Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints First Counselor Dallin H. Oaks reiterated many of the points of the “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” created in 1995 as the state of Hawaii seemed likely to be the first to legalize same-sex marriage.
In his General Conference speech on Saturday, Oaks said the proclamation still applies today and said the statement was “revelation,” similar to a 2016 speech by then-president Boyd K. Packer.
“Some are troubled by some of our church’s positions on marriage and children,” Oaks said. “Our knowledge of God’s revealed plan of salvation requires us to oppose many of the current social and legal pressures to retreat from traditional marriage or to make changes that confuse or alter gender or homogenize the differences between men and women. We know that the relationships, identities, and functions of men and women are essential to accomplish God’s great plan.”
“Gender is eternal,” Oaks continued. “Before we were born on this earth, we all lived as male and female in the presence of God.”
He said that opposition to the church was part of Satan’s plan.
“Our positions on these fundamentals frequently provoke opposition to the church. We consider that inevitable. Opposition is part of the plan, and Satan’s (the Adversary’s) most strenuous opposition is directed at whatever is most important to God’s plan. He seeks to destroy God’s work,” he said. “He also seeks to confuse gender, to distort marriage, and to discourage childbearing — especially by parents who will raise children in truth.”
Some point to the fact that Oaks was president of Brigham Young University when the school was using electroconvulsive therapy to “heal” students of their homosexuality as a backdrop to his current message.
Utah Stonewall Democrats stated they feel “deeply troubled” by Oaks’ remarks and that they “respectfully disagree with his assertions.”
“Oaks urged members of the church to oppose abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, and transgender rights because they conflict with ‘eternal truths,'” Board Chair Becky Moss said in a statement. “As citizens of this beautiful state, progressive country, and perfect world, we support all who try to meet the challenge of being better people every day. I urge those who were hurt by President Oaks’ language to refer instead to the kind and thoughtful remarks given by Elder [Dieter F.] Uchtdorf.”
Uchtdorf, a member of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said, “It is this endless compassion that allows us to see others for who they are more clearly. Through the lens of pure love, we see mortal beings of infinite potential and worth and beloved sons and daughters of Almighty God. Once we see through that lens, we cannot discount, disregard, or discriminate against anyone.”
Openly-gay and former Mormon Sen. Jim Dabakis issued a video statement on Oaks’ speech.
“Dear LGBTQ youth of Utah, especially Mormon and trans kids. I know you can feel alone and unloved. No matter who says it, even if it is your family or some high-titled official, neither you nor the people who are fighting for you to be treated fairly are ‘Satan’s plan.’ You matter. You are loved. You don’t need to change who God made you to make ‘them’ feel like all their cogs fit into their tidy religious machine. This senator and so many other Utahns are standing with you and not with the bullies — of all ages! People who mouth loving you but then demand that you conform to their narrow, 1950’s, un-Christian requirements are dangerously ill-informed at best and evil at worst. It will get better for you. I see you. I love you,” he said.
In response to a since-deleted negative comment to his video by Shauna Henriod Fowler, Dabakis said, “I don’t do doctrine. But I have been on the front lines. At the funerals. Five of them. Imagine that 13-year-old boy laying in the coffin in Alpine. Or the child in [West Valley City], who killed himself outside his middle school, or the girl who took her life in Ogden. This is exactly the kind of loose talk that ripples out. It is careless and it is deadly.”
Mama Dragons member Julie Turnbull Packer posted a heartfelt message on her Facebook wall about Oaks’ speech and her gay son who became a drug addict and eventually committed suicide.
“I need to be very clear. This is not MY God speaking. My God sent me a perfect son to love and learn from, and we all screwed it up. We didn’t make him feel safe to be who he was. He needed to find a way to hide. And yes, I did talk to him about this before he died. And he told me ‘pretending to be straight in Rigby, Idaho was exhausting.’ If you knew my boy, he was smart and funny and gorgeous, but he couldn’t see it,” she wrote.
“So Elder Oaks, SHAME ON YOU! You have met with parents of LGBTQ kids. You have heard their stories and have seen them cry. Telling a transgender child that their gender is eternal, in the way that you mean it, could likely drive them to suicide. I don’t know what I believe about eternity, but if gender is eternal, and I like to think that it is, then these lovely souls can know that their true gender will be honored in the eternities. Biology just played a trick on them. I don’t know ONE parent of a transgender child, not one, who thinks this might be a phase. They know that their child is who they are deep into their soul. And if that child cannot be WHO they are, the other option is death.
“Some of us really struggle to stay in the church because we love it. Because we love the people. Because much of it makes us better people. But because of these messages, attending church is painful because we know what it does to these kids. If my son had one time asked me NOT to attend, I would not. But he liked that I was there advocating for him and others like him. He knew that there will be other LBGTQ youth being raised by Mormon parents. Those parents need to learn ahead of time what NOT to do. Many of the moms in our group have their regret stories. We need fewer regrets… Dallin Oaks is dead wrong. And just saying he’s wrong isn’t enough.”