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Mormons resign in struggle over gay marriage rules

Protests and mass resignations of Mormons unhappy with the church's newly issued policy on gay marriage took place Saturday.

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Sandy Newcomb poses for a photograph with a rainbow flag as Mormons gather for a mass resignation from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Saturday, in Salt Lake City. A day after the Mormon church issued clarifications to its new rules on gay members and their children, hundreds held a rally in Salt Lake City to protest their displeasure with the policy changes.

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints this week revised its newly released policies for the children of same-sex couples the day before hundreds of its members resigned their affiliations as Mormons in protest. 

An edict handed out to churches in late October said the children of gay couples would be banned from memberships until they were 18 years of age, and would be accepted into the church only if they renounced gay marriage and received approval from church leaders.

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The proclamation also barred children of same-sex couples from being baptized, blessed, or confirmed, and made gay marriage grounds for excommunicating members.  

The policies were laid out in a publication called Handbook 1, which a church spokesperson said was meant as a guideline to restate its positions on same-sex marriage.

"While [the Mormon church] respects the law of the land, and acknowledges the right of others to think and act differently, it does not perform or accept same-sex marriage within its membership," the spokesperson said in a statement.

The document was released in the final days of a tight race for mayor in Utah’s Salt Lake City and follows a June Decision by the US Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage. One candidate, Jackie Biskupski, went on to become the city’s first gay mayor.

But after widespread criticism, LDS leadership on Friday released a 10-minute video clip and a letter, sent in an apparent attempt to assuage the backlash of upset worshippers.

The church has a membership of approximately 15 million, with 85,000 Mormons conducting missionary work.

The letter sought to clarify that the church would ban only baptisms of children who lived with same-sex couples, and that it would not withdraw membership of children who were already baptized.

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On Saturday, however, roughly 1,000 current and former Mormons attended a rally outside LDS headquarters to show disapproval for the church’s measure.

Hundreds more submitted letters of resignation from the church to protest the policies, approved by Mormon leaders last week. Lengthy lines of disaffected congregants also handed notices directly to a church lawyer.

“This is about compassion and supporting our community,” said Brooke Swallow, one of the organizers of the protest in a city park, to Reuters. “No longer are we going to keep our mouths shut.”

Church leaders said they would respect the Supreme Court decision and follow the law of the land, but the document sent to church leaders is just the latest in recent troubles between the church and the gay community.

Biskupski, the newly elected mayor, said she would reach out to LDS leadership in an attempt to bridge the gap between her supporters in the gay community and Mormons and others opposed to gay marriage.

“The LDS church is no different than the LGBT community,” she said, to the Los Angeles Times. “There is a lot to overcome with the myths about who they are and who we are. They have walked the path of discrimination in this country, and we have walked that path.”