The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released an official statement reaffirming the Church’s commitment to religious freedom and nondiscrimination in the public sphere Jan. 27.
The Church has used the hashtag #fairness4all to describe the release, where several members of the Quorum of the Twelve and general authorities spoke.
Sister Neill F. Marriott said that people of LGBT backgrounds experienced decades of persecution, which most people, including the Church, realized was “simply wrong.”
She reaffirmed that the Church’s doctrine, as revealed by God, is that sexual relations are correct only between a husband and a wife.
“We are not at liberty to change it,” she said.
She pointed out that the Church has supported legislation for the protection of housing and employment rights for those of LGBT background.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, of the Quorum of the Twelve, said issues of LGBT rights are now resulting in affronts to others’ religious freedom.
“This is one of America’s most treasured and defining freedoms,” Elder Oaks said.
He said this freedom has been attacked in numerous ways recently. He described several instances in America where the rights of religious people to practice have been harmed by those who were trying to ensure LGBT rights at their expense.
“Sadly the list is expanding,” Elder Oaks said.
Elder Oaks said incidents like these have a “chilling effect” on freedom of speech.
“When religious people are publicly intimidated, retaliated against, forced from employment or made to suffer personal loss because they have raised their voice in the public square, donated to a cause or participated in an election, our democracy is the loser,” Oaks said.
Elder Oaks pointed out that legislation to protect all the citizens of the country must include access for those of LGBT backgrounds to housing, employment and public accommodation in restaurants and transportation, which not all areas of the country currently have.
“The leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is on record for favoring such measures,” he said.
Elder Oaks said churches should stand on equal footing with other entities in the public square when participating in public policy debates.
“It is one of today’s great ironies that some people who have fought so hard for LGBT rights now try to deny the rights of others to disagree with their public policy proposals,” he said.
Elder Jeffery R. Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve, then welcomed all to the conference.
Wisdom, judgment, compassion and fairness will be needed to accommodate the rights of all people, Elder Holland said.
“Nothing is achieved if either side resorts to bullying, political point-scoring or accusations of bigotry,” he said.
Elder Holland called Latter-day Saints to be responsible in exercising religious freedom and reminded them they are accountable to God for the responsible exercise of their religious beliefs.
“We must find ways to show respect for others whose beliefs, values and behaviors differ from our own while never being forced to deny or abandon our own beliefs, values and behaviors in the process,” Elder Holland said.
He said a correct compromise can balance the rights of all concerned.
“With understanding and goodwill, including some give and take, none of these rights guaranteed to people of faith will encroach on the rights of gay men and women who wish to live their lives according to their own rights and principles,” he said.