and almost suicided because of the church’s rhetoric, incredibly poor messaging and tone deafness on the issue.
    4. If the way the church is approaching LGBT issues is leading to suicide (and ill-informed denialist fictions aside, it is), we are failing in the “good news” of Christ.
    5. Why do we have religious police on campus? That’s a practice of extremist Muslims and murderous witch hunters of the 1700s.
    6. I’m married in the temple to a wonderful woman (and have been fir a long time) with whom I’ve had a fair amount of sexual relations. Though I’m heterosexual, I have discovered I’m really not marriage material (for non-sex related reasons) and don’t look forward to eternal marriage. Have I broken the honor code? Should I turn myself in to the religious police?

  64. Appreciate your post, Sam. BYU grad, active member, temple marriage. We have a daughter who is gay and getting married later this year. We support her decision because the answer to our prayers for understanding was “love her unconditionally.” The result is that we still have a warm, loving and supportive father-mother-daughter relationship and a loving relationship with her partner. Both of these young women have excelled with high honors in their education, earned graduate degrees, excelled in their professions, volunteer their time and donate to local shelters and homeless charities, and brighten the lives of all who know them. They are passionate about maintaining family relationships and kind, compassionate, law-abiding citizens. Their positive view of the church is based on our genuine, nonjudgmental love for them.
    Conversely, friends of ours have shunned their gay son and banished him from their home. That’s how they interpret church teachings regarding homosexuality. Sadly, they no longer have a relationship with him.
    I share this with the hope that someone reading it might be more kind and considerate and accepting of those who are not wired the way they want them to be. Leave it up to the Lord to figure out.

  65. Skdadyl says:

    Zach, finally, someone sees this for what it is: “There is no end game for gay people in the church other than celibacy.”
    As a gay Mormon, this is what I have come to accept. Why torture yourself with handholding, kissing, and dating? We are outside the big tent…never gonna be in it. Change on this issue isn’t coming in our lifetimes. For those who have not read the ‘mainstream’ comments to this latest development on the various internet platforms… the general non-Mormon population seem to have come to the same conclusion: BYU is a church-owned and operated university so they can set their own rules/agenda. There are plenty of universities in America that don’t discriminate so why would an LGBTQ student want to attend one that does? Furthermore, why would any LGBTQ person want to align themselves with a religion so openly bigoted toward a minority population?

  66. Skdadyl says:

    Segullah, regarding your comment on behalf of some concerned students at BYU: ‘We are the same as all other young adults. Other young adults have faced much more difficult challenges than LGBTQ students at BYU.’
    I don’t know how old you are but I’m assuming of college age. I am a 57 year old gay Mormon. When you have been celibate for 30 or more years while remaining faithful to the Church, your attitude will likely change. I am glad you are not speaking on behalf of the larger LGBTQ membership. We are not the same as the general Mormon population and we are definitely not treated the same. We are deserving of the love and pastoral care Sam speaks of because we are consistently marginalized and abused by the Church.

  67. I too wonder how to protest such terrible behavior from leaders who should feel deep shame because this is NOT how you treat people. This is NOT what Jesus would do.

  68. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    I think Amy has hit on the central point here. We can argue about and parse policy, and that can be productive, and insightful. But this is NOT how Jesus would treat people, and we can’t pretend that these actions even remotely approximate His wishes.

  69. Are members of other faiths who attend BYU now prohibited from romantic behavior since it cannot lead to eternal marriage? Does this violate the honor code?

  70. I totally missed that, Pete. Thanks.

    Amy, I agree.

    Skdadyl, I’m sorry for the treatment you’ve received from the church and its members. It’s absolutely inexcusable that we would shove someone to the margins. Part of the reason I believe BYU/CES needs to reverse this is precisely for the reason Amy highlights—treating others in this way is remarkably unchristian. And part of the reason is, contra the popular opinion, I suspect (some) LGBTQ students will continue to attend BYU.

    Why? A lot of reasons. There may be a particular program BYU has that they like. BYU provides an excellent education and the ability to get into amazing graduate programs. And notably, for the quality of education, BYU is insanely cheap. Students can graduate with no or minimal debt, not hanging that albatross around their necks for the next 20+ years. So there are rational reasons to want to attend.

    And most students are applying and accepting admission when they’re 17 or 18. I suspect most aren’t choosing a school based on where they can date; I also suspect that, to the extent students are aware of the rule, they tell themselves they can handle solitude for 4 (or 30 :( ) years. And that’s absolutely not fair to them (and far less to the current students, for whom transferring would impose significant costs, financial and otherwise).

  71. Nate GT says:

    BYU should implement arranged marriages. What’s the point of the Honor Code Office. People don’t need this to be honorable.

  72. Re protest, the next time BYU asks me for a donation I will let them know I won’t be donating until they implement non-discrimination policies that protect LGBT students. I also intend to pressure corporate donors and academic and athletic conferences to withdraw support.

    May do the same re tithing despite being a lifelong active member and tithe-payer and currently holding leadership positions in my ward. Still thinking about that one. Not sure how else to signal to upper leadership that this is losing them people and money short of resigning (which I’m not inclined to do).

    I love my ward and church community and serving locally. I have lost total faith and confidence in top leadership. It’s a tough dilemma.

  73. I just have one point to make. This is not a decision of the BYU Honor Code Office, or even of the university administration. This came from the head of CES, and you can be assured that Paul Johnson did not cook this letter up on his own. This goes straight to the top. So if you’re wanting to place blame for the shifting policies, you have to look to the highest councils in the Church. The only thing we know for sure is that the top Church leaders do not have a clue how to deal with LGBT issues. They are floundering. They have had to acknowledge that same-sex attraction is not a choice. But they are reluctant to admit that it has a biological basis. That would cause damage to the doctrinal story they have inherited and perpetuated for decades. This is really a conundrum, and I’m not sure there is a solution. There certainly is no easy solution. Maybe a new revelation?

  74. Old Man says:

    On Tuesday Elder Ballard addressed BYU students regarding the controversies surrounding the Honor Code.


  75. My daughter is marrying a good Muslim man, stuff like the rationale in this letter makes me think perhaps our church – collectively – doesn’t understand the atonement or what it means to follow Christ’s examples. We know so little about the afterlife. The justifications for church positions would be laughable if they weren’t so hurtful.

  76. President Oaks has had strong words to say about “hanging out,” so he’d probably be on board with #3.

  77. Geoff-Aus says:

    I took from Elder Ballards talk that he supported the more loving and respectfull treatment of gay people. Perhaps there is a struggle in the 15, and someone else has told CES to say no. Someone less about love, and more about rules.

  78. Geoff - Aus says:

    Could someone encourage/persuade all students at BYU to go around holding hands and hugging a person of the same sex? Just overwhelm the office.

  79. phbrown says:

    Re: Suicide
    Telling someone that “It will all work out in the hereafter” is another way of saying “go kill yourself.”

  80. Geoff-Aus, that’s the only way this repeated pattern of policy swing chaos makes sense, at least to me. There is not agreement among the leadership on how to treat LGBTQ people.

  81. For me, the most frustrating thing about this entire situation is no appeal. The upper quorums are monocultures; even if the driver of this policy (or whatever it is) became known, the chance of finding a dissenting or even competent advocate up there is vanishingly small.

    That said, BYU and Church will soon face the same kind of pressures – social, legal and political – that effectively demolished the Priesthood ban – which means that when change actually comes, it may very well be on non-LDS terms. This no doubt is one reason the Church has squirreled away one hundred and twenty four billion dollars. It may come to that.

  82. So if I, as a BYU student, date and eventually marry a non-LDS boyfriend, who makes it clear to me that he will never convert to the church (while encouraging me and our future children to stay active if that’s what makes us happy), is that relationship also going against the honor code? And no, I wouldn’t marry him comforting myself with the hope he’d “convert” in the afterlife. Just like the LGBTQ dating relationships CES/church leaders are forbidding, my relationship would never result in a temple marriage. Not everyone has the “blessing” of falling in love with an active, temple recommend holding member. There’s something really ignorant and narrow-minded about that reasoning, and the way it is currently worded could actually be applied to much more than just LGBTQ relationships.

  83. Kristine says:

    “There’s something really ignorant and narrow-minded about that reasoning,”

    That’s because it was invented after the fact to justify an irrational prejudice.

  84. The rational about dating behaviors between members/non-members being okay while dating behaviors between LGBTQ is not seems to be the same rational for why non-member men can attend priesthood session at conference but women can not. Non-member may not end up priesthood holders, but the possibility is there and thus they are invited. There is no possibility for women. So the argument then is that there is always the possibility of a member/non-member marriage ending up a temple marriage and thus dating is okay. But LGBTQ don’t have that possibility and thus don’t get to date.

    I don’t agree with this, but this does seems to be the logic.

  85. ReTX but it’s really not logic. That’s just an invented justification they used for a public excuse.

    The real reason is because at least some folks in the Q12/15 are simply grossed out by gay hand-holding, don’t want to see it on campus, and don’t want it to become normalized for other students on campus (which this would have led to, I’m sure—you can’t demonize anymore what you see enough and realize isn’t harmful).

    I admit I used to have a viscerally negative reaction when I saw gay people expressing affection—because it was “different”, just as people used to think interracial relationships were wrong and disgusting. I don’t anymore, but that’s because I educated myself and changed my thinking. But much of church leadership still has that response (which they likely mistake as the spirit telling them gay affection is “wrong” when it’s really just their bias talking to them).

    We can talk until we’re blue in the face about the logic motivating this but that’s pointless. The logic is post-hoc rationale for a predetermined outcome based on hate and bias, not doctrine or rationality.

  86. Elisa – I don’t disagree with you on the rationalizations or the reality of the bias and hatred. I do disagree on the relevance of doctrine.

    In my deeply conservative extended family who also deeply love our LGBTQ family members, the sticking point *is* the doctrine. They believe man-woman only marriage is a God-breathed edict and that they don’t have a way around it. (Hence the rationalizations.)

    Again, this isn’t my personal feeling.

  87. Rexicorn says:

    It seems like the most obvious interpretation here is that they want to maintain the same policies while *looking* less discriminatory, no? That seems to be the trap they fall into over and over again with these reversals. They want to say the socially-acceptable thing, but they miss that often the change in message implies a change in action.

    It’s similar with most apostolic messages about showing love to LGBTQ members — they don’t want to change the message, but they want the delivery to be nicer. And then they appear confused about why that doesn’t actually resolve the issue.

  88. A belated note: In April 2019 President Oaks, announcing change to the November 2015 policy, said ““immoral conduct in heterosexual and homosexual relationship [sic] will be treated in the same way,” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/church/news/policy-changes-announced-for-members-in-gay-marriages-children-of-lgbt-parents?lang=eng

    He did not say that moral conduct in those relationships would be treated in the same way — by the Church or by CES and its BYUs.

  89. Tanner Wilson says:

    “Temple marriage isn’t the goal”? Umm. No. Happiness is the goal. Follow God’s reasoning. You aren’t asking the right questions. These are silly silly things to be saying. The church isn’t the one withholding temple marriage. There’s quite a few flaws in the entire reasoning of this little speech, but people will swallow it because why? It’s pleasing to those who want to swallow it. It’s easy to accept “The church is wrong, my friends are right, I should live in my true identity.” Nope. There’s scriptural evidence gee. The entire point of the church is to deny one’s self for a higher achievement directed by spiritual guidance. Again, the entire point of the church is to deny one’s self for the higher achievement directed by spiritual guidance. It’s never been about love, and it will certainly never agree with the LGTBQ+ community in terms of pursuing their own “Identity” because that is silly. And wrong to agree with someone who is in the wrong. Love them, but I don’t stand with them. Never will. And if that’s “offensive” and someone needs to hear me say “Oh you’re okay. Shh you’re doing just fine. Just be yourself” then that’s pretty sad.

  90. Tanner Wilson, I’m going to be crystal clear here: it’s easy to tell people that they should give up something that you don’t want. It’s easy, for instance, for a straight person to tell an LGBTQ person, “You need to deny your identity and give up a central part of yourself.” The ease of saying that means it has no moral weight. The church has expressly said sexual orientation is not a sin. And I’m going to challenge you to find a single place in scripture that says there’s something sinful about holding hands with, kissing, or dating someone of your same gender. (Hint: there’s not.)

    To the extent the church shuns individuals because of their sexual orientation, or focuses on the putative sins of the marginalized and excluded rather than the powerful and insiders, it is not Jesus’ church; it’s deeply unchristian and anti-Jesus. And I believe that the church is both Christian and of Christ, which means that your vision of how we should treat the LGBTQ community is incompatible with the Zion we’re to desire and build.

  91. woolston says:

    Tanner, I’d venture to say that “the entire point of the church” is highly subjective.

  92. Wondering says:

    I don’t understand how anyone aware of Matthew 22:35–40, Mark 12:28–34, and Luke 10:27a could write this: “It’s never been about love…”

  93. Sam, The Lord ask EVERYONE to deny themselves all ungodliness, no matter what their sins. Jesus really is the way, the truth, and the life. His way is in sharp contrast with the world’s way. In reality the real sacrifice was never putting an animal on the altar, instead it is a willingness to put the animal in us on the altar of the Lord and letting it be consumed. The sacrifice of the Lord is a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

  94. Right, Mark. And He said that dating was ungodly where?

  95. Sam, let’s get to the base of your motivation – you don’t believe homosexuality in practice is a sin as the church teaches. You think the church is wrong. Be straight-forward and point out the underlying belief for your perspective – your reasoning here is motivated by hoping and seeing it as a good thing to take small steps towards what you believe is the ultimate end – that homosexuality and homosexual marriage is justified and will be part of God’s future plans and church.

    The church does not teach that, and teaches that you are wrong. People who accept the premise that the church teaches – that homosexuality in practice is a sin, that this is an eternal principle, and that the greatest path to happiness for our gay brothers and sisters does not include homosexual relationships – are going to come to a different conclusion, because handholding, kissing, etc. is most definitely part of building romantic homosexual relationships.

    Whether you believe the teaching of the church and see homosexual relationships as a sin is the real differentiator in this conversation.

  96. Steve, it’s awesome that you know my motivation better than I do!

    Also, that you see handholding as inherently sexual.

  97. Is that not what you believe?

    I’m defining homosexual relationship as a romantically motivated relationship between two people of the same gender. And that is what it is about.

  98. Steve LHJ, please cite scripture and verse where “ romantically motivated relationship between two people of the same gender” is a sin.

  99. No name given says:

    Sam I don’t know who you think your helping. It’s not helping me. You are wilfully refusing to understand what the policy is and how it is rooted in gospel principles. You say that holding hands with or kissing another man isn’t sinful. Maybe you believe that because you’re heterosexual. Let me tell you right now that if I held hands with another man or engaged in kissing it would absolutely be sinful because I would knowingly be engaging in things that would lead me towards sinful acts. I know what by body wants to do and trying to tell me that it’s not sin is not what a brother would do. I don’t know why anyone else attends BYU but I attended it because its committed to the principles of the gospel and that includes the law of chastity. I’ve made the decision to honor my covenants and I know the costs of honoring them. The Lord’s standard for me is clear and you aren’t helping me by mocking the prophet for emphasizing what the standard is.

  100. no name, then by all means, don’t hold hands with or kiss men. You’re certainly not obligated to, and if you feel it would provide temptation that would be sinful, you’re probably the best judge of your relationship to God.

    But also, I’m not sure where you’re getting mocking the prophet. AFAIK, he hasn’t spoken to this, and I certainly haven’t mentioned him.

  101. MTodd, I think that’s a silly idea that a homosexual marriage/union and/or a sexual relationship would be sinful, but that the early stages of courting and romance would somehow be righteous and right to pursue.

    I get that people hold the belief that marriage and homosexual relationships aren’t sinful, and in this paradigm how courting, romance, etc that leads to that would likewise not be sinful. I get that premise. But if we take the church’s position that the final end is sinful, then encouraging/condoning the preparatory steps makes no sense. If a romantic relationship on an emotional/mental/spiritual plan is appropriate and righteous, then how could physically expressing that be sinful? No, I don’t think that type of dissociation could ever be healthy.

  102. Rachel Allred says:

    Steve — ‘If a romantic relationship on an emotional/mental/spiritual plane is appropriate and righteous, then how could physically expressing that be sinful? No, I don’t think that type of dissociation could ever be healthy.’

    For me, this is the beating heart of the issue. For me, a romantic relationship on an emotional/mental/spiritual plane is about continuously engaging with another person, evolving with them, learning from them, wholeheartedly loving them, reciprocally prioritizing them above other things in your life and offering them almost-unconditional loyalty, respect, kindness and cooperation. I struggle so profoundly to see why it’s sinful for LGBTQ individuals to seek to explore what a relationship like this feels (or doesn’t feel) like and how to create it (aka dating), or why it’s sinful to embrace it when you find it (aka marriage). That all seems so appropriate and righteous to me.

    And then how could physically expressing that be sinful? I don’t think that type of dissociation could ever be healthy, either. But I guess because I the emotional/mental/spiritual plane of it seems appropriate and righteous to me, I sort of land on the other side of the coin.

  103. Rachel, yeah that makes sense, I think many people agree with you, and I think it’s very reasonable to see it that way – it’s consistent thinking. If that encompassed all I thought romantic relationships were for and how it effects people I’d also be onboard, but for me personally I see other factors at play that make a difference for me. I can definitely appreciate your line of thinking.

  104. Rachel Allred says:

    Steve, thanks for that :-)

    What else do you see romantic relationships as being for? How else do you see them affecting people?

  105. Rachel, sorry for the long response time. I think romantic relationships are also intended to be a generative force in the two people’s lives, their families, communities, and ultimately society as a whole. I think sex/gender is something that has evolved for nearly a billion years, and we have only scratched the surface of the significance of it. I think it is very low-level thinking to reduce sex differences simple eternal genitalia. In nature we see slight variations in facial or even bodily proportions having profound implications on genetic health & personality differences, and we think the major external appearance differences between men and women have no internal bearing? That’s not good thinking, I see an agenda in that type of mentality.

    Rather I see something that evolved over time almost incomprehensible to our mortal capacity with deep and profound significance, that match and compliment in ways ways we are only beginning to fathom. And just as the pairing of male and female has a very literal generative potential in that can produce viable offspring, like most things in nature I believe the pattern extends to multiple levels – to the emotional, mental, and spiritual realms. I believe for example there are categorical common ways to see reality through the lens of the masculine and feminine realms, and that in combination the two energies properly engaged in will clash and ultimately generate a fuller and more complete truth about reality. And that seen truth has major implications that affects not just the couple, but all they come in contact with, not least commonly the offspring they can produce. My intuition is that it is a yin and yang in way and depth we can’t fully appreciate, but can clearly see on the macro-physical level as it is literally the thing that generates nearly all life as we know it.

    I understand that all people have differences, and that on some level differences between people can compliment and provide avenues for growth, and on this level people of the same gender can have a positive growth effect on one another. But just as on the macro-physical level it is not generative in the sense that it cannot produce life, so also I think it reaches through multiple facets and levels, and cannot and never will have the generative force on emotional, mental, and spiritual levels that a male/female pairing has the potential for. In my opinion, while I can imagine it being a right option for some people, it cannot provide the same level of generative good on the couple nor communities nor society at large as the thing nature has evolved over a billion years to specifically be for that purpose.

    I do think there is ultimately a place and distinct purpose for gay people in the societal plan at large, that there is something even more ideal than romantic coupling for both them and society at large, and I think in the church and in current western culture that place has not been provided – so I do not fault anybody for theorizing the ideal path would be to pattern a life after the heterosexual ideal, nor do I fault anybody for taking that path, but I do believe the church has it right and there is something better, and I think the day will come that our faithful gay brothers and sisters who are struggling in the dark will ultimately be instrumental in revealing what that path looks like, and they will find their true purpose, place, and destiny in God’s holy plan and it will bless the world.

  106. Rachel Allred says:

    No worries, thanks for the thoughtful response. It was kind and acknowledged the divinity of LGBTQ individuals, which I really appreciated. I also follow most of your reasoning, except part of the last paragraph. Something ‘even more ideal than romantic coupling’ sounds to me a bit like ‘women are so special they don’t need the priesthood’… which, in turn, sounds to me like a benevolent way of excluding both groups from the main social narrative. However, I really like your thought that LGBTQ individuals in the church will be instrumental in revealing God’s will for them within the church.

    We agree that the church has articulated no real societal place or purpose for LGBTQ individuals. Often, in the church, we talk about mortality as an opportunity for us to learn and grow and become more like God, especially in the way we manage our relationships with others — romantic relationships first and foremost. Assuming the male/female dichotomy is a special kind of eternal yin/yang (I go back and forth on that but I respect that you see it that way), many LDS LGBTQ individuals want to practice those Christlike skills within the most-important context of a romantic relationship, yet don’t feel a mixed orientation marriage would be appropriate for them. Why should they not be able to learn and grow in those all-important capacities within a relationship they’re oriented toward? When a healthy heterosexual relationship isn’t possible, isn’t any arena to practice Christlike love in the creation of a family better than no arena? That’s what we teach non-members of the church, single parents, victims of abuse, anyone outside of the healthily-and-heterosexually-married-in-the-temple narrative — why wouldn’t it be true for LGBTQ members?

  107. Wondering says:

    The analysis implicit in the questions posed by Rachel Allred above is more persuasive to many than the Church’s current position. That position seems based on a lack of revelation about homosexuality now and hereafter, a speculative biological view of the process of having spirit children (but somehow without blood), selective proof texting from Leviticus and maybe Paul, and insistence that the position will never change. (Same rhetoric as a lot of pre-1978 rhetoric on the priesthood and temple restriction — BY and BRM and others — also based on lack of revelation, selective proof texting, insistence that the restriction would never change [in this life], cultural attitudes, and BY’s and others’ personal ick-factors. I would have thought those LDS who lived and paid attention through the 60s and beyond 1978 would have learned never to say never.)

    Though he might roll over in his grave to see his words in this context Boyd K. Packer taught that “Romantic love is not only a part of life, but literally a dominating influence of it. It is deeply and significantly religious. There is no abundant life without it.” (BYU Fireside, Nov. 3, 1963). If true, why wouldn’t it be true for all?

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