SALT LAKE CITY – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is confirming new policies affecting members in same-sex relationships and their children, and the changes mean that children of same-sex couples cannot become members of the LDS Church unless they are of legal age, are no longer living with their parents, and have disavowed the practice of same-sex relationships.
The LDS Church has made changes to its handbook for Bishops and Stake Presidents, known as Handbook 1, reflecting those new policies. The changes prompted responses from the group Equality Utah and a prominent former Mormon who was excommunicated on grounds of apostasy.
The LDS Church will not permit children of parents in a same-sex marriage, “natural or adopted”, to receive a name and a blessing, which is a ceremony performed by members of the faith’s priesthood.
In addition, children of same-sex parents would have to wait until they are of legal age and are no longer living with their parents in order to be baptized, confirmed, ordained and/or recommended for missionary service. The child would also have to commit to living the teachings of the LDS Church and disavow the practice of same-sex relationships and marriage.
The LDS Church says the concern is that the expectations of church attendance, baptism, priesthood ordination and other ordinances would put the child in a very difficult position, considering the parents could not be church members. And, the teachings in the home most likely would not be consistent with LDS Church doctrine.
The three new policies also include a clarification of what constitutes apostasy, including a new criteria of members who, “Are in a same-gender marriage.”
A statement from an LDS Church spokesman released Thursday states:
“Church handbooks are policy and procedural guides for lay leaders who must administer the Church in many varied circumstances throughout the world. The Church has long been on record as opposing same-sex marriages. While it respects the law of the land, and acknowledges the right of others to think and act differently, it does not perform or accept same-sex marriage within its membership.”
As before, the list of criteria for apostasy also includes repeated public opposition to LDS Church leaders, persistent teaching of false doctrine, persistently following the teachings of apostate sects–such as those that advocate plural marriage–and formally joining another church and advocating its teachings.
The new policies appear in a new edition of Handbook 1, which is used by LDS Bishops, Stake Presidents and other priesthood leaders to govern the church. Handbook 1 is not available to the public.
Troy Williams, executive director for the group Equality Utah, released a statement in response to the changes.
“In America all churches have the religious liberty to welcome or exclude whomever they desire. We know that children of same-sex parents are treasures of infinite worth. In our universe, all God’s children have a place in the choir.”
John Dehlin, the man behind the Mormon Stories podcast who was excommunicated from the LDS Church for apostasy, also reacted to the policy change, calling it a “sad day for Mormonism.”
In a post on Facebook, Dehlin said the changes are “sad” for many people. He stated: “We are all diminished by this unfortunate action. As the LDS church continues to paint itself into a corner, it risks becoming increasingly irrelevant to the developed world. Perhaps this is for the best. We shall see.”
The full post from Dehlin is embedded below: