Monday, November 9, 2015

My Thoughts on LDS Policy re: Baptism of Children of Same Sex Parents

I have felt the need to record my thoughts about the new changes to the Handbook of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I am an active member of this church, often nicknamed the Mormon Church.  I love my church and I sustain our prophet and leaders.  

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds as one of its core doctrines or beliefs that the family is the fundamental unit of society and that marriage between a man and woman is ordained of God.  The Church and its members have sometimes come under attack for this belief, but we believe that this is a commandment from God.

Many people are angered, hurt, saddened or shocked by the Church's recent pronouncement that children of parents in a same sex relationship cannot be baptized until at least the age of 18.  My heart aches for those who feel hurt or betrayed by this decision, but I support it.  

I feel there are a few things that need to be considered.  One, we do not baptize any children until at least the age of 8.  We believe that before this age, children are innocent and that children should not be baptized until they are old enough to have been taught what baptism means.  No child can be baptized without the approval of their parents.  So, unlike some churches where infant baptism is practiced, our church requires all children to wait until they are older.    In addition, we believe that baptism is a solemn covenant or promise between that person and God.  It is not to be taken lightly and therefore it is important that the individual understand what they are promising and be prepared to make commitments.  Unlike some churches that feel baptism is the final or only step to gain salvation, we believe it is just the first step and that additional steps are needed to come unto Christ and be saved.

Our church has a solemn commitment to protecting families. As I mentioned, the importance of families is one of our core doctrines.   Having a young child live in a home with same sex parents and come to church and hear that this lifestyle is a sin would be, at least, confusing, and may cause extreme difficulties for that child.  In order to protect that child's sensitive feelings and maintain harmony in the home, the Church has made the determination to have the child wait until a later age.  The Church has similar polices in effect for children living in polygamous households and children in Islamic countries where joinning a Christian church may be unsafe.  While many are claiming this harms these young children and that the church is unfairly targeting the innocent children, I believe it protects them.  They are still welcome to attend Church, pray, read scriptures.  We have an obligation to love them and be kind to them, just as we should love and be kind to all people.  (One thing I find a bit ironic is that most of those I see that seem so very angry about this policy would never want their child to be baptized into the church to begin with.  Now I don't doubt that there are some who are affected by this decision that are truly mourning for their children, grandchildren or other loved ones.  I have the utmost compassion for them.). 

Another core doctrine that we believe is that we are led by prophets and apostles today just as people were in former times.  Just as God sent prophets  such as Noah, Abraham and Moses to lead the people in those times, we believe that God has chosen prophets to lead in our day.  Unlike in government, where candidates seek to persuade others to elect them, we believe our leaders are chosen by God.  They are not perfect...no mortal is...but they are good men and women who spend their lives helping others.  I have received callings (what we call opportunities to serve in positions in the Church).  In many cases, there were many others who were more talented, more experienced and who could probably have done a better job than I could.  I have no doubt that I was called by God...l would not have been chosen by others.  I also have no doubt that our prophets and apostles are also called by God. This is a fundamental doctrine because it shapes everything I do.  While I ask questions and seek understanding, I know that I can trust the leaders to do God's will.

Our society seems to believe that acceptance and love are dependent on agreeing with someone's choices.  I don't think that could be further from the truth.  I am a teacher.  I feel it is my responsibility to help my students learn to be honest, to be respectful, and to be kind.  When they are not, I give them consequences.  I don't give consequences because I hate them or because I am judging them or because I want them to feel unworthy or unloved.  In fact, the opposite is true.  I teach them how to behave and help shape their behavior precisely because I love them.  I want them to have the best life possible and if they are lazy, dishonest, disrespectful or have behavioral problems, I know that will make both their present and future harder.  It is absolutely possible to disagree with someone's choices and to still love them.  Now, working with my students or my own children is necessarily different than dealing with an adult.  I don't have a responsibility to teach other adults or help guide their decision making.  I can still recognize when they are making choices that I disagree with (using drugs, getting into debt, smoking, living with someone without being married, etc.) but my responsibility isn't to try to correct their behavior.  If they ask for my opinion, I am happy to share it and I will explain my beliefs when asked.  But generally, I  am just to love them and be a friend and try to help them if I can.  Individually, it is not my place to judge...and I recognize that I, too, make mistakes and am imperfect.  I recognize that I do things that others could judge me for, and I am grateful that generally people are kind and forgiving of my mistakes and imperfections.  I sincerely try to live by the golden rule...to treat others the way I want to be treated.    I am not perfect at that, but I genuinely do try.  [And in fact, this is one of the things that is taught repeatedly by our prophets and apostles.  I don't doubt that there are LDS people that are judgmental or unkind or disrespectful, and all of us make mistakes.   But I sincerely believe that most of us are trying to live our religion and to love others.]    On the other hand, in my opinion, the government has the responsibility to make laws that help protect people and churches have the responsibility to teach truths.  Many people today do not believe in absolute truths, but I do.  I believe there is a God, that He is our loving Father and He is trying to help us make choices that will bring us the greatest peace and happiness and well being.  I believe obedience to His laws not only shows our love for Him but also helps us to have a better life, now and in the future.  So, I absolutely believe that churches need to teach truth even if that truth is not popular in the world.  And sometimes, maybe, that truth will not be understood by all.  Isaiah taught, "¶For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways,  my ways, saith the Lord.   For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." (KJV, Isaiah 55:8-9).  But each individual has the right to choose whether to accept or reject those teachings.  In fact, one of our Articles of Faith (brief statements of our beliefs) says, "We claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience and allow all men the same privilege.  Let them worship, how, where or what they may."

I have deep respect for those who feel that they are fighting in behalf of loved ones who they feel have been treated unfairly.  I respect those who genuinely are trying to live by their conscience even if we disagree on this, or other, issues.  I love a number of people who are in same sex partnerships even though I disagree with their choice.  I love a number of people who do not share my beliefs on any number of issues and hope that they can choose to love me in spite of our differences.

I hope that my behavior and treatment of all those who believe differently than me is kind and friendly and respectful.  If I have ever done or said anything that seems unkind or disrespectful, I sincerely apologize.  I truly believe what the Savior taught,  " 36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?   37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.   38 This is the first and great commandment.   39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."  (KJV, Matthew 22:36-39). 

There are times when we don't understand others' beliefs or we feel hurt or angry by them, but I believe if we take time to really listen and pay attention to their words and to their hearts, we truly have more in common than we have differences.

There is a lot being said on this issue.  These are just my thoughts and I certainly do not claim to represent the Church as a whole.   Here are a few things I have read that I have found helpful when pondering this issue:
Most important:  what one of our apostles said about this issue:  http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/handbook-changes-same-sex-marriages-elder-christofferson?HP_FR_11-6-2015_dPAD_fCNWS_xLIDyL1-A_

A few other things I have read that I find valuable: