Mor­mon data­base to ac­cept gay cou­ples

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - RELIGION - BRADY MCCOMBS

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.

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