New Mormon website features softer, gentler tone on gays

SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints isn’t changing its tune about homosexuality, but it … Continued

SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints isn’t changing its tune about homosexuality, but it has launched a new website to alter the tone.

The site — unveiled Thursday (Dec. 6) and called “Love One Another: A Discussion on Same-Sex Attraction” — includes video clips of Mormon leaders as well as gay members and their families promoting compassion and understanding toward homosexuals, and encouraging everyone to be “disciples of Christ.”

“Our hope with this site is that empathy will grow in families,” LDS apostle D. Todd Christofferson says in one clip. “We’re trying to communicate that our love is inclusive, that we want to have the family remain intact, and the relationships we’ve treasured over the years to remain and to grow.”

It’s important, the apostle says, “to recognize the feelings of a person, that they are real, that they are authentic, that we don’t deny that someone feels a certain way.”

Many gay rights activists, inside and outside the LDS church, applaud Mormonism’s latest effort.

“This website is a tool, or resource, for LDS faithful for engaging in this topic,” says Brandie Balkan, executive director of Equality Utah, a gay rights group. “It is important that the core is inclusion, understanding and compassion. It is my hope that we will see a difference in the lived experience of the LGBT (community), especially of our young people.”

Mormon leaders have increasingly emphasized that Mormons not abandon or distance themselves from gay loved ones and have condemned bullying and homophobic rhetoric among members and in society at large.

The new site thrills newly elected state Sen. Jim Dabakis — Utah’s Democratic Party boss, a onetime Mormon missionary and soon to be the only openly gay person in the state Legislature.

“I give tremendous credit to the LDS Church,” Dabakis says. “This can’t have been easy.”

Laurie Campbell, who tells her story on the site, was nervous to participate but felt it would be a valuable gift to her fellow believers.

Campbell, of Boulder City, Nev., always knew she was a lesbian growing up in her Mormon family. She had three successive gay relationships, but, finally, decided to give up her partner and return to her faith. She subsequently married a man and had three children. More than 20 years ago, she wrote about the experience in a book called, “Born That Way? A True Story of Overcoming Same-Sex Attraction With Insights for Friends, Families and Leaders.”

Campbell used a pseudonym for that book, but is herself on the video.

“It was unnerving to come forward and be open about it — even not living a gay relationship now, that still doesn’t go over very well in the church,” she said in a phone interview. “But I don’t want people to feel ashamed if they identify as gay.”

The fact that the new LDS site uses people who identify as gay, she says, sends a “message of acceptance. I love that.”

“Same-sex attraction is not a sin,” the website emphasizes, “but acting on it is.” Mormon doctrine decrees that sex should only be between a husband and a wife.

“It’s no sin to have inclinations that if yielded to would produce behavior that would be a transgression,” apostle Dallin H. Oaks says in an interview posted on the church’s newsroom website. “The sin is in yielding to temptation. Temptation is not unique. Even the Savior was tempted.”

On the question of inborn tendencies, Oaks says, “the church does not have a position on the causes of any of these susceptibilities or inclinations, including those related to same-gender attraction.”

Same-sex attraction is also “not an illness or a disease,” LDS officials say in the new videos, noting that the church no longer encourages gay members to get married to someone of the opposite sex.

“On this website we witness something that church leaders rarely do: Admit that we’ve done things wrong in the past,” Spencer W. Clark, executive director of Mormons for Marriage Equality, says in a statement.

The new site also doesn’t encourage Latter-day Saints to oppose legislation making gay marriage legal. Indeed, Dabakis notes the fact that the church “didn’t get involved in any of the four races (gay marriage initiatives) that were on the (November) ballot — not one volunteer, not one dollar — is evidence of this kind of change, and our community has changed dramatically, too.”

The new website has been in the works for more than two years, LDS church spokesman Michael Purdy says in an introduction, and was prompted by misunderstanding of Mormonism during the recent presidential election.

“Too often these types of big, important issues are dealt with in sound bites,” Purdy says, “and often by individuals who do not have the complete picture of what the church is doing.”

(Peggy Fletcher Stack writes for The Salt Lake Tribune. Tribune reporter Robert Gehrke contributed to this story.)

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Religion News Service LLC.

  • Eric Miller

    This is al well, but if same-sex attractions are innate and acting on them is sinful, then some people are born into sin, or at least pre-disposed to it. Hogwash.

  • harvieedgates1

    The LDS Church believes that ALL people are born with a pre-disposition to sin. Their teachings are that you become stronger by overcoming the inclinations of the “natural man”. Whether the predisposition for sin is homosexual sex, pre-marital sex, drinking alcohol, violence, stealing, lying, cheating, or any other ungodly act, the importance is to not act upon that sin. This type of belief is pretty much the basis of all Christianity, it’s just that some define what is “sinful” differently than others.

  • goodnessknowz

    The LDS church’s most sacred documents are forgeries. Some church. In the 1880s a bunch of Mormons dressed as Indians and attacked a wagon train of settlers. They killed 120 men and women and every child under the age of 7 was abducted and farmed out to Mormon homes as labor. Then the troops were called in to kill the Indians. The Mormons got a 2-for that day, settlers and Indians all dead and free child labor. Yup, one hell of a church.

Read More Articles

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

shutterstock_188545496
Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

5783999789_9d06e5d7df_b
The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

shutterstock_188022491
Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

987_00
An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

shutterstock_134310734
Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Pile_of_trash_2
Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

shutterstock_178468880
Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

sunset-hair
From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

colbert
Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

emptytomb
God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.