The Mormon Church today launched a new website aimed at reaching out to LGBT Mormons and encouraging them to stay in the church, and it’s getting qualified praise from LGBT activists.
The site, MormonsAndGays.org, has a home page headline reading “Love One Another: A Discussion on Same-Sex Attraction.” It reiterates the church’s position that “the attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is.” It offers a series of videos by LGBT Mormons, their family members, and church leaders and encourages recognition of everyone’s common humanity.
“When people have those [same-sex] desires and attractions our attitude is, ‘stay with us,’” Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles says in a video on the site. “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.”
Valerie Larabee, executive director of the Utah Pride Center, an LGBT organization based, like the church, in Salt Lake City, said the site will likely be a useful resource. “In light of the tragic suicide of yet another young person in our very own city late last week, I applaud 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,” she said in a press release.
She added, “It’s clear from this website that LDS doctrine will not change, however, those Mormons who are LGBTQ or questioning may enjoy a higher quality of life and more loving relationship with their friends, families, and faith.”
Mitch Mayne, a gay Mormon who is executive secretary of the church’s Bay Ward in San Francisco, said the site represents limited progress. “I’m optimistic about parts of this website and what it represents,” he told The Advocate by email. “For example, we’re seeing more use of the term ‘gay’ as opposed to the more primitive and mythical label ‘same-sex attracted.’ This is a step in the right direction, and gives me hope that we might someday emerge from our outdated understanding of what it really means to be an LGBT individual — a complete human, with a sexual orientation and identity equal in depth and complexity to that of our straight fellows.
“But as in almost all things our faith does to help LGBT Mormons, this site really does more to help straight members than it does LGBT members, and really just brushes the surface — and does so in ways that aren’t particularly helpful. What I’d like to have seen included is the remarkable research done by the Family Acceptance Project that demonstrates evidence-based ways Mormon families and communities can respond to LGBT individuals, in a way that keeps them safe from significant health risks, including depression and suicide. I think that’s a big miss here. But when we think about what the church was saying even five years ago on this subject — and what many of our average members think they know about LGBT Mormons and individuals — this feels like progress. Not perfection by a long shot — but small progress.”