LDS Church says handbook changes are compassionate towards children

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LDS Church
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve explains changes in the church leadership handbook regarding same-sex couples and their children. (LDS Church)

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the LDS Church’s Quorum of the Twelve said Friday that changes in the church leadership handbook regarding same-sex marriage are meant to remove questions and doubts about the LDS Church’s stance on gay marriage and avoid potential issues within families.

After someone shared updates to the confidential handbook with the media on Thursday, Mormons and others have taken to social media expressing diverse opinions about the changes. The church responded to this dialogue by releasing an interview with Elder Christofferson, who provided more detail and background about why the changes were made.

“We recognize that same-sex marriages are now legal in the United States and some other countries,” Elder Christofferson said, “and that people have the right if they choose to enter into those, and we understand that, but that’s not a right that exists in the church. That’s the clarification.”

Elder Christofferson continued by saying recent changes in the law have prompted The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to differentiate between the law and the standards of the church and the Lord.

The apostle described a handbook change sent to local church leaders on Thursday that prohibits children from same-sex couple families from receiving a naming blessing or being baptized before being emancipated as an act of compassion, not exclusion.

When a child receives a naming blessing or is baptized, a church membership record is made, Elder Christofferson said. With membership comes the expectation of attending church and living church standards, which may cause friction between the child and his or her parents, who may not approve of these expectations and standards.

To avoid that potential situation for tension within a family, the church has determined that children of same-sex couples should be old enough to make an informed decision about the commitments that come with church membership.

“Nothing is lost to them in the end if that’s the direction they want to go,” Elder Christofferson said about children from same-sex couples who wait until they are adults to be baptized. “In the meantime, they’re not placed in a position where there will be difficulties, challenges, conflicts that can injure their development in very tender years.”

Elder Christofferson said this type of policy is not new to the LDS Church. A similar policy exists for children from polygamous families.

For children from same-sex families who want to serve a mission, the new policy describes how they must disavow same-sex marriage. The apostle explained that the missionaries would not be disavowing their parents, only the practice of same-sex couples and marriage.

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