SALT LAKE CITY -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Tuesday called for the condemnation of bullying and cruelty of the gay community and others who may be viewed as different.
The Church's statement came after a petition letter, containing 150,000 signatures, was hand-delivered to the Church's Salt Lake headquarters asking the Church to withdraw statements made by President Boyd K. Packer about same-sex attraction, which he said was unnatural and with enough faith can be overcome.
Activists say such statements are factually inaccurate and can result in bullying that leads some gay youth to attempt suicide.
On Tuesday, LDS Church spokesman Michael Otterson joined with the Human Rights Campaign, who collected the signatures, in calling for "unreserved condemnation of acts of cruelty, or attempts to belittle or mock any group or individual that is different..." They asked all people, particularly members of the LDS Church, to "speak out against bullying or intimidation" and to "carefully reflect on whether their attitudes and actions to others properly reflect Jesus Christ's second great commandment to love one another." [CLICK HERE to read the entire statement from the LDS Church]
Otterson again clearly laid out the Church's position on marriage, saying, "Any sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong, and we define marriage as between a man and a woman." And he said the Church will continue to speak out "to ensure its position is accurately understood."
However, he made it very clear the Church's position "should never, ever be used as justification for unkindness" and that the Church's doctrine "is based on love."
Otterson emphasized that it is not a sin to have feelings, only in yielding to temptation and that gay members of the church should not feel ostracized.
"Those in the Church who are attracted to someone of the same sex but stay faithful to the Church's teachings can be happy during this life and perform meaningful service in the Church.
"They can enjoy full fellowship with other Church members including attending and serving in temples, and ultimately receive all the blessings afforded to those who live the commandments of God."
Otterson says there will be people who disagree with the Church's stance on gay marriage, but Church leaders hope disagreement won't be based on selective interpretation or distortion of its position.
The Human Rights Campaign is the nation's largest gay civil rights organization and collected the signatures in an e-mail campaign.
Story compiled with contributions from Paul Nelson.