Mormon News, November 2–6

In the News

In a major policy shift that leaked on Thursday, the LDS Church updated its official Handbook of Instructions to redefine apostasy, serious sin, and the status of children of gay assemblyparents. The church added to the definition of apostasy to include people who “are in a same-gender marriage.” While the church has always included homosexual relations under the heading “serious transgressions” in the manual, it added the phrase “especially sexual cohabitation,” to emphasize that gay couples who are married or living together are particularly guilty. And finally, in the biggest policy shift, the church added an entirely new section that states children of a gay parent cannot be named or blessed at church, cannot be baptized, and cannot serve a mission. The policy appears to apply to any child of any gay parent—not just children living in the same home or being raised by a gay couple. Children of a gay parent or parents can be baptized only if they are of legal age (eighteen or twenty-one, depending on the country) and only if they renounce any kind of support for marriage equality.

Some Latter-day Saints immediately spotted the irony of this last policy: earlier this year apostle D. Todd Christofferson said Mormons could support same-sex marriage. However, this new policy appears to make it so that children of gay parents can support marriage equality, except in the case of their own parents. National and international media outlets quickly picked up on the story. Some active Mormons appeared so surprised that they initially branded the story a hoax on social media. Others defended the church, often invoking millennialist language like suggesting the wheat must be separated from the chaff. But outside the church, the change was widely condemned.

Members have already been sharing how the new policy will affect them. One person said that a young girl’s baptism—originally scheduled for Saturday—was cancelled because her gay father still shares joint custody of her. Others have noted that, even though they have been divorced for years, their own children may not be able to serve a mission unless those children denounce their own parents.

A new Pew Research poll offered interesting glimpses into the beliefs and practices of U.S.-based Latter-day Saints this week.  Mormons are becoming more staunchly Republican, even though Utah is already one of the most conservative states in the U.S. The poll also shows (perhaps with a bit of irony given the LDS Church’s policy changes this week) that Mormons, at least at the grassroots, are becoming more accepting of LGBTQ Americans.

Peter Lassig, the man behind Temple Square’s famous gardens in Salt Lake City, passed away last Sunday. Lassig initially managed the church’s gardens at the World’s Fair in the 1960s before he was called by then-president David O. McKay to be the head gardener overseeing Temple Square. Paul Anderson called Lassig “a lovable, eccentric genius” who “had an intuitive feeling for gardens.”

In Books

David Pace will be signing his new novel, Dream House on Golan Drive on Tuesday, November 10, at 7 p.m. at the King’s English Bookstore in Salt Lake City. If you are in the area, many of Signature Books’s staff will be there and we would love to see you!

News update by John Hatch, acquisitions editor