Its the earliest publication I know of that talks in depth about the subject, and the only one I know about that discusses how “changeable” homosexuality is. I think some of the language used in that book has been very detrimental. I also think people read more harshness into it than was probably intended. Kimball’s choice of words, like calling it a “crime” against nature and using the word “pervert” to describe us were indeed unfortunate, and certainly did not help dispel prejudice or misunderstanding. Perhaps the most damaging idea he promulgated is that if you aren’t “cured” of your homosexuality through prayer, fasting, priesthood blessings, etc., its because you didn’t try hard enough. Kimball’s attitude is generally reflective of the limited understanding of homosexuality, from a scientific standpoint, of his day.
I think the most unfortunate thing about the Miracle of Forgiveness is that many people (including a former Bishop of mine who handed out paperback copies like candy) literally consider it “scripture”. It clearly is not and was never intended to be.
Other Church leaders have made additional remarks that have served to engender prejudice and misconception in the Church. Boyd K Packer used a story about a missionary who was “approached” by a homosexual companion in a highly controversial conference talk. The missionary slugged his companion, and Packer’s comment was “Well, thanks. Somebody had to do it, and it wouldn’t be well for a General Authority to solve the problem that way” (the Tabernacle audience erupted in laughter at this comment, but the way). This has been viewed as an endorsement for homophobia. In another Church pamphlet directed at homosexuals, Packer assigns the reason for homosexuality as “selfishness”. These and other earlier statements have served to inflame the gay community against the Church, and have become a stumbling block for many Mormon homosexuals trying to find their place in Mormon culture.
Other Church publications, including the General Handbook, gave advice such as not letting homosexuals around the youth, or not giving them callings at all. These materials and a number of Church pamphlets on the subject have now been removed from print, but their effects will unfortunately linger for many years to come.
Its sad that many negative and erroneous ideas of the past were allowed to permeate the Church and poison the attitudes of leaders and members. Many good people have been lost as a result. Some, like Stuart Matis, took his own life because of the conflict and rejection he experienced (read “In Quiet Desperation” – Deseret Book). I’m grateful for the new, more accurate materials the Church has recently publised, and hope we will continue to see the doctrine on this subject clarified in mainstream Church educational materials. And I especially hope members will continue to become more loving, aware and tolerant of those of us who deal with this issue in our lives.
Neal (and StevenB),
Is it fair to say that the roots of the tough stance (including its disciplinary position) the Church has taken on homosexuality and homosexual behavior derives largely from the Miracle of Forgiveness (see chapter: “The Crime Against Nature”)?]]>
Thanks for your thoughtful replies.]]>
My challenge for Jim (and anyone else who cares) is to read the new pamphlet “God Loveth His Children”
Yes, thanks, I have read it, and I do care.
…and then try to understand how it is possible to love and accept a gay person who is not sinning
My understanding is that as a disciple of Christ, I simply strive to treat everyone the same, without respect to whether they are subject to any particular set of special feelings or circumstances. This is convenient counsel, because it does not require me to determine apriori whether someone feels “gay”, has committed any particular sin, or has some other unique circumstances that require special treatment or handling. Fortunate for me — I don’t feel qualified to make such judgements. This attitude basically frees me to consider that all are unique and special before God, and as far as I am concerned, none are more or less deserving of God’s love.
Thus I do strive.]]>
I think you have a lot of valid points. But I’ve gotten to a place where I really don’t feel any bitterness about some of the negative aspects of this topic. People are human and change takes time. My testimony is independant of the opinions, prejudices and hatred of others. Ultimately the relationship in my life that counts the most is with God and His Son. If they think I’m OK, then the rest really doesn’t matter – to a point.
The point that it does start to matter is the continuing negative impact prejudice and ignorance like this has on others. It drives good people from the Church. It causes families to reject their loved ones. It becomes a stumbling block for youth who already struggle with enough problems as they try to find their place in this world.
So, because of this I’m pretty active on-line in these types of discussions. I think education is the key to it all, and I’ve had the opportunity to educate quite a few. I also have an outreach program through my web site to help homosexual members who want to remain faithful, or who tried the gay lifestyle and want to come back. I hope through these means I can make a difference in someone’s life.
If I had anything I would want the membership of the Church to know its that we’re really just like you. If you saw me and talked to me you would have no clue I’m a homosexual. I don’t wear pink tennis shoes, carry a purse, or have a limp wrist. I like the outdoors and other “manly” pursuits. Chances are there are a handful of homosexual members in your Ward just like me, and you don’t even know it. Over 50% of them are married and have families. We teach you in Sunday School, play the music in Sacrament, give you Priesthood blessings, visit you as Home Teachers, and serve in leadership positions. We’re not an alien species. We’re just normal people with a difference in our sexual wiring – one we didn’t ask for or choose to have. To us it DOES seem normal. Just as normal as you feel being straight. And just like you, we need to feel loved and accepted. We want a chance. We have so much to give! God loves us, so why can’t you?]]>
I don’t refer to myself as “gay” and don’t like the term, but I like SSA/SGA or other convoluted terms even less. They are attempts to turn identity into something that is not so immediate. “Gay” is a short word, and short words are words of might. (I forget who wrote that essay, but I’ll quote the title anyway.) “Same-sex attracted” is a long, vague term that slows down the ability to relate to the person. If you’re the Ensign and are afraid to use the word “sex”, then “same-gender attraction” is even less direct. (I understand that when Elder Oaks wrote his article back in 1995, he used “same sex attraction” but the Ensign editors overruled that usage.)
So my point, which Jim supports in post 68, is that church members assume things about homosexual members and their assumptions prevent them from relating to those members in a meaningful way. Jim also refers to a common complaint, that gays should not be given any special consideration because it feels like favoritism toward one minority among many. And as Neal pointed out, this is reasonable, but the truth is that gays are a singled-out minority who have no hope of being anything but defective in the church’s perspective. And that, I think, was the original point of this thread. We do give gays special status, a negative and hopeless status, in the church.
My challenge for Jim (and anyone else who cares) is to read the new pamphlet “God Loveth His Children” and then try to understand how it is possible to love and accept a gay person who is not sinning. The church leaders now say that behavior, not inclination, is the only sin.
I would also like to invite anyone who makes it that far to understand how it is possible to love and accept a gay person who does sin. Is that any different than a straight person who sins? Should we be like the stake president who excommunicated a gay man, then refused to assign a high counsel member to work with him through the repentence process because “he’s just not worth it”?
My experience, which Neal has also found to be typical, is that church members have a very long way to go before they (in general) show a Christ-like love for gay sinners and attempt to win them back to the gospel. The very painful thing is that many church members have an equally long way to go in accepting gay non-sinners who want to feel accepted by church members without stigma. As Neal points out, you have to choose very carefully who you reveal your true self to. What kind of life is that?
I personally don’t find it fulfilling to see oneself as a valiant soul who is enduring the mortal trial of same-sex attraction, and even more so when to reveal the truth of my experience leads to hatred, disgust, and ostracism from the supposedly Christ-like members of the church. Should I then try to feel valiant for being despised by the body of Christ, his true church on earth?
I’m afraid that all too often, in congratulating ourselves on our righteous living and the walls we put up to protect ourselves against “sinners”, we lose the very ones we are called to bring back to Christ. But we do it in a self-congratulatory way. It’s always “their” fault they weren’t willing to live the gospel.
Neal, thanks for your comments. May I recommend the writings of the Catholic priest Henri Nouwen, who writes eloquently about the real work of ministering to those who are broken by realizing that none of us are anything but broken in this life. On days when I’m sick of Mormon preaching, Henri’s writing is a balm to my soul.]]>
Searching the http://www.lds.org gospel library on this topic will give you a ton of links to various articles on homosexuality. There aren’t any direct BOM or D&C references that specifically mention it, as far as I know.
There are a few references to the subject before the era of Spencer W. Kimball, but not many other than the typical mention of Soddom and Gomorah. His book, “The Miracle of Forgiveness”, seems to have set a new tone on the issue. Many of the ideas from that book became pervasive in Church leadership, and as Ron and Steve have mentioned, only recently have statements been made that correct some of the misperceptions of the Kimball era.
Although you mention that you are clear about the current teachings, Ron Schow has lucidly summarized the gradual changes in the Church’s position over the past few years regarding homosexuality. His article is based on recent authoritative pronouncements and official releases from Church headquarters, but does not really address earlier attitudes or positions.]]>
As far as acceptance goes, how would you feel if the members of your priesthood quorum had a discussion about people like you and felt that the best way to deal with “your kind” was to stuff them into a barn, lock all the doors, and burn them alive? Ever felt that kind of love and acceptance from the Ward?
In fact, I have.