Thursday, September 25, 2014

Words of the Prophets


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.”

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

In Holy Places (Part II)

Just about every trip to the temple is a special experience for me.  Sometimes I just feel good, and other times I learn something rather specific about my life or about spiritual principles in general.  I just wanted to share one of those experiences.  I had hoped to include it in my last post, In Holy Places, but I couldn't figure out a way to tie it in, so consider this an appendix. 

A few months ago, I attended the temple with some friends from my group (I mean, it doesn't get much better than having a bunch of homosexuals serving in the temple together)!  Anyway, now to the important part.  Much of what we do in the temple revolves around the family, the most prominent being the sealing of families together for time and eternity.  Marriage for me is still a huge question mark.  However, during this trip in particular, I still felt an immense sense of belonging as a single guy.  I was at home.  God had a place for me in His Church.

We sat in the Celestial Room for a few minutes (and we had no qualms with fitting more people on the couch than it was probably meant to seat).  I remember looking at a young married couple sitting near us enjoying a quiet moment together.  If I tried hard enough, I probably could have worked up some feelings of bitterness or jealousy, but I couldn't.  I could only see them as my brother and sister and be happy for them.  I knew that one day I would have what they have.

This is just one of many experiences at the temple, and some are too personal to share.  I know that the temple is truly the House of the Lord.  I know that there is great power in the covenants we make and the blessings we receive.  I am grateful for the opportunity to be reminded of them as I go back on behalf of others who have passed on.  It is my hope that all, no matter where they currently are in life, will make it a goal to receive a temple recommend (I highly recommend it), and attend the temple often.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

In Holy Places

I have been thinking about the different "voices" I hear from day to day from different sources and in different places.  When I say "voices," I mean thoughts, feelings, talks that I hear, stories in the news, things people say, temptations, etc.  Many of us are familiar with a couple scriptures from the book of 1 Kings in the Old Testament:

"11 ...And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
 12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice."

I understood this concept, and I sang several songs about it in Primary, but I don't think I've applied it as much as I do now in the 21st century.  It is not surprising that "the world" has grown further and further away from God and religion in general.  Likewise, there are stark contrasts in the voices that I hear.  Some are still and small, and some are rather loud and obnoxious.

The still small voices are the ones I hear when I am in holy places.  My favorite holy place is the temple.  Aside from doing ordinance work for the dead, it is a great place for me to be close to God and to receive personal revelation.  While I'm there, I hear voices that remind me of my eternal identity as a son of God.  They tell me that I am loved and valued and that I am at home.  They remind me that everyone is a child of God and that I need to treat them as such.  I receive further strength and resolve to keep the commandments and follow the prophet.  On that note, I don't have all the answers, and if I did, there wouldn't be much reason to return to the temple.  Spiritual learning needs to be accompanied by patience and faith, "line upon line, precept upon precept" (Doctrine and Covenants 98:12).



Many people may come upon a time where they are not able to attend the temple because of worthiness or distance.  The Lord still desires to bless us, and we can find or make holy places elsewhere.  The first one that comes to my mind is the home.  I try to make my home a place where the Spirit can reside.  This is done through daily scripture study and prayer, self control and being in charge of what comes into my home.  Prophets and apostles have continuously discussed the power of a Christ-centered home.

There are other places where we can feel and hear voices that bring us closer to Christ.  I have found that church, institute, General Conference, my parents' and relatives' homes, nature, and even the company of good, uplifting friends can all be holy places.  The voices that I hear in these places can be very powerful, but I still consider them to be "still and small".

I remember talking to one of my friends at the North Star conference held earlier this year.  We were reminiscing about the powerful spiritual experiences we had had, and we were half-way dreading the thought of having to go out and face the world again.  This brings me to the other voices that I hear almost on a daily basis.  They are loud, easy to access and easy to believe ("If you don't believe me, go and watch the news..."*).  They are the voices that tell me that I am not worthy of God's love.  They tell me to be perfectionistic about my weight, about my body image, about a clean home, about my job, about my singing, and about what I "should" be doing.  They tell me that I need to leave my faith behind, or even parts of it, to bow down to something I know is wrong.  They tell me that I am judgmental, old fashioned and even homophobic.  They tell me I need to isolate myself or refrain from talking about things of God.  I could go on.

I am grateful for the ability to remember.  When I approach these "worldly" voices, the Holy Ghost encourages me to remember what I felt in the temple.  He encourages me to remember the simple truths discussed at institute or at church.  In other words, "stand ye in holy places," and remember those holy places (Doctrine and Covenants 87:8).  I am certainly not immune to the consequences of my own mistakes and those of others.  I am not immune to the pain, agony, disappointment and sadness that I feel when I see what goes on around me.  However, knowing that God is in charge makes all the difference.

*Children's Songbook, pg. 110

Sunday, June 8, 2014

North Star Conference, 2014

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the first annual North Star Conference.  North Star is a growing support organization that ministers to those who experience same-sex attraction and who sincerely desire to live within the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  There is also an increasing amount of resources for those who experience gender dysphoria (transgender).  Just like same-sex attraction, transgender feelings are real, and those who experience them deserve the same amount of sensitivity and respect.  For more information on North Star (and possibly a more accurate description), click here.

The theme of this conference was "At Home in the Gospel of Christ."  Overall, the purpose was to help individuals accept and become comfortable with themselves, as well as feel welcomed and needed in the Church.  It consisted of guest speakers, two large luncheons, a concert with the a capella group, Eclipse, access to other resources and breakout sessions for SSA men, SSA women, transgendered individuals, family members and church leaders. My favorite part of the weekend was seeing all the people.  It was inspiring to see so many come out of the woodwork (pun somewhat intended), some for the very first time, in search of brotherhood, sisterhood and a sense of belonging within their faith.  I saw some friends that I usually pal around with at these functions, but I also met some new friends.  Some were from across the country, and others were from as far away as Australia (yeah...gay Mormons are taking over the world)!  I even ran into someone I knew from outside of the group, who is transgender.

Something that stuck out to me was from a talk given by Sister Camille Fronk Olson, professor of ancient scripture at BYU.  She was discussing the value of diversity among Latter-day Saints.  She made reference to 3 Nephi 18:18:
  
"Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat."

She described the process of sifting wheat, separating it and making it all the same.  Think about it...Satan would want to SEPARATE us and make us all the SAME!  To me, that was profound on so many levels.  I'll leave it to you to let that marinate and apply it to stuff currently going on in the world.

In contrast, she talked about how the Salt Lake Temple was built with varying sizes of granite blocks, making it a stronger structure.  There are many, both in and out of the Church, who believe that Mormons have to all be the same, that we should all fit into a mold, that we all have to be married, returned missionaries, have children, look pretty, be thin, have a good singing voice, and/or be heterosexual.  The truth is...the gospel can bless all individuals and families.  We strive for and make the same covenants and keep the same commandments.  With the appropriate eternal perspective, we do strive to be worthy of living in an eternal family consisting of a husband, wife and children.  But these things do not take away from anyone's uniqueness and individuality.  Some may be required to adjust opinions and lifestyles, but everyone would still have unique talents and perspectives to help build the kingdom of God.  Diversity strengthens the Church.

My other favorite part of the conference was mingling.  I felt like I could be my complete self...exchanging genuine, warm hugs, discussing eternal principles and gospel truths, flirting (well...I call it flirting) and making random gay jokes all in good fun.

As with most Church functions, we had opposition (North Star isn't affiliated with the Church, but still...).  I can't address all the statements that were made against us, but I can vent.  One common belief is that we detest the word "gay," or that we have to view same-sex attraction as a constant struggle.  Some believe that we are trying to convince our SSA members that they can't be themselves or that they have to deny their sexuality.  On the contrary, this conference was full of people who actually wanted to be there, and who were sincerely trying to find out how to reconcile these mortal experiences with their faith.  We do not believe it is healthy to pretend to be straight or struggle/experience these issues in silence.

Personally, I believe that there are many aspects of being gay that are divine gifts from God, such as brotherhood, sisterhood, intimate non-sexual physical affection, and a general sense of love for all.  I know that God loves all of His children, and desires that we return to Him.  I have a testimony of eternity, that this life is but a short test and that all blessings can be ours as we are faithful to the commandments of God.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Thoughts on "Mawage"

I thought I'd just use this as a catchy title as opposed to the usual, but yes, this post is about same-sex marriage.

Not all members of the Church agree on this, and not even all gay members do either!  But I figured, since I am both gay and LDS, I might as well offer my perspective and hope that it helps someone gain a better understanding (or maybe it will make someone mad, but that's OK).

Ever since same-sex marriage became more of a reality here in Utah back in December of 2013, when it was legalized for a few days, it has been on my mind just about every day (call me obsessive).  As can be expected, the Church issued several statements on it.  I understood and knew that sexual relations outside of marriage between a man and a woman was wrong.  I understood (or so I thought) A Proclamation to the World and that it was...to the world and not just The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I also understood that we try to respect those who believe differently.  In fact, it is one of our Articles of Faith: "...let them worship how, where or what they may."  Therefore, I began to wonder, "why are we being so vocal about this, and why did Utah appeal?  As a matter of fact, why are several other governments and organizations taking a stand against same-sex marriage?"

Since I sustain the Brethren, I knew that this was all probably for a good reason; however, I was very conflicted for a few days.  I wanted to know why.  I prayed for peace and closure.  My prayers were answered rather quickly.  Upon reading The Family: A Proclamation to the World, the following paragraph struck me rather strongly:

"We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets."

This is either true, or it is not.  I believe it is true, and that is why I cannot, in my right mind, support same-sex marriage.  Even if I did support it, I wouldn't deny the words of prophets.  This statement is much more basic and easier for me to understand than nit-picking about civil rights, about how homosexual marriage somehow affects someone else' heterosexual marriage (which I do not believe), about how "love is love," etc.  Either the family, as organized by God, is the fundamental unit of society or it is not.

Now, do I believe that gay people should be allowed to have rights as human beings?  Of course, and that is largely already true!  Do I believe that gay people who choose to be in same-sex relationships deserve rights that we generally associate with marriage?  Of course!  Do I believe that God loves gay people?  YES!  Do I believe that because He loves us, we can do what we want and have it all be OK?  No.  Furthermore, do I believe that He would want us changing an institution that He has already ordained and defined?  No.

This isn't to say that homosexuals are ruining the world.  That's a very closed-minded way of looking at it.  We don't have to look far to see that the family, as a central part of our society, has been under attack for ages with issues such as abuse, no-fault divorce, infidelity, sex outside of marriage (homo or hetero), abortion, etc.  I realize that people die, and that divorce is what is needed in some circumstances, but I've heard messages actually promoting single-parenthood, like it is something desirable and better than raising children in a (healthy) marriage relationship.  The legalization of same-sex marriage just furthers the process of breaking down the family.

Who knows what the "calamities" will be?  I do not believe that we will all be struck by lightning or buried in the earth.  I believe that it will be a gradual decline from the inside out, just like other civilizations that have passed away.

I realize that those who have different beliefs will not agree with me, and that's OK.  I love you.  This is just how I came to my conclusions, and it makes sense to me.

Now, on a more personal note, I do wonder about those who are active and believing Latter-day Saints, and also support same-sex marriage.  It kind of feels like I'm being worked against by members of my own faith.  I do not judge them for it.  With the understanding that we currently have, I don't believe that there would be personal worthiness issues or hellfire and damnation (as some people think).  I just know that if it were me, I would have a hard time reconciling it with my temple covenants.  And when it would come time to defend my beliefs on the matter, would I throw them out?  Would I apologize for my beliefs?  When the Church and the world get further and further apart, what side would I choose?

In conclusion, please do not misunderstand me.  Please read my other posts.  I LOVE gay people.  I know what it's like.  In fact, I'd probably attend a gay wedding if I were invited.  I have no doubt that it is possible to fall in love with someone of the same sex.  Who knows?  Maybe I've fallen in love several times.  That love can actually be very beautiful when it is kept within the bounds the Lord has set (not talking about romantic/sexual relationships here).  With that being said, I know that marriage and family have been ordained by God (just as much as I know that I'm attracted to guys).  I know that in the end, most of us will be amazed at the mercy that will come through Jesus Christ...I'm just concerned about our society while we are all still living in this world.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

It's OK to be "Gay."

...of course, this depends on how one defines gay.  I think it merely means being attracted to the same gender; however, some others, including those with same-sex attraction (SSA), believe it refers to some choices that are outside the standards of the Church.  I tried to prove that I was right by looking up the definition of gay in the zillions of on-line dictionaries.  The definitions are all over the place, so I guess we're still at a stale mate.

Anyway, when I first realized I was gay, I was getting ready to go on a mission.  I didn't really care too much about it back then.  I still thought everything would "work out."  It seemed like every LDS guy went on a mission for two years, came back and got married shortly thereafter.  I came home from my first mission after three months for other health and personal reasons (it's actually become a great story, but one for another post).  I served for a year in the Family and Church History Mission in Salt Lake City.  During this time, my SSA became more of an issue.

I had a good bishop when I started coming to grips with my SSA, and each of my bishops ever since have been wonderful.  They didn't pretend to know all the answers, and it seemed like they were exploring with me (either that, or they were completely terrified, and I couldn't tell).  As long as I was keeping the law of chastity, I was fine.  In 2007, my bishop gave me the pamphlet, God Loveth His Children, put out by the First Presidency.  Even though the coming years would be somewhat difficult, I relied on the eternal truths discussed therein.  There are some small cultural things that have changed since the booklet's release, but the core eternal truths have remained the same, and to this day, those truths still help me get through times of discouragement.  I could quote the whole thing, and that is why I included the link above, but one of my favorite sections goes as follows:

"In some circumstances a person defers marriage because he or she is not presently attracted to a member of the opposite gender....However, the perfect plan of our Father in Heaven makes provision for individuals who seek to keep His commandments but who, through no fault of their own, do not have an eternal marriage in mortal life. As we follow Heavenly Father’s plan, our bodies, feelings, and desires will be perfected in the next life so that every one of God’s children may find joy in a family consisting of a husband, a wife, and children."

Now, as much as I value those truths, there was one part of that paragraph that I left out, and it is this:  "While many Latter-day Saints, through individual effort, the exercise of faith, and reliance upon the enabling power of the Atonement, overcome same-gender attraction in mortality, others may not be free of this challenge in this life."  I don't wish to criticize, but some concepts like these sort of shaped the next several years for me...and it was difficult.  I was in the mindset of needing to work to overcome these feelings.  After all, I knew of members with SSA who were married, and I thought that was the end-all goal.

I was referred to a therapist to help me with my SSA, along with depression, anxiety, pornography and all that fun stuff.  I wanted someone to tell me how to fix my homosexual tendencies, because I certainly didn't know what to do.  He shared some good tools and coping mechanisms for dealing with SSA, and possibly changing my orientation.  All I could do was try to follow the counsel I was given.  The counseling helped me in understanding pornography and related addictions (which have been huge trials in and of themselves...anyone who's had experience with those issues could tell you that); however, it didn't do much for my attractions.  For a long time, I thought my addiction and my SSA were inseparable.  I thought that in trying to overcome my addiction that I would eventually develop feelings for girls.  I floated throughout the rest of my college career going on some awkward dates here and there.  Don't get me wrong, I love my girlfriends, and we did fun things, but I just didn't feel like I was getting anywhere as far as attraction goes.

Since then, I've come out to a lot of people, including members of my previous and current wards.  The support has been astounding.  No one has been negative towards me (and if so, they've kept it to themselves so far).  I've even met many other Latter-day Saints who experience SSA and are doing their best to keep the commandments.  They have been such an inspiration to me, and I've been getting a lot of needs met just by socializing with and finding other guys who understand how I feel.  Even after all these wonderful blessings, I still had a hard time letting go of the notion that heterosexual feelings were "good" and homosexual feelings were "bad."  I still thought that as long as I wasn't married, then my progression was halted.  Not to mention...I was also depressed at the possibility of being alone for the rest of my life.

In just the past few weeks, I've been blessed with some wonderful spiritual experiences combined with darts from the adversary.  It's interesting how Satan will try to tempt us right before receiving some much-needed personal revelation.  I'll try to be vague, because these experiences are sacred, but I feel like they need to be shared.  A few weeks ago, I was at an event where I saw a couple of my guy friends.  I longed to be close to them and hug them.  Even though I'm OK with doing those things, I felt guilty, telling myself things like, "I shouldn't be having these feelings!"  Right then, the Spirit smacked me over the head (figuratively speaking, but it would have been hilarious otherwise) and said, "ALEX, YOU'RE GAY!  OF COURSE YOU HAVE THESE FEELINGS!"

At that moment, a huge burden was lifted.  It was as if God had been trying to tell me (probably for a long time), "Calm down, and let Me work in your life."  I realized that I am this way for a reason, and that I do not need to be ashamed.  I learned that I don't need to pretend or try to be straight.  In another excerpt from God Loveth His Children, it says, "You are best served by concentrating on the things you can presently understand and control, not wasting energy or enlarging frustration by worrying about that which God has not yet fully revealed."  That statement means so much more to me now.  This and other teachings about the eternal blessings made possible through the Atonement were sources of comfort for me all along; however, I forgot to actually believe that they applied to me personally.

As you can see, my perspective has changed immensely.  I've seen a similar change in the Church as a whole.  Indeed, there used to be some harsh things said about gay people in general.  There seemed to be a large push to overcome or suppress homosexual feelings.  Same-sex attraction (and now gender identity disorder) was once something that we had to keep quiet.  In the last few years, more people have been talking about this issue and making it less of a taboo subject.  We have resources such as mormonsandgays.org.  More members of the Church are coming out as gay or same-sex attracted.  Some of them are even married to someone of the opposite gender...and they're being open and authentic about it (see http://www.ldsvoicesofhope.org/).

I do have some pet-peeves (who doesn't) surrounding this issue and the Church.  Sometimes I hear, "The Church is softening it's position on same-sex attraction."  That may be true, but it makes it sound like gay-bashing has been part of our official doctrine.  It also makes it sound like the Church is eventually going to embrace same-sex marriage and adjust the law of chastity.  I highly doubt that.  There are too many obvious things that point to the contrary.  Maybe sometime, if I feel brave enough, I'll write about my thoughts on same-sex marriage, for they are many, and I realize that it is an extremely sensitive topic.

Some people have left their families and the Church because they "tried to live the straight life."  Some are still under the impression that they have to pretend to be straight or get married in order to remain in the Church.  I once heard one of my college professors say, "I bet the Church will eventually allow gays to be in full fellowship."  If I had been out back then, I would have proudly said, "Ummm...we already are."

If you have been offended by something said over the pulpit, please consider forgiving whoever said it, and forgive other short-sighted Church leaders.  I know that we have prophets, seers and revelators on the earth today.  I know that they teach true and righteous principles.  As imperfect people, they may not have known how to convey those teachings in the best ways, but like us, they are striving to become more Christlike as well.

The Lord is hastening His work, and He is trying to gather all of His children home.  He needs His gay children back as well.  You have a place in His Church.  There may be some people who can't comprehend the thought of having gay people in their congregations, but there will be others who welcome you with open arms.  I assure you that God loves you, and that his servants on the earth are striving to understand your situation and others like it.  I love what President Thomas S. Monson said in the April 2012 General Conference:  "Tenderly the Master speaks to these and indeed to all: 'Come back. Come up. Come in. Come home. Come unto me.'"


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Welcome!

Hi!  My name is Alex.  I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  To cut right to the chase, I experience same-sex attraction.  I also identify as gay; however, I have learned recently that my identity as a son of God is far more important that any other term I use to describe myself.  He loves me, and I love Him, and that needs to be my top priority.  This is where "If ye love me, keep my commandments" means a lot to me (John 14:15).

I was raised in a Latter-day Saint family, and homosexuality wasn't discussed very much in my younger years.  It's not that we avoided the topic; it just hardly ever came up.  I don't consider this a bad thing in my case, because it left the door open for me to "come out" to my family.  I didn't have any preconceived notions about what my parents thought of gay people, so it wasn't too difficult to discuss it with them.  My family has been very supportive and willing to learn.  Since I didn't know much about homosexuality, I couldn't put a name to these feelings until after high school.  However, upon further reflection, I realized that I've had them as far back as I can remember.  It was after high school where I first heard the term "same-gender attraction."  I don't remember where I first heard it.  Even though I had acknowledged the attractions, I figured that everything would work out after my mission.  Long story short, I'm in my late twenties and I'm not married.  I don't know if I will be getting married in this life, but I believe it is possible.

I would consider myself "born that way."  I don't feel like it matters if I was born this way or if it's something that I acquired at a very young age.  Heavenly Father has given me commandments, and I have made covenants with Him.  He has blessed me with a testimony and a working knowledge of the role that families play not only in the Church but in society.  I have a testimony of living prophets and apostles.  I know that as I listen with the Spirit, I will know how to apply their words to my life.  I do acknowledge that there have been some cultural attributes about the Church that have changed over time, but the core doctrines and simple truths remain the same.  I must add that I have also been blessed with several friends who also experience same-sex attraction and who are keeping their covenants and are finding joy in the gospel.  I wouldn't be on this journey without them.  I also have friends who live the lifestyle, and we at least try to respect each others' choices and rejoice in our common ground.  I must express thanks to many other friends who have been there to support me.  It means so much when people talk to me and treat me just like any other person.

Over the last few years, there have been challenges, but I have also had many wonderful and surprising experiences that have strengthened my testimony of Heavenly Father and the love He has for me and for all of His children.  I know that I have this quality for a purpose, and that purpose is slowly being revealed to me.  It is through this blog that I hope to share some of those experiences as appropriate.  I want to help others who may be walking a similar path.  Likewise, I am concerned about the increasing gap between the world and religion in general.  I am concerned about the many brothers and sisters leaving the Church either because of its teachings or because of how they have been treated by fellow members.  I hope to address some of these issues as well, and possibly help clear up misconceptions about the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regarding this topic.

I am not a professional, and I don't have answers except for what I have learned through my own experiences (and through the experiences of others) as well as what I have learned through the inspired leaders of the Church.  I realize that this is a complicated and sensitive issue, and it tugs at many of our heartstrings no matter what angle we are coming from.  I don't pretend to know how everyone feels about it, and I will try not to tell others what to do.

I want my fellow LGBT friends to know that no matter what your relationship status or gender is, you are ALWAYS welcome to join with us in our worship services and activities.  There is a place for you, and your unique talents and abilities are needed in God's church (and you don't even have to pretend or try to be straight!  I know that has been a major stumbling block for some).  There are some teachings that may be hard to swallow, and there are commandments and covenants necessary in order to progress, but that does not exclude you from God's love, the ability to participate and the ability to develop a relationship with Christ.  Along the same lines, and perhaps more importantly, I want to help other Latter-day Saints understand how to better respond and rally around those who experience these issues no matter what their current choices are.

The theme of this blog revolves around the song "My Shepherd Will Supply My Need," by Isaac Watts.  The last line is "No more a stranger, nor a guest, but like a child at home."  It is my hope that we can help more people feel at home among Church members.