The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) is now the fourth largest Christian denomination in the United States and counts over 16 million members worldwide.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), informally known as the Mormon Church, is the fourth largest denomination in the United States with a global membership of more than 16 million. Adherence to Christian doctrine is expanded to encompass the teachings of The Book of Mormon and other teachings originating with Joseph Smith, who established the Church in 1830, in New York State.
The Church has a pyramidal structure. Ultimate authority lies with the First Presidency, and comprises the President, who is most commonly referred to as the Prophet, and his two counsellors. The second-highest governing body, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, is appointed by the president, with each Prophet succeeded by the most senior apostle at his death. Beneath them are the Quorums of 70, which are considered general authorities and can teach and proclaim anywhere in the world.
The Church is divided into 22 regions across the world. Those regions are further divided into Stakes, each consisting of five to twelve Wards (usually a single church or parish) led by a Bishop.
The LDS Church follows strict rules of sexual conduct, including commandments against pre-marital sex. The Church distinguishes between same-sex attraction and behavior. As stated on its website, "The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is." The LDS Church previously taught that same-sex attraction is a curable condition, but now states that "individuals do not choose to have such attractions" and that therapy focusing on "a change in sexual orientation" is "unethical."
Those who do not act on their sexual identity, “enjoy full fellowship in the church, which includes holding the priesthood, carrying out callings, and attending the temple.” The Church considers Mormons who act on feelings of same-sex attraction to have disobeyed church teachings on morality and thus are subject to ecclesiastical discipline. They may be (1) placed on probation (for those desiring to change their behavior), (2) "disfellowshipped" (excluded from participating in the sacraments for a finite period of time while they correct their behavior), or (3) excommunicated. Members who face a disciplinary council and refuse to repent—or insist that their feelings are integral to who they are—almost always are excommunicated. They lose their membership and cannot participate in any way other than attend meetings. They also lose the eternal ties that bind them to their families and their church.
The LDS Church has no official policy regarding transgender individuals.
Same-sex marriages are not allowed in the LDS Church and sexual activity is grounds for being denied access to the temple, ordination and other aspects of church membership. The Church has a history of campaigning against marriage equality since the 1990s and the issue has become one of the church's foremost political concerns.
In November 2015, the LDS Church took formal steps to define marriage equality as a form of apostasy in its “Handbook of Instructions,” a guide for Mormon leaders. The policy not only describes Mormons in same-sex couples as apostates of the faith, it also establishes disciplinary actions that Mormon leaders can take against same-sex couples, including excommunication. The new policy also took aim at the children of same-sex couples. It barred them from baptism and from joining the LDS Church unless they denounce their parents by the age of 18. This policy, commonly referred to as the "November Policy," marks the first time a Christian church has enshrined a baptismal ban on children of same-sex couples. By June 2018, the LDS Church quietly cemented the "November Policy" by reaffirming its opposition to same-sex relationships in its recently updated manual for missionaries, Preach My Gospel.
In April 2019, a stunning announcement by the LDS Church reversed the controversial November 2015 policy. But President Oaks made clear that the Church was not revising its doctrine on homosexuality, which teaches that having same-sex attraction is not a sin, but acting on it is.
The LDS Church seldomly takes public positions on legislation, and most of the time only does so when the issue is considered one of morality. But in 2015, top LDS leaders worked alongside LGBTQ advocates and Utah lawmakers to pass a statewide non-discrimination bill that protects LGBTQ people in housing and employment, while offering exemptions for churches and other religious-liberty protections.
The church has not taken an official stand on the Equality Act.
Only men can be ordained in the LDS Church. Openly gay, bisexual and transgender men cannot be ordained in the LDS Church. Women have found increasing opportunities for leadership in recent years. In 2014, the New York Times reported that due to the church’s lowering the missionary age from 21 to 19 for women there has been a significant increase in women missionaries across the globe, and predicted a resulting shift in church policy in coming years.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
50 East North Temple
Salt Lake City, UT 84150
The Human Rights Campaign reports on news, events and resources of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation that are of interest to the general public and further our common mission to support the LGBTQ community.