Matthew 19:13-14

13 Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them.

14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

History is repeating itself.  The LDS Church surreptitiously released some changes to the Church Handbook of Instructions Book 1 in clear violation of scripture.  I do think that church leaders, just as in the days of Jesus, are acting in good faith, just as in the days of Jesus, they have committed a grave error.  “Suffer little children, and forbid them not” Jesus said.  Yet Elder Christofferson, just as the unnamed disciples in scripture, are preventing children from being blessed by Jesus.  This policy must change!  It is unscriptural, and clearly rebuked by Jesus.

On November 5, 2015, the church made the following changes in the Handbook of Instructions, available only to bishops or higher in authority.  The following changes were leaked to John Dehlin.

  • 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.

Elder Todd Christofferson, an apostle, did clarify what “disavow” means.  According to the LDS Newsroom

Michael Otterson: There is also provisional requirement for a person who has reached the age of maturity who maybe wants to serve a mission in the Church, but who has come from a same-sex marriage relationship, family. There is a requirement for them to disavow the idea of same-sex marriage. Not disavow their parents, but same-sex marriage. What was the thinking behind that? 

Elder Christofferson: Well again, this is a parallel with polygamy. Anyone coming out of a polygamous setting who wants to serve a mission, it has to be clear that they understand that is wrong and is sin and cannot be followed. They disavow the practice of plural marriage. And that would be the same case here. They would disavow, or assent I guess would be a better way to say it, to the doctrines and practices of the Church with regards to same-sex marriage. So they would be saying, as you said, not disavowing their parents, but disavowing the practice.

I wasn’t aware of the policy about children of polygamists until a month ago when Kevin Barney at By Common Consent posted the case of Madison Brown, a polygamist child of Kody and his second wife Janelle.  Maddie has publicly proclaimed “I will not be a polygamist” (this from July 2014) but apparently a recorded statement with witness affadivits wasn’t good enough for the First Presidency.

Watch the video.  (Fast forward to the 2:10 mark to hear a very firm statement “I am not going to be a polygamist.”)  Is she not assenting?

I haven’t watched the episode referenced by Barney, but she is also quoted on Hollywood Life.  {I’ve tried to only pull our her quotes without their editorial remarks, though I couldn’t remove everything and maintain readability.}

“I got a phone call and they aren’t letting me get baptized — it’s too contradictory and they hope I reconsider [joining the Mormon church] when we’re not such a public family,” Maddie reveals to her stunned moms Janelle, Robyn and Meri. “Because I won’t publicly disown my family or publicly disassociate with them, it’s too controversial for the Mormon Church so they asked me not to get baptized…they said they hope ‘I’m not bitter’,” adds Maddie…

“This is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Jesus Christ wouldn’t be doing this,” she insists. “I don’t know if I want to [join the Mormon Church] now, because if they want me to publicly denounce my family, why would I want to be a part of your church?”…..

“It shocks me. From day one I’ve said, I don’t want to be a polygamist, but I love my family. I love my parents, but it’s their choices. I will continue to love and support and endorse their choices if it makes them happy,” vows Madison. “[The Mormon Church elders] didn’t like that.”

In my mind, Madison has met Christofferson’s criteria, and I disagree with the First Presidency’s decision to reject her baptism.  It may well have been policy of the Church to avoid having polygamists join, but I didn’t know about this policy until last month (although Ardis Parshall claims this has been around since the 1920s), still I don’t think this is a good policy either.  Madison should not be punished and denied saving ordinances because of her parents sins.

As for “protecting the children”, I don’t buy what has been bandied about, and was surprised that Christofferson justified this.

Michael Otterson: Why are the children of these same-sex partners an issue here?

Elder Christofferson: Well, in answering or responding to your question, let me say I speak not only as an apostle in the Church, but as a husband, as a father and as a grandfather. And like others in those more enduring callings, I have a sense of compassion and sympathy and tender feelings that they do. So this policy originates out of that compassion. It originates from a desire to protect children in their innocence and in their minority years. When, for example, there is the formal blessing and naming of a child in the Church, which happens when a child has parents who are members of the Church, it triggers a lot of things. First, a membership record for them. It triggers the assignment of visiting and home teachers. It triggers an expectation that they will be in Primary and the other Church organizations. And that is likely not going to be an appropriate thing in the home setting, in the family setting where they’re living as children where their parents are a same-sex couple. We don’t want there to be the conflicts that that would engender. We don’t want the child to have to deal with issues that might arise where the parents feel one way and the expectations of the Church are very different. And so with the other ordinances on through baptism and so on, there’s time for that if, when a child reaches majority, he or she feels like that’s what they want and they can make an informed and conscious decision about that. Nothing is lost to them in the end if that’s the direction they want to go. In the meantime, they’re not placed in a position where there will be difficulties, challenges, conflicts that can injure their development in very tender years.

This reasoning boggles my mind.  Jana Reiss at said,

First, Elder Christofferson said that no one, upon reaching the age of majority, will ever be denied the blessings of baptism and the gospel if they denounce same-sex marriage. “Nothing is lost to them in the end if that’s the direction they want to go.”

This idea that “nothing is lost” is curious, since where I serve in Primary we spend an awful lot of time telling kids that being baptized and having the companionship of the Holy Ghost are crucial for them right now, in their childhoods. Church curriculum suggests there is a great deal at stake for them when they are still youth.

So, an honest question: Do we believe the presence of the Holy Ghost is a vital strength for kids to carry throughout their early lives, as we constantly say we do—perhaps especially during adolescence—or do we now profess a casual certainty that all of those lost years will be compensated for in adulthood?

I mean if nothing is lost, why not require all children to wait until age 18 to get baptized?  Zelph on the Shelf noted


Also, the church thought a 14-year-old (well, several) was old enough to get married to a 36-year-old man, which certainly caused her distress and conflict. Why can’t a 14-year-old be old enough to get baptized into a church most people join at 8?

Jana continues,

A second point. Do we imagine that children born in same-sex marriage are the only ones for whom church membership or baptism can be contested questions?

We suddenly are evincing all this pastoral concern for children who might be forced to choose between the gospel and the way their parents are living. Meanwhile, thousands of kids in other situations learn to negotiate such circumstances all the time, including children with one parent who is LDS and another who is not (as in my own family). Yet we baptize those kids if that’s their desire and if both parents give permission.

Zelph on the shelf agrees.

My parents let me drink alcohol from the age of like… 12. They were not religious at all. They regularly told me reasons the church was bad. They also encouraged “having sex with enough people to figure out who you’re compatible with”, and only one of them gave me permission to get baptized. That was good enough for the church, who are absolutely fine with kids leaving the majority of their parents’ religions, lifestyles, and beliefs in order to join the church. There are endless other scenarios where a child is taught differently at home than at church.

There is even a blog post from Mormon Women Stand (I can’t believe I am actually sending people to that website) titled I Am the Daughter of Lesbians, and I Am a Mormon.  Isn’t this proof that lesbianism doesn’t rub off on children?  I mean Brandi Walton was able to live in an unprotected lesbian family, and still chose the church.  She joined the church despite the lack of this policy, and is living proof that she didn’t need this policy to protect her.  (The article notes “She, and her wonderful husband Matt, have four children, with a fifth on the way, and an old, lazy dog.“)

Furthermore, lots of children get mixed messages between home and church.  I mean we let inactive dads baptize their children if they quit smoking for a week.  We let cohabiting couples remain in sin and don’t deny their children baptism.   We don’t kick children of single parents out of the church. We don’t kick children of smokers or alcoholics out of the church. Why aren’t we protecting them with a similar policy?  This is just bad reasoning, and the policy doesn’t hold up to Jesus’ actions in scripture.

A Thoughtful Faith has a podcast that talks about possible legal issues that may have led the lawyers Oaks and Christofferson to embrace this policy to avoid liability issues.  There may be liability issues, but surely the First Presidency and Q12 could come up with a more pastoral policy rather than a legal one.

Not only does the policy violate ancient scripture, it violates modern scripture.  Jana Reiss is hitting home runs.  In another post, she writes

In the LDS Church, children born out of wedlock can be blessed, baptized, and approved to serve a mission.

Children born to rapists can be blessed, baptized, and approved to serve a mission.

Even children born to murderers can be blessed, baptized, and approved to serve a mission.

But children born to faithful, loving, monogamous couples in a same-sex marriage or other committed relationship will henceforth be excluded from all three of those things.

Last night it was revealed that the new LDS administrative handbook has revised some of its policies, including ones on same-sex marriages and relationships.

Same-sex couples who are married or cohabit together are now defined as living in “apostasy,” and same-sex marriage is listed as one of several conditions that mandate a church disciplinary council. Whereas in the past, bishops and stake presidents had some leeway about whether to impose church discipline, now they will be required to discipline any LGBT church member who is married to or living with a partner of the same sex.

Now let’s talk about church discipline.  In case you can’t read the graphic, Gay Marriage is considered “Mandatory” Discipline, apparently worse than the following sins which “may” require church discipline:

  • attempted murder
  • forcible rape
  • sexual abuse
  • spousal abuse
  • intentional serious physical injury of others
  • adultery
  • fornication,
  • homosexual relations (especially sexual cohabitation)
  • deliberate abandonment of family responsibilities

So Gay Marriage, something legal in the land is deemed worse than attempted murder and forcible rape?  Come on!  This is not a policy of inspiration, and to quote Matthew 18 “Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!”  And Woe to those who created these policies!

1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,

And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

¶Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!

 So here’s a challenge for you.  Please tell me where the scriptures support a policy restricting children of sinful parents to be denied baptism until age 18.  Also tell me why gay marriage is worse than attempted murder or forcible rape.  I expect crickets on these two challenges, but I’d love to hear someone attempt to defend these indefensible policies.