The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was in the news yesterday after the announcement on Thursday that the church will now consider those in same-sex marriages to be apostates. The policy change also declared that children of same-sex parents will not be blessed as babies and cannot be baptized until they are 18 years old. Eric Hawkins, spokesman for the LDS church, was quoted in the Washington Post saying, “Church handbooks are policy and procedural guides for lay leaders who must administer the church in many varied circumstances throughout the world. The church has long been on record as opposing same-sex marriages. While it respects 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.”
The church had, according to the Post article, left the discipline of same-sex couples to local leaders prior to making the change on Thursday, a change the church decided was necessary because of the Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage across the country. The article further clarified that the LDS church defines an apostate as “people who renounce their faith. If someone is believed to be acting in an apostate way, it triggers a disciplinary council, which can have different outcomes, from counseling to potential loss of membership.”
Interestingly, the new policy puts homosexual marriage into the same category as polygamy, which the LDS church officially renounced in 1890. I am on record as arguing long before last summer’s SCOTUS decision that redefining marriage to include homosexual unions would open the door to polygamous marriages, as well.
As of Friday afternoon there were more than 1,200 comments on the Post story. Not surprisingly, most of them were not supportive of the policy change. The daughters of former Utah governor Jon Huntsman said the church had gone too far. I wonder, though, of perhaps the real problem is that other faiths have not gone far enough. A number of Christian denominations have gone the other way, saying that they welcome homosexuals and believe that homosexual marriage is okay. This despite the fact, of course, that the Bible clearly states otherwise. If a church firmly believes that the Bible teaches that marriage is to be between one man and one woman, why wouldn’t that church consider those who reject that core tenet of their faith to have rejected the faith? If a church expects its members to accept and agree with its statement of faith, why would it allow members who directly contradict and oppose a fundamental element of that faith? Churches that practice infant baptism expect–require, I imagine–the parents of those infants to be members of their church and to profess faith consistent with the church’s teaching. Why then would the LDS church not hold that infants of same-sex couples will not be blessed? I do not know what the LDS position is on when an individual becomes old enough to become a member of the church, but the Post article says that children are typically baptized around age 8. While I do not know this for certain, of course, I cannot imagine there are many churches that would baptize an 8 year old without the consent of the child’s parents. The LDS position here is that even if the parents consented, the child is being raised in a home that by its very existence contradicts the teachings of the church. Accordingly, I do not consider the LDS position change to be too severe or even inappropriate. Instead, I see a church willing to take a clear, public and unambiguous stand for what it believes in the face of a culture that has decided it does not agree. That is not easy to do, it will not make the church popular and there is little to gain from doing it. Little, that is, except the one thing that really matters–standing firm on what that church believes is the truth. There is not much I agree with when it comes to Mormon faith or teaching. In fact, I do not even agree with all LDS teaching on marriage, given that the Mormon faith teaches that marriage is an element of salvation. On this issue, though, I both agree with and applaud the church for standing boldly and firmly for God’s design for marriage. I might handle some of the details differently or change some of the details of how the children of homosexuals are treated, but the details of my church practice and ordinance are different than the details of the LDS church.
My hope is that other churches, those churches that claim to hold to biblical inerrancy and authority, would likewise take an unequivocal stand for God’s Truth and His design for marriage. Homosexuals need to be treated with respect, need to be shown the love of God and need to be prayed for consistently. Homosexuals are loved by God, but God hates their choices when they engage in homosexuality and they defile His design for marriage. Softening the truth of God’s Word is not a loving act. Saying God condones something He clearly does not is not a loving act. Standing for unpopular truth will not win many friends, but it is the right thing to do.