SALT LAKE CITY — Wendy and Tom Montgomery went door-to-door in their California neighborhood in 2008 campaigning for the passage of an anti-gay marriage proposition. They were among thousands of faithful Mormons following the direction of a church that spent millions on the cause.
Then they learned last year that their 15-year-old son is gay — a revelation that rocked their belief system.
Now, Wendy Montgomery is leading a growing movement among Mormons to push The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to teach that homosexuality isn't a sin.
They are hopeful. The Utah-based church's stance on homosexuality has softened considerably since it was one of the leading forces behind California's Proposition 8. A new website launched this year encourages more compassion toward gays, implores them to stay in the faith and clarifies that church leaders no longer "necessarily advise" gays to marry people of the opposite sex in what used to be a widely practiced Mormon workaround for homosexuality. In May, church leaders backed the Boy Scouts' policy allowing gays in the ranks. Some gay Mormons who left or were forced out of the church say they are now being welcomed back — even though they remain in same-sex relationships.
It may seem like negligible progress to outsiders, but Mormon scholars say 2013 has been a landmark year for the religion on gay and lesbian issues.
"For those who have been around as long as I have, to have Mormons and gays in the same sentence is quite something," said Bob Rees, a visiting professor of Mormon Studies at the Graduate Theological Union and the University of California, Berkeley.
Still, the church has only gone so far. Church apostle Dallin H. Oaks reiterated this past weekend during a biannual conference that human laws cannot "make moral what God has declared immoral." The church website, launched in December, reinforced that while same-sex attraction itself isn't a sin, succumbing to it is.
The contrasting messages from the church have left many Mormons struggling to figure out where they stand.
Wendy Montgomery is among them. Her world changed after she read her son's journal in early 2012 and learned he was gay.