PROVO, Utah -- The leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reaffirmed the religion's opposition to gay marriage Tuesday, while explaining that leaders lifted a short-lived ban on baptisms for children of gay parents because they felt the "heartache" it caused.

Church president Russell M. Nelson's remarks in a speech to students at the church-owned Brigham Young University were the most detailed explanation to date of the faith's surprising move in April to repeal 2015 policies that banned the baptisms and labeled people in same-sex marriages as sinners eligible for expulsion.

"We knew that this policy created concern and confusion for some and heartache for others," Nelson said. "That grieved us. Whenever the sons and daughters of God weep, for whatever reasons, we weep."

Nelson claimed the original policy was motivated by love and a desire to prevent friction between the beliefs of gay parents and their children. Nelson became president last year but was a member of a top governing body called the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles when the policy took effect.

Nelson, 95, who is considered a prophet by church members, said the church's longstanding opposition to gay marriage stems from a belief that he and other leaders must follow God's law dictates that marriage is restricted to unions between a man and a woman.

He contended that leaders can't change God's laws but can adjust church policy.

The comments marked the latest attempt by the Utah-based faith widely known as the Mormon church to carve out a more empathetic stance toward LGBTQ people while adhering to doctrinal rejection of gay marriage amid widespread societal acceptance.

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