The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced in a statement Thursday that children of parents who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender will be permitted to be baptized without First Presidency approval.
In the statement, President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the Church’s First Presidency, commented on the Church Handbook’s previous characterization of same-gender marriage 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,” President Oaks said. “Instead, the immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated in the same way.”
The new policy will also allow LGBTQ parents to have their babies be blessed in the Church.
“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,” President Oaks said.
President Oaks spoke of the First Presidency’s desire to “reduce hate and contention so common today,” which he said can be accomplished through efforts to show more understanding, compassion and love.
The previous policy requiring children of LGBTQ parents to obtain First Presidency approval before baptism, baby blessings or a recommendation for missionary service was implemented in November 2015.
Rather than seeing the change as a step forward, some BYU students who spoke with The Daily Universe Thursday see it more as a “backtrack,” according to senior Liza Holdaway. “It is better than it was before, it is positive, but I would love to see more progress.”
Similarly, junior Carolyn Gassert said she feels the change will be a “good step back towards the true doctrine that God loves all of his children the same.”
According to Gospel Principles, the Church considers homosexual behavior as a serious sin. The statement declares immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated the same way, but many students were concerned because of the difference in what has been considered immoral conduct depending on sexual orientation.
“I think it’s a really positive step and I think that it takes back a lot of the negative outlooks and things that the Church has put out there in the past, but I still think it’s really scary and ambiguous as far as just the wording, what it really means and what this means for the future,” said sophomore Garrett Taylor.
Seniors Jonathan Lifferth and Emily Schaumann said while they were happy about the change, they were sad for their friends in the LGBTQ community who felt like they needed to leave the Church and the family they grew up with because of their sexual orientation.
While some students were concerned about the implications of the change, others were just happy to know the Church is progressing.
“I think it’s great. I’m happy that the Church has continued revelation and that the Church can provide means to further the cause of preparing the world for the second coming of Jesus Christ and that includes making some adjustments for LGBTQ members of the Church and non-members,” said junior Kwaku El.
Junior Calvin Burke said he had many friends who were never able to come to peace with the policy previously in place because it didn’t seem to make sense with the Church’s Second Article of Faith, which says everyone is given the agency to choose right or wrong.
“Even if we believe that LGBTQ relationships are not something that’s ordained of God currently, it didn’t make sense that small children were the ones being punished for that. Kids that never had a part in the decisions of their parents,” Burke said.
Burke also referenced a tweet from Equality Utah Director Troy Williams, saying this change will save lives and be an immense blessing for many people.
The hardest part of my job is quickly finding words to adequately capture overwhelming emotion — & then responding to an onslaught of press! I’m grateful to Church leaders for listening and reversing the policy. This will keep families intact. This will save lives. More soon.
— Troy Williams (@TroyWilliamsUT) April 4, 2019
“I think, ultimately, this is a day of absolute redemption for LGBTQ Latter-day Saints,” Burke said. “This, to me, feels like the light that comes over the hill just before the sun comes up. I think this is the beginning of a renaissance, a new era in LGBTQ/Latter-day Saint relations.”