In November 2015 a new church policy was leaked and upset many members of the church and those outside the church. It became known as the November Policy of Exclusion. It affected those who are LGBTQ+ allies and family and friends by prohibiting children of same-sex married couples from being baptized or blessed at church (without the approval of the First Presidency). It also deemed same-gender marriages as apostasy and required a mandatory disciplinary council. The policy was defended and defended and then even called revelation by apostle Russell M. Nelson. They stood behind it even though it was damaging to both members of the church and the image of the church.
Then unexpectedly in April 2019, church leaders reversed this policy of exclusion. They claim they “knew that this policy created concern and confusion for some and heartache for others” but didn’t take any responsibility for this concern. Children of same-sex married couples could again be baptized into the church and receive a blessing (without the special First Presidency Approval). They no longer deemed same-sex marriage as apostasy requiring church discipline. They again claimed revelation drove the policy “revisions,” which in effect was a full reversal of the 2015 policy revisions, also driven by revelation. They also wanted to make it known that both policy changes were motivated by love!
In November 2015, the church updated its policies regarding those in legal same-sex unions, stating that such couples are apostates from the church. These policies also barred such couples’ children—either adopted or biological—from being baptized, confirmed, ordained, or participating in mission service until reaching adulthood and obtaining permission from the First Presidency. The church revised its policy again on April 4, 2019, stating that couples in legal same-sex unions would no longer be considered apostate, and that “children of parents who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender may be baptized without First Presidency approval, if the custodial parents give permission for the baptism and understand both the doctrine that a baptized child will be taught and the covenants he or she will be expected to make.”Homosexuality and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Wikipedia
Such a callous lack of care for the members these policies affect while at the same time claiming the motivation for these policy changes was love. Love the church leaders have towards the people, and also God has for his children. How in the hell does God’s love translate to blocking children from joining or participating in his church? How does God’s love and revelation inspire leaders to make poor policy decisions that harm people and relationships so badly that they are forced to reverse these policies shortly afterward? The only way for them to save face is to place the blame for it all squarely on God’s shoulders.
What mental gymnastics must be performed to see these events occurring in real-time and still believe that these men are receiving guidance as they proclaim direct revelation from God? We must do flips and contortions in order to reconcile all these statements. Isn’t God supposed to be the same yesterday, today, and forever? Why then in the space of 3 and a half years, would he direct church leaders, leaders of his One True Church, and who hold the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood, and all the keys of this last dispensation, and have the authority to speak in his name, to make some policy changes which they know cause concern and confusion and heartache, and then exactly rescind the policy?
I have always been impressed by Mormons and our mental gymnastics. We twist ourselves into knots to account for every homophobic comment given over the pulpit and have mastered the art of jumping to the most pleasant conclusion. We applaud those who can gracefully walk the balance beam of political correctness and “upholding the faith.”
Is the fear of our own theology driving us to these gymnastics routines? Do we precariously walk the balance beam because we’re too nervous to make a stand on one side or the other? I think many of us fear the possibility that our theology may be rooted in homophobia. We fear that the time will come when we must make difficult reckonings in our faith. And we fear the implications of our participation in an institution that actively denies the rights of LGBTQ individuals. And we fear the fallout in our social circles, family relations, and personal worldviews if we could no longer twist the truth to appease ourselves …
I understand why we have adapted to our mental gymnastics, I really do. I understand why it is easier to throw out sweeping platitudes about God’s love, rather than be labeled a “condoner of sin” by taking a stand… We’ve become comfortable in our twisted mental knots with our platitudes and concessions. In fact, we’re proud of just how flexible we can be in our faith, forgetting how easily that which bends can break. So when we bend over backward to dodge every stray bullet from the muskets firing all around us, we only serve to convince those watching that there are no casualties. And as we perform our well-practiced mental gymnastics, we offer no cover, no respite, to those who stumble. They become easy targets, while we’re too busy perfecting our performance to notice those who fall….
It’s time to stop walking the balance beam and to deal with the world with our feet soundly on the ground.Mormon Olympics: Mental Gymnastics Edition by Breann Hunt
What was your experience with the policy and then the reversal? Did it shake your faith or weigh heavy on your shelf? Share your story at wasmormon.org.
- The LDS Church and The November Policy of Exclusion – POX 2015
- Reversing the November Policy – POX 2015 Reversed in 2019