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First Presidency addresses new policy

The First Presidency has issued a letter clarifying how recent, high-profile changes to Church handbook policy affects same-sex couples and their children.

The letter, dated Nov. 13, was sent to local Church leaders:

"Our concern with respect to children is their current and future well-being and the harmony of their home environment…,” they wrote. “All children are to be treated with utmost respect and love.”

The entire letter can be found here and on LDS.org. Accompanying the letter was an essay by Michael Otterson, managing director of Church Public Affairs, entitled “Understanding the Handbook.”

The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles recently updated Church policy regarding same-sex marriage in Handbook 1, an instruction guide for bishops and other priesthood leaders. The changes, which mandate Church discipline for cohabitating same-sex couples, also updates Church policy impacting their children.

The new policy and the First Presidency letter affirm that marriage is between a man and a woman. They also clarify that the decision to enter a same-sex marriage or relationship is considered direct opposition to that doctrine.

"Revealed doctrine is clear that families are eternal in nature and purpose. We are obligated to act with that perspective for the welfare of both adults and children,” the First Presidency wrote in the letter. “The newly added Handbook provisions affirm that adults who choose to enter into a same-gender marriage or similar relationship commit sin that warrants a Church disciplinary council."

In his essay, Brother Otterson said in the Church “the family is reverenced and children are its centerpiece.”

The essay also includes key points, which will help members understand the background to the recent changes:

  • It is not a sin simply to feel attraction to another person of the same sex. Some faithful members of the Church experience those attractions yet participate in the Church without breaking the Lord’s commandments. They serve missions and attend the temple. The Church teaches its members to embrace these brothers and sisters and encourage them in their faithful lives in the Church.
  • There is no change in the doctrinal position that sexual relations between people of the same sex are sinful.
  • There is new information in the Handbook that addresses a narrow range of situations involving the children of same-sex couples.
“With same-sex marriage now legal in the United States and some other nations, the Church felt the need specifically to address such marriages in the Handbook to draw a firm line and encourage consistency among local leaders,” Brother Otterson wrote. “In particular, Church leaders are concerned for children — whether biologically born to one of the partners, adopted or medically conceived. In reality, very few same-sex couples would bring children for the formal Church ordinance of naming and blessing, since this creates a formal membership record. But Church leaders want to avoid putting little children in a potential tug-of-war between same-sex couples at home and teachings and activities at Church.”

Brother Otterson said the vast majority of Church members understand that there has been no doctrinal change with regard to these issues. “Church doctrine is consistent with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ,” he wrote.

For more information on the Church’s new policy, please go to LDS.org.

[email protected] @SJW_ChurchNews

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