LDS Church responds to claims of changes in church policy regarding homosexuality

Human rights, LGBT advocates say change is being made with LDS Church after new church handbook was published

Fox-13 News/November 16, 2010

Salt Lake City - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has responded to a news release from The Human Rights Campaign (HRC). The HRC claims the Mormon Church has removed same-sex attraction as a sin in church policy.

Scott Trotter, spokesperson for The Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints, released this statement today: "The HRC's representations of the changes in the new handbook are simply absurd."

The HRC says that the LDS Church Handbook of Instructions 2, an administrative instruction guide for their leaders, changed its wording from last revision, specifically concerning the morality section. The revised handbook does not guide church leaders to council members who experience same-sex attraction to seek "reparative" therapy in same-gender attraction.

The Human Rights Campaign interpreted that as the LDS Church saying homosexuality is normal and no longer recognized as a sin.

"This is a big deal, this is huge. This is a great step forward for the church and I recognize that. I just hope we can work with them to come even further," said HRC spokesperson, Scott Guequierre.

The new handbook also removes the statement regarding any of its members who have "homosexual thoughts or feelings," that they seek church leadership council and repent, but instead leave it only to those who "engage in homosexual behavior" to do so.

Gay rights organizations are taking credit for the new changes, but the LDS Church says these changes were printed several months ago.

Changes to LDS Church policy on homosexuality were formally presented to LDS leaders last Saturday, Nov. 13.

Below is the news release from HRC:

Washington - The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest civil rights organization dedicated to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality, today recognized that the Mormon Church removed same-sex attraction as a sin in church policy. The new policy, released by church leaders last Saturday, for the first time does not call for professional counseling for those who experience same-sex attraction. The American Psychological Association and American Psychiatric Association have both concluded that same-sex attraction is normal and that "reparative" therapy -- like the kind formerly advocated by the Mormon Church -- is unhealthy and harmful.

While still claiming that "homosexual behavior violates the commandments of God," the new policy differentiates between same-sex behavior, to which they continue to object, and attraction, which the church is able to rationalize. A summary of the policy changes can be found here.

"The new guidelines clearly show that advocacy efforts pay off with real change," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "We spoke out against the harms of so-called 'reparative therapies' on LGBT young people. Church leaders heard us and responded by dropping their recommendation that such discredited interventions be forced on LGBT and questioning youth."

"We continue to disagree with the Mormon Church about fundamentally important issues like full respect for the marriages of same-sex couples, but we are encouraged that our advocacy has paid off with real movement that will help save young lives," said Rev. Harry Knox, director of HRC's Religion and Faith Program.

Last month Boyd K. Packer, the president of the Mormon Church's Quorum of Twelve Apostles, called same-sex attraction "impure and unnatural," and claimed that it can be corrected. Packer characterized same-sex marriage as immoral. Packer's inaccurate and dangerous rhetoric came on the heels of the suicides of a number of teenagers who were victims of anti-gay bullying or harassment. Packer, who is 86 and one of the church's most senior leaders, made his statements to a crowd of 20,000 -- with millions more watching via satellite transmission -- during the church's 180th Semi-annual General Conference in Salt Lake City.

HRC immediately called on Packer to correct his dangerous statements. Over 150,000 members and supporters signed an open letter to Packer and HRC President Joe Solmonese delivered the signatures to Church headquarters along with representatives from Equality Utah, the Utah Pride Center, Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons, and the Utah Psychological Association.

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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