As a young boy growing up in Utah, I attended primary after school one day each week. At the front of the chapel in the Bountiful Tabernacle, where I attended primary, was a replica of the old Primary Hospital, with a slit in the top to insert pennies. As primary children, we were taught that God has a special place in his heart for little children. Every year on our birthdays, we were supposed to bring pennies to drop in the slot, and let God know that we cared about other little children like use. The pennies were used to ensure that all children had the care they needed, if they became sick.
It is hard to believe, but my church just announced that it is banning a group of these little children from any possibility of entering heaven by way of baptism or participation in Gospel ordinances and callings. This ban is not based on anything a child has done, but rather on the sexual orientation of the child’s parents. This act by my church must be clearly and loudly condemned. It cannot be allowed to stand.
As primary children, in addition to putting pennies in the hospital shaped bank, we were taught the Thirteen Articles of Faith. We were told that as Mormons we rise to a higher level of morality, because of the Second Article of Faith, which reads:
We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.*
Memorizing this article of faith in primary, I somehow missed the asterisk at the end. I mistakenly thought that this article of faith was stating a universal principle of individual accountability. I believed that it meant that each individual is personally responsible for what she does. I understood it to say that nobody else will be accountable for my sins, and I will not be held responsible for the sins of another.
The first time I saw the asterisk was in the Temple. During the endowment ceremony, I realized that the doctrine taught in the Temple did punish women for Eve’s transgression. According to this doctrine, women will forever be held to an inferior state, and suffer physical pain because of Eve’s transgression. I closely checked the texted of the Second Article of Faith, and realized that only “Adam’s transgression” is mentioned. Sure enough, the door was wide open to punish women for the acts of Eve. In the Temple, I realized, the Second Article of Faith is not a “universal” statement of individual accountability, as I was taught in primary. Rather, it only applies to males.
With the announcement of the new policy, the asterisk has now entirely swallowed the “universal rule.” The new policy reads:
Children of a Parent Living in a Same-Gender Relationship
A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may not receive a name and a blessing.
A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may be baptized and confirmed, ordained, or recommended for missionary service only as follows:
A mission president or a stake president may request approval from the Office of the First Presidency to baptize and confirm, ordain, or recommend missionary service for a child of a parent who has lived or is living in a same-gender relationship when he is satisfied by personal interviews that both of the following requirements are met:
1. The child accepts and is committed to live the teachings and doctrine of the Church, and specifically disavows the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage.
2. The child is of legal age and does not live with a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same-gender cohabitation relationship or marriage.
This policy is saying that the saving ordinance of baptism, along with other important ordinances and callings, are to be denied to children because of an act of a parent, and not for any act or sin committed by the child. If the child were to die after the age of accountability (eight), under accepted church doctrine, this policy would deny salvation and exhalation to that child for the alleged sins of a parent, and not for any act within the control of the child.
We are left with only two possibilities. 1) The brethren have truly abandoned individual responsibility for sin as a true principle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or 2) they no longer believe in the saving power of Gospel ordinances, and instead have decided that their hate-filled anti-LGBTQ rhetoric takes precedence over the lives of innocent children.
Honoring our Past,
Envisioning our Future.
Mark Barnes, the author of this post, is on Ordain Women’s Executive Board as the Financial Chair.