Children of a Parent Living in a Same-Sex Relationship

On 11/5/15 the Mormon church issued some policy additions to Handbook 1 defining those who are in same-sex (they used the word gender for some strange reason) marriages as apostates, mandating disciplinary councils for them and denying children of those marriages any ordinances and rituals in the church until they reach 18, at which time they can receive these ordinances and rituals only if they move out and disavow the practice of their parents. This policy addition was leaked to the press and is now available for anyone to read.

While practicing homosexuals, especially those cohabiting, have long been regarded by the church as acting contrary to church doctrine and teachings and committing “grievous sin,” punitive action for these individuals has been far from uniform. Typically, if the individual is not attending church at all and has distanced himself or herself from the church, they are not hunted down and excommunicated or disfellowshipped. If the individual is active and either cohabiting or married, church discipline- usually excommunication- was typically initiated, but not in all cases and not in all areas. There was and still is some leadership roulette involved.

Church spokesman Eric Hawkins said this in response to the uproar:

“We don’t want to see anyone leave the church, especially people who have been struggling with any aspect of their life,” Eric Hawkins said in a statement. “The church exists to build people and help them heal, and there isn’t one of us who doesn’t need help at some point in our lives. We hope that (Friday’s) guidance from church leaders and the additional commentary will help provide understanding and context to some who may be considering resigning their membership. It’s extremely important that our members read what leaders have said, and do not rely on other sources or interpretations or what people think they have said.”

Below are the additions made to Handbook 1 as well as all the clarifications that have ensued, so you can read exactly what leaders have said and come to your own conclusions:

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On 11/6/15 Elder Christofferson responded on behalf of the church with an interview done with the PR department of the church.

Here is a transcript of the above interview:

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There has been a wide variety of reactions to this new policy, from defending it as divinely inspired, to measured criticism and respectful dissent, to scathing criticism and outright disgust. Thousands of members have resigned their memberships over this policy and there are planned public demonstrations and resignation events being carried out.

After all the outcry and confusion, on 11/13/15 the Mormon newsroom issued a statement from Michael Otterson, managing director of public affairs, explaining how to understand the Handbook.

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On this same day, 11/13/15, the First Presidency of the church issued a letter to local church leaders with some additional clarification on the policy.

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Reactions from those defending the policy:

The other and truer assumption with which people saw this policy change is that the prophets and apostles who lead this Church are the chosen mouthpieces of God on this earth. This Church is headed by the living Christ who does nothing “save he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). They have been trained, chosen and gifted for this heavy responsibility with revelatory power including seership, which allows them understanding of what is and what will follow. They are not perfect, but they are chosen and trustworthy.

If they tell us something that is difficult to hear, we should trust that they have a perspective that supercedes our own because they have an intimate companionship with the Lord that supercedes our own. They are a steadying force in a world that tosses us to and fro with every philosophy and wind of doctrine.

If we believe that the men who lead us are prophets, we look at everything they teach us from the Proclamation on the Family to changes in the handbook with entirely differently eyes. If we don’t immediately understand something–like why a child living in a same-sex married family, cannot be baptized at the age of eight–we assume this policy is based on revelation and compassion.

Even if we do not understand its meaning or context immediately, we don’t rush to judgment, pronounce it wrong or unfeeling, but instead we seek to understand. We also assume that if we don’t understand immediately, that time will bear it out.

Whatever happened to someone hearing the word and going home and pondering and praying about it rather than flipping on their phone and spilling their emotions on Facebook which can go to thousands of people, affecting their testimonies as well?

The Courage to Call Sin What it Is

However unpopular that position may be in this current age, the Lord will not yield and neither will those who are His mouthpiece. They cannot and in that there is safety for us all. How insecure we would be if the Church took polls to see what the doctrine should be.

One woman on Facebook said she was going to stand and fight the Church on this. She had been rallied to this cause. However, well intentioned she believes herself to be, her actual goal is to remake the Church and the doctrine in her own image. She will not succeed.

If the General Authorities were seeking her approval or for a public relations success, they would be putting us all in jeopardy of losing the iron rod we cling to. We can be grateful that the prophets refuse to seek popularity or bow to pressure.” New Additions to the LDS Handbook: Do the Brethren Need to Check with Social Media?- Meridian Magazine 11/8/15

Baptism, according to the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, is not some entrance into a club or proof that you are included, it is a sacred covenant that an individual makes with God. It involves a lifetime of responsibility and accountability for keeping that covenant and the commandments.

We believe baptism is essential to salvation, but taking that step makes you answerable for any actions you take contrary to what you have promised. You are accountable in a different way for those actions than someone who takes those same actions without that knowledge or those promises to God.

A child of same-sex parents, who desires to be baptized, faces a lifetime of dissonance between family life and Church life. I personally saw it as compassionate that someone in that situation would be required to take a little time, truly invest and fully understand before making this covenant for which there will be both temporal difficulty and eternal consequences.

And that thought gave me peace and I assumed I would think no more about it.

Many have complained about the Church and the leadership and expressed their regret at an imminent parting of the ways because they still appreciate certain elements Mormonism.

They appreciate how Mormons can organize to create positive impact in their communities. They love that Mormons are service-oriented and industrious. They wanted their kids to grow up in an environment with a little of that influence.

Those things are true, but if you think that’s what the Church is or think that the Church is place to add “a little religion” to your life, then you’re missing the point.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is not a social club and it is not just a massive humanitarian aid organization. If it is true, then we are building the Kingdom of God on the earth. Being nice to your neighbors and watching out for your community are fruits of the Holy Spirit. Compassion and charity and discernment are the result of members striving to be like a Savior that they actually believe to be real and alive. It is a result of those individuals learning to run to Him and apply His atonement because there is no other way.

If it is true, then everything that we do should be focused around the central desire to follow Christ. And that desire should make us endlessly forgiving and accepting, even of those who desire to tear us down. If it is true, then the prophets and apostles that direct the Church are actually acting under the direction of and revelation from God, even if we don’t understand certain things. If it is true, then there are things that are right and things that are wrong and not just things that are well said.- Surviving the Slings and Arrows of Social Media- Meridian Magazine 11/9/15

When new Church policies cause controversy, it’s tempting to suppose our experience, joined with the experience of the multitude of voices weighing in on social media, gives us sufficient wisdom to judge. It’s good to learn from others, and to have the easy opportunity to learn from so many others via the internet. But those voices can give us no insight into the motives and hearts of the leaders responsible for the policy–––only assumptions that often reveal more about the assumer than about Church leaders.

The accusations that the Brethren are bigots and clueless about people out in the real world are false. The accusations that the Brethren are acting out of hatred or ignorance are false.

Sustaining our leaders means, at the very least, extending to them sufficient benefit of the doubt to reject such accusations. Fully reject accusations against Church leaders; don’t let conventional wisdom and assumptions constantly repeated by others start to cloud your judgment. I fear that even when we don’t agree “the Brethren are bigots,” we almost subconsciously incorporate some cynicism into our opinions of them just because we see the accusations repeated so often. We conclude so much smoke proves at least a tiny fire. We have to consciously reject that false conclusion.

Church leaders are not automatons at a podium. They’ve led full lives and had broad experience. There’s no Utah bubble to hide in for Church leaders, because to be a high-level Church leader, even in Utah, is to deal with a constant stream and bewildering variety of hard and heartbreaking situations.- The Brethren are not Bigots- Meridian Magazine 11/9/15

Myth #1 These Changes Punish Children

The most pervasive myth you’ll hear about these changes is that they punish children. All people can receive all the ordinances of salvation and exaltation. And all children can attend all church activities and events. There is no degree of punishment that exists in these new changes.

Myth #2 Treats LGBT People Worse Than Other Sinners

There are others who insist that these new changes set sins of homosexuality as more serious than other sins. Again this is not true. Adultery and fornication are both grounds for excommunication. Up until the legalization of same-sex marriage, those who participated in same-sex relationships could receive church discipline under either of these other grounds.

Some have also suggested that requiring the children of LGBT couples to wait until they are adults to be baptized treats those parents worse than parents who are engaging in other types of sins. But this policy is the same that exists for children of polygamous couples, or children of parents opposed to the Church.

Myth #3 Violates the Church’s 2nd Article of Faith

This myth relies on the first myth that the Church is somehow punishing children of gay Mormons. But it also fundamentally misunderstands the second article of faith. 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.

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.- The 9 Facebook Myths About the Church’s New LGBT Policy- LDS.net 11/6/15

Reactions from those with more nuanced and/or critical positions:

The stomachache has subsided a bit since yesterday. I can focus on other things again. I no longer spontaneously cry from confusion and helplessness. I am no longer huddling with friends in tear-punctuated conversations in which we search and wonder. The initial emotional response from the new additions to the Handbook regarding same-sex married couples and families has given way to a sincere desire to understand this new reality I am living with and that my children are growing up with…

Even though there are now some answers from Elder Christofferson’s video interview, questions remain unanswered that seem vital to our willingness to continue sustaining leaders and changing church policies. When we have covenanted to follow an inspired prophet and dedicate our lives to the Church, we deserve to know who is making these policy decisions and why they are being made. It is a form of love for the people to communicate in a thoughtful and comprehensive manner. I do not want my leaders to take advantage of my obedience. It still is mine to give.

It is an enormous sacrifice to give our hearts to the Lord; do we not deserve the right to be fully and transparently informed if we are to offer broken hearts upon His altar? With a change of this size, do we not deserve to know that our Prophet himself is asking us to stretch into new, unknown and scary territory, rather than have to speculate about who’s involved with Handbook changes and wonder if it is in fact prophetic? And what if this change wasn’t considered new or challenging enough to warrant such handholding? That lack of sensitivity is disheartening in itself…

What is this line our leaders are asking us to walk in regards to gays and gay rights? I think some of the reaction to this week’s announcement came from the whiplash of thinking we knew what direction we were going, and then being tugged in a seemingly opposite direction: between Utah’s “compromise” making legal news and Elder Oaks’ comments about Kim Davis a few weeks ago, many including myself rejoiced in the compassionate overtures. We thought this is what integration looked like, what open arms outstretched would feel like. But in the modern world of equality and love for all, we sometimes forget or choose to gloss over the fact that the Savior came “not to send peace, but a sword.” He is demanding, as well as compassionate. He is exacting, as well as embracing. What does this balance look like in the modern world? I don’t know, but I do think that the discomfort we’re experiencing now is a result of trying to find that line as a people…

The institutional stance towards gays is at odds with the way I would personally like to negotiate this balance. I’m struggling with having that agency consumed by policy, or knowing that at least that agency was in the hands of local bishops and stake presidents who might know the personal stories of those involved…

I don’t want to align myself with something that is unpopular because it makes it harder for me to connect with friends and family who are now shut off to my influence and friendship. More significantly, it’s hard to embrace something unpopular when the popular viewpoint seems to embody so many good qualities itself as the gay rights movement does. But I have covenanted to offer a broken heart, and right now I feel that is literally all I have to offer. I’ve always thought my broken heart would come as a result of my own sins, my own mistakes and imperfections. Or perhaps the mistakes of others wrought upon me, resulting in my personal loss. I don’t think I’ve ever fathomed that my broken heart would be the result of causing others’ pain, or my institutionally proscribed inability to say to brothers and sisters, “You are wanted here. There’s a place for you. We need you.” Because now my ability to say that is qualified. Period. It may be constrained in the name of some greater principle — specifically an upholding of a divinely mandated moral code — but it is constrained nonetheless.- Not Peace, But A Sword- Neylan Mcbaine 11/7/15

This news has been greeted, predictably, by an outpouring of outrage, sorrow, and generally negative emotion. So far I haven’t seen any calm or reasoned discussion about what may be the purpose for the new practice. That’s fine – people’s emotions are what they are. I’m not policing that – I merely would like to start, however prematurely, to have that calm and reasoned discussion that is the only path to real understanding.

What strikes me first about the restrictions on the membership of children of married/cohabiting gay parents is that they are identical to the restrictions that have long (since the 1920s) been in place for the children of polygamous parents…I think it might be useful in helping us move beyond the emotional outburst of tonight if we looked for patterns between the two situations. Finding those patterns could help us understand what underlies the Church’s position. It is not necessary to assume without question that the Church hates gays, or that the policy is a punishment for children or a pressure point for parents. That is not generally how the Church operates, despite what disaffected or believing-but-disappointed people immediately conclude…

So perhaps the Church is concerned about a growing acceptance of same-sex marriages and practices, in the same way they were concerned about acceptance of polygamy within the Church in an earlier generation. Perhaps that is one reason for the new policy: prohibiting the baptism of those who might theoretically be most sympathetic to gay marriages could help to “keep the doctrine pure,” as the phrase is.

But that of course does nothing to prevent the growing acceptance of gay marriages by heterosexuals who are already members of the Church. I’m not taking any kind of stand on that point, merely trying to think more rationally and less emotionally than what I have seen so far.

There is no reason, only emotion, to interpret the newly announced consequences for children of gay parents aspunishments for those children. Infant blessing is not a salvific ordinance. It is one that not only welcomes the child into the fold of the Church, but initiates a qualified membership record for that child. But there is no long-lasting consequence, or punishment, to the child who is not blessed.

Neither are the restrictions permanent. They only delay essential ordinances, like baptism, until a child who can easily be expected to be sympathetic to unacceptable marriage arrangements can be mature enough to deal with the additional stumblingblock to his making that covenant.

Church leaders have, in fact, told us that we can support same-sex marriage without consequence to individual membership. Some people are interpreting this overnight news as a recision of that promise. I think that’s a misunderstanding: It seems to me that whenever I have heard a Church leader speak about our right to support same-sex marriage, it has been in the context of civil or legal or social support. We can still support same-sex marriage in the civil sphere. But the Church has not changed its moral or doctrinal opposition to same-sex marriage, and we’ve never been told it’s okay to assume it has, or that to advocate for such changes is acceptable.

Yes, I wish this news had reached us in a different way. In the Church’s defense, this was obviously not how they planned to introduce the policy. They did not foresee someone with access to the new Handbook page who, unworthy of the trust of his calling, broke his neck racing to send a copy of the page to a man who orchestrated its release in the most sensational and vindictive way imaginable. We haven’t heard from the Church at all, yet, beyond a simple confirmation that the leaked page is genuine. We don’t yet know what explanation or teaching they might yet give us.

On the other hand, to the Church’s shame, they should have anticipated a leak like this and been prepared to handle it more promptly and with greater care than has been the case. Leaks like this are a certainty in this age. Nothing is going to fly under the radar. The Church ought to know that, and ought to be prepared, and if they aren’t, they (and we) suffer the consequences.- The Children of Married/Cohabiting Gay Parents [Expanded with Overnight Thoughts]- Ardis Parshall 11/6/15

We still need clarification (if that’s the word we’re going to use). Elder Christofferson’s interview was a start, but it didn’t go far enough toward helping people understand what’s going on.

I appreciated very much the reassurance that Church leaders know that “these questions [are] difficult, they’re sensitive, they tug at the heartstrings and they’re very real.” These changes are not ones made casually or without understanding that they affect the lives of real people.

I also appreciated the unequivocal statement that “We regard same-sex marriage as a particularly grievous or significant serious kind of sin that requires Church discipline.” Regardless of your agreement or disagreement, the statement was clear and out in the open.

Where I felt the interview faltered was in what was apparently intended to explain the origin of the policy change: “It originates from a desire to protect children in their innocence and in their minority years.” But something is missing here, perhaps telescoped in Elder Christofferson’s memory or in the interest of brevity in the interview: No matter how I’ve twisted this in my imagination, one way and another, trying to imagine how the issue came up for discussion, I can’t come up with a convincing (to me) scene where this was the first step. I can imagine a variety of plausible scenes where the quorums were considering the impact of legal same-sex marriages on members’ understanding of doctrine (we’ve all heard or read remarks wondering if or claiming that homosexual acts are no longer a violation of the law of chastity as long as the actors are “legally and lawfully wed”), and I can also understand that somewhere along the line – but not as the opening step – consideration for children’s divided loyalties may have come up. But suggesting, as the interview does, that children’s feelings were the initial consideration has set us up for all kinds of mockery: “How can we protect the children?” “Oh, let’s exclude them from membership. That’ll do the trick.” I have enough faith in the goodness of Church leaders to refuse to accept that as a starting point.

That’s another reason we still need clarification.- Still Thinking about the Children of Married/Cohabiting Gay Parents- Ardis Parshall 11/9/15

This list of 46 consequences (intended or otherwise), some of which are reproduced below, was created by Mormon Biblical scholar, Julie Smith who is an active believing member of the church:

3. I’ve seen comments to the effect of “children in this situation can still have the light of Christ.” It seems to me that every time this is said, our belief in the importance of the gift and constant companionship of the Holy Ghost is diminished.

4.  I’ve also seen comments to the effect of “God will work it all out.” While I believe that it is ultimately true that God will work everything out with a perfect blend of mercy and justice, I’m concerned that saying that in this situation leads to a culture where we don’t bother so much about the effects of our actions on other people since God will fix it all eventually.

5.  Elder Christofferson said that, for children who cannot be baptized, “Nothing is lost to them in the end if that’s the direction they want to go.” I am pretty sure that his meaning was that, in an eternal sense, there will be no difference a thousand years from now whether you were baptized at 8 or at 18. However, I have to admit that it makes it a little harder for me to get out of my bed at 5:45am every day to take my child to seminary if nothing will be lost to him in the end if he is not active in the church as a teenager. (Of course, I don’t actually believe that.) But I do wonder where we end up as a church culture if the idea that teenage involvement in the church is not thought to be of crucial importance.

7.  To many people, this looks like a “hateful” and “bigoted” policy. While I do not believe that the Brethren have a single hateful or bigoted bone in their bodies (there are 3,090 bones in the Q12 and FP, if you were wondering), the policy and its roll out can create that impression. How might things have played out differently had the policy been accompanied by admonitions to donate to organizations which help homeless gay teens or a reminder of the need to convey God’s love to gay people?

10.  I don’t buy the argument that the Brethren are clueless and out of touch. Which means that I presume they knew that this policy would lead to many disaffections from the church and make conversion much more difficult. They apparently thought the policy’s benefits were worth this cost. But the only official rationale for it is to avoid cognitive dissonance in children. Another cost of the policy is that presumably some of those who cannot be baptized at eight will never be baptized and go down a different path. In sum, this policy shows that avoiding cognitive dissonance is really, really important to be worth incurring those costs. To what other situations might LDS decide to apply this principle? Will a woman with a nonmember husband decide it is better not to take her kids to church?

12.  I, like you and everyone else, live in a bubble. But there are really faithful, orthodox, totally committed to the church people in my bubble, people who oppose same sex marriage. And many, many of them are having a crisis of faith over this policy the likes of which I have never seen in my life. These people will by and large stay in the church, but something has happened to them as a result of this policy. I suspect a lower level of commitment to the institution, a lower level of trust in its leaders, and, perhaps, a lower likelihood of staying faithful when the next challenge (whether that is a personal issue or whatever) comes.

14.  Imagine two young men being interviewed for missionary service. In answer to the bishop’s question about same-sex marriage, they both say, “Well, honestly, bishop, I don’t have strong feelings about the legality of it, but of course I am committed to the law of chastity in all respects and have a strong testimony of it.” Most bishops will recommend for service a kid who gives this answer . . . unless his parents are gay married, in which case the bishop cannot. This is a very odd double standard.

16.  Because of the emphasis on living arrangements, there is an economic aspect to this policy that troubles me. If I’m a 23-year-old who can afford my own place, I can be baptized, but if my budget only permits living with my moms, I can’t. If I’m a gay dad who can afford two addresses, I can present my still-active-ex-wife with a plausible story for the bishop, but if I can’t, my kids can’t be baptized.

19.  One premise of the new policy is that, as Elder Christofferson put it, same sex marriage is “a particularly grievous or significant, serious kind of sin.” I do not doubt that it is. But my concern is that in a church where same-sex marriage bars your children from saving ordinances but many other significant and grievous sins do not, we might be therefore tempted to think that sins such as rape, murder, child abuse, etc., are actually not all that serious after all.

27. Either this policy will result in virtually no children of gay parents being involved in the church or it will result in their presence as a class unto themselves. I’m wondering what it will do to a ward’s culture to have people who are not on the same track as everyone else. (I suppose we’ve been down this road before with members of African descent.) I’m not sure what it looks like on the ground when eight kids in the Primary and three in YM/YW aren’t baptized/ordained and can’t be. We do a lot of cheer leading at church about things like baptisms and temple trips and the like–and rightly so. I suspect that cheer leading will all but disappear in wards where a child of gay parents is present and it will likely be muted everywhere else, since a teacher or leader does not normally know the circumstances of the children in her midst. I’ve read too many notices in lesson manuals about being sensitive to the home circumstances of children to think I could, if teaching Primary, ever again go whole-hog on how very, very, very, important and wonderful baptism is.

33.  Here’s how Elder Christofferson explains the ban on blessings and baptism for children: “We don’t want there to be the conflicts that that would engender. We don’t want the child to have to deal with issues that might arise where the parents feel one way and the expectations of the Church are very different.” This sounds to me as if it would be wrong to bring a child to church if they had a gay parent. Is that how members and leaders will interpret it? But later, he says in reference to blessings of healing: “We would expect that to be done throughout their lifetime, from infancy on as long as that’s the desire of the parents and of the child. That’s something we are anxious to provide.” So one presumes a conflict there; I’m not sure how people will resolve that: should or should not the child of gay parents have experiences which expose them to the gospel and priesthood?

34.  I take Elder Christofferson at his word that the purpose of the policy is to reduce cognitive dissonance. However, if the child is involved with the church in any way, that cognitive dissonance will still be there. Actually, it will now be increased because not only will there be the “my parents are gay married but the church says that that is wrong” cognitive dissonance, but there will also be the “the church says baptism and ordination and the gift of the Holy Spirit are really important, but I can’t have them” cognitive dissonance. What am I missing that justifies increasing the cognitive dissonance?

39.  There will be new thinking about the age of accountability. Are these non-baptized kids still accountable? Will it encourage them to sin with the thought that they haven’t taken on covenants and/or are not regarded as accountable by the church? Will every talk and lesson about the importance of covenant keeping remind them that they are under no such obligation?

40.  There will be a cadre of missionaries (and marriages) where, because the missionary was baptized at age 18, he or she has no experience with the temple, with the gift of the Spirit, with exercising the priesthood, etc. It strikes me that this will be a loss to that person’s ability to be a missionary. And in wards with nonmember kids present, teachers may be tempted to downplay the role that these things can play in preparing one to serve a mission.

42.  Let’s say you are a bishop and you have in your office a 20-year-old child of gay parents who wants to serve a mission. This will, per the policy, require her to move out of her home. It is easy to imagine the bishop arranging for her to live with her friend for a few weeks and conducting her interview during that window. Problem solved? Well, maybe. But it also means that local leaders and members have accepted the principle that sometimes the Handbook has to be “gamed” or one has to look for loopholes. This does not bode well for how we read and apply the handbook in other instances. Other bishops will not, I suspect, look kindly on young adults who move back in with gay parents at some future point (which means that financial or health reversals get really complicated).

43.  There are no church-mandated repercussions for the children of a gay man who has a different partner every night of the week, which means that this policy encourages gay promiscuity. Given that the church considers gay sex in any context to be sinful, it may not seem like this would matter much. However, I think we have an obligation to be a light unto the world and to help improve things even if only to a small extent. And, especially because our primary concern in terms of this policy is not the righteousness of the gay man but the effect on his children, I would think that we would want their father in as stable of a relationship as possible.

44.  One of my favorite parts of Mormonism is this: every time I have been in a ward where a child was in a poor living situation, the ward went overboard in doing everything possible to help that child with whatever s/he needed and drew her/him as close to the church as possible so that s/he could see what functional families looked like and learn a better way to live. This policy suggests that that is not always the right thing to do; I wonder in what other cases wards will decide to stand down, either to avoid cognitive dissonance in the child or because the ethic of doing everything possible to rescue a child has been de-emphasized.

46.  If this list sounds like a deluge of negative outcomes, here’s a positive one: the many, many members who are troubled by this policy seem to be working double time to ensure that any gay folks and their families in their circle are shown that God’s love extends to them.

Some general thoughts:

1. In the non-Mormon world, apostasy means “renouncing your faith.” (Heresy means “believing and/or teaching as true things that your faith community rejects.”) I’m not necessarily opposed to mandating church discipline for people who gay marry, but we need to realize that we are causing enormous confusion to the outer world when we call gay marriage “apostasy.” If a lesbian woman were to go on CNN or the BBC and say, “I believe in Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and Jesus Christ” and then the announcer says “The LDS Church recently excommunicated her for apostasy when she married her female partner,” the conclusion most people are going to draw is that Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and Jesus Christ aren’t central to Mormonism. (I am not objecting to the church discipline; I’m objecting to labeling it apostasy.)

4.  This policy, even after the First Presidency [clarification] letter, still makes no sense to me. I don’t know how we can claim that the risk of cognitive dissonance is enough to justify denying saving ordinances when we already require parental consent and when we do not care about preventing cognitive dissonance in any other situation. Further, although I do not believe this was an intention of the policy (please, please let this not have been an intention of the policy), it is widely perceived as a “do not welcome” sign to LGBTQ people. Are there really that many primary-custody gay parents consenting to their children’s baptism to justify putting out that sign?- Consequences, Intended or Otherwise, in Light of the Update- Julie Smith 11/13/15

Benjamin R. Hertzberg taught political theory and philosophy at the LDS Church’s Brigham Young University during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years and currently serves as Second Counselor in the Bishopric of Atlanta area ward in Georgia.

“In an interview given after someone leaked the policy change to the national press, Elder D. Todd Christofferson (one of the LDS Church’s Twelve Apostles) claimed the policy change is designed to protect LGBTQ families from the inevitable strife that would come from their children joining Mormon congregations. Those congregations would teach the children that God condemns their parents’ relationship.

The justification is disingenuous: The vast majority of children the new policy affects come from failed, mixed-orientation Mormon marriages (those between a straight and an LGBTQ partner). In many cases, the LGBTQ parent(s) are connected to the church and identify as Mormon, support their children’s involvement with the church, and have even planned to pay or already paid for their children to serve as Mormon missionaries.

Rather than protecting LGBTQ families, the policy change drives the adult children of LGBTQ parents from their families and severs the minor children from congregations they love and that love them and are their main source of social and communal support.

Mormons must decide how they will respond to an official church policy, authorized by men they believe speak for God, that so plainly departs from their deepest religious principles.

One choice is to accept the disingenuous justification their religious authorities have offered and attempt to explain away the obvious theological contradictions. Mormons unfortunately have considerable experience doing this.

Most notoriously, they spun a racist and odious mythological explanation for the church’s policy (it shared the same name) of banning black men from priesthood ordination. (A policy that lasted until 1978.) But the consequences of this choice are severe: They must deal with the corrupting influence the justifying stories they tell will have on the way generations of future Mormons understand their religion.

Alternatively, Mormons can loudly and publicly object to the policy and demand its immediate retraction.

This choice also has costs. Mormons have, since the crucible of the 19th century polygamy persecutions led them to return to monogamy, believed that their “prophets, seers, and revelators” are more-or-less infallible, that they “cannot” lead the church astray. When Mormons publicly criticize a church policy that comes directly from these men, the church and their LDS friends and neighbors may ostracize them. 

For me, however, the choice is clear: I must loudly and publicly dissent. The new policy must go.

Mormons use the word “sustain” to communicate their support of those in ecclesiastical authority. Some will think that by publicly dissenting from the new policy I am not sustaining the First Presidency and the Twelve. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I dissent because I love Mormonism, and I cannot bear to see its leaders cause so much unnecessary suffering and harm. I dissent because obedience now costs too much, to my moral integrity, to the church, and to the families of Mormons whom I love.

Church discipline or excommunication is a consequence I am prepared to accept. Not because I want to leave — I pray that I can stay. But because in a moment like this, my Mormonism will not let me do otherwise.“- CNN.com- Mormons’ unChristian policy on LGBTQ- Benjamin R. Hertzberg

From Patrick Q. Mason, head of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University in Southern California

“I have seen and heard nothing from the church stating that this policy came by revelation,” Mason writes on Facebook, “nor are we asked to sustain it as such. We are never asked to sustain the Handbooks.”

Policies, he adds, “come and go.”

“Most of them are good and sensible,” Mason says, “some of them are lame, misguided and even hurtful. As people of conscience, we are always within our rights to disagree with anything within the church, but especially policies. We can responsibly say to ourselves, to our friends and neighbors, to our fellow church members and to our priesthood leaders, ‘I sustain my church leaders as men (and women) called by God and striving to lead his church by inspiration, but I do not agree with this policy of the church.’ ”- New Mormon edict on gays is a ‘policy,’ experts note, and LDS policies ‘come and go’- Salt Lake Tribune 11/13/15

Barring children of LGBT families from membership or baptism in the Church strikes at the very heart of Christian teachings about God’s special care for children and the essential role of baptism. It marks them as expendable. It also ensures that children of LGBT families will have virtually no opportunity for religious education within the LDS tradition during their critical formative years. Mormonism places great emphasis on the religious education of children. It is when we are children that we learn fundamental lessons about the love of God, the power of prayer, and the role of the “still small voice”—the Holy Ghost—in guiding our lives. These lessons shape and provide a foundation for our lives, and are cherished even by adults raised as Mormons who are no longer orthodox practitioners of the faith.

Mormonism teaches that the Holy Ghost is a gift given by God to guide us through life’s many difficult questions. As a parent in an interfaith Mormon family that takes exception to Church politics and teachings on homosexuality and the role of women, I affirm that children (and adults) are deeply capable of handling complexity, that it is possible for a family to say, “We may disagree, we may not fit the institutional model, but there are many wonderful things we can and should learn from our faith.” Mormon families around the world in many different circumstances—including Mormons of color, interfaith families, divorced families, feminist families, and politically progressive Mormon families—do this every day. The Church should honor the complexity of how faith is actually lived.- LDS CHURCH LABELS SAME-SEX SPOUSES “APOSTATES,” BARS CHILDREN FROM BAPTISM- Religion Dispatches 11/9/15

A ‘flawed’ but ‘glorious’ faith • If the LDS Church’s new policy had applied to children of nonbelievers, not just to gays, state Sen. Stephen Urquhart would have seen it in his own life.

“My childhood was sloppy. My family was messy. After our already-unsound foundation was rocked by tragedy, my mom, my brother and I joined the Mormon church,” he wrote on Facebook. “We were in free fall, and the Mormon church caught us, supported us and saved us. Yes, it is flawed, but the Mormon church is a glorious institution.

Urquhart’s dad did not believe in the faith’s tenets, the son said, but “100 percent appreciated and supported his boys’ devotion to the religion. He encouraged and paid for my mission. Why? Because he realized that he fell short. He knew that we needed help. And he was proud that we had the discipline to believe and live according to our faith.”

The St. George Republican, who pushed for statewide nondiscrimination protections, worries about the children of gays.

There are same-sex couples who want nothing to do with the church, but fully support their children’s devotion to the religion,” he said. “You shouldn’t cut people off from full participation — especially if you believe that they need an extra portion of help and salvation.

Urquhart draws a parallel to Mormonism’s previous ban — discarded in 1978 — against black men and boys holding the faith’s priesthood and black women participating in temple rituals.

For more than a century Latter-day Saints “ostracized” blacks, “denying them rites and privileges,” he said, then “explaining away the racial bigotry as a mystery of God.”

But, he said, “it was just bigotry … [that] found its way into church practice (and leadership manuals) and was, then, unfortunately, followed for generations. It was never of God. It was fear, misunderstanding and bigotry.”

That same thing is happening today with the treatment of gays, Urquhart wrote. It is based on “fear, misunderstanding, and bigotry. It’s not of God. It’s of man.”

And, he concluded, “it needs to change.”– Mormons’ biggest fear about new gay policy: Children paying for parents’ sins- Salt Lake Tribune 11/13/15

My reactions:

My initial reaction was that someone was perpetuating a hoax. I mean, the whole policy seemed so over the top to me. I could only imagine a critic of the church had fabricated it and was now watching as his elaborate scheme unfolded. Then after researching a bit further I realized it was authentic. Then I was angry. Even though I disagree with the church’s stance on homosexual relations and relationships, and they should be held accountable for the pain and suicides it is causing, I could see how they could tighten down on a disciplinary policy for those in same-sex relationships to provide more uniformity in the process and avoid the “leadership roulette” that so many members are forced to navigate. But barring children living with parents in these relationships from the saving ordinances of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost? Not allowing them a name and a blessing, essentially preventing their names from appearing on the rolls? The reason for this policy is to prevent cognitive dissonance in children by preventing a conflict between what the church teaches and how their parents live? I mean, I don’t believe in the core tenets of Mormonism and openly talk about that with my children, they read my blog posts here, yet they they still attend church and participate in priesthood ordinances. I support them 100% in that. Should they be barred from saving ordinances and serving missions as well unless they disavow my beliefs and practices? This policy originates out of compassion?

Parallels to children in polygamous families:

The only justification I’ve heard from official sources is really no justification at all. The policy is justified because a similar policy is in place for polygamy. Yet no answer is given as to WHY that policy is in place for polygamy. It is no less grievous that children who belong to polygamous families are treated this way. And just to be clear, the parallels to polygamy are very loose.

2006 Handbook 1 policy:

2006 Handbook-Baptism of children in Polygamous families

2006 Handbook 1 policy

2010 Handbook 1 policy:

2010 Handbook-Baptism of children in Polygamous families

2010 Handbook 1 policy

  1. Elder Christofferson stated: “For generations we’ve had these same kinds of policies that relate to children in polygamous families, that we wouldn’t go forward with these ordinances while they’re in that circumstance and before they reach their majority.” As you can see above, the provision disallowing minor children to be baptized or confirmed was added in 2010 and it has NOT been a policy for generations.
  2. Name and a blessing– There is nothing in the policy for children in a polygamous family that prevents them from receiving a name and a blessing and generating a membership record.
  3. Missionary Service-There is no mention of missionary service whatsoever for children of polygamous families. According to this policy, when they reach 18 (not a minor child anymore) they can fully participate in all the ordinances and serve a mission and they can do so while STILL living with their polygamous family. They do not have to move out, like children living with parents in a same-sex relationship. There is also no mention of ordination, although preventing baptism prevents ordination.
  4. The polygamy policy applies to children of parents who have practiced or are currently practicing polygamy contrary to the law. So by definition if polygamy is legal in a certain country, the children can fully participate. Since same-sex marriage in now legal in the U.S., how come the children of those marriages are not afforded the same opportunities?
  5. If a family is practicing polygamy, in the U.S. at least, chances are they belong to a fundamentalist L.D.S sect like the FLDS, Apostolic United Brethren (AUB), etc. The chances are slim anyone from that family would want to attend a L.D.S ward or branch.  It is telling that the 2010 policy does not mention Bishops as it did in the 2006 policy and specifically just mentions Mission Presidents. It seems to me that this policy is designed for places outside the U.S., where polygamy may be legal and practiced and Mission Presidents are the ones presiding over these congregations.
Comparison to other sins/sinners:

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At first glance the above meme may appear hyperbolic, but study it for a minute. In handbook 1 there are a number of “serious trangressions” listed. “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..” Out of all those serious transgressions listed that could be committed by parents, which is the only one that prevents a child from participating in rituals and ordinations of the church and requires that children disavow their parent’s transgression? You guessed it, same-sex relationships.

Children of parents in same-sex relationships invited to participate in church activities and organizations?

The clarification letter from the 1st Presidency says:

“All children are to be treated with utmost respect and love. They are welcome to attend Church meetings and participate in Church activities. All children may receive priesthood blessings of healing and spiritual guidance.”

The clarification letter from Michael Otterson of public affairs states:

“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.

Elder Christofferson said in his video interview:

It triggers an expectation that they will be in Primary and in the other Church organizations, and that is likely not going to be an appropriate thing in the home setting, in the family setting where they’re living as children, where their parents are a same-sex couple. We don’t want there to be the conflicts that that would engender. We don’t want the child to have to deal with issues that might arise where the parents feel one way and the expectations of the Church are very different.”

So which is it? If the main goal of the policy is to prevent conflict and dissonance in children how does inviting them and welcoming them to church meetings and activities reduce that dissonance? Is it an “appropriate thing” that they will be in Primary and other organizations or is it not appropriate?

Members allowed to support same-sex marriage?

On Jan 27, 2015 Elder Christofferson had this exchange with a reporter:

What does the LDS Church think of members who back same-sex marriage?

There hasn’t been any litmus test or standard imposed that you couldn’t support that if you want to support it,” Christofferson said, “if that’s your belief and you think it’s right.”

Any Latter-day Saint can have a belief “on either side of this issue,” he said. “That’s not uncommon.“- http://www.sltrib.com/lifestyle/faith/2108746-155/we-all-can-be-more-civil

On March 13, 2015 Elder Christofferson gave an interview to KUTV and below is part of the exchange:

2News asked Christofferson if supporting gay marriage would threaten somebody’s membership in the church if they actively advocated for it, perhaps on social media.

“That’s not an organized effort to attack our effort or attack our functioning as a church, if you will,” he said.

So can LDS members hold political beliefs even though they’re different from what church leaders teach from the pulpit?

“Yes,” said Christofferson.– http://kutv.com/news/local/lds-apostle-explains-church39s-evolution-on-lgbt-issues-says-members39-politics-may-differ-from-doctrine

How do the above statements square with the new litmus test for a child of a same-sex couple who is now required to “specifically disavow the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage?”

Grandfathered into Salvation?

In the clarification letter issued by the 1st Presidency it states:

“When a child living with such a same-gender couple has already been baptized and is actively participating in the Church, provisions of Section 16.13 do not require that his or her membership activities or priesthood privileges be curtailed or that further ordinances be withheld. Decisions about any future ordinances for such children should be made by local leaders with their prime consideration being the preparation and best interests of the child.”

So a child baptized before 11/5/15 is grandfathered in for saving ordinances but anyone scheduled for baptism after that date is out of luck? Imagine two young children sitting next to each other in Primary, both of whom live in a home with same-sex parents. One was able to get baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and have the opportunity for future ordinations and missionary service without qualification. This child asks the other child why he was not baptized and does not have the Holy Ghost. His answer? “I turned 8 on 11/6/15.” (see featured image for this post).

How important can these ordinances of salvation really be if there is a group of 15 men acting as gatekeepers to those ordinances, where some are arbitrarily denied access to them?

What about same-sex couples currently participating in the church, some with their children?

In 2013/2014 a Seattle Stake began an outreach program to invite their LGBT brothers and sisters back into fellowship. Four different activities were organized:

  1. An LGBT ward social: “The meeting had no religious agenda, just an effort to befriend LGBT members within the ward who had never been on its radar before.  In the end, 25-30 people attended – in addition to the Bishopric, two Relief Society Presidents and myself.  Various gay ward members attended, as well as other gay Saints from adjacent wards and stakes.  One LDS lesbian couple attended with their children.
  2. An LGBT private stake fireside with Mitch Mayne: “Mitch then spoke about his own experience growing up LDS and gay, about the epidemic of suicides among gay youth, and about the importance of love and acceptance for LGBT young people.  More than 50 people attended the fireside – a good mix of gay and straight members, as well as stake insiders and outsiders.  A stake presidency counselor and a local LDS Public Affairs representative were in attendance.  The entire evening was very well-received, and was followed by a robust Q&A around the general subject of Mormonism and homosexuality.”
  3. A stake leadership training around LGBT issues
  4. An LGBT-themed Sacrament Meeting: “The sacrament meeting nevertheless proceeded as planned, with a 3-speaker line up – Bishop Michael Hatch, Relief Society President Molly Bennion and Celeste Carolin, an active, out lesbian church member from an adjacent ward… I’ve attended a lot of sacrament meetings over the years, and I’ve experienced many kinds of services – from the dreadfully dull to the incredibly inspirational, and everything in between.  I can honestly say this was one of the most spiritually powerful and uplifting meetings I’ve ever attended – simply a phenomenal experience from start to finish.  And everyone else I talked with agreed.  (A handful of ward members were apparently uncomfortable, but their privately-expressed comments were measured and respectful). http://bycommonconsent.com/2015/02/17/mormon-lgbt-outreach-part-i/

Here is a portion of the talk Celeste Carolin gave:

Kathleen_Celeste“Hi, My name is Celeste. I’m an openly gay, active Mormon… 

During that period while I was at BYU Idaho, I realized I was gay. For some reason I had missed that the first few years of life… but there wasn’t a lot of place for it. There wasn’t a place in my religion. There wasn’t place in my testimony. There wasn’t place in my family. I didn’t feel like there was a place in this church. I felt a lot of shame and anger and I didn’t understand. It took a minute. It took a minute to get through that; to get through being there at BYU Idaho where I was supposed to be perfect…

I felt like I only had two choices and I didn’t really like either of the choices. My first choice was to leave The Church and be authentic about the way I felt. The second choice was to stay in The Church and hide it. I felt like I couldn’t do either of those things. Neither of those things were what I wanted to do.

After seven years in Boston I felt strongly that I needed to move to Seattle. All of my friends were in Boston. I had an awesome job in Boston. I loved Boston. I knew that if I came here (to Seattle) it would be really hard. People that know me well [know] that I’m kind of stubborn and that I like hard things and I felt like, “What an awesome risk this could be!” But, when I came to Seattle, I got a chance to restart. I thought, “What if I was just honest?… What if there was something in-between? What if I just told people, ‘this is a piece of me and I love you!’?… and love them, first?”

By being gay and Mormon, it’s changed my life. When I lived in Conrad, Montana, I wasn’t very tolerant. I wasn’t very loving and I wasn’t very accepting. Being gay has given me the ability to be soft. We talk about Laman and Lemuel and their hardened hearts… I felt like I spent a lot of years with that heart and this opportunity gave me the ability to see people and to truly love them.

I also learned to ask better questions. When I first moved to the Elliott Bay Ward a little over a year ago, I met with the bishop, a fairly-normal practice. I was a little nervous because I didn’t know what was going to happen, because I had already decided that I was going to be honest. I sat down with him and I told him a little bit of my story. I was ready to-I don’t know-I was ready for something. I didn’t know what was going to happen. My bishop started cryingand he said, “It must have been so difficult coming out at BYU Idaho. If you’re comfortable, can you tell me about that?” No assumptions….full compassion…and just love. Alma taught his people that we are to comfort and bear each other’s burdens so that they may become light. In that moment, he lightened my burden.

The next step was a little bit more difficult: to let the ward love me. I was pretty good at, “I’ll put my energy out there,” but I was still tentative. I was tentative that at some point I’d be rejected, at some point that I’d be told I wasn’t good enough or that I didn’t belong here. There was a point where I just yielded to Heavenly Father’s love and I let the ward love me.

My experience of being gay and Mormon has created this deep cavity of love. I told one of my good friends this year that I just wanted to quit my job and love people. I wanted to love my brothers and sisters. I wanted them to feel that glimpse that my bishop gave me that day. That glimpse of…I belonged, I was worth it, they needed me, and that there was a place for me at my home.

I feel there has been a buzz in the last year. The Spirit has lead me to the ward I’m in at this present time, and I know it. I know that there is a place for all of us. I know that anyone who wants to be here can grow and learn from the Spirit. I feel the truth of the gospel and I feel God’s continual love through prayer and personal revelation. Most of all, I testify that there is a place for you and I invite you to come home.

I am a surfer, I am a cyclist, and I am an openly gay Mormon. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.“- http://affirmation.org/washington-park-ward-welcomes-gay-members/

Here is a follow-up story on Celeste Carolin:

“I met Kathleen at Church. I did it the right way! We’re going to have lots of Mormon babies. We’ve had an awesome experience this past year. But Kathleen and I are thinking of getting married, and policy says that if we do, we can’t be in the Church.

Recently I met with my local leader and talked about my clear desire of staying active in the church if and when I marry. I have been given two possible outcomes. Church disciplinary action or I could voluntarily remove my name from membership of the church.

I will choose neither. I choose to stay. My proposed option is to spend some significant time with my local leader on our knees and follow the will of our creator and not just ambiguous policy.“- Gay Mormon Celeste Carolin wants to stay active in the LDS Church — and to get married- Jana Riess

There was an article posted by Celeste Carolin several months back that is no longer online. I shared it on my Facebook wall. In this article she explains that they had a follow-up meeting with the Stake President during which the Stake President admitted he was acting out of fear and that if Kathleen and Celeste were to get married, they would be welcomed into the ward, not disciplined, and would even be extended callings. With the new changes to the handbook, this decision has been taken out of the hands of the Stake President and both Celeste and Kathleen will have to think deeply about wanting to bring any possible future children into an institution that does not allow them to fully participate.

Reading this article below by Taliatha Holmes really tugged at my heart strings. I got emotional. What a strong, loving and kind woman. This was written exactly two months ago. After reading what you see below, now imagine what she must be feeling after this new policy was announced. What does she do with her 9 children? How does she reconcile her emotions now that her kids will be necessarily excluded due to her lifestyle choice? Will this affect the love she has for the gospel?

Screen-Shot-2015-09-09-at-9.35.58-PM

I feel joy in nearly every moment I’m alive. All kinds of things seem musical, poetic, and lovely: the people I meet; ideas, new and old; the visual world; even “the planets which move in their regular form.” When I wake up, I feel confident I’ll encounter wonders and curiosities, that there will be a dose of love, a dose of hard work, some obstacles, and some surprises.

One recurring obstacle for me is navigating the space where my faith identity and sexual identity intersect. I’m a lesbian; my wife and I are raising nine young children together (yes, we’re all in the same house!) and figuring out what kind of Mormons to be. One recurring surprise for me, is the peaceful feeling I have that things in my life will work out. I don’t know exactly how, I just feel like the welfare of our children and my spiritual well-being are in God’s hands. We’ve faced many challenges in the last few years, but things keep working out for us–good things just keep coming.

updatedThere are logical research-backed components of happiness I’ve felt in the Church: gratitude, altruism, forgiveness, moving past our mistakes, forming families and communities. Studies show these things tend to make people happy.

But then there are all the ways the Church works I can’t explain–the way it works in my interior world: the lightness in my soul; moments of reflection, amazement, or loving-comfort when I pray; a feeling as I read the Book of Mormon that a conduit is opening to heaven. These reasons, most of all, are why the Church is a part of my joy I can’t forsake–even though I am no longer a member.

When I was excommunicated, I wondered if I’d feel different, if I wouldn’t have the constant companionship of the Spirit. I worried I’d lose a part of the joy that’s always come easily to me. I don’t know exactly how the Spirit now works in my life–whether He’s my companion, and how often–but the Church and the gospel feel alive in me. I go to church each week because it builds and strengthens my soul. I want to know God, learn about Him and see the world through His eyes.

 As I navigate my relationship to the Church, I don’t feel as much pain and frustration as I probably could. This is because of another aspect of happiness I’ve learned by studying psychology: I focus on things within my control. Sure, I’d love the Church to change towards greater acceptance of LGBT people. But, in order for me to feel peace, I have to play a little mind game. I ask myself this question, “Does the Church present enough value to me, that I would stay…even if it NEVER changed?” For me, the answer is yes! By framing the situation in this way, it removes from the equation a factor that’s outside my control, and places my focus instead on the value I gain from the Church. Rather than worry about how people will treat me or my family on Sunday, I focus on learning and teaching correct principles to my children, strengthening my relationship with God, and serving my fellow man.“- Is it Something I’m Born With?- Taliatha Holmes 9/15/15

Here are links to real life stories of other individuals affected by this policy change:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/mormontherapist/2015/11/a-family-affected-by-new-policy.html

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/mormontherapist/2015/11/more-families-affected-by-new-policies.html

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/mormontherapist/2015/11/families-post-3.html

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/mormontherapist/2015/11/families-post-4.html

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/mormontherapist/2015/11/families-post-5.html

The following tweet was sent through Pres. Monson’s twitter account in response to the mass resignation events happening in the Utah area.

Pres. Monson tweet

When an individual resigns from the church, per the instructions in handbook 1, they are to be advised of the following by the Bishop:

  • It cancels the effects of baptism and confirmation [the gift of the Holy Ghost]
  • Withdraws the priesthood held by a male member, and
  • Revokes temple blessings

While I certainly don’t believe resignation is the best course of action for everyone, and certainly for some individuals they may be less happy outside the church than inside, I can promise you one thing, happiness, peace, and joy CAN be found outside the church. You can see that very clearly in the story of Taliatha Holmes, who is no longer a member and she has had the effects of baptism and the Holy Ghost “withdrawn,” as well as any temple blessings she may have had. She is not missing out on anything. Elder Christofferson said of the children that have to wait until they are 18 to participate in church ordinances and practices that “Nothing is lost to them in the end.” I would wholeheartedly agree. I wonder if she will continue participating in the church with her partner and nine children. I wonder if they continue participating, will she continue to set a wonderful example for her children, by demonstrating that they can have a connection with the divine regardless of whether they are given access to these so-called saving ordinances the church safeguards so closely.

I hope those who know me can see these same things in my life. I’ve never felt such deep love and compassion for my fellow man as I find myself on the fringes of church membership. I certainly would disagree with the above tweet that being outside of the church will deprive one of happiness in this life, and I disagree that any ordinances the church provides are necessary for eternal life in the world to come. But every individual has to make up his or her own mind on this. All paths should be honored. If there is something after this life and certain gifts are so important to our happiness in this life, they should be universally accessible, no gatekeeper necessary. Certainly ordinances in the church can be symbolic and meaningful to those who participate in them, but can 15 men really act as the only gatekeepers to a set of ordinances so necessary for happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come? Ordinances which 99.9% of the world either does not participate in or does believe in?  As you read the stories of Celeste Carolin and Taliatha Holmes and contrast those with the statements of the governing bodies of the church, where do you find feelings of hope, peace, love, and compassion towards your fellow man?

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