SALT LAKE CITY — In response to the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, the First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church have sent out a letter asking local leaders to hold a meeting with adult and youth members in the coming weeks to read a statement.

The letter is accompanied by background information available to assist leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in answering questions from members.

The letter, statement and background materials — posted Tuesday afternoon on — come in response to the court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in the United States, the letter acknowledged.

"Local leaders are asked to meet with all adults, young men, and young women on either July 5 or July 12 in a setting other than sacrament meeting and read to them the entire statement," the letter said.

In the two-and-a-half-page statement, LDS Church leadership reaffirms its doctrinal positions on morality, marriage between a man and woman, and the family unit being central in the God's divine designs.

"We encourage all to consider these teachings in the context of the Plan of Salvation and our Heavenly Father’s purposes in creating the earth and providing for our mortal birth and experience here as His children," the statement said. "Marriage between a man and a woman was instituted by God and is central to His plan for His children and for the well‐being of society."

The statement talks about the importance of mothers and fathers nurturing children, instilling faith and teaching moral values to future generations.

"A family built on marriage of a man and a woman is the best setting for God’s plan of happiness to thrive. That is why communities and nations generally have encouraged and protected marriage between a man and a woman, and the family that results from their union, as privileged institutions," the statement reads.

"Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established. God expects us to uphold and keep His commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society. His law of chastity is clear: sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife."

The statement restated the church's policy that Latter-day Saint leaders not use their ecclesiastical authority to perform same-sex marriages or use LDS meetinghouses for ceremonies, receptions or other activities associated with same-sex marriages, although all visitors are welcome if respectful of church standards. The church also maintains its previously pledged support for the basic human rights of same-sex couples related to medical care, housing, employment, etc.

The statement also voiced support for the rights of church leaders and members to express or advocate religious convictions on marriage, family and morality without retaliation.

"The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to love and treat all people with kindness and civility — even when we disagree," the statement reads.

"As members of the Church, we are responsible to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to illuminate the great blessings that flow from heeding God’s commandments as well as the inevitable consequences of ignoring them. We invite all to pray that people everywhere will have their hearts softened to the truths God established in the beginning, and that wisdom will be granted to those who are called upon to decide issues critical to society’s future."

The background material includes information on the Supreme Court's decision on same-sex marriage, the church's policy on homosexual relations as well as morality in general, the effect of same-sex marriage on religious freedom and how to address reservations regarding the church's position on same-sex marriage.

This statement parallels similar statements made by the First Presidency on previous occasions, including last week's statement that the church would not alter its doctrine despite the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

Much of what is in the statement and background materials can be found in the church's documents "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" (1995) and recent essay "The Divine Institution of Marriage."

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