Friday, November 6, 2015
New Church Policy Shows Great Respect, Love
There is a big uproar over the Church’s announcement of new guidelines for dealing with the children of gay couples and much of the media is not helping. Here are three actual headlines.
“New Mormon Policy Makes Apostates of Married Same-sex Couples, bars children from rites”
“LDS Church Says Children of Same-sex Couples Cannot be Members”
“LDS Church: Mormons Bar Children of Gay Parents Unless they Reject Their Families.”
Now, here is the actual policy guideline from the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"November 3, 2015, Policies on Ordinances for Children of a Parent Living in a Same-Gender Relationship
The following additions to Handbook 1 have been approved by the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for immediate implementation.
A new section in Handbook 1, 16.13 will be added as follows:
Children of a Parent Living in a Same-Gender Relationship
A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may not receive a name and a blessing. A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may be baptized and confirmed, ordained, or recommended for missionary service only as follows:
A mission president or a stake president may request approval from the Office of the First Presidency to baptize and confirm, ordain, or recommend missionary service for a child of a parent who has lived or is living in a same-gender relationship when he is satisfied by personal interviews that both of the following requirements are met:
1. The child accepts and is committed to live the teachings and doctrine of the Church, and specifically disavows the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage.
2. The child is of legal age and does not live with a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same-gender cohabitation relationship or marriage."
Is there anywhere in that guideline the use of the word ‘ban’ or a statement that a child of same-sex marriage couples cannot become a member?
Is there anywhere in that guideline a phrase that, to become a member, children with same-sex parents have to 'reject their families' or stop loving them?
So, let’s break this guideline down, piece by piece, and really look at it...not just twist it around.
“A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may not receive a name and a blessing.”
Think about this for a moment. This is a guideline for those young children whose parent is LIVING in a same-gender relationship. The policy doesn’t say anything about the child raised by a parent who has same-gender attraction but is keeping the Lord’s standards of chastity and marriage. It is only a caveat for those same-gender couples who come to the Church wanting their child blessed while they are living in open disregard of their doctrines.
Now ask yourself this, why would a same-sex couple bring their child to receive a blessing from a religion whose doctrines they do not accept and have no intention of living? If the parents are doing so to press their own agenda, cause conflict, or bring attention, then the Church's guideline is protecting an innocent child from being placed in the position of pawn or, worse, media weapon. Is it hard to understand why the Church would want to protect a child from that situation?
What about the next part of the guideline? “A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may be baptized and confirmed, ordained, or recommended for missionary service.”
Wait a minute...don’t the headlines and the blog posts claim the children of gay parents CAN'T be baptized…that they are banned…deemed 'apostates'...and can’t become members?
That's what the headlines and blogs claim but the Church's actual policy is very clear. Children of gay parents CAN be baptized and confirmed. They can be ordained to the priesthood. They can even serve missions.
As long as they meet two basic criteria.
One—"The child accepts and is committed to live the teachings and doctrine of the Church, and specifically disavows the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage." This criteria is the same for anyone who comes in for a baptismal interview. Everyone, regardless of age and upbringing, is asked if they accept and are committed to living the teachings and doctrines of the Church. If someone has a background that may cause him special struggles, the interviewer will help that person search their own feelings about those issues. If the person cannot accept the Lord’s position on any doctrine, including marriage and same-gender relationships, then that person is not ready to be baptized at that time. Can they be baptized later if they choose? Yes.
The Church has many good, strong, baptized members who have same-gender attractions. They fill callings, serve missions, and attend the temple. I love their courage, example and their commitment. Same-gender attraction is not the problem and never has been. It is breaking the law of chastity or espousing it as acceptable that will preclude someone from baptism. And the law of chastity extends not only to those involved in same-gender relationships but to those in hetero-gender relationships outside of marriage as well. And since the Lord only accepts marriage between a man and a women, then the person being interviewed for baptism must also realize and accept that same-gender marriage, while now legal in the U.S. and some other countries, is not the standard the Lord has requested of us.
This is not a new set of standards for baptism. This is simply reiterating the Lord’s eternal standards and taking the time to ensure someone, who may feel personal conflict, is clear on what the Lord expects and why, and is willing to accept and live those standards. If they can't then they won't be baptized at that time. People shouldn’t join a religion because they think the religion needs to change. That’s rather arrogant, don’t you think? People join a religion for the change and blessing it can bring to them.
The second criteria is the child of same-sex parents “is of legal age and does not live with a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same-gender cohabitation relationship or marriage.”
So why would the Church say children of same-sex parents should be 18 and not living with the parent involved in same-gender relationships before they are baptized?
Because the Church does not want to break apart families!
They do not want the children to 'reject' their parents, as the headlines are trying to claim. (The disavowing is of the practice, not the person.) The Church is intentionally trying to avoid putting emotional strain on a child who might be being raised and loved by same-gender parents! They do not want the child to feel conflict over what the Church teaches and what the child is living. In truth, what kind of Church would ask a child to endure that?
The Church has always put the parent-child relationship ahead of baptism and this guideline continues to do that. Parents have always had to agree to their child’s baptism and even if same-gender parents agree to let their child be baptized, the conflict between the Church’s doctrine and the parent's lifestyle could cause emotional harm and distress both to the child and the parent. Again, what kind of a Church would willingly do that?
When the child is legally an adult and not living with the parent involved in same-gender relationships, if the child still wants to be baptized and is willing to accept and live the standards, then he can. By waiting until he is an adult and out of a same-gender based home he is better able to make and keep his covenants without causing conflicts in the home where he was raised.
This guideline was issued out of respect for that home—not disrespect for it—for the Church has always respected home, family and parental authority. So, anyone who says the Church is against children of gay couples has either not thoughtfully read the guideline or does not understand that the Church is trying to protect the most valuable of all of God’s creations…His children of all ages. They are trying to do it without harming the harmony of the home, the child or the parents regardless of the relationships the parents choose. This guideline of respect protects families with gay parents from having their home and loyalties divided.
An experience of a friend of mine might be a good way to end this blog. She married a nonmember and they began to have an issue over a particular Church doctrine…tithing. She wanted to pay it, he did not. The tension built until she finally went to her bishop hoping he would talk some sense into her husband. The bishop listened to her side then simply told her, “Don’t pay it.”
Stunned, she asked him why. His answer is one we need to remember. “The Lord is in the business of building eternal families, not destroying them.”
The Lord’s Church is here to build and strengthen families…all families…not destroy them and fill them with conflict. If a child of gay parents sincerely wants to be baptized and has to wait a few years so there can be more harmony in his home and with his parents, why is there an uproar?
I am very grateful the Church has issued this guideline to protect those families with same-gender parents. I am grateful He loves those children and their parents enough to protect them from conflicts in their home and at church.
For two great articles further addressing this issue, check out
A Look at the Church's New Policy on Children of Gay Couples
The 9 Facebook Myths About the Churchs New LGBT Policy