At this wonderful general conference time, it is our privilege to bring together senior leaders of the Church from around the world to provide instruction and to unify our effort to bring God’s children closer to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This morning in a leadership session the First Presidency provided instruction on several important topics. We are pleased to share with our members and friends some very positive messages from that meeting.
President Russell M. Nelson reflected that throughout this past year, the Lord has blessed us with “revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge … that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal” (D&C 42:6) We are all eyewitnesses to revelations from the Lord as He guides the affairs of His Church. President Nelson taught of ministering and repenting, sharing that as we embrace the gift of repentance we will rise up and minister in a holier way and make our homes centers of gospel learning. Israel will be gathered on both sides of the veil, and we will help in preparing the world for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
President Dallin H. Oaks instructed that the Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to love and treat all people with kindness and civility — even when we disagree. God has promised all blessings to those who strive to keep His commandments, and we have a duty to “bear one another’s burdens that they may be light.”(Mosiah 18:8) While we cannot change the Lord’s doctrine, we want our members and our policies to be considerate of those struggling with the challenges of mortality. In his remarks, President Oaks shared information about changes to recent Church policies related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members. (More information on that announcement is included below.)
President Henry B. Eyring spoke of continuing revelation in the true and living Church, teaching that the Lord has led by revelation through prophets from the time of Adam and Eve to the present day, and such revelation to His servants will continue until He comes again. One reason is that we need the Lord’s direction to meet changing circumstances, and He has guided changes in practice and policy throughout the history of the Church.
We pray these teachings will be received in the same spirit we received them from the Lord and have shared them with our leaders — as positive and inspiring instruction that will bless many lives. With gratitude we acknowledge God’s continuing guidance and love for all His children and invite our members to renew their commitment to follow the teachings of the Savior Jesus Christ “to love God and to love one another” (Matthew 22:37-39).
The First Presidency
Details Shared by President Oaks
At the direction of the First Presidency, President Oaks shared that effective immediately, children of parents who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender may be baptized without First Presidency approval if the custodial parents give permission for the baptism and understand both the doctrine that a baptized child will be taught and the covenants he or she will be expected to make.
A non-member parent or parents (including LGBT parents) can request that their baby be blessed by a worthy Melchizedek Priesthood holder. These parents need to understand that congregation members will contact them periodically, and that when the child who has been blessed reaches 8 years of age, a Church member will contact them and propose that the child be baptized.
Previously, our Handbook characterized same-gender marriage by a member as apostasy. While we still consider such a marriage to be a serious transgression, it will not be treated as apostasy for purposes of Church discipline. Instead, the immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated in the same way.
The very positive policies announced this morning should help affected families. In addition, our members’ efforts to show more understanding, compassion and love should increase respect and understanding among all people of goodwill. We want to reduce the hate and contention so common today. We are optimistic that a majority of people — whatever their beliefs and orientations — long for better understanding and less contentious communications. That is surely our desire, and we seek the help of our members and others to attain it.
These new policies are being sent to priesthood leaders worldwide and will be included in online updates to our Church Handbook for leaders. These changes do not represent a shift in Church doctrine related to marriage or the commandments of God in regard to chastity and morality. The doctrine of the plan of salvation and the importance of chastity will not change. These policy changes come after an extended period of counseling with our brethren in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and after fervent, united prayer to understand the will of the Lord on these matters.