To clarify the LDS Church’s new policy concerning membership for children currently living in same-sex relationship households, the First Presidency issued a letter on Nov. 13 to further explain the church’s position after receiving backlash from its first announcement.
On Nov. 6, the church reaffirmed the policy that any member of the church currently in a same-sex marriage as participating in an apostate practice. The policy also forbids baptism and baby blessings for children living in a same-sex relationship family, though “all children may receive priesthood blessings of healing and spiritual guidance,” as the First Presidency’s Nov. 13 letter states.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson said in an interview with Michael Otterson, managing director of Church Public Affairs, he is sympathetic to the questions that have arisen from the new policy. “They’re difficult, they’re sensitive, they tug at the heartstrings, and they’re very real.” He said the changes were necessary because the church regards “same-sex marriage as a particularly grievous or significant, serious kind of sin that requires Church discipline.”
Esther Lovesee, a former BYU-Hawaii student, grew up in the church while being associated with two mothers of a same-sex relationship household. “Given my background, I can really understand where they are coming from. I wish this policy was in place when I was younger. It was so hard to hear church members saying that same sex couples, or my moms, were not a real family. It hurt and I was divided.”
Lovesee said the new policy doesn’t require chldren in their youth to make a decision until they have reached their maturity. “No child should have to make that choice until they are old enough to understand what they are really deciding. The impact this has on kid’s psyche is huge. I support this policy and how it will protect children from choosing between the church and their family.”
The new section added to “Handbook 1” says children affiliated with same-gender residences will be able to gain entry into the church at the age of 18, after they have disavowed same sex-marriage and received special permission from the church’s governing bodies, according to the church website. However, this policy doesn’t need to affect a child who has already been baptized and is actively participating in the church, says the First Presidency letter.
A similar policy is already in place with those affiliated with polygamy. The special permission for baptism is “so [the child] knows that a practice that is culturally acceptable for many in the region is not acceptable in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” says the church website in an article called “Understanding the Handbook.”
The church clarified the purpose of the policy. “It’s a statement to remove any question or doubt that may exist. We recognize that same-sex marriages are now legal in the United States and some other countries and that people have the right, if they choose, to enter into those, and we understand that. But that is not a right that exists in the Church,” said Elder Christofferson
According to Elder Christofferson, the church will “yield no ground in the matter of love and sympathy” in order to avoid confusion amongst church members in pertaining to laws of the land, and laws of the gospel. “[The policy] originates from a desire to protect children in their innocence,” he added.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the new policy has stirred debate amongst church members and has grabbed national media attention. Groups advocating for LGBT rights have petitioned against the policy and have asked other universities to cancel their sporting events with BYU in Provo. The Salt Lake Tribune reported about 1,300 people had signed a petition asking guest artists in the upcoming Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert to also cancel their appearances.
BYUH student Lucas Marchant, a freshman from Oregon studying psychology, said, “If we sustain and put forth faith in our leaders, we know that they have been directed by God. We may not always understand why things happen, but God does,” he said.
The church released a statement in response to the public outcry, saying it, along with other churches, “organizations, and individuals, promotes the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman because it is a compelling moral issue of profound importance to our religion and to the future of society.”
Uploaded Nov. 20, 2015