LDS Apostle D. Todd Christofferson on Disagreeing with the Church about Same-Sex Marriage

[UPDATE June 28, 2015 – See follow up post: LDS Apostle D. Todd Christofferson Did NOT Say that it is Okay for LDS Members to Support Same-Sex Marriage]

On Friday, March 13th, Elder  D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was interviewed by Daniel Woodruff of KUTV News regarding the passage of Utah’s Anti-discrimination and Religious Freedom Law, SB296, which the LDS Church supported.

In the last few days since then you’ve probably seen brief quotes or heard soundbites from the interview in the news or on social media.

KUTV has posted the full 16 minute interview on YouTube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XybDk3CEoHg

I’ve taken the liberty of transcribing the portions of the interview that I find most interesting and important. I think you’ll find the greater context and nuance of Elder Christofferson’s words helpful.

I also think that his response to the question about whether the family dynamics of his own experience of having a gay brother has influenced his approach and his advocacy on this issue as an apostle is very important and instructive. (Spoiler: he says “No.” He acts in unison with the highest councils of the church, as they seek revelation to do the will of God.)

Also pay attention to the additional question asked after the interview seemed to be over.


 

PARTIAL TRANSCRIPT

ELDER D. TODD CHRISTOFFERSON

MARCH 14, 2015

 

Daniel Woodruff:
“Members of the LDS Church have been watching this too, around the the country, and it brings up the question as they’re dealing with these issues, maybe within their families, they’re trying to understand how maybe religious freedom applies to them within the church. Obviously the church has its doctrine, but can members of the church, say, support gay marriage, or other things that are related to this bill, that the Church teaches against? Can they support that?”

Elder Christofferson:
“Well there is a diversity of opinion among church members in that regard. And you know that’s always been true, I guess, on many subjects over the years, over the decades, and we don’t have qualms about that. I mean people, we urge people to take part, for example, in the political process and we don’t tell them how to vote or who to vote for, but that they exercise their own good judgment and and make their decisions. Obviously that’s different than when somebody attacks the church you know, per se, or tries to hinder its work. But anybody pursuing their view of what ought to happen in the community– that’s what we hope to see frankly. And in a way you saw it here in the legislature. The vast majority of legislators in Utah are members the LDS Church, and you see a wide variety of opinions in them and among them as you do in our, at the federal level in the US and in other countries. So we, if we’re trying to get everybody to sing the same song and say exactly the same thing we’re failing miserably.”

[…]

Daniel Woodruff:
“I know that in one of the temple recommend interview questions it asks, “do you agree with elements that are against the church?” and I guess, I mean, could it be interpreted that if people supported gay marriage that would be agreeing with something that was against the church?”

Elder Christofferson:
“Well, it’s not do you agree with a person’s position or an organization’s position, it is are you supporting, are you supporting organizations that promote opposition, or positions in opposition to the church.”

Daniel Woodruff:
“So would supporting gay marriage threaten somebody’s membership in the church? If they went out, say, on Facebook or Twitter and actively advocated for it?”

Elder Christofferson:
“No. That’s not an organized, you know, effort to attack our effort or attack our functioning as a church, if you will.”

Daniel Woodruff:
“So members can hold those beliefs even though they’re different from what you teach at the pulpit?”

Elder Christofferson:
“Yes and we, you know, our approach in all of this, as Joseph Smith said, is persuasion. You can’t, He said you can’t use the priesthood and the authority of the church to dictate– you can’t compel, you can’t coerce– it has to be gentleness, persuasion, love unfeigned, as the words are in the scripture.”

[…]

Daniel Woodruff:
“We’ve reported on your situation, you have a brother who is gay, and you’ve talked about how that has impacted your family. Has that, personally for you, has that family dynamic impacted at all how you’ve approached this issue– how you’ve approached publicly advocating, as an apostle, for SB296?”

Elder Christofferson:
“No. The the real genesis of, of the movement, if you will, behind these issues has been a matter of counseling together as we do in the church. We operate by councils: there’s the Quorum of the Twelve, which is a council, the First Presidency, is a council, and at the ward, the local levels, and the stake levels, we rely heavily on counseling together to determine which way to go and to, as a way of facilitating revelation and inspiration and receiving guidance that way. So it’s not one person says, you know, because of this experience that I’ve had in my life this is how we need to do it. But it’s this sharing of past experience, sharing of knowledge and background, but it’s after everything else a search for revelation– a search to know what the Lord’s will is and that’s what we try to follow.”

[…]

Daniel Woodruff:
“What would you say to those members who wonder, is it possible: would the church ever, one day, accept monogamous same-sex marriage or move further beyond the position that you’re currently at?”

Elder Christofferson:
“I don’t think so, because that’s such a fundamental aspect of what we see as the purpose of life. You know, we talk about the plan of salvation as we call it, and take into account the pre-mortal existence, this current existence, and what comes hereafter– marriage between a man and a woman, the family that grows out of that– all of that is so fundamental to what has happened, what needs to happen here, what comes hereafter, that without it falls apart. So I don’t think we can take away the cornerstone without everything else coming down.”

Daniel Woodruff:
“Now, you say you don’t think ..is there.. are leaving any room at all for…”

Elder Christofferson:
“No.”

[…]

[Just as the interview seems over and Elder Christofferson begins to stand up, a different voice from somewhere behind the camera and without a mic, interrupts to ask his own additional question.]

Unidentified Man:
“This has been a divisive issue, in all of society, but I think also within the church– that people are still trying to sort out exactly how they think and feel and how to act and they don’t like feeling like they’re in opposition to the church but they may in their heart feel like marriage equality is something that they have a personal conviction of. What would be your message to those individuals within the church, that are trying desperately to stay within the church, but feel like that because they’re so at odds with what is publicly stated that they no longer feel like they might fit– your message to them? You know the church has done a lot with the I’m a Mormon campaign to emphasize the diversity of the backgrounds and perspectives within the church, but on this issue specifically I think people sometimes feel like it’s in or out.”

Elder Christofferson:
“Well it’s, it’s not an easy thing, and I believe we recognize that. Our hope is that over time, as we stay together and worship together and search for inspiration together, that ways open up for people of all persuasions to come to feel but they’re comfortable here. While they don’t know the eventual outcome and what’s going to happen in the near term– I should say what’s going to happen in the near term, they know the end result can be happiness– a state of happiness, a state of fulfillment, something that God desires for all– and we firmly believe no one is predestined to a second class status and… have a… no one who is is faithful to the commandments and the principles that we teach even though that may involve some very significant sacrifice in the short term (even all of mortal life, if you can call that short term) it’s all worth it in the end because nothing is denied anyone who is faithful. We don’t see all how that comes together, but we have the faith that it does because we have a God who created us all, loves us all, and is gonna give everyone who tries and who is loyal to him everything that he has to give.”

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