In his Saturday speech at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ General Conference, President Boyd K. Packer said that sex, other than that between a married man and a woman, is among the most serious of all transgressions.
In his talk, he went through what the Mormon Church calls the “word of wisdom,” a set of health-related rules that members must live by, including the eschewing of coffee, tea and liquor.
“In another revelation, the Lord’s standard of morality commands that the sacred powers to beget life be protected and employed only between man and woman, husband and wife. To misuse this power is exceeded in seriousness only by the shedding of innocent blood and denying the Holy Ghost,” Packer said.
“Everyone is tested,” he continued. “One might think it is unfair to be singled out and subjected to a particular temptation, but this is the purpose of mortal life—to be tested. And the answer is the same for everyone: we must, and we can, resist temptations of any kind. The great plan of happiness centers on family life. The husband is the head of the home and the wife the heart of the home.”
The speech is among many given by Packer over the years where homosexuality is mentioned in a negative light.
Last October, the online text of Packer’s speech was edited after his words sparked controversy when he said that sexuality is changeable and that a loving heavenly father would not create people to be gay. His speech was in stark contrast to recent Mormon Church statements that people that are attracted to the same gender must simply choose not to act on their feelings.
“Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember, God is our Heavenly Father,” Packer said in the October conference.
His remarks were made after a string of youth suicides in Utah and throughout the nation. Many gay activists saw his remarks as distasteful and dangerous and it drew national attention.
A protest that drew an estimated 4,500 people was organized surrounding the Salt Lake City Temple Square. Protestors surrounded the square in a silent protest to remind the Church leadership of the young lives lost to suicide.
“We are who we are,” protest organizer, Eric Ethington said. “We cannot change, and you cannot change us. The more you say this, the more dead bodies you leave behind.”
An online petition was circulated by the Human Rights Commission. After gathering more than 150,000 signatures, it was hand-delivered by the president of the HRC, the president of Affirmation, David Melson, and gay-rights activist Bruce Bastian to LDS Church representatives.
“Among the 12 (Apostles) there are some that would like to see gays and lesbians welcomed into full fellowship, but Packer is not one of them,” Melson said.
Since delivering the petition, Melson said he is contacted regularly by members of the Church leadership expressing a desire to work with the gay members. He said the general authorities he has spoken with oppose Packer’s views.
“There’s almost a uniform opinion among the general authorities that full acceptance is going to happen,” Melson said. “I’m encouraged, but the Church does not move quickly on these things.”
Packer has had a storied past concerning his denouncement of gay people from the Mormon Church. In 1976 he gave a speech denouncing homosexuals that was later turned into a pamphlet called To Young Men Only. In the speech he said that being gay is a choice and that there are some that might try to tempt and encourage other young men to have gay sex. He tells a story of a young man beating a young gay man and says it is not always the solution, but violence could be considered against gay people.
This pamphlet is still in use by the Mormon Church today.