|Rick Bowmer / AP|
A top Mormon leader reaffirmed the religion's opposition to same-sex marriage on Saturday during a church conference — and reminded followers watching around the world that children should be raised in families led by a married man and woman no matter what becomes the norm in a "declining world."
The speech by Dallin H. Oaks, a member of a top governing body called the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, followed a push in recent years by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to uphold theological opposition to gay marriage amid widespread social acceptance while trying to foster an empathetic stance toward LGBT people.
The Mormon church is one of many conservative faith groups navigating the challenges that arise from trying to strike the right balance.
"We have witnessed a rapid and increasing public acceptance of cohabitation without marriage and same-sex marriage. The corresponding media advocacy, education, and even occupational requirements pose difficult challenges for Latter-day Saints," Oaks said. "We must try to balance the competing demands of following the gospel law in our personal lives and teachings even as we seek to show love for all."
Oaks acknowledged that this belief can put Mormons at odds with family and friends and doesn't match current laws, including the recent legalization of gay marriage in the United States. But he told members of the nearly 16-million member faith watching around the world that the religion's 1995 document detailing the doctrine — "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" — isn't' a policy statement that will be changed.
He lamented that more children in the United States are raised in families led by unmarried mothers.
"Even as we must live with the marriage laws and other traditions of a declining world, those who strive for exaltation must make personal choices in family life according to the Lord's way whenever that differs from the world's way," Oaks said.
After the Utah-based Mormon church received backlash in 2008 for helping lead the fight for California's Proposition 8 constitutional ban on gay marriage, religious leaders spent several years carefully developing a more empathetic LGBT tone.
That was interrupted in 2015 when the church adopted new rules banning children living with gay parents from being baptized until age 18 and clarifying that people in same-sex relationships are apostates. That policy drew harsh criticism from gay church members and their supporters, who considered it a major setback from recent progress.
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