In a bold move just days before the upcoming General Conference of the Church, LDS leadership has rescinded policies that, for the last three and a half years, have more or less prohibited the baptism of children of gay parents and formally defined being in a gay marriage as apostasy. The announcement was posted at the Mormon Newsroom on Thursday, April 4:
Here are the paragraphs in the announcement outlining the new approach:
[E]ffective 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.
Here is a story that was quickly posted at the Salt Lake Tribune, followed by a quote from the article:
Oaks was clear that the Utah-based faith is not revising its doctrine on homosexuality, which teaches that having same-sex attraction is not a sin, but acting on it is.
“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 newsroom statement said. “The doctrine of the plan of salvation and the importance of chastity will not change.”
And here is a story that was quickly posted at the Deseret News, followed by a quote from the article:
President Russell M. Nelson, who succeeded President Monson as church president, was president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 2015. He said in early 2016 that the November 2015 policies were the result of revelation. Latter-day Saints believe that God directs the church through ongoing revelation through a living prophet, the church president. President Nelson, who became the church president in January 2018, told general and area authorities from around the world during Thursday morning’s meeting that a flurry of policy changes over the past year were inspired by revelation.
I suspect most Mormons will see this change as a very welcome move. In coming days, there will no doubt be a great deal of discussion on this change. First, if the November Policy was a revelation in 2015, un-revealing it in 2019, less than four years later, deserves some explanation. There seems to be some confusion about what is a revelation, what is a doctrine, what is a policy, and what is just an administrative decision, or whether these labels even mean anything anymore. Second, it’s still rather unclear what is the status of LDS individuals in a gay marriage. Local leaders need to get some additional clearer guidance on how to proceed.
But for today, this is great news and we all look forward to further commentary on this policy change in the upcoming General Conference this weekend.