Mormon database to accept gay couples
SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ expansive genealogical database will begin accepting submissions of names of people from samesex relationships sometime next year.
The move doesn’t foreshadow any change to long-standing church opposition to gay marriage, but it is being done to ensure the databank has as much information as possible for researchers, according to a statement from the church.
“No judgments are made as to the legitimacy or character of the relationships found in these public records, nor can they be,” church spokesman Irene Caso said. “They are simply collections of data to be assessed for their genealogical value by each researcher.”
Caso said church members who use the database to request temple sealings for their ancestors understand that can only be done for marriages between a man and a woman.
The genealogical database, called FamilySearch, posted a statement in April on its website updating the progress of the expansion plan first announced in 2015.
The statement said several systems must be redesigned to make possible the submissions. Officials expect that work to be done by 2019, the statement said.
“The goal of FamilySearch. org is to capture, store, and provide records and an accurate genealogy that represents past, present, and future families of the world,” the statement said. “To support this goal, same-sex relationships, including same-sex parents and same-sex couples, will be provided in FamilySearch Family Tree.”
The Salt Lake Tribune first reported last month that the change would go into effect by next year.
The Utah-based religion of 16 million worldwide members has held firm to its opposition of gay marriage and homosexual activity while trying to foster an empathetic stance toward LGBT people.
The church received criticism from LGBT groups in 2015 when it banned baptisms for children living with gay parents and instituted a requirement that those children disavow homosexual relationships before being allowed to serve a mission.
The changes were designed to avoid putting children in a tug-of-war between their parents and church teachings, leaders said.
The move to allow samesex couples in the database is an important step forward that shows the church is making some progress on LGBT issues, said Troy Williams, executive director of the LGBT support group Equality Utah.
“We have families, we’re having children,” Williams said. “It’s important that the [Latter-day Saints] database reflect that.”
The focus on genealogy by Latter-day Saints is rooted in their belief that families should be the focal point of lives, and that family relationships continue into eternity.
The website is used to do family tree searches and for church members to record baptisms of the dead, the faith being the only widespread religion that baptizes the dead.
The proxy baptisms do not automatically convert dead people to the faith. Under church teachings, the rituals provide the deceased a choice in the afterlife to accept or reject the offer of baptism.