October 12th, 2010
10:19 AM ET

Mormon leader's remarks spark outcry on same-sex issues

Editor's Note: Since this post published Tuesday morning, the LDS Church has issued a statement in response to the day's events. Please see some of the comments, and a link to the full statement, at the bottom of this piece.

Twice a year, members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints convene for a general conference during which the LDS Church leadership addresses the Mormon faithful.

Broadcast via satellite to millions of Mormons across the globe, and speaking in front of the more than 20,000 LDS Church members who flock to the enormous conference center in Salt Lake City, Utah, the leaders offer insights on doctrine and guidance to church adherents.

One speech at the 180th semiannual conference, held the first weekend of October, ignited a controversy that spawned protests, set off a petition-signing push and led to allegations of cleaned-up records. It sparked battles in the blogosphere and online onslaughts of accusations, frenzied Facebook campaigns and even unconfirmed claims of a suicide. It prompted Utah’s largest newspaper, The Salt Lake Tribune, to issue a statement to readers this weekend explaining its in-depth coverage and pushed the church-owned newspaper, the Deseret News, to print Sunday a “call for civility.”

The speech in question was that made by LDS Church apostle Boyd K. Packer, 86, the president of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles – a governing body in the worldwide church.

In his address on October 3, Packer suggested to Mormons, among other things, that allowing people in same-sex relationships to marry “would legalize immorality, as if a vote would somehow alter the designs of God’s laws and nature,” and that any attraction between people of the same sex can – with enough faith – be changed.

Boyd Packer, the president of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles

“Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural,” he said. “Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?”

These statements created a swift backlash in Utah and elsewhere. Calling the comments “heartless,” a local gay activist, and former practicing Mormon, organized through online social networking a silent protest around Temple Square, ground zero for the LDS Church.

About 4,500 people, dressed in black, laid their bodies down Thursday night around the Salt Lake City site, said Eric Ethington, of the blog PRIDEinUtah, who spearheaded the effort. Mixed in, he said, were at least 100 active members of the LDS Church.

“While we respect your right to say what you want, we will hold you accountable,” Ethington said, explaining the intended statement. “There are consequences for hate speech.”

The LDS Church said it, too, recognizes people’s rights to say what they believe, but that the intention behind Packer's message has been misconstrued.

“Those familiar with the church’s doctrine on the importance of marriage and family know it is based on principles of respect and love for all of God’s children,” said Kim Farah, LDS Church spokeswoman, in a written statement. “We have continually emphasized that there is no room in this discussion for hatred or mistreatment of anyone.”

What Packer said wasn’t what shocked Micah Bisson, spokesman for Affirmation, an organization that supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender LDS Church members – former and currently active.

“The words he chose to use are no different than those he’s used in the past. The issue is more the timing,” Bisson said. “The timing was absolutely terrible.”

What he was referring to, of course, is the recent rash of publicized suicides by gay teens in the U.S. In the span of three weeks in September, five young gay men killed themselves.

Bisson was reached Friday by phone in San Francisco, California, just hours before a rally and candlelight vigil to increase awareness about LGBT suicides and the need to stop them. He, as well as others including Ethington, said he’d heard a young gay Mormon in Utah killed himself around the time of Packer’s speech. CNN has not been able to confirm this, and the head of the Utah Pride Center said this rumor was news to her.

When the LDS Church first posted the transcript of Packer’s speech, critics went wild – saying the transcript didn’t match his spoken words, that the words were changed to lessen the insult. The phrase about “inborn tendencies” was changed to “inborn temptations” and the rhetorical question about why God would create anyone with such traits was deleted.

On the Monday following LDS Church general conferences, the spokeswoman said, “each speaker has the opportunity to make any edits necessary to clarify differences between what was written and what was delivered or to clarify the speaker’s intent. President Packer has simply clarified his intent.”

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights agency, issued a media release and announced a press conference in Salt Lake City, scheduled for Tuesday. Immediately following the press conference, the HRC spokesman said the organization will hand-deliver about 150,000 signatures on an open letter to Packer.

That letter reads in part:

You have risked further alienating LGBT youth and potentially contributing to suicides of even more vulnerable young people. You’ve told them that their very identities are “impure and unnatural” and you’ve incited the violence and bullying that often drives them to suicide… I hope you will cease putting young people in real peril and acknowledge the scientific truth: sexual orientation cannot be changed, nor should it be.

Again, Farah of the LDS Church emphasized that the church’s stance on marriage and family “is based on respect and love for all of God’s children.”

Backing Packer, close to 15,000 (and growing) young LDS men and women have gone to the Facebook page WE LOVE YOU - President Boyd K. Packer, promising to send him 100,000 letters of support on Saturday. And though critics have weighed in posting messages on the page, there are notes of gratitude, thanking the one who they believe speaks "the will of God."

They offer testimonies showing their faith in him. One woman thanks him for not mincing "words to make them easier to digest by those who would attempt to call evil good and good evil." Another says, "I don't care what people are saying..I loved this man and his talk...ROCK ON PRES.PACKER....I mean..keep being real...We Love You!!!"

But those assembling Tuesday for the press conference are arriving with a different message.

One speaker will be Valerie Larabee, the executive director of the Utah Pride Center, which directly serves Utah’s LGBT community

“We find ourselves often in the position of picking up the pieces when Mormon leaders put out strong messages about gay and lesbian people being immoral,” Larabee said. “It creates divisions in families and is very unsettling to our youth and their youth. We provide a safe and affirming space for people in crisis. They’re OK the way they are.”

The statements by Packer are “disheartening,” she said, in part because there have been recent inroads in building understanding and respect. In November 2009, the LDS Church backed a Salt Lake City anti-discrimination ordinance, protecting the LGBT community in housing and employment matters.

This support came one year after the church’s much-publicized push to pass California’s Proposition 8, a bill that outlawed in that state same-sex marriages - a matter that’s weaving its way through the courts. In the aftermath of this and the protests that took place outside LDS temples, church officials – not on the highest levels – began meeting with members of the LGBT community.

“Through the telling of our stories and the stories of our community, we’re breaking down the stereotypes,” Larabee said. But the conversations are “only scratching the surface, and unfortunately cultural and doctrinal beliefs at higher levels of the church are very strong… We have a lot of work to do.”

[Updated: 4:30 p.m. ET] Michael Otterson, speaking on behalf of the LDS Church, issued a statement after the Human Rights Campaign delivered the petition signatures in Salt Lake City. His words, as seen in this written statement, spoke of the "bitter sting of persecution and marginalization" that Mormons felt in the church's early history and suggested that this makes members "sensitive to the vulnerable in society."

Though the LDS Church does not agree with HRC in many respects, he said that Mormons "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 reasons."

Otterson also reiterated LDS Church doctrine, saying "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."

He also pointed out that while same-sex attraction is inevitable, those wishing to follow church doctrine can stay faithful:

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.

"Obviously, some will disagree with us," he said. "We hope that any disagreement will be based on a full understanding of our position, and not on distortion or selective interpretation."

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Gay marriage • Gay rights • Homosexuality • Mormonism • Utah

soundoff (1,369 Responses)
  1. nuser

    Maybe Jesus was gay.He was always hanging around with guys. Moses was a cranky old man.

    October 12, 2010 at 5:09 pm |

    Ho, hum. What did yuh expect him to say? "Love thy neighbor as thyself?" "We are all God's children?" and all those other good Christian things. All these people bring discredit on Xianity.

    October 12, 2010 at 5:05 pm |
  3. Matt

    Religion is the opiate of the masses. Give them something to love, and something to hate, build the basis for an alternate reality, and set forth your army of crazy people to destroy rationality, this is what you get. If humans are every going to get over themselves, the first step is to stop listening to people like this who claim to speak for a god that none of us have seen. It's the same as "Wizard of Oz". This is the dude behind the curtain. You either buy the belief that theres an invisible man, who, for all his power, can't affect the physical world one iota. Come on people, you are better, smarter, and more informed than you were 2000 years ago! People who buy this load.... I just don't know what to say, you're worthless.

    October 12, 2010 at 5:04 pm |
  4. Happy Athiest

    I have already taken that challenge; I was a devout Christian for many many years. My entire childhood as a matter of fact. Once I grew up and realized that the only reason I actually believed any of it was because I wasn't raised to think any differently I began to question–>everything. I soon realized that the entire theory of god seemed to be flawed. The world, full of hatred and an all powerful god that could stop it, but doesn't, how cruel. Perhaps he couldn't stop it, some god. He just seems illogical. His very existence would beg too many questions. if there is a god, where'd he come from and so on. Science makes much more sense. It was difficult at first to think that when I die here, it's over, but really; it's not. When I die, I become part of the earth, over millions of years the earth will be destroyed and I'll be part of the Universe again. I'll essentially have made full circle and will have gone back from whence I came. Not really all that scary. I will say that since I've evolved from my thinking being central to god and his desire, I've gained significantly more respect for daily life and just how beautiful life actually is. I like finding the answer, studying the truth and not giving up and admitting defeat with "meh, god did it."

    October 12, 2010 at 5:03 pm |
    • m clermont

      perfectly stated.

      October 12, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
  5. Jimthedo, Phoenix, AZ

    This ol buggar needs to have a beer and relax....

    October 12, 2010 at 5:02 pm |
    • nuser

      You could be right.

      October 12, 2010 at 5:12 pm |
  6. TerryG

    So, what's the problem? Surely having multiple wives is more fun than just one guy.

    October 12, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
  7. Matt

    Why is this shocking? I think his statements are wrong but this isn't news, many religions think being gay is wrong.

    October 12, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
  8. pkbis

    This is a minor thing coming out of the LDS. The things that the LDS should be called out for are their obsession with money and politics and their total secrecy. Who do you think put George Bush in office starting in TX? Who is funding Rove's PAC and Meg Whitman's run in Calif?

    October 12, 2010 at 5:00 pm |
  9. Diane Colorado

    What happened to "Judge not that ye be not judged"? Or Live and Let Live? Or "Love One Another"? Or Tolerance? Concepts that the Mormons apparently just don't get. They apparently consider themselves to be the "moral moderator" of the entire human race. Why not leave that up to God?

    October 12, 2010 at 5:00 pm |
  10. Gary (Member) Newman


    There are almost 6.9 billion people on this earth. There is over 2.2 billion acres of farmland. I bought 5 acres of usable farm land. I raised all the food my family of 9 could eat. We milked our own cow, raised pigs, chickens, ducks, geese, even a goat. We gave food away. Given that we could fit the world in the US not counting the farm land of the rest of the world. I would check your facts before posting.

    October 12, 2010 at 4:57 pm |
  11. eddie

    well its seems life goes around quite often. The latest new way of life in the gay world is to imatate the Mormons,,,, and thats is becoming polymagus LTR between Gas.. it seems it consist of a Stallion 1st brother and 2-3 second brothers all living in a harmony waY of life.. Now I believe we are all equal like the Mormons isi in it?

    October 12, 2010 at 4:56 pm |
  12. Swamprattler

    no church, religeon or faith is obligated to cater to anyone. they have the right to believe in what they choose, you either agree or you don't, I agree with him.

    October 12, 2010 at 4:56 pm |
  13. Lee Oates

    This is a cult based on the ravings of a schzophyrenic youth, thereby proving that humans are extremely gullible and willng to belieive any fairly tale. [Second attempt]

    October 12, 2010 at 4:55 pm |
    • Judgwell

      You're completely wrong.

      October 12, 2010 at 6:40 pm |
  14. Caleb

    How in the world is this "hate speech"? Politically incorrect? Yes. Insensitive? Perhaps. Uncomfortable? Depends on who you talk to. But calling this "hate speech" for any of the reasons above, dilutes the meaning of that phrase "hate speech" and is disrespectful of people who are actually victims of real "hate speech".

    Since when is saying something not supported by popular belief automatically considered "hate speech"?

    October 12, 2010 at 4:53 pm |
  15. Tessa

    The church should have thought about these comments from Boyd K. Packer, before they spent money with phone bases in Utah County, dialing into California, soliciting anti-gay morality on Prop 8 voting. Someone explain to Elder Packer hermaphrodites, birth defects, Siamese Twins and other anomalies that "God" doesn't allow....in his perfect Mormon world. Where only the "white and delightsome" people are allowed into the Celestial Kingdom, even if Blacks now hold the priesthood (because back in 1977, the church would have lost it's "tax-free" status...so suddenly the switch.) The church should lose this "status" because of their interference into the political arena...and their "president of the 12 apostles" hatred of gay people....expecting them to change their genes or live celibate if they expect to be members of the church. Hence the suicide rate increasing among gay Mormon members. The blood is on this church's hands.

    October 12, 2010 at 4:52 pm |
  16. Ex-Morman


    LDS cannot take the moral high-ground until it cleans up its "own house" in regard to plural marriage. I have studied this issue from within and without the LDS church so I know what's happening in word and deed. These holy scriptures, "Doctrine and Covenants", are chocked full of references to plural marriage being conducted. D & C has not been changed since the time that Utah became a state. Many of the practicing members of LDS are children born out of plural marriages to this very day. I'm not even gay but I don't care if you are gay or are married to more than one person – as long as you don't mess with me. LDS cannot preach to the world because like all other religions, it is deeply flawed.

    October 12, 2010 at 4:50 pm |
    • Judgwell

      People are flawed true. Mormons teach the truth. You're wrong and you know it.

      October 12, 2010 at 6:39 pm |
  17. jeffrey Root

    This is one of the reason why my wife and I left the LDS Church a few years back. If God does exist (which I don't think he does) he is a jerk who wants us to bow, pray and do ridiculous things. If you kiss his butt he allows you to live with him. If you question his authority he gets angry and says, "you were unfaithful to my ridiculous laws, now you get to live in one of these other kingdoms without your family and you will never see my presence again. Too bad." Well if that's what happens then I will be the next to start a rebellion against God. Will he win? The bigger they are, the harder they fall. Over the past few billion years I think his arrogance is going to be his downfall. That is, if he exists.

    October 12, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
    • Judgwell

      Wrong. Tragically wrong.

      October 12, 2010 at 6:37 pm |
    • Peter

      Clearly you do believe in, and fear God, otherwise you wouldn't try so hard to justify your leaving him.

      October 15, 2010 at 3:58 pm |
    • erasmus

      you are certainly correct.. If such a deity exists then it is a malicious and sadistic SOB

      October 16, 2010 at 8:39 pm |
  18. John

    This is exacting what is happening today. If the Apostle Paul had a clue almost 2000 years ago, how can people dispute the warning voice of an Apostle in our day? The majority of the people did not believe or follow Paul in his day. Why would it be any different in ours? Just because people did not believe him did not negate the truth that God spoke or the truth that he was a mouthpiece of God to his people. The same principle applies to President Boyd K Packer. The opposition to the truth Paul spoke only confirmed it as true. This situation is the same regarding President Packer. He has been called of God to sound a warning voice to every nation, kindred, tounge and people on the earth today, and if God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, why would it be so suprising that the voice of hope & warning which we hear is almost identical to the voice that sounded almost 2000 years ago. This what Paul wrote to Timothy about our time according to the King James verision of the New Testament.

    2 Timothy Chapter 3
    1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
    2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
    3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
    4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
    5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
    6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,
    7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
    8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.
    9 But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.
    10 But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience,
    11 Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.
    12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
    13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
    14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;
    15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
    16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
    17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

    October 12, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
    • Ex-Morman

      Quote from "Doctrine and Covenants (D&C – a Mormon holy book): Section 132: 19 " And again, verily I say unto you..." [man can become a god, small g not big G], 132:20: Then they shall be gods.. [if you follow my rules of plural marriage] "Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them, 132:61: And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood-if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse a second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then he is justified; he cannot commit adultery...

      Real nice huh? Current D &C preaches plural marriage and men (not women) get to become a god in the after-life (small g).

      The LDS church of such a flawed doctrine cannot take the moral high-ground. Clean up D & C first.

      October 12, 2010 at 5:40 pm |
    • Gingerpeach

      Wow John, you should go back and read that again then maybe you could say what it really says and that is nothing like what you have said.

      October 12, 2010 at 9:37 pm |
  19. adam

    So interesting that those who believe in the Bible are the most likely to "...bear false witness" against their neighbors.

    October 12, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
  20. Gus

    Hear what the LDS church says about this, rather than what the media is saying the church is saying about this:

    October 12, 2010 at 4:46 pm |
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