On Thursday, after “fervent, united prayer,” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through, their online newsroom, shared a statement that included a shifting revelation: children of LGBTQ parents may now be baptized into the church, as long as the children’s parents approve, reversing an official policy first instituted in November of 2015.
Church officials also announced that same-sex marriage would no longer be considered apostasy in a somewhat vaguely worded clause: “While we still consider such a marriage to be a serious transgression, it will not be treated as apostasy for purposes of Church discipline. Instead, the immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated in the same way.”
The policy change was announced by Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the church’s First Presidency and a relative hard-liner on the church’s policies toward LGBTQ people, in a move some members speculated was meant to appease more conservative factions.
Reactions to the policy change were swift, and almost universally positive. Among the LGBTQ community, many expressed joy and relief at the unexpected reversal.
In a prepared statement, Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, said the move marked “a positive step in teaching our young people we all have value—regardless of our sexual orientation or that of our family members.”
Elected city officials—and those hoping to be elected—also commented on the change.
Mayor Jackie Biskupski noted in a statement that the change was “welcome and moving news.”
She recalled her initial reaction to the 2015 announcement: “When this policy was announced, shortly after I was elected mayor, I said I hoped if my sons decided to join the Church, they would not be forced to choose between the love of a church community and the love of their parents.”
Christian Harrison, candidate for Salt Lake City Mayor, also released an official statement. (He was the only one out of the current nine mayoral candidates to formally do so.) “As an out gay man who is also a practicing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I’ve witnessed first-hand the lives the policy ruined and the damage done to my community of faith,” he wrote.
Harrison added that when he heard of the policy change, he wept: “tears of joy, of heartbreak, and of solidarity.”
Former state senator and current mayoral candidate Jim Dabakis shared his reaction via Facebook video: “Can I say just how good I feel about today’s announcement?”
Signaling “a new era,” he asked listeners to look on the bright side. “This is a change. This must have been hard, this must have been difficult, and I’m appreciative of it,” Dabakis mused.
Fellow mayoral hopeful Erin Mendenhall also took to social media to share her thoughts. “I’m so pleased … by today’s action by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to reverse its discriminatory and divisive policy concerning LGBTQ families,” the Salt Lake City Councilwoman wrote in a post.
“It’s a great change, and it’s about time,” Sen. Derek Kitchen told City Weekly over the phone on Friday. “I think the decision to exclude the children of gay and lesbian parents was a misguided policy decision back in 2015 that truly harmed a lot of innocent children and drove a wedge between families, so I think reversing that policy is very astute,” Kitchen, a catalyst for marriage equality in Utah, continued.
He added, “I think it never should’ve been a policy in the first place.”
Positive reception of the policy change has been tempered by a common sentiment—that while the change was necessary and welcome, it still does not signal full acceptance of the LGBTQ community.
The feeling echoed on a national level. Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a news release, “There’s still work to do but this policy reversal is a very welcome change that moves the church closer to a day where LGBTQ Mormons can see themselves affirmed and included within their faith community.”
“[We have] been a firsthand witness to the damage caused to families within and beyond membership in the church affected by this policy over the past three and a half years,” Affirmation, a New York City-based organization for LGBTQ Mormons and their families, said in a statement.
The organization applauded the changes, but noted, “The fact that legally married same-sex couples are still considered in serious transgression within the church still leaves lesbian and gay members of the church facing incredibly painful choices.”