On Thursday leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a surprising decision to reverse a controversial policy that condemned same-sex marriage and limited baptisms for the children of LGBTQ parents.
There was considerable backlash in 2015 when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a new policy barring children living with LGBTQ parents from being baptized and declaring members of the church in same-sex marriages as apostates subject to excommunication.
After four years though leaders of the Mormon church announced in a press release Thursday the surprising decision to reverse that policy in an effort "to show more understanding, compassion and love..."
Previously children living with LGBTQ parents were limited from participating in naming and baptismal ceremonies which typically occur in the church at the age of 8. Those still wishing to be baptized were able to do so once they turned 18.
Following the policy reversal children of same-sex couples are once again allowed to be baptized, providing that they have their parents permission and that parents understand children will be taught and expected to follow church teachings.
While the changes are a softening of policy towards LGBTQ members church doctrine still considers same-sex marriage a significant sin.
"Previously, our handbook characterized same-gender marriage by a member as apostasy," Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the church leadership, wrote in the Thursday release.
"While we still consider such a marriage to be a serious transgression, it will not be treated as apostasy for purposes of Church discipline."
For LDS members apostasy can be a serious punishment. Apostates, those who have turned away from church teachings, are frequently shunned and cut off from communicating with other members of the church, including family. For many LGBTQ members this meant the 2015 policy had devastating consequences.
Leaders now hope the policy's reversal will help change that.
"The very positive policies announced this morning should help affected families," Oaks wrote.
"In addition, our members' efforts to show more understanding, compassion and love should increase respect and understanding among all people of goodwill. We want to reduce the hate and contention so common today."
The announcement was good news for many who were glad to hear the church would be reversing the policy.
Though others were reluctant to pat the church on the back for doing the bare minimum to respect LGBTQ members.
And though it may be a step in the right direction for the church for those most affected by the 2015 policy the reversal seems too little too late.