SALT LAKE CITY — With a clear invitation to gay Mormons to “stay with us,” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints launched a new website aimed at providing “greater sensitivity and better understanding” among Latter-day Saints with regards to same-sex attraction.
“When people have those (same-sex) desires and attractions our attitude is, ‘stay with us,’” said Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the LDS Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during a video that introduces the subject of the website. “I think that’s what God is saying: stay with me. And I think that’s what we want to say in the church: stay with us, and let’s work together in friendship and commonality and brotherhood and sisterhood.
“Here (in the church) more than anywhere, it’s important that there be love, that there be hope,” Elder Christofferson continued. “We want to be with you and work together.”
The website is part of an effort by the church “to teach and clarify the church’s positions” on various issues, said LDS spokesman Michael Purdy.
“There are some aspects of our belief and practice that are simply not well understood,” Purdy continued, adding that other issues will be addressed by the church in a similar fashion during the next few weeks.
Production for the site has been underway for more than two years, Purdy said.
"Too often these types of big, important issues are dealt with in sound bites, and often by individuals who do not have the complete picture of what the church is doing," Purdy said. "We hope (the website) will be a resource for better understanding and better communication."
Rather than provide a detailed presentation of LDS doctrine and policies relative to homosexuality, the website relies on text and video to “show the human face of a sensitive matter.”
Drawing extensively from personal, real-life stories told by members of the church who have first-hand experience with same-sex attraction themselves or through close friends and family members, the website’s stated objective is to help Latter-day Saints “come together to foster a climate of goodwill and a determination to understand the workings of God in each individual life.”
“We’re not endeavoring here to cover the waterfront and address every issue that could be, and needs to be, addressed in different settings relating to same-sex attraction,” Elder Christofferson said. “The idea is to open all of us to greater understanding.”
On the website, he said, “you’ll hear stories and experiences from people with quite a diversity of backgrounds and perceptions. They are genuine. They are real and authentic We feel this can only lead to greater sensitivity and better understanding among people, and that’s what we’re about.”
After being given an opportunity to explore the new website on Monday, Valerie Larabee, executive director of the Utah Pride Center, a non-profit organization that serves Utah's gay community, said she "applauds any institution, religious or otherwise, for increasing the availability of potentially lifesaving resources to bridge the gap in human understanding, respect and acceptance of differences."
"It is my hope that our Utah LGBTQ community will embrace the fact that saving lives may be the greatest gift of this new resource for LDS members, giving LGBTQ and questioning Mormons hope through knowing that their families and church leaders are committed to reducing judgment, rejection and isolation," Larabee said. "Having a resource whose purpose is to help Mormon families and leadership recognize the ways they can reduce the isolation and rejection often felt by LGBTQ or questioning Mormons is a huge step in the right direction."
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