A new website, www.mormonsandgays.org, launched yesterday by the LDS Church gives a clear message: No one should be more loving towards those with same-sex attraction, than members who have the gospel of Jesus Christ and understand that it is a Christian imperative to “Love one another.”
According to Elder D. Todd Christofferson, “When people have those desires and same-sex attractions, our attitude is stay with us.’ I think that’s what God is saying Stay with me.'”
In this way, the website aims both to enhance members love toward those who struggle with same-sex attraction and remind those who struggle that they can still have a home in the Church. It does not mention any political issues such as same-sex marriage.
Elder Christofferson said, “I heard it expressed once, [that] We all have a horse to tame.’ And so same-sex attraction may be one, and something else with someone else. But we can all appreciate, I think, that each of us faces challenges in life.”
The site states: “We all need forgiveness, because we all sin. We all need comfort, because we all suffer. Along this common path each of us carries a cross. But we can’t do it alone. Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus Christ suffered and died for this very reason to bear our burdens with us.
“We also need each other. Belonging to a community of family, friends and believers allows us to help and be helped. We recognize in each other our common needs for intimacy and companionship and can discuss them without shame or rejection.”
When he was asked who the audience for the new website is, Elder Christofferson said, “We may not be talking about large numbers. In fact, we’re probably not. But, every soul matters. Everyone is important. The Savior made that plain when he told the parable of leaving the 90 and 9 and going after the 1. And I believe it’s important, it’s crucial, frankly, if we’re going to be followers of Jesus Christ as we profess and strive to be, that we do minister to each other, every one, without exception.”
The Church affirms on the website that this does not mean its position has changed toward homosexual behavior. The Church 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. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”
In creating the website, the Church acknowledged that few subjects were more emotionally charged than same-sex attraction, because it touches on what it means to be human and what our potential is as children of God. Thus, the website, which has been two years in development, is constructed as a “kind and reasoned conversation.”
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Elder Quentin L. Cook, and Elder Christofferson are all featured in videos on the site, but, at the same time, several members who have this inclination are also featured in video clips, sharing their authentic feelings and real experiences, some which may not be entirely in line with doctrine.
Many admit that reconciling their same-sex attractions with a religious life can be a difficult dilemma. Ted, for example, said, “Larry King was interviewing President Hinckley a few years ago, and asked “what should you do about the homosexuals?” And President Hinckley said, love them.’ Father sent us here to earth to love one another, and to love ourselves. For myself as a gay person, that last one has been really difficult. There’s nothing worse than feeling you are not okay. It’s only been as I have come to know Christ even more, as I have come to allow the atonement to apply in my life, that I know that I’m okay.”
Adam said, “I fear that homosexually-oriented members of the Church and in our community sometimes feel that they are somehow outside of that love.” He added that talking about it “needs to come from a place of understanding and empathy rather than fear and misunderstanding.”
Mike said, “One of the most important things we can learn while we’re here upon on this earth is how to love those who may think differently than us, may have different ideas than us, who may have different beliefs than us. That’s what it means to be Christ-like. It’s one of the most important things we have to learn in order for us to return and live with our Heavenly Father again.”
Ty told a longer story. He had grown up faithful, loved his mission and taught at the MTC, but all the time was aware that he had same-sex attractions. Dating girls had been difficult for him, so he decided to date men.
He said, “I was in a couple of different relationships with people that I really cared about. And it was interesting because I felt more emotionally alive but I also felt a loss of light, and that was clear to me during that time. It was a slow decrease in light but I noticed it. At one point, I was feeling very, very distant, probably as far from God as I had ever felt, and I had this very strong spiritual experience, kind of a mystical experience, where I was almost being enveloped in this feeling of love. There was nothing in that that was what you’re doing is right, what you’re doing is wrong’ it was just this feeling of I love you.'”
He said that at another time he was listening to a devotional address and as the speaker mentioned a verse from Isaiah, “I just had again like this very powerful spiritual experience, that my place was in the Church, that’s where I needed to be. It was a very clear communication that whether you get married in this life or the next is of no matter, just stay with me. Stay with me. If you take life a day at a time, continuing to seek and cultivate the spirit in your life, every blessing that can be had will be yours. Just trust.”
Those with same-sex attraction said this was not the entirety of who they are. Bill said,
“When I think of myself identifying who I am, I think you know, first and foremost I go back to my Primary days, I am a child of God. I truly believe that, with all my being. I see you as a child of God. And I hope that is who people see me as first and foremost. I know Heavenly Father does. I know the Savior sees me as a child of God first.”
Michael Purdy of the LDS Church public affairs office told the Deseret News, that there are some aspects of the LDS Church’s beliefs and practices that are not well understood, and the Church will be launching websites about other important issues in the next few weeks.
“Too often these types of big, important issues are dealt with in sound bites, and often by individuals who do not have the complete picture of what the church is doing,” Purdy said.
“We hope (the website) will be a resource for better understanding and better communication.”
The Deseret News also interviewed several LGBT leaders about their response to the site.”After being given an opportunity to explore the new website on Monday, Valerie Larabee, executive director of the Utah Pride Center, a non-profit organization that serves Utah’s gay community, said she applauds any institution, religious or otherwise, for increasing the availability of potentially lifesaving resources to bridge the gap in human understanding, respect and acceptance of differences.’
It is my hope that our Utah LGBTQ community will embrace the fact that saving lives may be the greatest gift of this new resource for LDS members, giving LGBTQ and questioning Mormons hope through knowing that their families and church leaders are committed to reducing judgment, rejection and isolation,” Larabee said.
Undoubtedly, some with same-sex attraction will appreciate the website and some will say, “Why doesn’t the Church just let people be?” Elder Christofferson answered, This is a gospel of change. Jesus Christ is asking every one of us to change, and to become better and to progress and to follow in his footsteps.
“His ultimate commandment is that we become as He is and as His father. And none of us are at that point. None of us have things, are free of things that we don’t need to change in our lives and to improve. And the standard is always the gospel of Jesus Christ. And every one of us has to measure up to that standard because that’s where our ultimate happiness is going to be found. That’s where our ultimate freedom is going to come. And God being just and loving all of His Children is going to help everyone who wants to progress toward that ideal, whatever they may need to do in their lives to do that.”
Elder Oaks said, “When we speak of eternal relationships, and when we speak of the atonement of Jesus Christ, and when we speak of love, we are providing ingredients that help people overcome feelings of hopelessness. The gospel is a gospel of hope. The atonement is the greatest possible ingredient of hope. And love is the minister of hope.”
Judging from the comments on the Internet, most people are lauding the Church’s efforts to create a climate of increased understanding, love and conversation on this sensitive topic. Hats off to the Church and to the members with same-sex attraction who allowed themselves to be interviewed and to talk so frankly for this website.