LDS Church backtracks on same-sex marriage apostasy and blessings, baptisms of children with LGBT parents

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced on the first day of its Spring Conference that it was reversing its 2015 policy that deemed people in same-sex marriages as “apostates” and forbidding children of such marriages from blessing or baptism until age 18, and only after disavowing support for same-sex marriage or cohabitation.

LDS President Dallin Oaks is quoted as having said the announcement was intended to “help affected families” and “to reduce the hate and contention so common today.”

Children of LGBT parents may now be blessed as infants and baptized after their eitghth birthday.

The 2015 policy caused contention among members of the church, and many felt it punished children. At least 1,000 members protested in Salt Lake City and formally resigned their membership after the 2015 announcement.

In January of 2016, Russell M. Nelson said in a worldwide speech that Thomas S. Monson received instructions regarding same-sex couples directly from God.

The announcement this week was made on MormonNewsroom.com. Excerpts follow:

President Russell M. Nelson reflected that throughout this past year, the Lord has blessed them with “revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge … that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.”

President Nelson taught of ministering and repenting, sharing that as we embrace the gift of repentance we will rise up and minister in a holier way and make our homes centers of gospel learning. Israel will be gathered on both sides of the veil, and we will help in preparing the world for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Possibly refuted by many non-Mormons, President Dallin H. Oaks was instructed this morning by the First Presidency that the Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to love and treat all people with kindness and civility — even when we disagree. God has promised all blessings to those who strive to keep His commandments, and we have a duty to “bear one another’s burdens that they may be light.

Oaks’ burgeoning on: “While we cannot change the Lord’s doctrine, we want our members and our policies to be considerate of those struggling with the challenges of mortality.”

“Effective immediately, children of parents who identify themselves as [LGBT] 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.”

Accordingly, the announced policies “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,” Oaks continued, “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.”

These new policies are being sent to priesthood leaders worldwide and will be included in online updates to the Church’s handbook for leaders.

“However, these changes do not represent a shift in Church doctrine related to marriage or the commandments of God in regard to chastity and morality. The doctrine of the plan of salvation and the importance of chastity will not change,” according to the website.

Moreover, the Church claims these policy changes “come after an extended period of counseling with the brethren in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and after fervent, united prayer to understand the will of the Lord on these matters.”

To end, the First Presidency remarked, “We pray these teachings will be received in the same spirit we received them from the Lord and have shared them with our leaders — as positive and inspiring instruction that will bless many lives. With gratitude we acknowledge God’s continuing guidance and love for all His children and invite our members to renew their commitment to follow the teachings of the Savior Jesus Christ to love God and to love one another.”

Today, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski commented on the announcement by saying, “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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