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The faith’s newest apostle, Neil L. Andersen, who assumed his position in 2009, described another increasingly unpopular position the LDS Church maintains: opposition to same-sex marriage.
In the past month, Andersen said, the faith’s governing First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve sent a letter to LDS leaders across the globe, reiterating the church’s stand.
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By the numbers by 2013’s end
Membership » 15,082,028
New children of record » 115,486
Converts » 282,945
Stakes » 3,050
Missions » 405
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Full-time missionaries » 83,035
Service missionaries » 24,032
Operating temples in operation » 141*
* Temple in Gilbert, Ariz., last month became the 142nd operating temple.
"Changes in civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established. God expects us to uphold and keep his commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society," the apostle said. "His law of chastity is clear: Sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife. As the world slips away from the Lord’s law of chastity, we do not. ...While many governments and well-meaning individuals have redefined marriage, the Lord has not."
But opposing same sex-marriage, he said, does not mean Mormons should be judgmental of those who support it, particularly gays.
"Everyone, independent of their decisions and beliefs, deserves our kindness and consideration," Andersen said. "The savior taught us to love not only our friends but also those who disagree with us, and even those who repudiate us."
He urged Latter-day Saints to avoid self-righteousness and to "enlarge our hearts toward all men and women."
"In the gospel of Jesus Christ, there is no place for ridicule, bullying or bigotry."
W. Craig Zwick, of the First Quorum of Seventy, also quoted that First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve letter, which read in part,"The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to love and treat all people with kindness and civility — even when we disagree."
That sentence was, Zwick said, "a masterful reminder that we can and should participate in continuing civil dialogue, especially when we view the world from differing perspectives."
He bemoaned "unchecked anger ... in public places ... sporting events, in the political arena and even in our own homes."
Then Zwick noted the biblical verse which says, "A soft answer turneth away wrath."
"A ‘soft answer’ consists of a reasoned response — disciplined words from a humble heart," he said. "There exists today a great need for men and women to cultivate respect for each other across wide distances of belief and behavior and across deep canyons of conflicting agendas."
Linda S. Reeves, second counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, addressed the church’s ongoing concern about pornography.
"Many children, youth and adults are innocently exposed to pornography," Reeves said, "but a growing number of both men and women are choosing to view it and are drawn back repeatedly until it becomes an addiction."
It is healthy for members who struggle with pornography to confide in loved ones or a church leader, she said. "We would be wise not to react with shock, anger or rejection, which may cause them to be silent again. We, as parents and leaders, need to counsel with our children and youth on an ongoing basis, listening with love and understanding."
Senior apostle Boyd K. Packer, the 89-year-old head of the Quorum of Twelve and next in line for the LDS presidency, did not attend Saturday’s general sessions.
"Aside from when President Packer is speaking in General Conference, he will likely be preserving his energy by watching from home," said church spokesman Cody Craynor.
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