The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka Mormons) has made an historic change to policy regarding baptism and church membership. No longer will children in co-habitation with same-sex parents be allowed to join the church. Children reaching eighteen years of age can qualify for baptism should they disavow their same-sex parents, its practice, and no longer live under the auspices of their “apostate” legal guardians.
The new anti-gay marriage policy includes babies of LGBT parents, and withholds Priesthood blessings from them. Children (currently eligible for baptism at eight years old) will be denied membership under the new policy if they are living with gay parents.
The church’s ratcheting up of their anti-gay battle rides the same tide as California’s constitutional amendment, Proposition 8, which forbade recognition or licensing of same-sex marriages. The Church pushed several of their own members in California to not only vote for Prop 8, but in many circumstances encouraged them to donate funds to facilitate the referendum. A number of members were disheartened with the church’s anti-gay political battle.
In a recent interview, Elder D. Todd Christofferson clarified why the church changed its position on baptizing children of same-sex parents. “With the Supreme Court’s decision in the United States, there was a need for a distinction to be made between what may be legal and what may be the law of the church and the law of the Lord and how we respond to that.”
The legalization of same-sex marriages at the federal level has prompted the church to take a harder stance on the issue. The message suggests that children must distance themselves from their same-sex parents in order to become Mormon.
Leadership handbook one has also redefined gay marriage as apostasy and grounds for excommunication (being kicked out of the church). Surprisingly, there is an avid LGBT Mormon community. These members, according to the church, are living in sin, and with the new policy have now been categorized as apostate. Randall Thacker, a spokesman for Affirmation, a support organization of LGBT Mormons said, “it does feel like they’re cutting us further off from the community.” One must wonder if these members will be excommunicated.
The Salt Lake Tribune emphasized Christofferson’s comment that “there is ‘a parallel’ in the way church leaders view polygamy and same-sex marriage.”
The church abandoned polygamy on September 24th, 1890 issuing the “Mormon Manifesto,” calling all members to uphold the anti-polygamy laws of the nation. Though mainstream Mormons do not practice plural marriage, splinter groups of the church like fundamentalists Latter-day Saints still do.
The Tribune added, “The latest LDS handbook also lists polygamy as apostasy, and places restrictions on the participation of children from such families.” It should not be forgotten that the early church practiced Polygamy. Smith, the founder of Mormonism, had as many as 50 wives; many with whom he consummated, and with some he even bore children. If Smith were alive today, he would be labeled an apostate according to modern-day LDS law and shoveled into the same pile as same-sex couples.
It’s important to note that polygamy was not accepted practice even in the mid-eighteen hundreds, and the Church abandoned it in order to attain statehood. If plural marriage were not a requirement for statehood the Mormon Church would have likely maintained the tradition.
Conservative church doctrine does not mingle well with non-traditional relationships. To enter the highest level of celestial glory, one must be baptized, married, and sealed in the temple to a partner (of the opposite sex) for time and all eternity. Failure to do so means receving a lower tier of exaltation. Mormon dogma further holds that women cannot enter the celestial kingdom without a man holding the priesthood. And for the LGBT community this will likely mean excommunication and demotion to a lower kingdom in the afterlife.
The recent policy change has intensified its fight against the LGBT community and made its position clear that it strongly opposes same-sex relationships and marriages.
The new policy will strain those Mormons who are gay and wish to remain active in the church. Mormons will now face further pressure from the church leaders to distance themselves from gay relatives.
What has been a practice of shunning and rejecting gay children will likely intensify in the near future.
The church's stance on same-sex marriages has never been tougher. Backlash from members of the church has already turning frenzied.