Personal Online Journal

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Handbook Changes Affecting Same-Sex Marriages

This week the church officially changed some policies for those who are gay and married and for their children. At the bottom of this post is what those policy changes are. I reserve the right to change my views on this. I know that there will be new light and knowledge on this topic. I also choose to follow the prophets, seers and revelators as they lead in this area and hwo it relates to our church.

The short of it is that they made explicit what was before implicit. They followed the pattern for policy that has been in place for many decades for children of polygamous families. In both cases, the Supreme Court ruled. In both cases the church felt a need to address an ideology that is in opposition to what we teach. It provides church leaders clear direction as to what our policy is. It also gives space to the children in both cases; space to grow until they are legally and hopefully emotionally able to choose the church and its teachings at the same time they embrace their parents that may not be living according to the teachings.

Follow are some quotes and references that I found helpful in navigating this change emotionally and intellectually.

Nothing is lost to them, in the end, if that's the direction they want to go. In the meantime, they're not placed in a postition where there will be difficulties, challenges, conflicts that can injure their development in very tender years. (D Todd Christofferson, at 6:08, Church Provides Context on Handbook Changes Affecting Same-Sex Marriages)
We’re not going to yield on our efforts to help people find what brings happiness, but we know sin does not. And so we’re going to stand firm there because we don’t want to mislead people. There’s no kindness in misdirecting people and leading them into any misunderstanding about what is true, what is right, what is wrong, what leads to Christ and what leads away from Christ. (D Todd Christofferson, Church Provides Context on Handbook Changes Affecting Same-Sex Marriages)
If this policy be of God, God will help us through this. If this policy be not of God, God will help us through it. (My FB Post 13 Nov 2015,
The First Presidency has written a letter on 13 Nov 2015 clarifying the new same-sex marriage policy changes. It is also on

"With same-sex marriage now legal in the United States and some other nations, the Church felt the need specifically to address such marriages in the Handbook to draw a firm line and encourage consistency among local leaders. In particular, Church leaders are concerned for children–whether biologically born to one of the partners, adopted or medically conceived. In reality, very few same-sex couples would bring children for the formal Church ordinance of naming and blessing, since this creates a formal membership record. But Church leaders want to avoid putting little children in a potential tug-of-war between same-sex couples at home and teachings and activities at church. 
This sensitivity to family circumstances is practiced elsewhere. For example, the Church doesn’t baptize minor children without parental consent, even if the children want to be associated with their LDS friends. A married man or woman isn’t baptized if the spouse objects. Missionaries don’t proselytize in most Muslim countries or in Israel, where there are particular sensitivities with family. In some African and other nations where polygamy is practiced, anyone whose parents practice polygamy needs special permission for baptism so they know that a practice that is culturally acceptable for many in the region is not acceptable in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. " ("Understanding the Handbook", Michael Otterson, 13 Nov 2015,

I found several, well worded passages here to refute myths I have already seen and explain the policies.
These changes could also help protect children. While some same-sex couples adopt, many children of same-sex couples come from divorce. In these situations, custody battles can be fierce. In most places in the United States, if one parent tries to destroy the relationship of their child with the other parent it is considered “custodial interference” which is grounds to change the custodial agreement. 
Because the Church continues to affirm that heterosexual marriage is the ideal, there could potentially be judges in the United States—perhaps, even, very many judges—who would categorize a child joining a church that rejects their parent’s new relationship as custodial interference. This could take that child away from the parent who belongs to the Church or rearrange their custodial arrangements significantly in ways that would harm the child. ("The 9 Facebook Myths About the Church’s New LGBT Policy", Christopher D. Cunningham, 6 Nov 2015,

The church is not punishing children of gay Mormons. Most other Christian denominations believe that all people are born inherently evil and fallen because of Adam’s sin of eating the forbidden fruit. Latter-day Saints reject this doctrine and believe people are only responsible before God for the sins they themselves commit. 
The new policy does not change this doctrine in any way. First it has nothing to do with the idea of original sin. Second it has nothing to do with the inherent nature of the individual. Third it has nothing to do with the final judgment. This policy protects children in specific family situations from a variety of repercussions by requiring they wait until they are an adult before joining the Church. 
adapted from
24 And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give. 
25 And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemned; and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received.

(Gay) Mormon Guy writes of a child of polygamists, a Chinese man and a Muslim,
Of all the people I met in the cafeteria and on my mission, the ones who I felt most connected to were people like these. The people who had been born into difficult circumstances, but who found the gospel anyway. The leaders of the Church took special notice of them, even though sometimes they had to wait for those blessings. Yes, each of them had to work for their faith. Yes, they all had to wait. But in working and waiting, they felt like modern-day pioneers. While they regretted the situation of their early childhood, they felt a profound sense of gratitude for the deep testimony they had gained - sometimes far deeper than their peers. And they were so much more faithful, happy, and grateful for it.

Latter-day Saints do not need to intellectually understand every policy change Church leaders make to know that there is spiritual safety in following their leadership and counsel. ("The 9 Facebook Myths About the Church’s New LGBT Policy", Christopher D. Cunningham, 6 Nov 2015,

We should remember that most typically revelations are “conclusions” and not “explanations.” When we receive revelation for ourselves, we discover what God would have us do. He rarely provides a reason for why we should do what was revealed. Rather, He trusts us to be obedient to the revelation He has given us. (Facebook post, David A. Bednar, 26 Oct 2015)

In my opinion it’s considerate and wise to not allow children of same gender couples to be baptized until they are 18. 
It shows same-sex couples that The Church acknowledges that those same-sex parents have drastically different perspectives on marriage and family than what The Church teaches. It also shows a mature acknowledgment that if a child were to be baptized into The Church, it would likely create major conflicts and uncomfortable feelings between the child and their parents. Furthermore, children often need a strong support group in order to stay faithful after baptism. Hence, the age requirement for those coming from families who likely would not be able to provide such support. ("5 Ways LDS Church is Showing Respect for the LGBT Community", Alex Balinski 6 Nov 2015,

In the cases of both polygamy and same-sex marriage, the only way for a marital unit (for want of a better word) to conform to church policy would be for them to split up. It seems to be the church’s positions that polygamy, same-sex marriage, and some other circumstances are far enough outside the manageable norm that it is best to delay membership until the child is an adult and able to understand and deal better with a possibly complex situation. 
I’m not asking you to agree with the decision or to ignore the pain this may cause to some. (I’m haven’t done so myself.) Rather, I’m asking you to reasonably acknowledge that there are many factors in play and many ramifications to a policy on either end. ("Same Sex Marriage and the New Church Policies", Alison Moore Smith, 6 Nov 2015,

Make no mistake about it, brothers and sisters, in the months and years ahead, events are likely to require each member to decide whether or not he will follow the First Presidency. ("Meeting the Challenges of Today", Neal A. Maxwell, BYU Devotional, 10 Oct 1978)

My purpose in writing this is that I hope to offer comfort to others who may have emotional struggles with this new policy. ("How the Policy on Children of Same Sex Couples Affects Us All", Kelly Merrill, 6 Nov 2015,

My Facebook post as I sorted through my feelings and thoughts.

Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.
(“Lord, I Believe”, Jeffrey R. Holland, Apr 2013, LDS General Conference)

It would be inappropriate and unfair for the Church to expect minor children to cope with the issue of divided loyalties. All children need the support of a family. Ideally, that support should be provided by a married mother and father. Some children do not have that advantage, but it is still important that the Church does not undermine a polygamist family’s relationship between parents and child, or a same-sex couple’s relationship with a child they are parenting. ("A Look at the Church’s New Policy on Children of Gay Couples", 6 Nov 2015,

This isn’t a punishment to the children. Can you imagine if such children were baptized, and on Sunday taught that same-sex marriage, or polygamy, or whatever was wrong, and then those children go home to families that practice it, how confusing and disconcerting would that be to those children? Better to wait until they are adults themselves so they can make up their own mind and decide what they believe. Then, if they decide to be baptized, they can live according to the Church standards in their own homes.
Members of the Church do love others. 
We hold no ill will toward anyone. However, within the Church, we don’t believe in same-sex marriage and we don’t practice it. Anyone who does practice it can’t be a member in good standing.
(Comment on "New Church policies on same-sex marriage",  Larry Richman, 6 Nov 2015,

as a gay man who does not feel victimized by this decision I feel the need to share my side.
I don't disagree with the church when they say that it might not be in the child's best interest to be baptized into a church that does not support their parents marriage. (Facebook post, Jason Wesley Buonforte, 7 Nov 2015)

I was raised in a homosexual household from the time I was three until I was eighteen.
when I read the Church’s decision I immediately began wondering why. So far this has never failed me as I believe that Heavenly Father wants us to understand why things are the way they are so far as we are able to comprehend them. I never doubted that the decision was not of divine origin and the more I pondered, the more thoughts and impression began to come to me. ("I Am The Daughter of Lesbians, And I Am A Mormon", Brandi Walton, 6 Nov 2015,

Some people have asserted that children are required to disavow their parents this is not true.
Elder Otterson
There's also provision, or requirement, for a person who has reached the age of maturity, who maybe wants to serve a mission in the church, who's come from a same-sex marriage relationship/family. There's a requirement for them to disavow the idea of same-sex marriage; not disavow their parents, but same-sex marriage. What was the thinking behind that? 
Elder Christofferson:
Well, again, there is a parallel with polygamy. Anyone coming out of a polygamous setting, who wants to serve a mission, has to be clear that they understand that is wrong and is a sin and cannot be followed. They disavow the practice of plural marriage and that would be the same case here. They would disavow or asset, I guess may be a better way to say it, to the doctrines and practices of the church in regards to same-sex marriage. So they would be saying, as you said, not disavowing their parent but disavowing the practice. ("Elder Christofferson Provides Context on Handbook Changes Affecting Same-Sex Marriages", Interviewed by Michael Otterson 6 Nov 2015,

I believe Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love all people. I believe prophets and apostles speak for Heavenly Father and do their best to navigate the sensitivities and challenges of our day. The manner in which they try to care for and protect families will always be a source of controversy. Let us not forget that it was for Jesus too. ("Mormon Church is the Anne Hathaway of Religions", Derek Westra, 6 Nov 2015)

A friend of mine made an insightful comment on the LDS Church's policy clarification:
"I think this is analogous to a large, activist LGBT organization saying, 'We'll provide as much support as is consented to for gay children of Mormon parents, but out of respect for their parents, we will not allow those children to officially join in our activism until they reach age 18.' I think almost all Mormon parents of gay children would see that as a respectful and responsible decision."
This is true, I think. If this were to happen, few people would decry it as exclusive or punitive. They might have reservations with it still, but they wouldn't immediately see it as malicious. (FB Post, Jeffrey Thayne)

I see myself on both sides.  I feel like I have too deep a conviction about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon to ever leave this church and I will stand with the General Authorities fully acknowledging that I don't know everything, but my heart is ACHING, breaking in a million pieces for those whom this new policy affects. ('"There is No "Them" Only "Us"', Celeste, 7 Nov 2015)

Just for accuracy:  
The disavowal is for same-sex marriage of LDS members - or, in other words, an acceptance of non-LDS members being free to be in same-sex marriages but not LDS members. Members are free to advocate for civil rights but not to work to try to force the LDS Church to sanction same-sex marriage internally. The central issue is, unfortunately, the Church's right to set its own standards for membership - and I support that right completely, even if I would want different boundaries than many members. In the case of children with same-sex parents who want to be baptized, they would disavow their parents' relationship for themselves as LDS members but not have to oppose their parents' relationship in any legal or active way.  
I know that still is not acceptable to many here (since it still considers the parents' relationship as sinful), but it is an important point, nonetheless. It is a fine distinction that requires maturity to understand.  
I also believe they are sincere about not wanting to pit minor children against their parents but allow them to reach the age of legal maturity (18) in order for their decisions to be fully informed. That is the part of this that I appreciate the most, as a father. It also is a statement that being baptized at 8 is not critical, in the grand scheme of things, and is not about fully informed decision-making but only about theoretical accountability. That has fascinating implications.  
Finally, I personally don't like the example of murderers, rapists, thieves, etc. being used. There is no assumption that anyone is going to advocate for those actions to be seen as acceptable, and children raised by those people nearly universally disavow those actions naturally. There is no fine distinction in those cases, and having children hear those actions described as sin at church carries no serious potential damage for them. The only examples I like are polygamy and cohabitation. I think cohabitation is the best analogy to oppose this decision, since it is legal, but it is so widespread that missionary work might grind to a halt if this policy existed for those children. Polygamy is the best example, in reverse, in church history. ("Same sex marriage considered apostasy" Ray DeGraw, 07 Nov 2015, 09:30,

She describes the similarity with which polygamous marriage is treated in policy
("The Children of Married/Cohabiting Gay Parents [Expanded with Overnight Thoughts]", Ardis E. Parshall, 5 Nov 2015,

From an interview of Tom Christofferson by Rational Faith
Rational Faiths:  Some people have said this is the last straw, and they’ve written their resignation letters and others are preparing to do the same thing. They just feel like this is a dividing line and the church doesn’t want people like me and I don’t want to be part of church that is like this. 
Tom Christofferson:  I’ve also been thinking: where is the way forward for me? I was in CA on business and flying back to SLC last night and my phone blew up, and I was trying to sort it through. On the plane when I had a few moments to myself I turned to the scriptures and I turned to John 6.  I love that chapter: the Savior  feeds 5000, the storm on the Sea of Gallilee and Jesus walking on water, people who knew him in his hometown couldn’t get him being the Savior because he’s the brother of their friends, and at the synagogue in Capernaum people said, “These are hard things and who can hear them?” And He turns to His apostle and says, “Will ye also go away?” 
The next line is so Peter, he responds, a ringing declaration and testimony, “Lord to whom shall we go?  Thou hast the words of eternal life,” and when I was reading it last night on the plane it came to me so differently. Peter could also be saying, “Yes, Lord, these are hard things, and I don’t understand them; but I know what I feel and thou hast the words of eternal life.” And that’s where I am.  I know what I have felt about the Book of Mormons and Joseph Smith, and I particularly know how I feel about the Savior and the prayers and inspiration I’ve had. So for me these are hard things that I don’t understand, but I know where the words of eternal life are. So all I can do is try to walk in the path of faith and hope that someday I will better understand or that all of us will have a different understanding and move forward to a different place. ("Tom Christofferson Interview from Rational Faiths", wheatmeister, 7 Nov 2015,

notice that for many of these “thoughtful” Latter-day Saints, our openness to continuing revelation always seems to be open in one direction; our remote control scans only to the left. What we are supposed to be open to always fits a progressive moral-political agenda of ever more individual freedom and equality. ("Our One-Sided “Openness” To Continuing Revelation", Ralph Hancock, 16 Oct 2013,
Below I’ll be fisking with the new handbook policy (Handbook 1, number 16.3) in purple (how appropriate!) and my own thoughts in black. My point is to note what I think is the intent of the policy as it is currently written, what it can’t logically mean, and what I hope (and pray) will be changed. (Alison Moore Smith,

there is a way of drawing a straight line through all of this, and that line may take the form of a Mormon Benedict Option. The Utah legislative compromise, the stepping away from Kim Davis, and even the church’s mild response to Obergefell all fall neatly under Rod Dreher’s definitional criterion (as far as I can discern it) of strategic retreat without disengagement. The new sanctions on same-sex households, likewise, make for an excellent example of the sort of cultural separation and in-group moral renewal involved in actually implementing the Option.
In all the discussion of the Option it’s worth asking whether non-Mormon Christians have forgotten to find a Benedict, and whether Mormons are now leading the way.
("Same-Sex Marriage And The Mormon Benedict Option", Tom Stringham, 10 Nov 2015,
So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.
(Job 2:13

“Our sustaining of prophets is a personal commitment that we will do our utmost to uphold their prophetic priorities,” said Elder Nelson (“Sustaining the Prophets,” Oct. 2014 general conference) "5 Ways to Sustain and Follow the Prophets",

Following are quotes for me in the effort of seeing through the eyes of those that are hurting from the new policy
I don't think the church is asking anyone to disavow their parents. I think it is possible to assent or agree that the policy of the church is that same-sex relations are a sin. We can assent to the fact that the church gets to define what the body of the church believes.  
I think that as long as you are not publicly and stridently teaching or recruiting or persuading others to believe in opposition to the core teachings of the the church, you are free to remain a member of the church.  
As a missionary you will be asked to teach the law of chastity as the church says it is. More than that, you are asked to believe it yourself. And ask new members to live by the standard as the church says it is. (Rich Alger, 11 Nov 2015)
Elder Christofferson said, "They would disavow, or assent I guess would be a better way to say it, to the doctrines and practices of the Church with regards to same-sex marriage."

Is the standard merely to assent or agree that same-sex marriage is outside what the church teaches to be moral? Is it only necessary that we agree to not teach publicly against it, or at the least not to be strident about it?  (Rich Alger, 11 Nov 2015)

When you're old enough to legally make your own decisions without input from your parents, to be baptized you'll have to move out of their home and show that you believe that sexual cohabitation and same-sex marriage is wrong. You won't have to turn away from your parents entirely, just the sexual aspect of their relationship. That could be really hard, considering that you just grew up with same-sex parents... and they'll be your parents for the rest of your life.

the church cannot support a same-sex marriage couple on the blessing certificate or the baptismal certificate or even the church records (FB Post, Jenna Galbraith Wood Posting Corey Dean 's personal post (with permission), 12 Nov 2015)

The stories are still coming in. Just read about a man who is gay, divorced in 2012, and had been getting along well-enough with this ex-wife to co-parent their children. Now his wife is taking him to court to try to revoke his parental rights (I can't see how this would actually be ruled in her favor) so their children can be ordained, go on missions, etc. (FB Post of a friend Adam, 12 Nov 2015)  
I hope that the bishop of this mother is talking to his stake president and/or the church hotline to clarify what the church's recommended action is in this case. Maybe this is why the policy is written the way it is. So that one parent does not try to cut off the other just so their children may be able to be baptized, ordained or do temple baptisms.

I see that it is possible to be married and have a commitment to not have sex. John is an example. Traditionally marriage is not only about sex but about having children. 
I wonder what space is there for a gay, married couple who openly and publicly commit to being celibate because at least one of them believes in and wants to honor the law of chastity as taught by our church? (My FB Comment, 13 Nov 2015)

Here are the policies as reported by KSL

Church spokesman Erik Hawkins released the following statement:
"Church handbooks are policy and procedural guides for lay leaders who must administer the Church in many varied circumstances throughout the world. The Church has long been on record as opposing same-sex marriages. While it respects the law of the land, and acknowledges the right of others to think and act differently, it does not perform or accept same-sex marriage within its membership."
Handbook 1, number 6.7.2 has been updated as follows (addition is highlighted):
When a Disciplinary Council May Be Necessary

Serious Transgression

. . . It includes (but is not limited to) attempted murder, forcible rape, sexual abuse, spouse abuse, intentional serious physical injury of others, adultery, fornication, homosexual relations (especially sexual cohabitation), deliberate abandonment of family responsibilities, . . .

Handbook 1, number 6.7.3 has been updated as follows (addition is highlighted):
When a Disciplinary Council is Mandatory


As used here, apostasy refers to members who:
  1. Repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.
  2. Persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after they have been corrected by their bishop or a higher authority.
  3. Continue to follow the teachings of apostate sects (such as those that advocate plural marriage) after being corrected by their bishop or a higher authority.
  4. Are in a same-gender marriage.
  5. Formally join another church and advocate its teachings.

A new section in Handbook 1, 16.13 has been added as follows:
Children of a Parent Living in a Same-Gender Relationship

A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may not receive a name and a blessing.

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

A mission president or a stake president may request approval from the Office of the First Presidency to baptize and confirm, ordain, or recommend missionary service for a child of a parent who has lived or is living in a same-gender relationship when he is satisfied by personal interviews that both of the following requirements are met:
  1. The child accepts and is committed to live the teachings and doctrine of the Church, and specifically disavows the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage.
  2. The child is of legal age and does not live with a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same-gender cohabitation relationship or marriage.

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