Children as smokescreen

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There have been plenty of good posts/comments on the latest controversy (but even more not so good ones).  I don’t see the use in arguing for a policy that allows children to have too much cognitive dissonance between home life and Church life (we all have some, of course).

However, I think the concern for children is a smokescreen.

Every single person (that I have seen, in the initial flurry of commentary) crying out “won’t someone think of the children” and acontextually citing (aka wresting) “let the little children come to me” is someone who wants the church’s policies on LGBT+ (or whatever the current euphemism is) relationships to be more liberalalized/progressive.

In other words, “the children” are a smokescreen, an attempt to get otherwise faithful members to oppose the leaders of the Church through other means.

Some may have even, in order to reconcile the cognitive dissonance, fooled themselves into believing that “the children” are their main concern – as if their years (sometimes decades) long commentary and commitment to disagreeing with the Church over LGBT+ issues isn’t their real motivation.

Don’t be fooled, and don’t allow concern for “the children” to trump loyalty to the church.

And go read this post on “entryism” at jrganymede, especially the last paragraphs – this is about the long term struggle for the soul of the church: “I think it may end up having a significant but ‘incidental’ effect in preventing entryism by those with a homosexual agenda. ‘OK, maybe we can’t participate in your ordinances, but our kids will be baptized members, and their loyalty will be to us gays.’ Not so fast.”

[At the same time, let’s not get into name-calling and calls for cleansing of the Church.  I’ve seen people I generally agree with behaving rather badly about this on social media.  The ultimate end goal is full fellowship with the church and true reconciliation with the will of God; some people have a longer, more windy path to get there.  I think any cleansing will be mostly self-selected, and I will sorrow at every lost soul that leaves the church over this – but I won’t let that sorrow lead me to argue the Church needs to change.]

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About Ivan Wolfe

Ivan Wolfe teaches rhetoric at Arizona State University. He has a PhD in English from the University of Texas - Austin, and a BA and MA in English (with minors in Classical Greek, Music, and Philosophy) from BYU. He has several credits on various Christmas albums aimed at the LDS market, several essays in Open Court's Popular Culture and Philosophy series, and various book reviews in academic and popular venues. He also competes in Scottish Highland Games and mud run/obstacle course races, and he can deadlit over double his bodyweight (his last PR was over 500 pounds). He is currently married to Lisa Renee Wolfe. He has six kids and four stepkids.

43 thoughts on “Children as smokescreen

  1. This morning I thought of the parable of the rich young ruler from the New Testament. He asks Christ what he must do to gain eternal life — and the young man is already keeping the commandments. When the Lord tells him to sell all he has and come follow Him, the young man just cannot do it and leaves the Lord (the fellowship of the saints). Then I thought of Abraham going to the mountain with Isaac, and putting Isaac on that alter. The Lord does ask a lot, everything, of us. The test is are we willing to “sell all”, even our own views, opinions, etc, to follow him. I think you are right here Ivan in identifying the smoke screen for what it is.

  2. Ivan, I just saw a comment on social media that would be hilarious if it weren’t so depressing. This person said the Church is offending “mainstream” members with this new policy. Mainstream members are not obsessed with the internet and probably have not even heard of the policy change and probably won’t hear of it at all. They are too busy raising their kids, doing their callings, going to work, going to the temple, etc., to be very worried about a policy that makes perfect sense to them if they stop and think about it. I mean, why should the Church be promoting tension between children and their parents? The Church needs permission from at least one parent to baptize a child under 18 anyway — this policy completely supports the idea of parental control of how their children are taught.

    So, yes, there is a lot of posturing on this issue by people who already reject much of what the Church stands for. I am not sure we should take that seriously. But I am concerned about people being fooled by the dissidents — which is why we at M* are going to do as much work as possible to provide support for the Church.

  3. Let me offer to be the exception to your observations.

    My first thought was of my cousin, who married and had children before revealing to his wife that he had always been attracted to men. He married hoping it would change him; it didn’t. They divorced and he found a male partner. He and his wife shared legal custody of the children.

    He made his choice, and he and I both understand the consequences for his church membership. But this policy suggests that his children cannot be baptized (if they aren’t already) until they turn 18. Those children who are already baptized cannot be ordained until turning 18.

    The policy seems to assume that the only way children have a parent in a same-sex relationship is if they were born to a lesbian couple through artificial insemination, or if they were adopted at birth to a gay couple. Though we could talk about the children in that situation too, I want to focus on the case of children of divorced parents who share custody, where one of those parents is in a same-sex relationship.

    Please help me understand this policy in the context of this situation. Will we tell the 7-year-old child that his parents’ divorce and father’s new partner means he cannot get baptized or ordained the way his 12-year-old brother was? Will we tell the 12-year-old that he must remain a deacon until age 18?

    This is why I find this policy so upsetting and confusing. Help me understand it.

  4. The left/progressives have used children as a smokescreen for years. This is nothing new. Just the same old tactics being used on a new subject.

  5. Adano, here is a comment I read on Facebook that may help you:

    “People keep saying this makes it sound like children of gay parents are not wanted. And I don’t think that is true. I think the children ARE wanted, but as a favor to them, the church wants them coming fully aware of the choice they are actually making, and fully aware of the doctrine they are actually adopting and supposed to be internalizing by covenant, and the effects that might have on the children. Having the children wait until they are adults will give them a greater chance of having peace and security in their homes and with their families when they are young, allowing them to make the hard decisions when there is a greater capacity for understanding and greater ability to embrace what they are covenanting. It’s not that they are not wanted nor that they are not allowed to participate, but merely that they are in a uniquely difficult situation for which they are not going to be held accountable nor forced to really address until they are old enough to do so — which is much older than the “usual” age of accountability. I’m not sure it would be fair to children to say that the upbringing they are embedded in without any choice on their part is unrighteous. Best leave that topic for when they are older. And best not make them covenant to obey when they are not really at liberty to obey or even comprehend the actual doctrines–goodness, a great many of the adults I know are struggling with this doctrine right now! How could we covenant children (or even teens) to deal with it?!”

    I would add the following: about 20 years ago many missionaries, especially in Latin America, baptized by the thousands people who were not prepared to accept the Gospel. I lived in a ward in Rio de Janeiro where there were literally 400 people on the inactive list who had all been baptized in a two-year period, and *none of them came to Church.* The reason they no longer came is that they simply did not understand fully the covenants they were making when they were baptized because the missionaries were not taking the time to prepare them properly. I find this incredibly unfair to these people — here they had a chance to join the Lord’s church and get baptized, but the whole experience was botched for them, and the inevitable result was leaving the Church.

    So, if we have a young man or woman who is being raised in a same-sex household, would it truly be FAIR to that young man or woman to baptize them in a Church that has declared that one or both of his/her parents are in apostasy? Yes, it would be fair to that person when they are 18 and can make decisions as an adult, but I fail to see how it would be good for the child when they are eight to go to church and deal with that difficult reality. And as I said above, the Church has a long-standing policy of respecting parental rights and responsibilities before baptism, and this policy falls right in line with that.

  6. Ivan, you wrote: “At the same time, let’s not get into name-calling and calls for cleansing of the Church. I’ve seen people I generally agree with behaving rather badly about this on social media.”

    Wow, you must have some strange friends. I am friends with a HUGE list of latter-day Saints, and I have not seen any calls for “cleansing the Church.” I have seen people defending the Church policy, but certainly not from that perspective, mostly as an attempt to explain the policy.

  7. adano – Valuable information to consider, I hope the Church Leaders refine this policy over time to account for situations like you describe. My guess though (and it is a complete guess) is that they are viewing this issue through the “protect the Church” lens, and not through the impact on the individual member lens. The Handbook contains various instructions where certain punishments are mandated, or more strict sanctions are automatically imposed when the reputation of the Church would be impacted, or the sin could cause problems for the larger congregation rather than just the people directly involved in the actual sin. In these cases protection of the Church’s reputation overrides what might have been the “regular/normal” course of action. If this really is the way the Church Leaders are viewing this issue then children in situations such as you describe will simply be asked to bear that extra burden.

  8. Geoff, I appreciate the reply. It helps. But now it has me thinking in a different direction.

    My father-in-law was raised in a fiercely anti-Mormon home in northern Utah. Yet, when he decided to be baptized in his late teens, his father gave his approval despite telling his son it was the stupidest thing he’d ever done in his life. (Incidentally, decades later, his father got baptized too. Stranger things have happened, but not often.)

    My wife’s grandfather was, by any definition, apostate. Yet all it took to baptize his son–my father-in-law–was his consent. It didn’t have to go to the First Presidency, nor did it require waiting until age 18.

    Your comment is helpful, but I guess I still don’t understand what makes the circumstance so different that my cousin’s children would be totally barred from baptism or ordination (even if their father gave his consent) until age 18, and even then they would need First Presidency approval.

    I’m asking these questions sincerely, and I appreciate your help in thinking them through.

  9. Adano, I will quote CSC from another thread on this blog:

    Why is is that this requirement does not apply to the children of heterosexual parents who live together and are not married? (They can also be baptized).

    “John, it’s not that one sin is worse than another, it’s that the remedy is worse. In the case of both polygamous unions as well as same-sex unions, in order for a person to progress within the church, the union has to end. In contrast, a boyfriend and girlfriend who are having premarital sex can remedy the moral error by getting married. To put it another way, premarital sex within a committed relationship is wrong, but the relationship is at least compatible with church teachings: It has a potential moral future should they choose to repent and get married. Same-sex unions do not have that option, not if the two individuals want to follow the teachings of the church.

    This requirement for the adults within a household to break up is a huge emotional challenge, so it’s not surprising that church leaders don’t want to be in a position where they are encouraging minors to tackle it.

    Again, it’s not that one sin is worse than the other, it’s that the situation surrounding the sin is worse.”

  10. Hopefully my last comment on this thread: a bit of humility is always a good idea.

    ““I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things” (1 Nephi 11:17)

  11. Geoff –
    actually, most of the harshest comments aren’t from “friends” but people who belong to various LDS/Mormon themed Facebook groups; there are some overly strident (to put it nicely) conservative/orthodox members on those groups (the kind of people who seemingly exist to confirm the perception of persecution the more progressive members feel).

  12. Nope, not my last comment. Here is another quotation from Facebook that may be helpful:

    “Does Christ “deny” those who are under the age of 8? No. They may have to wait for a few years until they are better able to comprehend the magnitude of their decision to enter into the waters of baptism.

    Does Christ “deny” those women who have had an abortion? No. They may have to wait for some period of time until they are better able to comprehend the magnitude of their decision as they prepare to enter into the waters of baptism.

    Does Christ “deny” those who commit all manner of sin? No. He directs them to repent, to “go thy way and sin no more” and then to come unto Him with full purpose of heart.

    Does Christ “deny” those who have parents or spouses who refuse to approve and give permission for their child or spouse to be baptized? No. There are always circumstances beyond our control and Christ, the greatest Judge of all, will act in charity, kindness, and love towards all, having a complete and perfect understanding of each individual’s situation and heart.”

  13. The Deseret News quote reads as follows: ‘The handbook addition also states that “a natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting,” can only be baptized, confirmed, ordained to the priesthood or serve a full-time mission with approval from the Office of the First Presidency. A mission or stake president may request approval”‘

    Just how difficult is that? Well, most of the real work will be done at the Ward/Stake leadership level but to actually obtain consideration and a decision from the Office of the First Presidency generally happens quickly. I suspect the numbers requesting such permission will be small.

  14. It is also a fact that a huge reason for the philosophical justification by the Supreme Court to allow gay marriage is same sex couples with adopted children. The camel stuck his nose under the tent years ago with the approval of same sex adoption practices. That laid the groundwork for the overturning of traditional marriage.

    There is no reason to suspect a similar philosophical goal would not be at work here.

    There is a very simple, and unfortunately painful, fact that needs to be reinforced every time someone says it’s about the children: If it were about the children you would desire that child to have a mother and father.

    Children are entitled to a mother and father. Entitled. Not like the welfare fare, subsidized housing, immigration, or health care that everyone likes to think of as an entitlement. But a true natural entitlement from the God.

    When we give a child anything less of our own choice, we are denying them that right.

  15. Hi Adano,

    I think you are missing a couple of points on the updated policy which may help with your question. This is the wording of the policy:

    “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:

    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.

    There is another change for those who are in a same-gender marriage, but that doesn’t apply to the case you mentioned.

  16. My feeling is that the majority of the dismay, disappointment, and anger among the “loyal opposition” on the ‘nacle and elsewhere has much more to do with being upset about having been outmaneuvered by the prophets than the imposition upon the children in the custody of same-sex couples. Spirit of Prophesy: 1; Philosophies of Men: 0.

    Dang it it makes me mad when the Prophets derail my plan for the Church to become more like the Community of Christ!

    Those that are genuinely concerned about the welfare of the children, I can appreciate their concerns. But I don’t think that any one of them really believes that a child in the custody of same-sex parents will be denied salvation because the Church did not let them get baptized at the age of minority. Certainly I don’t. No one is being denied salvation here.

  17. Can I just ask, where was all the hand-wringing on behalf of the children whose parents undergo divorce because one parent suddenly decides that (s)he can no longer be in a marriage to someone (s)he is not attracted to?

    Where were all the tears on behalf of children who, adopted by gay couples as infants, will never know what it’s like to have a mother (or, a father)? Mormon feminists are quite certain that they need a Mother–where is the empathy for children who feel similarly?

    Instead they reserve their mourning for children who cannot receive an induction into a church they despise, by means of an ordinance they generally devalue, performed under the authority of a priesthood they increasingly discount.

  18. These have been some insightful comments. I personally am not sympathetic to those who have been offended (which is why, thankfully, I’ll never be called as Bishop), but you’ve all made some really good points that will help me talk my offended friends off the ledge. The ones who sincerely want to be talked off the ledge, that is, and methinks those are few.

  19. I find it telling that the most popular “mainstream” LDS blog is disabling comments because they know full-well how their site will be perceived if commenting was allowed.

    It’s also interesting how quickly the liberal run groups are to stifle free expression and shut down the discussion when it becomes uncomfortable for them. Not that conservatives aren’t guilty of this from time to time, but it’s the liberals that like to shout from the rooftops how…liberal and open minded they are.

    Not open minded enough to open the comments…

  20. How do you not know people who want to kill themselves over this? Do you lack empathy altogether? Every active gay mormon I’ve known has thought deeply about suicide because they couldn’t fit the mold. This policy and your caviler attitudes regarding their lives reflect why they feel like ending their own life. Shame on all of you.

  21. I’m always so touched when my progressive brothers and sisters lay the blame for gay people killing themselves squarely at my feet. The trump card of all trump cards! If you don’t support fundamentally changing church policy to satisfy this niche group, you’re responsible for their deaths!

    I don’t lack empathy, but I do lack the ability to be swayed by such a disingenuous argument.

  22. “How do you not know people who want to kill themselves over this? Do you lack empathy altogether?”

    Threatening to kill yourself unless you get what you want is something that abusive spouses do.

  23. Real story.

    I was onc eupon a time in an inappropriate relationship with a man. I was still technically married, and so inappropriate didn’t actually mean I could have gotten pregnant. But shall we say I was kissing someone I ought not to have kissed.

    When I decided to heed the counsel of my bishop and cut off contact until I was legally divorced, the fellow went nuts. He was in the process of loading his semi-automatic rifle to go after my bishop, but his room-mates stopped him. He went to our mutual therapist and threatened me.

    On day I got a call from him. He was going to commit suicide if I didn’t come over right then. I was pissed, but I went over to his place.

    Once I got there, he begged me to have sex with him. I refused. Then he pulled out a knife. It was a double-bladed palm knife.

    I suppose he could have threatened me with the blade and attempted to force me to have sex with him. But luckily for us both, he was too well trained to rape someone. Instead he handed me the knife and told me that since he didn’t have the guts to kill himself, he wanted me to do it for him.

    Luckily I was too well trained to accept his offer to kill him, despite how angry I was by that point. Instead I threw the blade to the far side of the room and left.

    Turns out the earlier threat had been not attacking me physically, but telling stories about me. My bishop called me it to tell me the fellow had been in to talk with him and had told all manner of stories regarding the sexual escapades we had allegedly engaged in. These stories had been related to all the single men in the ward I would be attending when I divorced. I had been in to talk to my Bishop often enough with enough candor that he knew what was true (a little of the story) and what was not (the bulk of the story).

    I bowed my head in despair. I guess I said, “No one will date me now.” My bishop chuckled and said, “Oh, I don’t think that will be the problem…”

    When I was once again single, I attended that ward. I dated the fellows in the ward, sometimes they would ask me out, sometimes I would ask them out. Even though they might have thought I was possibly as sexually experienced as my erstwhile kissing buddy had said, they were true men of honor and never attempted to either make me do things I didn’t want to do (decorous kissing was definitely on the “want to do” list) or make me feel like a dirty used rag of no value.

    I suppose I would say to anyone feeling mental anguish over this policy that they need to seek help. The anguish and anger can be real. But the desire to commit violence doesn’t have to result in violence. It is possible to throw the knife to the other side of the room and even, in some future day, joke about it.

  24. Soren, Shame on us for defending the counsel of the apostles? Or shame on the apostles? Shame on us for being annoyed with our self described more open minded brothers and sisters who have closed their minds on so many issues of eternal consequence?

    Shame on those who actively seek to undermine their fellow church members through constantly sniping judgements at the church through the imprecise lens of history.
    Shame that these same people are also undermining the family through their constant attempts at redefining family.
    Shame on those who lay the philosophical groundwork for intentionally divorcing children from a mother and a father.
    Shame on those who seek to lay blame on the church for the mental and emotional turmoil created and sustained among “gay” children of God.

    To anyone truly hurt by this, I invite you to consider the words of Christ by receiving his servants (not his servants critics), by listening to their counsel and making your life holy and consecrated through: keeping the commandments, service, study, missionary work, temple work.

    If you are hurt and shut off the blogs and commentary from your mind by ignoring them and doing the above you will find the peace you absolutely deserve as a child of Heavenly Parents. If you continue to pick at the wound (received in large part as a result of the sins of this generation), you will not find solace in seeking to blame the church or leadership for the hell you experience.

  25. I think this policy will make it harder to be a stealthy dissident. Not in a direct fashion, but like Prop 8 and two recent high-profile excommunications, I think this will prompt some dissidents to resign from the church outright.

  26. With all the hoopla over the past couple of days, I am reminded of a section from the last conference talk which President Ezra Taft Benson delivered personally:

    “I testify that as the forces of evil increase under Lucifer’s leadership and as the forces of good increase under the leadership of Jesus Christ, there will be growing battles between the two until the final confrontation. As the issues become clearer and more obvious, all mankind will eventually be required to align themselves either for the kingdom of God or for the kingdom of the devil.”

    It’s happening before our very eyes. The world has drawn one line in the sand, the Church another. The time has come for each of us to declare where we stand relative to this inherently divisive issue. As President Benson used to say, it is time for every person to “stand up and be counted”.

  27. Soren, they don’t commit suicide because we tell them that a life without gay sexual relationships is possible and pleasing to God. They commit suicide because you tell them that a life without gay sexual relationships is not worth living.

  28. JimD, you are on fire lately. I can tell you are as frustrated as I am with the murmuring and lack of basic logic on the part of many of the disaffected. But it does occur to me that this situation is a real body blow for liberal Mormons who were hoping the Church would move in the opposite direction. I do feel sorry for many of them, who are clearly lost and looking for reasons to believe. I hope they will eventually turn their hearts to the Savior and to sincere prayer and to following modern-day prophets rather than continuing to murmur. If there is one lesson from history, it is that murmuring gets you nowhere but following the prophets — especially when it is difficult — keeps you on the right path.

  29. Ivan,

    Given Elder Christofferson’s remarks (i.e., that the policy is done out of concern for the children), do you see a smokescreen on both sides of the issue, or does the smokescreen only apply to those you disagree with?

  30. No, because I believe the Apostles when they say the have concern for the children.
    I believe others in the progressive wing also may have some concern for the children = however, read paragraphs 3 through 5 in my original post again.

  31. Smallaxe, are you aware that many members of the Church (including Ivan) have made a covenant to avoid evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed? You may not have made such a covenant, but if you have you should understand that this covenant means, among other things, that we should avoid criticizing the Lord’s prophets, including Elder Christofferson. At the very least we should, as Ivan suggests, believe that apostles have true concern for the children, whereas many people have shown through their actions that they don’t have much concern for the children at all.

  32. By the way, there has been a *lot* of prooftexting of the phrase “evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed” by disaffected Mormons. Don’t buy it. Elder Oaks makes it clear here what the phrase means:

    https://www.lds.org/ensign/1987/02/criticism?lang=eng

    To sum up: it means “don’t criticize the prophets and the apostles.”

    ““Criticism is particularly objectionable when it is directed toward Church authorities, general or local. Jude condemns those who ‘speak evil of dignities.’ (Jude 1:8.) Evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed is in a class by itself. It is one thing to depreciate a person who exercises corporate power or even government power. It is quite another thing to criticize or depreciate a person for the performance of an office to which he or she has been called of God. It does not matter that the criticism is true. As Elder George F. Richards, President of the Council of the Twelve, said in a conference address in April 1947,

    “‘When we say anything bad about the leaders of the Church, whether true or false, we tend to impair their influence and their usefulness and are thus working against the Lord and his cause.’ (In Conference Report, Apr. 1947, p. 24.)” (Address to Church Educational System teachers, Aug. 16, 1985.)

  33. I have encountered a number of good, loving people wondering why the Church would do this too the children. As I have spoken with them, the same thought kept coming to my mind – the Church didn’t pull the children into this conflict. The advocates of same-sex marriage did.

    The Church pushed for defense and love of individuals with same-sex attraction. In order to achieve political aims and societal validation, some advocates of same-sex marriage drew children into the fight and forced the Church to engage the issue in this way. If there are children being hurt by this policy, and if there is blame to be distributed, it must fall firmly at the feet of those unsatisfied with being able to participate in the behavior of their choice, but rather demanding that they be able to force children into those familial relationships as well. The adults can choose to be in a same-sex marriage, but the children in those families get no choice, and the damage caused falls at the feet of those forcing the issue.

    I am struck by how closely this aligns with certain terrorist actions. They hide in schools and hospitals, forcing attacks, then parade the bodies of injured or killed children as evidence of the depravity of those fighting against them (even after every effort has been made to protect the innocent by those fighting the terrorists).

    This, of course, doesn’t apply to the vast majority of those upset about this issue right now. They are good people seeing the pain of children paraded before them, and justifiably feeling empathy and love for them. They are just looking for the source of that pain in the wrong place. It is not the Church causing this pain, but rather those who deliberately put children in the crosshairs to achieve their objectives.

  34. Ivan,

    So those that you disagree with are disingenuous or self-decieved, but not those you agree with? By what means are you claiming that progressives are disingenuous or self-deceived but not the makers of this policy?

  35. SmallAxe, do you think the Lord is disingenuous or self-deceived? I am going to hope the answer is, “no.” Then it is logical to believe that his true servants, i.e., the Brethren, are also not disingenuous or self-deceived. In fact, I would say that this belief is one of the cornerstones of actually being a Mormon. If you don’t believe this, why are you continuing to hang around a Mormon blog? You can believe what you want, but I would ask you to continue to take these types of “concerns” someplace else.

    By the way, SmallAxe, you are the very definition of a “concern troll.” I am sure you are a nice person in real life, but your commenting habits on this blog are not welcome.

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