LDS apostle speaks about church responsibility in Mormon LGBT suicides for first time

LDS apostle speaks about church responsibility in Mormon LGBT suicides for first time

(KUTV) An LDS church apostle addressed what is being called the Mormon LGBT "suicide epidemic" at a recent speech in the nation's capitol.

It is the first time a high-ranking church official has addressed the topic.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was speaking at Johns Hopkins University in Washington D.C. last week about religious freedom when he was asked by a member of the audience, during the event's question-and-answer session, regarding suicides in the Mormon LGBT community.

Attendee Andrew Evans asked Oaks if religious freedom absolves him from responsibility for suicides among church members who are gay. The exchange, including Oak's answer, was shared on the MormonStories podcast a few days later.

RELATED: LDS Church adds same-sex marriage to definition of apostasy

"Less than a year ago, right here in Washington, DC, my friend killed himself. He was Mormon and gay. You've gone on record that the church does not give apologies. Does religious freedom absolve you from responsibility in the gay Mormon suicide crisis?" asked Evans.

"That's a question that will be answered on judgment day," Oaks responded. "I will be accountable to a higher authority for that."

The Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-day Saints changed its policy in November 2015 to categorize married same-sex couples as apostates. At the same time, it prohibited children of same-sex couples from full participation in the church by requiring them to wait until they are 18 years old to be baptized and, then, only if they renounce their parents' marriage practices.

RELATED: LDS church to exclude children of same-sex couples from membership

Some Mormons, including a group of LDS parents with children who identify as LGBT, say suicides in the group have gone up since the policy was announced.

The policy change was leaked in November, though it wasn't until January -- more than two months later -- that LDS apostle Russell M. Nelson said the change was a revelation from God.

RELATED: Group fears youth suicides up since LDS policy about gay couples, children

Oaks comments last week are the first time an apostle, men sustained as a prophets by the church's members, has directly addressed the concern about LGBT suicides.

Previously, church spokesman Dale Jones said any suicide is lamentable, as quoted in a Salt Lake Tribune article about LGBT suicide.

"Every soul is precious to God and to the church, and the loss of life to suicide is heartbreaking."

Oaks also said his responsibility is to teach people to be loving and civil and sensitive so people will not feel driven to take extreme measures.

Oaks' full answer is here:

I think that's a question that will be answered on judgment day. I can't answer that beyond what has already been said. I know that those tragic events happen.
And it's not unique simply to the question of sexual preference. There are other cases where people have taken their own lives and blamed a church-my church-or a government, or somebody else for their taking their own lives, and I think those things have to be judged by a higher authority than exists on this earth.
And I am ready to be accountable to that authority, but I think part of what my responsibility extends to, is trying to teach people to be loving, and civil and sensitive to one another so that people will not feel driven, whatever the policy disagreements, whatever the rules of the church, or the practices of a church, or any other organization, if they are administered with kindness, at the highest level or at the level of the congregation or the ward, they won't drive people to take those extreme measures.
That's part of my responsibility to teach that. And beyond that, I will be accountable to higher authority for that. That's the way I look on that. Nobody is sadder about a case like that than I am. Maybe that's a good note to end on.

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