Apostle M. Russell Ballard of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was the keynote speaker Tuesday at the World Congress of Families in Salt Lake City. He addressed the controversy that has been surrounding the event directly.
Elder Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles made the case that traditional families are at the core of LDS theology, that they need protection and promotion, but he also called for love and kindness for those who disagree.
“We can be specific and passionate about the benefits of man-woman marriage without disrespecting or injuring those who think otherwise,” Ballard said. “Regardless of belief or practice, as brothers and sisters, we should strive to understand one another.”
Elder Ballard called for compromise without giving up core principles, using as an example the anti-discrimination bill that passed in Utah earlier this year, protecting LGBT people in the workplace and housing, but also protecting religious liberties. Erika Munson, co-founder of Mormons Building Bridges says she thinks Elder Ballard’s words will help LGBT families.
“The closing third of his speech was about compassion, how we have to reach out, and how no one should be shunned, no one should be marginalized for their beliefs, and I found that wonderful and hopeful,” Munson says.
But not everyone felt that Elder’s Ballard’s speech was positive for the LGBT community. Mark Lawrence of Restore Our Humanity – the group that sued the state for the right to same-sex marriage - says Ballard made good points, but exclusion is still the primary theme.
“There is still that message of us against them. That comes out very strongly, and that concerns me,” Lawrence says. “The LDS Church has made some great strides, but I’d say this is a great, big step backwards.”
Lawrence says if Church leaders want to be compassionate, they should not endorse the World Congress of Families, which he says has spread messages around the world that have been harmful to LGBT people.