While the Church of Latter-Day Saints isn’t exactly known for its progressive view on LGBT issues, one new stance of the religion has sent shockwaves through the Mormon gay community.
According to new policy described in its official handbook, the Mormon church will no longer allow minors who are living under the roof of same-sex caretakers to join the Latter-Day Saints. At the age of 18, potential LDS church members who decide that they wish to move forward with Mormonism will again be given the chance to join up, but there’s a catch — they must denounce their parents.
“The child [must] accept and commit to live the teachings and doctrine of the LDS Church, and specifically disavow the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage. [They must also] not live with a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same-gender cohabitation relationship or marriage.”
Before same-sex marriage was legalized across the United States in a landmark Supreme Court decision in June, the LDS church had indicated that conscientious engagement in gay relationships would result in disciplinary action.
Also on that list of forbidden activities for Mormons were “attempted murder, forcible rape, sexual abuse, spouse abuse, intentional serious physical injury of others, adultery, fornication, and deliberate abandonment of family responsibilities.” Any of these transgressions, including cohabiting with a partner of the same gender, may still qualify for a necessary disciplinary action from the LDS church.
Now, however, same-sex marriage has been pushed to another level of Mormon bylaw violation: Members who join together in a same-sex marriage will be automatically be excommunicated. In this process, LDS church members have their names removed from official church records and become apostates.
Sometimes this agreement to “leave the saints” is reached by choice, and other times a continual lack of agreement with the teachings of Mormonism will force the LDS church to take action. Brigham Young University’s official definition of the term says that while practicing individuals should hold a “loving and hopeful attitude” toward apostates, it also cautions they do sometimes “become enemies of the church.”
“The steps to apostasy are usually gradual. All members are counseled to guard against all manifestations of personal apostasy. The most frequent causes of apostasy are failure to maintain strict standards of morality, taking personal offense (real or perceived), marrying someone who is of another faith or who is irreligious, neglecting to pray and maintain spirituality or misunderstanding of the teachings of the Church.”
Updated requirements put the Mormon church at the vanguard of religious backlash against the legalization of gay marriage. To some, that may seem fitting. After all, it was the LDS church’s furious campaigning for California’s heterosexual marriage protection act Prop 8 in 2008 that many accredited with securing its 52 percent approval.
According to a New York Times article released at the time, Mormons made up 80 to 90 percent of early door-to-door efforts. Michael R. Otterson, the LDS church managing director of public affairs, told the paper that their involvement was purposefully deep reaching.
“We’ve spoken out on other issues, we’ve spoken out on abortion, we’ve spoken out on those other kinds of things. But we don’t get involved to the degree we did on this. California is a huge state, often seen as a bellwether — this was seen as a very, very important test.”
Gay Mormons will now be forced to choose between the love of their spouse and the love of the Latter-Day Saints, but their children will have to wait until they are of age to choose between their parents and the LDS church.
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