LDS apostle explains church's evolution on LGBT issues, says members' politics may differ from doctrine

(KUTV) In the wake of a landmark anti-discrimination and religious liberties bill being signed into law, a top leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is offering insight into the church’s decision to support it.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke with 2News in a rare interview Friday.

During that conversation he also opened up about whether church members whose political views oppose church doctrine can still maintain good standing in the faith.

WATCH the complete interview between Christofferson and 2News' Daniel Woodruff at the bottom of this page.

Senate Bill 296, the landmark LDS church-backed measure signed into law Thursday by Gov. Gary Herbert, forbids discrimination against the LGBT community in housing and employment. Religious liberty is also protected.

“People are people, and they all deserve to be respected and honored and have their privileges as everyone else does in our society,” Christofferson told 2News.{ }

The LDS church came out in support of an anti-discrimination measure in late January. But leaders at the time said any bill should also contain provisions to protect religious liberty.

“It’s not been easy,” Christofferson said of the SB 296 negotiations. “We didn't think it would be, frankly.”

Many say, if the church hadn't publicly supported the effort this year, the bill never would have advanced.

“It was, on balance I think, something very positive, and I believe everybodyfeels that same way,” said Christofferson.

But the church's support of issues involving gay and transgender rights hasn't always been so strong. Rhetoric from some past leaders hasn’t been quite as accepting.

'A greater understanding'

Is it fair to say that church leaders have gained greater understanding over the past decades toward the LGBT community?

“I think we've all had -- all aspects, all elements of society including ourselves -- have gained added understanding over the years, especially in recent years,” Christofferson responded.

That advancing understanding, though, has led some church members to go further and embrace marriage equality –- something the church does not support.

2News asked Christofferson if supporting gay marriage would threaten somebody's membership in the church if they actively advocated for it, perhaps on social media.

“That's not an organized effort to attack our effort or attack our functioning as a church, if you will,” he said.

So can LDS members hold political beliefs even though they're different from what church leaders teach from the pulpit?

“Yes,” said Christofferson.

Supporting traditional marriage

Despite its embrace of SB 296, the LDS church insists its doctrine supporting traditional marriage has not changed. Christofferson says the church has no plans to accept monogamous same-sex marriage.

“That's such a fundamental aspect of what we see as the purpose of life,” said Christofferson. “Marriage between a man and a woman and the family that grows out of that –- all of that is so fundamental to what has happened, what needs to happen here and what comes hereafter that, without it, it falls apart.”

When pressed on whether he’s leaving any room for movement in the future, Christofferson simply said, “No.”

Now that SB 296 has been signed into law, LDS leaders say they hope it will become a model for the rest of the country.

“We really do give credit to all parties on all sides and every interest for coming together as they did in this search for, as we said, fairness for all,” Christofferson said.

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