Doctrines and Policies

USGA is politically and ideologically neutral. We encourage discussion and empathy on the complex subject of the intersection of faith, sexual orientation, and gender identity, and allow space for individuals to exercise their agency in coming to their own conclusions. The following questions are common in this ongoing conversation. The quotations given as answers to these questions were selected from official resources of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, though USGA does not endorse, condemn, or speak for the Church. Rather, these quotations represent one important perspective in this conversation, which we hope all can become familiar with. As such, we present the following as descriptive of the Church’s position, rather than prescriptive for others.

Is same-sex attraction a sin? Is it a choice?

The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. (mormonsandgays.org)

People inquire about our position on those who consider themselves so-called gays and lesbians. My response is that we love them as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. Most people have inclinations of one kind or another at various times. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church. If they violate the law of chastity and the moral standards of the Church, then they are subject to the discipline of the Church, just as others are. (Gordon B. Hinckley; What are People Asking About Us?)

Notwithstanding your present same-gender attractions, you can be happy during this life, lead a morally clean life, perform meaningful service in the Church, enjoy full fellowship with your fellow saints, and ultimately receive all the blessings of eternal life. . . Attractions alone do not make you unworthy. (God Loveth His Children)

The First Presidency has stated, “There is a distinction between immoral thoughts and feelings and participating in either immoral heterosexual or any homosexual behavior.” If you do not act on temptations, you have not transgressed. (Elder Jeffery R. Holland; Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Sex Attraction)

What causes same-sex attraction?

The Church does not have a position on the causes of any of these susceptibilities or inclinations, including those related to same-gender attraction. Those are scientific questions — whether nature or nurture — those are things the Church doesn’t have a position on. (Elder Dallin H. Oaks; Interview with Elder Oaks and Elder Wickman)

Trust the Lord. Do not blame anyone—not yourself, not your parents, not God—for problems not fully understood in this life.

Some people have been abused during the early years of life or have engaged in sexual experimentation at a young age. If this has happened to you, please understand that abuse by others or youthful experiences should not create a present sense of guilt, unworthiness, or rejection by God or His Church. Innocent mischief early in life does not predispose a youth toward same-gender attraction as an adult. (God Loveth His Children)

…the cause of your feelings, we may never know in this life. (Elder Jeffery R. Holland; Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Sex Attraction)

Is same-sex attraction a disease?

Attraction to those of the same sex, however, should not be viewed as a disease or illness. We must not judge anyone for the feelings they experience. (mormonsandgays.org)

Is same-sex attraction curable?

And, I must say, this son’s sexual orientation did not somehow miraculously change—no one assumed it would. (Elder Jeffery R. Holland; Behold Thy Mother)

Should one be actively working to overcome same-sex attraction or just coping with it? It’s difficult to say because each case is different, each person is different. Their circumstances will vary. You’ll see in some of these vignettes experiences that are recounted that people have found a diminishing of that same-sex attraction, almost to the point of vanishing, and others not at all. (Elder D. Todd Christofferson; mormonsandgays.org)

While many Latter-day Saints, through individual effort, the exercise of faith, and reliance upon the enabling power of the Atonement, overcome same-gender attraction in mortality, others may not be free of this challenge in this life. (God Loveth His Children)

Case studies I believe have shown that in some cases there has been progress made in helping someone to change that orientation; in other cases not. (Elder Lance B. Wickman; Interview with Elder Oaks and Elder Wickman)

Through the exercise of faith, individual effort, and reliance upon the power of the Atonement, some may overcome same-gender attraction in mortality and marry. Others, however, may never be free of same-gender attraction in this life. (Elder Jeffery R. Holland; Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Sex Attraction)

Should members undergo therapy to remove unwanted feelings of same-sex attraction?

ELDER WICKMAN: Well, it may be appropriate for that person to seek therapy. Certainly the Church doesn’t counsel against that kind of therapy. But from the standpoint of a parent counseling a person, or a Church leader counseling a person, or a person looking at his or her same-gender attraction from the standpoint of ‘What can I do about it here that’s in keeping with gospel teachings?’ the clinical side of it is not what matters most. What matters most is recognition that ‘I have my own will. I have my own agency. I have the power within myself to control what I do.’

Now, that’s not to say it’s not appropriate for somebody with that affliction to seek appropriate clinical help to examine whether in his or her case there’s something that can be done about it. This is an issue that those in psychiatry, in the psychology professions have debated. Case studies I believe have shown that in some cases there has been progress made in helping someone to change that orientation; in other cases not. From the Church’s standpoint, from our standpoint of concern for people, that’s not where we place our principal focus. It’s on these other matters.

ELDER OAKS: Amen to that. Let me just add one more thought. The Church rarely takes a position on which treatment techniques are appropriate, for medical doctors or for psychiatrists or psychologists and so on.

The second point is that there are abusive practices that have been used in connection with various mental attitudes or feelings. Over-medication in respect to depression is an example that comes to mind. The aversive therapies that have been used in connection with same-sex attraction have contained some serious abuses that have been recognized over time within the professions. While we have no position about what the medical doctors do (except in very, very rare cases — abortion would be such an example), we are conscious that there are abuses and we don’t accept responsibility for those abuses. Even though they are addressed at helping people we would like to see helped, we can’t endorse every kind of technique that’s been used. (Interview with Elder Oaks and Elder Wickman, emphasis added)

Will feelings of same-sex attraction persist after death?

The perfect plan of our Father in Heaven makes provision for individuals who seek to keep His commandments but who, through no fault of their own, do not have an eternal marriage in mortal life. As we follow Heavenly Father’s plan, our bodies, feelings, and desires will be perfected in the next life so that every one of God’s children may find joy in a family consisting of a husband, a wife, and children. Same-gender attractions include deep emotional, social, and physical feelings. All of Heavenly Father’s children desire to love and be loved, including many adults who, for a variety of reasons, remain single. God assures His children, including those currently attracted to persons of the same gender, that their righteous desires will eventually be fully satisfied in God’s own way and according to His timing. (God Loveth His Children)

ELDER WICKMAN: One question that might be asked by somebody who is struggling with same-gender attraction is, “Is this something I’m stuck with forever? What bearing does this have on eternal life? If I can somehow make it through this life, when I appear on the other side, what will I be like?”

Gratefully, the answer is that same-gender attraction did not exist in the pre-earth life and neither will it exist in the next life. It is a circumstance that for whatever reason or reasons seems to apply right now in mortality, in this nano-second of our eternal existence.

The good news for somebody who is struggling with same-gender attraction is this: 1) It is that ‘I’m not stuck with it forever.’ It’s just now. Admittedly, for each one of us, it’s hard to look beyond the ‘now’ sometimes. But nonetheless, if you see mortality as now, it’s only during this season. 2) If I can keep myself worthy here, if I can be true to gospel commandments, if I can keep covenants that I have made, the blessings of exaltation and eternal life that Heavenly Father holds out to all of His children apply to me. Every blessing — including eternal marriage — is and will be mine in due course.

ELDER OAKS: Let me just add a thought to that. There is no fullness of joy in the next life without a family unit, including a husband, a wife, and posterity. Further, men are that they might have joy. In the eternal perspective, same-gender activity will only bring sorrow and grief and the loss of eternal opportunities. (Interview with Elder Oaks and Elder Wickman)

 What is the Church’s position on same-sex marriage?

We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife. (The Family: A Proclamation to the World)

As a doctrinal principle, based on the scriptures, the Church affirms that marriage between a man and a woman is essential to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. Sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife. Any other sexual relations, including those between persons of the same gender, are sinful and undermine the divinely created institution of the family. The Church accordingly affirms defining marriage as the legal and lawful union between a man and a woman. (Handbook 2: Administering the Church 21.4.10)

What are the consequences for engaging in same-sex sexual activity?

[According to Church Handbook 1, those who engage in homosexual relations (especially sexual cohabitation) are involved in serious transgression and a disciplinary council may be necessary (6.7.2). Those who are in a same-gender marriage are considered apostate and a disciplinary council is required (6.7.3). The child whose primary parent is living in homosexual cohabitation or marriage may not receive a name and a blessing, be baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost or the Aaronic priesthood, or serve a mission. Such children may receive all these privileges when they are 18, no longer live with their parents who live or have lived in homosexual cohabitation or marriage, and must disavow the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage (16.13).]

We regard same-sex marriage as a particularly grievous or significant, serious kind of sin that requires Church discipline. It means the discipline is mandatory — doesn’t dictate outcomes but it dictates that discipline is needed in those cases. (Church Provides Context on Handbook Changes Affecting Same-Sex Marriages)

Can members advocate for same-sex marriage, or are they in danger of Church sanction if they do so?

2News asked Christofferson if supporting gay marriage would threaten somebody’s membership in the church if they actively advocated for it, perhaps on social media.

“That’s not an organized effort to attack our effort or attack our functioning as a church, if you will,” he said.

So can LDS members hold political beliefs even though they’re different from what church leaders teach from the pulpit?

“Yes,” said Christofferson. (LDS apostle explains church’s evolution on LGBT issues)

In our view, it doesn’t really become a problem unless someone is out attacking the church and its leaders — if that’s a deliberate and persistent effort and trying to get others to follow them, trying to draw others away, trying to pull people, if you will, out of the church or away from its teachings and doctrines. (Elder D. Todd Christofferson; LDS leaders Oaks, Christofferson on religious freedom, LGBT rights)

Should members consider a heterosexual mixed-orientation marriage (where one person is straight and the other has same-sex attraction)?

We don’t counsel people that heterosexual marriage is a panacea. You’ll see in some of these experiences that are related on this site that it has been a successful experience in a few cases, or some have expressed the success they’ve found in marriage and in raising a family and in the joy and all that has filled out and blessed their lives as a consequence. But that, we know, is not always true. It’s not always successful. Sometimes it’s been even disastrous. So, we think it’s something that each person can evaluate and they can discuss, both with priesthood leaders and family and others, and make decisions. But we simply don’t take a uniform position of saying “yes” always or “no” always. (Elder D. Todd Christofferson; mormonsandgays.org)

In some circumstances a person defers marriage because he or she is not presently attracted to a member of the opposite gender. (God Loveth His Children)

Recognize that marriage is not an all purpose solution. . . Same gender attractions run deep, and trying to force a heterosexual relationship is not likely to change them. We are all thrilled when some who struggle with these feelings are able to marry, raise children, and achieve family happiness. But other attempts have resulted in broken hearts and broken homes. (Elder Jeffery R. Holland; Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Sex Attraction)

ELDER OAKS: We are sometimes asked about whether marriage is a remedy for these feelings that we have been talking about. President Hinckley, faced with the fact that apparently some had believed it to be a remedy, and perhaps that some Church leaders had even counseled marriage as the remedy for these feelings, made this statement: “Marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices.” To me that means that we are not going to stand still to put at risk daughters of God who would enter into such marriages under false pretenses or under a cloud unknown to them. Persons who have this kind of challenge that they cannot control could not enter marriage in good faith.

On the other hand, persons who have cleansed themselves of any transgression and who have shown their ability to deal with these feelings or inclinations and put them in the background, and feel a great attraction for a daughter of God and therefore desire to enter marriage and have children and enjoy the blessings of eternity — that’s a situation when marriage would be appropriate.

President Hinckley said that marriage is not a therapeutic step to solve problems. (Interview with Elder Oaks and Elder Wickman)

The Lord has proclaimed that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and is intended to be an eternal relationship bonded by trust and fidelity. Latter-day Saints, of all people, should marry with this sacred objective in mind. Marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices, which first should clearly be overcome with a firm and fixed determination never to slip to such practices again. (President Gordon B. Hinckley; Reverence and Morality)

What is the Church’s position on celibacy?

PUBLIC AFFAIRS: If somebody has a very powerful heterosexual drive, there is the opportunity for marriage. If a young man thinks he’s gay, what we’re really saying to him is that there is simply no other way to go but to be celibate for the rest of his life if he doesn’t feel any attraction to women?

ELDER OAKS: That is exactly the same thing we say to the many members who don’t have the opportunity to marry. We expect celibacy of any person that is not married.

ELDER WICKMAN: We live in a society which is so saturated with sexuality that it perhaps is more troublesome now, because of that fact, for a person to look beyond their gender orientation to other aspects of who they are. I think I would say to your son or anyone that was so afflicted to strive to expand your horizons beyond simply gender orientation. Find fulfillment in the many other facets of your character and your personality and your nature that extend beyond that. There’s no denial that one’s gender orientation is certainly a core characteristic of any person, but it’s not the only one.

What’s more, merely having inclinations does not disqualify one for any aspect of Church participation or membership, except possibly marriage as has already been talked about. But even that, in the fullness of life as we understand it through the doctrines of the restored gospel, eventually can become possible.

In this life, such things as service in the Church, including missionary service, all of this is available to anyone who is true to covenants and commandments. (Interview with Elder Oaks and Elder Wickman)

 

Advertisements