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Greg Prince on History of LDS Policy Toward Gays

Greg Prince came to Utah in September 2017 to give the Sterling McMurrin Lecture at the Salt Lake Library.  I was able to chat with him just prior to his lecture.  With November being the anniversary of the November Policy, I wanted to bump up this conversation to discuss Greg’s views on homosexuality and the LDS Church.  He notes that there is both good and bad moves by the LDS Church toward gays.

Greg:  In [2015][1] the [Utah] Legislature with a big public push from the church (otherwise it couldn’t have happened), passed Senate Bill 296 which forbade by law discrimination against LGBT people in the areas employment and housing.  That was a big step forward because Utah still is the only state whose legislature and gubernatorial chair are occupied by Republicans that has passed that kind of legislation.

GT:  Oh really?

Greg:  Yeah, but then later that year, the Church came out with “the Policy” and so it was another low point.  We just seem to be in this cycle of a step forward and a step back, and the LGBT population in particular, since they are the ones who are most affected by these things is wondering, are we really moving forward, or are we just kind of being batted back and forth?

GT:  What do you think the answer is to that?

Greg:  I don’t know yet.

GT:  I know that November Policy was hard for a lot of people. Why do you think that the policy came out in the first place?

Greg:  Oh I know why it came out because I talked to a couple of the Brethren who very clearly said it was a response to the Supreme Court decision in June of that year.  In March of that year you had SB 296.  That was a high water mark.  That was good news.

Do you agree with Greg’s point that the church has both good and bad moves towards gay members?

He has some views that may surprise you.

Greg:  Within two weeks of the announcement of the policy, I was invited by lunch with the president of Wesley Theological Seminary in D.C.  It’s the largest Methodist seminary in the country.  Subsequent to that, as in May of this year, I was elected to membership on the board of governors of Wesley Seminary, so I have a very close relationship with him.

The president who I’ve known for years said, “Am I missing something here?  I thought I had a reasonable understanding of LDS theology.”  His understanding included having been invited here to meet with the First Presidency, take the tour of BYU.  He’s done some homework and he’s fairly knowledgeable about Mormonism and he’s quite sympathetic towards it, but he said, “What it is in your theology that justifies beating up infants?”

I said, “David, there is nothing that justifies that?”

I think it’s the going after the kids, but particularly the infants that has been so distasteful both to church members and to the outsiders.  But I think that the damage that was done by Prop 8 was mostly external.  It was an explosion.

GT:  So when you’re talking about beating up infants, you’re talking about the idea that we won’t bless children of gay parents.

Greg:  Yes, the ritual of blessing in the Mormon Church, as with christening in other Christian traditions is the formal acknowledgement by the community of believers that your child exists.  Your child has a name, and it’s accepted by the community.  We have denied that to same-sex couples, so in essence we are saying, “Your child doesn’t exist.”

In his book, Greg talks about Prop 8, gays at BYU, whether gays can serve missions, gay church leaders, the Policy, and many other topics.  (Don’t forget to check out our previous episode where Anne Wilde discussed her opinion on how the Policy affects polygamists.)  Check out our conversation…..

[1] Greg misspoke.  He said 1995 but the year was 2015.

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How Do Polygamists Feel About Gay Marriage?

Fundamentalist Mormons are known for promoting an alternative marriage practice in polygamy.  Of course there are gay marriage advocates who support that as well.  In this next episode, we’ll talk a little bit about Kody Brown’s oldest daughter, Mariah.  Kody is a polygamist in the tv show, Sister Wives, and he has four wives.  One of his oldest daughters has actually announced that she is gay.  What do fundamentalist Mormons think about gay marriage relationships?

Anne:  The ones that I associate with the most don’t think there’s anything wrong with a legal gay marriage, because like I say it’s not a religious thing.  They think they should have that legal right.  We’re talking about a civil rights level.  They should have their civil rights just like we would like our civil rights.

Do you think this is common among polygamists?   Don’t forget to listen to our other conversation about Kody Brown’s daughter trying to join the LDS Church.  I hope you’ll check out our conversation with Anne Wilde…..

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Third Manifesto Causes Schism: Apostolic United Brethren

So far we’ve talked about the 1890 Manifesto, as well as the 1904 Manifesto.  A third manifesto was issued in 1933, and that actually led to the formation of several polygamist groups, such as the Apostolic United Brethren.

Anne:  When Joseph Musser was the senior member, because the other three before him had passed away, then that’s when the “split” happened.  It’s too complicated to go into; suffice it to say that there were two members that they wanted to add to that quorum, and Joseph Musser was not in favor of that and he called Rulon Allred, Owen Allred and some others to another council, so there are now two councils.

GT:  Two parallel councils.

Anne:  Yes, and each one claims that they’re the only ones that have the authority, or the true priesthood or whatever you want to call it.  So that’s when the division began.  Joseph Musser died in 1954, so this happened before that.[1]  They went to prison, and when he came out he was not feeling well and anyway, it’s a whole lot of story.

In this next episode, we’ll talk about the Third Manifesto, as well as one specific group: the Apostolic United Brethren.  You may be familiar with them if you’ve watched the tv show, Sister Wives, with Kody Brown and his four wives.   Kody’s daughter Madison tried to join the LDS Church.

GT:  Ok, I know his daughter, I want to say Madison, I can’t remember, was going to Utah State I believe and she actually wanted to join the LDS Church.

Anne:  And they wouldn’t let her.[2]

GT:  And they wouldn’t let her, and she said, “I don’t want to be a polygamist.  I don’t want to do anything.”  But they still wouldn’t let her.  Essentially the church policy is that they want to—you have to basically disown your parents, or I don’t know if that’s the right terminology.

Anne:  I think that varies.  Without mentioning a name, there is a family whose son—I don’t want to say anything that’s going to get anybody in trouble.  Let’s just say that he joined the church, the LDS Church, had friends that were LDS, went on a mission for the Church.  He didn’t have to deny his parents, but he had to deny his intent to live it.  He now is back from his mission, performed an honorable mission.  He was not prevented from joining the church, even though they knew what family he came from.  So that’s what I say, it’s going to vary.

Should Madison have been prevented from joining the LDS Church?  Check out our conversation with Anne Wilde…..

[1]  John Y. Barlow was head of the quorum until his death in December 1949.

[2] For more info, see