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An LDS apostle reaffirmed recently that Mormons who support gay marriage are not in danger of losing their temple privileges or church memberships even though the Utah-based faith opposes the practice.
In an interview Friday with KUTV in Salt Lake City, Elder D. Todd Christofferson said that individuals in the 15 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would be in trouble only for "supporting organizations that promote opposition or positions in opposition to the church's."
Backing marriage equality on social media sites, including on Facebook or Twitter, "is not an organized effort to attack our effort," Christofferson said in the interview, "or our functioning as a church."
The KUTV interviewer asked further if a Latter-day Saint could "hold those beliefs even though they are different from what you teach at the pulpit?"
Yes, the apostle answered.
"Our approach in all of this, as [Mormon founder] Joseph Smith said, is persuasion. You can't use the priesthood and the authority of the church to dictate. You can't compel, you can't coerce. It has to be persuasion, gentleness and love unfeigned, as the words in the scripture."
Christofferson echoed this sentiment in two January interviews with The Salt Lake Tribune.
"There hasn't been any litmus test or standard imposed that you couldn't support that if you want to support it, if that's your belief and you think it's right," Christofferson said after a Jan. 27 news conference.
At that time, he and fellow apostles Jeffrey R. Holland and Dallin H. Oaks spoke to reporters about the LDS Church's intention to support nondiscrimination legislation for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community as long as the measure provides some religious exemptions. The Utah Legislature passed such landmark legislation last week with the blessing of the state's predominant faith.
Any Mormon can have a belief "on either side of this issue," he said. "That's not uncommon."
Christofferson made the point again in a Trib Talk interview Jan. 29.
He was asked about Latter-day Saints who support same-sex marriage privately among family and friends or publicly by posting entries on Facebook, marching in pride parades or belonging to gay-friendly organizations such as Affirmation or Mormons Building Bridges? Can they do so without the threat of losing their church membership or temple privileges?
"We have individual members in the church with a variety of different opinions, beliefs and positions on these issues and other issues," Christofferson said. " ... In our view, it doesn't really become a problem unless someone is out attacking the church and its leaders if that's a deliberate and persistent effort and trying to get others to follow them, trying to draw others away, trying to pull people, if you will, out of the church or away from its teachings and doctrines."
In the KUTV interview, Christofferson further acknowledged that LDS leaders have evolved in their thinking about homosexuality, while maintaining that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
"This is not a doctrinal evolution or change, as far as the church is concerned," the apostle said. "It's how things are approached."
All elements of society, "including ourselves, have gained greater understanding, especially in recent years," Christofferson said, "as we've seen more intercommunication, more sharing back and forth, more openness on all sides... [on the] social and physical science issues and all the other pieces to the puzzle."
The issue is now "coming into focus, but there are still a lot of questions we are seeking added understanding," he said. "We are still learning."
Could there be a time when the LDS Church would change its position on gay marriage?
The apostle was unequivocal.
Nope, he said.
Peggy Fletcher Stack