The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, unofficially known as the Mormon Church, made an about-face on an issue concerning the children of same-sex couples: baptism, reversing a 2015 policy.
The Church announced that at the 189th Annual General Conference on April 4, first counselor in the First Presidency Dallin Oaks “outlined a new policy.”
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.”
Under the new policy, a parent who is not a member or parents can ask that their baby be blessed, but congregation members will contact them occasionally. Additionally, when the child reaches the age of eight-years-old, a church member will be in touch and ask that the child be baptized.
According to Church leaders, the new policies are “very positive” and “should help affected families,” adding, “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.”
The Church continues to consider same-gender marriage by a member “to be a serious transgression,” but says it will no longer “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.”
This reverses the Church’s Nov., 2015, rule that the children — either adopted or biological — could not have a baby naming, be baptized, confirmed, ordained or participate in mission service.
Until this month, the child would have to turn 18 to be baptized and then disavow same-sex marriage. Further, the child could no longer live with a parent who has been in a same-sex relationship.
The Book of Mormon teaches sexual sins are “most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost” (Alma 39:5). The Church law of chastity is a grave moral code. It states “sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife,” and violation could mean excommunication.
Earlier, the Church taught homosexuality was a curable condition but has since stopped recommending conversion therapy. Also, the Church no longer considers entering a mixed orientation opposite-sex marriage a therapy or solution for LGBT people.
Instead, the Church decided same-sex sexual and romantic feelings are not a choice or sin, and members should be supported in identifying with terms like gay, lesbian or bisexual. But, to remain in good standing, LGBT members need to live a celibate lifestyle without any sexual expression, including masturbation.
Also, the Church of Jesus Christ campaigned heavily in the losing battle against government recognition of same-sex marriage.
Anyone, including non-celibate LGBT people, can attend Church Sunday worship services at regular meetinghouses or chapels. Non-members cannot enter temples, like Philadelphia’s located at 18th and Vine streets. Emergency responders who occasionally need to enter a temple are escorted by temple personnel.
Philadelphia’s temple was the 152nd completed worldwide, the first in Pennsylvania, and the only one between Manhattan in New York, and Washington D.C., which is closed for renovations.
Only 151 of 209 temples are operating. The others are categorized as announced, or under construction or renovation.