Two weeks ago, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that it would reverse its 2015 policy banning children of LGBTQ+ parents from being baptized.
It has also announced that it will no longer label same-sex couples as apostates, or those who have renounced the church.
This announcement came right after Brunei’s declaration of Sharia law, criminalizing LGBTQ+ individuals for having sex.
Mormon and non-Mormon reactions have been mixed: Some suggest that this measure is simply a PR move to increase funds in the church’s coffers, while others suggest that the move is too little, too late. Still others think that this is a great first step in welcoming LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters back into the Mormon church.
This change allows those who still align with Mormon beliefs but are gay back into their church after years of being denied.
According to The Trevor Project, an organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ+ youth, higher suicide rates are present among the LGBTQ+ community compared to the average population (as also cited by the CDC).
According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, this may be in part due to a correlation of religious importance and minority sexual identity.
Previously, many LGBTQ+ youth had to choose between their faith and their sexuality, which often corresponds to choosing between their families and their identity.
Dan Reynolds, lead singer of Imagine Dragons and a Mormon himself, has indicated on social media that he believes that many LGBTQ+ youth would be kicked out of their homes if they were to reveal their sexuality to their Mormon families.
The reversal of the 2015 policy on baptizing LGBTQ+ children brings to light the complicated realization that it’s not as simple as just leaving the church if you are gay, nor is it always the right choice.
Reynolds also remarked that for some LGBTQ+ youth, faith is just as an integral part of identity as their sexuality, and making them choose between the two has done nothing to help ease the feeling of isolation that many report, or help lower the increased rates of suicide found in these communities.
God teaches us acceptance, not hate. It is not be our place to judge these lines so harshly, nor to bar those who are LGBTQ+ from engaging with their faith.
If we are going to justify bigotry by taking a few verses out of context from the Bible (never mind the fact that we are negating Jesus’ message of loving thy neighbor), then we should take care to rigorously apply the rest of the Old Testament into our lives.
For example, many of the modern clothes we wear should not be worn because we mix various fabrics together. There are many other examples of laws that are commonly ignored by the church and society at large, yet are commands in the Old Testament.
Arbitrarily taking lines out of the Old Testament to justify homophobia should not and does not reflect well on the Christian community, especially when those who we are hurting are members of a church, who want to participate in the faith community.
The Mormon church has a long way to go, but the reversal of their 2015 policy and allowing children of LGBTQ+ parents to be baptized is an amazing first step towards accepting those who want to be close to God, regardless of what others think of their private choices.
Other faith traditions would be wise to follow this move and offer more acceptance to a potentially vulnerable population who desperately wants to be a part of their faith communities. We should not foster environments of hate, but of love and religious acceptance.
If these steps were to be taken with religious society at large, then we would see important steps towards acceptance and stop the loss of life that could be prevented by taking God’s word to heart and loving our neighbors.