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, our 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 towards 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 to 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.