LGBTQ people are doing the bidding of the devil.
That was the gist of a speech delivered by Mormon leader Dallin H. Oaks during the church’s 188th Semiannual General Conference, held between Oct. 6-7 in Salt Lake City. Oaks, the newly appointed first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, claimed in a Saturday address that Satan “seeks to confuse gender [and] to distort marriage.”
“Our knowledge of God’s revealed plan of salvation requires us to oppose many of the current social and legal pressures to retreat from traditional marriage,” Oaks claimed, “or to make changes that confuse or alter gender or homogenize the differences between men and women.”
“We know that the relationships, identities, and functions of men and women are essential to accomplish God’s great plan,” said Oaks, who referred to gender as “eternal.”
Oaks pointed to “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” a 1995 statement outlining the LDS Church’s opposition to marriage equality. In its very first paragraph, the proclamation states that “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God” and traditional nuclear families are “central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”
The Mormon Church’s highest authority called that document “revelation” in dismissing criticism of its anti-LGBTQ policies.
“Our positions on these fundamentals frequently provoke opposition to the church, We consider that inevitable,” Oaks claimed. “Opposition is part of the plan, and Satan’s… most strenuous opposition is directed at whatever is most important to God’s plan. He seeks to destroy God’s work.”
The LDS Church came under fire in November 2015 after leaders released a policy referring to same-sex married couples as “apostates” and claiming their children cannot be baptized in the church.
To be blessed in the LDS faith, the children of same-sex couples must denounce their parents’ marriage upon turning 18.
More than 30 LGBTQ youth took their own lives in the three months after that policy was released, according to the LDS support network Mama Dragons. That estimate has been contested by the Utah Department of Health. Recent data released just days before the General Conference, however, showed a “startling increase” in overall suicide rates between the years of 1999 and 2016.
Although advocates have refrained from directly blaming the LDS Church for the wave of suicides, youth drop-in centers in Utah opened their doors over the weekend to young LGBTQ Mormons that may be struggling with reconciling their faith and their identity.
Jordan Sgro, outreach coordinator at Encircle, told the local news station KTVX that Oaks’ statements are “invalidating.”
“When the message that is directed toward LGBTQ people revolves around ‘you aren’t enough,’ ‘you aren’t important,’ ‘your experience isn’t valid,’” Sgro said, “I think the natural result of that is increased depression, increased isolation, [and] increased anxiety.”
Openly gay Sen. Jim Dabakis, an ex-Mormon, reiterated a message of support to LGBTQ youth who may be reeling from yet another attack on their right to exist.
“No matter who says it, even if it is your family or some high titled official — neither you nor the people who are fighting for you to be treated fairly are ‘Satan’s plan,’” Dabakis claimed in a Facebook post. “You matter. You are loved. You don’t need to change who God made you to make ‘them’ feel like all their cogs fit into their tidy religious machine.”
“I see you,” he added. “I love you.”
Although Oaks’ remarks on LGBTQ people largely serve to reiterate standing LDS policies, the Utah-based denomination outlined a number of doctrinal changes this weekend. Sunday services will be shortened from three hours to two, while the faith will be shifting to a “home-centered” focus to accommodate elderly members who cannot attend church.
In addition, President Russell M. Nelson urged female LDS members to refrain from posting on social media for 10 days.
Image via LDSGeneralConference Facebook