The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has quietly doubled down on a controversial policy toward gay members by including it in a recently updated manual for missionaries.
Commonly referred to as the “November Policy,” the guidelines were released on Nov. 5, 2015, just months after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. The policy labeled same-sex couples “apostates” and disqualified their children from being baptized without special permission.
Addison Jenkins, a student at Brigham Young University and an openly gay Mormon, said the 2015 policy was a watershed moment for the church’s gay members. Up until then, gay Mormons seemed to have a little more flexibility in matters of faith and sexuality.
Jenkins said that changed with the new guidelines, which sent a clear message: no more gray area. Or, as he puts it, “If you want to be gay and Mormon, okay, but you have to be Mormon. And you can’t really be gay.”
Jenkins said the rollout of the November Policy felt odd. It was initially leaked online and contained grammatical errors. The Church eventually confirmed the policy in an official statement. But even then, Jenkins said, he hoped it wasn’t permanent.
“A lot of people thought, ‘It’s kind of clear that they didn’t think this through,’ that they kind of messed it up. You know, people make mistakes,” he said.
Flash forward to June of this year when the LDS Church included the November Policy in its most recent version of Preach My Gospel. This is a guide distributed to every Mormon missionary, nearly 70,000 worldwide.
Jenkins, who served a mission to Madagascar, describes Preach My Gospel as “everything a missionary needs to know to teach someone and baptize them into the LDS Church.”
The LDS Church did not return a request for comment on the latest addition.
For Jenkins, it looks like the Church is now cementing the November Policy in place, which is frustrating to him. On one hand, he sees the LDS Church taking steps toward LGBT inclusivity in some of its messaging. But when it comes to the policy, what’s on the books, he said it can feel like there isn’t really a place for him.