13 April 2015

Mormons Stepping Up their Campaign

As a result of nationwide move to strengthen family relations and freedom of religion, Mormon leaders vowed to be a leading advocate for the belief that marriage is an institution exclusive to a man and a woman during the religion's biannual conference last 4 April.

The first came when the conference kicked off without the usual welcoming address from church President Thomas S. Monson, 87, who days earlier also missed a meeting with President Barack Obama while he was in Utah.

Monson, who was still present at conference and walked in on his own, skipped the speech as part of a decision to reduce the number of speeches he's giving this weekend, church officials said. He gave a short speech about the priesthood Saturday evening.

The second unusual event occurred when five people stood up and yelled, "Opposed," during a part of the conference when attendees usually raise their hands in unison in a vote of support for church leadership, drawing some raised eyebrows by attendees who hadn't seen this kind of act for decades. They represented only a very handful of the 20,000 in attendance, which still support marriage between a man and a women.

L. Tom Perry, a member of the faith's Quorum of the Twelve, cautioned Mormons not to be swayed by a world filled with media and entertainment that presents the minority masquerading as the majority and tries to make mainstream values seem obsolete.

Perry said strong, traditional families are the basic units of a stable society, a stable economy and a stable culture of values. He noted that Mormons investment in the topic is even deeper than other religions because they believe marriages and family are for eternity.

"We want our voice to be heard against all of the counterfeit and alternative lifestyles that try to replace the family organization that God Himself established," Perry said.

D. Todd Christofferson, another member of the quorum, added more on the topic, saying, "A family built on the marriage of a man and woman supplies the best setting for God's plan to thrive — the setting for the birth of children who come in purity and innocence from God."

Christofferson said the focus on marriage isn't meant to disparage those who don't marry, be it because they can't find a suitable partner, have physical or mental impairments or experience same-sex attraction.

"No one is predestined to receive less than all that the Father has for His children," Christofferson said.

The quorum is a governing body of the church that is modeled after Jesus Christ's apostles and serves under the church president and his two counselors.

As acceptance for gay marriage has swelled in recent years and same-sex unions have become legal in dozens of states, including Utah, the church's stance on homosexuality has softened.

Church leaders helped push through a Utah law this year that bars housing and employment discrimination against gay and transgender individuals while also expanding protections for the rights of religious groups and individuals. LGBT activists have spent years pushing for a statewide non-discrimination law, but they couldn't get traction until LDS leaders made a nationwide call for this type of legislation that combined protections for religious liberties.

But the religion has taken time during several recent conferences to emphasize its insistence that marriage should be limited to unions between a man and a woman, as God created. In April 2014, Neil L. Andersen of the quorum said, "While many governments and well-meaning individuals have redefined marriage, the Lord has not."