A new policy put forth by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints threatens same-sex couples with excommunication and prevents their children from being full members of the faith.
Under the new policy, same-sex couples have been labeled as apostate, equating them with those who have renounced or been traitors to the church. Furthermore, their children are no longer permitted to be baptized while still minors living with their parents.
The traditional path for children in the church is to be blessed in infancy, then baptized at the age of 8, at which point they formally enter a covenant with God and become official members of the church. Children of same-sex couples, however, now cannot be blessed or baptized until they are 18 and no longer live in their parents’ home. They must also disavow same-sex relationships and marriage in order to receive permission from church leaders to be baptized.
This portion of the newly-revised Handbook of Instructions, a guide for leaders of the church, was posted publicly last Thursday by John Dehlin, a man who was excommunicated from the LDS Church in part for supporting civil marriage equality. He later spoke to the Salt Lake Tribune, calling the changes “harmful” and “a level of retrenchment that I don’t think anybody could have envisioned.” There was immediate uproar among other LDS members, many of whom had felt as though the church was moving towards better relationships with the LGBT community.
Despite the general perception of the LDS Church, its members are just as varied in personal beliefs and socio-political opinions as those of any other religion. Affirmation, a group for LGBT Mormons and their supporters, also spoke out against the new policy: “The leadership of Affirmation is united in communicating a message of love to all those who have been so deeply affected by the announcement of the changes to the LDS Church Handbook of Instructions that will exclude the children of gay couples from membership in the Church. We know that God loves all of us, and we mourn with those who mourn because of this new policy.”
The new policy causes a great deal of harm and pain to LGBT members of the LDS Church, as they are now formally forced to choose between their faith and their sexual orientation. In criticizing the new policy, which is absolutely necessary, we must take care not to make general assumptions about the church or its members, for to do so further harms those LGBT members who already feel isolated and rejected by an institution they value.
UPDATE: In response to the new policy, thousands of Mormons are now planning to quit the LDS in a mass resignation event to be held on Saturday.