by Dan Merica
(CNN)—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has fought against same-sex marriage throughout the United States, launched a website on Thursday that preaches understanding and compassion for the gay and lesbian community.
The website “Love One Another: A Discussion on Same-Sex Attraction” at www.mormonsandgays.org outlines the church’s position on “same-sex attraction” and provides readers with a host of videos from “church members who are attracted to people of the same sex, and conversations with the loved ones of gay spouses, children, or grandchildren who are dealing with the effects of same-sex attraction in their own lives.”
The website comes at a time that some same-sex marriage activists believe the LDS Church is toning down its opposition to same sex marriage.
Though the church’s doctrine, that sex should be reserved only for a married man and woman, has not changed the church says, many outside the church say the church is subtly but unmistakably growing friendlier toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, including voicing support for some gay rights.
Some pointed to the less public role in same-sex marriage ballot initiatives in 2012, a marked departure from earlier ballot initiatives fights—like Proposition 8 in California—where the church vocally supported the move to get same-sex marriage banned.
Gay rights activists see Mormons softening attitudes toward their community
“What we do know is that the doctrine of the Church—that sexual activity should only occur between a man and a woman who are married—has not changed and is not changing,” Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said in a news release from the church about the new site.
“But what is changing and what needs to change is to help our own members and families understand how to deal with same-gender attraction,” he said.
The new website echos Oaks that this is not a doctrinal change but does recognize that people who are gay can be practicing members of the church.
“Reconciling same-sex attraction with a religious life can present an especially trying dilemma,” reads the website. “Anyone who lives in both worlds can attest to its difficulty. But with faith, love and perspective it can be done. Every human being, Latter-day Saints affirm, has worth and dignity as a child of God.”
Violation of the church’s teaching on sexual relationships can lead to excommunication. Since gay people cannot be married in the church, any sex for them would be premarital and, therefore, sinful. Under these beliefs, a member of the LGBT community could be a practicing Mormon, as long as they are celibate.
LDS Church policy also notes if gay members “are worthy and qualified in every other way, they may also hold temple recommends and receive temple ordinances,” allowing them to participate in temple ceremonies.
“The distinction between feelings or inclinations on the one hand, and behavior on the other hand, is very clear,” the church’s website says. “It’s no sin to have inclinations that if yielded to would produce behavior that would be a transgression. The sin is in yielding to temptation. Temptation is not unique. Even the Savior was tempted.”
The site goes on to say, “From a public relations perspective it would be easier for the Church to simply accept homosexual behavior. That we cannot do, for God’s law is not ours to change.”
In one video on the site a man identified as Kelly, begins to tear up when he talks about his family and why it was important for him not to leave the church.
“Family is very important to me. That was one of the things that helped get me to come back to the Church,” Kelley, whose last name was never given, said. “I couldn’t imagine living an eternity without my mom and dad. And so I knew I needed to change and do something different. Because even though I felt happy and felt content at the time, there was a huge hole that I was afraid of losing my family.”
Mormons believe that family relationships survive after death, as long as individuals live in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ. The practice—called sealing—“refers to the joining together of a man and a woman and their children for eternity,” according to the church.
CNN’s Jessica Ravitz contributed to this report.