The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints filed a response to the government’s public consultation on how to introduce marriage equality, saying gay couples should be excluded for the “good of society” and warning that the move will have “negative implications for the nation, both legal and social”.

Mormon seventies, holders of a particular priesthood in the faith, in the UK along with presidents of districts, mission and stakes have been asked to tell congregations: “On June 11 2012, in response to a request by the UK Government for comments regarding the definition of marriage, the Church filed an official submission confirming the need to protect and promote marriage, as the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife.”

The submission was sent to the England and Wales consultation on marriage equality. A similar consultation closed in Scotland in December but the Mormon statement refers to the UK generally.

The submission says in part: “The promotion and protection of marriage – the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife – is a matter of the common good and serves the wellbeing of the couple, of children, of civil society and humankind. We join together with others to affirm that marriage in its true definition must be protected for its own sake and for the good of society.

“We also assert the existing rights of religious groups to solemnise marriage between one man and one woman according to religious tradition and individual conscience.

“We emphasise our firm support for individual respect towards all people, and Christ-centred love for every member of society, regardless of sexual orientation.”

The submission says marriage “transcends” societies, governments and religions, and is “bound up” with the physical differences between men and women and warned of the “deep consequences” of allowing gay couples access.

The Church warned of the risk to religious freedom of faiths who do not wish to recognise or perform gay weddings, but did not address the issue of faiths which do wish to perform the ceremonies but are currently unable to do so.

It continues: “The interference with the religious freedom of those who continue to affirm the true definition of “marriage” – warrants special attention within our faith communities and throughout society as a whole. We believe that changing the definition of marriage would have far‐reaching negative implications for the nation, both legal and social.”

The letter to seventies and presidents seen by PinkNews.co.uk says if church members ask what they can do to prevent marriage equality for gay and straight couples they “should be invited to study the issue and determine the best way they can participate individually”.

The submission called for “pursued in a respectful way, with tolerance for people of all backgrounds, recognizing society’s diversity”.

At Salt Lake City’s pride parade earlier this month, a group of current and former members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, called Mormons Building Bridges, marched to show their support to gay and trans people.

Dressed in traditional Mormon attire, they held banners which read: ‘LDS ♡ LGBT’, and taking a line from a Mormon hymn, ‘Jesus said love everyone, treat them kindly too.’