The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has made changes to its handbook for stake presidents, bishops and other local leaders that reaffirms its doctrine of marriage and offers clarification on issues that may arise from same-sex marriage.
"Church handbooks are policy and procedural guides for lay leaders who must administer the church in many varied circumstances throughout the world," LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins said. "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.”
Late Friday, the church released a video where Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained the changes.
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 handbook also clarifies that the ordinance of naming and blessing a child may not be performed for children living with a parent in a same-gender relationship.
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 relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, 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 of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting," 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 doctrine 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."
The language of being in a same-gender marriage has been added to the definition of apostasy as it relates to helping leaders know when a church disciplinary council is mandatory.