I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’d like to address some of the confusion concerning my religion, especially as of late, in the area of our hospitality. While my views don’t necessarily represent the official opinion and policy of the Church, I will do my very best to represent it accurately.
All Are Welcome
The main point I want to convey here is that as a religious community, Mormons welcome all others to join with them in worship. It’s part of our essential doctrine. Jesus says so Himself:
22 And behold, ye shall meet together oft; and ye shall not forbid any man from coming unto you when ye shall meet together, but suffer them that they may come unto you and forbid them not;
23 But ye shall pray for them, and shall not cast them out; and if it so be that they come unto you oft ye shall pray for them unto the Father, in my name.
3 Nephi 18:22-23
It is not in our interest in the slightest to reject anyone. Problems arise when people confuse the administration of ordinances, rites, and privileges with the acceptance of other people. Here an important clarification must be made: while anyone can potentially receive ordinances in the Church such as baptism and confirmation, only those who prepare themselves and meet the standards set by authorities in the Church can actually do so.
What does this mean? Interestingly, those that might often be thought to be shunned by the Church are actually invited. This includes gays, lesbians, transgenders, and people of other orientations and identifications, as well as polygamists. Many times people who fall into these categories do not qualify for ordinances because of the way they are living. For example, homosexuals in a marital relationship do not qualify for baptism according to the standards of the Church. This does not disqualify them from attending meetings, interacting with members, and otherwise participating in the Church. This policy simply maintains the high standards we believe God, our loving Heavenly Father, has set for members of His Church to uphold. In addition, members who are excommunicated or otherwise considered to be living in apostasy are also welcome to our meetings and company. Consider the following:
31 But if he repent not he shall not be numbered among my people, that he may not destroy my people, for behold I know my sheep, and they are numbered.
32 Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out of your synagogues, or your places of worship, for unto such shall ye continue to minister; for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal them; and ye shall be the means of bringing salvation unto them.
3 Nephi 18:31-32
Here Jesus explains that those who do not repent will not be numbered with His people—they will not be considered members of the Church. This refers to everyone who does not repent, whether they have been baptized or not. However, even these non-members will be invited to participate with the congregation and receive the love and ministry of Church members and leaders. We are commanded to love and pray for them. To not do so is to disobey our Lord.
We can see some logical reasoning behind the commandments Jesus gave—if we did not invite people living in a sinful way to attend Church and learn what we believe is the truth, how could they ever change their ways and become a part of our faith? Unless we reach out with love toward those who live in a way we don’t agree with, we will alienate anyone who isn’t of our faith (and likely many that are). In addition, these commandments are really extensions of one of the most important commandments Jesus ever gave—that to love our neighbor. We cannot call ourselves true Christians by compromising in either of two areas—in upholding the standards of the Lord and showing love to others.
Justice and Mercy
The Lord’s plan is one of repentance—everything the Church does to address the sins committed by its members, including excommunication, is meant to help these people on the path of repentance. It may not always seem like that is the case, but it is.
The Church may administer discipline by suspending access to privileges that members normally have, such as taking the Sacrament. This action is never permanent if the member being disciplined later repents. These consequences are administered to uphold the divine law of justice. People learn about good and evil when they receive the consequences for participating in either. This is a large part of why we’re living on the Earth in the first place.
Repentance involves recognizing that one has made errors, changing internal desire to instead obey God’s commandments, asking God for forgiveness, and abandoning sinful behaviors in favor of following the example of Jesus Christ. If this path is followed, Heavenly Father will forgive the repentant in His mercy. As appropriate, Church leaders will reinstate privileges and re-baptize excommunicated members who desire to receive blessings in the Church. In fact, people who have never joined the Church must also repent and be forgiven before joining the Church through baptism. Heavenly Father’s plan is universal.
Trusting My Leaders
Recently, my trust in the leadership of the Church (a prophet, his counselors, and twelve apostles) was tested with the change in the Church Handbook on how certain ordinances (such as baptism) of children who were in the custody of same-sex partnerships was to be handled. I first heard about the change from a likely partisan news source, so I prayed and decided to be patient until an official statement by the Church was made concerning the issue. Upon studying the matter and praying to Heavenly Father for guidance, I accepted the updated policy. It made sense to me and as far as I can tell takes the best course of action that both a) maintains the Lord’s standards and b) shows love for others.
I’ll summarize the defense of a specific example which many have taken offense at: that of refusing baptism of a minor whose parents were of the same sex. It must first be noted that this policy only holds if the minor is currently living in this situation. The reason behind it is simple: the Church teaches that one must obey the Law of Chastity, which forbids any kind of sexual relation except those between a husband and wife, legally and lawfully wedded. This means that the child’s parents are breaking the Law of Chastity and will never be able to obey it without breaking up the same-sex couple.
Before baptism, the child acknowledges that breaking the Law of Chastity is sinful. The baptism is then a covenant, or promise to God, that the child will never break the Law of Chastity. Allowing children in this situation to be baptized puts them in a terrible conflict between Church and family. How can they fully commit to living Gospel principles if the very essence of what they call a family is built on what is considered a grievous sin in the Church?
For this reason, these baptisms are not permitted. Only when children begin to live in an environment without same-sex parents will they be considered as candidates for baptism.
My Own Experience
I have been a member of the Church for over a decade and in multiple countries and continents. The Church is surprisingly similar and familiar, even in remote corners of the Earth. While some members and even leaders do not live up to their potential and show rather poor examples of living the faith, the overwhelming majority of leaders I met and served with have been loving, forgiving, selfless, and helpful. Many people make quick judgments about the Church (and everything else, really) but if you study the organization further, you’ll see that it’s very carefully laid out. Every policy in the Church handbooks is very carefully thought through.
I am a member of this Church for a reason. Although I am educated and living in the modern age, I am still convinced that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is truly directed by Jesus Christ Himself. I have had and sometimes still do have doubts, but no resolution of any doubt has ever left me unsatisfied. I am proud to be a Mormon. I hope to set a good example and share Christlike love with all those who I interact with.
- “Come, Join with Us” — a talk by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf inviting all people to worship and associate with members of the Church
- Understanding the Handbook — an article by Michael Otterson explaining the context and reasoning behind the changes in the Church Handbook
- First Presidency Clarifies Church Handbook Changes — an official statement by the First Presidency of the Church