There has been a lot said about the church’s policy that children of same sex couples cannot be blessed, and cannot be baptized until they are at least 18 and renounce the practice.
Deuteronomy 5:9 Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,
10 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.
The phrase that appears here is sort of the other side of the coin to what we find in elsewhere about the sins of the children being answered on the heads of the parents if the parents fail to teach their children the Gospel. Compare it to what Lehi said to the Laman’s children:
2 Nephi 4:5 But behold, my sons and my daughters, I cannot go down to my grave save I should leave a blessing upon you; for behold, I know that if ye are brought up in the way ye should go ye will not depart from it.
6 Wherefore, if ye are cursed, behold, I leave my blessing upon you, that the cursing may be taken from you and be answered upon the heads of your parents.
So why does the Lord say that he visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate him?
Well, first off, I have instance of this in my own family history. The pioneer ancestors on my mother’s side stupidly apostatized after crossing the plains. One of them apostatized over a tablecloth being set for a visiting general authority at some church gathering, where usually none was used. And what did his children inherit? They weren’t part of the church for multiple generations. My mother’s parents were baptized, but they grew up completely inactive and actually opposed her devotion to the church. She was converted as a teenager by a good neighbor, and so became an exception. One of her brothers became converted late in adulthood. But of course his children missed out and still the apostate heritage of their ancestors prevails.
But, there is a lot more to it than what we see from this example. This example illustrates how the traditions of ones fathers can propagate to destroy multiple generations. Certainly that is part of what Deuteronomy 5:9 refers to, but there are important additions to be made that cast a much greater circle of light.
Anyone that knows anything about family history knows a bit about this topic. When we learn about our ancestors we also learn about ourselves.
Consequently, when our ancestors have sinned in a big way, that becomes part of our heritage. And it will stick to us until we openly forsake their actions.
The point is, we must, effectively, repent of egregious things our ancestors did.
Now you may not believe that one bit, but lets take a nice example from the scriptures. This whole doctrine is politically incorrect as can be, and our example will be so as well.
The Jews have been persecuted horribly for an awfully long time. We have scripture that says exactly why this is the case:
2 Nephi 25:13 Behold, they will crucify him; and after he is laid in a sepulchre for the space of three days he shall rise from the dead, with healing in his wings; and all those who shall believe on his name shall be saved in the kingdom of God. Wherefore, my soul delighteth to prophesy concerning him, for I have seen his day, and my heart doth magnify his holy name.
14 And behold it shall come to pass that after the Messiah hath risen from the dead, and hath manifested himself unto his people, unto as many as will believe on his name, behold, Jerusalem shall be destroyed again; for wo unto them that fight against God and the people of his church.
15 Wherefore, the Jews shall be scattered among all nations; yea, and also Babylon shall be destroyed; wherefore, the Jews shall be scattered by other nations.
16 And after they have been scattered, and the Lord God hath scourged them by other nations for the space of many generations, yea, even down from generation to generation until they shall be persuaded to believe in Christ, the Son of God, and the atonement, which is infinite for all mankind—and when that day shall come that they shall believe in Christ, and worship the Father in his name, with pure hearts and clean hands, and look not forward any more for another Messiah, then, at that time, the day will come that it must needs be expedient that they should believe these things.
Well, there you have it. Why have the Jews been so horribly persecuted from generation to generation? Because they crucified the Son of God.
1 Nephi 19:13 And as for those who are at Jerusalem, saith the prophet, they shall be scourged by all people, because they crucify the God of Israel, and turn their hearts aside, rejecting signs and wonders, and the power and glory of the God of Israel.
14 And because they turn their hearts aside, saith the prophet, and have despised the Holy One of Israel, they shall wander in the flesh, and perish, and become a hiss and a byword, and be hated among all nations.
Now what is interesting about this is that the Jews who were persecuted from generation to generation were not the ones who actually crucified Christ.
But until they repent of their ancestor’s actions, it remains part of who they are. There is nothing imaginary about that, or God would not continue to scourge any but the generation who performed the actual crucifixion.
We are connected to our fathers. And when they did something egregious, it remains a part of us unless we actively reject those acts. We must, in effect, repent of their horrible acts. As long as we stand by our fathers in such actions, it remains a part of us. As with most matters of sin, there isn’t really neutral territory. This is not just a “point of view”, this is a reality about the relation between ancestors and descendants, or God would not continue to scourge the Jews.
So what must the Jews do for this to change? Well, let’s read about it. It is beautiful.
D&C 45:51 And then shall the Jews look upon me and say: What are these wounds in thine hands and in thy feet?
52 Then shall they know that I am the Lord; for I will say unto them: These wounds are the wounds with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. I am he who was lifted up. I am Jesus that was crucified. I am the Son of God.
53 And then shall they weep because of their iniquities; then shall they lament because they persecuted their king.
What do we see the Jews doing here? Do they say “Well, that was our ancestors, not us”?
NO! THEY themselves recognize what they must do: “then shall they weep because of their iniquities; then shall they lament because they persecuted their king.”
Not all acts are so serious that they can last from generation to generation across ages. To do that, you pretty much need to do something as serious as crucifying your God.
10 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.
And if we understand this need to reject and forsake our Father’s serious iniquity in order to come out from under it, we don’t even need to wonder about the church’s policy about children of same sex couples. It is a current, administrative manifestation of an eternal truth that connects children and parents, sometimes over millennia.
The children must repent of the serious errors of the parents to come out from under them. They must mourn for them and forsake them or those sins remain, in some measure, part of them. We see this coming into effect in multiple places in the scriptures. We see horrors declared upon the children of Jeraboam because of Jeraboam’s sins in 1 Kings 14. Interestingly, a single exception is made among Jeraboam’s children, who would still die, but who the Lord would allow to be buried. We see the entire families of Korah and the other rebels swallowed up by the earth in Numbers 16. But we also see the places in the scriptures where people mourn for the sins of their fathers, reject them, and take a new course. We even see some Lamanites whose skins become white like the Nephites in the Book of Mormon. The prodigal son returns, in part, because of the goodness he knows through his father.
Yes, there is a flip side to this whole topic. The same connection can reach across the ages to help a person do good that is descended from a truly good man such as Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob, or Lehi, or any of the prophets. It is a principle that connects ancestors to children and inspires the child toward the works of the ancestor in the child unless the child actively rejects the works of their fathers, either for good, or for ill.