Mormon Discussion

POST: Duty Bound to Reject It!

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Wheat & Tares welcomes guest poster Bill Reel once more for a discussion on the recent policy changes.

The recent policy change on Same Sex couples has opened so many new questions, ramifications and doctrinal contradictions that in spite of our being burned out and numb by all this, it needs be revisited.  I hope to be short and sweet so as to make this possible to skim in 5 minutes and able to be read in full in 20 minutes.  So with that here we go!

 This policy change diminishes agency.

  • As a faith, agency is one of our most important gospel principles. Removing the choice to bless a baby, to be baptized, to receive Priesthood (if a male) negates the agency of both the parents and the child.

“Agency is the ability and privilege God gives us to choose and to act for ourselves. Agency is essential in the plan of salvation. Without agency, we would not be able to learn or progress or follow the Savior.” – Gospel Principles Manual

This policy diminishes the importance of the Holy Ghost

  • We have up till now taught that the gift of the holy ghost can be a great help in our decision making and assist us in staying on the right path.  With this policy we have in effect said that it’s not that big a deal if you don’t have it.  You can always get it later, nothing is lost.  This runs contrary to what we have taught since the days of Joseph Smith.

“Likewise, the Holy Ghost can help you. Through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, you can recognize and understand truth and make right choices and inspired decisions.  The Holy Ghost can inspire you with thoughts and ideas, warn you, and comfort you in times of sorrow. – Mormon.org

This violates the scripture in D&C 68:27 which calls for all 8 year old children within the stakes of Zion to be baptized and confirmed

D&C68:27 – “26 For this shall be a law unto the inhabitants of Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized.  27 And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of the hands.”

This policy diminishes the value of ordinances such as baptism.

  • This policy implies that for some the ordinances are not that big a deal.  The fact remains that if these kids are treated as second class during their formative years, the chance is slim to none that they will come back later.  These children will be more likely to grow up resenting the church and its rituals and will be much less likely to receive them later.

“Some ordinances are essential to our exaltation. These ordinances are called saving ordinances. They include baptism, confirmation, ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood (for men), the temple endowment, and the marriage sealing. With each of these ordinances, we enter into solemn covenants with the Lord.” – LDS.org

This policy seems to run contradictory to the teachings of Jesus.

  • We have in this policy pushed innocent children away and made it much less likely that the kids affected will return to the faith later in life.

“Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” – Jesus

“Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” – Jesus

This policy leaves so many harming possibilities.

  • One example of many is that if one child in a family is grandfathered in under the rules from before the policy, his siblings will be impacted by the policy cannot enjoy the same rituals and blessings.
  • Leaders will have latitude in determining who is the primary caregiving parent:  how much a child lives with a gay parent, how many days a year, what legal designations in terms of decision-making, and so forth.  The lack of clear guidance means that it will be applied locally and inconsistently.

This policy seems to contradict Article of Faith #2

AoF #2:  “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.”

  • This is generally understood to mean that we are only held accountable for our own sins, not those of other people.  But this policy, by contrast, greatly diminishes a child’s opportunity to receive the gospel based on the choices of their parents.

It seems deceptive to claim the letter sent out a week later was a clarification of the original intent.

  • The original wording in the handbook seemed extremely clear that this policy affected any child or had a parent or both parents who were gay.  It did not distinguish between a child who was adopted by a gay couple or a child whose parents were divorced and now has one parent in a homosexual committed relationship.  It also left room for denial of rituals, ordinances, and blessings simply because one’s parent participated in a homosexual cohabiting relationship long before getting married in a heterosexual marriage and having the child.  When Elder Christofferson addressed the media less than 48 hours later, he only defended the motive behind the policy which he stated was to protect the children.  He did not address any misunderstanding about the policy.  The letter that followed a week after the policy’s release was an afterthought, a minor correction without admitting the original policy was wrong.  Calling it a “clarification” when it modifies the scope of the original policy dramatically is at least disingenuous.  It points blame at those who received the policy as if they misunderstood it, and it enables church leaders to change it without apologizing.

There was already a policy that would have covered in all likelihood most all of these situations.

  • There is already a policy on the books that if a underage person wishes to join the church they must have both parents’ permission to proceed.  This means the only children the present “modified” policy affects is children whose “primary” homosexual cohabiting parent(s) approve of the child growing up in full fellowship in the faith.  Their consent is no longer accepted.  This seems like such a small, small, small, segment to create such uprise over and to have members resigning at a rate unseen “since the days of Kirtland.”

This policy creates a litmus test where Elder Christofferson just a few months ago said there was none.

  • Why just a few months ago say that members were free to support Same Sex Marriage and now place language in the manual that states that such support is no longer acceptable for those with gay parents?  This is how it now stands for children of gay parents who want to join the church; they must disavow their gay parent(s)’ marriage:

“There hasn’t been any litmus test or standard imposed that you couldn’t support that if you want to support it,” Christofferson said, “if that’s your belief and you think it’s right.”  Any Latter-day Saint can have a belief “on either side of this issue,” he said. “That’s not uncommon.” – Elder Christofferson

This policy encourages promiscuous homosexual sex over committed legal loving homosexual relationships.

  • The message the policy gives directly is that the worst possible legal consenting relationship dynamic you can be in is a homosexual marriage or long-term cohabitation.  That this is the most highly punishable sin you can commit in these terms and is now labelled “apostasy,” triggering a required church disciplinary court.  What message does this give to homosexual church members?  Homosexual acts are, by contrast, labelled a “greivous sin.”  Common sense says that even if homosexuality is against God’s law that we as a church would prefer to encourage legal loving committed relationships rather than an unsafe, promiscuous lifestyle, and yet this policy does the opposite by placing harsher penalties on commitment than on promiscuity.

This motive of protecting children from confusion is implausible.

  • The only kids this affects are active kids.  Inactive families won’t pursue ordinances for their children.  So only active church-going gay families with kids will be impacted.  Given that, how does this policy reduce confusion?  It doesn’t.  It adds to confusion, making the situation even more complicated.  The kids would have already been exposed to the idea that homosexual behavior is condemned by the church, which would have been the case even without the policy, but now they also have the confusion surrounding their own ability to progress through the gospel mile markers. Rather than protecting children from confusion, this increases the confusion by making it more personal.

This “modification” has not yet been added to the online handbook.

  • As a former bishop I am aware that bishops are instructed to save these letters, but I’m also aware that few bishops actually save them or have them organized in a useful manner.  When I began my tenure as bishop there were 1st presidency letters in our confidential cabinet, but they were from a bishop who served 12 years before I was called.  Without this “modification” letter visible online where it is readily available, a new leader who is called in future will simply follow the handbook’s guidance not aware that such a revision exists.

The policy contradicts Book of Mormon’theology that teaches if ye have a desire to be baptized and are worthy, you are encouraged to do so.

Mosiah 18: “Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into acovenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?”

There are likely more issues with the policy that I am missing in this list, but these suffice to show that in the end we should feel free to dissent against such policies.  As Joseph F Smith once taught us:

“STANDARD WORKS JUDGE TEACHINGS OF ALL MEN. It makes no difference what is written or what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words, and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man’s doctrine.  You cannot accept the books written by the authorities of the Church as standards in doctrine, only in so far as they accord with the revealed word in the standard works.  Every man who writes is responsible, not the Church, for what he writes. If Joseph Fielding Smith writes something which is out of harmony with the revelations, then every member of the Church is duty bound to reject it. If he writes that which is in perfect harmony with the revealed word of the Lord, then it should be accepted.  –  Joseph Fielding Smith

Yep, you heard him.  Duty Bound!

Questions to consider

  • Did you agree that the handbook wording and “clarification” were essentially saying the same thing?
  • Do you see its present interpretation affecting many people?
  • Have you moved on or is this still bothering you?
  • Do you feel comfortable dissenting against the Church?  If so, how?  If not, why not?

Bill Reel is the host of Mormon Discussion Podcast. The podcast tries to deal with the tough issues forthrightly while “leading with faith”.

To hear more from Bill Reel on this issue see his podcast episode – “Handbooks, Policies, and Sleight of Hand”

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