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What every faithful, same-sex attracted member of the church must KNOW.

April 28, 2012

The following is a comment I wrote in response to Well-Behaved Mormon Woman’s post “Gay and Mormon: Is it Safe Yet?” I wanted to post it here as well.

I hope that every faithful member, same-sex attracted or otherwise, soberly considers the weight of the church’s expectations for same-sex attracted members. For opposite-sex attracted members, the expectations focus on marriage and family. Yes, it is absolutely true that these members are expected to remain chaste. They are not supposed to misuse their divine sexual gifts outside of marriage. But it is very clear as well that they *are* supposed to use their sexual gifts, because they *are* supposed to marry and have families.

This goes so far as for the general authorities to speak in conference about how young men should not put off marriage, how it is essentially for them to marry, etc., Young women should look forward to the opportunity to become wives and mothers, for indeed motherhood is akin to priesthood.

For these same-sex attracted members who wish to follow the standards of the church, they must become fully aware of the fact that they are not achieving a chief theological goal in life. The church simply doesn’t have celibacy as the ultimate theological ideal for men and women — the ideal of chastity is not celibacy, but sex within the bounds of marriage towards raising a family.

These young men and you women must come to realize that they will not be able to achieve life’s purpose, as the church and its leaders have revealed it. At best, they must bide their time in this life, waiting until the end of this mortality with but the hope and faith that in the next life, all will be made well and whole.

Let us ponder this.

I also want to relate this to something I wrote a while back.

When I wrote my Wheat & Tares post “How does It Get Better, exactly?” a couple weeks ago, I foresaw many of the comments that Kathryn either explicitly makes or implies in her post. The ambiguity of BYU’s USGA group’s video allows different people to draw different messages from it, but just as well, it also allows different people to become suspicious of it. Kathryn doesn’t want to be seen as anti-gay for her faithful, traditional LDS position (see this response on Feminist Mormon Housewives about that [whenever the site is not down, I guess?]), but I find some things about the faithful LDS position particularly troubling.

I have tried to express that in as neutral, faith-friendly terms as I can above, but here is the deal: Mormonism doesn’t really have a theological telos of celibacy. When we speak of chastity, the end goal of chastity is not celibacy. It is always a faithful, chaste marriage with children. (And without going too far in the mechanics, I hope that the “children” part implies that sex is going on there.)

So, the lifelong expectancy of celibacy cannot be taken lightly in the Mormon tradition. Celibacy may be more desirable in the Mormon tradition than sexual sin, but celibacy is not ideal. A fully lived life of celibacy is not fully lived at all. It is a design flaw.

I imagine that when members like Kathryn speak of sympathizing or empathizing with “those who struggle with same-sex attraction,” they are in some way alluding to this. But I don’t think people understand the magnitude of this.

(As an aside, the usual response from gay folks is that they don’t really struggle with their homosexuality. I mean, it’s not hard being gay. You’re gay or you’re not. I don’t struggle to be attracted to dudes. It actually comes pretty easily. I struggle at many things…math…artcooking…but I don’t even have to work at to whom I’m attracted. Really, I can see how people people might struggle with being Mormon and gay. About being FOREVER ALONE.)

Moving past the aside, I want to get back to my contention that I don’t think people understand the magnitude of how bad celibacy is in Mormonism. I hear faithful straight members talk a lot about how it’s just “another burden” that these same-sex attracted members have to deal with. Or how many people may end up being celibate for life. And so on.

Just another burden?

To say it’s just “another burden” ignores the centrality of family and relationality in the church. It’s not “another burden,” because marriage and family isn’t just “another nice thing.” These things are big deals.

And that’s the next thing…a whole lot of adult life in the church ceases to make sense if family is not in place (this is the one common thread I’ve gotten from the Mormon Matters podcasts on Young Single Adults, for example.)

There is a sort of path…and I think the church really works for people who are on that path…but if you aren’t on that path, the church hasn’t seemed to figure out how to construct alternative paths. The church understands that this is a problem, because as people get “off track,” they are more likely to drift away from the church. So, in recent general conference talks, we’ve heard the church respond to this issue. Instead of constructing alternative paths, general authorities have spoken even more fervently about the importance on staying on the path. There are talks that counsel people not to put off getting married, not to put off having children. Because the church knows it is so good at these things, and that these things are so central to the church’s entire way of doing things.

So, that’s not just “another burden.” It is derailing from the tracks.

Others have the same issue!

Generally, after people bring up that it’s just “another burden,” they might try to say that these individuals aren’t alone in being expected to be celibate for life. They will point out various straight individuals who experience the same thing.

There are a couple of problems with this, depending on how they exemplify the analogy.

One problem possible is that the comparable straight individual in question isn’t actually “consigned”. He or she may be terribly unlucky, but the possibility is always out there that he or she will meet someone.

But what if they probably won’t ever meet anyone? What if there are extenuating circumstances that lead to that possibility?

This is the second potential problem — I have heard people analogize to people with critical “deal breakers” who have various traits that make it extremely unlikely they will marry (things like extreme mental deficiency, etc.) Or, people who have various traits that will make it extremely unlike that they will have children even if they do marry (i.e., infertility. Remember that it’s a one-two punch…it’s not JUST marriage but also raising a family that is the ideal.)

The problem here is that in these analogies, one is essentially analogizing homosexuality with extreme disability. But in this case, it goes back to the “another burden” section as well. This kind of “disability” is not like most disabilities. It’s not just like an inability to catch a baseball because you’re too uncoordinated…it is a disability to achieve one’s central, divinely revealed goal as a human being within Mormonism.

What about the next life?

At some point in the discussion, the faithful member will try to console the same-sex attracted member, by saying that if they remain strong in the gospel, they may look forward to something better in the afterlife. Now, there are several problematic and perhaps-not-quite-doctrinal underpinnings here (some will go so far as to say that gay individuals will be straight in the next life…and while that is a possibility, I’m sure that people who thought that righteous black people would be white in the afterlife thought that was a possibility as well), but the thing I want to say is how depressing this kind of sentiment can be.

Think about it. You have failed at one of the major purposes of your mortal existence. The solution? Not much in this life. Look forward to what comes after this mortal existence.

In other words, when you have failed at life, what you’re supposed to do is just bide the rest of this time and wait (in hope and faith, but wait nevertheless) for this life to end.

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35 Comments
  1. John Gustav-Wrathall permalink

    Mormonism doesn’t really have a theological telos of celibacy…. A fully lived life of celibacy is not fully lived at all. It is a design flaw.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody put this so succinctly…

    I agree, this is a serious theological problem with the orthodox approach to homosexuality. It does imply, for Mormons, that we can’t achieve the central purpose of life until after we’re dead. That doesn’t leave much to gay Mormons… but suicide.

  2. Just want to say, AMEN!

  3. John Gustav-Wrathall permalink

    I should add… One of the really powerful things for me about the “It Gets Better Videos” (the second is better than the first, IMO), as well as so many of the “Far Between” voices is that so many gay and lesbian Mormons and family and friends of gay and lesbian Mormons have had powerful spiritual experiences to the effect that “I’m OK. This is how God made me, and this is good, and God loves me as I am.”

    To be “made this way” also implies a telos, an end or a purpose. So one of the really powerful things about these experiences is also the suggestion that we do have a very, very this-side-of-the-veil reason to live. We can have lives that are every bit as rich and full of love and meaning as anybody else.

    And ultimately, it is for us to discover that love, richness and meaning — not for people to tell us what that is supposed to be for us. A lot of well meaning people think they know what my life’s meaning is supposed to be — they want to give it to me in a tidy little formula. But that’s just not how the plan of salvation works.

    In my encounters with God, I’ve always had a sense that God reaffirmed these things for me in powerful, undeniable ways: that I am good, that I am loved in some complete, total, utlimate sense, that my life has meaning and a mission. That has given me hope and strength beyond myself.

    What God did not do is work out all the contradictions and problems and paradoxes for me. God has not yet resolved for me the seeming contradiction between my rock bottom knowledge that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made,” that my homosexuality is an intrinsic and good part of me, and my testimony of the Church…

    This is frustrating for many members of the Church too… I think a lot of unnecessary frustration and anger is created by the hunger for nice, tidy, easy, absolute, black and white answers. People who demand that from God on this issue will come away unsatisfied. I think we’re being tested to see if we can love unconditionally and fully first… Then the answers will come.

  4. Thanks for commenting, Taylor and John! Don’t have too many reaction thoughts now, so I don’t have any substantive replies yet.

  5. Sarah permalink

    I think the pat answer, “We just don’t have all the answers right now. There are just some things that we don’t know. Some things are just going to have to be revealed to us in the after-life. A loving God will reveal what we need to know when we need to know it…” are copouts used by people who are not gay and/or do not have gay children. Most of these people also do not have any homosexual friends or loved ones, nor do they look to be friends with any. Nor do they seek to really learn and study about the realities of this issue. They have blinders on so that they can ignore this issue. All they care about is keeping their children safe and away from the scary homosexual agenda. And through these actions they create an atmosphere of rejection, misery, failure, suicide, shunning, depression, pain, etc.

    I have also heard of homosexuality as being compared to pornography addiction. The main flaw with this comparison is that heterosexual Mormon married men with children (living the ideal with sex included) with pornography addictions are given slaps on the wrist, while homosexuals are getting excommunicated and shunned unless they live a life alone as someone who did not ever live the ideal Mormon goals. So the reward for complete aloneness is a lower level of heaven. I have never heard of a man commiting suicide over his pornography addiction.

    • jewelfox permalink

      I very nearly committed suicide over things related to my addiction …

      I was raised to believe that porn was a terrible, terrible thing, which would destroy my family and send my wife into depression and make me lose my eternal family and go to the Telestial Kingdom. I know some men are given slaps on the wrist for abusing their children and worse. But I was actually capable of feeling guilt, and my church leaders picked up on that and appeared to think that it meant I was really a terrible sinner … not that I was really sensitive, and wanted so badly to do what was right, and was terrified of my body and its appetites and wished I could silence it all.

      Once it stopped being a terrible thing that would ruin my life forever, it lost all its power over me and I no longer despaired because of it. I could enjoy it when I wanted to (which is very infrequently), set it aside when I didn’t, recognize what about it appealed to me (and didn’t), and talk about it without feeling ashamed.

      I feel that the same applies to being gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

  6. Sarah,

    I think there’s something to what you say about what people say when they aren’t gay and do not have any gay children (or know gay people closely). I think that people are able to say a lot more dismissive things when they aren’t close to the issue…they don’t really have to think about things.

  7. Thank you, you said so much of what I have thought of and more. The last few sentences are golden. While I don’t agree with some of what you said in the wheat and tares post, this post speaks to me.

  8. Mark,

    Thanks for commenting…although, I guess I’d be most interested in what you most disagreed with in my Wheat & Tares post. Kevin, who was also in the video, commented about some of his disagreements, so from his comment, I can see a little bit more why the video had to be done the way it was. So, I would say that I’d probably phrase things a little bit differently now than when I originally wrote that post.

    • My disagreement lies with the tone of that post and the previous one. Both seem to dictate to reader what will make it better for an individual. The ambiguity does not only allow the message to be heard to mormons and non-mormons or mormons who have opted out of celibacy. Ambiguity provides a platform for the intended viewers to decide how it can get better in their lives. The self empowerment can help an individual who has been told how he or she should live to break free and think for him or herself. That is something that is important for the good mormon boys and girls to do, or at least in my opinion. Like you said in this post there are people who don’t really fit into the path the church gives and the church doesn’t offer real solutions for them. So the individual has to look at their path more meticulously to know how to govern their lives, if they want to stay connected with the church.

      The reasons you state that it gets better seem too conclusive and simple. Leaving the church isn’t always easy. As a person who grew up LDS, being LDS is apart of my identity. Also there are many doctrines that I personally feel are true with in the church, as well as events. Because the church teaches once you have a testimony of one then you have a testimony of all, it makes it hard to go against the current policies. What makes it better for an individual with in the church who wants to stay with in the church is very complex. For me personally making it better not only involves my relationship with the church, but relationships with my family. While I need to learn and am learning how to better “tune out the haters,” I also want to help specific haters change from that hate. The haters I want to change are within my family and close friends. I am not going to push my parents or immediate family out of my life willingly. I want to help them understand me so that they can better love me as opposed to hate this part of me. As for the church, I want the same general understanding of love to our community. So that the LGBT mormon community doesn’t have this dichotomy of being gay and being mormon. I personally can not see myself being happy without both.

      I questioned the reasoning of being apart of the project more than once. Kendall told me I was just keeping it real. I didn’t understand the wisdom of my involvement at the time. In fact I didn’t want to do it. For some reason I decided to. Yes I was depressing and there wasn’t much hope in my voice. I see the wisdom of my message with the others. There is the more obvious reasoning that I would be more relatable to the struggling teen or that I grab the attention of the viewer so it doesn’t become just another ‘It Gets Better’ video. I think that my involvement sends the message to the young person contemplating suicide that maybe for now you just have to trust the ones you love and that love you. That is what I have decided to do, trust the ones that I love me.

      As I have been able to do that, things have gotten better for me. While I don’t feel like things are going well enough to make the grand statement ‘It Gets Better.’ I am able to say that I have hope that it will get better. Since I have been shedding off the facade I created to hide myself, it comes increasingly hard to be anything but authentic. I’ve lied to myself and others for so long about not only my sexuality, but pain and dispair I felt through the years. And a big part of what will make it better for me is rid myself of this toxic shame I developed of years of reenforcement of the idea that I am less than human. Until I can significantly decrease that type of shame things will continue as they have been. For now I will continue to work to make it better for myself so that I can not only enjoy my life, but to help the poor souls like me make it better for themselves.

  9. John Gustav-Wrathall permalink

    Mark – I actually sort of got that from the video… I too looked at your piece from the perspective that lots of gay or lesbian Mormons could relate to it, could relate to where you were at that time more than they could relate to the other voices in the video. I also felt it dramatically illustrated how things get better. First you simply reach out to others, and you hope that it will get better. Eventually, it does!

    Thank you SO much for doing the video. I was at BYU from 1981-1986 (not including my mission from ’82-83). I left BYU at the end of my junior year after almost committing suicide. Your piece was definitely the one I related to most, at least during that early part of my journey. I thought it took incredible courage on your part to participate, and I’m incredibly grateful for your willingness to do it.

  10. What you didn’t go on to say after the last paragraph is that instead of just waiting for this life to end, many of our same-sex attracted Mormon friends end up killing themselves, since the idea of sitting around waiting is so dismal and meaningless, why not just get it over with? More than anything, I think this blog post helps us understand the path to that sadly logical conclusion–that death is better than meaningless life. What the church excels at with straight families, it fails at MISERABLY with their gay children. Mormons take note!!!!

  11. Mark

    Thanks for the longer comment. That gives me a lot to think about…I can understand how ambiguity would prevent the video from being limited in scope only to one audience or another, but I guess I didn’t see things the way you phrase it here:

    Ambiguity provides a platform for the intended viewers to decide how it can get better in their lives. The self empowerment can help an individual who has been told how he or she should live to break free and think for him or herself. That is something that is important for the good mormon boys and girls to do, or at least in my opinion. Like you said in this post there are people who don’t really fit into the path the church gives and the church doesn’t offer real solutions for them. So the individual has to look at their path more meticulously to know how to govern their lives, if they want to stay connected with the church.

    Because my first reaction — after the first line here — would be to ask, “How does it get better?” (hence the title of the W&T post). I wouldn’t really know how to deal with a “You decide” kind of answer. But at the same time, I can’t disagree that it’s a good thing for people to look at their own lives to determine how to proceed.

    For me personally making it better not only involves my relationship with the church, but relationships with my family. While I need to learn and am learning how to better “tune out the haters,” I also want to help specific haters change from that hate. The haters I want to change are within my family and close friends. I am not going to push my parents or immediate family out of my life willingly. I want to help them understand me so that they can better love me as opposed to hate this part of me. As for the church, I want the same general understanding of love to our community. So that the LGBT mormon community doesn’t have this dichotomy of being gay and being mormon.

    With this, I can understand where you’re coming from better. I guess where I would differ is that I’d be a little more cynical about where the dichotomy between being gay and being Mormon comes…so, it’s not so much about pushing parents or immediate family out of your life, but rather, I see so often that the individual tries to maintain those relationships, but it’s the family/parents/friends who push the individual out. (And to the extent that that is happening less, I’m definitely glad for that.)

  12. michael@positiveneuro.com permalink

    Exactly. Thank you for pointing out, so forcefully, that what is asked is to “just bide your time” and “wait for life to end”. Those are horrible messages.

  13. Wonderfully written post. I’ve stopped reading about gay Mormon issues on blogs because it has gotten so repetitive, but I’m glad I read this.

    I feel like confusing celibacy with chastity is one of the biggest ways the LDS Church justifies is position, but I have to believe that at the top these leaders aren’t stupid. Surely they know the difference. It would mean a lot to me and my family to hear them acknowledge it and make changes accordingly– that could mean accepting homosexuality, but it could also mean providing a better alternative for those who choose celibacy.

    When I was still faithful to the Church but was coming to terms with being gay after my mission, I was frustrated that there was no context or structure in Mormonism for being celibate. I think if there had been a way for me to serve another mission (I loved my mission), or a way to enter theology or priesthood practice full time like a Catholic priest, then I would have chosen that option. Celibacy requires replacing family life with something else. If I could have been a missionary forever, then I could have been celibate in the Mormon faith. Without that, though, there is just no way.

    • matthewslyman permalink

      I heard of people (including brothers) serving two or three missions, but their cases were unusual.  I think it comes down to local leaders discretion as to whether they recommend for you to do this — or, whether they are willing to submit your papers and answer any questions that might come up from the Missionary Department.
      I get the impression from observation that there's a lot more flexibility for women to be single than for men to be single — perhaps because of the cultural expectation that men will take the initiative in matters of courtship, and that therefore if a man who has been in the church all his life is still single beyond a certain age (particularly beyond his mission) there is probably something wrong with him (I speak as a faithful, married church member with children — I've never been in the position I'm talking about but I've seen others suffer from this kind of prejudice).

      It’s important to distinguish between the weight of justifiable expectation arising from correct doctrine, and the weight of unjustifiable expectation arising from cultural norms. The former is unavoidable, if absolute truth is your goal. The latter is pure bigotry…

      I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of the cultural bigotry.  After carefully studying my patriarchal blessing and patiently praying about it — and after receiving an answer from God which told me it was my own choice — I decided (based partly on strong encouragement from my patriarchal blessing) to study my degree prior to serving my full-time mission, rather than doing things the other way around.Unfortunately, I cannot even begin to tell you the bigotry I suffered from people — most especially certain local church leaders who presumed there was something wrong with me because I had organised my life in a manner that was contrary to the usual cultural expectation.  Despite doing 100% home teaching every month, being faithful in my calling and being well regarded for contributions in Institute and Sunday School etc., despite going out of my way to follow both divine commandment and local edict; I just could not break through this impenetrable barrier of prejudice: certain local church leaders seemed always to look at me and lecture me as though I was on the very verge of either “going less-active” or apostatising through some sudden and irretrievable lapse into major transgression, and my polite proofs to the contrary fell on blind eyes and deaf ears: they preferred to set themselves up as super-heroes rescuing me from myself.  It was grossly insulting to me, to be treated in this way — there is no way in which this treatment helped me.
      I did ultimately serve a full-time mission, and I am glad I did.
      Church members deserve better than this, from a church that fundamentally believes &x#2014; more than any other church does — in divine revelation.  We ought to wait for revelation before making pronouncements on our own position, or anyone else's position before God…

  14. Michael,

    Thanks for commenting. As a brief aside, I guess I’m a bit disheartened to discover that there are still some people who do not understand the gravity of this.

    As I mentioned in the post, the beginning of this post was actually a comment to another site. In response to my comment, someone wrote:

    “At best, they must bide their time in this life, waiting until the end of this mortality with but the hope and faith that in the next life, all will be made well and whole.”

    Exactly.

    You could put this comment after a post that talks about the doctrine of bearing children, for a woman/man who is infertile.

    You could put this comment after a post about marriage, for a woman like my Great Aunt who is an extremely faithful member of the Church who has never been married (and probably never will be – she is in her 80s and in failing health).

    But I would change it to this: “We must bide our time in this life, waiting until the end of this mortality with the hope and faith that in the next life, all will be made well and whole.”

    Hope and faith are not trivial things, my friend, hope and faith are the most powerful tools we have. It is by faith and hope that God makes all things possible for us.

    We all face challenges in this life. We should all love one another and accept one another with open arms.

    Emphasis preserved from original comment.

    In response, I questioned what it is that God makes possible for us through hope and faith? For being the “most powerful tools we have,” it seems like they don’t really change much.

    Daniel,

    Thanks for commenting too! Glad not to be repetitive.

    I believe that the leaders probably really do not see an issue with the fact that as the policy currently is, chastity = celibacy for gay members. It’s because of the logic chain that has been developed: only sex within marriage is chaste, and gay marriage is opposed. So, there’s no option.

    I agree that it would be possible for the church to make institutionally valid roles for single persons to play within the church (similar to other religious traditions like Catholicism), but there’s just not as much historical precedent for this, I don’t think.

    • Trenton permalink

      If I have hope and faith & being gay isn’t a sin or emotional flaw…….than why not have faith in the now-,to think something as important as having a body and being on this earth I think…….get off your butt and make waves , help heal and don’t just drink the poisoned stuff and go make someone feel loved and fight injustice. Sitting around waiting for a better next life isn’t the reason your here right now. Its so true that having a family is 99% what the church is after. Sitting alone at night will not get you the high marks. What value is a gay non sexual male to the church, keeping his family that loves him in the church I think is #1. Suppressing info about youth killing themselves #2 know why you are valued is a smart topic before you find your old with few options…very soon a lot of youth will hit a wall and panic that there isn’t a better plan just like when guys tried electro shock to be straight . Trenton

  15. Jen permalink

    This is a very interesting post and the comments are all wonderful and thought-provoking as well. As a bisexual single woman in the church (slightly more attracted to women), I do agree that is has felt like this many times: that I might not ever fulfill my “purpose” in life on account of my orientation. And that completely sucks, right? However, I have come to feel differently in the past year or two and I’d be interested in knowing others’ thoughts on my perspective.

    Andrew, you phrase things so succinctly and you raise an excellent point. It is very hard to view being single in the church as “yet another trial” because marriage and a family is not just another blessing. It is the greatest blessing in life and is always referred to that way. Sometimes I question that though, to be honest. Marriage and family are certainly indisputably important to the Plan of Salvation; it is one of the reasons we come here. And we all want it! But I dare say it isn’t the overwhelming purpose. Aren’t we taught that we’re here to gain a body, to gain experience, and to draw closer to God and become more like Him? Any gay or bisexual member of the church can do all of that just as well as any straight person. And some single members are—I dare say—much farther along that road than married members I have seen who have kids… So, I wonder if the “greatest blessing” of marriage and family is one that is culturally enforced, rather than doctrinally sound? Like you said, the church is so good at helping members along that path. And, certainly, the great blessings of marriage are mentioned in General Conference and everywhere else. I don’t doubt that they’re real and true. But to me it seems that not even marriage and a family (even if done right) can ultimately compare to the blessing of a strong relationship with Heavenly Father and the Savior… What could actually top that, or even measure up to it? (On the other hand, though, I know that there are days, weeks, even months when being close to a loving God who is distant from us feels like zilch next to interactions with the people around us—people who can hug us, talk with us face-to-face, and make us laugh. And that’s an interesting aspect to a relationship with God, that will probably always be a bit confusing to me. It’s very different from relationships here…)

    That little tangent aside, though, coming to this realization has helped me. Because I may never marry (it is possible; many faithful members don’t, for whatever reason), but I can still fulfill my purpose in life, I think. And it really bugs me when people look down on single people! Hello, look at all the amazing single people who have impacted the world: Mother Teresa and Florence Nightingale are the first to come to my mind. I think any person (married or single) would be happy to accomplish as much as those two did in their lives. Anyways, though, single life certainly isn’t easy and I know I won’t always feel that I’m fulfilling my purpose as a single adult. It isn’t easy to be single and cultural expectations will often make single people feel that they don’t measure up (which is awful). Married life isn’t always easy either, that’s true, because life has a way of being hard. But anybody who has experienced single life within the church knows that it brings some unique challenges, promotes self-questioning such as “what could I do more?” and can involve high levels of loneliness… My hope is that the church and members will learn to reach out to single members more, that friends and family members will remain inclusive, and that singles in general can feel their importance in the church. Because the church does need single members. Sadly, though, members often don’t know how to reach out to us, how to help us feel wanted and important.

    And this brings me to a question: does anybody else find it interesting and ironic that the church has no standpoint on whether or not our Savior ever married? For all our talk about marriage, we have no idea whether our Greatest Example, Friend, Advocate, King, and Counselor was ever married! This blows my mind whenever I think about it. (Irreligious note: my friend and I once joked that Jesus could have been gay… Maybe I’ll get struck for lightning for mentioning that but it’s such a great thought, isn’t it?)

    It is certainly hard to compare a single life on account of same-gender attraction to a single life for other reasons. But it brings me to something I’ve always wondered about in regards to the Harry Potter stories (they’re my favorite stories, so sorry for a seeming aside). I’ve wondered repeatedly which would be harder: for Harry to never have known his parents and grow up without that support (as we saw in the books), or if he had grown up in that loving atmosphere only to lose his parents later on? I’ve never been able to decide which would be harder and I doubt you can truly compare the two, even though there would be some shared difficulties in both situations (loneliness and grief, questions of identity, longing for a sense of belonging, etc.). Anyways, I feel similarly towards being single for life for different reasons (and I’ll include divorced individuals here; they’re ever bit as single as those who never married and my heart goes out to them). They are different things, but with some of the same trials of loneliness, pain, longing, self-questioning, and so on. I think you articulated that well. The two are not the same thing and it is hard to compare them in the end. But individuals going through either might feel the same sometimes, and I don’t think you could call either easy. Also, I think both have pro’s and con’s in their own strange ways. For instance, I like knowing what’s ahead and so in a way being fully gay and saying “Well, I’ll never marry and I’ll build my life around other things” almost seems nice… I wouldn’t have to wonder and wait. But the finality of that would not be so nice after all. And those who could maybe get married have a chance, which sounds nice, doesn’t it? I have that hope and am grateful for it. But sometimes I hate that hope. Because I’ll meet somebody and think “Well maybe this time…” only to have the hope fall apart again. And that’s not easy either. So, yes, they’re different, and I think all situations like this are hard. There’s no perfect analogy for single life as a gay member, because it is unique. But others will be able to relate to that pain at times.

    Mark, I relate to your point that being LDS is an important part of our identity. And that brings an interesting dynamic to all of this. The church and my beliefs have actually helped me in many ways. In regards to this post, realizing that I don’t actually believe that marriage and family is the single most important purpose of life has helped. (Not to say that I want it any less; I don’t. I’m just comforted to know that I can still please God if I’m not able to marry.) For the most part, I love being a member and the church is usually the greatest blessing in my life. I’m generally very happy (though I know my experience is different from that of gay members; it’s similar, at times, but is certainly not the same). But (even for me) there are bad days, and I hope that members of the church can continually become more open-minded, more loving, more willing to reach out, more involved in thinking about our culture and beliefs on a deep level, and less judgmental, exclusive, and pushy. I think that could improve things for all the groups we’ve mentioned, even if nothing else changed. Less cultural pressure could make a big difference, because I think we all know just has strong that pressure pushes on us when we’re still single…

    Am I completely crazy? This is a great discussion, so thank you to all involved!

  16. Jen,

    Thanks for commenting. I guess one issue I have with your comment is that it doesn’t ring to me as very Mormon. For example, you say:

    Marriage and family are certainly indisputably important to the Plan of Salvation; it is one of the reasons we come here. And we all want it! But I dare say it isn’t the overwhelming purpose. Aren’t we taught that we’re here to gain a body, to gain experience, and to draw closer to God and become more like Him?

    But to me, Mormonism’s emphasis on the body as being a good thing ties very much into marriage and family. How we draw closer to God and become more like Him is through the experience of becoming husbands, wives, fathers and mothers.

    You said:

    But to me it seems that not even marriage and a family (even if done right) can ultimately compare to the blessing of a strong relationship with Heavenly Father and the Savior…

    This seems like a reasonable thing to say from a non-LDS perspective (in fact, I’ve heard it many times in discussions with evangelicals who say that marriage won’t exist in the afterlife), but from an LDS perspective, marriage and family are what lead to a stronger relationship with Heavenly Father and the Savior. Husband and wife move closer to God as they move closer to each other, and they move closer to each other as they move closer to God. They are more able to understand Heavenly Father as they become earthly fathers (and mothers).

    So, I think that what you say can certainly be true, but it just doesn’t fit from a Mormon context…it sounds like something I would hear more from a different denomination or different religion, but not something I would ever hear in General Conference…

    • Jen permalink

      Long delay = crazy week. Andrew, I think you’re right that you might not hear it phrased the way I put it in General Conference. The Brethren worry that my generation isn’t putting enough effort into dating and getting married, and so–as you’ve said–they try to reemphasize its importance for us rather than tell us to not worry, as they think we might not be worried enough. And that’s all well-meant, although it honestly makes many of us sick of hearing about marriage and dating.

      Also, you were completely right to point out that marriage and building families is a central part of becoming like Heavenly Father! We teach that, and I was silly to leave it out. Parenthood is certainly a crucial part of becoming like Heavenly Father. However, in regards to all of this, I still stand with what I said before. After looking over the church website and conference talks from April, I see the importance of marriage as a prominent teaching. But I also see messages that do not condemn those who are single and I see many talks that don’t mention marriage at all. Looking over the church website specifically, the pages on earth life and happiness don’t mention marriage as an exclusive path (the page on earth life doesn’t mention it at all)… Nor does the page on marriage say that it is the greatest accomplishment of this life. It’s not phrased that way in the material, but I do agree that it’s a cultural message that gets sent. And that’s interesting, right? Ultimately, I think Mormonism is meant to convey the message of Christ. The church is viewed as His church and He is seen as the central aspect of the gospel. He invited all to come to Him, regardless of society’s views on them or their past. My best understanding of this matter of marriage is thus that all people—regardless of their marital status—are equally important to Christ (but that doesn’t mean their life experiences are equal or fair), and to fit with that I think coming to Christ really is the most important part of life. Not marriage, because that’s a limiting factor, but the atonement which is for all. The idea is that most members will have the chance to marry, but I see no condemnation of those who do not, nor any words suggesting that they are less faithful in the eyes of God than their married neighbors.

      I understand that I might not seem very Mormon in this context, though, because I’ve been inclined to view marriage very differently in my life. And I just listened to C.S. Lewis’s The Four Loves before reading this blog post, so I was also approaching this with insights from a non-Mormon. At any rate, this interested me and I appreciate your thoughts and input. I agree culturally, for sure. But I think the church’s written message has different wording than this and I’m intrigued at why this unwritten message is one that gets conveyed so often… Especially in Utah.

  17. Cheerio permalink

    I simply believe life can be hard for anyone, period. I am a convert and believe the gospel to be true but just because I am a member and I have a wonderful husband, life is still not easy! I struggle with loads of things.

    I believe we are all a little dysfunctional, the earth was created by God but the adversary is the one who screws up everything, there are things he does that we are hardly aware of. Even the most seemingly perfect LDS family struggles with something, no one is exempt.

    I do believe that we carry lots of pains, baggage, memories, lives within us. If you have ever studied or done EMDR or Rapid Eye Therapy you would understand. We carry cell memories within us which can wreak havoc on our psyche. Think about it from LDS perspective, 1/3 of heaven were not given the gift of a body and oh how they desire one, enough to be cast in to the bodies of pigs…..We carry memories down from our family, dead or alive, cell memory DNA. Sometimes we fight against things we are totally unaware of, which is why we have this “something feels wrong with me but I can’t figure it out” feeling. Can we not agree that children who were abused, molested, traumatized in some way, may temporarily forget the harm but carry it with them as they grow, many books written about traumatized youth and the problems that arise with them in adulthood.

    I believe that God teaches the “rule and not the exception” to it. I used to think how unfair to sing “I am a Child of God” yet so many children did not have parents nice and dear. Once I read how God teaches the rule and Satan teaches the exception to the rule, I understood. God does not change with times, politics and situations, He is eternal, period, and the laws are the same.
    It is hard to see when the adversary fogs the pathway, crosses the lines, changes the rules. Every human being will have to go through a “refiners fire” for strengthening and refining, think of how a diamond is made. Our weaknesses will be our strengths. Some suffer far greater than others, unfortunately, but it does not mean that God loves them any less or that they won’t come out stronger in the end. I think some of those who suffer more will ultimately be stronger for the good. How can you know what it is like to be in someone’s shoes if you have never worn them, how much good someone can do because they know the pain someone else is going through.

    We straddle the fence sometimes unknowingly, Satan is great at blurring the lines, and helping us up on that fence. It is hard to fight the natural man, that little itch inside of us that says, I am going to do it my way, God’s way is too hard or not my style. Just think how evil powers on high are fighting against us, forces we don’t see and forces that are good at controlling us, constantly bearing down on us. The “natural” man is always fighting against God….

    I do believe that some LDS have tunnel vision. The typical Utah or typical Mormon family is a stereotype, right? A woman was just baptized and confirmed in our ward with tattoos on her arms! I thought how beautiful!!! This woman has lived through who knows what kind of roller coaster of a life, may not have been a fun one, and look how she can rise from the ashes like an angel and come into the fold of God, regardless of what Satan’s intentions and desires were for her. I can’t wait for the day when I see dreadlocks, tattoos, gold teeth, who cares…all manner of God’s children coming to Church! How beautiful the day will be! Are we not all created in His image!?! Our potential is so much greater than what we think we are now. God cares about who you are as a child of God, about coming into His further light and knowledge, Satan has other plans, I think people get deceived.

    It is hard to follow the Spirit, to hear the promptings, to be directed and led, if we are not holding or clinging to the iron rod, we have peril all around us at every hour, yet we don’t see it that way.

    The hardest thing to wrestle with is ourselves, but is it really us we are wrestling with? Our spirit and body are one now and we have so much we can do with our brain and our potential, how do we utilize it for good?

    With regards to the discussion. It is not about “get in this cage and conform” , I think it is how some of you may see it now. It is about first and foremost having thy “eye single to the glory of God”. Are you seeing that first? Don’t look around seeing what you don’t have or what mold you don’t fit in, see what God sees for you. Walk in faith forward not towards the goal in your mind that is agitating you, but what brings you peace. Help your neighbor that is desperate for help, make that hobby you love an explosion of your talent to share with the world, find something that takes your mind off of yourself, I know it sounds mean spirited but are we not asked to serve as Christ did. If you have the time and the means, you can do so much.

    When you are not looking is when you receive your blessing. “After the trial of your faith then comes the blessing”. It is hard to see things the way God sees it. If we fight against Him how can we smoothly ride out the storm, He really is there to help, it just takes a lot of action, self-sacrifice and faith on our part.

    I do want to say that por_ography is affecting everyone, children, families, the world. Sex has been taken out of the sacred and put into the selfish and on stage. Remember that regular men and women are given church callings to refine them as well, it does not automatically make them perfect. The devastation of divorce, porn, etc. is rising, some people don’t know what to do about it, both offender and offended. I sometimes feel both are victims to this cancer. It certainly does chain and shackle the soul and body. Miracles can still happen! All hope is not lost.

    I believe in Freedom, God granted it, regardless of consequences. We can’t lock everyone up. A man’s free will, free agency cannot be constrained by God. We are given freedom to be tested and tried. We have to go back to God’s laws, go back to even the Constitution to know how to handle the ills of society. Evil does exist, it is very real, think of child abuses in every form, we must protect the innocent. But every Bishop/or member with a calling is not an attorney or Supreme Court Judge, he is a spokesperson helping the fold. The choice ultimately comes down to the individual, it is you vs. God. Christ will judge because he was there and saw and took every pain and suffering upon Him, so that he could judge and love. He knows us, He knows what we need, we just have to reach out and ask. <3 <3 <3

    Sorry so long! With Love!

  18. Mark May permalink

    Cherrio

    Thank you for the love you express in your response. I agree that God is there to guide us, to help us through the refiner’s fire. I concur that God doesn’t change. While God may not change, our perception and understanding of him and his direction does. This, in my mind, is not arguable when speaking about changes in with in the LDS church, such as polygamy, modesty, temple ceremonies, availability of the priesthood, etc. God may have not changed but policies of the church did. Whether the change was to correct misunderstandings of God’s direction or due to change in society I will not argue with you on that.

    I may be wrong but it seems that you are implying that those who are homosexual are not inherently homosexual. That homosexuality is a trial to suffer through to help us grow. I do not believe the comparison to be fair you give of homosexuality to trials with your husband. Frankly it feels a little insulting and lacks understanding of what its like to be homosexual. The best way I know to help you understand is to compare it to being left versus right handed. My mother tried to teach me how to write but it didn’t work very well because she was teaching me who to write with my left hand… like her. Once I started writing with the hand that came natural to me writing was much easier. Same with sexuality. I was taught heterosexuality but never could really do it right. I was unnatural but now that I have embraced my homosexuality my sexuality feels natural.

    This is more of a side note but it really bother’s me the story about the woman who was getting baptized with tattoos. A person with tattoos has not necessarily had rough or sinful life. A person with tattoos is a person with tattoos. Tattoos are not implications of sin. I would argue, much like modesty, tattoos are not an issue with God, but an issue with culture and what people associate them with.

    Any way I do feel your love coming through your comment. It appeared to me that there might be room for more understanding. I may be wrong and if so then disregard my response. I respect your opinions and ask you respect mine. I am a gay Mormon with a complicated relationship with the Church and a fulfilling relationship with God. The difference from when I was trying to be officially active within the boundaries the dictated by the brethren I became increasingly depressed. The harder I tried to be a faithful member the deeper my depression took me. As I have counseled with God to understand my contribution to his plan I have learned what direction he wants my life to take. I am following that direction and I have become increasingly happy. I am experiencing the same inherit happiness with my boyfriend that I have experienced as a missionary spreading Christ love.

  19. Trenton permalink

    Hard to look the truth in the face and know if your of value to the church, first. Someone should think hard before life has passed them by and they don’t get the real respect they desire and find age or health have taken away there choices, Trenton

  20. Trenton permalink

    One might think as long as I’m not sexual, I’m a member in good standing even if I’m gay?? If that’s the case and I’m judged by the same principals— you said that young men and women are asked to not put off finding a partner… Isn’t the idea of finding a partner a big part of our purpose? regardless of children? Isn’t that a warning to all not to stop progressing and develop deeper emotional commitments…? That’s a huge contrast in saying just put all that on hold :'( reall? Trenton

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