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LDS policy changes to allow youth to officiate, assist in temple baptisms

LDS policy changes to allow youth to officiate, assist in temple baptisms (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) The LDS church will change the way adolescents in its youth programs participate in temple activities.

The change will be announced in LDS congregations this Sunday when bishops -- leaders of local congregations -- read the changes from the pulpit in a letter, sent by the LDS church's First Presidency, its highest authority. The policy change will allow youth to take greater roles in special baptism rituals that take place in temples.

The changes, effective Jan. 1, 2018, will allow boys who are part of the church's Aaronic Priesthood -- between 16 and 18-years-old -- to officiate in baptisms on behalf of individuals who are dead, including as a baptizer or as a witness. These roles were previously limited to older males who advanced in the religion's priesthood, designated as belonging to the Melchizedek Priesthood.

Youth who are 16 are ordained as preists in the LDS faith and currently can perform baptisms for living members at church or in other approved water. Mormons baptize by full immersion.

The letter says young women between 12 and 18, "may assist with a baptistry assignments currently performed by sister temple ordinance workers and volunteers."

The changes were written about on ThisWeekInMormons.com, that reported having an advance copy of the letter. KUTV confirmed with LDS church officials that the letter is authentic and would be read in congregations Sunday. ThisWeekInMormons' copy of the letter is available for download and is embedded below.

Teens and others can currently be baptized in proxy for those who have died and who didn't have the LDS baptism ritual performed in life. The change now gives the younger men in the church's priesthood an active role baptizing others. Participation in temple rituals require a temple recommend, an ecclesiastical endorsement, that establishes worthiness for participation in what are considered highly spiritual temple rituals.

Currently policy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints allows members in the youth program, typically 12 to 18-years-old, to attend the sacred church temple buildings, that are different from its more common church used for weekly worship on Sundays and LDS community events on other days of the week. LDS chapels are accessible by anyone, member or non-member.

Baptisms for the dead are the only temple rituals youth can be involved in by proxy. Other temple ceremonies are reserved for those over 18 who also are deemed to be worthy by their bishop or other church leaders.

Another change announced by the letter is a meeting currently called the Priesthood Preview meeting, for 11-year-old boys, will be modified and to include both boys and girls and will be called Temple and Priesthood Preparation. It is meant, according to the letter, to help participants understand "the significant blessings of temple service, priesthood service, and making and keeping sacred covenants."

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