The piece, titled "God Loveth His Children," reiterates the church's long-held distinction between same-sex attractions and actions, suggesting that only the latter are immoral. According to LDS doctrine, sexuality is only appropriate within heterosexual marriage. Everyone else is expected to be chaste.
It suggests that the church doesn't know what causes homosexual feelings, but it's not abuse or sexual experimentation. The pamphlet acknowledges that not all gays can change their orientation. Some singles, whether homosexual or heterosexual, may never marry in this life, it says, but "will be perfected in the next life so that every one of God's children may find joy in a family consisting of a husband, a wife and children."
These are positive developments, said Gary Watts, who recently stepped down as co-chairman with his wife, Millie Watts, of Family Fellowship, a support group for gay Mormons.
The LDS Church's first such pamphlet was published in 1974 and suggested that homosexuality was "evil" and "blamed parents for their children's homosexuality," said Watts, a Mormon father who has a gay son and lesbian daughter among his six children.
The 1983 revision de-emphasized the "psycho-social causes" of homosexuality, he said, and the 1992 version eliminated parental blame altogether, pointing to the possibility of biological factors. By not speculating on causes, the new pamphlet shows "incremental progress," he said.
To Watts, however, the piece's negatives far outweigh its positives.
It implies that those who are able to change their orientation do so through faith and self-mastery, and are therefore superior to those who don't.
"If I'm a gay guy who's struggled for 10 years to change and can't, I'm going to ask: what's wrong with me?" Watts said.
It is not clear how the new pamphlet will be distributed and used. LDS spokesman Scott Trotter declined to comment on reports that it is being sent to all Mormon bishops and stake presidents.
In recent years, leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have faced criticism within and outside the church for earlier statements on the sinfulness of homosexual feelings and for their political opposition to same-sex marriage. At the same time, LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley and others have acknowledged they don't know what causes homosexuality and have urged members to be more accepting of those who experience same-sex attraction.
A year ago, the church posted on its Web site a wide-ranging interview on the topic with Elder Dallin H. Oaks, of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, and Elder Lance Wickman, a member of the First Quorum of Seventy. The two leaders - both lawyers - made no claims to divine or institutional authority but shared their views on what causes homosexuality (they don't know), whether gays choose their attractions (not likely), change therapies (they don't endorse any of them), whether Mormon gays should marry women ("doesn't usually solve the problem"), the distinction between civil unions and marriage for gays, the arguments connecting early Mormon polygamy and same-sex marriage and why the church endorsed a constitutional marriage amendment.
Last week, the LDS Church News published several stories of anonymous Mormon men who had life-long homosexual feelings. Though several of them were married to women, the church no longer officially encourages homosexual men to marry women as a way to "solve their problem."
The most recent pamphlet does not recommend that those with same-sex attraction marry, either.
But it does say that heaven is "organized by families, which require a man and a woman who together exercise their creative powers within the bounds the Lord has set. . . . Without both a husband and a wife there would be no eternal family and no opportunity to become like Heavenly Father."
"God Loveth His Children," recommends that homosexuals continue to be active in the church, contributing money and time.
Watts thinks that is unrealistic, given the fact that up to 90 percent of gay Mormons leave the church.
"It is because [LDS leaders] are setting up an impossible situation for gays - either be celibate or change," Watts said. "Until they can figure out a way to sanction a faithful same-sex relationship, the problem will continue."
* PEGGY FLETCHER STACK can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 801-257-8725.
* We don't know what causes same-sex attraction.
* Same-gender attractions include deep emotional, social and physical feelings.
* God requires that sexuality be expressed "only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife."
* Attractions alone do not make you immoral, only actions do.
* If you fill your life with the spiritual nourishment God has provided, you can more easily gain control over inclinations and become a master of yourself.
* No Latter-day Saint should ever be intolerant toward members with same-sex attractions.
* Innocent mischief early in life does not predispose a youth toward same-gender attraction as an adult.
To read the pamphlet, go to lds.org, then to Gospel Library and search for "God Loveth His Children."