Embrace the nuance

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The way the controversy involving the LDS handbook was framed, it’s understandable that people reacted to the news the way they did. Those who were outraged bring up legitimate points, but I can’t help but feel that the general public’s reaction was disproportionate to the news received.

It’s nothing new that the LDS church doesn’t support same-sex marriage.  The church’s stance that marriage is between a man and a woman was established in 1843, and recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 132:19.

20 years ago the leaders of the church issued “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”, and have publicly issued statements on the matter several times since. And not out of hate or anger for the LGBT community, but out of the simple logistics of our theology. Eternal families and marriage have been key tenets of the religion since the start.

The church’s definition of apostasy is the active turning away from the gospel.

As D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said in the church’s official statement, “It means the discipline is mandatory — doesn’t dictate outcomes but it dictates that discipline is needed in those cases.”

In other words, the language used in the updated policy doesn’t necessarily imply excommunication, merely that the bishop or stake president should talk to person in question.

News outlets across the country handled the story irresponsibly. This is a wildly complicated issue, and one that doesn’t compress easily into a clickbait headline without grossly oversimplifying things. As a journalist, I know this. You only have a split second to get people to read your story, so you have catch their attention with the most sensational, explode-y, Michael Bay-style words you can muster. but in doing so they removed a lot of nuance from the discussion.

For instance, giving an infant a name and a blessing is not a saving ordinance. A person is not doomed to hell if they don’t get a baby blessing.

The scripture about baby blessings is found in Doctrine and Covenants 20:70

“Every member of the church of Christ having children is to bring them unto the elders before the church, who are to lay their hands upon them in the name of Jesus Christ, and bless them in his name.”

It says that if you have children and you are a member of the Church, you should have your child blessed and put their name on the records of the Church. If you aren’t a member of the Church for reasons of excommunication, you are no longer bound by this commandment. It’s pointless to penalize a person for breaking a promise that they don’t agree to make. And these people and their children are not banned from receiving other priesthood blessings. If a nonmember consents to have a priesthood holder giving them a blessing for any reason, they aren’t shut out in the cold.

Apostates and nonmembers are also not barred from attending church functions like sacrament meeting, Sunday School and auxiliaries such as the Young Men’s and Young Women’s programs.

Finally, the matter of baptism. The church’s general policy on the baptism of minors, is that regardless of who their parents are and what their background is, these kids must have their parents involved in the decision. When the missionaries encounter minors who are interested in the church, they need to get parental approval. If the parents forbid it, the policy is to not make the minor have to choose between their parents and the church.

The clarification on policy merely indicates to local leaders that in the case of same-sex couples, this is one of those circumstances when it would not be fair to the child to saddle them with the obligations and promises associated with baptism, when to do so would present challenges in their home life.

You have every right to make your own decision on this matter, but whatever you decide, please remember not to disregard the nuance of every controversy.