As always, I went to the comment section of the story by the Salt Lake Tribune to get an idea of what people are thinking, as there is really no better representative group of the general population than the comment section of an online paper (picking up the sarcasm?).
The gist of the comments from members of the church opposed to this effort is that the prophet has spoken through revelation, the doctrine of families and sexuality is set and eternal, and no amount of public protest can change that fact. The gist of the comments who support the site is who are Mormons to decide morality for everyone else and deny rights to citizens born homosexual? As is often the case, both sides are partly right and both sides are partly wrong.
The petition and website are inaccurate in several ways, and the reactions to them are also inaccurate. The petition reads, in part:
This means scrupulously acknowledging such practices as “reorientation”-- reparative, revulsion, and shock-therapies; such teachings as homosexuality being an evil perversion, a condition that is chosen and changeable and one that can be overcome through fasting, prayer, sacrifice and heterosexual marriage; and using scriptures that are taken out of context, mistranslated or that are highly selective to condemn homosexuality.As far as I can tell, the church did away with most of this years ago and now, even before Prop 8, emphasizes that it is not safe or effective to try to change the person. The current teaching, as far as I understand it, is that if a person is gay they can still be temple worthy by simply living the law of chastity. I say simply, but, of course, it must be agonizingly difficult. This is why Elder Marvin Jensen of the Seventy and Church Historian has said on several occasions that the church weeps with those good members going through this supremely difficult trial.
I am not aware of the church using scriptures "taken out of context, mistranslated or that are highly selective to condemn homosexuality." There are scriptures in the Bible that condemn homosexuality and take a very harsh view of it, but I don't believe I've seen the church cite these scriptures, as is the practice of many born-agains, to bolster its argument. Instead, the church relies on modern revelation, specifically The Family: A Proclamation to the World.
So far, I think we're good. This is where the common ground can be found. I do not think it would be a repudiation of our teachings on morality and the family to recognize that homosexuality is not a choice, that gays should be afforded basic rights, and even that gays should be allowed to be married under our civil laws. As a church we do not oppose many marriages that would run contrary to our views of it, such as shotgun Vegas weddings, for instance. We can stand by our belief that marriage is sacred and that eternal life is available only to those who are sealed in the temple under priesthood authority while at the same time allowing civil marriages that fall outside of our beliefs. The two are not mutually exclusive. This may not be ideal, but we live in a big, complex world and we can't control every variable or person or practice that runs contrary to our beliefs.
Where the problem comes is where the church is asked to repudiate "such teachings as homosexuality being an evil perversion." "Evil perversion" seems harsh, lets just call it sin. No matter the semantics, though, this will not change. First, it is not the homosexuality that is a sin, but homosexual actions, which is not a small difference. In any case, changing the church's teachings here would be reversing a prophetic pronouncement and one of the most basic doctrinal tenets of the church: the sanctity of the heterosexual marriage.
Not only is it theologically untenable, it is not necessary. As I stated above, there is no reason why we can't hold on dearly to our beliefs but still allow gay marriage amendments and votes to go forward without our opposition. Allowing gays to marry will not cheapen my marriage, or any other temple marriage that has ever been performed, nor will it negate or lessen the prophetic and doctrinal truth that we espouse. We can still use our influence through our missionary program and our examples and discussions with our neighbors, but going the political route is more harmful than beneficial. The church won't, and shouldn't, reverse its teachings about marriage, but it can, and should, take a different approach in public statements and treatment of non-Mormon gays. These are very different things that should not be confused and completely intertwined.
Finally, the site makes a big deal about suicide rates among gays, especially young gays. This is, of course, tragic and we should be doing everything we can to avoid this substantial problem. But to lay the blame at the feet of the church is wrong. I will admit that there has been some pretty harsh rhetoric coming out of the members of the church, and I can only guess how painful and disorienting that must be for young people who are struggling to understand their sexuality and trying to reconcile the fact that they are otherwise good kids who feel like they are being demonized for feelings they can't control. Bottle all of this up internally with no outlet, and you have a recipe for disaster.
But the church has always stressed love and sympathy and tolerance of the person. Many members can't separate the condemnation of the sin and the person, and I admit that it is very hard. When church teaches that homosexuality is a sin, but that the person is to be loved and respected, many members use this as a basis for over-the-top rhetoric against the sin and the person. The fault is not with the church, but with the individual that misinterprets. The church, I believe, can and should stress this point more clearly and often for those that don't understand.
It looks to me like this is a good faith effort to bring the two sides together, but there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between doctrine and public policy. For the church and its faithful members, requiring that it reverse its prophetic pronouncement and no longer consider homosexual acts sins is a non-starter. But members of the church can begin separate the politics from the doctrine and reach out with more understanding and tolerance.