Representatives of two religions delivered very different takes on LGBT issues over the weekend, with one saying same-sex marriage is immoral, the other saying homophobia is a sin.
While states and nations move to offer equal marriage rights to same-sex couples, human laws cannot “make moral what God has declared immoral,” Apostle Dallin H. Oaks, a top official of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said in addressing the church’s Semiannual General Conference in Salt Lake City Sunday, the Associated Press reports.
While the LDS, or Mormon, Church has dialed down its political activism against marriage equality laws in the past few years, statements at the conference made it clear the church’s stance hasn’t changed. Oaks decried “political and social pressures for legal and policy changes to establish behaviors contrary to God’s decrees about sexual morality and the eternal nature and purposes of marriage and child-bearing,” according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
Another Mormon leader, Apostle Russell M. Nelson, told conference attendees, “Marriage between a man and a woman is fundamental to the Lord’s doctrine and crucial to God’s eternal plan. Marriage between a man and a woman is God’s pattern for a fullness of life on Earth and in heaven. God’s marriage pattern cannot be abused, misunderstood, or misconstrued.” Conference speakers also reiterated the belief that men and women should play different roles in marriage and church life, with the Mormon priesthood reserved for men.
A more welcoming and inclusive message came from the Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., which is affiliated with the LGBT-friendly Episcopal Church. In his Sunday sermon, part of a weekend of events devoted to LGBT youth, Hall said he remembered a time when the Episcopal Church “actively participated in racism” and denied women the priesthood, but the church eventually came to recognize racism and sexism as sins.
“And now we find ourselves at the last barrier — call that barrier homophobia, call it heterosexism,” he continued. “We must now have the courage to take the final step and call homophobia and heterosexism what they are. They are sin. Homophobia is a sin. Heterosexism is a sin. Shaming people for whom they love is a sin. Shaming people because their gender identity doesn’t fit neatly into your sense of what it should be is a sin. Only when all our churches say that clearly and boldly and courageously will our LGBT youth be free to grow up in a culture that totally embraces them fully as they are.”
Hall mentioned Matthew Shepard and Tyler Clementi in his sermon, the former being the gay Wyoming college student murdered 15 years ago in a homophobic hate crime, the latter a gay New Jersey collegian who killed himself three years ago after discovering that his roommate had used a webcam to spy on him in a romantic encounter with another man. The cathedral hosted a forum with both young men’s mothers, Judy Shepard and Jane Clementi, over the weekend.
Hall called on the church and society to make the world “a safe and nurturing place for the Matthew Shepards and Tyler Clementis of our own day.” He added, “We just need some faith — faith in a God who is bigger and deeper and more loving and compassionate than we are. It really is OK for you and me to be who we are. Our job, as Christians, is not only to proclaim that Gospel. Our job is to live it. And if we are faithful in proclaiming and living it, today’s generation of LGBT youth will thrive and grow and take their places around this table.”
Read Hall’s full sermon on the National Cathedral website.