The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced on Wednesday more inclusion pertaining to witnessing ordinances performed both in and outside of the church’s temples.
According to the press release, any baptized member of the church may serve as a witness of the baptism of a living person. Baptisms for the dead inside the temple may be witnessed by anyone holding a current temple recommend, including a limited-use recommend. And any member of the church who has received their endowment ordinances may serve as a witness to the sealing ordinance, both as a living ordinance for couples and as proxy for ordinances for the dead.
In the past, only the male holders of the priesthood could serve as witnesses for ordinances, both for the living and for the church’s practice of performing ordinances as proxy for deceased ancestors. This policy change allows all worthy members, including women, to serve as witnesses to these ordinances, which the church considers as saving and necessary ordinances.
“We are joyful about these changes,” church president Russell M. Nelson states in a press released. “Imagine a beloved sister serving as a witness to the living baptism of her younger brother. Imagine a mature couple serving as witnesses in the temple baptistry as their grandson baptizes their granddaughter for and in behalf of a dear ancestor.”
A witness supervises ordinances to ensure proper decorum and instruction are followed, such as full immersion during baptisms and proper wording of prayers and blessings, where needed in certain ordinances.
Also included in the announcement were further elaborations by the church’s first counselor in the First Presidency, Dallin H. Oaks, after remarks given by Nelson at Brigham Young University in September, on the church’s previous policy ban of baptism for children of LGBTQ parents and church decisions “based out of love.”
According to Oaks, the church’s doctrine believes “binary creation is essential to the plan of salvation.” He also reaffirmed that the church would not be changing its “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” document first shared in 1995, stating in a press release that “the intended meaning of gender in the family proclamation and as used in Church statements and publications since that time is biological sex at birth.”
Oaks states that church leaders do not know why some individuals experience “confusion about their sexual identity or other LGBT feelings.”
“... modern revelation teaches that eternal life, the greatest gift of God to His children, is only possible through the creative powers inherent in the combination of male and female joined in an eternal marriage. That is why the law of chastity is so important,” Oaks states.