For the Orthodox Believer who believes the Church’s stance and doctrine has been unchanging on the Gay and Lesbian members and it’s Doctrines and Policies surrounding Homosexuality, it is not that simple. Let’s explore.
The Church’s Doctrine is that
Marriage between a Man and Woman is Ordained of God
Notice though that this statement is not exclusionary. It’s like saying that God likes Vanilla Ice Cream but saying that doesn’t mean he hates pistachio. That said Leaders from Joseph Smith to present day have interpreted that Gay marriage is contrary to the Laws of God. But how we have understood this issue has been anything but consistent. Listed are various misnomers we have propagated to the causes of “being gay” for example.
1.) That gay and lesbian members of our faith are corrupting heterosexual Latter-day Saints and convincing them to “be Gay”.
George Q Cannon seems to be the First Prophet Seer and Revelator in this dispensation to discuss the topic when he said
How can this [sodomy] be stopped? Not while those who have knowledge of these filthy crimes exist. The only way, according to all that I can understand as the word of God, is for the Lord to wipe them out, that there will be none left to perpetuate the knowledge of these dreadful practices among the children of men. And God will do it, as sure as He has spoken by the mouths of His prophets.
President Canon implies that present homosexuals were corrupting the next generation and teaching them to be homosexuals. Today the Church acknowledges that this concept is false. Homosexuality is not a learned behavior anymore than heterosexuality is a learned behavior.
2.) That homosexuality is contagious
Ernest L Wilkinson said in 1965
“We [at BYU] do not intend to admit to our campus any homosexuals. If any of you have this tendency and have not completely abandoned it, may I suggest that you leave the university immediately after this assembly; and if you will be honest enough to let us know the reason, we will voluntarily refund your tuition. We do not want others on this campus to be contaminated by your presence.”
Again the Church today agrees that most if not all homosexual Latter-day saints do not choose to be gay and it certainly is not contagious. While Bro. Wilkinson was not a Church Leader at top levels, his policy of bigotry and misunderstanding of this issue within his abusive policies were permitted and seemingly condoned by the top leaders of his day.
Spencer W Kimball added to this perspective when he taught
“The cure for this malady [homosexuality] lies in self-mastery”. – July 10, 1964, “A Counseling Problem in the Church” – BYU Devotional for LDS Seminary & Institute Instructors
Keep in mind that Malady is defined as a Disease or ailment and consider for a moment what it means to define a biological predisposition in one’s nature as a disease. These can be very harming teachings that we use. For the one born Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender to see oneself as having a disease is a damaging lens to see through.
3.) By crossing lines set within the “Law of Chasity” and in doing so one creates a unhealthy sexual appetite, one can develop into a Homosexual.
Richard G Scott, a Prophet Seer, and Revelator stated in his 1984 talk “Making the Right Choice” that
However, those intimate acts are forbidden by the Lord outside the enduring commitment of marriage because they undermine His purposes. Within the sacred covenant of marriage, such relationships are according to His plan. When experienced any other way, they are against His will. They cause serious emotional and spiritual harm. Even though participants do not realize that is happening now, they will later. Sexual immorality creates a barrier to the influence of the Holy Spirit with all its uplifting, enlightening, and empowering capabilities. It causes powerful physical and emotional stimulation. In time that creates an unquenchable appetite that drives the offender to ever more serious sin. It engenders selfishness and can produce aggressive acts such as brutality, abortion, sexual abuse, and violent crime. Such stimulation can lead to acts of homosexuality, and they are evil and absolutely wrong.
Again the idea here is that if one does not keep their sexual desires within the bounds the Lord has set, it can get out of control leading one to Homosexual Acts.
I can see Brother Scott’s message as valid if we say that there is some miniscule % of people out there who in order to fuel their sexual appetite have delved into homosexual acts while not being born with Homosexual attraction nor changing into homosexuals. The risk though is to assume this happens beyond a small extremely miniscule segment of our society. It also risks giving the message that a sexual appetite left unchecked will cause a heterosexual person to become Homosexual. Both of these false notions must be kept in check as cultural assumptions can be the cause of great damage.
4.) It is just a passing phase that if stood up to will pass
Again this may be true for some. I have known kids who thought for a season they might be homosexual but in a short time realized they were heterosexual. The worry comes when we teach that all who are gay simply gave in during a weak moment of a phase. President Packer seemed to impose this when he said
They can be drawn into some circumstance that makes them, for the moment, doubt their identity. Do not be deluded into thinking that such thoughts and feelings are normal for you. Just because you experience some period of confusion, do not make of that thing something that it is not. Do not order your life to conform to a transient thought or experience.
This can be deeply harming as a generality because in all likeliness near 100% of of this is biological.
5.) That Monogamy Causes Individuals to “turn” Gay
“I consider our false tradition upon this subject [of monogamy] one of the greatest evils at the present time that exists upon the earth. It has come down to us from the Greeks and Romans, than whom a more abominable lot of people never lived upon the earth. To read their books is enough to make a man with the least feeling of modesty blush and be ashamed of his race…. Not only crimes, but crimes against nature were justified by some of the best and most noted of Greek philosophers, and were practiced by Sophocles, Socrates, and others; and yet this is the philosophy that has come down to us. – George Q. Cannon, Apostle and Assistant Counselor to Brigham Young, April 6, 1879, Journal of Discourses, vol. 20, p. 200
6.) That Masturbation leads to becoming homosexual.
President Kimball taught
“Thus prophets anciently and today condemn masturbation….While we should not regard this weakness as the heinous sin which some other sexual practices are, it is of itself bad enough to require sincere repentance. What is more, it too often leads to grievous sin, even to that sin against nature, homosexuality. For, done in private, it evolves often into mutual masturbation – practiced with another person of the same sex – and then into total homosexuality.” [77-78] – The Miracle of Forgiveness
He also taught in the November 1980 Ensign
“Sometimes masturbation is the introduction to the more serious sins of exhibitionism and the gross sin of homosexuality.”
This simply isn’t true as a general teaching. Studies show 80 to 99% of teenage boys masturbate and 53% to 75% of teenage girls ( http://healthland.time.com/2011/08/11/boys-masturbate-more-than-girls-seriously/ , http://sexuality.about.com/od/sexualscience/a/Adolescent-Masturbation.htm , http://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2012/may/5051412.html
Yet we know that around 6% of all individuals born are lesbian or gay. In effect, Masturbation likely has 0% effect on who is gay and who exhibits homosexual behavior. If anything I am betting that Straight males masturbate more than any other segment of our society.
7.) Watching Pornography leads to becoming homosexual
Victor Brown previously of the Presiding Bishopric stated
“The chief psychiatrist at one of Washington’s largest hospitals says, ‘A normal 12- or 13-year-old boy or girl exposed to pornographic literature could develop into a homosexual’….[Recounts story of a minister performing a same-sex marriage for two men, which was reported on TV.] Who is responsible for this moral decay? The children? Hardly. It is we adults, those of us who permit the sale of filth on our newsstands and also permit the broadcasting of it over airways.”
Also President Kimball in the 1974 Ensign stated
“Every form of homosexuality is sin. Pornography is one of the approaches to that transgression.”
Again this is also utterly false. Again, If I were a betting man I would bet straight males watch more Pornography than any other segment.
Now lets turn our attention to other misnomers taught by the Church and its leaders on the subject. Stepping away from causes lets focus on other ways we have framed this issue that turn out to be untrue.
1.) Men are created with Male traits and Female with Female Traits
Victor Brown previously of the Presiding Bishopric taught
“The Lord defined some very basic differences between men and women. He gave the male what we call masculine traits and the female feminine traits. He did not intend either of the sexes to adopt the other’s traits but, rather, that men should look and act like men and that women should look and act like women. When these differences are ignored, an unwholesome relationship develops, which, if not checked, can lead to the reprehensible, tragic sin of homosexuality. In other words, we have a responsibility as priesthood bearers to be examples of true manhood.”
Our manuals are replete with teaching that Men have one set of traits and gifts and Women have another different set of traits and gifts. This may be true generally though even that can be argued. It certainly is not true as a as a definitive certainty individually. Men born gay are scientifically shown to have the mental talents, gifts, and attribute much closer aligned with a straight female. Conversely, a Lesbian women has the mental, traits, gifts, and talents much more aligned with the straight male. To better understand this issue I would recommend the following two podcasts
2.) That Gays and Lesbians are more likely to molest Children
In the July 1974 Ensign an article stated
“There is harm in homosexuality. Many homosexuals seek to introduce others into their practice, often those in their tender, impressionable years.”
Again such a teaching is false on two fronts. It should be noted that one is far more likely to be molested by a straight male than a gay or lesbian man or women. Also to molest someone doesn’t make them Gay or Lesbian. This seems to be by modern research a misnomer.
3.) The Church also has a history of unfortunately blaming parents for their children becoming homosexual.
N Eldon Tanner in the November 1974 Ensign stated
“Many are in the wilderness because of following the poor example set by leaders in homes and communities. Traffic in this area is most congested and confusing. Pornography, fornication, adultery, and homosexuality are permitted and practiced in the world today to such an extent that we are truly following the ways of Sodom and Gomorrah. There is too much corruption in the world. We need strong leaders of good character in all places—leaders who are examples of integrity, dependability, and righteousness.”
Victor Brown in the July 1975 Ensign stated
“Children learn how to love in a stable, healthy family. Parents need to know that lack of proper affection in the home can result in unnatural behavior in their children such as homosexuality or inability to be an effective parent when the time comes.”
Gordon b Hinckley in the October 1975 Ensign stated
Speaking about a young Gay man who had recently visited Hinckley, he said, “We talked of the influences that had put him where he is, of the home from which he came, of associations with other young men, of books and magazines read, of shows seen.”
J Richard Clarke previously of the Presiding Bishopric stated in the May 1977 Ensign
[Read a letter from a self-hating Gay man who had a poor relationship with his father.] “It should go without saying that many of these problems would be alleviated if parents would spend more time teaching and rearing their children. Related to the story that I gave at the beginning of my talk is evidence of a clinical researcher who, after studying 850 individual cases, stated: “Homosexuality would not occur where there is a normal, loving father-and-son relationship.” Any of our people living in righteousness would normally avoid being involved in these problems.”
President Kimball in the November 1977 Ensign taught
“The growing permissiveness in modern society gravely concerns us. Certainly our Heavenly Father is distressed with the increasing inroads among his children of such insidious sins as adultery and fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, abortions, pornography, population control, alcoholism, cruelty expressed in wife-beating and child-abuse, dishonesty, vandalism, violence, and crime generally, including the sin of living together without marriage.
“We call upon our Church members everywhere to renew their efforts to strengthen the home and to honor their parents, and to build better communications between parent and child.
“Important as it is, building stronger homes is not enough in the fight against rising permissiveness. We therefore urge Church members as citizens to lift their voices, to join others in unceasingly combatting, in their communities and beyond, the inroads of pornography and the general flaunting of permissiveness. Let us vigorously oppose the shocking developments which encourage the old sins of Sodom and Gomorrah, and which defile the human body as the temple of God.”
President Benson taught in the November 1982 Ensign
“Today we are aware of great problems in our society. The most obvious are sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, drug abuse, alcoholism, vandalism, pornography, and violence.
“These grave problems are symptoms of failure in the home—the disregarding of principles and practices established by God in the very beginning.
“Because some parents have departed from the principles the Lord gave for happiness and success, many families throughout the world are undergoing great stress and trauma. Many parents have been enticed to abandon their responsibilities in the home to seek after an elusive ‘self-fulfillment‘.” [These three paragraphs are quoted again by Benson verbatim in July 1992’s First Presidency message.]
We need to ask ourselves when Parents abandon their gay children for being . when they kick them out of their homes or treat them with disgust, shame, and push them away…. could it possibly be connected to the Church’s teachings that one is a bad parent if their child turns out gay? We will discuss later where the Church is today, but we must not forget that the parents of older parents and certainly the grandparents grew up in a time that the Church shamed them for being ineffective parents if one’s child turned out to be gay or lesbian. One can only imagine the harm that has been done due to the Church’s teachings in that generation.
This flies in the face of reality when we see all over good kids making bad choices in terms of drugs
Lastly as we consider the teachings of the past we should make special note that leaders were adamant that individuals were in no way born gay, that essential to be gay in one’s sexual disposition was a choice.
President Kimball in the November 1980 Ensign taught
“‘God made me that way,’ some say, as they rationalize and excuse themselves for their [homosexual] perversions. ‘I can’t help it,’ they add. This is blasphemy. Is man not made in the image of God, and does he think God to be ‘that way’?”
Elder Faust in the September 1995 Ensign even went so far to say if it was biological or inborn it would frustrate the plan of salvation when he taught
“There is some widely accepted theory extant that homosexuality is inherited. How can this be? No scientific evidence demonstrates absolutely, absolutely that this is so. Besides, if it were so, it would frustrate the whole plan of mortal happiness. Our designation as men or women began before this world was. In contrast to the socially accepted doctrine that homosexuality is inborn, a number of respectable authorities contend that homosexuality is not acquired by birth. The false belief of inborn sexual orientation denies to repentant souls the opportunity to change and will ultimately lead to discouragement, disappointment, and despair.” (emphasis in original)
Elder Oaks seems to to be speaking to the same idea when he taught the following in the October 1995 Ensign
“It is easy to hypothesize that inheritance plays a role in sexual orientation. However it is important to remember, as conceded by two advocates of this approach, that ‘the concept of substantial heritability should not be confused with the concept of inevitable heritability. … Most mechanisms probably involve interactions between constitutional predispositions and environmental events.'” (Quotes R. C. Friedman and J. Downey, “Neurobiology and Sexual Orientation: Current Relationships,” Journal of Neuropsychiatry 5 (48 (1991): 1089-96.)
A Dean Byrd who served in the LDS Family Services and often gave apologetic discourses with such oragnizations as FairMormon stated the following
“The Church refutes the idea that homosexual orientation is genetically determined.…Furthermore, a genetic/biological cause of homosexual attraction has not found support in the scientific literature.”
“Science has never proved a genetic link to sexual orientation. Moreover, the Church repeatedly, in nearly every statement about homosexual relations, teaches that homosexual attraction is not inherent to a person’s particular genetic make-up and that they are quite able to change.”
Satan “seeks to undermine the principle of individual accountability, to persuade us to misuse our sacred powers of procreation, to discourage marriage and childbearing by worthy men and women, and to confuse what it means to be male or female.”
A subtle shift began to occur in the early 1990’s where Church leaders began to acknowledge that perhaps they didn’t know or understand what the cause was.
For example in the October 1990 Ensign President Packer stated
After lengthy discussion of “Gay and Lesbian Rights”, Packer said, “Why, they ask, does this happen to me?…They write that their bishop could not answer the ‘why’….We are sometimes told that leaders in the Church do not really understand these problems. Perhaps we don’t. There are many ‘whys’ for which we just do not have simple answers.”
A 1992 guidebook on the issue instructed LDS members that
Some people who seek help for homosexual problems may have concluded that experiences from their youth, such as perceived problems with a parent or some other older person, contributed to their inappropriate feelings. Some may believe that they have not consciously chosen to have such feelings in the first place. No general agreement exists about the causes of such problems.
While the late 1990’s say a retrenching of past misnomers, the 2000’s brought a more open acknolwedgement that either we don’t know of even that biology may be a major factor.
President Hinckley in an interview with Larry King in December of 2004 had the following exchange.
HINCKLEY: Well, we’re not anti-gay. We are pro-family. Let me put it that way. And we love these people and try to work with them and help them. We know they have a problem. We want to help them solve that problem.
KING: A problem they caused, or they were born with?
HINCKLEY: I don’t know. I’m not an expert on these things. I don’t pretend to be an expert on these things. The fact is, they have a problem.
In 2006, Apostle Elder Oaks and Lance B Wickman, a member of the Seventy, had the following exchange with the Church Public Affairs Department.
PUBLIC AFFAIRS: You’re saying the Church doesn’t necessarily have a position on ‘nurture or nature’….
ELDER OAKS: That’s where our doctrine comes into play. 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 WICKMAN: Whether it is nature or nurture really begs the important question, and a preoccupation with nature or nurture can, it seems to me, lead someone astray from the principles that Elder Oaks has been describing here. Why somebody has a same-gender attraction…who can say?
A small step back occurred in 2010 When Elder Packer, President of the 12 at the time, stated
“Some suppose that they were pre-set 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.”
Except that his words were altered when they came out in the written text version. The word tendencies was altered to the word Temptations and the phrase “Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?” was completely removed.
So… Where does the Church stand today.
A.) The Church has cautioned its LGBT members to refrain from heterosexual marriage as a way to “fix” their attraction.
President Hinckley cautioned that
“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.”
B.) We should not expect the Homosexual attraction that some members feel to go away no matter how much that member prays, has faith, and makes sacrifices to God in search of it.
Elder holland at the October 2015 General Conference said of a young man who was gay
“And, I must say, this son’s sexual orientation did not somehow miraculously change—no one assumed it would.”
C.) Being Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual is not a choice
The Church’s official site MormonsAndGays.org states
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.
The current Doctrine which has been somewhat steady is that Marriage between a man and woman is ordained of God. The Church has interpreted that to mean that Homosexuality even in a loving committed legal marriage is Sin. This Doctrine was easy to hold when the common belief was that being gay was a choice or caused by one’s sinful behavior. It has become more difficult in recent years to sustain as the general public and Church members have come to understand the data that being gay or lesbian is biological. As Elder Faust said ina quote earlier, when we hold the Doctrine that Homosexuality is sin and we also come to grips that being gay is biological and inherant, then the paradox of those two seem to frustrate the plan of Salvation.
The Church has in recent months focused on defending its position and has deflected any conversation about what they would teach the gay member in order to keep more of them in the Church.
Many members recognizing that Church leaders have been drastically wrong in the past on important Social Issues pray for “further light and knowledge”. The issue has been very divisive to today’s members. Many of us look forward to how The Lord will help the Church better care for and love our LGBT Brothers and Sisters.
Once one sees the shifts we have made in the past one can graps that homosexuality is a much more fluid conversation, that we have absolutely overreached at times in stating God’s Mind and Will, offer us insight into why we as a community do a lot of harm to those on the margins, and help us be more aware of our need to love and care for our LGBT Brothers and Sisters.
In the end for the Transitioning Latter-day Saint one need not feel it is hell or the highway on this issue. Elder Christofferson, an apostle, when asked “What does the LDS Church think of members who back same-sex marriage?”
“There hasn’t been any litmus test or standard imposed that you couldn’t support that if you want to support it,” Christofferson said, “if that’s your belief and you think it’s right.” Any Latter-day Saint can have a belief “on either side of this issue,” he said. “That’s not uncommon.”
So many Progressive Latter-day Saints are doing just that.