By Sheryl Estrada
Members of the group Mormons Building Bridges march in the Salt Lake City, Utah’s Gay Pride Parade in June. Photo by Shutterstock.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ new policy is causing a mass exodus. Thousands of members submitted letters of resignation to the church on Saturday.
In early November LDS announced its new policy, which bars children living in same-gender households from naming blessings and baptism rituals, without the permission of the governing First Presidency council.
LDS, also known as the Mormon Church, deemssame-gender marriage a form of apostasy, or an offense, that could result in disciplinary hearings and possible excommunications.
“We don’t want the child to have to deal with issues that might arise when the parents feel one way and the expectations of the church are very different,” Mormon apostle D. Todd Christofferson said in a video statement.
The church made an update to the policy on Friday. Now, only children living full time in a same-gender household are barred from church rituals, and a child that has already been baptized can still be a practicing Mormon.
But that did not deter more than 2,500 members from lining up at the LDS Church in Salt Lake City on Saturday to formally withdraw. According to ABC 4 Utah, more than 1,500 resignations were filed. In addition, attorneys processed 2,000 requests from individuals unable to attend. Lawyers were present to help people waiting in line get their resignation forms filled out.
“After all the years of different policy changes and people excluding people for not believing the same things, I’ve just never had a strong balance,” LDS member Misty McGinnis said at the withdrawal event. “I don’t want my records anymore.”
Church President Thomas S. Monson used Twitter to send a message to members on Thursday:
I plead with you to avoid anything that will deprive you of your happiness here in mortality and eternal life in the world to come.
Thomas S. Monson (@ThomasSMonson) November 13, 2015
According to the church, children living full time in same-gender households can request to become a member when they turn 18. However, they must deny the practice of same-gender marriage or cohabitation and stop living in the household.
The Mormon Church’s new policy is a reaction to the Supreme Court’s ruling in June that made same-gender marriage legal nationwide. Before the decision, the church’s policy stated that same-gender marriage might require discipline, which would be left up to local leaders. Now, the church identifies couples in same-gender marriages as renouncing their beliefs.
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints believes sexual relations, other than between a man and a woman, who are married, are contrary to the laws of God,” Sister Neill F. Marriott of the church’s Young Women general presidency said.
Earlier this year, the church said it would support laws protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination.
In a press conference on Jan. 27 at the church’s headquarters in Salt Lake City, Mormon leaders called for a “fairness for all” approach that balances religious-freedom protections with reasonable safeguards for LGBT people specifically in areas of housing, employment and public transportation.
Laws protecting the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people are said to have the support of the Mormon Church, with the condition that religious liberty not be compromised.In March, Utah Legislators passed “the Utah compromise” with the backing ofMormon Church leaders. The bill bans discrimination against LGBTpeople in housing and employment, while also protecting religious institutions that object to homosexuality.
The theme of religious liberty is a part of a significant political movement. Featured speakers at The National Religious Liberties Conference on Nov. 6 in Des Moines, Iowa, included Republican presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
A controversial Colorado pastor, Kevin Swanson, organized the conference. During his speech, he said Biblical law calls for “homosexuals” to be executed.
“Yes, Leviticus 20:13 calls for the death penalty for homosexuals,” he said. Swanson said he was “willing to go to jail for standing on the truth of the word of God.”