An Open Letter To Latter-Day Saints: When A Gay Person Shows Up At Church

Originally posted at Laura Skaggs Dulin‘s personal blog, Stars in the Ocean.

Being gay/same sex attracted in the LDS church just got real…and that is saying a lot because it has been incredibly real for a long time…so what I’m really trying to say is that it just got real all over again because the same already extremely taut tensions around this complex experience just got wound a little tighter.

And so I am writing to my entire LDS community; hoping that no matter where each of us ideologically lands on the human experience of homosexuality, you might be willing to take a moment to pause and consider the big picture of what it’s presently like to be a gay/ssa Mormon, and what role straight members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints might play at our sides. Here are some quick facts/statistics to start with so we have at least a rough sketch of the landscape — or perhaps better stated — the unfortunate land mines:

1) If a gay/ssa Mormon marries a person of the opposite sex, we are statistically at least twice as likely as our peers to divorce.

2) If a gay/ssa Mormon marries someone of the same sex, we are now officially identified in LDS policy as an apostate of The Church of Jesus Christ and all that comes with it.

3) If we remain single and celibate, the largest study of LGBT/Same sex attracted Mormons found that on average, we have the same life quality scores as someone with the chronic autoimmune disease, lupus.

So summarizing that all together we get: Divorce, Apostate, Lupus — That is what gay/ssa Mormons are presently up against and obviously it’s discouraging to say the least.

But are there exceptions to these outcomes?

You can bet that every single LGBTQ/Same sex attracted Mormon is gallantly trying their level best to be the exception. Spend some time around the block with LGBTQ/SSA Mormons making various life choices and you will find some of the most admirably persistent human beings trying to sort out how to do this; running a gamut that may include all kinds of self intervention, coping mechanisms, advocacy, social support and other various attempts to balance both spiritual and sexual identities, and their related needs, in a plethora of creative ways. In other instances, you may also find some of us who have certainly found ourselves caught in self destructive/ high risk choices, as we’ve painfully twisted down this inherently conflicting and even traumatic road. But whether self destructive or self affirming, most of us have not escaped times of deep anxiety, depression and loss; because ultimately, we each have or will have to give up something; some part of ourselves that feels both persistent and fundamental to our being.

Me: Ahem, excuse me, can I ask you a question?

You: Sure

Me: Which of your limbs would you be willing to cut off?

You: None, thank you very much

Me: My apologies, but that is not an option

You: This is a not a great question

Me: I understand where you are coming from. It is a totally horrible question for anyone to be faced with. But I pose it because it is the best analogy I can come up with to somehow portray what it has felt like to me to be a gay/ssa Mormon. I ultimately had to cut something off; something I experience as vital; with ramifications that effect me throughout my life.

The title of this blog is “stars in the ocean,” a reference to sea stars/starfish, who unlike most creatures, have a rare ability: if one of their arms happens to get cut off, they’re actually able to regenerate an entire new limb. It’s pretty amazing…and it is with this as a metaphor in mind, that I want to talk directly to Latter-day Saints:

For gay/ssa Mormons who give up ever having a same sex partner and marry someone of the opposite sex, we need more than ever Latter-day Saints who are able to meet us in deep and honest connections — particularly with people of the same gender — that we still sincerely long for.

For gay/ssa Mormons who give up membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and marry someone of the same gender, we need more than ever Latter-day Saints who will reach out with love and welcome us with sincere fellowship when we bravely endeavor to still join you in the pews to worship our God.

And for gay/ssa Mormons who give up having a partner in this life at all, we need more than ever a broad support system of Latter-day Saints who will offer and maintain deep connections and bonds with us that will help sustain us through the ups and downs of life.

I have learned regenerating begins to happen when LGBT/SSA people are able to be vulnerable and real about where we are and what we are going through in our community, and straight Latter-day Saints are willing to listen, ask what we as individuals need and talk honestly and empathetically with us as equals.

These are just small thoughts; an invitation really…to be vulnerable with us and to forge connections.

We’ve each had to give up some hugely significant element of relationship and relationships are therefore a critical part of what we need to regenerate.

For better or worse, it isn’t something we can do alone.

Sincerely,

Laura Skaggs Dulin
M.S. Marriage & Family Therapy

Comments

  1. I love this. This I will sincerely seek to do at any and every opportunity.

  2. Repent………and all will be fine.

  3. Elder Holland gave a talk “Like a Broken Vessel” in General Conference, October 2013. Whether gay or straight, we are all broken vessels in one way or another. We need to have charity and compassion for one another, and mourn with those who mourn.

    Tom Irvine

  4. eponymous says:

    Laura, this analogy of arms and starfish is a stunning and revealing image to me. Your message brought another level of understanding for me of how to see my LGBT/SSA sisters and brothers in their plight and how to sustain them.

    Thank you.

  5. Wonderful article. I’m curious – is it the same quality of life for a single strait man or woman to remain celibate as it is for a gay/ss person?

  6. Insightful analogy. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  7. Thanks Cheya, I’ve been curious about that question too. The study did not explore single straight experiences (I don’t know of one that does either) and I agree that seems like a very relevant line of further inquiry that could offer helpful context and insight about both LGBT and straight experiences of celibacy and singleness.

    Here’s a link to the study for anyone who’s interested http://www.theldsfamilyfellowship.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Phsychosocial-Correlates-of-Religious-Approaches.pdf%5D

  8. Thank you for sharing this. I am mourning as best I can with those who mourn, and this helps me to reach out even more. Thank you.

  9. I don’t think you should look forward to any more “acceptance,” “reaching out,” “love,” and “fellowshipping,” any more as a gay person than a straight person should expect in the church. I expect fellow Ward members to be friendly, welcoming, spiritual, and perform their assigned callings as diligent as I perform my church responsibilities. I don’t care if you’re gay or straight. Just attend your assigned meetings, do your calling, and be as friendly as you expect others to be. Some days at church are good, some not so good. But I don’t go to church to please anyone there. I go for my own growth and spiritual fulfillment. It is a commandment to partake of the Sacrament from time to time with the Saints. I don’t like to be rejected, but I don’t need nor do I ask permission from other members to attend church meetings and partake of the opportunities to advance in knowledge, faith, and spiritual progress. You don’t have to advertise being gay any more than a straight person advertises they are straight – especially when you are not going to act on your gay feelings around church members. If you plan to do that, you need to find another church. If you want to make all feel welcome and do your part in building up the Kingdom and being part of the Ward family, taking upon yourself someone else’s burdens and helping when you can, then by all means go to church on Sunday and join in.

  10. Laura, thanks so much for writing this. It’s beautiful and helpful and true,

  11. Sad and Scared says:

    If you don’t walk as most people do,
    Some people walk away from you,
    But I won’t! I won’t!
    If you don’t talk as most people do,
    Some people talk and laugh at you,
    But I won’t! I won’t!
    I’ll walk with you. I’ll talk with you.
    That’s how’ll I’ll show my love for you.
    Jesus walked away from none.
    He gave his love to ev’ryone.
    So I will! I will!
    Jesus blessed all he could see,
    Then turned and said, “Come, follow me!”
    And I will! I will!
    I will! I will!
    I’ll walk with you. I’ll talk with you.
    That’s how I’ll show my love for you.

    Michael, I’m sorry church has been so rough for you and everyone else lately. I hope you find fellowship and friendship at church. I hope you and everyone else find acceptance and love their. Sometimes through no fault of our own we miss learning the songs in primary that have the only lessons that matter in the end. Never fear. There is time to learn them still.

    And Laura thank you! And I am so sorry. There aren’t words, just tears.

  12. “Which of your limbs would you be willing to cut off?” This is an analogy that the Savior also used: “And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee” Matthew 5:30

  13. I believe that the Savior asks all of us to cut things out of our lives, eventually the entire natural man. But our hope is in His rising with “healing in his wings.” I am so grateful to have experienced the Savior’s healing power when He asks me to cut things out. I can’t even imagine the burden of others, though, of whom is required much more. The appeal of Jesus is that He always understands and is always there to offer healing.

  14. Ron Thompson says:

    Straight members advertise their sexual orientation all of the time by coming to church with their spouses, holding each other’s hands, giving each other little pecks on their cheeks, scratching each other’s backs during sacrament meeting, talking to others’ at church
    about their spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends, etc. I’m not going to hide my sexual orientation at church or anywhere else. If someone asks me why I’ve never married, I will tell them it is because I am gay. If they have a problem with that, tough. I’m in the Church to stay, and if they don’t want to reach out to me, accept me or love me because I am gay and open about it, that is their loss.

  15. Ron (10:19) – “Straight members advertise their sexual orientation all of the time by coming to church with their spouses, holding each other’s hands, giving each other little pecks on their cheeks, scratching each other’s backs during sacrament meeting, talking to others’ at church
    about their spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends, etc”

    This is an advertisement of their attraction to who they are with, not an advertisement of their sexual orientation. It’s not safe to assume someone’s orientation (or even gender) based on who they appear to love at a given time.

    I’ll not say that affections between two non-related people of the same apparent gender would pass without comment in many congregations, but they should. It is indeed their loss if they don’t want to know you better. Their concentration on what appears to them to be a mote in your eye should remind them of their own beams and others tolerance for them, not shunning as if they might get a splinter from you.

  16. Ron Thompson says:

    “You don’t have to advertise being gay any more than a straight person advertises they are straight – especially when you are not going to act on your gay feelings around church members.”

    Frank, you are correct. My comment was made in response to the above comment. I think that many people have a double standard when they talk such talk about LGBTQ people “advertising” their sexual orientation, and that was what I wanted to challenge. Thank you for your comment. It was much appreciated.

  17. I once commented that I don’t understand same sex attraction. I asked, “so what are they attracted to and why?” The people around me said that gays are attracted to others like I’m attracted to my wife.
    But that’s not true. I am attracted to her physically sure, but what also went into the calculation (still does) is I liked how she was firm in the faith especially as a leader. She stands up for the Church, keeps her covenants. I was attracted to who I thought would be a great mother and a “great” grandmother. That is no where in their calculation.
    There are 10s of thousands of chaste heterosexual members that patiently live their lives as fully as they can with out a partner. If they can do it then . . .
    The purpose of this life is to get a body, receive the ordinances of salvation, keep the commandments and endure to the end and help other while doing it. Period. Everyone can do that, that is the plan. There is no other plan.
    As I read other blogs and Gay LDS advocacy groups I don’t get a sense that many counsel their folks to stay chaste or if their not that they are moving toward that goal. They just want to love them no matter what with statements like “loving like Jesus loves”. But Christ never condoned sin. It is NOT a sin to have SSA as it is NOT a sin to be attracted to porn, want to swear, want to drink alcohol. . . . but if you succumb to our proclivities, don’t follow the commandments, then you do sin.
    We don’t love anyone, really, unless we help them progress. Otherwise we are just enablers (just like alcoholics and drug addicts have enablers), not helping them. At some point the adults in the room need to ask those that are in homosexual relationships to repent and begin to be chaste. Christ does NOT save us in our sins but saves us from our sins.
    The recent policy clarification by the Church makes people make decisions. Some have many decisions to make now: do I sustain the general authorities of the Church as the ordained watchmen on the tower? do I follow the pied piper of Dehlin?