Elder D. Todd Christofferson said Friday that while gay couples may marry in the United States, that right does not exist in the Mormon Church.

Christofferson of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) made the comment in an interview posted online a day after the church issued a rule change that allows officials to oust married gays and their children.

Under the changes to the Handbook of Instructions, gay married Mormons are considered apostates, which could lead to excommunication. Additionally, the children of parents in gay or lesbian relationships, married or cohabiting, cannot join the Mormon Church until they turn 18 and then only if they are no longer living with their parents, disavow same-sex relationships and receive approval from the church's highest leaders.

“We regard same-sex marriage as a particularly grievous or significant, serious kind of sin that requires church discipline,” he said. “We recognize that same-sex marriages are now legal in the United States and some other countries and that people have the right, if they choose, to enter into those, and we understand that. But that is not a right that exists in the church.”

Christofferson described the new policy as compassionate: “There's no kindness in misdirecting people and leading them into any misunderstanding about what is true, what is right, what is wrong, what leads to Christ and what leads away from Christ.”

Nathan Kitchen, a 47-year-old gay Mormon with five children who recently divorced his wife, described the new policy to the AP as “almost too much to bear.”

John Dehlin, who was excommunicated earlier this year for supporting marriage equality, told The New York Times that the changes would “trigger a huge round of excommunications for legally same-sex married Mormons” and that it “closes the door on future change.”