The Mormon Church policy change
A new policy change for local leaders of the Mormon Faith
News outlets and social media venues are publishing reports of a new policy change within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This new policy change impacts the service local leaders provide to those within their branches, wards and stakes. There are two essential components (gathering from the news feed and conversations):
1. New policy of same-sex couples is considered apostates
According to Deseret News reporter, Aaron Shill, "The handbook now includes being in a same-sex marriage under the definition of apostasy and as a circumstance that requires the convening of a disciplinary council." The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds to the view of eternal families. According to the proclamation on the family, the General Authorities have made a bold statement against same-sex marriage:
The Family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This may appear discriminatory in denying same-sex marriages the temporal and spiritual blessings heterosexual marriages may benefit from. Many supporters of gay marriage have challenged what may appear as an archaic traditional view. However, this is not the most controversial part of a new policy change.
2. New policy regarding children of same-sex couples
A second component to the new policy change in the Church's handbook instructs lay leaders, on the local level, to deny blessings and naming of children, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, laying on the hands of priesthood authority for the gift of the Holy Spirit, and full membership of the Church. According to Shill:
The new section of the handbook is listed under the heading "Children of a Parent living in a Same-Gender Relationship." It states that "a natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationshipo, whether the couple is married or cohabitating, may not receive a name and a blessing."
Although children are not officially considered members of the LDS Church until they are baptized at age 8, the blessing of a child creates a membership record. Children are not considered accountable or mature enough to receive baptism until the age of 8.
The handbook addition also states that "a natural or adopted child or a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether they couple is married or cohabitating," can only be baptized, confirmed, ordained to the priesthood or serve a full-time mission with approval from the office of the First Presidency. A mission or stake president may request approval and determine: that "the child accepts and is committed to live the teachings and doctrines of the Church, and specifically disavows the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage:; and "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."
This new policy change essentially bars children from spiritual and temporal blessings by specifically targeting those who are members of a same-gender cohabitating household.
Blessing of the Children by Christ
Denying temporal and spiritual blessings
There are two significant scripture passages of Christ and children. The first is recorded in the Gospel of Mark:
And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus Saw it, he was indignant and said to them, "let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
What a truly wonderful sight to have beheld. The Savior of the World, rebuking his own disciples that he had called because they wanted to bar parents from bringing their children to Christ in order to receive spiritual blessings.
Even the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ (in the New Testament Stories) reflect the simple message that Christ loves children. Another passage of scripture is within the context of the Book of Mormon where Christ visited the inhabitants of the New World:
And it came to pass that he commanded that their little children should be brought. So they brought their little children and set them down upon the ground round about him, and Jesus stood in the midst; and the multitude gave way till they had all been brought unto him. And it came to pass that when they had all been brought, and Jesus stood in the midst, he commanded the multitude that they should kneel on upon the ground. .. he himself also knelt upon the earth; and behold he prayed unto the Father... and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them. (3 Nephi 17:11-26).
What is interesting of this passage in the Book of Mormon is that Christ prayed for the people first because of their wickedness. Yet, he did not bar their children from coming before him and did not prevent them from being blessed by him.
Therefore, the first fundamental flaw of this new policy within the Mormon Church is that it denies the fundamental right of a child to receive the necessary blessings. The Church proclaims that it operates under the priesthood authority and direction of Christ. Yet, in both passages, we do not see Christ denying blessings to be bestowed upon children - despite the wickedness of their parents or family.
Baptism of Christ
Baptism - A relational covenant
In addition to the denying of blessings of children to same-sex couples, the Mormon Church's new policy may prevent the temporal and spiritual blessings of children or young adults through the mode of baptism. The Church holds to the belief that they are the only restored truth of God's church and hold the keys of priesthood authority. Therefore, baptism and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Spirit are to be performed by this priesthood authority. However, according to this new policy only those of same-sex partnerships will only be allowed to receive the blessings of baptism and the ordinances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ when they are of legal age (which is 18 years of age). It is also conditional - and that condition is on whether or not the person disavows the relationship of their same-sex parents.
Yet, when we turn to scripture, the teaching on Baptism has one condition and one condition only. Paul expounds on the real meaning of the baptism ordinance in Romans 6. There, he states that a person who is baptized is identifying themselves in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They are putting to death the old man and are being brought up in a newness of life. This also symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of the believer in Jesus Christ for that our mortal existence will come to an end, we will be placed into the grave and the blessed hope is the resurrection of our mortal bodies by the reunification of the spirit and flesh. It becomes a covenantal relationship between that individual and Jesus Christ.
In Acts, Peter preaches and the crowd is pricked in their hearts. Peter calls them to be baptized for the remission of their sins. Phillip meets a Eunuch on the road and the Eunuch petitions Phillip to baptize him. Peter requested that water to be brought forth so that the members of Cornelius household are to be baptized and that this baptism is not to be prevented.
Simply denying baptism (an essential ordinance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ), the Church is literally saying "We, the General Authorities are judging you because of your family of origin and, therefore, see fit you are not ready for salvation." This is anathema to the scriptural teaching.
Come unto Christ
Legalism prevents a genuine and authentic relationship
The reality of this is simple. The Church of Jesus Christ appears to be abandoning simple Gospel Truths and appears to becoming more and more legalistic in their approach. In many ways, this writer has communicated with various people over the years. Individuals that have long since abandoned their faith in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One of the main common factors of this is the ostracization these indivduals have experienced in the local ward level. There appears to be an "elite cultural" influence within the Church. If one is not within this, or even accepted into this "elite cultural" group of Latter-day Saint believers, then one is not worth the time. Many have been denied spiritual and temporal blessings of the Temple. Denied the ability to perform necessary ordinances for their children and family. Not because they are blatantly apostates and hold a total disregard for the teachings of the Church.
No, because of policies like this that prevent them from coming to know a true and saving personal relationship with Jesus Christ. In the First century, Religious leaders placed an enormous amount of emphasis on laws. These were strict adherence to the laws and they held to the strict letter of the law. Many times, these religious leaders placed people under a cumborsome fear of punishment. All the while holding themselves far above the law themselves. Christ spoke vehemently against these religious leaders. He challenged their corruption and false understanding of scripture.
Jesus Christ said, "I have come to give life and to give life more abundantly" and this happens through a true and real relationship with Christ. Man may judge, however Christ has the power to save and redeem.