Why does the Lord change Church policies?

Hat tip to Mike Parker for a reminder of these two scriptures:

³Behold, I, the Lord, command; and he that will not obey shall be cut off in mine own due time, after I have commanded and the commandment is broken. ⁴Wherefore I, the Lord, command and revoke, as it seemeth me good; and all this to be answered upon the heads of the rebellious, saith the Lord. (D&C 56:3–4)

³⁰Who am I that made man, saith the Lord, that will hold him guiltless that obeys not my commandments? ³¹Who am I, saith the Lord, that have promised and have not fulfilled? ³²I command and men obey not; I revoke and they receive not the blessing. ³³Then they say in their hearts: This is not the work of the Lord, for his promises are not fulfilled. But wo unto such, for their reward lurketh beneath, and not from above. (D&C 58:30–33)

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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.

7 thoughts on “Why does the Lord change Church policies?

  1. Let’s take Elder Oaks at his word that the policy change is for promoting goodness, minimizing hate, and making life easier for gay members.

  2. We should read all of the Church comments, not just the ones that fit our ideologies. And once we have read those comments, we should adjust our personal ideologies to fit the will of the Brethren, not attempt to counsel the Brethren based on our personal ideologies. Here is what Elder Oaks said:

    “At the direction of the First Presidency, President Oaks shared that effective immediately, 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.
    A nonmember parent or parents (including LGBT parents) can request that their baby be blessed by a worthy Melchizedek Priesthood holder. These parents need to understand that congregation members will contact them periodically, and that when the child who has been blessed reaches 8 years of age, a Church member will contact them and propose that the child be baptized.
    Previously, our handbook characterized same-gender marriage by a member as apostasy. While we still consider such a marriage to be a serious transgression, it will not be treated as apostasy for purposes of Church discipline. Instead, the immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated in the same way.
    The very positive policies announced this morning should help affected families. In addition, our members’ efforts to show more understanding, compassion and love should increase respect and understanding among all people of goodwill. We want to reduce the hate and contention so common today. We are optimistic that a majority of people — whatever their beliefs and orientations — long for better understanding and less contentious communications. That is surely our desire, and we seek the help of our members and others to attain it.”

    The Church announcement also pointed out:

    “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.”

  3. I am impressed with the timing of the release of this change in policy. It came just long enough before Conference that there was ample time for reaction and counter-reaction. By the time we listen to our Prophet and others chosen to speak in Conference the announcement and its implications will be ‘old news’. Faithful members of the Church will integrate the change and welcome the increased opportunity to minister. Those who ‘kick against the pricks’ will find further fodder for their doubts. The other revelations that some anticipate will come as Conference progresses will shine forth better without the teapot tempests this announcement predictably aroused.

  4. I occasionally read the “General Conference Odessy” posts some bloggers put up, and sometimes read the 30-something year old talks.

    I’m struck that in hindsight, the prophets and apostles were more right, were more prescient than I ever thought back then. They really saw how bad things were going to get.

    When something comes out over the signatures or combined voice of the First Presidency and Quorum of 12, it’s not like decisions made by administrators in corporate or political settings. Revelation is available to them. Sometimes they have to ask for it, other times, it can come unbidden.

    If someone doesn’t think the Brethren aren’t led by revelation in their official duties, perhaps that person is not familiar with revelation in their own church assignment. Otherwise, they would know how it works.

    Sister Nelson was right in one of her descriptions of Pres Nelson receiving revelation: sometimes it comes so clearly you can take dictation. The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants give examples of how it works, and how to grow in revelation.

    Another thing that may help people who think this policy change is a “reversal” rather than progress, is the book that LDSphilosopher recommended a few days ago in a post here, “Who is Truth?”

    That books speaks of “person truth” as opposed to “idea truth”, as exemplified by Hebrew/Eastern thought via-a-vis Greek/Western thought.

    The Lord is not bound by our philosophical limitations, which most of us don’t realize are built around a Greek philosphy of the absolute-ness of ideas. The main problem being that us mere mortals can’t comprehend most of the high-level over-arching celestial laws. We can only see them through the fog of a fallen world, and mortal lenses. Applying celestial laws to a fallen telestial world can change as mortal conditions change.

    So, I recommend “Who is Truth?” (see the previous post for link) for those who need further help in digesting these changes.

  5. As to why policies change, policies are just the way things are to be implemented at a particular point in time in response to current conditions. In military lingo, these are tactics. As things change in a military situation, tactics need to adjust as well.

    If one has a solid sense of the strategic vision of the gospel (every individual throughout all time has ordinances performed on their behalf and individuals are linked into the global family across all generations from Adam and Eve), then the tactical changes will not be surprising.

    I think the reason the policies regarding same gender couples confused some is that they presumed that love and marital unity were more important than marriages that can naturally produce offspring. Those who were honestly seeking to adhere to the gospel thought that the strategic vision of the gospel would be able to admit same gender couples.

    Arguing about the exact reasons a policy is in place at a particular time is frustrating, a frustration I get much of interacting with my autistic daughter. When people are hampered in their ability to understand for any of several reasons (for example, online writing lacks much nuance), then it can feel like having a conversation with someone who can’t understand. That is frustrating, and can occasionally lead to regrettable behavior on the part of all involved parties.

    Now to change micro tactics in my own life and abandon online chatting for eating food with family.

  6. Thanks to everyone who, in my opinion, interpret this change of policy as something that not only can happen, but must happen in a living church as societal and other conditions change. The foundational doctrines and eternal principles remain intact.

    I had a question related to the timing of a specific former policy that affected my family when I was growing up.

    At one time an active unendowed adult member was not allowed to perform their temple ordinances if they were married to a non-member spouse. While this could have been applied to both a husband and a wife, my impression is that it mostly affected faithful, active sisters more than it did active brethren who were married to a non-church member.

    My assumption is that it existed due to the societal norms at the time wherein the husband was granted a greater legal and authoritative status than the wife. It may have also been an attempt to support 2 Corinthians 6:14 about being unequally yoked with an unbeliever, and to preserve marital harmony in such marriages.

    I can tell you that my mother missed my temple marriage for this reason, but was able to go to the temple for her own ordinances in 1988 in time to go to my brother’s sealing later that year.

    Can anyone tell me when this policy was formally discontinued? Was it 1988?

    Much appreciated.

  7. I don’t know answer to John Perry’s question. But, on the whole “things change” business, I’m reminded that during Christ’s ministry, he commanded his disciples not to preach to the Gentiles. There are some examples where Christ made some healing exceptions for Gentiles because of their great faith; however, in general preaching to the Gentiles had to wait until Christ was crucified and resurrected. So, why did Christ limit preaching during his mortal ministry to the Jews? I don’t know. I can speculate, but I don’t really know. Yet, I trust His wisdom in that matter, and after some period of time, “the policy of exclusion” changed. Policies and practices change all the time. I am comfortable calling such changes “inspiritation” or “revelation.” They aren’t what I would consider to be eternal truths, but things done in the outward administration of God’s kingdom here on earth to bless our lives. I am just as comfortable accepting the reasons for the “policy” back in 2015 as I am today accepting the reasons for the policy change of late.

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