The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, never very supportive of transgender people, made its anti-trans stance even clearer this week.
“The intended meaning of gender in the family proclamation [a church document issued 23 years ago] and as used in church statements and publications since that time is biological sex at birth,” Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor to the president of the LDS Church, told a gathering of the denomination’s top officials Wednesday, according to a church press release.
“God created ‘male and female,’” and this “binary creation is essential to the plan of salvation,” Oaks told the assembly, known as a Leadership Meeting, held in preparation for the church’s General Conference, scheduled for this weekend.
Oaks, one of the three highest-ranking leaders of the church, known informally as the Mormon Church, also reiterated the denomination’s stance against homosexuality. “While God’s commandments forbid all unchaste behavior and reaffirm the importance of marriage between a man and a woman, the church and its faithful members should reach out with understanding and respect to individuals who are attracted to those of the same sex or whose sexual orientation or gender identity is inconsistent with their sex at birth,” he said.
“We do not know why same-sex attraction and confusion about sexual identity occur,” he continued. “They are among the challenges that persons can experience in mortality, which is only a tiny fraction of our eternal existence.” He added, “Eternal life, the greatest gift of God to his children, is only possible through the creative powers inherent in the combination of male and female joined in an eternal marriage.”
While definitely anti-LGBTQ, the language is a bit more measured than what Oaks used in addressing the General Conference a year ago, when he said LGBTQ advocacy comes from Satan, who “seeks to confuse gender, to distort marriage, and to discourage childbearing.” This, however, is undoubtedly still Mormon doctrine.
Earlier this year, the church backtracked on some anti-LGBTQ policies it had adopted in 2015, denying baptism to children whose primary home is with same-sex parents and considering same-sex relationships a form of apostasy — rejection of church teachings that can lead to excommunication. The church announced in April that it was revoking those policies, while still considering same-sex relationships a serious transgression.
Oaks’s statements Wednesday made it “a dark day for transgender Latter-day Saints,” Laurie Lee Hall, senior vice president of Affirmation, told The Salt Lake Tribune. Affirmation is a support group for LGBTQ people who are or have been members of the church, plus their families and friends. “It will send shock waves through our transgender community,” she continued. “They are going to be traumatized and damaged by this statement.”
Hall, a transgender woman who was excommunicated from the LDS Church for refusing to renounce her female identity, “believes that gender is eternal but that she was born in the wrong body,” the Tribune reports. “That is a view shared by many transgender Latter-day Saints who continue in their faith and practice with the church.”
Oaks “has now warped the family proclamation to be of no use to me at all,” Hall added.