Saturday, March 28, 2015

A Smaller Minority: Gays for Traditional Marriage

I've had something on my mind for the last couple weeks. It's actually been tormenting me here and there, and worst of all, it's been distracting me during my morning scripture study. I know that the "right" answer is to let it go and let God handle it, but sometimes it's helpful to get it out in the open.

A couple years ago, I had a rather significant experience that was pivotal in my understanding of why the nuclear family is so important, not only in the Church, but in society. It helped me understand why Church leaders got so involved in legal processes, even if it was done imperfectly. This experience I was kind of sacred, and I struggle explaining it or knowing if I should even share it. It had to do with the Proclamation to the World, particularly the last few paragraphs.

"Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity...

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.

We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society."

The part about the family being a "fundamental unit of society" made me think about a foundation. A building needs a foundation. It doesn't matter if that building is liberal, conservative, God-fearing/loving or atheist. If that building doesn't have its foundation, it will not last. In comparing this to society...I believe the doctrine on the family transcends politics, perceived civil rights, and even personal morality.  (And don't even think that I'm suggesting that marriage redefinition is the sole thing contributing to the disintegration of the family unit, although it is not exempt.  There is so much more.  One way Satan is also attacking the family is parents and siblings intentionally severing ties with their gay family members.)

That opened my eyes to what the rest of the Proclamation is teaching. It teaches the ideal family situation. A family with a married man and woman is the best place to raise children, especially when based on principles of the gospel (this is true for other religions too). I would think even gay children need a mom and a dad! Not all of us will have our own families. Some of us are gay and do not see marriage in this lifetime, some are infertile and some have disabilities that prevent them from getting married.  Heck!  Some of us don't even know what gender God intended for us to be!  Anyway, love and companionship is important in a marriage, but that's not the only reason we have marriage as defined by God. It is for growing and replenishing the earth, possibly to keep societies alive and healthy. And for those of us who aren't married or who do not have children, we will see those blessings come forth as we are faithful.  In fact, I believe this applies to anyone in any situation who strives to turn toward the Savior, even some people in same-sex relationships.

Anyway, I always thought it was ridiculous when I heard about members of the Church facing discipline for supporting gay marriage when they were otherwise living faithful lives. I could understand the conflict, but I think some leaders acted too hastily. But in my case, now that Elder Christofferson has made some clarifications on that (which I'm not complaining about), it has caused me to question my own experience. I honestly felt that in voicing or silently supporting the nuclear family and "traditional" marriage, I was following the prophets and sustaining them. I felt like I was doing what was right. I'd like to think that my experience was something more than just a manifestation of my "conservative" views.

(TANGENT!  Some people don't like the terms "gay" and "straight."  Well, I don't like the terms "conservative" and "liberal" in many situations.  I'm "liberal" because I'm gay, and for some reason, same-sex attraction is a liberal concept.  I'm also "conservative" because of my LDS values.  Really, I'm just trying to learn about God.)

I still believe in what the Proclamation says, and I hope my experience with it was of God and that it was in line with what the prophets say. The main part of this post is...sometimes I feel a a gay Mormon who doesn't support marriage redefinition ("a smaller minority," if you will). In a world that tells me that the ultimate measure of Christlike love is to support gay marriage and that I'm branded a "homophobic judgmental bigot" if I don''s tough to hear that and stick with the revelation I have received. Please keep in mind, I'm not talking about people, as much as ideals and values.  I would hope that as I strive to walk with those who do not agree with me or who live different lifestyles, I would hope they would also walk with me, as I try to figure out the messages I have received.

I value my gayness and I also value the teachings on the family. Nothing matches the marriage relationship (of course, I'm talking about good, healthy marriage relationships). Defining marriage between a man and a woman in no way lessens my worth as a human being.  It does NOT make me second class, and it doesn't demean the love I have for other men. We don't need marriage and sex to find intimacy, companionship and love. I still believe there is a lot about homosexuality that is divine, and I'm grateful for that blessing.

I've opened up my mind and heart to the many ways people reconcile their faith and feelings. We often hear that there's not a one-size-fits-all answer, especially when it comes to LGBT issues. I'd even say that's true even when keeping temple covenants and maintaining an eternal perspective. I'm doing better with how I feel about others in the LGBT community. But I still haven't shaken the feelings I've had about the family.  Even if I were to pursue some form of same-sex relationship, I doubt I would forget that manifestation.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Homosexuality...A Sin?

(Note: This is written from the perspective of a gay Latter-day Saint insert the appropriate pronouns for women.  Also, as a reminder, terms like "homosexual" and "gay" are words that I use simply to refer to the experience of same-sex attraction).

No, I’m not questioning the law of chastity, nor am I questioning marriage between a man and a woman.  I also still believe it is important to avoid the traps of pornography and lust.  Nevertheless, why is it that when we hear the words “gay” or “homosexual,” we automatically think, “Sin! Sin! Sex! Sin!?”  Why is it that when we see two guys with their arms around each other, holding hands, or hugging for more than one second, we automatically think that (1) they are gay and (2) that they are in a sexual or romantic relationship?  I’ve been guilty of assuming the same.

In my frequenting on social media, I’ve come across several debates surrounding same-sex marriage or the origins of same-sex attraction.  I see comments ranging from “Homosexuality is a sin,” to “No, homosexuality is not a sin,” and I often wonder, “Do these people even know what they're talking about?”  One person might be talking about lust and sex, while the other may be talking about all the other stuff that comes along with homosexuality, such as affection, emotional connection and deep friendship.  I think it’s time to explain what we mean when we say these terms. If you believe sexual behavior between two of the same-sex is wrong, say it that way.  If you believe the terms "gay" and "homosexual" should be reserved to describe that kind of sexual sin, that is OK...just explain what you mean.  Many people use these terms simply to describe their feelings of same-sex attraction.  The dictionary definitions are also rather ambiguous.  Please don't say "I don't approve of homosexuality" and just leave it at that.

Homosexuality isn’t going anywhere.  It's not just a matter of recovering from lust and pornography.  Many have tried therapy.  Many have tried marriage to get rid of their same-sex attractions.  Many have prayed night after night to be released from this ever-present conflict between their sexuality and their faith.  I do know of very few circumstances where people have experienced a shift in their attractions, but they did not do it through any of the above.  It just happened as they moved along in life.

Have we stopped to consider that there may be a purpose for homosexuality other than just a trial to be endured?  Have we considered that there may be something divine about the love that can exist between two of the same gender and how Satan has now come along and sexualized a bunch of it?  Is it possible that many who experience same-sex attraction, no matter what their current choices are, possess certain divine attributes that others may not have?  People are often surprised at how kind and gentle gay people can be.  Many of us simply want to press forward in the gospel, make the same covenants, and enjoy the fellowship of our brothers and sisters.  Nevertheless, we still have intimate needs that can only be met through healthy interaction with other men, gay or straight.  The Church does not recommend getting married to cure same-sex attraction.  However, some gay men do marry women, and it has worked as they have been open and honest with their wives.  Even then, they still need their guy time.

We live in a fallen world.  Many don't like it when same-sex attraction is compared to a disorder, addictive tendency or another mortal condition, but I don't mind such comparisons when one is seeking to understand.  In a well-known scripture, Ether 12:27, we read "I make weak things become strong unto them."  Sure, I might be deficient in that I'm not able to love women in ways a lot of other guys do.  I might struggle with questions about what my purpose is or where I fit in God's plan, but in return, God has blessed me with an increased ability to love other men.  

I am grateful to have found a community of brothers (and sisters...I love you too) who experience same-sex attraction, and who live within the standards of the Church.  I love them very much.  Some of my greatest spiritual experiences are when we gather at firesides (see  I invited a friend from a previous ward to attend one of these firesides.  One of his observations was that we love God, and we love each that order.  I also enjoy gathering with these brothers and sisters in the temple.  Just endowment session highly populated by gays and lesbians?  What an amazing sight (not everyone identifies with those terms, but seriously...)!  What on Earth is so sinful about that?

This is a spiritual journey for me.  I'm not really in tune with what science has to say about sexuality.  I know that it's all over the place and most likely based on the beliefs of the researchers (this is one reason I'm grateful for gospel truths).  I can't speak for all gay Mormons, but the debate surrounding being "born this way" is rather irrelevant to me.  When someone asks me if I think I was born this way, I just say "It doesn't matter.  God has given me commandments to keep." 

Maybe someday science will find a way to safely transition from one orientation to another, but if given the choice, I'm not sure I would want to.  I've seen so many blessings in my life from accepting this part of myself.  I'm developing great friendships with other men where there is a mutual, God-like love.  I'm learning more about what it's like to love others as Jesus loves them.  I feel like all this is inseparably connected with my same-sex attraction.  Sure, I still have sexual urges from time to time (like most anyone else...believe it or not, people actually struggle with their heterosexuality), but actual sexual attraction is just a small part of the bundle of what makes me me. 

When I think about the resurrection and receiving perfect bodies, I like to think that we'll all be attracted to each other in the exact ways God intended for us to be.  I don't think of being made "straight" as much as being made right.  My heterosexual desires will be perfected, while others (maybe on the homophobic end) may have their homosexual desires perfected (or more like homo-emotional, homo-affectionate, homo-spiritual, if you will).  I 100% believe in a family consisting of a husband, a wife and children.  I also believe that all who are faithful to God will have one of their own in the eternities.  However, I also believe that in Heaven there will be some great friendships and loving associations between members of the same gender.  One of my friends described it as celestial brotherhood.  I believe homosexuality, when utilized within the bounds the Lord has set, is a glimpse of what that celestial brotherhood will look like.  With that perspective, how can I possibly think of the whole realm of homosexuality being sinful?

Now, there is a chance that I'm way off track with this.  It's very possible that homosexuality is nothing more than a trial to be endured or a weakness to be overcome.  I don't have it all figured out yet.  Other gay people don't have it all figured out.  Gay men who have married women don't have it all figured out.  Prophets and apostles, although they have a bigger view than we do, and it would be in our best interest to follow them, they don't have homosexuality figured out.  Therefore, I don't see why anyone else would have it all figured out either.  I love having prophets and apostles.  I feel safe and at peace when I heed their counsel.  I feel like they, along with many of us, are continually learning about this "complex reality" (  Elder Ballard, in the October 2014 General Conference, compared Zion to a boat, where by following the prophets, we "stay in it and hold on!"  I believe in this, and there are many in the gay community who believe this as well.  I invite you to visit our corner of the boat every once in a while and learn with us.