Note: This topic is deep, controversial, and extremely sensitive in our current social climate. It is not possible for me to cover every facet of every argument with one post. I am using this platform today to voice my current thinking and explore some of my past views. I wanted to remind everyone of the importance of being civil in the comment section. I will be watching the comments closely and deleting anything that resembles a personal character attack.
With this post I wanted to acknowledge other Mormons who have voiced their thoughts even though it might be difficult. I am proud to stand with them and say that I think we can only move toward perfection as we explore our weaknesses.
Recently, I found a quote by a well-known church leader suggesting that solo masturbation would lead to mutual masturbation with someone of the same gender, which would eventually lead to homosexuality and continue to progress until the most deprave acts were committed. I had never considered before that this might be how some LDS Church leaders view homosexuality. Not as a state of being that is part of an individual’s personhood, but a sort of perversion of the normal state due to letting your guard down and exploring the immoral. My thoughts and views on homosexuality have certainly evolved over time, but when I think back to the homosexual people I have encountered throughout my life, I can’t ever remember thinking that they became that way because they watched too much pornography or masturbated too frequently.
Homosexuality is not a product of masturbation, of someone neglecting to bridle their passions. It is not about choice, nor is it something you “fall into” as you race down a slippery slope to damnation. Science really hasn’t come to a conclusion yet regarding the roots behind homosexuality. Is it nature? Nurture? A combination of both? While we don’t have firm answers, simply choosing to be attracted to the same sex is not one of the options.
Recently, I’ve started praying and pondering everything, and I realized that I’ve never prayed to find out if God really condemns homosexuality. I always felt sure that what I had been told by Church leaders was right because we know of the Plan of Salvation, where we would eventually pair up in male/female pairs for eternity, and from this perspective it made sense to condemn homosexuality as a perversion of God’s intended order for the universe. However, if you accept the possibility that homosexuality is an innate characteristic, that has to mean that God implanted an overwhelming desire to sin as part of a homosexual person’s daily life. For many who identify as homosexual, the idea of heterosexual romantic relationships is actually a repulsive thing. Why would a God who told us “Men are that they might have joy” deprive so many of his children from one of the greatest joys we can experience during mortality, that of a committed, and yes, sexual, relationship?
My praying and pondering has not led me to any firm answer for any of my questions yet, but I do know that I’m no longer able to sentence so many good and loving people to lives devoid of companionship, sexual fulfillment, immediate family bonds with progeny, and love. It is as impossible for me to imagine having a life-long marital relationship with a woman as it is impossible for a homosexual man to imagine forcing himself to be with a woman for the rest of his life.
The Church’s policy today is that those who identify as homosexual are loved and embraced, but they are not to act upon their sexual desires in any way, as doing so would mean church discipline. Up until very recently, I equated what homosexuals were being told about “choosing not to act” to what we all were being told about choosing not to act on our own sexual desires outside of marriage. If I could fight off the temptation, shouldn’t my gay friend be able to as well?
In 1998 President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
“People inquire about our position on those who consider themselves so-called gays and lesbians. My response is that we love them as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. Most people have inclinations of one kind or another at various times. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church. If they violate the law of chastity and the moral standards of the Church, then they are subject to the discipline of the Church, just as others are”
The thing is… homosexuality isn’t just about sex or inclinations. Being a homosexual doesn’t just mean that you want to have sex with people of the same gender, just like being a heterosexual doesn’t mean that my existence is defined by having sex with a man. The person I once was used to think “Oh yeah, sometimes I want to lie or be selfish or XYZ, and I have to control that inclination.” In other words, I am a mostly honest/unselfish/sexually-in-control person who falls prey to the temptations of the Great Deceiver and must work to stay close to the Spirit to overcome such tendencies. But by this logic, I would thus need to consider a homosexual person to be a mostly heterosexual being who at times has inclinations to experiment with the same gender.
I was told that I had to control my sexual desires for a season, because eventually I would marry and this would no longer be an issue for me. I also considered the message to homosexuals to be similar. Just hold off on your evil desires until kingdom come, and then we can all be perfected and freed of these sinful urges together. Aside from no longer being sure that I even think homosexuality is a sin, I realize that I had never thought about the life I was condemning homosexuals to when I took this position. If a homosexual lives by the current plan that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has laid out by avoiding any and all homosexual activity, they will never get to have the love, companionship, trust, and sexual bonds that I experience with my lifetime partner (this is assuming, of course, that they can’t choose to find fulfillment in a heterosexual relationship). They are condemned to a life of being the third wheel or a forced marriage with someone of the opposite gender who ignites no passions for them.
We can continue to fight this out within our own religious belief system, but we do no good by declaring war on civil unions. When the idea for this post formed, my intention was to simply state that I disagreed with the Church’s position on Prop 8 and in other states where they are fighting against the legalization of gay marriage and that I don’t see any non-theological merit in the arguments that allowing homosexuals to form a union would destroy the family or limit my personal activity (including how we use our temples). I’ve reasoned through every version of the various stories regarding lawsuits concerning gay rights and civil liberty and I tried a thought experiment where I replaced the homosexual individuals in those stories with a man or woman with dark skin. Does it feel right for a photographer to say she won’t photograph a wedding because of the color of someone’s skin? What about a cake baker or a pavilion owner?
What if a non-white couple were out driving through the countryside in the middle of the night and they pulled up to a small inn owned by a family who denied them a room because of their skin color? That doesn’t feel right to me. Now replace that non-white couple with a lesbian couple, and replace the inn owners with a conservative Christian family who denied the room based on religious beliefs. That doesn’t feel Christlike to me either.
Homosexuality isn’t just about inclinations. Homosexuality isn’t only about sex. I don’t know exactly where I stand on things yet and I’m going to keep thinking about homosexuality, eternity, and what the sin really is here.
What I do know this is: I feel more at peace. I want to believe in a Christ, in a God, with arms open wide and hearts full, welcoming everyone. This is the person I am working to become. I am much closer now than I was before.