(KUTV) In a significant change, the LDS church has released a new version of its website that addresses being gay in a religion that adamantly opposes same-sex relationships.
“We want you to know we love you. You are welcome. We want you to be part of our congregations,” said Elder L. Whitney Clayton, a member of the faith’s Presidency of the Seventy, in a welcome video on the new website MormonAndGay.lds.org.
The site, which went live Tuesday morning, differs from the previous version released in 2012. It is now part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' official LDS.org website – not a standalone domain. The name has also been changed from “Mormons and Gays” to “Mormon and Gay.”
That changes signifies that “a member can be both Mormon and Gay -- that is, a person with same-sex attraction is entitled to the full blessings of the Gospel so long as that person follows the commandments of God,” said Clayton in a statement to 2News.
According to church leaders, the site is intended for members who identify as gay and for their families, friends, and leaders. It touches on a number of issues surrounding being gay and remaining active in the LDS faith.
But absent from the site is any mention of the church’s controversial November 2015 policy change that stipulates members who enter into a same-sex marriage are considered “apostates” and that their children are not eligible for baptism into the faith until they are 18.
“We hope this will help those who struggled with or didn't understand last year's handbook change,” said Elder Von Keetch, executive director of the church’s public affairs department. “This site has been in development for two full years, and predated the handbook change by a long time. But if it helps those affected to feel of our love and concern for them, we're grateful.”
Kendall Wilcox, a member of the group Mormons Building Bridges, noted the website also does not rule out conversion therapy as a means of changing someone's sexual orientation.
"For the church not to openly condemn that, I think, is pretty immoral and a glaring omission," Wilcox said.
Still, Wilcox said, the site is a step forward and he appreciates its more inclusive message.
Much like the previous website, “Mormon and Gay” features video testimonials from members and church leaders. Some videos are carried over from the old site while others are new and feature Mormons who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Transgender issues are not addressed on the new website.
Jessyca Fulmer, 24, of Provo is one of the members featured. She said she struggled to reconcile her attraction to women with her beliefs as a Mormon. She said she even considered suicide.
After praying, Fulmer said, she eventually made a decision to remain a member of the church and tell her family and friends about her attraction to women.
“Coming out and telling people about being gay has been extremely terrifying,” Fulmer said, “but it’s also the most healing thing that I have ever done.”
Another member profiled on the site is Ricardo Rosas, 46. He said he is attracted to men but married to a woman he also finds attractive.
“I don’t really have an explanation for that,” Rosas said. “All that I can say is that’s how I’m wired.”
Rosas has also made a decision to remain an active member of the Mormon church while being open about his feelings.
“The attractions aren’t going to go away,” Rosas said. “They’re going to be there my whole life. But I don’t feel that I’m losing anything in my life.”
The church does not have a position on the cause of same-sex attraction, according to the website, and it does not necessarily encourage its gay members to marry someone of the opposite sex. But engaging in homosexual behavior is cause for excommunication from the Mormon church, and leaders say that doctrine isn’t changing.
Still, leaders said it’s important for members to love and be accepting.
“This is beautifully taught on the site—by the stories of these individuals, their families, friends and Church leaders,” said Clayton. “We hope that serves as an example to all our members of how we should treat one another.”