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In December 2012, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced the launch of a new website, MormonsAndGays.org. The site was designed in an effort to encourage understanding and civil conversation about same-sex attraction, and to dispel myths regarding the Mormon Churchs stance on same-sex attraction.
But eighteen months after the launch of the site, many Church members are not aware of the site, and still get many facts wrong about the Churchs official positions. Entitled, Love One Another: A Discussion on Same-Sex Attraction, the site features a number of videos from people who share real experiences from their own perspectives on what can be a divisive and emotionally charged topic.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Churchs Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “Because we dont understand everything about this subject it is wise to stick to the revealed word of God as found in the scriptures. What we do know is that the doctrine of the Churchthat sexual activity should only occur between a man and a woman who are marriedhas not changed and is not changing. But what is changing and what needs to change is to help our own members and families understand how to deal with same-gender attraction.”
“As a church, nobody should be more loving and compassionate,” Elder Quentin L. Cook said. “Let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion and outreach. Lets not have families exclude or be disrespectful of those who choose a different lifestyle as a result of their feelings about their own gender.”
There are still many misunderstandings and myths regarding same-sex attraction. Sadly, these misconceptions can be very harmful to others. The following myths are all corrected on MormonAndGays.org or Mormon Newsroom. The information provided below is not paraphrased, but are direct quotes from the site, with the name of the General Authority that said it, or the section title on the site, or linked to articles on Mormon Newsroom.
Myth #1: Same-sex attraction is a sin.
Same-sex attraction is a reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Its important to remember a few things that people dont always understand or remember. And that is that homosexual behavior is not the unforgiveable sin. The atonement and repentance can bring full forgiveness there, and peace. And secondly, Id say though we dont know everything we know enough to be able to say that same-sex attraction in and of itself is not a sin. The feeling, the desire is not classified the same as homosexual behavior itself. And the third point I would mention is that when people have those desires and same-sex attractions, our attitude is “stay with us.” I think thats what God is saying “Stay with me.” And thats what we want to say in the Church: “Stay with us.”- Elder D. Todd Christofferson.
Myth #2: Same-sex attraction is a choice.
Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all Gods children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.
No one fully knows the root causes of same-sex attraction. Each experience is different. Latter-day Saints recognize the enormous complexity of this matter. “Being True to Religious Beliefs“
“Thats 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 doesnt have a position on.” Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Interview with Elder Oaks and Elder Wickman: Same-Gender Attraction.”
“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? But what matters is the fact that we know we can control how we behave, and it is behavior which is important.” Elder Lance Wickman, “Interview with Elder Oaks and Elder Wickman: Same-Gender Attraction.“
Myth #3: Gay is a disease.
We recognize in each other our common needs for intimacy and companionship and can discuss them without shame or rejection. Attraction to those of the same sex, however, should not be viewed as a disease or illness. Elder Christofferson.
Myth #4: The Church has changed its position on same-sex attraction.
There shouldnt be a perception or an expectation that the Churchs doctrines or position have changed or are changing. Its simply not true, and we want youth and all people to understand that. The doctrines that relate to human sexuality and gender are really central to our theology. And marriage between a man and a woman, and the families that come from those marriages thats all central to Gods plan and to the opportunities that He offers to us, here and hereafter. – Elder Christofferson.
Myth #5: Gay men should marry a straight woman and have children.
We dont counsel people that heterosexual marriage is a panacea. Elder Christofferson
Myth #6: With counseling and/or effort, all individuals with same-sex attraction can be fixed.
Youll see in some of these experiences that are related on [MormonAndGays.org] that [counseling] has been a successful experience in a few cases, or some have expressed the success theyve 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. Its not always successful. Sometimes its been even disastrous. So, we think its something that each person can evaluate and they can discuss, both with priesthood leaders and family and others, and make decisions. But we simply dont take a uniform position of saying “yes” always or “no” always. One thing thats always important is to recognize the feelings of a person, that they are real, that they are authentic, that we dont deny that someone feels a certain way.
We take the reality where it is, and we go from there.
And we want people to feel that they have a home here, that we have much, much more in common than anything thats different about us. Some of the experiences that are related there talk about that in this website. And I believe it is crucial that we always continue to feel that, to express that, to acknowledge the reality of peoples feelings and circumstances, and go from there. Elder Christofferson.
Myth #7: Persons with same-sex attraction cannot hold Church callings or be active in the Church.
Someone who is adhering to the norm of chastity, someone who is following the covenants and the standards, teachings of the gospel of Christ, though they may be dealing with same-sex attraction really theres no reason they cannot be fully participative, that they cant be a full-fledged member of the Church and hold callings and speak and enter the temple and serve there, and all the other opportunities and blessings that can come from Church membership will be available to themAmong Church members, there are multiple examples. And though no one would say that its always easy, all of us are endeavoring to maintain those norms and keep our covenants, and were all in the same boat, in the same company, in that regard. So, I say there are many, relatively speaking, who are finding that success in their lives and that happiness. Elder Christofferson.
Myth #8: If you support a gay rights organization, or do not defend traditional marriage, you will be ex-communicated.
In 2008, President Monson told the Deseret News, regarding a question about whether church members could disagree with the faith’s opposition to legalizing same-sex unions and still remain in good standing, “Depends on what the disagreement is If it’s an apostasy situation, that would not be appropriate. If it’s something political, there is room for opinion here and there on either side.” (Source: Deseret News)
Myth #9: Gay is not the same thing as same-sex attraction.
The 2010 version of the Church’s Handbook of Instructions notes:
Homosexual behavior violates the commandments of God, is contrary to the purposes of human sexuality, and deprives people of the blessings that can be found in family life and in the saving ordinances of the gospel. Those who persist in such behavior or who influence others to do so are subject to Church discipline. Homosexual behavior can be forgiven through sincere repentance.
If members engage in homosexual behavior, Church leaders should help them have a clear understanding of faith in Jesus Christ, the process of repentance, and the purpose of life on earth.
While opposing homosexual behavior, the Church reaches out with understanding and respect to individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender.
If members feel same-gender attraction but do not engage in any homosexual behavior, leaders should support and encourage them in their resolve to live the law of chastity and to control unrighteous thoughts. These members may receive Church callings. If they are worthy and qualified in every other way, they may also hold temple recommends and receive temple ordinances.
According to the American Psychological Association: “Sexual orientation is different from sexual behavior because it refers to feelings and self-concept. Individuals may or may not express their sexual orientation in their behaviors.”
Myth #10: You cannot support or defend traditional marriage, and love or condone homosexuals.
“God loves all of His children. He has provided a plan for His children to enjoy the choicest blessings that He has to offer in eternity. Those choicest blessings are associated with marriage between a man and a woman by appropriate priesthood authority to bring together a family unit for creation and happiness in this life and in the life to come.” “Interview with Elder Oaks and Elder Wickman: Same-Gender Attraction.”
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has declared its support of nondiscrimination regulations that would extend protection in matters of housing and employment in Salt Lake City to those with same-sex attraction.
Church Public Affairs Director, Michael Otterson, told city council members: “The issue before you tonight is the right of people to have a roof over their heads and the right to work without being discriminated against. But, importantly, the ordinances also attempts to balance vital issues of religious freedom. In essence, the Church agrees with the approach which Mayor Becker is taking on this matter.” “Church Supports Non-Discrimination Ordinances”
Jesus Christ commanded us to love our neighbors. Whether sinner or saint, rich or poor, stranger or friend, everyone in Gods small world is our neighbor, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. Latter-day Saints believe that our true commitment to Christian teachings is revealed by how we respond to this commandment. This love is tested every day of our lives. We may know individuals with same-sex attraction in our workplaces, congregations and town halls. As people with hopes, fears and aspirations like everyone else, these neighbors deserve our love. But we cant truly love the neighbors next door if we dont love the neighbors under our own roof. Family members with same-sex attraction need our love and understanding. God loves all his children alike, much more than any of us can comprehend, and expects us to follow. “Love One Another, the Great Christian Imperative.”
Erin Ann McBride is a writer, dreamer, and single woman. By day she works in marketing, and by night she hunts unicorns and writes romantic novels, “You Heard It Here First,” and the sequel “This Just In!” And you can always find her at theStory of a Nice Mormon Girl.