Gay Activists, Mormon Elders Square Off
GLBT advocates say that they want to see a Mormon elder take back anti-gay remarks he made before a live audience of 20,000 and a televised audience of millions more.
"There are those today who not only tolerate but advocate voting to change laws that would legalize immorality, as if a vote would somehow alter the designs of God's laws and nature," said Boyd K. Packer, 86, in an Oct. 3 sermon, the Salt Lake Tribune reported on Oct. 4.
"A law against nature would be impossible to enforce," added Packer. "Do you think a vote to repeal the law of gravity would do any good?" Packer's comments were made during the Mormon Church's 180th Semiannual General Conference in Salt Lake City. More than 20,000 people were in attendance, and millions of others watched a telecast, the article said.
Packer spoke against the testimony of gays and lesbians and the findings of modern science, both of which indicate that homosexuality is an innate and biological phenomenon. "Not so!" declared Packer. "Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember he is our father." Packer added, "Regardless of the opposition, we are determined to stay on course."
The human Rights Campaign planned to deliver a petition to the Mormon faith's Church World Headquarters in Salt Lake City on Oct. 12, the day after National Coming Out Day.
"Today thousands of people across the country celebrate National Coming Out Day by deciding to live open and honest lives, or by voicing their support of LGBT people," an Oct. 11 HRC press release stated. "Standing in unity with fair-minded Americans, the Human Rights Campaign--the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization--in partnership with Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons, Equality Utah, and the Utah Pride Center, will hold a press conference tomorrow, Tuesday, October 12 to ask Elder Boyd K. Packer, president of the Mormon Church's Quorum of Twelve Apostles, that he correct his inaccurate and dangerous statements calling same-sex attraction "impure and unnatural," claiming that it can be corrected and characterizing same-sex marriage as immoral.
"Following the news conference, press conference participants will present the Church with over 150,000 petition signatures calling on them to correct the record," the release continued.
The Associated Press reported that Packer is the president of group within the Mormon Church called the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"Elder Packer's misstatement that sexual orientation can be changed has been debunked by both the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association," the HRC's release noted. "Both organizations have concluded that same-sex attraction is normal and that "reparative" therapy--like the kind being advocated by the Mormon Church--is unhealthy and harmful."
"Some suppose that they were born pre-set and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural," Packer told his audience on Oct. 3. "Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember he is our father." In an online edition of the text of Packer's speech, some changes appeared, reported the Associated Press on Oct. 11, with the word "temptations" replacing "tendencies." The AP also reported that, "the question about God's motives has been removed entirely." A spokesperson for the Mormons, Scott Trotter, told the press that the changes reflected how "President Packer has simply clarified his intent."
The statement from the HRC contained a reference to the string of young gays who have killed themselves recently after being subjected to anti-gay harassment and bullying.
An Oct. 10 op-ed at Utah newspaper the Deseret News excoriated any suggestion that the Mormon Church promotes suicides among the gay and lesbain population. "This focused attention on the LDS Church is deeply ironic given the church's shared condemnation of hate and violence toward gays and lesbians, its mutual support of anti-discrimination laws for gays and lesbians and its compassionate ministry to LDS Church members who have same-gender attraction," the op-ed read. "This past week, the LDS Church re-emphasized 'that there is no room in this discussion for hatred or mistreatment of anyone.' " The newspaper noted that the Mormon Church backed an anti-discrimination ordinance in Salt Lake City that covered GLBTs.
"While opposing all sexual relations outside of traditional marriage, the LDS Church has consistently reached out with understanding and respect to individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender," the op-ed went on, continuing with a suggestion that the issue of marriage equality may be the main sticking point between the Mormon Church--which heavily financed and supported the campaign to pass Proposition 8 two years ago in California--and GLBT equality advocates. "Instead of seeking genuine common ground around issues of mutual concern, activists began this week with a grossly misguided caricature of the LDS Church's support of traditional morality," the op-ed asserted, going on to add, "By holding up a caricatured account of people's spiritual leaders, those in greatest need of pastoral care may be mistakenly alienated from the very people who can compassionately help them get access to professional resources and counseling."