It’s been reported in the last couple of weeks that the LDS (Mormon) church has softened its views on homosexuality. Last year, apostle Boyd Packer’s remarks to the church’s general conference were edited when he said that gays were not born with homosexual “tendencies.” Recently, a panel discussion was held at BYU in which LGBT students talked about their experiences and how they have been treated in the church, which was followed up with an “It Gets Better” video from BYU students.
My first thought when I saw the BYU reports was that it isn’t the church that is softening its attitude, but ordinary church members who are reaching out. I didn’t see much change in the church’s attitude towards gays, other than they’ve stopped promoting a book that referred to homosexuality as a “crime against nature” and that said that believing one was born gay is “blasphemy.” My impression was confirmed when another address from Boyd Packer was published in this month’s New Era, the LDS church’s official magazine for teens. He essentially said the same thing that he did last year in arguing that no one is born gay. This time, he was not edited:
A few of you may have felt or been told that you were born with troubling feelings and that you are not guilty if you act on those temptations. Doctrinally we know that if that were true, your agency would have been erased, and that cannot happen. You always have a choice to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost and live a morally pure and chaste life, one filled with virtue.
The difference is that this statement is in a magazine that very few people other than Mormons will read, whereas the earlier statements went out to a wider audience. The message is clear in his remarks: You were not born gay, and if you act on your feelings, you are guilty of sin. Being gay means you are not following the Holy Ghost and are not living a pure, chaste, and virtuous life. Doesn’t sound any softer to me.
The LDS church is really good with PR. They have people talking about changing teachings and attitudes towards the LGBT community. The reality, however, is the same stuff they’ve been preaching since the 1950s.