Boundary maintenance “more often resembles art than science” said Michael Otterson, managing director of Public Affairs for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His remarks were given at a two-day academic conference titled “Mormonism and the Art of Boundary Maintenance” on Tuesday to scholars and journalists at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah.

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Otterson addressed Church initiatives in “boundary expansion” — including relationships with interfaith leaders, navigating the faith’s diverse international operations and creating the Gospel Topics essays and Joseph Smith Papers Project. He also addressed the extent to which boundaries have responded to social pressure over LGBT rights and inclusion, from before Proposition 8 in California to today.

“Drawing boundaries more often resembles art than science. And if it’s an art, who are the artists? All of us are artists to some degree. Through the lives we lead, the contributions we make and the service we give to others, we all get to contribute a brush stroke,” Otterson said. “But in the end there has to be a master artist, someone who sees the grand vision of what our Father in Heaven plans for the eternal destiny of His children. By divine appointment, prophets, ancient and modern, have had that charge. The New Testament apostles used other metaphors, including one of a building, ‘fitly framed together,’ Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone. The point is that there is a cornerstone. There are boundaries, both of behavior and of doctrine.”

Other participants at the conference include New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, New York Post columnist Naomi Riley, Religion News Service commentator and author Jana Riess and Notre Dame history professor David Campbell.

Read the full transcript

Watch the full speech below: