LDS Church launches site on homosexuality

 
Screenshot of MormonsAndGays.com

A screenshot of MormonsAndGays.com. The site stresses the importance of being “Christlike” and to “love one another.”

 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints launched a new website this week, www.mormonsandgays.org, dealing with same-sex attraction.

Included in the website is the Church’s official position “The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. 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.”

On the site, LDS Apostle D. Todd Christofferson says the position change is not a ‘softening’ of Church doctrine, which will remain that acting on same-sex attractions is sinful. Rather, the website is designed “to help Church members respond sensitively and thoughtfully when they encounter same-sex attraction in their own families, among other Church members, or elsewhere.”

The website includes videos of Church leaders discussing official Church policy and positions regarding same-sex attraction and interacting with those individuals that have those feelings.

In addition to official leaders, the website includes personal accounts of gay LDS members and their experiences in the Church. According to the site, these personal accounts “do not necessarily represent in every word or detail the policies or positions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but all of them speak with authenticity because they reflect what has happened in their own lives and the experiences of those they love.”

The goal of the website is to foster understanding through dialogue, as well as provide “a place where the people whose lives are impacted by attraction to the same sex can find inspiration to work through difficult challenges while remaining faithful to Church teachings.”

Randall Thacker, president of Affirmation, a group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Mormons, said the website represents a positive move by the Church.

“The website is a wonderful step toward greater dialogue and acceptance for those with same-sex attraction, their families and friends,” he said. “It’s also a step toward inclusion that is incredible.”

However, Thacker still leaves room for those who still feel the Church has yet to fully accept them.

“For those that still feel alone, or dissatisfied with the Church’s statement on doctrine not changing,” he said, “Affirmation is there for them, a place to affirm their spirituality and feel included and at peace with regards to their sexuality.”

Crystal Young-Otterstrom, the president of the LDS Democrats Caucus, further stressed the website’s main message — that of being Christlike.

“[LDS Democrats] do not have an official position on gay rights or homosexuality,” she said. “I am personally glad that the Church is talking more openly about this issue and hope that my fellow Christians will try to remember their own Christianity when discussing this sensitive topic and especially when interacting with their gay friends, ward, and family members regardless of one’s own stance on the political issues at stake.”

 

 

6 comments

  1. I deeply appreciated official comments from both Elder Oaks:

    “what is changing and what needs to change is to help our own members and families understand how to deal with same gender attraction.”

    and Elder Christofferson:

    “Our only real hope in addressing these very sensitive and difficult issues is that we are civil and listen to one another and try to understand.”

    Their comments reflect a commitment to empathy that we would all do well to adopt. Saying “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” reflects a connection to the lived experiences of gay Mormons. Last, emphasizing the theme of “stay with us” serves as an important reminder to LGBT members of the love and concern Church members and leaders have for LGBT Mormons.

    However, Elder Christofferson and Elder Oaks missed two very crucial points: (1) the value of romantic homosexual relationships, and (2) the moral equivalence of same-sex and opposite-sex romantic relationships.

    At one point, Elder Christofferson states that homosexual behavior “can never be anything but transgression.” I wonder exactly what would he would classify as homosexual behavior, out of this list?

    -Getting up early to make breakfast for your partner, even though you hate early mornings
    -Staying home from work, even though there’s an important deliverable, because your partner is sick
    -Having sex with your partner
    -Sending your partner flowers at work
    -Scrubbing the toilet, even though it’s not your favorite, because you know your partner likes things clean
    -Waiting at the halfway mark with a “Go Christy” sign at her marathon

    All of these are homosexual behaviors, just as their equivalents are all heterosexual behaviors. To reduce one’s romantic relationships to genital contact is akin to equating marriage as nothing more than the sum of sexual interactions between the spouses. This failure to grasp the value of homosexual behavior is the most glaring flaw in Elder Christofferson’s remarks. Romantic homosexual relationships, like romantic heterosexual relationships, add incredible value to the lives of the gay people who constitute them and to society generally.

    In addition to failing to acknowledge the value of homosexual relationships of themselves, both Elder Oaks and Elder Christofferson fail to acknowledge the moral equivalence of same-sex and opposite-sex romantic relationships. Empirically, the outcomes of these relationships are equivalent: but our scriptures additionally teach us that all are alike unto God, male and female. There is no revealed test in the standard works which tells us how to tell a spiritual male from a spiritual female; instead we presumptively rely on a man-made Outward Appearance Test that in turn depends on the external length of a person’s genital tubercle at birth. (By the way: the clitoris and penis are about the same length: one is just bifurcated and largely internal, the other merged and external).

    Is our theology really shallow enough that it draws conclusions about spiritual attributes (sex) based on body shape (genitals), as it once drew conclusions about spiritual attributes (pre-mortal valiance) based on body color (black skin)? It is high time to depart from these onerous “philosophies of anatomy, mingled with scripture” and acknowledge the equality of all people before God. In addition to being incapable of dealing with the reality of intersexed persons, Elder Oaks and Elder Christofferson’s adherence to the biological category of sex fails to recognize that _how_ two romantic partners treat one another is far more morally significant than the number of penises in the couple.

    • Thank you Brad for your superbly insightful comments. They shed significant light upon a not only a difficult subject but also on a frustratingly narrow focus on the part of church members and leaders alike. While this vastly improved understanding may unfortunately cause some heat as well, it behooves us to take into consideration your arguments for the next upgrade to our doctrine, to our behaviors, even to the intentions of our heart. While this may surprise many, I for one (as a Jewish convert) welcome continued engagement (“come, let us reason together) in our wonderful privilege called continuing revelation. That, it turns out, is one of the key points that led me to accept the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Line upon line. Generation upon generation. Until we are all given the great opportunity to fulfill the UNIQUE measure of our creation.

  2. Drako P. Binner /

    I’m sorry Brad but you are in no position to question Elder Christofferson and Elder Oaks on the matter. They are inspired men who speak with priesthood authority. Same Gender Attraction is a sin when acted upon. There is no moral equivalence. Your little short list of things people do is unwelcome sarcasm. You know God’s truth, I don’t think I need to explain it to you.

  3. ExMoHoMoDon /

    May I quite simply state what is painfully obvious: this website is nothing more than PR spin–an attempt to pretty up the Mormon Church’s hateful attitudes and policies towards homosexuals. As a homosexual man, I neither seek ‘the Church’s’ approbation nor accept its opprobrium–I think Mormonism is hateful, made up nonsense. I seek only equal protection under the law, which is guaranteed by the US Constitution, not granted by the whim of a so called church. The Mormon Church may employ any PR spin it chooses to use from the wall to wall lawyers and PR spinmeisters at Church HQ, but it is fooling no one.

    • I sure hope not. But, I know what you’re saying. I’m an active member who is for gay rights. But, I’ve had my challenges, too. That’s why I’m divorced and single.

  4. Brad, I also want to thank you for your well spoken comments.

    I understand the idea about spiritual male and female identity being separate from physical attributes, is a more expansive view than many Mormons currently have, and it is a brilliant way to help those who need a sense of “logically” coherent doctrinal reasoning that fits with their current beliefs. This is often the only way that there is growth in doctrinal understandings. People see/feel conflict with current understandings and what their experiences and/or compassion and moral compass are telling them, and they try and work out new ways of understanding to bring the two more in line (eventually getting “conformation from God,” of course, that this is the “right” way to look at things.) However, even this proposed new way of doctrinal reasoning falls short of being expansive enough to understand the complex and varied nature of gender identity. By clinging to the false binary of either/or, female/male, the idea that a person always fits into one confined label or the other, and that only two opposites go together (spiritually, even if you have gotten away from the physical constraint), you still are not able to truthfully recognize and understand the complex and varied experience of humanity when it comes to gender identity (which is separate and independent of sexual orientation, and physical gender attributes.) Binary thinking when it comes to gender is so engrained in our culture…even our language, and in this case religion, that it makes it very difficult for people to understand looking at it in any other way. People want to neatly fit everyone in one or the other category, and those who do not fit are marginalized, pressured to fit the expectation, and denied that they are who they think and feel they are, (“who you think you are is just a “temptation” or trial to test you, or outright willful sin”)…thought of as crazy or weak or broken or confused or perverted…all because we have an inadequate framework of understanding and are trying to insist that the world and people fit it. It’s like we are tying to sort shapes, and all we have is a triangle and a circle category. If you are a square, you must be a messed up circle, or maybe a messed up triangle. The more you learn about the varied ways people experience gender (physically), gender identity, and attraction, the more you will realize that stark dividing lines and binary categories don’t do it justice. But that perhaps is again a bigger leap in understanding than some are ready for. But even if it is uncomfortable for some, because it means rethinking their assumptions and what they think is God’s opinion on the matter, I promise the discomfort is far less than what those attitudes inflict on people who don’t fit society’s norms, either openly or silently. There is so much suffering caused by these faulty frameworks of understanding.

    Religion in my opinion has a great responsibility to grapple with these things, because their teachings have such an effect on people being able to truly see what is before them, or follow where their natural compassion and moral compass would point them, when the teachings are in conflict with that. If people teach and are convinced that you must adhere to a church’s teachings, then there is a great responsibility to make sure those teachings are not causing harm. So yes, please take that responsibility to seek new revelation, for continued engagement, to “come, let us reason together,” to heart. Those whose hearts allow them to understand beyond dogma, are the only hope for change.

Feel strongly (or maybe not)? Comment away.