I recently had the opportunity to read a blog post about celibate gay Christians. While most of the article rang true to me, there was one phrase that sounded like a perfect description: “Celibate gay Christians often find themselves trying to translate one side for the other.” Many of us find ourselves caught in between two extremes who do not understand each other and who do not understand the middle.
I’ve seen this disparity within the LDS Church as well. I’ve come to realize that there are many who still don’t know where the Church stands on homosexuality. Some on one side would believe that the Church is all gung-ho about the oppression of the gays and that we’ll stop at nothing to “force” everyone to live the way we do. Others on the complete opposite end believe that being gay/same-sex attracted is a sin and it needs to be overcome. It is even more disheartening to hear of Church members criticizing Church leaders for trying to extend compassion or provide such resources as mormonsandgays.org.
I’ve been throwing around the idea of compiling a few quotes from General Authorities and other Church resources. Note: I know that some people are bothered by terminology. Some people hate using the term “gay”, as if it’s an all-encompassing identity referring only to those in same-sex relationships. Others detest the term “same-sex attraction,” because it sounds like an illness, disorder or some sort of everlasting struggle (but really, a lot of people struggle with opposite-sex attraction too!). In this blog, they are all synonyms. Gay, lesbian and same-sex attracted are all interchangeable. So please, substitute whatever descriptive term you’d like.
“The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.” – Mormonsandgays.org
“Some people with same-gender attraction have felt rejected because members of the Church did not always show love. No member of the Church should ever be intolerant. As you show love and kindness to others, you give them an opportunity to change their attitudes and follow Christ more fully.” – God Loveth His Children
“Of special concern to us should be those who struggle with [or experience] same-sex attraction. It is a whirlwind of enormous velocity. I want to express my love and admiration for those who courageously confront this trial of faith and stay true to the commandments of God! But everyone, independent of his or her decisions and beliefs, deserves our kindness and consideration.” – Elder Neil L. Andersen, “Spiritual Whirlwinds,” Ensign, May 2014
“I emphasize this, I wish to say that our opposition to attempts to legalize same-sex marriage should never be interpreted as justification for hatred, intolerance, or abuse of those who profess homosexual tendencies, either individually or as a group. As I said from this pulpit one year ago, our hearts reach out to those who refer to themselves as gays and lesbians. We love and honor them as sons and daughters of God. They are welcome in the Church. It is expected, however, that they follow the same God-given rules of conduct that apply to everyone else, whether single or married.” – President Gordon B. Hinckley, “Why We Do Some of the Things We Do,” Ensign, November 1999
“There is no change in the Church’s position of what is morally right. But what is changing — and what needs to change — is to help Church members respond sensitively and thoughtfully when they encounter same-sex attraction in their own families, among other Church members, or elsewhere.” – Mormonsandgays.org
“No one fully knows the root causes of same-sex attraction. Each experience is different. Latter-day Saints recognize the enormous complexity of this matter. We simply don’t have all the answers. Attraction to those of the same sex, however, should not be viewed as a disease or illness. We must not judge anyone for the feelings they experience. Members of the Church who have same-sex attractions, but don’t act on them, can continue to enjoy full fellowship in the church, which includes holding the priesthood, carrying out callings, and attending the temple. Unlike in times past, the Church does not necessarily advise those with same-sex attraction to marry those of the opposite sex. Same-sex attraction itself is not a sin, but yielding to it is. However, through repentance Jesus Christ will offer forgiveness.” – Mormonsandgays.org
“Though some people, including those resisting [or experiencing] same-sex attraction, may not have the opportunity to marry a person of the opposite sex in this life, a just God will provide them with ample opportunity to do so in the next. We can all live life in the full context of who we are, which is much broader than sexual attraction.” – Mormonsandgays.org
“A number of Latter-day Saints with same-gender attraction are moving forward with their lives by carefully adhering to gospel standards, staying close to the Lord, and obtaining ecclesiastical and professional help when needed. Their lives are rich and satisfying, and they can be assured that all the blessings of eternal life will ultimately be theirs.” – God Loveth His Children
“Ours is often a hidden conflict for fear of being seen as “deviants” who have chosen these attractions. For most Latter-day Saints who struggle with this challenge, nothing could be further from the truth. As one author has written: “Why would someone who has a strong conviction of the divine origins of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints choose to engage in a wrenching conflict with that testimony … ? Same-sex desires create a very difficult challenge for Church members and are seldom chosen. The trial befalls even the valiant ones.” Our choice is in deciding whether to defy or succumb to temptation, not in whether to have the temptation itself.” – “Compassion for Those Who Struggle,” Ensign, 2004
“All of us have some feelings we did not choose, but the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that we still have the power to resist and reform our feelings (as needed) and to assure that they do not lead us to entertain inappropriate thoughts or to engage in sinful behavior” – Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Same-Gender Attraction,” Ensign, October 1995
“As a church, nobody should be more loving and compassionate. Let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion and outreach. Let’s not have families exclude or be disrespectful of those who choose a different lifestyle as a result of their feelings about their own gender." – Elder Quentin L. Cook, Mormonsandgays.org
There are many things I do not know. I don’t know why the Brethren haven’t shared “Mormons and Gays” on a wider level. I can guess, and I believe it may have something to do with the protection of church members in countries who are violently hostile towards gays, let alone Christians. Or perhaps it is simply because Church membership is not ready. I don’t know why the counsel regarding homosexuality was much harsher in the past. I don’t know why God didn’t just tell earlier prophets that same-sex attraction would be a reality for some members of the Church. However, I am very pleased with the understanding of our modern-day prophets. I believe this is something we are all learning about together.
A sister from my old ward said something akin to this: “If we expect to be a part of the gathering of Israel in the Last Days, then we will need to welcome those who may fall outside the cultural Mormon mold.” In my book, that may include same-sex couples, males who have transitioned to females and vice versa, those who visibly struggle with substance abuse or sex addiction, those who have been through the realities of divorce. And really, everyone who goes to church deals with their own trials and temptations.
I share these thoughts in hopes to play a small part in the gathering of Israel. I do not wish for any changes to what God has already declared, but when it comes to culture, I echo the words of Elder Cook, “As a church, nobody should be more loving and compassionate.”