Consequences, Intended or Otherwise

BagleyUPDATE: this post was written before the First Presidency clarified the new policies. Please see this post, which repeats everything in this post but updates it and provides some concluding thoughts.

I’m thinking about the implications–doctrinal and practical and cultural–of the recent policy changes.

(A note in response to some questions in the comments regarding the “past tense” situations I describe below:

The language of the policy refers to “a parent who has lived or is living in a same-gender relationship” and “a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same gender cohabitation relationship or marriage.” There are no qualifications on the “has lived,” even if that be before the child is born or before the parent is a member of the church.

The idea that this policy covers not just the parent’s current living arrangement but also their past living arrangements is in there not once but twice and, in the second iteration, its applicability to past relationships is emphasized by way of contrast with the phrase “currently lives.” The plain meaning of the language is that it applies to any gay cohab/marriage in the parent’s past. If the policy was not actually intended to apply to past relationships, then the language used is inaccurate. This post addresses the policy as written, not our assumptions about what was really intended.)


  1. Say that a woman has a cohabitating relationship with another woman while in college. Years later, she considers returning to full activity in the church, but is aware that any children she might have–even after a temple marriage–would not be allowed to be baptized. I presume this would be a strong disincentive for her to return to church. If she does, the entire ward will know about her past as they watch her children not be members. (Do you think this will lead to speculation and gossip?)
  2. How do transgender people fit into all of this? What determines whether they are in a same-gender relationship: physical body, chromosomes, how they present themselves socially, legal gender, or what?
  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.
  6. Gay marriage has been legal in various areas where the church is organized for more than a decade. Gay cohabitation has been going on since time immemorial and more publicly for at least a generation. The fact that this policy was only implemented now suggests to many people that the church leaders only really care about or are aware about what is happening in the US. (I don’t believe that this is true, but I think the timing creates that impression.) This belief makes it more difficult for members to remain faithful.
  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?
  8. There is a certain number of LDS temple marriages out there–probably a small number, but still–where one spouse is unaware that the other had a gay cohab before marriage. I suspect those marriages may be ruined if that partner now has to tell the other partner that their children cannot be baptized. (Or will they keep it a secret?)
  9. To the extent that one accepts Elder Christofferson’s argument that the policy is designed to limit harms to these children but one also recognizes the harms caused to other people (including the always-faithful LGBT people who feel alienated in the church or the parents who now suffer from the choices of their ex spouses), one has accepted a utilitarian calculus in weighing policies. There are obviously some advantages to that calculus, but . . . there we go again, treating some people as if their suffering is an acceptable cost to advance other ends.
  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?
  11. I have a Primary-aged child. I can imagine him sharing the gospel with a friend. I can imagine him asking me if his friend can meet with the missionaries. What I have a harder time imagining is me asking (who: my son? his friend? his friend’s parents?) if the parents are now or have ever lived in a gay relationship. So I suspect this new policy will put a damper on member missionary work.
  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.
  13. I’m already hearing stories of parents filing to change their custody arrangement; they are concerned that their current joint custody might result in their child being denied church membership. It is also not hard for me to imagine situations where, in a divorce, the faithful LDS parent demands/requests/maneuvers the gay parent out of the child’s life and/or the gay parent (who in many cases still has a great love for the church) removes him or herself from the child’s life in order not to jeopardize the child’s membership in the church. (In other words: if I have no idea what my mom is doing, her gay marriage can’t affect my future in the church.)
  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.
  15. There are so many odd situations that might spring up: what if a child lives in a gay-married foster home before being adopted by LDS folks? (In fact, would that background make them less likely to be adopted by LDS people?) What if a child’s legal guardian is a gay married grandmother or other non-parent relative–does the policy impact her?
  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.
  17. One part of this policy is that disavowing one’s family member’s gay marriage/cohab is a requirement for baptism. To what extent will Mormon culture develop in terms of disavowing the gay relationships of people other than one’s own children? And what will disavowal look like?
  18. Most of this policy relies for enforcement on what a bishop (or mission president) knows about a child’s situation. I wonder if bishops will be tempted to develop blinders; I wonder if members will become adept at hiding things. I can imagine a situation where a temple marriage ends in divorce and the still-faithful parent begs the other parent to please create some plausible deniability regarding their gay living arrangement, such as maintaining two addresses. And will bishops be asking 7-year-olds about their parents’ sexual history in baptism interviews? Will people move to a new area and lie about their ex’s past (and coach their kids to lie)? Or might we start annotating membership records? What happens when we find out about a baptism done in violation of the rules–will it be “annulled”?
  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.
  20. Elder Christofferson did not say “this is a revelation. We are asking the members of the church to accept it as God’s will, as a matter of faith and as a matter of obedience to priesthood authority.” Instead, he explained it as being done to protect children from cognitive dissonance. In other words, he provided a rational reason–not a spiritual justification–for the policy. He thus invited us to reason about the policy–not to accept it on faith. What are the consequences of this?
  21. I’ve seen people defend the policy, but I have seen no one defend its roll out. Apparently church leaders thought a policy could be put online and in print and that no one other than its intended recipients would know about it despite the fact that it was effective immediately, which means that people outside of the recipients of Handbook 1 (including, presumably, all Primary Presidents and Young Men leaders and missionaries and anyone directly affected by the policy) would have to know about it.The Newsroom announced a response would come Friday at 3 or 3:30pm  . . . which became 7:30pm . . .  which was actually about 9:30pm. The roll out does not inspire confidence in the leaders’ understanding of the members, which diminishes the members’ confidence in the leaders.
  22. Imagine a woman gay cohabs in her 20s. She meets the missionaries and joins the church. She is endowed and holds a recommend. Per this policy, her children cannot be blessed or baptized. Who is going to be willing to marry her when their children cannot be baptized? What kinds of cultural trends might develop in the wake of this situation? Will people feel obligated to get confirmation of domestic histories before marriage?
  23. How will the apologetics over this policy develop? Will folks say that the children of gay married parents must have been less righteous in the pre-mortal life?
  24. Tom Christofferson has shared his story of living most of his adult life in a gay relationship and then feeling a desire to attend church, despite still being partnered to a man. After a few years of attending his ward as an excommunicated man, he decided to end his relationship with his partner and be re-baptized. Will this new policy make situations like his less likely?
  25. The book King Leopold’s Ghost presented me with a shocking realization: the nearly unfathomably cruel way that Europeans treated Africans in the early 20th century was, in large part, based on their belief that since God had denied baptism to the Africans (since they lacked the opportunity for it) and thus condemned them to hell, there was no particular objection to treating such people poorly; rather, it would only affirm God’s judgment of them. I worry that a much milder version of this will happen in the LDS community. Even without intent, it is easy to imagine the Primary teacher or YM leader or whomever devoting their (limited) attention to the child who will be able to get baptized or will be able to be ordained or will be able to go on the temple trip next week–especially since the child of gay parents will not be on the rolls.
  26. In situations where a child is not being baptized or ordained or attending the temple, there will be questions. The option is for the parent to reveal their sexual history to the ward or for the assumption to be that the child lacks the desire to participate. I wonder how families will negotiate that.
  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.
  28. How will missionaries handle these rules? Will the questions about the investigators’ parents’ past behavior await the baptismal interview, or will the missionaries bring this issue up earlier in the process in order to avoid complication? (Either way, this means that the investigator will need to be aware of and comfortable with this policy in order to be baptized; will this be a stumbling block?)
  29. Many kids these days are pretty fluid in their sexual expression. It is not hard to imagine a situation 30 years down the road where a huge portion of the pool of investigators needs to be told that any of their future children will not be able to be blessed and baptized. I can’t imagine what effect that ends up having; I presume it means that many won’t be baptized. But I can fathom a situation in 50 years where 20 or 30% of the Primary kids cannot be members of the church. So see #26.
  30. Elder Christofferson offered a fundamentally different understanding of baby blessings than the one I had. I was under the impression that it was a sort of “welcome to the world, baby girl–God loves you and we do, too!” kind of a thing. But he made it sound more like an event which triggered church membership; I had always thought of baptism in this way. I’m curious about the implications of his position in terms of how we think about baby blessings, baptisms, and church membership in general. I wonder if there will be a reluctance to to bless babies from home situations where their future relationship with the church is less likely.
  31. Elder Christofferson also implied that an expectation that a child of gay parents would be in Primary “is likely not going to be an appropriate thing in the home setting.” I’m wondering if we are to develop a culture where we don’t expect children of gay parents (or other serious sinners?) to be in Primary. What does that imply for Primary?
  32. There is (at least) one significant difference between the policy of children of polygamy and children of gay marriage: children of polygamy can be baptized as minors (if they live in a non-polygamous house); children of gay marriage/cohabs cannot be baptized as minors regardless of their living arrangement. This suggests something; I’m not sure what.
  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?
  35. It’s not a secret that this policy has generated anger. This has largely been in the abstract (as a matter of the policy) or vicariously (as one or two stories hit the Internet of baptism or ordination denied). But I suspect that at some point, virtually every ward will deal with this policy within their own boundaries. I just don’t know how the Saints will react to that. Obviously, there are situations that arise (say, a parent refusing permission to baptize) that might frustrate the heck out of the ward family, but in that case the target is the recalcitrant parent, not the institutional church.
  36. How does this play out in blended families? In this example, some of the children in the household are eligible for baptism and ordination while others are not. How will families negotiate that? (Would they really have a FHE lesson about baptism in the presence of a child who could not be baptized?) Will they just shrink from activity?
  37. We are now in the odd situation where the missionaries (or bishop, in the case of ordination or missionary recommendation) are more concerned about your parents’ sexual history than your own–theirs has longer-lasting repercussions than yours does. I can’t help but think that this will impact how we think about sexual sin and sin in general. Some sins will impact your children for decades, but may impact you much less. (If I gay cohabbed for a few months, I could then repent and go to the temple–no permanent impact on my status in the church. But my children–not so much.) To put it mildly, this is theologically weird. Mormons are good at generating theology to explain policy; I wonder what members will make up to justify this.
  38. There will be situations where a child who is born in the covenant cannot be blessed or baptized. What will that do to our thinking about families and sealings? Can a child be sealed to parents in a situation where the child cannot be blessed or baptized?
  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.
  41. A 20-year-old cannot live in the home of her temple-married parents if she wants to be approved for missionary service if either parent ever gay cohabed. What are the doctrinal and cultural implications of this?
  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.
  45. How will the principles behind this policy be applied to other situations? Given that there are so many permutations of experience that the policy does not directly address, it should not be surprising when local leaders decide to apply the policy to other situations. For example, can a BYU student be denied an ecclesiastical endorsement if she goes home to her two moms for the summer? Should older missionaries disavow their children’s gay relationships? Should any and all members reflect their commitment to this policy by disavowing gay relationships of those they know, and what should this disavowal look like? Will people be asked to renounce other people’s sins in other circumstances?
  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.

Note: this post was on the blog for a few hours last night. This was an accident (apparently after ten years of blogging, I’m still not clear on which button to press); it was still a draft. I took it down until I could work on it a little more. Sorry for any confusion that my ineptitude caused. And I added a few more consequences in comment #30 below.



130 comments for “Consequences, Intended or Otherwise

  1. Here is another unintended consequence that I did not see in the list (although, TBH, I started skimming at the end). This list gives the distinct impression that the policy change raises many, many questions that do not seem to have been contemplated by the leaders of the Church. Maybe they were. Maybe Church leaders have “seen from afar off,” but I can testify that local leaders are not prepared to address these situations. What are the consequences when a thoughtful “lay member” can sit down and come up with a list of seemingly unintended consequences that will catch local leaders flat-footed? What impact will that have on how we think of our prophetic leaders?

    And, #23: Just please, please no.

  2. To use a term I recently came across in a science fiction book. Yes, this policy, let alone its inept roll out are a real clusterfain.

  3. Thankyou SO much for putting this list together – i’ve arrived at about 80% of it after several days of ponderising and research and was about to try putting it all together and you’ve eloquently and clearly done a great job already. I wouldn’t be able to stay as calm as you – my list would have had a lot if scathing ranty bits. I’m incandescent with fury that they have done this to us all, and that so many members seem incapable of grasping all these massive and systematically compromising consequences doctrinally and in every other way for the Church.

    I would add that this clearly completely incompetently formulated policy also specifically prevents parents following the commandment to all parents in D and C 68:

    25 And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.

    26 For this shall be a law unto the inhabitants of Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized.

    27 And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of the hands.

    28 And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord.

    It is therefore in direct opposition to LDS scripture and should be treated as such.

  4. I am surprised you didn’t know blessing your baby puts the baby on the rolls and in the ward directory and starts them as “children of record” even if they aren’t official members. We have unblessed children in primary but they aren’t on any church records and it is harder to keep track of them as they move through church when they only come occasionally. As primary I recently asked and it is still possible to put them in the directory if we ask permission of the parent, but often we don’t see the parent to ask them. We have about 6 or so kids not on the records of the church and with 150 kids we don’t want to be forgetting about them, but it is hard to perpetually keep them in mind when they are invisible to the ward directory and change of primary teachers, cub leaders, activity day leaders, and primary presidency. It surprises me how many grandparents make sure their grandchild gets blessed and on the records of the church when their children don’t care.

    The church leaders knew that SSM would make things impossible for the church. We can’t proselyte and invite gay parent families to be baptized. There is no way to handle this well. The fallout is here. This attempt at a policy is probably messy but I don’t see an easy way to address, as Emily Pearson said “two worlds that are irreconcilable” for children with gay parents.
    I think the policy is trying to acknowledge feelings like what Emily Pearson describes in her own words:
    “Trying to juggle my different lives was bizarre. I hung out with my dad and half-naked Castro Street drag queens on Saturday, and with my mom and the correctly clothed, right- eous descendants of Mormon pioneers on Sunday. Early morning seminary, baptisms for the dead, and Girls Camp were celebrated right along with Gay Pride parades and festi- vals. I tried with everything in me to reconcile my two worlds—two worlds that are irreconcilable.
    The Mormon Church, which was the same thing as my Heavenly Father, apparently hated my dad. My dad, in turn, hated the Church, and thus my Heavenly Father. I loved both of my fathers desperately. But I feared doing so would cause ei- ther, or both, of them to reject and stop loving me.
    I couldn’t please, or be loved by, both fathers. It simply wasn’t possible. I had to choose. So, of course, I chose my dad. He was immediate, tangible, and bigger and louder to me than anything. Even though it broke me in half, I chose him over everything—God, the Church, my mom. Even myself.”

  5. Yikes, I hadn’t even realized that the policy applies even to *past* cohabiting relationships.

    It seems obvious that the revision was poorly drafted and insufficiently vetted. I would love to know the details for how this was written and approved.

    The recent stunt about threatening to leave the BSA, and then not actually leaving, was very strange and surprising to me as well. Why would they issue a public statement if they weren’t serious about preparing the way for an exit? Especially over an issue that was guaranteed to attract negative attention? It is making me wonder who is running things in SLC.

    (Or might I be wrong, and this was actually carefully considered and approved by the whole group of top leaders?)

  6. For everyone who says “God will work it all out” I want to ask them “Would you add ‘so you should just die now.’ to the end of that sentence?”

  7. #20 just about killed me as well. But then I thought of every other asinine assertion I had ever heard….

    [ADMIN: now that the post has been edited, this comment refers to #23.]

  8. Wow! That’s quite a list. You’ve really been thinking about this.

    I get the sense that the policy was really just intended for a select few people (and we’re talking a very small group) who are currently either cohabiting with or married to someone of the same gender who want to be active LDS people and support the LDS church (with the one exception of its stance on gay marriage) who have children either biologically or through adoption whom they want to raise in the LDS church. I hear through the rumor mill that the leaders are planning to add some additional details and clarifications to the policy. I imagine that if this is the case, it will be along these lines.

    Nonetheless, you have shown quite clearly that there are a great number of seemingly unfair situations that could arise and that this new policy was poorly thought-out. Yet at the same time, I don’t think that this policy in and of itself is going to have a huge negative impact on the LDS church. It would seem that a large majority of active members are unaffected in any direct way by the new policy and don’t really care too much about it (if they’re even at all aware of the new policy). The reaction I have felt from the stalwart rank-and-file so far seems to be that the hullabaloo on the internet over the policy is nothing but a huge overreaction from the usual suspects

  9. “Yikes, I hadn’t even realized that the policy applies even to *past* cohabiting relationships.”

    That’s not how I read the new section of Handbook 1, though part of it is a little vague and might need to be clarified.

  10. There are over 3000 stakes. If each passes one tricky question a year up to the FP&12, that means over 10 tricky questions for every working day. Each tricky question takes a few hours of serious prayer and thought…. so they simply do not have the bandwidth to seriously think about this many tricky questions.

    One of the purposes of the handbook is to reduce the number of tricky questions that make it up to the FP&12. I presume they looked at the tricky questions currently coming their way and thought “Maybe this policy will take care of, like, 80 percent of them.”

    But, as your list correctly points out, the policy also raises a whole lot of new tricky questions. And if stake presidents try to follow it rigidly to the letter, there could be some very serious problems, as this list illustrates very well.

  11. Why is it that “Don’t worry, God will work it out,” always cuts in the same direction? Why is it that we can’t show charity to people and be inclusive despite our limited understanding and not worry about the consequences of that instead because God will work it out?

    Which set of problems would God rather that we offload onto him?

  12. Thank you Julie. This is a great list. IMO, the biggest challenges will come from the cognitive dissonance that children are caused to confront WITHIN their families, especially from joint-custody contention (#13 in your list).

    Here’s another: the policy affects boys much more than girls. This facts can be seen by looking at Handbook 2 which sets out a girl’s program called “Young Women” and a boys program called “Aaronic Priesthood.”

    Imagine a set of twins age 10 who have been baptized at the time the policy takes effect for them. For the daughter, not much changes. She joins YW, gets the same lessons, goes to girls camp and temple trips, etc. But for the boy, many other issues arise because of the ordination ban. He cannot go on temple trips with his sister (because YM must be ordained to get a TR). He cannot pass the sacrament, collect fast offerings, serve as a home teacher, or do the many other priesthood-oriented things at the heart of the YM program. The DTG program has no purpose for him because it is AP-based. If the boy is outside the US, he doesn’t even have the scouting program.

    A boy denied ordination will be confronted weekly with this cold reality. Every quorum lesson, sacrament meeting, temple trip, duty to god activity, fast sunday, etc. will provide a vivid reminder that he is an outsider. His status in the church has been decided by his gay parent’s relationship. In most cases that SS relationship will become the defining aspect of his own relationship with the church and, heartbreakingly, perhaps even his relationship with Christ.

  13. After reading the justification for this policy, I have to seriously wonder whether my children can be baptized, given that I am not a Mormon. I “feel one way and the expectations of the Church are very different.” I will be modeling a righteous lifestyle for my kids, but we have already had discussions about tea and coffee and tank tops. If the church aims to eliminate cognitive dissonance, it may well eliminate its best members.

  14. I should clarify – my husband is Mormon, and he dearly hopes that our children will choose to be raised Mormon. They attend church with him, and I only get them to come to church with me when I can make a strong case for it.

  15. Your first scenario does not reflect what the handbook says. It applies to children of a parent “living in a same-gender [sic] relationship”–not to children born to a parent who once lived in such a relationship.

  16. Doctrine and Covenants 58: 42 – Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.

    So the Lord won’t remember if a gay member cohabited after repenting, but the Church sure as heck will. Wow.

  17. The language of the policy refers to “a parent who has lived or is living in a same-gender relationship” and “a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same gender cohabitation relationship or marriage.”

    The idea that this policy covers not just the parent’s current living arrangement but also their past living arrangements is in there not once but twice and, in the second iteration, its applicability to past relationships is emphasized by way of contrast with the phrase “currently lives.” I honestly can’t imagine any other way to interpret this language. If the policy was not in fact intended to apply to past relationships, then the language is horribly misleading.

  18. Actually, I’ll amend my comment at 9:30–it doesn’t reflect what the handbook say in the introductory paragraph, which says that children in certain circumstances may not be baptized. Then in the description of the procedure for obtaining permission, the set of persons affected changes.

    Not exactly a high point in careful draftsmanship. It almost makes one wonder if this was a first draft that got published by mistake.

  19. Mark B.
    “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:”

  20. I am reminded of the old saying “Catholics say the pope is infallible but don’t really believe it; Mormons say the prophet is fallible but don’t really believe it.”

    I think one more positive outcome to add to your list (related to 21) is that moments like this help us as Mormons become more accepting of our own doctrine about the fallibility of the prophet and the 12.

    Our leaders need our love and support when they are doing well. They need our support and understanding when they are clumsy and confused and forget to account for a lot of things. It is not easy for 15 eighty-year-old men to decide on anything as a group (e.g., where to have dinner) let alone respond to the complexities of our world at social media speed. They don’t always know what to say or how to say it. Neither did Moses. They are doing their best.

    We all have this spirit of understanding and forgiveness when it comes to our local leaders, but we somehow expect the decisions of our top leaders to be (like the prices in the mythical efficient market) completely optimal given all the information available to humankind, and perhaps even better given their powers of discernment and inspiration.

    These expectations are unhealthy and unrealistic. Sustaining is not worshiping. It is not always agreeing. It is not pretending that every decision is optimal even when every ounce of reason you have tells you otherwise. We love and sustain our leaders even (perhaps especially) when they mess up and everyone knows it. (Or is, at least, pretty sure of it…)

    Of course it also helps to keep in mind that we are also fallible. To forgive as we would be forgiven. Humility, forgiveness, communication with our leaders, a healthy dose of #46. That’s how the faithful will get through this.

  21. You didn’t quite make it to 99 theses, but 46 will do. Thanks for thinking through this.

    And thanks for the clarification on #20/#23 changing between drafts. I saw a couple comments and I thought “What’s so awful about #20?” #23, yes.

    #18 – Mark: I’m astounded even by the possibility that this was an “escaped” first draft. I’ve had to send emails out to a couple thousand people at once, and generally had to have a couple sets of eyes on it and run several tests. I’m appalled that a policy affecting 14 million members of records and countless more investigators was so poorly put together.

  22. Here’s another fear of mine:

    I wonder what effect that will have on the members’ willingness to welcome children of gay couples into their homes as friends of their children. We now know that Elder Christofferson thinks that children of gays should probably not attend primary or have home teachers. If children with LGBT parents should avoid full association with the Church for their own protection, will more conservative members feel that they should not welcome these children into their own homes, homes where the Family Proclamation is hanging on the wall? Will some members see this as a reason to limit their children’s association with children of gay couples?

    We live in a community with many gay families, and I fervently hope that this does not drive a wedge between the Mormons in town and the rest of the community. I have noticed that the children of a very conservative family in our ward have made close friendships with children of lesbian parents, and I hope that the policy changes don’t indirectly damage those friendships.

  23. Julie, this practically mirrors a list of very serious practical, doctrinal, precedential, and cultural problems with the new child policy that I was preparing for BCC. But you’ve done it much more clearly and succinctly. Thank you. This is a huge service to the Church and particularly to Church leaders in considering the implications of the new policy.

    Is there anyone, anyone at all on this thing called the Internet who can possibly, in any possible way, show this to one or more members of the Q15?

    One of the most frustrating things about being a member sometimes is the utter impossibility of communicating real, sincere, and urgent concerns to General Authorities. Our culture explicitly tells us it is not wanted and that we are in fact faithless for seeing and wanting to communicate such concerns to them. But I know this isn’t true — many, a great many, who have these heart wrenching, calamitous concerns are extremely faithful, orthodox members.

  24. Thanks for articulating these issues, Julie.

    Say that a woman has a cohabitating relationship with another woman while in college. Years later, she considers returning to full activity in the church, but is aware that any children she might have–even after a temple marriage–would not be allowed to be baptized.

    While I understand the concern and realize this could be a result, I think it’s a logically flawed reading. Given the way the code is written, I do not think the “ever lived” clause can ever be applied without violating the actual policy. I explain it here: The Logical Fail of the New Handbook Rules:
    Writing Policy with Bad Code
    . Unless they intended that extraneous line to be earlier in the policy—in other words if they accurately apply it, as currently written—none of the “ever lived” scenarios you wrote about should actually occur.

    If that is acknowledged, at least some of the problems will be resolved. This policy surely wasn’t vetted for clarity. :/

  25. Alison, I pondered your post for a long time when it came out. If this policy were a bit of computer code meant to be executed by our robo-bishops (and I think your use of the word “code” in your comment is very telling), then I would totally agree with you. But it is not a code, it is a policy. And so I suspect most English-speaking human leaders and members are going to look at the language and conclude that it applies to past relationships. If that wasn’t the intent (and I grant that you may be right that it wasn’t the intent–I sincerely hope you are right!) it should be clarified immediately.

    I am reminded of this quote: President Harold B. Lee stated, “You’re to teach the old doctrines, not so plain that they can just understand, but you must teach the doctrines of the Church so plainly that no one can misunderstand” (“Loyalty,” in Charge to Religious Educators, 2nd ed. [1982], 64).

  26. Thank you, Julie. Like john f., I had been thinking about trying to develop such a list, but I’m sure that whatever I might have come up with would not have been as good as this, so you saved me a lot of work, for which I’m very grateful. And here’s the thing: as extensive as this is, I’m quite confident it’s NOT exhaustive. If we got a group of us spitballing in a conference room together I’m quite sure we could add to this catalog.

  27. #31/#34 were the ones that really jumped out at me when I first watched the clarification video. Though I have trouble imagining them ever saying that they do not want any children of gay parents to ever come to primary, it’s very clear that they don’t expect to have children of gay parents to come to primary. Baptized or not, if they are there they would hear the same messages that could cause this dreaded cognitive dissonance.

  28. “I’m quite confident it’s NOT exhaustive.”

    So am I.

    I should have said something about Utah culture and law; perhaps the case of a foster child removed from a lesbian household this week is related to this policy.

    I should have said something about the suicide risk increasing for LGBTQ teens (there are anecdotal reports of four suicides in LDS LGBTQ circles in the last week; I can’t imagine that’s typical).

    I also should have said something about how difficult it must be for (single, gay, chaste) LDS to find housing arrangements. With these consequences in place, would you take the risk of sharing a house with a gay roommate, given the rumors which could result from that?

    I should have said something about how, now that SSM=apostasy, it seems that anyone who sympathizes with gay married people may have a problem with the temple recommend questions.

    And that’s just me with a few more hours of thought.

  29. As an add-on to #32 re polygamy, note that in 2010 the policy with respect to children of polygamous parents was revised to apply ONLY to countries where polygamy is not legal. So there is really no parallel between that policy and the new policy for children of a gay parent in countries, such as the United States, where gay marriage is legal.

  30. Julie, do you think it would help to add the language you’re interpreting to the top of the post (currently you quote it in a comment in response to Mark B., but I am sure he is by far not the only one who will think that a number of these scenarios about “have lived” don’t apply simply based on not being familiar with the actual language of the policy.

    Also, I agree with you that Alison is wrong that the “has ever lived” language does not mean what it means. Any leader not applying it in the ways that you have listed will be doing so by deciding that such an absurd result cannot be intended. But not applying it will be a deviation from the plain language.

  31. Julie:

    And so I suspect most English-speaking human leaders and members are going to look at the language and conclude that it applies to past relationships.

    I agree with you completely, but they are still wrong. :) As written, you should never consider the “ever lived” phrase. The phrase either needs to be moved or removed. I hope it’s the latter.

    john f, to be clear, I’m hoping the “ever lived” phrase actually does mean what is actually says…and that, therefore, it never applies.

  32. Add # 47: Increased doubt in the candor of our leaders. The given cognitive-dissonance reason smells of post-hoc rationalization. It may be a silver lining. But if that were the driving concern, what would be the rational basis for stopping there? It would have been applied more broadly, at least to the children of all apostates (and possibly children of devout people of other faiths). It would apply to Kate Kelly’s and John Dehlin’s kids.

    No, the comparison to polygamy is quite informative. This is about boundaries, keeping members from associating with people, as “brothers and sisters,” for whom they might feel empathy that brings about a desire for change. So, FINE, it’s about keeping the doctrine pure. But the rationalization just insults intelligence—ours or their own.

  33. Julie several of your points seems to assume that if someone has been in an ongoing homosexual relationship in the past that somehow that affects children in the future from a regular marriage. That seems going beyond what I see in the policy. Could you clarify that for me?

    Second some of the criticisms seems to be of how the brethren rolled out the policy. But correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t this released by someone leaking it with the Church having to quickly then address it? While I may be quite wrong here, my understanding was that this was not the plan of how to release the policy.

    My suspicion with the policy is that we’ll get some revisions and clarifications. At a minimum there appears to be too wide a range of how people are reading it.

  34. Thanks, Julie. The Q15 certainly needs to read this list. It might help them understand the possible ramifications of their policy.

    My own belief is that God has painted the Church into a corner on this, and the leaders are floundering trying to come up with a workable solution. Obviously, they whiffed on this. Church policy was fairly easy to create when the official position was that same-sex attraction was a choice, or was at least an environmentally produced condition that could be “cured” by therapy or just plain old repentance. But a slew of suicides among faithful gay members as well as a truckload of empirical evidence that this view of same-sex attraction was simply not true has left the Church with no out, really. And the leaders have stopped promoting the old beliefs. But if God “creates” people this way, or at least allows genetics and whatever other factors that lie beyond agency to make people gay, sometimes against their wishes, then how are we to deal with this while maintaining the fundamental doctrine that same-sex intimacy is sinful? There is simply no way out of this corner. This is the underlying conundrum that the new policy changes conveniently ignore.

    I am fully sympathetic with the Q15, though. I would hate to be in their shoes. They are in a no-win situation.

  35. Brad L.,

    hullabaloo on the internet

    Really!? Google “LDS + Children + Gay” and you’ll find about 100 articles about this, including the NYT, Chicago Tribune, CNN. The Washington Post appears to be on its third, in today’s edition: “Mormons plan to quit over church’s new policy banning baptism in gay families”. I’ll be shocked if I don’t hear at least two references to it during the BYU/Missouri game, perhaps with cutaways to student protests outside the stadium.

    It would seem that a large majority of active members are unaffected in any direct way

    That’s probably true, depending on what you mean by “direct way.” But this will affect many. Most members do not associate with polygamists. But many members do know and love at least one gay person, who may have children whom the member loves. The otherness that this policy is designed to foster will gnaw.

  36. john f., done and thanks for the suggestion. Because the Newsroom did not provide the language of the policy (because, I presume, Handbook I is not public), there is some confusion about what the policy actually says.

    Clark Goble, see my comment #17, now added to the beginning of the post.

    Clark, I’ve heard the same rumors that you have regarding the roll out. However, what seems to be is that (1) the policy was sent to all bishops, SPs, etc. with “effective immediately” across the top and dated 11/3 (it was made public 11/5) and (2) was added to’s Handbook I online on or before 11/5, so while there may very well have been plans for training on this that would have mitigated some of the harms of the roll out or interpretation, it is nonetheless the case that the plan seems to have been for bishops to begin implementing the policy as-is. It’s possible that my history here is incorrect; I’m working off Internet rumors here. But we need to be clear that this was not a “leak” in the sense of an intern taking a draft version off of Elder So-and-so’s desk and releasing it as a done deal of a policy, but a “leak” in the sense that it was intended only for recipients of Handbook 1 but was released to the public, at least based on the currently available evidence.

  37. I’m pretty sure that the policy was supposed to say that if the interviewee had ever lived in a same sex marriage household then it would be up to the SP/MP to make sure that the interviewee acknowledge that same sex marriage is wrong.
    I believe this because the impression I’ve gotten from the communication from the church is that the church doesn’t want people going on missions, or are in full fellowship with the church, leaving the impression that that a polygamous marriage or gay marriage is okay with the church, because that’s the household they were raised in. The church wants the interviewee to write out “I acknowledge that that is wrong, and I will not be teaching otherwise.”
    As for why the wording is confusing; I blame the lawyers.

  38. Please, please say that there is a way to get this list to someone in the Q15 before the rumored “clarifications” come out.

    IMO, the Church has one good chance to fix this situation credibly. But if the revisions themselves leave substantial problems in their wake, or, even worse, create new ones, then later revisions to the revisions would make the Church look increasingly desperate and non-credible.

    They have to fix this, but they have to fix it right the first time. Working through this list would go a long way toward doing that.

  39. Been a long time since I have commented on any LDS blog, Julie, your comments mirror some of mine. I have been reading and thinking about this policy change since it was announced becoming more and more dismayed by what I see. Now I have moved away from the church since 2013, so that will colour some of my opinions.

    However, one of the reasons I fell off the wagon was over the dealings the Church had with same sex marriage (not the only one but a factor). Where I live same sex marriage has been legal for a decade, I do not know what it is that is so destructive about it compared to divorce.

    Up until now my view has been that if my children want to attend church, be involved in activities that is their right and I should encourage them to go. But this made me question that decision. Why would I want my kids learning that some people are barred because of who their parents are and who they marry. And that is the first time in my life I ever felt like that.

    That feeling is one of the worst results for me personally, aside from the PR standpoint, I felt ill even considering such a decision.

  40. Julie, I know that on Saturday my Bishop hadn’t heard about it formally. We were actually talking about it. (I’d been busy and hadn’t been on the internet for a few days and had just heard of it late that morning) So something odd was happening.

    I definitely agree the policy as stated does not seem to be carefully crafted in terms of clarity. That’s why I think we’ll see revisions. There’s simply too much confusion over what it even means.

    Looking at the policy statement though it says 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…” Then it talks about First Presidency approval when it talks about “lived or is living.” So at minimum it’s confusing. It definitely seems like it can be read both ways.

  41. jader3rd usually lawyers are far more careful with language than this. When they make a condition they typically cut and paste that condition through the rest of the statement to ensure it’s the same. Regardless of intent, this is just poorly written. It’s very hard to figure out exactly what is meant from the text.

  42. john f: actually I do have access to the handbook and I corrected my “misreading” of it in the second of my comments above. (I put “misreading” in quotation marks because by ordinary principles of interpretation there is an equally valid argument for reading the section as I did the first time.)

    In short, the statement in the handbook is internally inconsistent. The introductory paragraph is the substance: A child of a parent living in certain relationships may be baptized only if certain conditions are met. And that paragraph refers only to the current living arrangements of the parent.

    Then come two paragraphs about procedure–what stake presidents should do in seeking approval from the first presidency. In those paragraphs, the set of affected children is expanded to include those whose parents “ha[ve] lived . . .”

    But why even refer to those paragraphs if the condition in the first paragraph (parents “living” in certain relationships) isn’t met?

    It reminds me a bit of some of the statutes passed by the extraordinary people we elect to our state and national legislatures.

  43. Many, many faithful, mainstream Mormons are praying that this will be fixed. For all of us praying, what we *desperately* need to be praying for is that by some miracle, in this remarkably disconnected, highly connected world, one or more members of the Q15 will be able to see and read this list, presented to them in a way that does not make them defensive or think that it is a criticism from a former Mormon, the “liberal media,” or someone with an ax to grind.

    This is imperative for so many of us. I have had a hard time sleeping since Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015 precisely because of deep, unsettling concerns about exactly the scenarios listed in this post and how they devastate our culture (because of our culture) and palpably change core scriptural doctrines as applied throughout our history until now.

    These are very serious, very real outcomes based on the plain language of the new policy toward the children, precedent arising from our past application of such policies and the reasons the members and leaders develop to justify them, and the natural though unintended consequences of such a huge shift, particularly as it prompts the development of different classes within the Church.

  44. “They have to fix this, but they have to fix it right the first time.”

    The first time was Elder Christofferson’s interview.

    However, I disagree that it has to be right “the first time.” Repentance and second chances and charity and all that.

  45. I dont know why people are “confused” by the language. the language is very specific and very wrong. the fix is the remove it, as it is unneeded, imho, just train local leaders in what was there already.

  46. #49 Ok, let’s give them two chances then. :)

    My wife asked me how this was any worse than the priesthood restriction. I said, “Because of the accidents of history, there was always plausible deniability–nothing was explicitly written down in the 19th century, people were quoted and misquoted, and the men who had instituted the policy were long dead by the time it finally got eliminated. The men who instituted this new policy are all very much alive, very much accountable, and available for comment. Any kind of ‘Well, the Lord’s ways are mysterious and we don’t know why this happened’ will rightfully come off as disingenuous.”

    It’s not just for members of the church–the world is watching now. We are a church that did not excommunicate a person for making false prophecies about the End of Times last month, but are now poised to excommunicate legally married couples and shun their children as a matter of policy. We’d better get the second chance right or else we’ll be known for more than just skipping coffee.

  47. The Church is nothing if not careful and deliberate. I don’t buy for one second that the leadership (I’ve been having a hard time referring to them as “Brethren” since last Thursday) didn’t know the Policy would cause great controversy and shrink membership (by an “acceptable” percentage). However, I fear they underestimate how true #25 will prove to be in the long run. Despite rhetoric that “all are welcome”, Church culture will become even more homonormative and homophobic. The Policy gives even more ammunition to the most conservative members to view and treat LGBT+ and their children — regardless of the child’s sexual or gender identity! — as second-class citizens. This is why my wife and I must step away for a season and find our bearings. If we allow our children to be exposed to even the smallest measure of #25, we will be failing them. No parents can police and correct everything their children are taught or exposed to, especially when the message is subtle and cultural. The only solution for us is to back away from the potential harm altogether. Perhaps we will find a new way to approach the Church, perhaps not. This is going to take some time.

    I do believe that the majority of Church members are caring and loving and would never overtly teach that LGBT+ and their children are “lesser-than”, but the bigotry codified by the Policy is very, very strong.

  48. Julie:

    I get the idea of multiple chances in the eternal sense.

    What I’m worried about is the here and now. We already have this sometimes messy claim of prophetic leadership–messy in the sense that we believers believe in it, most of the time, but the moment we acknowledge prophetic fallibility in some particular instance, it makes it easier for detractors or doubters to say that our leaders are obviously acting fallibly in other instances too.

    Here, if the Church changes parts of this now, only to have to make more changes later, and then again later, every successive cycle will make it easier for people to attack our leaders’ claims of authority as to anything. At some point, it will all start to feel really hollow. That’s why I think this is kind of a one-shot opportunity, and why I also think the scope of these clarifications, as well as the precise language the church uses in rolling them out, will be very, very (very…) important in determining how the narrative of this whole episode gets told in the future.

  49. Thanks for thinking through this so thoroughly, Julie. I know you said you think the Q15 must have thought through all these issues too, but I really don’t think they did. I would be surprised if they thought through half of the issues you raise. I suspect they had a very narrow situation in mind when they wrote the policy, and then they got carried away in writing it too broadly (particularly with the “ever lived” part).

  50. With so many people asserting that releasing the policy change to the public was a dishonest, shameful thing, and the person who “leaked” the information was not worthy of the trust of his office, I am having to rethink my assumptions about the way the church operates.

    Sure the general membership has access only to Handbook 2, and I was okay with that. There are some sensitive things in H1 (e.g. things like preparing the body for burial), and I just assumed that the Church didn’t want every media outlet ogling all of that stuff. But still, I never felt like Handbook 1 had anything to hide, exactly.

    But now I wonder if there is some sort of official mandate that the content of Handbook 1 should be kept secret. Will we see specific istructions to bishops and stake presidents that nothing in Handbook 1 should be revealed to the membership? It feels weird, like there is a whole set of rules governing the Church that I’m not even allowed to know about.

  51. Purity of doctrine, plain and simple. The brethren have said time and time the Lord’s commandments on this issue won’t change.

    The bloggernacle and more progressively liberal membership at large have said it will eventually change. So perhaps this move was unfortunately necessary to make sure that there is no confusion the matter of the traditional and natural organization of the family is very important.

    Many good people lose out on the blessings of the gospel because they can’t quite smoking, etc. even though in every respect they are awesome people. When an Apostle of the Lord says a child will no lose out as a result of lack of progression within the church at this time, as a result of the sin(s) of the parent(s) I take their word for it.

  52. Randy is right. I too spend hours every day interpreting contracts. And this language is clear.

    We’re squinting to find ambiguity. Because we just can’t fathom that they actually intended what they wrote. Hopefully that intuition is correct. I’m encouraged by the rumors of coming “clarification.”

  53. The handbook change does not mention past same-gender cohabition in regards to a name and a blessing. It looks like past relationships only apply to baptism, ordination, and missionary service.

  54. DQ,

    I suspect your correct. “Purity of doctrine, plain and simple.” And that is why the given justification about sparing the children discomfort comes across as disingenuous spinning for the Lord.

  55. Randy and Joel are correct. The language of the Policy is not ambiguous and was drafted by attorneys (probably Kirton McConkie) who knew exactly what they were doing. While I am hopeful there will be some softening of the language, I’m not going to hold by breath. This Policy was not created overnight and not drafted by laypersons.

  56. One other thing that I think jumps out from your list: the potential impact on missionary work.

    I’ve thought about this a lot over the last few days. In general, the question of what kind of people would be attracted to our message is a pivotal one for a missionary minded people like us. If we play up the Joseph Smith story, our message appeals to seekers. if we play up our family doctrines, we appeal more to nuclear family suburbanites. If we play up diversity (as we did in the “I’m a Mormon” campaign), we appeal to young millenials.

    Given this, the question of what we’re most known for matters a lot, because when our missionaries show up on someone’s porch, that’s person’s knee-jerk word-association reflex (“Mormons”=?) is going to go a long way toward determining whether they’re willing to let these two strangers in or not.

    I’m afraid that this thing is just toxic enough that it might really stick as a key part of the church’s image. This will be particularly so if entertainment types (which, to make the obvious point, are friendly toward LGBT causes) pick up on it and make it a running punchline. And if boycotts or protests start happening and keep happening (which is entirely possible with something this sensitive), it doesn’t go away.

    This is my worry: if one of the first things people think of when they think of us is that we don’t let little kids be baptized if they have a gay parent, we risk becoming thought of as an “anti-gay church” (even more than we already are). That, in turn, could turn off a lot of good, stable people who may have been otherwise interested in the other aspects of the Restoration message.

  57. This is why judges have amicus briefs, so they can carefully think through the “what if’s” that affect more than just the situation they’re presently considering. Considering the sheer amount of legal expertise in the Q15, I really hope they would have tried to put together a list like this and consider all the “what if’s,” but the consequences are so bizarre that it’s hard to imagine that they actually did.

    “I’m already hearing stories of parents filing to change their custody arrangement:” I am too, and it’s bizarre — it seems so gratuitously hurtful. The policy doesn’t say one word about custody. It’s all about who the parents live with; who the child lives with is simply not a factor until the child is of legal age — at which point “custody” isn’t how the adult child’s living arrangements are described. I can understand reordering your life based on what the policy says (although it’s still hurtful), but I cannot understand why anyone would feel the need to do more — just to build a hedge around the law? (At the same time, it’s not surprising — we Mormons are really good at following leaders with more enthusiam than sense, sometimes.)

    Similarly, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if the policy causes the issues you identify in #15 for children with same-sex foster parents or legal guardians, even though none of those people are the natural or adoptive parents to which the policy actually applies.

    Theologically weird is the perfect description for the situation where your parents sexual history has longer-lasting repercussions than yours.

  58. Julie, thanks for the hard work this entailed. It is very important.

    Here’s another one I’ll add. Gay children continue to be born into straight LDS homes. There will be more pressure, including a shift in some parental attitudes, for gay children to choose mixed-orientation marriages. That further creates the cycle of this problem. More broken homes (in the future) when these mixed-orientation marriages continue to fail at higher rates. More children who may become future casualties of the policy the grandparents tried to skirt by encouraging their gay children to pretend to be straight.

    Not to be melodramatic, but this is an attempt at the erasure of homosexuality from our midst. Homosexuality must die either through celibacy or being changed through mixed-orientation marriages, and if those two don’t work, then the homosexual must be rooted out of the body of Christ to the next generation. Articulating that makes me weepy.

  59. Ziff and Randy,

    I agree, this was intentional. I don’t think they thought through this as much as Julie and the bloggernacle have, but they were thorough enough. (Christofferson himself said so.) I think the roll-out was botched, but the policy is intentional.

    As Dr. Phil would say, “you couldn’t do a better job chasing people away if you tried.”

    Intentional culling?

    Does anyone remember when Julie Beck caused a firestorm on the internet a few years ago with ‘Mothers Who Know’? There were a lot of hurt feelings, but there was never a retraction, never a change in course (although Elder Ballard’s talk the following spring seemed to correct some things. I digress.) Proclamation 8? Same story, bigger scale. Hurt feelings, people leaving. No apology, no retraction. I don’t think the rumored ‘clarification’ will be anything more than an expansion on Elder Christofferson’s comments. They will just dig their heels in. I don’t think they feel that a retraction is a political option. What would the faithful saint who stalwartly supported the policy believe? That the Prophet bowed to the pressure of the LGBT+ lobby? Riiiiight.

  60. I would add: Families will face repercussions for acts that may have taken place before conversion and baptism or before other repentance. What does this say about our belief in the atonement, repentance and the remission of sins?

  61. In 42, you touch on “reversals” of health or finance but I think that deserves an entire point.

    A potential adult convert who lives with their parent(s) in a caretaker role due to the disability, illness, or poverty of their elderly parent, falls under these policies as well.

    The convert-to-be, being beyond the age of majority, cannot live with the parent who has or has had a same sex cohabitation, and must disavow their parent.

    Christ loved and served all. He did not demand withdrawal of support from the disabled, ill, or poor.

  62. Julie’s comment that “Repentance and second chances and charity and all that,” should be extended toward the brethren if they don’t get the forthcoming “additional instructions” right feels awfully ironic here. Our scriptures teach that when true repentance occurs, God remembers the sin no more. But these policies reject the power of repentance so fully they lay the burden of “sin” on the heads of children. It’ hard for me to extend charity and second chances to leaders who institute policies which teach us not to.

    Thank you so much for this post, Julie. It is brilliant.

  63. To expand on 16, the economic bias against people who can’t afford to move out from their parents house, there is also the issue that people who are more poor have fewer options for their living situations. They may move in with somebody they are dating because they lost their lease, they ran out of money, they couldn’t afford both rent and school, they were homeless at the time they met, and so forth, therefore having a live-in relationship because of poverty and not because their romantic relationship was serious enough to rise to that level on its own merits.

    Whenever this policy refers to people who ever lived with somebody, that impact should be understood to fall more frequently on people who have histories of being poor.

  64. #63 the full text as seen in that article was not given to the WP by the church. It was published by John Dehlin (from a friend of his who leaked it) and then copied into the WP article.

  65. This policy shows the church for what is it. These “crisis” of faith that many members are having, their inability to process this policy and make sense of it, is because it is wrong. Nothing about this policy is in the spirit of a loving, forgiving God. Nothing. And in the LSD church, it is either inspired by God 100%, or it is wrong. And this is wrong. That, by default, means that members may finally accept what I did several years ago, after more than a decade of devoted church membership and service: This is an organization that has no more direct link to God than any other. It is manmade. You cannot comprehend this policy because you KNOW it is not of God. I have never been more relieved to be out of this religion than I have been this week. I have reached out to many members who were on the fence, and most of them are now ready to accept this. It is extremely difficult to accept that you have been living in a lie for your entire life, but the sooner you accept that and begin to move on with your life on the other side, the sooner you can be a happy, stable person, who is ALLOWED TO THINK FOR THEMSELVES, instead of having everything dictated. I have done it, and you can, too.

  66. At this point, my best working theory (borrowing from James Ord) is basically that this is a legal policy intended to minimize liability for the Church. It’s only a matter of time until a gay parent living in a place like California sues his ex-spouse and the Church on some type of parental alienation of affection claim because that ex-spouse has raised the child in the Church, and the Church has taught the child that being gay is (I won’t attempt to describe the Church’s teachings here, but imagine this being described by the gay parent’s attorney using the worst examples he can find). If you are an attorney who is asked to draft something that makes it clear that the Church has no legal relationship with the child (certainly not a membership relationship or even the type of record that gets created along with a baby blessing), then you perhaps create something like this. If said attorney is really trying to eliminate risk, you write the policy very broadly and without exceptions. You do things like add language (baldy drafted as explained in several comments above) that this applies for people who used to be in an SSR, that way the gay parent who is not currently in the SSR cannot sue (or at least it’s harder to do so). When looked at in that light, some of the other crazy aspects make more “sense”. For instance, we’re really not concerned about murderers suing the Church for parental alienation because we teach that murder is wrong. We’ll take that case to the jury and see what they say. But we’re terrified to face a jury in California and let them decide how much the Church should have to pay a gay man whose ex-wife had their child raised in a Church that teaches that gay men are (whatever the jury thinks we teach about gay men). The age thing now makes sense as well, if we delay baptism until the Child in an adult, then that’s a much harder suit for the gay parent to bring. Presumably, the idea of actually making decisions on a case by case basis and consulting with the gay parent of the child was either not considered or was rejected (perhaps because it would be very difficult to actually follow such a policy).

    Lest anyone think I’m defending the policy or the process, I’m not. I certainly hope that the “clarifications” are coming and that they will both defend from the Church from liability and adequately deal with each and every item on Julie’s excellent list. I will say that it will be far from easy to both create a good liability shield and not create unintended consequences (dare I say it will require revelation to do it).

    I did talk with my bishop about the policy. He had not read it closely and was largely unaware of many of the aspects of the policy. I gave him some of the items Julie mentions and he did not necessarily realize that they were picked up by the policy. He told me the SP had thought about a couple of the hypos and thought that if they arose he would try to “appeal” those decisions to a higher body.

  67. David D. I agree that the church should be concerned with issues of liability, and that the Policy is clearly designed to project the church. This issue cuts both ways. The church has every right to protect itself, but to do so in a way that causes people immense harm seems morally reprehensible to me.

  68. I’m hoping a good thing that can come from this is direction to the members to neither bless nor baptize children who aren’t living with adults who will bring them to church. It does nothing for the child. All blessings from God are dependent upon the faith of the individual. So getting the name of a child who will never attend church, on the rolls of the church does not do a thing for them.

  69. David D–I’ve heard those justifications and don’t agree with them at all.

    Even under the strictest reading of the policy, the Church isn’t barring the kids in these situations from coming to church, nor is it asking the still-believing member to not even teach their kids church doctrines.

    So now, if pissed off gay parent decides to sue for alienation of affection, he can do so on the ground you described–for teaching his child that he’s evil and all that. But if the kid happened to believe those doctrines, then the parent now also gets to point out that the church has even taught the child that he is responsible for not being able to baptized and, if male, progress through the priesthood alongside all his friends.

    If anything, the church has made the alleged alienation of affections far worse, not better.

  70. This is ridiculous. This was meant to be added to Handbook 1 and was leaked-not some big policy change originally. 3% of the US population identifies as LGBTQ-do you know how many of that 3% is actively LDS???!!? VERY FEW. I’m positive that every instance will be handled on a case-by-case basis. The church has openly condemned the same-sex lifestyle from the get-go (and I mean, the biblical get-go) WHY IS THIS SUCH A SURPRISE??!?! And why would you want to do that to children?? Sending them to a church that condemns their parents does not make a happy home life…

  71. Ben, how can you say that language is clear? One portion says current cohabitation while the other says past. That’s anything but clear. Further clearly Bishops are confused about how to apply it.

  72. Here’s another one I just thought of: Scout leadership mirrors priesthood quorum leadership. Quorum Presidents are also Patrol Leaders. Even with full attendance, boys of gay parents will be deprived of that scouting experience because they will never have the mirrored priesthood leadership. This could be changed easily – I don’t think this is doctrine or even a policy. Just a practice that I’ve seen through the years.

  73. April:

    My wife left the church several years ago, but is begrudgingly ok with me still taking the kids to church. She now does and believes things that the church “condemns.” We have a nine year old and a four year old. When our four year old turns eight–do you think we should baptize him, even though he’ll be learning at church how bad his mother is? Also, in the interim, do you think I should stop taking both kids to church every week to avoid the confusion?

    I’m not asking this rhetorically. This problem is very, very real to me in the wake of Elder Christofferson’s interview.

  74. April Davis (#80): so if I’m reading you correctly, because it was meant to be something done in secret, all of us should just let it happen?

    Also, when you dismiss any harms that might come from this policy with an argument about how “very few” members of the Church it will actually impact, I can’t help but think of what Christ had to say about “the least of these”.

    When you bring up the Bible, I can’t help but think of all that’s been written about how the Bible really doesn’t have much to add to the conversation about modern homosexuality.

    And, well, when you talk about not wanting to send children to a church that condemns there parents, I wonder where you stand on sending children to a church that condemns smoking, drinking, sabbath breaking, cursing, tithe skipping, and the like. Because, well… Elder Bednar was the product of a mixed member household…

  75. In fact, here’s a quick poll:

    How many of you experienced in any substantive way a disconnect between what was taught at church and what you saw at home?

    I’ll go first:

    My sister and I were baptized very young. Our family was not LDS. We grew up in a home where the adults engaged in smoking, drinking (to excess!), extra-marital sex, and obscene domestic violence.

  76. What effect upon a child’s Church standing does a grand-parental same-sex relationship have? Inversely, what effect on grandparents’ Church standing will a grand-child’s same-sex relationship have?

    Or is the Church stating that the alleged impact(s) of exposure to same-sex relationships is limited to only one degree of generation?

  77. One thing that I’ve noticed is being left out a lot in much of the reporting in the past few days: no matter how anyone might interpret this policy and how it pertains to any one of these situations, NOTHING can happen without the permission of the First Presidency so long as the person involved has a gay parent who has ever been in a same-sex cohab/marriage situation. How often is that going to happen?

  78. I have read many people state that this places the sins of the parents upon the children. That may very well be the case, but in light of D&C 68, where parents in Zion who do not adequately teach their children to be baptized at the age of eight have the sins of the children placed upon their own heads, I have to wonder what the ramifications are for anyone who supports this policy.

    If, for example, a 10 year-old child of a lesbian couple desires to be baptized and the parents support the decision, but the church withholds baptism, do the sins then move from the parents to the church? If I support the policy, do I become complicit in the sins as well? If I vocally oppose, do I cleanse myself from those sins?

  79. Scott: (#87): I don’t know how often it will happen… but it will happen fewer and fewer times as the years roll on because we’ll have successfully ostracized an entire class of people.

  80. Excellent list. Some things I would add are:

    -(unintended consequence. I think) A spouse considering divorcing his/her same sex attracted spouse may feel trapped in the marriage, because a divorce would free both spouses to remarry, with potential to disqualify their children from church ordinances.

    -(intended consequence, I think) LGBTQ families will leave the church. Church members will have less exposure to such families, and the current state of fear and hatred toward them by Church members will be sustained and not interrupted by getting to know these people better. This fear and hatred will prevent some law of chastity violations, but increase violations against the standard to love our neighbors.

  81. Wonderful list Julie. I can think of a few others. What if a child is terminally ill (but over 8), and will not likely make it to the age of 18 but has a parent who lives or has lived in a same sex marriage? What are the consequences for children who are dying but who cannot be baptized. Also, some have said that they don’t think the policy was mean to apply in cases of a divorce or joint custody. Okay, so maybe they will clarify that, but what if the other parent who is active LDS dies while the children are minors and the divorce decree stipulates that the other parent is exclusive custodian. What if they have already been baptized and are about to enter the priesthood? Will grandparents or other family members petition for custody? In such a scenario an 18 years old who wises to go on a mission may have little financial means to live elsewhere. Also, presumably if a child who has a parent who lives in a same sex relationship and that parent dies before they are 18, they can be baptized before 18 because they no longer have a parent who violates the policy. Or does the policy to apply to a parent living or dead, or only a living parent who is or was in a same sex cohabitation or marriage. In that situation suppose the deceased’s partner petitions the courts for custody. Lastly, if parental rights are terminated by the courts does that mean that one no longer needs to count that person if they are in/have been in a same sex marriage. Also, similar to when you mentioned transgendered people, also the intersexed?

  82. Scott (87) I just don’t think that’s the case. At a minimum the policy is ambiguous enough such that many Bishops will interpret it as only applying to children living with a gay parent in a gay relationship. (Which is what I think they intended) The problem is that because the policy is so confusing as written I’m sure some will interpret it the way you are. Of course since I doubt most people will tell Bishops about past relationships they’ve repented of it will also mean that Bishops likely won’t have the information to apply the rule.

    As I said I think we’ll see some clarification coming out soon as I rather doubt it was intended the way many in this thread are reading it.

  83. Matthew,

    Note that an 18 year old (male) that wants to go on a mission first has to move out, then get 1st presidency permission to get baptized, then wait a year, then go on a mission. It isn’t clear to me if such a person would need 1st presidency permission to get ordained to the AP, ordained to the MP, and apply to go on a mission.

  84. Joel,
    Purity of doctrine is not spinning away answers about the children. We don’t maintain some platonic doctrine ideal for its own sake. Gay marriage & relationships, gay coming out when you are married with children, etc. affects children. Injecting the church in the middle of someone else’s hurtful actions does not help. Look at the heat the church takes from not being involved and stepping back.

    There’s no doubt that many activists have used, were planning to use, and will continue to use children to their own selfish ends. The church has stepped back and removed that option from the table.

    And still people claim the church is hurting children. Would it be any less when the church baptizes an 8 year old and for the next 10 years teaches them the doctrinal reality about gay marriage? The hurt would be more, as we’re talking about the real cognitive dissonance every day for that child, and the surrounding activist + media uproar that will feed it.

    What would the activists demand be done? Water down the doctrine. Don’t say “hurtful” things, etc.

    It’s sad for these children than an option is being denied through no fault of their own, but as a result of their parent(s). But the authorities made the determination that it would be better for this option to be temporarily denied than a constant psychological battle being raised in the child’s life and mind.

    Further, you should consider that a church which is often portrayed as only caring about baptisms (when it suits the accuser) is here stepping back and saying it’s better to not even baptize them. And the accusers still accuse.

  85. DQ (95): We don’t rescue children from the cognitive dissonance of part-member and non-member families…

    Also, let the gays stay and let their children participate fully in the church, and we won’t have to wait 10 years for a policy change to come down the pipe that embraces the full spectrum of godly love — because the traditions of our fathers will melt away in the presence of well-adjusted gay children and well-adjusted children of gay parents singing in the Primary Program and leaving on missions.

  86. Christian,

    let the gays stay and let their children participate fully in the church, and we won’t have to wait 10 years for a policy change to come down the pipe that embraces the full spectrum of godly love — because the traditions of our fathers will melt away

    I think that is DQ’s point. To keep the doctrine pure, the leaders want to keep the faces of same-sex marriage out of the building in order to avoid exactly that effect.

    Cold. But rational.

  87. Anon (#89),

    Your interpretation of D&C 68 is incorrect. It does not say that the sins of the children will be upon the heads of the parents. It is stating that it is a sin for the parents to fail in teaching their children. Notice that in 68:25 “sin” is singular.

  88. Joel (#97): If we take Elder Christofferson’s interview at face value, I think we’re forced to reject DQ’s analysis. If we accept DQ’s analysis… well, you get the idea.

  89. I admit I’ve read the policy about 300 times, and I think I finally understand what it actually says (though it does so poorly). Alison Moore Smith’s analysis was helpful. A strict reading of the text, line by line, without jumping around and applying clauses where they weren’t written, brings about a different result than the broader interpretation a lot of people are applying. Here’s the full text, for reference (it’s widely available at this point):

    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.

    The title and the first two paragraphs refer only to child(ren) of a parent living in a same-gender relationship. It does not address children of parents who ‘have lived’ in a same-gender relationship. The ‘have lived’ clause is only invoked in a case where approval is sought from the First Presidency, but as Alison Moore Smith points out, this is a condition for the second paragraph, which in its plain reading only applies to a child of a parent “living” in a same-gender relationship. The ‘have lived’ is therefore unnecessary, because the ‘is living’ has already been met. Confusing and poorly written is an understatement. it’s very easy to see how a bishop or other leader could take that ‘have lived’ language and extrapolate it across the entire policy.

    Using the plain-language interpretation, though, the children of this parent are left to hope that their parent’s relationship with the significant other will not work out, since at the moment that relationship fails and the significant other moves out, the children are eligible for baptism, since the parent is no longer “living in a same-gender relationship,” and therefore this policy would no longer apply to them. Essentially they’re left to root for committed relationships to fail.

    This still leaves many of the problems on this list unanswered. This policy does not even broach the subject of custody/visitation. As written, it could preclude a child who has never even met his/her father from being baptized, if that father is currently living anywhere in the world in a same-gender relationship. Mind-boggling.

  90. “We don’t rescue children from the cognitive dissonance of part-member and non-member families…”

    To which I’d ask if there is a key difference between a family with a mother and a father (or only a mother or a father) compared to one involving gay parental relationships? The Supreme Court doesn’t think so, but they also think there is no rational reason other than bigotry for opposition to gay marriage.

    It’s clear where most of the church members who disagree with the church on this issue stand. For my part, I feel a lot of sorrow for the children, FIRST starting with the parent(s) actions and then down to the result of the policy on the child as a continued result of the parent(s) actions.

    To thine own self be true is good advice when you have a proper understanding of your true self and your true responsibilities. Unfortunately, when pursued as a result of seeking fulfillment in the wrong places, it has the potential to hurt others. Even more so when doors are closed on others because of how your actions may affect them.

  91. Christian,

    I understand. I actually think DQ is correct about the primary reason for this, doctrinal purity.

    I don’t take Elder Christofferson’s interview at face value. At best, diminishing tension in the home is a silver lining. Recognize that and the degree of difficulty in the gymnastics eases.

  92. I’m trying really really hard to take the Q15 at their word. Sadly, even that explanation fails on multiple fronts to even begin to justify this ill-advised and ill-conceived policy.

  93. David D, I just can’t imagine how that lawsuit would work when the gay parent would have had to give permission for baptism. If we need to extend that to written permission for baby blessings, ordination, etc., then so be it–that seems reasonable to me. But if the gay parent has already consented to the child’s involvement with the church, I can’t imagine the scenario where they are successfully able to sue the church or other parent. Can you explain to me if I am missing something here?

  94. Julie,
    Lack of imagination isn’t really persuading me anymore. I cant imagine why the father or mother of a child would decide the best way to be true to themselves is separate that child from having both parents in the home so they can pursue their own desires or preferred inclinations. But apparently it seems to happen.

    I can’t imagine why so many in society don’t understand why a society should have a basic say in the institutions responsible for maintaining and creating the social fabric for that society to exist in the first place.

    And I can’t imagine why someone would sue for all manner of things that they already sue for. The fact is, you don’t need to understand. A judge doesn’t even need to understand. All that needs to happen is for someone with money and a microphone desiring to make a point by hiring a lawyer and assembling the media. This is the reality of the legal world we live in.

  95. Could an administrator edit my comment (the very first one on this thread) to reflect that Julie’s original #20 is now #23. I do not want my comment to be misunderstood.


  96. In all the comments and analyses I’ve read all over the blogosphere, I’ve read practically nothing on what I think this whole issue is really about. There has been non-stop focus on the children, the “victims” of this new policy, but little said on the real reason for it in the first place. Before the children were even mentioned, the Church clarified its position (again!) on the seriousness of same-sex marriage – those involved are now officially considered APOSTATES. That is a powerful, and very loaded, pronouncement with ramifications for many people (intended or untended.)

    The leaders of the Church are being labeled as the protagonists (insensitive! uncaring! mean! hateful! blah blah blah), when in reality, if we’re going to be honest here, the parents are the real perpetrators and victimizers. The Church’s doctrine on same-sex marriage is not new. The brethren have made many statements regarding the Church’s stand on the subject. Why are so many people acting like this is such a slap in the face? Haven’t they been paying attention? Do they assume that because the brethren haven’t been saying something about it every week or so that they’ve changed their mind or gone soft on the subject?

    Being labeled an “apostate” is serious stuff – much different than being “inactive.” It means a person has intentionally, by their choice/s, turned their back against the church, the prophet and other leaders, and most importantly God. The brethren have clarified many times that homosexuality is not a sin, but homosexual behavior is. Same-sex marriage is even a more egregious sin, and now after all the warnings, considered apostasy. (I don’t want to go into the “born or made” arguments, can’t help who you love, etc. – I get all that.)

    Those involved in same-sex marriages are, by their choices (according to the doctrine of the Church), the ones who’ve put their children in this situation/predicament. And maybe that is one of the reasons why they have now been labeled as apostate, precisely because THEY have done this to their children. It’s incredibly unfortunate that innocent children are stuck in the middle of all this. But don’t think for a second that God doesn’t know each one of them and isn’t aware of their situation – He WILL take care of them. This is where all our faith comes in.

    That being said, all the rest of us are commanded to be compassionate, loving, kind, charitable, forgiving, understanding, non-judgmental – regardless of others’ choices. We must be Christ-like, no matter what.

    We’ve been told and warned by many prophets that as we get closer to the Lord’s second coming, things are going to get hard. The saints will be tested. The saints will be divided. Some will doubt, some will leave. We must decide if we believe in and are willing to follow/sustain a living prophet, regardless of the comfort level or clarity. We must each be careful and ever-watchful, making sure our tent is facing the right direction.

  97. I’ve also wondered if the children with a gay parent will be allowed to take the sacrament when there’s no good chance of them becoming members for many years.

  98. Kari,

    Thank you for the reply and your explanation makes sense. However, my question seems to still be applicable. If the young person desires baptism and the parents desire it for the young person as well, yet we prevent them from being baptized, does the sin fall upon the church and those who prevented it? Jesus was very clear on what His doctrine is and warned us not to add to or remove from it, yet that is what we appear to be doing.

  99. I wonder if the reaction is excessive. It is not to agree with the policy to point out that opponents who list horrible what-ifs like an ominous trail of dominoes seem to think half the Mormons you meet are gay. No, it is not a numbers game, but then neither are there likely to be so, so many people affected. All I ask for is a sense of proportion.

  100. Clark,

    I confess I don’t know what doctrinal purity even means.

    I won’t try to define Mormon “doctrine.” I’m not Captain Ahab. I simply refer to the concept expressed by Pres. Hinckley:

    “I have spoken before about the importance of keeping the doctrine of the Church pure, and seeing that it is taught in all of our meetings. I worry about this. Small aberrations in doctrinal teaching can lead to large and evil falsehoods.” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [1997], 620).

    For all intents and purposes, pure doctrine = status quo. And status quo = same-sex marriage is wholly antithetical to the “restored gospel of Jesus Christ.”

    I think that’s how they see it, anyway.

  101. The argument for doctrinal purity makes me so mad! So the gender binary is so incredibly important and has such eternal consequences that in order to make it absolutely clear, we will drive out the gays among us unto the second generation, but we won’t even talk about our Heavenly Mother?! She’s too sacred, fragile, (or there’s too many of them per Father God) to even label her Goddess? Or let us talk to Her? Sounds to me like what’s most important is reinforcing the heteronormative, male-dominant Patriarchy all the way to Eternity. All I can really say is that for me as a woman, the Telestial Kingdom looks more and more appealing.

  102. Julie (104), I don’t pretend to be an expert in this area and my “working theory” may be entirely wrong. Now that we’ve established that I don’t know, I agree with you that a policy that requires written consent, and especially an “informed consent” in which the parent really understands what allowing their child to be baptized means, would have been a much better policy and should be a reasonable liability shield. Legally it may not be quite as good as the policy as currently written, and basically the only semi-rational explanation for the poorly written policy in my mind is that it does probably provide even more of a liability shield.

    The present policy for baptism requires only the consent of custodial parent(s), and I expect that in practice many bishops seek the consent of the custodial parent who is an active member of their ward but often neglect to call the other parent (and may or may not know if they have custody rights, may not even know who they are, etc.).

    I can see a law firm presenting the option that provides the best shield and I can see a client sometimes picking that option without thinking through all of the ramifications (and then needing to “clarify” later).

    To paraphrase what Kevin Barney is saying on BCC, we have a “bright line rule” with no exceptions instead of a flexible policy where bishops use discretion (and get consent). I think we need the latter.

    I expect some of the concerns are that we sometimes get “consent” from people who have no idea what they are agreeing to. When parents agree to a name and blessing, do they really understand that they will have monthly HT/VT visits and there is an expectation that the child be baptized at age 8? Perhaps there is a concern that a father might consent to a baptism (let’s say he gets a small break on alimony) and then a few years that gay father is telling the jury he was somehow tricked into the consent and “I had no idea they were going to teach me child X and Y about me.” I assume that that fact pattern doesn’t scare the Church with a Utah or Idaho jury, but a California jury scares them to death. To be fair to the Church, they have been unfairly targeted in litigation before, so the paranoia is somewhat justified.

    Again, to clarify, I’d be much happier is we used the type of consent standard Julie (104) suggests. It’s so difficult for me to believe that the Church thought through the types of issues raised by Julie (OP) that I’m forced to conclude that they went for the option that provided maximum protection without thinking through it. Hopefully there is a bit more “studying it out” in the minds going on now.

    Ben (76), I wouldn’t have chosen the words “morally reprehensible” but I understand the sentiment and I have grave concerns about this policy as written.

    RT (79), the really cynical view is that if the Church is legally a stranger to the child (i.e. the child is officially not allowed to be a member of the Church), then the gay parent will only be able to sue their ex-spouse, not the Church. To be clear, I’m not saying that the legal explanation I summarize above makes a ton of sense (I know I don’t know enough about the issue to give the Church competent legal advice) but it does strike me as the “least bad” of the various explanations floating around out there that attempt to explain the policy.

  103. M (109), there was a time in my life when I would have looked at the issue exactly the way you do. One reason I can’t go there is that the new policy does not apply to any other category of apostates. If a member of the church today were to apostatize tomorrow and become the greatest Anti-Christ in history by leading away millions in a manner that makes Nehor, Korihor, Sherem, Simon, Decker, Tanner, Runnells, and every other apostate look like an amateur, the child of that apostate could still be baptized. So the policy can’t be about apostasy. I want my tent door facing the right way. But I do feel an obligation to speak up when I see a problem. I think whoever writes administrative rules got bad advice. If Pres. Monson wants to stand up and say that this exact policy was revealed to him word for word as the will and mind of the Lord and will now become Section 139 and/or Official Declaration 3, then that’s different. But for now we are talking about an administrative policy that may be “clarified” soon. At least for now, I’m taking Brigham Young’s words to heart: I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way.

  104. This policy only applies to living children. No one is scouring temple records to determine whether or not to do a baptism for a deceased nine year old based on her parents’ same-sex whatever, nor asking deceased eighteen year olds to denounce their parents’ marriages. So if someone believes baptism at eight is a crucial ordinance (like how some grandparents insist their gay children’s kids get baptized, with parental permission but without parental plans for follow up teaching), are those grandparents now going to believe their grandchildren would be better off dead and baptized (through baptism for the dead) than alive without baptism or gift of the Holy Ghost?

  105. Great post and thoughtful comments. I especially appreciated the insights about the way it was leaked–whether perhaps the church may have intended it to be a beta testing soft launch, with a planned revision after they had the questions from ward and stake leaders.

  106. David D (117), if there were an other big apostasy group as there was with polygamy why do you think they wouldn’t add that to the handbook? An other way of looking at it is that the church, correctly or not, views gay marriage and polygamy groups as more of a threat apostasy-wise than say the Denver Snuffers of the world.

  107. Interesting and thought provoking list. Just one thing that seems to be missing. The Church has been dealing with a similar policy regarding polygamist families as long as I can remember. The interest of children from these families in the LDS Church is not uncommon in Utah (I’ve known a few myself). Yet the Church seems to be navigating these issues quite well in those cases. I reckon they’ll use the same rubrics to handle cases involving gay marriage.

    Also, contrary to what this post (and others) seem to suggest, the 1st Presidency and Quorum of 12 are comprised of very intelligent, thoughtful, well educated, compassionate, balanced, and reasonable men. We have only to examine their teachings and great personal sacrifices for others (their fruits) to know this. Any other group of men with their public and private service records would be honored.

    Collectively they have a vast amount of experience in law, politics, health, social welfare, business, education, and many other things, as well as in religion. They are not uninformed, unaware, out of touch, or ignorant. Anyone who suggests such a thing risks exposing their own ignorance.

    Finally, they have the keys to this authority. If they don’t, what are we concerned about? If they do, they have the right to exercise those keys. If those keys were not given by God, again, what are we concerned about? If there were given to them by God, I suppose God is the only one that can dictate their proper use. If we believe God did not bestow these keys on these men, we have nothing to say. If we believe He did bestow these keys on them, our questions and concerns should be directed to God. Keep in mind, though, I’m pretty sure God knows what he’s doing.

  108. Unless you are a member of the First Presidency, this list is nothing but idle speculation. The Handbook policy was intended to direct local leaders like bishops and stake presidents. Our personal obligation and disposition toward others is unchanged.

  109. Question for you deep thinkers and lawyers out there, since this seems to be the main venue for careful parsing of the language. As I read the language in the introductory paragraph there is nothing that limits the policy to minor children. In fact condition 2 wouldn’t make any sense if the policy only applied to underage children.

    So, as a hypothetical, suppose I am 50 years old and not a church member. My father who is 75 years old is cohabiting with another man. I have not lived with my father in the last 30 years and he was not in a same sex relationship when I lived with him. Yet, as the natural child of a parent who is currently living in a same sex relationship, it appears I would need a stake president to request permission from the first presidency for me to be baptized. Is this right?

  110. R. Frobisher (123), I think that your reading is probably not correct, but I can make a reasonable argument that it is correct. Practically speaking, your reading of the language would not even occur to most people/leaders (thankfully). I think your reading is correct if we think that the initial reference to child (“A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship”) uses child in the sense of the offspring of the parent (that is a plausible reading of the term). I think we would probably say that “child” in that context means a person who is not old enough to be an adult rather than the offspring of the parent (I think reading child to mean “not an adult” is the better reading). I do think that condition 2 is not drafted well but the concept seems to be something like “once the child is of legal age and does not live … then the MP or SP may request … baptism …”. I will say that your reading is at least plausible enough that a clarification would not be a bad idea.

    Most lawyers usually like to use defined terms (words that start with a capital letter and have a very specific defined meaning) and I do think one of the drafting problems we’re experiencing with this policy is that the lawyers who drafted it (that’s my working assumption) could not use defined terms and had problems turning their defined terms into handbook English. Otherwise, we’d have some type of defined term for “child” and we would know exactly what that meant.

  111. I make it a habit to not read the comments on any web page, but I am heartily glad to have done so here. Thanks to all of you for an interesting discussion.

  112. David D (124) Thank you kindly. I agree it would seem bizarre to apply it the situation I outlined. But the first presidency approval requirement clearly would seem to apply to a person who grew up with parents in a same sex relationship and is still living with them at the age of 18. Or presumably at the age of 21, or beyond. So I think a plain English reading would suggest the policy also applies to legal adults. I assume it is at the discretion of the local leader to not apply the policy in situations where it would be absurd to do so.

    Do you happen to know whether a person who is “straight” and whose parents have never been involved in same-sex relationships would be allowed to be baptized if the person agrees to follow the law of chastity but openly disagrees with the view that gay marriage is a grievous sin? My understanding is a person does not have to agree with every purported doctrine to be baptized, just certain key doctrines. Is that right? I’m trying to understand whether the requirement to “disavow” (whatever that means) the practice of homosexual cohabitation only applies to those who have been in an affected family. Thanks in advance for any thoughts on this.

  113. You write “a particularly grievous or significant, serious kind of sin.” I do not doubt that it is.”
    I do not believe it is a sin to be the person that God has made me to be. I will even go so far as to say that God has directed me and my partner in our life together- and happily at that.

  114. The policy wrt adults is a consequence of outsourcing the Law of Chastity to the secular world sometime after the Second Manifesto: our familiar “legally and lawfully ” terminology.

  115. We usually close comments around the #100 mark, so I’ll do that now. Thanks for a good discussion. I particularly appreciate how civil everyone was in light of such a difficult issue. I’m going to end with a plea: wherever you are on this issue, be careful that you do not do anything to make anyone else’s burden heavier.

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