LDS church announces major baptism policy change for children of LGBT parents

SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Thursday a major shift in its policy regarding baptisms of children of parents who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

"At the direction of the First Presidency, President Oaks shared that effective immediately, children of parents who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender may be baptized without First Presidency approval if the custodial parents give permission for the baptism and understand both the doctrine that a baptized child will be taught and the covenants he or she will be expected to make," a news release from the LDS church said.

The policy change is a reversal of the controversial November 2015 announcement in which an update to the LDS church's handbook stated a child of a parent "who has lived or is living in a same-gender relationship" could only be baptized with approval from the church's highest governing body, the First Presidency.

The announcement in 2015 prompted a mass resignation event in which hundreds of people gathered in Salt Lake City to simultaneously fill out paperwork to officially leave the church.

According to Thursday's announcement, the LDS church no longer characterizes same-sex married couples as apostates.

"While we still consider such a marriage to be a serious transgression, it will not be treated as apostasy for purposes of Church discipline. Instead, the immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated in the same way," Thursday's announcement said.

Read the announcement released Thursday morning, which the LDS church attributed to First Counselor Dallin H. Oaks:

At the direction of the First Presidency, President Oaks shared that effective immediately, children of parents who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender may be baptized without First Presidency approval if the custodial parents give permission for the baptism and understand both the doctrine that a baptized child will be taught and the covenants he or she will be expected to make.

A nonmember parent or parents (including LGBT parents) can request that their baby be blessed by a worthy Melchizedek Priesthood holder. These parents need to understand that congregation members will contact them periodically, and that when the child who has been blessed reaches 8 years of age, a Church member will contact them and propose that the child be baptized.

Previously, our Handbook characterized same-gender marriage by a member as apostasy. While we still consider such a marriage to be a serious transgression, it will not be treated as apostasy for purposes of Church discipline. Instead, the immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated in the same way.

The very positive policies announced this morning should help affected families. In addition, our members’ efforts to show more understanding, compassion and love should increase respect and understanding among all people of goodwill. We want to reduce the hate and contention so common today. We are optimistic that a majority of people — whatever their beliefs and orientations — long for better understanding and less contentious communications. That is surely our desire, and we seek the help of our members and others to attain it.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski released the following statement Thursday:
“Today’s announcement from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to reverse its policy regarding the children of LGBTQ parents, is welcome and moving news.

When this policy was announced, shortly after I was elected mayor, I said I hoped if my sons decided to join the Church, they would not be forced to choose between the love of a church community and the love of their parents.

During my first meeting with Church officials, I delivered a letter in which I tried to capture the hurt and fear this policy inflicted upon our entire community. I am grateful for this revelation and for Church leaders acting upon it. This action is supportive of families and may even save lives.”

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