The Mormon Church is losing members after it decreed children of same-sex parents can't be baptized. Here's how it's trying to make the new rules sound less hate-filled.
Last week in a stunning move, the Mormon Church added a new section to its Handbook. The new section and new rules, the New York Times reports, were not supposed to be made public, but of course they were leaked.
Those new rules state that Mormons who are in same-sex relationships are to be considered apostates and eligible for ex-communication. They further note that children being raised by same-sex parents cannot be baptized until the become adults, and then, only if they denounce their parents.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Would Jesus have issued a ruling like that?
In response, thousands of Mormons, and not only LGBTQ Mormons, have started to resign from the Church. Mormons who have children who are LGBTQ are resigning, as are LGBTQ allies.
On Saturday, a mass resignation ceremony is scheduled to be held in a Salt Lake City park by the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Over 1200 have already signed up on Facebook, and a local SLC attorney earlier this week says he is representing another 1400 who will be resigning as well.
That's just in Salt Lake City.
Today, clearly in response to this likely unexpected move, three of the top leaders of the Mormon Church, known collectively as the First Presidency, issued a memo that appears to be an attempt to soften the blow of the new rules.
The "official letter" starts defensively.
"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," it begins. "Our concern with respect to children is their current and future well-being and the harmony of their home environment."
Imagine what being declared an "apostate" by your church will do to the harmony of a home environment.
"All children are to be treated with utmost respect and love. They are welcome to attend Church meetings and participate in Church activities. All children may receive priesthood blessings of healing and spiritual guidance," the letter concludes.
That's it. That is all these Church leaders can offer.
A separate announcement by the Church's Managing Director of Public Affairs attempts to soften effect of the new rules and image of the Church also.
"If there’s one thing that virtually all Christians agree on, it’s Jesus Christ’s tender love of children," it begins. It also blast the leak of the new section and new rules, claiming it "demonstrates clearly the dangers of drawing conclusions based on incomplete news reports, tweets and Facebook posts without necessary context and accurate information."
"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," the post also claims, stating that these rules regarding children of same-sex parents only apply to children being raised in the homes of same-sex parents. In other words, if a child is raised by a mother who was married to a father who is gay and no longer in that home, the child can be treated as all other Mormon children.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Church leaders likely should have waited until after Saturday's mass exodus to publish this response, as it makes quite clear the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has no intention of reversing its position on same-sex families or on children raised within them.
And they will now see even more members denouncing their church and resigning.
The new rules, the Handbook noted, "have been approved by the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles," the highest leadership of the LDS Church.
Saying "all children are to be treated with utmost respect and love," and then doing the opposite because you don't like that their parents are gay isn't modeling "Jesus Christ’s tender love of children," is it?