When the policy came out a few weeks ago it hit like a ton of bricks. One of the reasons for the policy was given by Elder Christofferson was that a clarification was needed after the supreme court ruled in favor of marriage equality. This sounded a bit strange to me as I remembered a newsroom posting as well as a statement from the first presidency to be read in church reaffirming the church’s stance on marriage came out the next day or at least the week of that decision. I decided to look into it to see just how muddy the water really was prior to the policy implementation.
Church news, Commentary and Official Statements from Mar 2013 to Nov 2015 Regarding Same-Sex Marriage
NEWS RELEASE — 26 MARCH 2013
Church Reaffirms Position on Marriage Following Supreme Court Hearing
“We firmly support the divinely appointed definition of marriage as the union between a man and a woman because it is the single most important institution for strengthening children, families, and society.”
NEWS RELEASE — 7 NOVEMBER 2013
Church Responds to Inquiries on ENDA, Same-Sex Marriage
“On the question of same-sex marriage, the Church has been consistent in its support of traditional marriage while teaching that all people should be treated with kindness and understanding. If it is being suggested that the Church’s doctrine on this matter is changing, that is incorrect.”
OFFICIAL STATEMENT — 20 DECEMBER 2013
Church Statement on Court Ruling Regarding Same-Sex Marriage in Utah
“The Church has been consistent in its support of traditional marriage while teaching that all people should be treated with respect. This ruling by a district court will work its way through the judicial process. We continue to believe that voters in Utah did the right thing by providing clear direction in the state constitution that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and we are hopeful that this view will be validated by a higher court.”
OFFICIAL STATEMENT — 10 JANUARY 2014
Church Instructs Leaders on Same-Sex Marriage
“Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established. God expects us to uphold and keep His commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society. His law of chastity is clear: sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife. We urge you to review and teach Church members the doctrine contained in The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”
NEWS RELEASE — 6 OCTOBER 2014
Church Responds to Supreme Court Announcement: Court Chooses Not to Hear Same-Sex Marriage Cases
“The succession of federal court decisions in recent months, culminating in today’s announcement by the Supreme Court, will have no effect on the doctrinal position or practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is that only marriage between a man and a woman is acceptable to God. . . Nevertheless, respectful coexistence is possible with those with differing values.”
NEWS RELEASE — 12 MARCH 2015
Explaining Religious Freedom and LGBT Rights
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints remains strongly committed to marriage between a man and a woman as the only marriage consistent with the laws of God. This commandment and doctrine comes from sacred scripture, and the Church is not at liberty to change it. However, the Church accepts that same-sex marriage is now legal in a majority of the states. Among the public, the issue remains highly divisive and controversial.”
OFFICIAL STATEMENT — 26 JUNE 2015
Supreme Court Decision Will Not Alter Doctrine on Marriage
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints acknowledges that following today’s ruling by the Supreme Court, same-sex marriages are now legal in the United States. The Court’s decision does not alter the Lord’s doctrine that marriage is a union between a man and a woman ordained by God. While showing respect for those who think differently, the Church will continue to teach and promote marriage between a man and a woman as a central part of our doctrine and practice.”
NEWS RELEASE — 30 JUNE 2015
Church Leaders Counsel Members After Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Decision
“Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established. God expects us to uphold and keep His commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society. His law of chastity is clear: sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife.”
VIDEO — 6 NOVEMBER 2015
Church Provides Context on Handbook Changes Affecting Same-Sex Marriages
“We regard same-sex marriage as a particularly grievous or significant, serious kind of sin that requires Church discipline. . . We recognize that same-sex marriages are now legal in the United States and some other countries and that people have the right, if they choose, to enter into those, and we understand that. But that is not a right that exists in the Church. That’s the clarification.”
COMMENTARY — 13 NOVEMBER 2015
Understanding the Handbook, By Michael Otterson, Managing Director, Church Public Affairs
“There is no change in the doctrinal position that sexual relations between people of the same sex are sinful. . . With same-sex marriage now legal in the United States and some other nations, the Church felt the need specifically to address such marriages in the Handbook to draw a firm line and encourage consistency among local leaders.”
Church news, Commentary and Official Statements from Feb 2013 to Aug 2015 Regarding Homosexuals and the BSA
NEWS RELEASE — 6 FEBRUARY 2013
Church Cautions Against Speculation On Scouting Decision
“The recent announcement that BSA planned to make a policy change in its standards for membership and leadership has triggered intense debate [regarding allowing homosexual leaders or scouts to participate in the BSA] from many segments of society.”
OFFICIAL STATEMENT — 6 FEBRUARY 2013
Church Statement on BSA Decision to Postpone Vote
“The Church is following this proposed policy change very closely. We believe the BSA has acted wisely in delaying its decision until all voices can be heard on this important moral issue.”
NEWS RELEASE — 21 MAY 2015
Church to Monitor BSA Policy Discussion
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints responded Thursday to an indication by the Boy Scouts of America of possible policy changes in relation to gay Scout leaders by issuing the following statement:
‘We have noted the comments by Boy Scouts of America President Robert Gates in relation to possible policy changes in the Boy Scouts of America. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will, of course, examine any such changes very carefully to assess how they might impact our own century-long association with the BSA.'”
NEWS RELEASE — 23 MAY 2013
Church Responds to Boy Scouts Policy Vote
“Sexual orientation has not previously been—and is not now—a disqualifying factor for boys who want to join Latter-day Saint Scout troops. Willingness to abide by standards of behavior continues to be our compelling interest.
These standards are outlined in the booklet For the Strength of Youth and include abstinence from sexual relationships. We remain firmly committed to upholding these standards and to protecting and strengthening boys and young men.
The Church appreciates BSA’s reaffirmation of its commitment to “duty to God,” which includes service to others and moral behavior—central principles of our teaching to young men. As in the past, the Church will work with BSA to harmonize what Scouting has to offer with the varying needs of our young men. We trust that BSA will implement and administer the approved policy in an appropriate and effective manner.”
NEWS RELEASE — 13 JULY 2015
Church Comments on Boy Scouts of America Resolution on Adult Leader Standards
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued the following statement Monday regarding the Boy Scouts of America resolution for adult leader standards:
‘As a chartering organization, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has always had the right to select Scout leaders who adhere to moral and religious principles that are consistent with our doctrines and beliefs [I interpret this to mean ‘not homosexual’ or at least not engaging or endorsing homosexual activity]. Any resolution adopted by the Boy Scouts of America regarding leadership in Scouting must continue to affirm that right.'”
OFFICIAL STATEMENT — 27 JULY 2015
Church Re-evaluating Scouting Program: Concern expressed over BSA policy change, lack of global reach
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released the following statement today after a vote on a policy change by the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board to admit openly gay leaders:
‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is deeply troubled by today’s vote by the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board. In spite of a request to delay the vote, it was scheduled at a time in July when members of the Church’s governing councils are out of their offices and do not meet. When the leadership of the Church resumes its regular schedule of meetings in August, the century-long association with Scouting will need to be examined. The Church has always welcomed all boys to its Scouting units regardless of sexual orientation. However, the admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America.
As a global organization with members in 170 countries, the Church has long been evaluating the limitations that fully one-half of its youth face where Scouting is not available. Those worldwide needs combined with this vote by the BSA National Executive Board will be carefully reviewed by the leaders of the Church in the weeks ahead.'”
*The above statement was viewed by many to be controversial and disingenuous. Read here.
NEWS RELEASE — 26 AUGUST 2015
Church to Go Forward with Scouting Program: Will continue to evaluate options that meet its global needs
“BSA has reiterated that it expects those who sponsor Scouting units (such as the Church) to appoint Scout leaders according to their religious and moral values ‘in word and deed and who will best inculcate the organization’s values through the Scouting program.’ At this time, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will go forward as a chartering organization of BSA, and as in the past, will appoint Scout leaders and volunteers who uphold and exemplify Church doctrine, values, and standards. [I again interpret this to mean ‘not homosexual’ or at least not engaging in or endorsing homosexual activity]”
As I chatted with several people about their take on the policy, I encountered a couple different types of responses. One really was confused about it but was trying hard to see benevolence as the true motivation for it. Others saw fit to question my allegiance to God when I explained why I didn’t find the policy to be divine. Most perceptively, perhaps, was one old friend that sees this policy as a tool to clean house and make the church’s stance as clear as day so that gay sympathizers will know that they are in conflict with God’s mouthpiece.
With the church’s more transparent attempts at history via “the essays”, I had started to have hope for a greater shift overall away from the rigid black and white world view we’ve come to know in Mormonism. The essays have enabled some great class discussions in my role as a Young Men’s president and more recently in the Elder’s Quorum that would have been all but impossible just a few years ago. This gave me hope that the church was also becoming more open and understanding to those who don’t fit the conservative, non-feminist, and hetero-normative molds. This new policy felt like a virtual road block to the progress I thought we were seeing.
This policy and the wide support among many members indicates to me that I really was deluded. Those little points where mormonsandgays.org indicates that “The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin” and that with “love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters” don’t seem to be much of an outreach anymore. Elder Christofferson stating that “the issue is now coming into focus, but there are still a lot of questions we are seeking added understanding, We are still learning” seems a bit hollow. Are they really trying to understand homosexuality if they are willing to lay down a policy such as this?
If the brethren truly are seeking for understanding and inclusion, I fail to see it in their actions; in fact I see the opposite. The leadership of the LDS church have consistently been woefully behind in acknowledging what science and society as a whole have come to learn and know about the nature of homosexuality. If they are seeking for understanding and inclusion, they are doing so while digging their heels in and kicking and screaming.
Despite the barrage of focus on the very limited scope of gender and sexuality as stated in Proclamation to the Family*, many of us are still looking for hope, and perhaps a naive hope. My friend stated it well when he said, “all this time scouring conference talks for little hits of compassion and change are blown out of the water by this new addition to Handbook 1.” If the written statements weren’t enough, we can tell by the leadership’s actions that homosexual people simply are not to be included or trusted in our day to day lives. For example, the church expressed great anxiety over the question of homosexual scouts and homosexual scouting leaders being officially sanctioned by the BSA. I don’t see signs of change anymore. This official position and policy and the paternalistic need of church leaders to constantly inform members of acceptable beliefs and behavior has taken the wind out of my sails. It’s left me wondering if this is still my spiritual home. At the very least I suppose I clearly know what the brethren are thinking . . . tender mercies, right?
The editing of Elder Packer’s 2010 conference talk that caused a lot of excitement in some circles (in his speech he referred to the THE FAMILY: A PROCLAMATION TO THE WORLD as a revelation but in the corrected text of the talk he refers to it as “a guide,” this is in the first few minutes/paragraphs of the address) can’t really be touted as an example of the church leaning away from the Family Proclamation as a doctrine containing revelation. The numerous official church statements above attest to the reality that officially, it is a doctrinal document. The sacred status of the document remains despite the frustrations of liberal Mormons who find it’s rigid gender role prescriptions problematic, its conflation of gender and sex reductionist, and its limited view of what constitutes a proper God-sanctioned family . . . well . . . limited (especially given polygamous families in the bible and in the church’s history). It’s design and use as a mere political document will gain no ground when the first presidency repeatedly refers to it as divinely inspired and doctrinal. They have been beating this drum a while now, we just didn’t want to hear it.
Are you saying that you don’t understand why the change was so surprising to people since it’s just one more in a long line of standing firm against gay marriage (and related issues)?
Whether or not one agrees with it, the other issue is being surprised by it. I’m surprised at how many people were surprised by it.
I actually understand why people like me were surprised and upset by the policy, selection bias. I held on to the affirming words of Uchtdorf’s “come join with us” and “potempkin village” conference talks that spoke of inclusion and authenticity, which communicated openness and acceptance. I probably also held onto the alteration of Packer’s talk in my note as a sign of change or at least hesitancy to take hard line stances after prop 8. But while holding onto those and a few other affirming or at least ambiguous bits I had ignored all the other statements from the newsroom as merely ‘PR’ and statements from the first presidency as political stances not doctrinal/policy stances. I assumed that this issue was something the top leadership was still wrestling with and was under consideration. The policy seems to indicate otherwise. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was.
For me this policy wasn’t just about LGBT people it was about anyone who supports LGBT people. Just 2 weeks before Terryl and Fiona Givens were keynote speakers at Affirmation. So much hope came from their words for LGBT and non-LGBT people. Then the door slammed. Like you I had this hope of inclusion, not just for LGBT but for other marginalized people in our circle, doubters, feminists, broken families – but no. I hear your ache.
“My friend stated it well when he said, “all this time scouring conference talks for little hits of compassion and change are blown out of the water by this new addition to Handbook 1.” If the written statements weren’t enough, we can tell by the leadership’s actions that homosexual people simply are not to be included or trusted in our day to day lives.”
Yup. Before these changes, I felt like the Church was moving in a hopeful direction, even if at a glacial pace. With the changes, I feel like it’s definitely reversed course and is moving *away* from inclusion and toward fundamentalism. It’s extremely discouraging.