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Erin Ann McBride
Monday, July 07 2014

10 Myths About Mormons and Gays

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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 Church’s 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 Church’s 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 Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “Because we don’t 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 Church—that sexual activity should only occur between a man and a woman who are married—has 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. Let’s 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. It’s important to remember a few things that people don’t 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, I’d say though we don’t 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 that’s what God is saying “Stay with me.” And that’s 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 God’s 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

That’s 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 doesn’t 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 shouldn’t be a perception or an expectation that the Church’s doctrines or position have changed or are changing. It’s 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 – that’s all central to God’s 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 don’t 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.

You’ll 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 they’ve 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. It’s not always successful. Sometimes it’s been even disastrous. So, we think it’s something that each person can evaluate and they can discuss, both with priesthood leaders and family and others, and make decisions. But we simply don’t take a uniform position of saying “yes” always or “no” always. One thing that’s always important is to recognize the feelings of a person, that they are real, that they are authentic, that we don’t deny that someone feels a certain way.


36 Comments

  1. Disappointing. There are several areas here that seem to be incongruent to past Church teachings: #4: The Church now accepts gays into our midst and doesn't automatically conclude they are living a sin for being gay. #5: And we still see it as a strong teaching and example from the Church sponsored NorthStar group (and previously Evergreen). #6: Church leaders and Church sponsored groups still teach that being gay can be changed. Listen in on any NorthStar blog or discussion and you will see. They advocate marriage and change. They sponsor (both openly and covertly) the People Can Change group. #8: Yet, there are very real examples (and more recently) where this is not the case. Church discipline, excommunication, not issuing a temple recommend, and not allowing someone to serve a mission are examples of action taken by local Church leaders. While the author has good intentions, they are promulgating what they hear and not what is really happening. Until we open up our ears and eyes, we will continue to see wrongs rationalized behind the concept that "we love our brothers and sisters, so it is okay to do what we do" ...
  2. I appreciate your article. It is timely and has lots of great information. I do have some concerns with two things however. First, you state up front that all of the myths are backed up by quotes from general authorities. You've done a great job with that for the most part. However myth # 9 has no such back up and sounds like your conjecture. Do you have specific quotes from general authorities? Second, in myth #10, you use the word condone. I'm sure you understand that condone means to approve or to allow something to continue, even though you know it is wrong. While, as you've pointed out, it is not a sin to have same-gender attraction. However acting out on it is. I don't believe you are trying to say that it is okay to condone homosexual activity, but it gives that impression, which flies in the face of everything else in the article. Also, nowhere in any of the quotes given or on the church's website do they use the word condone in conjunction with the word homosexual.
  3. THANK YOU! As a lesbian, and as someone who recently had been formally disciplined for stating the above, thank you. So many people need to hear this. I'm also really hoping that my bishop and stake president see this, so that they realize who I am is in no way a danger to the Church. I like chicks! It's not the end of the world!
  4. Thank you for this article helping to highlight the church's position about SSA and to overcome common misconceptions. Understanding these points will help us love, respect, and support our brothers and sisters who experience SSA.
  5. Great research on this Erin Ann. A lot of members do need to understand this better. Their is still a double standard among many in the Church. Temptations to give in to same sex attraction are considered much worse than when a straight couple is tempted to break the law of chastity. Seeing all these quotes helps set the record straight.
  6. Very good article. You are a great writer!!
  7. Great info!
  8. Thank-you so much for this article. A friend had posted it on facebook, which is where I found it. I had no idea about the creation of the Mormons and Gays website and am so excited about it. I already knew the Church's stance and inclusivity, but I'm thrilled to see this site - to educate the members as well as promote positive dialogue outside the Church. Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you!!!
  9. This was a very helpful article and I agree with it wholeheartedly. I have a number of "gay" clients and friends and I sympathize with their situation, at least to the degree that they should be able to be free from discrimination in housing and healthcare. I rather resent those gays who try to force me and others to say that the gay lifestyle is "normal", but those who do that are few. I have a friend who says he has had same-sex attraction since age 12 (he is 71 now) but he has served as a Bishop and has a large, close, family of active members. So... at least in his case, it has been possible to live a life in conformity with Gospel principles despite his attractions.
  10. Thank you so much for this article. I found the church's position confusing and this article helped me understand it better. I am a Mormon mother with a lesbian daughter. I want to do the Lord's will and this article has helped me understand His will better!
  11. Thank you Erin, for gelling to spread the word about this website and these healing quotes. If all Church members and leaders familiarize themselves with the nuances presented here, there would be much less of the hurtful and divisive rhetoric that I see so much of online and in person these days. Kudos to Meridian for publishing this important corrective!
  12. As a straight LDS woman married for 21 years to a man with same-sex attraction, I really appreciated this article, as did my husband. There are many myths surrounding this topic, and we need to be more proactive in dispelling them. The one myth my husband and I disagree on is #9. He prefers to identify as gay, while I take issue with the word, for the very reasons you identify. We both noted that, though you say that all of your myths are debunked using citable sources, THIS myth is the only one without a source. Why? Could it be that there is no source? If you have one, please tell us. Meanings of words are determined by the society who uses the language. In my opinion, our society has given meaning to the word "gay" as one who acts on their sexual attractions, whereas same sex attraction only refers to those feelings.
  13. SUPURB! Thank you. This needs to be pinned to the bulletin board in every LDS church building!
  14. Every time I see an article like this I always wonder if I'm one of those who buys the myths. In this case I suffered under none of these errors; I love it when that happens.
  15. The website will do nothing to dispel the animosity toward the church over this subject. The argument that "its ok to feel that way just don't act on it." (paraphrased) comes off as rather lame. The same argument is also some what at odds with the doctrine that to hold sinful desires is the same as committing them. While I am loathe to disagree with the bretheren on anything I have to take exception to the idea that there is nothing wrong or abnormal with same sex attraction, that its not a disease. Yes, sex can and ought to be an intimate expression of love and while procreation is not its' only purpose it is the most primal basic drive behind it. It's not rocket science. If same sex attraction was the norm humanity wouldn't exist. Whether by nature or nurture something went haywire with these individuals. That's not a condemnation. None of us were born physically or mentally perfect. I have genes that predispose me to obesity and diabetes, children are born everyday with congenital heart disease, missing limbs, autism, Down's Syndrome, and a myriad other issues. It's okay. We fix what we can and deal the best we can with what can't be fixed. It's all part of "the plan".
  16. What may be worth pointing out is that sexual attraction exists no matter whether it is same-sex attraction or not, and so many people cannot morally express this attraction because they are single, widowed or divorced. Yet, the same principle applies. Being sexually attracted is OK, expressing it outside of the bonds of marriage is not.
  17. Condemning those who are homosexual to a life of no marriage to someone they love and are attracted to or excommunication is NOT being inclusive.
  18. I find the first commenter's remarks a little disturbing. I don't believe that a Bishop or Stake President would formally discipline someone for simply stating or believing what the author has cited and written here. My understanding is potential or existential apostasy--as referred to by President Monson. If an individual is actively--by actions or by attitude--flaunting, advocating, and displaying their SSA then I believe that would be a cause for concern for priesthood leaders. The commenter herein referred seems to be taking the apostasy "attitude" route just by her final, cavalier statement. There is definitely two sides to every story.
  19. If you are straight, imagine how confusing it would feel to be told it's fine you're straight, just don't act on it. If you do act on it it's a choice. It's not a choice to be straight - you just are. Unless you all made some big decision in life that we don't know about. The Mormon church doesn't understand it so as a default they refer to a Bronze Age book for their viewpoint. How is that logical in the 21st century? The Mormon viewpoint on black men receiving the priesthood changed due to social acceptance. Why can't they get their heads round the fact that ALL people are equal regardless of colour, sexuality, height or whatever other attribute they are born with.
  20. In response to Kathy's comment July 7: Here's why your husband might prefer the word "gay" to describe himself in spite of his not associating with homosexual behavior: Most of us have to guess whether our heterosexual friends and associates have had premarital sexual relations or not in their life (and for the most part it's none of our business); we don't give them generic labels indicating (or, worse, presuming) whether they have or haven't, so maybe "gays" are tired of a word which people take to automatically mean they've had sexual relations when they feel they deserve just the same right to privacy and respect as you probably do regarding your own behavior and sexual history. This doesn't say anything about whether you (or they, for that matter) believe homosexual activity is wrong or not, it only places gays in the same ball park of respect for privacy, and maybe that's how LDS "gays" who've never acted on their feelings (or who have but "have repented") and who choose nevertheless to use the word "gay" to describe themselves feel about it. Sure, the LDS "virgin" homosexual has nothing to hide (so why "hide" behind the cloak of "gay," you ask), but maybe he feels (at least on an unconscious level) that all gays in general deserve to be seen for who they are first before being seen for what they've done, and deserve at least that amount of respect first, before being judged otherwise, just as our heterosexual brothers and sisters, guilty or not of premarital sexual intimacies, wish to be seen before anything. A spiritually mature society will always trace sin to an activity (or thought), not to a label they have given a set of people (we don't associate leprosy with sin anymore, do we?). By denying others (both straight and gay) the right to spontaneously know their personal histories by using the word "gay" to describe mere same-sex attraction (alone!), they raise the bar of letting us see them as persons first, and sparing us having to immediately know about their sexual history from the moment we identify them with a label ("gay," in this case). They simply want to be seen for who they are first, and not what they've done, just as any heterosexual--guilty or not of past (or present!) sexual sin--wants to be seen first. Even a bishop confronting a hedonist fornicator will see him/her as a CHILD OF GOD before labeling (if at all) him/her a "hedonist." Making one's personal sexual history vague by using the word "gay" more broadly is doing ALL homosexually oriented people a big favor by forcing the rest of us to see them as people first, and leaving judgment for later--or FOREVER suspended, left only to that of God, self, and appropriate ecclesiastical leaders, if any--just at it always has been for the large majority of heterosexuals. So, see your husband as doing a big favor for all gays everywhere, suspending connection between label and sin, just as we've moved beyond associating leprosy with sin, for those poor souls of Christ's time; and teaching Christian heterosexuals to see all gays as CHILDREN OF GOD before they see them as ANYTHING ELSE.
  21. I agree with Kathy about Myth #9. I think this is key to the debate and the media's perceptions. Gay and Mormon to the media means homosexuals who are acting on their feelings and are LDS. This is part of my challenge when citing these quotes, because if we use the media's definition, you can't be gay (acting on your homosexual feelings) and be member of the church in good standing. The church handbook of instructions is very clear on this, and even specifies that youth who participate in homosexual activity cannot serve an LDS Mission even after they complete the repentance process. Clearly we have a language disconnect between the church's PR department and the rest of the world.
  22. I love this gospel, I truly stand amazed at the love the Savior has for all of us and what a compassionate Father in Heaven we have. As a mother of a son who has been enveloped with SGA and is now coming back to 'the fold' I am so grateful for the awareness and the education that is now provided regarding SGA. This has helped our son so much as he has worked and continues to work with our Bishop who is 'educated' and can draw on resources to assist our son into receiving all the blessings that await him.
  23. Thank you so very much for this article! Unfortunately I know of active LDS families who have disowned children for this very thing. You don't have to condone their choice to act on SSA, but I believe it's wrong to disown them from their families. Don't believe that is what Heavenly Father would approve of us doing.
  24. Overall the article is very well written. I agree with the majority of it. However, right at the beginning you stated the following: "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." You did that with all of the myths except myth #9. I've searched through the mormonsandgays.org web site looking for material to back up what you stated there and could not find any. While what you stated makes sense, you don't meet your own criteria of providing references to back up what you are saying. For myth #10, I believe the intent behind your statement "You cannot support or defend traditional marriage, and love or condone homosexuals." to mean that you can support traditional marriage and love those who struggle with same-gender attraction. Did I get that right? The use of your word condone walks a fine line however. Condone, as you know, means to accept and allow (behavior that is considered morally wrong or offensive) to continue. Your use of the word, even though well meaning, could be taken that you are saying that the church approves homosexual behavior, which of course you are not. Please understand that I'm not trying to be controversial. I'd appreciate it if you'd be kind enough to approve and display my comment and give a thoughtful response. I look forward to reading it.
  25. I agree in the confusion about "gay". I think most people hear "gay" or "lesbian" and assume it means a practicing gay, so to speak. I WISH there was a distinction, for the very reason that it would highlight the fact that there is a choice on how to respond to same sex attraction. Agree with kathy
  26. As a help for talking to people experiencing SSA, I recommend this article over at LDS living. http://ldsliving.com/story/75806-what-and-what-not-to-say-to-someone-who-experiences-same-sex-attraction
  27. good article...I also appreciate sources and references... I have little tolerance for quotes attributed to a "general authority" , when the source of talk or place quoted is not listed...one should be able to also read a"quote" within the context that it was originally given..thanks for that.
  28. Thank you for laying this out so clearly. Youth with same sex attraction who are rejected by their families are at terrible risk for suicide. Anything that can be done to share these facts and lessen the pain is very worthwhile.
  29. As a straight woman who married a man with same-sex attraction over 40 years ago, I would advocate that those with these feelings DO NOT marry straight individuals. The rejection I felt in my marriage was devastating. Because my body parts were not attractive or desirable to my partner, I felt so rejected and unlovable that I came to feel, and believe, that even God could not love me. It was a blessing when we divorced after 16 years. Although a priesthood holder from the Quorum of the Seventies counseled me to remain in the marriage, I am thankful that I did not. Sadly, the general authority did not validate the repercussions I suffered in the marriage. Although my partner still struggles with same-sex attraction (nearly 25 years later and with a second failed marriage), I do not advocate that those with same-sex attraction marry. Ours was a temple marriage and while my ex continued to hold church positions (as a stake president prior to the divorce) and attend the temple, it took years before I had confidence in priesthood holders and could feel a part of a church/ward family. I support the information from the general authorities in response to those with same-sex attraction. The church and its response to this condition has changed greatly from the time of my experience. My remarks do not touch on the impact for children from such a union/family (we had two adopted children). Life goes on and people heal, but to those who have these feelings, please do not take others into the off-balance and unnatural state of marriage that exists when a partner has same-sex attraction. The fact that a person does not "act" on their feelings of same-sex attraction with same-gender behavior does not preclude one's creating a devastating impact on those who are not aware of such feelings and attractions in their partner.
  30. Interesting article. Can I share my responses to some of the points that are made here? Myth#1: I sometimes think this would be an interesting addition to some heterosexual chastity lessons -- especially when we talk about lust. What is the difference between "lust" and "sexual attraction" (whether heterosexual attraction or homosexual attraction)? Sometimes it has seemed to me that we expect our youth/singles to be essentially asexual in thoughts and desires, when, in reality, I think we need to learn how to be comfortable and accepting of our sexual desires and attractions while learning to control our behavior. In other words, maybe we need a similar "behavior is much more important than thoughts/feelings" -- even in discussing heterosexual attractions and desires. Myth#3 -- specifically recognizing everyone's need for intimacy. In this context, we can clearly see that we see sex and intimacy as two different concepts, and even try to show that they are essentially unrelated. However, I'm not sure this is true. In talking about sexless marriages, we often try to talk about the interrelationship between sexuality and intimacy. I think it would be quite enlightening to have a good discussion/article that explores the relationship between this "need for intimacy" and our sexuality and how the two are related. It might help us understand how marriages work, and understand why some gay/lesbians choose to leave the church and why some choose to stay. Myth#4: "The doctrines that relate to human sexuality and gender are really central to our theology." Perhaps I am just dense, but I find that I have a very tenuous grasp on our "doctrines that relate to human sexuality". I think it could be really interesting to thoroughly explore these doctrines -- especially if they really are so central to our theology. What is the relationship between sexuality and spirituality? The natural man is an enemy to god, but does that mean the spiritual man is asexual? How does our sexuality prepare us for eternity as singles? as marrieds? as LGBT? Myth#8: I can appreciate that there is a distinction and relationship between "moral law" and "political law". I find that it can be difficult to decide when something I find morally wrong should also be illegal. Myth#9: This "Homosexual behavior violates (a) the commandments of God, (b) is contrary to the purposes of human sexuality, and (c) deprives people of the blessings that can be found in family life and in the saving ordinances of the gospel." from the CHI could use further explanation/exploration. Re: A, I have seen some argue that the scriptures which we use to blanketly claim that all homosexuality is sinful really only apply to "promiscuous" homosexual relationships -- that the scriptures do not explicitly forbid "monogamous, committed" homosexual relationships. This would be an interesting avenue to explore and explain. B would also be interesting to explore, just because I am not sure exactly what the Church teaches that the purposes of human sexuality are.
  31. Great article. But can I add that the temple recommend question is very important in this topic? As in, it asks about sympathizing or affiliating with individuals or groups contrary to the doctrine. I really believe that we cannot support gay marriage and not answer that question without a lot of mental gymnastics. It was addressed several times in General Conference, even mentioning those that "like" facebook posts in support of gay marriage/gay lifestyle are against the doctrine. What do the church leaders say on this issue about supporting gay lifestyle, gay parades, gay marriage, etc?
  32. Thank you for adding some cited sources to myth number nine. I did notice, however, that the sources did not explain the reasons why this would be considered a myth at all! In fact, it does not even include the word gay! I think that you have not been able to successfully debunk this myth. So I will continue to believe this "myth", until someone proves otherwise.
  33. The comments about "gay" over SSA frustrate me. Why does the term "gay" mean someone who is acting out? If a child of 12 plucked up the courage to come to you and blurted out "I'm gay" would you assume he/she was acting on it? I doubt it. Why are we as a people so judgemental? What indeed has it to do with us whether someone is acting on it or not? Surely we are better than that. Surely we can see past words and see people. If I was to say "I'm straight" would you assume anything other than my sexuality? Probably not. Why then with "I'm gay" do we automatically assume someone is acting out. If someone said they had AIDS or were HIV+ would you assume they were homosexual? Gay? SSA? Some people have been infected with this illness through other ways. How unfair and unChristlike it would be to assume their sexuality AND their behaviour on a word. We need to stop judging, see everyone as if they have infinite worth, because believe me, gay or straight,( SSA or heterosexual), black or white they do.
  34. Seems to be some confusion about myth # 9. The source is stated, it IS the Handbook of Instruction. This manual is the definitive guide for everyone in the church, Stake President to Sunday School Teacher. It comes from the leaders of the Church for all members.
  35. Seems to be some confusion about myth # 9. The source IS stated, it is the Handbook of Instruction. This manual is the definitive guide for everyone in the church, Stake President to Sunday School Teacher. It comes from the leaders of the Church for all members. The issue for myth # 9 is Orientation versus Behavior, #9 clearly distinguishes between the two and the consequences of each. Kathy is right, those who have Same Sex Orientation are okay by the documentation of myth #9, whereas those who follow thru with Same Sex Behavior are condemned by their actions, & subject to being disciplined within the Church. In the issue of definition, society has implied by default that someone who calls themselves gay or lesbian is engaged in Same Sex Behavior. Society doesn't uniquely identify those who have an attraction but don't act on it, and usually lumps them into the gay group. However the Church does uniquely identify them as having Same Sex Orientation with no other name applied to them. I believe everyone who has same sex attraction is referred to as being a Homosexual, whether passive or active.
  36. I think the fact that the official church website on this matter is called "mormonsandgays.org" is testament to the fact that SSA, gay, homosexual etc are interchangeable and that the term "gay" is recognized by the church merely as a sexual orientation.

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