The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, widely known as the Mormon church, is repealing a controversial policy that treated LGBTQ members as apostates and barred their kids from being baptized.
The church’s First Presidency, its top governing body, announced Thursday that while it still considers same-sex marriage to be a “serious transgression,” queer church members in these relationships will not automatically be treated as apostates, or individuals who in the church’s eyes have turned away from the principles of the gospel.
“Instead, the immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated in the same way,” the First Presidency said in its statement.
In addition, the children of parents who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender can be baptized in the church as long as the parents understand that the child will be taught to follow the church’s doctrines.
The policy change is a stunning reversal of the church’s stance in 2015, when it announced that children of same-sex couples would only be allowed to join the church when they turned 18 ― with the condition that they move out of their parents’ homes, disavow their parents’ relationship, and get permission from church leadership. The 2015 policy also labeled members in same-sex marriages as apostates, and dictated that they would be forced to go through disciplinary hearings that could lead to excommunication.
The policy was widely criticized by LGBTQ people who had grown up in the church.
Thursday’s changes to the controversial policy were announced by church leader Dallin H. Oaks as the denomination gathered for its general conference this weekend.
Oaks characterized Thursday’s changes as “very positive policies” that they hope will help “affected families.”
“We want to reduce the hate and contention so common today,” his statement said. “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.”