First Presidency Clarifies Recent Handbook Changes in Official Letter

The First Presidency recently released a new letter in response to questions Church members have about the recent policy changes within the Church regarding those in families with same-sex parents, along with a video that was released last week

"When a child living with such a same-gender couple has already been baptized and is actively participating in the Church, provisions of Section 16.13 do not require that his or her membership activities or priesthood privileges be curtailed or that further ordinances be withheld," the First Presidency stated Friday. They further clarified, "Decisions about any future ordinances for such children should be made by local leaders with their prime consideration being the preparation and best interests of the child. All children are to be treated with utmost respect and love. They are welcome to attend Church meetings and participate in Church activities. All children may receive priesthood blessings of healing and spiritual guidance."

In addition to the letter, the Mormon Newsroom also posted a story written by Michael Otterson, Managing Director of Public Affairs, to help answer the questions of Church members and provide additional clarification and context. In it, he explains the purpose behind the leadership handbook and demonstrates that these same policies are practiced in many circumstances, not just with same-sex families: "This sensitivity to family circumstances is practiced elsewhere. For example, the Church doesn’t baptize minor children without parental consent, even if the children want to be associated with their LDS friends. A married man or woman isn’t baptized if the spouse objects. . ."

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the family is reverenced and children are its centerpiece. Yet last week an instructional letter from Church leadership addressing the sensitive topic of how to respond to same-sex relationships sparked a wave of inquiries from Church members. Most of the questions were about children.
Because the letter was an instructional document to leadership throughout the world, and not a Church-wide announcement through LDS.org or through Church Public Affairs, there was no additional information or context on the usual Church websites. That prompted questions from many Church members, who were mostly reading media headlines portraying the instructions as a rejection of children and refusal to name babies. Members understandably had specific questions about how the announced change might affect their loved ones. . .
Here are the key points to understand as background to the recent changes and additions to the leaders’ Handbook:
  1. It is not a sin simply to feel attraction to another person of the same sex. Some faithful members of the Church experience those attractions yet participate in the Church without breaking the Lord’s commandments. They serve missions and attend the temple.  The Church teaches its members to embrace these brothers and sisters and encourage them in their faithful lives in the Church.
  2. There is no change in the doctrinal position that sexual relations between people of the same sex is sinful.
  3. There is new information in the Handbook that addresses a narrow range of situations involving the children of same-sex couples.

(Read the rest of Michael Otterson's article on Mormon Newsroom here.)

Lead image from Mormon Newsroom.
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