First, let me start this blog post by saying that I am an active LDS man who is in full fellowship with the Church and I have concerns. On November 5, 2015 many Mormons  found out about recent changes to Book 1 of the LDS Church’s Handbook of Instructions regarding homosexuals that are in same-sex cohabitational relationships and their children.  The changes were largely condemned by progressive Mormons and also raised concern for more traditionally conservative Mormons.1  Handbook 1 is used by bishops and stake presidents to help lead their congregations.  It is not usually publicly available, but upon request, a local bishop will show you the handbook.  On more than one occasion I have asked my bishop if I could view something in Handbook 1 and he had no problem showing me the handbook.  I did this again after I learned about the new policy changes and he immediately showed me what the online version of the Handbook said; I wanted to make sure that the pdf versions I was reading online were correct.  With that background, I will state that I don’t believe these changes were done clandestinely.  It is an instructional document for the world-wide LDS leadership. On November 6, 2015, Elder Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was interviewed by Michael Otterson of the LDS Church’s Public Relations Department. Per Brother Ottersson: “The Church quickly responded to many of those concerns with a video interview with Elder D. Todd Christofferson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. By the end of the weekend, that interview had been viewed by millions.” (click here to read Otterson’s complete statement) The interview offered no clarifications. It made matters worse. It seemed rather that Elder Christ0fferson had  taken notes from the FAIR blog and from the blog Well-Behaved Mormon Woman, on how to defend this egregious policy change. Today I learned of a letter, from the First Presidency, that is meant to clarify the new policy change. Word had been buzzing around the Mormon internet...

read more

Some thoughts, questions, and predictions regarding the new handbook policy

Much has already been written about the recent changes to LDS Handbook 1 that define entering into same-sex marriages as apostasy and preventing children in same-sex marriage families from being baptized and participating in other ordinances. I have little to add except a few thoughts on Elder Christofferson’s recent “context” video as well as my perspective as a social scientist on the long-term implications of this decision. I will specify that while I may personally question the long-term wisdom of this decision to one degree or another, I do not challenge the legitimate authority of the LDS General Authorities to dictate LDS Church doctrine and policies. I would have taken a different approach if I were boss, but I’m not (obviously). First, some thoughts, reactions, and questions to Elder Christofferson’s video: One common criticism of Church leaders from progressive Mormons is the lack of clarity and consistency in the application of church policy, often resulting in “leadership roulette.” To their credit, Church leaders are attempting to provide this clarity and consistency and reduce ambiguity in the application of policy. (On a related note, I also think that the Church deserves credit for its other efforts on this issue regarding the “Utah Compromise” and Elder Oaks’ recent statements on the marriage license issue.) Elder Christofferson explained that one of the primary motivations of this policy change is to “protect” the children in same-sex families from receiving mixed messages in their home environment. One question I have, then, is why the specific focus on same-sex families? As it stands, many children currently receive mixed messages at home from what they hear at church, “where the parents feel one way and the expectations of the Church are very different.” Children from mixed-faith marriages, for example, often are taught religious precepts by one or both of their parents that oppose Church doctrine. By that standard, why welcome those children but marginalize children of same-sex marriage families? Others have pointed out this same standard also does not apply for...

read more

82: The Policy Amendment (that never should have happened)

Nov 06, 15 82: The Policy Amendment (that never should have happened)

Posted by in Apostasy, decisions, Featured, News, Podcast, Policy Podcast: Play in new window | Download Subscribe: iTunes | Android | RSS Have heard about the new policy designed to protect children and inspired by all the confusion surrounding the churches position on gay marriage? Well we’ll tell you about it and you can read the amended policy (as if you haven’t already) right Changes-to-LDS-Handbook-1-Document-2-Revised-11-3-15. In this episode I talk with Jerilyn Pool and Tom Christofferson about the new policy and their reaction to it. After the recording was complete the church released a discussion between Elder Christofferson (LDS Apostle) and Micheal Otterson (church PR), please scroll down to the end of the post for that video. I also inserted my thoughts on the explanations given into the episode while completing the editing process. Let us know what you are thinking after processing this policy for a few days. Here is the transcript of the Tom C. portion of the episode (transcription provided by the kind folks at the Wheat and Tares blog).   RF:     Tom (Christofferson), you and I were talking about this online yesterday, and you described the news as dreary. What are your feelings now that you’ve had 24 hours to think about it? Tom:    It always helps to have a night’s sleep. This too shall pass; we’ll get through this like we’ve gotten through everything else.  I think my biggest reaction to it is that my experience both with my family and my ward family as I was coming back to church . . . seemingly would be more difficult to pull off under the setting that’s coming out here, I fear.  My concern would be that this puts more pressure on families, too, and the ability to deal with dissonance and ambiguity may be even more of a challenge than it has been before. So just to back up and give background, when I came out to my parents 30 years ago I decided that I had done everything I could to be Mormon, and it wasn’t...

read more

Keep Calm and Don’t Be Gay

What follows is a retelling of this meridian magazine article. I’m pretty sure that everyone, from those who think homosexual relationships make God angry, to those who are happy to accept that they were born homosexual, can agree on one thing, which I know is a truth: It would be nice to have a choice. As much as we’ve gone out of our way as a society to accommodate gay people, from not beating them for being gay to finally granting them equal rights, they’ll still be denied some privileges of hetero couples. Hetero couples can have kids… except those who can’t. Homosexual couples could never mix their DNA in a test tube and implant the egg fertilized from their mutual DNA into one of them or into a surrogate. Also, they can’t have a relationship that lasts into the eternities, because our leaders said that they can’t. So sure, we can be kind to them, but we can’t enucleate eggs to then implant a different mix of DNA. It’s not like it’s being done in animals and could be less than a decade or so away for humans. Gays can’t even hope for having biological kids. And as a child of someone who was adopted, I can say that raising your own biological children is the greatest privilege possible in marriage and really the only reason we have marriage. When a young person understands (as well as is possible with their limited experience) the ramifications of this, they’ll never choose a barren partner, or a partner of the same sex, because science can’t fix that right this instant.   We’ve made things so easy for gay people, that now the ones being raised in a conservative religious home have some social pressure to not be the kind of person that all of their family and entire social group expect them to be. What I’m saying is that we should make it more attractive for gays to want to sleep with someone they’re not attracted to. Just because they are attracted to...

read more

The World Already Ended…or Didn’t You Notice?

So there’s been some talk amidst the “end of days” crowds that this September is supposed to be the beginning of the end. Or the beginning of an end. Or the seventh year in the cycle of Jewish numbers of Old Testament things and 9/11 and the recession and UN troops cross over an earthquake while Seattle is underwater and China is selling back our debt and making the stock market crash while we live in tent-cities under a blood moon, Obama something bad. As you can tell, I’m pretty much all caught up. Now there are several sources for this info; the most famous LDS one being a woman named Julie Rowe. She has stated that she had visions during a near-death experience and written some books about what she saw. While my intro is pretty flippant of the mass hysteria around these predictions, I am not one to deny that strange spiritual experiences can and do happen to reveal things to us. But I am very wary of those experiences being taken too definitively or too literally, because they are experiences filtered through the mortal minds, hearts, and biases we posses, and we may not really understand it.  How many times in the scriptures were prophetic visions 100% literal and easily explained? Even after hearing his father’s vision, Nephi had to really parse out what it meant with the help of the Holy Ghost because he couldn’t figure it out on his own. Pharaoh knew he had had a really significant dream, but he also knew it wasn’t literal or he would have told everyone to kill any skinny cow they saw. He needed someone to translate it for him, which Joseph was able to do. So in light of that, incredibly specific predictions that get right down to the date and location sound a bit suspect to me. The other part that always disturbs me, is that some people seem weirdly excited about these disasters. And if they don’t come to pass, I sense there...

read more

Tithing Donations Should Be Confidential

May 03, 15 Tithing Donations Should Be Confidential

Posted by in Featured, Honesty, News, Tithing

Money is a touchy topic. I remember feeling really uncomfortable towards the end of graduate school when a classmate of mine would openly ask recently hired employees of various chemical companies what their starting salaries were. I understand his interest for I too wanted to know what I could possibly expect in terms of income upon graduating, but it was just uncomfortable because money and income are culturally understood as taboo subjects. We place both our money and spending into our private sphere. For the LDS, one place that can take the details of income out of concealment is church. Members of the LDS church, like other Christian denominations, are strongly encouraged to pay 10% of their income to the church as part of their religious devotion. In order to be considered a member in good standing and to gain access to the temple, the holiest place in the LDS faith, members must declare to their local ecclesiastical leaders that they are indeed full tithe payers.  This is done somewhat informally whenever a temple recommend is renewed as well as formally at the end of the year during annual tithing settlement. An annual tithing settlement was instituted during the 19th century when many, if not most members lived an agrarian lifestyle and it did not make sense for all members to declare tithing until the harvest had been collected and accounted for. The tradition of annual accounting holds strong today and for many it is an occasion to reaffirm their obedience to the commandment by reviewing their own income records against records of tithing donations to ensure that they are indeed fully compliant with the law of tithing. One important detail from the recent newsroom article, which announced the approval of online donation payments, is the statement that tithing and other donations are “paid on the honor system. No one asks to see income statements or pay slips.” This statement is true in the sense that bishops and clerks do not request proof of income...

read more

Defending the Family

Mar 16, 15 Defending the Family

Posted by in Family, Featured, Homosexuality, News

Meridian Magazine ( recently started a column inviting scholarly discussion of significant cultural and moral topics. More explicitly: Meridian EXPAND will be anxiously engaged in the good cause of defending core teachings of the Church concerning morality and the family, even though, indeed precisely because, these teachings are incompatible, not with critical thinking, but with an ideology that is increasingly ascendant among intellectuals, media elites and academics. I hope that any such defense of the family will acknowledge and wrestle with various facts I encountered as I sought to give reasons for denying same sex couples the privilege of legal recognition of their marriages. If it does so, this is likely to be a valuable discussion. The first took me the longest to accept, but has been acknowledged publicly by the LDS church: Sexual orientation is not a choice ( While the genetic and environmental factors that determine sexual orientation are only partially understood, there is overwhelming evidence that it is nearly completely determined before a child is even born. Children raised by same-sex couples are no more or less likely to be gay than those raised by different-sex couples. Does my defense of family account for this fact, that God made these people this way? The second set of facts has to do with the benefits and costs to society of same sex parents. I share the commonly held LDS view that the primary purpose for a society to recognize and support marriages is to provide stable environments for raising children as contributing members of society. My defense of family thus needs to account for the following measured facts: Lesbian couples raise children to be just as psychologically and socially well adjusted as different-sex couples, and small data sets suggest children raised by gay couples aren’t significantly different (or maybe better). Same-sex couples adopt many more minority children who, by inference from the fact of minority children being adopted less often, are more likely to grow up without two stable parents.

read more

46: The Effects of Excommunication on All of Us: Healing Perspectives

Feb 11, 15 46: The Effects of Excommunication on All of Us: Healing Perspectives

Posted by in Featured, News, Podcast Podcast: Play in new window | Download Subscribe: iTunes | Android | RSS The anticipated day has come. John Dehlin has been formally cut off from the LDS church. John has been an ambitious voice and organizer for those who have deep Mormon questions. He has provided a platform for many to share their stories and find people with common concerns and common goals. For some he has shown them how to save their faith. For others he has shown them ways to examine their faith. For many he has become an important part of their life narrative, likely without designing to do so. Seeing John cut off from the church hurts. Their are lots of opinions and questions being aired. He is being examined and cross-examined again and again. Whether you have grown to love John or not, he is an important and valuable figure in modern Mormon discourse for many and his formal excommunication carries painful weight for those who value his contributions. The discipline brings up anxiety, frustration, anger, confusion, and a variety of other emotions. In this podcast our panel of Joanna Brooks, Dan Wotherspoon, Natasha Parker, and Jennifer Finnlayson-Fife offer some constructive insights and long term perspective that we can use in moving forward in our faith community after this blow.   A Poem for My Brothers and Sisters by Joanna Brooks Last night I dreamed I stood at the edge of the parade route, my friend Claire at my side, a shade over our heads, a ridge of red sandstone mountains against the far horizon. Then they came in the noonday sun Our people, so fierce, so tender, so terrible The men carrying books translated out of air, out of hats, out of hunger, Eyes straight ahead, unafraid of looking foolish to the world if it meant they could beat down death. The women too Pioneer skirts across the backs of horses Long guns at their sides Priestesses they were Tall, soft spoken, square shouldered Priestesses of a...

read more

Erosion of Religious Liberty?

Jan 29, 15 Erosion of Religious Liberty?

Posted by in Featured, Homosexuality, News, Politics

When Alexis de Tocqueville visited the US, he observed that America was more religious than Europe and attributed it to the strong separation of church and state that existed in the US. It would seem that this division of church and state, this freedom of religion is currently being tested. This is of particular concern currently because Christians of any denomination no longer represent 99% of the public. Many are talking of the erosion of religious freedom in the US. Those who express such concerns are inevitably Christian. The perceived erosion of religious freedom today is the very real erosion of Christian privilege.   I’d like to address a list of both real events (held up as examples of the erosion of religious freedom) and hypothetical threats to religious freedom. The University of California system is forcing Christian groups to compromise their religious conscience if they want recognition for their clubs. So, a public, tax-funded University won’t officially recognize and subsidize a club that excludes gays and non-Christians from leadership. Is this an erosion of religious freedom? Well, the group is totally at liberty to remain a private club, unaffiliated with the university. The issue seems to be, do they have a religious freedom to be put on a list of clubs at a public University and receive funds from the University if they discriminate using a religious rubric? This seems to be a case of the erosion of Christian privilege, not religious freedom. Houston city government lawyers subpoenaed the sermons and notes of pastors who opposed parts of a new law on religious grounds. These pastors faced not only intimidation, but also criminal prosecution for insisting that a new gay rights ordinance should be put to a vote of the people. They were subpoenaed simply because they opposed a law? No, not quite. Sermons and notes were subpoenaed because the city was being sued by a Christian group for throwing out illegal signatures on a petition to repeal the equal rights law. Those 5 pastors were...

read more

26: General Conference Compressed Podcast: Play in new window | Download Subscribe: iTunes | Android | RSS Have you ever wanted to cover 10 hours of material but only had one to give? Rational faiths has the solution for you with our conference response and review session. Listen in to the highs and lows of conference expressed through 5 individual conference...

read more