Call for Essays on Same-Sex Attraction

I am posting the following call for papers on behalf of Ty Mansfield. (Those of you who attended the recent Sunstone Symposium saw an extract of his interview with Helen Whitney.)

An Anthology Sharing LDS Perspectives on Same-Gender Attraction

A Call for Papers

Deseret Book has expressed interest in a proposed anthology dealing with homosexuality that will include personal experiences and narratives by individuals, family members, Church leaders, and gospel writers who have wrestled with, or been influenced by, this sensitive and significant issue. Essays will be written by believing, committed Latter-day Saints, and will cover a spectrum of experience.

The target audience of this volume will be the general membership of the Church, and particularly those individuals and families who are dealing with the issue and who are interested in better understanding it through the personal experiences of others who are committed to the Church.

We are interested in essays from both young and old, male and female, married and non-married (and possibly divorced), spouses and parents, and those who have been involved in same-sex relationships (and possibly who have been excommunicated or estranged from the Church for a period of time) who are now active and faithful, as well as those who may never have acted on their feelings and always been true to their baptismal and temple covenants. Perspectives, experiences, and beliefs may vary, and we expect only that core beliefs and values be in harmony with the gospel teachings as they have expounded by Church leaders.

We are interested in submissions from:
• Men and women who experience (or who have experienced) same-gender attraction
• Individuals who are married, single, or divorced
• Spouses, both male and female
• Parents, siblings, or other family members
• Local Church leaders
• Individuals who have been out of the Church and who have returned
• Individuals who have found some resolution, as well as those whose feelings are unresolved but who feel peace and hope in the gospel
• Encouraging as well as difficult examples of family, spousal, and Church leader support and interaction

Possible ideas and experiences to consider (including but not limited to):
• Specific life experiences that have most affected you and helped you to find meaning in your experience, and which have influenced your choices to remain committed to—or to return to commitment to—gospel teachings and Church involvement.
• Gospel doctrines or teachings of Church leaders that have been most meaningful to you (shared in the context of a personal narrative, rather than a thematic essay), including the plan of salvation, nature of God/man, etc, and which have given strength, direction, or affected the way you’ve chosen to respond to the issue.
• Experiences that have helped you to feel part of—or in which you’ve felt support from—Church or ward family
• Personal or spiritual change through applying the Atonement of Christ in your life
• Beneficial experiences with professional or therapeutic assistance
• Experiences working with Church leaders, either for support, through a process of repentance, or in the process of returning to Church involvement—including perspectives by Church leaders themselves.
• Experiences with marriage—or lack thereof
o Experiences of those who have healthy and fulfilling marriages, as well as those with difficult marriages or for whom marriage resulted in divorce but who chose to remain committed in their faith and involvement in the Church
o If single, the specific things have helped you life rich and fulfilling life and/or to avoid or deal healthily with feelings of loneliness
• Parents, siblings, or other family members
o Supporting a child who has chosen to remain committed to the Church
o Supporting a child who has chosen another path
o Experiences dealing with a child’s suicide or attempted suicide
• Spouses
o Perspectives of those who have healthy, fulfilling marriages and who have found strength, support, and direction through their faith in the gospel
o Dealing with the tragedy of divorce, personal healing, and/or the effect of watching loved ones make hurtful decisions and how you’ve found strength, support, and direction through faith in the gospel
• Preparing for and serving a full-time mission
o How mission experiences helped you grow in faith and to better deal with the issue
o How you dealt with it before and on a full-time mission

We hope you’ll consider sharing your experiences! We are looking for essays that are honest, candid, and capture both the reality of issue of homosexual attraction as well as the heart of faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Submissions will be accepted until September 1, 2007.

Please email submissions or questions to Ty Mansfield at LDS DOT Anthology AT gmail DOT com.

Comments

  1. “Essays will be written by believing, committed Latter-day Saints, and will cover a spectrum of experience.”

    Well, that leaves out a large number of gay and lesbian latter-day saints.

  2. MikeInWeHo says:

    It would be good to get some clarification from Ty (who it was great to meet at Sunstone last weekend, btw).

    For example, would you accept a submission from John Gustav-Wrathall? He is a believing, committed Latter-day Saint who is active in his ward, although he is currently not a member of the Church on paper.

  3. It was good to meet you, too, Mike.

    I’ve already discussed this with John, actually. He’s in a position that would make it difficult to include an essay, but I would like to include something that might help the LDS community better respond and fellowship and reach out to those who want to be involved in the Church in some capacity but are unable to do so fully because they are in a same-sex relationship. I don’t quite know what that would look like, though.

    Outside of that, the foundational premise of the book will be belief in Church teachings regarding marriage and family as set forth in the proclamation.

  4. Ty, I just wanted to say that I was profoundly moved (and changed) by your book and wish you the best of luck in your current project. I look forward to it immensely. As a Branch President in a YSA branch I have dealt with some who have struggled with SSA. I will be pondering how to approach my experience in an essay.

  5. Thanks, Darrell! I look forward to reading something from you!

  6. One can, like myself, be a “committed, believing,” Latter-day Saint and still believe that homosexual marriage can an appropriate choice.

    So I wonder if an accurate tag line would be more like “Essays will be written by believing, committed Latter-day Saints, who share the current dominant LDS view of homesexuality as evil, and will cover a certain spectrum of experience.”

  7. Dear TomL,

    Remember that this a going to be a book printed by Deseret that is meant to help those who want to remain active and committed to the gospel. Perhaps a better definition would be to clarify it by limiting it to Temple-worthy individuals. Deseret is looking to build faith and provide support, not to create controversy. That means they are looking for stories of those who are living a life of celibacy combined with the “super-abstinence” which does not allow for any emotional or physical (non-sexual) intimacy with other homosexuals. It is probably meant to be a survival guide.

  8. With Deseret Book being closely tied to the church, its only natural that the articles/essays that they are after are ones that adhere to church standards. They try to appeal to mainstream American Mormons, most of whom are not interested in people inside the church saying that the church is wrong on this issue.

  9. Casual Observer says:

    Jacob,

    C’mon. I was not directing anything at the church relating to sins. I would expect another person, whether they are part of the church or not, to choose their friends wisely. I do not expect anyone, especially a church, to tell someone to NOT choose a friend based on a genetic condition.

    I am not suggesting that the premise of the book should be that the church is wrong. I simply do not see any value in a book that ignores the highs/lows of those that leave the church for reasons related to homosexuality or the sorrow of those gay people that choose to stay and go to the temple, despite their homosexual tendencies or sympathies.

  10. Thanks for the clarification. I personally don’t want to read the book myself, either, mostly because I don’t struggle with this issue and I don’t really know anyone who is. But, since Deseret Book is so closely tied to mainstream members, I don’t see them being able to touch too much on the sorrows of those who stay in the church. Heck, they don’t like too much sorrow in any of their books.

  11. Jacob,

    and I don’t really know anyone who is. But, since Deseret Book is so closely tied to mainstream members, I don’t see them being able to touch too much on the sorrows of those who stay in the church.

    I think you would be surprised at how many people you know who’s lives are touched by this sorrow and who sturggle with this issue. The value of this book will be to strengthen those of your friends (and believe me, you have them) who struggle in silence.

  12. Casual, I think your last sentence could be an outline for TWO books – one about those who leave the Church and one about those who choose to stay. My impression is that Ty is compiling the latter and leaving the former to someone else. In my experience, there is a real need for the latter, while there are plenty of good options already for the former. I applaud Ty for his effort to present the struggle and sorrow AND the joy and dedication of those who choose to stay.

    I can’t presume to speak for anyone who is gay and Mormon – who stayed or left, but I had a friend in college who once told me that his greatest pain came not from the condemnation of his heterosexual friends and family but from the rejection of others in the gay community because he didn’t measure up to their idea of what a gay man should be. Marlin Jensen said that the Church now understands how difficult it is to ask someone to live without hope. What I admire most about Ty is that he is willing to try to live that life in duplicate – lacking full acceptance for his orientation from the Church and essentially being called an Uncle Tom by many within the homosexual community.

    Within the Church, Ty exemplifies one side; MikeinWeho another. I admire them both, even though Ty’s side is my own, since both of them are respectful of the choices of the other.

  13. MikeInWeHo says:

    To exclude voices like John’s would result in a polemical work that could not accurately claim to present a meaningful “spectrum of experience” among the LDS faithful. Do you have to publish this with Deseret? How would you describe the purpose of your book? Will Carol Lynn Pearson be involved in this project?

    Also, would you consider including an essay from a hidden, non-celibate gay who remains otherwise faithful and active in the Church? There are quite a few out there these days. I had a convservation recently with an openly gay guy in Palm Springs whose bishop purposely looks the other way (I’m sure THAT would not go over well with Deseret, though!).

  14. MikeInWeHo, I didn’t say I was going to exclude John’s experience; I only said it presents a difficulty. I’m not sure what that piece of it will look like yet.

    No, I haven’t been in any contact with Carol Lynn about the project. Though I’ve read her recent book.

    You already answered your last question. :)

  15. MikeInWeHo says:

    Thanks for clarifying, Ty. I really hope you can find a way to include John because I think he presents an important perspective that many in the Church have never considered. My story (Mormon gay guy outside of Church) is a dime a dozen, but his is unique.

    You may be right that the doctrines regarding marriage, family, and sexual expression will never change (although one could argue that they already have since the Church was founded…so never say never in Mormondom!). However, I could easily imagine a situation where gay LDS are given increased tolerance and privacy to work out their own salvation within the fellowship of the Church rather than being summarily booted out upon a chastity violation. This is exactly the Catholic approach today, btw. I thoroughly expect that within our lifetime LDS like John will no longer be excommunicated, for example.

    I admire your efforts tremendously, btw.

  16. Casual Observer says:

    Darrel and Ty,

    How will a book that only honors those that are faithful and only respects faith promoting positions help a Mormon lesbian or the family of a Mormon lesbian? Those folks already have lds.org, conference talks and public announcements by the church. Gays and lesbians already have The Miracle of Forgiveness which has already been mentioned.

    I picture the family of a lesbian feeling more guilt and more shame that their daughter/sister did not stay in the church like the few examples in the book. The probability of this serving as a guide to someone is very small. The faith promoting examples are amply represented in conference talks and other official sources. The probability of these essays increasing the guilt and shame for gay Mormons, and their families, is very high.

    Cant we agree that active openly-gay Mormon Lesbians and Gays are extremely rare? Very rare. Hats off to those people if they can make it work. But, it should be presented as an option, not the only option. How many Stuart Matis examples do we need? He was active in the church? He loved the Church. He loved it. He wanted to make it work but it didnt work. It is a shame to not discuss his other options anytime there is a discussion of what was expected of him during his short life, even if that discussion is focused on those that succeeded at something that would never work for him.

    The spectrum of experiences would be interesting if it included a spectrum of options. Unfortunately, with regard to lesbianism and homosexuality there is but one acceptable option for faithful members. That option is projected on and demanded of others, including those that were recently described by the church as having genetic condition or predisposition.

  17. Casual Observer says:

    Ty,

    Mike’s comments reminded me that I too should thank you. I clearly have some objections with regards to the spectrum of contributors and how that will affect lesbians, but, I applaud anyone willing to stand up and address the topic regardless of the limits imposed.

    Best to you. (thanks too to Mike)

  18. How will a book that only honors those that are faithful and only respects faith promoting positions help a Mormon lesbian or the family of a Mormon lesbian? Those folks already have lds.org, conference talks and public announcements by the church. Gays and lesbians already have The Miracle of Forgiveness which has already been mentioned.

    Because it provides real world experiences from other members who share their faith and can describe how they deal with the challenge, or even better how they overcame it.

    As it stands now, if a young man is attracted to other men but he wants to live his life according to the teachings of the LDS church, then who are his role models? He certainly won’t find any in contemporary culture, and just looking on lds.org really won’t fill the need either.

    I think it’s a great idea, and I hope to see further work along the same lines. The ability to overcome, or successfully control without sin, same-sex attraction is the elephant in the room that we should be talking more about.

  19. As it stands now, if a young man is attracted to other men but he wants to live his life according to the teachings of the LDS church, then who are his role models?

    Given that the new church pamphlet encourages active LDS, celibate gay people to remain silent and not make their homosexuality “the subject of unnecessary observation or discussion,” it may be that homosexual church members will remain invisible among the members. I also doubt that church leaders will promote and hold up as role models a “celibate class.” So, yes, such a Deseret Book publication could very well fill a need.

    I hope the publishers refrain from including stories of supposed “conversion” to heterosexuality, via “reparative therapy.” That would only offer a false hope and increase guilt and shame in gay church members.

  20. I have heard a lot more from homosexuals who have left the Church than from those who strive to remain faithful. I think this is a great idea.

  21. While BCC has chosen to close this thread, in order to avoid yet another debate regarding the standard issues of Mormons and homosexuality, we strongly encourage interested authors to contact Ty Mansfield about participation in the anthology announced in the post.

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