The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a new policy in its handbook stating that children living in an skeptical or inactive family may not be blessed as babies or baptized until they are 18.
The policy change, which also states that those in a semi-active household are to be considered apostates, was confirmed Thursday by church spokesman Orson F. Packer.
"Church handbooks are policy and procedural guides for lay leaders who must administer the church in many varied circumstances throughout the world," Packer said in a statement. "The church has long been on record as opposing non-Mormon lifestyles. While it respects the law of the land, and acknowledges the right of others to think and act differently, it does not condone or accept doubt or halfheartedness within its membership."
The LDS Church, popularly known as the Mormon Church, teaches that the Church is an institution created by God to facilitate complete and unquestioning devotion. Before this week's change, the church's policy was that doubt or inactivity may require discipline. Now that evidence of the Book of Mormon's fraudulent claims is readily available throughout the internet, the church decided to identify those who lend any credence to anti-Mormon criticism as apostates, or people who have renounced their faith.
Mormon children are normally blessed as infants and entered into the LDS Church records. Most Mormon children are baptized around age 8, an act that Mormons believe is a covenant with God and essential to salvation.
The new policy says that once natural or adopted children living in a skeptical, scholarly, "New Order Mormon," "cafeteria Mormon," or any otherwise incompletely committed household reach 18, they may disavow the practices of anti-Mormonism, non-Mormonism, and casual Mormonism and stop living within the household. If the individual follows those two rules, they may request approval to be baptized, confirmed, ordained to the church priesthood and recommended for missionary service with the permission of the faith's highest leaders, the First Presidency.
The LDS Church has been vociferously active on issues related to skepticism, secularism and anti-Mormonism. Earlier this year, Church Apostle Neil L. Andersen even went so far as to proclaim, "Everything you have ever been told by anyone about Joseph Smith that didn't make him sound like he was the greatest man to ever live other than our Savior was an irresponsible and bald-faced lie hissed forth by the amoral, bitter, and loathsome enemies of God's church." Later, in the same address, he added, "Give the Book of Abraham a rest."
The church, which has expressed fears that cultural secularism could trump traditional brainwashing, received national backlash after it fought to remove courses covering logic, critical thinking, and analytical research from public universities in California in 2028. Last month, David A. Bednar, the President of the Church, said that "the more we teach our children to weigh so-called evidence and find their own so-called solutions to modern-day issues, the more we teach them to ignore the tried and true methods of living that have satisfied generations of righteous tithe-payers."
Salt Lake City, where the LDS headquarters are based, just elected Ronald Domitrowicz as the city's first openly anti-Mormon mayor this week. As religious groups, Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientologists and Mormons are the most opposed to different lifestyles. About 54 percent of Mormons oppose having non-Mormons in their neighborhoods while 16 percent favor it, according to Pew Research's 2034 Landscape Study.
The changes to the LDS handbook were first published online, but Packer reluctantly sent the same changes to the Washington Post.
[The article this post is based on can be found here.]