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Prince Research Excerpts on Gay Rights & Mormonism – “38 – The Policy”

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38 – The Policy


“That standard applies to members, too, but is implemented differently across the country, said Randall Thacker, a gay Mormon in Washington, D.C., who lives with his partner. He doesn’t have a temple recommend but plays the piano in his LDS congregation’s Primary for children under age 12 and coordinates his ward’s inner-city service projects.

His bishop welcomed him back to church last year, saying, ‘My role is to bring people to Christ. Please continue to come and I hope you will feel welcome here.’

Thacker has heard recently of other gay Mormons and their supporters not having such a positive experience.

‘There is inconsistency worldwide in the way local leaders view members who support same-sex civil marriage,’ said Thacker, president of Affirmation, an LDS gay support group, ‘Some local leaders, including some in Utah, see this as contrary to sustaining the prophet and apostles, which at times has resulted in threats to revoke or actual revocation of a temple recommend and in other instances the release of otherwise-worthy members from ward leadership callings.’” (Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Can Mormons back same-sex marriage and still get in the temple?” Salt Lake Tribune, January 17, 2014)


“Pope Francis continues to urge Catholic priests not to block gay couples from having their children baptized. Speaking last Sunday during an ordination mass in the Vatican, Francis reminded that priests should not refuse baptism to anyone who asks for the sacrament. The pontiff told the priests: ‘With baptism, you unite the new faithful to the people of God. It is never necessary to refuse baptism to someone who asks for it.’

During the love of God prayer, Pope Francis said that God’s love is the ‘highest and purest’ largely because ‘it is not motivated from any necessity, it is not conditioned from any calculus, it is not attracted by any desire of exchange.’ The official position for Catholic leaders has been that if the parents, straight or same-sex, pledge to raise the child Catholic, then no girl or boy should be refused baptism.…

Francis has previously said that while the church has the right to express its opinion it cannot ‘interfere’ spiritually in the lives of gays and lesbians. As an archbishop in Argentina he stated: ‘The child has absolutely no responsibility for the state of his parent’s marriage.’ As pope, Francis has continued to promote that view by saying all children, no matter their parents’ sexual orientation, deserve access to baptism.” (Alison Lesley, “Pope Francis Tells Priests Do Not Deny Baptisms,” World Religion News, April 30, 2015)


“A new section in Handbook 1, 16.13 will be added as follows:

Children of a Parent Living in a Same-Gender Relationship

A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may not receive a name and a blessing.

A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may be baptized and confirmed, ordained, or recommended for missionary service only as follows:

A mission president or a stake president may request approval from the Office of the First Presidency to baptize and confirm, ordain, or recommend missionary service for a child of a parent who has lived or is living in a same-gender relationship when he is satisfied by personal interviews that both of the following requirements are met:

  1. The child accepts and is committed to live the teachings and doctrine of the Church, and specifically disavows the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage.
  2. The child is of legal age and does not live with a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same-gender cohabitation relationship or marriage.

Handbook 1, number 6.7.3 is also to be updated immediately as follows:

When a Disciplinary Council is Mandatory

As used here, apostasy refers to members who:…

  1. Are in a same-gender marriage.…”



“Church spokesman Eric Hawkins confirmed the documents were accurate…

Nick Literski, a gay man from Seattle who left the LDS Church after coming out in 2006, said the policy will directly affect his relationship with his children. The youngest, a 17-year-old girl who lives in Illinois with her mother, is already preparing for the mission she hopes to serve when she reaches age 19.

That may be impossible now, said Literski.

‘She now can’t serve a mission unless she ‘disavows’ her own father’s life — basically convinces a stake president that she’s sufficiently disgusted by me,’ he said, adding that he was physically shaken after reading the policy.

‘I’m heartsick,’ Literski said. ‘It’s so incredibly unfair to put her in this position.’…

As news of the policy spread, Affirmation, a support group for gay Mormons, was flooded with messages from members expressing their ‘tremendous hurt, heartache, emotional distress and spiritual confusion,’ said Randall Thacker, the group’s president.

Thacker said he found the church’s new policy for children of gay parents particularly egregious.

‘I cannot imagine Jesus Christ denying any child a baptism because of the status of their parents,’ he said. ‘It goes against everything I ever thought the savior and baptism was about.’…” (Jennifer Dobner, “New Mormon policy makes apostates of married same-sex couples, bars children from rites,” Salt Lake Tribune, November 5, 2015)


“I’m confused. A few months ago Church leaders said that members were free to back gay marriage. Now, a young person raised by a same-sex couple who wishes to join the Church must disavow their parents’ marriage.…” (Steve Woodall, Letter to the Editor, Salt Lake Tribune, November 6, 2015)


“‘It is astounding and deeply disturbing for me to see the LDS church list legal same-sex marriage … as a sin comparable to murder, rape, sexual abuse, spouse abuse,’ said John Dehlin, a gay-rights advocate and podcaster who was excommunicated earlier this year.

‘What’s even more disturbing about this new policy change is that the children of LDS murderers and rapists can still get baptized, but children of legally same-sex married couples cannot. This is troubling even by Mormon standards.’…” (“Mormon Church Bars Children of Same-Sex Couples From Baptism, Blessings,” NBCnews.com, November 6, 2015)


“We regard same-sex marriage as a particularly grievous or significant, serious kind of sin that requires Church discipline. It means the discipline is mandatory — doesn’t dictate outcomes but it dictates that discipline is needed in those cases.…

It originates from a desire to protect children in their innocence and in their minority years. When, for example, there is the formal blessing and naming of a child in the Church, which happens when a child has parents who are members of the Church, it triggers a lot of things. First, a membership record for them. It triggers the assignment of visiting and home teachers. It triggers an expectation that they will be in Primary and the other Church organizations. And that is likely not going to be an appropriate thing in the home setting, in the family setting where they’re living as children where their parents are a same-sex couple. We don’t want there to be the conflicts that that would engender. We don’t want the child to have to deal with issues that might arise where the parents feel one way and the expectations of the Church are very different. And so with the other ordinances on through baptism and so on, there’s time for that if, when a child reaches majority, he or she feels like that’s what they want and they can make an informed and conscious decision about that. Nothing is lost to them in the end if that’s the direction they want to go. In the meantime, they’re not placed in a position where there will be difficulties, challenges, conflicts that can injure their development in very tender years.…” (D. Todd Christofferson, “Church Provides Context on Handbook Changes Affecting Same-Sex Marriage,” LDS Newsroom, November 6, 2015)


“Social media was alight Thursday night and Friday as self-described faithful Latter-day Saints expressed concern that the policies focused on the children of same-sex couples seemed unusual, harsh or harmful. These instructions, however, are consistent with other church practices and policies developed over decades that seek to protect prospective members, their families and the church. The policy changes released Thursday are meant to protect family relationships, Elder Christofferson said, not to limit the opportunities for children in the church.

Instead, the goal is to protect children, he said, so ‘they’re not placed in a position where there will be difficulties, challenges, conflicts that can injure their development in very tender years.’…

The example of the baby blessing highlighted the issue. In the LDS Church, giving an infant a formal name and blessing is an ordinance that places the name of the infant on formal church records of the church and begins a life-long series of church-related actions, events and expectations, Elder Christofferson said. For example, once a baby is blessed and becomes a child of record, she is assigned home teachers and visiting teachers. That could create awkward situations and tension between parents and children as practicing Latter-day Saints visit the home and teach. Eventually, the child would learn that his parents in same-sex relationship have chosen a life contrary to the church’s most basic doctrines.… [HOW ABOUT MIXED-MEMBER MARRIAGES?]

The new policies are similar to multiple church policies and practices regarding baptism. For example, no child between 8 and 18 may be baptized without parental approval. No spouse can be baptized without the consent of the wife or husband. The church has declined to baptize many Muslims because doing so would put them in danger for leaving their faith either under interpretations of Islamic law or family culture. Similar restrictions have been in place in countries where governments have implemented strict laws.

Another example is the church’s own self-imposed constraints on missionary work in several areas of the world. In Africa today, the church is growing rapidly in several countries, but missionaries are restricted to proselyting in certain urban areas where the church has strong leaders and structure. In 1999, late LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley instructed missionaries in South America to focus on reactivation and retention of new converts instead of baptizing as many as possible.…” (Tad Walch, “Elder Christofferson explains updated LDS Church policies on same-sex marriage and children,” Deseret News, November 6, 2015)


“The new policies are an effort by the church, which has long opposed same-sex marriage, to reinforce and even harden its doctrinal boundaries for its members at a time when small but increasing numbers of Mormons are coming out as gay or supportive of same-sex marriage.

At the same time, the church has recently been taking a tolerant public stance supportive of laws that ban discrimination against gay people in employment and housing. Since the Supreme Court established a right to same-sex marriage nationwide in June, Mormon leaders have parted company with the leaders of evangelical and other conservative churches by affirming that despite their religious convictions, even people of faith opposed to gay marriage must follow the law.…

Some liberal Mormons expressed outrage online at the new policies. Jana Riess, a columnist with Religion News Service, said she was livid that children born to unmarried people, as well as rapists and murderers, can be baptized and blessed, but not children of monogamous same-sex couples.

‘It’s heartbreaking for me to see my church drawing this line in the sand, which leaves faithful L.G.B.T. members with an impossible choice: They can either be excluded from lifelong love and companionship, or excluded from the blessings of the church,’ she said.…” (Laurie Goodstein, “Mormons Sharpen Stand Against Same-Sex Marriage,” New York Times, November 6, 2015)


“[Wendy Montgomery] ‘We just put a scarlet letter on these kids,’ she said. ‘This isn’t my church. I don’t see God in it. I don’t see divinity in it. It just feels evil.’” (“Gay Mormons Distressed by New Rules on Same-Sex Relationships,” New York Times, November 7, 2015)


“During the years I have been reading the Mormon blogs, I have never seen an issue which generated such a diverse array of carefully-thought-out responses (mixed with the usual obscene nastiness on both sides, of course).  There seems to be a great deal of angst among believers, and a great deal of suspicion and cynicism among the critics.  I can think of two other moderate critics who have gone for years down the middle road, monitoring respectful discourse on the blogs, who decided this weekend to leave the Church.  Some writers postulate that this is precisely what the Church was seeking, to effect a wheat-and-tares cleansing over an issue they simply cannot process or understand due to their intransigent, obdurate conservatism.  It will be interesting to look back in a few years and see if this was a bigger faux pas than Prop 8 or excommunicating Sonia Johnson, etc.” (Rick Grunder to GAP, November 8, 2015)


“Make no mistake—this latest move is a response to ensure the maintenance of the status quo in the church and its leadership—and any rhetoric otherwise is a nonsense. It simply doesn’t want the cultural, political and social ‘nuisance’ of gays and lesbians and their children.” (Gina Colvin, “So what kind of church is this?” patheos.com, November 8, 2015)


“A new LDS Church policy barring the children of married gay parents from membership or baptism in the church has sent seismic waves through the Mormon community, leaving many Church members confounded by the Church’s open contradiction with closely held tenets of Christianity, including the New Testament’s declaration of unconditional love for and acceptance of children.

LDS Church leaders explained Friday that the controversial new policy, modeled on the Church’s treatment of polygamous families and their children, is designed to ‘protect’ children of LGBT parents from experiencing ‘conflict,’ a claim that some Mormons and many non-LDS people have found it difficult to accept.

If protecting the children is a concern for the LDS Church, it might attempt the following:

  • Affirm immediately that all children are beloved of God, entitled to saving ordinances, and welcome to participate in the life of the church.

Barring children of LGBT families from membership or baptism in the Church strikes at the very heart of Christian teachings about God’s special care for children and the essential role of baptism. It marks them as expendable. It also ensures that children of LGBT families will have virtually no opportunity for religious education within the LDS tradition during their critical formative years. Mormonism places great emphasis on the religious education of children. It is when we are children that we learn fundamental lessons about the love of God, the power of prayer, and the role of the ‘still small voice’—the Holy Ghost—in guiding our lives. These lessons shape and provide a foundation for our lives, and are cherished even by adults raised as Mormons who are no longer orthodox practitioners of the faith. 

  • Acknowledge the role of complex contemporary families in the religious education of children.

Mormonism is a faith deeply rooted in families. Among the most beautiful and treasured Mormon doctrines is the teaching that intergenerational family ties continue after death. Many Mormon families with LGBT members have taken refuge in the belief that no matter how difficult the conflicts between Church doctrine and the reality of homosexual lives, these conflicts will be resolved by God in the eternities. Barring the children of married LGBT parents from learning about and participating in the Church hurts all family members—including the former spouses of gay Mormons and their extended families.

For generations, Mormon leaders encouraged gay men and women to marry straight partners and have children. Today, there are many LDS mothers and fathers who have divorced from gay partners but continue to wish to raise children in the Church, often with the support of the gay parent. Their children should not be excluded from growing up in the Mormon faith.

Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins of the children of gay Mormons are also deeply hungry for children to belong to the LDS Church and understand and benefit from their Mormon heritage. They should be allowed to participate fully in these children’s religious education with the parents’ consent.

  • Affirm the ability of families and children to live with and love through complication and conflict.

Mormonism teaches that the Holy Ghost is a gift given by God to guide us through life’s many difficult questions. As a parent in an interfaith Mormon family that takes exception to Church politics and teachings on homosexuality and the role of women, I affirm that children (and adults) are deeply capable of handling complexity, that it is possible for a family to say, ‘We may disagree, we may not fit the institutional model, but there are many wonderful things we can and should learn from our faith.’ Mormon families around the world in many different circumstances—including Mormons of color, interfaith families, divorced families, feminist families, and politically progressive Mormon families—do this every day. The Church should honor the complexity of how faith is actually lived.

  • Advocate expanded protections for LGBT families.

If LGBT parents are not protected from discrimination and violence, their children are left unprotected as well. If the LDS Church wants to protect the children of LGBT families, it should use its powerful political resources to ensure that laws barring discrimination against LGBT people in housing and employment are fully enforced, and that violence directed against LGBT people is recognized and fully prosecuted as a hate crime. The state of Utah’s hate crimes statute does not include crimes against LGBT people; this should be changed immediately. Children are vulnerable when their parents are not protected by the law against hateful violence.

  • Protect LGBT children and teens.

Twenty to forty percent of all homeless youth are gay. Thirty-nine percent of gay homeless youth say they were kicked out of their homes. According to experts, of the thousands of teenagers who will sleep on the streets or under bridges in Utah tonight, fully half of them are LGBT kids, the majority from Mormon families who have kicked them out. The Church should provide for these children and work with families to prevent the despair and confusion that lead to abandonment.

The Church should also support a legal end to so-called ‘conversion therapy.’ For decades, Mormons were taught that homosexuality is a condition that could be changed or subdued through prayer, heterosexual marriage, fasting, or even aversion or electroshock therapy. Practitioners of dangerous and abusive ‘conversion therapies’ continue to operate, preying on desperate families and young LGBT people. Over the past two years, I have been working with a courageous young gay woman named Alex, who was held for eight months in an unlicensed in-home conversion therapy facility run by Mormon people who used the faith as an instrument of abuse.

Her story and the stories of many others like her make it clear how expendable LGBT people are to the LDS Church today, a painful reality underscored by the Church’s new policy.” (Joanna Brooks, “LDS Church Labels Same-Sex Spouses ‘Apostates,’ Bars Children from Baptism,” Religion Dispatches, November 9, 2015)


“I have two moms.  I love them. After this new policy was announced, my bishop contacted me to say that if they want to visit me and their grandchildren, they have to stay in separate bedrooms. Or I will face mandatory discipline.” (Jerilyn Hassell Pool, Suffer the Little Children Facebook group, November 10, 2015)


“This time last week, Alyssa Paquette’s twelve-year-old stepson was preparing to be ordained to the priesthood in the LDS Church.

Now that has all changed. On November 5, the Church confirmed a new policy that forbids baby blessings, baptisms, and priesthood ordinations for minor children who reside at least part of the time in a home where a parent is in a same-sex marriage.

The sadness has been palpable. After a crushing weekend spent trying to understand what the Church’s new policy means for him, the boy* is crestfallen.

‘Usually he is so positive and easygoing, but ever since these policies hit and we learned he would not be ordained, he has been depressed and anxious,’ says Paquette, 35, a Mormon mother living in Oregon.

He’s not the only one. Their whole blended family has been suffering since the news hit last Thursday. Their family configuration is complicated but loving: The twelve-year-old is Paquette’s husband’s son from a prior relationship. The boy’s mother subsequently began cohabiting with a woman. The father joined the LDS Church, married Paquette, and had three more children with her, now ages 8, 6, and 2.

The boy’s two families share equal custody and his biological mother has been accepting of the decision to raise him as a Mormon, despite her reservations about its teachings on LGBT issues. ‘All of his parents were there’ at his baptism four years ago, says Paquette. ‘It was a great experience because we all came together to support our son during an important time.’

Now Paquette expresses shock and grief that on the eve of their son’s ordination, he’s being rejected. ‘It feels like a mourning process, like someone has actually died. The church is such a huge part of our lives, and to have that suddenly taken away from him is really challenging,’ she says.

Paquette notes that her family has been deluged with ‘an outpouring of love and support’ from their local ward, and that the bishop reached out to them immediately. ‘He was very sympathetic and full of love, and struggling to find the right words for us.’

But, she says, ‘He was also at a loss for how the new policies would apply in our situation. It sounds like he hasn’t been given much guidance other than what’s in the handbook.’ At first, the family hoped that an exception might be made because their son is already a baptized member of the church, and so close in age to his planned ordination.

However, that was impossible since he is legally required to live part-time in his biological mother’s home according to the terms of their joint custody agreement. Under the new policy, this makes him ineligible for most of the church’s rites until he becomes an adult—and even then only if he disavows his mother’s same-sex marriage.

‘That is just not an option for us,’ Paquette says. ‘My husband and I feel that it would be wrong to have him disavow half of his family.’

The shock wave of this policy change doesn’t just affect her son, though.

Her eight-year-old daughter was scheduled to be baptized next week, and now that will not be happening.

‘Even though our three other children aren’t precluded from being baptized, we feel like we can’t continue to participate in church with the policy as it stands,’ she says. ‘We have a strong conviction that it’s wrong.’

The Paquettes have decided that they will either attend church together as a family, with all of their children treated equally, or they will find somewhere that is a ‘safe place’ for the six of them.

Paquette breaks down in tears at the thought of not being Mormon, which is ‘a huge part’ of her identity. She does not want to have the family’s names removed from the rolls—’that would be really drastic, and would close a door’—but she won’t choose the church over keeping her family whole.

‘When you’re raised in the church, you’re raised to sustain your leaders. You’re taught that anything that comes from the church is from God, and to not sustain them is to not sustain God,’ she says.

‘But I don’t know how we’re supposed to sustain something that tears our family apart.’” (Jana Riess, “Mormon boy denied priesthood ordination because his mom is living with a woman,” janariess.religionnews.com, November 10, 2015)


Written by Devon Gibby

“I’ve hesitated to post this because I don’t want to turn my family into a political statement. However, the LDS Church with its recent policy change regarding children of same-sex couples has turned my family into something political, and I cannot remain silent about this. 

I have been living with Rob for the past 5 months. My kids live with us part of the time, and their mother most of the time. I have left the LDS church, although not officially. My boys have a wonderful mother who is still Mormon. Although we don’t agree on spiritual matters, we have come to the conclusion that our kids will be raised in the church, and I honor that decision because I value my relationship with them and their mother. On weekends that they stay with me and Rob, I’ll take them to church. When my sons speak in primary or in the primary program, Rob and I are there to support them and their involvement in the church. I have done all that I can to ensure that my kids will never have to choose between having a relationship with their father and his partner whom they both love, and being involved in the church that their mother loves. 

Now, because my boys live with me part time, they are excluded from membership in the church unless they receive approval from the First Presidency. Children of felons and rapists don’t even have such a harsh punishment. I’m really hurting. Just when I thought that I had found a way to live with tolerance toward the church they’ve come out and attacked my family in a very personal way.” (Natasha Helfer Parker, “Families Affected by New Policy,” Patheos.com, November 8, 2015)

[Posted Anonymously] “My ex has decided to take me to court to take my kids away. This all came about after the policy change. I’m gay and we divorced several years ago.  Up until this past weekend, we were getting along well.  

I agreed in the divorce to allow her to raise the kids in the church. Apparently she now feels she will not be able to do that unless she has full custody. Because under the new policy children cannot progress in the church if they have a parent in a same-sex relationship.” (Natasha Helfer Parker, “Families Post #3,” Patheos.com, November 10, 2015)


“This decision, while no doubt motivated by the hope to keep the Mormon population from forming homosexual relationships, will in the end accomplish nothing but push people away from God and religion, and only increase the ever growing numbers of Americans who view religion unfavorably. It’s surprising that such an unjust policy could even be considered.

Let us imagine that a man and a woman are living together outside of wedlock, as is the case with countless couples in the United States. Now, one would traditionally have said that they live in sin. But would anyone, including the Mormon Church, tell them that they are no longer allowed to come to pray? And if their children are born out of wedlock, are they barred from being members of the Church until they turn 18 and run away from home?

To bar a gay man or woman from communal acceptance and access to religious practice is hopelessly misguided.  Since when is one aspect of our lives that is not lived in accordance with biblical teachings an impediment to being in a relationship with G-d in other areas?

But to bar their offspring from membership in the church, and to forbid these children from even living in the same house as the parents who loved them and raised them to adulthood?  Since when did the bible condone punishing children for the sins of their parents?  Does Ezekiel 18:20 not state, ‘A son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, and a father shall not bear the iniquity of the son.’…

I call on the leaders of the Mormon Church to reconsider their new policy. Though they oppose gay marriage they must never oppose gay men and women and must certainly never be so cruel as to punish their children.…” (Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “Why Is the Mormon Church Punishing Children of Gay Marriage?” Observer.com, November 10, 2015)


“No part of the new LDS policy on same-sex couples has generated more controversy — and criticism — than its prohibition against Mormon rituals for their children.

Stories flooding social media tell of canceled baby blessings, postponed baptisms, aborted priesthood ordinations and withdrawn missionary applications. Even many devout Mormons — including congregational and regional leaders — report distress, despondence and despair over the upheaval.…

From the moment children are born, they are embraced by the Mormon community in a ritual known as a ‘blessing’ — similar to a ‘christening’ — in which infants are given a name and prayerfully celebrated in a public gesture. They also are entered onto the church’s rolls.

LDS kids attend Primary and receive more religious instruction before — and after — they are baptized at age 8 and become official members. As teens, they attend Young Men and Young Women programs and are urged to serve full-time missions (at age 18 for males and 19 for females).

Sons and daughters of murderers, adulterers, fornicators, drug addicts, unwed mothers, divorced parents and sometimes non-Mormons can be welcomed into the community with such special rites, born of the Mormon belief that children are born innocent, rather than carrying the weight of their parents’ sins.

Now, the church says children whose parents currently or have been in a same-sex relationship cannot participate in those rites. They must wait until they are 18 before they can seek approval from the governing First Presidency to join the LDS Church.

To do so, they no longer can live with their parents and must disavow their parents’ marriages.…

If these religious rituals are not crucial to a young believer’s upbringing, others argue, why does the church emphasize them so much?

‘It’s important to keep in mind that infant [blessings] and child baptism [are] not necessary for salvation in Mormon teaching, so these policies do not, in theory, hinder a child’s ultimate salvation,’ St. Louis LDS writer Rosalynde Welch said, so these policies ‘need not be read as an indictment of the worthiness of children of gay couples, nor as an ultimate bar to their salvation.’

However, she said, the policies remain troubling.

They seem ‘to challenge the cherished Mormon teaching that ‘in the ordinances [of the priesthood] the power of godliness is manifest,’ ‘ Welch said. ‘They do indeed block the power of God from manifesting in these children’s lives through the ordinances of baptism and confirmation.’…

Joanna Brooks, a Mormon writer and scholar at San Diego State University, argued that ‘barring children of LGBT families from membership or baptism in the church strikes at the very heart of Christian teachings about God’s special care for children and the essential role of baptism.’

‘It marks them as expendable,’ Brooks wrote in a Religion Dispatches essay. ‘It also ensures that children of LGBT families will have virtually no opportunity for religious education within the LDS tradition during their critical formative years.’

It’s not that tough, she added, for young people to deal with contradictions between their own lives and church teachings.

‘Children (and adults) are deeply capable of handling complexity,’ Brooks said. ‘Mormon families around the world in many different circumstances — including Mormons of color, interfaith families, divorced families, feminist families, and politically progressive Mormon families — do this every day.’…” (Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Mormons’ biggest fear about new gay policy: Children paying for parents’ sins,” Salt Lake Tribune, November 10, 2015)


“Like me, the LDS Church and its members are many things. The Church’s ultimate, stated goal is to be a force for good in the world. It is not, in itself, striving to bring harm to those who do not fit into the mold its doctrine prescribes. 

But that doesn’t mean this insidious policy isn’t harmful and dangerous. While the Church attempts to mask it as ‘doing good’ for children of gay parents, it’s a policy that will prove only to further hurt and divide Mormon families with LGBT members.

It’s a policy that demonizes same-sex marriage, same-sex parents, and the innocent children of these unions. 

This policy clearly communicates to my daughter — and many other children with a gay parent — that the Church finds our family abnormal, unhealthy, unholy, and simply not as good or worthy as families headed by opposite-sex parents. It should go without saying that this is the wrong message to send to families — gay or otherwise. 

My daughter has extended family members who are devout and active in the LDS Church. I do not want her to feel unworthy, ashamed, or marginalized because her cousins have a mother and a father, which their faith declares makes them somehow superior to her and her two dads. When it comes to family and raising children, what matters is love, not gender. 

This new Church policy will also further embolden those members who oppose LGBT people and our equal rights — like the pious Mormon blogger who launched a vicious, personal attack against my family earlier this year. A person who I have never met, who knows nothing of me and my family, blatantly and openly insulted us in the name of his beliefs. So it’s not hard to see how policies like this one can be interpreted as justification for such antigay onslaughts.  

This is wrong. No amount of righteous indignation is justification for hatred.…

When my daughter was a week old, her grandfather blessed her. The blessing of a newborn is an important tradition in the Mormon faith, a wonderful opportunity to come together and support a child’s arrival into the world. It’s a chance for friends and family to gather, to reconnect, in love and celebration.

Even though I had left the Church, my daughter’s blessing touched me. My heart was full witnessing my family’s joy in the arrival of my daughter. It was a beautiful thing, regardless of my personal position towards my faith. 

But it saddens me to know that the innocent children of other LGBT parents — other apostates — will no longer be allowed to bring this pure joy to Mormon families. This new policy is counterintuitive to the fundamental valuing of family that is central to the Mormon faith in which I was raised. 

It’s also directly contrary to the hymns I used to sing in church pews, where we proclaimed that all children are children of God, sent to parents on Earth solely to love and raise them up. 

This policy contradicts the goodness of the Church I once knew and to which I had devoted my life. And that is something this lowly apostate is personally impacted by — and will struggle to explain to his daughter as she grows in her own faith.…” (Brian Anderson, “Dear Mormon Church: These Are the Faces of Apostasy,” Advocate.com, November 10, 2015)


“As a gay Mormon, I make my home in the borderlands. In a theology that says every man must be married to a woman in order to be with God and progress in heaven, gay Mormons are anomalies. No one quite knows what to do with us.

For a while, the answer was to serve a full-time mission, marry a woman, tell no one, and let things work themselves out. When that approach led to tragedy and broken families, the answer became celibacy, which is less of an answer and more of a holding pattern in a religion that declares the family to be ‘the most important unit in time and in eternity.’

Every question, from ‘How can I be happy with no possibility of finding a companion?’ to ‘Will I still be gay after this life?’ seems to be met with official answers amounting to ‘Have faith. It will work out in the end.’ And, yet, despite these difficult and unanswered questions, I choose to continue to participate in my Latter-day Saint congregation and community.…

Ironically, I find myself in the borderlands of Mormonism in part because I believe what it taught me about families. I agree that ‘it is not good that the man [or woman] should be alone’ (Genesis 2:18), that in the long-term relationship of marriage we can learn how to love unconditionally, serve and nurture others, and grow into better versions of ourselves. That’s part of the reason I hope to settle down and build a life with a husband to whom I am wonderfully attracted and committed and who I can learn to love fully as God loves me. After my own personal contemplation and prayer and wrestling with this issue, I believe that this is the right path for me.…

With some recent changes to policy, my church set fire to the borderlands. First, it added same-gender marriage to its definition of apostasy, which is an excommunicable offense. Therefore, excommunication for being queer and marrying the person you love seems unavoidable. Second, the Church decided that any child raised by a same-sex couple cannot be baptized unless he or she specifically disavows the practice of same-sex marriage and does not live with parents who are or were in a same-sex marriage.

This news is heartbreaking to me for two reasons. First, every married gay couple can be caught in conflict ending in excommunication. Second, children will become pariahs because of who their parents are, something over which the children have absolutely no control. The Church is entitled to set its policies, and I don’t expect it to sanction same-sex marriages or even allow people in them to participate fully in the church. I don’t need to pass the sacrament or baptize my child or participate in any meaningful way besides just showing up. But I do want to show up, at least every once in a while, and feel nourished and loved and valued.

My Mormon upbringing was not about hating gay people. It was, at its core, about building a relationship with a loving Father in Heaven who understands us, speaks to us, and more than anything loves us. Someday in the hypothetical future, I would love for my children and husband to meet the God that Mormonism introduced me to. I would love to feel that my family can occupy some tiny corner of the expansive Zion community that Latter-day Saints seek to build. But, today, that dream seems gone, leaving me with an uncertain future.

In January of 1846, the first Mormon pioneers left Nauvoo, their ‘city beautiful’ on the banks of the Mississippi. Behind them were the ashes of burned out homes and fields and ahead of them was the icy Mississippi and the unknown wilderness of the American West. Amidst destruction and uncertainty, my pioneer ancestors pressed forward in faith through cold, rain, hail, and snow to ‘the place which God for us prepared’. Today, as winter approaches, I stand on the banks of my own Mississippi river with the ashes of the borderlands behind me and an uncertain future ahead. I can only hope against hope that we will press forward to a better place, a place of empathy, compassion, and peace where all are truly welcome.” (Kent Blake, “Burning the Borderlands: A Personal Reaction to the Mormon Church’s Policy Changes on Same-Sex Couples,” Huffington Post, November 10, 2015)


“I just did something I thought I would never do. I resigned my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) and asked that my name be removed from the records.

Even at the height of church involvement in the passage of Proposition 8 in California, I never seriously considered removing my name. It just didn’t matter that much to me. Spiritually and emotionally, I left the church I grew up in decades ago. And despite being a ‘known gay activist’ to the church, I was never excommunicated, so my name remained on the church rolls as a member. Not anymore.

On Thursday (Nov. 5), it was revealed that the church issued policy changes to ‘Handbook 1,’ the guide for its lay leadership. Under the changes, same-sex couples who marry are apostates and are unwelcome in church congregations. Going further, the new policy states that the children of same-sex couples cannot be baptized in the church until they are 18 and then only if they disavow their parents. It was the gratuitously cruel and stigmatizing treatment of children that pushed me to disavow the church of my childhood. It is impossible for me to be a part of a religion that would attack its own members and punish them by denying their children involvement in the church. The move is as clever as it is draconian. Members seeking to live lives of integrity as openly LGBT people must not only leave the church, but take their children with them. It requires a particular streak of evil genius to manufacture such a ‘Sophie’s choice.’

The supposed justification for these policy changes is to make clear that the church does not support marriage for same-sex couples and to assure that the church isn’t forced to perform such ceremonies. No one ever assumed otherwise. The church has long condemned LGBT people. Its opposition to marriage equality is voluminously documented. And no less authority than the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that the church will never be forced to perform or recognize any marriage it objects to.

No one was seriously seeking or expecting a change in church doctrine, so something more disturbing must be happening. The church has just lurched to the extreme margins, far from its core values of love, toleration and mutual respect.

In the wake of the Mormon church’s active involvement in 2008 in passing Prop 8, which eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry in California, legions of faithful Mormons left the church or expressed profound sadness at its unprecedented involvement in pushing Prop 8. Up until Prop 8, the church avoided explicit ballot measure battles, preferring to undermine LGBT equality quietly and behind the scenes. After Prop 8, the church was demonized and widely criticized, and its reputation as a loving, family-centered and kind religion suffered.…” (Kate Kendell, “Leaving Mormon church over ‘cruel’ policy on gays’ kids,” ReligionNews.com, November 10, 2015)


“I’ve seen comments to the effect of ‘children in this situation can still have the light of Christ.’ It seems to me that every time this is said, our belief in the importance of the gift and constant companionship of the Holy Ghost is diminished.” (Julie M. Smith, “Consequences, Intended or Otherwise,” TimesAndSeasons.org, November 11, 2015)


“Religious groups are, of course, well within their rights to make harsh exclusionary statements of this sort. But as understanding and support of same-sex couples and families continues to grow, those groups will not be immune to consequences—the membership records at LDS headquarters are about to bear clear evidence of that.”  (J. Bryan Lowder, “Thousands of Mormons Are Leaving the Church Over New Gay ‘Apostate’ Policy,” www.slate.com, November 11, 2015)


“‘I’ve seen lots of painful things, but nothing so widespread, in terms of the devastation and heartbreak. I personally talked to dozens of people who are walking away. And these aren’t people with LGBT ties. These are ardent, faithful, in-the-box believing Mormons who can’t abide this,’ said Wendy Montgomery, an Arizona Mormon who has a 17-year-old gay son and who co-founded Mama Dragons, a group for church mothers with gay children.

When the group was founded four years ago it had six members. It now has more than 500. She worked to create groups like Sit With Me Sunday, a program that helps LGBT people who want to come to church but are afraid to connect with someone to take them. The volunteer running it shut it down last week after news broke of the new policy, Montgomery said. ‘She said, “It’s no longer safe to invite them. It’s better if we tell them to run.”’…

Rumors began this week that the church’s 15-man leadership — three in a body called The First Presidency and 12 in a lower-level unit called the Quorum of the Apostles — might change the document following the uproar.

The Salt Lake Tribute on Wednesday cited excommunicated activist John Dehlin as saying a major church governing group ‘sent out a memo to regional leaders, saying that ‘there will be additional clarification on these changes from the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve [Apostles] in the coming days,’‘ the Tribune quoted Dehlin as saying.

‘Many Mormons are calling on their church leaders to modify this new policy on same-sex couples — particularly the limitations affecting the children — and soon,’ the Tribune reported.

The piece, by plugged-in Salt Lake City religion reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack, focused on experts who see a huge difference between a ‘policy’ — which is how leaders described the change last week — and ‘doctrine.’

‘LDS Church guidelines that exclude gay couples and their children from some Mormon rituals may be official, but these new rules are not necessarily divinely endorsed — and could easily change,’ she wrote Wednesday.…” (Michelle Boorstein, “Mormons plan to quit over church’s new policy banning baptism in gay families,” Washington Post, November 12, 2015)


“This comes on good authority and I trust it as extremely likely.

A friend of mine has been meeting with the apostles for months to consult on same-sex issues in the church.  At one of the meetings, President Monson, out of nowhere, started rambling an unrelated story from his childhood. Uchtdorf, visibly uncomfortable, put his hand on his knee as to say, ‘Okay, Brother Monson, let’s move on.’ President Monson responded curtly and continued his story. Three times.

As I know is widely speculated, Monson has dementia, with intermittent moments of lucidity.

Last week, in one of these lucid moments, Monson calls in church lawyers and asks them about the legality of his proposed policy. They draft the language together. The next day, at the weekly meeting with the apostles, Monson announces the change. When some of the brethren interject, he shuts them down and says, ‘End of discussion, we are moving on.’ No other voices are allowed to be heard and the meeting ends.

The day after, the policy goes into effect. The media relations arm of the church, who usually have a week or two to prepare for such announcements, only hear about it the night before it’s leaked and can’t get ahead of it. Elder Christofferson, who is tasked with media relations, goes to Eyring and says, ‘We need to say something about this.’ Eyring responds, ‘I’m not putting my face on this.’ He directs him to Elder Nelson. Nelson, apparently agrees with Monson, and directs Christofferson to be the representative.” (Anonymous posting on imgur.com, November 12, 2015)


“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.…

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.…” (First Presidency Circular Letter, November 13, 2015)


“In a nod to the complexities of modern families, LDS Church leaders Friday tweaked a new policy focused on same-sex couples and their children.…

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stresses that these clarifications don’t change the underlying policy, released late last week and made partly in response to the legalization of same-sex marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court. That policy states that the church views couples in same-sex marriages or similar relationships as apostates. If their children want to become full-fledged Mormons, they have to disavow their parents’ relationship and not be living with them most of the time.…” (Matt Canham, “Top Mormon leaders tweak gay rules, but fears remain for the children,” Salt Lake Tribune, November 13, 2015)


“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. In particular, Church leaders are concerned for children–whether biologically born to one of the partners, adopted or medically conceived. In reality, very few same-sex couples would bring children for the formal Church ordinance of naming and blessing, since this creates a formal membership record. But Church leaders want to avoid putting little children in a potential tug-of-war between same-sex couples at home and teachings and activities at church.

This sensitivity to family circumstances is practiced elsewhere. For example, the Church doesn’t baptize minor children without parental consent, even if the children want to be associated with their LDS friends. A married man or woman isn’t baptized if the spouse objects. Missionaries don’t proselytize in most Muslim countries or in Israel, where there are particular sensitivities with family. In some African and other nations where polygamy is practiced, anyone whose parents practice polygamy needs special permission for baptism so they know that a practice that is culturally acceptable for many in the region is not acceptable in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.…” (Michael Otterson, “Understanding the Handbook,” LDS Newsroom, November 13, 2015)


“A group of a thousand-plus — mostly younger, inactive Mormons — gathered Saturday afternoon in City Creek Park to sign letters of resignation from the LDS Church.

The majority of those who signed letters on or prior to Saturday already had stopped believing or attending worship services years ago for a variety of reasons, according to a poll on the event’s Facebook page.…” (Tad Walch, “Activists, mostly inactive Mormons, resign from LDS Church at SLC event,” Deseret News, November 14, 2015)


“It’s not news that LGBT folks have suffered abuse and atrocities at the hands of organized religion.

From independent Christian Churches, who have literally threatened to kill or exile us, to the Catholic Church, who for years declared us ‘intrinsically disordered,’ we thought we’d heard it all.

That was before the Mormon Church decided to go after our children.…

I shouldn’t be surprised that the Mormon Church is vindictively damning my kids and those in all LGBT families and encouraging them to ‘disavow’ their parents. The church has been one of the most publicly anti-gay forces in fighting against LGBT rights. Not only did they bankroll a huge portion of the Proposition 8 campaign in California, they encouraged their followers to take mortgage loans out on their homes and do the same.…” (“A gay dad weighs in on the Mormon Church’s attack on children in LGBTQ families,” LGBTQNation.com, November 14, 2015)


“More than 1,000 inactive and active Mormons—along with their backers—rallied in City Creek Park on Saturday to protest the LDS Church’s recent policy decisions involving same-sex couples and their children.…” (Rich Kane, “Hundreds rally against new Mormon policy; many file forms to quit the faith,” Salt Lake Tribune, November 14, 2015)


“Not for one minute do I buy that concern for children or tug-of-war situations are what the leaders were concerned about.  In fact, these policies exacerbate tug-of-war issues within family systems.  If protection was truly the intent, where is the concern for ALL children, regardless of the ‘sin,’ who live in homes where they may face situations which conflict with what they are taught at church (i.e. domestic violence, sexual abuse, word of wisdom choices, etc.)? This has more to do with stances the church wants to make and legal concerns they may have than anything having to do with the protection of children. And we can see from the reaction of members and non-members alike that this did not resonate as a protective move.…” (Natasha Helfer Parker, “Now We’re Blaming the Victims?” patheos.com, November 14, 2015)


“What I still don’t understand is why it is only the children living with a gay couple that can’t have the ordinances. Apparently, if a child lives with parents that are not married, there is no need to deny them the ordinances, no need to protect them from mixed messages between church and home. It really begs the question as to why homosexuality [is] such a ‘special’ class of immorality.” Linda Frankish, Facebook posting to Mormon Stories Podcast Community, November 14, 2015)


“By Saturday night, after seeing more and more people pouring out their pain over the new policy on social media, and after viewing the scripted ‘interview’ of Elder D. Todd Christofferson by Public Affairs manager Michael Otterson, I wrote on my Facebook timeline:

This policy has not only broken the fingernails I was using to hold onto my membership in the church, it has ripped them out by the roots, and with it a piece of my heart. I simply cannot remain in a  place dominated (I will not say ‘led’) by men who can perpetrate this kind of cruel spiritual abuse on children.…

The policy makes no distinction between a custodial, non-custodial or joint-custodial parent. Its plain language bars children from religious rites if they have ‘a parent’ (singular) who is in a same-sex marriage. Note that it differs from the rules regarding children of polygamy in that no requirement for First Presidency approval, or mandatory removal of adult children from a polygamous household, is imposed unless the parents’ polygamy is ‘contrary to the law,’ while legal same-sex marriage is the very trigger for the denial of rites to children of gay parents.…” (Nadine Hansen, Letter of Resignation from the LDS Church, November 15, 2015)


“Before the gathering in the park on Saturday afternoon, the church’s president, Thomas S. Monson, sent out a Twitter message that seemed directed at any wavering faithful: ‘I plead with you to avoid anything that will deprive you of your happiness here in mortality and eternal life in the world to come.’…” (Jack Healy, “Mormon Resignations Put Support for Gays Over Fealty to Faith,” New York Times, November 15, 2015)


“I showed Richard Bushman that anonymous online report of what happened with Monson and the policy decision. He sent back some interesting rumors of his own:

From Richard:

While we are passing around rumors, Peggy Stack, religion reporter for the Salt Lake Tribune, says it was not Elder Oaks’s doing.  She thinks the idea originated with Elder Nelson who worked it out with President Monson.  The Twelve were not informed, nor was Public Relations.  It looks to me like the two of them saw it as a bit of administrative tidying up rather than a blockbuster ruling.  Copying the rules of children for polygamous couples seemed like a simple solution.  All these adjustments after the fact will continue I think.  Stake Presidents will come up with all sorts of exceptions, and pretty soon the rules will lose their teeth.  Mormons are too committed to taking care of the flock to enforce rules that hurt individual children.”

(Travis Stratford to GAP, November 18, 2015)


“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints did not seem eager to draw attention to its recently updated guidance on gay marriage. In a memo shared confidentially, the church instructed leaders that Mormons in same-sex relationships were to be treated as ‘apostates.’ Children being raised by two moms or two dads, the edict held, should be banished from the church until they become adults and can renounce their parent’s union.

The response of hundreds of members of the church was powerful. In recent days, Mormons have been leaving the church in droves, saying they no longer feel at home in an institution that so resolutely excludes a segment of the population that has become increasingly visible, legally protected and socially accepted in America.

Religious organizations are entitled to set doctrine. Mormon leaders view heterosexual marriage as vital to eternal salvation. But those that continue to label sex between people of the same gender a sin, and perpetuate harmful stereotypes, should expect a reaction from their congregations.…” (Editorial Board, “Stung by Edict on Gays, Mormons Leave Church,” New York Times, November 19, 2015)


“Hey all – Sara and I had the opportunity to meet with a 70 as he and the SP visited with someone in our ALL group yesterday. We went to be a support for him. I’m bursting at the seams wanting to share the amazing things we learned from the GA about the policy but not knowing how much I should say. 

I’ll tell you this – according the this GA (which includes his speaking with Q12 members), the majority of the Q15 are very upset about the policy, did not like the way it was sprung on them, that some regretted not speaking up against it, that Elder Holland in particular (who was out of the country when it was announced in the Q12’s weekly meeting) is really upset; and finally it was his very strong opinion that the policy will not last. He talked about it being a generational thing, and how some of the older brethren don’t fully understand LGBT issues. He said several times that ‘I guarantee’ the policy will be removed.

This GA was such a breath of fresh air! He spoke candidly and did not try to sugar coat or sweep under the rug the problems he has with the policy and how it was all handled. 

And he thanked us many times for the work we were doing and said it was God’s work! I told him there are many people involved with us who have been moved by the Spirit to be part of this effort. How great is that to have actual words of encouragement and gratitude for what we are all doing, when we’ve gotten the opposite reaction from so many others in the church. We went away with a much needed boost in our faith.

He left me his card, so I emailed him last night thanking him again for his inspirational words. And I sent him information about our ALL group so he would be aware of everything we’re doing and how important it is in the lives of our LGBT family and friends. This gives me a lot of hope!” (Bryce Cook to Wendy Montgomery; relayed by email from Wendy to GAP on December 8, 2015)


“In Darius Gray’s five decades as a black man in the LDS Church, ‘nothing has hit me as hard,’ he said Tuesday, as the Utah-based faith’s new policy defining gay couples as ‘apostates’ and barring their children from Mormon rites like baptism.

‘I know what it is like to be labeled. I know what it’s like to be considered cursed,’ Gray said, alluding to the church’s now-disavowed ban on black men and boys being ordained to the Mormon priesthood. ‘Words like ‘apostate’ don’t sit easily with me or [seeing] children made to feel outside of the norm.’…” (Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Tribune forum explores impact of Mormon policy changes on churchgoers,” Salt Lake Tribune, December 8, 2015)


“Bryce Cook posted the following in the ‘I’ll Walk With You’ group. I’m trying to get more information directly from Bryce.…

My dear fellow parents: My wife and I had an amazing conversation with a general authority [Steve Snow] about the policy last week. I want to be very careful about what I share, but I feel you need to hear what we heard to help ease your conscience and lift a huge load off your mind. When we unburdened our souls to him about the policy, how it didn’t feel right to us, how we didn’t think our sons should be labeled apostates, how any future grandchildren they bring us shouldn’t be denied membership in the church, here are a few things he said:

‘The majority of the quorum of the Twelve are unhappy with the policy and do not like the way it was put in place. Some of them in fact are very upset about it. The church has made real progress in building a bridge to LGBT people, and the policy was a major setback. It was his opinion that the policy will not last. He emphasized that it was not a revelation, that it was only a policy and policies change all the time. He couldn’t give a timeline but he felt pretty strongly that it would not last.’…”

(John Gustav-Wrathall to Affirmation Board Facebook group, December 9, 2015)


“According to an official with routine access to members of the governing councils of the church, the new instructions were the brainchild of two senior apostles who used as a guide the church’s policy on baptizing children of parents practicing plural marriage found in the 2010 edition of the Handbook #1 for regional and local leaders of the church. Although the source did not reveal the names of the apostles involved, it is reasonable to assume that one of them would have been Russell M. Nelson, 91, the president of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles and first in line to succeed Thomas S. Monson, the acutely ailing current president of the church.

A second similarly-connected source insisted that the policy came from Monson himself, with assistance from church attorneys and other staff members.

Both reports maintain that in a fleeting lucid moment the 88-year-old Monson approved the policy, an endorsement that was immediately supported by his counselors. Most of the remaining apostles were surprised when the new policy was introduced for the first time to them at their regular Tuesday meeting, where they too obligingly sustained it. 

Two days later it was broadcast privately to regional and local leaders of the church. Both sources confirmed that the addendum, as written, circumvented customary vetting by church’s persnickety correlation committee.…

Was it the last bitter hurrah from a passing generation that for more than a quarter century stridently opposed civil same sex marriage throughout the United States? Lance Wickman, now an emeritus general authority of the church and its general counsel who may have had a hand in shaping the new policy, has been a persistent adversary of what he once called the ‘affliction’ of same-gender attraction and marriage. ‘Marriage means a committed, legally sanctioned relationship between a man and a woman,’ he once said emphatically. ‘That’s what it means in the revelations… in the secular law. You cannot have that marriage coexisting institutionally with something else called same-gender marriage. It simply is a definitional impossibility.’

His opinions have been reinforced by Elder Dallin Oaks, a senior apostle who once clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren and was a Utah Supreme Court justice himself. As recently as October of 2013 Oaks warned that faithful members should not ‘…condone such behaviors {same sex marriage} or to find justification in the laws that permit them.’…

In a hastily organized video-taped interview conducted by the church’s public relations chief, Michael D. Otterson, the apostle Christofferson gamely supported the confounding proposition that the policy was protective, not punitive, of children, and supportive of their families. His explanations were inconsistent with his own earlier statements. ‘There hasn’t been any litmus test or standard imposed that you couldn’t support …it [civil same-gender marriage], if that’s your belief and you think it’s right,’ he said earlier this year.…” (R. B. Scott, “Mormon LGBT Policy Prompts Anger, Resignations and Fresh Concerns About Aged Leaders,” TheMuss.com, December 16, 2015)


“In an explanatory statement on the policy, Elder D. Todd Christofferson claimed that the policy was based upon love. However, neither he nor supporters of this policy are able to illustrate any positive outcome from it. So far the major outcomes of this policy have been bafflement, broken hearts and homes in deep turmoil. It is hard to believe that the leaders of the Mormon Church sat together with the goal of increasing love and fellowship for children of gay parents, then came up with this policy as a result. The lack of transparency and dishonesty of the leaders is extremely hurtful.…

Prophets and apostles advocated in favor of polygamy, against racial desegregation, against the ERA, against the civil rights movement all in the name of divine inspiration. As political pressure mounted, they flipped on the more humane and commonly accepted side. The outside pressure became too strong and sudden ‘revelations’ appeared to change the position of the church. One would think that because the leaders claim such proximity to Christ, they would be in the forefront of social justice issues. But it hasn’t been the case. It is usually after significant outside pressure that the church suddenly changes its stances.…” (Julienna Viegas-Haws, “Op-ed: Love did not create this LDS policy, and it won’t survive,” Salt Lake Tribune, December 18, 2015)


“Please know that I love you, love Craig, and weep over the difficulty everyone is trying to get through.…” (Jeffrey R. Holland to Gary Watts, December 18, 2015)


“I’ve got a data point for you, Greg. You already mentioned (when it happened) that Wells Stake in central Salt Lake City had been dissolved. That was our stake, and our ward was attached to Liberty Stake. After the stake boundaries were adjusted, there was another stake conference (December 13) at which new ward boundaries were announced. (Our ward, Whittier, had absorbed Browning Ward about 20 years ago, and now we got about half of McKay Ward).

But that’s background. The data point is that Liberty Stake President David J. McLean, during his talk, held up a sheaf of papers and said that, in the last two months, he’d received over a hundred letters of resignations from the Church from people who were offended. He didn’t say what they were offended by, but two months fits nicely into the November leak of the new policy. He was using the resignations as bad examples of people who get offended and quit, and his hope that people wouldn’t be offended by the stake-ward changes.

One woman who resigned during the mass resignation meeting said that the attorney who helped her said he’d processed 3,000 letters for resignees — the details weren’t clear whether he was talking about that one day or over time. I don’t know who he was, but I could try to find out, if you think he could supply another good data point.…” (Lavina Fielding Anderson to GAP, January 7, 2016)


“This prophetic process was followed in 2012 with the change in minimum age for missionaries and again with the recent additions to the Church’s handbook, consequent to the legalization of same-sex marriage in some countries.… And then, when the Lord inspired His prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, to declare the mind of the Lord and the will of the Lord, each of us during that sacred moment felt a spiritual confirmation. It was our privilege as Apostles to sustain what had been revealed to President Monson. Revelation from the Lord to His servants is a sacred process, and so is your privilege of receiving personal revelation.…” (Russell M. Nelson, “Becoming True Millennials,” Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults, BYU-Hawaii, January 10, 2016)

4334 v. 4335:

The Deseret News article on Nelson’s talk was titled “President Russell M. Nelson: ‘Becoming true millennials.’”  The Salt Lake Tribune article on Nelson’s talk was titled “Mormon gay policy is ‘will of the Lord’ through his prophet, senior apostle says.” Both were published on 1/10/2016.


“Smithers, people are still questioning the policy. They are not accepting our rationalization and shifting narrative. I will tell them it was direct revelation from God (because if God is actually going to come give some actual revelation it is going to be about withholding blessings from children and disowning families). I will throw in some manipulative fear mongering about the second coming is near and anyone disagreeing is Satan’s servant. Excellent!” (Nathan Maycock, Mormon Stories Podcast Community Facebook posting, January 11, 2016)


“In response to Elder Russell M. Nelson and President Thomas S. Monson, two men I dearly love and who have helped me over decades of friendship, I would simply say the following: To deny the sacraments of the Mormon church to children of gay parents is a mortal sin worthy of excommunication. One of the articles of faith of the Mormon church states unequivocally that we are accountable for our own sins, no one else’s. And I don’t believe that being born gay is anyone’s sin.

Jesus said, ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me, for such is the kingdom of heaven.’ Jesus never divides people. Jesus never judges people. Those who do are in danger of hell fire and violate Jesus’s injunction against using God’s name in vain.

I don’t think Jesus gives a tinkers’ damn if I say, ‘Oh my hell’ when I hit my thumb with a hammer when fixing my roof. But I know he will punish those who invoke his name when we harm the innocents.…” (Ed Firmage, Letter: “Denying sacraments to children is sinful,” Salt Lake Tribune, January 14, 2016)


“A new Salt Lake Tribune poll shows Utah Mormons support the policy labeling same-sex LDS couples as ‘apostates’ by a 4-to-1 margin (72 percent to 18 percent). Non-Mormons are practically the mirror opposite, with 71 percent against the notion and 18 percent for it.…

In the middle of the polling period, on Jan. 10, Russell M. Nelson, head of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and next in line to lead the global faith, insisted that the new policy came as a ‘revelation’ from God to President Thomas S. Monson…

Though gay LDS filmmaker Kendall Wilcox was not surprised by the overwhelming support among Utah Mormons for their church’s policy, he still had a ‘sense of sadness that so many members approve of [it].’

The findings can be explained, said Wilcox — co-founder of Mormons Building Bridges, which works to improve ties between the LDS and LGBT communities — by the LDS mandate to ‘follow the prophet.’

In other words, members are expected to ‘obey and agree with church leaders’ words and policies’ — including the one dealing with gays, he said. ‘If you do not, you are relegated to the status of a ‘servant of Satan.’ ‘

That final allusion was to Nelson’s speech, which warned his audience of young Mormons about the perils of opposing LDS leaders.

‘The somber reality is that there are ‘servants of Satan’ embedded throughout society,’ Nelson said. ‘So be very careful about whose counsel you follow.’…” (Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Split surfaces in LDS policy on same-sex couples: Mormons back it; other Utahns don’t,” Salt Lake Tribune, January 23, 2016)


“The fears were there right from the start — that the LDS Church’s new policy on same-sex couples would make gay Mormons feel more judged, more marginalized, more misunderstood and that more of them would take their own lives.

Since early November — when the edict labeling gay LDS couples as ‘apostates’ and denying their children baptism until age 18 took hold — social media sites have been buzzing with tales of loss, depression and death. Therapists have seen an uptick in clients who reported suicidal thoughts. Activists have been bombarded with grief-stricken family members seeking comfort and counsel.

Wendy Williams Montgomery, an Arizona-based Mormon mom with a gay son, says she began receiving email or Facebook messages from bereaved families nearly daily, mourning a loved one’s suicide.

From the policy’s onset through the end of 2015, Montgomery, a leader of the Mama Dragons support group for the families of gay Latter-day Saints, says she had counted 26 suicides of young LGBT Mormons in Utah — 23 males, one female and two transgender individuals — between ages 14 and 20.

She tallied another six in other states — though none of the reported deaths could be specifically tied to the policy.

Montgomery’s statistics were shared at a recent meeting in Los Angeles of Affirmation, a support group for gay Mormons.…

Trouble is, the number far exceeds the suicide figures collected by the Utah Department of Health.

Preliminary figures for November and December show 10 suicides in the Beehive State for people ages 14 to 20, with two more cases ‘undetermined.’…

Lisa Tensmeyer Hansen, an LDS therapist in Provo, knows of no LGBT suicides that have happened as a result of the church’s policy, but she has seen its effect on many gay Mormons, especially those striving to remain in the faith.

Hansen has observed ‘increased suicidal thoughts, depression and anxiety.’

‘In my experience with specific cases, I have noticed that the more an LGBTQ person was interested in remaining close to the church or connected with it,’ she says, ‘the greater has been the negative emotional process resulting from the policy change.’

Hansen says she has seen several cases in which active Mormon clients ‘felt they had hit a wall they could not negotiate and gave up trying to participate altogether. I am also aware of some who are … struggling with greater depression and less hope.’…” (Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Suicide fears, if not actual suicides, rise in wake of Mormon same-sex policy,” Salt Lake Tribune, January 28, 2016)


“The LDS Church responded Thursday to an unverified report about suicide deaths among Mormon LGBT people.

‘We mourn with their families and friends when they feel life no longer offers hope,’ senior church leaders said through a spokesman.

Wendy Montgomery, a co-founder of the Mama Dragons, a group of Mormon mothers with gay children, reported last week that she had been told 32 young LGBT Mormons have died by suicide since early November.

The individual families who told Montgomery about their losses requested privacy. The Deseret News has not been able to verify this number independently.…

Each of the 32 suicides documented by Montgomery took place after Nov. 5, when LDS Church leaders released new policies in an online update to Handbook 1, a private document of instructions to local priesthood leaders who run Mormon congregations. The update clarified that the church, because of its fundamental doctrine on marriage, considers entering a same-sex marriage to be apostasy and grounds for excommunication. A new section in the handbook instructed local leaders that children living with parents who are in a same-sex relationship cannot receive baby blessings or baptism before age 18.…” (Tad Walch and Lois M. Collins, “LDS Church leaders mourn reported deaths in Mormon LGBT community,” Deseret News, January 28, 2016)


“The Family Acceptance Project offers some best-practice advice for things parents and families can do — or avoid — to help their children who are LGBT be safe and feel loved. It’s also available in a version specifically for LDS families.…”


“It’s very significant that the Deseret News chose to lead with this story. It wasn’t certain that anybody would break the story without being able to verify Wendy’s report on the number of suicides. This is the strongest public acknowledgment by the Church of the LGBT Mormon suicide problem; it acknowledges increased trauma for LGBT Mormons, possibly linked to an increase in suicide, since the new policy; it provides excellent information about suicide prevention; and it emphasizes the importance of creating an environment in the Church that enables individuals to come out of the closet. 

It’s not a perfect article (including a section where I was quoted a bit out of context in relation to the policy), but it is a big deal that it’s appeared in the Deseret News, and that the Deseret News broke the story. 

Caitlyn Ryan says that downloads of the Family Acceptance Project brochure have been going non-stop since the article was posted.” (John Gustav-Wrathall to Affirmation Board, January 29, 2016)


“Please do not judge, sentence, cast out or denigrate your gay child, relative, friend or their contributions to the LDS Church because of a label in the handbook or subsequent pronouncements regarding the LDS policy on gay marriage.

Over the past few months, I have had many conversations with gay LDS friends who are now experiencing a disturbing increase in harsh, unkind and in some circumstances violent treatment by their straight LDS parents, family members and friends.…” (Judith Mehr, “Op-ed: As LDS grapple with handbook change, know that God loves his gay children,” Salt Lake Tribune, January 30, 2016)


“This information was never solicited. There were no surveys or research. I didn’t collect this information as a tool to attack the LDS Church. If I was attacking the church, I highly doubt the Deseret News would have sourced me in the article. I am an active, attending, temple-recommend holding member. I love my church. But I also feel it’s important to talk about the ways the church has been hurting so many people that I love. Calling the church to a higher way of being and loving is not attacking it.  

This information is self-reported by grieving family members. Verifying this information is complicated by multiple factors: 

  1. Most reports were from family but often not the parents. Siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles have reached out to me.
  2. Many times the parents were not aware of (or in denial of) the sexual orientation of their children. And it is a common Mormon belief that people aren’t gay in heaven so their child is no longer gay.
  3. Because of shame, other families will hide that their child was LGBT. They also hide the fact that it was suicide since it is often taught in Mormon churches that suicide is akin to murder. No family wants that to be the lasting legacy of their lost loved one.
  4. These are self-reported by people reaching out in grief for support, so we are not hiring investigators to verify.
  5. There are many circumstances such as accidents or drug overdoses (of legal or illegal drugs) that are not reported as suicides.
  6. Because a loved one messaged me during November, December and January doesn’t mean that is when their loved one died. It could have been much earlier. I didn’t ask for death dates. I actually didn’t ask them anything, other than what I could do to help them.  

So unless these parents and family members want to come forward, this information is not going to be shared to the public. It would be highly inappropriate for me to share information unofficially collected from grieving family members seeking support. Not to mention, I promised them I would not share their names or any identifying details with anyone. And I haven’t.  

This is my last attempt at answering questions.” (Wendy Montgomery to Affirmation Living Waters Facebook group, February 1, 2016)


Statement bringing together information from a variety of sources regarding the policy on same-gender marriage announced in November 2015.

“Over the past months and even years, senior members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, members of the Presidency of the Seventy, and the church’s General Counsel, Lance Wickman, had been discussing with President Monson, who it seems important to acknowledge, for years has been feeling the effects of advancing age, the need to enact some kind of policy change that would officially address same-sex-married couples and their families in the church. 

Multiple sources have confirmed discussion of the following issues: 

1) Claims presented by the church’s legal team about possible liabilities the church might face as a result of the legalization of same-sex marriage in the US and other countries as well. 

2) Mounting internal concerns that the church had lost the support of a majority of members younger than 35 on the issue of same-sex marriage. 

3) The rising visibility of same-sex couples participating in the church. 

4) Stake presidents and bishops feeling a need for clearer direction on how to respond to these developments. 

Among other ideas discussed, an early first-draft proposal included an almost word-for-word borrowing of the church’s existing policy on polygamous households as the closest precedent and a possible format for establishing the new policy. 

On or before Sunday, November 1st, President Monson decided to enact the policy change based on the draft proposal drawn from the polygamous household policy template. By Tuesday, November 3rd, the policy change had been presented by President Monson to his two counselors, and on that day it was presented to the quorum of the twelve apostles. 

The very next day, Wednesday November 4th, the policy change appeared on the Church Handbook of Instructions website that stake presidents have access to, and an email was sent out advising local leaders of the change. On that same Wednesday, the Seattle stake, among others, was specially called and notified of the change by a member of the presidency of the Seventy. A bishop in Utah, as well as a local leader in Seattle, who had received an automatic email from their stake leaders that there were changes added to the Church Handbook of Instructions website, forwarded the information to a few Mormon bloggers sometime on Wednesday night or Thursday morning.  Those bloggers then began sharing the information on social media.  Some church leaders have indicated that they believe that the material must have been leaked by a church employee because it somehow reached social media before it reached stake presidents and bishops on Wednesday.

Neither the Church Public Affairs Department nor the Priesthood and Family Executive Council were notified in advance of the policy change.  The story spread on social media and into mainstream media throughout Thursday and Friday morning.  

By Friday midday, Elder Christofferson, sensing a need in the LDS community for further clarification of the policy changes, recommended that the Church provide an official statement. The counselors in the First Presidency and President Nelson were approached, and declined to give the statement. Thus Elder Christofferson, in his capacity as the head of the Church Public Affairs Committee, made a public statement in the video that was released early Friday evening.

On November 13 the Church attempted to further clarify the policy change in a follow-up letter from the First Presidency, stating that the provisions of the changes that restrict priesthood ordinances from minors apply only to those children whose primary residence is with a couple living in a same-gender marriage or similar relationship. The letter also clarified that the changes do not require that a child living with a same-gender couple who has already been baptized and is actively participating in the Church have their membership activities or priesthood privileges curtailed, or that further ordinances be withheld. They added that local leaders may request further guidance in particular instances when they have questions.

As the story continued to grow and a vocal opposition mounted, inside and outside the Church, President Nelson delivered an address entitled, “Becoming True Millennials,” at the worldwide devotional for young adults on January 10.  President Nelson focused on the importance of the prophetic mantle and members’ obligation to follow its directions.  He highlighted the unique responsibilities of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency. He gave the most detailed account yet of the process whereby the changes in the Handbook of Instructions policy came into existence, citing prayer, fasting, discussion and meetings in the temple.

Referring to a moment when the change presented by President Monson was revealed to the fifteen, Elder Nelson explained that “when the Lord inspired his prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, to declare the mind of the Lord and the will of the Lord, each of us during that sacred moment felt a spiritual confirmation. It was our privilege as apostles to sustain what had been revealed to President Monson,”repeating revelatory language that had not been used to describe a policy change since the 1978 policy change that extended the priesthood to all worthy males.” (“Out in Zion” Podcast, February 2, 2016)


Andrew Evans: “Less than a year ago, right here in Washington, DC, my friend killed himself. He was Mormon and gay. You’ve gone on record that, ‘the Church does not give apologies’. Does religious freedom absolve you from responsibility in the gay Mormon suicide crisis?”

Dallin Oaks: “I think that’s a question that will be answered on judgment day. I can’t answer that beyond what has already been said. I know that those tragic events happen. And it’s not unique simply to the question of sexual preference. There are other cases where people have taken their own lives and blamed a church–my church–or a government, or somebody else for their taking their own lives, and I think those things have to be judged by a higher authority than exists on this earth, and I am ready to be accountable to that authority, but I think part of what my responsibility extends to, is trying to teach people to be loving, and civil and sensitive to one another so that people will not feel driven, whatever the policy disagreements, whatever the rules of the church, or the practices of a church, or any other organization, if they are administered with kindness, at the highest level or at the level of the congregation or the ward, they won’t drive people to take those extreme measures; that’s part of my responsibility to teach that. And beyond that, I will be accountable to higher authority for that. That’s the way I look on that. Nobody is sadder about a case like that than I am. Maybe that’s a good note to end on.” (Q&A following Dallin H. Oaks address at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Washington, DC, February 9, 2016)


“I just spent an hour and a half on the phone with Abbe Land (exec director and CEO) and David Bond (Vice President of Programs) of the Trevor Project. I’ve worked with Abbe on several projects in the past 3 or so years.  She’s become a friend and I trust her judgment implicitly. Considering she runs the Trevor Project, she has the final word on this issue.…

They weren’t able to give me specific percentages on the level of calls they’ve received.  But he did tell me that they saw an uptick in Utah’s calls from at risk individuals in the past 3 months.  I asked him if they’ve seen an even higher uptick since the DN and SLT articles went up.  He said no.  They’ve seen a slight decrease from the past 3 months.…” (Wendy Montgomery to GAP, February 9, 2016)


“Elizabeth Grimshaw was raised Mormon.  She knew she was lesbian as a teenager, but spent her early years (teens and 20s) attempting to date men and to marry a man.  In her early 30s, after many failed attempts to be ‘straight,’ she came out as a lesbian, stopped attending the LDS church, and began dating women.  Elizabeth found a committed partner 10 years ago, and married her partner 8 years ago.  They are currently happily raising a daughter in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Even though Elizabeth has not attended an LDS congregation since her early 30s, she was recently approached by her LDS bishop (whom she’d never met) in her driveway, and told that: 1) she needed to pray to God about whether or not to leave her wife and child, and that 2) if she wouldn’t divorce her wife and child, that she would face excommunication from the LDS church.…”  (John Dehlin, “Elizabeth Grimshaw – Facing LDS Excommunication for being Same-Sex Married,” Mormon Stories Podcast #623, February 22, 2016)


“Question: How can homosexual members of the church live and remain steadfast in the gospel?

Answer [Bednar]: First I want to change the question.  There are no homosexual members of the church.  We are not defined by sexual attraction.  We are not defined by sexual behavior  We are sons and daughters of God, and all of us have different challenges in the flesh.…” (Transcript of David Bednar remarks of February 23, 2016)


“Today we hear from one such individual firsthand.  Elizabeth has been inactive in the LDS Church for some time, but as you can see from her guest post below, her membership is still quite important to her and she has no wish to be excommunicated.  She contacted me to tell me what was happening with her bishop, who basically gave her two choices: either stay married and resign from (or be kicked out of) the LDS Church, or divorce her wife of eight years and stay a Mormon in good standing.…” (Jana Riess, “Mormon lesbian told to divorce her wife or face excommunication hearing,” Religion News Service, February 26, 2016


“I had a conversation with John Cannon about Elder Bednar’s recent remarks. I shared with him the following thoughts/reactions I’ve been observing within the LGBT/SSA Mormon community: 

1) The statement ‘There are no homosexual Mormons’ came across as dismissive of people’s real, lived experience. I contrasted his statement with the statement on mormonsandgays.org, that ‘The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people.’ 

2) The ‘plan stopping’ language is leaving people feeling trapped, with no good options. 

3) Putting his heterosexual marriage with his wife forward as an example of ‘the plan’ (and the concomitant theology about ‘gendered spirits’), leaves people with same-sex attraction feeling like if they can’t marry heterosexually, there’s no place for them in the plan. (This theology seems to congratulate heterosexuals for being heterosexual, and leaves everyone else feeling hopeless.) 

4) I’ve noticed intense discouragement even among individuals who are complying with the Church’s teachings. 

John asked why they are feeling discouraged, and I told him that: 

5) The overall impression of the remarks left people with a sense of a distinct lack of empathy. 

I pointed out that, at a meta level, our community seems to be taking body-blow after body-blow… First the policy, then Nelson’s comments, now this… There’s an overdose of Law happening right now, with no believable expressions of Love. Could we please get some messages that are primarily loving and inclusive in their emphasis?…” (John Gustav-Wrathall, Email to Affirmation Board, March 3, 2016)


“Elder Russell M. Nelson was also the primary force behind the November policy change.He pushed the policy to President Monson who approved it.  Then the rest of the Q15 fell in line since Nelson was the new president of the 12 and Monson had approved.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson did not want to publicly support or defend the policy, but begrudgingly agreed to do it (as a Jr. apostle, you obey).  For what it’s worth—the Q15 definitely have their own opinions, but when asked to fall in line, they fall in line and support the institution/authority over all else (including private opinions/conscience).

In summary, all Q15 were complicit, but the primary driver of the policy change was President Russell M. Nelson.

When all is said and done, he will have left quite a legacy for the church.

P.S. This information came to me from a super credible, inside source, but do NOT believe this information without obtaining your own confirmation.…” (John Dehlin, Facebook posting, April 13, 2016)


“We had lunch with Mary Bradford yesterday.  Her son Stephen is in some key position in Mormon studies at Claremont.  If she has the story correctly, she said Stephen told her that Oaks had visited and said that the Q12 was split on the LGBT statement, and upset about the way it was pushed through.  May be a garble, but that is what she said.” (Lester Bush, email to GAP, April 14, 2016)


“In March 2014, Tyler Glenn proclaimed on the pages of Rolling Stone that he was proud of his life as a gay man, his career as a musician and his Mormon faith.

On Friday, two years later, the Neon Trees frontman and former Utah County resident was back in Rolling Stone again, overtly parting ways with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints via the video for his debut solo single, ‘Trash.’

The video begins with Glenn slumped on the ground, drinking alcohol before he moves through a hallway lined with LDS imagery, performs what appear to be references to Mormon temple rites and ultimately collapses to the floor of an elevator with a red ‘X’ drawn across his face.

‘You used to baptize me when I wasn’t ready,’ Glenn sings in the video as he spits on an altered image of LDS Church founder and prophet Joseph Smith.

A representative of the LDS Church declined to comment on the video.…

Glenn told Dehlin that his exit from the LDS faith was triggered after the November announcement that married gay couples would be considered apostates of the church and children of gay couples would not be allowed to participate in church rites.

He said the shock of the announcement led him to spend the bulk of a weekend studying aspects of LDS Church history he had avoided as a practicing member of the faith.…” (Benjamin Wood, “In solo release, Neon Trees singer Tyler Glenn metaphorically and literally renounces LDS Church for LGBT teachings,” Salt Lake Tribune, April 29, 2016)


Tom: Todd said that the First Presidency announced this to them on Tuesday.  I’m sure they had to ratify it, but I guess it was a surprise to them on Tuesday.  They told Public Affairs at 10:00 this morning.  In the quick conversation I had with Todd, it sounded like this was a surprise.  I don’t know what discussion they had prior.  I had talked to Todd about a month ago when these rumors were starting to fly about mandatory courts or something like that, and at that point he said he wasn’t aware of any conversation going on that would change what is considered to be a mandatory council.

(Tom Christofferson, October 10, 2015)

Bryce: So we’ll get to our meeting with Elder Snow.  This happened at the beginning of December.  One of the men in our All Arizona group reached out to me.  His background is that he is gay and had been in a mixed-orientation marriage for most of his life and had three kids who are now all teens, the oldest ready to go to college.

Sara: He has actually been married twice.

Bryce: The way he puts it is, “I was the most orthodox, most faithful person you could ever be, so much so that I was willing to enter into a marriage with a woman.  Would you be faithful enough in the Church that you would marry another man?”  When you think about it that way, it shows how faithful he was.  His kids are still fully active and believing, and he supports them.  But with his second divorce, he said his whole shelf collapsed.  He said, “I just can’t do it anymore.  I recognize I’m gay,” and all his belief in the Church just left.  He stopped attending, but he fully supported his kids.

When he reached out to me he said, “I’m really worried.  We have stake conference coming up and I haven’t been to church in a year, and I’m not really fully out, but I think my last bishop told the stake president, and now he wants to meet with me, with this General Authority, Elder [Steve] Snow.  Are they trying to find out stuff about me?”  The policy had just come out, so he was saying, “Do you think they are going to try to do something to my kids?”  He was really worried.  So I reassured him and said, “We’ll come be with you when they meet.  We’ll go through this together.

So Sara and I went out and the stake president and Elder Snow showed up.  We explained why we were there and that we have two gay sons, and we have a support group and were there to support Brent.  They were fine with that.

When we brought all of this up, one of the first things to bring out was the policy and, as parents, how difficult that was to have the Church do that, and how many people we had seen that it hurt.  Then, Elder Snow began to commiserate with us.  He said, “I hear you.  That was tone deaf.  Let me tell you something: of the fifteen prophets, seers and revelators, the majority are unhappy with this policy.  Many of them have expressed to me that they wish they had stood up more, because they are unhappy with the way the procedure got pushed down on them.  To preface this he said, “I meet with members of the Twelve regularly because of my assignment as Church Historian, and I have been talking with them about how this all came about.”  That shocked us that he was so open about it.

Greg: Did you get the feeling that when he said the majority, this was first-hand—that the majority had expressed to him their dis-ease with it?

Bryce: I don’t know that he talked to the majority.

Sara: I think a couple of them had talked with him.

Bryce: He never said who.  He just said, “I know members of the Twelve, and those I have spoken with have told me that the majority are unhappy, and some of them wish they had spoken up.”  Then he said, “I guarantee you”—and three times during our discussion he said this—“I guarantee you that this policy will not last.”

Sara: And he said, “It’s a policy, not a revelation.”

Bryce: Right.

Sara: He told us that and he said, “Those are easy to change.”

Bryce: We talked for probably an-hour-and-fifteen-minutes.  Some of the other things that came up that were interesting were that he said, “It’s kind of a generational thing.  Some of the Brethren thought their precedent for this policy was polygamy and they thought it’s no different from that, but clearly it is.  There is really no connection there, but they couldn’t appreciate that, and they are not far along in their understanding of gay issues,” which we can all clearly see.

Sara: It was interesting, too, when he looked at Brent, and Brent was starting to get teary.  Brent said how President Packer’s words in the October 2010 conference had just hurt him so deeply.  Elder Snow looked at him and said, “Well, he was wrong.”

Bryce: He said, “Brent, Elder Packer was wrong!”  Even after the website came out, he was still saying that kind of stuff.  

Greg: Wendy said something about Steve having said something about Jeff Holland having been out of the country.

Bryce: Yes, yes.  He said he was really mad when he found out about it, because he wasn’t there.  I’m going to look at my notes really fast.  Immediately after the meeting, I took notes.

Greg: Steve and Jeff have a lifetime relationship.  They both grew up in St. George.  When Wendy told me that I said, “I get it.”  Steve would not misrepresent anything that he had heard from Jeff.

Bryce: I kept waiting for him to say, “Everything I have told you obviously is completely confidential.  Please don’t say a word.”  He gave a glancing indication, “I don’t want this all over social media,” but I surprised he was willing to go that far and say that much, especially in front of a disaffected gay member of the Church.

Sara: And a stake president who was learning what he was supposed to do.

Greg: Did you ever figure out what the purpose of the meeting was?

Bryce: It was a ministering visit.  When an authority comes, they do those ministering visits.  That’s all it was, just to show the love and say, “We want you back.”

Greg: So the opposite of what Brent had anticipated?

Bryce: Yes.

Then, after Elder Nelson’s talk, Brent emailed him immediately and said, “What’s up?  How could Elder Nelson say all of this after what you told us?”  Elder Snow called him back and told him, “Brent, I’m sorry, but I still stand by what I told you.  It surprised me and it surprised the Twelve.”

Then, I wrote to Elder Snow, asking the same thing.  He emailed me back a couple of weeks later.  Let me check my notes for the email.

Sara: While he’s finding that, Elder Snow several times encouraged us to keep doing what we are doing.  “Keep doing the ministering.  That’s a great work that needs to be done.  Keep doing that.”  It was like a validation for us.  You feel like you’re doing the right thing, but it was just so awesome to have him tell us that.

Bryce: Here it is.  He said—I’ll just read it, because it’s really short—“Bryce, thank you for your note.  I apologize for being so long in getting back to you.  I enjoyed meeting with you and your wife and Brent in his home several weeks ago.  I have since called Brent and spoke with him about Elder Nelson’s talk.  I was surprised when I returned from stake conference in Oregon and watched the rebroadcast of Elder Nelson’s talk.  I continue to believe, however, the language in the handbook will eventually changed to be less hurtful than it now appears.  It may take longer than I initially believed, but I still remain confident.  I appreciate your efforts in reaching out to those who struggle.  You and your wife provide vivid examples of Christ-like service.  My hope is you will continue in these efforts.  Please know I love my brethren, and I know quite clearly the doctrinal position the Church has taken.  Having said that, I am confident the future will be a time of greater sensitivity to these issues and the use of fairly hurtful terms.”

I think they see that the only way we are going to salvage gay members, if we want to keep them as members of the Church, are going to be groups like Affirmation and ad hoc groups like ours that are outside the Church.  Otherwise, the gay people feel there is no reason to stay.…

Greg: I’m surprised that Nelson’s speech didn’t get more press, but maybe it was a redundant message because people had already figured out what we are.  So for him to canonize it isn’t news.

Bryce: Right.  He knew the leaks had been getting out, and so that was his way of shutting it all down.  Now, an Elder Snow or Holland or others—I’m sure Elder Snow didn’t just tell us.  He said he had tons of people, including his own family members, call him and saying, “What’s going on?”  Some of the rumors got published on blogs, the same stuff that we just told you.  When that comes to Elder Nelson, he shuts it down.  By saying that, for one of the Twelve to say anything different is a schism.  None of them wants to hurt or destroy the Church, as much as they disagree with Nelson, so their hands are now tied.

Greg: He played the nuclear card, knowing that that would trump anything they had in their deck.  And he was right.  By their ethic, they are now locked in.  It was a very cynical, but a very effective move on his part.  He is not only breaking truth by creating his own story of what happened that has no basis in fact, but cynical in that he is putting it all on the doormat of Thomas Monson, who is not capable mentally of formulating such a policy.…

Bryce: One other thought I have is that I reached out to another parent who lives in Salt Lake who has a longtime friend in the law firm Jones, Durham, and something.  Jeff Jones is the attorney.  According to this other parent that I talked to last night—Jeff Jones has been the company’s general counsel and advisor for many years and he is one of the best, most respected attorneys in Salt Lake, but he is also a good friend of someone in Kirton, McConkie.  This father I talked to had had a big discussion with his friend Jeff Jones, and Jeff Jones told him that Kirton, McConkie is the one behind the policy, and they have been doing drafts—as Elder Nelson said in his talk, they have been discussion various permutations for several months.  This policy then got agreed to, and they were going to take a wait-and-see approach, and they didn’t think anyone would find out about it, and it got adopted.  He doesn’t have the inside information about the Twelve or Elder Nelson’s involvement, but he thought it was solely for legal purposes, and according to Jeff Jones, who knows the Kirton, McConkie attorney, it’s legal liability.  There is some case Back East where, once a church creates a paper document that gives them some sort of tie or responsibility, as a blessing certificate would by putting a child on the membership records, they have some form of legal liability.  He thought class action was the worst fear, that maybe a group of gay parents could sue the Church and say, “You have alienated us from our kids.”  So that was his view.

He hasn’t talked to Jeff Jones since Nelson’s talk, so he said, “I’m going to meet with him again and see if I can find out who, at Kirton, McConkie, he talked to.

(Bryce Cook, January 31, 2016)

Dabakis: Yesterday I was at South Temple.  I didn’t get a confirmation, but I didn’t get any, “You got it totally wrong again.”  The gay community is sensitive, given what they have gone through, so here’s what I think happened.  I think the Church Handbook is getting rewritten, and there are any number of committees that are writing different parts of it.  Among them—clearly, from the Church’s perspective, they had to change the wonderful rule they had that allowed them to exclude gay people, which was, “Hey, we’re not excluding anybody.  Our rules are the same for everybody: no sex outside of marriage.”  Well, that worked for a long time, but clearly that had to be changed.

So you had this committee that was working on that.  I don’t know who was on it.  There was rigmarole about what to say, and somebody said, “What do we have?  What’s out there?”  I think what happened was some wise ass said, “We have this policy on polygamy,” and what they did was to cut and paste it.  As Bushman said, Public Affairs was in Washington and was oblivious to the fact that it was going to happen.  The Church didn’t believe it was going to be out there—that’s being naïve, but they thought it wouldn’t be that big a deal, and it would just stay within the place that it was supposed to be.

I don’t know who maneuvered it around, and I don’t know whether the Twelve were fully cognizant of the change and the implications of the change.  But now they have to live with it, at least for a while.  I think Bushman and I are reading the tea leaves pretty much the same way.

Prince: So this is part of a general revision of the Church Handbook of Instructions?

Dabakis: Yes.  The way I understand it, this was not done as a one-off, that “we’re just going to change this one thing.”  There was no heated discussion within the leadership, and the Church didn’t solidly come down that this policy was going to be of the Lord.  It was just bureaucratic and there was no malice intended, but now they got their tit in a wringer.  And as you know, it’s very, very hard for them to extricate themselves if they’re talking to God.  So what do you do now?

Someone said to me, “Didn’t Elder Christofferson’s stuff kind of clarify it?”  I said, “If the world was full of robots, maybe.”  But you have to understand that the reason this policy is so sensitive is that it attacks the heart.  It’s children.  It’s very emotional.  But the response hasn’t been emotional; it’s been legalistic.  They have to figure out a way to come back with a response to the heart.  Whether that can happen or not, I don’t know.  So that’s my whole read on it.

Prince: Just reassure me that Dieter Uchtdorf had no hand in this.

Dabakis: I can’t.  I don’t know.  I haven’t talked to him.  I think he tried to address it opaquely in a public appearance on Facebook, interestingly, but I don’t know.  What’s good is that they clearly know now that this is not a good thing for the Church.  There is no upside to it, except for that band of people, perhaps some of whom are in the Twelve, that welcome these kinds of delineations that say, “The Prophet has spoken!  Here is what he said, and you are either there or you’re not.  This is the kind of test that the Lord talked about.  It has to come before the Second Coming, so bring it on!  That is exactly where we need to be.  Let the Millennium begin!”  

(James Dabakis, November 18, 2015)

Evans: For two years, from 2005 to 2007, Elder [Russell] Nelson was the chairman of the Public Affairs Committee.  During that time, and for a few years prior and after, I was secretary to the committee.  I continued to attend their meetings even when I was no longer secretary, until I retired.

(William Evans, January 22, 2016)

Gray: Then—and this is for your ears only—at the Lattitudinarian luncheon obviously it was the topic of concern.  

Greg: This was last Friday?

Gray: Yes.  Our guest was a fellow who works in the History Department of the Church currently.  Dan Wotherspoon has a contact on the inside, and the contact has said to Dan that this was pushed forward by President Monson, which makes absolutely no sense.  I’ve never seen or heard or felt that Monson had any negative LGBT attitudes.  I can’t see him being that vindictive, that negative, but they said it was pushed through by President Monson, and that this began in April.

I came home and checked, and it was in April that L. Tom Perry was diagnosed, and forty days later he was dead.  Knowing if in April this was when it started—and these are my total assumptions here—if I am right that this sounds like Nelson, then Nelson knowing that he was next in line at that point to Perry, and that Perry was shortly going to be out of the picture, and knowing that Packer was also in dire health, that he, Nelson would then say that this is the time to move, to start pushing it forward.

Greg: But didn’t you say that this started with Monson?

Gray: I’m suggesting that it actually started with Nelson, who imposed his views on Monson, with Nelson taking his cues from the timeline.  Packer was indisposed because of health, Perry was soon going to be out of the picture, and with those two gone he, Nelson, would be the man, and that he began orchestrating and making alliances with Oaks, Ballard and whomever else, putting it forward and getting President Monson to go along.

Greg: But Dan’s source said it came from Monson, even if it was precipitated by Nelson.

Gray: It came from Monson, but I don’t think it precipitated from this mind.  But it started moving forward in April.  That’s my assessment.  I don’t see this originating with Thomas S. Monson, but he was the one who supposedly put it through.…

In the past, even when they were saying I was cursed and couldn’t hold the priesthood and God disliked me, I would literally stand, watching the television at General Conference time, and raise my arm to the square and sustain them.  I can’t do that today.

(Darius Gray, November 8, 2015)

Gray: I am going to get briefed.  Long story short, my sleep patterns are generally interrupted, and I woke up at 12:30 a.m. and was awake until 9:00 this morning.  About thirty minutes later I had a phone call from the Church.  I’m invited to come in for a briefing.  I thought, “OK, that’s good.  They weren’t telling me about my court date.”

Prince: Or that they had held one in absentia.

Gray: Right!  I was truly groggy and wasn’t making much sense.  They were trying to tell me something, and then I realized I couldn’t process it, and I said that.  “You woke me up.  I’m sorry, but I’m going to need to delay this.”  So I have a date for next week to go in and get debriefed.

But I remember a few things that were said.  There was something about, “Yes, it had gone badly and there weren’t the normal checks and balances.  It got out before it should have.”  And they found that they had a mole, whoever that is and at whatever level.

They have now hired a consulting firm to help them with their language.  Since I had focused on that, they were responding to that for me.  They didn’t hire the firm for me, of course, but they realized they have a problem with messaging.

Prince: In general, or just on this one policy?

Gray: In general, they said, and moving forward they are concerned about messaging.  I said, “That’s fine, but in the past you’ve not screwed up this badly before.  What happened?”  That’s when I said, “Never mind.  I need to be more awake and clear-headed than I am right now, so we’ll hold that off until next week.”

Prince: Was it Public Affairs that called?

Gray: Yes.

(Darius Gray, December 10, 2015)

Gray: I find it fascinating that there is no mention of the “revelatory mind of the Lord” or “will of the Lord” or any of that in the church-owned newspaper.  You would think that something regarding a revelatory experience would appear on the front page of the church-owned paper, rather than on the front page of the secular Salt Lake Tribune.

Prince: It reminds me of when Boyd Packer tried to canonize the Proclamation on the Family and got smacked down.  I wonder if that’s what is happening here.

Gray: That’s what I’m hoping, that as soon as Nelson said what he said, there were enough with spines, among the remaining Thirteen—I’ll discount President Monson—to object and say, “No, if we put it in the Church’s organ it is going to reflect true officialdom.”  I’m hopeful.  I’m sickened by the whole damn thing.

Prince: Any more information as to provenance of the policy?

Gray: No.  My own assessment of it all, looking at a timeline—if, indeed, it did go back to April as Dan Wotherspoon said—is that it had to have been initiated by someone who had access to President Monson.  As you have said, Monson was more open to Nelson than he had been to Packer.  So just sort of piecing things together, I’m the one who is putting it on Nelson.

An individual who has been solidly on the inside with data, firm numbers, was our guest last Friday.  They had more requests to have names removed from the membership rolls in November, in one month, than they typically have in an entire year.…

Gray: My assumption, my theory, is that Nelson and possible others approached President Monson, got him ginned up—without the benefit of gin—and it started moving forward in April.  It may have been moving forward within a very select group.

Prince: It must have been, because Tom specifically asked Todd, “Has there been something going on?”  Todd said, “I have been aware of nothing.”

Gray: And that, again, is my assessment.  Why is there the difference between the Deseret News version of Nelson’s talk and the Salt Lake Tribune version?  If people are aware and have a chance to react, then things get considered and modified.  So I would assume that it was closely held from April on, and whoever those individuals were, no one would have moved forward without Nelson.  They give such deference, as you know, to the pecking order and who is going to have the power.  I’ve watched this up close and person.  Ass kissing is a featured sport there.  So I don’t think anyone would have made this move without the full support of President Nelson.  So I can see it being closely held, with him moving it forward, and then it getting dropped on the others of the Twelve on that Tuesday, and the thing going live on Thursday.

(Darius Gray, January 11, 2016)

Gustav: I’ve been talking to different people in different places and different spaces, and kind of where I am right now is that we have an elite corps of LGBT Mormons for whom this policy hasn’t really changed anything in terms of their commitment to the Church or their activity in the Church.  Some of them are possibly feeling where they are in a situation where they are possibly facing excommunication, but they are talking more in terms of, “How do I make the transition from being an active member of the Church to being active in the Church as an excommunicated person?”  They are looking to me as some kind of a role model in that regard.  So we have some folks in that category who I think are going to be very key in terms of the work that we do going forward.

We have allies who are just devastated by this.  In some ways our straight parents and siblings have almost taken this harder and have experienced more pain from this than we have.  A lot of the LGBT people are used to being slapped around, and so for them it is par for the course; whereas I think a lot of the families were harboring more hope, and that has been dashed.  I feel like for those who are wavering, I want to try to find out how we can support them and keep them active.…

Prince: When you talk to the Public Affairs guys, consider taking this tack: You’re never going to get them to budge on same-sex marriage, so don’t even try.

Gustav: Right.

Prince: What you need to play up are two things.  Number one is that this has caused an enormous amount of deep hurt and it is tearing families apart.  It is distressing people who have never been distressed before about these issues, and that is not good for the institutional church.  Number two is to convey to them that regardless of the policy on same-sex marriage, this is an unjust policy because it is whacking innocents.  It is visiting the behavior of the parents that they don’t like onto the kids, and punishing them.  Also, in a feeble attempt to justify the policy, they trotted out this “We’re just working for the welfare of the children” argument, and everybody can see through that.  If they really want to hang onto that line of reasoning, they have to be willing to say, “And we are going to go after abusive parents of any kind.”  That’s the leakiness of their argument.  I think you need to put that argument strongly in front of them: “In the public view, you are continuing to lose big-time on this, because this is just very thinly-veiled homophobia.  Period.  The only people you are punishing are the innocent children of gay couples, and for you to sit there and try to defend this by saying this is in the best interest of the children is baloney, and you have to figure out how you are going to walk this thing back enough so that you don’t completely lose out there.”  Right now, they are losing big-time.  This is a bigger black mark on them, in my mind, than Prop 8.

Gustav: Oh, there is no question in my mind about that.  This is far more traumatic for far more people than Prop 8 ever was.  And it has been more traumatic for the LGBT Mormon community than Prop 8 was, and that is saying something because Prop 8 was pretty traumatic for our community.  This hurt far worse.

(John Gustav-Wrathall, December 2, 2015)

Gustav: Here are some impressions of my meeting with Michael Purdy, John Cannon and Jon Ammons.  To be honest, they looked a little nervous to me.  We talked, and there was actually a fair amount of very frank and open discussion.  I found that it was not really necessary for me to belabor a lot of the negative impact I’ve observed.  

Prince: That explains their nervousness: they got it already.

Gustav: Yes, they have been observing a lot of it themselves.  My analysis of this is that there are three constituencies in Affirmation who have been affected by this in very different ways.  Those constituencies are those who are church-active, those who are not active in the Church or involved in the Church, and then parents and family.  They listened with great interest to my observations of how this has affected those different groups.  I did share some personal stories that I’m aware of that they found helpful.  But generally, they were aware that they are in deep doo-doo.

There was a kind of unguarded moment when Michael Purdy—there was a brief discussion about what was the thinking that went behind this.  I said to them that I personally do not believe that there was animus, but I said I am out-of-sync with virtually every other person I know in the LGBT-Mormon families-and-friends community on this point.  I said it is almost universally believed that there was animus, that this was a cold-hearted move to basically get LGBT people to just pack their bags and leave.  Michael Purdy’s response was—the word that he used to describe the decision was “not calculated.”

Prince: So was that his unguarded moment?

Gustav: That was his unguarded moment, his sense that there was not much thought that went into this, that there had not been much calculation of the impact of this and the effects of this.  Not necessarily terribly surprising.  My overall sense was that they are really wrestling with how to deal with this, and they haven’t been given a lot of room to move right now.  They are in a very difficult situation.

They seemed very eager—they actually seemed a little bit worried that Affirmation was going to lose patience with them and cut off the communication line with them.

Prince: Really?

Gustav: Yes.  Michael Purdy even pretty much said that.  I was talking to them about the difficult position that I’m in vis-à-vis our organization.  I said,
“Basically right now the mood in the organization is that they want to take a big step away from the Church.”  I talked about the fact that one of the criticisms of me during my campaign for president was that I was too cozy with the Church.  So I said, “I’m in a very difficult situation vis-à-vis the organization.”  They said that they really hoped that this would not result in a loss of this line of communication.

Gustav: Here are some impressions of my meeting with Michael Purdy, John Cannon and Jon Ammons.  To be honest, they looked a little nervous to me.  We talked, and there was actually a fair amount of very frank and open discussion.  I found that it was not really necessary for me to belabor a lot of the negative impact I’ve observed.  

Prince: That explains their nervousness: they got it already.

Gustav: Yes, they have been observing a lot of it themselves.  My analysis of this is that there are three constituencies in Affirmation who have been affected by this in very different ways.  Those constituencies are those who are church-active, those who are not active in the Church or involved in the Church, and then parents and family.  They listened with great interest to my observations of how this has affected those different groups.  I did share some personal stories that I’m aware of that they found helpful.  But generally, they were aware that they are in deep doo-doo.

There was a kind of unguarded moment when Michael Purdy—there was a brief discussion about what was the thinking that went behind this.  I said to them that I personally do not believe that there was animus, but I said I am out-of-sync with virtually every other person I know in the LGBT-Mormon families-and-friends community on this point.  I said it is almost universally believed that there was animus, that this was a cold-hearted move to basically get LGBT people to just pack their bags and leave.  Michael Purdy’s response was—the word that he used to describe the decision was “not calculated.”

Prince: So was that his unguarded moment?

Gustav: That was his unguarded moment, his sense that there was not much thought that went into this, that there had not been much calculation of the impact of this and the effects of this.  Not necessarily terribly surprising.  My overall sense was that they are really wrestling with how to deal with this, and they haven’t been given a lot of room to move right now.  They are in a very difficult situation.

They seemed very eager—they actually seemed a little bit worried that Affirmation was going to lose patience with them and cut off the communication line with them.

Prince: Really?

Gustav: Yes.  Michael Purdy even pretty much said that.  I was talking to them about the difficult position that I’m in vis-à-vis our organization.  I said,
“Basically right now the mood in the organization is that they want to take a big step away from the Church.”  I talked about the fact that one of the criticisms of me during my campaign for president was that I was too cozy with the Church.  So I said, “I’m in a very difficult situation vis-à-vis the organization.”  They said that they really hoped that this would not result in a loss of this line of communication.

(John Gustav-Wrathall, December 5, 2015)

Gustav: What I didn’t say in the report on the website is that when I spoke with Elder Christofferson, he said to me that, number one, this came directly from President Monson; number two, he acknowledged that Elder Monson has times when he’s not mentally clear, but he also has times when he is mentally clear.  It was his feeling, his impression that this policy directive came in a moment of clarity.  He said that both parts of the policy—both the part about listing same-sex marriage as apostasy and the part about denying membership to children of same-sex couples—both of those came from President Monson.  And it was Elder Christofferson’s opinion that this came from the Lord.…

Now, there might be some damage control in order here.  I’m sort of dismayed about this thing that Bryce Cook published on “I’ll Walk With You.”  This has the potential of shutting this whole thing down.  If this gets into the media and the headline is, “A Majority of the Q15 Opposed the Policy,” that’s going to force them to close ranks in a way that is going to be very harmful to this process, I think.  We could be talking in terms of dealing with an unprecedented crisis, and they might realize that dismissing the General Authority in question and then making a harsh public statement is just going to make things worse.  That would have been the modus operandi years back, but given the depth and the breadth of the crisis right now that the Church is dealing with, they might recognize that that’s going to hurt them more than it helps.

I talked to Bryce and I sort of explained to him what could happen as a result of this.  Right now he is feeling somewhat chastened.  He is worried that this leak on the “I’ll Walk With You” site is going to create a problem.  I doubt that the media are going to report on a Facebook rumor, but it’s quite possible that Bryce will get phone calls from reporters saying, “Who was it and what did he say?”

Prince: I think he should just go to ground—not do a confirmation, not do a denial, just say, “I don’t have any comment on it.  Thank you.”

Gustav: That’s what he told me he would do.  I hope he’ll stick with that.  I asked him if he might be willing to connect me to this General Authority so that I can get some more information.  What worries me is that the General Authority who spoke to Bryce Cook, when he spoke to him there were two other people there listening to that conversation, including one disaffected LGBT person.  He gave some details about who was unhappy about what—like he named Elder Holland’s name.  Bryce didn’t report on that when he published it, but this General Authority said things to other people who may not be able to be counted on to keep quiet about it.…

Bryce told me that when this guy said these things—I guess I can trust you with who it is, it’s Elder Snow.…

So when Elder Snow said this in front of three people, one of whom is a disaffected LGBT person, he did not say, “Keep this quiet.  Don’t tell anybody.”  So for all I know, it was a planned leak.

Prince: It sure sounds like it to me.

Gustav: Maybe this is their version of damage control—let that rumor get out there so that people don’t get desperate and resign en masse from the Church.

(John Gustav-Wrathall, December 9, 2015)

Gustav: Part of the conversation I had with Elder Christofferson was, “Tell me if my understanding is correct: Labeling same-sex marriage as apostasy is intended to clarify the Church’s doctrine on marriage, not to stigmatize individuals.”  Elder Christofferson’s response was, “That is exactly right.”  So that is what I put in my blog post.  Bill Evans was very interested in that.  He thought that that was a big deal, to be able to publicly say, “The Church is not trying to stigmatize gay people who are in same-sex marriages.”

Prince: Yes, although tell the public that!

Gustav: Right.  Nobody is buying it.  But it’s clear that they are already treating this issue as different.  I don’t think they would have scheduled a series of quick meetings with me, and then allowed me to talk publicly about the meetings, if they viewed us in the same category as polygamists.

(John Gustav-Wrathall, December 26, 2015)

Prince: From everything I hear, even though they won’t acknowledge it openly, Thomas Monson is pretty deep into dementia.

Harmon: Oh, definitely.

Prince: Do you see him?

Harmon: One of my colleagues, who is just down the hall, takes care of him.  He is not functioning.  He is not making any decisions.  That’s why he didn’t meet with Barack Obama when he was here for a visit.  The President met with Dieter Uchtdorf and Hal Eyring, but not President Monson.  He just really is not capable of carrying on a spontaneous conversation.  He can read a script, he can read the teleprompter, but that’s as far as it goes.  There is no original thinking.  So we are in a little bit of a caretaker presidency.  We have a little bit of assertiveness, but not much.  So I think it puts us in an awkward position where we are not going to see a lot of innovative, new policies come out.

I’m quite surprised that this new policy is so dogmatic.

Prince: The reports I keep hearing—and some of these come from people who I think are in the know, like Peggy Stack—are that this came out of Monson’s office.  It didn’t bypass him.  I don’t know whether he originated it, or whether somebody was whispering in his ear.

Harmon: I’d be really surprised.  I think he would have a knee-jerk response: “Oh yes, we don’t want gay people doing this or that.”  So I think to an extent there may be a conditioned response on his part.  But is he an original thinker?  Is he really thinking this out and looking at the implications of the policy?  No.  He is not capable of that.

(Craig Harmon, December 22, 2015)

Prince: One reason that I am confident that you have not heard a “Thus saith the Lord” is that from everything that I can pick up—and granted, this is indirect evidence—this is probably the deepest division amongst the Brethren of any issue.  They are not unified on it at all.

Miller: Did you read Russell Nelson’s commencement address at BYU in August?  He came pretty close to saying that it is a tenet.  And I thought in April that Dallin Oaks was getting closer and closer to saying that.

(Douglas Miller, September 4, 2014)

Erika: I’m going to give Shipley the phone, and he is going to tell you the story that they are giving the directors of the Church as to how this thing happened.

Shipley: Hi, Greg.

Greg: Hi.

Shipley: The Church has an amazing ability to close ranks and create a plausible story with some resemblance to the facts, but interesting divergence from the facts, at least as I understand them.  The facts as I understand them is basically that if you know President Monson, you know he has a terrible temper.  You know there is a lot of good Kirton & McConkie billing to protect him from consequences of his temper on employment law, with harassment.

He rammed this thing through.  Brook Hales wrote it.  Someone in his office leaked it.  What Brook Hales wrote was unedited, and basically 98% done.  It was shoved into editing with President Monson insisting on immediate publication, which happened as soon as editing got rid of the grammar and spelling errors.  No one on the Twelve knew a thing about it.  Max Mogard was paralyzed because he couldn’t get a hold of Marcus Nash, who is the Seventy over Correlation, to bring it up to the Correlation Council.  I don’t know which apostles are on it now; it used to be Bob Hales and might still be.

The monthly meeting of the managing directors—I wasn’t there but my boss was; sometimes I substitute for him, sometimes he goes, and this one he went to—the Church admitted that this thing was a public relations fiasco.  The story is that the Twelve and the Correlation Department should have pushed back more vigorously, implying that this had all gone through some kind of prior deliberation by the Twelve, and by the Seventies involved with Correlation and Public Affairs.  But the answer is, “No!  It was a complete shocker and a complete surprise.”

Suddenly a camera crew had to be assembled.  The immediate interview with Michael Otterson and Elder Christofferson, they never hold those things in the top floor of the Relief Society Building unless every other space they usually use is completely booked and they can’t get people out.  The spaces are usually completely booked because something is entirely spontaneous like this.  Just watch that thing!  The body language is just so painful.  Neither Michael nor Elder Christofferson wants to be there.  Neither of them agrees with the policy.  They are appalled at the way that they are forced into a terrible situation.

So the way they are talking about it is, “What a case study in how not to do Public Affairs.”  That’s it!  As opposed to what it really is, which is a case study in a fundamental weakness in the governance of the Church when there is no balance on the power of the First Presidency, and the Prophet has aged beyond the point of always being compos mentis [sound mind].

Greg: One of the narratives that has been going around is that Russell Nelson had something to do with this.  Is that a false narrative?

Shipley: Yes.

Greg: So this thing really was hatched within the mind of President Monson.

Shipley: Yes, and his counselors felt that it wasn’t their place to push back.  The way this thing goes is that the Twelve need the approval of the First Presidency, but the First Presidency does not need the approval of the Twelve.  Ever.  That’s the reality of church governance.

Greg: Was there any indication as to why President Monson thought this was necessary in the first place?

Shipley: I don’t know.

Erika: I tend to think that he wanted to do this.  He was the Prop 8 guy and he tied a lot to Prop 8.

Shipley: Well, he won the battle and lost the war.

Erika: Yes, and this was kind of like his final retrenchment.…

Shipley: The fourteen under President Monson are not going to push back or repudiate until the First Presidency changes, and then they will try to do it gently, in a way that doesn’t discredit the administration of President Monson too much.  That’s the way they are.  They are really, really good at alignment.  They are amazingly good at publicly appearing like they completely support something they can’t stand.  Every one of them.  That’s where they are.  That’s the rules.  That’s how you get to be there.

Greg: Even if there is a new First Presidency, it’s going to be tough for them to walk this back without looking like they are discrediting Monson.  It is so draconian to begin with.

Shipley: They’ll have to be like the Blacks and the priesthood, a revelatory experience by a new prophet.  The interesting is that they are calling this policy, they are talking about it as if it’s doctrine.

Erika: Although they have gone out of their way to say it is policy.

Shipley: Public Affairs has.

Erika: Yes, that’s true.  Public Affairs right away was really clear on this as policy.  But it is being interpreted very doctrinally by bishops and stake presidents, and, sadly, the membership.

Shipley: Therefore, the speculations come in two varieties.  “This is simply to limit the gay contagion,” or, “No one is willing to ask the tough questions about the depth to which the entire cosmology of LDS doctrine of eternal families and the eternal nature of gender and roles of men and women and the temple”—you’ve got to have some big questions and be willing to come up with some answers that people haven’t talked about ever.  “Can it be that you choose your gender and your orientation in the pre-existence, and that gender and orientation are not eternal?”  I think that’s obviously the case.  That is not what the Church has been teaching for the last fifteen decades.

Greg: Right, and LDS cosmology currently cannot allow gay.  That’s why they don’t want “homosexual” to be a noun.  They insist that it’s an adjective.

Erika: Yes, exactly.

Shipley: But LDS has been great at changing its cosmology from time to time.

Greg: Oh, yes.

Shipley: In order for this to be undone, there probably needs to be the kind of cosmological adjustment that needs to be positioned as revelatory, which is the kind that then fits this other narrative, which is that each prophet is placed by God on this planet to have a slightly different mission.  So President Kimball was about the priesthood, and President Benson about the Book of Mormon, and President Hinckley about temple building, and President Monson about caring for the poor.  Would it be Russ Nelson or Dallin Oaks, or who is next—oh, my gosh, Russ Ballard is next—who is the one who asks these questions about gender.

Greg: The risk is that this could split the Church before that happens.

Erika: Right.

Shipley: That’s right.

(Erika and Shipley Munson, December 12, 2015)

Prince: Have there been any insights into the origins of the policy?

Munson: The Committee on Cancellation and Restoration of Blessings, which works directly with the First Presidency, has been niggling, niggling and niggling.  I think Brook Hales is executive secretary, and President Monson just pulled a fast one and didn’t correlate a change to Handbook 1.  So it didn’t go through Correlation—and the First Presidency is the only entity in the Church that can publish without going through Correlation.  Correlation is like the brainstem.  When something hits Correlation, the Correlation folks know all the different parts of the Church that have to weigh in before something goes out, and make sure that all those parts of the Church have weighed in before something is authorized.

Prince: Including letting Public Affairs know what’s going on.

Munson: Absolutely!  If this had been correlated it would have taken six months instead of a few weeks, and Public Affairs would have been in on it.  But Elder Christofferson was over Public Affairs when this happened, I think they didn’t want pushback from Elder Christofferson.  They knew they would get it and they didn’t want to deal with it, so they bypassed Public Affairs.  They didn’t go through editing, so there were misspellings.  The punctuation wasn’t right—it didn’t observe the Chicago Manual of Style.  There were no visual identity issues.  But Public Affairs would have been the big one for them to vet it with.  Probably they would also have vetted it with the Family and Priesthood Department, as it is now called.  They didn’t want to hear from Elder Holland on it, so they didn’t do that.

Prince: And wasn’t he out of the country when they dropped it on the Twelve?

Munson: Yes.  I am beginning to perceive a battle between the Twelve and President Monson.  He has dementia, but he has moments of lucidity, and he also has an amazing temper.  A lot of Kirton, McConkie’s time over the past twenty years has been spent in heading off harassment lawsuits—not because he is a fondler or anything like that, but because the way he treats people is just unacceptable in law.  And it’s more women than men who are the brunt of his wrath.

Anyway, he gets really angry sometimes and has lucid moments, so this went through at one of those times.  There are a few things going on in the Church, like Elder Gay’s self-sufficiency initiative that are done directly with the First Presidency and not with the Twelve.  Elder Eyring doesn’t have to get an opinion from the Twelve, because it had already been preauthorized, and no one has problems with the self-sufficiency initiative.  But this one is different.  They all have an opinion on this.

As a result, the policy has become a case study on bad communications management, rather than a case study on flaws in the church organization.  It has been spun internally as, “You don’t want to announce something without having a good communications plan.”  Therefore, there was a quick scramble to put in place the communications plan they should have had all along.

I can tell you that the communications case study issue, and the way it is spun internally, is not an inference.  It’s a briefing.  So one is even sure when the policy came out.  The letter was sent by email at the end of business Mountain Time on a Tuesday.  The first stake presidents who shared it with the community in which you and Erika participate, shared it almost instantly.  So it was not a leak in the First Presidency’s office; they just sent an email, and the first people who opened the email were so outraged that they shared it.  So it was a leak in the chain-of-command, if there was a leak.

Prince: And there are 3,000 stake presidents and 30,000 bishops out there.

Munson: Yes.  We know that between one-tenth and one-third of them open their email, depending on what it is, so you now have a choice of several thousand people who could have shared it.  But it wasn’t shared the way it normally is with the Twelve or the Seventy beforehand.  The Seventy found out about it Thursday, and they don’t like that—including the presidents of the Seventy, and they really don’t like that.

What happened was on Wednesday, all of a sudden the Publishing Services Department gets this message: “We’ve got to find a place.  We’ve got to find a film crew.  We’ve got to get a script for Elder Christofferson, that Mike Otterson has written, onto the teleprompter.”  Part of Kremlinology is where they filmed it.  They filmed it in the lobby of the Relief Society Building.  Nothing of any import gets filmed in the lobby of the Relief Society Building.  Nothing happens in that building of any import.  The auxiliaries are completely disempowered.  The general presidents of the women’s organizations are subordinated to fairly new and unskilled members of the Seventies quorum.  So nothing happens in the Relief Society Building unless they can’t get anyplace else.  The higher prestige location for secular things is the lobby of the Conference Center; more sacred things they like to film in the lobby of the Church Office Building, with the mural of Jesus commissioning his disciples as the background.  If it’s really big and really important, they like to be in the Conference Room at 47 East South Temple, where the Seventy have their weekly meeting and webcast.  Instead, they had to go to the Relief Society Building, which does have the advantage that you can make it look like anything, because no one ever uses the space, and no one cares how you muck around with it.

So they were running around, quickly trying to pull something together.  I have never seen Elder Christofferson or Mike Otterson as uncomfortable and angry as in the interview that was published that Thursday that was a video interview.

Since that time they have gradually been putting in place what would have been—this is my inference, because of the way it has unfolded—the six-front communication plan had this been done properly.  No one is going to admit that it was undue influence of a committee of fairly low-ranking Seventies on a demented prophet.  They have to bend over backwards and say, “Oh no, this isn’t policy.  This was revelation.  Isn’t marvelous how revelation unfolded?  There we all were in the temple on Thursday morning when this whole process was shared by President Monson.”  Wow!  But that’s the spin now.

Prince: And it wasn’t even the Thursday morning meeting.  

Munson: Tuesday was when it happened, but the official sharing happened on Thursday after the cat was long out of the bag, because Thursday is the regular meeting in the temple with the First Presidency and the Twelve.

Prince: So Nelson’s speech in Hawaii was just part of the damage control.

Munson: Exactly.  He felt that the best way to do the damage control was to upgrade from policy to revelation.  Lockstep alignment, and that’s what the others had to align to.

Prince: And there haven’t been leaks since then.

Munson: No sir!  They are very disciplined; that’s how they got there.  What is very interesting is who they haven’t asked to speak about it.  The Twelve know who is for and who is against, because they are honest with each other, and they do scream at each other.  You’re not seeing Elder Cook going out on the stump.  He was a stake president in San Francisco and personally stood at the bedside of twenty men who died of AIDS because their families did not come.

Prince: Nor Christofferson, nor Holland, nor Uchtdorf.

Munson: Right.  It looks schizophrenic because of the equality thing last year.  Oaks and Cook are lawyers, and there are very few individuals on the planet who are more familiar with how the Supreme Court works than Elder Oaks.   There are very few individuals more cognizant of the Church’s agreements with the archives of the world than Elder Cook.  What the Church wanted to do with SB296 was more damage control by telling the Utah Legislature, in a very rushed way because Elder Perry was dying, “Here is what the legislation has to say, because it has to bake into it some kind of religious freedom guarantees and some kind of flexibility so there is no backlash—so we don’t have what Indiana had and what Kentucky had.”  It’s a brilliant piece of legislation, and it was entirely cooked up by those two guys, and then executed flawlessly.  It was another tactic to buy time.

Prince: I wonder if they realize what a mess they have cooked up.

Munson: They have no idea.…

Prince: At the risk of seeming redundant, let me go back to what is no longer an issue in this church—The Policy.

Munson: Now it’s a revelation and not a policy, and there are no gay people in the Church.  Right?

Prince: You walked me through a little bit of it this morning.  Can you retrace those steps for the benefit of Doug and JaLynn?  And one question that I didn’t ask this morning was where did Russell Nelson fit in?  Was he involved in the genesis of it?

Munson: He was completely bypassed.

Prince: So the entire quorum was bypassed?

Munson: Yes.  After the fact, Nelson made Christofferson do damage control.

Prince: Did Nelson give his Hawaii talk because the spin wasn’t working—that he had to step in and canonize it?

Munson: I assume that.  I assume it’s all about demonstrating alignment and unity to avoid 1906.  So Nelson embellished and said, “Hey, this is really revelation.  I was there in the room when the First Presidency explained it, and I felt the Spirit so strongly.  It is marvelous how continuing revelation works.

Prince: Did he go rogue in saying that?

Munson: I don’t think he went rogue.  I think it was planned by the Twelve.

Prince: Now that the cow was out of the barn?

Munson: Yes, and they had had some time to think about it.  I’m sure the reason he didn’t want to go in front of the cameras in November was that they hadn’t lined up their ducks yet.  They didn’t know what to say.

Balls: Right, and so they three Todd Christofferson under the bus.

Munson: Yes.  “Todd, you’re the expert.  It’s your committee.  Do something.”  But the real issue was that this thing had come out.

Prince: Back up a little bit for their sake, with the Committee on Cancellation and Restoration of Blessings.

Munson: The way this works is that there still are a couple of committees that report directly to the First Presidency.  The chairman of this committee is Elder Lynn Robbins, who is a president of the Seventy and normally presides over the Southwestern United States.  Elder Robbins—and this is one of the hardest duties in the Church—reviews all the cases coming up to the First Presidency.

Prince: Oh, my gosh, he’d be stuck in the muck all the time.

Munson: That’s why they tend to rotate it every two years.  If you have that job, you age prematurely.

Prince: Spencer Kimball had that job for over twenty years.

Munson: Really?

Prince: Yes.

Munson: You’d be stuck in the muck all of the time.

Prince: All LGBT issues went to Kimball starting in the late 1940s.  That was the world in which he lived, and I think his experiences informed the way he wrote the chapter on homosexuality in The Miracle of Forgiveness.

Munson: When you are confronted with this all the time and you’re not statistically minded, you begin to think that the whole world is that way.

Prince: Or will be “if we allow them to proselytize,” which is the way he viewed it.

Munson: So back to the committee.  I could see Elder Robbins demanding clarity on LGBT issues, and I could see him saying, “This is completely analogous to polygamy.”  He caught President Monson on the right day, with Brook Hales in the room.

Balls: But Brook is smart enough to say, “Just a minute!  We can’t do this.”

Munson: Brook had to have been they guy who wrote it.  They had to have said, “Brook, this is not going to Correlation.”  Correlation kind of reports to Brook.  “Brook, we can’t go to Correlation on this.  We have to do this ourselves.”

Prince: Because?

Munson: Because Correlation will screw it up, or they don’t get it, or whatever.  Correlation serves at the pleasure of the First Presidency, and the First Presidency said, “We’re not going to have this correlated.  We’re just going to do it.”

Prince: So you speak with a high degree of confidence that this committee started the ball rolling.

Munson: That would be my guess.  No one has told me that.

Prince: What’s the water cooler chatter about this whole thing?

Munson: The water cooler chatter about this whole thing is, “What a case study for how not to communicate with the membership and the world.”  That’s it.  Nothing about the issue itself, just the importance of having a well-thought-out communications plan when you do something like this.  That’s it.

Balls: I would just think that if Brook was in the room—I know him really, really well—I would just think he would get up and walk over to President Uchtdorf’s office or President Eyring’s office and say, “Let me run this by you.  This is what is going to happen, and I don’t think it’s a good idea.”  I can’t imagine Brook being in favor of it.

Prince: Would he raise his voice on other issues?

Munson: I have no idea.  Brook is the major gatekeeper to the First Presidency.

Balls: He is, but his wings have been clipped by the Vice President.  Michael Watson used to be the Vice President, and Michael had all power.  Brook was the assistant.  We called Michael the Vice President, but then Sister Cannegieter became the Vice President when President Monson ascended the throne.

Prince: And she is the reincarnation of Clare Middlemiss, to a frightening extent.

Balls: She ascended to the throne.  Within a month of President Monson becoming President of the Church, Don Staheli, who was President Hinckley’s secretary, was called as a mission president.  Until he went on his mission, his office was a ward dinner banquet table set up in the room where the First Presidency vault is.  Michael Watson got called into the First Quorum of Seventy, and got shipped of to South Africa—as far away as they could get him.  Brook, I think, just kept his head down and said, “I’m not going to mess with the President’s office; I will deal with the First Presidency.”  But Lynne Cannegieter took all personal stuff—anything that goes into the President goes through Lynne.

I believe what you are saying, but I’m just shocked that Brook didn’t say anything.  Maybe he did, and maybe President Monson just slapped him down and said, “I did it, and therefore it is.”  And then it happened.  And Brook had to sit there and say, “OK, President.”

Munson: Who else could have written it without the Church knowing it?

Balls: That’s what I said: “Brook had to have written this.”  President Monson didn’t, and Lynne Cannegieter is not smart enough to.

Prince: The night that it broke—Thursday—I was flying to Salt Lake as Tom Christofferson was flying back to Salt Lake, so we had dinner that night.  Tom was just crestfallen.  He said, “I have never felt this low.”  But he had talked to Todd that day, and Todd told him, “The Twelve did not know anything about this until two days ago, and Public Affairs didn’t know anything about it until this morning.”

Munson: Which means it wasn’t correlated.

Prince: We thought that maybe Nelson had gone rogue and had pushed this on Monson, and hadn’t told the rest of the Twelve; but from what you are saying, Todd was literally right when he said, “The Twelve did not know anything about this.”

Munson: Because the Committee on Cancellation and Restoration of Blessings doesn’t report through the Twelve.

Prince: The thing that Erika and Kendall Wilcox did [“Out in Zion” podcast], didn’t mention the committee.

Munson: No, they didn’t.

Prince: Was that intentional?

Munson: I really don’t know.  They described it as “a group of General Authorities,” because that was all they knew to say.  The primary source for their compilation was Peggy Fletcher Stack.  They pooled what they knew with what she had gotten from various sources through her investigative reporting.

Balls: So the addendum announcing the policy just went out with the regular bulletin to all bishops and stake presidents.

Munson: Yes.

Prince: Is that a weekly thing?

Balls: Yes.  It’s just little tidbits of the Church, changes in policy, blah, blah, blah..

Munson: And then the following weekend there were kids who were supposed to be baptized, and they wound up not being baptized; kids who were going to be given the priesthood, not being given the priesthood because their gay dad left their mom five years prior.

Prince: And it said, “if you have ever lived with him.”

Munson: It was just as ambiguous as all get-out.

Prince: And then eight days later there was the statement from the First Presidency that said, “We want to make sure you heard us correctly the first time,” when people actually did hear it correctly the first time, but they needed to change it without people thinking they had changed it.

Munson: And the way it’s spun at the water cooler is, “When you have a major announcement or change in policy, you have to allow enough time so that all the instances and use cases are thought through, and the main questions member will be having are answered clearly in language everybody will understand and no misinterpret.”  It takes a while to do that.

So the bulletin went out on Thursday, and I remember the proverbial night soil hitting the whirling blades.  On Friday morning they threw together a script and put it on the teleprompter.

Balls: Elder Christofferson was using a prompter?

Munson: Of course he was, and Mike was reading the questions from his lap.

Balls: So it was scripted, with Mike saying, “I’ll ask the question, and you just read the answer.”

Munson: Yes, “the answer that we have thought through as best we can under limited time circumstances, because you only heard about this on Tuesday and I only heard about it yesterday, and we need to get something out right now.”  It was such a mad scramble that morning.  Everybody stopped their work until this thing was done.

Balls: But it goes on the news looking like a little press conference.

Munson: Right, unless you know the players.  I’ve never seen Elder Christofferson so uncomfortable, and I’ve never seen Mike Otterson fidget before.  He doesn’t fidget unless he is doing something he feels really bad about.

Prince: Do you think he felt bad about the policy, or about the fact that everything was handed to him on a steaming plate?

Munson: I think he felt bad that he wasn’t part of a process that was poorly planned, and it was a violation of his professional standards and professional ethics to have to be engaged in such self-made crisis management.

Prince: Do you think he gives a damn about LGBT issues?

Munson: He does, because his brother is gay.

Balls: Is his brother a member?

Munson: No.  Michael is the only one in his family who is a member of the Church.  He is much more sympathetic to LGBT issues than you would think.

He always advises the Public Affairs Committee to be transparent, because transparency is the easiest and the best long-term, and the committee doesn’t listen to him much, although L. Tom Perry was better than most.

So they put together this slapdash thing that looked pretty reasonable, and to 99 out of 100 people it looked like a mini-press conference.

Prince: Todd was not happy about it, and he told Tom, “You may want to disown me for what I had to do.”

Munson: That’s all part of alignment.  Everybody knew the press conference was a stopgap measure, and then they said, “What do we do now?”

Balls: But Elder Christofferson would have had final say on the script.

Munson: Sure, and Mike wrote it for him.  But he would have had instructions on who he had to vet it with before they started filming, because he is a junior guy.  Probably it was Nelson, and he probably said, “Does it do this?  Does it do this?”  “Yes.”  “You know, Todd, we don’t have the time for others to weigh in on this, so we have to go with you on this.  Go for it, and help us out.”  Even Elder Nelson would know that that was only a Band-Aid.

Prince: Do you think so?  They really do live in a bubble.

Munson: Well, from his point of view he was surprised.  He didn’t have time to process it.  He probably agreed with the policy, but he was probably saying, “What can we do to make this stick?”

Balls: So here is the interesting thing.  They find out about it in their Tuesday business meeting.

Munson: Yes, and not the one in the temple.

Balls: Yes, in Room 509 in the Church Administration Building.  They’re up there in their business meeting and President Monson says, “By the way, blah, blah, blah.”  In the Thursday meeting they are there in their whites—

Munson: And they are all seated in their places.  The pattern I heard is that in their Thursday meeting in the temple they really don’t discuss things.  They discuss things in the Tuesday business meeting where they can raise their voices and overrule each other.

Balls: But apparently it was, “No discussion.  This is how it is going to be, and I’m getting up and walking out.”

Munson: Yes.

Prince: And that’s consistent with what Todd told Tom.  There was no discussion.

Munson: Sure.  You talk to any one of the Twelve—and Elder Andersen would say this to me all the time.  He would say, “Ship, everything we do as the Twelve has to go to the First Presidency, but not everything the First Presidency does has to come through us.”

Prince: Case in point.

Munson: Case in point.  But when the First Presidency does that, it must annoy the hell out of the guys in the Twelve.…

Prince: Back to LGBT issues, it astounds me that the feeling among the Red Chairs is that this crisis has passed.  I think their troubles have only begun.

Munson: Yes.  I was talking to Ally Isom about it on the elevator the other day, and her opinion is the same as yours, which is the same as mine.

Prince: And it is that the storm is just organizing?

Munson: Yes, and they are missing it.  I’m a sailor at heart, and when you are on the water it’s really easy to mistake white caps from current.  Current is invisible; the white caps are on the surface of the water and they are caused by the wind, which is variable.  The reason Columbus found the New World was that he was sailing with the tide and the current, and that will drive things over the long term.  But it takes a seasoned sailor to know the difference.

In this particular case, the wind has died down and there are no more white caps, so they think the current and the tide have disappeared.  But they haven’t, and they will find out soon enough.  I said that to Ally and she said, “Shipley, that’s exactly the situation.”

Prince: So you think Ally gets it on things in general?

Munson: Oh yes, but they are not listening to her.

(Shipley Munson and Doug Balls, March 2, 2016)

Schow: So to come back again, Oaks had said to Rich [Ferré]—

Prince: Recently?

Schow: Three General Conferences ago.  He said, “It’s time for us to do our own training.”  And so Oaks did that training.  I have the list of articles that he gave to the Seventy on that occasion.  That was a rather long training on the gay and lesbian issue.  They did another one six months ago, and Rich said to me last week that they are doing another one for this conference.  He said it won’t be as long, and it’s mainly along the lines of, “OK, this is a big concern.  How are you doing?  What’s happening?  How can we encourage you to move forward with this?”  I presume they said something about the new website [mormonsandgays.org].

Raynes: Who are they training?  Stake presidents?

Schow: These are Seventies.

Prince: Is the intent that it will then roll down to the next level?

Schow: Yes.  Then Rich went on and said, “The other thing that Elder Oaks is saying to me is that we don’t want bishops and stake presidents to go after gay people.  There is no point in that”—this was Rich talking to me, but apparently in Oaks’s words—“because if bishops go after them in a punitive way, it’s not going to do any good.  It’s just going to push them away.”…

I have a nephew whose older brother died of AIDS and who was gay, Brad Schow.  Ted is his younger brother, and he is currently a bishop.  I talked to Ted about this six months ago, and then I thought I would talk to Justin and Bill, and see what Ted, who is an acting bishop right now, says to me if I ask him this question straight out.  So I said, “Do you have any guidance for what to do about discipline of a gay couple want to attend church in your ward?  Could they come to church regularly and not be excommunicated?”  This was last Thursday that I sent him this.

Prince: This is a bishop who would have knowledge beforehand that these two people are living together?

Schow: That’s the way I put it to him.  Here is his answer: “There is nothing that I have seen or heard that addresses this exact question.  Discipline, outside of certain specific cases such as murder, incest, etc., is largely up to the discretion of local leaders.  Someone practicing sexual conduct outside of marital vows certainly would be at risk for discipline.  Again, no cookie cutter.  There are many factors that are considered when and what kind of discipline is appropriate or not appropriate.”  I said, “Thanks.  So there’s no change since we last talked.  Sometime take a look at Elder Christofferson on mormonsandgays.org, where he talks about the ninety-nine and the one.”  He said, “OK, I will.”

So here is a guy who would have every reason to be compassionate, if he had been given any instruction.  So I sent the same text message to my nephew who was Brad’s closest cousin in the family.  He is a stake president in Lehi.  His answer was basically the same.  So out there in the trenches, they are not coming up and being trained by Oaks.  Out there in the trenches, they still are not being told what to do about gay couples who come to church.

(Ron Schow, April 7, 2013)

Schow: Just to come back to the Tribune thing for a minute, at one point in our conversation he was talking about Ally and others who are working on the website.  This happened a day before he was to appear on the TribTalk.  He said, “Last week Ally called me and she started the conversation by saying, ‘Two or three months ago the Church was invited to be a part of a TribTalk on the feminist issue.  They declined.  We didn’t send anybody, and they murdered us.  We thought maybe it would die with the TribTalk, but they picked it up and put it in the New York Times and the Washington Post, and we got brutalized on it.’”  She said the apostles determined that there would be no participation in that TribTalk, but she said, “Now, we have been called to submit somebody to represent the Church in the TribTalk on the gay issue.  This has gone to the apostles.  They trust you, and so they have asked me to call you and invite you to be on there.  We’re not going to say that you are representing the Church, and we are not going to tell you what to say, but they trust you and so we’d like you to go.”  So unofficially, you and I know that Rod was sent by the Church.

Prince: Very interesting.

Schow: So here is what he told me, and he seems to have it on pretty good authority, my hunch being that it came from Todd Christofferson.  Todd said there are things on the agenda, when the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles meet, that have been there the full time that he has been an apostle.  He said what happens is that they bring them up and they are very controversial and divisive, and they bat it around for a while until it gets too uncomfortable, and then they shut it down and don’t resolve it.  There have been ongoing discussions at that level for some time about the gay issue, but Rod’s reporting is that no decision had been made at that level, and it had just been unresolved because they would have these discussions and then not make any decisions.  That seems to be the background, and what Rod says is that there is a Seventy who is emeritus and is with the Kirton, McConkie law firm.

Prince: Probably Lance Wickman.

Schow: Probably, but Rod did not give me his name.  He got together with Monson, and they put this together.  That sort of goes along with what Darius Gray said, that it has language that makes you think it was written by an attorney.

So according to Rod Olson—and he didn’t tell me where he got this, but he sounded like he knew what he was talking about—Monson shows up with this policy that he and some attorney have cooked up.  According to Rod, Uchtdorf and Eyring said nothing.  They did not push back.  When it was presented to the apostles, there was no discussion.  It was almost unprecedented in the way it moved through committees.  I guess it had to go through Correlation and whatever else, I don’t know.  But Rod said it moved through the committees and nobody even seemed to challenge it.  Rod’s version is that Monson got tied into it because the attorney had worked it out, and then Monson brings it forward and nobody dares oppose it.  That’s not exactly what Rod said, but he did say, “Nobody spoke against it.”  I guess they were sort of baffled.

I’ve heard since then that Bryce Cook met with some General Authority, and the report there was that the majority of the Twelve were opposed to it.

Prince: I have seen that report.

Schow: That would go along with the fact that at some point they didn’t know what to say, and so they said nothing, and the thing went through.

Well, Thursday it got put into the Church Handbook I, and gets leaked.  But according to Tom Christofferson—and he told this in a group that I was a part of—“The Twelve got it on Tuesday, and by Thursday night it was leaked.”  Friday morning, they were in damage control and trying to figure out what to do.  I take this to be pretty authoritative.  I think this came right from Todd Christofferson, but it came to me from Rod Olson.  Rod said they called Public Affairs, so Christofferson and Mike Otterson were called to meet with the First Presidency.  They said, “Somebody needs to create some kind of dialogue and see if we can defend this.”  So they sat there with the First Presidency for some period of time, and they were saying Christofferson should do it.  Christofferson and Otterson said, “Why the junior apostle?  This needs to come from somebody in more authority.”  Clearly, Monson couldn’t do it.  According to Rod’s report, they say to the First Presidency, “President Nelson is the next person in authority, and he should be the one on the videotape.”

So Otterson and Christofferson left the office of the First Presidency, walked down the hall to Nelson’s office, went in and tried to persuade Nelson to do the videotape.  Nelson absolutely balked and said, “I will have nothing to do with it.  I will not defend it.”  By the time they walked out of there, it was up to Christofferson to do it.  The only justification was that he had to do it because he was assigned to Public Affairs.

So they scripted the whole thing, and they did it.  I take that to be pretty accurate in terms of what happened on Friday morning.  Do you have anything that would contradict that?

Prince: No.  That conforms with the basic outline of what I have heard.  The missing piece, in my mind, is who was the other man in the room?  I think there was another.  My hunch—and I’ve heard some people postulate this—is that Russell Nelson is the one who whispered this into Monson’s ear.  I don’t have confirmation of that.

Schow: I have speculated that it might be Nelson.

Prince: He has a long track record of being homophobic, and for him to push back to Christofferson about going on the record would be consistent with him wanting to do the deal and then disavow ownership.  The people I have talked to, including some physicians who are not involved in the medical treatment of Monson, say he is not capable of originating a thought like this.

Schow: Did I tell you that his nephew called me?

Prince: No.

Schow: His nephew—and Monson doesn’t have many nephews—is Reed Johnson.  He is an economist, an academic.  He is very interested in church doctrine and all things Mormon, and very, very liberal.  Reed has told me a lot about Monson over the years.  One of the things he has told me a number of times is that Monson had absolutely no interest in doctrine.  He is all about hospital visitations and blessings and stories.  He has never wanted to talk to Reed about doctrine.

Reed sent me an email that said, “I know you probably know something about this, but I am just baffled about this terrible policy.  Do you know where it came from or anything about it?  Several people in my ward are really upset about it, and if they were a little more liberal they would realize that stupid policies like this come along every once in a while, and eventually they die out of their own contradictions.  What do you know about it?”

I said, “Well, I’ve heard two versions.  One is that Monson did it.”  He said, “There is no way.”  That’s his response.  He said, “My cousin Ann Dibb is with him twenty-four hours a day to try to keep him together.”  

Prince: And that feeds into the scenario of a third man.  There has to have been somebody who planted this in Monson’s mind, and then he could easily, with a reflex response, say, “Yes!  Let’s do it!”

Schow: And put Lance Wickman on it.

Prince: Yes.

Schow: Have you heard that there was no discussion by the apostles?

Prince: Yes, I have heard that.  And I have heard that from several sources that didn’t all come from the same original source.  I have high confidence that that was the case, that it was done with no discussion.

Schow: And according to Rod, no comment or pushback from Eyring or Uchtdorf.  Does that seem to be consistent also?

Prince: It does.  It’s not because they would assent to it, because I can’t imagine Uchtdorf, in particular, agreeing with this policy.  But they are both wounded.  They are so junior in the quorum that they really are powerless when the president, himself, is not in control.  So they really have to answer to the Twelve because they have no power on their own.  Plus, Uchtdorf, being a rock star, has raised their ire because of jealousy.  He is out there getting all of the attention, plus he projects a worldview that does not coincide with theirs, so he has been severely curtailed.  You can see it just from where he no longer shows up.  You only see him twice a year, at General Conference.

Schow: I have an attorney friend who said after conference a couple of years ago, “I get the impression that General Conference is very often the apostles talking to each other, and that when Uchtdorf gives his talks, he is talking to the other apostles.”

Prince: I see a lot of merit in that view.

Schow: It makes sense that if he doesn’t have much power except to speak in General Conference, he uses it to his best advantage.

Prince: Yes, he gets the bully pulpit twice a year.

Schow: What we have been hearing, then, seems to be reasonably accurate.

Prince: The whole story is holding together, except for the third-man issue.  Eventually, that has to tumble out.

Schow: It does seem to go along with the notion that Christofferson and Otterson were in the First Presidency office, talking about who was to make this statement.  It came to a discussion that Nelson ought to make the statement, and when Christofferson and Otterson went and tried to persuade Nelson to make the statement, he wouldn’t.

Prince: Yes.  

Schow: Did I tell you what my friend Jim Smithson told me about Nelson?

Prince: No.

Schow: Jim worked in the Research Division for over twenty years.  He is a PhD sociologist and he worked with a good many of the apostles.  He has been retired for two or three years now.  He retired early because he has multiple sclerosis.  His is a brother-in-law to Michael McLean.  They both have gay sons.  Jim and I were speculating—and this was before we heard anything else—and he said to me, “The idea that Nelson is behind it makes sense to me.  He is a guy who, as a junior member of the Twelve, never acted like one.  People around the Church Office Building were kind of taken aback by the fact that unlike most of the apostles, he is one who always thought he deserved to be one, and he never had any hesitation to speak up and to push his point of view, even when he was a junior member of the Twelve.”  So that’s Jim Smithson’s view of Nelson.

(Ron Schow, December 23, 2015)

Schow: I talked to Jim Smithson.  He called me about a week ago and said that he had been talking to Dan Wotherspoon.  Dan told Jim, with some authority, that his sources are telling him that Russell Nelson is the one who got with Monson and sort of pulled this off behind the scenes.  Someone said that Lance Wickman worked with Monson.

According to Dan, Ballard had probably been involved with Nelson.  But anyway, Nelson sort of cooked this up with some support from Ballard, is what I heard.  Then, they got Monson to go along with it, and the attorney—Wickman, I believe—to write it up.  When it was presented to the First Presidency, it was presented in such a way that “the President has said this is what should happen,” and there was no discussion.

Prince: I’ve heard a rumor about Nelson, but that’s a much more solid statement.  Somebody had to have put it in Monson’s ear, because the reports I have had from medical people who know of the situation from a distance say that he doesn’t have the mental capacity to initiate this type of thing.

Schow: That makes sense, in that Nelson carries a lot of weight at this point.

(Ron Schow, January 3, 2016)

Prince: What can you tell me, if anything, about “The Policy” that was rolled out in November?  Since I’m on the board of Affirmation, it’s a question that I hear a lot.

Anon.: Every stake conference until February, I was meeting with people who stake presidents wanted me to talk to.

Prince: Trying to smooth the ripples?

Anon.: Yes.  I’ll give you my view.  I’m not sure I’m completely accurate, but I’m pretty sure I’m fairly accurate.  In the Quorum, Elder Oaks really wanted to paint a bright line that the doctrine was not going to change, that this wasn’t going to be a race-and-the-priesthood issue.  This was part of the Plan of Salvation.

Prince: Was this driven by the Supreme Court decision?

Anon.: Yes.  The Supreme Court decision presented a lot of questions for mission presidents and stake presidents.

Prince: “The law of the land.”

Anon.: Yes, right.  “We want to know what we should do, now that it’s legal.”  So Elder Oaks, in particular, wanted to paint a bright line.  They made a tentative policy and sent it to the First Presidency, when President Uchtdorf was present, and they sent it back saying it was too harsh.

Prince: This was a policy that came out of the Twelve?

Anon.: Yes.  I think how it really got fouled up was that President Uchtdorf was gone, and President Monson just went off.  That’s where the “apostate” language came in.  Public Affairs did not know about this until it hit the news.  John Dehlin knew about it in Logan, but Public Affairs didn’t know about it here.  It was just a total mess.  Elder Holland was gone.  He had nothing to do with it.  He came back and he was obsessed.  That’s what led to the letter from the First Presidency, clarifying divorced fathers.

But when you lead on a policy change by saying children can’t be blessed, and those who are gay are apostates, and you’ve never run it by Public Affairs—it’s just crazy.

Prince: I had lunch, about a month after the policy was announced, with David McAllister-Wilson, of Wesley Seminary.  He likes us, as you know, and his understanding of Mormonism is fairly sophisticated.  He said, “Have I missed something?  Is there something in Mormon doctrine that favors going after the infants?”  I said, “No, David, there isn’t.”  He was really concerned about that.

Anon.: It was just awful!  And then, to make matters worse, President Nelson goes to Hawaii and doubles down on a bad bet.

Prince: Do you think he was trying to do damage control?

Anon.: Yes.  And again, he didn’t run it by the Brethren.

Prince: He didn’t?

Anon.: Public Affairs and Correlation hadn’t seen the talk.  Nobody reviews those talks.

Prince: That paints everybody into a corner.

Anon.: Yes!  Jeff [Holland] hadn’t known anything about the November thing, and he was pretty upset that President Nelson did that in Hawaii, because he hadn’t been on board to begin with.  And it was his influence that led to the First Presidency letter a week after the policy was announced.

Prince: And then, Elder Bednar followed up on that.

Anon.: We’ve got enough trouble.  Why did we have to create more for ourselves?  We didn’t need to do that.  We could have handled things on a case-by-case basis.  But if three cases come to the First Presidency, they think it’s a huge problem that needs a policy decision.

President Monson lives in the 50s and 60s, so that’s where his mindset is.

Prince: That’s where all his memories are.  If he has lost his short-term memory, that’s his only databank.

Anon.: Exactly.  And so it’s not unexpected that he called them apostates.

I understand Elder Oaks’s position.  I understand where the Church is right now.  And I understand they don’t want this to become a civil rights issue and go the way the priesthood policy went.  It will be interesting to see what happens, but I don’t think it will be in my lifetime.

Prince: It was interesting to see that in this General Conference there wasn’t a word about LGBT issues.

Anon.: They’re just hoping that it will go away.  But Greg, it won’t just go away.

They gave the Seventies a copy of the policy.  I started to read it and thought, “What?”  Somebody raised his hand and said, “Are we ready to release this?  Does Public Affairs know?”  “Oh yes, they’re all on board.”  They hadn’t even heard about it.  I read it for the first time on Thursday morning, and John Dehlin had it out on the Internet by then.

Prince: I had dinner with Tom Christofferson the same day that the policy was announced, and he was crestfallen.  He had talked to Todd a few hours earlier, and Todd had told him that he only heard about it two days previously.

Anon.: I was in with Neil Andersen on another matter, and he was just beside himself, he was so upset.  When I say “the Twelve,” I think it’s more Elder Oaks who was very concerned about it.  I think that probably between him and Elder Nelson, it went up to the First Presidency.  But I know Elder Andersen wasn’t on board, Elder Christofferson wasn’t on board, Elder Holland wasn’t on board.  I think it got crammed down everybody’s throats.  That’s why I think President Nelson’s explanation was insincere.  That was not the way it happened.

Prince: And a lot of people noticed that.

(Anon., April 8, 2016)

Stratford: I had such a lovely lunch with Laurie Goodstein yesterday.  She had some interesting things to say.  She heard that it was Lance Wickman and Russell Nelson.

Prince: Wickman is the Church’s general counsel.

Stratford: She mentioned that he is an emeritus Seventy.

Prince: They have done that a few times.  They did it for Cecil Samuelson while he was president of BYU.  There was some speculation as to whether they would do that with Marlin Jensen, because he was doing such a great job as Church Historian.

Stratford: Her sense is—and she’s probably not going to write on it—that initially people were thinking, “Monson must just be crazy,” but her sense now, after hearing from a few different people, is that it actually feels a little bit more calculated.  It is totally disastrous P.R., but in terms of it being something that they thought about and planned—if Wickman was leading it, I wonder if it was trying to supersede any lawsuits against gays who want to get married in the temple, or whatever.

Prince: But why did they circumvent the Twelve?

Stratford: I don’t know.  So she is probably not going to write on that.  I think she feels like it’s not super newsworthy.  If it were Monson going rogue and going crazy, I think that would be one thing.

(Travis Stratford, December 2, 2015)

Gary: I wrote another letter to Quentin not long ago, about the revision of the Church Handbook of Instructions.  I got the word that they were revising the handbook, and so I wrote him and I told him that I had heard that they were going to revise it.  I said, “I have a couple of questions that you need to address in the handbook.  What is a bishop supposed to do when a same-sex couple comes to him and wants to be active in the Church?  What advice are you going to give to bishops in that situation?  Are you going to say they are not welcome?  That they are going to have a disciplinary council?  Or are you going to say, ‘You are welcome to come.  As long as you are faithful in your relationship with your partner, you can participate in the ward and be active in the ward.’  How are you going to deal with that?”  I made the recommendation that they honor same-sex relationships, and that bishops be instructed to welcome them in the ward and participate in the ward.  I don’t know when that is going to happen.

I continued, “We’re dealing with the same thing on same-sex marriage.  If you say in the handbook that we should welcome the gay couple, are we sanctioning same-sex relationships?  Are we maybe suggesting that that’s not a bad option, even though they are living in sexual sin?”

Quentin doesn’t write back to me very often.  He’ll write tangentially.

(Gary Watts, August 8, 2014)

Prince: What do you think about this LGBT policy?

Watts: I do not think they anticipated the firestorm it was going to cause.  They had to recoil and figure out ways to deal with it, and that went rather poorly.  Jim’s [Dabakis] take is that it came from Monson.  I have a hard time believing that, because Monson is really not capable.  He has dementia and is not really functional.  One of my good friends was a counselor of his in the mission presidency in Canada and has been close to him.  I was with him about three months ago and he said, “Gary, he’s not capable of anything.  He can get up and give a talk [with the Teleprompter], and that’s about it.  He can’t remember much of anything.”  So I have a hard time believing that it came from Monson.  It just seemed to come out of left field, and I think they’ve been on the defense ever since.  I have decided just to lie low.…

Prince: Do you see the fingerprints of Russell Nelson on this?

Watts: Yes.  I have been really disappointed with Russell Nelson.  He, to me, has been the biggest disappointment of all the General Authorities we have had in the last twenty years.  He just seems like he is incorrigible.  And I think he’s got an arrogance about him.  I’m an MD, and I know stories about him in the operating room and things like that.  Generally he had a pretty good reputation, but I can tell you that there are some nurses and personnel that think he was a tyrant in the operating room.  Maybe you have to be if you are a cardiac surgeon, but it doesn’t sound very apostle-like.

But I think he might be a possible explanation for how this policy came into being.

Prince: This adds not just a chapter, but a section to my book.

Watts: It’s inexplicable.  You talk about an unforced error—it just seems like an unforced error of the greatest magnitude.  I’ll be very interested if you get to the basis of the origin of the policy, because I can’t figure it out.  Your idea about Russell Nelson whispering into Monson’s ear makes a lot of sense to me.  I get the feeling that it came through Monson, but it would have to be something like you are suggesting, in my opinion.

(Gary Watts, December 23, 2015)

Prince: I just wanted to circle back and see if you gained any more intelligence about this policy.

Wilcox: I’ve been talking with Peggy Stack.  We have been trying to secure sources, and she feels like she has three or four independent, confirmed sources to be able to piece together the story.  The newest factor that she has found is that more can be pinned on Elder Lance Wickman.  He was really the one pushing President Monson along, supplying him with the legal briefs from Kirton & McConkie to establish a case for why this needed to happen and why it needed to happen now.  He was the one who suggested the copy-and-pasting of polygamy procedures and policies onto this one.  She feels like she has three or four confirmed and independent sources—people who have not spoken to one another—that corroborate the same trajectory of this narrative.

She is stuck in that she doesn’t feel she can go to print with it because everybody has to remain anonymous.  So she is a little stuck trying to figure out what to do next.

Prince: The earlier hypothesis that Russell Nelson had some input, is that incorrect?

Wilcox: She says he is still in there, but maybe not quite as insistent in terms of the timing and the actual, specific wording or approach.  But the overall politics, yes, he is on board that there needed to be some show from church headquarters to the membership of the Church that you cannot be supportive of same-sex marriage and remain in good standing in the Church.  That was more of a general idea from him, but not specifically on this policy at this time.

Prince: So was this a preemptive legal strike to immunize the Church, or was it to show their colors?

Wilcox: Yes.

Prince: Thank you.

Wilcox: I have not been able to parse those out from different sources.  Some say, “Well yes, they goaded President Monson out of legal concerns,” but that was only really to give him specific content, to give focus to the more generalized hysteria and anger at having lost the case.  So the legal part of it became more of a pretense.

Prince: So was this primarily them being pissed off that the Supreme Court went the other way?

Wilcox: Yes.  And the other thing that I have gained in the last few weeks was that there was a concern amongst the Brethren, particularly Monson and a few others, that as they were reviewing the focus group numbers over the last few years, but particularly in the last six months or so, they realized for sure that they had lost the Millennials on the issue of same-sex marriage, and were losing people all the way up to age forty-five, and that that was a growing concern.

Then, I was told specifically by somebody in church headquarters that they were specifically pointing to organizations like Mormons Building Bridges, and projects like “Far Between” and others, that were raising the stories of LGBT members and same-sex married members who were continuing to attend church, and that we were celebrating those as good things while the Brethren were seeing them as the complete opposite.  This particular individual who told it to me has never been a fan of this, and so he took particular relish in saying, “See!  I told you, you were doing the wrong thing.  You woke the sleeping giant, and they do not want these stories out there.”

Prince: If their focus groups said they had already lost the Millennials, it seems to me this is exactly the wrong thing to do, because it pushes even more people out.

Wilcox: Exactly.  I totally agree.

Prince: How did they get to that decision, having looked at the results of the focus groups?

Wilcox: My understanding is that they basically said, “We need to cut our losses, take our stand, and let the parsing out of the wheat and the tares take effect.”

Prince: The echoes of Boyd Packer.

Wilcox: Exactly.  It’s their job to speak the truth and teach the true doctrine, and that’s what’s more important to them.

Prince: The time of winnowing.

Wilcox: Exactly.  So there are several sources on that, but they are sources like Tom Christofferson—we can trust what he says and what he reflects from his brother, but he can’t let any of it be traced back to him as a source, for obvious reasons.

Prince: But Todd’s statement to Tom that they were caught off-guard, it sounds like eleven of the Twelve were caught off-guard.  Is that right?

Wilcox: That’s my understanding.  But the president of the Twelve is an entity unto himself.

Prince: If you are looking at metaphysics, is Lance Wickman the First Cause?

Wilcox: That’s my latest understanding.  He was the one running the interference.  I haven’t talked to Peggy in about a week.  We are trying to track down the actual person—our latest understanding is whoever it was, President Monson had signed off on it and had told the First Presidency that this was happening, but that it was either Elder Wickman or another member of the Seventy who, either out of being over-zealous in fulfilling his calling or out of some sort of political maneuvering, jumped ahead of the process.  It wasn’t necessarily—and this has not been confirmed—it wasn’t necessarily President Monson’s design to have it all rolled out within four days.  But because of the over-zealous or politically motivated member of the Seventy, it got out there before it was supposed to.  That part has not been confirmed beyond one-and-a-half sources, and we’re trying to piece that narrative together, whether that was Elder Wickman or somebody else.

Prince: Do we have any idea who the mole was who leaked the documents to John?

Wilcox: My understanding is that nobody knows.  Actually, it had been placed on the Church’s secure website for stake presidents that Wednesday.  So it was actually publicly available if you had a login as a stake president.  It was somebody who had that login who actually created his own Word document.  He transcribed what he found on the website, and then posted that onto Reddit.  Then, it got onto ExMormon Reddit, and that’s where John just happened to stumble onto it, and John just copied and pasted it onto his Facebook wall, and that was it.  So nobody specifically sent it to John; he just found it on Reddit.

Prince: Wow!  The power of the Internet.

Wilcox: Exactly.  This is where we are at.  One would hope that the Brethren would be aware of that.  Once it hits the leadership secure website, that is tantamount to being public, but others would argue, “No, they still don’t fully comprehend how porous the Internet is, so they would think, ‘No, it’s on a secure website.  It will take months to slowly trickle down to the public.’”

Prince: They are very good at micromanaging, but they can’t control every one of 3,000 stake presidents.

Wilcox: Exactly.  Or a counselor in a stake presidency.

Prince: That gets it up to 9,000, and all it took was one person.

Wilcox: Exactly.  So I’m hoping Peggy is able to find a way to publish, but I don’t know.  She thought about sharing it with somebody else who can publish it on a blog so that it takes the pressure off in terms of sourcing, but she doesn’t want to let go, and I don’t blame her.  So I’m not sure where she is as of now.

Prince: The story still has long legs, so she doesn’t have to get it out there quickly.  It has to be done absolutely right.

Wilcox: Exactly.  And a key part of it that she really wants to be able to track down—she has been able to get sufficient confirmation to know that it’s a correct story, but she needs better sourcing—is on the dimension of President Monson’s mental health capacity, coming in and out of lucidity combined with his management style that makes for this very bleak, precarious position that we’re in, where nobody can tell the emperor that he has no clothing.  So we get things like this, and like what came out of the Boy Scouts of America bizarre press announcement.  We even get Proposition 8 in California.

(Kendall Wilcox, December 15, 2015)

Prince: What the hell is going on out there?

Williams: I don’t know.  It’s been a rough few days here.  It’s been bad.  There’s no way to spin it in a positive light.

Prince: But sometimes if it gets bad enough, it forces them to rethink the way they do business.  Is that where you think we are headed?

Williams: It’s where we have to go.  The problem is that they have come down so hard—and this is apparently from the First Presidency—that backtracking makes them look bad.  They have to maintain this sort of air of infallibility about them, and it’s bad; I don’t know how they’re going to work through it.

Prince: But staying where they are looks worse.

Williams: Oh, absolutely.  I’ve been watching these news stories of kids who are refusing to go on a mission, or are about to be ordained and it gets halted.  All of these stories are happening right now.  Active Mormons are calling me, in crisis.  My gay friends who are in Mormon families are calling me and telling me that all of the old wounds have been ripped right open, families are fighting with each other, they are breaking down and crying.  This is awful on every level.  There is no good that is coming from this.

The question is, are the Brethren getting these messages?

Prince: And what was the process that put this whole thing in the crapper to begin with?  You’re probably hearing what I’m hearing, that Monson somehow bought into this and didn’t being the Twelve on board.

Williams: That’s what I’m hearing, too.  That’s right.  That’s a huge problem.  On Thursday I was in Chicago talking with other state Equality leaders.  They were asking me about my relationship with the Church and I was like, “It seems kind of schizophrenic right now.  On one day they support our bill, and then the call us counterfeits.  Then the next day they are giving money to the Pride Center, and then they are threatening to pull out of the Boy Scouts.  The next day Dallin Oaks is condemning Kim Davis in Kentucky, so who knows what is going to happen next?

Prince: And then it happened, the same day!

Williams: Right.  They want to have it both ways.  They want to be able to say, “We’re good with the gays, but we’re not good with them.”  It’s an untenable situation.…

I talked to Michael Purdy on Saturday and I requested a meeting to sit down with them.  I’m just waiting to hear back when that’s going to happen.  He was surprised by the whole thing; he was out of town when it happened.  He said, “I would have called you had I known.”

(Troy Williams, November 11, 2015)

Prince: Anything that you can say that might enlighten me about the recent meeting with Whitney Clayton and Neil Andersen will be helpful.

Wood: OK.  Elder Carl Tillman [sp?] was also part of that training as well.

Prince: Is he one of the Seventy?

Wood: Yes.  He is our Area Authority Seventy here.  I was a little ticked at him.  We were the host stake, and he had us jump through all sorts of hoops that we really didn’t have to jump through, as far as technology.

One of the questions that he asked the stake presidents, to make sure they shared with their counselors and bishops, was that they would be able to gauge the spirituality of an individual by the question asked.  When my stake president said that, I said, “You’re kidding!”  “No, that’s what they said.”  I said, “Do you like the sound of that?  I was hoping to ask some real questions, but if you do that, then we are going to ask questions like, ‘What can we do to help members obey the Sabbath Day?’  We have an apostle in our midst; why can’t we branch out a bit?”

Prince: What is your position in the stake?

Wood: I’m first counselor in the stake presidency.  I’ve been in almost seven years.  I’ve been a bishop, and in bishoprics and high councils.  I’ve done quite a bit from the standpoint of having a lot of callings.

When Elder Andersen got up, his first comment was, “There is nothing that is off the table in terms of questions.  We want you to be preparing questions that are as deep as you want to go.”  I was sitting there looking at Elder Tillman, going, “What did you prepare us for?”  You could tell that it was Elder Tillman who wanted to make sure that we were throwing softballs.  I don’t know if it was to make him look good.

Prince: Did anybody throw hardballs?

Wood: Yes, there were some good questions asked.  The very first question was by a bishop who said he had had a husband and wife, where the husband was going through a gender transition and was taking hormones and was wearing dresses to church.  He wanted to know what the Brethren thought of that.  I thought Elder Andersen’s initial response was really good.  He just said, “This is complicated, brethren.  These are complicated issues that we are dealing with.  We really haven’t visited that one a lot.  It hasn’t been something that we have really spent a lot of time talking about, so I’m not really that prepared to give a lot of information about it.  I don’t know.”

Then the bishop asked some other questions.  “Do we let him come to church in a dress?  Do we let him go to Relief Society, which he wants to do?”  In my mind I was thinking, “Those are difficult questions.”  I think to many of them there, they were not difficult questions.  To them, the answers were, “No and no.”  But I’ve had some dealings where I have family members who are gay, on both sides of our family.  We have been exposed to it.  We are good friends with the Montgomery’s.  We have been to Affirmation.  We have seen a lot of the pain and a lot of the challenges, and we have seen a lot of the good that goes on in that ministry among the LDS-LGBT’s, and we have been proud to be allies within it.

Elder Clayton, between the two of them, was much more definitive in terms of how he expressed things.  He seemed to have worked through things and was much more absolute on things, in my estimation.

Prince: Is that the same thing as saying he was drawing a harder line than Elder Andersen?

Wood: They pretty much agreed, although they have different styles.  Elder Andersen is kind and gentle and very conciliatory, but when it came down to it, they were both pretty much on the same page.  Elder Clayton is a little bit more absolute and certain in the way that he expresses himself, but I think they were pretty much on the same page.  This is probably speculation, but it felt like Elder Clayton who was the one who had really thought through and had answers ready to go on these, and Elder Andersen was trying to be more thoughtful on them.  A lot of times when you are in those kind of scenarios where somebody is pretty sure about something, and somebody else is still thinking the way through it, the one that is pretty sure about it wins out in terms of what comes forth.

Prince: Whitney Clayton has been at it a lot longer.  He was the point-of-the-spear in California for Prop 8.

Wood: He talked about “parading about,” in reference to same-sex individuals who would come and show any affection at church, that they are a distraction and that they should not be allowed.

Prince: Not even be allowed to attend church meetings?

Wood: Not if they are going to show any affection.  So I guess what they would expect is that they would not have any contact, that there would be no touching—hand holding or anything like that, that that would be a distraction to members.  And I can see how that would be to a lot of members.  To me, to have two gay individuals who are there who want to be among us, that, to me, is a pretty beautiful distraction.  If they want to be there with us, based on what has happened, I would think that they would have to be pretty unique individuals to want to be there.…

I feel some mixed emotions because I certainly want to be obedient.  But there is a resounding voice in my head that believes that Elder Andersen, as wonderful as he was on so many issues that we talked about on Saturday, I don’t think he has been in the company of some of these sweet, LDS LGBT individuals very often.  If he has, he hasn’t been with some of the ones who are struggling and in pain, because I think the reaction would be a little different.  I may be wrong.…

Prince: Back to this meeting with Elder Andersen and Elder Clayton.  What was the purpose of it?  Was this a special meeting just for this purpose?

Wood: The meeting was just a special training for our coordinating council, which is ten stakes.  So all the stake presidencies and bishops in this coordinating council met.  What we did was to receive instruction, and much of the instruction was regarding the Sabbath Day, priesthood leadership, welfare principles—there were all those subjects that were covered during the regular portion of it.  Frankly, when you are as old as I am—I’m just about 59—I’ve been through a lot of those trainings, and there was not a lot of new information in the first two hours of the training.  The question-and-answer part was what I was looking forward to, but the training wasn’t out of the ordinary.

Prince: So in their presentation material was there anything about LGBT issues, or was that all in the Q&A?

Wood: That was all in the Q&A.  There were possibly inferences to some of the situations—Elder Andersen did say, within his comments, that we live in a time that is going to be very difficult, that there are going to be a lot of people against us.  He made reference to the fact that there are people that are adamantly against some of the things that the Church stands for.  It was one of those conversations where we are going to have to step up and fall in line, and we need to be obedient and listen to the Brethren, listen to the Prophet.  There was that conversation certainly.

Prince: Did they give any enlightenment as to the genesis of the November policy?  Or have you heard from anybody else anything that seems credible?  There’s still a black hole in understanding how it happened.

Wood: While we’re talking, I’m going to open my notes.  I took really quite comprehensive notes throughout the meeting.  One of the first things he said was, “The Brethren are united.”  He talked about the importance of keeping our own marriages together.

Prince: When you say “he,” was this Andersen?

Wood: Yes.  He also said that Millennials throughout the country were faltering.  There were 25% fewer that believed in the resurrection and that Christ was the Son of God.   He talked about the blind spot in the Church, where we don’t talk enough about Christ, and we need to tie it into meetings more.  He talked about that quite a bit, and he talked about how the Book of Mormon ties into that.

Here’s the one thing that he said: He said that the apostles saw great acceptance of same-sex marriage in the country and the Church, and President Monson has always been very clear on the issue of same-sex marriage.  He said they didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, and so the Lord was saying it’s not right, and we should make sure that everyone knew where the Church stood on it.  The Lord wanted everyone to know where the Church stood on it, and so that’s why they came out.  It kind of sounded like it was a long time coming.  You’ll talk to Bryce [Cook], and you’ll hear the conversation Bryce had with Elder [Steve] Snow, where that wasn’t reflected in what he said.  I talked to Dan Wotherspoon, who said he talked to a guy in his group up there who had access to one of the apostles, and he said it didn’t go exactly like that.  But I don’t know what the timing was.  I know that he [Andersen] did say that they were all together on it.

Prince: Did you get the feeling that there was urgency or alarm, or was this just business as usual in dealing with that subject?

Wood: I think it was more business as usual.  I didn’t sense any alarm.  There was one stake president who said, “We have a member of our stake who is not active and is in a same-sex marriage.  What do we do with that individual?”  Elder Andersen’s response was, “You don’t go on a witch hunt.  This isn’t intended to be a witch-hunt.  We should just let it lie.”  But Elder Clayton said, “No, not necessarily.  We want to be patient.”  I asked the question, “If we have a member that is in a same-sex marriage and is active in our ward, and we bring that individual in for a disciplinary council, as they have counseled us to do, for apostasy, and during that disciplinary council that individual bears testimony of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, their belief in the Book of Mormon, their belief in the restoration of the gospel, does the outcome have to be apostasy in every case?”  The answer was, “Yes.”  That was not the answer that I thought I’d get.  I almost tried to lead them down the path that I wanted them to answer the question, and they didn’t answer it that way.

After that, there was a little bit of discussion about the hastiness with which we should do it.  But there was no question that eventually all those who were participating in same-sex marriages that were members of the Church needed to be brought before a disciplinary council and excommunicated.  That was the message that I got, and it was not the message I thought I would get.  I thought it was going to be, “No, just because there is a disciplinary council, if they have a testimony,” but it wasn’t that way.

Wendy called me naïve.  I told them on a number of occasions before this meeting, “It doesn’t mean automatic excommunication.  You guys are blowing it out of proportion.”  But that’s what it is.

Prince: Isn’t that a mixed message?  You were telling me just a minute ago that if there was a same-sex couple that was not active in the Church, they should just be left alone.

Wood: For a time.  “You don’t have to go out on a witch-hunt if they are not active.”  But eventually—and this was Elder Clayton who brought this home—they need to be dealt with.

Prince: So in other words, this is basically ethnic cleansing.  “If it is a gay couple and they are married, we are going to get them.”

Wood: I would say that’s precisely the message that I got.  I don’t know that there would be a person in that room that wouldn’t have gotten that message that way.  But it was also said, “Be patient.”  Elder Andersen made the comment, “We don’t to see a hundred excommunications of same-sex marriages in Mesa, Arizona next week.  We don’t want to see that.  That is not what we are talking about.”  And Elder Clayton was the one—and Elder Andersen agreed—who said, “Eventually, they need to be dealt with.  They cannot be ignored.”  That’s what he said after my comment, to add onto their answer that they would be excommunicated and that it was apostasy.…

Prince: And then, with President Nelson speaking in Hawaii, he raised the stakes.

Wood: He did.  I was listening to the talk—I was watching it live, and I was listening I texted Wendy and said, “Wendy, send Tom [Christofferson] a text and find out if this is the way Todd feels.”  The information that we had is that there was a little bit of dissent.  That was a positive thing for me.  I was thinking, “Maybe there are some who are thinking through this, and it’s not completely cut-and-dried.”  She wrote me back and said that Tom said that Todd has received his witness on this, and he is 100% with them.

Prince: That underscores why Nelson did it.  I think there was dissension in the ranks, and if you are the president of the quorum, this is how you can restore order: you play your trump card.  Once you announce that it is revelation, you have cut off discussion amongst your own.

(Walter Wood, January 27, 2016)

Prince: Were you still stake president in November?

Criddle: No.  I was released two months before.

Prince: Tell me about the November policy as you saw it and continue to see it.

Criddle: Since I was no longer serving as stake president, I am not privy to whatever instructions the local priesthood leaders were given about it, whether before, during or after.  I gather from John Dehlin’s postings that local priesthood leaders weren’t given any advance warning, and maybe even General Authorities weren’t given advance warning.

Prince: Nor was it leaked to John.  He picked it up from the Internet.  Apparently one or more bishops or stake presidents or counselors saw it when it was sent out electronically, and posted it.  He was just doing a hand-off.  But it was John’s posting that went viral.

Criddle: It may have hit members of my stake harder than most.  At least throughout my term as stake president, I and my team were committed to reaching out with encouraging words and actions to gay members and non-members alike, doing our best to assure them that there would be a welcoming place in the pews.  Just as we kept all discussion of Proposition 8 out of the three-hour block, that laid the foundation of what was expected after the Proposition 8 episode was done.  When Elder Nelson gave his remarks at the CES broadcast in Hawaii, I think he was basically saying that the Oakland Stake was wrong.

May I go off the record for a moment?

Prince: Yes.

Criddle: My sense is that President Monson is not in a position, physically, to do with Elder Nelson what you’re telling me he did with Elder Packer.

Prince: And it’s not just physically.  He has been suffering from dementia since before he became president, and it has been progressing quite rapidly.

Criddle: So in contrast to the 1978 priesthood revelation, when pretty much every member of the Twelve, after that announcement, stood up and saluted the flag very publicly, including Elder McConkie, I’ve not heard a single, other member of the fifteen salute the flag.  This has all the earmarks to me of bullying.

Prince: At least one of the Twelve, through a surrogate, was letting it be known that this was only a policy and that it would pass.  I think that’s what President Nelson was reacting against.  I talked to that surrogate, so it’s not hearsay.

Criddle: Where are the other salutes?

Prince: That’s right.

Criddle: To assign Elder Christofferson, of all people, to be the one to publicly respond to the media was just beyond the pale.

OK, back on the record.  A number of stake members have reached out to me since November, very distraught.  But I’m no longer stake president, so I don’t feel like I have the same right or responsibility to speak for the church.  I speak to them as a friend.  I uniformly encourage people to stay on the playing field, because if you’re not on the playing field you can’t affect the score.  But it’s very, very hard for many members to stay on the playing field.  Many of our members feel this is a tone-deaf response to a problem, an over-reaction, unsympathetic, uncaring, and that the stated rationale does not ring true.  It’s been a hard time.…

This is rank speculation.  My sense is that in some fundamental way this is all rooted back in the days of the Manifesto and polygamy, in the church trying to extricate itself from polygamy and become integrated into the mainstream of American life, particularly as it has to do with matters of sexuality.  I’ve spent a lot of time with the primary records of those days, including the lengthy transcripts from the Reed Smoot Hearings, which are very interesting and illuminating.  They are tremendously disappointing from the point of view of any believing member of the church.

My sense is that the senior leadership of the church, ever since the Reed Smoot Hearings, have been driven, in very large degree, to portray the church and its membership as embracing mainstream mores of sexuality.  That manifests itself in being so stridently against plural marriage and anything to do with plural marriage, so as to completely distance the church from it in almost reactionary ways, like the policy on children of polygamous families not being able to be baptized.  But also, ever seeking ways to position the church as being perceived as mainstream of sexual mores.

In the late 60s and 70s, I have to think, somebody was thinking, “What could be more mainstream sexual mores than opposition to homosexuality, and homosexual behavior and everything that has to do with it?”  So if we want to distance ourselves from our own sexual adventurism, the way to do it is to be not only in the mainstream, but lead the mainstream—be identified as the leader of the mainstream.  And here we are.  That led us, I believe, to Proposition 8.

Prince: And, in fact, a prominent subtext of the church battle against the Equal Rights Amendment was this very issue.

Criddle: Yes.

Prince: It was part of then, and it has been referenced since.  So that’s exactly along the lines that you are talking about.

Criddle: If we can’t shape polygamy and put that in its right place, I fear that we will never feel on firm enough foundation to tackle these other issues that are now causing so much hurt.

The reason I mentioned this link was the church volunteering that the policy in November is linked to the response to polygamy.  I think they have connected the dots for us right there.  Otherwise, it is so out of left field.

Prince: Even with that connection, it’s way out there.

Criddle: I agree with that.

(Dean Criddle, September 4, 2016)

Laurie: They are hurting a lot of families.  It’s one thing to say, “We are going to fight for Amendment 3.  We are going to fight against marriage,” but to get out of legal language and get into damning you to Hell—…

Kody: If the family is central, then to ask family members to disown their parents—in some ways I felt like it put my older siblings in a bind.  It asks my sisters and older brothers to say, “This is apostasy.”  That’s very strong.  For people outside the Mormon Church that word may not be as strong, but in the Mormon Church, that has real power.…

The personal stories are amplified here.  But every once in a while, when we think it doesn’t impact that many people outside, or it’s just the local Utah politics, we meet people, sometimes families, who are really impacted by the church’s political decisions.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints off times is very polite and tries to be very politic; but some of their decisions have hurt people.  They have hurt us.  Every time we try and extricate ourselves and say, “This isn’t about the fact that we grew up Mormon,” and we both felt like this was not our faith, the problem is that we love our families and we love our friends, and we see the impact of their decisions.

The last decision [the November policy] impacted me personally in a way I had not been impacted previously.  I felt like it endangered my relationship with my sisters.  They were so kind and so loving.  I am grateful for that.  I have a sweet man who calls me, but when this decision came down he called and I talked to him.  There are people out there who really feel like the church overstepped, and they are devout Mormons.

(Laurie Wood, May 16, 2016)