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Peggy Fletcher Stack
Peggy Fletcher Stack has been producing stories for The Salt Lake Tribune's award-winning Faith section for nearly two decades. Writing about contemporary faith, rituals, and spirituality as well as religion's conflicts and cohesion has always been Stack's passion. Follow her at facebook.com/peggy.fletcherstack, Twitter @religiongal

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Mormon leader wins rights award for gay-friendly message

Allen Oyler, an LDS regional leader in Oregon, believes — as his religion teaches — that Mormon families should not reject their gay sons and daughters.

But he took that counsel even further, and now the city of Beaverton has given the LDS stake president a human-rights award for his compassionate approach, according to a story in The Oregonian.

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In 2012, the Utah-based LDS Church created a website, mormonsandgays.org, which spelled out the faith’s position that any sex outside of heterosexual marriage is a sin, but that same-sex attraction is not. The site emphasized the need for Mormons to be loving toward their gay family members.

Oyler hammered home that message to the eight Mormon congregations he supervises, inviting a father and his gay son, along with a longtime Latter-day Saint and a man who had been living with a same-sex partner before joining the LDS Church to share their experiences.

The Mormon leader "wanted the members to see people in real-life circumstances who are dealing with and experiencing same-gender attraction," Oyler told The Oregonian.

Church doctrine hasn’t changed, the stake president told Kari Bray, in a question-and-answer interview, "but what needs to change is how we as members deal with and address people who are experiencing same-sex attraction."

Oyler emphasized that "the family unit is the most important thing" and that "under no circumstances should [Mormons] find themselves ostracizing or disrespecting members of their family."

If members "experiencing same-gender attraction" knew that their parents and family "would love them and accept them no matter what," he said, "there would be much more love and acceptance and less suicide and mental struggles."

Mormons "should be in the forefront of compassion and love and outreach to others," he said. "It’s not good enough just to be aware of it."

The Beaverton Human Rights Advisory Commission was impressed by Oyler’s "efforts to reach out to gay members of the Mormon church," the story said, and plans to recognize the LDS leader in a Jan. 14 ceremony.

Peggy Fletcher Stack

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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