Children and the handbooks timeline (updated)


Credit to Laura Compton for assembling this.

The first Church Handbook of Instruction was published in 1900 in response to Lorenzo Snow’s tithing visits to Southern Utah.  The handbook only speaks about how to handle Tithing.

April 1935 – The policy for polygamous parents’ kids has gone through several iterations since it first showed up in April 1935. 

“The children of men and women who have been excommunicated from the Church because of their having entered into illicit relations under the guise of plural marriage be not baptized until they have sufficient understanding to apply intelligently for baptism, give assurance that they accept the teaching and doctrines of the Church and express regret for the opposition manifested by their parents to the rules of the Church. There is no consistency in baptizing a child and having him re-enter a home, the spirit of which is antagonistic to the authorities of the Church, and out of harmony with its principles.”

1960 – The final sentence about having kids re-enter homes was removed, From 1960-2010 there was no requirement kids leave their parents.

1968 – Plural marriage was changed to “so-called plural marriage.”

1983 – bishops were first directed to forward questions about specific cases to the First Presidency. Up until that time baptism was a local matter.

1989 – the responsibility for baptism was no longer one children had to request; instead the bishop had to be satisfied baptizees understood and accepted teaching and doctrines and repudiated the teachings that led to their parents’ excommunications.

1998 – First Presidency permission for all polygamous baptism began to be required. Mission presidents and bishops are recognized as having need to review (and forward to the first presidency) requests for baptizing children whose parents had been excommunicated for practicing plural marriage.

2006 – Policies regarding children from plural marriages referenced only those children whose parents had been excommunicated from the Church. Prior to 2006, the policy did not clearly address children whose polygamous parents were not LDS members.

From 1935 – 2006, the policy on its face applied only to children whose parents had been members but then had been ex’d for turning to polygamy. (Probably not a lot of cases for the First Presidency to review each year.)

2010 – Handbook language is changes closer to the original 1935 letter than any of the intervening iterations, despite taking approval out of the hands of local leaders. It currently reads:

“Children of parents who have practiced or are practicing plural marriage contrary to the law must receive approval from the First Presidency before they may be baptized and confirmed. The mission president may request this approval from the Office of the First Presidency when he is satisfied that all three of the following requirements are met:

“(1) The children accept the teaching and doctrines of the Church

“(2) The children repudiate the teachings upon which their parents based their practice of plural marriage.

“(3) Minor children are not living in a home where polygamy is being taught or practiced.”

[updated 11/13/2015 1:15 p.m. to add current details to timeline]

Nov 5th, 2015 –  Handbook update is leaked by John Dehlin discussing excommunication of legally married gays and prevention of baptism by children who have legally and lawfully married homosexual parents.

Nov 6th, 2015D. Todd Christopherson gives an emergency interview to quell the backlash

Updates get national media attention on major media outlets.

Nov 13, 2015Clarification is issued by the church officially regarding the policy.  A list of outstanding questions and issues along with their consequences

Michael Otterson releases a PR article about “understanding the Handbook”.  The PR announcement turns a “Leak of private policy” into a “Letter from the First Presidency” as causing the debate which is a deliberate deception.

That prompted questions from many Church members, who were mostly reading media headlines portraying the instructions as a rejection of children and refusal to name babies

I think the lack of mention that this was a leak of the official handbook on how Bishops and Stake Presidents were to act, with all the context that exists in the handbook for all issues makes this statement also a blatant lie.  I’d dare Mr. Otterson to back up “most members” got their information from headlines vs. those who immediately were able to look up the details and get all the context that the church would have provided local leaders with if this had not become a national issue.  It was not misleading headlines that caused the issue.

He then makes a statement that is shocking and disturbing:

A purpose of the Handbook is to provide bishops and other leaders with a standard reference point when they make decisions. Because it is a policy and procedural manual, the Handbook is not written in language that is necessarily contextual or explanatory.

The handbook, which he admits is there to “…guide lay leaders of the church in 30,000 congregations across the world” doesn’t provide context or explantory language.  It is simply a “Do this” set of commands with no explanation.  And this is how it is for 90% of issues.  Members, I think mostly assume that leaders have reasons as to why the do things, but this illustrates that no, no context is given for instructions.

He then admits

  • There is new information in the Handbook that addresses a narrow range of situations involving the children of same-sex couples.

But still gives nowhere to go to get full context or answer all questions.  This is not PR, this is propaganda.  With most questions still unanswered the admitted issues with the policy should give anyone reading it pause.


The same-sex marriage requirements are very similar to the current polygamy requirements, but those requirements have only been extant in their current form for about 5 years.  One of the key differences is that, in fact, polygamous unions that are legal would not require First Presidency approval, while LEGAL homosexual unions do.  This may seem like a minor difference, but when it is, in summary; not recognizing marriages that are legal and lawful.

(Take a look at the Edmund Tucker Act, and General Authority statements about it if you want to see when the LDS church, itself, wanted uncommon marriages recognized as legitimate) 

[updated 11/13/2015 1:15 p.m.] The church is being blatantly dishonest with members when they were caught with this policy.  They are attempting to spin the story to alter the facts.  This is the same accusation made of the detractors of Joseph Smith Jr. and the church.  This is not moral.  We encourage the church to be “Honest in their dealings with their fellow men” and admit that this policy is hurtful, still hateful, and that the PR department is more concerned with saving face than honesty.

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Last edited by Mithryn on November 13, 2015 at 8:33 pm

2 Responses to Children and the handbooks timeline (updated)

  1. jpv says:

    As I understand it, none of the situations in both policies “would not require First Presidency approval.”

    An individual of majority age, whom I know personally, was rejected by their initial GA interview was still required to leave the home of parents practicing legal polygamy (in 2015).

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