On Thursday, the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced it loosened the rules on LGBT people. The First Presidency is the top leadership of the Mormon church. The church still considers homosexual activity and transgender identity to be sinful, but it no longer considers such identities "apostasy."
"At the direction of the First Presidency, President [Dallin H.] Oaks shared 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," the Mormon Newsroom reported.
The change comes amid reports that First President Russel M. Nelson has had "revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge ... that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal."
"Previously, our Handbook characterized same-gender marriage by a member as apostasy," the church noted. "While we still consider such a marriage to be a serious transgression, it will not be treated as apostasy for purposes of Church discipline. Instead, the immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated in the same way."
According to the new policy, same-sex parents may request a blessing for their child. So long as they understand the church's teaching, they may present their child for the blessing.
"A nonmember parent or parents (including LGBT parents) can request that their baby be blessed by a worthy Melchizedek Priesthood holder," the church explained. "These parents need to understand that congregation members will contact them periodically, and that when the child who has been blessed reaches 8 years of age, a Church member will contact them and propose that the child be baptized."
The Mormon Church predicted that these "very positive" changes "should help affected families."
"In addition, our members’ efforts to show more understanding, compassion and love should increase respect and understanding among all people of goodwill," the church added. "We want to reduce the hate and contention so common today. We are optimistic that a majority of people — whatever their beliefs and orientations — long for better understanding and less contentious communications. That is surely our desire, and we seek the help of our members and others to attain it."
The Mormon Church's policy is unlikely to convince many LGBT activists of its desire to "reduce the hate." The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints still believes same-sex activity and transgender identity are sinful, and LGBT activists will continue to stigmatize these beliefs as "hate," as they do to Christian churches and nonprofits.