Sunday, November 8, 2015

Talking to Your Children About the New Policy on Baptism

First let me say...I've had a very busy few weeks over here, so I didn't really hear about the new policy change for the baptism of children until probably later than some did in their social media feeds this weekend.

I thought about why almost no one in my feed was talking about it even though it was trending on FB...Some reasons I came up with are: 1. Most of my friends are not LDS and 2. The ones who are LDS must be "ship-shape & Bristol fashion" a la Elder Cook's definition. Or there's always 3. I have friends who don't read the Washington Post or 4. Many didn't know how to react (or didn't want to do so publicly.)

Anyway, I read a tiny bit about this issue online while traveling to and from the temple yesterday, but I didn't really need a formal explanation.  I had already been wondering how to teach gospel truths to children when the world keeps moving farther and farther from truth.  I've already heard people at church backing away from teaching truth about family and gender because they don't want to offend.  I've already had this question in my heart when I think about sharing the gospel with friends who have gay, married family members...not wanting to offend, but also not wanting to ignore a prompting or judge anyone as "not ready to accept" the gospel.  In other words, I already recognized what a difficult road it would be ahead without more direction from a prophet of God.

So, although I wasn't immediately aware of the policy change requiring children of parents living in gay relationships to wait until the age of 18 for baptism...I was able to understand it fairly quickly, as it made sense to what I've witnessed in Primaries at church and in my own life, as I've continued my personal relationships with my gay and lesbian friends and their children.

Before I say any more, here is Elder Christofferson's explanation for the reasoning behind this new policy, and my read on his explanation is that it's about what's best for God's children and respect for and deference to their family units:

On this blog, I try to always point people to the best source of information.  As my husband and I like to say, "never drink downstream."  If you want to understand anything, read what the prophet and his apostles are saying, pray about it, ask God for understanding, and keep reading your scriptures.  There's no truth filter on the Internet...there isn't a way to check credentials on the bloggers you read unless you know them make sure you go to the correct sources as you navigate this and other issues.

In addition to reading the church's official statements, I read two blog posts yesterday that helped shed light on the topic for me by 1. reminding me that God loves all of His children, that He has a plan for each of us, and that no blessing will be withheld from those who seek them.  And the second post reminded me that the Lord has denied baptism for groups of people in the past...even in New Testament times, for His own purposes and reasons, which aren't always readily apparent to us.  It also reminded me that testimonies that are worked hard for (and waited for) are usually deeper, more cherished, and more enduring. (Click here to read the two posts I am referring to: Posts 1 & 2)  Read them...then keep reading here, if you choose...

When I was in college, almost 20 years ago now (whaaaat???!) I was blessed with the unique experience of living with and collaborating with a lot of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people who became at that time in my life some of my closest friends.  I TRULY loved them.  Although I was still growing in my testimony, I was solid in the gospel for an 18-19 year old.  Because of my relationship with them, I learned one thing that has stayed with me...I learned how to love and be nourished by friends, period,...regardless of differences in lifestyle and beliefs.

I am still friends with most of those people.  One girlfriend of mine in particular is now married to a woman, and they have one child together.  After the birth of her child, we reconnected on FB, and I noticed that she began "liking" the fun things I share about the ways we try to create a loving home together in our family.

After a while, I grew slightly nervous.  What if she saw me post something about family that offended her?  I wouldn't want to hurt her at all.  However, I knew from our history together that she already knew that I love the Family Proclamation and stand by it's principles.  So, I appreciated her support of me that much more and made an effort to make sure she felt supported and loved by me as well.  When I see her posting something loving about her child/family, I "like" it.  I make sure she knows that I respect her efforts as a mother to create a loving and secure childhood for her sweet girl.

I posted something on the FB page for this blog yesterday with this quote, " As members of the Church it is our privilege to love these children and support them the best we can. To show them the Savior's love and remind them that all the blessings the Lord has are theirs, and will one day be bestowed upon them, even if not at the present time. The members will be the ones to make the time until their baptism sweet, and a blessing in their lives." (Source)

I know lots of parents and children in same-sex family units who deserve our love and respect.  It's God's prerogative to direct His church and to, through his prophets, say who He will open baptism up to and when, but it is our privilege, our great privilege, to love others and to actively seek for inspiration on how to best show that love...the Savior's love.

I already feel that call.  I am probably not coming even close to fulfilling it, but I'm trying and I'm open to more understanding from God as to how I can do this.  This is the part of this whole policy change that I am concerned with...doing my part to love others.

Earlier this year, I remember hearing someone complain that they grew up LDS, but didn't know Joseph Smith had lived the law of Polygamy until they read about it in the news as an adult.  Honestly, it was hard for me to fathom that someone could not know about this, since I never felt in the dark about it.  I grew up in the church, and it was not news to me! (Although, I know everyone's experience is different.)

While I was in church today, I wrote down all of the teachings from our most recent General Conference that could possibly help us understand and accept the policy change as presented by the leaders of the church....There were many!

I wanted to blog about all of them...however this blog post is long enough and I haven't gotten to my main point yet!

So, after lunch (after church today), I decided to lead our family in a discussion about the recent policy change.  I should say, I facilitated the discussion...I allowed my children to lead it, based on their responses to questions.

I hadn't immediately considered that it might be important to talk about this with my it might be "over their heads" or not pertinent to their young lives. However, as lead by the Spirit and as our discussion unfolded, I could see that this was a very important thing to talk about with them, as it directly affected my children and their friends of baptism age.

I started by stating that the church had instituted a new policy which required children living with parents in a gay relationship to wait until the age of 18 in order to be baptized instead of at the age of 8.  I also mentioned that there are and have been other groups of people to whom baptism was restricted for a variety of reasons. (This WAS news to them, so we talked about that a little bit).

I asked the children how they felt about the news that some of their 8 year old friends would not be able to be baptized.

Scarlett said, "Sad."

Then I asked Guy if he felt prepared to be baptized when he turned 8.  He said yes.  I asked him why he thought that he was prepared.  He said, "Because you and Dad taught me."

I asked him if they thought this would be the case if we had not taught him for 8 years prior to his baptism and if he had not had our example to follow.  He said, "It would be possible with help from Heavenly Father, it would be possible."

Scarlett chimed in that her friend L has two mothers.  I asked her if she thought it might be hard for L to make a baptismal covenant at age 8 if she had to learn over and over again at church that her family situation was wrong.  Would it be hard for her?  Would she feel torn between her faith and her love for her parents?  Would it be hard on her parents?  Would it be more fair for her to grow up and make that choice when she was older?  Would it fair for her to make such an important covenant if it would come between her important parental relationships?

The kids seemed to see that young children and parents need to have a loving relationship with one another, and that Heavenly Father's decision to withhold baptism is one of kindness and preference for the parent/child relationship.

I then asked the kids how they should treat friends in that situation.  Should you treat them differently?  

"We should treat them with kindness" was their answer.

I then reminded Scarlett of a little friend from class a few years ago who was a little bit different.  Scarlett, without any fanfare, was always kind to this little person...even defending him when others pointed out his faults or laughed at him.  His mother, who believes very differently from me on quite a few important points, thanked me on two separate occasions for the kindness that Scarlett showed to her son and for her friendship to him.  I'm betting this woman does not know that we are at odds on various issues.  All she knows is that Scarlett was a friend to her son when others were not.  And that has meant the world to her.

I encouraged Scarlett and the other children to continue to do everything in their power to show love for others.  This is their part and they must always do it.

Steve then asked the children how they might respond if asked about the new policy.  They gave their best attempt at an answer...from "God loves all of His children" to "it would be a hard thing for children to be asked to believe in something not taught at home."  Their answers showed us how much they did or did not understand our discussion.  It showed where we needed to do more teaching or they needed to do more growing, but for the most part, they grasped the reasoning behind the new policy, and they understood what their duty is to their friends: to always love them.

Then we went through a few of the items on the list I had made during church, which outlined doctrines taught during General Conference which might help us to better understand the new policy or any other new teaching from the prophets.

After reading a quote from each talk, I asked the children to take turns explaining how they could apply each principle to help them accept new policies from church leaders.

They included: 

Elder Martino's talk: Pray, He will answer might have to wait for the answer.
Pres. Uchtdorf: Go to the correct sources for answers (trust the true experts)
Cook: Are you ship-shape & Bristol fashion?  When trials come, if you're doing the basics, you'll endure.
Ballard: God is at the helm (of this church)

My list included many (many) others.  But we did not get to them.

We ended with an "upstream/downstream" lightning round from Steve.

He explained why farmers/ranchers say that one should "never drink downstream"...because water that is downstream from where livestock feed can become tainted.  It's not pure.  It's better to go to the original source for truth.  Steve presented a list of situations and asked the children to respond.  For instance, people are talking online about an issue...You can either read what people are saying or read what the prophet is saying about the issue.  Which one of these is "downstream" which is "upstream?"  He had a lot of funny examples, which the kids enjoyed and which helped prepare them for situations they will surely soon encounter in their lives!

While we enjoyed this time together discussing this with our children, it was a serious topic, and I could see how important it was that WE talked with them and taught them about this now...instead of later, say when they were older.  It never ceases to surprise me when my children open up and share what they really know about the world and how much they already experience in their daily lives and relationships with others.

I would encourage you parents out there to sit down in a family council or FHE and share your feelings and thoughts on the topic with your precious children.  

They are already wise and understand much.  They are already compassionate and have the capacity to teach us all.  Ask them the questions that the Spirit leads you to ask and help them unlock even more of that love and wisdom with which they are endowed as God's children!  And give them the tools, the principles, to help them navigate these new policies (and future new directives from prophets) for themselves.

Have a good night!


  1. Hi Jocelyn,
    I wanted to thank your for your wise message and counsel in his post. When I first read about the policy change, I saw the wisdom in it, but then I saw all the posts from those upset by it. I decided to take a break from Facebook for awhile because some of the things I was reading were offensive and troubling. Thank you for your beautiful example. I decided to post a link to this blog post on Facebook. I truly hope it can be a help to those unsettled by this change. I agree with you all we can do is love and love some more.
    Liz Brown

    1. Hey, Liz! No problem. Thanks for reading this very long post! I just wanted to share although it's hard to share some conversations and truly capture the spirit of them. Hopefully it helps us all to hold on to the gospel, to exhibit faith for our children, and to come out stronger in the end. Some conversations are not easy to have...but they are worth it and we all come out wiser for having them!! But they should happen in the sacred setting of our homes and families...

  2. May I ask how old your children are? Would you be willing to do a post on how you address gay marriage with your kids? While my husband and I are friends with a couple of people living gay lifestyles, none of them are at all geographically close. In my children's circle, there are none of these family types, and I'm really not sure how to go about bringing it up. I'm not in a position to discuss the baptismal policy with the kids, even the older kids, because they are still largely in the dark about that lifestyle. But your point about not letting it be a surprise, with the Joseph Smith illustration, is well taken, and has me thinking that maybe it's time to tell them more than we have up to this point. My oldest is getting to be big enough that he might run into this, and it occurs to me that if he's caught off-guard it's much more difficult to act with tact, courtesy, and love, depending on what kind of reaction he might have, but a little preparation will spare him - and others - that issue.

    1. Hi Ritsumei,

      Sure. My kids are age 9, 8, 7, and 3. We talk frankly with them from a very young age about sex, marriage, etc. We have taught them about the family proclamation every year since my oldest was 4? Whenever we talk about the FP we often acknowledge that there are people who live other ways including gay lifestyles. We talk to them about things happening in the news including changes to laws, famous people getting sex changes. Every time I think maybe we should wait to address something with them, they have almost always already heard about it at school. Even at this young age. So our policy as parents is that we want our kids to hear about things from us first when at all possible. That means we have to either address topics right away and/or we need to constantly teach principles that our children can use and apply on their own when we aren't around to help them. Not everyone feels comfortable talking about such grown up issues with their children but I have found that the spirit can help us know what and how to say things that are age appropriate. I find that talking about things at home helps them feel more confident out in the world. They are definitely encountering more than we know. My daughter befriended a girl at the pool this summer and I noticed she had two moms. Her moms looked a lot alike and were never there together. I got to know one of them and I just briefly mentioned to my daughter the family situation because I knew she wouldn't be able to tell on her own. I explained to her that it was wonderful that they were friends, but that she was to just be sensitive to her family dynamic. She was not to treat her differently. She didn't need to point out that we believed differently just continue to be her friend...but if she mentioned her Moms...she wouldn't be confused and could respond appropriately.

    2. Yes, learning from parents first is our policy as well. We've talked about some sticky topics, such as porn, but same sex families haven't come up before: we homeschool. However, I found out just a few minutes ago that our homeschool group has at least one two-mom family, and so it's not just academic anymore. I really like the idea of using the Family Proclamation. Thanks. We've had the conversation about being kind, regardless, already once this week, in another context, so in some ways, this will be familiar territory for them, I hope.

  3. Thank you very much for your thoughts on this. We too, have discussed this with our children, but I didn't even look at the general conference talks for ideas. That was exactly what I needed/wanted to share with them.

    1. The great thing is that we can talk about these things more than once with our children until we all come to an understanding!

  4. Thank you. I had this conversation with my children on Saturday, but I am sure it will be a topic that will need more than one discussion. You always have such great ideas and I appreciate all you do to share your testimony with the world.