The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints launched a new website to discuss its position on gays and lesbians. The site, mormonsandgays.org, collects videos and documents of speeches given by church authorities on the topic of homosexuality.
The Mormon Church’s official position is that gays and lesbians can be fully recognized and accepted members, provided they do not act on their feelings. Gay and lesbian Mormons must either choose to remain celibate or marry someone of the opposite sex.
“From a public relations perspective it would be easier for the church to simply accept homosexual behavior. That we cannot do, for God’s law is not ours to change. There is no change in the church’s position of what is morally right,” the site reads. “But what is changing — and what needs to change — is to help church members respond sensitively and thoughtfully when they encounter same-sex attraction in their own families, among other church members or elsewhere.”
The website does not reflect a change in doctrine, but is a collection of resources for church members who are seeking to understand the position.
“Members of the church who have same-sex attractions, but don’t act on them, can continue to enjoy full fellowship in the church, which includes holding the priesthood, carrying out callings and attending the temple,” the site reads.
In 2008, the Mormon Church encouraged its members to become involved in the effort to ban same-sex marriages in California. There was a backlash against the church and it was even the subject of a Sundance Film Festival documentary, 8: The Mormon Proposition.
Regarding the timing of the announcement, church spokesman Michael Purdy said, “Too often these types of big, important issues are dealt with in sound bites and often by individuals who do not have the complete picture of what the Church is doing. This website was produced over two years and puts the entire issue in context. The attention the church received during the presidential election period highlighted areas of church belief and practice that are poorly understood by the general public. We think additional context will help people better understand the church’s position on a number of issues. Over the next few weeks we expect to be publishing more resource materials that will help address other topics.”
The site does not necessarily advocate for the changing of sexual orientation, although it does prominently feature a well-known “reparative” therapist who is in a mixed-orientation marriage, Ty Mansfield. He is a family and marriage therapist in Texas and he’s been featured in the past in church publications as an example of a mixed-orientation marriage and one possible path for gay and lesbian Mormons.
Although the site does not encourage gays and lesbians to pursue healthy same-sex relationships, Valerie Larabee, the executive director of the Utah Pride Center, said it is an important step forward.
“I applaud any institution, religious or otherwise, for increasing the availability of potentially lifesaving resources to bridge the gap in human understanding, respect and acceptance of differences,” Larabee said. “It is my hope that our Utah LGBTQ community will embrace the fact that saving lives may be the greatest gift of this new resource for LDS members. Giving LGBTQ and questioning Mormons hope through knowing that their families and church leaders are committed to reducing judgment, rejection and isolation. It’s clear from this website that LDS doctrine will not change, however, those Mormons who are LGBTQ or questioning may enjoy a higher quality of life and more loving relationship with their friends, families and faith.”