OF FAITHFUL LATTER-DAY SAINTS ON THE TOPIC OF
HOMOSEXUALITY & THE GOSPEL
One of two essays on the topic by Steve S.
challenges and dilemmas of homosexuality can trip up good
people and lead them to feel they have to reject the
restored Church of Jesus Christ or they can help a person
truly learn to appreciate the wonderful blessing God has
given us by speaking truth clearly through prophets in
our time. Many Latter-day Saints with same-sex
attractions are faithfully applying basic Gospel
principles in their lives and are discovering that there
is much hope and joy in allowing the Saviour to guide
them through the challenges of this life. They have
learned that -- like with many subjects -- the world's
philosophies offer "happiness" that doesn't
last while the Gospel offers us a higher way of resolving
these issues. Many of us have learned that it is not
necessary to give up hope of someday enjoying all of the
blessings of the Gospel, including those of eternal
marriage and families. Although we understand and care a
great deal about those people who have lost their faith
in the Lord's prophets, we don't accept the worldly
philosophies that now characterize the "gay
This essay will explain attitudes and perspectives that are commonly found among those people who continue to strive to live their lives in all ways according to Gospel teachings, those people who believe the statements of the prophets regarding the possibility of finding solutions to these challenges and moving forward towards our fondest dreams. Although denying onesself the love and intimacy that can be enjoyed in some homosexual relationships is often difficult and frequently criticized by gay activists, this kind of faithful Latter-day Saint is willing to seek something greater by faithfully seeking to follow the Saviour's guidance.
The experience at a typical Evergreen conference and overall impressions from years of observation of various Gospel-supportive groups are shared here.
The companion essay (linked at the end of this one) describes the typical attitudes and choices of so-called "gay Mormon" groups and the ways these choices affect their lives, especially their spiritual lives.
Dear brothers and sisters,
I have been keeping my eye for some time now on two opposing forces battling for the hearts of Latter-day Saints who experience feelings of same-sex attraction (SSA for short), and I would now like to share with you some things I have learned in the sincere hope that it can bless your life and that of others you may know and help to bring you lasting happiness.
There are, of course, many varied experiences with and attitudes toward the homosexuality some of us experience in this life, but generally there are two main camps: those who tend to accept and embrace all the teachings of the restored Gospel regarding sexuality, and those who tend to reject and criticize them because they don't accept the prophets' teaching on this particular subject. This essay is one in a set of two essays addressing these two philosophies.
If you or someone you know is not quite sure what to think about these two opposing philosophies or if you think the good parts from both can somehow be blended together, these reports are especially for you. Please note that these two essays are not meant to cover the entire subject, but rather have been written to share some of my observations of the fruits of each kind of philosophy.
|This report will speak of those people who have testimonies of the restored Gospel borne to them of the Spirit, who desire to seek spiritual closeness to God and to fulfill His purposes in their lives, people who gravitate to groups like Evergreen, Disciples2, Voicings, Families, North Star, LDS-R, Springs of Water, NARTH, PATH, People Can Change, and Exodus. Most of these people have a good spiritual connection despite their weaknesses, and I believe this will become clear in my comments to follow.|
I am going to admit right here at the beginning that I have already come to a conclusion: that more happiness comes from striving for the ideals of eternal family, self-improvement, and reliance on the Saviour as taught in the Church than by striving to "be onesself" in the way promoted by the pro-gay groups. But I will attempt to make my comments below as fair and as objective as humanly possible while sticking firmly to the truth. I am a witness to what I describe below.
I also want to make clear at the beginning that my efforts at trying to understand both sides are based on my desire to love every human being in a Christ-like way. This love is an active kind of love that allows people their freedom to choose but that certainly tries to teach good principles as I understand them and to encourage people to seek better ways. If a person truly loves another, he will not just accept his friend as he is. Rather, he will encourage his friend to investigate and to pray about what could be a better way and then to do what he knows to be right. I think sincere people who desire to maintain and strengthen closeness with the Lord will see the benefits of handling these challenges according to Gospel principles.
IS DIALOGUE POSSIBLE?
Is dialogue possible between faithful and formerly faithful Latter-day Saints who see the whole topic of homosexuality so differently? Although both groups tend to see every issue through the filters of their own philosophies, I believe there are sincere people on all sides who see the antagonistic divide between them as something that is unfortunate and unnecessary. Many people want to find ways to handle the homosexual experience that don't destroy spirituality or the love between brothers and sisters. I believe communication and progress are possible, if some people can be convinced to try to understand both philosophies and if love and caring are the primary focus. And this will also require more open-mindedness and true caring and compassion from those who consider themselves true Latter-day Saints.
Other than direct
conversations with friends and family members we know and love,
one important place where dialogue is happening is Bridges Across.
An LDS-oriented discussion group with a similar purpose is Family Reconciliation.
THE GOSPEL DOES INDEED HAVE THE ANSWERS
If you are a person with a love of God and a desire to reach deep spiritual goals, let me assure you that these issues can indeed be resolved in accordance with the teachings of God's prophets. If you're not yet sure how this can be done, have faith in the testimony that the Holy Spirit has given you and know that we care about you and will be happy to help you find the way to find the answers. More than anything, trust in God and the wisdom of His ways. Sometimes we do need to go through difficult experiences in order to learn and to grow, but a wise person will realize that such learning experiences are the reason we are here. Keep in mind that other people have gone before you and found the way to happiness. With God's help, you can do it, too.
I have attended the annual conference of Evergreen International in Salt Lake City for several years in a row now, and most of what I have experienced in those conferences has confirmed the conclusions that I had reached by participating previously in Gospel-supportive e-mail discussion groups on the subject. The philosophy and solutions that faithful Latter-day Saints who experience same-sex attractions have developed are congruent with the testimonies the Spirit has blessed me with throughout my life. Let me share with you some of my experiences and the truths about this philosophy that I have discovered...
THE FOCUS OF GOSPEL-SUPPORTIVE ORGANIZATIONS
I should quote the mission statement of Evergreen International (the largest and most well-known organization supporting Latter-day Saints who desire to manage and resolve these issues in harmony with the principles of the Gospel) at the outset:
|"Evergreen is founded on the
belief that the atonement of Jesus Christ enables every
soul the opportunity to turn away from all sins or
conditions that obstruct their temporal and eternal
happiness and potential.
"Evergreen attests that individuals can overcome homosexual behavior and can diminish same-sex attraction and is committed to assisting individuals who wish to do so.
"Evergreen provides education, guidance, and support to those involved in the transition from homosexuality and is available as a resource to family, friends, professional counselors, religious leaders, and all others involved in assisting individuals who desire to change.
"Evergreen sustains the doctrines and standards of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints without reservation or exception, but is not affiliated with the Church. Evergreen welcomes all people who wish to participate in the pursuit of these goals."
There are many more informative articles and answers to frequently asked questions on Evergreen's website:
MUTUALLY SUPPORTIVE MISSIONS
The work of Evergreen in supporting the saving mission of the Lord's Church is growing and developing with each passing year. Often, the resolution of these issues in a person's life is a long-term process, but there are more and more people who are happily on their way or who have experienced a full resolution of their SSA challenges and the underlying causes.
As the pro-Gospel SSA philosophy proves itself to be an application of Gospel principles that works, many General Authorities and regional and local leaders of the Church are helping Evergreen and related causes to reach and help more souls.
Sometimes it's hard to find the right way to express myself when I know that my gay-supportive friends will read my words. I want you to know that I do understand quite a bit about the gay-affirming perspective on these issues, and I don't condemn the sincere choices of my gay friends or look down on them at all. Anything I share here is just for the purpose of letting everybody know that we do have choices in the way we will react to our homosexual feelings, and it is only because I care that I point out the pitfalls and the potentials I have observed. I mean no offense to anybody. I just have to go from the premise that that which the Holy Spirit has told me and that which I have observed with my own eyes is true.
In brotherly love, I encourage my questioning friends not to throw away all of the spirituality and goodness you found in the restored Church of Jesus Christ, just because you're not sure yet how people can find happiness in denying themselves the seemingly more natural path of homosexual love. I encourage all of my same-sex attracted LDS friends to put their trust in the testimonies of the Spirit and their hope in Jesus Christ, our living Redeemer. He has transformed the lives of many good people who have faced these issues in their lives. Keep striving to be close with Him and to follow His inspiration, and it will happen for you, too.
A description of my experiences at Evergreen conferences and in other Gospel-supportive forums may help to demonstrate some of the fruits of the choice many people have made to try to remain faithful to their testimonies of Gospel principles...
The uplifting conferences of Evergreen International have been held in recent years in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building next to Temple Square in Salt Lake City and have always included excellent workshops and very spiritual firesides. (Positive qualities of same-sex attracted individuals often include a sensitivity that allows appreciation of spiritual experiences, and an artistic characteristic that often provides an appreciation of beautiful music.) These firesides always include inspiring music that appeals to that appreciation.
THE CHURCH AND THE SSA RECOVERY MOVEMENT
General Authorities have distributed helpful Evergreen literature to area presidencies, and they in turn have authorized the use of Church buildings for Evergreen conferences, informational meetings, and local support groups affiliated with Evergreen. Thousands of local Priesthood leaders have attended informational meetings or received education on the subject. LDS Family Services therapists have made presentations at Evergreen conferences and have made referrals to Evergreen resources. I have spoken with many of these Church leaders myself in various areas of the world, and I can confirm that they are generally very happy to receive the information and support that Evergreen offers, even when there are sometimes some questions or hesitation because Evergreen is not an officially sponsored Church program. Local Church leaders have shown themselves to be very caring people who want to do what they can to help people who are struggling to resolve SSA and other challenges.
If this is the case, then some people may want to know why the Church does not adopt Evergreen as a Church program. I can't speak for the Church or predict how the relationship between the Church and Evergreen will develop in the future, but I know that the Church and its LDS Family Services are careful about the selection of service programs with which they choose to work officially. The methods and therapy philosophies that people can use to discover and implement solutions to the causes of their homoemotional issues are not necessarily something that Church doctrine prescribes. And by the way, although some people have believed that Evergreen recommends what is known as reparative therapy, in reality the Church and Evergreen both leave to the individual the decisions about what one believes will best help. But when local leaders have called General Authorities, wondering if they can support the efforts of Evergreen in their areas, they have been told that they have the calling to "feed the Lord's sheep" and that no additional permission is needed to get involved in the support of helpful programs.
APPLICABLE GOSPEL PRINCIPLES
What basic principles do we follow in our search for happiness within the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Well, we believe the teachings of the prophets of God that say that sexuality is a sacred gift that can be used to bless or to corrupt lives, that families with righteous fathers and mothers are the divine design for our growth and happiness, that men and women are designed to come together in complementary relationships and that gender is a part of our eternal make-up, and that aberrant sexual behaviors such as homosexual relations prevent people from obtaining the greatest blessings that God has prepared for us. We believe that these blessings are possible for all people, even though we also know from personal experience that dealing with SSA challenges is a difficult and sometimes complicated challenge. We understand the confusing feelings and the inner conflicts experienced by people with same-gender attractions, and we believe in the Saviour's teaching of loving all of our brothers and sisters and of trying to encourage them to choose righteous and happy lives.
What can we do to find solutions and to remain true to Gospel principles? Many good books and conference presentations have expounded well on this question, but let me just mention some of the most basic possibilities here.
To learn more, spend some time pondering the information and suggestions in Gospel-affirming websites and books. Here is a good place to start:
THE GOSPEL-SUPPORTIVE APPROACH
Evergreen conferences base their themes on scriptural principles of repentance and personal improvement. People in this movement are making sincere and humble efforts to live righteously and to avoid the pitfalls common to gay lifestyles. Their motivation is usually a spiritual one and fueled by hope. It can sometimes appear to be a futile struggle, but the people who continue to struggle for what is right and good learn that struggling is a noble and ennobling venture. The ultimate result of learning that we can't do it by ourselves is the happy conclusion that we need each other and we need the Saviour. This is a universal truth that our struggle with SSA-related challenges helps us to discover.
|Struggling is a noble and ennobling venture.|
In contrast to the Affirmation conference I attended, Evergreen conferences are more purposeful and spiritual by far. Sincere prayers and heart-felt singing of hymns and special musical numbers as well as inspiring testimonies provide for an uplifting and encouraging experience. The presenters are experts in the field and very spiritual people, and their messages are enlightening and inspiring. There are no mocking jokes or other disrespectful comments directed toward the other camp. People come dressed modestly and looking nice. Only a few of the younger participants have at times showed up dressed in a way to attract attention to themselves, and even they looked nice. There is always a strong feeling of peace in the messages at these conferences.
At the Affirmation conference, although people kept saying that there were people present with all different levels of activity in the Church, they did and said many, many things that were insensitive towards the feelings of those of us who believe in Gospel principles like decency, submission to the Lord, and the exercising of faith. At the Evergreen conferences, people sometimes express their doubts or questions about a particular majority point of view, and they receive thoughtful and considerate responses. I don't remember any opposing views expressed during the Affirmation conference. After observing the group mentality there, I certainly didn't feel comfortable trying to make any Gospel-supportive comments. And when I have tried to express such ideas in the "gay Mormon" online discussion groups, I have been insulted and banned. In the pro-Gospel groups, people almost always encourage support of Gospel principles in polite and caring ways.
Some of the people in the pro-Gospel SSA camp express their feelings about how the Church could manage things better or about some of the existing problems in Mormon culture that make life more difficult for people with same-sex attraction. But we see many improvements taking place in recent years, and more and more people are "coming out" to let their ward members and priesthood leaders know just how normal we are. Although the Church as an institution is conservative and adapts slowly, we now have many evidences that the General Authorities do understand our situation, and we know that mastering our sexuality as the Church teaches is indeed the happier way to live. We believe that this is a realistic and not just an idealistic perspective.
We understand our weaknesses and failings, and we are trying to imbue our lives with more maturity and to improve ourselves and to fill in the empty spots in our lives. We want to take responsibility for what we are becoming and not blame anything in our past for the challenges we have faced. We believe that being humble and submissive and obedient will bless our lives.
We believe that there is only one truth about any particular statement and that, when we receive this truth from the Spirit, we should honor it to be happy. We respect other people's views and often understand where they are coming from, but we don't accept the illogical worldly idea that every person's belief is truth.
We believe in seeing ourselves as children of God and not as gay people. Our identity is not significantly tied to our sexuality. Sometimes we do tend to spend too much time with other LDS SSA people who understand and love us and not enough time developing relationships with healthy, spiritual people around us.
THE EVERGREEN EXPERIENCE
Let me tell you more about some experiences I have had at these conferences...
I had the opportunity one year to ride to the international conference with a great guy who was beginning a psychological practice that emphasizes help for Latter-day Saints who face SSA challenges in their lives. We talked a lot about our lives and our desires for reaching our potential and becoming what the Lord would have us become. We were both enthusiastic about wanting to make a difference, and the conversations filled the hours we spent together on the way to Salt Lake City.
Before the annual conference actually begins, I usually meet with a group of 40+ members of the Disciples2 online support groups in a friendly and uplifting reunion. I visit with many old friends and some new ones, and we take advantage of the moment to enjoy some good food and talk about how life is really going for us and how we are doing in our spiritual goals. It feels like I am with brothers and sisters who truly care about my happiness. And even during the conference itself, which has had an attendance of about 400 people in recent years, I see many good friends, and the feeling is strong that all of us there are brothers and sisters and can easily talk to each other about our common goals.
The printed program for one Evergreen conference quotes Mosiah 4:9 on the front cover, a scripture which explains a lot about the attitude of people who support the pro-Gospel SSA philosophy:
|"Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend."|
Here is a listing of some of the workshops and other activities that have been offered at Evergreen conferences:
"Roots and Resolve of Gender Identiy Issues"
"Help! My Husband Is Homosexual"
"Understanding Same-Sex Attraction Development & Treatment"
"The Blessings of Struggles"
"The Sins of Homosexuality"
"Developing Healthy Female Connections & Friendships"
"Who, How, When, and Why to Tell"
"Labels: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly"
"Level 1 Relapse Prevention - Handling Triggers"
Workshops for Ecclesiastical Leaders
"Christ, the Ideal Role Model"
"Can This Marriage Be Saved?"
"Women and their Relationship with the Priesthood"
"SSA and our Relationship with God"
"Dating & Marriage - The Development of Heterosexual Desires"
"The False Identity"
Addresses by General Authorities of the Church and other special invitees
Various Q&A panels for men, women, spouses, and family & friends
Enjoyable social events and quality entertainment with high standards
The presenters at the Evergreen conference are of a high calibre, although the organization -- like the Church -- is made up of lay volunteers. We have had General Authorities, leaders of major ex-gay movements, and nationally known professional therapists who work specifically with sexual issues. We have also had parents of people who experience SSA in their lives, former and current strugglers, support group advisors, and other speakers popular at events such as Church Education Week.
A large number of books, pamphlets, videos, cassette tapes, etc. are always offered during conferences, and they are also available on the Evergreen website at http://EvergreenInternational.Org/bookstore/ as well as at many LDS bookstores.
WHAT CAN BE EXPECTED FROM THE PRO-GOSPEL GROUPS IN THE FUTURE
Just as the Church of Jesus Christ does not vary in its teaching of the basic divine principles of happiness, Evergreen International and other Gospel-supportive groups have as their goal to remain ever true to the teachings of the Lord's prophet about identity, sexuality, and family relationships. Evergreen has been innovative in the history of its development, constantly finding new ways to help people and to expand the reach of its support. Work is being done to help younger people deal with SSA-related issues with dignity and spirituality before the challenges become very difficult. Information in various formats is now being disseminated so that everyone in the Church can understand our challenges and their solutions better. Salvation is, of course, not found in Evergreen, but in the saving principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that Evergreen promotes.
HAVING IT BOTH WAYS
Some people reading this will still believe in the Gospel and desire to stay close to the Saviour but may be beginning to question the teachings of the prophets about sexuality because of things the world teaches about it. A person may want to follow his natural sexual feelings and be true to himself while being true to his testimony, also. You may think that you can accomplish this better than the gay people who have lost their spirituality, that you can be pro-gay AND pro-Gospel.
However, the people I have known who have not developed the faith in the Lord's prophets that would allow them to have faith in the Church's teachings about homosexuality have ended up losing the testimonies they once had. Does this mean that God never spoke to them? No, it means that they have decided -- perhaps subconsciously -- to ignore certain truths that they have known. Once a person begins to ignore or forget his testimony, he "finds himself" and "frees himself" and begins to do anything he wants (in other words, gives in to the carnal man). He embraces libertine philosophies and lifestyles. Then the Spirit of God cannot dwell with him. Don't let this happen to you. If you're not sure how Gospel principles apply to homosexuality, study the Gospel-affirmative books and especially the Scriptures until it becomes clear and your heart is converted.
THE FATHER ISSUE
Many same-sex atracted people have had relationships that were not very healthy with their fathers, who are just like God to a small child. They cannot relate to a loving Heavenly Father when their lives have been filled with broken promises, abuse, and disappointments. Often, those who have gone the gay route only feel condemnation from the Church and its people. What they need most from us is a reaching beyond their immorality and worldliness and foul language, etc. to seeing where the brokenness began. We need to find out where the hurt stems from. Once we can see that and be compassionate with their pain, they will begin to listen to us.
FAILURES AND SUCCESSES
Have some people seen the damage caused by the pro-gay philosophy and their own mistakes in life and changed their lives and returned to the Gospel and found answers for the same-sex attraction challenges in their lives? Yes, they have. But it is a small percentage of those who at some point accepted a pro-gay philosophy, perhaps because these homoemotional feelings are so confusing and the pro-gay philosophies appeal so much to the natural man in us. So I would say that, if you have not given in to the pro-gay anti-Gospel philosophy yet, avoid it like the plague. And if you have and you desire escape, you will find love and encouragement among those of us who are striving to fulfill the potential that God has for us while remaining true to the Gospel of Christ, our Saviour.
OK, so sincerely trying to live Gospel principles helps to maintain testimony and a Christian attitude, but are these people finding success and happiness? Yes, although this world is most definitely terrestrial and tears and pain are a part of our existence here, trying to improve ourselves, to live high-quality lives, and to stay close to God brings a peace that the easy path can never offer. Some people struggle to find the answers, but they struggle willingly and live with the wonderful principles of hope and faith. Some people have found love and purpose in marriage and family. We pray for those who have lost that hope and given up their higher dreams for something less. Those who persevere in doing what they know is right have developed very happy, healthy lives of love, family, and service. We who are still developing ourselves can look to these examples and see what awaits us if we never give up.
The Lord seems to try us in a refiner's fire in preparation for greater things. Once we gain the peace that the Lord provides, the exciting steps along the path are often into the unknown or the not yet experienced. I know that I am constantly being shown new possibilities around the next corner.
WHO I AM
I want to say a few words about who I am and why anyone should listen to my opinions about these things. I want to first make it clear that I am by no means a person who can judge others from on high. I have my own weaknesses and have made many mistakes in my life, including sinful behavior in homosexuality. But I am trying to improve myself and am having some success.
Although I haven't always done what is right, I do have a good sense for what is right and what is wrong. I do have the ability to discern what our Heavenly Father would have us do when faced with homosexual feelings. Pro-gay people always complain that LDS people are self-righteous and always pointing out their faults, but actually I point out my own faults just as much as anyone else's. Just because we are not perfect doesn't mean we can't see right and wrong.
I have a lot more to say about homosexuality and faithfulness to the Saviour. These essays don't cover the whole topic. With time, I will share more reasons why I hold fast to my testimony and the experiences I have had with the Saviour. But for now, I want to get these two essays out about the fruits of the two opposing philosophical approaches, so they can begin to open people's eyes.
A TRUE FRIEND
A caring friend will encourage someone to change, not just accept everything he does. I have made the effort to write and publish this report because I truly care about people who face these issues in their lives, not because I take any pleasure in judging others. I just believe that the movement of same-sex attracted Latter-day Saints who are seeking righteous solutions contains much evidence that the prophets are right when they teach us how to find real and lasting happiness in our lives.
We are not always feeling happy and don't always see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we press forward because we can see that the Lord's way offers much more than the gay community does. Once we gain the peace that the Lord provides, the exciting steps along the path are often into the unknown or the not yet experienced. We are constantly excited with "what next." I invite all sincere people to pray, to be willing to do whatever the Spirit teaches, to be truly true to themselves and to their testimonies, and to be true disciples of Christ in these latter days, for it will bring great and lasting happiness.
Steven Cramer, in his wonderful book, Draw Near Unto Me, testifies that "Christ is less concerned with the mistakes we make than He is with having things made right with Him." Indeed,
sent not his son into the world to condemn
but that the world through him might be saved.
|We who try to follow the teachings of the Lord's prophets in dealing with same-sex attraction believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul--- We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things!|
Some things I know from
experience, and some things have been taught to me by the Holy
Spirit. And fortunately, those two things have never really
conflicted with each other in my understanding. I know -- I truly
know -- that our Saviour Jesus Christ can lift us above our human
natures and transform us to be like Him. This is generally a
long-term process, but He truly cares about us and has marvellous
plans for us and is more than willing to guide us each step of
the way. The ideal of eternal families is a true principle linked
with the greatest form of happiness there is, and this blessing
will eventually be made available to every faithful person. I
know that the leaders of the Church are prophets called of God
and that He loves us beyond our comprehension and guides us with
Click here to read a similar essay about the anti-Gospel pro-gay philosophy.
Click here to read about some of the Gospel principles that are important for dealing with these issues.
I would be happy to receive your
comments and suggestions regarding these essays at LDS_SSA@GeoCities.Com.
I will try to respond personally to your correspondence, but time limitations may not always permit that.
If you desire to share any part of these essays with others, please contact me for written permission.