That The Mormon-Gay War Might End

PLEASE NOTE: USGA seeks to create a respectful dialogue that encompasses multiple view points on the topics of faith and sexuality. The views and opinions of the following article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect USGA’s official policy or position.

I served a mission in Uruguay, and every time I remember all the hours of tracting we did, my feet still give a sympathetic throb. The worst part was speaking to people that simply did not want to hear our message of the Restored Gospel. I would try to say it as plainly as possible, or testify with all the spiritual force I had. How could people be so apathetic about a living prophet? How could they not understand how critical this message was for their lives, for their relationship with God? When my mission came to a close, I was relieved that I would never have to tract again. But of course, missionary work never really ends.

When I came back home and came to terms with being gay, I discovered a whole new subculture of Mormons who were working to make a safe space in the Church for LGBTQ members. Their primary goal was not to change the doctrine, but merely to help other members be more understanding and empathetic towards their queer brothers and sisters. I jumped into this cause whole-heartedly, recognizing it as the Lord’s work.

And so I wound up in a kitchen one Sunday night with two other straight USGA members talking to a BYU student who would not budge on his rather outdated views. For him, the Brethren had identified everything gay-related as sin, and that should be the end of the discussion.

We tried explaining that sexual orientation was not changeable, and even cited mormonsandgays.org and Elder Holland’s recent talk that said as much. But he was convinced that through the Atonement of Christ, sexual orientation had to be changeable. We tried an empathy exercise, asking him what it would be like if the prophets had commanded him to be celibate for the rest of his life. He said that something like that would never happen, so why bother?

Finally a friend of ours got up and bore a powerful testimony of the hardships LGBTQ people face in the Church, how we weren’t asking him to change his mind about doctrine, but merely to understand their pain. She pleaded for him to understand how we as members needed to support them. The man said that he could never support sin.

He got up and left in a polite manner, and so ended our impromptu kitchen conversation. The rest of us pondered why we were unable to reach this brother’s heart. We had cited general authority quotes, had tried to use reason and persuasion, and had even born testimony with the Spirit, but this man was determined to never accept gay people into his life as something positive. It was the same mentality I had encountered while tracting in Uruguay.

Of course, advocates for gay rights can be just as stubborn. They frequently do not want to hear or understand why Mormons are so determined to uphold marriage between a man and a woman. We often describe the current cultural divide between gay rights and religious freedom as a war, complete with a demonized enemy camp. Certain queer people see those who advocate for religious rights as stodgy puritans who wish to hold on to their power and continue to bully their favorite punching bag: homosexuals. On the other hand, some of those in the church-going camp believe that the gays are hell bent on breaking up marriages, corrupting children, and destroying our entire civilization.

Let’s get one thing straight: both of these extremes are ridiculous. Both sides are only trying to live their life as they think best. Many religious people have a genuine fear that their beliefs will come under attack, and many queer people have a genuine fear that they will continue to be oppressed. So how do we calm everyone down and end this cultural war? How do we get people to start listening to each other?

The old story of Achilles and Priam comes to mind. Achilles was a Greek general who had besieged Priam’s city, Troy, for nine long years, but had made little headway. In addition to massive walls, Priam’s son Hector was the city’s great defender. When Hector killed Patroclus, whom Achilles loved greatly, the Greek general flew into an inhuman rage, killing everything in his path. Eventually he slaughtered Hector, but still his bloodlust was insatiable. At last Priam went to the Greek camp himself, at great personal risk, to beg for the body of his son. He wept and kissed Achilles’ hand, begging that the man have mercy. Achilles thought of his own father, who was also frail with age and would soon be grieving for this dead son. He thought of Patroclus, and Priam thought of Hector. And they cried together in mourning.

It was empathy and shared pain that, for the briefest of moments, stopped the Trojan War. And it is my belief that shared pain will also end this cultural war within the Church.

Statistically speaking, everyone in the Church knows a member who is LGBTQ. There are three or four in every ward. Everyone has a brother or sister, a niece, a cousin, a relief society presidency member, or a friend who is LGBT. Many do not know it because the person they know is afraid to be open. The fear that we will be rejected by those closest to us is very real.

But little by little, we queer members are overcoming that fear. We’re opening up and sharing our stories, our pain, our triumphs. We know and understand both the queer and the Mormon worlds. We know what it is like to feel like there are no options, to have the cold breath of suicide wreath our hearts. We know what it is like to pray to the Lord for answers and take a brave step of faith into an unknown future. Our lives hold the key to opening other members’ hearts and allowing the Savior’s love to flood those desolate places that once rejected anything different, anything queer. We were saved for these last days for just such a cause.

I hate the war that rages between LGBT rights and religious freedom when the real enemy is indifference, a deafness to suffering. It has claimed so many of my brothers and sisters who now lie dead from hanging nooses or slit wrists. I want this war to end. But peace can only spread when one heart speaks to another.

One day, the stubborn man I met will have a loved one come to him and tell him with a broken heart of his or her struggle of reconciling their queerness with their faith. It may be a friend, a brother, or his own daughter. Then all the walls of indifference will crumble as he feels for the first time the pain of a queer Mormon, and he will finally understand what we so desperately wanted to share with him that winter night in a kitchen just south of BYU. He’ll understand why we need to make a place for queer people in the Church, why we need to love them as they are, and why we should feel the same pain that many of them do when they must make the impossible choice between faith and a future family.

So I say to you queer Mormons, keep sharing your stories. Then at last the war shall end, and we shall be one step closer to creating a community that is truly of one heart and one mind in Christ.

For this I pray, the name of Jesus Christ,

Amen.

Image credit: Markov Alexey’s Priam Begging the Body of Hector from Achilles

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15 thoughts on “That The Mormon-Gay War Might End

  1. The view that I am about to provide may have little or no empathy, yet I believe that it is literally true and precisely accurate. Some people choose to obey dogma as if they themselves were mere machines and dogma is the computer program that controls them.

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  2. Engaging in homosexual relationships is contrary to the goals of the plan of salvation. Full stop.

    God wants us to become like Him, and this is not the type of relationship he wants us to pattern our lives after. Full stop.

    Encountering someone who has become confused from the prevailing social dogma, as Peter above puts it, is inevitable. We should show kindness to their misinformed views, but teach and stand for true doctrine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not so quick with the full stops. Please note that no canonized modern LDS scripture addresses homosexuality or committed same sex relationships or marriages. LDS views on homosexuality large come from religious / cultural beliefs commonly held from ancient times and from selected old and New Testament texts that also include religious cultural prohibitions and teachings which modern Christian religion and culture reject. In the same chapter of Leviticus people claim God prohibits homosexuality, prohibitions on eating shellfish/pork, having sex during a woman’s period, and the imposition of capital punishment for religious violations are advocated. Similar picking and choosing without modern revelation is seen with New Testament issues such as divorce, women’s roles, hair stlyes, slavery, animal sacrifice, racism and polygamy are evident where modern culture and religious practice have adopted modern values to replace religious doctrine / practice of the past now found offensive or discriminatory.

      The plan of salvation is silent on how God’s children who are LGBT can participate in the promised blessings available to all of God’s children. We don’t know, rather than they have no part in salvation/exaltation.

      So we believe in ongoing revelation; therefore, until God has difinitively spoke on the subject, which God has not, you can’t say full stop. In fact the opposite is true, see D&C 133:66 in which God says more is to come on the eternal nature of relationships.

      Tim

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      1. I’m not sure what is meant by “no canonized modern LDS scripture addresses homosexuality”. But I can think of a few off the top of my head. Most prominently Moses 5:47-54.

        “And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah: Hear my voice, ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech; for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt. If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech shall be seventy and seven fold; For Lamech having entered into a covenant with Satan, after the manner of Cain, wherein he became Master Mahan, master of that great secret which was administered unto Cain by Satan; and Irad, the son of Enoch, having known their secret, began to reveal it unto the sons of Adam; Wherefore Lamech, being angry, slew him, not like unto Cain, his brother Abel, for the sake of getting gain, but he slew him for the oath’s sake. For, from the days of Cain, there was a secret combination, and their works were in the dark, and they knew every man his brother. Wherefore the Lord cursed Lamech, and his house, and all them that had covenanted with Satan; for they kept not the commandments of God, and it displeased God, and he ministered not unto them, and their works were abominations, and began to spread among all the sons of men. And it was among the sons of men. And among the daughters of men these things were not spoken, because that Lamech had spoken the secret unto his wives, and they rebelled against him, and declared these things abroad, and had not compassion; Wherefore Lamech was despised, and cast out, and came not among the sons of men, lest he should die.”

        Throughout this chapter the word “knew” is used as a euphemism. When the wives of Lamech found out they rebelled, declared it abroad, and had no compassion on their husband.

        It is also said “and their works were abominations” which gives light to the verse in Leviticus 18:22(not the one you mentioned in your comment)

        “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.”

        And as for the one quoted in the above comment that is from Lev 20 it says what you paraphrased.

        Both of these in Leviticus, however, were given after the children of Israel worshiped a false god thereby proving they were unworthy of the higher law. JST John 1:17-18 explains that the Law of Moses was “after a carnal commandment, to the administration of death”. Though these lesser laws were to be done away in Christ when he came, they still represented the truth of a higher law that deals with our hearts. If one deals with the flesh and the other the heart then we must simply find what the lower one represents about the heart. The lower law states not to commit adultery(obviously a good thing still), but the higher law teaches that we are not to look upon another woman to lust after her, because if we do we have already committed adultery in our hearts. If we don’t repent of these things in our hearts then we surrender some things.

        Christ and Daniel also teach about an “abomination that maketh desolate”. Desolation in the scriptures means a couple things, but often it is not bearing children.

        There are more, but I will leave it there. There seem to be quite a few scriptures which touch on the subject.

        As in my other comments I expect no one to accept these things. Unless the Spirit confirms it of course.

        -Chris

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      2. Also, I was interested in your reference to “more is to come on the eternal nature of relationships.” But D&C 133:66 didn’t seem to relate. What scripture did you mean to reference? Thanks.

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  3. This is my favorite of so many pieces I have read. I feel so happy to be associated by friendship and motherhood with my USGA brothers and sisters. A war accurately describes that feeling of having to choose family or faith, that is a false choice. Thank you so much.

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  4. I want be as fair and level minded as possible when sharing my thoughts here so if I fail in doing that, please forgive my imperfect human nature.

    There is a lot that went through my mind while reading this. Too much to type honestly – and if you’re like me you hate reading lengthy online comments. So with that in mind please at least consider what these scriptures mean:

    Mosiah 5:7:

    “Now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.”

    Alma 5:12:

    “And according to his faith there was a mighty change wrought in his heart. Behold I say unto you that this is all true.”

    Alma 5:14:

    “And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?”(I would add – His image is a man and a woman. See Gen 1:27; Abraham 4:27; Moses 2:27, 6:9-10, see also D&C 132 on who may become “Gods”)

    Helaman 15:7:

    “And behold, ye do know of yourselves, for ye have witnessed it, that as many of them as are brought to the knowledge of the truth, and to know of the wicked and abominable traditions of their fathers, and are led to believe the holy scriptures, yea, the prophecies of the holy prophets, which are written, which leadeth them to faith on the Lord, and unto repentance, which faith and repentance bringeth a change of heart unto them”

    Mosiah 27:25-26:

    “And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.”

    It would seem by these few scriptures in the Book of Mormon that we are born with a fallen and carnal nature and our hearts not only can be, but must be changed. It doesn’t matter what brand of carnality you are generally inclined towards – it must be changed and can be changed. Perhaps I am born with or develop inclinations toward certain lifestyles – that doesn’t change the fact that I need to change. Everyone who ever came here and will ever come here needs to change.

    I have overcome through Christ things which I thought were impossible. They were so much a part of me that I thought they were inseparable from me. But God is able to make us “new creatures”(2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Mosiah 27:25-26).

    You seem to be a very good thinker and therefore must have gone over these things many times already in your mind. But at least consider this one last story before saying that “we can’t change”.

    http://www.sbministries.org/members/sbm/adminpages/testimony-stephen-bennett

    I hope all will be able to find Christ’s help in their lives no matter what seemingly impossible struggles they have to overcome. The great thing is though… they most certainly can overcome them.

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    1. Chris,

      Thank you for your thoughts.

      On the contrary, sexual orientation – like your height or whether you’re left or right handed is a natural variation of human sexuality influenced by biological and environmental factors.

      Elder Holland said in the most recent General Conference:

      “And, I must say, this son’s sexual orientation did not somehow miraculously change—no one assumed it would. But little by little, his heart changed.”
      https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2015/10/behold-thy-mother?lang=eng

      Sexual orientation is essentially an unchangeable trait of this human existence. Furthermore, homosexuality is not an “inclination toward certain lifestyles” anymore than heterosexuality is. Homosexuality, like heterosexuality, is the ability and drive to fall in love with (physically, emotionally, romantically, intellectually, spiritually) someone of the same gender. Homosexuality is not a lifestyle. And people who are homosexual are not inherently more like to be promiscuous or drink or use drugs. These are just some of a many common misconceptions that this blog and organization works to correct.

      While the link you provide may or may not represent one man’s personal experience with same-sex attraction, it is an extremely rare experience and one that in no way typifies the experiences and efforts of the vast majority of LGBTQ/SSA people who *have* attempted to change or overcome their sexual orientation, and have not succeeded through no fault of their own (as is described in Elder Holland’s talk). Behavioral choices aside, it is almost never possible to willfully change one’s sexual orientation.

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  5. Interesting things to consider for sure. The way I see it(which I in no way expect anyone else to accept) if it is biological then the Lord who created all flesh certainly can change it in the same way He could change one who was born blind into one who can see, or one who had died in to one who is now alive.

    As for the environment having some play in it, it seems that we do not have to become products of our environment any more that Lot did who lived in Sodom. Or Mormon who stood nearly alone in his faith among those of his day. Or better yet, Christ who came to the most wicked earth and most wicked time among the most wicked people to be the most righteous example.

    I’m sorry that I don’t have time to write more, but I thank you for increasing my understanding of what you, and perhaps others, believe and feel.

    – Chris Park

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    1. Chris, perhaps you could direct your questions to God. Only He knows why He has consistently turned a deaf ear to the desperate pleadings of so many righteous LGBT Mormons who have begged for the change of heart that you speak of. Many of these brothers and sisters had expectations similar to the ones you’ve expressed, and when God chose not to respond, when priesthood counseling and professional therapy had no effect, have taken their own lives, believing themselves to be either hated by God or unworthy of His healing power.

      Undoubtedly, God could, if He chose, to make a gay person straight, just as He could return vision to the blind. Maybe he has done so, but let me ask you: how many ex-blind people do you know? I’m not sure there are that many more gay Mormons who have been made straight.

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      1. Thanks, always a good reminder to go to God.

        It sounds like a matter of patience. People in the scriptures sometimes waited decades for certain things to happen – but the key is that they did wait.

        In the public examples(scripture) we have of people being healed, those healed always had faith to become such. Faith comes be doing the will of God(faith without works is dead(James 2:20) etc.). Sometimes doing the will of God enough to obtain this like precious faith takes years of faithful searching forand living new truth.

        Saying “when God chose not respond” doesn’t sound like a God who says “ask and ye shall recieve”(3 Ne 27:29) or one who says “my words…never cease”(Moses 1:4) so when we get no answer we can’t assume it is because God isn’t responding, but rather because we aren’t ready/willing to recieve His answer or help. This applies to all sickness, infirmity, temptation, etc.

        God is as eager to respond as we are to get a reaponse.

        I don’t specifically know any ex-blinds, but I know many other people who have been miraculously healed physically/emotionally.

        I hope I don’t sound harsh or judgemental. That’s not my intention. I simply want to do as the author of the blog suggests and peacefully have a conversation so that both sides can understand each other. I think y’all are great just the same – even if we may disagree.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. A good example of waiting to be healed is in three of the Gospels, but Ill use the version from Luke 8

        “And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched. And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me? And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me. And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately. And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.”

        She had spent twelve years actively trying to become whole.

        Now this isn’t to say we can’t also change quickly, but sometimes we have to weather a long storm before the sun comes out.

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  6. Lev 20:13 clearly states if a man lays with another man its detestable or an abomination. God is the same yesterday today and tomorrow. God does not change because humanities views changes. Where do people then draw that moral line? If homosexuality is OK then what about beastiality what about pedophilia? If a person claims to be born with that preference then should we not also accept them and say that they were born that way as well and their lifestyle? People say that homosexuals can’t change but I believe the Bible says that with God all things are possible. So if you say God can’t change their preferences than you’ve put a box around God. Are you really big enough to put a box around God the Creator of the heavens and the earth? If Jesus was standing beside you today and asked you what you thought about homosexuality and you told him that you thought it was okay Jesus would probably look at you and say your thoughts are not my thoughts because I am the same yesterday today and tomorrow.

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    1. Steve, I’m afraid you may have missed the point of the article here. While we may have deeply held religious beliefs about homosexuality, the way that we are sharing them is driving others to hurt themselves. We often close ourselves off from listening to other people’s experiences, and even if we do not approve of their choices, we cannot love them if we do not understand them.

      As to your concerns, here is my experience as a gay Christian. Hopefully it will help you understand why this is such a difficult issue. When I came to realize that I was gay, my first reaction was to try to change, to become straight. I prayed, met with ecclesiastical leaders, and visited therapists. But after many years, God still hadn’t made me straight. I think that you are right that an omnipotent God surely CAN make me straight, but since he hasn’t, I must assume that he has chosen not to for some reason which I do not know.

      I would love to meet with Jesus in person, because I could finally have my questions answered. I would ask why he made so many prohibitions against homosexuality and desires us to have families, but then allowed me to have intense desires to start a family with another man instead of a woman. I would ask why he hasn’t changed my sexual orientation. I would ask what I am to do with my life when every option seems to be the wrong one in some way (Should I marry a woman I don’t love, remain single and frustrate the familial plan of happiness, or marry another man and lose my connection with the Church?)

      In the end, we don’t have all the answers, so our job is just to love everyone. It’s not a question of accepting sin, it’s about accepting people. We’re all sinners, but this sin is being singled out as one that we should especially hate. My hope is that we can love people no matter what they choose, since our hatred doesn’t make them change their mind, but instead only inflicts more harm and drives them further away from Christ. We can welcome queer people into our lives and into our churches, even if they cannot participate in all of the church’s ordinances. It’s about love conquering shame and hurt and hate. Isn’t that something we can all get behind?

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