Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 18, Issue 6. Friday, March 13, 2015.
Category: News Literacy
Reason for publication: There was confusion about the Mormon church’s stance on the LGBT community after the gave their support for anti-discriminatory legislation. In this story, I attempted to inform readers of the significance of their support and their current stances.
On Jan. 27, Church officials representing The Mormon Church announced their support for anti-discriminatory legislation for members of the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community.
This legislation represents aspects of anti-discrimination such as housing and employment. It also notes that discrimination, specifically involving violence, against the LGBT community is wrong. The Church’s statement comes as a result of trying to balance the rights of those in the LGBT community whilst not sacrificing or taking away the same rights of others.
However, this does not mean the Mormon Church, officially known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, supports the lifestyles of those in the LGBT community, same-sex marriage or acts of intimacy between two people of the same sex. It simply means they will not discriminate.
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that sexual relations – other than between a man and a woman who are married – are contrary to the laws of God,” Sister Neill F. Marriott, a member of the Young Women general presidency, said as a representative of the church, according to the Newsroom for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “God is loving and merciful. His heart reaches out to all his children equally and he expects us to treat one another with love and fairness.”
The Mormon Church has asserted that the announcement is not a change of stance or change in belief – accepting others has always been a prominent aspect in the Mormon belief. This legislature comes as the result of a news conference held between official Church leaders to find a middle ground between the gap, and even “tension” that has manifested between LGBT activists and religious rights activists.
Granite Bay High School junior and senior CP English teacher, identifying Mormon and local Bishop’s counselor Jason Sitterud said the Mormon Church has always accepted LGBT people but does not agree with their lifestyles and these beliefs have not changed with the announcement.
“I think the purpose (of the announcement) was to educate people,” Sitterud said. “I don’t think we’re always educated on what people believe in and so we hear stories and we hear rumors and … sometimes we base our opinion on those rumors without finding out what the reality is. I think the purpose of the announcement was to clarify what the Church’s stance is, and really always has been, with people who have alternative lifestyles.”
GBHS senior, ASB president and identifying Mormon Kristen Hilburn also said the announcement serves to clear up any misconceptions others may have previously held concerning The Mormon Church or their beliefs.
“Its significance is mostly for the public,” Hilburn said. “To (announce this) isn’t a new thing for us. It’s not new knowledge or information – it’s just letting the public … understand what we believe. Acceptance has never been something we didn’t practice.”
Similarly, senior Miriam Flinders said the announcement and its purpose was directed toward the public in order to clarify the beliefs they have, and have always had, to propound that the Church is not “anti-LGBT.”
While beliefs inside the Mormon community have not changed with this announcement, GBHS senior and member of the Gay-Straight Alliance club Amanda Ramos said she sees this announcement as progress and a step in the right direction towards change and acceptance.
“I’m glad that this LGBT progress has to do with a religious group,” Ramos said. “Because it can (serve as) a wake-up call for other religious groups – showing what religion should really be about and that religion doesn’t mean denying people of their rights and the way that they love. I don’t just see it as a step forward in politics, but a step forward in understanding and human compassion.”
Therefore, Ramos said the announcement may serve a bigger purpose that encourages acceptance of others – no matter their differentiating lifestyles.
“I think that in a school community like ours – where many people are very grounded in religion – this news can show people how possible it is for (those) who are firm believers in their faith (can) also be accepting towards those who are different from them and/or who don’t share the same views,” Ramos said. “Awareness is always very good in improving a community.”
Finally, the question remains of whether or not this announcement, or the effects of this announcement, will, in any way, touch Granite Bay or GBHS. Both Hilburn and Flinders said they do not think the announcement will bring any noticeable changes – as both said they believe the GBHS student body has a sound knowledge of Mormon belief – however, Sitterud said the announcement’s impact will be its significance.
“I don’t think it’s going to impact Granite Bay (in a drastic way),” Sitterud said. “But I think it supports the various clubs we have on campus and I think … it supports the ripple effect. I think it’s just another caveat that will help bring awareness that people need to be good to each other – no matter what (their) lifestyle choices (are) or what your economic background is – (because) we’re all the same so let’s just get along. When we get along we can do great things.”