The First Presidency has received requests for clarification about the content and status of the 1982 Standing High Council Statement on Homosexuality. 1 We have been requested to make clear the difference between background commentary and recommendations at the time of the statement and official church policy today.
It is important to understand the nature of statements developed by the Standing High Council. Primarily, this council serves an advisory function, assisting the Presidency in reflecting on matters of current concern within the church. Statements resulting from the deliberations of this council are offered to assist the Presidency in development of church policy. Statements by the Standing High Council are not church policy. The First Presidency may choose to develop and share with the church policy that reflects the valued advice of the Standing High Council.
The Presidency discussed this 1982 statement with the World Church Leadership Council and the Standing High Council. Both concluded this statement is not adequate to meet the church’s needs today. These bodies also noted that much contained in this statement is background commentary and recommendations, which should be understood in the context of the time they were written. As a result, the Presidency agreed that clarification of what is official church policy will be helpful to discussion and decision making about national policies related to homosexuality, marriage, and ordination. Clarification focuses the discussions on current church policy.
Therefore, to provide maximum clarity and to assist translations into multiple languages, the Presidency is stating the current policy provisions arising from the 1982 Standing High Council Statement on Homosexuality.
The following statements are official church policy unless revised policies for a nation are formally approved according to provisions of Doctrine and Covenants 164:7. 2
- The sacrament of marriage is for one man and one woman who become husband and wife.
- Community of Christ priesthood members are not authorized by the church to perform same-sex/gender marriages even if they are legal in the civil jurisdiction where the marriage will be performed.
- People of same-sex/gender orientation can be considered for priesthood calls, according to established standards and procedures, if they abstain from homosexual activity. 3
In addition, the following information is provided as direction for those who administer church policy:
- World Conference Resolution 1182 states the church upholds the validity of legally performed marriages. Therefore, if a same-sex/gender couple is legally married, the marriage is recorded in membership records by identifying the couple as “spouses.”
- Transgressions of priesthood sexual ethics, regardless of sexual orientation, should be addressed according to established policies and procedures as detailed in the most recent version of the Church Administrator’s Handbook.
- The church’s general policy is that ordination authorizes priesthood members to provide priesthood ministry wherever they live or travel. There is also a policy that priesthood ministry coming from outside a church jurisdiction should be approved by the appropriate church officers. Usually, this applies to ministry from outside one’s mission center, but mission centers may establish their own procedures for congregations within the mission center (Church Administrator’s Handbook: 2005 Edition, pg. 20). The basic principle is that requesting or receiving priesthood ministry is the responsibility of pastors, mission center presidents, supervising apostles, and other presiding officers of the church.
- If a policy change is approved for a nation that allows people in committed same-sex/gender relationships to be ordained, there are other nations where such priesthood activity would create serious harm and disruption to church organization and mission. Same-sex/gender relationships are not legal in several nations, and people could be put in serious danger. Therefore, if such ordinations are approved in a nation, there will be other nations where the priesthood ministry of people in committed, same-sex/gender relationships should not be offered and will not be accepted. Additional details, including a list of nations where priesthood ministry by people in same-sex/gender relationships should not be offered and will not be accepted, will be provided before any policy changes are implemented.
We believe this concise statement of policy provides the clarification needed throughout the church.
1982 Standing High Council Statement on Homosexuality
Since the adoption by the Standing High Council of the memorandum entitled “Homosexuality and Other Sexual Perversions: (October 18, 1961), there has been a profusion of social, psychological, and medical studies pertaining to the issue of homosexuality, and with it has come debate, reflection, and confrontation, both within and outside the church. Other denominational bodies, through special task forces and in their legislative assemblies, have in recent years attempted to address this pressing problem which exists among many of their members, families, and friends. The church feels under obligation today to restate its position on homosexuality for the guidance of administrative officials, and out of a genuine concern that a responsible, reconciling ministry be developed in relation to this difficult problem.
I June 1978, the First Presidency appointed a Human Sexuality Committee composed of representatives of professional disciplines and World Church divisions and quorums. This committee was charged with the task of exploring the area of human sexuality and recommending to the First Presidency ways in which the church can be ministerially responsible and responsive in this aspect of human life. Two years later the Human Sexuality Committee forwarded its final comprehensive report to the First Presidency. It contained formal papers which explored a wide range of issues and problems in the vital area of human sexuality, and concluded with affirmations and recommendations which it hoped would aid the church in developing an ethical and theological framework to strengthen the teaching of the church in matters of sexual behavior. Subsequently, the church convened a task force to continue the process of developing and sharing insights in this area.
One of the aspects of human sexuality which the task force studied with a view to making recommendations to the church was the subject of homosexuality. The concern of the church is to provide ministries and develop the kinds of values that will lead to better understanding concerning homosexuality and encourage a regard for justice and a respect for dignity which both the church and society owe to all human beings.
While we seek always to keep faith with the moral perceptions of the restored gospel, we recognize that theology is dynamic and needs to be interpreted in light of changing cultures and times. Nevertheless, a position statement on this issue will likely produce tension and controversy on several bases – strongly held traditional attitudes, varying interpretations of scripture, insufficiency of our present knowledge, and the present varying inadequacies of the church’s ministries in helping members understand the meaning of sexuality in human relationships. These, among others, are reasons why judgments about homosexuality are, of necessity, open to further review.
We call attention to the statement on homosexuality printed in the Leader’s Handbook, copyright 1980, 1981. “The church leadership continues to explore ways and means of ministering to homosexuals. The emphasis should be placed upon Christian values in all sexual behavior. An Attitude of love and understanding should affirm the worth of every person.”
The purpose of the present document is to update our understanding of current scientific data, address ethical implications, and make recommendations which will be helpful in assisting church administrators in dealing with the condition and activity of homosexuality.
Current Scientific Data
Although there are many theories, there is still little agreement as to the roles which genetic, glandular, cultural, or psychological facots play in the cause or origin of sexual orientation. In regard to homosexual orientation, all available evidence points to this being an extremely complicated phenomenon for which there seem to be multiple causative factors. Among these may be an inherited predisposition, or an inappropriate identification with the parent of the opposite sex. Cultural overemphasis on the stereotypes of “masculinity” and “femininity” producing feelings of inadequacy in those not able to fulfill these expectations, and a rigid dichotomy of male and female social roles with no allowance for any variations in personality development also are cited as possible contributing factors.
Scriptural and Ethical Considerations
While the sacred writings of the scriptures provide us with insights into the pattern of God’s redemptive and reconciling activity in all ages, they rarely provide final or complete answers. Effective preaching and teaching must always include interpretation relative to changing times and cultures. While the basic witness of scripture holds true for all time, virtually all aspects of humankind’s relationship with God, including sexuality, are related to the cultural norms and traditions of the times. For example, it is not possible to interpret correctly the Leviticus Holiness Code without taking into account its historically conditioned context; many scholars suggest that the specific sexual prohibitions are related more to idolatry and other practices of the pagan populations around the Hebrews, rather than to intrinsic deviations.
Any adequate Christian position on homosexuality must regard the authority of scripture. The biblical passages primarily cited in relation to this issue are Genesis 19, Leviticus 18: 22 and 20: 13, Roman 1: 18-32, I Corinthians 6: 9, and I Timothy 1: 10. All of these indicate that heterosexual relationships are part of God’s plan for humankind. Nowhere do any scriptures offer support for or condone homosexual relationships. Our understanding of scriptures affirms that heterosexual marriage is God’s will for men and for women. The teachings of Jesus also are clear with respect for marriage – he affirmed heterosexual marriage to be God’s original and enduring will for men and women. Specific references are lacking in either the Book of Mormon or the Doctrine and Covenants.
The principles of the gospel apply equally to heterosexuals and homosexuals. Repentance implies the act of being personally responsible for choices; Christian freedom never allows one to live as he or she selfishly pleases. The love of God and the evidence of Christ’s earthly ministry always make a distinction between the sin and the sinner. The power of the Holy Spirit constantly seeks to free each individual from acts of disobedience and alienation.
In summary, the issue of homosexuality is demanding increased attention in Western society today. Though the church is faced with changing attitudes about the existence and expression of homosexuality, it continues to hold to the norm of heterosexuality and exclusively sanctions that homosexual Christians and heterosexual Christians are all brothers and sisters and share in common the love and grace of God.
In addition, the church is aware that anti-homosexual bias has long existed in Western cultures in general, and tath homosexuals have been and still are denied social justice.
In light of the preceding, the following guidelines should be noted by administrative officials in carrying out the teachings of the church and performing ministry involving cases of homosexuality.
- The church recognizes that there is a difference between homosexual orientation and homosexual activity (defines as sexual acts between persons of the same sex). The former is accepted as a condition over which a person may have little or no control; the latter is considered immoral and cannot be condoned by the church.
- The church affirms that Christian marriages is a sacred covenant relationship, ordained of God between a man and a woman. The sacrament of marriage has a long theological and ecclesiastical history, and the symbolism is exclusively heterosexual. Homosexual unions are not and should not be considered marriages in the sacramental sense.
- The church affirms the worth of all persons. Homosexuals as well as heterosexuals are children of God and have full claim upon the acceptance and reconciling ministry and care of the church. That is, individuals with a homosexual orientation who refrain from homosexual acts should be fully accepted into the ongoing life of the congregation. Those persons who engage in homosexual acts should be dealt with in terms of redemptive ministry and/or church law procedures in the same way as those who engage in heterosexual acts outside of marriage.
- In the critical matter of ordination, the church should not admit a practicing homosexual to the priesthood. It cannot sanction homosexual acts as morally acceptable behavior any more than it can endorse heterosexual promiscuity. If a member of the priesthood admits to, or is found to be engaged in homosexual behavior, the administrative officer having jurisdiction should institute procedures for silencing according to church law.
- There will be instances in which those in leadership positions will become aware of individuals who are non-practicing homosexuals and who are seeking help in the area of sublimating their sexual impulses. For such persons, the possibility and opportunity for ordination should be kept open.
The concern of the church with the practice of homosexuality is to provide ministries which encourage the development of wholesome heterosexual attitudes.
When the practice of homosexuality comes to the attention of the church officials, advice as to appropriate ministries should be sought from the First Presidency. Counseling resources which are available in community agencies should be used when possible.
The church leadership continues to explore ways and means of ministering to homosexuals. The emphasis should be placed upon Christian values in all sexual behavior. An attitude of love and understanding should affirm the worth of every person.
Doctrine and Covenants 164: 7
A. A worldwide prophetic church must develop cultural awareness and sensitivity to distinguish between issues that should be addressed by the World Conference and those that are best resolved nationally or in other ways.
B. Fundamental principles of ethical behavior and relationships should be addressed by the World Conference. The Conference should not decide specific policies for all nations when those decisions likely will cause serious harm in some of them.
C. However, timely resolution of pressing issues in various nations is necessary for the restoring work of the gospel to move forward with all of its potential. Therefore, let the proper World Church officers act in their callings—as already provided in church law—to create and interpret church policies to meet the needs of the church in different nations in harmony with the principles contained in this counsel.
D. Where possible and appropriate, convene national or field conferences to provide opportunities for broader dialogue, understanding, and consent. In those gatherings, let the spirit of love, justice, and truth prevail.
The term “homosexual activity,” while true to the 1982 Statement, is ambiguous and difficult to define. For the purposes of interpretation, this phrase generally will be understood to mean “abstain from sex.”