Following the LDS church’s update to policies regarding families of same sex marriage. I’ve had many friends ask me lots of questions. Until now, I wanted to keep my thoughts to myself, however, I felt impressed to share my thoughts from what I’ve gathered regarding the change. Below is a list of 6 questions I’ve received over the last few days. If you have anymore, please comment below and ask them. If you think I’m wrong about something, please comment. If you haven’t yet seen it, please watch this video which explains the policy.
Is it even legal?
Not only is the policy legal, it is almost purely legal. In fact, the change actually reinforces the legality of recent supreme court rulings same-sex unions. For those unfamiliar, the LDS church and proponents of same-sex marriage have an interesting legal history filled with ebbs and flows of a unique nature. Some of it has been received positively by the LGBT community. For example, when a Utah judge overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, the LDS church helped author an anti-discrimination bill known as, the “Utah Compromise” which received national attention for how well it was received by the LGBT community. Not long after, the church offered a sizable donation to a local LGBT charity. However, many LGBT people were livid on the stance the church took during California’s via “Proposition 8.” And while this recent policy is merely a byproduct of the continued legal back and forth between the parties, it has reopened wounds for many members of the church and for others who feel affected by it.
A major part of this policy is to provide legal protection for the church: “By categorizing same-sex relationships as apostasy, the Church puts itself in a strong legal position should a same-sex couple sue in order to be married by a bishop or in the temple.”Similar precautions are being taken by many churches in the US. This situation may sound hyperbolic on it’s face, but such extreme cases are certainly not unfounded. In 2013, a group of wealthy men sued the Church of England to allow their gay sons to be married.
In fact, the new marriage laws have opened Pandora’s box to a litany of lawsuits. One firm alone has experienced a 400% increase in legal assistance requests following the new laws. Everyone from a polygamist family in Montana to LGBT activists pushing for other special accommodations have tried to leverage the new law. But the new marriage laws have also drawn criticism from the LGBT community, including a sharp “voice of warning” from the children of LGBT couples in Canada, where such laws were passed ten years ago.
What exactly is the change?
What this change mainly consist of is a re-categorization of how the church deals with families of same sex couples. Where before there was no legal policy on families of same-sex couples, the church has now reclassified such couples in a way that acknowledges their legal status. Homosexual activity has always been banned within the church and subject to discipline, including excommunication. This is not a change in how the church views homosexuality, it is simply a new legal categorization of it.
To use biblical terms, same-sex unions are no longer deemed “fornication,” which is sex outside of marriage, but are seen as “apostasy” which is open rebellion to church doctrine and policies. The attitude of the church has not changed. When the supreme court, despite public push back, changed the laws making same-sex marriage legal, the church had to respond in order to reflect the new legal environment. No supreme court change, no change in church policy.
Why punish the children?
The children are not punished. Contrary to some reports, children of same sex couples can still attend church activities and congregational meetings, visit with missionaries, receive priesthood blessings and even receive financial assistance from the church. So can their parents. The policy of the church when baptizing children has consistently been that no children of any circumstance can be baptized in the church without approval from their parents. I personally witnessed people sacrifice baptism for years because one or both of their parents did not allow it.
This policy respects the law and legal rights of same sex marriage families by indemnifying the children. It protects the children from dealing with the consequences of a family in contention. A child is in a difficult position when their faith contradicts their own familial structure. This would be further exacerbated with the lifestyle of full church membership, which includes engagement, activity and visitation from other members. Lots of it. Mormons are generally nothing if not involved, engaged and uber outgoing. The church would rather wait until children can make their own legal decision to avoid potential family problems. Yes, in a way, this policy is almost strangely pro-gay family.
How unique is this policy?
The church actually has similar policies for a number of groups, a few notable examples include: citizens of communist countries, Muslim converts, and children from polygamous families or who have parents that were excommunicated. Each of these groups has a certain reason that they are given special treatment within the church. In all cases, it has much more to do with protecting the individual than preserving church doctrine.
Should we be surprised?
No. The church has long held to this stance and unlike many faiths today, the LDS church is not known for changing key beliefs for the sake of assuaging the public. Many church policies throughout history have faced severe criticism. Despite the external pressure placed on the church over the years, church leadership has maintained its principles. Even when their views seem antiquated or even as bigotry by outsiders.
I’m LDS and have trouble reconciling my feelings regarding this policy, what should I do?
The solution can be surprisingly simple. It’s the primary answers we all know:
- Review James 1:5, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God…”
- Bear in mind that the church’s doctrine and beliefs regarding homosexuality have not changed even after this policy.
- Ask your self, “Who do you believe leads this church, a cabal of old men, or the King of Kings Himself?”
- Be cognizant of the fact that there are many people trying to harm the church through deception. Don’t fall for it!
Lastly, if answers through prayer seem nebulous or untenable, I would encourage you to remember the words of Isaiah 55:8-9
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”