SALT LAKE CITY (RNS) Scores of Mormons say they felt confused and bruised after Apostle Boyd K. Packer unequivocally condemned same-sex marriage and insisted that gays can change their attractions with enough faith.
It wasn’t the substance of Packer’s speech on Sunday (Oct. 3), and no one expected the senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to revise the church’s stance.

What bothered many, they say, was the style of his presentation that left them feeling Packer’s views were at odds with the more nuanced and compassionate recent statements by other leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Packer’s words “are an anomaly in the parade of statements coming out of the (LDS) church,” said Carol Lynn Pearson, a Mormon writer in northern California who has worked to make gays feel welcome in the Mormon church.

The speech “hurt my heart,” she said in a phone interview, “because I receive all the time e-mails from young gay Mormons who feel so diminished and defeated.”

Last month, Elder Marlin Jensen, a member of the church’s First Quorum of Seventy, met with church members in California who were upset by the church’s vocal support of Proposition 8, which ended same-sex marriage in the state.

While Jensen said traditional marriage was a “bedrock of our doctrine and would not change,” he joined others in crying when they shared stories of alienation from the church over the gay issue.

“I want you to know that as a result of being with you this morning, my aversion to homophobia has grown,” Jensen said. “I know that many very good people have been deeply hurt.”

LDS spokesman Scott Trotter emphasized that Packer’s speech was consistent with the church’s longtime position.

“The church’s doctrine on the importance of marriage and family and its implications for same-gender marriage are very clear,” Trotter said in a statement, “and are based on principles of truth, respect and love for all of God’s children.”

Moreover, he said, “We have continually emphasized that there is no room in this discussion for hatred or mistreatment of anyone.”

For Mormons like editor and writer Jana Riess of Cincinnati, “It is painful to be so at odds with my church on this issue.”

In her Beliefnet column Flunking Sainthood, Riess asks: “If the goal is to become like Jesus, why, then, do we fixate so much of our attention on condemning homosexuality, a subject that Christ did not address a single time in his earthly ministry?”

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