LDS Church ads about LGBTQ issues attracts attention

Advertisements featuring leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are attracting attention for content that addresses LGBTQ issues. (Photo: LDS YouTube Ad)

(KUTV) - Advertisements featuring leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are attracting attention for content that addresses LGBTQ issues.

For example, a Facebook ad featuring Quorum of the Twelve Elder M. Russell Ballard has been shared nearly 2,500 times and viewed close to 335,000 times since being posted January 19, 2018.

Ballard’s message in the ad, in part, says, “We need to listen to and understand what our LGBT brothers and sisters are feeling and experiencing. Certainly, we must do better than we have done in the past so that all members feel they have a spiritual home."

LDS Church Spokesperson Eric Hawkins said, “The ads are part of a larger effort to promote messages from church leaders. These ads appear on social media, including YouTube, and address a variety of topics. This excerpt is from a speech delivered by President M. Russell Ballard at BYU in November 2017."

Similar pre-roll ads began appearing on YouTube in addition to sponsored ads on Facebook days after the new First Presidency of the Church fielded media questions at a news conference, January 16, 2018.

When asked about the scope of the ads campaign, Hawkins would only say that it is “ongoing.”

Emily Jensen, editor of A Book of Mormons, said the ads are “confusing” as to what it means to be Mormon and how members approach and accept those who are gay.

“The past few years the message has been increasingly to not bully them--meaning do not kick them out of your homes and do not be mean to them at school and work--and to love them but not accept their gay actions,” Jensen said. “But this message of grudging inclusion is tempered by the still new doctrine that we will kick gay members out of the church if they marry and call them apostate (and not allow their children to be baptized).”

The policy set forth by the Church in November 2015 states that entering into a same-sex marriage is considered “apostasy” and requires a Church disciplinary council. In addition, the policy updated in the Church’s Handbook 1, a guide for bishops and priesthood leaders, forbids children from same-sex relationships to participate religious rites such as baptism until they turn 18.

“So, on the one hand, our church programs are full of reminders that we are children of a God who loves us no matter what and yet the church is modeling a conditional love and acceptance in the here and now,” Jensen said.

Jensen speculates the ads may be targeted to combat the likelihood of negative press generated from the Sundance showing of “Believer” - a documentary about the LoveLoud Festival in Orem, Utah, that benefited at-risk LGBTQ youth, and was endorsed by the Mormon Church. If so, Jensen said the ads are a smart public relations move.

“I'd argue that [President] Ballard's comments are the most recent positive spin on the church's position regarding LGBT members,” she said. “People are curious about what the church thinks about LGBT members and anytime something brings the conversation to the fore is going to engender public comment and scrutiny … people are going to have these conversations on Facebook, and click into the trailer from ‘Believer’ on YouTube.”

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