10 issues we believe are most important in the Church documents on Same Gender Attraction (SGA) or gay Mormon / lesbian Mormon concerns
1) How many are affected by this gay Mormon issue?
- How many are affected by this gay Mormon issue?
- What terms are appropriate in discussing gay feelings?
- Is having feelings of same-sex attraction a sin?
- Are the causes of same-sex attraction known? Is there someone to blame?
- Can same-sex attraction be changed? Are you expected to diminish these gay attractions or resolve them?
- Is there a difference in Church attitude toward gay attractions and gay behavior?
- What is the Church’s position on same-sex marriage?
- Should homosexuals marry heterosexuals?
- Is homosexuality a mortal, as opposed to an eternal condition?
- What is the Church’s position on celibacy?
- Are gay Mormons welcome Latter-day Saint congregations?
This affects many in the Church. As noted in official statements below this includes 1000s of men and women in the Church. (note that quotes from Church documents are in italics and some words are in bold to help provide added emphasis on this site)
God Loveth His Children, 2007, p. 4:
"Same-gender attractions include deep emotional, social, and physical feelings. All of Heavenly Father’s children desire to love and be loved, including many adults who, for a variety of reasons, remain single. God assures His children, including those currently attracted to persons of the same gender, that their righteous desires will eventually be fully satisfied in God’s own way and according to His timing."
Elder Holland, 2007, p. 45.
"Not long ago I received a letter from a man in his early 30s who struggles with same-gender attraction. His struggle has not been easy, and he has not yet married. But, he wrote, “the Lord has helped me face my current circumstances, and I am content to do my best and leave my life in His hands.”
"I weep with admiration and respect at the faith and courage of such a man who is living with a challenge I have never faced. I love him and the thousands like him, male or female, who “fight the good fight” (1 Timothy 6:12). I commend his attitude to all who struggle with—or who are helping others who struggle with—same-gender attraction."
Based on national prevalence numbers, there are about 5-6 in every ward and 50-60 in every stake who likely are dealing with strong gay feelings. This means that when you count family and friends the numbers affected are substantial-- in every ward and stake.
2) What names should be used for these gay feelings?
Same gender attraction, which on this site we abbreviate as SGA, is now the favored Church term with reference to homosexuality.
The interview with Elders Oaks and Wickman first appeared in 2006 under the title "Same Gender Attraction" on the Church Newsroom site, under "core beliefs and practices."
"God Loveth His Children," the pamphlet, and the Oct 12, 2010 statement also can be found on that site. Elder Oaks used the title, Same Gender Attraction, in an article he wrote for the Ensign, in 1995, and that was an important development in Church understanding because a 1992 document--now replaced by God Loveth His Children,---had only referred to "Homosexual Problems" in the title.
"Gender orientation" or "sexual orientation" are now also being used to describe the condition that gives rise to these feelings. In response to the third question in the Oaks/Wickman interview, Elder Wickman used the term "Gender Orientation" three times.
"There’s no denial that one’s gender orientation is certainly a core characteristic of any person, but it’s not the only one."
Thus, while stating it is a core issue for a person he also made a plea (which is found in several of these documents) for the person to not allow this to become the only characteristic they focus on.
Elder Holland says to a young man who says he is "gay" and whose story is told within the Ensign article
"...that isn't your only characteristic, so don't give it undue attention."
The second question in the Oaks/Wickman interview is about a 17 year old son who "believes he is probably gay."
The Oct 12, 2010 statement says this.
"This past week we have all witnessed tragic deaths across the country as a result of bullying or intimidation of gay young men. We join our voice with others in unreserved condemnation of acts of cruelty or attempts to belittle or mock any group or individual that is different – whether those differences arise from race, religion, mental challenges, social status, sexual orientation or for any other reason. Such actions simply have no place in our society."
and later this statement noted
"Further, while the Church is strongly on the record as opposing same-sex marriage, it has openly supported other rights for gays and lesbians such as protections in housing or employment."
So, there is now on the website, in the Holland article and in the
Oct 12 statement, use of the common terms "gay and lesbian" with reference to SGA.
3) Is having these attractions a sin?
God Loveth His Children on p. 1 says,
"Notwithstanding your present same-gender attractions, you can be happy during this life, lead a morally clean life, perform meaningful service in the Church, enjoy full fellowship with your fellow saints, and ultimately receive all the blessings of eternal life."
On p. 6 it says,
"Attractions alone do not make you unworthy."
Elder Holland says something similar, namely
"If you do not act on temptations, you have not transgressed."
He also says a person may have to "simply endure" the feelings.
4) Can we determine what caused this gay orientation, place blame?
The Oaks Wickman interview states that the Church has no official position on nature or nurture or whether people are born gay. Elder Oaks said (answer to question 6)
" …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—those are things the Church doesn’t have a position on.”
President Hinckley first indicated this when he was asked in late 2004 by Larry King if gays are “born that way?”
President Hinckley said,
“I don’t know. I’m not an expert on these things. I don’t pretend to be an expert on these things.”
Elder Wickman says (question 6),
"Why somebody has a same-gender attraction… who can say?"
God Loveth His Children, p. 10, says the following--
"Trust the Lord. Do not blame anyone—not yourself, not your parents, not God—for problems not fully understood in this life."
"Some people have been abused during the early years of life or have engaged in sexual experimentation at a young age. If this has happened to you, please understand that abuse by others or youthful experiences should not create a present sense of guilt, unworthiness, or rejection by God or His Church. Innocent mischief early in life does not predispose a youth toward same-gender attraction as an adult."
Elder Holland in his Ensign article says to a young man with SGA
“…the cause of your feelings, we may never know in this life.”
The key now seems to be, whatever the cause, the emphasis should be on controlling the feelings.
Elder Oaks says (question 5),
"We do not accept the fact that conditions that prevent people from attaining their eternal destiny were born into them without any ability to control."
5) Are you expected to diminish these gay attractions or resolve them?
The 2007 pamphlet and the other statements now make it clear that change may NOT be possible in this life.
God Loveth His Children says this on pp. 3-4.
"In some circumstances a person defers marriage because he
or she is not presently attracted to a member of the opposite
gender. While many Latter-day Saints, through individual
effort, the exercise of faith, and reliance upon the enabling
power of the Atonement, overcome same-gender attraction in
mortality, others may not be free of this challenge in this life."
Elder Holland says,
"Through the exercise of faith, individual effort, and reliance upon the power of the Atonement, some may overcome same-gender attraction in mortality and marry. Others, however, may never be free of same-gender attraction in this life."
The article by Elder Holland doesn't mention therapy.
Elders Oaks and Wickman took a very neutral position on therapy (question 7).
Elder Wickman says,
"Case studies I believe have shown that in some cases there has been progress made in helping someone to change that orientation; in other cases not."
In God Loveth His Children on p. 12 it says
"It is helpful to visit with your bishop and other priesthood
leaders who hold the keys of inspired counsel for the members
of your local Church unit. If you approach them humbly and
honestly, they will extend themselves in compassion and love
as they counsel with you. The First Presidency stated: "We
encourage Church leaders and members to reach out with love
and understanding to those struggling with these issues. Many
will respond to Christlike love and inspired counsel" (letter,
Nov. 14, 1991). It is also often helpful to seek guidance from
professional counselors who are experienced in working with
same-gender attraction issues and whose counsel is consistent
with gospel teachings.
As you seek the help of others, be careful not to become
dependent on them alone for your spiritual strength. Your bishop
and other leaders can counsel you and teach the true principles
of God’s plan for His children, but ultimately the sustained
strength you need must come from the Lord as you submit to the
influence of the Holy Ghost and exercise faith in Jesus Christ."
6) What about gay attractions vs gay behavior?
The following material from the Church Handbook II (21.4.6) clearly indicates that same gender attractions are not considered sinful, but homosexual behavior is considered sinful.
"Homosexual behavior violates the commandments of God, is contrary to the purposes of human sexuality, and deprives people of the blessings that can be found in family life and in the saving ordinances of the gospel. Those who persist in such behavior or who influence others to do so are subject to Church discipline. Homosexual behavior can be forgiven through sincere repentance.
If members engage in homosexual behavior, Church leaders should help them have a clear understanding of faith in Jesus Christ, the process of repentance, and the purpose of life on earth.
While opposing homosexual behavior, the Church reaches out with understanding and respect to individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender.
If members feel same-gender attraction but do not engage in any homosexual behavior, leaders should support and encourage them in their resolve to live the law of chastity and to control unrighteous thoughts. These members may receive Church callings. If they are worthy and qualified in every other way, they may also hold temple recommends and receive temple ordinances."
Elder Holland in the Ensign, in 2007. said something similar...
"While same-gender attraction is real, there must be no physical expression of this attraction. The desire for physical gratification does not authorize immorality by anyone. Such feelings can be powerful, but they are never so strong as to deprive anyone of the freedom to choose worthy conduct.
In saying this, let me make it clear that attractions alone, troublesome as they may be, do not make one unworthy. The First Presidency has stated, “There is a distinction between immoral thoughts and feelings and participating in either immoral heterosexual or any homosexual behavior.”( Nov 1991) If you do not act on temptations, you have not transgressed."
God Loveth His Children says the following on p. 7:
"Same-gender inclinations may be very powerful, but through faith in the
Atonement you can receive the power to resist all improper
conduct, keeping your life free from sin."
It also quotes President Hinckley on p. 12.
"President Gordon B. Hinckley has promised that those with
same-gender attraction who do not express these inclinations
may “go forward as do all other members of the Church”
(“What Are People Asking about Us?” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 71)."
What is the Church’s position on same-sex marriage?
The following is from the Church Handbook of Instructions II:
As a doctrinal principle, based on the scriptures, the Church affirms that marriage between a man and a woman is essential to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.
Sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife. Any other sexual relations, including those between persons of the same gender, are sinful and undermine the divinely created institution of the family. The Church accordingly affirms defining marriage as the legal and lawful union between a man and a woman."
Should homosexuals marry heterosexuals?
In 1987 President Hinckley first began to move the Church away from the endorsement of marriage for those who are gay. He said
"Marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices which first should clearly be overcome with a firm and fixed determination never to slip to such practices again."
This statement, was a start, but couched as it was in terms of therapy, it was not much of a deterrent to the major demand felt by Mormons with SGA because in Mormonism marriage is viewed as necessary in order to gain eternal life.
The 1992 pamphlet (now replaced by "God Loveth His Children") contributed to this somewhat ambivalent situation because it said in the last paragraph, "members can overcome these problems" and "In some cases heterosexual feelings emerge leading to happy, eternal marriage relationships." Fortunately, the new statements suggest caution with reference to the "emergence" of new "heterosexual feelings."
Elder Holland in 2007 says this to parents, family or friends of one with SGA,
"...recognize that marriage is not an all purpose solution." He goes on, "Same gender attractions run deep, and trying to force a heterosexual relationship is not likely to change them. We are all thrilled when some who struggle with these feelings are able to marry, raise children, and achieve family happiness. But other attempts have resulted in broken hearts and broken homes. "
Elder Oaks in 2006 addressed the issue with improved clarity by moving away from the 1992 ideas and suggesting what can be seen as five steps that might lead someone with SGA to marry. He said this,
"We are sometimes asked about whether marriage is a remedy for these feelings that we have been talking about. President Hinckley, faced with the fact that apparently some had believed it to be a remedy, and perhaps that some Church leaders had even counseled marriage as the remedy for these feelings, made this statement: 'Marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices.' ” Elder Oaks goes on, "To me that means that we are not going to stand still to put at risk daughters of God who would enter into such marriages under false pretenses or under a cloud unknown to them. Persons who have this kind of challenge that they cannot control could not enter marriage in good faith. On the other hand, persons who have cleansed themselves of any transgression and who have shown their ability to deal with these feelings or inclinations and put them in the background, and feel a great attraction for a daughter of God and therefore desire to enter marriage and have children and enjoy the blessings of eternity — that’s a situation when marriage would be appropriate."
In summary, it seems to us that the Brethren have achieved a good balance here. Those who are bisexual may do all right in marriage and should not be told they cannot marry. It may even be difficult for a young unmarried person with no sexual experience to know just what intensity or level of SGA might be present. Elder Oaks, therefore, suggests 1) disclosure to the intended spouse, 2) an ability to control behavior, 3) cleansing from any transgression, 4) being able to put the feelings in the background and have a "great" opposite gender attraction (which seems to suggest some level of bisexuality), and 5) a desire for marriage.
Elder Oaks and Wickman freely admit the requirement here is celibacy (see question 3 of their interview) but "God Loveth His Children" never uses the word celibacy and instead calls this a deferment.
"God Loveth His Children" p. 3
"In some circumstances a person defers marriage because he or she is not presently attracted to a member of the opposite gender."
8) What about the next life?
God Loveth His Children, on p. 1, says--
"This message is intended for Latter-day Saints who are troubled with same-gender attraction and sometimes feel discouraged but sincerely desire to live a life pleasing to our Father in Heaven.
You are a son or daughter of God, and our hearts reach out to you in warmth and affection. Notwithstanding your present same-gender attractions, you can be happy during this life, lead a morally clean life, perform meaningful service in the Church, enjoy full fellowship with your fellow Saints, and ultimately receive all the blessings of eternal life.
The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi voiced feelings we all have when he acknowledged that he did not “know the meaning of all things.” But he testified, “I know that [God] loveth his children” (1 Nephi 11:17). God does indeed love all His children. Many questions, however, including some related to same-gender attractions, must await a future answer, even in the next life."
on p. 4 it says--
"...the perfect plan of our Father in Heaven makes provision for individuals who seek to keep His commandments but who, through no fault of their own, do not have an eternal marriage in mortal life. As we follow Heavenly Father’s plan, our bodies, feelings, and desires will be perfected in the next life so that every one of God’s children may find joy in a family consisting of a husband, a wife, and children. Same-gender attractions include deep emotional, social, and physical feelings. All of Heavenly Father’s children desire to love and be loved, including many adults who, for a variety of reasons, remain single. God assures His children, including those currently attracted to persons of the same gender, that their righteous desires will eventually be fully satisfied in God’s own way and according to His timing."
The following can be found as the third question and answer in the Oaks/Wickman interview.
"PUBLIC AFFAIRS: If somebody has a very powerful heterosexual drive, there is the opportunity for marriage. If a young man thinks he’s gay, what we’re really saying to him is that there is simply no other way to go but to be celibate for the rest of his life if he doesn’t feel any attraction to women?
ELDER OAKS: That is exactly the same thing we say to the many members who don’t have the opportunity to marry. We expect celibacy of any person that is not married.
ELDER WICKMAN: We live in a society which is so saturated with sexuality that it perhaps is more troublesome now, because of that fact, for a person to look beyond their gender orientation to other aspects of who they are. I think I would say to your son or anyone that was so afflicted to strive to expand your horizons beyond simply gender orientation. Find fulfillment in the many other facets of your character and your personality and your nature that extend beyond that. There’s no denial that one’s gender orientation is certainly a core characteristic of any person, but it’s not the only one.
What’s more, merely having inclinations does not disqualify one for any aspect of Church participation or membership, except possibly marriage as has already been talked about. But even that, in the fullness of life as we understand it through the doctrines of the restored gospel, eventually can become possible.In this life, such things as service in the Church, including missionary service, all of this is available to anyone who is true to covenants and commandments."
10) Are gay Mormons welcome at Church or within our congregations?
God Loveth His Children, on p. 13 says
"No one is, or ever could be, excluded from the circle of God’s love or the extended arms of His Church, for we are all His beloved sons and daughters. As President Hinckley said: “Our hearts reach out to those who struggle with feelings of affinity for the same gender. We remember you before the Lord, we sympathize with you, we regard you as our brothers and sisters” (Ensign, Nov. 1995, 99)."
Gay Mormon Resources for Latter-day Saint Families and Leaders