Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"We are to love one another. We are to treat each other with respect as brothers and sisters and fellow children of God, no matter how much we may differ from one another."

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued the following statement through a spokesman following the delivery of a petition by the Human Rights Campaign:

My name is Michael Otterson. I am here representing the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to address the matter of the petition presented today by the Human Rights Campaign.

While we disagree with the Human Rights Campaign on many fundamentals, we also share some common ground. This past week we have all witnessed tragic deaths across the country as a result of bullying or intimidation of gay young men. 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.

This Church has felt the bitter sting of persecution and marginalization early in our history, when we were too few in numbers to adequately protect ourselves and when society’s leaders often seemed disinclined to help. 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. This is particularly so in our own Latter-day Saint congregations. 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.

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. However, that should never, ever be used as justification for unkindness. 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.

Further, 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 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.

Obviously, some will disagree with us. We hope that any disagreement will be based on a full understanding of our position and not on distortion or selective interpretation. The Church will continue to speak out to ensure its position is accurately understood.

God’s universal fatherhood and love charges each of us with an innate and reverent acknowledgement of our shared human dignity. We are to love one another. We are to treat each other with respect as brothers and sisters and fellow children of God, no matter how much we may differ from one another.

We hope and firmly believe that within this community, and in others, kindness, persuasion and goodwill can prevail.


Clean Cut said...

Just noticed that By Common Consent posted this as well. I have to point out an excellent comment by Mike in West Hollywood:

What if Brother Otterson had said:
“Stay with us! Struggle with us! Let us help you live as moral a life as is possible for you. We want you in our fellowship whether you are single or not….”

I personally hope for this kind of inclusiveness.

Javelin said...

The response is positive, but I wonder what good will come from it in the long run. Many of the bold Mormons believe that gays cannot be born that way, nor can they be happy living in a same-sex relationship with one person.

Many of the quiet Mormons believe that gays should have the right to live in relationships, including marriage,even if they will not be fully included in the gospel here on earth.

Aaron said...

It's really interesting that in the same talk Elder Packer stresses the importance of free agency:

"men are free and must be “free . . . to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day.”"

Are gay people somehow excluded from that principle?

In my opinion, the church needs to realize there is a huge difference between church doctrine and civil law. The church can believe in and enforce whatever doctrines they want, but if it chooses to cross that line and tries to make doctrine become law then they're asking for a fight.

Papa D said...

I really like this statement - and Mike's proposed addition.

Aaron, fighting is one thing. Misrepresenting, as has been done extensively in the responses to Pres. Packer's talk, is quite another. Reviling is another altogether. People can and are going to disagree about some things concerning this issue - and that's perfectly fine. What we need to do is try very hard to understand and address what actually is said on each side, not caricatures - and I really do mean that to apply to both sides.

Clean Cut said...

Thanks for the comments:

Javelin--perhaps the most good will come in the lives of the members of the Church who read the statement and improve their behavior.

The "bold" Mormons (according to your definition) might think twice before speaking. The "quiet" ones will at least be able to point to this statement as an improvement.

Aaron--"the church needs to realize there is a huge difference between church doctrine and civil law".

I actually agree with you. In a post about President Packers remarks that I've since deleted (due mainly to unintended messages I thought it might send), I phrased a similar thought this way:

"I don't believe that current church doctrine on marriage has to actually be married to the secular state of marriage in America."

Papa D--great comment; and to this I add my amen:

"What we need to do is try very hard to understand and address what actually is said on each side, not caricatures - and I really do mean that to apply to both sides."

Aaron said...

I didn't think Elder Packer's comments were incendiary or anything but prop 8 has made it a hot button issue. Anytime a church leader makes any reference to homosexuality now it's going to cause some backlash. I think the church would have been better off to just stay out of the politics in the first place.

Clean Cut said...

Again, agreed.

mateo lago said...

this text is from an article on mormontimes.com and I really liked it.

The tactic is now all-too familiar: take a statement out of context, embellish it with selective interpretation, presume hostile intent, and then use the distortion to isolate an entire group, in this case a church.

We encourage all to read President Packer's talk rather than simply rely on the media interpretations and selective quotations. It stretches all credulity to find in President Packer's pastoral counsel what some are calling a hateful message "that can lead some kids to bully and others to commit suicide." Contrary to what some have written in provocative press releases, nothing in President Packer's talk says that "violence and/or discrimination against LGBT people is acceptable."

Clean Cut said...

Well, to be fair, Mateo, I listened the the original broadcast live (as well as re-read the edited version which the Deseret News Editorial links to), and there were definitely some elements of concern even though I did not "take a statement out of context, embellish it with selective interpretation, presume hostile intent, and then use...distortion."

Some of my concerns were about how others might perceive what he was saying. Most of my misgivings were alleviated through the editorial process which took place between the delivery of the talk and the publishing of the now official version. (The Deseret News editorial fails to mention it links to the updated remarks, rather than the more controversial version as originally delivered.)

But I still much prefer the tone of Michael Otterson's remarks in the original post above, over the Deseret News Editorial. It's also a tone I wish we could have heard more of in the actual conference proceedings.

mateo lago said...

I see by my posting it on your comments section, it was easy to assume I posted that articles info as a response to your thoughts or comments. I failed to point out that I put that on here more in response to reactions I personally have been seeing in public. It's beeing posted actually had absolutely no correlation with anything you had previously said, only the broad topic on hand. Sorry for not being more clear and even sharing my personal feelings. If I would have done so, you would have seen my personal views coincide with yours much more than it appeared. With some obvious literary shortcoming, I just liked the general point that was made about how the worlds activists respond so quickly and harshly...the exact opposite of what we see from Church leaders/representatives.

Clean Cut said...