SALT LAKE CITY – A Facebook campaign launched in support of a Mormon church leader's sermon on same-sex relationships has drawn more than 4,500 responses.
The "I support Boyd K. Packer" page was started Oct. 5, two days after the senior leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called homosexual attraction unnatural and said gays can and should change.
By Monday afternoon, more than 4,500 people had joined the page as fans.
Packer, 86, is the second-ranking leader in the church and next in line to be president of the 13.5 million-member faith. He was speaking at the faith's semiannual general conference.
When the text of the speech was posted on a church Web page days later, Packer's remarks had been altered.
In the speech, he said: "Some suppose that they were born pre-set and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember he is our father."
On the website, the word "temptations" has replaced "tendencies" and the question about God's motives has been removed entirely.
Church public relations officials said the changed wording was part of a routine practice that allows conference speakers to edit their speeches to clarify their meaning.
National gay rights activists, including the Human Rights Campaign, have denounced the speech as factually inaccurate and dangerous, and have called on Packer to recant his remarks.
A Thursday protest of the speech in Salt Lake City drew thousands.
The Facebook page has sparked some opposing viewpoints, but most responses have praised Packer and thanked him for defending the values of traditional marriage and family and "speaking the truth." One poster called Packer a "Christian hero."
Latter-day Saints consider their senior leaders prophets who lead the church through direct communication with God.
A poster from the United Kingdom said those who speak at conferences "say the things we, as a Church, and the world as well, need to hear. They speak the words that Jesus Christ Himself would say, if He were here."
Some posters said Packer's sermon simply restated long-held church doctrine and that people didn't understand why it had caused such an uproar.
The HRC has said it will deliver more than 150,000 letters to the Mormon church's downtown Salt Lake City office building Tuesday.
A second Facebook site started by a group described as LDS Young Men and Women seeks to counter the HRC effort with its own "We Love You President Boyd K. Packer" campaign. The page calls for Mormon youth to send 100,000 letters of support to Packer by Friday.
"... simply tell him how much we love him and sustain him as a prophet, seer, and revelator," the site organizers wrote. More than 6,800 people had signed on as fans by Monday afternoon.