Treat Children with “Utmost Respect and Love,” Writes the First Presidency in Letter regarding Same-Sex Marriage Policy

Contributed By Sarah Jane Weaver, Church News associate editor

  • 23 November 2015

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Editor's Note: The following is an update to content that was originally published on November 13, 2015.

The First Presidency has issued a letter clarifying how recent, high-profile changes to Church handbook policy affects same-sex couples and their children.

The following letter, dated November 13, was sent to local Church leaders:

“The Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles provides the following guidance in applying provisions on same-gender marriage recently added to Handbook 1:

Revealed doctrine is clear that families are eternal in nature and purpose. We are obligated to act with that perspective for the welfare of both adults and children. The newly added handbook provisions affirm that adults who choose to enter into a same-gender marriage or similar relationship commit sin that warrants a Church disciplinary council.

Our concern with respect to children is their current and future well-being and the harmony of their home environment. The provisions of Handbook 1, section 16.13, that restrict priesthood ordinances for minors apply only to those children whose primary residence is with a couple living in a same-gender marriage or similar relationship. As always, local leaders may request further guidance in particular instances when they have questions.

When a child living with such a same-gender couple has already been baptized and is actively participating in the Church, provisions of section 16.13 do not require that his or her membership activities or priesthood privileges be curtailed or that further ordinances be withheld. Decisions about any future ordinances for such children should be made by local leaders with their prime consideration being the preparation and best interests of the child.

All children are to be treated with utmost respect and love. They are welcome to attend Church meetings and participate in Church activities. All children may receive priesthood blessings of healing and spiritual guidance.

May the Lord continue to bless you in your ministry. Sincerely yours,

Thomas S. Monson

Henry B. Eyring

Dieter F. Uchtdorf”

Accompanying the letter was an essay by Michael Otterson, managing director of Church Public Affairs, entitled “Understanding the Handbook.”

The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles recently updated Church policy regarding same-sex marriage in Handbook 1, an instruction guide for bishops and other priesthood leaders. The changes, which mandate Church discipline for cohabitating same-sex couples, also updates Church policy impacting their children.

The new policy and the First Presidency letter affirm that marriage is between a man and a woman. They also clarify that the decision to enter a same-sex marriage or relationship is considered direct opposition to that doctrine.

”Revealed doctrine is clear that families are eternal in nature and purpose. We are obligated to act with that perspective for the welfare of both adults and children,” the First Presidency wrote in the letter. “The newly added Handbook provisions affirm that adults who choose to enter into a same-gender marriage or similar relationship commit sin that warrants a Church disciplinary council.“

In his essay, Brother Otterson said in the Church “the family is reverenced and children are its centerpiece.”

The essay also includes key points, which will help members understand the background to the recent changes:

  • It is not a sin simply to feel attraction to another person of the same sex. Some faithful members of the Church experience those attractions yet participate in the Church without breaking the Lord’s commandments. They serve missions and attend the temple. The Church teaches its members to embrace these brothers and sisters and encourage them in their faithful lives in the Church.

  • It is not a sin simply to feel attraction to another person of the same sex. Some faithful members of the Church experience those attractions yet participate in the Church without breaking the Lord’s commandments. They serve missions and attend the temple. The Church teaches its members to embrace these brothers and sisters and encourage them in their faithful lives in the Church.

  • There is no change in the doctrinal position that sexual relations between people of the same sex are sinful.

There is new information in the Handbook that addresses a narrow range of situations involving the children of same-sex couples.

Brother Otterson said the vast majority of Church members understand that there has been no doctrinal change with regard to these issues. “Church doctrine is consistent with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ,” he wrote.