Mormon church says cruelty toward gays is wrong

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Mormon Church chided members Tuesday to consider whether their attitudes toward all people – including gays – followed Christian principles, responding to activists’ demand that a church leader withdraw anti-gay statements. The Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights group, delivered a petition letter carrying 150,000 signatures to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ headquarters, asking church leader Boyd K. Packer to retract statements that same-sex relationships are unnatural and can be overcome. Church spokesman Michael Otterson responded with an official church statement, saying belittling others for being different is wrong. Packer, 86, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made his remarks Oct. 3. He is the second-highest ranking Mormon church leader and the next in line for the presidency of the 13.5 million-member faith. The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay civil rights organization, collected the signatures after an e-mail alert to members and supporters – 20 percent of whom are not lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The response to the alert is the largest in HRC history, said Fred Sainz, the group’s vice president of communications. The petition letter and signatures were delivered in an 800-page stack to the church’s downtown Salt Lake City office building by HRC President Joe Solmonese and leaders from Utah’s gay community and a gay Mormon support group. Church spokesman Scott Trotter accepted the bundle and thanked Solmonese. Packer’s remarks came during the fall installment of the church’s twice-yearly general conference. The event is held in the church’s 21,000-seat conference center and broadcast worldwide to millions more. During his speech, Packer reiterated the faith’s opposition to same-sex marriage. Since the 1990s, the church has worked to defeat marriage equality laws nationwide.

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