The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) on Thursday announced that it will now allow baptisms and give blessings to children of parents who are in the LGBT community.
The changes were announced by Dallin Oaks, first counselor of LDS’s First Presidency, during the church’s 189th Annual General Conference, according to The Deseret News, which reported that 2015 mandates had not allowed the children of LGBT parents to be baptized until the age of 18.
“The very positive policies announced this morning should help affected families,” Oaks said, according to the Salt Lake City news outlet. “In addition, our members’ efforts to show more understanding, compassion and love should increase respect and understanding among all people of good will.”
The Deseret News noted the changes are only to church policy, not church doctrine, and leaders made note of the distinction.
“These changes do not represent a shift in church doctrine related to marriage or the commandments of God in regard to chastity and morality,” the release announcing the changes said.
Oaks said the updates to church policy are part of an effort to “reduce the hate and contention so common today.”
“We are optimistic that a majority of people — whatever their beliefs and orientations — long for better understanding and less contentious communications,” he said. “That is surely our desire, and we seek the help of our members and others to attain it.”
Additional changes include updates to the church’s handbook that call for removing the label of apostasy for homosexual behavior.
Previously, both homosexual behavior and blessings or baptism of children living with same-sex parents was considered apostasy that required a church disciplinary council. The Deseret News notes a disciplinary council can lead to excommunication from the church.
The updated polices are reportedly being sent to church leaders around the world.