[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n what can only be described as a stunning turnaround, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the highest governing body of the Church, issued a statement describing the events of leadership training before this weekend’s General Conference. In it, Elder Oaks effectively canceled the controversial November 2015 policy that forbade children of same-sex couples from being baptized.
Oaks stated that “effective immediately, children of parents who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender may be baptized without First Presidency approval if the custodial parents give permission for the baptism and understand both the doctrine that a baptized child will be taught and the covenants he or she will be expected to make.”
Nonmember parents, including LGBT parents, can request that a baby be blessed by a worthy Melchizedek Priesthood holder. Parents should understand that even if they do not wish for involvement with the Church, Church members will contact them periodically, in particular as a child approaches eight years of age, the threshold for baptism.
Same-sex marriage also no longer carries with it an immediate charge of apostasy, as was the case in 2015 when Handbook 1, the main handbook used by Church leaders, was updated to include same-sex marriage as apostate. The Church reiterated its opposition to same-sex marriage, calling it a “serous transgression,” but it is not to be treated as apostasy when it comes to Church discipline. Elder Oaks said, “Instead, the immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated in the same way.”
Elder Oaks called for “more understanding, compassion and love” among members, hoping that these changes will help affected families.
The November policy was major news when it broke, causing schisms and faith crises among many Latter-day Saints. We even devoted an entire podcast episode to a panel discussion trying to make sense of it all.
Changing this policy a mere 3½ years after it was instituted, and under different Church leadership, marks a clear break from the recent past.
We’ll update the story as it evolves.