Head of LDS Public Affairs Sets Record Straight on Hot Button Issues

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Michael R. Otterson, the managing director of LDS Public Affairs, spoke at the FairMormon Conference to respond to criticism on a wide range of topics August 7, 2015.

One of the first issues that Otterson addressed was regarding a blogger who referred to Public Affairs as a rogue department, in other words, a dishonest or duplicitous department. Otterson boldly responded by saying, “Newsflash: We don’t freelance.”

Otterson spoke extensively about gay rights, defending the faith, political standing and other topics. To summarize, here is a quick look at Otterson’s comments on the given topics:

Defending the Brethren

  • The Brethren’s schedules are rigorous and “not schedules you would wish on anyone. Yet they bear it with grace and find joy for some overwhelmingly important reasons…They would be the very first to acknowledge their own faults or failings, just as we can readily point to the apostles of the New Testament and see imperfect people.”
  • “There are no factions among the Twelve.” There is no “Packer- faction” and no “Oaks-faction.” “Unless the Brethren are united on an issue, the issue doesn’t move forward.”

Gay Rights

  • “There [have been] times when the Church’s language to describe homosexual behavior was intemperate, even harsh, by today’s standards.” However, today the language has changed  to be compassionate and understanding.
  • “The fundamentals haven’t changed. Sex outside marriage is morally wrong, by God’s law. Sex with a person of the same sex is wrong, by that same standard. The doctrine hasn’t changed, but our way of addressing it has changed significantly.”
  • Mormonsandgays.org, which was carefully scrutinized by the Brethren before it launched, was designed to address that by encouraging parents and other family members to embrace their children, brothers or sisters while not condoning immoral behavior.

Political Standing

  • “Can a member be a Democrat and a good Mormon? That one makes me smile, because if the members who ask it could travel to some countries of the world and meet faithful members of the Church who belong to their national communist parties I fear their blood pressure might be permanently damaged.” Otterson explained that members can have differing opinions but that we need to be unified in our faith.

Disciplinary Councils

  • “There has been speculation recently that disciplinary councils, or invitations to a sit-down with the bishop, have coincided and therefore have the appearance of being centrally directed. This is not the case.”
  • “General Authorities come to Church headquarters every six months for training right before General Conference… How to hold disciplinary councils in accordance with Church processes is one of those topics. This might especially occur at a time when some members are publicly campaigning for changes counter to Church policy or doctrine. Looking for a conspiracy behind every hint of change isn’t healthy and is rarely accurate.”

To read the full speech, go to FairMormon.

Bridget is a newsroom writer at LDS.net. She graduated in April 2015 from Brigham Young University in communications with an emphasis of public relations. She served a Spanish speaking LDS mission in McAllen, Texas. She is a skilled pianist and an expert baker of chocolate chip cookies.