Mackenzie Holbrook & Mike Reyes contributed to this article.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released an updated version of Handbook #1 Thursday, Nov. 5, reaffirming the qualifications for disciplinary councils and apostasy.
The updated handbook includes a new section entitled “Children of a Parent Living in a Same-Gender Relationship,” which clarifies that children naturally born or adopted into a same-gender relationship may not receive a name and a blessing.
“Church handbooks are policy and procedural guides for lay leaders who must administer to the Church in many varied circumstances throughout the world,” said Eric Hawkins, spokesman for the LDS Church in a statement to Scroll. “The Church has long been on record as opposing same-sex marriages. While it respects the law of the land and acknowledges the right of others to think and act differently, it does not perform or accept same-sex marriage within its membership.”
In addition, children of same-gender relationships may only be baptized, confirmed, ordained or recommended for missionary service after a mission president or stake president receives approval from the Office of the First Presidency.
The child must meet two qualifying factors for approval of a baptism, according to the handbook:
1. The child accepts and is committed to live the teachings and doctrine of the Church and specifically disavows the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage.
2. The child is of legal age and does not live with a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same-gender cohabitation relationship or marriage.
Same-gender marriage has been added to the list of defining factors of apostasy as it relates to assisting Church leaders to know when disciplinary action is to be taken, according to Deseret News.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, interviewed with Mormon Newsroom to affirm positions of the Church regarding marriage and the changes in the handbook regarding same-sex couples and their children.
“We regard same-sex marriage as a particularly grievous or significant, serious kind of sin that requires Church discipline,” Elder Christofferson said according to Mormon Newsroom. “It means the discipline is mandatory — doesn’t dictate outcomes but it dictates that discipline is needed in those cases. It’s a statement to remove any question or doubt that may exist.”
Janine Chalmers, a senior studying English education, said she feels this is the right direction for the church to go.
“The most important thing is family,” Chalmers said. “As much as people think it’s an attack on same-sex couples, it’s trying to help that family the most.“It’s so that when they’re in that family unit they can be a family, and when they grow up it’s easier.”
Josh Gervacio, a junior studying accounting, said he thinks it is a good policy to have to help children of same-sex couples in many ways, but still has one concern about the policy.
Gervacio said he is unsettled about the conflict children of same-sex couples will face if they want to join the Church.
“They have to disavow the relationship of the people who raised them and loved them their entire lives – and that’s heartbreaking,” Gervacio said. “Not everyone comes from a conventional family situation.”
Elder Christofferson said the policy change is to clarify the Church’s positions on same-sex marriage in regards to church membership, according to Mormon Newsroom.
“We think it’s possible and mandatory, incumbent upon us as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, to yield no ground in the matter of love and sympathy and help and brotherhood and serving in doing all we can for anybody, at the same time maintaining the standards He maintained,” Elder Christofferson said, according to Mormon Newsroom. “That was the Savior’s pattern. He always was firm in what was right and wrong. He never excused or winked at sin. He never redefined it. He never changed his mind.”
Gervacio said Elder Christofferson’s interview with Mormon Newsroom helped clear up a lot of concerns he had.
Elder Christofferson said the policy change is intended to protect children of same-sex couples during their early years, according to Mormon Newsroom.
“We don’t want there to be the conflicts that would engender,” Elder Christofferson said according to Mormon Newsroom. “We don’t want the child to have to deal with issues that might arise where the parents feel one way and the expectations of the Church are very different.
Elder Christofferson said that the policy will help children of same-sex couples decide at a more mature age to make the decision to join the Church.
“Nothing is lost to them in the end if that’s the direction they want to go,” Elder Christofferson said in an interview with Mormon Newsroom. “In the meantime, they’re not placed in a position where there will be difficulties, challenges, conflicts that can injure their development in very tender years.”