Mormon Church affirms that members can support gay marriage without fear of excommunication

(Photo: Reuters)

A leader in the Church of Latter-Day Saints confirmed Friday that its members are free to voice support for same-sex marriage without fear of punishment or excommunication.

Elder D Todd Christofferson said that that as long as members do not engage in organised activity that attacks the Church, they can express their opinion on social media.

"Our approach in all of this, as (Mormon founder) Joseph Smith said, is persuasion," Christofferson told KUTV-Salt Lake City. "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 persuasion, gentleness and love unfeigned, as the words in the scripture."

Online sites such as Facebook and Twitter, according to Christofferson, are "not an organised effort to attack our effort, or our functioning as a church." The only issue then would be "supporting organisations that promote opposition or positions in opposition to the Church's."

Elder Christofferson's stance was echoed in a January interview with Trib Talk, when he insisted that the Church has members with varied opinions on controversial issues, and there are no "standards" that say opposition is intolerable.

Questions over the allowance of viewpoints contradictory to Church teachings were raised after the excommunication of former Mormon John Dehlin—a blogger whose site served as a forum for Mormons questioning their faith. Dehlin also became an ordained minister in another denomination, and openly supports same-sex marriage.

The former Church member said that Mormons who share his viewpoints on same-sex marriage, female priests, and other controversial subjects told him that they fear that they too will be excommunicated. However, the Church denied that Dehlin was ousted because of his support for the hot button issues.

Dehlin filed an appeal with the First Presidency governing board last week.