Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Another Book of Mormon Publication in a non-LDS Academic Source

Since some people refuse to seriously consider Book of Mormon evidence unless it's in a non-LDS academic sources, I'm happy to help these earnest pursuers of truth by pointing out occasional works that they can read and treasure. In addition to the work by Dr. John Tvedtnes that I mentioned in my last post, a more recent contribution comes from Noel Reynolds. I mentioned this a few weeks ago in comments to one of my posts here, but I should have highlighted it in a post of its own to help those who need peer-reviewed testimonies.
 
Related to the issue of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon is the Hebrew tool called inclusio, in which a phrase at the beginning of a passage is mirrored at the end to mark a section. Interesting insight into a sophisticated case (or 3 related cases) of inclusio in the Book of Mormon is treated by Reynolds in a peer-reviewed publication: Noel B. Reynolds (2015). The Gospel according to Mormon. Scottish Journal of Theology, 68, pp 218-234. doi:10.1017/S003693061500006X, available for download at http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/facpub/1479/.

Reynolds' work reveals some consistent elements in the text regarding the Book of Mormon's concept of the core doctrine of the Gospel, and the way its authors use inclusio to emphasize it. It's one of many interesting subtleties in the composition of the text.

Speaking of chiasmus, one of my favorite works related to the Book of Mormon in a non-LDS publication is John Welch's chapter on chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, included in the ground-breaking book on chiasmus that he edited, in collaboration with some significant scholars and published through a noteworthy publishing house.  The reference is: John W. Welch, editor, Chiasmus in Antiquity: Structures, Analyses, Exegesis (Hildesheim, Germany: Gerstenberg Verlag, 1981). This scholarly work in a non-LDS press with non-LDS authors (apart from John) includes a forward from Dr. David Noel Freedman.

I recommend reading David Noel Freedman's preface to the scholarly book, Chiasmus in Antiquity, edited by John Welch. The full text of that intriguing book is available free online at the Maxwell Institute. Here is part of what Dr. Freedman has to say:

The more extended uses of chiasm raise further questions. As with much of literature, especially poetry, ambiguity and obscurity are inherent in the form and content: chiasm only adds to the uncertainty and mystery. Scholars now recognize chiasms beyond the simple type described above, chiasms which involve passages of verse or prose ranging in length from a few sentences to hundreds of thousands of words. This more complex form of chiasm is not merely grammatical but structural or intentional; it systematically serves to concentrate the reader's or hearer's interest on the central expression. The number of such chiastic constructions which satisfy both sets of criteria: inversion and balance on the one hand, and climactic centrality on the other, is substantially less than the simpler mechanical variety. But wherever they are present, these structures may add novel perspectives and unexpected dimension to the texts in which they appear.

There is yet a further extension of the term chiasm. Even more difficult and controversial issues arise when chiasm is defined in terms of thought and theme, rather than the more visible words and patterns. Inevitably a large subjective element enters into these discussions, and the presence or absence of chiasm on this level can become almost a voter's choice.

Scholars, therefore, may range between separated areas of research in their approach to chiasm. On the one extreme, the phenomenon itself can be described or defined rigorously, so that it is verifiable and often self-evident; while in this sense it is part of a deliberate pattern of composition, it nevertheless leaves the wider world of symbolism and significance to others. At the other end of the spectrum, definitions and limits are hard to determine, and speculation is rife; but large issues of meaning and intention can be raised, and important questions about the nature and significance of extended literary pieces are considered. The study of these great chiasms has enormous implications for analysis and interpretation, but the wider the scope and the more extended the reach, the less certain the results necessarily become. In the end, neither approach will escape if carried to extremes.

Only a book with many varieties of presentation can display the present state of chiastic studies. While a great deal of important work has been done across the many domains of ancient literature, the study of ancient literary techniques is still in ferment and flux. A common fund of axioms and assumptions and a single sure-handed methodology are yet to be established. The present volume reflects accurately both the ferment and the progress which is being made on a variety of fronts, and is all the more to be welcomed for bringing together the results of research in different literatures of antiquity. The editor is to be commended for his catholicity and courage, and for his own original contributions in several domains including a unique treatment of the Book of Mormon. His introduction to the whole work is indispensable. [emphasis added]

--David Noel Freedman
Dr. Freedman has been called one of the world's foremost scholars on the Bible. You can also read about him on Wikipedia. He passed away in 2008.
Welch's book is cited by Roland Meynet in Rhetorical Analysis: An Introduction to Biblical Rhetoric. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 256 (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), 392 pp. I don't have access to it at the moment, but according to Noel Reynolds, "Meynet credits BYU’s own John W. Welch, whose 1981 book re-ignited chiasmus studies and helpfully provided the world of biblical scholars with the first complete bibliography of chiasmus publications, enabling contemporary scholars to get a grasp on the extent and quality of the work that had already been done."




Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Significant Scholarly Publication Includes Two Articles on Hebrew Elements in the Book of Mormon

For those who refuse to consider Book of Mormon evidence until it appears in academic publications subject to peer review, I'm happy to report that two articles from Dr. John Tvedtnes about Hebrew elements in the Book of Mormon appear in the Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics from the renowned publishing house of E. J. Brill in Leiden, Netherlands. The four-volume set was published in 2013. Brill describes the work this way:
The Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics Online offers a systematic and comprehensive treatment of all aspects of the history and study of the Hebrew language from its earliest attested form to the present day.

The Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics Online features advanced search options, as well as extensive cross-references and full-text search functionality using the Hebrew character set. With over 850 entries and approximately 400 contributing scholars, the Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics Online is the authoritative reference work for students and researchers in the fields of Hebrew linguistics, general linguistics, Biblical studies, Hebrew and Jewish literature, and related fields. 

Access requires an academic account or payment, but you can read Tvedtnes' works on his website and see images of the printed work.

The first article is "Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon":
Tvedtnes, John A.. "Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon." Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics. Edited by: Geoffrey Khan. Brill Online, 2016. Reference. 21 January 2016
First appeared online: 2013
First Print Edition: 9789004176423
You can read the text at BookofMormonResearch.org in the article "Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon." At the bottom you click on images to see the printed material. I recommend reading the printed version because it displays the Hebrew, while the webpage for this article does not (see image 1 and image 2).

The second article is "Names of People: Book of Mormon." Brill Online cites it this way:
Tvedtnes, John A.. "Names of People: Book of Mormon." Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics. Edited by: Geoffrey Khan. Brill Online, 2016. Reference. 21 January 2016
First appeared online: 2013
First Print Edition: 9789004176423
You can read the text at BookofMormonResearch.org in the article "Hebrew Names in the Book of Mormon." The text provides Hebrew, but there it reads left-to-right instead of the normal right-to-left for Hebrew, possible an HTML or font problem, so I recommend looking at the images for the article as printed (image 1 and image 2).

Dr. Tvedtnes obviously had to be brief in these articles but has provided some tantalizing examples and good references for further study. One  problem, though, is that a couple of his examples of awkward grammar in the 1830 Book of Mormon (such as "because that ...") that look like good Hebraisms can also be explained as good Early Modern English discussed in Stanford Carmack's works. This could lead to trouble for some people, as in this hypothetical response:
My testimony was strengthened when I learned that the bad grammar in the Book of Mormon was actually good grammar in Early Modern English supporting the plausibility of divine translation with tight control beyond Joseph's abilities--and then I found out that some of that might actually be due to Hebraic influence in the original text coupled with tight translation preserving the Hebraisms. Miraculous Hebraisms or miraculous Early Modern English??--I was so confused. That's why I left and became Evangelical. It's all much more clear now with just one inerrant text.
I hope that doesn't happen to you. Hang in there. These things will be resolved with time. And maybe with the aid of further peer review.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

What Did Joseph Know About the Structure of the Book of Mormon, and When Did He Know It?

The details of the translation process that gave us the Book of Mormon offer a variety of mysteries and challenges, but the greatest challenge is for theories based on Joseph Smith as author and fabricator. If he or friends of his concocted a manuscript, why go through the painstaking oral dictation process? Why not just bring forth the manuscript and declare the work done? And how could the dictation process be done by looking in a hat with no manuscript present, as confirmed by multiple witnesses, not all of whom were members of the Church? The details of the Original Manuscript and Printer's Manuscript confirm the story as told by Joseph and witnesses: one document was created by oral dictation written down by scribes, and the other was created by copying from the Original Manuscript.

I'd like to highlight one aspect of those details today that are worth careful reflection: the division of the text into chapters. Here is an excerpt from Royal Skousen's 1998 article, "How Joseph Smith Translated the Book of Mormon:  Evidence from the Original Manuscript" from the Maxwell Institute (here I used strikethrough instead of brackets to indicate deleted text):

The word chapter and the corresponding chapter numbers were not part of the revealed text
Evidence from both the original and printer’s manuscripts shows that Joseph Smith apparently saw some visual indication at the end of a section that the section was ending. Although this may have been a symbol of some kind, a more likely possibility is that the last words of the section were followed by blankness. Recognizing that the section was ending, Joseph then told the scribe to write the word chapter, with the understanding that the appropriate number would be added later.
There is considerable evidence in both manuscripts to support this interpretation. First, the word chapter is never used by any writer in the text itself, unlike the term book, which is used to refer to an individual book in the Book of Mormon (such as the book of Helaman) as well as a whole set of plates (such as the book of Nephi, meaning the large plates of Nephi).
Second, chapters are assigned before the beginning of a book. For instance, in the original manuscript, we have the following at the beginning of 2 Nephi:
         Chapter VIII


     second                Chapter I
The /\ Book of Nephi /\ An account of the death of Lehi...

Oliver Cowdery first wrote Chapter at the conclusion of the last section in 1 Nephi—that is, at the conclusion of Chapter VII in the original chapter system; our current chapter system dates from Orson Pratt’s 1879 edition of the Book of Mormon (which has 22 chapters in 1 Nephi). At this point, Joseph Smith had no indication that a new book was beginning. All he could see was the end of Chapter VII (namely, the words “and thus it is Amen” followed probably by blankness or maybe a special symbol). Later, when Oliver was adding the chapter numbers, he first assigned the Roman numeral VIII to this first chapter of 2 Nephi. But when he realized that this was actually the beginning of a new book, he crossed out the whole chapter designation and inserted (with slightly weaker ink flow) “Chapter I” after the title of the book, which originally was simply designated as “The Book of Nephi”. Later he realized that there was more than one book of Nephi, which led him to also insert the word second (with considerably heavier ink flow).
This system of assigning chapters also explains why the two manuscripts have chapter numbers assigned to the short books found at the end of the small plates (Enos, Jarom, Omni, and the Words of Mormon) as well as 4 Nephi. These books contain only one section, but at the beginning of each of these short books, Joseph Smith apparently had no knowledge that this was the case. This fact further shows that Joseph himself did not know in advance the contents or structure of the text.
Probably the strongest evidence that the word chapter is not original to the revealed text is that the chapter numbers are assigned later in both manuscripts. The numbers are almost always written with heavier ink flow and more carefully. In many cases, Oliver Cowdery took time to add serifs to his Roman numerals. On the other hand, his Chapter is always written rapidly and with the same general ink flow as the surrounding text. In the printer’s manuscript, at the beginning of Chapter XVII in Alma (now the beginning of Alma 36), the Roman numeral XVII was written in blue ink, not the normal black ink. This example clearly suggests that this part of the original manuscript itself did not yet have chapter numbers assigned to it when Oliver started to copy it, perhaps six months after it had been dictated.
Let that sink in. When Joseph finished First Nephi, he didn't know he was done. He just said chapter, and then continued dictation. When he began Words of Mormon and other short books, he didn't know there would be only one chapter and this no need for breaking it up into chapters at all. The evidence from the manuscripts suggests that as he was dictating his text, he was dictating something he was not intimately familiar with. He didn't know the structure that was to follow.

Some have supposed that his "hat trick" of dictating text could be done by just memorizing sections of an already carefully worked out document. If he were the fabricator of the document or co-conspirator using someone else's document, whether the document was memorized or just smuggled into the hat with a miraculous flashlight, he would at least have known when a book was finished and when a book was short without chapter breaks. The evidence from the manuscripts challenges theories based on fabrication by Joseph. 

A plausible theory for the Book of Mormon as a modern fabrication needs to account for witnesses--not only the numerous witnesses of the gold plates, but the witnesses of the translation process, and the surviving witnesses of the Original Manuscript and the Printer's Manuscript. Those manuscripts witness not only of the dictated, oral nature of the Book of Mormon translation, but also of Joseph's own ignorance of the structure of the text he was dictating. They also witness of Hebraisms and other artifacts of language that challenge any theory based on Joseph as the author. These witnesses need to be explained, especially the witnesses of ink and paper that continue to speak. Something fascinating is happening on those pages, and it merits further study.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Aural and Oral: The Raw Book of Mormon as Dictated By Joseph Smith

When I first examined the published text from the Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon, I was embarrassed at all the non-standard grammar. But now I find it to be a fascinating glimpse into the miracle of the translation process, looking at the raw language that was dictated, hour after hour, as Joseph sought inspiration as he shut out his surroundings and stared at some kind of tangible aid, a seerstone, held inside a hat.

The bad grammar issue is becoming a puzzling but fascinating topic for further research as we learn that almost everything that offends us as bad grammar, much of which Joseph and others edited out of the text later to be more standard English, turns out to be acceptable grammar in Early Modern English, especially in the years just before the KJV. That's right: the English of the Book of Mormon shows a strong pre-KJV and non-KJV influence that, based on the data, cannot be easily explained by Joseph just imitating the KJV. The reasons for this and its implications are not the focus of this post, though I will mention that Stanford Carmack has just added two more strong article giving further evidence for the role of Early Modern English in the Book of Mormon. See "Joseph Smith Read the Words" and "The More Part of the Book of Mormon Is Early Modern English," wherein Carmack examines another unusual English construct that distinguishes the Book of Mormon from both the Bible and apparently American dialects, as far as we know.

Still struggling to leave this tangent! But let me first mention that the case for strong Early Modern English influence in the original dictated language of the Book of Mormon is not driven by any kind of apologetic agenda, but by the data. Skousen and Carmack are examining surprising elements in the data and following the data through meticulous investigation. The data is pointing somewhere, somewhere interesting but perplexing. Let's see where it leads. I was quite skeptical when I first heard the argument, but I've looked at the data and have examined other hypotheses, such as the possibility of Yankee dialect having artifacts that would give rise to the textual surprises pointing to EModE influence. I've also looked at other examples of Joseph Smith's writing, such as in the 1835 Book of Commandments, to find evidence that EModE elements in the Book of Mormon was his natural language. You can roll your eyes all you want, but I challenge you to dig into the data and give me a better explanation for the network of evidence Carmack has been uncovering from many different angles. Something interesting is going on in the original text that Joseph dictated. Carmack sometimes states things more strongly or with more of an edge than I would, but I think his work is excellent and demands more careful, thoughtful consideration. Too often it is simply ignored as people say, "What? Why would God use Early Modern English? That makes no sense." The most exciting discoveries in life come when the data points to something that makes no sense in light of our old paradigms. Shaking up old, inaccurate paradigms for more accurate ones can be disorienting and painful, but it's also exciting. It's progress. So let's see where the data actually leads. If it eventually points to nothing more than Joseph's own outlier dialect of English coupled with some lucky, natural deviations in grammar inspired by the KJV and other sources, it might actually be a relief. Easier to deal with, at least.

Now to today's actual post. Exploring the words of the Original Manuscript and especially Skousen's Earliest Text no longer embarrasses me. Instead, I am thrilled at the echo of Joseph's voice as he dictated raw text not taken from a carefully prepared manuscript from some scholarly collaborator or committee of technical advisors and ghost writers, but from inspiration as he shut out the world and transmuted text from gold plates into ink and paper laden with a treasure in archaic English. Numerous witnesses of this rapid translation work, including at least one non-LDS witness, consistently described what happened and make it clear that the process involved oral dictation that was copied by a scribe.

Joseph was not using a manuscript. He dictated text and the scribe wrote it down. That became the Original Manuscript. It was then copied and delivered to the printer. Remnants of these manuscripts today clearly witness to the reality of these processes, with abundant evidence that the Original Manuscript was the result of scribes hearing words and writing them down, while the Printer's Manuscript shows evidence of scribes seeing words (on the Original Manuscript) and copying them down. This evidence has been discussed in many of the works of Royal Skousen, such as his "How Joseph Smith Translated the Book of Mormon: Evidence from the Original Manuscript." For example, there are many cases where we can see scribal mistakes due to mishearing the spoken text. One example from Skousen:

 In 1 Nephi 13:29 of the original manuscript the scribe (not yet identified, but designated as scribe 2) wrote down the following: 
& because of these things which are taken away out of the gosple of the Lamb & exceeding great many do stumble 
Obviously, scribe 2 misheard “an exceeding great many” as “and exceeding great many”. The scribe’s use of the ampersand (&) shows that the error was not based on visual similarity. Hearing an, the scribe interpreted it as the casual speech form an’  for and.
Other interesting changes can be seen in the Appendix of The Earliest Text giving "Significant Textual Changes." For example, when Nephi quoted Isaiah 14:19 in 2 Nephi 24:19, Isaiah's "raiment of those that are slain" apparently was misheard and was written as the "remnant of those that are slain." A natural aural mistake for someone writing oral diction. "I have removed the borders" in Isaiah 10:13 became "moved the borders" in Nephi's quotation in 2 Nephi 20:13. "Found the kingdoms" in Isaiah 10:10 became "founded the kingdoms" in 2 Nephi 20:10. Likewise Ramah from Isaiah 10:29 became Ramath in 2 Nephi 20:29. These are examples of apparent errors that entered into the early Book of Mormon manuscripts that were or, in some cases, may still be in need of correction. These kind of errors from the aural and oral nature of the Book of Mormon translation process don't just occur in quotations from the Bible, of course. They are found throughout the text, but I think their presence in the Isaiah passages are significant because it reminds us that even the Isaiah passages weren't created by just dragging out a Bible and copying from it (related: "Did Joseph Use a Bible?"). Those passages were probably also dictated. And as far as we know, based on what multiple witnesses saw and based on the evidence we can see in the Original Manuscript and Printer's Manuscript, the text was dictated and recorded by scribes. Nobody saw a manuscript that Joseph used. Nobody saw a Bible that he pulled out when it was time for Bible quotes. It looks like that oral dictation process was in use steadily.

If there was a time when a Bible was used to simplify the translation work, I would guess that it would be for Isaiah 4 through 9 quoted in 2 Nephi 14 through 19, where Skousen's list of significant changes in the Appendix shows a gap, while there seem to be periodic changes in the chapters before and after due to possible scribal errors. That could be because a more careful and accurate scribe was used during those chapters, or for other reasons. (I also think this section probably isn't covered in what we have left of the Original Manuscript, though I haven't checked yet.)

On the other hand, whether there are scribal errors or not, there are numerous other apparently intentional changes in the Book of Mormon's quotations from Isaiah and other parts of the Bible. Some are subtle, such as the recently discovered Hebraism in 2 Nephi 12:2 as it quotes Isaiah 2:2 One little word is changed as that becomes when, but in so doing, significant meaning is added in the process as an interesting Hebraism is introduced in a way that is relevant to the Restoration. Subtle, but cool. See Paul Hoskisson, "Was Joseph Smith Smarter Than the Average Fourth Year Hebrew Student? Finding a Restoration-Significant Hebraism in Book of Mormon Isaiah" at Mormon Interpreter.

And yet, of course, there are still problems. The text quoted seems to follow the KJV when it is good enough, and "good enough" includes errors (generally of no doctrinal significance) in the KJV that some folks insist should have been fixed if Joseph really was inspired. I'm all for total perfection, even in details that don't really matter,  and often demand it in others. Fortunately it's not part of my set of expectations for the Book of Mormon. Human errors have not been completely excised, whether they are errors from Nephite writers, Joseph Smith, scribes, typesetters, or, whoever else had a hand in the Book of Mormon and its translation, including whoever is responsible for those puzzling Early Modern English elements. Stay tuned, and keep your paradigms ready to roll.


Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Faithful Latter-day Saints Dealing with the New LDS Policy on Same-Sex Marriage

Many Latter-day Saints have struggled with the Church's new guidelines in the Handbook of Instructions on dealing with same-sex relationships and children raised by same-sex couples. It's a sensitive issue for many, especially those of us who have close family members who are gay or who are otherwise strongly affected by the issue of same-sex marriage. While the Church's statements to clarify the guidelines have been helpful (see the context provided by Elder Christofferson at MormonNewsroom.org and the recent letter from the First Presidency with some clarification), it has still been easy for Latter-day Saints to feel pain and confusion over this highly charged, sensitive issue, especially when we see bitterness or disappointment from those we love.

For those who are confused and disappointed by the policy guidelines regarding families same sex marriage, I'd like to point to the example of one woman who has been an inspiration to me and many others here in Asia and in other parts of the world. She's given me permission to share a letter she wrote to a friend about her personal struggle with the new guidelines. I think the way this faithful woman dealt with the issue is an excellent example for how to deal with these kind of challenges intelligently, but also with patience and faith. I don't know if the conclusions she draws about the need for some kind of policy like this are correct, for that involves complex legal matters. I need to explore that matter later, but for now, I want to call attention to the approach she took.

She has given me permission to use her name, but I'll just call her "Jeannie G." Here's the letter:

Dear N----,   

Like you, I was upset by the new church policy on gay family members when it was first announced. Many members who don’t personally know any gay people (or think they don’t know any) seem to be less troubled by the new policy. But for those of us who have gay friends and family members, it was hard not to feel distraught.

I would like to share with you my experience in dealing with this issue in hope that it might help you in your own struggle.

In recent years I have been heartened by the small but significant steps taken by the Church to provide support to gay members and their families.  These include: Acknowledging the difference between feelings and behavior. Advising parents to support their gay kids, and not to kick them out. Encouraging gay members to stay with the church, because we need them, and creating the mormonsandgays.org website.  All showed much needed acceptance and respect for a maligned group of members who didn’t ask to be gay. As the website states: “With love and understanding the Church reaches out to all God’s children including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”

After these efforts, the new policy seemed to take a step backwards. It first struck me as unkind and unnecessarily painful. My heart goes out to gay members who still have a testimony, or are trying to salvage their testimony, while hoping to find a supportive environment in the Church that they love. I was heartsick with the implied message of the new policy: “You are not wanted here. The Church is no longer your home.”

I am extremely grateful for the gospel. I grew up in a difficult family situation. I could not have survived without the support and direction of the Church. The gospel saved me. So it pained me to think that the innocent children of gay members would be excluded from the resources and strength of the Church community.

I have found the gospel provides rich satisfying truths and a clear logic. I was totally baffled by the new policy that seemed to have none of those defining hallmarks.

After a three week struggle with many heartfelt, tearful prayers, I got an answer. Most of my inspiration comes in the night or early morning, as did this. I awoke one morning to find this answer: The Church had to do it. With legalized gay marriage, the Church is now vulnerable to being sued by some LDS gay couple claiming a right to a temple sealing. Children of gay couples could also sue, thus the need for them to formally disavow the gay lifestyle should they join the Church at age 18. The policy was not intended to divide family loyalties. It is to provide legal protection to the Church. Understanding the legal reasoning, despite my negative first impression, helped me see that the Church is not trying to denigrate those with same sex attraction. Although it creates a wrenching dilemma for gay members, I now see that the general authorities clearly had to institute this new policy.  Currently it would be difficult to sue with the religious guarantees that presently stand.  I believe the church is putting the policies in place now for the future safety and well being of the institution.

Although it would have helped if the Church had reiterated the positive message from the website while announcing the new policy, I hope that gay members can still find solace from mormomsandgays.org website. It’s still up and running.

I worry that with married gay members now facing a disciplinary council for apostasy, some members might feel justified in condemning or mistreating all gay people. We need to remember the policy was established not to condemn gay members, but rather to protect the temple. As disciples of Christ we are to give succor and support to all those who struggle, whether gay or straight. That love and support is needed now more than ever in these difficult times.

I hope this has been helpful.


Jeannie

This woman is a powerhouse of compassion and intelligence, and if you know her personally, I think you would agree. I always learn something from her. Thank you for caring and for your example of dealing with a challenging, difficult issue. 

Update, Jan. 5: Whatever the reasons are behind the policy, I think those who strongly disagree with it should realize that people with different views on gay marriage are not necessarily driven by hate or bigotry. Too many people are trained to think--a word I use loosely--that those who disagree with them must be VEPs (Very Evil People). There is a genuine debate here, as there is on many social issues, and intelligent people can be on both sides, even intelligent non-Nazis. To assume that the guidelines and policies related to gay marriage are driven by bigotry and hate is neither fair nor reasonable. See "The Brethren are not Bigots" by Cassandra Hedelius, a thoughtful and valuable post.

Since we don't have infallible leaders, it is possible for mistakes to occur. Faithful Latter-day Saints who disagree with a decision or policy can fairly wonder if it's a mistake, and if so, hope that it will be swiftly corrected. On the other hand, we should also be willing to ask if perhaps there is something we personally don't yet understand or see properly. We should have the courtesy and civility to recognize that leaders who view something differently aren't necessarily bad people or failed leaders, and may have legitimate reasons for their view that we don't yet appreciate. That's a reasonably faithful approach to sustaining our mortal leaders. Denouncing them is not.

For those interesting in understanding this issue, an excellent discussion is provided at FAIRMormon.org in "A Look at the Church’s New Policy on Children of Gay Couples." This touches briefly about some of the legal issues that could be involved and may suggest that Jeannie G.'s conclusion has merit. It also carefully explains what the policy does and what it doesn't do. What you've heard about it may not be very accurate or fair.