Mormon leaders double down on gender and marriage

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In General Conference talks this weekend, leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stressed the importance of heterosexual marriage to become “exalted” for eternity.

The message used the powerful leverage of church teachings about the afterlife to reassert its conservative stance on marriage and gender.
General Conference is the semiannual gathering of church leaders in Salt Lake City, where faith messages and policy updates are announced to members.
Driving the news: Dallin H. Oaks, who is effectively the church’s second-in-line after President Russell M. Nelson, said Saturday that “exaltation can be attained only through … an eternal marriage between a man and a woman in the Holy Temple.”

The “union of a man and woman in marriage” is the “highest and holiest” manifestation of the church’s power to “link generations,” said D. Todd Christofferson, member of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
“The Lord has clearly taught that only men and women who are sealed as husband and wife … will be together throughout the eternities,” Nelson said in a video message Sunday.
Why it matters: Church teachings on gender, sexuality and marriage have long created tension with the LGBTQ+ church members and allies, as well as single adults.

Even if members remain “chaste,” the church teaches they cannot reach the highest degree of exaltation in the afterlife unless they marry someone of the opposite sex.
“That is why we teach that, quote, ‘gender’ is an essential characteristic of individual … eternal identity and purpose,” Oaks said Saturday. It is church policy to discipline members who transition genders.
Context: Among Christian traditions, Mormonism’s teachings about the afterlife are particularly specific and detailed, and frequently held up as the stakes of obedient membership.

Only those in the highest or “celestial” kingdom will join their families for eternity, according to church teachings.
The intrigue: Oaks stressed that Latter-day Saint teachings about the afterlife are also more merciful than many other Christian beliefs. Rather than a selective heaven that relegates many to a fiery hell, Mormonism holds that nearly everyone will enjoy eternal “glory” — just in varying degrees.

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