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Mormon Church and Gay Rights
The stand of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on gay rights has been clearly stated. The standards of the Church regarding morality are unwavering and cannot be changed by any kind of petitioning voice. The Church is led by a prophet of God, and gets its information regarding what is moral and what is not directly from the Lord. The standard is as follows:
- "As a church, our doctrinal position is clear: any sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong, and we define marriage as between a man and a woman." 
This standard is outlined in The Family: A Proclamation to the World. There can be no negotiation over this standard. It will always stand. This presents a special challenge for many people. There are some who will never marry simply because they never will find that special person. There are some who are handicapped who will never marry but long to do so. Others suffer from same-sex attraction. For these, it might be challenging to fall in love with someone of the opposite sex. A celibate life might be the only alternative in order to keep the laws of God. The Church acknowledges that this is a difficult path, while it urges discourse based on real science and real religious principles.
As far as civil rights are concerned,
- "while the Church is strongly on the record as opposing same-sex marriage, it has openly supported other rights for gays and lesbians such as protections in housing or employment."
The laws of Utah were liberalized in order to meet this criterion. The Church upholds all civil rights for gays except those that adulterate the institution of marriage, namely, marriage and adoption.
The Church laments the suffering of gays over their trials in life and urges church members to be ever compassionate:
- "Jesus Christ, whom we follow, was clear in His condemnation of sexual immorality, but never cruel. His interest was always to lift the individual, never to tear down....The Church’s doctrine is based on love. We believe that our purpose in life is to learn, grow and develop, and that God’s unreserved love enables each of us to reach our potential. None of us is limited by our feelings or inclinations. Ultimately, we are free to act for ourselves.
- "The Church recognizes that those of its members who are attracted to others of the same sex experience deep emotional, social and physical feelings. The Church distinguishes between feelings or inclinations on the one hand and behavior on the other. It’s not a sin to have feelings, only in yielding to temptation.
- "There is no question that this is difficult, but Church leaders and members are available to help lift, support and encourage fellow members who wish to follow Church doctrine. Their struggle is our struggle. Those in the Church who are attracted to someone of the same sex but stay faithful to the Church’s teachings can be happy during this life and perform meaningful service in the Church. They can enjoy full fellowship with other Church members, including attending and serving in temples, and ultimately receive all the blessings afforded to those who live the commandments of God....We join our voice with others in unreserved condemnation of acts of cruelty or attempts to belittle or mock any group or individual that is different – whether those differences arise from race, religion, mental challenges, social status, sexual orientation or for any other reason. Such actions simply have no place in our society." 
Those who militantly pursue the gay, lesbian, transsexual, bisexual rights agenda have made strides in publicizing the trials they face in life and in procuring civil rights. In doing this, they have promised others outside their ilk that to allow them every right, including the right to marry and to adopt children, will have no deliterious affect on anyone else. They have especially debunked the prophetic utterances of apostles of the Mormon Church who have claimed that the GLTB agenda will compromise religious rights. It appears, however, that their agenda decries as bigotry and hatred the very believe that homosexual activity is a sin.
In the 180th general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, apostle Boyd K. Packer delivered a talk reiterating the stance of the Church on sexual sin, including viewing pornography, heterosexual activity outside marriage, and homosexual activity. Since the Church is led by prophets who are bound to follow and teach the commandments of God, this policy can never change as long as God considers these activities sinful. The talk raised a hue and cry and many demonstrations against the Church.
Maurine Proctor of Meridian Magazine wrote an insightful response to those who reviled against Elder Packer (see it here). She quoted Elder Packer:
- "Regardless of the opposition we are determined to stay the course. We will hold to the principles and ordinances of the gospel. If they are misunderstood either innocently or willfully, so be it. We cannot change; we will not change. We quickly lose our way when we disobey the laws of God. If we do not protect and foster the family, civilizations and our liberties must perish."
Proctor also quoted late prophet Joseph F. Smith:
- "I never want to see the day come when these men, to whom you have entrusted the right and power to preside, shall have their mouths closed so that they dare not reprove sin or rebuke iniquity. … It is our duty to do it. We are here for that purpose. We are watchmen upon the towers of Zion [see Ezekiel 3:17–19]. It is our business and duty to point out errors and follies among men; and if men will not receive it, they must go their own way and abide the consequences. Those who will not obey righteous counsels will be the sufferers, and not those who rebuke iniquity."
- "Why would an activist organization like the Human Rights Campaign think it has a right to interfere in what a leader of a church preaches to his own congregation? It assumes that the practice of someone else’s religion is HRC’s business and that they, can, in fact, put pressure on a religion to alter its message to please them, can demonize religious leaders as hateful and publicly assail them for following biblical injunctions.
- "They would have all faiths, who follow the Bible in the issue of homosexuality, characterized as homophobes and bigots, not only in the culture, but in the law. For years, they have felt put in the closet by religion, and now they hope to reverse the tables, putting religion in the closet."
The same kind of pressure is being imposed against scientific organizations, some of which have completed extensive studies showing that homosexuality is not hardwired into one's DNA. An example is a huge study published in 2008. A group of European researchers looked at more than 3,000 pairs of Swedish twins to statistically sort out the cause of homosexuality and heterosexuality. As published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, the researchers determined there was no one factor that caused homosexuality or heterosexuality -- more than 60 percent of it was caused by environmental factors and more than 30 percent was biologically related. One of the study’s authors was quoted as saying, 'The factors which influence sexual orientation are complex.' This study was ignored by the press.
- "Ruth Jacobs, an MD from Maryland, who specializes in infectious diseases, has found it is considered homophobic to cite statistics from the Center for Disease Control about the prevalence of disease in homosexual populations vs. heterosexual populations.
- "The National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, a professional, scientific organization has found they are labeled homophobic for being willing to help clients who struggle with unwanted homosexuality—though overcoming this tendency is their client’s express choice. Their leadership includes a former president and board members of the American Psychological Association. They are also hateful for objectively reviewing the studies on homosexuality and being unable to say that “people are just born that way.”
- "Dr. Francis Collins, former Director of the Genome Project, could also be held with suspicion by the activists because he has stated that while homosexuality may be genetically influenced, it is '… not hardwired by DNA, and that whatever genes are involved represent predispositions, not predeterminations.'"
Why is the call for tolerance from the GLBT community, whose call is for love rather than hate, turning into a militant, hateful blitz that demands control over the press, the scientific community, educational curricula, and every religion on earth? Mormon leaders are calling upon their membership to be kind and tolerant, even recommending the liberalizing Utah law for the benefit of the gay community. However, the doctrines of Christ are immovable. Christian religions preach repentance and the striving to lead a Christ-like life. For that, sin needs to be defined. Otherwise, believers have no idea what God requires and what is necessary to live a life of spiritual peace and progress. This is not bigotry. It is the relaying of eternal truth.
In November, 2010, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a new handbook for church administrators. The HRC lauded the change in wording regarding dealing with members who report same-sex attraction, and the organization claimed responsibility for influencing the Church leadership in becoming more tolerant. LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter debunked both a change in church policy and the influence of the HRC:
- "The HRC's representations of the changes in the new handbook are simply absurd."
The LDS Church has always differentiated between homosexual tendencies and homosexual behavior. Same-sex attraction is not considered sinful, but homosexual behavior is a sin. This has always been and ever will be the policy of the Church. No lobbying will change this stance. A prophet is at the head of the Church, and Jesus Christ dictates what is sin and what is not. The new handbook has been under development for years and was printed and ready for distribution months before the HRC petitioned the Church.
At the end of 2012 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints launched a new website, under development for two years. The site, www.mormonsandgays.org is meant to inform, encourage compassion and understanding, and to reaffirm the doctrines of the Church while engaging in non-judgmental conversation.
Changes to Handbook 1 in 2015
Handbook 1 published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not available to the public, but is meant for the Church's lay leadership to coordinated policies and practice. The Handbook reads like a rulebook, in that it has no embellishments or detailed explanations, nor does it play to readers' emotional sensibilities. Bishops, stake presidents, and other lay leaders are to counsel with their counselors and those in authority above them when there are questions of policy and practice. Mormons also enjoy the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost and are privy to revelation from God in their callings to help them with decisions on a situational basis.
Updates to Handbook 1 in November 2015 were leaked to the General Press by people hostile to the Church, and these updates were presented to the general public (and to the membership of the Mormon Church) through the press and social media as horrific-sounding policies often opposite of their intent or meaning. This created a firestorm of protest and misunderstanding demanding damage control by the leadership of the Church.
Clarifications were made by the leaders of the Church to the following new policies.
- 1. That on a situational basis children of gay parents would need to wait to be blessed (given a name and a blessing, which begins the membership process), baptized, ordained to the priesthood or serving a mission, until the child has reached maturity and moved out of the home with gay parents. The child would need to uphold the Church's definition of marriage.
- This policy has been in effect for 100 years for the children of polygamous parents, and the children of parents who are otherwise hostile to the Church for any reason. This is also the policy for a husband or wife whose spouse is hostile to the Church. In order to keep peace in the home, it's better to wait until the child is of age, or the spouse is supportive. The child is not left comfortless, and neither is the spouse, since the Lord attends them and church members do too. There are a small number of gay couples who love the Church, but could not live the celibate lifestyle demanded of gays to be members in good standing, who want their children to be active in the Church and are willing to support them in that activity. These may have ordinances for their children as leadership is inspired to allow it. Peace in the home is paramount.
- 2. Gay marriage was labeled as "apostasy" in the updates to Handbook 1. Apostasy sounds awful, but what it really means is opposition to Church doctrine.
- Homosexual attraction is not considered a sin in Mormon doctrine. Homosexual activity, like heterosexual activity outside of marriage, is considered a sin. When gay members enter into a marriage contract, they are going against Mormon doctrine, just like people who enter into a polygamous marriage contract. If this were defined as "sexual sin," the current trends in liberal society would eventually get to the point where society would say, "There is no sexual sin." Judgment and restrictions would then be passed against churches that believe sexual activity outside of traditional marriage is sinful. By making gay marriage a sin against doctrine instead, it protects Mormon bishops against having to perform gay marriages, and protects Mormon temples from having to sponsor gay marriages within their sacred walls.
For further reading:
- Understanding the Handbook
- 9 Facebook Myths About the Church's New LGBT Policy
- North Star. A place of community for Latter-day Saints dealing with issues surrounding homosexual attraction who desire to live in harmony with the teachings of Jesus Christ and the values and doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
- Gospel Topic about same-sex attraction on LDS.org.
- Mormon Newsroom. Article about same-sex attraction, including an interview with Elder Oaks and Elder Wickman.