SALT LAKE CITY &

An August meeting between a gay Mormon support group and a social service agency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been indefinitely delayed.




In a letter sent July 23, Fred C. Riley, the outgoing director of LDS Family Services, said the matter would best be handled by his successor, who hasn't been selected. LDS Family Services is an arm of the Salt Lake City-based denomination.




Riley was to hold the Aug. 11 meeting at the request of church president Thomas S. Monson. It was seen by leaders of Affirmation, an international support group for gay, lesbian and transgender Mormons, as a sign that church leaders were becoming more open to gay Mormons and their families. Affirmation is not affiliated with the church.




"We feel badly about this but believe that for this to be the best experience for all parties and to ensure appropriate consistency and continuity of the process, it would be best to postpone the meeting until the new commissioner is named," Riley wrote to David Melson, assistant executive director of Affirmation.




Melson said Affirmation regrets the church's decision to put the meeting on hold. It was the result of a February appeal to Monson to open dialogue between the church and gay members.




"We've now written to President Monson and asked if another general authority can be designated to meet with us," Melson said.




It's unclear how soon the meeting could be rescheduled. Melson said he understood a replacement for Riley could be picked in three to six months.




Church spokeswoman Kim Farah confirmed Riley's departure from LDS Social Services and said a search is under way for a replacement.




"The reason the August meeting with Affirmation was postponed is clearly given in the letter," Farah said, adding that the church had initially proposed a meeting date earlier than August. "The meeting was put on hold until August at Affirmation's request."




Melson said both sides agreed to meetings in August because the all-volunteer Affirmation executive committee already had plans to travel to Utah for a conference.




The LDS church teaches that being gay is not a sin and that gays are welcome as church members, but homosexual relationships are sinful and gays should remain celibate.




Mormons consider traditional marriage an institution ordained by God and church leaders have in the past joined with religious conservatives to lobby for its preservation.




This year, LDS leaders are backing California's Proposition 8, which would define marriage in that state's constitution as being only between a man and a woman. LDS leaders have asked members to make contributions of time and money for the campaign.




Some Mormons who have acted on what the church has labeled "same-gender attraction" have been excommunicated. Others have left the denomination. George Cole, 27, who runs Affirmation's young adult program, said the attitude of today's Mormon youth is different.




"I suspect the younger crowd is much less willing to be second-class, or just to leave the church over it. I really think they want to have both," said Cole, of San Francisco."




Affirmation was founded in secret by students at the church-owned Brigham Young University in Provo more than 30 years ago. The group had tried unsuccessfully since then to create a dialogue with church leaders.




"It was a wonderful sign," said Cole of the planned meeting. "I do worry a little bit that there won't be any follow through now, but I still have some faith in the church. It's run by people doing what they can to make lives better. I think they want to serve all of their members."




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