On the 5th of November in 2015, I understand that many folks (primarily in the UK) were celebrating Guy Fawkes Night (or Bonfire Night, or even Gunpowder Treason Day). As a boorish American, I admit my profound ignorance about this holiday. Probably like many boorish Americans, I only ever heard of Guy Fawkes from the film V for Vendetta (yes, the film. I definitely wasn’t around for the original comic.)
Even today, I am uncertain as to the prominence in UK culture today. I searched quickly before writing this post (“quickly” because it feels like every moment that passes is a moment where relevance will decline faster than the value a car first driven off the lot…every moment a moment where minor history threatens to be lost to time itself) to see if my intuition that the holiday would be treated similarly to how Independence Day is here were approximately correct. But the articles I found were…complicated. I am now aware that Guy Fawkes has political and religious undertones (err…I mean, beyond the surface level political undertones of attempted regicide). That complication, as well as proximity to other holidays like Halloween, probably justifiably make Guy Fawkes night less popular in the UK than Independence Day is here in the states.
When I think about events that have political and religious undertones on November 5th, I don’t think about any overtly governmental events (…election day typically doesn’t fall on November 5th, and in any case, 2015 would have been an off year.)
Instead of “remember remember”ing the 5th of November for a gunpowder treason and plot that should never be forgot (and which I would never have even learned from across the pond, were it not for a film and wikipedia — do UK folks wonder how many people never learn of the gunpowder plot?), I, on the other hand, remember something else that is also politically and religiously complicated.
(I certainly wonder how many people will never even learn of the thing I remember, because it is likely to never feature in any comics, films, or really, much of anything beyond a few extremely niche news and blog articles as a curiosity about an extremely niche subgroup of mostly Americans.)
The Policy of Exclusion
I, like many folks within the constellation of Mormonism (the culture, community, and religion surrounding the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), remember November 5th, 2015 as the day when church leaders announced stark new policies regarding the status of those in same-sex marriages (or comparable relationships) as being apostates to the church, and policies noting that the children of a parent or parents in such a relationship must be excluded from baptism in the church.
Per the above link (about which I am just paranoid enough to fear that it may be tampered, edited, or otherwise lost to the future — and with it, perhaps even our very memories themselves lost to the ravages of time), I remember November 6th, 2015 as the day when the church’s Newsroom interviewed Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles regarding this policy. I remember noting that Elder Christofferson’s own brother Tom is gay, had formerly been in a long-term same-sex relationship, but had recently ended that relationship to rejoin the church. I remember that within days of the announcement of the policy, Tom was interviewed frequently enough that of course, many would speculate that Elder Christofferson’s selection to speak to the Newsroom had some greater meaning.
I noted that Elder Christofferson spoke of this as a policy. The word revelation was never mentioned, but words like practice and doctrine were. But even in his answers were implications of what the Savior wants, what can and cannot change, and what must be firm. To quote from this article:
So it’s a matter of being clear; it’s a matter of understanding right and wrong; it’s a matter of a firm policy that doesn’t allow for question or doubt. We think it’s possible and mandatory, incumbent upon us as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, to yield no ground in the matter of love and sympathy and help and brotherhood and serving in doing all we can for anybody; at the same time maintaining the standards He maintained. That was the Savior’s pattern. He always was firm in what was right and wrong. He never excused or winked at sin. He never redefined it. He never changed His mind. It was what it was and is what it is and that’s where we are, but His compassion, of course, was unexcelled and His desire and willingness and proactive efforts to minister, to heal, to bless, to lift and to bring people toward the path that leads to happiness never ceased.Elder D. Todd Christofferson, “Church Provides Context on Handbook Changes Affecting Same-Sex Marriages,” LDS Newsroom, 6 November 2015.
I don’t remember how soon this policy became known colloquially as the “PoX” — policy of exclusion — but I remember that it did.
I remember conversations where even faithful Latter-day Saints were taken aback by the starkness of the policy. I remember that the policy had originally been leaked, and that some people thought it was a hoax. I remember seeing and hearing the process by which many of the people who had initially been taken aback came to accept the policy and to rationalize its correctness. I remember seeing and hearing the process by which many other people finally decided to resign their membership in protest of this policy.
But there were other things that unfolded afterward, other things I remember. I remember that in a clarification a week later, the church First Presidence added the term “revealed” to mentions of doctrine:
Revealed doctrine is clear that families are eternal in nature and purpose. We are obligated to act with that perspective for the welfare of both adults and children. The newly added Handbook provisions affirm that adults who choose to enter into a same-gender marriage or similar relationship commit sin that warrants a Church disciplinary council.“First Presidency Clarifies Church Handbook Changes,” LDS.org, 13 November 2015.
I remember that there had always been debates about whether The Family: A Proclamation to the World was a revelation or not. I remember there had always been debates about how far this spoke against same-sex marriage rather than just speaking for heteronormative marriages. I remember reading the debates from people who interpreted the Proclamation in a way that could maybe also provide room for LGB, or maybe just T folks. I remember that there was and has been a messy line between revelation, policy, doctrine, proclamations.
But I remember when church leaders started speaking of this policy in terms of revelation. In his January 2016 broadcast to millennial members of the church, then-apostle Russell M Nelson spoke of the LGBT policy in terms of the “prophetic process,” “revelation from the Lord to His servants,” something that each of the apostles received spiritual confirmation for what had been revealed to President Monson.
And I remember thinking: is this really what the church wants to use as an example of revelation?
Reversing the Policy
So now, on April 4th, 2019, the news is that the policy has been reversed. What is there to think? What is there to feel?
It feels like it’s important to write something down. It feels like it’s important to document what was happening as it happens, or else it will be lost forever. It feels like it’s important to remember, remember, the 5th of November.
Maybe this impulse to journal is just evidence of lingering Mormon socialization.
But, now that we are here, I don’t know what to think or feel. I do find it curious that even this policy changed is caveated. How should we process the fact that even the statements the church has released preserve the complicated array of policies, vs doctrines, vs revelations? Per the LDS Newsroom:
These new policies are being sent to priesthood leaders worldwide and will be included in online updates to our Church handbook for leaders. These changes do not represent a shift in Church doctrine related to marriage or the commandments of God in regard to chastity and morality. The doctrine of the plan of salvation and the importance of chastity will not change. These policy changes come after an extended period of counseling with our brethren in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and after fervent, united prayer to understand the will of the Lord on these matters.“First Presidency Shares Messages From General Conference Leadership Session,” LDS Newsroom, 4 April 2019.
What does it mean for a policy that formerly was associated as revelation to be removed by “new policies”? If these policy changes came after prayer to understand the will of the Lord, are they revelation? When they emphasize that there is no shift in Church doctrines related to marriage, chastity, and morality, is this meant to imply that the understanding of marriage, chastity, and morality could never change — even through revelation? Or just…not yet? That they are focusing on the fundamentals (that marriage is important, that chastity is important) and not so much on the details (whose marriage?)
What does it mean to say that same-sex marriage is still a serious transgression, but not apostasy? Is it up to every bishop? What does it mean to say that “the immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated in the same way” when there has never been anything that states that a heterosexual relationship itself is immoral as there have for homosexual relationships?
Of the many things I remember, there are some things I do not. Things that feel conspicuous. I remember the feelings of so many others, feelings that moved many to rethink their faiths, or their engagement in the religion. But I do not remember much about my own feelings about the policy back in the 5th of November, 2015. I wrote about it back then, but from a relatively neutral perspective that gives little insight to what I was feeling. And now, my precise thoughts, feelings, and memories are probably locked away behind much less searchable Facebook threads…or perhaps lost to time itself.
I suspect that perhaps I don’t remember so much about my feelings because I did not have as strong of feelings as those who were taken aback. Perhaps I was numbed to anything the church could do to LGBT people? Perhaps, even back then, I had ceased to be surprised by anything the church would do to or for LGBT members, because to allow myself to experience anything else would have been too vulnerable. The difference between members who were taken aback (and members who resigned!) and myself is that they still had expectations about the church — expectations that could be betrayed or upended.
But even as I hear this news this April day, which so many others are finding so very joyous and positive, I cannot help but still feel numbed. Maybe one day, I will look back and say instead that I remember feeling inspired that this was the first step to a more accepting church.
Andrew: your blog posts are always thoughtful, personal, and evocative. They always make me look inside myself; they illuminate the “rats in my cellar” (to paraphrase C.S. Lewis). Thank you for the thoughts and feelings you have shared. I am grateful for what you always teach me.
Thoughtful comments. But I had to admit that my first thoughts were for those that were utterly shamed at the confusion they felt and the disbelieve they felt at the thought of children not being baptized because their parents were gay. Why would we send young men and women all over the world to sacrifice and sweat over a single baptism – yet deny the ordinance to worthy young men and women here at home. Many of us recognized it as a mistake, and today felt like an acknowledgement of such. But then again, no one really acknowledged the mistake. I know people whose recommends were canceled for voicing the opinions in classes that this was a mistake. My first thoughts really went to them.
Both my wife and I served full time missions. Both of us BYU graduates. Had been raising our kids in the church. Wife the YW President. I was in the stake presidency. All-in, baby. No neglected vineyard for us. Then the POX. Rocked our world. Our eyes were opened. No one is at the wheel. We are not coming back.
Thank you Andrew for wanting to somehow not let this go down the memory hole. Something really bad happened in Nov 2015. Something that someone needs to own. And don’t blame it on the God and continuing revelation. Not his fault, old men.
The PoX was bound to be overturned–it is not Christian. I was surprised it happened so soon, especially during President Nelson’s tenure. We went down the wrong road for three years, a road Nelson said was divinely affirmed. Thousands have left the church or are dead because of this path our leadership took. Like you, I feel numb. The leadership can now reverse direction, but my confidence in their leadership is forever eroded.
Thanks for sharing Andrew. I am torn up on this. Some good feelings mixed in with an unhealed scab being poked.
Almost everybody except old folks are going to view this policy change as positive. And among those people, we will see two groups: one that downplays the revelation 2015 vs revelation controversy, and one that focuses on that. I can’t help but be a part of the latter. In sum, I like the changes because I didn’t like the POX. But I am very uncomfortable with revelation claims that contradict “revelation” 3.5 years old.
Some members will be bothered by all of this but will not voice their discomfort out of a sense of duty. But their discomfort is real.
Up at the top of the blog it says the 15th was the day when church leaders announced. I thought it was leaked.
I was impressed by the apology that accompanied this announcement.
If God were in any way involved with this, it was to test whethermembers were followers of Christ, or of men claiming to be prophets. But I don’t believe he sacrifices some of his children to teach others.
Still confused about whether the church is now recognising gay marriages or not?
I do tend to find the Utah Church’s teaching to be somewhat hung up on the « the World’s standards may change, but God’s standards will never change » maxim, with the sheer arrogance that the Church’s standards are presumed to be God’s standards (they are the Church’s *present understanding* of God’s standards, but that isn’t the same thing).
There seems to be a prevailing teaching that the “World” is getting worse: failing, in fine, to realise that the potential vices of the present are not so great as to warrent cherishing the vices of the past against the virtues of the present.
Finally, as OP seemed to be worried about the potential for Newsroom gaslighting: if I need to keep a publically accessible ledger of what a web page said at a given time, I tend to find saving it in Archive.Today and/or WebCitation (WebCite) is helpful.
I am tired of being a “fence sitter”. I read the comments on this and other posts from the past 24+ hours, and so many are indicative of mixed feelings, i.e., sitting on that fence. I am the same. I was angry when this happened in November 2015, and almost quit going to church. Almost. But I kept plugging along, feeling angry and betrayed. My anger eventually slowed to a simmer. And now, here we are with another “revelation”. I do not understand (or comprehend) how we got to this? I am embarrassed for the church and I am bewildered that this kind of thing keeps happening. My LGBTQ brothers and sisters have every right to NEVER want to be a part of any of it, with or without the latest news.
And announced by Dallin Oaks, who has been one of the most outspoken critics. He is scheduled to be next in line as Prophet. I’m trying to think about his future “revelations”.
I know. I sound a bit cynical and bitter. I just don’t get it. What have we gained? Where do we go from here?
I offer the following answers to your questions:
“What does it mean to say that same-sex marriage is still a serious transgression, but not apostasy?”
Strictly speaking, marriage is just a piece of paper.
It becomes apostasy when it is declared to be that; otherwise it is just a piece of paper. Joining another church isn’t a sin, but it is unquestionably apostasy from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
If today the church declared that wearing black shoes was apostasy then everyone makes a choice whether to continue wearing black shoes or accept that one does not actually “follow the prophet” in all things.
“Is it up to every bishop? “
So it seems. A celibate same sex marriage does not violate sexual moral laws and might be engaged for legal or tax purposes.
“.. when there has never been anything that states that a heterosexual relationship itself is immoral as there have for homosexual relationships?”
Adultery is a serious and common heterosexual sin.
Here’s an interesting item that might be relevant. Someone sued over being excommunicated and WON. That’s extraordinary, and bizarre.
Final decision by the Supreme Court of Oklahoma, January 1989
Marian Guinn, a member of the Church of Christ of Collinsville, OK, hand delivered her resignation to the minister after he told her he was going to excommunicate her for fornication. The minister refused to honor the resignation, went ahead with the excommunication and then announced it from the pulpit. Guinn sued and was awarded $390,000. On appeal the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that Guinn’s resignation was effective immediately and that anything the church or the minister did after the minister received Guinn’s resignation was tortable. In other words, she could sue for anything they did after she resigned. The court ruled that with her resignation Guinn withdrew her consent to being treated as a member and she withdrew her consent to being subject to church discipline.
Well I don’t understand that but apparently its a new thing. How can there be church discipline for a non-member? Would the non-member even NOTICE?
I decided to study further this case of recovering damages from an excommunication. “11 For the torts of outrage and invasion of privacy Parishioner recovered actual and punitive damages from the three Elders and from the Collinsville Church of Christ.” [https:]//law.justia.com/cases/oklahoma/supreme-court/1989/10494.html
So it wasn’t the excommunication per se that produced this legal outcome, it was rather more like ordinary libel and slander from the pulpit and rather a lot of behavior that resembles stalking and, were it performed today, would probably be criminal not just civil.
I have not encountered that in any Mormon ward I have attended. Excommunication is rare and the announcement tends to be limited to a declaration that so-and-so has either withdrawn membership or been excommunicated as a way to alert ward members to NOT presume upon their neighbors willingness or ability to participate in the next ward banquet.
I remember reading about the excommunication vs resignation question and reading the analysis about — not just for the Guinn case, but also for the Hancock case that preceded the Guinn case and that involved the LDS church.
My understanding is that prior to the 1985 Hancock case/settlement, the only way to “leave” the LDS church was by excommunication. As you observe, there are social consequences in many religions for “excommunication.”
Even to this day, the LDS church treats name removal/resignation different from excommunication. You might think it reasonable for it to do so, but excommunication is annotated in a particular way in member records (for example, in case the excommunicated member ever wishes to rejoin, they have to go through another disciplinary council. )
So, especially with LGBT members, disciplinary action for same-sex relationships is annotated in their records, and these annotations are interpreted by many leaders as disallowing them from any callings with youth.
Even to this day, when members try to resign, the church generally doesn’t want to accept it at first notice. They’ll say things like, “Well, you need to talk to your bishop first” or you need to talk to someone first. But the black letter law is different: after resignation, there should be nothing more required.
Moroni 9:4 (paraphrased for the modern progressive audience)
“Behold, I am laboring with them continually; and when I speak the word of God [that same sex marriage is apostasy] they tremble and anger against me; and when I [say that it is a serious transgression] they harden their hearts against it [and wonder how long until the Church is performing same-sex marriages in the temples]; wherefore, I fear lest the Spirit of the Lord hath ceased striving with them.”
You remember, remember the days of November for the wrong reasons. The Supreme Court had just recognized a constitutional right to same-sex marriage (a judicial atrocity of fiat litigation). As so, to make unambiguous the reality that same-sex marriage does not mask the sin of homosexual behavior, the policy was given. No ambiguity was provided — to ensure no mistakes, the word of God was spoken with sharpness, and (as expected) it caused many to tremble and anger against the leadership of the Church. Remember, remember the days of November when it became clear that same-sex marriage is not the eternal destiny of mankind.
We are now a few years later. The Church comes out and, hoping the message to have been received, reiterates the truth but with less sharpness and (as expected) there are those who harden their hearts against it. There are those back to wondering how long it will be until the Church recognizes same-sex marriages despite the obvious language that this does not change the doctrine, homosexual sex (in or out of marriage) is still a serious transgression, and this will not change. My goodness, the obstinate insistence of some that a Church led by God and with millions of members bend to their will demonstrates extraordinary narcissism!
Look, to those who are saying this “proves” the Church isn’t led by Christ (an absurd piece of wish fulfillment — read Joshua for Pete’s sake to find revelation being rescinded in a much shorter timeframe [not to mention the Law of Consecration being replaced with the Law of Tithing — do you think either were not revelations or that we are somehow closer to God for the first being released and the second put in place?]) then that makes the Church nothing more than a social club. Don’t like the club? Find somewhere else. We want you here, but we want you here in the sense of participating and building and partaking of the joy and blessings that the Church has to offer…not being hypercritical just because your social organization (the Church) disagrees with your religious faith (progressivism). I’ve got no time for either liberals or conservatives who see their politics as primary and their faith as secondary.
If, on the other hand, you believe that the Church is led by Christ then sooner or later you have to acknowledge that these are the leaders He wanted in this position. He didn’t turn around one day at the Celestial coffee (or Pero) table and suddenly realize that President Oaks preached against homosexual sex. He knows who President Oaks is, and He knew who President Oaks would be all the way back when He called Him to this position. And if your political or social views are impervious to the exhortations of people called by God to provide direction, then it is time to recognize your most deeply held principles are your political and social views. Guess what? They aren’t going with you in the afterlife — you are betting on the wrong horse.
Nations, cultures, politics, social norms — the life of these ideas are to ours as the life of a gnat. But whether we choose to follow Christ? That is the question with which we should daily wrestle with awe and circumspection (with apologize to C. S. Lewis for the paraphrase).
“The Lord has taught us an important lesson today. Because we were prompted to take the road to the left, we quickly discovered which one was the right one. When we turned around and got on the right road, I was able to travel along its many unfamiliar twists and turnoffs perfectly confident I was headed in the right direction.
“If we had started on the right road, we might have driven for 30 minutes or so, become uneasy with the unfamiliar surroundings, and been tempted to turn back. If we had done that, we would have discovered the dead-end so late that it would have been too dark to find our way back in totally unfamiliar territory.” -Elder Holland
Maybe now that they’ve found the road they were on is a dead end, they can fully commit to the unfamiliar road they are on now.
I will be honest and admit that I am totally weirded out by some of the logic (here and other places) on why the quick ‘reveal then revoke’ is evidence that Christ is at the helm. And I’m a little tired of ‘You just don’t understand right’ when what is more correct is ‘You and I don’t agree.’
Susan Brown asks “What have we gained? Where do we go from here?”
In all seriousness I suggest that there is no “we”. Choose where YOU wish to go, and then go there. It will have been enjoyable to walk together for a while until the road forks. I keep thinking of Lord of the Rings when the Quest is falling apart.
“I will be honest and admit that I am totally weirded out by some of the logic (here and other places) on why the quick ‘reveal then revoke’ is evidence that Christ is at the helm”
I have no idea what would constitute that evidence. Not even the apostles who walked with Christ had “evidence” of it. https://biblehub.com/matthew/16-17.htm
Consider that Jesus chose for one of his disciples, one of his apostles, his own betrayer and knew in advance it would be so! What shall one make of that? Many speculations exist but one thing seems fairly certain; his thoughts are not my thoughts. I don’t know why he does what he does but he has presumably good reasons.
I tend to think that CNN’s got this one right. https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/05/us/mormon-policy-reversal/index.html This reversal largely puts the church into a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” situation. In the US at least, that ended up being a short step away from acceptance. Will that happen here? I doubt it, but you never know what’s next. I’m trying to figure out what the heck happened, though. I have competing theories:
1) Nelson authored the policy under cover of an ailing TSM. Then as Pres, he could reverse it without it seeming like he was being inconsistent. Perhaps the cooler heads that prevailed said it would be hailed as a relief and a triumph for his presidency. I dunno.
2) This was the death throes of unquestioned homophobic assumptions (?), and it ended up being serious overreach resulting in better education for our leaders due to a groundswell of outrage from mainstream members, particularly those with family members who are gay.
3) The PoX weeded out the most progressive people and also the majority of gay Mormons and people with close gay relatives (children in particular). The reversal will weed out the fundamentalist zealots and weirdos and send them into Julie Rowe’s waiting arms. What’s left will be a (sort of) middle ground group. This one makes me uncomfortable because I definitely identify more with the progressives who left than I do with the ones who literally said “Anything church leaders say is OK with me no matter what it is,” so I’m now on the shoreline of the new church membership. I mean, I was close, but it’s not a great place to be, a nudge away from the edge of the tent.
4) This “whiplash” as CNN calls it will shake people of their ridiculous notion that church leaders are infallible or can never lead this church astray.
5) This makes managing the “gay issue” a more local affair, one that can be dictated a bit more by local congregations’ (but really their bishops) tolerance and acceptance–which kind of happens now anyway–but will give them more cover if they deviate in either direction. The revision really was written with weasel words that can be taken either way. I’m going to guess KM had a hand.
HarJIT says “with the sheer arrogance that the Church’s standards are presumed to be God’s standards”
Hallelujah! I cannot imagine attending and sacrificing time and money to a church that was unsure of itself.
At any rate, I believe that God appoints standards for the church that are not HIS standards, that is to say, standards for himself. God’s Standards are probably impossible for mortals to obey, so watered down versions of those standards are given to mortals depending on circumstances.
Angela, I don’t understand how the change put the Church in a “don’t ask, don’t tell” position. The change continues to classify same sex relations as serious sin. No change has been announced to:
“When a Disciplinary Council May Be Necessary
… It includes (but is not limited to) attempted murder, forcible rape, sexual abuse, spouse abuse, intentional serious physical injury of others, adultery, fornication, homosexual relations (especially sexual cohabitation), deliberate abandonment of family responsibilities, …”
No change has been suggested to the often repeated pressure to confess serious sin to one’s bishop or the teaching that such confession is necessary to repentance and forgiveness.
The announcement did make it clear that consent of custodial gay parents must be informed consent — that is informed about what the Church will be teaching children about same-sex relations.
Can you explain how that adds up to “don’t ask, don’t tell”? I haven’t been able to.
I have also thought up competing theories — some sufficiently outlandish as to not bear repeating. I have not thought of your numbers 1 and 2. As to your second, I assume you are aware that the senior leadership of the Church includes more prominent mainstream members with gay relatives than Todd Christofferson. But, yes, the groundswell may be what got their attention.
In response to Angela’s cite “4) This “whiplash” as CNN calls it will shake people of their ridiculous notion that church leaders are infallible or can never lead this church astray.”
Reporting by CNN of future events is sometimes exaggerated.
It does not even seem as whip-lashy as the housecleaning in 1980 or so when inactive members were removed from the roles of the church and then suddenly merely being inactive was not a cause for excommunication or name-removal.
Perhaps it is my military career, but the leader of the church is just and exactly that — the leader of the church. I join the church, it does not join me. But I am free to un-join if I wish, free to participate as much or as little as I wish.
This is because the old policy (that the church is returning to) did not require a disciplinary. That is the difference between “when a disciplinary council may be necessary” and “when a disciplinary council is necessary”.
Pre-policy, there absolutely, empirically were bishops that allowed people with same-sex relationships attend and participate without disciplinary action. Leadership roulette goes both ways, it turns out.
JR: The policy was “outing” gay couples by calling them apostates which required a disciplinary council. While it’s true that leaving it as a serious transgression still puts them in the cross-hairs should they confess, it is no longer a case of their every move being under a microscope. At least that’s how I see it. That coupled with the phrase that it is now the same whether you are hetero or homosexual, that sex is only within the bonds of marriage (with a later caveat that it’s just man/woman marriage), it leaves room for a bishop to pause and use his own reasonable judgment.
Andrew, Got it. I had understood the allegation to be that the Church as a whole was in a “don’t ask, don’t tell” position by fiat from SLC. That’s quite different from having a general policy that allows local leaders to take a “don’t ask, don’t tell” position. (Some did even in the face of the policy naming those in same sex marriages as apostates.)
Angela, I’m probably just being picky about accuracy, but the now rescinded policy did not out “gay couples” by requiring a disciplinary council. Instead, it required a disciplinary council as to members in same sex marriages. There have been and are a number of gay couples who are not married. There has been no change as to the handbook’s saying a disciplinary council “may be necessary” as to those not married. But I now get the point — the don’t ask, don’t tell position is essentially an option for local leadership even as to those same sex couples who do marry. Thanks.
The point is…there will be more latitude for bishops to choose how accepting of gay folks whether cohabiting, married, whatever, they want to be in their wards. It will definitely be a leadership roulette thing, for sure, though.
I did want to address your point to Angela. it’s not true that the exclusion policy only applied to same-sex marriages. In the November 13th “clarification” on the policy ( https://www.lds.org/pages/church-handbook-changes?lang=eng ), the church expanded the charge of apostasy:
Maybe there’s ambiguity in terms of what counts as a “similar relationship” but I will note that this language change was also applied in changing the policy regarding children.
The original policy for children was:
In the clarification, this was harmonized to:
So, the original policy regarding apostasy was originally narrower, and the original policy regarding the children was originally very broad, and after clarifying, both were taken to that “same-gender marriage or similar relationship” level. Where is that middle? It’s more than marriage, for sure. But here, the leadership roulette tips instead to at what point do you (or, more likely, a bishop) consider someone in a same-sex relationship not to be in a “similar relationship” as marriage?
Andrew, It is true that the mandatory disciplinary council for apostasy applied only to same sex marriages and not to same sex co-habitation. The rest of what you outlined is correct.
The apostasy language and the part of the policy about children are what were changed by the recent announcemtn. The earlier “clarification” letter primarily addressed the children. It did not expand the special purpose “apostasy” definition beyond same sex marriage to include similar relationships. Its reference to a disciplinary council being “warrant[ed]” for a “same-gender marriage or similar relationship” is best read as a simple description of the policy that it “may be necessary” for such similar relationships and was “required” for same-sex marriages. You have shown, however, that it could be read by an over-zealous bishop to have pushed “sexual cohabitation” out of the “may be necessary” category into the “required” category, even though there was no statement of any such intent. I did not say at any point that the exclusion policy applied only to same-sex marriages. It was the apostasy definition, a part of the exclusion policy, that applied only to same-sex marriages — unless “warranted” in the clarification letter were read to mean “required.”
The announced change is to the part of the policy related to children and the part related to apostasy. That leaves “sexual cohabitation” (whether within legal marriage or not) a matter as to which a disciplinary council “may be necessary.” Of course, it remains to be seen what the specific language of the revised policy will say. On the whole subject, the Church has so far a pretty clear record of either failing to say what it means or changing its rule under the guise of “clarifying” what it had said. I hope someone will somewhere “leak” the actual revised language of those sections of Handbook 1. If they have, I haven’t found them yet. Maybe we’ll find we can read the revised sections multiple ways as well.
It just seems strange to me that in a document where they are trying to provide clarification, they would provide additional language beyond same-gender marriage regarding disciplinary councils warranted for *the participants in the marriage or similar relationships*.
If they wanted to only clarify for the children, then they would not have needed to make any different statement regarding the adults, especially since it adds different language (“or similar relationships”) that is not previously discussed with respect to the adults.
Definitely hope there will be a leak on the revised sections, but I agree there will almost assuredly be multiple ways to read this as well, *especially* given the statements in public that seem to ‘equalize’ heterosexual and homosexual immoral conduct, when the rules regarding what counts as immoral conduct quite simply aren’t the same between homosexual and heterosexual relationships.
Look, one of the requirements of good policy formation is that the resulting policy and requirements are workable. They have to work reasonably well in practice, in the real world, to be effective. The problem I see with the new approach is that it is, in many ways, unworkable. First, it seems to hold out that “the immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated in the same way,” which misleads a lot of people into thinking maybe gay and hetero married couples will be treated the same. So it is confusing and misleading. Second, it puts bishops in the difficult position of either playing “don’t ask, don’t tell” or in having to conduct sex police investigations on gay couples. Or worse, simply impose church discipline with no evidence other than a hunch or a feeling. Third, it invites more bishop roulette — the rules gay persons and gay married couples actually live under is going to vary from ward to ward, with no way of knowing in advance what those rules actually are.
I understand that the leadership is in a difficult position, but that’s partly of their own making. I understand they don’t want to offend the mainstream membership, but the possibility of offending people is not supposed to prevent a leader from doing the right thing. I do think the new policy is a step in the right direction. But you can’t put a policy into effect that is ambiguous and likely to create new problems, then celebrate the new policy as a winner. It succeeds as a PR olive branch and gives a measure of relief to many individuals and families within the Church who have struggled with the new policy (a lot of people). But strictly in terms of a well-fashioned and workable policy, this fails. This won’t be the last revision to the policy.
It is (still) taking me a long time to process the totality of my feelings about this obviously good step, and the backhanded way it is bring handled with a sorry-not-sorry vibe.
I’ll just day for more, that it feels like for three years someone has been announcing “The beatings will continue until moral improves,” followed by a quiet, “oh fine, be that way.”
Sigh. Typos. Sorry.
Andrew, I am grateful I discovered this post, it was honest and compassionate and precise in the call to remember. Before the pox was rescinded I wrote a poem about how the pox made me feel. Your post inspired me to explicate this connection and to add tags like “remember November 5” to my poem post. This will help me remember. Here is the link to my poem.
We want to reduce the hate and contention so common today,” said LDS President Dallin Oaks. All homosexual or same-sex sexual activity is forbidden by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Visit: https://charlestonchristianvoice.com/christianity-endures-in-afghanistan-despite-taliban-rule
It took four years to reverse a widely criticized policy related to gay marriage. That isn’t as long as you’d think. As everyone in my life knows, I was 100% dedicated to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its doctrine.