This Sunday, November 5, marks the second anniversary of the Church’s exclusion policy. The policy that was established in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing same-sex marriage in June of that year. The policy that declares members in same-sex marriages to be in apostasy and makes a disciplinary council mandatory. The policy that excludes the children of a parent living in a same-sex relationship from receiving church ordinances unless and until the child: has reached the age of 18; does not live with the parent; “specifically disavows” same-sex relationships; and receives approval from the First Presidency. [1]

The policy hit my family and me in a very personal way – so much so, that I felt compelled to write a letter of objection to my church leaders at the time. My wife and I have served faithfully in the church all our lives and raised our six children (three boys, three girls) that way. All three boys served missions and two of our daughters and one son have married in the temple. But it just so happens that two of our sons are gay. Both served honorable missions, graduated from BYU and are intelligent, thoughtful and spiritual young men. After much soul searching, neither of them felt God calling them to a life of celibacy. They both desire the same thing their parents and married siblings have – a companion whom they can love and cherish and spend their lives with. Before the policy, they had hoped they could still find a place in the church, even if that meant giving up full fellowship and equal treatment. But being officially labeled an apostate made that hope unlikely.

And what of our grandchildren? If our gay sons give us grandchildren at some point in the future, church milestones will no longer have the binding, unifying influence they once had in our family. Quite the opposite, while some of our grandkids will look forward excitedly to baptisms, the gift of the Holy Ghost, priesthood ordinations and missions, the children of our gay sons will be excluded, knowing they aren’t allowed to celebrate these milestones along with their cousins because of something their dads did. How do you explain that to a child? The church that has built its image on “the family” has put a giant wedge in my family.

In the two years since that dark day, it’s been interesting to see how the policy has actually been enforced. I have heard of only a few instances of leaders seeking out same-sex couples for mandatory disciplinary hearings. On the other hand, I know of a number of stake presidents and bishops who have explicitly expressed that they will not enforce the policy or who have not felt impressed to take action on same-sex couples in their stakes and wards. At the same time, we have Tom Christofferson’s new book, published by Deseret Book, that shows a faithful LDS family who loved and accepted their gay family member and his partner, and included them in all family activities without restriction – quite the opposite message of the policy.

These examples indicate that much of the membership is not fully buying into the policy, even if Elder Nelson tried to stave off the leaks and rumors surrounding its origination by claiming it was “revealed to President Monson.” But his claim brings to mind an oft-cited example for testing prophetic pronouncements in this statement from President J. Reuben Clark:

I say it illustrates a principle – that even the President of the Church, himself, may not always be ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost,’ when he addresses the people. This has happened about matters of doctrine (usually of a highly speculative character) where subsequent Presidents of the Church and the peoples themselves have felt that in declaring the doctrine, the announcer was not ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost.’

How shall the Church know when these adventurous expeditions of the brethren into these highly speculative principles and doctrines meet the requirements of the statutes that the announcers thereof have been ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’? The Church will know by the testimony of the Holy Ghost in the body of the members, whether the brethren in voicing their views are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’; and in due time that knowledge will be made manifest. [2]

What I take from this is that, contrary to what most members may think about the infallibility of prophetic statements, policies and even revelations, such utterances are not automatically God’s words. They must be sustained and felt as such by the “body of the members.” And that is also why I believe the prophet can’t lead the membership astray – because the membership won’t permit it.

What does this mean for the policy? It may stay in the Handbook for some time yet, but if local leaders and the membership ignore it, it becomes of no effect and will ultimately be consigned to the dust heap of past statements, policies and revelations that we no longer remember or follow.


[1] A “clarification” – which was really a partial retraction – issued a week later stated that the restrictions “apply only to those children whose primary residence is with a couple living in a same-gender marriage or similar relationship.”

[2] J. Reuben Clark Jr., as cited by D. Todd Christofferson, “The Doctrine of Christ,” April 2012 General Conference; see also, James E. Faust, “The Truth Shall Make You Free,” New Era, March 1975; Ensign, July 1981; Ensign, September 1998.