Mormon Elders Row Back LGBT Rule Repeal at BYU

The LDS church teaches that a temple marriage between two Mormons results in an eternal bond that lasts after death, and that this “Celestial Marriage” is key to entering the “celestial kingdom,” which Mormonism teaches is the highest degree of heaven.

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — An elder from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints issued a letter on Tuesday responding to a Mormon university's decision to remove a prohibition on same-sex expression from its Honor Code. 

On March 4, Elder Paul V. Johnson, commissioner of the LDS’s church Educational System, which administers all educational programs affiliated with the sect, wrote that same-sex romantic behavior is “not compatible” with the moral beliefs of the church. The letter came in response to the decision by Brigham Young University, which is owned by the LDS church, to remove a prohibition on “homosexual behavior” from its Honor Code. 

Each Brigham Young University student and employee, regardless of faith background, must sign the Honor Code in order to attend the school, and students are subject to expulsion or other punishments for violating the terms of the code. 

The Honor Code requires, among other things, that all students refrain from swearing, consuming alcohol, tobacco, tea, coffee, and illegal drugs, and forbids vaping and premarital sex. Mormon members of the BYU community must attend religious services per the Honor Code. 

On campus, the code is taken seriously; in 2011, the school removed basketball star Brandon Davies from the team after he confessed to having sex with his girlfriend. 

Before the updated Honor Code was approved on February 12, 2020, students were subject to discipline for displaying “all forms of physical intimacy that gives expression to homosexual feelings.” 

At the time the updated code was released, LGBT BYU students celebrated on campus, and many posted pictures of themselves with their same-sex partner. 

At the time, university officials said that code enforcement would be handled on a “case-by-case basis,” with one member of the university administration reportedly telling a same-sex attracted student that she could openly date someone of the same sex at the university.

BYU is now saying that was a “miscommunication” among university staff, which was confirmed by the letter published Wednesday.

“The Moral standards of the Church did not change with the recent release of the General Handbook or the updated Honor Code,” said Johnson. “There is and always has been more to living the Lord’s standard of a chaste and virtuous life than refraining from sexual relations outside of marriage. Lasting joy comes from when we live the spirit as well as the letter of God’s laws.” 

Johnson went on to explain that since one of the foundational principles of the LDS church is the definition of marriage between a man and a woman, and that these marriages are “central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children,” the religion cannot endorse same-sex relationships. 

“Same-sex romantic behavior cannot lead to eternal marriage and is therefore not compatible with the principles included in the Honor Code,” said Johnson. 

The LDS church teaches that a temple marriage between two Mormons results in an eternal bond that lasts after death, and that this “Celestial Marriage” is key to entering the “celestial kingdom,” which Mormonism teaches is the highest degree of heaven. No other religion holds this doctrine, which is in direct conflict with many passages from the New Testament, including Romans 7:1-3 and 1 Corinthians 7:8-11.

Members of the BYU community who were upset with Johnson’s letter took to Twitter to accuse the school of hypocrisy, noting that dating or marrying a non-Mormon of the opposite sex would not result in either an “eternal marriage” or disciplinary action. 

“I married a nonmember, so technically that doesn’t ‘lead to an eternal marriage’ and nobody kicked me off campus or told me I was breaking the honor code. This is disgusting,” tweeted Candace Hill, a graduate of BYU. 

Although Mormons officially consider themselves to be Christian, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has definitively stated that the group’s theology does not recognize the Trinity as held and articulated by all Christian communities. Although Mormon baptisms are performed invoking the “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” the Holy See has made clear that they are not valid.