Elder Holland Breaks Silence on LDS Same-Sex Attraction

usga holland

General Conference weekend has always been a favorite of mine; when else can you attend church in your pajamas in your own living room? It’s a feast for the spirit to go along with my family’s traditional Conference waffle breakfast.

One of the most relevant talks to LGBTQ/SSA issues, and to me personally, was Elder Holland’s talk “Behold Thy Mother” in the Saturday afternoon session. In it Elder Holland told the story of a young man who was same-sex attracted and the challenges he and his family faced, particularly his mother.

He clarified some very important points about homosexuality that bear repeating:

  1. Sexual Orientation is NOT voluntarily mutable.

“And, I must say, this son’s sexual orientation did not somehow miraculously change—no one assumed it would.”

  1. People with same-sex attraction CAN work with youth.

“He again obtained a temple recommend and accepted a call to serve as an early-morning seminary teacher, where he was wonderfully successful.”

  1. It’s OK to speak about one’s sexual orientation with others.

“But with the grace of God, her own tenacity, and the help of scores of Church leaders, friends, family members, and professionals, this importuning mother has seen her son come home to the promised land.”

To hear such words from an apostle over the pulpit is HUGE! Many church members and even leaders still have misconceptions about same-sex attraction, and Elder Holland’s talk may finally put some of this misinformation to rest.

In the talk, the young man eventually decided to come back to Church, but Elder Holland clarifies that this is not always the case: “Sadly we acknowledge that such a blessing does not, or at least has not yet, come to all parents who anguish over a wide variety of their children’s circumstances, but here there was hope.” No loving mother or father should feel they failed their child, regardless of how the child chooses to respond to his or her sexuality.

Of course, Elder Holland’s time was limited, and he didn’t get to all the pressing issues involving members who are LGBTQ/SSA. I hope that everyone who heard the talk can also consider the following points.

First of all, it sounds like this man wanted to return to the mission field, and I applaud him for succeeding in his goal. However, this may not work for everyone. Some may never be able to go on a mission for mental health reasons or sincere questions of faith. There shouldn’t be any shame in our culture for those who do not serve a mission for such reasons, or for those who return early and are not able to go back.

Next, Elder Holland’s story ends when the man is 25, happily back on his mission. But life goes on past 25. When the man comes back, he’ll still be Mormon, and he’ll still be gay. There will still be the challenge of marriage, of being single for life, of fitting in to a Church that doesn’t usually understand you. Like Job, the pain may compound with the years. He may marry a woman, or perhaps decide to leave the church when he gets back and pursue a relationship with a man. He may decide to return to church years later. Or he may never return. We like happy endings with all the loose ends tied up, but life is complicated, and decisions and life paths change. We need to love our brothers and sisters regardless of what path they take. We show love because we love unconditionally, not to influence someone to make the choices we want, no matter how righteous our intent. We respect agency too much for that.

The newly called apostle Elder Rasband also spoke on the need for unconditional love on his Facebook page: “Some of you wrote of the conflict that you’ve felt in showing #Fairness4All, especially with individuals who see life differently from you. You expressed worry that such friendships might betray your beliefs. I want to reiterate that the Savior is the perfect example of reaching out in love and support. His interest in others was always motivated by a pure love for them. Sometimes we approach relationships with the intent to change the other person. We follow our Savior best when we base our relationships on principles of love.

“Others posted comments about the struggle they experience in trying to understand and love family members who are gay. I commend you for seeking to follow the Savior’s example and pray for His love and understanding. You will be blessed in your efforts to treat your family members with fairness and kindness.”

Finally, Elder Holland is making use of “the suffering homosexual” theme. I can attest that this is real. I went through dark times that certainly resonated with Elder Holland’s story. But this time of suffering is temporary for most LGBTQ/SSA Mormons, and eventually we find a way to incorporate our sexuality or gender into our identity and find happiness. Different people find different ways to do this; some leave the church and find a same-sex spouse, some make peace with being single, while others can make a mixed-orientation marriage work. But to stay in a state of perpetual spiritual torment most often leads to suicide. It DOES get better, but it looks different for each person. The problem arises when we try to force ourselves into a life path that doesn’t fit.

Elder Holland’s talk was a sign to me, at least, that the heavens are indeed open, and that our leaders are inspired. I am often frustrated when changes do not occur as quickly as I want them to, but I cannot deny that they are happening. Such open dialogue, such candor would have been impossible only a few decades ago. I am grateful that, however far we still have to go, the lives of LGBTQ/SSA Mormons are improving, and I’m grateful to be a part of the changes that begin to come forth.

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6 thoughts on “Elder Holland Breaks Silence on LDS Same-Sex Attraction

  1. Thank you for putting all this information in one place. This is real and families are being hurt by their loved one thinking it is better to not be part of an eternal family. I believe those who follow the apostle or the Lord’s voice to love and accept others are on their way to salvation. I also believe I have been carefully schooled by my loving Heavenly Father. As a student at BYU, I know I would have been kind to everyone, but now as a mother, I have deep compassion and love for this group of people. Everyone single one of the gay population I have personally met are unusually valiant. They have spent hours trying to pray it away. I find them to have a deeper love for their fellow men. Something I thought would be so hard to accept as a gay child has given me the opportunity to prove myself faithful in following the brethren. Not easy, but so easy.

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  2. I appreciated and really respect your comments. May I please make one comment and please don’t consider it a correction or criticism. It is simply something I hear and read all the time that I find very misleading, especially to those not of the faith and those members who are new or struggling to understand the church.

    Your comment about ‘fitting in to a church that doesn’t usually understand you’ is understandable yet misleading. It is not the church as an institution guided by inspired direction or it’s leaders that misunderstand. I believe you mean to say there are individual members of the church and, yes, even local priesthood leaders who lack understanding. They (and we) are imperfect. It is the Lord’s own plan that we, including Bishops and others, learn by experience and ‘practice’ on one another. We all do it all the time. For me it is a difficult pill to swallow but I understand it.

    We once lived in Utah and lived next door to our Bishop. One of his sons raped my daughter. Unbelievably, his comment on the whole thing was “Boys will be boys”. A lot of people would have left the church. I understood the difference. Of course the church does not teach that this is ok or normal. That Bishop was far from ‘understanding’ and way out of line. Yet I was able to distinguish between him as a flawed man and the beautiful teachings of the church and it’s true head, the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Leaving the church would only hurt me and my family. He is the one with the problem. In a coming day he and his son will probably shed tears and beg my daughter’s forgiveness.

    The problem we have in this life is that we don’t like the Lord’s timetable. We want everything made right and just NOW like on a television drama with everything neatly and quickly sewn up within an hour’s time. Life doesn’t work that way.

    The same with ssa. I have heard one church leader say no one is born ‘that way’. I think that is both right and wrong. I don’t think the Lord makes us ‘that way’ any more than he makes us to be born with autism. I believe things like this are caused by things that affect the developing fetus that we still have no clue about. We live in a fallen state in a very imperfect world. The problems we are born with could be caused by something genetic, biologically wrong with the mother, something she ate or drank, fluoride in the water, being bombarded radiologically from space satellites, living under power lines, etc. We just don’t know yet.

    The Lord does not cause any of these problems but he allows us to be subjected to them in this laboratory of life.

    Thank you for your article.

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  3. If there is a student who needs a place to stay over the semester break, please contact me at nelsonmelby at yahoo.com

    I will find a home for that student. I don’t live in Provo, but have friends who do.

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  4. Thank you for sharing your feelings. I have often thought that it would be painful to be a Latter-day Saint with a testimony and not be heterosexual. I cannot imagine.

    I do wonder though what changes would be required to make LGTBQ people more comfortable. Let them come how they are? In truth anyone can come. The published policy can be read in a very hurtful light, but that’s how policies are. This policy doesn’t change the open doors for most church activities. So it’s got to be more than that. On the other end of the spectrum is temple sealing. It’s exclusive. There are multiple steps to complete before you get there. You know them. For most Latter-day Saint members that is the ultimate ordinance of salvation. Is the hope that this will change to be more inclusive? How does that change current doctrine? How would that change strengthen or weaken the church?

    Does membership in a church that finds a commandment to create an eternal relationship in the story of Adam and Eve cause conflict for a person who cannot find joy in that type of relationship?

    I don’t come from a position of hate. I really am sad. I’m sad about the new policies. I’m sad about the veil we live behind. I love life, but I recognize that the hopes and dreams of faithful LGTBQ people come with pain when they’re confronted with reality.

    I fear that if I post these on social media the questions I will be flamed and I understand that. I value my friends who are gay and who advocate for LGTBQ community in the church. I don’t want to lose their friendships. I really want to understand their vision. You’ve shared an important part of your vision. I want to learn how to combine it with my vision. Thanks.

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