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SALT LAKE CITY — The handbooks that provide guidelines for members and leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were recently updated with two noteworthy changes.
'Avoid disruptions or distractions'
A new section in a leadership handbook available to all church members counsels Latter-day Saints to not behave “in a way that detracts” from the worship services’ focus on Jesus Christ.
“Those who attend (meetings) should avoid disruptions or distractions contrary to worship or other purposes of the meeting,” the section reads.
Avoiding those disruptions means “refraining from overt romantic behavior and from dress or grooming that causes distraction,” as well as “making political statements or speaking of sexual orientation or other personal characteristics in a way that detracts from meetings focused on the Savior,” the handbook states.
If there is “inappropriate behavior” by a member, the leader of the congregation should counsel that member in private and in “a spirit of love,” the handbook explains.
The new section also addresses topics like becoming a church member and temple attendance, but it was the portion about behavior during church meetings that caused a stir on social media — some claiming the language encouraged LGBT members of the congregation to remain closeted about their sexuality.
The purpose of the guidelines, however, are meant to help “maintain a sacred space for everyone present with a special emphasis on worshipping Heavenly Father and the Savior,” the section reads.
Baptismal requirements for children of polygamists
A church handbook exclusively for leaders was also updated to reflect a new policy that now no longer requires children of polygamists to receive top leadership approval before being baptized as members of the church.
Though the handbook was just recently updated, the church’s change in policy was first announced in April during a leadership session before the organization’s biannual general conference.
During the session, church apostle President Dallin H. Oaks announced that children of parents who identify as LGBTQ may be baptized without approval from the First Presidency (or top governing body of the church) — as long as the parents give permission for the child to be baptized and understand the child’s commitment to the teachings of the church.
In other news:
The policy update for children of LGBT parents dominated the day’s headlines since it updated a previous policy enacted four years earlier, but the change affecting children of polygamists was largely overlooked.
Children of polygamists can now also be baptized as long as they have parental permission and their parents understand the commitment they are making to the teachings of the church.
“The handbook has been updated to reflect earlier announcements by church leaders related to the baptisms of children whose parents are in a polygamous or same-sex relationship,” church spokesman Daniel Woodruff said in an email.
Previously, children of polygamists also had to receive approval from the First Presidency before being baptized, and permission could only be requested if church leaders were sure those children accepted the teachings of the church, disavowed plural marriage, and were not living in a home where polygamy was taught or practiced.
The section in the church handbook previously detailing those requirements has now been removed.