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. Centaur

    While Mr. Packer's comments are not overtly hateful, they do cause tremendous harm. The Mormon Church played a very active role in REVERSING the civil rights of gay people.
    Some churches support gay marriage. What about their freedom of religion to perform gay marriages?

    October 13, 2010 at 1:14 am |
  2. Daryl

    can anyone explain to me if everyone were gay where would chikdren come from.. It is the natural order of nature to procreate the species, This is not rocket science, being gay is aberrant behaviour, but gays want to be thought of as normal but guess what, it is not normal, men and woman were equiped so as to have children it is the law of nature and all else is simply against the natural order of things God intended

    October 13, 2010 at 1:01 am |
    • Frank

      "can anyone explain to me if everyone were gay where would chikdren come from.. It is the natural order of nature to procreate the species, This is not rocket science, being gay is aberrant behaviour, but gays want to be thought of as normal but guess what, it is not normal, men and woman were equiped so as to have children it is the law of nature and all else is simply against the natural order of things God intended"

      First off, I read that as 'chicken' at first.

      I would like to see you explain what you think the purpose of perfectly straight cisgendered (cisgendered means that your gender matches your chromosomal s#x) being sterile? It does happen. Do you believe that those people are part of the natural order or not? Should they just remain celibate their whole lives? Quite frankly, it is just not in the cards for everyone to reproduce biologically. That's just how it turns out.

      Besides, you are ignoring the fact that many LGBT people are perfectly capable of and do having/have children. Transgender and transs#xual have the added bonus of being able to procreate biologically with those of their own gender. So it is quite possible for two men or two women to have children together if you add the trans equation into it.

      You are ignoring the diversity of life that exists.

      October 13, 2010 at 1:13 am |
  3. IceCat12

    OK... First of all. Who ever said that a church is not allowed to changes it's stance on a policy issues? As a member I can tell you that the main idea behind our church...what sets out church apart from other churches (in our view) is that we believe that God speaks to man again...specifically his prophets. Why would this be necessary if we were never allowed to change the way we interact with society? The church changes it stances of things all the time. What we will never change is what we see and immoral or wrong and what we see as right. The two big examples that people love to shove in our face (polygamy and black holding the priesthood) are not moral issue but rather policy issues. Polygamy has often been commanded by god to his prophets in the old testament.. namely Abraham, Isaac, Jacob just to name a few but even in the bible it has never been a permanent policy. In fact in Mormon scripture (the book of Mormon) The people that the book talks about were NOT allowed to participate in polygamy. So that is one issue that is changed all the time. And if God saw it as a major holdup of church growth he has every right to retract it and also to reinstate it. Second Blacks and the priesthood, At the time I would like for someone to point out another church that allowed black ministers to preach to white congregations? You won’t find one so don’t be hypocrites… now granted this policy was probably designed to make our lives easier in the early days of the church for obvious reasons but it is definitely is not like the church believes African Americans are evil or something… that’s ridiculous and that was one policy that the church was overjoyed to get rid of. In fact some of our most successful missionary efforts are done in Africa now. We love our African American brothers and Sisters and that will never change either. The point is that We believe God directly leads our church and he can change whatever he wants. But we will never change out beliefs on what we see as right or wrong. Something wrong will always be wrong whether the government says so or not.

    October 13, 2010 at 12:49 am |
  4. judge

    “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

    Matthew 7:1-5

    October 13, 2010 at 12:46 am |
  5. Jackie McFarlane

    I feel sad for you. Don't lose faith of what you know by what you don't know. But when you die, you will find the truth. I only pray that you are not too stubborn to believe it. I'm a return missionary and a former R.S president as well, and I can tell you it's all true. How can you serve a mission and see it change people's lives and not know 100% that it is true. I don't need to do a google search and read the crap/lies people post. All I have to do is read the scriptures and pray. God loves me and answers my prayers every day. Faith is all we got. And as a Great Unpaid general Authority has said, if we are right (which we are-added by me) then we have gained everything (eternal life, celestial kingdom life with god) and if we are wrong we will have lost nothing because we are still good people. But if we are right and you don't believe you have lost everything. The words in the ( ) are mine and the quote is paraphrased!

    October 13, 2010 at 12:02 am |
  6. Reality

    It is called the Great Angelic Con:

    Joe Smith had his Moroni.

    Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;

    Mohammed had his Gabriel (this "tin-kerbell" got around).

    Jesus and his family had Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day dem-on of the de-mented.

    The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other "no-namers" to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.

    Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these "pretty wingie thingies" to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals. Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.

    Some added references to "tink-erbells".

    "Latter-day Saints also believe that Michael the Archangel was Adam (the first man) when he was mortal, and Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah."

    Apparently hallu-cinations did not stop with Joe Smith.


    "The belief in guardian angels can be traced throughout all antiquity; pagans, like Menander and Plutarch (cf. Euseb., "Praep. Evang.", xii), and Neo-Platonists, like Plotinus, held it. It was also the belief of the Babylonians and As-syrians, as their monuments testify, for a figure of a guardian angel now in the British Museum once decorated an As-syrian palace, and might well serve for a modern representation; while Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar the Great, says: "He (Marduk) sent a tutelary deity (cherub) of grace to go at my side; in everything that I did, he made my work to succeed."

    Catholic monks and Dark Age theologians also did their share of hallu-cinating:

    "TUBUAS-A member of the group of angels who were removed from the ranks of officially recognized celestial hierarchy in 745 by a council in Rome under Pope Zachary. He was joined by Uriel, Adimus, Sabaoth, Simiel, and Raguel."

    And tin-ker- bells go way, way back:

    "In Zoroastrianism there are different angel like creatures. For example each person has a guardian angel called Fravashi. They patronize human being and other creatures and also manifest god’s energy. Also, the Amesha Spentas have often been regarded as angels, but they don't convey messages, but are rather emanations of Ahura Mazda ("Wise Lord", God); they appear in an abstract fashion in the religious thought of Zarathustra and then later (during the Achaemenid period of Zoroastrianism) became personalized, associated with an aspect of the divine creation (fire, plants, water...)."

    "The beginnings of the biblical belief in angels must be sought in very early folklore. The gods of the Hitti-tes and Canaanites had their supernatural messengers, and parallels to the Old Testament stories of angels are found in Near Eastern literature. "

    "The 'Magic Papyri' contain many spells to secure just such help and protection of angels. From magic traditions arose the concept of the guardian angel. "

    For added information see the review at:


    October 13, 2010 at 12:00 am |
    • Abd al-Latif

      First of all, as you may have guessed by my name, I am a Muslim, and yes, we do believe in angels. Now, your argument, as I understand it, is essentially the following: The belief in angels is very, very old and is shared by many cultures, going back to the beginnings of civilization; therefore, it must be false. Am I missing some essential piece of your argument? It seems to me that if the belief in angels is very old and shared by all societies, it is very likely to be correct! If not, then what you are saying is that the Western world of the past couple of decades is superior to all other societies that have ever existed in the world, and that is a very arrogant and in fact logically untenable position to hold–especially if it is merely an ASSUMPTION that is based on your own cultural chauvinism and your own background, rather than an empirically-demonstrated fact. True, the West of the past couple of decades is demonstrably more knowledgeable about some things–but that is not proof that we know more about everything! So your underlying assumption does not work. Aside from that, your description of angels as pretty wingy things and tinkerbells, etc., is simply lazy and reveals your complete lack of understanding of religious principles. Where do you get your information–from 20th-century American greeting cards?

      October 28, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
  7. HotAirAce

    It's been a while since I've reminded all that THERE ARE NO GODS – NOT EVEN JUST 1 – AND NO SATAN EITHER!!

    I strongly encourage everyone (well atheists need not because they/we have already figured it out) to read "The Science of Superst-ition: How the Developing Brain Creates Supernatural Beliefs" by Bruce M. Hood. You will learn that superst-ition, including religion, is a result of not completely discarding silly beliefs formed during early childhood.

    And finally, all religions are cults – none has a credible claim to supremacy over any other. The world would be better off without the lot of them. But thanks to the kooks and the mainstreamers for the entertainment!

    October 12, 2010 at 11:07 pm |
    • Peace2All


      How are you buddy...? Haven't heard from ya' in awhile.

      Hope that you are well..!

      October 13, 2010 at 2:28 am |
    • HotAirAce


      All is good. Was in Europe for 11 days, and no time for this. Overwhelming sentiment on returning and seeing this load of crap is that the believers are way beyond seeing the light. Waste of time to even try to educate them...

      October 13, 2010 at 11:34 am |
  8. Jono

    I'm trying to figure out why it's ok for the LGBT community to have an opinion but no one else can. Why can they promote their beliefs but complain that people and organizations who disagree with them are bigots? As soon as they are wiling to let other people voice their opinions without being harassed I might try and listen to them. A perfect example is when Prop 8 didn't pass in California. The LGBT community and its supporters protested the LDS Church and harassed it's members. What would have happened if Prop 8 had passed and people started harassing the gay community because of it? It anyone protesting them would have been labeled a bigot for voicing their opinion. This is such a one sided topic it's absurd. The LGBT's have the right to promote their values and beliefs just as much as anyone else has the right to promote their own beliefs, in this case the LDS Church.

    October 12, 2010 at 11:05 pm |
  9. Steven A. Dunn

    I grew up in that culture as a deeply closet young gay Mormon youth. I can attest to the hammered in guilt that drives so many gay Mormons to suicide. I am lucky that I survived the attempt. Since then I have divorced myself from their doctrine and I am not afraid to speak up for those who cannot do the same thing!

    October 12, 2010 at 10:46 pm |
  10. Amy

    oh, and by the way Wade, is name calling just your way of saying..."i have no answer to that"

    October 12, 2010 at 10:23 pm |
  11. Well now...

    I think that a religion should be allowed to believe what it believes and preach what it believes (unless it's illegal). That's what religions were established for and if people don't like it they should just find another religion that caters more to their beliefs. That's what people have been doing since religion began.

    October 12, 2010 at 10:08 pm |
  12. chris

    I still don't understand... since when does criticizing someone's lifestyle considered hatred?

    October 12, 2010 at 10:06 pm |
  13. Michelle in Wyoming

    I can't help but be struck by callousness oF LDS leaders in this situation. Non-traditional marraige was introduced in this counry by the mormon church. Members of the church were persecuted and driven from their homes and told that they were evil and were going to hell. now, LDs leaders are doing the exact same thing. You still honor LDS prophets who had multiple wives, chilcren that were strangers to them, and who issued extermination orders against others (Mountain Meadows Massacre). How can you dictate the morality of others or tell them what is normal? You opened a door – how dare you persecute others who walk through it.

    October 12, 2010 at 10:01 pm |
  14. WhatNow?

    If you don't believe the doctrine why take it so seriously?
    Is everyone supposed to adapt to yours?
    It makes no sense for those claiming to be members of the Mormon church to say that they don't agree with the doctrine.
    Neither should the Mormon church be expected to yield to a secular or alternate doctrine.
    The strength of a 'Free' nation is that people can believe what they wish without fear of persecution. There should be no censorship upon leaders of groups that speak to their own to reinforce its own doctrine or position on issues.
    The gay community does not care to be lectured to nor should they expect the right to lecture to any other groups.

    October 12, 2010 at 10:00 pm |
  15. Don

    Such is the rage against those who would be so bold as to stand firm against our culture's god, Tolerance. I suppose we will have God himself in the dock next.

    October 12, 2010 at 9:57 pm |
  16. Eric G.

    Mormons make me chuckle inside, but hey, at least they have scientology to laugh at.

    October 12, 2010 at 9:55 pm |
  17. David Johnson

    This blog is really poor. I post, and have no idea where it will appear. I'm out of here.

    October 12, 2010 at 9:52 pm |
  18. JC

    A lot of peoples thoughts on here I feel are misguided on both sides. I read a lot of really hurtful (wrong) views of the Mormon Church, and a lot about the GLBT community. We all need to sit back and really take the good look at what everyone is doing to each other.. Making the problem worse! Nothing good has ever come from: bad mouthing, slander, hatred and intolerance! I have never considered myself to be better than anyone, but pure hatred and misunderstanding on someone’s faith is wrong and also someone’s life style is has well, I’m a Mormon and have multiple friends who are gay, straight, bi, catholic , Jew and Atheist and we all have the understanding where human and respect one another ‘s points of view without any disgust or ill will, I will shake their hands and call them friend , not enemy.

    We are all free to choice a path. No one is: Brain Washed, Forced, Has magical powers or wants to cause harm and start a HOLY WAR! We all deserve to be heard and respected without someone thinking the worst of us. So please stop spreading lies!

    October 12, 2010 at 9:52 pm |
  19. Wade

    Reading all you Mormon haters spout off on things you do not know or understand is such a joke. I guess the call for tolerence only goes one way. Typical liberals, scream about tolerence while totally bashing someone else's beliefs. Very classy.

    October 12, 2010 at 9:47 pm |
  20. Edward

    Mormonism is a cult made up by Joseph Smith. No proof exists to support anything he has supposedly translated from gold tablets angels told him where to find and no other person ever saw them.

    October 12, 2010 at 9:43 pm |
    • IceCat12

      Um,... how about the book itself?? Have you ever read it? I'd love to see you reproduce anything like that with a 2nd grade education.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:53 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.