Homosexual Rights Group Calls for Mormon Leader to Recant Statements

By Jennifer Dobner | October 12, 2010 | 1:12 PM EDT

(AP) - National gay rights activists said they've collected 150,000 letters asking a senior Mormon church leader to recant recent anti-gay statements.

Leaders of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay civil rights organization, plan to deliver the letters to the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Tuesday.

The letters ask church Elder Boyd K. Packer to withdraw statements from an Oct. 3 sermon that same-sex relationships are unnatural and can be overcome with enough faith.

Packer, 86, is the second-highest ranking Mormon church leader and the next in line for the presidency.

The HRC has called Packer's statements hurtful and factually inaccurate.

The organization issued an e-mail alert asking its members and supporters - 20 percent of whom are not members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community - to draft the letters.

The response to the alert is the largest in HRC history, said Fred Sainz, the group's vice president of communications. The letters have been electronically condensed to fit on 800 pages for delivery to the church.

HRC officials said they'll hold a joint news conference with leaders from Utah's gay community before delivering the letters.

Church officials declined comment on the HRC's letter delivery plans when it was announced last week.

During his speech, Packer also reiterated the faith's opposition to same-sex marriage. Since the 1990s, the church has worked to defeat marriage equality laws nationwide.

In response to criticism of his remarks, church officials have called for civil dialogue and said the faith's "doctrine on the importance of marriage and family and its implications for same-gender marriage are very clear and are based on principles of truth, respect, and love for all of God's children."