(Photo: REUTERS/George Frey)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly referred to as the Mormon Church, announced a new website designed to encourage dialogue about same-sex attractions and marriage.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles says the website is important because it seeks to further understanding, noting it is wise to understand what God has revealed about the subject in scriptures.
"There is so much we don't understand about this subject, that we'd do well to stay close to what we know from the revealed word of God," stated Oaks in a video message on the new site. "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. 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 new site (http://www.mormonsandgays.org) features videos with a number of Mormons discussing their own experiences and perspective on the issue.
The church's position on homosexuality has received attention in recent months in part for two reasons. First, former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is now arguably the best known Mormon in America and previously held several senior leadership positions within the church.
Romney's position on the issue of LGBT has undergone an evolution over the course of his political career, appearing to reflect his personal struggle over the issue. However, he insists that his stance has always been the same, and cites the changing definition of the term "gay rights" as the source of the misconception.
But in a statement as Massachusetts governor in 2003, Romney clarified his position on the issue after a ruling by the state Supreme Court saying that same-sex marriage is protected in the state's constitution.
"I agree with 3,000 years of recorded history. I disagree with the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts," said Romney. "Marriage is an institution between a man and a woman. I will support an amendment to the Massachusetts constitution to make that expressly clear. Of course, basic civil rights, and certain appropriate benefits should be available to people in non-traditional relationships. But marriage is a special institution between a man and a woman, and our Constitution and laws should reflect that."
Similar to positions taken by many evangelical churches and denominations, the church appears to reinforce that homosexuality is a sin but desires to reach out in a loving manner and embrace those who are struggling with the attraction.
Yet while Christian doctrine teaches the concept of original sin as it applies to man's temptation to engage in thoughts and actions that violate God's will, the Mormon website argues that no one fully understands the root cause of same-sex attraction.
Kelly, whose last name was not revealed and one of those highlighted in the video, says he was afraid of losing his family and struggled on whether to return to the church.
"Family is very important to me. That was one of the things that helped get me to come back to the Church. You know, I couldn't imagine living an eternity without my mom and dad. And so I knew I needed to change and do something different. Because even though I felt happy and felt content at the time there was a huge hole that I was afraid of losing my family."
Church members who struggle with the issue and others who have homosexual family members also discuss their thoughts on the subject in videos.