Responses from Bishops and Stake Presidents about Public Support of Ordain Women and Same-Sex Marriage

John Dehlin Disciplinary Councils 29 Comments

I’m still trying to get to the bottom of this question: Can LDS church members remain members in good standing/full fellowship (with a temple recommend) and show public support for either Ordain Women and/or Same-Sex Marriage?

I have a favor to ask those of you who are willing.  Will you please email your bishops and/or stake presidents with the following question:

“Dear – Bishop/Stake President,

I have a quick question to ask.  Can I remain a member in good standing/full fellowship (with a temple recommend) and show public support for either 1) Ordain Women or 2) Same-Sex Marriage?  Please let me know as soon as you can.”

Then (if you are able/willing) please send me the answers and I will post them here.  I am happy to anonymize the responses to protect your confidentiality if you need that.

Thanks in advance!

P.S.  Please do this even if you are a post-Mormon or an ex-Mormon.  All we need are 10 or so responses and we will have accomplished the objective.

Comments 29

  1. Response #1:

    In my discussions with my Dad (a current stake prez) about the specific direction they have received on this from top authorities, discipline is not to be pursued if someone supports same-sex marriage (even publicly) from a social and political standpoint, but church leaders *can* pursue church discipline if someone opposes (usually publicly) the church’s doctrinal position that only heterosexual marriage unions are ordained and sanctioned by God. But you could still hold true to the doctrine but support the legalization of same-sex marriage according to your political position. They could also pursue discipline though if your public support of gay marriage is done in a way to gain a following as an opposition to thwart the church’s own involvement in the the legistlative process (such as prop 8).

    That direction comes from pretty high up from what I understand, but I had this discussion several months ago, so perhaps that has changed. I’m happy to ask him the question again.

    1. While I am glad that the church decided to again make clear that they are in support of at least some rights for LGBTs, I have a really hard time not noticing the extreme hypocrisy in this statement by Elder Oaks at the press conference today:

      “When religious people are publicly intimidated, retaliated against, forced from employment or made to suffer personal loss because they have raised their voice in the public square, donated to a cause or participated in an election, our democracy is the loser.”

      John has chosen to raise his voice in the public square about what he and many others consider an important moral issue. However, within the church, he has been publicly intimidated, retaliated against, made to suffer personal loss, and more.

      What is probably most pathetic is that, as John is highlighting, even if some in upper church leadership make these statements, they won’t reciprocate and stand by them themselves. Local leaders possess ridiculous autonomy over individual members’ in-church experience and even membership status (which some Mormons would consider “salvation potential”). And when widely publicized disciplinary situations come up such as this, the upper leadership is practically invisible, except to defer to the abused, at worst, and incorrectly applied, at best, authority of lesser leaders.

  2. An addendum:

    Awhile ago Marlin Jensen was interviewed by PBS, and he said the following when asked about this:

    “If you advocated, for instance, that gay people should be allowed to marry, and you were openly vocal about that, and in the process malign the leadership in the church for not adopting that position, that’s something that would be severe enough, I think, to warrant disciplinary action.”

    http://northstarlds.org/general-authority-articles/pbs-interview-elder-marlin-k-jensen-on-homosexuality/.

  3. Response #2:

    Recently, my husband and I had the opportunity to sit and visit with one of the Apostles. At some point in the conversation, my husband said/asked something along the lines of “So, what if we (my wife and I) disagree with the you (the Twelve) on this topic? What if we absolutely support gay marriage? does that mean we don’t “support the brethern?” Can we still recieve/maintain a Temple recommend? His reply: “Absolutely. We can disagree with one each other politically or otherwise and still feel as though we have your “support.” He did, however, go on to share that he felt it was important for us to not walk/support/be seen at a Gay Pride parade (I even said: “even if it’s with Mormons Building Bridges?…You know, Mormons aiming to create a safe place for other fellow Mormons….so that all might feel included and welcome?”) He said: “We must never do anything that could be seen as pulling our fellow Brothers and Sisters away from the Gospel….or could be seen/interpreted as “apostate.” My husband reiterated: “So, we can still be in “good standing/recieve a Temple recommend if we support Gay marriage?…Can I share that with my Bishopric? Can I quote you on that?” His reply: “Absolutely.” It was Elder Todd Christofferson from the Quorum of the Twelve.

  4. I’m currently serving as a bishop and my answer to your question is YES. I believe one can show support for same-sex-marriage and ordained women and still be in good standing in the church including holding a temple recommand.

  5. Response #3:

    I was on the high council when the federal judge struck down Utah’s same-sex marriage amendment. As I’m sure you know, shortly after the ruling, the church sent instructions to stake leaders regarding bishops not performing same-sex marriages, not allowing the use of church buildings for same-sex wedding receptions, etc.
    I support same-sex marriage, and I figured I should let my stake president know. I spent an hour talking to him, letting him know where I stand, and to make a long story short, he said he still felt comfortable with me keeping my recommend and having me on the high council.
    The only comment my stake president made to me when I was talking to him that made me think of your situation was, “Well, it’s not like you’re out their picketing for gay rights, right?” I told him picketing wasn’t really my style at the time, but that if an initiative to legalize same-sex marriage were on the ballot, I would vote for it and would encourage others to do the same.
    I don’t know if there is a line of “public support” for same-sex marriage that I could have crossed that would have forced his hand, but he told me my political views and current actions weren’t an issue.

  6. Response #4:

    I asked that in my last stake, the San Tan Stake of Gilbert, AZ. President Ron Derrick says no. In fact, he says that sustaining the brethren, per the temple recommend question, means defending them, everything they say. So there you go. I haven’t asked in my new stake. I’m trying to get along here and life has been more simple for me, and at home too. You get my drift.

    He was pretty solid in his words. I did my own informal survey and realized, as you know already, that it depends on where you are. And because the power of excommunication lies at the local level, that’s really dangerous. Your issue, and others like it, should be owned by the brethren themselves and be an official statement of the church. Because there are many areas of the church where you wouldn’t be close to being excommunicated. And that is just wrong. God bless brother John.

  7. Response #5:

    In response to your recent query, my 14-year-old daughter was denied a temple recommend last October based on her support of these two issues. This occurredin Idaho Falls, ID. The bishop “clarified” question 7 of the temple recommend interview regarding whether she supports or affiliates with any organizations contrary to the church, to ask whether she supported same-sex marriage and female priesthood ordination. When she answered that she did, he said that he didn’t feel like he could give her a recommend and he wanted her to come back the next week so they could discuss these issues. Mama bear rage. When I confronted him on his actions, he stated that he had been “instructed to clarify question 7 in that way.” He would not tell me if that instruction came from the Stake President or otherwise. This bishop happens to be a seminary teacher as well, so the instruction may have come from CES.

  8. Response #6:

    [My former stake president in the Netherlands] and his family, especially his parents, have been VERY open in their support for marriage equality, gay members, etc, started when their eldest son/brother came out as gay. His mom even started a sort of supportgroup for LDS parents whose children came out. As I wrote before, all what you are up against is something 99% of the members and leadership here think is completely normal and accepted. The 1% is usually the expat-ward with mostly Americans . Anyway, you might like and be able to use his perspective. Good luck, hang in there, hugs!!

  9. Response #7:

    My OW profile was among the first 4 dozen on the website. And I have been fully public about my support for OW since I went to SLC for the first priesthood session action. I spoke to my bishop about that before I left, because he initiated a conversation with me to let me know he had read my FB posts and supported me. Since that time I have discussed this several different times. And I had a discussion with him and my SP back in May of last year. It wasn’t terribly positive in that they didn’t agree with me and expressed concern about “the path”, but discipline was never discussed.

    I still have a temple recommend (renewed a year ago) and have been released and recalled into 2 different callings since Oct. 2013. I have been in the RS Presidency, the Primary Presidency and am now the ward music chairperson.

  10. Response #8:

    I’m attaching the letter I sent my Stake President about my doubts, support of LGBT members and gay marriage, and about my support for Ordain Women. I sent this to him in response to Kate’s excommunication and your announced potential censure. This was also featured in a Washington Post article about the Strangers in Zion movement by my contact Michelle Boorstein there. It’s OK to use this publicly. It’s already been public.

    I met with my Stake President. This was the second time I met with him over the past couple years regarding my activities online. The previous meeting was because he was asked to investigate me based on a call from SLC headquarters. He would not tell me who had requested this, but he was quite frank about where the request came from.

    Anyway … I had a very nice discussion with him. We did not agree in our views, but that was OK with him. He expressed a lot of compassion and clearly attempted to understand my views, even though he towed the party line. That was fine. We could agree to disagree and still be friends and “brothers” in the Gospel. I brought up the possibility of a disciplinary council. He said he didn’t feel that was necessary. You can read all the points I brought up in the attached letter. He said that as long as I was not claiming to have new correct guidance for the church as a whole, I could have those opinions and views, and I could discuss them publicly (which I had been doing for quite some time).

  11. Response #9:

    The answers from stake presidents in Athens GA and Austin TX are a resounding no. You can have those thoughts, but you can’t be public about it.

    In Athens, GA, you can keep your recommend even if you have those opinions as long as you don’t share them, but you lose your calling regardless.

  12. Response #10:

    I had a personal 3 hour conversation with a general authority about my faith concerns. I asked multiple times throughout the conversation if I could remain a member in good standing if I felt that prophets were fallible and could make doctrinal mistakes. He stated over and over that a prophet could not make a doctrinal mistake. That said…while I completely disagree with him, the next logical answer to publicly supporting SSA or OW would likey be, NO, the leaders have stated there is no ordination of women and no gay marriage and homosexuality acted upon is a sin. If a temple recommend is the litmus for “member in good standing” and you can’t answer this recommend interview question kn the negative “7.Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” you aren’t a member in good standing according to the thought process of the GA I spoke with. I think it is rediculous. What does affiliate mean? If I am on Kate Kelly’s facebook friend list….is that affliating? It is such a vague and subjective question. My 2 cents.

  13. Hi John,
    Here is the response from my Stake President:
    “I would take each case on its merits, and it is likely the attitude and nuances that accompany his/her attitudes toward_____ (fill in the blank: SSM, OW, questioning of doctrine or history) that would tip the scales. There is a reason why “Judges in Israel” meet with people before a disciplinary council. It is to get a feel for the person’s heart as much as their behaviour.”
    In further conversation, I reminded him that I disclosed my support of SSM and OW in my temple recommend interview, to which he responded: “I had forgotten your and my conversation in your temple recommend interview. That tells me I’ve lost no sleep over it.”

  14. My Stake President said he was not interested in going after people who support female priesthood ordination or gay marriage, but he was deeply concerned about members who thought that actions or statements by the united First Presidency or Qo12 could have been in error. My guess is that we would have had a very different conversation if I had advocated or taught any of my views on SSM, OW or errors by prophets. My personal opinion: I don’t think you are being tried for your beliefs, but for your criticism and advocacy. Private and uncommon dissent is fine, but trying to change the Church or the culture by common consent will be seen as a threat. The purpose of common consent in our present culture is to sustain the Brethren, not to persuade them and not to persuade our fellow members.

    1. Reading many responses here, I found your post is completely spot-on — it is the matter of posing a THREAT to the church. True that we have seen the inconsistency of different bishops/stake presidents being differently lenient or strict to their members. The heart of the matter is John Dehlin has become increasingly a “public figure” — seen, heard, and even followed by increasingly larger public. I’m afraid that he will ultimately be “judged” (politically) by the church’s authority based on this alone. True that his works (Mormonstories, podcasts, countless personal hours of devotion on personal counseling/advice, etc) which I consider his “proven” life achievement on humanity, have literally saved lives, and even helped conflicting members stay Mormon. Sadly, he will be judged based on politics, not merits, not even commonsense.

      True that it is not really fair that some members expressed their opinions and beliefs (privately with their authorities) and still stay safe, unscathed. And here we have John Dehlin, being persecuted because he firmly made a stand on his views to a much larger public, which actually listen…and agree. He could choose to keep things to himself, which was exactly what the church wanted/told him to do in order for them to leave him and his family alone — the same way other members with the same opinion are left alone. However, his conscience is already clear that, as he already proclaimed, the COST of the silence is too high because he already personally witnessed its massive consequence, the suffering and even DEATH.

      All the sacrifice he made (I knew that John Dehlin often cringes at this sort of laud) is his destiny, his true calling — I concluded that from seeing his passion. The injustice & discrimination put upon LGBT and women are the issues/problems far bigger than (and even dwarfing) the LDS church itself and a mere threat of its survival (which is mainly hanging upon its “unyielding” misrepresentation on the “truth” claim anyway).

      John Dehlin’s future and his calling (on behalf of LGBT & women) are therefore bigger than John Dehlin himself and definitely far bigger (and much more important) than the LDS church’s OPINION/judgement of him. Seeing him on TED talk, I believe he himself has already seen all that.

  15. I was asked by a member of the stake presidency to explain my views on gay marriage and female priesthood ordination.

    I indicated that I couldn’t support gay marriage bans since opposition is legally indefensible. He is a lawyer and more or less agreed via nod and shrug that prohibiting same sex marriage is legally indefensible.

    I also said that while I supported and understood the Church’s current doctrine on marriage and priesthood, I would gladly support the Brethren if they made marriage available to homosexual couples or gave the priesthood to women via revelation.

    Lastly, I shared my desire that our gay brothers and sisters could feel welcome worshiping with us, that I did not see priesthood dissenters as a threat, and hoped that Kate Kelly would not be excommunicated.

    He then called me to be a seminary teacher.

  16. I was asked by a member of the stake presidency to explain my views on gay marriage and female priesthood ordination.

    I indicated that I couldn’t support gay marriage bans since opposition is legally indefensible. He is a lawyer and more or less agreed via nod and shrug that prohibiting same sex marriage is legally indefensible.

    I also said that while I supported and understood the Church’s current doctrine on marriage and priesthood, I would gladly support the Brethren if they made marriage available to homosexual couples or gave the priesthood to women via revelation.

    Lastly, I shared my desire that our gay brothers and sisters could feel welcome worshiping with us, that I did not see priesthood dissenters as a threat, and hoped that Kate Kelly would not be excommunicated.

    He then renewed my temple recommend and called me to be a seminary teacher.

  17. Since my Bishop told me that holding a baby with both hands (instead of one when giving it a blessing is apostasy, I can guess what he thinks about supporting marriage equality.

  18. I have been public in my support of civil marriage equality. I went to my state capitol and meet with legislators to encourage them to pass civil marriage equality. I was public in my support but as a result my bishop is currently denying me a temple recommend.

  19. My stake president said, “Most leaders have little time to pursue the larger societal issues of SSM, OW, etc. They have dozens of local issues to which they and only they can tend. John knows more about SSM and OW than most leaders, and he has valid points to make for those causes. Nonetheless, it is a question of intent. It is the member’s attitude and intent that we judge more than the legitimacy of SSM, OW, etc. I could not predict how I would react until I first explored his intent.”

  20. “Dear Stake President Spackman,
    I have a quick question to ask. Can I remain a member in good standing/full fellowship (with a temple recommend) in your stake and show my public support for either 1) Ordain Women or 2) Same-Sex Marriage? Please let me know when you can.

    Sincerely,

    Jennifer Hairel
    Mandarin 2nd Ward”

    “Dear Sr. Hairel,

    Unfortunately there is no quick answer that I can give you in an email note, because the answer is “it depends”. Showing public support can mean many things, so to a large part it depends on the intent of the person showing that support and the nature of the support. However, simply stating publicly that one supports Ordain Women or same-sex marriage does not automatically disqualify one from holding a current recommend. However, let me share, if you don’t have these quotes already, 2 quotes that may be relevant to your question.

    “A friend . . . wished to know whether we had said that we considered an honest difference of opinion between a member of the church and the authorities of the church was apostasy, as he said, we had been credited with having made a statement to this effect. We replied that we had not stated that an honest difference of opinion between a member of the church and the authorities constituted apostasy; for we could conceive of a man honestly differing in opinion from the authorities of the church and yet not be an apostate; but we could not conceive of a man publishing those differences of opinion, and seeking by arguments, sophistry and special pleading to enforce them upon the people to produce division and strife, and to place the acts and counsels of the authorities of the church, if possible, in a wrong light, and not be an apostate; for such conduct was apostasy as we understood the term. We further said that while a man might honestly differ in opinion from the authorities through a want of understanding, he had to be exceedingly careful how he acted in relation to such differences, or the adversary would take advantage of him and he would soon become imbued with the spirit of apostasy, and be found fighting against God and the authority which He had placed here to govern his church.” Deseret News editorial, George Q. Cannon, editor, impression of Nov. 3rd, 1869
    Apostasy, being rare, has to be carefully defined. We have three definitions of apostasy: one is open, public and repeated opposition to the Church or its leaders. Open, public, repeated opposition to the Church or its leaders — I’ll come back to that in a moment. A second one is to teach as doctrine something that is not Church doctrine after one has been advised by appropriate authority that that’s false doctrine. In other words, just teaching false doctrine is not apostasy, but [it is] teaching persistently after you’ve been warned….

    So, we go back to the first cause of apostasy — open, public and repeated opposition to the Church and its leaders. That does not include searching for a middle ground. It doesn’t include worrying over a doctrine. It doesn’t include not believing a particular doctrine. None of those are apostasy. None of those are the basis of Church discipline. But when a person comes out publicly and opposes the Church, such as by saying, “I do not think anyone should follow the leaders of the Church in their missionary program, calling these young people to go out and preach the gospel,” or whatever the particular issue of the day. And when you go out and begin to “thump the tub” and try to gather opposition and organize opposition and pronounce and preach against the Church — that can be a basis for Church discipline.
    – Dallin H. Oaks, Interview with Helen Whitney, 20 July 2007, italics in original.

    I think the last line of Elder Oaks statement is the most relevant, but even if one is out “thump[ing] the tub” he says only that it can be the basis for Church discipline, not that it mandates Church discipline.

    Does that help to answer the question? If not I’d be happy to discuss it in person.

    Regards,

    Pres. Spackman”

  21. Our area authority(Clayton Christensen) met with stake presidents and mission presidents this fall and explicitly told them that they were not to withhold temple recommends for those that support gay marriage or OW.

  22. I live in St. George, Utah. Though I have supported Ordain Women and rights for LGBT people for several years, I have never had a conversation with my bishop about it. After reading John’s request, I emailed his question to my bishop on Thursday. He said he would not answer the question over the email and called me in for an interview Sunday.

    The first thing he did was read me question number seven. He made it very clear that it didn’t matter what he thought, or what I thought, or even what President Monson thought, but it only mattered what the Lord thought, therefore affiliating with these groups would cause me to lose my temple recommend. I asked him if I could have a profile on Ordain Women. He did not directly say no, but made it clear that yes, I would lose my temple recommend for that. I asked him if I could be a part of the movement to allow gays to have a civil marriage. I clarified and said I wasn’t asking for homosexuals to have a temple marriage. He also did not directly say no, but made it clear that if he found out I was supporting civil marriage for gays, I would also lose my temple recommend.

    He very adamantly said that I must wait for the Lord’s word and the Lord’s timing. He talked about the black people getting the priesthood. He said he knew many black members of the church before 1978 and they were all fine about waiting for the Lord’s timing, and implied that gays and women should feel the same way. I said I had so much respect for black people and what they went through, but wasn’t the gay issue a little different since the church was asking them to go through life without a true loving relationship? Is it fair to ask them to go through life without this? He said that Adam and Eve were made to procreate and a relationship that doesn’t have the ability to procreate is not worthy in the sight of God.

    He did make it clear that we should love gay people. I brought up the recent suicide of a young gay man who was a member of the church. I said I thought we weren’t doing a very good job of loving our gay people. He nodded in agreement, but said that if I had a gay couple over for dinner I would feel differently. I said I do have a friendship with a gay couple, that they hug and kiss in front of me, and I don’t feel differently.

    He reminded me that I was a mother of four children and that I was teaching them what was right and what was wrong. He said there were times that I needed to discipline them when they made wrong choices. He said that is the same thing he would be doing to me.

    At this point there was a knock on the door indicating an end of the meeting. He said that he loved me and my family very much but that if I didn’t follow the gospel that what he felt didn’t matter.

    Thanks John for motivating me to start this conversation with my bishop! I can’t say I was happy with the answer, but at least I know where he stands and I can make my decisions accordingly.

  23. I am currently serving as a bishop. I would not withhold a recommend from someone who publicly supports gay marriage or the ordination of women. I haven’t received any specific guidance on either issue. I’m just going off what I think is right.

  24. I emailed my current Bishop the question that you posted John. This is response:

    As I am sure you know, one of the temple recommend questions asks,

    “Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?”

    If I understand your question correctly, an individual supporting the two topics you have mentioned would answer yes to this question and therefore not be issued a temple recommend.

    With that being said Chae, you don’t have to be a temple recommend holder to be an active, full fellow-shipped member of the church in good standing. We welcome all to come and worship with us. If there are particular doubts or issues that you are dealing with that is OK and we open our arms for you to come and learn and participate and experience the blessings that the gospel has to offer.

    While I understand that you don’t share my belief at this time on the Ordain Women and Same-Sex Marriage issues, may I share with you my belief on these and all other gospel standards for that matter?

    The standards, stances, and commandments of the church are not President Monson, Stake President, or my own to establish or change. Instead they are none other than the standards of our Heavenly Father. If I struggle or question one of them, it is Him who I seek understanding from. Obviously, I hope you know that I am sure willing to help however I can as well, but ultimately confirmation from Him is needed for our testimonies to motivate true discipleship.

    Bishop B.

  25. Around 2002 in a recommend interview with the stake president, regarding the question about affiliation or supporting groups contrary to the church I indicated that I supported same sex marriage and was told that was ok as long as I didn’t advocate/act against the church.

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