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In an extraordinary move, the Washington Park LDS Ward in Seattle is opening its arms to Mormon gays and lesbians in the area.

These LDS congregational leaders recently sent a letter to "less-active members within the ward boundaries" inviting them to a church sacrament meeting Sunday, Oct. 19.

"Our hope is that by attending church, you will see how many brothers and sisters you have in the gospel of Jesus Christ living near you," the letter read. "If you know of some whom we may be unaware of, please, invite them, too. There is a large community of members, gay and straight, who have yet to meet each other."

The letter acknowledged that participating in worship in the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has sometimes been "painful" to Mormon gays — and that it might be intimidating to return. So inviting large numbers of people might help them feel a "strength in numbers," rather than singled out.

The letter further assured lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members that their experiences were valuable to the Mormon community,

"Your faith and your fellows need your strength, your testimony and your unique perspective on our gospel," it said. "You will be valued and welcomed as a part of our ward family."

Mitch Mayne — an openly gay Mormon who helped train local leaders alongside his former bishop, Don Fletcher, in how to welcome LGBT members in San Francisco — is pleased with the Seattle effort and its participants.

He told The Salt Lake Tribune the message of the meeting is as important for straight Mormons as it is for the LGBT community.

Aaron Brown, a stake high councilor who oversees LDS public affairs in north Seattle, told Mormon blogger Jana Riess, that they hope to "make our congregations safe, more welcoming, more loving spaces where all our members — gay or straight — can fellowship and worship together, regardless where they are in life."

Brown told Riess, who writes for Religion News Service, that he did not expect large numbers of Mormon gays to return after a single outreach effort but hopes it may have a slowly accruing impact.

A few LGBT members returning to the Mormon fold would be "a success," Brown said. If a few more don't return but at least see Mormonism as a more welcoming place, that would be a success, too, he said. And if some straight Mormons "soften and modify their attitudes about their LGBT brothers and sisters, this will also be success."

Peggy Fletcher Stack