John Gustav-Wrathall is the newly-elected president of Affirmation: LGBT Mormons, Families & Friends, an international organization founded in 1977 to support LGBTQ/SSA Mormons and their families, friends and Church leaders. Following his election, I invited Gustav-Wrathall, a personal friend, to draft a post on his thoughts about the new policy, his interactions with Church leaders, and what he thought important that members know. The post below is the product of that invitation.
For those who don’t know him, Gustav-Wrathall is an adjunct professor of American Religious History at the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, where he teaches future Protestant ministers about Mormonism (and other religions). He is the author of Take the Young Stranger by the Hand: Same-Sex Relations and the YMCA (University of Chicago Press, 1998), has published articles in Sunstone and Dialogue on being gay and Mormon, and is the author of the Young Stranger blog, which he has maintained since 2007.
Though excommunicated from the Church, John has a testimony, and has been active in his south Minneapolis ward since 2005 (he discusses his journey back to the Church in several of his Young Stranger blog posts, including the fantastic “On Being a Gay Mormon Missionary“). He currently lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his husband of over twenty years, to whom he was legally married in Riverside, California in July 2008, and with whom he has foster parented three sons.
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. (Joel 2:28)
When I first met with my bishop in late 2005 and told him my story, the first words out of his mouth were a quotation of the scripture above. His insight, upon hearing my story, was analogous to Peter’s insight as he stood upon the threshold of Cornelius’ house and saw the Spirit being poured out on Gentiles. There are growing numbers of LGBT individuals who have felt the Spirit of the Lord calling us, who have gathered under the eaves of a Church that still doesn’t know quite how to receive us. There is something happening within the LGBT community that I believe is larger than any one of us, that has to do with God’s unfolding plan for all his children, a plan that preaches to the poor, that heals broken hearts, that delivers captives, that gives sight to those who can’t see, and that liberates those who have been bruised.
There has historically been a tendency among Mormons to view “gay pride” and the gay rights movement as unmitigated evils, as “signs of the times” proving that Satan is abroad in the land. That feature of Mormon culture is exactly why Mormons Building Bridges was such a big deal. Mormons just didn’t march in gay pride parades. That conservative stereotypical view of gay pride and gay rights did have some historical and cultural basis. Historically, coming out as lesbian, gay, bi or transgender resulted in excommunication from one’s family, and so many within the LGBT community made a virtue of disconnection from family. The Church saw us as anathema and we returned the favor. In the years before the gay rights movement, LGBT people tended to meet in bars and red light districts, in contexts where substance abuse and promiscuity were normal. Popular in the gay subculture were “sex liberation” and countercultural ideologies that romanticized “queerness” and indignantly condemned marriage as an oppressive bourgeois institution. So the predominant conservative religious view of homosexuality and transgender as sinful and pathological seemed justified based on what many observed of LGBT culture — especially to those who observed it from the outside.
What is important to understand is that it is more correct to speak of gay rights movements, plural, than a single monolithic movement. More important, significant elements of the gay rights movement have always been as concerned with reforming LGBT cultural norms as they have with reforming the wider culture. In the last five decades, the changes within LGBT culture have been as revolutionary, if not more revolutionary, than the changes of attitude within the broader American culture. Some of this may be a function of the emergence of a middle American LGBT movement, an LGBT movement of the American heartland rather than of West Hollywood, the Castro and Greenwich Village. It is certainly a function of legal reforms that have made it increasingly possible for LGBT people to come out of the closet without risk of loss of livelihood and extreme social ostracism. What we are seeing are LGBT people and an LGBT culture that increasingly embraces family and faith, sobriety, engagement and commitment. The movement for marriage equality is the tip of that iceberg.
The way this looks on the ground floor is LGBT folks being empowered to make healthier choices thanks to our ability to “come out of the closet.” It is really only since the 1980s that gay people “coming out” became a normal phenomenon. Prior to then, the social cost was too great. Being exposed as gay literally destroyed lives. When I came out publicly in the late 1980s, it was rare to encounter another gay person who was fully, publicly out. Now in the second decade of the twenty-first century, in most parts of the U.S., it is rare to encounter gay individuals who are not out to everyone they know. Being able to be out means being able to find social support networks that are not centered in bars and cruising spots. It means having family relationships that are based on honesty. It means the possibility of having an intimate relationship based on openness, love and commitment. And it means a spirituality rooted in honesty and agency.
To me it is no coincidence that the spiritual experience I had prompting me to return to the LDS Church came at a time of increased stability and commitment within my relationship with my husband. The way I experienced it was that my willingness to make significant sacrifices for my husband made me more sensitive to spiritual things, to spiritual promptings. When I started to pray again, the Lord prompted me to pray for an outpouring of the Spirit on the whole LGBT community, and that is what I believe I am witnessing.
To me and to many other members of the LGBT community, the end of the closet was a liberation that came from God.
As LGBT people have come out, our coming out has changed us, but, of course, it also changed the people around us. Now our families, friends, co-workers and neighbors know us in ways they never knew us before. They know much more about our character and our choices, and about the contingencies that shape those choices. And that new information has challenged the old paradigm of LGBT people as pathological or sinful or both. With a flood of new data made possible by LGBT people coming out on a mass scale, the old paradigm has crumbled with a rapidity that astonishes. When I came out in the late 1980s, we dreamed of marriage equality, but none of us ever expected to see it in our life times.
A moment that epitomized the clash between the old paradigm and the new data was President Boyd K. Packer’s October 2010 General Conference talk. President Packer, responding to the testimony of gay people themselves that our gayness is an essential part of who we are, that it is part of how God has made us, rhetorically posed the question: Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Even though that question was edited out of the published version of his talk, I felt it was an excellent question. It was the question, in my opinion, that the experience of LGBT people demands we as a Church answer. As a Church, we have new data; we have an old paradigm that the data just don’t fit; and we have a doctrine that, in light of the new data, demands new light and knowledge from on high.
So this brings us to the new LDS Church Handbook Policy implemented without public announcement or comment on Thursday, November 5, 2015, followed by a rush to rationalize and “clarify” and catch up in the wake of a social media storm that pointed to a much broader and deeper crisis of faith for significant numbers of Latter-day Saints church-wide. While books could be written (and undoubtedly will be written) on what has transpired since, I would like to share some fairly brief observations, all of which incline me toward hope.
- Last week, I engaged in not just one meeting but a series of meetings with Church leaders in Salt Lake in my capacity as president elect of Affirmation, the world’s largest and oldest organization for LGBT Mormons and their families and friends. This was the first meeting between a leader of Affirmation and Church leaders since the promulgation of the new policy, and Church leaders were anxious to meet with me. They were eager to hear my account of the impact of the policy as I had observed it and people’s reactions to the policy as I had heard them. Far from treating me as persona non grata (as some might assume an individual in an “apostate” marriage would be treated) I was received with kindness and respect and as a member of our community of faith. I witnessed genuine empathy and concern, and genuine wrestling. What I can say without the least shadow of doubt is that our leaders see the Church as an inclusive community founded on love, and yearn for all to be a part of it, LGBT people no less than any others. The problem is that they feel constrained by the current doctrine of the Church to maintain certain boundaries with regard to marriage and sexuality. They are as perplexed by the dilemmas faced by LGBT individuals and their families as anyone else.
- This has affected non-gay Latter-day Saints on a far larger scale than anything we’ve seen in the history of this issue in the Church. As a result of what has happened, gay marriage, gay relationships, and gay experience are being discussed in virtually every corner of the Church. And everywhere, people are wrestling to make sense of the data and its seeming incongruence with doctrine. Bottom line as far as that incongruence is concerned, gay people flourish in gay marriage. It is good for them. It grounds them spiritually. It affords them greater stability. It creates family and community and connects them to larger family structures and social institutions. That does not make sense to most Mormons in a paradigm where same-sex sexual relations are categorized as grievous sin or (now) as apostasy.
- On the grassroots, Mormons are responding with love. Those LGBT individuals and their families who showed up at Church the Sunday after were greeted with an outpouring of support. We were embraced, we were comforted, we were reassured that we were loved and that we had a place among the Saints.
- The intention of the policy change is to clarify Church doctrine on marriage and the family as it currently stands, not to stigmatize individuals.
I am inclined to remain cautiously optimistic. It seems to me that the Church is in flux right now in relation to this issue (and in relation to a number of other mission critical issues). I see a grassroots yearning for more satisfactory answers to our existential questions about homosexuality, and more satisfactory resolutions to the challenges created by the existence of gay people in a social system that was designed as if they didn’t really exist. As far as I can tell, our leadership at the highest levels is not “out of touch” with the general membership when it comes to this. They are wrestling with the issues as much as anyone else, though their process is not as publicly visible.
This is not just about finding an “easy way out.” It’s not just about liberal caving to worldly social pressure. Circa 1965, the Church’s view of homosexuality was virtually indistinguishable from the dominant view in American culture. This is about a search for meaning. A new paradigm, a new doctrine, a new understanding of the place of LGBT people in the plan of salvation would still require sacrifice, discipline, faith, hope and love, even if — especially if — gay relationships were somehow encompassed in that new understanding.
Genuine anguish has been created by the new policy. I have witnessed heightened depression and despair among LGBT individuals and families who have found it impossible to interpret the policy in any other way than as the harshest form of rejection coming from the highest levels of the Church. The Church has a challenge in that as a result of the policy, growing numbers of individuals have lost faith in their leaders. And that faith is extremely unlikely to be restored by anything that anyone says. Only actions that demonstrate love and inclusion will be persuasive. Rhetoric will count “as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” But how to act?
One of the many conversations I’ve had in the wake of the policy change was with Darius Gray, an individual who played a pivotal role in the Church’s wrestling with issues related to race prior to 1978. Since 1978, Brother Gray has also worked tirelessly for the deconstruction and renunciation of the damaging, indefensible, racist folklore that was invented to justify the erstwhile policy that had banned black men from holding priesthood and black families from being sealed in the temple. One thing he told me particularly struck me. There are some wounds created by prejudice and exclusion that never fully heal, in this life at least. But we must still eventually learn to forgive. And, he insisted, we must stay engaged. If you must leave the Church, he told me, consider it a sabbatical, a vacation. But do not give up on the Church.
In the days after the news of the policy hit, I prayed. I pleaded. And I found a broad, abiding, powerful peace. I found assurance that God has not forgotten me or my husband or our sons. I saw a way of light opening up before us, like the waters of the Red Sea parting. This is not the end. It is a beginning. I have spoken to other LGBT individuals who were driven to their knees by this, who similarly found peace and love pouring down from Heaven. Most LGBT folks have already left, and many more will continue to leave. But there is a core of us who will not leave, who cannot leave. And as far as I can tell, the Lord is equipping us for this journey, however long it might be.
To my straight brothers and sisters, to the parents and grandparents, the siblings and uncles and aunts and cousins of gay Mormons, I ask: have faith. Stay firm. Hold onto whatever core of your testimony you can cling to. The Church is not perfect. Our commitment to it is nothing more nor less than the acceptance of an invitation to engage with one another in a process of becoming perfected. That process, that faith, will perfect us. It will heal us and save us — not just in some theological sense of finding Heaven above, but in some very root, down-to-earth, fundamental sense of making us whole, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Things will get better. We will get better, both individually and collectively, if we hold on to each other.
Your gay family members may need to leave the Church, at least for a time. Don’t you leave them. As Carol Lynn Pearson put it during a TribTalk panel I appeared with her on shortly after the policy announcement: You come up with your own personal policy. You love unconditionally. You hold and support and include everyone, as Christ would have you do. If you stay with the Church (as I hope you will), make sure you communicate clearly and in no uncertain terms to them that your staying doesn’t mean abandoning them, it means making a better world for them and for future generations of gay kids who are being born into the Church even as we speak.
I read and love the scriptures. And I find there that the Lord is seldom able to lead us the easy way. It could be easy if we were so inclined. But human beings are inclined to learn the hard way. Our hearts are often hard, our minds impenetrable, our eyes closed, our ears shut. That is why this process can feel so crazy-making so often. I look at the Church’s journey with this issue, and it is full of tragedy. But I also see the hand of God in it. I believe the current policy predicament is jolting us awake. And the Lord is not abandoning us — any of us — in this process. His Spirit is being poured down, on all flesh.
John, thanks. I needed to hear this.
Proud to be related. Wonderful post.
I appreciate this very much. Thank you.
There are a lot of faithful-sounding things in this post, but it is nonetheless a piece of advocacy for the church to reverse its policy and accept gay relationships. It even goes so far as to suggest that our leaders are trying to figure out a way to affirm these relationships, if only they can find a way to work it in with our theology. The author tries to use his meetings with general authorities as support for his position. This is unscrupulous, manipulative, and deceptive.
John seems to want to say that “no” really means “yes,” no matter how many times our leaders say “no,” and never mind the fact that they have just said “no” again in an even more clear and specific way. He implies that ultimately, loving someone means affirming their feelings and actions. But this is not true. God loves everyone, but he sends blessings in response to faithfulness and cursings in response to wickedness. He chastises us because he loves us, and so do his messengers. God loves the sinner and hates the sin. Our leaders want everyone to come to the waters of life and drink, but part of how we partake of those waters is by accepting God’s standards for our lives, even when it means giving up ideas and habits that we have grown very attached to, because God knows what is best for us, better than we do.
John is right, though, that church leaders seriously are acting from love, and are honestly working to make sure they as leaders and we as a church emulate and reflect the love of God as fully as we can in the way we approach LGBT folks. Let’s not misunderstand what that love means.
“God loves everyone, but he sends blessings in response to faithfulness and cursings in response to wickedness.”
Please, please don’t say such things. My friend with cancer would be wounded by such comments. Such comments go against my lifetime experience. You may feel that you are speaking “in the long run.” Can’t you think of a better way to express the idea that those who love God will feel His love?
it feels like a lot of the church’s recent actions are based on fear, not love.
Just so we’re clear here… I am not implying that Church leaders think the Church’s doctrine on marriage will change or should change. My sense from my meetings was quite the opposite. But upholding the doctrine does not appear to preclude listening to the stories of LGBT people, seeking to empathize with us, staying in relationship with us, and hoping that we will stay active in LDS wards.
Very interesting and moving, John; thanks very much for writing this.
Thanks for this, John.
I appreciate everything about it, from the historical review to the description of the current situation to the humanizing of all parties involved to the charitable heart displayed throughout the post. I especially appreciate your acknowledgment that many must leave but others are called to stay.
God bless you and all in the Church. May there be a road.
God hates the sin but loves the sin is not doctrine, and it is incredibly damaging rhetoric to boot. Please read some of the thoughtful thinking available about why it is such a hateful, hurtful thing to say: http://johnpavlovitz.com/2015/08/13/3-reasons-love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin-is-an-abomination/.
Thank you for this. I needed to hear it.
And I’ve often wondered why, when there is doubt or lack of knowledge we/our leaders tend towards exclusion rather than inclusion? Why not say ‘come all you GLTBQ (our children, our grandchildren, our nieces our nephews, our friends) join us, be faithful in your monogamous relationships, serve in our wards and stakes; be part of us. Yes it’s true we don’t understand how you fit into our doctrine. Yes it’s true you and your families can’t be sealed in the temple and we don’t know if that will ever change. But whether or not, or until the Lord speaks to this you are still welcome to be a part of us.”
Blessing to you on your journey.
Thank you, John. I’m glad to see Affirmation is in good hands.
“The end of the closet was a liberation from God.” I am an old straight white woman, yet I believe the same. I also see marriage, monogamous relationships in the same light.
Not long ago, I left the LDS Church because of other issues that my be resolved in my great grandchildren’s.
Blessings to you for staying and for your great compassion.
Perhaps you will build the ground work that will usher in a new dispensation.
I really liked this post. More than anything, I was struck by how John gives everyone the most charitable reading, and avoids the sort of angry condemnation that is so common in posts dealing with these issues.
I hope we can do the same in comments as well. It’s perfectly legitimate to say “John’s analysis is wrong because of X, Y and Z.” I hope that we can avoid moving past that, though, to “John is a low-down manipulative ne’er-do-well.” If there are things in the post that we disagree with — and there are lots of things that one could legitimately disagree with — then let’s address those things.
And of course the same applies to comments that church leaders are low-down ne’er-do-wells.
This is so so so good. Thank you for the first bit of calm I’ve felt since the policy came out.
I believe you must be the author of several of the Sunstone and Dialogue articles my husband and I read during the early 1990’s. It helped him have a major paradigm shift over the years, and though I had always been at odds with most societal and religious viewpoints toward our gay population, your words helped both of us shed much more of the toxic rhetoric prevalent at the time, as well as adjust to our suspicions that one of sons was gay. You propelled us to learn more of the science behind the folklore and fear and suppositions, and we were able to continue researching more modern views.
When he came out to us in 1996, we were able to handle it with much more understanding than we would ever have been otherwise. We have been able to be a strong support to him as he finished high school, served a great mission, struggled to remain faithful to the church, then realized he did not want to remain a “lone Man in the garden of the church”, requested a disciplinary council and excommunication, subsequently met and married our wonderful son in law, and created a life of purpose, love, caring, sacrifice and joy.
Personally, the hardest thing for me was the idea that I, as his mother, had created his dilemma; I was a strong woman; not very submissive to patriarchy, and many people have told me it is my fault he is the way he is. I still struggle to tame my guilt that he had to endure so much. Most of the time I succeed. ;-)
I am so grateful to you for literally saving our family. I speak on behalf of us all.
John, this is a wonderful post. I especially appreciate the way you describe (and model) what I think is the birth of a new way of being faithful and a new way of being Mormon. It is only and always a tragedy for us as a people when we allow our ignorance to make us inhospitable to the point that we can no longer welcome and draw strength from this kind of faith. You have my very best wishes in your new role and I hope to hear from you again.
Ben H: re-interpreting events to which you had no access in order to decry the wolf in sheep’s clothing and maintain your own conclusions is itself unscrupulous. I’m grateful that my own view of the actions of our leaders don’t make them appear in the same light that you portray them.
John, thank you for this. Powerful testimony. I’m interested in learning more about the reform movement you see within the LGBT community which you discuss in your third paragraph. Are there any resources you’d point to that explore this more fully?
Please do not say you met with top LDS leaders if you are not willing to put who you met with. It leads to a case of being made up or anything stated not verifed.
Great posting and conversation. Thanks.
I hope you’re right, John, on where the church is going. Sometimes it’s hard to keep hope. Some of us had experiences with our bishops that weren’t quite so positive, and church experiences that weren’t quite so welcoming. But your post helps renew my optimism.
My six children and I don’t need to hear our doctrine will change. What has confused us (lifetime actives all) are comments that it never will or that “the brethren can’t change doctrine.” We know have been raised on the rock of continuing revelation. All we want to hear on this and other issues is that they continue to wrestle and ask Him who initiates change. Thanks for this post, which seems to say that do and are.
John it is not clear to me what you have to be optomist about In your follow up coment @9 you make it clear that no change is contemplated.
I expected when marriage equality was achieved in Utah for the church to accept it, stop discriminating, and move on. Iexpect this to be the eventual position, and don’t understand why this was part of the process.
Do the bretheren not have a vision of equality for all as the celestial ideal, why are they not then moving us toward that goal? “All are alike unto God, black and white, bond and free, male and female” gay and straight.
I just do not understand, and can not see any positive motives that explain. The bretheren have not enhanced their credibility, in my eyes.
Reading this blog made me think of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s infamous “Peace In Our Times” speech in 1938. Two years later, bombs were raining down on London. JGW is not the leader the LGBT community needs right now.
Heaven isn’t a question of equality.
All of us are equal, spirit children of God, with equal opportunity to choose to become like Him as much as we will bear. That is a given. Equality and God’s love are not conditional.
But salvation and exaltation ARE still conditional. It is the responsibility of the apostles to teach us those conditions. They are accountable only to God for how and what they teach, just as we are accountable to Him in how and what we follow.
We will all end up in the state we choose to become.
Thank you for this; it’s tremendously inspiring, heartening, and valuable.
Empathy, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Shew me thy empathy by thy works–and in my book, private, anonymous, unconfirmed meetings don’t count for much. A public meeting in which members of the First Presidency and the Twelve actually say that they’re struggling with this issue, and then listen to people talk back to them (rather than emerging from the watchtower to issue authoritative pronouncements from on high) would count for more. Talk is still cheap, but public dialogue would at least be a better starting point than where we’re at.
John, this was a wonderful way to start Christmas morning. Thank you.
I was surprised to read your comment that the leaders with whom you met were filled with love and compassion towards the LGBT community. What’s missing for many of us (speaking as a mother of a daughter in a same sex marriage) is any public expression of love and compassion, particularly in the light of the recent policy changes and the hurt and despair you describe in your post.
At the Affirmation conference in September I attended a session led by a psychotherapist from Chicago about empathy.He started the session by sharing a video of an exercise between a mother and her baby daughter. The daughter, in her high chair, is playing and laughing with her mother. This goes on for a few minutes. Then the mother turns her head and when she turns back her face is devoid of all emotion. The baby tries everything to engage her mother and becomes increasingly frustrated and distraught by the lack of response from her mother. Eventually, the mother turns her head again and comes back to her daughter as engaging and loving. The daughter rebounds immediately and they play together again. It’s an example of still-face, in the words of the presenter.
His point was that this is what’s happening between the church leadership and the LGBTQ community. We as a group have experienced pain and anguish and the source that many of us have turned to for love, support, and hope–the Church–is engaged in still face with us.This has to change and is, I believe, a misstep on the part of leadership. It doesn’t require a change of policy for them to be publicly loving and compassionate. It would be a huge step in modeling to church members of all stripes that love and compassion should be shown. On a local ward level we have been show both but hearing silence from top church leadership is painful.
I don’t understand why you continue to support an organization that wants you condemned, and shocked back into its vision of “normalcy.” I hope your support comes from somewhere other than Stockholm.
My son, a Quaker, who happens to be gay introduced me to a very special author by the name of Parker Palmer. Parker states that there are paradoxes in this world, truths that appear to be in opposition with one another. Parker stated that we must learn to live within the creative tension of these paradoxes. Because we cannot solve the paradoxes immediately does not mean that we must abandon hope but rather that we learn patience and strive to discover peace within these paradoxes. Thank you John for a well thought out and reflective article. May we all strive for greater humility, tolerance and hope.
I loved this post. It needs to be read by everyone in the Church, as well as the comments, for and against. Thank you John for your faith.
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Like Sam (#28) and others, I find the reports of interactions with LDS leaders rather encouraging. Sort of makes up for the rather discouraging reports I read of some interactions with local leaders, who have taken the new policies as stated in the Handbook (which, despite various public statements, have not been amended) as a green light to impose discipline on members who sympathize with gay marriage as an issue or with LBGT members trying to remain active LDS despite the challenges. It would be even more encouraging if senior leaders would make public statements in line with the sentiments reported by John in the guest post.
I understand how those like Ben H (#5) see this as a cut and dried doctrinal issue. That view probably represents a large majority of active LDS members. All the more reason for senior leaders to make clearer public statements to move the membership along, as they have done in the past with plural marriage (first to get members to accept it, then later to get them to reject it) and with the priesthood (first to get the practice changed, then later to get members to abandon cherished folk doctrine).
This was a breath of fresh air. Though I don’t exactly see the situation the same way, I loved reading it.
Last night I spent Christmas Eve with my brother and his family, a strict, orthodox group if there ever was one. And they couldn’t have been kinder or more loving toward me. Do I need to have them agree with me (or my lifestyle?). No. I don’t. We can love each other. That’s all we need to do. That’s the best that can be hoped for, at this point.
Nobody understands this stuff, i.e. Mormonism vs. homosexuality. Nobody has the silver bullet to solve it. Nobody can bridge the gap.
Mormons want to love. I think Mormons are filled with compassion. They truly want to solve all the world’s problems. Sometimes it’s hilarious just how much they think they can do. Bless their hearts.
I believe things are moving in a positive direction. Every seeming step backwards leads to two steps forward.
Love is winning.
I do not believe that homosexual relations will ever be normalized within church doctrines or teachings. While the recent policy announcements were painful for far too many, I do not believe that the policy was arrived at flippantly or without great reflection on revealed doctrine. A boundary has been purposely established. But what does this boundary mean for church members? Does it mean that love and respect can’t be conveyed across that boundary? Does it mean that human beings on both sides can’t work with or possibly seek adjustments to the policy? I certainly hope not.
For the blessings that it provides in this life, and for this life, marriage is extolled & elevated by Mormonism for a lot of reasons beyond just sex –– ultimate & unique levels of love, joy, nurturing companionship, non-sexual intimacy, sharing, growth, security, touch, encouragement, hope, holding, hugs, fulfillment, home, family, support, children, warmth, devotion, place, connection, wholeness, presence, succor, belonging, etc., etc.
But the church then also says to its gay members that –– in addition to not having sex –– you also have no right or ability to share or experience any of that. For heterosexuals, all of those things are good and natural and desirable and joyous but, for you gay Mormons, they are a temptation and burden that must be denied. And if you aspire to those natural human needs, and to that great joy & wholeness, you are apostate within a counterfeit relationship.
It’s not just paradox that pits the above against the “the glory of God is intelligence” and “man is that he might have joy” –– and Mormons claims of empathy, concern & compassion.
The 130-year experience of race and the priesthood is instructive but there’s a difference — the issue here is genitalia and they are a permanent, central pillar of Mormonism that predates even Christ and it cannot change.
But if Mormonism is in and part of your brain, and of your ‘self’ –– you’re stuck. Good luck.
If I understand correctly, it is the responsibility of the leaders of the church to safeguard the doctrines and beliefs of the church from outside influences for change. Over the years, current situations at the time forced changes in these doctrines and beliefs (e.g. the gathering to Zion, polygamy, blacks and the priesthood). In our current situation, in today’s world, the force for change involves how to best deal with LGBT individuals and the LGBT community as a whole. While there has been a change by many leaders in the church in the acceptance of homosexuality as an inborn, and not socially determined, tendency there is still an unwillingness to condone homosexual behavior, along with marriage between same-gender individuals.
Beliefs regarding gathering to Zion, polygamy, and blacks and the priesthood have changed, but to change the belief in the sanctity of marriage between only a man and a women, and limiting sexual intercourse to that relationship, will be much more difficult to change, especially when it comes to the leadership of the church. I think we should understand, and possibly be sympathetic, to their situation. The plan of salvation, especially as taught in the temple ceremonies, lies at the very core of Mormonism. Only a married man and woman, sealed in the temple, can attain the highest levels of the celestial kingdom and have eternal increase. To think otherwise would require a complete revision of this plan.
We have adjusted our thinking about what happened in pre-mortal life regarding those who were supposedly on the fence when it came to Christ’s plan (i.e. blacks) and there has been a change in the expected necessity of numerous wives in the celestial kingdom. What is unknown, at this time, is the reason, if any, as to why some individuals have homosexual tendencies, and to what extent there may have been a pre-knowledge (in the spirit world) of these tendencies. In other words, is there a reason why homosexuality is so prevalent and what, if anything, are we to learn from this (e.g. tolerance and love).
My personal opinion is that eventually we will come to the realization that the spirit world is our real and permanent Home, and mortal existence, while it provides us with experiences we could not otherwise have, does not change the eternal relationships we had before and will continue to have after mortal existence.
dgl – a couple of good overviews of the LGBT rights movement are Eric Marcus, Making Gay History and Lillian Faderman, The Gay Revolution. The history of equal marriage rights is still being written, though an interesting chapter of that history will be about how individuals within the LGBT community pushed for it against the common wisdom of more established gay rights organizations, and how the idea of marriage for gay couples represented transformed moral sensibilities and is transforming moral sensibilities in the LGBT community.
John Charles Duffy – hello! Nice to hear from you even indirectly! The idea you expressed — that the Church should open up a two-way, public communications channel between the LGBT Mormon community and the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve — is one of the things I specifically asked for in my meetings. I would love to see regular open meetings where we can hear from folks at the top, and folks at the top can hear our stories, though I’m not sure what the format would be.
Some folks on this thread are talking as if I’ve negotiated some sort of surrender… This is a dialog, with all that that implies, both in terms of its limitations and its advantages. For faithful Mormons, when we deal with members of church leadership, even at the highest levels, we are dealing with stewards. That is how they see themselves. That means there are very real limitations on what they feel they can do without the authorization of revelation. We can petition them to petition the Lord. (We can petition the Lord directly ourselves!) I feel at this point one of the most important things we can do is provide accurate information to our leaders — which we can’t do without dialog. Hopefully as time goes on the nature and quality of that dialog can improve, hopefully in some of the ways you’ve suggested.
John—though discussions of such issues can become inflamed and contentious—you have clearly chosen the way of peace and good will.. None of us can know where things will ultimately end up; after all we cannot instruct God. We kneel humbly before Him with a broken heart and contrite spirit, knowing that He will not abandon us, if we do not abandon Him. But in all of this, I am certain that the Lord will honor the honesty and real intent that accompanies your attempt to find common ground.
Perhaps homosexuality was a feature of our pre-existence. Perhaps homosexuals were born that way to our Mother and Father in Heaven and brought it with them as part of their essential nature into mortality. Such a revelation would be revolutionary, of course but, in the end –– even if Temple Marriage & sealings and the Celestial Kingdom & exaltation were made available to married gays –– the core of Mormonism remains intact. Nothing is lost, there is only gain as Heaven is enlarged.
It’s easy to imagine eternal families of same-sex parents together forever with their children in the Celestial Kingdom. Whether adopted children, or natural to one parent but where the other natural parent in mortality was unworthy. Of all the billions of God’s children who have come to Earth there must have been many children whose parents fell short of Celestial Glory –– the worthy among them might be adopted into the families of same-sex Celestial parents.
Revelation could well provide a reasonable and coherent pathway forward. It would be a challenge for some members just as polygamy was, but the Kingdom would go forward in righteousness. It was a huge step within Mormonism for homosexuality to go from heinous choice and sin to not a choice at all. To the point where the church could edit right out of existence the teaching of an apostle, prophet, seer and revelator: “Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?” Is there reason to believe that was the last huge step in Mormonism? Do we still believe that God will yet reveal many important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God?
Perhaps we are still in the milk stage, and just not yet ready for the meat. I, for one, will fast and pray that Our Leaders will be worthy for and open to such revelation. A preliminary revelation –– step on step, precept on precept –– might change the current policy… no longer apostasy or excommunication but, for instance, merely the possibility of dis-fellowship and with no constraints on the children. As it is now, the biggest confusion for the children is knowing that it’s acceptable for them along with all church members to support same-sex marriage –– except that of their own parent.
Revelation, as in the past, is the key to the future.
Why isn’t John excommunicated for having a husband like the policy clearly says, he is an apostate. I can’t help but wonder what the church is paying him as well as allowing and enabling his sins. Such hypocrisy on both sides here.
Shelama: I realize that this goes contrary to most thinking within Mormonism, but perhaps spirit beings do not have gender: that gender is associated only with physical bodies. There are numerous experiences of the spirit world (e.g. NDEs and spirit communication) that indicate this possibility. Most of Mormon belief concerning the spirit world is based on one person’s experience: Joseph Smith. This is not to say that he did not have valid experiences, only that we should perhaps not place so much importance on his experiences when compared with hundreds, if not thousands, of others.
It is possible that we have eternal spirit families and the relationships we establish here in mortality may, or may not, continue on (be resumed) in the spirit world. Thus, it makes little difference whether these relationships here in mortality are heterosexual or homosexual, when the eternal nature of these relationships is considered in the context of the spirit world.
Just another possible way of looking at this.
Tom D: indeed, there is much beyond our current understanding. When I consider the need to integrate God’s revelations to Joseph Smith with His revelations to Muhammad, it’s almost too much, and I usually just end up deferring it all to some distant future when *ALL* will finally be revealed. Including the final word on homosexuality and gay marriage.
I appreciate what you want to do. However, doesn’t the history of the church show that change only comes from outside pressure? The change from polygamy and the priesthood ban only came after pressure from the outside. One may wish to believe otherwise, but the US Govt. had confiscated the church buildings and the Supreme Court ruled against the church’s polygamy position only a few days prior to the Manifesto (which really wasn’t even followed fully for many years). Additionally, many teams refused to play BYU and President Carter was openly talking about going after the tax exemption. Then miraculously the 1978 “revelation” came.
So, if it even matters whether the church changes – it seems it is destined for irrelevancy – nevertheless, if it matters to you that it change, this change seems to be only achievable from the outside. Certainly the recent dust up with the “doctrine/policy” and the media focus and the subsequent kinda, sorta retreat, p.r. scramble shows this. For heaven sake, the “leaders” believe they speak for god. Would this group even be able to change anything without outside force?
Loved this~ I’m an active but questioning straight middle age woman. I live in a less than progessive town in Utah. I spoke with my bishop about the difficulty I was having with this new policy. I mentioned I don’t believe it was inspired. He’s new and told me to be VERY VERY careful. He launched into some fear based, satan based rhetoric that left me cold. So glad to have found your article, especially the one on being a gay missionary.
Bob (#44), John was excommunicated years ago, but decided to return to the church with even a limited way of participating as an excommunicated former member. Any hypocrisy is certainly not on his part.
Bob (44). John isn’t the only excommunicated member who continues to attend and find ways to participate. Others do as well, and they are not LGBT connected. It happens. Not often but it does.
How exactly do excommunicated members find ways to participate? I think they’re allowed to sing the hymns, but that’s about it. Deciding whether to attend Church after being excommunicated is a personal choice, but to me, it seems like it would be a fruitless exercise.
They can play the piano for RS and Priesthood meetings. They can be greeters. They can type the bulletin. They also won’t be intimidated. Being in meetings and connecting with members is a huge thing.
The difficult but faithful choices of many gay Latter-day Saints to remain active in LDS wards to whatever extent possible, even some who are exed, probably speaks more powerfully to LDS leaders than any other action or argument. It may be the only way to touch their hearts and motivate voluntary change — as opposed to forcing change through external pressure, which has the virtue of effectiveness but is a long and difficult road for all involved and for the Church as an institution.
Plenty of excommunicated people continue to attend church. Run-of-the-mill ward members, however, typically don’t know who’s excommunicated and who’s not–most excommunications are kept quiet, and even if they’re not, excommunicated people often move in and out of wards. I was an EQ President and “home taught” (unofficially, albeit at the Bishop’s request) an excommunicated man. Very few people in the ward knew he was excommunicated. I’ve spoken to other EQ Presidents and to RS Presidents and they tell me the same story in their wards, without going into specifics about names or details.
Correct me if I am wrong but you can’t retroactively excommunicate someone for something that was legal when they did it.
whizzbang–You can “retroactively” excommunicate someone for something that was legal when they did it. As I read the policy, the disciplinary council MUST be held, but the outcome MUST be undetermined. If I’m not mistaken, the policy ALSO applies to those living in openly unmarried heterosexual cohabitation as well. Once again, the council is supposed to be held, but the outcome MUST be undetermined. That gives local leaders a lot of leeway. Some may or may not actually believe they have such leeway, but we can’t really control either the exercise of the leeway or those who choose not to believe such leeway exists. In addition, the “legality” of something that is contrary to the revealed doctrine of God doesn’t mean squat in the course of Church discipline (nor should it). The Church and the world are two separate things.
Anonforthis & BW Johnson–it is true that excommunicated people are participating all over the Church in varying degrees. Although the manual says they’re only allowed to sing the hymns, in a lot of GD classes and Priesthood and RS classes, they participate and those in authority usually just look beyond that. Once again, local leadership’s conduct prevails. I think if the comments become harmful to the general membership, they’d likely intervene, but most of the time, its probably what I’d term “harmless error”.
Dear John Gustav-Wrathall:
Congratulations on taking on the new presidency of Affirmation, an organization with as wide a spectrum of political and spiritual interests as it is sexually diverse. While I appreciate you meeting with church representatives on behalf of our community, no thinking human can sit silently and accept the all-too common LDS tropes of “We just don’t know yet, we don’t understand this, just be patient and humble, read and pray, please don’t get upset,”–all the while, LDS LGBT continue to suffer hugely from the spiritual and cultural implications of being honest about their gender and sexual identity. Yes, let’s applaud the itty bitty baby steps the Church has made, but please let’s not overlook the huge pain and suffering that continues today, especially for countless LGBT youth who are directly and indirectly being told that they are worthless, broken, misaligned, deluded, crazy, sinful. If the Church leadership is struggling with this issue, it is because up until now, their policies have failed spectacularly and led to even larger problems for them and the membership at large. At some point, the Church must be accountable for the stones they have thrown at the LGBT community and for the thousands and thousands of lives they have harmed; otherwise, there will never be peace or reconciliation within the Church and beyond.
I think it is unfair for people to accuse the church for throwing stones at the LGBT community. The church has long held strong beliefs on sexuality relationships that happen between members of the opposite sex and only within marriage are those sexuality relations to be used. Defending that long held belief is not casting stones at the LGBT community. The church leaders are in a difficult position in their defense of our gospel while still extending love towards all. It’s kind of like the rock fight is going on but the rocks are coming from the immoral left and the church is making adjustments to the armor to shield it from their harm. I can testify that no part of gay marriage will be found in heaven or its rays of blessings that extend into eternity. I am unsure how God will correct this immorality but I do know that the earth is ripening for destruction.
Rob Osborn, if we’re bringing testimony into it, I can testify that you’re wrong.
Also, I can testify that the position of church leaders on marriage is not long-held, and is very different than the one held by the first prophet of our church, Joseph Smith.
Beyond that, I can testify that it is wrong.
Our leaders have made a mistake, exactly like Brigham Young through David McKay made a mistake when they used their positions as prophets to support racism. We have Official Declaration 2 as canonized scripture to remind us that they were wrong. Based on that, we should be able to make a better choice when it comes to gay marriage, and not have to wait for God to condemn us in a new revelation. If we wait long enough, I know He will. Jumping on the American Protestant bandwagon for social issues was wrong with racism in the 1800s. It was wrong in the late 1900s with gay marriage.
The church leaders are in a difficult position: the position of having the courage to admit they have been wrong. It is one I do not envy them, but it is part of what comes from being in a position of responsibility.
I do not believe you know any more about heaven than I do, or than Joseph Smith did, and none of us have seen what marriage will look like in heaven, or anything else there, for that matter. The kingdoms of glory defy all description—that means you cannot adequately describe them. Please do not try to.
mirrorrorrim – thank you for your response to Rob Osborn. Just thank you. Carry on. “Shall we not all go forward?”
Why do you think it different from Joseph? While Joseph was undoubtedly radical in how he treated marriage I know of nothing remotely arguing he accepted SSM.
Wow! People are now declaring that God himself is in favor of homosexual sex? And the church is wrong for opposing it? Does this mean there is no more sin? Why has God led us to think there was such a thing as sin for all these years, and warned us against sin?
Ji, I’m guessing your questions are all rhetorical, but I’ll answer anyway. :) 1) Yes, we are. 2) Yes, I believe church leaders are mistaken on this issue. 3) No, and at this point your argument becomes non sequitur in order to create a straw person for you to attack.
Believing gay marriage is not sinful has absolutely nothing to do with a person’s view on sin in general. I for one believe sin is real. But I do not believe eating bacon and shellfish is necessarily a sin. I do not believe giving black men the priesthood is a sin. I am sure there are many early First Century Christians who would disagree on the first point and lots of late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century Latter-day Saints who would disagree on the second. Just as you and some other early Twenty-First Century Saints disagree about gay marriage.
4) See 3. As for whether God considers homosexuality to be a sin, I don’t want to hijack the thread and veer too far off its original topic by starting a discussion on that, but I have written my views on it elsewhere.
I’m not sure why you feel a need to create false parallels. Are you perhaps unsure about the reasoning behind your position for the real issues? Yes, this is a rhetorical question, too, but feel free to answer it. :)
Clark Goble, the current position by church leaders seems to be very focused on one woman, one man, and people who depart from that are treated exactly the same as people who enter into homosexual marriage. Joseph obviously practiced something different, and would himself be excommunicated under current church policy. Joseph Smith departed from Nineteenth Century America’s views on what marriage should be, and even gave his life for it (those who say Joseph Smith gave his life for his testimony often seem to miss the fact that that is true, but it was his testimony of polygamy, not of The Book of Mormon, that led to his arrest and subsequent murder). You may say that number of spouses is a much smaller departure than the gender of spouses, but I do not think Nineteenth Century America saw it that way, nor, frankly, Twenty-First Century Evangelicals today. The same group of Christians that Latter-day Saint leaders joined up with to try to make homosexual marriage illegal are the exact ones that would be arresting Joseph Smith and Brigham Young for practicing polygamy.
You can say they’re right to do so, and that polygamy was wrong to begin with, but realize that position is not one that has been long-held by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as Rob Osborn suggested it was. Joseph departed from what his contemporary world was teaching, at great personal cost, in order to try to create a holy community. Late Twentieth Century Latter-day Saint leaders united with the teachings of the contemporary world, taking a public, politically expedient, and popular stance of opposing a small persecuted minority. That is the exact opposite of what Joseph, right or wrong, did concerning marriage.
So Ji, add Joseph Smith to the list of radical thinkers who tried to change the world and Christianity’s notion of what sin is. People were just as shocked at his innovations—a physical God? new scripture?—as you are with the idea of gay marriage being acceptable to God.
Mirror, it seems to me that you are conflating many things.
First whether 19th century Americans would judge polygamy just as radical as SSM seems a separate issue from whether one entails the other. Just because others would judge them of the same value doesn’t mean Joseph would. But you seem to make an even odder leap of logic which seems to say that because they were socially equally repellant at the same time that it follows Joseph *did* embrace SSM.
Second as many theological liberals and feminists point out, the Church *doesn’t* merely have one man one woman. Sealings are the same as they were for Joseph. Now perhaps that might change but thus far it hasn’t. The issue of excommunication is much more complex than you thus assert. Certainly you’re drawing theological implications that just aren’t warranted. Now liberals and feminists want to get rid of the theology entirely and end multiple sealings entirely. (I don’t think they’ve thought through the implications of this though practically with regards to who you are married to in the next life if you remarry) I do think Mormon theology of sealings has many problems. While I’ve no idea what the doctrine would turn out to be I certainly would have no problem with sealing a woman to multiple husbands. However thus far there’s no revelation justifying that which is why it isn’t done. It’s fine to think up theologies but there has to be something that grounds them as true epistemologically.
Now perhaps you’re not making a theological argument at all but merely the socially pluralistic one. i.e. that controversial marriages shouldn’t be persecuted. If so, I’d agree if the state gets out of the marriage business entirely. If you recall that was an issue for Joseph and he didn’t think someone should need civil authority to marry at all. Once you accept that the state is involved then I think things get complex fast, regardless of our personal views on social pluralism.
If on the other hand you are making the theological argument of how Joseph viewed marriage and think he accept theologically the idea of SSM you must have something to point to in Joseph Smith. Merely being radical for the times isn’t really an argument.
I testify of marriage between man and woman because I actually have seen heaven and have seen the relationships there. I testify before God and his angels that man and woman were created to be together and only man and woman will be found together in close sensual relationships in eternity. Man was not created, in any circumstance, to be sexually intimate with his his own gender let alone be married to him. The greatest abomination this earth has ever seen is SSM as a legally binding agreement which allows them to believe it carries godlike status in raising children, being part of community, etc. I dont know how to say this other than to be rather blunt- God will destroy thus gross abomination off the face if this earth even so by fire to tjose who do not repent. I testify and warn of this as witness before God and his angels.
In order to provide an alternative to your experience, please check out this link:
I think the meetings you had are great and I am glad they are happening. But, why are these meetings happening AFTER this policy was rolled out? Couldn’t a better policy have been conceived after collaboration with those who were going to be most effected by the edict? The church’s relatively recent history on important issues like this seems to be one of either “ready, fire, aim” or one of tremendous (over) confidence that the voice they are hearing is the voice of God rather than their own deeply held biases. I would love to see more humility in those who are supposed to be representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Rob, really? “The greatest abomination on this earth…” So… gay marriage is worse than genocide, slavery, child abuse, war? Wow. If that’s how your God operates, I’m pretty sure I have zero interest in worshipping him.
There are no homosexual relationships in heaven.
SSM is the geatest abomination because of the disease it creates in society by destroying families. It also is the exact opposite and pure mockery towards God of why he created us. The continuation of the seeds stops in SSM- Gods work abruptly stops with SSM.
Rob, while I think it fair to say the church characterizes it as a sin, I’m far from convinced it’s the greatest threat from families. I think alcohol for instance has a far more devastating effect. I also think the lack of good jobs for those in the lower class affects families far more. I could list many more things far worse – war being an obvious one.
I should also say again that I have constantly amazed by those dealing with these issues, the persecution, and remain faithful in the church. I don’t know if I’d have the faith to do so. I just can’t see a good resolution that’s possible given the ontological commitments the Church seems to embrace regarding premortal gender and dealings. But I think we should all recognize the difficulty of the situation people are in even if we can’t change the issues of what is or isn’t fornication. (And we should also remember that many members of the church have fornicated – yet we often treat gay people who do differently from heterosexual members who do)
Aaron T – I think it’s fair to say that the policy came from the very top, and that it came without a lot of advance notice or vetting.
That is my assumption, but why was there not further vetting or deliberation with those that who would be effected or those who could speak for those who would be effected? Is the very top above that type of input? That lack of consultation, vigorous discussion and especially earnest seeking (or lack of hearing) with God in prayer about the possible implications is just as disconcerting as the policy itself.
How exactly has Rob Osborn seen heaven? Please elaborate.
“united with the teachings of the contemporary world, taking a public, politically expedient, and popular stance”
Aside from being a public stance, I think the remainder is the exact opposite; the church’s stance is opposed to the now majority, politically expedient, and popular view – in direct opposition to the current trend and teachings of the contemporary world.
John Gustav-Wrathall, thank you very much for your considered post.
I read Times and Seasons and the responses to the articles all the time, but have never posted here before. I post now to express amazement and sadness at the anger and vitriol that is being poured out by some here. (Moderator?)
In my own ward, the recent policy change is having a serious impact on many individuals for a variety of reasons. I am struggling (without much success so far) to understand it. I am a heterosexual man with a wife and two children and very active in the Church. I also have many close friendships with homosexual men and women, some of whom live in very loving and stable relationships. A few of these couples have children. They are simply confused by my membership in the Church in light of the recent changes. I am confused too.
I don’t expect to see the Church allowing temple sealing for gay couples, but I can see the potential and the need for a lot of change in policies and attitudes. I live in British Columbia, Canada, where same sex marriage has been legal since 2003. It is commonplace for me to meet gay married couples and not unusual at all for those couples to have children. The LDS population here is tiny with 2 stakes in a metro area of 2.5 million people. That makes the population of faithful LDS people much smaller than that of the gay population and smaller even than the population of gay people who are married. Would the recent policy decisions and implementation of those policies have been the same if they were written by people who grew up in this environment? I seriously doubt it.
The gay people I know view our Church as That Weird American Church that Hates Them. The recent policy change and the resulting media storm simply reinforces that perception, as do the sorts of comments we see from certain people here. That is the essence of the problem. Attitudes must and policies can change without altering basic doctrines.
If I were gay, I don’t think I would have the faith to stay under these circumstances and I have tremendous admiration for those like John who decide that they still want to engage despite excommunication and other challenges. My teenage children have already abandoned the church because they see it is a backward organization with a history of blatant racism and, now, an ever-widening homophobic streak. Several people in my ward are on the verge of making similar decisions. I stay because my testimony is based on some experiences and feelings which I can’t deny. Church service brings me a lot of happiness and a closeness with Christ that I would not want to lose. I am holding on and hoping for both change and understanding.
I too would like to know how exactly Rob Osborn saw heaven. Can anyone just say they saw something and then claim themselves as an authority? Maybe I should just say that I’ve seen heaven and that there were same-sex couples there. Heck, I’ll just say that I’ve talked with God and he said he’s cool with gay marriage.
It is one thing to go on homophobic rants, but it is another thing to say that the LDS church has not thrown stones at the LGBTQ+ community. Let’s not deny the obvious, Rob. You seem to be an expert at doing that. Church leaders can’t even bring themselves to recognize the fact that LGBTQ+ is an actual sexual orientation. To them it is merely an attraction and temptation.
add Joseph Smith to the list of radical thinkers who tried to change the world and Christianity’s notion of what sin is. People were just as shocked at his innovations—a physical God? new scripture?—as you are with the idea of gay marriage being acceptable to God.
Joseph Smith was a prophet called by God, and was authorized to teach new things. How wonderful is God and revelation! But who is the prophet authorized to teach that homosexual sex is not sin? I think this notion, that homosexual sex is not sin, comes from an unauthorized source. Accordingly, and correctly in my mind, the church continues to teach that homosexual sex is sin.
I understand the decriminalizing of homosexual sex between consenting adults as a matter of public policy. But here, I’m not considering public policy. A nation’s decision to change its laws cannot force a change in God’s laws. I’m okay with some differences between a nation’s laws and a church’s concept of sin.
Even so, our God invites all men and women to come unto Him and keep His commandments. That is a wonderful and inclusive invitation.
Aaron (74) It’s interesting that we have some moves by the Church trying to build common ground and get rid of a lot of very regrettable views and actions over the 20th century. I don’t think they really can back off the sin bit. But these recent actions seem, as you noted, somewhat unvetted and at odds with what other actions the Church seemed to be trying to emphasize. It may suggest some disagreement among the brethren on these issues and how to respond.
Jared (77) I think part of the issue is that there is rapid social change on this issue. I can’t think of a period of more rapid social change other than the late 60’s. It takes a while for people to adapt and society to reach new equilibriums. BC (at least coastal BC) is much more liberal than even most of the rest of Canada and so it adopted these things some decades earlier. I think these changes were more or less inevitable socially, which was why I was somewhat surprised with the whole Prop-8 movement. Even if inspired, the Church and members seemed surprisingly naive about the backlash.
I think you children (and I’m so sorry this happened) are likely an experience that will repeat elsewhere in Canada, Europe and the United States. Things are somewhat different in the United States in that even liberal areas are rather conservative in many ways. Change is happening but much later than Canada or Europe. Likewise there are big regional differences with the coastal areas and some metro areas of the US having much different views than the rest. (Which, by population probably makes them the majority, not the so called red states) Throw in age and it’s hard to adapt.
It’s not surprising the young who simply don’t recall even the recent past, have a hard time understanding those who aren’t in the new social order. Or having much sympathy to them. There are some big cultural clashes because of that much as there are regional clashes where you have two cultures that don’t understand one another. That’s going to be very hard for the Church to deal with.
Brad (78) Church leaders can’t even bring themselves to recognize the fact that LGBTQ+ is an actual sexual orientation. To them it is merely an attraction and temptation.
I don’t quite understand the opposition you set up here Brad. Why would any orientation that they see leading to sin not be a kind of temptation. Why is sexual attraction somehow different from all the other types of biologically informed attractions I face. (Which frankly is all of them given the place of the brain)
I recognize that there is a desire to separate sexuality from our overall biology and make it somehow different. I confess I just don’t understand how this can be grounded. To my eyes there’s a broad ranges of sexual orientations yet some of them involves specific types of attractions and temptations others might not face. I’m not sure that means a whole lot. I’m sure each of us as orientations and temptations others don’t.
Don’t get me wrong. I fully understand trying to create a space for sexual expression unencumbered by social stigmas. There are practical reasons for this. It just strikes me that critics of religion, especially conservative Christian religions, often criticize them for treating sexuality as special. (Thus they somewhat justifiably see a fixation on sex to the detriment of charity and other spheres) Yet here it seems the same move is made, only with the treatment being different. It’s a special sphere only now somehow exempt from moral claims rather than being subject to undue fixation of moral claims.
“And we should also remember that many members of the church have fornicated – yet we often treat gay people who do differently from heterosexual members who do.”
I believe it is because heterosexual fornication is understood by the majority, that a couple can repent of heterosexual fornication, marry, and after a time marry in the temple. In essence, the relationship can be normalized and later solemnized. That is not true with any homosexual relationship.
The only option for salvation and exaltation open for a participant in a homosexual relationship is to destroy the relationship.
If I am correct, the Apostles Richard G. Scott, Russell M. Nelson along with Melvin J. Ballard,have said theirs is a mission of knowledge whereas ours is a mission of faith–that’s the difference. They have seen Jesus Christ. For those who have and can see Him, I would think on a matter so divisive and tumultuous as SSM, that they would ask Him for direction and He would give it. Personally, I don’t believe they haven’t asked and haven’t received. I believe they genuinely love and care for all God’s children and if there were away SSM could fit in with the gospel plan, with direction from God, it would happen. It cannot fit in. If everyone lived in a SSM, none of us would be here. If straight couples were the ones fighting for the right to marry, populating this world would take forever. SS couples who have children got them because sperm and egg came together from two opposite sex people–and that can’t be changed.
Until two SS people can produce a child together, I don’t see the church or God changing doctrine on this one. It is also true that children benefit from having two different sexes as parents. The experience of dad is different than with mom–and that’s a good thing. I don’t believe our church leaders hate anyone and don’t want them included with us. If they could make a change, they would. In the meetings the LGBT Mormons have with the church leaders, do they ask, “Please pray for Christ to appear and tell you what His will is–and when He has, please come back and tell us what He said. And that means either we, or the church changes but whatever Christ says will be the answer. And we and the church will accept what He says.” He will not tell one side one thing and other side something else. He is of one mind.
Old Man, frankly that’s not true of a lot of fornication too except at a very broad level of abstraction. You are right though that the church doctrine is that a homosexual relationship can’t be non-sinful. Thus to repent of the sin the Church would demand an end to the relationship.
Mez, I’ve never seen anything claiming they had seen Christ. They may have. I don’t know. I just haven’t seen anything suggesting it.
The issue of producing children seems beside the point. Especially given contemporary biological technology.
Mez, maybe we should have all heterosexual couples submit to fertility testing before they’re allowed to marry. And what about those who marry when they’re past child bearing age? Should we deny marriage privileges to them as well? I doubt that Elders Oaks and Nelson were intending to have more children with their second wives.
Clark, look at the context within which I made the comment. In comment 58, Rob Osborn suggested that the LDS church is not throwing stones at the LGBTQ+ community. Of course the church leaders are. There are plenty of examples of this (Boyd K. Packer’s 2010 talk in which he said, “some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so. Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember, he is our Father.”) LGBTQ+ is an actual sexual orientation. It is not just some psychological condition. By treating same-sex romantic attraction in and of itself as a temptation, and opposite-sex romantic attraction as not, you are treating LGBTQ+ as inferior. And that is exactly what the LDS leaders do.
Nonsense. The LDS church leaders hate gay people who are in same-sex relationships. Please stop saying that they don’t. And you clearly hate them too, mez.
Brad L., my oldest son smokes. It makes me sad that he smokes. When he comes to visit, we ask him to go outside if he needs a cigarette. In spite of the fact that he smokes, I love him dearly and hope only for happiness and joy in his life. The fact that I do not allow him to smoke in my house does not mean I hate him; I have to protect my other children and myself from second-hand smoke.
I believe it is possible our leaders love everyone even if they make policies that they feel are necessary for protection of others. If you want, let’s discuss the merits of the new policy and whether or not it is actually needed “to protect the children” as they claim. (I don’t personally buy it.). But let’s please be charitable to each other and not claim to know who is or is not motivated by love or hate.
And for the record, I hate, HATE, the new policy. I have discussed with my bishop how offensive I find it and have raised my dissent in Priesthood meeting when the instructor started in on the topic. I pray that the leaders change the policy and change it soon.
MTodd, look, you aren’t excluding your son from your house or the family because he smokes. So I have no reason to believe that you don’t love him. The LDS church leaders clearly have an irrational fear of openly gay people in romantic relationships to the extent that they will not let their children be baptized not only until they are legal adults, but only on the condition that they openly denounce the romantic relationship of one or both of their parents. Let’s call a spade a spade. They hate them.
Brad, i’ll ignore your last two sentences because they assume you know our leaders’ emotions again. I think you are correct that many of the General Leaders are afraid, but I don’t think it’s a fear of same-sex married couples. I think they are concerned that a virtual vigilante mob will come with pitchforks demanding that they give same-sex married couples the same sacraments (including celestial marriage) as hetero couples. This is what I believe they’re trying to avoid at all costs. But I can’t say for certain because they haven’t invited me to their council meetings or asked my opinion. (I wished they would; I would give them an earful.)
M Todd, I think you’re right that we cannot judge the motivations of other people, just the effects. People, after all, can easily delude themselves into doing the wrong thing for what they think is the right reasons. As a gay person who is also an active, temple recommend-holding Latter-day Saint, here’s what I can say.
First, I can say it’s stupid I should feel the need to even give credentials, since I don’t think the fact that a person can go to the temple or have an official calling has anything to do with anything, but as other comments have made clear, some people find us gays so foreign they cannot even conceive of us as important participants in our congregations and question even the possibility, looking for every opportunity to dismiss us.
Second, I can say that there is a reason I don’t tell any ward members, including leadership, that I am gay, and it is not because I feel loved. I cannot say what my leaders are truly thinking, but I can say how their actions make me feel. And I feel hated. I have Sundays where I become so hurt by what people are saying that I have to leave for a few minutes, or sometimes the rest of church, to keep from crying.
Even the terminology is hurtful. I don’t “struggle with same-gender attraction,” as if it is some plague I am forced to suffer through. I don’t have leprosy. I’m gay. If it’s love being expressed, then why do even the rare, seemingly-caring messages being offered sound more like pity? Go read Brother Jeffrey Holland’s talk from this last General Conference and honestly tell me he doesn’t make being gay sound like being a second-class citizen that requires so, so much extra effort from everyone else in order to save them. The hero of his story is the mother, not the gay child. Brother Jeffrey makes it sound like the boy has been possessed by a demon and the mother had to endure an experience akin to what happens in The Exorcist. That does not feel like love. It feels like hate.
In the end, I don’t think it matters what the motivations of the apostles and seventies and general auxiliary presidencies and stake presidents and bishops and general members are, because of the clear effects. If they DID hate us, there is nothing more hurtful that they could say than what they have already said: that our children are unworthy to be members of our church because of the harm we or they might do to other children. That marriage is one of the most beautiful, important things in the whole world, unless it is us getting married to the kind of person we want to get married to, in which case it is apostasy that mandates a church court being held to determine our status as members. That the best we can ever hope for is to “suffer”.
If all of this is being done out of love, it only means church leaders are all the more blind, since they are unable to see these effects. Love and hate are what you do, not just how you feel.
I have been able to reconcile my religion with the rest of me. I know the experience is far worse for all those who are like me, but who can’t stay in the church.
I think the problem is that the Church and its scripture see homosexual sex as sin as a matter of doctrine, and many posters here think the church errs in holding that doctrine. That is the only real question. If we can resolve this issue, then everything else discussed here will fall into place. Being drawn into other discussions, such as true love, made that way, and so forth is a distraction (and sophistry?) to avoid the real question. For me, I’m not ready to discuss whether sexual marriages should be recognized by the church until after we have clearly established that homosexual sex is not sin anymore. As long as it is sin, then it seems the church cannot recognize it.
A commenter declared above that homosexual sex is not sin; however, he or she did not cite provide any authority (prophets, scripture, revelation) to establish the claim. I think the church is right in its doctrine, as the prophets, scripture, and revelation available to me seem to be unanimous in affirming that homosexual sex is sin, and always has been.
Ji, with all due respect, there’s a lot more to it than that. There are plenty of other things church leaders recognize as sin, but there are only two—polygamy and gay marriage, that prohibit an 8-year-old child, who had nothing to do with those decisions, from entering into a covenant with God and receiving the official bestowal of the gift of the Holy Ghost. That needs to be addressed. Also, those other questions about true love, genetic predispositions, or whatever else, have very real impact, too, such as whether electroshock therapy is ever appropriate, or whether gay individuals should marry heterosexual spouses in an attempt to “cure” them. All the sophistry is coming from you, wanting to put off discussion, not from gay rights proponents.
I could imagine a theology/truth where homosexual sex is a sin, and yet that with a grander and broader view than we can currently see will give meaning/place/purpose to homosexual attraction without having to view those with it as needing pity or seen as second class citizens, etc.
mirrorrorrim, I wished I were authorized to apologize for all the clueless people at church (every ward has them) who make insensitive remarks. I am sorry that church members are often thoughtless. And I will continue to point out and correct such unkind and incorrect comments when they happen in my ward or stake.
With regard to Brother Jeff’s talk, I choose to read him charitably. His talk was valorizing mothers, so it’s not surprising that the mother was the hero in the story. I don’t think he makes being gay sound like second class citizenship or something in need of an exorcism. I am also heartened by the fact that he said from the pulpit of General Conference that the son’s sexual orientation didn’t change and especially that no one expected it would. 20 years ago such a statement would never have happened. I do wish his talk had ended with the son still gay, still not going to church, and the mother still loving him.
MTodd, I’ll ignore the rest of your posts. Suffice it to say that you clearly don’t understand what hate is.
Like many other words these days, it seems like each side defines “hate” differently. Using the dictionary definition of “intense hostility” or “extreme dislike”, I doubt very much that the Q12 and First Presidency and other general authorities actually HATE gays regardless of their status with the church. Would any of them have met with the author of this post if they did? Would they sanction the mormonsandgays website? Would they have supported efforts for gay rights in Utah? It seems that hate, as it is formally defined, is a poor way to describe how church leaders feel about LGBT.
Using that definition, is “hate” also a poor way to describe how some LGBT feel about the church? Or a fair way?
MTodd, do you think there’s any way to see the actions as sin without it being hateful? Earnest question because I think the church and members are torn between wanting to be loving to all while also treating it the way they see the scriptures demanding.
As others noted I think we have to distinguish between motives and how peoples actions make others feel. My sense is that unless homosexual activities are fully normalized and accepted that many will consider anything less than that hateful.
It is because activists have chosen to use the words “phobia” and “hate” to malign those who disagree with their agendas. Such a practice does limit opportunities for understanding and compromise. “Hate” obviously is not an accurate description of the thoughts and feelings of church leaders, some of whom have gay friends, siblings or progeny.
You desperately cling to the myopic notion that LDS church leaders “clearly have an irrational fear of openly gay people in romantic relationships to the extent that they will not let their children be baptized not only until they are legal adults”? There are multiple possible reasons for such a decisions, some of which have been disclosed by church leaders and others discussed across the web. No, they are not irrational, unless you wish to promote the idea that religious values are irrational. And it is entirely possible for someone to limit or curtail a person’s religious participation out of concern for long-term effects. And it would not be motivated by hate. Unless, as several have noted, you have altered the definition of the word.
ABM and Old Man, either MTodd is right that we cannot judge the motivations of church leaders, or M Todd is wrong, and we can. But if MTodd is right, and we cannot say church leaders are motivated by hate, then we also cannot say they are not motivated by hate. We simply do not know. As Latter-day Saints, we are taught in all four of our canonized scriptures, as well as by our current prophet, not to judge other people. That means not ascribing evil intentions to them, but it also just as much means not ascribing pure ones, either.
Please do not judge our leaders by saying they have pure intentions. It is not fair to them. Or, if you insist on judging them, please provide more information on how God has given you a special discernment to judge the motivations of everyone around you on behalf of the rest of the world. As you do, you will probably want to call for a sustaining to recognize you as a new prophet of our church, since that is essentially what you will be claiming. The performance of miracles may also be appropriate to reinforce your claim.
Ji, the same is true for gays and transgender people: you have no idea what is in any of our hearts.
As far as actions go, banning our children from ordinances including for remission of sins and to receive the Holy Ghost is as strong a sign of intense hostility as I can think of. And as Brad L says, such an action not only conveys a message of hate, but is also irrational.
Clark G., I think as church members we should love the sinner. Period. The only time we should hate the sin is when it is within ourselves.
MTodd, but again what does that mean in practice and will the person in question feel your motives?
Mirrorrorrim, it seems undeniable that the brethren see gay marriage as a threat and attempting to normalize it within the church as a threat equal to polygamist apostate groups.
I think not judging other people means ascribing pure or at least good, honest intentions unless proven otherwise…. also known as giving another person the benefit of the doubt. A Christ-like attitude doesn’t assume the worst about other people’s motivations; it tends to assume that the other person is at least being sincere. When viewed with any charity, one should describe the church’s motivations at least as Clark Goble has in #103. The church views the normalization of same sex marriage as a threat to the organization on par with polygamist groups. Defending these long established doctrines might be wrong, but I don’t think that is the same thing as hate.
Couple the new policy with the church’s other efforts in 2015 and the message seems to take shape: Concede gay marriage as the law of the land and support many of the gay rights laws but maintain the standards within our own community.
The bottom line as I see it is that all people, gay or straight, must accept Christ. And you can’t legitimately say you have accepted Christ without accepting and conforming your life as best you can to the commandments of God. Gay or straight, all people need to live according to the sexual morality that he defined in order to receive the highest blessings.
Love is not finding ways to make somebody feel safe and comfortable in continuing on the path of sin, or misleading them into thinking they are on the right path when they are not. Love is reaching out with concern for their eternal well being and helping them reach a point where they will change and give up their sin, even if that change is painful.
The Mormon LGBT community would do well to accept as a fact that the church is never going to see gay marriage or gay relationships as being morally acceptable, no matter what social/personal good or emotional satisfaction may result from it. None of that changes the laws of morality. I appreciate that it is a harsh and difficult situation to be in, but the question for everybody comes down to do you love God most or not? If the answer is yes, then you will have to do without some things that may be hard to give up.
JGW – Thank you for this thought-provoking post. As a gay guy at church, I’m learning the virtue of patience – the waiting on God and the waiting on God’s servants. It’s a struggle for me, because I’m not a very patient person by nature, and because some of the dimensions of waiting include contemplation and service. So I find myself at church feeling a lot like mirrororrim and like John Gustav-Wrathell. For the most part, I keep my own counsel. Because of my excommunication, my participation amounts to little more than cleaning the chapel, singing in the choir, and feeding the missionaries – and I’m grateful for those opportunities.
I think mirrororrim has chosen the harder path, because he cannot entertain a close, loving physical relationship with a person he may desire. I couldn’t do that, and I married my husband two years ago. We have been together for 33 years. I do not comprehend my gay orientation as being a moral flaw anymore than I would say that a heterosexual orientation is a moral flaw. They simply exist in us as human beings.
If you talk to lesbians, gay men, transgendered people and ask them about their stories as members in the LDS church, virtually all of them will tell you about countless hours on their knees in prayer hoping to escape their “affliction” as my bishop called it. Many of us tried to be pure as pure can be. And most of us failed that purity test. Some of us attempted or committed suicide. Many of us left the LDS church. Some of us married a member of the other sex. Many of those marriages ended in divorce leaving broken lives, broken hearts, and broken families in the wreckage.
My ward accepts me pretty well. They comforted me when the handbook change came to light. I appreciate their love and their concern about my place in their ward and in the LDS church. There is an answer in all this for me: God loves me regardless of my station, my sex, my orientation, or my sin. When I don’t have the patience or the love or the strength to continue with the LDS church, Jesus offers me the gift of his grace. The LDS church may be too small for LGBT members, but the Body of Christ, the grace of Jesus Christ holds me dear, and brings me back to the pews on Sunday.
I dissent from the church’s policy outlined in the handbook. I pray for a revelation to the church. I think it’s time to reexamine a policy position that in its practice forces LGBT people to forsake love, and after experiencing that emotional damage, ultimately causes them to leave their spiritual hope.
Clark G., as individuals to “love the sinner. Period.” implies treating everyone the same whether they are straight, LGBT, whatever. In our house, “love the sinner. Period.” means we are just as quick to invite over our gay friends as we are our straight ones. My children look forward to visiting with our gay friends, especially those that come and stay with us regularly for days at a time.
As an institution, I think “love the sinner. Period.” starts with doing away with the policies implemented two months ago today. (Lumping SSM in the same category as murder, rape, and sexual abuse? Come on.) Even if the leaders had mostly good intentions in making this policy shift, it doesn’t change the fact that the policy is awful.
John – thanks for your comment. It sounds like we’re in a very similar situation. I’d love to chat sometime if you’re so inclined. You can find my email through the Affirmation web site.
MTodd, but if they don’t think gay marriage is the same as regular marriage (and they clearly don’t) then how can they treat it as the same? One might disagree with the recent policy change equating SSM with polygamy yet still see that there are differences at play.
To add I think even acknowledging that there are differences, that clearly many (most?) don’t treat people with enough love. I’m just trying to get out how in practice to balance disagreement over practices, not recognizing practices with the idea of treating the same. To me treating the same implies we can’t disagree over practices. As soon as someone is doing something I feel is wrong then regarding that act I treat them differently. I’m not sure we can get around that. The question is then not whether we treat people differently. For instance people fornicating aren’t allowed to take the sacrament – if they don’t stop they are disfellowshipped or excommunicated and their ability to do many things within the community restricted. It seems to me the real question is what differences are appropriate and which are inappropriate.
I suspect we’d all here agree on a lot that’s inappropriate. But it’s just not clear to me where you see the line should be. Even if the Church walked back the recent policy changes, I suspect you would still see much of Church practice as inappropriate. I’m curious as to where. (Honestly not trying to be argumentative here – I really am curious as where you see the limits)
Let’s focus on the policy for a second. Say my wife and I get divorced and I maintain primary custody of the kids, but I’ve become an apostate in every sense of the word. (I’m preaching that the LDS church has gone astray; I start my own church where I’m baptizing people who agree with me that the Word of Wisdom requires us to Dr. Pepper; all the really bad stuff.) Because of this, I’m ex’d. In this scenario, my children are allowed (assuming I consent) to get baptized into the LDS church, in spite of my apostate status.
If, however, the situation is slightly different–my wife and I divorce, I have primary custody, but this time, instead of preaching the religion of Dr. Pepper I get married to another man–my children are not allowed to get baptized until they turn 18.
If we’re talking about treating everyone more equally, we could at least start by treating all apostates the same. Once we get that balance restored then we can debate whether or not everyone who enters into a same-sex marriage is necessarily always an apostate.
Clark said (#110) “As soon as someone is doing something I feel is wrong then regarding that act I treat them differently”
We all do that to some extent. But doesn’t the parable of the Good Samaritan call on us to not look on the uncleanness of our brothers and sisters, but instead look to heal their wounds, to treat them like brothers and sisters
Lastly, I realize I’m not answering your question directly. Yes I do think the Church should figure out how to be more accommodating to LGBT members. How, I’m not exactly sure, but we do it all the time (think divorce, surgical sterilization, according to my grandfather blue shirts passing the sacrament). I don’t understand why we are so stubborn with regard to this sin.
Marc, thoughts on Nelson’s talk?
Aaron, thanks for posting the link. It ruined my afternoon, but I’m glad to be informed. I felt better after writing down my testimony.