LDS Church Policy Changes on Children of Same Sex Marriage: My View

The LDS Church - of which I'm a member - has been in the news again lately because of changes in its policies regarding the children of same-sex couples.  Basically, these children are not to be baptized, blessed or sent on missions unless approved by senior Church leadership, and/or have reached the age of 18, at which time they will make the choices for themselves. And so, as expected, regular and social media have been overrun by criticisms aimed at the Church.  The Church, for its part, has put out a video with one of its senior authorities explaining the rationale behind the changes. The video was followed by further clarification by Church leaders in a letter/addendum. I must say however that reasonable people should understand the explanation/clarification by the Church; some do (re: excerpt at end of post) yet many of them don't. Some may and do understand, but still disagree. Fair enough.

I have been trying to fight back the urge to comment on the "debate", especially since I have long avoided being drawn into any discussion of issues involving alternative lifestyles (LGBT) and the Church.  I have my own reasons for the avoidance, mostly out of my resolve to be more moderate, tolerant and fairminded.  However, that doesn't mean I don't feel strongly about specific elements and particulars of the broader issues - most specifically same-sex marriage.  Hence, I stand firmly in support of Church leaders and the new policy changes.

And since I've decided to engage in the discussion, I've been pondering an approach and method to express and articulate my support. I was hoping to find a moderate, middle of the road way to do it.

And I think I found one. In the scriptures - 1 Nephi 16 (Book of Mormon) below.

The text and application of the Book of Mormon chapter provides a fitting and comprehensive backdrop in addressing the principles that underpin the spiritual/gospel context of the changes and issues.  The approach is didactic (of course) mostly through editorializing and commenting on selected verses.

(Note: All emphases in the verses are mine. My comments are in red italicized text)
1 Nephi 16
The wicked take the truth to be hard—Lehi's sons marry the daughters of Ishmael—The Liahona guides their course in the wilderness—Messages from the Lord are written on the Liahona from time to time—Ishmael dies; his family murmurs because of afflictions. About 600–592 B.C.

 1 And now it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had made an end of speaking to my brethren, behold they said unto me: Thou hast declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear.

Nephi is like a present Church leader (apostle/prophet) who sometimes speaks "hard things". And in this case, the policy changes are the "hard things" to some and "more than [they] are able to bear."  The question is why are these things hard for some and more than they can bear?  Nephi then gives the answer.

 2 And it came to pass that I said unto them that I knew that I had spoken hard things against the wicked, according to the truth;.... wherefore, the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center.

Basically, truth can and will hurt, and therefore becomes hard at times. For example, if I'm a big time smoker and my doctor tells me to stop, the change will be hard for me to accept, because it cuts to the very center or core of what I want and crave. Such changes will then be  "hard" to bear.  Similarly, the policy changes are hard for those who are "guilty"(in a very loose sense of the word) of - or condone - them.

 3 And now my brethren, if ye were righteous and were willing to hearken to the truth, and give heed unto it, that ye might walk uprightly before God, then ye would not murmur because of the truth, and say: Thou speakest hard things against us.

There is definitely a lot of "murmuring" (complaints, criticism, etc.) out there now because of the policy changes ("hard things").  There would have been none of that if people were willing to hearken and give heed unto the truth.

 4 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did exhort my brethren, with all diligence, to keep the commandments of the Lord.

Simply put, keep the commandments. Commandments are like road signs/warnings that help keep us safe while traveling and traversing the highway of mortality. There is safety, peace and joy in keeping the commandments.

 5 And it came to pass that they did humble themselves before the Lord; insomuch that I had joy and great hopes of them, that they would walk in the paths of righteousness.

Obedience is key.  Humble ourselves before the Lord and do our very best to walk in the paths of righteousness, which brings true and lasting happiness and joy.

 7 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, took one of the daughters of Ishmael to wife; and also, my brethren took of the daughters of Ishmael to wife; and also Zoram took the eldest daughter of Ishmael to wife.

This verse strikes at the very core of the broader issue. Could the verse be any more plain, clearer and more pertinent to the issue of marriage which is at the root of the whole debate?  The verse reaffirms the will and plan of God with regards to marriage which is a union between a man and a woman. Marriage comprises of a husband (man) and a wife (woman).

 9 And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord spake unto my father by night, and commanded him that on the morrow he should take his journey into the wilderness.

And the Lord STILL speaks to man today through his servants (prophets and apostles). Continuing revelation and guidance are more needed today than ever before.

And the wilderness? Though literal in the story, it's also a recurring symbol and metaphor in the scriptures. It is significant. The wilderness can refer to man's mortal existence, but it is also a symbol for a time and/or place of trials, refinement, repentance and renewal.  Like the children of Israel in the wilderness, God had hoped to give them a chance to reform and repent. Lehi and his family were also sent to the wilderness by the Lord for the very same/similar purpose. Likewise, when we go through a period of repentance and spiritual renewal, it can be said that we are in a personal "wilderness". We all have, from time to time, our own wildernesses.  Even Christ went into the wilderness (after His baptism) where He was tempted/tried by Satan (Matthew 4:1).  It was His time of trials and "refinement".

 10 And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness.

And even while we're in our individual "wildernesses", a loving Heavenly Father will not leave us alone to struggle and cope on our own.  He is always there for us, helping and providing the means for our "survival".  Here God gives Lehi and his family a ball (Liahona/compass) which becomes the source of guidance and direction.  Similarly, we have the Holy Ghost that serves as our compass in life.  For the Church collectively, this Liahona also represents continuing revelation, a concept unique to the LDS Church.  Church leaders especially the apostles and prophets are those through whom revelation comes.

14 And it came to pass that we did take our bows and our arrows, and go forth into the wilderness to slay food for our families; and after we had slain food for our families we did return again to our families in the wilderness....

Yes. Families. Families. Families. Family is the basic unit of society, and of the LDS Church.  The very unit at the center of the policy changes and traditional marriage. The family needs to be sustained and perpetuated.  Interestingly, the LDS Church places more emphasis on the importance of the family than any other church, hence its emphasis on genealogy. "Families are Forever" is a mantra specific to the LDS Church, and is possible in the temples where families are sealed together forever.  Also this "The Family: A Proclamation to the World".

16 And we did follow the directions of the ball, which led us in the more fertile parts of the wilderness.

The principle in this verse is that if we follow the directions (revelation and inspiration) given through the chosen servants (Church leaders) we will be blessed and helped through our problems and challenges in life (fertile parts of the wilderness).

18 And it came to pass that as I, Nephi, went forth to slay food, behold, I did break my bow, which was made of fine steel; and after I did break my bow, behold, my brethren were angry with me because of the loss of my bow, for we did obtain no food.
20 And it came to pass that Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael did begin to murmur exceedingly, because of their sufferings and afflictions in the wilderness;
22 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did speak much unto my brethren, because they had hardened their hearts again, even unto complaining against the Lord their God.

Some were dependent on Nephi's leadership and when he didn't come through for them, they were angry; they complained and murmured. Same parallel for those who murmur, complain and are angry with the Church leaders because of the changes. By the way, much of the suffering and afflictions we sometimes experience are consequences of our own choices. And sometimes things happen because the Lord wills and allows them; mostly for our own good.  So trust in the Lord and keep the faith.

 23 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did make out of wood a bow, and out of a straight stick, an arrow; wherefore, I did arm myself with a bow and an arrow, with a sling and with stones. And I said unto my father: Whither shall I go to obtain food?

There's a profound principle found in this verse with regards to leadership, line of authority and proper channels of revelatory knowledge.  When Nephi broke his steel bow, he, on his own intuition and knowledge, made another one out of wood.  Then, where to go to hunt and obtain food, he asked his father (Lehi) who was still the patriarch, and who receives inspiration/revelation for the family while in the wilderness.  Nephi respects this line of authority, and also still respects his father's role and leadership even though he (Lehi) was fallible (has murmured sometimes too). We, as members, should also respect and trust the sources of divine revelatory knowledge in the Church.

 24 And it came to pass that [my father] did inquire of the Lord.

This is something we all are blessed with - that each person, individually, is able to inquire of the Lord for himself/herself, while the prophet inquires of the Lord for the Church collectively.  The will of the Lord in either case is harmoniously governed by eternal gospel principles and truths.

 26 And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord said unto him: Look upon the ball, and behold the things which are written.
 27 And it came to pass that when my father beheld the things which were written upon the ball, he did fear and tremble exceedingly ....
 28 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them.

One's spiritual compass (Liahona) will only work according to his/her faith, diligence and heed (obedience) which he/she gives unto it. Maybe it's like a diet; it only works if the rules are followed with exactness.

 29 And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it. And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things.

Through the revelatory process, "new writing" (new knowledge/information/guidance) is received... "new writing", like the policy changes,  is plain to be read, and does give understanding concerning the ways of the Lord.  The writing can also "change from time to time" according to our faith and diligence/obedience.

30 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did go forth up into the top of the mountain, according to the directions which were given upon the ball.

Salt Lake LDS Temple
In LDS dogma, the "mountain" is the standard symbol/metaphor for the temple (Isaiah 2:2). Notice how Nephi was directed by the ball (inspiration/revelation) to go to the top of the mountain.
For LDS members this represents the counsel we often receive from our leaders to go to the temple for inspiration and revelation.  Oftentimes it's in the temple where we get our answers for things that we struggle with, especially in following the Lord's servants.

(Note this NIV Bible's interpretation of Isaiah 2:2 (KJV):
"In the last days the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.")

32 And it came to pass that I did return to our tents, bearing the beasts which I had slain; and now when they beheld that I had obtained food, how great was their joy! And it came to pass that they did humble themselves before the Lord, and did give thanks unto him.

Human nature. When the Lord provides, and we have abundance, we are happy and content, until something strikes, disrupts and/or disadvantages us in our worldly desires, social standing, vain ambitions, etc, then we are quick to complain, vent and murmur - like Israel of old, murmuring and criticizing Moses in the wilderness.

 36 And thus they did murmur [again] against my father, and also against me; and they were desirous to return again to Jerusalem.
 37-38 And Laman said unto Lemuel and also unto the sons of Ishmael: Behold, let us slay our father, and also our brother Nephi.... And after this manner did my brother Laman stir up [many] hearts to anger.

Some fellow members, critics and detractors of the Church have certainly stirred up many hearts to anger with the Church and its leaders during the new changes debate.

 39 And it came to pass that the Lord was with us, yea, even the voice of the Lord came and did speak many words unto them, and did chasten them exceedingly; and after they were chastened by the voice of the Lord they did turn away their anger, and did repent of their sins, insomuch that the Lord did bless us again with food, that we did not perish.

Never doubt that the Lord will always be with us and on our side if we draw near to Him. He still speaks to us through His servants/prophet; He would also chasten us from time to time and our anger (with the Lord and His servants)  should/would be turned away.  And IF we will REPENT,  the Lord WILL BLESS US and in the end, we WILL NOT PERISH.
Let me conclude with Nephi's other appropriate counsel to "...liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning." (1 Nephi 19:23).  Indeed, as a fitting disclaimer, this post has been an edifying one for me and has been more for my own "profit and learning" than maybe for anyone else's.

... and finally this, from a more secular source:
"The new handbook policies have struck some as unfair to children, as a form of punishing children for their parents' behavior. Remember, however, that the policy serves to save children from an uncomfortable disconnect between home and church until they are old enough to figure out what path they want to follow in their own lives. It also prevents the church from drifting away from its beliefs and principles when compassion for the plight of children of same-sex attracted members would tempt adherents to compromise a belief system that is incompatible with redefined marriage.
Love and compassion are necessary to life. Jesus displayed these qualities in abundance, yet when he encountered the woman taken in sin and the woman at the well, he sought to convert them instead of condoning their sins. All through time, believers have conformed themselves to the gospel instead of conforming the gospel to the shifting sands of human desire. The gospel would not have survived without this kind of determination."
"Why There's No Such Thing As A Same-Sex Mormon Family" Merina Smith (PhD University of California at San Diego.)

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