SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A top leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints laid out Saturday how the faith intends to navigate its delicate balance of firm opposition to same-sex relationships while being empathetic toward LGBTQ members.
People should love everyone no matter their difference. But, the zeal to achieve that doesn’t mean people should forget the faith’s belief that God’s laws prohibit gay marriage. Those laws also prevents people in those relationships from receiving heavenly salvation, said Dallin H. Oaks, a member the Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
“Our walk demands that we not compromise on commandments but show forth a full measure of understanding and love,” said Oaks. “Our walk must be considerate of children who are uncertain about their sexual orientation, but it discourages premature labeling because in most children such uncertainty decreases significantly over time.”
Oaks, a former Utah Supreme Court Justice, continued, “Our walk opposes recruitment away from the covenant path, and it denies support to any who lead people away from the Lord.
“In all of this, we remember that God promises hope and ultimate joy and blessings for all who keep his commandments.”
It marked the third time in the last month that Oaks or Church President Russell M. Nelson has spoken about LGBTQ issues.
Earlier this week, Oaks said in a statement released by the Church that a person’s gender assigned at birth is “essential to the plan of salvation” and expressed mystery about why people face confusion over sexual identity or sexual orientation.
Oaks’ speech followed pleas by two fellow leaders during the twice-yearly church conference in Salt Lake City to adhere to the faith’s strict rules despite mocking from others or temptations by Satan.
Quorum member D. Todd Christofferson bemoaned what he called a “hedonistic age” that leads many people to ignore God’s teachings.
“This is a day of sometimes merciless attacks in social media and in person against those who seek to uphold the Lord’s standard in dress, entertainment and sexual purity,” Christofferson said.
Fellow Quorum member David A. Bednar said Satan tries to make people confused and unhappy and use their bodies “improperly” and “love as we should not love.”
Several blocks away from the conference, hundreds of people that included many ex-members of the faith gathered Saturday morning to call on the church and other religions to implement stronger rules to prevent child abuse and make sure young Latter-day Saints aren’t asked inappropriate questions about their adherence to the faith’s rules for sexual behavior.
The “Protect Every Child” group is led by Sam Young, who was excommunicated from the religion last year after his public opposition to closed-door, one-on-one interviews of youth. Young and others who agree with him say inappropriate sexual questions during these interviews lead to shame and guilt.
Former church member Stuart Shellenberger held a sign that read, “Protect every child. No sexual questions.” The 41-year-old father of five from Show Low, Arizona, said he was asked inappropriate sexual questions when he was a youth, and he wants the faith to ban those questions in the interviews.
Church leaders have defended the so-called “worthiness” interviews as an important way for bishops to get to know youth better. Church leaders also say these interviews help to determine their religious habits and obedience to God. The Church changed its policy last year to allow children to bring a parent or adult with them and published the list of questions that are asked.
Lisa Thredgold, who left the faith two years ago, says the changes were a good step. But she said it would be better to scrap the interviews all together.
“In my eyes, all children are worthy,” said Thredgold, 42, of Salt Lake City. “There’s no reason to interview them for their worthiness. In God’s eyes, they’re worthy.”
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