Mormon church tightens policies on same-sex marriage

This past Friday, the Church of the Latter-day Saints (LDS) introduced new policies that label members in a same-sex marriage as apostates, and thereby eligible for excommunication. This policy bars children of gay parents from membership or baptism in the church until they turn 18 and are given permission from a church leader. In order to obtain this permission, they must disavow the practice of same-sex marriage and must move out of the household.

LDS church leaders claimed on Friday that the new controversial policy was created to protect children of LGBT parents from experiencing conflict that is not seen in a traditional marriage, a claim that many LDS members and non-members alike find difficult to accept. The policy move also comes as the Mormon Church faces increasing numbers of members coming out as homosexual or supportive of same-sex marriage, positions that have gone against long-standing Mormon doctrinal teachings.

The Mormon Church considers same-sex marriage to be a sin and something that requires mandatory church discipline. They also hold to the practice of “conversion therapy” for homosexual youths and adults, believing that homosexuality is a condition that can be treated and changed through prayer, heterosexual marriage, fasting and even aversion therapy.

Church spokesman Eric Hawkins confirmed this policy in public statement saying that, “The church has long been on record as opposing same-sex marriages. While it respect 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.”

Elder D. Todd Christofferson came to the defence of the policy, declaring that “there was the need for a distinction to be made between what may be legal and what may be the law of the church and the law of the Lord. It’s a matter of being clear. It’s a matter of understanding right and wrong. It’s a matter of a firm policy that doesn’t allow for question and doubt.”

Members of the Mormon Church who are outspoken in opposition to the policy claim that barring children of LGBT parents from membership or baptism in the Church goes directly against the Christian teachings of God’s special care for children and the essential role of baptism. It also ensures that many of these children will have virtually no education within the LDS tradition during critical formative years.

Former LDS member and gay rights advocate John Dehlin, host of a popular podcast for Mormons questioning their faith, stated in a podcast, “The inclusion of same-gender marriage as specific grounds for apostasy is surprising only because it really puts the church into a corner and leaves them less room to slowly finesse a change over time.” He continued, saying, “progressives were still holding out hope, but many feel that this closes the door on future change.” Dehlin was excommunicated from the church earlier this year for his public advocacy for gay marriage.

Mormons continue to rank among the least supportive of homosexual practices in comparison to other religions, and a study by the Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life released this week indicated that 36 percent of LDS members support societal acceptance of homosexuality, which is a 12 percent increase from 2007.