The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unveiled a new website today directed at gay members of the church. While the site doesn’t alter existing policy or doctrine it does show a distinct shift.
That shift is clear in the videos featured on the site. Like this one, with church member Jessyca Fulmer sharing her story.
“Coming out and telling people about being gay has been extremely terrifying," Fulmer says in the video. "But it’s also the most healing thing I have ever done. I feel now, being around people that know that I’m gay, I’m able to be myself.”
Fulmer referring to herself as being “gay" is significant. The church previously distanced itself from that label, or any LGBT terminology. And Fulmer is grateful that is no longer the case.
“I can just say, 'Hey, I’m gay and that’s ok' and I’m figuring it out and I’m living the way I feel God wants me to," says Fulmer.
The shift is also reflected in the name of the new website: mormonandgay.lds.org. The previous website was mormonsandgays.org.
According to a statement from Elder Whitney Clatyon, a church general authority, “This signifies two things: That it is an official Church site (which some didn't understand with the separate domain) and that a member can be both Mormon and gay.”
“For many many people that is going to be revolutionary. And it’s going to take a while to sink in," says Kendall Wilcox, who represents the LGBT group Mormons Building Bridges.
While he’s encouraged by the new website, he doesn’t feel it goes far enough. He says the message still feels dated. And he’d like to see the church formally denounce reparative therapy along with addressing the dangers facing gay members more directly, like depression and suicide risk.
Also, the site doesn’t address the controversial policy change from last November. But, Wilcox isn’t deterred.
“It’s the best we’ve got, so we’re going to take what we’ve got and build on it from here," he says.
For Wilcox, this may feel like a small step in the right direction. But, a significant step nonetheless.