In November 2015, eight years ago, the church leaders intended to quietly institute a policy they had thought through deeply as a reaction to the United States deeming same-sex marriage federally legal in July of that year. The church had campaigned many many times against giving this recognition and civil equality to same-sex couples from openly supporting and funding things like Prop 8 in California in 2008, to multiple talks in general conference and even the Family Proclamation in 1995 reiterating the church belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman (or at least one woman).
This policy was meant to keep children of same-sex marriages out of the church, and it was leaked. It picked up steam on social media and received media attention. This stoked the fire and brought many critics of the policy and created a very confusing situation where members sought to defend the church and thus the policy but still couldn’t understand how or why the policy was needed. The policy felt unloving and surprising to members as well as the media.
November 3, 2015
Policies on Ordinances for Children of a Parent Living in a Same-Gender Relationship
The following additions to Handbook 1 have been approved by the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for immediate implementation.
A new section in Handbook 1, 16.13 will be added as follows:
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:
- 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.
- 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.
Handbook 1, number 6.7.2 is to be updated immediately as follows (addition is highlighted):
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, …
Handbook 1, number 6.7.3 is also to be updated immediately as follows (addition is highlighted):
When a Disciplinary Council is Mandatory:
As used here, apostasy refers to members who:
Policies on Ordinances for Children of a Parent Living in a Same-Gender Relationship
- Repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.
- Persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after they have been corrected by their bishop or a higher authority.
- Continue to follow the teachings of apostate sects (such as those that advocate plural marriage) after being corrected by their bishop or a higher authority.
- Are in a same-gender marriage.
- Formally join another church and advocate its teachings.
Updates to Handbook 1, November 3 2015, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The policy states that entering a same-sex marriage was considered apostasy and any members doing so would swiftly be disciplined and likely excommunicated from the church. Children living in same-sex relationships would be banned from receiving a name and blessing at church (a ritual performed by all other members of the church when they have a baby). Children of these relationships would also be denied baptism, priesthood ordination and even missionary service without specific case-by-case approval by the top church authorities only after these children have disavowed the relationship of their own parents and no longer live with them. The church essentially banned children living in same-sex families from being members of the church at any level.
It takes a lot for the church to ban anyone from joining the church. This went further than the priesthood ban on blacks ever did. They were at least allowed to join the church.
This begs the question: were children of same-sex couples pleading to be baptized? Was this a crisis waiting to happen? Were same-sex couples attempting to have their babies blessed in ward meetings? The church has long been against even acknowledging same-sex attraction or allowing marriage. Why would a same-sex couple be attracted to raising their children in this atmosphere? Was this simply a preemptive move so the church could avoid any potential issues with being sued for not following the law? Were same-sex couples doing these things and if they were, was it causing any sort of problems?
Mormons who enter into same-sex unions will be considered apostates under new church policies, and their children will be barred from blessing and baptism rituals without the permission of the faith’s highest leaders.
The policies are part of “Handbook 1,” a guide for lay leaders of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The changes were leaked to the public via social mediaNew Mormon policy makes apostates of married same-sex couples, bars children from rites
Apostasy • Change subjects Mormons in same-sex unions to likely excommunication; their children may be barred from blessings and baptisms, November 6, 2015
The PR spokesman for the church then rationalized that the church has “long been on record as opposing same-sex marriage”.
“Church handbooks are policy and procedural guides for lay leaders who must administer the church in many varied circumstances throughout the world,” LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins said. “The Church has long been on record as opposing same-sex marriages. While it respects the law of the land, and acknowledges the right of others to think and act differently, it does not perform or accept same-sex marriage within its membership.”LDS Church reaffirms doctrine of marriage, updates policies on families in same-sex marriages
The church quickly brought out Elder Christofferson to explain the “context” of this policy in a professionally presented yet closed video interview. This wasn’t open to outside reporters to ask questions, it was produced by the church in an attempt to control the story. It was obviously scripted and structured to claim authority and even state the policy was changed with love in mind. Christofferson was surely chosen as the apostle to deliver this message because it is well-known that he has an outspoken gay brother. He makes some important claims as he states that same-sex marriage is “not a right that exists in the church” and that they follow the Savior’s pattern of being firm in what is right and wrong and that “He never changed His mind”.
“This is about family; this is about love and especially the love of the Savior and how He wants people to be helped and fed and lifted, and that’s the whole motivation that underlies our effort,” said Elder Christofferson in a video interview…
Elder Christofferson said he is sympathetic to the questions that have arisen from the new policy. “They’re difficult, they’re sensitive, they tug at the heartstrings and they’re very real.”
He said the changes were necessary because the Church regards “same-sex marriage as a particularly grievous or significant, serious kind of sin that requires Church discipline.”
“We recognize that same-sex marriages are now legal in the United States and some other countries and that people have the right, if they choose, to enter into those, and we understand that. But that is not a right that exists in the Church. That’s the clarification.”Elder Christofferson provides context on handbook changes affecting same-sex marriages, Nov 12, 2015, 5:30 PM EST
“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.”
“There’s no kindness in misdirecting people and leading them into any misunderstanding about what is true, what is right, what is wrong, what leads to Christ and what leads away from Christ,” he said.Elder Christofferson provides context on handbook changes affecting same-sex marriages, Nov 12, 2015, 5:30 PM EST
Then, the following January, Apostle Russell M. Nelson elevated these policy changes to direct “revelation from God”.
This prophetic process was followed … with the recent additions to the Church’s handbook, consequent to the legalization of same-sex marriage in some countries. Filled with compassion for all, and especially for the children, we wrestled at length to understand the Lord’s will in this matter. Ever mindful of God’s plan of salvation and of His hope for eternal life for each of His children, we considered countless permutations and combinations of possible scenarios that could arise. We met repeatedly in the temple in fasting and prayer and sought further direction and inspiration. And then, when the Lord inspired His prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, to declare the mind of the Lord and the will of the Lord, each of us during that sacred moment felt a spiritual confirmation. It was our privilege as Apostles to sustain what had been revealed to President Monson. Revelation from the Lord to His servants is a sacred process.Becoming True Millennials, Elder Russell M. Nelson, Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults, January 10, 2016, BYU–Hawaii
A high-ranking Mormon leader says the church policy against same-sex marriage was a revelation from God.
Apostle Russell M. Nelson, head of the religion’s governing body and next in line for the Mormon presidency, said in a worldwide speech Sunday that Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Thomas S. Monson received instructions regarding same-sex couples directly from God.
“Each of us during that sacred moment felt a spiritual confirmation. It was our privilege as apostles to sustain what had been revealed to President Monson.”
Nelson said that led the church to consider gay marriage a sin worthy of expulsion and forbid children of such couples from becoming members of the church. Those children can become Mormons once they are 18 if they renounce same-sex marriage.Mormon leader says policy against gay marriage was word from God
This policy was first leaked by an anonymous source when it was quietly published in a church Handbook that most members can’t and won’t see. It was picked up on social media and shared by excommunicated apostates such as John Dehlin. The church has Elder Christofferson explain the policy with as much “context” as can be mustered by the Apostle with an outspoken gay brother. The church’s public relations office clarifies the policy as much as they can to help hurt and confused members understand it, and then Nelson comes out and declares that it was a Revelation from God! After all these PR nightmare steps the church finally stands on the last thing it can in order to explain and justify the policy, God made us do it.
Russell M. Nelson, was the leader who most ardently defended the 2015 policy as a revelation of God.
Speaking in January 2016, when he was still an apostle and had not yet replaced the late Thomas S. Monson as president of the church, Nelson said the ban was the result of top church leaders’ meeting “repeatedly in the temple” to seek God’s guidance. God, Nelson said, had “inspired his prophet … to declare the mind of the Lord and the will of the Lord” with the LGBT ban.
The ban was, in other words, a clear revelation.Mormon leaders reverse LGBT policy, raising the question: What is revelation?, Jana Riess
Remember, remember the fifth of November, 2015. This being classified as a revelation, makes the reversal (spoiler alert) a few years later even sweeter. Because it too must be declared a revelation. In fact, nearly everything Nelson says is being deemed a revelation from God. And we all know, church leaders are mere mortals and may make mistakes, but no apologies in God’s name and we can’t even criticize the leaders who speak for God, so it’s the ultimate “trump” card. Did this November Policy trouble you? Did it break your shelf? Please consider sharing your story of Mormon deconstruction at wasmormon.org. Add your story to the growing collection of “I was a Mormon” stories.
- Reversing the November Policy