- (Photo: © 2012 Intellectual Reserve, Inc.)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) has launched a new website featuring a "collection of conversations" aimed at gays and lesbians, saying that same-sex attraction is not a sin – but acting upon it is.
"What we do know is that the doctrine of the church – that sexual activity should only occur between a man and a woman who are married – has not changed and is not changing," said Elder Quentin Cook in statement on the MormonsAndGays.org launch. "But what is changing and what needs to change is to help our own members and families understand how to deal with same-gender attraction."
The Mormon website recognizes that the issue is "highly sensitive" for many people, but says that the church is open and willing to reach out to LGBT people and tell them that there is a place for them in the community.
The official Mormon stance on gay issues is stated at the top of the website, and calls same-sex attraction a "complex reality" for many.
"The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the church reaches out to all God's children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters," the website states.
Spencer Clark, executive director for Mormons for Marriage Equality, shared in an email with NBC News that the LDS church has made "mistakes" in the past on gay issues.
"On this website we witness something that church leaders rarely do: admit that we've done things wrong in the past. In light of this, the clear admission that things need to change is particularly welcome, if long overdue," Clark wrote.
Like many institutions in the U.S., the Mormon Church has been accused of creating a negative portrayal of homosexuals in the past, but in 2010 it officially enforced initiatives to fight for gay rights – although it does not support civil unions or marriage.
"Too often, gay Mormons and their families have felt that they had to choose between their loyalty to each other and to their church," Clark continued. "Latter-day Saints have often been described as gay individuals as 'struggling with same-sex attraction' without considering whether the true test from God was on those who are straight to see if they would struggle loving those who are gay. We simply can't claim to love God, and not love the gay children, parents or neighbors that He has placed in our lives."
He added that he hopes the new website will "open the door" and create opportunities for greater progress in the future when it comes to Mormons helping gay people in society.
Church spokesman Michael Purdy said of the new website: "Too often these types of big, important issues are dealt with in sound bites and often by individuals who do not have the complete picture of what the church is doing."
"This website was produced over two years and puts the entire issue in context," he added.
A detailed Pew Forum (.pdf) poll from 2012 showed that 26 percent of Mormons believe homosexuality should be accepted by society, while 65 percent responded that it should be discouraged.