LDS Church Postpones Meeting with Gay Mormons

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has backed out of a scheduled meeting with representatives of a gay LDS group, citing a change in leadership as its reason. 

In a July 23 letter to David Melson, Assistant Executive Director of Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons, Fred M. Riley, the church’s Director of Family Services, said he had accepted “a new assignment with the LDS church,” necessitating that the meeting be pushed back from its original Aug. 11 date. Riley was one of two representatives LDS president Thomas S. Monson picked earlier this year to meet with Affirmation leadership.

“After much consideration we have determined that it would be best to postpone our anticipated meeting,” Riley wrote, adding that he felt “badly” about the move, but thought that it would be in the best interest of both parties to wait for the new director’s appointment.

A staff person with LDS Family Services told Affirmation that the meeting would be rescheduled after a new Family Services Commissioner is named. The process could take three to six months.

 “We deeply regret the Church’s decision to put the dialog between us on hold,” said Melson. “We wish Fred Riley well in his new position, and we hope that the Church’s decision is not related to the current political activity in California or to any lack of commitment on the part of the First Presidency to making the LDS Church a safe space for all of its members.”

Melson referred to Monson’s recent letter urging California Mormons to financially and politically support the passage of a proposed amendment to California’s constitution (called Proposition 8) that would define marriage as the union between a man and a woman. Bishops and stake presidents were tasked with reading the letter aloud to congregations on June 30.

California’s Supreme Court overturned the state’s marriage ban on May 16.

In March, Monson accepted Affirmation’s request to open dialogue with the gay Mormon group. In the meeting, Affirmation leadership had hoped to discuss what they see as the church’s mistreatment and silencing of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members. Although the LDS church teaches that a gay orientation isn’t sinful, it views any sexual activity outside of heterosexual, monogamous marriage as sin. Recently, the church has also excommunicated some gay members who have acted on their orientation.

“Hundreds of families are broken each year, and many hundreds more are driven away from the Church when a family member comes out as being gay,” the group said in a press release. “The discomfort and the guilt that the non-gay family members feel in LDS settings can be every bit as severe as for the gay family member. This is a problem on which Affirmation’s leaders feel that they can work with Church leaders to everyone’s benefit.”

Affirmation Executive Director said that he hoped Monson would designate one of the church’s General Authorities to meet with Affirmation leaders on the original date or “offer to quickly reschedule the meeting.” Leaders, some of whom are traveling from as far away as Washington, D.C., to meet with church officials, also invited the president or any other General Authority to meet with them while they are in Salt Lake City.

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