ADMIRATION OR ANIMOSITY: HOW SHOULD WE VIEW LGBTQ PEOPLE?
WILLIAM S. BRADSHAW
AUTHORS NOTE Bill Bradshaw is Professor Emeritus from the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Biology at Brigham Young University where he taught and conducted research for 38 years. At BYU he served as Associate Dean of Honors and General Education. He has an A.B. degree in Biology from Harvard, and a Ph.D in Biochemistry from the University of Illinois. Billâ€™s interest in LGBTQ issues stems from three experiences. The first is academic. The question of the origin of homosexuality was occasionally posed by one of his students in an introductory biology, molecular biology, or cell biology course. The second arose during his ecclesiastical service in the LDS Church. With his wife, Marge, he presided over the mission of the church in Hong Kong and South Vietnam from 1971 to 1974. He subsequently served as a Bishop and then a Counselor in a Stake Presidency for married students at BYU. The third, and most important, is because Marge and Bill are parents of a wonderful gay son. Brett and his husband Jeff and their daughter Madeline live in Oakland, CA. Marge and Bill have served as Co-Chairs of LDS Family Fellowship, a support group for parents of LGBTQ children.
The purpose of this pamphlet is to achieve understanding and respect for LGBTQ people. This is an extremely important task; misunderstandings and misconceptions persist. In spite of the fact that there has been a remarkable shift in recent years in the United States in the direction of more positive attitudes, there remains a strong residue of misinformation and animosity toward gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals. Our goal here, then, is to reverse that negativity. What is the basis for homophobia, and how can it be reduced? Is there a path for kindness, love, and respect?
Table of Contents
Authorâ€™s Note 2 Why are gay people subject to ill will?
A look at the Biblical references
The sin of the people of Sodom
The prohibitions of Leviticus
The New Testament statements of Paul
Guilt by association: the sin in sexual transgression
The negative association with human weaknesses
A religious-based definition of the family
The Plight of the homosexual Latter-day Saint
Four options 19
Mixed-orientation marriage 20
A monogamous homosexual relationship
Whatâ€™s the nature of a homosexual relationship?
What can be done to eliminate homophobia?
WHY ARE GAY PEOPLE SUBJECT TO ILL WILL? The recognition that there is a fraction of humanity that is, by nature, not heterosexually oriented, is very recent in Western culture. The word “homosexual” was not coined until 1869 and did not appear in English until about 1895 . Thus, in many human societies it was commonly believed that the persons engaged in homosexual behavior were heterosexuals; it was not conceived that there were any other kinds of people. It is clear that at certain times in history and, in specific locations, people of different cultures have held different views about homosexuality. There is historical documentation that certain same-sex practices were common knowledge, sometimes accepted, and even formally celebrated in specific societies [2, 3]. The assertion here is that people in the Hebrew tradition did not conceive of the existence of a “third sex,” or otherwise entertain the notion of people who were intrinsically same-sex attracted. In the ancient Jewish or early Christian context the homosexual individual could only be understood by others as perverse and wanton. This view, I believe, is reflected in and informed the Biblical condemnations of homosexual relationships.
A LOOK AT THE BIBLICAL REFERENCES It is possible, of course, to read the Bible from an inerrant perspective. In such a view the words of the Biblical writers are to be interpreted literally (never symbolically), and are timeless, in that they apply without alteration regardless of peoples, culture, or circumstance. Alternatively, one can believe that careful study allows one to distinguish the literal from the figurative, and accept that an event or a revelatory message might be imperfectly understood, or imperfectly transmitted through the sometimes inadequate instrument of languages. Latter-day Saints accept the latter proposition, believing it to be consistent with the declaration that the “Bible is the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.” A specific example is President Spencer W. Kimball’s statement that the account in Genesis of Eve’s creation from the rib of Adam is “figurative” . What follows, then, is an analysis of those Biblical passages that have been traditionally used to condemn homosexuality.
Some Biblical passages used to disapprove of homosexuality have not been interpreted correctly.
THE SIN OF THE PEOPLE OF SODOM Conventional wisdom has it that the destruction by God of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah as recorded in Genesis 19 can be attributed to homosexuality practiced by their citizens. A thoughtful analysis of the Biblical texts, however, demonstrates that this conclusion is not valid. In the account, Lot violates the cultural mores of Sodom by inviting strangers (in this case two heavenly agents) into his home. Sodom’s people were not hospitable. A crowd of some citizens gathers and demands that the two be turned over to them, in order “that we may know them.” That the word “know” has a sexual connotation in this context (not the much more frequent use of the Hebrew “yada,” meaning recognize, acknowledge, make known, or punish ) has been assumed because in refusing to invite the strangers into their homes Lot alternatively offers his virgin daughters in appeasement. (We note that the Inspired Version renders the text as “. . . let me, I pray you, plead with my brethren that I may not bring them out unto you.”) The story is also remarkably similar to another account in Judges 19-21 in which the outcome is more clearly a gang rape of the house guests.
The critical insight in interpreting this account is that the inhabitants of Sodom are condemned, for reasons not specified, before the incident at Lot’s home. Divine judgment has been passed previously (the Lord had earlier informed Abraham of what would happen), and is not a consequence of the events at the doorstep. In fact, the angels have
A review of the subsequent Biblical references to Sodom (in seven books of the Old Testament and six books of the New Testament) does not justify the conclusion that the problem of the city’s people was sexual. (The one possible exception is Jude 7 which cites fornication and the vague statement “going after strange flesh,” where the Greek word “sarx” is variously interpreted to mean food, the body, human beings, or human nature - frailties or passions .) Most frequently Sodom and Gomorrah are cited together as a metaphor for wickedness: “. . . as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah,” Isaiah 13:19. An unequivocal statement of the real source of the wickedness, however, is made by Ezekiel. “Behold this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16:49). The Sodomites were selfish and uncaring. As a reflection of their arrogance and unwillingness to care for those in need, they turned away strangers.
Sodom’s sin was inhospitality, not homosexuality. Jesus had this same view. He says that people in those cities who fail to host and be receptive to the missionary apostles will be under greater condemnation than those of Sodom and Gomorrah (because they also were inhospitable) - repeated in Matthew 10:15, Mark 6;11, and Luke 10:12. Sodomites were not homosexuals; they were people bereft of charity. The interpretation that the sin of Sodom was inhospitality, mistreatment of aliens, and a lack of generosity is strongly supported by ancient Jewish religious texts (the Babylonian Talmud) . The (unreliable) connection of Sodom with same-gender sex was first made thousands of years after the fact by Philo of Alexandria, whose life spanned that of Jesus and the early church fathers . It then became the dogma of the fledgling Catholic Church, espoused, for example by Augustine.
Latter-day Saints should not accept an erroneous notion that became part of Christian religious canon during that apostate period of history when legitimate revelation was in such short supply.
THE PROHIBITIONS OF LEVITICUS It is helpful to put the Old Testament verses of scripture that comment on same-gender sexuality (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13) in the historical setting of Israel attempting to survive physically and maintain its religious and social integrity in the face of foreign influences the people encountered in a new location. The regulations in this book constitute a “Holiness Code,” intended, in large part, for the priests as rules of behavior that would distinguish the emigrants from Egypt from the Canaanites whose land they have entered . “Ye shall therefore keep all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: that the land, whither I bring you to dwell therein, spue you not out. And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore, I abhorred them. But I have said unto you, Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that floweth with milk and honey: I am the Lord your God, which have separated you from other people [Leviticus 20:22-24].” The practical implementation of this “separation” took the form of instructions pertaining to security, preserving a cultural identity, and procreation so as to enlarge the population. The Israelites were not to worship Canaanite gods nor adopt their customs. The need of this community has been described as “nation building,” an attempt to maintain ethnic purity, appropriate to a particular frontier circumstance at a particular time . As examples of the effort to promote a state of strict purity, the people were forbidden to interbreed cattle, plant a field with two different kinds of seeds, or wear clothing made from two different kinds of fabrics (Leviticus 19:19). There is a long list of additional prohibitions including round haircuts, marital sexual relations during menstruation - all deemed impure. Many of these violations were punishable by death. Sex between men is described as an “abomination” (Lev. 18:22). The Hebrew word is “tow’ebah” or “to’ebah,” which has a range of meanings, but whose intent as it appears in a number of verses in Leviticus and Deuteronomy seems to be “abhorrent because of being idolatrous or ceremonially unclean .” Thus, other “abominations” included eating organisms that creep on the earth (Lev. 11:4), taking idols (or removing the gold or silver from them) obtained from defeated enemies (Deut. 7:25), sacrificing a blemished bull or sheep (Deut. 17:1), wearing the clothing of a person of the opposite gender (Deut. 22:5), being a practitioner of magic or the mystical (Deut. 18:12), taking back a divorced wife whose subsequent husband had died (Deut. 24:4), or doing business with dishonest scales or rulers (Deut. 25:16). Many of these concerns are clearly anachronisms in today’s society, or at best viewed as trivial, and not intrinsically evil. This is especially true since the required punishment for same-gender sex was death, also prescribed for adultery, sex with one’s parents, sex with one’s children, sex with animals (Lev. 20: 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16), but also for cursing one’s parents (v. 9), dabbling in the occult (v. 27), blaspheming God’s name (Lev. 24:16), murder (Lev. 24:21), or advocating the worship of false gods (Deut. 13:5). Few today would consider the death penalty appropriate for all of these kinds of behaviors, even those deemed highly contemptible.
MANY OF THESE POLICIES DO NOT FIT IN MODERN SOCIETY.
So those who argue in favor of a letter of the law Old Testament condemnation of homosexuality appear to be guilty of a serious inconsistency, by advocating one set of prohibitions while disregarding most of the others. But the more important point is that the same-sex acts referred to were undoubtedly perceived to be between heterosexuals, there being no concept at the time in this culture that there existed in humanity any other state than to be opposite-sex attracted.
THE NEW TESTAMENT STATEMENTS OF PAUL Writing from Greece, Paul begins his letter to the Romans with greetings (Romans 1:1-15), and then launches a sermon on the degraded state of human kind, probably highly influenced by the pagan practices he had observed in his recent missionary journeys. He decries the fact that though the ways of godliness are obvious, the people have abandoned righteousness. They have substituted love of self for love of god. Beginning with worship of idols, there follows a long list of inappropriate attitudes and behaviors which derive from this self-deception. Among these, verses 26-27, are same-gender sexual acts, deemed unnatural for either women or men. The emphasis here is on the capacity of people to be contrary, to know what is right, but to do the opposite. In this context, being one thing but doing another, it is reasonable to believe that Paul was condemning those of a heterosexual orientation who performed homosexual acts, and that it was unlikely that he imagined that some women or men were homosexual by nature. “The idea was not available in his world” [8, 9]. Other statements in the writings of Paul about those who “abuse” (I Cor. 6:9) or “defile” (I Tim. 1:10) “themselves with mankind” are most likely references to male prostitutes (8, 9, 151, 156), an interpretation consistent with his companion examples of promiscuity (fornicators, adulterers, whoremongers). In a recent important book  Jennings documents these assertions about the interpretation of Biblical references in even greater detail.
Paul was condemning same-sex sexual behavior by heterosexuals.
I propose, then, as have others before me, that when the two or three Biblical writers denounced homosexual behavior they were addressing the issue of heterosexual persons engaging in homosexual sex. It was inconceivable to them that there were persons whose natural state was to be romantically oriented to those of their same gender. Such a possibility just did not occur to these people at that time. I note the absence of a reference to homosexuality in the Book of Mormon, or Pearl of Great Price, or, especially, in The Doctrine and Covenants. Disease-causing microorganisms were unknown until the rise of late 18th century scientific technology permitted their detection and a conceptualization of their role in human affairs. In an analogous way, it has taken even more time for us to conceive of a segment of humanity with a non-heterosexual orientation, and for gay and lesbian people to emerge from the realm of the invisible. I submit that our current perspective should take into account recent knowledge and experience. Human understanding of what is true changes over time. Truth may be eternal, but our comprehension of it is neither automatic nor complete. It takes time, usually a long time, for us to learn. What seems apparent is that God doesnâ€™t jump in unilaterally and correct our deficiencies in knowledge and understanding; He appears to wait patiently while we figure things out for ourselves. The evidence is strong that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters are homosexual by nature, and that their type of sexual orientation is not alterable. Similarly, we have been ignorant about issues surrounding gender identity, failing to understand the reality of people who are transgender.
This information places us under obligation to reconsider misconceptions we may have harbored, even those based on scripture, when we recognize our understanding to be faulty.
GUILT BY ASSOCIATION: THE SIN IN SEXUAL TRANSGRESSION People tend to see homosexuality in a negative light in part because it is commonly grouped indiscriminately with all sexrelated behaviors deemed sinful, immoral, or illegal. Consider, for example, this list from an LDS writer, placed under the heading of “Sex Immorality:” immodesty, necking, petting, prostitution, whoredoms, sodomy, onanism, homosexuality, masturbation, incontinence, perversion, rape, seduction, infidelity, adultery, fornication, uncleanness” . Similar groupings occur in other highly influential publications . Clearly some distinctions should be made among these behaviors. Careful definitions are called for, as well as the reasons why they are inappropriate. For example, rape and sexual molestation of children should be unequivocally condemned as violent assaults on unwilling victims, and therefore both immoral and illegal. Adultery, too, results in victims - the husbands and wives whose spouses are unfaithful and their children. The evil in infidelity is self-evident in the word itself, the breaking of a covenant. Prostitution, sex for hire, is a mutual exploitation of the parties involved, based on lust without love. We invoke different criteria, then, in judging if certain sexual acts are inappropriate. Some are lascivious if motivated exclusively by self-gratification; succumbing to lust is profligate, a reflection of selfishness and a loss of self-control. We condemn promiscuity, believing that physical intimacy ought to be reserved for a couple who are faithful to a binding monogamous commitment. Within many religious traditions, single heterosexual couples, in love and willing to honor that pledge, wait to express themselves sexually until marriage. Until recently this option has not been open to gay and lesbian people. There is, however, something circular, and therefore inequitable, about the argument that all sexual relations, including homosexual ones, outside the bounds of marriage are prohibited, while at the same time forbidding homosexual marriage.
Only recently has a legal, monogamous relationship been available to LGBTQ people.
It is hard to escape the conclusion that the aversion many heterosexuals mount against homosexuality is based on a feeling of repugnance for the physical nature of love-making between persons of the same gender. Unable to imagine themselves engaging in such activity, they (heterosexuals) may perceive it to be unnatural, a perversion. It must be admitted, however, that the intimacies of sex are somewhat mysterious, sometimes overwhelming even for recently married men and women. It is the contemporary LDS view that physical affection in marriage is not only proper, but an essential component in a healthy, fulfilling relationship, sustained by mutual concern and respect for oneâ€™s partner. Importantly, since this is deemed a private matter, the mechanics of love-making are neither prescribed nor proscribed, thoughtfulness and sensitivity to the feelings of oneâ€™s mate being the most important consideration. The private and personal character of sex also obtains in a homosexual context in which there is also an emphasis on appropriate balance, that sex should not assume a dominant role at the expense of the other necessary psychological and spiritual elements in the monogamous association of two people in love with each other. While properly arguing that a long-lasting and satisfying relationship between a man and a woman cannot be based on sex alone, it is also incumbent on critics not to believe that homosexual love is primarily based on erotic desire.
The expression of homosexual love is no more governed by lasciviousness than is heterosexual love.
THE NEGATIVE ASSOCIATION WITH HUMAN WEAKNESSES When homosexual orientation is seen as an aberration, and one that can be changed by force of will or therapeutic intervention, it is frequently placed in the company of those human dispositions or weaknesses that can be expressed in ways that are detrimental to self and others. For example, it has been described as a feeling or susceptibility akin to a “hot temper, contentious manner, and covetous attitude” or one that leads to alcoholism or an addiction to gambling . At times homosexual orientation is listed among the oppressive burdens some people have to deal with such as “crippling physical or mental impairment, feelings of depression or inadequacy, or addiction to certain substances or practices – alcohol, tobacco, drugs, or pornography” . These formulations neglect two essential aspects of sexual orientation – that it is a persistent, durable human characteristic, and one that has great capacity for good. In contrast, most of the imperfections of the kinds cited above are short-lived or periodic and their effect on those to whom they are directed is hurtful. We would never, for example, equate the heterosexual love of a man and a woman for each other with losing one’s temper. That would be terribly demeaning.
Homosexuality should not be equated with common human weaknesses. During the week, all of us exhibit various degrees of anxiety, generosity, hubris, gratitude, discouragement, enthusiasm, and the like, but our sexual orientation, either heterosexual or homosexual, is a constant. It is part and parcel of who we are. Of course, people are capable of abusing their sexual orientation, in either variant form, by expressing it inappropriately. But by the same token, the positive expression of love for another is ennobling and virtuous. It is an injustice to place homosexual orientation in a negative context, alongside transient human failings with which it is not equivalent. One remedy for such shortsightedness is to become well acquainted with gay and transgender people. When that happens, their intrinsic goodness becomes obvious. As loyal family members, good neighbors, conscientious employees, or patriotic citizens, with respect to honesty, kindness, sensitivity – in any measure of human worth – they are equivalent to us who are heterosexual.
WE SHOULD RECOGNIZE THE INTRINSIC GOODNESS OF LGBTQ PEOPLE.
A RELIGIOUS-BASED DEFINITION OF THE FAMILY Objections by the LDS Church to same-sex relationships are not based on direct statements in its scriptural Standard Works, but are deduced secondarily from its view of the family and its definition of marriage. “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 .” Since only heterosexual relationship have traditionally been the norm, any other bond is deemed illegitimate regardless of the degree to which it may be identical in virtue or goodness to one between a man and a woman. The sinfulness of a same-sex relationship is inferred, not demonstrated.
JUDGMENTS ABOUT LGBTQ PEOPLE SHOULD ONLY BE MADE BY DIRECT OBSERVATION ABOUT HOW THEY LIVE THEIR LIVES.
THE PLIGHT OF THE HOMOSEXUAL LATTER-DAY SAINT Let’s try to imagine and empathize with the circumstance of a young, committed Latter-day Saint in the late teens or early twenties who comes to the realization of his or her homosexuality. This is a recognition and acceptance of an innate, un-chosen same-sex romantic orientation with a small, if any, chance of being altered over the course of life. What would you do? Like your heterosexual brothers and sisters in the Church, you have been taught about the primacy of the family, and grew up expecting to find a heterosexual spouse with whom you would share a deep and abiding love. No matter what else you might pursue by way of education, professional achievement, or any other attainment, nothing - you have believed - holds the same promise of lasting joy and fulfillment as that found among wife, husband, and children. But not for you; for everyone else in the Sacrament Meeting congregation, but not you. You’re excluded. Is it reasonable to suppose that after something like 12 years (from age 8, for a 20-year old) of hearing marriage extolled (the virtue and benefits of marital and family companionship as a preparatory practice for godliness) a gay person could easily abandon that hope and an expectation of these blessings? We cannot expect a person to unlearn that concept or suddenly be comfortable with the notion that he or she is not eligible for the blessings of such loving relationships. Imagine hearing, “The attendant work and sacrifice will bring heterosexual people closer to the character of deity,” but you will be left out of that circle.
So what will you do? It should be recognized that there will not be a uniform response by all young homosexual members of the Church. Some will be able, with a minimum of angst, to accept the reality of their sexual orientation, and view it as one component in the complex physical and emotional nature of their character. To be able to react positively with â€œThis is who I amâ€? probably reflects a strong sense of self-worth and a high degree of confidence in being able to retain the love and respect one has always received from parents, other family members, and close friends. Others, viewing homosexuality in a strongly negative light will spend years in private denial, attempting to rationalize or will away their circumstance. Some will embark on self-directed efforts to alter their orientation through righteous conduct or heterosexual marriage, or embark on a formal program of counseling and change therapy. A study of LGBTQ LDS individuals has been conducted which describes how these persons navigate the conflict between their religious and sexual identities .
What must it be like to feel excluded from your most cherished dreams? Experience suggests that people in these latter categories, who respond to their homosexuality with varying degrees of disavowal, suffer significant spiritual anguish. It is not surprising to learn that the feelings of personal esteem of many gay Latter-day Saints are greatly diminished under these circumstances, especially when their coming out to others is greeted with disapproval. The accounts many describe of being disowned by parents, excluded from associations in their extended families, and marginalized in their LDS communities are heart rending [17-20]. Most distressing are the stories of those who so despair of having a legitimate place in the world that they take their own lives [21-23]. All this in the Mormon community, unfortunately, is qualitatively the same as that which takes place in our society at large. The abuse perpetrated on homosexuals, from school yard taunts to hate crimes including murder, is well documented [24-26]. Sadly, one of the men who tortured and took the life of Mathew Shepherd in Laramie, Wyoming  was LDS. However, Church authorities have repeatedly admonished members to treat gay and lesbian people with Christian kindness, and spoken against any form of cruel, abusive, or violent behavior [28-29].
Many LGBTQ people suffer intolerable indignities.
As our gay brothers or lesbian sisters consider the choices for life ahead there seem to be four options: marry heterosexually, remain single and celibate, partner promiscuously with other homosexuals, or establish a committed, monogamous homosexual relationship.
MIXED ORIENTATION MARRIAGE? There are, of course, many married, gay members of the Church. Often, they enter marriage with the false hope that a heterosexual relationship will allow them to change their orientation. That doesnâ€™t happen. Marriage as a cure for homosexual feelings was once common counsel, and one that had seriously unfortunate consequences. Depression, self-loathing, loss of faith, and similar problems often result for the gay or lesbian partner. Their heterosexual spouses frequently experience a sense of betrayal, and perhaps even worse, a loss of self-worth because of being unable to meet their husbandâ€™s or wifeâ€™s romantic needs, and their own needs for intimacy and sexual expression may not be met . Children born to such couples often become unwitting victims to this illusion, when the marriage subsequently dissolves. In recognition that heterosexual marriage is not a solution , the Church has issued instructions that ecclesiastic leaders are to stop giving this advice . Existing evidence suggests that when mixed orientation marriages succeed it is usually because the non-heterosexual spouse is bisexual . Some LDS married homosexuals, with the help of understanding and highly courageous spouses, have opted to remain in those families, finding it the best, if difficult, individual solution to their situation . Others have not, driven, I believe, by a sense that they cannot continue to live a lie and need to find some other way to be true to themselves - a principle they have been taught in the church.
Mixed orientation marriages are not fulfilling, even damaging, for many LGBTQ people. I respond with compassion at the realization that many gay people are unable to make, in full honesty, the kind of commitment to a wife or husband that characterizes the marriage covenant. In such a circumstance it seems proper to consider a standard of conduct in which an individual gay Latter-day Saint finds an alternative course in life that most fully permits the acquisition of goodness and the practice of service, traits and behavior that find their highest expression in the life of the Savior. It seems to me that there may be several different paths appropriate to that end.
CELIBACY? This is an alternative, and there are those gay people who find an acceptable solution for themselves in a celibate life. On the other hand, I also will always remember the words of a young woman who agonized at the thought that her gay brother would spend the rest of his life eating supper alone. It seems to me that since we have never recommended celibacy for heterosexual Latter-day Saints (in fact, have usually viewed it as an unfortunate, sometimes harmful, condition), it is contradictory to suggest it as a uniform solution for Church members who are homosexual. We frequently quote the scriptures on the subject: “It is not good that man should be alone” (Genesis 2;18, Moses 3:18, Abraham 5:14). Articles in official Church publications have cited celibacy as an incorrect doctrine arising during the Apostasy [35, 36], condemned it as an expression of selfishness (“Self-imposed celibacy and isolationism are extreme expressions of selfishness and an unwillingness to serve or be served,” ), and quoted a convert whose discomfort with the future celibate life he was awaiting led him to investigate and join the Church . Empirical scholarship with an LGBTQ LDS sample demonstrates severe mental health deficits for those not in a monogamous, committed relationship . In that study, a Quality Of Life assessment shows a gradient in the order: single < mixed orientation marriage < informal same-sex relationship < legal same-sex relationship, with the first two of these being 6 and 3 points, respectively, below the level of a debilitating physical ailment (Lupus).
LDS doctrine has never contained a recommendation for celibacy. Can we whose married lives have been so enriched by the love and companionship of our wives or husbands, imagine living life without one’s sweetheart? Can we begin to conceive the emptiness and lack of fulfillment of that prospect? What is the probability that a committed gay Latter-day Saint will succeed in living a life of celibacy? With respect to the lonely, celibate life, the argument is sometimes made that the circumstance of an LDS homosexual is not unique in comparison to heterosexuals who remain single, and therefore is not deserving of special consideration. Handicapped or never-married persons are usually cited as being in a similar circumstance [40, p. 5]. But I submit that the situations of the disabled or the spinster or bachelor, and gay LDS are not equivalent. The difference is that celibacy for the spinster or bachelor is not imposed and enforced; marriage remains an option and we all would rejoice if it happened. Marriage for the irreparably disabled is sometimes not feasible because a physical, mental, or emotional deficit can render such a person incapable of fulfilling the marriage vows. But this is not true for a gay person, who is fully capable in every respect of being a wonderful spouse. The gay individual is also likely to be heavily influenced by the LDS doctrine that this mortal life is the optimal time for achieving progression through personal spiritual development, and thus less willing to defer loving relationships to a post-mortal future in which the matter of his or her sexual orientation is not at all clear .
What, then, might be the considerations that a committed, gay Latter-day Saint evaluates during his or her private deliberations about living a celibate life? Having been exposed to a life-time in which heterosexual marriage and family have been extolled as the most promising route for genuine happiness and individual fulfillment in mortality, how does one see the future in which those blessings are unavailable? What a person in this circumstance is likely to face is a serious conflict, between the noble aspiration of maintaining full fellowship in the Church, which one loves, and the equally admirable yearning for a loving family relationship. At an earlier time these two goals seemed to be congruent, but if one is required to make a choice between the two, what will it be? We can certainly not recommend sexual promiscuity. Parents of gay and lesbian people probably worry most that loneliness will drive their children to indiscriminate conduct with its potential for unhappiness, abuse, assault, and disease. Instead, when heterosexual marriage or celibacy are not viable options, parents hope their child will find a partner with whom to create a permanent, stable relationship.
A MONOGAMOUS HOMOSEXUAL RELATIONSHIP? Many of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, knowing that heterosexuality is not possible for them, and seeing celibacy as an unsatisfying and unacceptable alternative, will opt for a loving, spiritually-fulfilling monogamous relationship, seeing it as the more moral choice, the one most in keeping with their sense of what God wants for them, even if it means being unable to function in the Church. This decision may be made with agonizing reluctance. These people find themselves in a position they never would have supposed or chosen under normal circumstances – being able to do more to exercise a Christian life of service, sacrifice, and personal growth outside the Church than they would be able to achieve by remaining celibate and staying in the Church. I believe that given that terrible “Sophie’s Choice,” most gay LDS have opted or will opt for a committed same-sex relationship their understanding of the gospel and their pleadings with God will impel the majority in that direction. This decision will not be made out of a spirit of defiance or rebellion or disagreement with spiritual truths, but just the opposite, because of devotion to those very ideals. The above commentary is not intended as a prescription of what gay LDS people ought to do, but a prediction about what is most likely to happen based on past observations. I believe that homosexual Latter-day Saints realize that marriage is not an end in itself. It is not sought as a badge of honor, to spite society, or out of any other questionable motive.
Rather marriage, regardless of sexual orientation, is viewed as a relationship between people who love each other that permits both to begin to acquire those godly traits that we all hope to develop during our mortal existence: unselfishness, kindness, forgiveness, sacrifice, service to others, and fidelity, to name a few.
Photo Credit: Kali Po
I remember clearly a much earlier motivational program in the Church whose slogan, appearing ubiquitously on bulletin board posters and distributed on hand-held cards was “Be Honest with Yourself.” That message about the virtue of personal integrity is a constant in our teachings. “Know who you are, and live a life true to that identity.” Emerson expressed a similar view: “I cannot find language of sufficient energy to convey my sense of the sacredness of private integrity” . For many gay or lesbian LDS men or women who come to the realization that they are romantically oriented to persons of the same gender, to attempt to be otherwise or ignore the reality of that un-chosen, unchangeable self would be for them a violation of conscience. One sometimes hears the following expression from those who are unwilling to accept that homosexuality is an intrinsic, involuntary orientation, “God would not create his children in a way that rendered them incapable of keeping his commandments.” At the same time, in recognition of having been born with a same-gender orientation, homosexual people will describe it as “God-given.” I submit that Latter-day Saints can properly acknowledge God as the author of a Plan of Salvation that includes providing a mortal probation for His spirit children, while at the same time accepting the view that He does not precisely manipulate every detail of each of those lives. “God-given” may correctly describe the idiosyncratic circumstance in which each of us enters and navigates life as we are called upon to deal successfully with the often unpredictable exigencies associated with mortality.
Gay people also see their homosexuality as “God-given” and moral because its expression of love and caring for another is consistent with and resonates with their understanding of divine goodness.
WHAT IS THE NATURE OF A HOMOSEXUAL RELATIONSHIP? The notion that homosexual love is not normal and therefore illegitimate is common and perpetuated by the use of stereotypical language. Consider, for example, the following example of the use of the phrase “gay lifestyle.” “As a result of a political agenda, some people across America and the world have accepted the homosexual lifestyle as a normal lifestyle .” The connotation is clearly pejorative. Why is this phrase problematic? First, because of the way that “lifestyle” is used commonly in other contexts; the word suggests casual, discretionary choice. Understood in this way, homosexual love is akin to selecting where to go for this year’s summer vacation - a whim, a passing fancy, not a deeply held emotion having spiritual permanence. Secondly, “gay lifestyle” carries the implication of sexual promiscuity, and reinforces the prejudice that homosexual love is only a base expression of sexual gratification. In this view, a homosexual relationship could only be superficial and transient. LGBTQ persons do not seek a lifestyle, they seek a life – one of permanence, fulfillment, and happiness.
A COMMITTED, MONOGAMOUS RELATIONSHIP IS NOT A “LIFESTYLE” CHOICE.
It is common to hear the advice, “Even if you’re homosexual, you don’t have to act on your homosexual feeling.” The unspoken assumption in this sentiment is that what a homosexual person experiences is lust. But what are the essential, healthy feelings of a gay person? As with heterosexuals, they are love, respect, admiration, or infatuation, for another human being. They are the natural feelings that accompany the dreams of becoming a spouse or partner. They are a love for children and a hope for the security, solidarity, and sanctity of a family. They are the feelings that accompany the hope of being a good parent. They are the feelings we all, heterosexual and homosexual alike, share in common as human beings. What is the origin of these feelings? They are the inheritance of spiritual offspring of divine parents, the results of lessons taught in the homes of caring, conscientious parents, all confirmed as good through life’s adult experiences. Not to act on those feelings? Not to be honest with oneself? Not to know who you are and be true to what you’ve been taught?
How would those of us who are heterosexuals react to the suggestion that we should not act on those same feelings, feelings born in part from our innate sexuality and leading us to aspire to goodness and godliness?
Those not closely acquainted with gay people may not have considered that they are capable of the same type of romantic feelings that characterize heterosexual love, something in addition to urges of a sexual nature. Nevertheless, that is true. Falling in love can have the same positive emotional, spiritual, and moral qualities for a homosexual couple as for a heterosexual couple. Homosexual love is not counterfeit. What do Latter-day Saints (and others) who are in a committed gay relationship do? They get up in the middle of the night to care for a sick partner. They fix dinner, out of turn, when the person they love has had a bad day. They sacrifice in order to provide opportunities for the growth and development of their children. They resist the temptation to be unfaithful. They send flowers. They coach little league baseball teams. They say, “I’m sorry.” They help in buying the groceries. They plant flowers and mow the lawn. They delight in the success and achievement of the one to whom they are devoted. They do their best to express the deepest feelings of their heart when they say, “I love you.”
Committed same-sex spouses exhibit the same commendable virtues as heterosexual spouses.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO ELIMINATE HOMOPHOBIA?
I know that at the present time there is a great deal of animosity, ill will, intemperate language, and ignorance with regard to homosexuality. Our gay and transgender friends and family members are frequently labeled as perverts and deviants unworthy of our association. As a result, many find activity in their Mormon congregations too painful. As such, we lose the blessings of their gifts. I cannot believe that the Savior is pleased with this situation, but I do believe that He will do all He can to help us find a better way. I believe that my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, both within and without the LDS Church, live their lives under circumstances that require greater courage and resilience than has ever been asked of me, and that this fortitude deserves deep respect and appreciation. Homosexuality does not carry with it a greater intrinsic propensity for psychological instability, but homosexual people grow up exposed to a hurtful level of societal disapproval that heterosexual people do not face and cannot readily imagine. To some degree life can be unfair to all of us, but the enmity, hostility condemnation, and even violence inflicted on LGBTQ persons constitute an especially onerous burden. It is not surprising then to find some of these people dealing with low self-esteem and other emotional deficits.
It is also my belief that our Heavenly Father has in store special blessings for his homosexual and transgender children in recognition of the spectacular successes they have made of their mortal lives in the face of undeserved hostility. But at the same time, I believe that itâ€™s important not to promote the notion of gay people as the downtrodden who require our sympathy. That flip side of homophobia is equally unacceptable. What is needed is not pity. What is needed is a shift in societal attitudes such that accurate information replaces mythology, respect born of direct experience replaces fear, and a commitment to equality replaces a tradition of marginalization. Gay and transgender people must also learn not to see themselves as anything but capable, competent, and most of all worthy. Life ahead must be joyful and full of promise.
One of the disheartening, seriously harmful, and unacceptable consequences of homophobia in the LDS community is the rejection and alienation that gay or lesbian children encounter in some families. This rejection can be communicated through physical abuse, verbal harassment, exclusion from family activities, pressuring a child to be more or less masculine or feminine, or emotional sanctions imposed in a religious context. It is probably self-evident that this lack of acceptance would be accompanied by deep personal sadness on the part of the excluded children, and that this would likely lead to an increase in self-destructive behaviors by these individuals. That this in fact occurs in the community at large has been convincingly documented in a study published by Dr. Caitlin Ryan and her colleagues at San Francisco State University . These investigators examined family relationships in 224 white and Latino families in California to determine how specific negative health measures in lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults were affected by the degree to which they were accepted or rejected as adolescents by their family members. The results were striking. Children experiencing negative family reactions were 8.4 times more likely to have attempted suicide, 5.9 time more likely to experience high levels of depression, 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs, and 3.4 times more likely to be at high risk for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. A significant number of these young people, including Latter-day Saints, had been ejected from their parentsâ€™ home. Importantly, even a modest degree of acceptance on the part of parents and siblings resulted in a large reduction in these harmful outcomes. It is difficult to imagine how LDS parents could reconcile mistreatment or abandonment of their homosexual and transgender children, or withhold love and support, with the ideal of loving family relationships espoused by the Church.
FAMILY ACCEPTANCE OF LGBTQ CHILDREN IS CRITICAL IN REDUCING SERIOUS MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS LATER ON IN LIFE.
Greater sensitivity and a reduction in hurtful disapproval might also be achieved as we review and evaluate pertinent LDS doctrines. I would like to suggest that it is appropriate for members of the Church to withhold judgment about the implications of some religious principles in humble recognition of the uncertainty that accompanies our high degree of ignorance. Isnâ€™t it likely that much (perhaps even most) of what God knows He has not yet shared with us? For example, we worship a heterosexual Father In Heaven and are told that gender is an intrinsic feature of the character of every individual , but it is not clear how to interpret anomalies such as the existence of intersex and hermaphroditic persons, exceptions to the rule whose mortal lives are severely impacted by gender uncertainty. There is a very large number of questions that we are unable to answer about such fundamental issues as the detailed pre-mortal history of spirits, our relationship to Heavenly Mother, the eternal meaning of race, the post-mortal organization and operation of families, and the nature and mechanisms of eternal increase. The ideals we espouse provide wonderful general guidelines for the heterosexual majority in their quest for exaltation, without ruling out the possibility that there will be equivalent eternal possibilities for the homosexual minority. If we find out when we pass on that homosexuality is a temporary condition â€“ the result of the fragile conditions of mortality, or part of the eternal character of some of Godâ€™s spirit children, then we will learn to adapt to that new reality.
UNTIL THEN, HOWEVER, IT WOULD SEEM MOST APPROPRIATE TO LOVE AND SUPPORT OUR GAY AND LESBIAN BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN THEIR EFFORTS IN THIS MORTAL SPHERE TO ACQUIRE AS MUCH AS THEY CAN OF EQUALITY AND HAPPINESS.
REFERENCES 1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexual#Etymology_and_usage. Accessed February 19, 2009. 2. Crompton, L. Homosexuality and Civilization. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA. 2003. 3. Quinn, D.M. 3,600 years of verified same-sex marriages. Afffirmation Conference, Salt Lake City, September 19, 2009. 4. Kimball, S.W. The Blessings and Responsibilities of Womanhood. Ensign, March, 1976. 70-73. 5. The New Strong’s Exhaustive concordance of the Bible, 1990. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. 6. Babylonian Talmud: Sanhedrin, 109a; 14:749. Bailey, D.S. Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition. Longmans, Green, London. Cited in [26, pp. 36-39.]. 7. Philo of Alexandria, On Abraham, Tr. F.H. Colson and G.H. Whitaker. 1929-1962. 10 vols. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA. Cited in [26, pp. 139; 143-146]. 8. Wink, W. Homosexuality and the Bible. In Homosexuality and Christian Faith: Questions of conscience for the churches, 1999. Walter Wink, Ed. Fortress Press, Minneapolis, MN. 9. Gomes, P.J. The Good Book, 1996. William Morrow and Company, Inc., New York, NY. 10. Jennings, D.E. Stumbling Blocks and Stepping-Stones. Including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex Children of God in the LDS Plan Of Salvation. Volumes One and Two. (2016). Mormon Alliance, Salt Lake City, UT. 11. McConkie, B.R. (1958). Mormon Doctrine, Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, UT. 12. Kimball, S.W. (1969). The Miracle of Forgiveness, Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, UT. 13. Oaks, D.H. Same-Gender Attraction. The Ensign, October 1995, pp. 7-14. 14. Oaks, D. H. He heals the heavy laden. The Ensign, 6-9, November (2006). 15. LDS Church Handbook, 21.4.10. Administering the Church, “Same-Gender Marriages.” 16. Dehlin, J.P., Galliher, R.V. , Bradshaw, W.S. Bradshaw, and Crowell, K. A. Navigating Sexual and Religious Identity Conflict: A Mormon Perspective. Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research, 15 (1): 1-22 (2015). 17. Anonymous. Solus. Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 10 (2), 94-99, Autumn (1976). 18. Decisions of the Soul. LDS Personal Accounts of Same-Sex Orientation in Opposite-sex Marriage. The Intermountain Conference on Sexuality and Homosexuality, April 29, 1995. Dwight Cook, Rob Kilian, and Karen Swannack, Series Editors. 19. Pearson, C.L. No More Goodbyes. Pivot Point Books, Walnut Creek, CA. 2007. 20. Peculiar People. Mormons and same-sex orientation. R. Schow, W. Schow, and M. Raynes Eds. Signature Books, Salt Lake City, UT. (1991).
REFERENCES CONTINUED 21. Packard, T., Packard, K., and Schow, R. Science and homosexuality: A rejoinder http://www.ldsfamilyfellowship.org/opedscience.htm. 22. Alexander, D.J. Suicidal behavior in gay and lesbian Mormons. Affinity, 1989. Reprinted in Peculiar People, pp. 257-263. 23. Rees, R.A. (2000). In a dark time the eye begins to see: Personal reflections on homosexuality among the Mormons at the beginning of a new millenium. Dialogue, 33 (3), 137-151. 24. Comstock, G. D. (1991). Violence Against Lesbians and Gay Men. Columbia University Press, New York, NY. 25. Herek, G.M. Homophobia: Thinking about sexual prejudice and stigma in the twenty-first century. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 1, 6-24 (2004). 26. Sokoloff, N.J. and Pratt, C. (2005). Domestic Violence at the Margins: Readings on Race, Class, Gender, and Culture. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, NJ. 27. Loffreda, B. (2000) Losing Matt Shepard. Life and politics in the aftermath of anti-gay murder. Columbia University Press, New York, NY. 28. God Loveth His Children. http://www.lds.org/portal/site/LDSOrg/menuitem. b3bc55cbf541229058520974e44916a0/?. Accessed 7/25/2007. 29. The Divine Institution of Marriage. http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/ comentary/the-divine-instruction-of-marriage. p. 4. Accessed 9/18/2008. 30. Decisions of the Soul. LDS Personal Accounts of Same-Sex Orientation in Opposite Sex Marriage. The Intermountain Conference on Sexuality and Homosexuality, April 29, 1995. Dwight Cook, Rob Kilian, and Karen Swannack, Series Editors. 31. Hinckley, G.B. (1987). Reverence and Morality, The Ensign, 17, 45, May (1987). 32. “Keys to understanding homosexuality.” LDS Social Services. April 1990. 33. Bradshaw, W.S., Heaton, T.B., Decoo, E., Dehlin,, J.P., Galiher, R.V., and Crowell, K.A. Religious Experience of GBTQ Mormon Males. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. 54 (2), 311-329 (2015). 34. A Place in the Kingdom. Spiritual insights from Latter-day Saints about same-sex attraction. (1997). G. Hyde and G. Hyde, Eds. 35. Merrill, H.M. Great Apostasy as Seen by Eusebius. The Ensign, 91-94, November (1972). 36. Butler, S. What Happened to Christ’ Church? New Era, 91-94, February (2005). 37. Bradford, W.R. Selfishness Vs. Selflessness. The Ensign, 91-94, April (1983). 38. Coleman, G.J. and Madsen, J.M. New Religion, New Life. The Ensign, 91-94, June (2007). 39. Dehlin, J.P., Galliher, R.V., Bradshaw, W.S., and Crowell, K.A. Psychosocial correlates of religious approaches to same-sex attraction: A Mormon perspective. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health, 18 (3): 284-311 (2014). 40. Oaks, D.H. and Wickman, L.B “Same Gender Attraction, September 2006. http://www.lde.org/ldsnewsroom/v/index 41. Holland, J.R. Helping those who struggle with same-gender attraction. The Ensign, 42-45, Oct. (2007).
REFERENCES CONTINUED 42. Smith, J.F. We are here to be tried, tested, proved. BYU Speeches of the Year, (3). (October 25, 1961). 43. Geldard, R. (2001). The Spiritual Teachings of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Lindisfarne Books, Great Barrington, MA. 44. Bradshaw, W.S., Norman, N., Dehlin, J.P., Galliher, R.V., and Crowell, K.A. (2016). Social Reactions, Etiological Perceptions, and Spiritual Perspectives in an LGBTQ Mormon Sample. In Sexual Orientation: Perceptions, Discrimination, and Acceptance. Frances Earley, Editor. Chapter 1, pp. 1-50. Nova Scientific Publishers, Inc., Hauppage, NY. 45. Byrd, A. D. Homosexuality and the Church of Jesus Christ. Bonneville Books, Springville, UT. 2001, pp. 3-4. 46. Ryan, C., Huebner, D., Diaz, R.M., and Sanchez, J. Family rejection as a predictor of negative health outcomes in White and Latino lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults. Pediatrics, 123, 346-352 (2009). 47. First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1995. The Family. A Proclamation to the World. Salt Lake City: Intellectual reserve.
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How could we view LGBTQ people? The purpose of this pamphlet is to achieve understanding and respect for LGBTQ people. This is an extremel...
Published on Dec 11, 2017
How could we view LGBTQ people? The purpose of this pamphlet is to achieve understanding and respect for LGBTQ people. This is an extremel...