SALT LAKE CITY - A top leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says there's room in the faith for people of different "sexual attractions," if they love God and honor God's commandments.
Jeffrey Holland's brief remark during a speech about inclusivity Saturday at the LDS church's semi-annual general conference marks the latest attempt by the faith to foster a climate of empathy for gays and lesbians while the religion still adheres to fundamental doctrinal beliefs that homosexual activity is a sin.
He said there's room in the faith for all types of people, including from different cultures; those from different family structures; and those questioning their faith.
Holland also encouraged church members to embrace their uniqueness and forget trying to conform to unrealistic stereotypes idealized by social media.
Holland is a long-time member of a top governing body of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Another high-ranking Mormon leader is cautioning church members not to be judgmental.
Dale Renlund told a worldwide audience Saturday that church members must guard against bigotry that sometimes occurs when people fail to respect the religious beliefs of others.
Renlund says Mormons have historically endured hatred and bigotry and must not persecute anyone inside or outside the church.
Renlund is one of the newest members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Also at the conference on Saturday, church officials announced that worldwide membership has reached 15.88 million. They announced the new figure while presenting updated membership numbers through the end of 2016.
The number of LDS members is significantly less than other religious denominations such as Catholics, 1.2 billion worldwide, and Muslims, 1.6 billion. But the Mormon religion is also much younger than those religions, having been founded in 1830.
Church membership has tripled since 1982, when there were 5 million members. Membership has grown by about 2 percent each of the past nine years.
The figures also show that the average number of people converted per missionary remained at about 3.4 for the fourth consecutive year. That's down from an average of five per missionary the previous decade.
Earlier Saturday, Henry Eyring spoke about the importance of performing ceremonial baptisms on deceased ancestors who didn't receive the ordinance while alive.
Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, told the worldwide conference audience Saturday that God wants all his children "home again" and encouraged members to use the religion's massive genealogical database to trace their ancestral roots.
Mormons believe the baptism ritual allows deceased people a way to the afterlife if they choose to accept it. The belief that families are sealed for eternity is one of the core tenets of the faith.
But the practice offends members of some other religions, especially Jews, who became upset years ago when they discovered attempts by Mormons to alter the religion of Holocaust victims. They included Anne Frank, a Jewish teenager forced into hiding in Amsterdam during the Holocaust and killed in a concentration camp
The conference this weekend in Salt Lake City is broadcast online to church members around the world and on Idaho's Very Own 24/7 (digital channel 7.2).
© 2017 Associated Press