SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – For many Latter-day Saints, the reversal of a 2015 policy barring children of same-sex couples from being baptized and labeling such couples as guilty of “apostasy” was a prayer answered; but questions remain for many LGBTQ members and former members.
Questions like whether church discipline already enacted for same-sex married couples could be reversed; whether transgender members excommunicated for undergoing transitions will have their church discipline overturned; and whether those in same-sex relationships (not marriages) will be subject to church discipline.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which declared last week that entering into a same-sex marriage does not constitute “apostasy,” would not comment to ABC4 News when asked those questions Tuesday. The Church of Jesus Christ still considers same-sex marriage a “serious transgression,” according to First Counselor in the First Presidency Dallin H. Oaks.
Over the weekend, members of the LGBTQ community demanded an apology from top church leaders, who did not admit the 2015 declaration, dubbed the “Policy of Exclusion” by its detractors, was an error last week.
“I honestly don’t know if we can expect the church to make an apology on this,” said Adam Maughan, a gay non-practicing Latter-day Saint. “Do I think one is warranted? Yes. I think we are all looking for just some acknowledgment that this policy caused a lot of hurt and pain.”
LGBTQ individuals and allies demonstrated outside the Conference Center Sunday just before the morning session of General Conference began, expressing their sorrow over loved ones they say committed suicide after the November 5, 2015 policy barring children of same-sex couples from being baptized was enacted.
Maughan, who now lives in Tennessee, said he and his LGBTQ friends never did consider themselves “apostates,” even though Oaks said Thursday they no longer would be labeled as such.
“When I hear ‘apostate’ I think of someone who has turned their back on God,” said Maughan. “I would say that for a lot of folks who are considering same-sex relationships that this policy has been so hurtful because that doesn’t describe our experiences.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints counsels members to beware of “personal apostasy” by “keeping covenants, obeying the commandments, following Church leaders, partaking of the sacrament, and constantly strengthening our testimonies through daily scripture study, prayer, and service,” according to a Church topical guide.
There was applause over the policy update Thursday from some in the LGBTQ Latter-day Saint community, some considering it progress.
“It’s also a reflection of how as a culture, things related to church and leadership are continuing to adjust,” said Philip Keeve, who spoke to ABC4 News shortly after news of the policy update broke. Members have been excited about various changes made to church procedures and policies by the current First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Active church member and LGBTQ ally Richard Ostler compared the 2015 policy to a scab that got ripped off suddenly when it was updated Thursday – it caused joy for some, pain for others.
“That scab kind of got ripped off for a lot of people and it reminded them of the pain of the original policy statements,” said Ostler, a former bishop of a single adult Latter-day Saint ward who frequently counseled with gay members of his congregation. “I hope that the scab heals more fully because of the policy change…back to the way it was before November of ’15 and that our LGBTQ members and our church members can heal and have a more thoughtful dialogue going forward.”
Regarding discipline of its members, the Church’s website explains that “…serious personal sin, including abortion or sexual sin, may require disciplinary action as part of the repentance process…”
“Those who have lost their Church membership may continue to attend public Church meetings,” the website explains. “All Church discipline is carried out in complete confidence…”
Homosexual relationships and gender transitions are not specifically mentioned in the MormonNewsroom explanation of church discipline.
Some in the transgender community said they felt totally forgotten by church leaders. No mention is made of gender transitions in the 2015 policy or the policy’s 2019 update, but the church 1995 document The Family: A Proclamation to the World characterizes gender as an eternal part of each human being.
Former stake president Laurie Lee Hall, who transitioned in the last few years, said what the church has said on gender identity has been damaging to that community.
“There really is no place provided for us to become full fellowshipped if we choose to be,” Hall told ABC4 News. “The marginalization continues.”