Return to Atkinville

The question is this:

Which is the wisest course for the Latter-day Saints to pursue—to continue to attempt to practice plural marriage, with the laws of the nation against it and the opposition of sixty millions of people, and at the cost of the confiscation and loss of all the Temples, and the stopping of all the ordinances therein, both for the living and the dead, and the imprisonment of the First Presidency and Twelve and the heads of families in the Church, and the confiscation of personal property of the people (all of which of themselves would stop the practice);

or, after doing and suffering what we have through our adherence to this principle to cease the practice and submit to the law, and through doing so leave the Prophets, Apostles and fathers at home, so that they can instruct the people and attend to the duties of the Church, and also leave the Temples in the hands of the Saints, so that they can attend to the ordinances of the Gospel, both for the living and the dead?

Wilford Woodruff

President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, November 1, 1891

 

This was a traumatic episode for the Church. Years of teaching and preaching and digging heels in over the revealed religious sexual practice of polygamy almost led to the demise of the church. The Mormon identity was polygamy. And despite our best efforts over a century to scrub away the polygamy, the Mormon brand of polygamy is still embedded in the nation’s psyche despite the generations. Now that’s the kind of brand identity staying power any ad agency would die for.

don

With the first and second manifesto, the fervor and zeal to be polygamists was channeled into not being polygamists. It was a thorough deep cleaning of Mormon identity to where now most members of the church stomachs churn at the thought of the practice.

Now days the preface of the Manifesto blandly states:

 The Bible and the Book of Mormon teach that monogamy is God’s standard for marriage unless He declares otherwise.

What we are missing here in that bland preface are the epic struggles, events, sermons, and posturing that occurred up to the instant God declared otherwise.

Today we are going through another traumatic episode for the Church with all the accompanying epic struggles, events, sermons, and posturing. Let’s just look at this January. January of 2016 was a somber month for the LGBT in the church.

On January 10th we witnessed the correlation of individual accounts of disagreement and surprise with the policy whispered from the very bottoms of the leadership hierarchy to the top. In one pronouncement the LGBT exclusion policy was declared “the mind of the Lord and the will of the Lord.”

Policy became revelation.

President Nelson was kind enough to draw a line in the sand for church leaders and members alike. Perhaps you can disagree with a policy in polite Mormon company, but you cannot disagree with a revelation. With a policy you disagree with the policy. With a revelation you disagree with GOD.

Then on January 28th, both the Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune broke the story of an alarming number of LGBT youth suicides that occurred since the policy announcement. This information was first shared by Mama Dragon Wendy Montgomery during the “Knit together in Unity & Love” LGBT Mormon Conference at Loyola Marymount University during the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. 34 families had personally reached out to her since the policy was announced to share their grief in the loss of a LGBT youth family member.

The “Policy” has created a visible fracture within the church. President Nelson is trying to repair it with revelation. Members are either burning bridges or building them in the confusion. And while we wait for an honest to goodness common consent revelation where we can raise our hands to signify our consent, children are dying and members are suffering. Mixed orientation marriages are failing. Children with a gay parent are excluded and otherwise faithful gay members are resigning from the church rather than endure the very real and hurtful label of apostasy.

This is doctrinal heel digging we simply have not seen since the days of polygamy in the church.

Why the divide? Why the heel digging?

Greg Prince summed up this phenomenon beautifully.

The reason LGBT issues are splitting the LDS Church is that its leadership still clings to the belief—and some leaders cling to it with the tenacity of a death-grip—that homosexuality is a matter of choice, and that having made the bad choice at an earlier time, someone with “same-sex attraction” (a euphemism that I detest) can simply choose to be straight. All of our LGBT-related policies and doctrines are built on this foundation.

What could happen if the Church continues to cling with the tenacity of a death grip that homosexuality is a choice, just like being a polygamist is a choice?

We have history as a guide.

When I was a young man, one of my favorite uncles who taught seminary and institute for the CES took my family on a Utah church history tour. One of our stops was a non-descript white farm house where he pointed to the porch and casually mentioned that Wilford Woodruff sat there in a rocking chair dressed in women’s clothing while US federal marshals searched the barn next door hoping to find and arrest him for polygamy.

I have always found it fascinating that Woodruff was not only evading the law, but wore women’s clothing to do so.

Last summer I desired to study more about this period in church history and came across this gem.

The Story of Atkinville: A One Family Village

This out of print book now freely available for download on the internet holds a treasure of information concerning the days lived under the Edmunds act. Atkinville is a small village four or five miles west of St. George. The town’s namesake family, Willliam and Rachel Atkins and their extended family were proud members of the Mormon underground, hiding the polygamists of the church.

Atkins

Originally Wilford Woodruff intended to hide in St. George while evading federal law enforcement in the Utah territory. Woodruff states in his journal on 7 Aug 1886: “Arrived at St George and slept at the home of John and Emma Squires in the same bed where I had slept for six months last year.”

Emma Squires recalls that when Woodruff lived in her place, he had a room upstairs where he always retreated when someone knocked, before she opened the door. She had to be very careful not to let anyone know he was there. The home was near the red hill and had orchards and vineyard at the rear of the house where Woodruff occasionally went hunting quails in a disguise that Emma made for him: a sunbonnet, and a mother hubbard dress.

Despite the disguise, an inquisitive neighbor met and recognized him in the rear of the house as he was returning from the hill. Now discovered, he had to find a new place to live immediately.

He retreated to Atkinsville, a village 4-5 miles west of St. George.

Joseph Walker remarked “It was no small honor, even as it was a heavy responsibility, to have such an eminent man’s safety and welfare entrusted to this family. His residency lent luster and added importance to the place, beyond anything else that could have happened to the villages.

And thus Atkinville became a hub of the polygamy underground.

This was a time in our early history when the church organization dug its heels in.

What lessons can we learn from Atkinville as we witness the church organization once again digging its heels in? In examining our history, can we perhaps understand what our future holds if we stubbornly continue this path?

I can identify six themes that parallel the “family under siege” idea of today in the history of Atkinville. As you read each theme, compare and contrast the action of the church organization in those last days of polygamy with the organization’s actions today in a post Obergefell world.

 Six Themes:

  1. Woodruff was running from the law, pursued by U.S. Federal marshals.

Wilford Woodruff writes in his journal on February 23, 1887, “Marshall Armstrong arrived in the evening in St. George.”

Therefore, feeling the pressure of federal law enforcement he took his bed and luggage and went to Atkinsville “to stop a while.” It was the safest place he would find in the region. He developed confidence in the hospitality, dependability and loyalty of the family.

The geography of Atkinville was such that he could quickly flee to the thickets of tamarix lining the river bottom lands and the tules of the pond with little fear that the marshals could find him.

Today: As the federal government and other organizations begin to enforce equal protection under the law for LGBT, what positions do you see the church taking to be able to continue LGBT restrictions? Is religious freedom to discriminate against the LGBT analogous to hiding in the “thickets of tamarix and the tules of the pond?”

  1. The Saints willingly defied the law of the land to observe the law of God.

In the book it clearly states that the “majority of the people [in Atkinville] were loyal Latter-day Saints, who faithfully entered “the conspiracy to assist the harassed brethren.” They felt no guilt and no embarrassment in thus helping ‘the work of the Lord.’

Today: Marriage equality is now the law of the land in America. Did classifying same sex married couples as apostates elevate the law of God over the law of the land? Why does the church accept people in opposite sex civil marriages but reject people in same sex civil marriages?

  1. The Saints had an elaborate system designed to defend those who embodied the ideal of polygamous families.

The Saints in Atkinvillle vigilantly kept track of the Marshall’s whereabouts with elaborate chains of communications, signals, and relay messages using back roads and trails. An alert at Atkinville started this chain of events: A young girl was stationed at a strategic hill top where she could watch the approaching roads. If she spotted the buggy of Marshals McGreary and Armstrong coming around the dugway above Bloomington or coming down the Price road, she would signal for the next step.

Upon receiving the hilltop alarm, there was a “rush to get Brother Woodruff, his bedroll, food and water, his books and fishing tackle into the large boat (l4 by 5 ft.) on the pond where he could remain safely concealed in the heavy cattails and rushes.”

When Woodruff worried that he might be spotted by the Marshals from the bluff above the pond he was assured that “there were plenty of places to hide where neither the marshals from the hill, the devil from below, nor the Lord from above could see the boat.”

Today: What things create an elaborate modern day system designed to defend the ideal of one man/one woman marriage?

This?  This?  This?

What about this?

Or this? This?  This?

  1. People took this defense very personally.

While all the Atkins were alert and felt personal responsibility for Wilford Woodruff’s safety, Nellie Atkins’ childish adoration of “Grandpa Allen” as she called him, was especially appealing to Woodruff. When she would write to Woodruff after his departure from Southern Utah he would write back. In one of his letters (3 Sep 1887) addressed to her he said, “I read it (your letter) in the presence of some apostles and a room full of people and they were much pleased. They thought you was a brave young lady who was willing to do so much to defend the life and interest of the President of the Church.”

(While in Atkinville, Woodruff was not yet the President of the Church. John Taylor died on July 25, 1887 so Woodruff was President of the Church at the time of his letter to Nellie in September of 1887)

Woodruff continues, “But I don’t wish to put my little lady Nellie to so much trouble and danger. I have a large stout man who goes with me everywhere night and day, carries two pistols and a double-barrel shotgun and says he will shoot the marshals if they come to take me. (Don’t tell anybody of this) So I am pretty well guarded. I miss you in buttoning up my shoes. I don’t stop at home any nights so Alice (Wilford’s daughter) can’t button my shoes and I have to ask some big man that will weigh about 200 lbs. to button my shoes and he is so awkward about it, I wish I had my Nellie with me.”

Today: What polarization have you seen today concerning LGBT policy and procedures? What discussions occur in your wards, stakes, and institutes? Who do you see as proud to defend the life and interest of a discriminatory policy?

  1. The Saints were gladly willing to suffer and possibly kill for the cause

The Atkin family was very solicitous about the welfare of Wilford Woodruff. In 1937 Henry T. explained, “All of us children knew he was in the home and we were proud to have our home selected for this purpose of keeping him in seclusion.

We would have stood almost any torture before we would have exposed President Woodruff.

Wilford Woodruff would also often hide from the marshals in the St. George temple.

“That these were grim and desperate times is attested by an incident reported by Joseph Walker (letter, Apr 26 1956). His father, Charles L. Walker was the night guard at the temple from the time of its completion in 1877 to the time of his death in 1904. He possessed a beautiful Colt’s revolver and powder horn that he had purchased in St. Louis on his way to Utah in 1855. On both the horn and the handle of the revolver were carved in his typical hand writing, CLW 1855, with St. Louis added on the horn.”

“Joseph states: ‘My father was a good shot–at 30 paces he could place a slug between the eyes of a fattened hog or pick a chicken hawk off the tall ash trees at the back of the lot. Father’s revolver always lay at hand beside the big Bible in his hut at the temple. When the “Feds” were on the loose in town, he often told me as we walked around the temple at night, “I have my orders.” He went into no further detail.”

“Whenever Wilford Woodruff or other ‘high authorities’ were on the ‘underground’ in St. George, his trusty colts must always be in place behind his waist band–on the left side, just beyond the mid-line where his right hand could most quickly grasp it, and loaded. “He often told me that when Wilford Woodruff came from his rendezvous at Atkinsville to spend some time in the temple, to get exercise, (he) would walk around the temple building while father patrolled. They timed their walking speed so that each was opposite the other–so that if a prowling ‘Fed’ (should come) upon Woodruff, he (would be) within easy range of the deadly colts revolver.”

Today: What are we seeing when our Mama Dragons all too frequently answer the call at all hours of the night to go and find yet another youth who has been kicked out of their home for being LGBT? Why a rise of youth LGBT suicides since the policy announcement? What of the suffering of our children who wonder why they cannot be baptized when their peers can? Who and how many exactly are the acceptable collateral damage to the policy?

  1. The Atkins defended the ideals of polygamy, but vehemently opposed living under that order.

William and Rachel Atkins continued to hide polygamists in a room made of stone that they specifically built to accommodate hiding a number of polygamist men. The Atkins home was a safe house for polygamist men as they were being chased down through the Utah Territory by U.S. Marshals.

“Although William had not availed himself of the opportunity of taking to himself other wives, he was willing to assist those of his friends who had.”

“William Atkin with the help of his wife Rachel was able to forgo the pleasures and blessings of the patriarchal order of marriage and managed to live a full and happy life in spite of the handicap of being a monogmanist. He and Rachel thought they added some planks to their celestial platform of salvation by giving sanctuary to [the] prominent polygamists as well as to Wilford Woodruff.”

Rachel would spend long hours of cooking for the polygamous men and accepted the extra work with little if any murmuring.

However her hospitality and forbearance reached a breaking point one day.

One day some of the harassed polygamous brethren in Dixie hear that the U.S. Marshals had arrived in St. George so they all decided to go to Atkinville and do a little “fishing.”

Upon the arrival of the company of polygamous brethren, “William was immediately dispatched to the garden for vegetables and the two boys were sent to rob the rooster of three of four fat pullets from his harem to furnish fried chicken for the visiting Mormon polygamists.”

“While Rachel was in her very warm kitchen preparing dinner, she overheard the brethren telling William of the trials that following God’s laws entailed when they were in conflict with those made by man.”

“Later she heard one of them tell William that it was not fair that he, he William, who had not complied with the law of patriarchal marriage, should be allowed to prosper and live in peace and comfort with his family while they were sacrificing so much for the Lord’s cause.”

“When he went on, with the support of the other brethren, to urge he William to take another wife, her Irish temper flared, there was a crash of breaking china and before those bewildered elders realized what was happening she stood in the doorway, the personification of outraged womanhood, and with sizzling chicken behind her, proceeded to roast those meddlesome men in no uncertain terms…”

“She told them, that she had heretofore been willing to give them the hospitality and protection of her home, but if they could not hold their meddling tongues they would no longer be welcome.”

“As for William, he could get another wife if he wanted but…as soon as No. 2 stepped foot over the threshold, she, Rachel, would step out and go back to England where he would never see or hear from her again. She meant it and William knew she did, and anyway he was not anxious at all to get another wife.”

Today: Rachel is my new hero!  How many LDS families do not live as an ideal family under the ideals of the Proclamation? Of these, how many still support it despite not living it or even wanting to live it? How many staunch proclamation supporters change their view once they discover they have an LGBT child?

the-past-is-where-you-learned-the-lesson-the-future-is-where-you-apply-the-lesson-dont-give-up-in-the-middle

Many people try to equate gay marriage to race and the priesthood. This is not a proper comparison. The church now acknowledges that you are born with your skin color. You had nothing to do with that circumstance here or in the pre earth life.

“Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.”

N.B. “Today” was said twice in that one paragraph.

So what then is the proper comparison for gay marriage? Elder Christopherson tells us very plainly: The situation with polygamist families, for example, and same-sex marriage couples and families really has a parallel.

This is why in this post as well as my previous posts I have relied heavily on our history with the practice of polygamy and its eventual demise. Not only am I paralleling the situation with polygamy, but so is the church.

And because of that, we have history as a guide.

Like Prince says, the church considers homosexuality a choice just as it considers polygamy a choice.

Recognize this quote? “Why would our father in heaven do that to anybody?”

But being gay is not a choice.

And in that day when sexual orientation is no longer paralleled with polygamy, but with the other things you are born with like the color of your skin… then, just then… and not until then…

forget

We may have open cannon and continuing revelation today that can erase the hurtful teachings and practices of yesterday, but open cannon and continuing revelation cannot heal the effects of those yesterday teachings and practices.

How can we heal the effects of those yesterday teachings and practices?

An apology is a wonderful first step… so very healing.

Even the great and abominable church offers apologies.

Pope2.png

Whoops…Great and abominable church…

That was a yesterday teaching.

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One thought on “Return to Atkinville

  1. I found this article very interesting. It brought to my knowledge some new facts and history that I was not familiar with, Atkinville for example. However there were some features of your presentation that I feel were not at all true to history. For instance the implication that polygamy was a religious sexual practice, as if it was motivated by nothing but sexual desire; there might have been some instances of that, but history does not prove that it was a widespread or even a vaguely normal characteristic of Mormon polygamy. That was not the motivation for the non-majority fraction of Mormon families who lived the principle, which may have been the identifying feature of Mormonism in the eyes of the public who were not familiar with Mormon doctrine, but it was not how the majority of early day Mormons identified themselves. Mormons were concerned with families and families working together to build a place for a righteous society of people free to live their religious convictions; and families were built around the institution of marriage and children.

    Various civilizations and societies have had different customs and views concerning the creation of a marriage and the social status of the individuals in that marriage. Some of those attitudes and customs have beneficially changed and evolved with time, but the perception that a marriage involved a man and a woman, remained almost universally constant; and the primary social consideration in those marriages was that any children from that union might have a clearly identifiable father who was charged with providing sustenance and protection for a nursing, nurturing mother and fledging child. This was also the consideration in polygamous families and polyandry was almost never practiced, because although there would not be a question of who the mother was, there would be a question of paternity and paternal responsibility.

    It is true that the early years leading to the manifesto were traumatic years. Some in order to keep their polygamous families together were forced to move to Mexico. Consider a statement in the Journal of William Morley Black who had five wives:
    “In May 1889 I left Round Valley and landed on the 4th of June in Diaz, Mexico. So here I was in a foreign land, not of choice but of necessity, in my own land a criminal, yet I had not injured a living soul. The law that made me a sinner enacted on purpose to convict me was retroactive in its operation. To me it was largely unjust, which adds a sting to its cruelty. But what can’t be cured must be endured. So I take as little of the medicine as possible and try to be contented and cheerful.”

    Others with local responsibilities in addition their families were not as free to relocate and had to escape by evasion and hiding from an unjust law that required them to renounce some of their families or go to prison. Consider part of a statement by William Reed Smith given while he was arraigned before a civil Judge.
    “When we entered the marriage contract, to our understanding there was no law against it. They are the mothers of my children and the grandmothers of my grandchildren. Our children are our seals to the agreement, and our grandchildren are the duplicate seals to the same, and consequently, parties in interest….I can state that I have not counseled or advised anyone to break the laws of the land.
    “I hold that all men are equally responsible before the law. And while I have no desire in the least degree to put myself in a defiant position to the laws of my country, unless I could stifle every sense of honor and manhood, and blot out every feeling of humanity from my soul, I could not repudiate the contracts before mentioned, without the free consent and desire of all parties in interest, and it is my desire, so far as I may have the opportunity to provide for the wants and necessities of those women who are the mothers of my children, whose grey hairs show unmistakable evidence of their fast decline.”

    Willam Reed Smith had four wives who lived honorably with him and cooperatively and amiably among themselves until they were forced to live separately. William continued to support them all.

    That is history, and to me it does not show that these men were all involved in a simple game of hide and seek, or tug of war (digging in heels) with federal marshals, as your telling of the Atkinville story might seem to imply. Those who were aiding Willford Woodruff in his imminent evasions of marshals had pistols and reportedly were ready to use them. Do you know of any instance when a federal marshal was shot by one of these men?

    Rachel Atkins would not have abided a polygamist relationship, as was the case for many Mormon women, and William Atkins was wise not to take another wife, even if he was inclined to. I could tell you from history of some men who were not so wise and abused the principle of spousal consent, which resulted in heartbreak and misery for some women and families.

    Polygamy is no longer practiced in the church and in fact is forbidden, but it is part of our history and we need not be ashamed of it when it was sanctioned by the Lord and lived honorably, but only regret that it was abused in some cases by men, including some in high places, and not abided by some women after they had agreed to it. Some of the abuses no doubt were caused by misunderstanding and not sinister selfish motives, but never the less went awry and caused spiritual distress. Similar covenant breaking and abuses are also found in monogamous marriages today and are no less regrettable. The gospel plan is not made less credible by such abuses because it recognizes that with humans they will come but also provides a way to recover from them.
    You say ‘despite our best efforts over a century to scrub away polygamy, the Mormon brand of polygamy is still embedded in the nation’s psyche despite the generations’. I see no reason to scrub away Polygamy. The image of polygamy you say is embedded in the nation’s psyche is not the Mormon brand of polygamy, but a misconception and a misrepresentation of it that can only be erased by education and a depiction of true history, all of it, the good and the bad.

    It may be true that some (not most) modern day LDS members are disgusted with the thought of Polygamist families, but not those who are familiar with the doctrine and have put both the good and the regrettable parts of the history of the Church into perspective. Almost all are thankful that it is no longer practiced. You might also have noted that many modern day LDS members are disgusted with the thought of homosexual marriage, which is the modern day traumatic issue testing the beliefs and faith of today’s members. Having negative feelings about homosexual marriage should not be equated with homophobia, which is a hatred or an aversion to persons with same-sex attraction (gays). Although those suffering from homophobia predictably have negative feelings about homosexual marriage, being opposed to gay marriage does not imply or justify homophobia for members of the Church.

    In your discussion some comparisons between Polygamy and Homosexual marriage are alluded to. For instance by taking out of context a statement made by Elder Christopherson, you infer that the church sees a parallel between them.
    “So what then is the proper comparison for gay marriage? Elder Christopherson tells us very plainly: The situation with polygamist families, for example, and same-sex marriage couples and families really has a parallel.”

    The full context of his statement clearly shows that the parallel he was taking about was the parallel between the Church policies with respect to the treatment of children in modern day Polygamist and Homosexual families. There are actually very few, if any, parallels between polygamist marriage relationships and non-Platonic homosexual relationships. Polygamist relationships were multiple contemporary instances of a potentially procreative marriage between one Man and one Woman in the same patriarchal family. Non-Platonic homosexual relationships are marriage-like sexual and emotional relationships between persons of the same gender with zero probability of progeny. Polygamous relationships have at a few times in history been sanctioned by God. Friendly relationships involving sexual behavior between persons of the same gender have never been approved of by God. The only parallel I is see between the two kinds of relationships are that all the persons involved are all beloved children of God.
    The confusion of homosexual attraction and homosexual marriage is evident in your discussion, for example:
    ‘Like Prince says, the church considers homosexuality a choice just as it considers polygamy a choice.’

    I assume Prince is Gregory Prince and not any spokesman for the Church, because the Church does not consider same sex-attraction a simple straight forward matter of choice, after all who would willingly make such an uncomfortable choice in a society of predominantly opposite-sex attracted people. But the Church does consider entering into a non-Platonic homosexual relationship with another person to be a choice just as entering into heterosexual polygamous relationships was a choice in the early history of the Church. However, the church does not consider same-sex attraction to be genetically in-born or immutable, as is ones race or gender.

    The ideal of marriage between a man and a woman as instituted by God in the garden of Eden associated with a mandate to procreate and create a family as outlined in the Book of Genesis, reflected in Nature, referred to by Christ in the gospels, and reiterated in the Proclamation on the Family in latter days is admittedly hard to live in mortality where death, abuse and divorce prevent the full realization of the ‘impossible dream’ in many cases, but that is no reason to give up the ideal and teach children that there is no reason to favor with the title of marriage the union of a man and a woman in a procreative relationship, nor does it justify branding as bigots those who wish to hold onto that ideal and govern their non-antisocial behaviors in accordance with honoring that ideal.

    In a ‘tug of war’ when a team or their ideals are about to be dragged into the mud by an adversary, they ‘dig in their heals’ to keep their ground and defend their ideals. In the case of Polygamy the lead man told them to stop digging in their heels and pull in another direction; but in the case of monogamous heterosexual marriage God has never changed his instructions, and digging in ones heels and encouraging all to follow those instructions is not unreasonable.

    The issue related to same-sex marriage that has disturbed many in the church is the policy now recorded in the Handbook of Instructions regarding children in same-sex marriage families.Your attempt to make the policy even more disturbing by pointing to a report from an LGBT associated group that there had been a dramatic increase in the number of suicides among young members of the Church as a result of the publication of this policy was also not justified by historical fact. Fortunately you included links to the newspaper reports that explained that the report was not verified by public documents. The number reported was in excess of the number civilly recorded, and there was no way of guessing in all cases what the thinking was behind the suicide. All suicides are lamentable, but there was no statistically significant spike in the number of documented suicides correlated with the release of the policy. The newspaper articles were very good in suggesting what might be done to prevent suicides among young people.

    Many good members of the Church may have naturally felt some initial dismay, disbelief, and consternation when hearing of the recent additions to the Handbook. I experienced some amazement when the first rudimentary reports were leaked about it, but waited until I had further knowledge before going along with the hype and concluding that it was misguided and misinterpreting it as an ‘exclusion’ policy. A subsequent message from the First Presidency and a publicized interview with Elder Christopherson clarified the intent and reasoning behind it.

    Non-Platonic homosexual relationships have never been approved by the Lord as marriages or even appropriate friendships and are therefore in violation of the law of chastity. Only recently in our society has a civil high court declared in effect that those relationships are no different than the non-Platonic heterosexual relationship of marriage which was instituted by God in conformance with the laws of Nature. In light of this current legal mandate that a relationship which is inconsistent with observable natural law and not right in the eyes of God must be socially acceptable to all, It is not astonishing that the Lord should reaffirm his position of intolerance, “I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance, never-the-less it is required of thee to forgive all men.” Only if we are very short-sighted would we see this kind of divine intolerance as unloving in light of consequences of sin not repented of.

    It is not surprising that those outside the Church might mistakenly see the new policy to be a rejection and a punishment inflicted upon children being raised in homosexual families. But it is surprising that after seeking clarification, pondering, and asking for a personal confirmation some veteran members of the Church continue to see it that way. The doctrine of the LDS Church is that all children under the age of accountability are alive in Christ, have no need for repentance, and are saved unconditionally by his atonement. Little Children have no need of baptism, let alone a need for an ordinance giving them a name and blessing before the Church and the family. Those who see the new policy as denying little children an ordinance of salvation are in the gall of bitterness as Mormon said, just as are those who claim that children need baptism in order to be saved. Children who have not had a formal name and the customary childhood blessing in the church are, with their parents’ sanction, still welcome and encouraged to attend Church and Primary classes along with their peers who are living in traditional bisexual biological or adoptive families whether the parents are members or non-members.

    But what of the time when they are of the age of accountability and might have a rudimentary understanding of right and wrong? Should they be denied the ordinance of baptism because their parents are living in sin? No, they are asked to wait upon the Lords timing. At that age they have likely come to an awareness that they do not have two fathers or two mothers or a woman who is a father or a male who is a mother and can accept the fact that pretending it is the case is not acceptable in the Church. Even if the non-compliant parents agreed to the baptism, it would not be compassionate to put the child into such a potentially strained situation during their adolescent years.

    Temporarily avoiding such potentially strained situations has been the policy of the Church from its beginnings when leaders declared they did not think it was right to proselyte slaves while they were indentured to an unbelieving master. Far better to wait until the time of independence,18 now for children in our society, when they can legally make all their choices independent of guardians. At this stage they can unabashedly denounce the kind of relationship their parents lived under while still acknowledging their love and gratitude to them for their contributions to their lives. Christ said that the time would come for some when they would be required to leave father and mother in order to follow him and take upon themselves his name. This has been the case even in situations where the parents were not in an unchaste relationship, but also when goodly unconverted parents were so ardently opposed to an adult child being baptized into the LDS Church that they were disposed to disclaim them if they chose to make that choice.

    As with most Handbook instructions it is recognized that there may be exceptional situations and circumstances when a local leader may have to depend on revelation to justly administer to persons and situations in his stewardship, and there may be exceptions or special adaptations to the general rule. I can fully understand the newly announced Handbook homosexual relationships policy of the Church, and even accept that it came as instruction from God in these times. It is not inconsistent with His former revelations and teachings and in no way is intended to be uncompassionate or punitive toward any of His little children or to deny them the ordinances of salvation in their lives.

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