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