Mormon leader reiterates church opposition to gay marriage during biannual general conference

The Associated Press

FILE - This April 6, 2013, file photo, shows the Salt Lake Temple as people walk to the Conference Center before the start of the 183rd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Salt Lake City. More than 100,000 Latter-day Saints are expected in Salt Lake City this weekend for the church's biannual general conference. Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints give carefully crafted speeches aimed at providing members with guidance and inspiration in five sessions that span Saturday and Sunday. They also make announcements about church statistics, new temples or initiatives. In addition to those filling up the 21,000-seat conference center during the sessions, thousands more listen or watch around the world in 95 languages on television, radio, satellite and Internet broadcasts. A Mormon's women group pushing the church to allow women in the priesthood plans to demonstrate outside an all-male meeting Saturday. The church has asked them to reconsider, and barred media from going on church property during the demonstration. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

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It may seem like negligible progress to outsiders, but Mormon scholars said 2013 was landmark year for the religion on gay and lesbian issues.

Jeffrey Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve delivered a message Saturday directed at the faith's nearly 85,000 missionaries, more than any time in church history.

He relayed the story of a young woman who was spit on and had food thrown at her during her mission by a man who didn't want to hear their message. He highlighted the fact that she resisted the urge to retaliate.

"If you haven't already, you will one day find yourself called upon to defend your faith or even endure some personal abuse," Holland said. "Such moments will require both courage and courtesy on your part."

The spike in missionaries was triggered by the lowering of the minimum age for missionaries in the fall of 2012. Men can begin serving at 18, instead of 19, and women at 19, instead of 21. That has led to new, younger missionaries joining older ones.

Holland told missionaries that it's worth it to serve and remain faithful despite a world around them where many people are drawn to comfortable gods who demand little of them.

"It is obvious that the bumper-sticker query, 'What would Jesus do,' will not always bring a popular response," Holland said.

Church president Thomas Monson opened the morning session by talking about the progress of temple construction around the world. He said a new one in Gilbert, Ariz., became the 142nd temple and that there will be 170 when construction is completed on all the current projects.

No new temples were announced.

Linda Reeves, one of the three highest-ranking female leaders in the church, urged parents and leaders to help prevent children from falling into "Satan's trap of pornography." Reeves is the second counselor in the general presidency of the church's Relief Society, the organization for women.

"They need to know the dangers of pornography and how it overtakes lives, causing loss of the spirit, distorted feelings, deceit, damaged relationships, loss of self-control, and nearly total consumption of time, thought and energy," Reeves said. "Pornography is more vile, evil and graphic than ever before."

A Mormon's women group pushing the church to allow females in the priesthood plans to demonstrate outside an all-male meeting Saturday afternoon, reprising a similar protest from last year.

Church leaders have asked the group to reconsider or gather in a zone designated for protesters that is off church property. Church leaders have also barred media from going on church property during the demonstration.

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