I cannot, in good conscience, recommend that my gay friends investigate the church. This sickens me. As far as I can tell (a very limited distance), to join the church as a member of the LGBT community is to consign yourself to misery. Since we are, that we might have joy, I cannot suggest it.
Think about what Mormonism is: It offers a path to gain direct access to God. It allows one to consider the eternities and to contemplate achieving one’s full potential. It provides a way to connect all your loved ones, living and dead, in a great community of charity and belief. It is the catalyst (I believe) for the creation of the kingdom of God on Earth. And there is a whole set of people out there whom, I believe, it will only make miserable.
You may say that there are many gay folk who navigate the church well. There are. I would not argue otherwise. But they all understand that they dance on the razor’s edge. If they get a bishop or stake president who is a little less comfortable with their status as an “out” LGBT member, a whole host of problems can crop up. And, as far as I can tell, there are extra burdens laid upon such people. Sure, they have to remain celibate until heterosexually married like the rest of us, but they also are discouraged from even the relatively tame expressions of love and arousal (kissing, hugging) that heterosexuals are allowed. For that matter, their one unambiguously legitimate option for sexual release is to make an eternal commitment to someone to whom they may not be sexually attracted to. Many do (heck, for a variety of reasons, many heterosexuals do), but it shouldn’t be the only available option.
You may say that it doesn’t matter. By most estimates, the LGBT community consists of about 5% of the population. Forget those people and focus on the hetero folks who are worthy of salvation. But that’s not how I read the call from Jesus to preach the Gospel. He ends Matthew by saying:
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
There is no out clause that reads, “unless they fail to subscribe to our gender-normative standards.” Perhaps you could argue that “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” covers that, but there are a host of things that Jesus said in the NT that we don’t subscribe to (his views on castration and divorce immediately spring to mind). And don’t throw Paul at me unless you understand the cultural context of his statements, the ambiguities of translation, and are willing to subscribe to every other thing he says (that it is better to be celibate than married, for instance (although maybe he was speaking to gay folk?)).
But John, you may insist, modern prophets have been unambiguous in their condemnation of homosexuality, or rather homosexual behavior. Okay, but let’s think about that distinction. First let’s set aside the reality that many Mormons still see no difference between homosexuality and homosexual behavior (as is amply demonstrated by the current brouhaha over the Boy Scouts). How central to your notion of who you are is your idea of your sexual orientation? Experiment. Imagine yourself gay (or lesbian, or whatever). Would you still be yourself? What would change? Would you share the same interests? Have the same relationships? The same job? The same church calling? I don’t know, but I suspect that for everyone sexual orientation is pretty fundamental; we heteros just don’t realize it because the entire world around us reinforces the idea that we are normal (and we are, really (95% or so of the population)). But how normals treat and interact with minorities is an important test. Are we Zoramites or are we Christians?
The next issue of modern prophecy is this: It is obviously in a state of flux right now. That is why we are told to love the sinner, hate the sin at this time. It is, somewhat, an admission that sexual orientation isn’t entirely a choice (nor, would I argue, is it entirely genetic). As the mormonsandgays site demonstrates, the Church is publicly trying to work out what it really thinks about LGBT members and children of God generally. And I don’t know how it will shake out. Whatever it is going to turn out to be, the status quo is obviously going to change. Perhaps the Church will make a decision I agree with, perhaps it will head in another direction (most likely, it will do both, a lot). Nor do I expect the Church to follow (or notice) my whims. But I think that we are in a place where questions at the top may be being asked with more earnest struggle than they may have been in the past. I can’t think about that without being hopeful (no matter what the outcome).
I say all this because I believe the Church is true. For that matter, I know it is. It is impossible for me to imagine the church as being not true, based on my life experiences. I’m in, even if I don’t like every little aspect. That’s a bit of faith, a dollop of denial, a lot of hope, and a hope for more charity on all sides (in particular that I should be more charitable to others). This Church is, to me, the most true, the most faithful, and the most clear path back to God on Earth. Which is why I hate that I cannot, in good conscience, encourage my gay friends to join it.