New Mormon Same-Sex Marriage Guidelines Provoke Feeling of Whiplash

Image via Jim Urquhart / REUTERS / RNS

Gay marriage is now the law of the land and, increasingly, a line in the sand conservative churches say they will not cross.

The latest is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On Nov. 5, it issued new guidelines, saying Mormons in same-sex relationships will face possible excommunication and their children will not be permitted to join the church until they are 18 — and then only if they reject their parents’ relationship.

The new policies make the LDS church, with about 15 million members globally, the largest Christian denomination to enact such a formal — and some say draconian — policy. Children of same-sex couples are effectively denied baptism and other ordinances of the church.

“I am sure everyone feels regret about this,” said D. Michael Quinn, a scholar who was excommunicated by the LDS church in 1993 but still considers himself a Mormon.

“The leaders who have instituted this have done so without any relish. They have done so with regret. All Mormons down the line will look at it as regrettable.”

LDS Leaders Add Top Female Officers to Three High-Level Councils

Image via RNS.

Installing Linda K. Burton, Bonnie L. Oscarson, and Rosemary M. Wixom to leadership councils could have far-reaching consequences in a denomination led exclusively by men.

When asked whether women are members of other key committees in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spokeswoman Kristen Howey said, "There are literally dozens of church committees. Women serve on many of them but we have no way of knowing that number without counting each of them."

The three principal, formerly male-only councils helping to run the 15 million-member faith include "four or five (male) general authorities," Howey said, plus the new female officers.

Mormon Kate Kelly ‘Happier’ and ‘Invigorated’ After Excommunication

Photo via Creative Commons / Maralise Petersen / RNS

Kate Kelly. Photo via Creative Commons / Maralise Petersen / RNS

Nearly a year removed from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Ordain Women founder Kate Kelly says she has found happiness living a more authentic life while continuing to push for equality in the Mormon faith.

Kelly, who was excommunicated in June 2014, now lives in Nairobi, Kenya, where she works on human rights efforts. She was back in the United States briefly on April 23 as part of an offshoot project of the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City to explain how she was punished for speaking out for women’s rights in the LDS faith.

“The men who (excommunicated me) literally think they kicked me out of heaven,” Kelly said.

“Luckily, I do not think that. … Out of this experience, I’ve realized that men don’t get to control my happiness. I’ve come out on the other end, (where) I think I’m much happier, much more authentic, a much more invigorated person.”

Still, on stage at the Gotham Comedy Club, a space usually filled by raucous laughter, Kelly broke down in tears talking about her ouster from the LDS faith and the repercussions for herself and her family.

“It’s like an execution, a spiritual death,” Kelly said of Mormon excommunication.

“It’s very, very extreme.”

For their part, Kelly’s Mormon leaders have said the door always is open to her return.

Mormon Couple Doesn’t Want to be Part of Supreme Court Gay Marriage Case

Josh and Lolly Weed and their three daughters. Image via RNS/courtesy Josh Weed.

Josh and Lolly Weed and their three daughters. Image via RNS/courtesy Josh Weed.

A Mormon man and woman in a mixed-orientation marriage are objecting to their inclusion in a U.S. Supreme Court case filing because it argues that legalized gay marriage would demean marriages like theirs.

Josh and Lolly Weed’s names and statements are referenced in a “friend of the court” brief ahead of the April 28 arguments in a consolidated 6th Circuit Court of Appeals case, which many expect will legalize gay marriage nationwide.

The brief was filed April 3 on behalf of couples in mixed-orientation marriages — unions in which one partner is gay and the other is not — who oppose marriage equality.

The Weeds told The Salt Lake Tribune on April 14 they didn’t consent to be included in the filing, nor do they share its view.

Among the filing’s arguments: Constitutionally mandated same-sex marriages can exist only by “erasing, marginalizing and demeaning the same-sex attracted who live in man-woman marriages” and would send a “harmful message that it is impossible, unnatural, and dangerous for the same-sex attracted to marry members of the opposite sex.”

“What does that have to do with us at all?” asked Josh Weed, an openly gay man who has been married to a woman for 12 years.

“I feel no devaluation of my marriage status by having marriage equality.”

The Weeds, of Washington state, became the public face of Mormon mixed-orientation marriage in 2012, when they posted their story on Josh’s blog, They do not advocate mixed-orientation marriages for others.

“My wife and I support marriage equality,” Josh Weed said.

Does Mormon Modesty Mantra Reduce Women to Sex Objects?

Karen Birdsall (L) and Kammi Bean sign at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – Lenexa Ward. RNS photo: Sally Morrow

When Mormon leaders sense a decline of moral standards in the world, they roll out sermons on modesty.

In the 1960s and early ’70s, they preached against miniskirts and hot pants; in today’s sex-drenched society, it’s spaghetti straps, bare midriffs, and skinny jeans.

The message remains largely the same: Cover up, lest you cause the males around you to sin.

It’s often couched in the rhetoric of “virtue” and usually aimed at young women, even girls.

Mormon Missionaries Find Work, Meaning in Community Service

Sister Moody (Left) and Sister Ray speak with a Kansas City, Mo., resident on Sept. 10, 2013. RNS photo by Sally Morrow

In Northern California, the image of Mormon missionaries in dark suits and white shirts, knocking on doors at inconvenient times, is being replaced by the sight of these name-tag-wearing twosomes in blue jeans and T-shirts, hoeing gardens, scrubbing off graffiti, dishing out food in homeless shelters, and reading with refugees.

It’s part of the LDS Church’s recognition that its long-held practice of “tracting,” going door to door handing out church materials and delivering religious messages, is no longer effective. Now few people are home during the late morning and early afternoon, and those who are may not want to be disturbed.

“The world has changed,” LDS apostle L. Tom Perry said in June 2013. “The nature of missionary work must change if the Lord will accomplish his work.”

Ex-Mormons Aren’t ‘Lazy or Sinful,’ Church Leader Dieter Uchtdorf Says

Photo courtesy The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Dieter F. Uchtdorf speaks during the LDS General Conference. Photo courtesy The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

SALT LAKE CITY — It is wrong to assume that Mormons who leave the faith “have been offended or lazy or sinful,” a top leader told members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Saturday during the church’s 183rd Semiannual General Conference.

“It is not that simple,” said Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the LDS Church’s governing three-man First Presidency.

Some struggle with “unanswered questions about things that have been done or said in the past,” Uchtdorf explained. “We openly acknowledge that in nearly 200 years of church history — along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable and divine events — there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question.”

Writer Sees Growing Gay Acceptance Among Mormons

Jerry Argetsinger gives a talk at the University of Missouri. Photo via RNS.

Jerry Argetsinger gives a talk at the University of Missouri. Photo via RNS.

Jerry Argetsinger never felt a twinge of tension between being gay and being Mormon.

Nobody talked about homosexuality in his Oregon congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he was growing up in the 1960s. Nobody asked him about his attractions. Nobody made cruel or even not-so-subtle comments about him. Nobody made him feel guilty.

It came as a bit of a shock, then, when Argetsinger was beginning his sophomore year at LDS church-owned Brigham Young University in 1965 and heard university President Ernest L. Wilkinson say that the school didn’t want any gays on campus.

Inside the Mormons’ Elite Missionary Training Center

Two students study mormon scriptures at the Missionary Training Center. Photo co

Two students study mormon scriptures at the Missionary Training Center. Photo courtesy Trent Nelson/The Salt Lake Tribune/RNS.

The 35-acre campus is an island of young people, where teens and 20-somethings outnumber grownups by 10-to-1.

The place is awash in fresh-faced students, and even the workers — from the cafeteria to the copy center, the mailroom to the bookstore — and most of the teachers are under 30.

It’s no “Animal House,” though, with raucous frats, food fights, and binge drinking. This is Mormonism’s elite Missionary Training Center, where the men wear white shirts and ties, the women don modest skirts and dresses and everyone is expected to heed the rules.

New Mormon Website Features Softer Tone on Gays

SALT LAKE CITY—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints isn't changing its tune about homosexuality, but it has launched a new website to alter the tone.

The site — unveiled on Dec. 6 and called “Love One Another: A Discussion on Same-Sex Attraction” — includes video clips of Mormon leaders as well as gay members and their families promoting compassion and understanding toward homosexuals, and encouraging everyone to be “disciples of Christ.”

“Our hope with this site is that empathy will grow in families,” LDS apostle D. Todd Christofferson says in one clip. “We’re trying to communicate that our love is inclusive, that we want to have the family remain intact, and the relationships we’ve treasured over the years to remain and to grow.”

It’s important, the apostle says, “to recognize the feelings of a person, that they are real, that they are authentic, that we don’t deny that someone feels a certain way.”

Many gay rights activists, inside and outside the LDS church, applaud Mormonism’s latest effort.