Mormon Church
A statue of Brigham Young, second president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints stands in the center of Salt Lake City with the Mormon Temple spires in the background 19 July 2001. George Frey/AFP/GETTY

A leader of the Mormon Church, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, reaffirmed the faith’s opposition to same-sex marriage during a conference Saturday.

The speech denouncing same-sex marriage was by Dallin H. Oaks a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the governing body of the church.

“We have witnessed a rapid and increasing public acceptance of cohabitation without marriage and same-sex marriage. The corresponding media advocacy, education, and even occupational requirements pose difficult challenges for Latter-day Saints,” said Oaks. “We must try to balance the competing demands of following the gospel law in our personal lives and teachings even as we seek to show love for all.”

The church theologically opposes the practice of same-sex marriage at a time when it has gained widespread acceptance. The church’s tone has gone back and forth between strict adherence to dogma, and speaking more compassionately. Many religious institutions find themselves threading a needle between upholding traditional faith values while contending with changing social norms. Last week a number of conservative members of the Catholic Church accused its leader, Pope Francis, of supporting heretical positions. Pope Francis has taken a softer approach to divorced catholics and the ability to re-marry.

In his speech to the nearly 16 million Mormons throughout the world, Oaks said that followers must remain faithful, despite people’s attitudes around them changing.

“Even as we must live with the marriage laws and other traditions of a declining world, those who strive for exaltation must make personal choices in family life according to the Lord's way whenever that differs from the world's way,” said Oaks.

The twice-yearly meeting is meant to announce news and give guidance to the church’s followers. Another member of the church’s leadership, Quentin L. Cook, used the occasion to denounce racism. Cook called attitudes of white supremacy “morally wrong and sinful.” The faith banned men of African descent from becoming members of lay clergy until 1978.

The church is based in Salt Lake City, Utah, where the conference took place.