The policy change regarding children of same-sex couples is not intended to discriminate against these children. Its intent is to prevent them from getting caught in a tug-of-war between the Church and their parents.
In November 2015, LDS Church officials issued an instructional letter clarifying that children living in a same-sex household are not allowed to receive the formal Church ordinance of receiving a name and a blessing and must wait to be baptized until they are 18 years old. To some members, both those who experience same-sex attraction and those who do not, this news was a painful blow. Indeed, many people—and multiple news networks—declared that the Church’s actions were discriminatory and distasteful, claiming that the Church seemed to be punishing children for the actions of their parents.
In his article “Understanding the Handbook,” Michael Otterson, the managing director of Church public affairs, clarifies that the policy change goes beyond cementing the Church’s stance on same-sex marriage. The primary purpose of the policy change is to protect families and “to avoid putting little children in a potential tug-of-war between same-sex couples at home and teachings and activities at church.”
The Church has always tried to maintain “sensitivity to family circumstances”: The Church does not baptize minors without parental consent, and married men and women cannot be baptized if their spouse objects. Missionaries do not proselyte in Israel or in most Muslim nations, where there are “particular sensitivities with family” and, in some cases, with the government itself. Furthermore, children of parents who participate in polygamy cannot be baptized until they are 18 years old. The Church does not want to tear families apart and especially does not want to cause contention between children and their parents.
The family is the most important unit of society, and, despite what the media may claim, the Church’s ultimate goal is to preserve that unit. Same-sex couples and their children alike are welcome at Church meetings, and members are counseled to always treat them with kindness and love. But, as Otterson states in his article, just as the Savior “expressed love by teaching clear doctrine and standing firmly against sin,” we likewise must hold firm to God’s commandments regarding marriage and the family and ensure that, above all, families are protected.
Read Michael Otterson’s full article “Understanding the Handbook” to further understand the policy change.
—Sarah Keenan, Mormon Insights
feature image by michal parzuchowski
Watch an interview with Elder Todd D. Christofferson for further information on the context and purpose of the policy changes.
To listen to members’ experiences with same-sex attraction, see mormonandgay.lds.org.
Learn how to reach out to friends and loved ones by reading Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s article “Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction.”
Take a look at the Mormon Insights articles “Understanding the Church’s Stance on Same-Sex Attraction” by Breanna Simmons and “Talking about Same-Sex Attraction” by Lynne Crandall to learn more about the Church’s position concerning same-sex attraction and homosexuality.
Great article! This has been such a hard topic for so many people to address, but this article handles something sensitive really well.
This is such an important topic, and I appreciate that you focus on this. I have a hard time with this–I just want everyone to be happy! But I also know that faith is most important with hard topics like this one. Heavenly Father knows what He’s doing, and we all just need to trust that everything is happening for the best.