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McEntee: Website another sign of Mormon evolution on gay issues

Published December 17, 2012 1:46 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Their voices are tender and loving as they make the case that the LDS Church welcomes members of the LGBT community to a new era of kindness and acceptance.

The voices belong to men and women, gay and straight, who speak on the church's new website — mormonsandgays.org — beckoning back gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender Mormons who have lost touch with their faith.

On the site, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn't back away from its teaching that sex should only be between a husband and a wife. Instead, it reaffirms the current LDS stance — that same-sex attraction isn't a sin, acting on it is.

Even so, it's an enormous step. After all, this is a church that once backed reparative therapy for gay boys and men, urged gays to marry women, insisted gays and lesbians weren't "born that way" and declared that it was sinful to have such "feelings."

In past years, the Utah-based faith pushed for initiatives, including California's Proposition 8, to ban gay marriage.

More recently, though, the LDS Church has avoided involvement in such ballot efforts and has endorsed housing and job protections for gay and transgender residents.

It also now recognizes that sexual orientation is innate, and that, as the website says, "The church reaches out to all God's children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters."

For the LDS Church, intolerance, it seems, has given way to understanding. Rather than trying to change LGBT Mormons, members are urged to cherish them.

We live in a time when nine states and the District of Columbia have endorsed same-sex marriage, even as 37 states, including Utah, have laws or constitutional amendments forbidding it. Just last week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear challenges to Prop 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

It is, of course, a religion's right to guide its members to righteousness. Still, I wonder how many men and women can forswear sexual intimacy, recognized by many faiths as a natural extension of profound love?

Through its new website, the LDS Church explains how.

On it, a gay man tells of his attraction to men, and how, after years of seeking, he ultimately married a woman and became a father. A lesbian recounts her lifelong attraction to women and her ultimate decision, through faith and prayer, to re-immerse herself in the church she loves. A mother talks about her gay son and grandsons and how she loves them as unequivocally as she does her religion.

The LDS Church's evolving stance recognizes that exclusion is not the way to treat gay people in its own midst. By opening its arms, it provides a spiritual haven for gay believers.

Right now, it may be too much to ask that the faith reconsider its opposition to gay marriage. But maybe LDS leaders — not today, but someday — will come to the conclusion that the law of chastity could accommodate married gay couples who share what the church describes as "the boundaries of commitment and responsibility."

Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at pegmcentee@sltrib.com, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter, @pegmcentee.