SALT LAKE CITY — A website addressing same-gender attraction was launched Thursday by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The site, Love One Another: A Discussion on Same-Sex Attraction, provides texts and videos produced by the church about homosexuality. Its "collection of conversations" includes perspectives from LDS Church leaders, members who are attracted to people of the same sex and loved ones of gay people.
The website's purpose, the LDS Church said in a press release, was to "encourage understanding and civil conversation about same-sex attraction" and put "the entire issue in context." It addresses topics like common humanity, loving one another, being true to religious beliefs, having an "eternal perspective" and hope.
The church still strongly maintains its stance against gay marriage but hopes the website will help homosexual members and their families find inspiration and work through the challenges of same sex attraction while remaining faithful to the church's doctrine.
"What we do know is that the doctrine of the Church—that sexual activity should only occur between a man and a woman who are married—has not changed and is not changing," said Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. "But what is changing and what needs to change is to help our own members and families understand how to deal with same-gender attraction."
LDS Church leaders have and continue to stress the need to love members who experience homosexuality tendencies.
"Let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion and outreach. Let's not have families exclude or be disrespectful of those who choose a different lifestyle as a result of their feelings about their own gender," said Elder Quentin L. Cook, also of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
The site is meant to encourage that compassion through understanding.
The unveiling of the LDS Church-sponsored site was of interest to 21-year-old Drew McGee, who came out to his parents when he was 16. McGee says he is fortunate that compassion was the response from his active LDS parents Len McGee and Robin Davis.
"We were kind of alone for a long period of time trying to figure out what to do. Len's in the bishopric and we were trying to figure out what to do," Davis said.
The couple knew their son coming out wasn't easy for him. At the time, they say they're only concern was his safety, and that the web site could have helped.
"I think the website indicates or show the church has love and acceptance of gays and that gays are loved accepted and needed in the church," Len McGee said.
The Utah Pride Center issued a statement Thursday saying they appreciated the church's outreach to the LGBT community.
"I applaud any institution, religious or otherwise, for increasing the availability of potentially lifesaving resources to bridge the gap in human understanding, respect and acceptance of differences," said Valerie Larabee, Executive Director of the Utah Pride Center.
Senator-elect Jim Dabakis, the first openly gay party leader in the state and co-founder of Equality Utah and the Utah Pride Center, also issued a statement about the website.
"It has been a productive three years of dialogue between the LDS Church and members of the LGBT community. After the harshness and bitterness of Proposition 8, the LDS Church has shown that its underlying principals of love and acceptance are present in this ongoing communication process."
According to LDS Church Spokesperson Michael Purdy, the church will be publishing more materials addressing other topics in order to help members and the general public alike understand the religion more fully.
Contributing: Richard Piatt