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Mormon Church Leaders Condemn Gay Bullying After Outcry and Petition

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The conservative Mormon church is not usually considered a gay-friendly religion, and it has been hammered especially hard for its opposition to gay rights since it helped lead the 2008 battle to pass California's Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

But comments by a senior Mormon leader on Oct. 3 saying that God does not make people homosexual and that same-sex attractions are "unnatural" and can be changed has ignited an unprecedented firestorm of protest. The remarks were considered particularly hurtful because they came amid national attention over the bullying and suicides of numerous gay teenagers.

As a result, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or LDS -- the formal name for the Mormon religion -- has spent this week trying to douse the controversy sparked by Boyd K. Packer, 86, the second-highest-ranking church leader and the next in line for the presidency of the 13.5 million-member faith.

boyd k. packerOn Monday the LDS tweaked the official version of Packer's speech to soften the suggestion that homosexuality is not inborn -- studies that it likely is -- and deleted altogether the claim that God would not create people with a homosexual orientation.

Then on Tuesday, just an hour after the nation's largest gay civil rights organization delivered a protest petition with 150,000 signatures to the LDS headquarters in Salt Lake City, a Mormon spokesman issued a statement denouncing bullying against anyone, including for reasons of sexual orientation, and said Mormons have a special responsibility to be kind to minority groups since Mormons themselves have experienced persecution.

"Our parents, young adults, teens and children should therefore, of all people, be especially sensitive to the vulnerable in society and be willing to speak out against bullying or intimidation whenever it occurs, including unkindness toward those who are attracted to others of the same sex," said LDS spokesman Michael Otterson.

"This is particularly so in our own Latter-day Saint congregations," he said. "Each Latter-day Saint family and individual should carefully consider whether their attitudes and actions toward others properly reflect Jesus Christ's second great commandment -- to love one another."

The statement also seemed to indicate that the church considers homosexual orientation, or "inclinations," as innate to some degree, and it made no mention of trying to turn gay people into heterosexuals. Instead it said homosexuals should learn to live chastely with their same-sex attractions. "The [Mormon] 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," the statement said, reflecting comments made over the years by other church officials.

The statement also reaffirmed the LDS opposition to gay marriage but it broadened the concern by stressing that "any sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong."

The efforts to tamp down the controversy may not have ended it, however.

For example, Packer supporters started an "I support Boyd K. Packer" fan page on Facebook, which went from 10,000 members on Tuesday to nearly 16,000 by Wednesday morning, with many praising the Mormon leader for opposing those who "think the moral degradation of our society is acceptable and right."

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the gay rights lobby that organized the petition demanding a retraction of Packer's remarks, said the LDS statement on Tuesday did not go far enough.

"Unfortunately, the church did not use this golden opportunity to correct the record about their inaccurate and dangerous statements," HRC Vice President of Communications Fred Sainz said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "Every human being deserves the God-given right to love and be loved. It's simply not reasonable to say 'don't act on temptations.' "

Many Mormons themselves were upset at Packer's original comments and the message they sent.

The way Packer phrased the question was a "flash point among the membership, not only those paying close attention to issues of homosexuality and gay marriage," Rory Swensen, a Utah businessman and former board member of Sunstone, an issue-oriented Mormon magazine, told The Salt Lake Tribune. "It rippled out in a way we haven't seen before."

In his speech on Oct. 3 to the General Convention of the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City, Packer's most controversial statement on homosexuals was:
"Some suppose that they were pre-set 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 he is our father."
When the church posted the official text online, however, the word "temptations" replaced "tendencies" and the remark about God's intent on homosexuals was removed.

LDS spokesman Scott Trotter told the Tribune that convention speakers are always given the opportunity to make "any edits necessary" and that Packer "has simply clarified his intent."

But as the newspaper noted, such substantive changes are rare.

The Mormon church's efforts in recent days are in keeping with actions and statements by some other traditional Christian groups and leaders who are trying to make their teaching against homosexuality and their lobbying against equal rights for gays mesh with their Christian commitment to treat others with love and kindness.

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Why would our Heavenly Father put child molesters on this earth? Why did God create a monster such as Hitler? A man who executed millions of people because he didn't share their beliefs. These are the questions you should be asking yourself, not why two people of the same sex love each other.

October 15 2010 at 8:34 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

President Packer never made the "claim that God would not create people with a homosexual orientation." When he said "Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone," he was intending the "that" to mean the inability to overcome the temptation, outlined in his previous statement. Please reference 1 Corinthians 10:13 for clarity. It goes back to nature vs. nurture. Do people have innate tendencies to lean one way or another? Sure. But just because I'm born with violent tendencies does not give me permission and divine sanction to carry those tendencies out. We must learn to control ALL impure and evil tendencies, not learn to accept them and indulge in them.

October 14 2010 at 2:48 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to herper84's comment

Pick and choose Bible verses. There is no way you could live by every verse. And you know it, also.

October 14 2010 at 6:53 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

I too am Roman Catholic (and a nun and a clinical psychologist) and I do not agree with the statements presented by "evolutionlake". I don't claim to speak for all Catholics, although many share my beliefs that it is not WHO you love but THAT YOU LOVE that is the central tenet of Christian faith. So, while you have a right to your opinion, please don't assume that you speak for all Catholics. (You actually sound more evangelical/fundamentalist than Catholic). Yes, you can quote church teaching, but even there, many of us believe in the development of doctrine and that the current teaching about homosexuality (love the sinner hate the sin to put it briefly) needs to develop, to change, to embrace the Christian gospel of inclusivity and compassion. I didn't hear much compassion in what sounded like a rant against those who don't see things the way you do.

October 14 2010 at 12:14 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

As a Roman Catholic I find that the Mormon bishop just spoke common sense and the truth! Yet he is being condemned for speaking the truth! How our American society has fallen! The emperor has no clothes, and so many Americans can't see that. We are heading for Chastisements (nuclear war) and they are coming soon; one reason is the western acceptance of active homosexuality. The main reason is our turning away from God. When we do that we always believe the lies from lucifer; such as people are born homosexual, or they cannot change and become heterosexual. We all have to change to make Heaven. None of us can make Heaven the way we are now, heterosexuals and homosexuals. Change and growth into holiness is possible for all. Homosexuals can do it as well as heterosexuals. Homosexuals can change into heterosexuals with God's Help, or become chaste. Can't an alcoholic stop drinking? Can't a smoker give up smoking? Can't a drug addict stop taking drugs? Can't an obese person lose weight and melt back to their normal body weight? Can't a kleptomaniac stop stealing? Can't an arsonist stop setting fires? YES!YES!YES!YES!YES!YES!YES! Don't believe the lies from the devil where he tells you that black is white and white is black and up is down and down is up. That's what America and the world are now believing. You were created for holiness, not lust, for God, not the devil,and you were given a bold spirit that can grow and change into holiness; not a cowardly one of worldly acceptance and sensuality and resignation. For the whole history of mankind until just a few years ago active homosexuality has always been wrong and all societies have always outlawed it. Any place that had too much active homosexuality occurring was a decadent society heading for destruction, like ancient Rome under the Caesars, and they were eventually destroyed. The Mormon bishop just spoke the truth; but so many Americans are now intimidated or brainwashed or coerced or misled into thinking that homosexuality is "natural." It's not natural, never was and never will be. Why is it that in the entire history of mankind until now it has never been natural or accepted or lawful or allowed? Because by natural law people have always instinctively known it is unnatural and wrong. That will never change, despite AOL polls and homosexual intimidation. Good for the bishop to speak the truth! And homosexuals out there, know that you can change and become heterosexual, or have the strength to become chaste, if you pray to our Lord Jesus Christ and follow Him! He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; not the lies of sensuality, lust, materialism, pleasure and instant gratification.

October 14 2010 at 12:34 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to evolutionlake's comment

I am also Catholic but I choose to follow the greatest teaching of all from God, and that is of love and acceptance. The fact that a person is homosexual should not change society's views of them. It does not make them less of a person or any less qualified for equality. Taking away their natural right as a human to love and spend their life with whomever they please is like telling an african american they can't drink out of the same water fountain as a white person. Condemning homosexuality as a sin punishable by violence is the message you are sending. Do you believe Matthew Shepard deserved what happen to him? Being tied to a fence and beaten, left for dead only to survive for hours before succumbing to hypothermia. Do his parents deserve the anguish they feel everyday at the loss of their child? These are not the teachings of a righteous God. Your theory of western culture accepting homosexuals so that they may fight in a nuclear war is absolutely absurd. Laughable really. Why do you think the 'don't ask don't tell' policy was instilled? Because there are ALREADY gay people serving our country, putting their lives at risk to make sure you are safe in your home. It is because of their bravery you are able to attend church every Sunday. The word of God is love and you are spreading hatred.

October 15 2010 at 8:20 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

It is always amusing to hear leaders, church pastors, straight people talk about how gay-ness is "unnatural." I am straight, and to me, natural is a woman and a man, but we were not all created equal, and to some, natural is NOT a man and a woman but the same sex. Why can't we get over what this is, whether God had anything to do with it, whether it is dna, genetics, a personal choice, BIG BIG BIG DARN DEAl, it should not matter! We have more stuff on our plates in this country with children being killed, harmed sexually, and starving than to be worried what sex a grown adult would like to be with. Why I mean WHY do we have to act like kindergarteners and get in others bizwax???? I am so tired of this crap.

October 14 2010 at 12:01 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

With a news story about federal raids on the compound of a fundamentalist Mormon sect a while ago, and a more recent TV program about a polygamist family, the practice of polygamy associated with some Mormons has been in the news. Mainstream Mormonism at one time not only tolerated polygamy but actively encouraged and preached it. For example, Joseph Smith, with difficulty, persuaded Brighman Young to have multiple wives. Then, at one point--to end federal pressure on Mormons and further the incorporation of Utah into the Union--Mormon leaders suddenly and miraculously had a new "revelation" that told them that they should renounce polygamy. Here's what I think. Aside from questions of what it does to the birth rate, I am fine with polygamy. I think people, Mormon or otherwise, should be permitted to do what they want, and it's no skin off my nose. But there's a huge irony here. Mormons would like others to keep their hands off marriage--yet they won't do the same in return. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons) was a very big financial supporter of Proposition 8 in California, which was a ballot initiative to end same-sex marriage. To any Mormons out there: Hey, let's make a deal. I'll advocate letting you guys do whatever you want, marriage-wise--you can have multiple wives, multiple husbands, I couldn't care less. And in return, how about you keeping hands off same-sex marriage?

October 13 2010 at 8:54 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
dc walker

There use to be a time when people minded their own business. Since the "talk" shows on TV everybody has to know everyone else's personal business. If the person is over the age of 18, is not harming you, MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.

October 13 2010 at 6:28 PM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply

First off, thank you very much for changing the comment format! It has been so disrespectful of people in the past to say what has been said. For the church, any church, the priority of the Bible has never been to prevent humans from having equal rights no matter what the situation. The commandments are clear on their focuses and the priority is to bring people into a relationship with God. As for the church being considered the authority for moral issues? I believe that is wrong. It does not take into account everyone's opinion and let all the voices be heard. When we let a select few make the decisions for everyone, it is a very dangerous world that we live in.

October 13 2010 at 6:12 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

The Mormon Church is in no position to be pointing moral fingers. All one has to do is to look at the life of its inventor, Joseph Smith, who had a well-known taste for young girls. Google Helen Marr Kimball if you want to know more.

October 13 2010 at 5:56 PM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply

Since when do Mormons stand behind homosexuals? Their teachings are how to 'save' people from their sins- which is everything- yet the only sins that 'count' for the Mormon church are extramarital sex, tobacco and alcohol. Wouldn't the hate they spread be considered a sin? A person can't simply pick and choose what acts are seen as sinful when it's convenient for them. These preachings of the Mormon church are hypocritical and, more times than not, contradictory. It's a bit too late to 'douse the controversy' surrounding their religion and the anti-gay comments. In order to do damage control they 'edited' the comments made by the senior leader and claimed to have a 'special responsibility to be kind to minority groups since Mormons themselves have experienced persecution'. Then WHY are they spreading messages of hate and telling society that homosexuality is 'unnatural'? These people go completely against all of God's teachings of EQUALITY. A straight person is no better than a gay person. Love is love and we all feel love the same way. The person you love is your own choice and your right to make it as a human being.

October 13 2010 at 5:36 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

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