By Brady McCombs, AP
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah–A top Mormon leader reiterated the church’s opposition to gay marriage Saturday during its biannual general conference.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ stance on homosexuality has softened in recent years, but this marks the second consecutive conference in which leaders took time to emphasize the faith’s insistence that marriage should be limited to unions between a man and a woman, as God created.
“While many governments and well-meaning individuals have redefined marriage, the Lord has not,” said Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve. “He designated the purpose of marriage to go far beyond the personal satisfaction and fulfillment of adults, to more importantly, advancing the ideal setting for children to be born, reared and nurtured.”
In the October 2013 church conference, Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum said human laws cannot “make moral what God has declared immoral.”
The church sent a letter to local leaders that includes that message, Andersen said Saturday. “As the world slips away from the Lord’s law of chastity, we do not,” he said.
During the first of five sessions held over the weekend, LDS leaders on Saturday also encouraged missionaries to stay strong amid the inevitable personal abuse they will encounter and parents to shelter their children from the damaging effects of pornography.
The conference brings more than 100,000 Latter-day Saints to Salt Lake City to find out church news and soak up words of guidance and inspiration from the faith’s top leaders. Thousands more will listen or watch from around the world in 95 languages on television, radio, satellite and Internet broadcasts. More than half of all 15 million Latter-day Saints live outside of the U.S., church figures show.
The conference is widely followed and analyzed on social media, with many using the Twitter hash tag, “#LDSconf.”
Gay marriage has been an especially hot topic in Utah since December, when a federal judge overturned Utah’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. More than 1,000 gay and lesbian couples married until the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay on marriages pending a ruling from a federal appeals court in Denver. A hearing is set there for Thursday.
Andersen encouraged church members not to buckle under the pressure of a growing movement on social media and elsewhere by advocates who want to make gay marriage legal. He offered the example of a woman who articulated her support for “traditional marriage” on Facebook and refused to take it down despite backlash.
Andersen is a member of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve, which is the second-highest governing body of the church. Modeled after Jesus Christ’s apostles, the 12 men serve under the church president and his two counselors.