Mormon Temple Square in Salt Lake City

LGBT rights groups have noted that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon Church, has quietly removed same-sex attraction as a sin from its church policy.

The new policy, released by church leaders last Saturday, for the first time does not call for professional counseling for those who experience same-sex attraction, said the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest LGBT rights group in the US, in a statement.

While still insisting that “homosexual behaviour violates the commandments of God,” the new policy, included in the Church’s Handbook of Instructions, differentiates between same-sex behaviour, to which the church continues to object, and homosexual thoughts and feelings, which the church is able to more easily accept.

The Handbook of Instruction includes guidelines to assist Church leaders in dealing with its members, estimated to be almost 14 million strong.

“The new guidelines clearly show that advocacy efforts pay off with real change,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “We spoke out against the harms of so-called ‘reparative therapies’ on LGBT young people. Church leaders heard us and responded by dropping their recommendation that such discredited interventions be forced on LGBT and questioning youth.”

The Salt Lake City, Utah-based Church, however, responded to HRC’s statement by saying that it “mischaracterises the Church’s position and can’t be taken seriously,” but failed to elaborate further.

Last month Boyd K. Packer, the president of the Mormon Church’s Quorum of Twelve Apostles, called same-sex attraction “impure and unnatural,” and claimed that it can be corrected. He also characterised same-sex marriage as immoral.

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