Church clarifies Handbook changes on SSM and children

Please read this information just released from the First Presidency.

I think these are the key points:

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.

Our concern with respect to children is their current and future well-being and the harmony of their home environment. The provisions of Handbook 1, Section 16.13, that restrict priesthood ordinances for minors, apply only to those children whose primary residence is with a couple living in a same-gender marriage or similar relationship. As always, local leaders may request further guidance in particular instances when they have questions.

When a child living with such a same-gender couple has already been baptized and is actively participating in the Church, provisions of Section 16.13 do not require that his or her membership activities or priesthood privileges be curtailed or that further ordinances be withheld. Decisions about any future ordinances for such children should be made by local leaders with their prime consideration being the preparation and best interests of the child.

Also, please read this article that provides further information:

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

31 thoughts on “Church clarifies Handbook changes on SSM and children

  1. Those clarification should provide relief to several of the families who were most affected by the new policies.

  2. It will definitely provide impetus for those divorcing parents who face custody questions to consider the welfare of their children as they decide which parent will be the primary custodian. I read one third-person Facebook account of a family in which the husband, his new boyfriend and the former wife ‘happily’ share custody of their children. I immediately had the reaction that the former wife is probably not so happy with the arrangement. I am grateful for the clarification that there will be no change for children who have already been baptized when their parent chooses to follow their own preferences and that the children of a believing spouse will face the same consequences as any who have a parent who do not consent to their baptism or whose choices put them ‘beyond the pale.’

  3. As I noted over at BCC people were reading last week’s revisions in apocalyptic ways. These same people would be the first to ridiculous hyperbolic readings of Revelation or other such texts to indicate Syria meant the last days were upon us. Yet they do exactly that same kind of reading to such an extent that they don’t even acknowledge that the texts could be read any other way.

    Now I’m more than willing to say the changes as leaked were anything but well written. However the response seemed to push everything to the worst most radical interpretations possible. It was kind of staggering really.

  4. And due to those apocalyptic readings, a letter that amounts to little more than a clarification is being hailed as a victory by some.

    As if some students were convinced they were going to fail my class, were sending me constant e-mails insisting they pass the class, and then claimed moral victory when I gave them all a D+ because that’s what they really earned in the first place.

  5. I recommend the ‘Mormon Women Stand’ post: Murmuring With Those who Murmur. There are two seductive but poor options in the current atmosphere. One is to become so empathetic with those impacted by the consequences of their choices that we waver in our own faith. The other is to mock. The statistical breakdown of the participants in the Mass Resignation Event tempts me to mockery since it reveals that more than 90% of those responding to a question of third participation in the church could hardly be described as ‘active members’. But if any of us are personally acquainted with someone who needs prayerful counsel we should make love our guide.

  6. Clark, I have to say that I thought your comment on BCC was funny where you asked whether you were the only one that thought Otterson’s article was spot-on. The image of a zebra wandering into a pack of hyenas and asking: “Seriously, am I the only one here that likes grass?” struck me.

    Now before a watchdog pounces, no I am not claiming that BCCers are hyenas or anything like unto them and I am not claiming that the more conservative persuasion are zebras or anything like unto them. Just noting the point that BCC is not where you go to look for someone that will look to heap accolades on CHQ.

    Also, one of the things that gets parroted a lot is the claim that the ordinance and other restrictions against the children in the primary custody of same-sex couples is particularly unfair given that no such restriction(s) apply to the children of rapists, murderers, etc.

    I would probably agree — if we lived in a society where murder and rape were legalized and normalized, and children were permitted to be raised in the homes of known murderers and rapists, who also planned, without fear of legal consequence, to commit murder and rape in the future.

  7. Most critics still aren’t happy because they can’t accept the church’s position that acting on homosexual feelings is sinful. It is an insurmountable chasm at this point.

  8. My biggest worry is not for those that are already well outside the church. My worry is for the many whose testimonies are fragile. The policy changes (in the short run) negatively impacted the testimony of many. These won’t be the individuals that leave in some showy resignation. They will just quietly disappear. I hope we, as faithful members, can use it as a time to have sincere discussions with those around us, and if possible, gently help to resolve concerns and strengthen those who are feeling doubt. I am finding, that listening, empathizing with the conflict or pain they are experiencing and gently reaffirming faith in the gospel plan and in our leaders has been helpful. I also find the comments on this board helpful in helping to clarify my thinking. Thank you for taking the time to post.

  9. Then there are those who didn’t think their testimonies were fragile, but who have felt deeply wounded because this change was not within their concept of what the Church is about.

    As I’ve said before, I am confident when we know all (or enough of “all” to understand), we will completely agree with what God has directed his prophets to do in this matter.

  10. I am actually embarrassed as a Mormon that there would be such an outcry over a policy change when there are other people in the world that have much bigger problems and so much more pain and suffering. I am haunted by the image of that little Syrian boy washing up dead on the beach – I don’t remember an outcry on the bloggernacle about that. But this policy “breaks hearts”? That’s troubling to me. It indicates that our members are very first-world and very privileged and seem to care almost nothing for anyone but those in their circle.

  11. Sorry, my post was one out of order. Agree with Meg’s comments. Also agree with having perspective as LDS lady states. But people usually worry about what is closest to them. They know someone closely who is gay and offended. They don’t know the Syrians. That said, I have also tried to suggest that some perspective is warranted.

  12. Isaiah says in the last days those who murmured will learn doctrine. For those who are quietly troubled by this new policy, there is an opportunity to truly learn and better understand the doctrines that undergird the policy. This pattern can be applied elsewhere.

  13. It’s a welcome clarification. I’m glad this won’t impact families where the primary caretaker is raising them according to the teachings of the church.


    “Most critics still aren’t happy because they can’t accept the church’s position that acting on homosexual feelings is sinful. It is an insurmountable chasm at this point.”

    I agree. Some people view sexuality in terms of identity. Some people view sexuality in terms of behavior. When a controversy arises such as this, we might as well be speaking different languages.

  14. I think it is rather significant that the announcement of the changes was leaked to the news media prematurely, by an apostate ex-mo, instead of being introduced through proper channels, and to the people that it should matter to. Instead, the media smelled blood in the water, and a feeding frenzy ensued. I am ashamed that members of the Church show so little confidence and faith in our Church leadership, and are so anxious to buy in to the liberal News Hour interpretation.

    I continue to be thankful that inspired Church leaders are developing answers to these problems, and that the dictates of liberal members are not driving the progress and direction of the Church.

  15. Chelsea’s ted talk had an amazing revelation in the last teo minutes of it. It revealed the driving agenda of the secularist. They claim the religion as theirs and need to “wrestle the morals back into secular control.” It was an indirect way of attacking the Melchezidek priesthood authority held by the prophet. It is a must watch for all who care about the church. The new attacks against the church in the blogernaccle are squarely against the priesthood.

    All focus must be placed on bearing testimony of the divine authority of the priesthood to define morality!

  16. Having now watched all of Chelsea Shiled’s talk, she grossly misrepresents aspects of Mormon religion.

    She points to her lack of sleeves and states that something as simple as a fashion choice makes her family believe they will not be able to be together as a family, that they will never be able to rejoined to their son who died.

    If they believe that, then the fact that Chelsea is the first woman on either side of her family to receive an advanced degree has bred stupid. A stupid that wasn’t solved by Chelsea getting a degree.

    Chelsea’s unqualified statement on this reminds me of Amasa Lyman preaching that there is no atonement. Maybe her people don’t believe in the great post-mortal work described in D&C 138.

    They evoke in my mind an image of children rearranging safety critical items, then claiming victory when the authority figures modify arrangements to shore up the protection of the critical items. Like a mother finding her children playing with knives, who gives the children pots to play with and relocates the knives beyond reach of the children.

    I perceive that efforts of those like Chelsea will clarify the true mores of the Church. The reformers of the restoration will initially be excited, because they will see outdated folkways yield, thinking that this is predictive of further change. But when the mores are no longer cloaked in folkways, these are like granite that was previously covered in sod. And the granite of the mores will not shift.

    As in the case of the policy change to clarify same gender relationships to be apostate, those who did not understand the underlying granite of the gospel will be bruised by their battering of the unchangeable. Then, like the uninformed they are, they will cry out in pain, wondering why this granite is not soft and yielding. Some of us will indicate concern that they are bruised, but we will not cast ourselves against the granite. Others will just shake their heads and wonder why someone stupid enough to bash themselves into granite would be surprised that they are bruised and bleeding. And then there are those of us with loved ones who were conned into participating in the rush against the granite face, who are faced with the bruised and bleeding soul of an intimate, not merely a friend or co-religionist. There will be deep sorrow, and vast anger.

  17. I am struck by the dog that isn’t barking. In the classic tale of Sherlock Holmes, he is able to solve the case by pointing to the dog that doesn’t bark (thus convincing him that the murderer was someone known to the animal). The absence of something can be evidence of something else.

    In this case, there are those who have claimed that the people supporting the Brethren are uncaring, or acting out of animus towards those who are homosexual. But the dog that isn’t barking is the lack of any criticism of the Brethren for the clarification. There is no indication that anyone is upset about the clarification, or are criticizing the Brethren about ‘giving in to pressure,’ or some other silly charge such as that.

    Instead, those who stated their support for the policy that was leaked are supportive of the new policy as clarified. This response is almost unanimous, from what I have seen. It turns out it really is about following the Brethren rather than hatred or hostility. The next time there are those who state that we support this or that policy out of homophobia, this ought to be Exhibit A in opposition to that — we support the Brethren, we do not hate those who advance that agenda.

    Far more interesting is watching what is happening on the other side of this current divide. There are those who, finding their concerns at least somewhat addressed, are softened in their disposition to the Church. They perhaps still have concerns, but they recognize the good will evidenced by the Brethren and begin to discuss the policy as something they disagree with but not something motivated by hate. This tends to show the concerns of these people was genuinely for the children, rather than animus towards the Church.

    But there are others for whom the clarification means nothing. They remain hostile towards the Church, the Brethren, and their ideological opponents. Perhaps their language is more subdued, but it has more to do with the tenor of the conversation and how far they can go, but evidences no softening of their feelings towards either the Brethren or those who disagree with them. The party to sign the paperwork to disembark from “The Good Ship Zion” continues unabated. Their failure to acknowledge the clarification (or their use of it to further criticize the Brethren) is the dog that isn’t barking for them. It appears that, for this subset, it really is about advancing a homosexual agenda rather than caring for those who are hurting.

  18. Even amongst those who aren’t leaving, there are some bloggernacle luminaries who have hitherto tread a fine line of supporting gay rights while not openly betraying their sexually libertine mores. But they’ve been so outraged/discombobulated by this new policy that they’ve (pardon the pun) “come out”, over the past week, as openly declaring that there’s nothing morally wrong with gay sex.

    A few of these folks have published in the fields of LDS apologetcs/scriptural commentaries.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to advocate a “purging” or “cleansing” of the church; but I do hope that someone, somewhere is taking these names down. And, as for myself–I’m going to be a lot more skeptical about some of the Church-oriented materials I read; even if they do bear the imprimatur of FAIR, Deseret Book, or BYU.

  19. I find it interesting that many are claiming that it’s ridiculous to believe that people need to be protected from covenants and/or information that they are not ready to receive when Christ himself set the pattern by teaching in parables.

  20. “I do hope that someone, somewhere is taking these names down.”

    Do what is right; the day-dawn is breaking,
    Hailing a future of freedom and light.
    Angels above us are silent notes taking
    Of ev’ry action; then do what is right!

    I think there was also at one time a Strengthening the Members committee, back in the 1993 timeframe. But as I have openly spoken my mind throughout that timeframe and constantly made my local leaders aware of my thoughts and activities, such mortal angels keeping notes, silent or otherwise, have not appeared to have any impact on how I live my life.

    I have been amused at the number of non-members who presume that to be Mormon is to be muzzled. If I fail to publish, it will have been that I was muzzled by my own sloth and those unsure what to do with my writings, not by the Church.

  21. Jim D, I wouldn’t worry very much if the LDS apologetcs/scriptural commentaries are doctrinally sound. Now if they try to argue that there is no sin in homosexuality, I have a feeling that the proper authorities will be taking notes. The fact they might have expressed such is cause for concern; but, we shouldn’t immediately throw the baby out with the bathwater. That doesn’t mean you avoid doing your own taking down names. I am actually curious who is included in that list having only noticed the usual suspects.

  22. A few scriptures from today’s lesson (1 Peter)

    “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversations in Christ.”

    “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.”

    “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:”

  23. RE leaning doctrine: I am one who was previously ambivalent about the church’s approach to homosexuality. Not that I wasn’t uncomfortable with normalizing gay sex and defining gender as completely divorced from biological sex, but I disliked how much good will the church was expending on losing causes like Prop 8. But now I get it. Whether or not we always understand the best way to go about it, we can’t avoid taking a stand on the nature of our Heavenly Parents and humanity’s relationship to them. Ironically, this ties in strongly to my belief in a Heavenly Mother and my hopes that we will learn to know her better before too long. I can’t see much that profanes Her more than the idea that same-gender relationships should be treated as equal to the divinely-decreed and biologically necessary union of man and woman.

  24. Owen,

    The difference between you and some other online commenters is that you are quibbling over tactics. They are questioning the very doctrinal foundations.

    Does that sound about right?

  25. More or less. I think I also didn’t quite grasp why some sort of more accepting stance vis-a-vis practicing homosexuals retaining church membership is so implausible. It hadn’t quite crystallized for me why homosexual cohabitation is categorically worse than heterosexual fornication, other than the “ick factor” I was raised with. But I think I get it now. To take one example, an out of wedlock birth may be a sub-optimal situation, but the creation of that new life still fundamentally advances the overall plan of God, and fixing the situation highly possible. SSM on the other hand creates an alternative, “counterfeit”, path that no matter what they say will also capture some who otherwise would have successfully followed the normal path. Some (hetero or bisexuals) are damned who otherwise would have been just fine and others (homosexuals) are damned who otherwise would have only faced postponement of certain blessings.

    The “counterfeit lifestyles” brouhaha is a good example of the position I find myself in. When that happened, I immediately thought it was an indelicate remark but also not entirely wrong. Now I think it was indelicate and completely right.

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