What’s a Gay Like Me Supposed to Do? Some Unanswered Questions.

MCS is your typical single Mormon in his late 20’s. He faithfully attends his YSA ward, and is one of the Same Ten People who rotate through all the hard callings. You’d never guess he was gay, but he is, surprise! He graduated from BYU with a degree in history a few years ago and, seeing as history factories across America shut their doors during the 2009 financial crisis, will start a professional program this fall.

 

The Church has done an inadequate job of meeting the needs of gay, young single adults. I don’t mean to speak for others who are older than me, or who have entered mixed-orientation marriages, or who have left the Church for a same-sex relationship, or who have re-committed to celibacy after a time out of the Church. I’m speaking as a 28-year old, gay, single Mormon, committed to the Gospel but uncertain of my future in the Church. I am grateful for recent efforts to reach out to people like me.

However, I have some questions, and the answers have been non-existent.

1) It’s said that being gay is okay, as long as you don’t act on it. What does this mean?

Clearly sex is off-limits to a gay Mormon wanting to stay in the Church. But is kissing bad? How about hand holding? Non-platonic cuddling? Platonic cuddling? Acknowledging another man’s attractiveness out loud? Turning my head when a shirtless guy runs past (this is the most wonderful time of the year, by the way)? Where’s the line? Is there one? Talk to a gay Mormon and you’ll hear a lot of opinions on this; talk to a straight Mormon and you’ll hear even more. But nobody seems to know anything for sure, and the Brethren have been silent. Every bishop has his opinion, of course. But what is the Lord’s opinion?

2) What is my old age supposed to look like?

Someday I will retire, and my career won’t occupy much time. My nieces and nephews will have families of their own, my siblings will be in grandchildrenland, and my parents will have passed. Straight members of the Church have plenty of options within the organization to find fulfillment, including serving senior missions and working in the temple. As a gay man, none of these options are open to me. When my career is over, what should I do to fill my time? Visit historic sites by myself? Go on singles cruises? Clearly, the Church as an institution needs to make room for us. There are myriad policy changes that would be helpful and relatively non-controversial. What is the will of the Lord?

3) Where should I attend church services?

Age 31 is looming large in my life, and the idea of aging out of YSA and attending church with a bunch of families is less than appealing. All those young families, many of them peers I have known for years, with their coordinating outfits and FHE reports and Sacrament meeting cacophony, can be intimidating to someone like me. Those things will apparently never be mine, but every talk and lesson is geared toward building them up. There is little nourishment for me at church, and attending meetings is more a function of obedience than fulfillment.

Treatment of straight singles in the Church is a major issue, and others smarter than me have gone in-depth on it. However, we have had silence from East South Temple on the gays. We are a significant portion of the membership. The Lord said every soul is great in His sight. But does the Lord’s Church truly have a place for us? If so, where?

4) Is being gay an eternal characteristic?

So far, the consensus among straight leaders seems to be no, and that in the next life this “burden” will be removed. However, many gay members (myself included) have received powerful personal revelation saying that I am how I am for a reason, and that this is an eternal characteristic. I don’t know what my afterlife will be like, whether I’ll be in an eternal partnership with a man, or if I’ll miss out on exaltation and settle for life in one of the other Celestial Degrees, whatever that entails.

It would be wonderful if we could have doctrine on this. A 15-person solemn declaration, not just General Authorities speaking off-the-cuff in firesides about an issue that does not personally affect them at all. Could the Lord have a revelation for us? Or are the Church and its members to remain in darkness? What is the word of the Lord?

These are only four questions; I have many others. I’m not the first to ask them, and I won’t be the last. However, until I have answers, my life stays on hold. I have no good examples, and no clear direction. I feel like a pioneer. It’s very lonely out here on the plains, only God as a travel companion. And unlike the handcart companies, there are no Sweetwater rescues on the horizon—only more snow, and more cold. Occasionally an angel intervenes, but for the most part, we’re out here alone in the lone and dreary world. Isn’t there any help for us?

I find myself aching more and more for the men I sustain as prophets and seers to prophesy and see.

Comments

  1. It was pondering questions like these that made me change my thoughts back in the mid-2000s. At first I figured it was a tough spot, but no more difficult than people who are single their whole lives. But it clearly isn’t true that gay people are forced to make the same sacrifices as singles. I hope the answers we are seeking are on their way.

  2. Happy Hubby says:

    I probably can’t even begin to understand the depth of the importance of these questions for a gay man (or woman) in the church. My heart goes out to you for these honest questions. I pray they will be answered.

  3. Jonathan Cavender says:

    At the risk of stepping into a buzz saw, I would like to address one of your questions.

    “It would be wonderful if we could have doctrine on this. A 15-person solemn declaration, not just General Authorities speaking off-the-cuff in firesides about an issue that does not personally affect them at all. Could the Lord have a revelation for us? Or are the Church and its members to remain in darkness? What is the word of the Lord?”

    Let’s assume that the truth of the matter is that homosexuality is a mixture of biological, environmental, and/or choice factors (in whatever combination – anything from 100/0/0 to 0/0/100). Let’s also assume, as your post considered, that same sex attraction may be given by God to some or all as part of our development for eternity, though still needing to be constrained through not acting on that attraction. Let’s also assume, as your post acknowledged, the possibility that it may not be an eternal characteristic. Let’s finally assume that the Lord is willing to grant revelation on this matter, through the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency, and the revelation would read something like this:

    “God loves all His children, and He has prepared a Perfect Plan for each of His children that provides not only unique challenges but also a path back to Him and to eternal happiness. Heterosexuality is the order of things in Exaltation, and those who experience same sex attraction in mortality may be freed of that burden, whether in this life or the life to come, through the Atoning Blood of Jesus Christ.”

    If the Church did that, the headline in the New York Times would read “Mormon Church Doubles Down on Hate.” The L. A. Times would have a headline “Caregivers Brace for Increased Suicides After Church Pronouncement.” This site (and others) would have dozens of articles:

    Why the Church has no Room for Me
    Church Must Accept Responsibility for Youth Suicide
    Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Brethren (Please)!
    I Was a Stranger, and You Shut the Door on Me
    The Great and Abominable Church Office Building
    Leaving the One to Rescue the 99

    And so on. It is such a charged issue (even posting this response, as respectful as I know to be, has me expecting hostility in reply) that anything short of full-throated acceptance seems to be viewed as hostility. And if the doctrine doesn’t match the dominant culture narrative in the media, the value of the pronouncement would need to be weighed against the very real cost in souls who could be lost if such a pronouncement were made (even if it was absolute true – milk before meat, after all).

    I know people like to make fun of President Packer for saying that not everything true is useful. But I could easily see (if my clumsy attempt above happened to be the truth) the Lord finding revealing such a truth to not be helpful: not helpful to those who are straight (who perhaps would thereafter not work to both increase and better express charity) and those who aren’t (who perhaps would leave, or stay and feel isolated rather than joined to the body of Christ).

  4. Thanks for writing this, MCS. For what it’s worth (maybe nothing), I’m really glad you’re part of the community of saints. Whether or not our leadership knows “what to do with you,” the Body of Christ is stronger for having you as a part of it.

  5. Jonathan, besides being an impersonal, abstract response to a personal, specific essay, your comment implies that Heavenly Father isn’t revealing desperately needed truth because the headlines won’t go His way? Because the truth will hurt The Cause?

    I can’t imagine a more cynical response to a post in which a fellow saint is pleading for insight and revelation.

  6. Tiberius says:

    Sure, I’ll take the bait…

    I suspect this question falls along the same line as the priests asking their adviser how far they can go with their girlfriend, but the adviser is not wont to provide an answer for a number of good reasons. It’s not like you can expect the brethren to say, well, holding hands is okay, but later on… The point is that under LDS teachings, homoerotic behavior is not okay. Yes, they haven’t explicitly rules out pecks on the cheek, but the analogy between extramarital sexual relations. You can’t turn your head to check out the hot guy runner and I can’t turn my (married) head to check out the hot girl runner (and yes, this is a wonderful time of the year).

    2) Whatever you want it to look like. You’re a free agent and the whole “God only judges” means that nobody can hold it over you or spiritually blackmail you. On that note, if you’re going to stay in the Church I suspect it’s supposed to look like it would look like for any heterosexual who isn’t going to get married. Again, they have been clear on this so it’s a bit disingenuous to suggest that they haven’t. To try to portray that single life as some sort of wasteland to help your argument is to be a little insulting to single people frankly. Also, to preempt a coming argument, many opposite-sex people really don’t have the opportunity. There aren’t enough men to go around in the Mormon marriage market, so whatever accommodation they make for you they presumably would have to make for the woman who can’t marry a Mormon man and can’t find a non-Mormon who’s willing to do the whole two-year celibate courtship thing (which is almost all of them).

    3) Wherever you want, but again if the function for singles ward is to setup mixed-sex pairs it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be very useful for you.

    4) People have received all sorts of revelations, and we basically have to sort through what claims are from God or not. From my third wall perspective, I treat your revelation on par with all the others people make that may or may not be from God. On an first-person, individual level, of course, the confirming spirit is absolute, but that’s for you and your decisions, you can’t hold that over the brethren or anybody else’s head to challenge what they’ve felt,because again, lots of people claiming lots of conflicting communications from the spirit.

    As a side not, the Church has clearly stated where it stands on the issue. Misinterpreting moves to be more understanding as some sort of inexorable movement towards complete dispensing with heteronormativity with same-sex sealings and all is just going to cause more pain when the Church signals that it’s not in fact moving in that direction. I suspect that there will be more November-policy type situations where we will hear wailing and gnashing of teeth because people were so convinced the Church was moving into some linear direction along a continuum capped by “bigot or ally” endpoints.

    IMHO, it might be better accept the fact that the Church is fundamentally heteronormative and gendered, and either move on and find happiness outside of it, or be at peace with its fundamental character inside of it. Sitting in a constant state of expectation that things are going to move is probably not the best. Whatever the case, I wish you happiness and fulfillment wherever you go.

  7. jeez guys.

  8. I read your questions, brother, and I almost started to cry. Because they dredged up a lot of heavy feelings that I try not to touch very often; this ache in my chest that is always there and that I have to work to ignore just to get through my day.

    I have those questions, too. And a part of me doesn’t want to hear what their answers are. Because I have this horrible, sinking fear that their answers will only be a wedge that pushes me further and further away.

    I love the Restored Gospel. I love it with my whole heart and the entirety of my soul. But as a queer, middle-aged, never-married, childless woman, the Church is no longer my home. Inactivity has been good for me, a little distance has helped me start to heal.

    So, yeah, I have the same questions. And I even have my own, personal answers. But I’m not sure that I want the Brethren to answer them. At least, not right now. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

  9. Jonathan Cavender says:

    Kyle, a brief couple comments and then I will bow out of this thread altogether.

    First, if my post had been direct and concrete, I have no doubt you would have criticized me for attacking the OP. So to criticize it for being impersonal and abstract seems disingenuous.

    Second, saying it is because the “headlines won’t go [His] way ” is misstating my point, and you know you are misstating my point. Saying that “the truth will hurt The Cause” at least accurately reflects my point (though it doesn’t engage it). We know that there is further light and knowledge the Lord will send us. Why hasn’t He? There must be a reason, and we know that He loves us perfectly, so therefore having this further light and knowledge is either something we haven’t earned or something we are not ready for yet. The Lord’s work and glory is the immortality and eternal life of man — not providing revelation when sought (even when thought desperately needed).

    Third, leave aside whether you feel I was being cynical (I wasn’t — almost by dictionary definition I wasn’t — showing no distrust for either the OP’s motives in posting or the Lord’s motives in not yet revealing the truth [ironically enough, the only cynical response was your accusation that I was being cynical]). It is possible that I am right? If I am incorrect (always possible), then make the counter-case. If I am correct, but you think that I shouldn’t say it, aren’t you doing exactly what you are saying I am cynical for saying that the Lord is doing (holding back truth for the “cause”)?

    Anyhow, I have ventured about as far into this thread as I care to. To both Kyle and the OP, I wish you both the best.

  10. Thanks for being so brave and vulnerable, MCS. I can only imagine the kind of courage and compassion it takes for you to keep showing up. Especially when heartfelt, personal expressions like this evince such cold and thoughtless responses from your fellow saints. Even here at BCC. It seems to me as a straight fellow saint who is not authorized to receive revelatory answers to MCS’s questions, the only appropriate response is: “Thank you for sharing these burdens with me and helping me understand them. I admire your strength and am grateful you’re willing to share it and your many other talents and gifts with me as a fellow Latter-day Saint.”

    Much love to you, Brother MCS.

  11. Where answers are not forthcoming it feels especially important to create space for the pain of not knowing and honor the validity of the questions. Where the organization doesn’t actively provide that space it feels like a greater burden on the community of Saints to do so.

  12. MCS,

    Your request/need for revelation is most certainly valid. I hope we get it.

    Would a simple answer from the Q15 of “we don’t know” be helpful or would that be just as bad?

    It seems we like to err on the side of “don’t do anything” doctrine. The extreme of this is to withdraw from life. While the Church does not want people killing themselves, the above sure feels like the Church wants its Gay members to largely withdraw from life.

    I have felt that the person closest to the situation often has the best insight/inspiration to these questions. What advice might you give a fellow member in your situation?

  13. I wonder if answering these questions definitively would draw a line in the sand that not everyone would want once they had it.

  14. Jonathan, I guess I’m responding badly because MCS shared something very personal—his plea for revelation feels akin to the opening verses of D&C 121—and you responded with “maybe the revelation you’re seeking wouldn’t be helpful right now.” Seems to me like you de-prioritized a fellow saint’s need and projected that dismissal onto God.

  15. Tired and broke saint says:

    I wonder what MCS gets from the church to help him life a healthy, authentic, worthy life.

    I understand his questions and think they are valid and completely deserve honest and helpful answers. I know that there are many who are waiting for similar enlightenment and inspiration. I grieve that too many LGBTQ saints are giving in to the pressures of the ambiguities and judgment implied by the church’s silence or platitudes and choosing suicide.

    The church needs to find what comfort and guidance Heavenly Father has provided in the Gospel or get the desperately needed revelation and share it. But until they do, I am asking what the church ACTUALLY provides to the LGBTQ community that’s sustaining and enlightening and comforting and informational for their entire global (as opposed to sexual and social) lives.

    IF it doesn’t balance out, what do you see as being your alternatives? Can you stay in a culture that denies, is embarrassed by or, worst of all, demoralizes you? Do you have hope of the church providing comfort and solutions?

  16. I appreciate this post, MCS, and I appreciate the comments from Leona and mactoph that don’t try to supply answers but instead seek to “mourn with those that mourn.” Posts like these help us heterosexual cisgendered members of the church see and hear from fellow Saints who are not, reminding us that we are a body of people comprised of much more than just families in matching outfits at Sunday meetings.

    I believe further revelations and understanding and changes will come the more that we share the pains and desires and worries and narratives of this larger body of saints, rather than try to calculatingly justify current church policies by holding such narratives at arm’s length, like a hypothetical or a petrie dish experiment, like some of the commenters here have done.

  17. Tiberius to gays: We won’t treat you any better than we treat straight single members of the church. In fact, we’re just going to treat you as if you were straight and single. If you don’t like it, please leave. And as you go, remember how much we love you!

    Tiberius gives us a pretty good summary of the current strategy of those who want to hunker down for the status quo, and it’s not pretty. It treats the urgent concerns of both gay members and straight single members as trivial. It refuses to do the hard work of ministry.

    Contra Tiberius, the struggle over these issues is not finished, and it won’t be finished as long as there are members of the flock who need to be fed. That’s what it’s like in a true and living church.

  18. Gradylady says:

    I don’t normally post on BCC but your post touched me because I feel for you. Another poster commented that your participation in the church is courageous but I’m not sure that I agree. To be clear, I’m not saying that a person in the OP’s shoes should run from the church but I am hesitant to praise this ‘stay at all cost’ stance. I can’t imagine showing up every week and participating in an organization that doesn’t affirm your identity, expects you to hide or deny who you are, and doesn’t want you. I don’t know how other’s perceived the recent video of the family “accepting” their gay son but the key takeaway for me is that the church is very comfortable with letting you go, that homosexuals are great…OUTSIDE the church.
    I understand that we all have trials throughout our lives but I cannot imagine participating in an organization that believes I should deny an integral part of myself. Not to go off on a tangent but this belief is also why I don’t understand how blacks felt comfortable joining the church at a time when their skin color was considered a curse.
    All of that said, I think my question is this: if the purpose of mortal life is for all people to have joy then what does that mean for someone in the OP’s shoes? More specifically, how does someone like the OP pursue joy in this church? And to be clear, I don’t think it is enough to say give the typical LDS platitudes…if they were then we wouldn’t see so many people who don’t quite fit in the church (homosexuals, childless…etc.) leaving the church or, in extreme cases, committing suicide.

  19. Wow. Some of the comments here are just… just wow. They seem to fall right in line with my pet theory on the subject:

    If you’re going to be gay and Mormon, the preferred option is that you remain celibate and keep your mouth shut about it.

    Failing that, go away. If you go away quietly, there’s no need to spare you another thought. If your exit makes noise, you’re just a bitter apostate we can ignore.

    In any case, and no matter what you choose, there’s a simple way to dismiss your questions and concerns. So I guess that’s convenient.

  20. Anon for this says:

    I have several friends who have been kind enough to share their life stories and experiences as gay single members.

    The issues with transitioning from a YSA ward to a family ward was s problem my old stake president recognized. (My visits to his office about my friends and my worries for them may have ben slightly related to his realization.) My spouse and I were asked to lead a FHE group that included up to fifteen 30-40 year-old single members without children. We requested that we also invite all the single parents in the ward, and that we not advertise the “target population” so more people would feel welcome. Two women and 2 men were called to our committee, and there were several families with young kids whose fathers were serving in the mikitary who we invited so that they could be integrated into our ward. We made sure to invite anyone who was a single person, kids or not, as well as having a rotating group of families who were not part of the core group come and bring a lesson and a game. (We never had a problem with not having enough food. We eventually had to limit ourselves to doing dinner only once a month, except in the summer, for time and space reasons.)

    I loved this calling! I love the friends who truly were our family. Of the core group on 12 people who came at least 2-3 times a month, 9 of them identify as something besides straight. 10 years later, only 3 of the 12 are still members of the church.

    The last person who turned in her resignation letter just after the policy change on children’s baptism came out, told me that she had been trying so hard to focus on just loving people at church. She is an asexual bi-romantic woman and has had close emotional relationships with men and women. She would like to raise a child someday, and would prefer to adopt a child through the foster care system. She is also a wonderful person who couldn’t see herself of people like her in the church!

    We stopped doing the FHE program because the new stake president was afraid after 2 of the men in the group announced their engagement and the crazy experiment our FHE group had been. The last time we officially met became a party to celebrate them and the good things that happened in our ward because of the group. I believe that there are ways to recognize and meet the needs of members who are single, but it starts with recognizing their needs, not being scared of those needs, and giving non-heterosexual needs as much space as we give to talking about “the family.”

  21. Tiberius says:

    Is there any argument or good-faith effort at answering these questions from a conservative perspective that will not be met with accusations of bad faith or hatred of gays?

    You act as if we on the conservative side just aren’t listening. We are, are you? Given how frequently the Church’s position gets so completely misframed I’m beginning to think that those on the other side of this are becoming more close-minded towards the possibility that the Church might be right than the brethren are that they might be wrong.

    Also, I second Jimbob. For everyone clamoring for a definitive revelation, would you accept it once it was given if it wasn’t what you wanted? If not, than once again it’s disingenuous to demand something official for the sake of something official.

  22. I wish answers would come from the brethren on this subject. I find it interesting that MC begs for answers from the designated representatives of the Lord, and some people (not designated by the Lord, at least as far as I can tell) jump in to give the same types of opinions that the post demonstrates as being unhelpful.

    My own opinion is that there is not unanimity on the subject in the leading quorums. So, we get mixed messages.

  23. Robert Davis says:

    Even though I am a straight, heterosexual man (I am an ally), I have wondered about these issues. They are legitimate questions and concerns, and I don’t have answers.

    All that comes to mind is that, similar to how long it took to put to rest the falsehoods and inconsistencies of the Blacks and the Priesthood issue, perhaps the older generation (people like me) will need to get older (die off?!?) so that the Lord can reveal new truths (“we believe he will yet reveal many new and great truths pertaining to the Kingdom of God”) and we as a Church will be ready to receive them.
    IMHO!

  24. Deborah Christensen says:

    @ MCS
    Thank you for writing about your feelings and experiences. I feel discussions are one of the ways the Spirit helps the church work to receive revelation.
    I assume you want some answers from readers so here goes. You need to know how I fit into this situation. I’m heteronormative cisgender. But I have zero desire for marriage. I have a little desire for sex so maybe I’m closer to the asexaul area of the spectrum. But I’m still on the heterosexual side.
    Anyways, you mentioned in #3 how you attend the YSA and don’t look forward to attending a family ward. Here is how I maneuvered that issue. I attended the YSA ward because that is where I can renew my covenants. That is where I have callings to serve others and they have the opportunity to serve me and learn from me. I didn’t attend the YSA ward to find someone to date and marry. I didn’t attend the YSA ward for the purpose the institutional church set them up for. I could have attended a family ward but I didn’t want to be around all the old people.
    Then I turned 31 and went to the family ward. I attended that ward for the same reasons: to renew my covenants, to serve others, and be served. Within a year I was called to the be the RS president. I discovered that the people in the family wards are no different than in the YSA wards. Some of them just happen to be married. Others are divorced or widowed. Part of the married women are lonely and feel like they aren’t really married. I also thought the older people were mature. Wrong! some of them act like teenagers. I even had to mediate between two women in their 80’s that wanted to call the cops on each other over a casserole dish. In other words I don’t find the family ward to be different than the YSA ward. They’re just older people.
    There are times in family wards where the lesson focus on marriage and family. As you say “to build them up”. But the lessons are really about relationships. The lessons apply to friendships, extended family, even co-workers, and our relationship with everyone else on the planet. I take those opportunities to raise my hand and make comments to the class members how this applies to my situation. Then I give them an example. This opens up the conversation to all the members that don’t fit the perfect family the church advocates. Which is most of the people anyways.
    So I think the point I’m trying to make is you need to figure out why you’re attending the YSA ward. Does the reason change when you turn 31, 41, 51?
    BTW-I am aware that you are in a different situation than me. I can serve as RS president and a sister missionary but you can’t be a Bishop or serve a mission w/out a wife. So none of this may really apply. But I leave that up to you to decide.

  25. Excellent questions, MCS. My heart breaks for you. I was born straight so our culture in the Church allows me to have a spouse and children — a family, a future. It is so heartbreaking to know that we don’t allow that to people who were not born straight, unless they make a choice against their nature to enter into a heterosexual marriage, thus also risking the well being of their spouse who will also suffer with a spouse who is not sexually attracted to him or her. As a straight Mormon with a family and a future, I also want some leadership and guidance on this that demonstrably comes down from God rather than transparently arising from cultural inferences and ingrained cultural ideas.

    And unlike the handcart companies, there are no Sweetwater rescues on the horizon—only more snow, and more cold.

    This hits hard. Observing from a place of absolute privilege in this particular subculture (born straight, married with a family), I can’t deny that this statement is completely true, and again it breaks my heart for you. From every indication Church leaders have given so far, absolutely no rescue stands on the horizon for you, only more snow and cold. I’m so, so sorry.

  26. Also, MCS, I could have just piggybacked on Kyle M.’s first comment: “For what it’s worth (maybe nothing), I’m really glad you’re part of the community of saints. Whether or not our leadership knows “what to do with you,” the Body of Christ is stronger for having you as a part of it.

    Amen to that. We are much stronger for having you among us. You are as much a part of us as anybody who happened to be born straight, as much as any Church leader.

  27. I grieve that too many LGBTQ saints are giving in to the pressures of the ambiguities and judgment implied by the church’s silence or platitudes and choosing suicide.

    Yes, tired and broken saint, this is so tragic.

  28. To answer some repeated questions, speaking only for myself: If the Brethren had a revelation and it wasn’t what I wanted, I’d accept it, as hard as it may be. However, some things don’t require a revelation. For instance, I’d love to work in the temple or serve a senior mission. There’s no doctrinal reason why I shouldn’t, only past prejudice against so-called menaces to society–it’s not even homophobia! It’s just leeriness toward single men! I am very hopeful that this can change in the near future.

    Alas, most conservative suggestions are along the lines of, “Thanks for your tithing, but please don’t bother us. Stay if you want, but don’t expect to, like, feel welcome.” And I’m even planning a life of celibacy! I can’t imagine what others feel. The real answer is to, 1) Invite gays to sit with you, 2) Invite them over for FHE and low-intimacy family gatherings, 3) Invite them to social events, like group dates with couples in the ward (let them decide for themselves if they feel awkward), 4) Stop sharing Matt Walsh Facebook posts, 5) Engage us in real, meaningful conversation about any subject. No lectures. Just talk. In other words, “Lead me, guide me, walk beside me.” I promise to do the same for you.

    All of these things are helpful. Unhelpful treatment is basically the opposite: explaining things in a condescending way, pity, and outright meanness. I’ve only been out to my closest friends for, oh, the past 4 hours (since this posted), but I’ve had all three reactions. And I can handle it! Please don’t perpetuate the cycle.

  29. really great comment and suggestions MCS — thank you!

  30. MCS, what’s the prohibition against working in the temple? I wasn’t aware of it.

  31. I have close friends who are gay and lesbian and in various stages of activity in the church. That is nothing like being gay or lesbian, but it has caused me to reflect deeply on these issues and pray fervently about them. Here is what I have found in my searching. Your mileage will vary for sure, but I offer these thoughts in case they help or add to the community dialogue in a meaningful way.

    1. Consuming things and people in lust always degrades the Spirit. This same rule applies to homosexuals and heterosexuals equally. This does not mean that all physical attraction equates to impermissible lust. Checking out a jogger’s body is reflexive and normal. Taking a picture of the jogger’s body and taking it home to look at while self gratifying is consuming that person in lust. The Spirit gets repelled in the process. The same thing happens when we consume gay or straight pornography. It is not the orientation. It is the extreme objectification.

    2. As much as I bristled at Elder Packer’s talks over the years, he is right that not everything true is useful (at a specific moment in time). It is not useful when I tell the full truth about disease and death and crime to my children when they are little. They don’t understand it and it scares the crap out of them. Over time, they will come to learn the whole truth on these difficult subjects and figure out how to navigate through them. I am in no way equating being gay with disease or crime or death. That is a false and dangerous comparison. What I am saying is that if we think this world is complicated, and it is, how much more complicated are the eternities for our mortal minds to grasp? There is a reason why transfiguration has to occur for people to see very far beyond the veil. Our mortal minds and bodies cannot abide the vision and knowledge in one sitting. There is more truth out there to be sure; we are simply not ready for it in the collective at this time. It will descend line upon line in a measure so that the work progresses but the workers are not held to standards we cannot meet and subject to condemnation we cannot sustain.

    3. God’s work and glory is the bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of all people. He has to work with and through our imperfections to accomplish this mission. The fact is that more people would leave the church or decrease participation if the Brethren came out right now with a revelation saying that gayness is innate, immutable, and eternal and that gay relations are proper in the eyes of God. Timing is very important with revelations because of the stakes of the mission. (It has to suck to work through people like us to achieve such lofty goals. Can you imagine?) This same reasoning, by the way, relates to the timing of prophesies on blacks and the priesthood and polygamy. God needs a survivable and increasing body of the church to accomplish His designs. Revealing truth too early can thwart eternal plans, as can sharing it with wide audiences too early. This has nothing to do with God’s or Christ’s failings. It has everything to do with our failings, including those of our leaders.

    4. But that is totally unfair to gays and lesbians. And blacks and gentiles. And any other group who has been denied or delayed inclusion or fellowship or recognition, or far worse has been harmed or killed or mocked because of their immutable traits. Correct. It is not fair. Not even close. Where much is given, much is required. The first shall be last and the last shall be first. If in the end we lack charity, nothing else really matters. In other words, the Atonement is needed as much, if not more, for the rule-makers of this earth than the governed, more needed for the majority than the minority. The shame and burden of being unkind and uncharitable (or worse) to the “others” will be a hulking weight around our souls if we do not repent. I do not think we properly comprehend the expectations God has for us towards those who are in minority or underclass groups. I think this will be a stark shock in the next life when we learn we have not lived up to those expectations.

    5. What does that all mean for a gay person in the church at this time? I cannot answer that question in a macro sense. It is intensely personal between the person and the Creator. For some it will mean finding a loving homosexual relationship outside of full fellowship in the church at this time. For others it will mean entering a loving, mixed-orientation relationship. For others it will mean singleness and service, waiting on the further light and knowledge He has promised to send. But the same eternal parameters apply whichever course the person selects, and staying close to the principles of the gospel, if not maintaining full fellowship, is certainly wise. Wickedness cannot be happiness, not in this life or the life to come. Gayness is not wickedness. Is gay sex wicked? Is it malum in se or malum prohibitdum? I believe the answer depends on circumstances and timing, meaning that I believe it is malum prohibitdum not malum in se. However, even if I am right about gay relations not being wrong in and of themselves, that does not mean the current prohibition for the protection of the body of the church is not the correct course at the present time. Both answers are possible and not mutually exclusive.

    6. Turning the Good Ship Zion takes a lot of preparation and deft skill. More people will fall out of the boat than get into it if the ship turns too quickly. If the ship turns not at all, rough waters will dash it and tear it apart. What may be true as an eternal principle may also bring a lot of sadness and misery as an earthly practice in a given time or place. We are in the process of watching and helping the Good Ship Zion turn and course correct on its way to a glorious destination. Thankfully we have inspired leaders who helm the ship. Thankfully revelations continue to come. Thankfully the Atonement allows all of us to be wrong at times and to make improvements on our journey. But, again, the Lord needs a vessel, an organization to accomplish His big plans. And he needs lots of people in that organization to teach, evangelize, do temple work, give, serve, lift, and spread the word. We do well to stay in the boat, or at least very close to it, even if not all truth has fully descended on its decks just yet.

    7. Further light and knowledge is coming. The great thing about the unrolling of eternal truth is that the truth cannot change. It is Truth. Forever. What changes is our receipt and understanding of it. Be prepared to be wrong in ways you did not think possible. Be prepared to be right in ways you always knew. Pray for revelation, both personal and that the leaders of the church receive it, on this important and difficult topic. All are alike unto the Creator and loved beyond comprehension by Him. But we do not create Truth. We receive it in sequencing that promotes the immortality and eternal life of all, which are the greatest gifts God gives.

  32. Though he took some heat for it, and though I lean pretty hard left on things like this, I find Jonathan Cavendar’s response thought provoking. What if the answer really is not what I think it is, and what if revealing that truth would cause, in the aggregate, more harm than good during our brief mortal sojourn?

    That question gives me pause — not only for this issue, but also on other lingering questions I have.

  33. Sorry for the long-winded comment, MCS. I hope for the choicest blessings of God to be on you and agree that some policy changes can and should be made in the Church in the interim.

  34. ” “Thanks for your tithing, but please don’t bother us. Stay if you want, but don’t expect to, like, feel welcome.” And I’m even planning a life of celibacy! ”

    Planning a life of celibacy?! Stay but not feel welcome?! I’m sorry but am I the only one who reads this and want to scream, run MCS!! Run for the hills!! Don’t look back. Life is short and you should go LIVE it and BE HAPPY! You are loved by God and you are ENOUGH!

    Perhaps this isn’t helpful and maybe I’ll get a lot of hateful comments, but this is honestly how I feel.
    MCS, refer to this recent BCC post. It has some great suggestions:

    https://bycommonconsent.com/2017/03/23/where-would-you-go/

  35. it's a series of tubes says:

    MCS: thank you for sharing this. Hetero white cis BYU grad married HP here, so I know I am checking pretty much every privilege box that exists. As others have stated above, your sincere and honest questions deserve better answers than we are getting at present.

    To those who have asked about the temple policy: single men older than 30 cannot be temple workers. An amazingly stupid and wrong-headed policy.

  36. Absolutely nothing to disagree with your list above. But I’ll give you my firstborn child if you can find anything in the comments or in (non-paleontological) general authority quotes that says that “gays shouldn’t feel welcome,” or that we’re particularly interested in your tithing money. I think that’s where we (conservatives) get on the defensive: if we do try to engage it’s often automatically met with accusations of bad faith or just not listening. We say X, and then when people respond to our point they reframe it as some very vituperous Y when we really just meant X.

    One reason for the responses might be that questions like the ones you posed are often used as rhetorical devices more than anything under the idea that if just empathized for a minute our heteronormative beliefs would disappear, as if our position is based on animus towards gays, the belief that gays are icky,etc., and not in some deep-seated sincere belief, such as the necessity for a Heavenly Mother, for example.

    But yes, you’ve stayed in the Church for longer than I probably would have in your situation, so in the perfect judgement when all those variables are controlled for you may very well be in front of me in line regardless of which of the two paths (church, non-church) you choose. As a cis hetero I’m not threatened at all by you or any other LGBT individual, but the patronizing attitude towards the brethren on this issue (“step by agonizing step”) eventually gets wearisome.

    Finally, not to threadjack, but I am honestly curious, a common theme here is that the Church is sending mixed-messages. In the absence of Official Declaration 3 (maybe a good name for an Ordain Woman type group!), What the Church could do that they haven’t already done to show a united, non-mixed messages front? What would that look like to definitively say, or will it always be “mixed messages” until Official Declaration 3?

  37. single men older than 30 cannot be temple workers. An amazingly stupid and wrong-headed policy.

    Yep. And the reason for it? When it was created, it was assumed all or most single men over 30 must be gay and that’s just gross. Gay guys can’t be temple workers.

  38. I’ll give you my firstborn child if you can find anything in the comments or in (non-paleontological) general authority quotes that says that “gays shouldn’t feel welcome,”

    The Nov. 5 Policy of Exclusion? That prohibits even the children of people who were born gay and chose to marry someone of the same gender from being baptized into the Church until they renounce the sins of their parents in addition to repenting of their own sins? Maybe that?

  39. “step by agonizing step” — but it is step by agonizing step, is it not?

  40. Not a Cougar says:

    Kyle M, I sincerely appreciate MCS’s post, his willingness to share his story, his testimony, and his struggles. But this isn’t a diary entry, a meeting between close friends, or (formal) therapy. This is a discussion forum open to the whole world where writers can share their ideas and readers are are free, and encouraged, to leave thoughtful, respectful, but not necessarily supportive comments. Your apparent knee-jerk reaction to Jonathan Cavender’s response seems to be aimed at shutting down any dialogue that pushes back in any degree on MCS’s statements. His reply was not a personal attack, nor did it ignore MCS’s points.

    I know we are to comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and I do believe MCS needs our love, but I don’t think he posted this essay just to mourn.

    While I sincerely believe your actions are motivated by love, I, at least, do not find that they facilitate the open yet kind dialogue that I have seen BCC try to foster.

  41. @ Trond. Again, the Church had a nuanced rationale that incorporated prior precedent set in terms of how to handle children of polygamous unions. It was a tricky situation, and I think they made a good effort at it even if I don’t agree with a few of the details. But that (X) automatically gets translated into a Y (we really just did it to make gays feel unwelcome). Is it so threatening to your arguments to just take what they say at face value instead of passing it through the outrage filter every time?

  42. Single Sister says:

    MCS, I feel your pain, but from a different perspective. As an older (almost 60), single (never married) woman I could be saying a lot of what you are saying. On Sunday I went to church after a few Sundays away and found out that the ward and stake boundaries had been changed. Suddenly in the middle of Sacrament it came to me that I should have them check to see which ward I was in. So after Sacrament I went to the ward clerk’s office and he said, “Oh sorry, our bad, we forgot about you! and laughed as he told me I was actually in the other ward. I said, “There must have been list after list of people and NOT ONCE did any of the people involved think that I was missing?!?!”. Nope. I was so upset I was shaking. I literally left his office in tears. And since then have any of the leaders of my ex-ward called to apologize, say they were sorry, etc? No, not one. I’d lived in that ward for over 10 years. But as a single older sister I am literally invisible. The church is true, but man do the people in it suck sometimes. Hugs to you MCS.

  43. The follower of Christ looks for ways to help people. The problem with comments like those from Tiberius is not that they are conservative, it’s that they look for reasons not to help. That line of thinking ends up, inevitably, concluding that the troubled people should leave.

    Seeing people in need as an opportunity instead of trouble is something that conservatives and liberals alike can do. I don’t expect conservatives to agree with me in every respect on the need for change in our teachings. I do expect, at the very least, that they will not slam the door.

  44. Paul: great thinking and writing. Thank you!

  45. Not a Cougar: Thanks for the feedback, I’ve reread my comments and the OP, and I guess I just read them differently.

    And note that this is not a public forum, it’s a website maintained by 25 volunteers who care very much about the conversation. And we are extra sensitive about responses to our guests writers.

  46. Tiberius said:

    “Is there any argument or good-faith effort at answering these questions from a conservative perspective that will not be met with accusations of bad faith or hatred of gays?”

    and:

    “One reason for the responses might be that questions like the ones you posed are often used as rhetorical devices more than anything under the idea that if just empathized for a minute our heteronormative beliefs would disappear, as if our position is based on animus towards gays, the belief that gays are icky,etc., and not in some deep-seated sincere belief, such as the necessity for a Heavenly Mother, for example.”

    When I read the OP I didn’t see these questions as rhetorical devices as much as a plea for answers from those who have the authority to answer them. Unfortunately there really isn’t a good mechanism for getting questions such as these to top leadership. While I don’t know if blogging does that either, there is some evidence that the church office building has some idea of the goings on of this blog. It seems more likely than any other attempt of which I know to get the questions where they need to go. I don’t know what MCS is looking for, but if I take the OP literally, the conclusion I come to is that he sincerely wants answers from God. And to preempt the possible response that he should pray, according to the OP, he has and continues to do so.

    For those of us who do not have the authority to answer the questions they probably are rhetorical in the sense that we cannot give him the answers he actually wants (those can only come from God). What I think we can learn from them is that many gay members of the church feel that there is no place for them in God’s plan or kingdom and there are certain things we can attempt to do to remedy that. One of them is to realize that the plight of gay members IS NOT the same as the plight of single members. They have different needs. Another is to listen to gay members regarding policies that negatively affect them that could be changed.

    I think the reason people can have a visceral negative reaction to good-faith efforts at answering these questions from a conservative perspective is that these questions do not have easy answers and any attempt to claim they do can feel dismissive.

  47. I would add to Single Sister’s comments that I feel like I have no idea what will happen to me in the next life either. Polygamy? Forever single? Real live happy marriage of my own? There hasn’t been any revelation on this either. A “15-person solemn declaration” has not been made about the status of singles in the next life. It has ONLY been “General Authorities speaking off-the-cuff in firesides about an issue that does not personally affect them at all.”

  48. As a 25 year old gay man who is active and involved in the Church and trying to figure a great deal of this out, I feel like I have something to add that may help.

    In “Communion with the Holy Spirit” (2002) President James E. Faust states: “If worthy, we are entitled to receive revelations for ourselves…”

    Rather than ask why Prophets haven’t answered these questions for you, perhaps a better questions is…why do you need prophets to answer them? May I be so bold as to suggest that you do not. If you are anything like what these words suggest, you have been given the deep sensitivity, intelligence, desire to do right, and depth that seems a common gift among the gay men of the LGBT “Family.” You don’t need prophets to give you all these answers. Using your own native gifts and your agency, you can create the answers you seek. The Source of all answers is a prayer away, and the guarantee of His guidance was pronounced upon your head when you received the gift of the Holy Ghost. I can promise you, He is not only willing, notonly anxious, not just passionate even, but bound by his promises to give you the guidance you need, including the answers you so deeply yearn for. He will do so, contingent on your faith. “If any of ye lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering, for he that wavereth is as a wave of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed.” Where prophets have spoken or where the answers are available, He will provide you the capacity to find them; and the capacity to accept them if they are difficult.

    Being gay is okay as long as you are chaste. What does this mean? It means that aside from a small and very specific set of behaviors, the entire range of human feeling, connection and identity is open for you to explore and out of which you can create your own answers. The prophets have spoken only a little on this subject, and what little they have said indicates that obedience requires chastity and reverence for the place of family and sexuality in God’s plan. What else besides? Honey, it’s up to you, to me, to each of us to determine for ourselves. This is the gift of agency at its most beautiful. I feel very strongly about this. The silence is not God’s lack of awareness or care, nor the Church’s; it’s His way of saying. “I love you. I trust you. Learn, grow, develop, and stay with me, and we will figure this out together, just you and me.”

    As for me, I also feel very strongly that while I will not be drawn to men in the sense of desiring sexual contact with them in the eternities, and while my exaltation is contingent on receiving the covenant of celestial marriage, my gayness has found great hope in the scriptures. We have a small but consistent pattern across scriptural records that indicate that love between men in the Gospel is covenantal (David and Jonathon, 1st Samuel 18:3 and 1st Samuel 23:18) deeply personal (The title given by Jesus to John, “my Beloved,” is not, so far as I’m aware, given to any other apostle in the scriptural record) physically familiar (John 13:23) and one of the chief sources of the joy that exhausted Ammon’s strength. (Alma 27:17). I assume the same is available to women amongst themselves, as God would be manifestly unjust to withhold from them.

    The Gospel is not meant to occlude us. Like every other kindred, tongue and people, He speaks to us according to our language and unto our understanding. As I’ve trusted Him, the relationships I’ve developed with men have gained a depth, breadth and profundity I never knew was possible. On a very, very personal note, the most sacred experiences I have had feeling loved and supported by the Spirit feel little different than the times when i have been held for a long time by a man I deeply love.

    The answers are there, waiting for you to stand at the door and knock.

  49. I certainly have no authority or responsibility to answer for the Church. I wrestled with all four questions and more while serving as a bishop of an older single adult ward 20 years ago. For the record, and not because it will mean anything to anyone else, here are my sincere, studied, prayed-and-pondered answers. I caution that these questions and my answers are material to my asking to be released and turning in my temple recommend. They are NOT representative of the Church in any way.

    1) It’s said that being gay is okay, as long as you don’t act on it. What does this mean?
    As practiced by many Church leaders, it means no public display of affection, and probably no private display of affection.
    As I believe, it should mean exactly the same as we would say for straight persons, all in the direction of and for the purpose of marriage, nuanced by age, experience, exclusivity, consent.

    2) What is my old age supposed to look like?
    Happily married, and then mourning the loss of whichever partner goes first, with some faith/hope/confidence that you can be together again.

    3) Where should I attend church services?
    For the time being, go somewhere else. For this generation at least the Mormon Church will not support and sustain you as you deserve.

    4) Is being gay an eternal characteristic?
    Yes.

  50. We shouldn’t confuse genuine concern for intolerance or insensitivity. Many on this thread seem to be saying, “You should consider leaving because I think it will help you,” not “You should consider leaving because I don’t want you worshipping with me.”

    Recommendations that run counter to your fervent love for the church need not always be construed as mean-spirited.

  51. Don’t worry everybody, I’m not leaving the Church. The Book of Mormon is true, and Joseph Smith was a prophet.

    The comments thus far have given me lots to think about, on both sides of the issue. However, my point still stands: what is the will of the Lord? We know who can reveal doctrine, and it’s nobody on this board (unless there’s a lurker here, in which case give me a call, you know who I am). Personal revelation to me and others can help navigate the minefield, but only the Lord through his prophets can answer the questions globally. And we need global answers. I am looking for messengers to teach me, but until then I offer sacrifice even though I know not why.

    May the day come quickly.

  52. “I don’t mean to speak for others who are older than me, or who have entered mixed-orientation marriages, or who have left the Church for a same-sex relationship, or who have re-committed to celibacy after a time out of the Church.”

    I respect that and will not try to speak for you. Feel free to help me in my effort by pointing out things I say that come across that way.

    “To answer some repeated questions, speaking only for myself: If the Brethren had a revelation and it wasn’t what I wanted, I’d accept it, as hard as it may be.”

    I truly respect this kind of faith, thank you for your example.

    “However, some things don’t require a revelation. For instance, I’d love to work in the temple or serve a senior mission. There’s no doctrinal reason why I shouldn’t,” .

    100 % agree. I also plead for these changes to be made.

    “1) Invite gays to sit with you, 2) Invite them over for FHE and low-intimacy family gatherings, 3) Invite them to social events, like group dates with couples in the ward (let them decide for themselves if they feel awkward), 4) Stop sharing Matt Walsh Facebook posts, 5) Engage us in real, meaningful conversation about any subject. No lectures. Just talk. In other words, “Lead me, guide me, walk beside me.” I promise to do the same for you.”

    WOW. I don’t mean to downplay the heartfelt OP when I say that this will not get enough attention down here in the comments. This list is phenomenal. I think it deserves to be a Post of its own. These are things that we absolutely can and should be doing. Again, I can’t overstate how valuable I think these thoughts are.

    Another comment worthy of a post is Bryce’s. I really resonated with his perspective and the suggestions he offers.

    Finally, thank you. Thanks for your vulnerability. I do believe that it will improve our Church culture.

  53. Tiberius says:

    Bryce FTW. The plug and chug recipes from the brethren are rarely sufficient for the individual-level complexities of life. They know this, which is why there is the strong emphasis on our personal relationships and communication with God.

    May be one reason why I bristle at dizzing number of attempts to lobby GAs for this or that. In a sense it takes the authority structures a little too seriously.

  54. Not a Cougar says:

    Kyle M, fair enough and thank for the time you put into BCC.

  55. Tiberius: and yet, somehow, the church was fine with a one-size-fits-all approach to excommunicating married gay people and their children (another one of those poorly executed “plug and chug recipe[s] from the brethren” which is poorly suited to the “individual complexities of life.”)

    I agree with you that we should stop taking GAs authority quite so seriously. My solution, worked out, as you suggest, through a personal relationship and communication with God, is to love every gay person the way that God loves them: unconditionally. My hope is that that is also your solution, though it’s hard to tell for sure from your peevish comments.

  56. jaxjensen says:

    I have no skin in the game at all here (I’m not gay, don’t know more than 1-2 gays who are all very distant acquaintances), but I think all of those answers that “don’t require a revelation” could be resolved if we received just one revelation that would solve what I think is the wedge between the “conservative” and “progressive” (hate those labels in church!!) sides of this issue.

    That wedge as I see it is this: the “conservatives” don’t think being gay is inherent, an eternal characteristic, something you are “born” with, etc. They view it as a lifestyle, environmental driven choice; but the “progressives” view it a inherent trait, part of a persons eternal (and God created) nature, and something you are born with. They think it is an unchosen unchangeable, fact of existence. Conservatives think it is Nurture and Progressives think it is Nature.

    I think that if a revelation came answering this one question then we could work this out on our own.

    Anybody view the divide between the two viewpoints as something else??

  57. N. W. Clerk says:

    Single men over 31 *can* be temple workers. They can’t be ordinance workers (unless widowed) but they can be veil workers. I’ve got the name badge to prove it.

  58. Single men can serve in some missions! I worked at the Church History Library and we had an older gentleman who had never married and served as a Church Service Missionary. I’m pretty sure he was served everyday of the week, though, so it was essentially a full-time mission.

  59. Loved this post. Certainly the brethren need to seek out answers to these questions just like they did with blacks and the priesthood. Revelation doesn’t occur in a bubble and I’m so glad you are raising these concerns. In my heart, I believe there will come a time (either in this life or the hereafter) where worthy gay couples will be entitled to the same temple blessings and an eternal marriage just like straight couples. It doesn’t make sense to me that a loving Heavenly Father and Mother would exclude any of their children of these blessings. I know I am one of few that feels this way but I hope I am right. In the meantime? Kudos to you for remaining so strong. I don’t know that I’d have the same patience and fortitude.

  60. @jaxjensen

    I think what you described is somewhat of a false dichotomy between “conservatives” and “progressives” in the implication that the specific arguments either camp would espouse (by your examples) *necessarily* follow or go together. For example, I think there are plenty of doctrinally-conservative church members who are perfectly willing to accept that there is some aspect of homosexuality that is inherent in the sense that a gay person, in general, can’t simply choose to NOT be attracted to the same sex. However, they mighty just argue that said gay person should follow the commandments (lifelong abstinence from homosexual activity) and wait to be ‘changed’ in some sense in the afterlife. I just don’t think the “conservative” position is as philosophically monolithic (lifestyle choice + environmentally-driven + non-eternal) as you argued. The same could also be said about the “progressive” position, though I think the most likely variable of contention would be the eternal (or non-eternal) nature of homosexuality. That is to say that I think a “progressive” could argue that homosexuality is indeed inherent but will not exist in the afterlife. The “progressive” might simply argue for more doctrinal or policy-driven compassion toward gays, maybe more so than a “conservative” would.

  61. I realize that this is likely to be buried, but worth a shot:

    I was under the impression that the church acknowledged (quietly) that homosexuality is an in born trait, not learned behavior, but I’ve yet to find anything supporting this.

    Was this just wishful thinking on my part?

  62. Even an acknowledgement that we don’t know the answers could help, because at least then we would know that current policies are based on imperfect knowledge and can change. As it is, some members are convinced that current policies are absolute, unchangeable, gospel truth, and others are convinced that current policies are reactionary mistakes without a lick of inspiration.

    MCS, thanks for asking these questions. If we are serious when we say that gays are welcome in the church, that orientation is not a sin, etc., then we need to be asking these questions.

  63. Of course the church doesn’t do an adequate job supporting gay young single adults. They don’t do an adequate job supporting gay anything.

    What the church does do a good job in is prolonging a young gay singles adult’s sense of security and deadening any sense of urgency before the jolt of reality when jettisoned out of the YSA scene.

    Once out of that protective YSA fold you face the stark realities that have always been laying in wait just below the surface. Welcome to the old persons gay club. As you hear the clock ticking to 31 you are starting to ask the right questions. By the time you are 31 and out of the YSA program you will have to make some decisions based on these questions you are starting to formulate.

    You will not be alone. You will find a world of help from other LDS LGBT and allies. Don’t be afraid of 31. You will look back to the point as a new beginning.

  64. gh, “I was under the impression that the church acknowledged (quietly) that homosexuality is an in born trait, not learned behavior, but I’ve yet to find anything supporting this.”

    The Church does not take a position on the cause of same-sex attraction. In 2006, Elder Dallin H. Oaks stated: “The Church does not have a position on the causes of any of these susceptibilities or inclinations, including those related to same-gender attraction” (Interview With Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder Lance B. Wickman: “Same-Gender Attraction”, 2006).
    https://mormonandgay.lds.org/articles/church-teachings

    We may not know precisely why some people feel attracted to others of the same sex, but for some it is a complex reality and part of the human experience.
    https://www.lds.org/topics/same-sex-attraction?lang=eng&old=true

    These statements may be as close as you’re going to get. Bryce Cook cites this statements for the proposition that being gay is not a choice. But for some, they will have about as much effect on their thinking as the Church’s official lack of a position on evolution has on Mormon creationists.

    What I have found worth noting is the substantial change from some of the Brethren blaming homosexuality on selfishness, parenting, adolescent masturbation, etc. Also noteworthy may be the editing of Elder Packer’s October 2010 conference talk for publication (whether or not he did it himself — on his own volition or otherwise). The move to officially taking no position on the question is a major step for the Church.

  65. The Church has also yet to take a position on what traits in a person (gender, attraction, etc) are part of the eternal soul and how they match with this fallen, imperfect mortality.

    Remembering who we were before this life and integrating ourselves is going to take some serious counseling.

  66. Anonymous says:

    My experiences as a married woman are obviously incredibly different than those of the OP. However, one similarity I have felt is a yearning for revelation from the Church authorities related to women, to women and the priesthood, and especially to our Mother in Heaven. Without official revelation on those from the General Authorities–just a spattering of comments–I have forged my own thoughts and personal commitments and communion, which I feel are compatible with Mormonism, but not mainstream.

    It occurred to me recently that I no longer want an official revelation on these things because if they were to contradict what I now believe and hold dear, that would be a loss to me. I appreciate the searching–lonely as it is—and much as it makes me feel a little outside of things—and unsure—I appreciate it because it is a source of growth, amidst some pain of course. Each searching step for me in this growth feels satisfying, and I am willing to change—and have changed—my thoughts along the way, because as I grow and change, so do my thoughts. But I do not–DO NOT–want anyone else telling me how to feel about these things, especially authorities who, as men, can never really understand my experience, no matter how good and well-intentioned they are. If I were told how to think, it would take away the spiritual searching. The discomfort and lack of answers leads me to that searching. It would take away the sense of personal revelation because it would no longer be personal.

    I feel that our general church membership, and the general authorities as they are (men–who I do admire and respect and consider “prophets seers revelators”)–these as a whole would not likely accept my current beliefs on these things–at least not as a whole official doctrine. The LDS church has been the foundation of my belief in God, in Christ, in the afterlife, in community, in doctrines, in worship–and also the foundation of an enormous sense of mystery. On some topics, it is not nearly enough, so I appreciate our emphasis on personal revelation, and the sense of mystery. My own spiritual life now is more mystical, and more satisfying. I would not want revelations or official statements, because those would likely oversimplify what is a deep and satisfying quest for meaning and connection for me. I think Official Statements would be twisted and distorted and used as weapons just as much as the “off the cuff” comments are.

    Regarding eternal relationships, and relationships in this life, it’s worth repeating the obvious, that marriage and committed relationships reflect a spectrum of experiences as different as the billions of people on earth, and these relationships may not be as fulfilling as it may seem to others on the outside looking in. Sometimes marriage can be more lonely than being single. For some of us, paradoxically, marriage is unsure and unstable in a constant way. Relational happiness, commitment, love–these are moving/changing things, and the challenges of the world affect these in huge and enduring ways that for some of us will never resolve in this life, no matter how hard we work at it. Sitting through weeks of years of church meetings when your own hetero marriage is not really what is discussed in church–and never will be–that is painful. So contemplating what it means to have happy relationships on earth–and happy eternal relationships, and having loads of questions about all of this–is a painful concern for not only LGTB members. (Again, I am not trying to say my experiences are the same, but I am just trying to make a connection.)

    Regarding eternal families, or the Eternal Family, I also think our earthly model of the family–in spite of all the emphasis on the family proclamation–that touted model is only a small aspect of what it really will be. For me, I have to hold onto the idea that God is deeper and more vast than we can imagine. Eternal life and eternal lives are beyond what we can imagine. It can be a hard hard lonely road no matter our gender, our sexual orientation, our marital status, or other current social constructs. The hard lonely road requires us to search, and the searching—extraordinarily painful and a constant throughout life—can also yield a compassionate and satisfying (though never satisfied) spirituality.

  67. Most of these questions were new to me (straight, 20’s, female, born in the church) and I am grateful to the author for his honesty and for opening my eyes.

    Someone further up commented that they wondered why black people joined or stayed in a church that taught harmful things about being black. I don’t know, but I am so grateful that they did (and are). Chieko Okazaki is probably my very favorite LDS author – a Japanese woman born in Hawaii, she was taught that because she was born “outside of the covenant” she could never attain the celestial kingdom. When she moved to Utah and taught elementary school, parents pulled their kids out of her class. She not only stayed in the church, she was a great source of light within it – the first non-white member of a general presidency and a prolific author who confronted sexual abuse with kind and frank discussion.

    I respect with my whole heart people who leave the church because of it does not bring them joy or hurts them. But I am also grateful, incredibly grateful, for those who stay. Thank you for staying and for sharing the questions in your heart with us.

  68. Anonymous: Thanks for your thoughtful insights. As the father of five beautiful, educated, successful, and usually confident daughters (no sons), your first paragraph in particular described so eloquently the very things my mind and heart aches for them to know. How I wish they could have been raised with those assurances from our Prophets! But in the absence of clarity I’ve tried to influence them to confidently use their God-given judgment skills, coupled with the confirmation we can gain from personal prayer and meditation, to receive enlightenment…as you have done. Thank you for articulating so well some of the things I’ve clumsily tried to convey to them. Be assured I’ll share your message with them.

    MCS: My eyes welled up with tears when I read the heartfelt thoughts you courageously shared with us. Thank you for giving me deeper understanding. I’m still feeling a sense of betrayal for some seriously false information that was instilled in me early by church leaders—the LGBTQ matter being at the top of my list. My own sensibilities have led me to the conclusion that whether gay or straight, everyone deserves the fulfillment that comes from sharing a life of companionship and intimacy with someone they love. I wish these things for you. And my spouse and I most assuredly desire to worship in a place where all good-intentioned people are equally accepted.

  69. Cory Teuscher says:

    I believe the single most important thing the Church could do to address these and other issues of LGBTQ members of the Curch is to call a faithful gay or bisexual member to the Quirum of the Seventy. With respect to a number of your questions/issues I believe that all members of the Church will at some point in their eternal progression have to deal with the issue of attraction/love for individuals of the same gender personally. There is nothing which indicates that we will not be subject to temporal issues of the fresh as resurrected beings. If we are to become like the Savior and our Father/Mother in heaven how can we not understand through experience what our Spirit Children will experience in the flesh if we do not have experience in dealing with these issues as well as all of the visusitudes of mortality? My perspective may be heretical but allows me to incorporate all mortal experiences required to gain Exaltation and Eternal Life into a coherent doctrine relating our experiences in this life without bias and self righteousness! All of Gods children who obtain Exaltation and Eternal Life must in my opinion understand experimentally all aspect of mortality to continue the cycle of Eternal Godhood!

  70. As a gay LDS member by birth (third generation) still in YSA – these questions are exactly why I stopped going. I don’t want to be seen as “the creepy unmarried old man” in the corner, stil faithfully going because of some faint glimmer of hope that one day, just one day, things would change.

    I still believe most of the gospel doctrines but can’t bring myself to go willingly to a place where I feel marginalised, despite the love I know my Saviour has for me. I’ve been made this way, and he will provide. In the interim, I’m going to look after myself my way, rather than hold myself ransom to other people’s whims.

    It’s really hard to stay and I think it’s unreasonable and unrealistic to ask yourself to do it if you can’t seem to see what would happen for you. Sure, it’s a faith-tester, but it’s disproportionate. I don’t believe this “affliction” will change, so make the most of your earthly life – you only get one.

  71. rnpchacha says:

    Jonathan, I think there is an answer for your first question. Despite the question that is asked by many “how far can I go”, the real answer is not where the line is so I can get close without going over, but what is the doctrine of sexual expression. If you’ve never read “Of Souls, Symbols and Sacrament” it teaches that doctrine. (Also comes in youtube.)

    What any church member who is not married to and doing it with an opposite sex spouse is that you don’t do things you know physically arouse yourself, and you stop doing everything immediately once you know you or your partner is getting sexually aroused. Yes even heterosexuals must stop kissing if they are getting aroused, though most people do not get physically aroused holding hands or non-passionate kissing.

    In Europe it is not unusual for straight men to walk arm in arm down the street together. In the US that is unusual, but that doesn’t make it “unacceptable gay behavior”, just a different dynamic that many Americans interpret as that instead of friendship it is seen as in other cultures.
    So my advice to those who are gay is to seek to control your sexual appetites the same way we all are here on earth to get a body and learn to control all of that body, its parts, appetites and desires, in submission to God’s will. But doing that does not prohibit affection or human touch that isn’t sexual.

    (NOTE that some non-sexual actions can lead to sexual ones, and wise people therefore set their guardrails well back from the edge of cliffs in their own lives. And even though the current official guidance is for bishops to be concerned only about cohabitation (which make them a couple), many take on the appearance and not the reality and insist platonic roommates of the opposite sex get different roommates before baptism or to avoid disciplinary proceedings. So if you announce yourself and a partner as a couple, or you act like you and a partner are a couple, then you will likely be treated the same way, and be required to move in with someone else. OTOH, if you are living with other men and not a couple, that should be completely alright —- assuming it doesn’t set your personal guardrail too close to the edge for your safety. )

  72. Great questions. I am convinced every person is limited in their ability to receive revelation by their own experience, and that the experience being non-cis or non-hetero is different enough that no cis-hetero person can possibly receive the light and knowledge on the subject that is needed. The experience itself is the most important part of the revelation. Just my POV.

  73. My heart aches for you and others who are going through this lonely experience. My son is 32 and gay, and he hasn’t attended church for many years though he has a testimony of the gospel. I want you to know that I pray every day and fast often for the Lord to reveal His will to the leaders of the church. I think they have to ask for it though. Or maybe they need to have a dream like Peter had before he shared the gospel with the Gentiles. I don’t know you, but I love you and would welcome you in my ward with a big hug every Sunday.

  74. Dude,

    You’re out of luck if you think the Church can give you meaningful answers to these questions. I’ve been waiting for decades to see something inspired come out of Salt Lake on this, and all I Hear is radio silence or platitudes. They’re clueless. We’re expendable.

  75. Gay members are expected to live the law of chastity the way unmarried members are expected to live it and do. It’s hard for all the singles who won’t be married in this life. It isn’t fair but thankfully this life is temporary. I love and support all the single people.

  76. I am a gay life-long member of the church, and I have been disfellowshipped from the church for the last eight years. Through all these years I have remained active in the church. Even though I have thoroughly repented and been in full compliance with the hyper-religiosity and everything my bishops and stake presidents have asked me to do, and was living my life fully in alignment with church standards, my multiple attempts to be reinstated have been denied over and and over. It has always been very puzzling to me, since my whole experience as a member my whole life, and serving as a bishop for four years, taught me that church discipline is not intended to be like this. Above all, for the repentant, discipline should be brief. Even if someone has been excommunicated, after a year they can be re-baptized if they have been repentant.

    There are several reasons why I think my case has gone on for years and years. First, the Office of the First Presidency intervened with my stake president and prevented my reinstatement for a minimum of five years (normally it is just one year). The fear of having First Presidency scrutiny of my case has deterred my three stake presidents over the years from reinstating me, even after the five-year minimum was met. Combined with some other factors, it has been a continuous waste of effort to try to be reinstated.

    For all these years, I have been so puzzled and confused why I would keep getting denied reinstatement. I started to wonder if the Lord was rejecting me and keeping me out of his kingdom because I was gay and therefore unworthy simply because of my sexual orientation. However, as I did a lot of soul searching and hours on my knees, the spirit has confirmed for me over and over how much the Lord loves me and wants me in his kingdom. And not only does he want me in his kingdom, he is already including me in his kingdom, whether or not the church reinstates me.

    So if the Lord wants me in his kingdom, why doesn’t the church want to reinstate me and put me to work with multiple callings like I have always had my whole teen and adult life? It has taken me a long time to figure it out, but now I finally understand. All along the Lord has been trying to tell me that I need to stop trying to fit into the Mormon cultural mold. God created me as a gay man, and he has a special mission for me to perform as such. The longer I try to pretend to be heterosexual and fit the Mormon mold, I am only delaying my mission as a gay son of God.

    Though I really do miss taking the sacrament to renew my covenants, serving in various callings, and participating in the uplifting and inspiring rituals of the temple, the Lord has a greater work for me to perform. No longer am I to strive to be reinstated in the church or to attempt to fit my life into the confines of Mormon cultural norms. My calling and mission is to be a pioneer, and forge a new trail — to create a new pattern by which LGBT members can thrive in the church, living the gospel and living life in full integrity with how God created us.

    Obviously, there is still much I need to figure out as I continue on this mission. But I am grateful to the Lord, because I have sensed his hand in this, helping prepare me and transition me out of the unhealthy life I was living trying to conform to Mormon heteronormative patterns. It has already been an amazing journey getting me here to this point, but there is still a long way to go. And I am loving this adventure!

  77. In reply to the comment left by “mez” above on April 2:

    I am so tired of hearing bishops and stake presidents and other church leaders and straight members say that when the church demands gay members to be single and celibate for life, it is no different than when the church requires single straight members to remain celibate. The truth is, it is very different.

    It is true that when any member is single, the church requires all (gay or straight) to abstain from sexual relations. I fully sustain church leaders in teaching this standard of chastity. However, that is the extent of the similarity, because when a straight member falls in love with someone and wants to marry that person, the church fully supports and encourages their marriage. But when a gay member falls in love with someone and wants to marry that person, the church denies them that opportunity and they are shamed, ostracized, and labeled apostates. Gay members are required to remain single and celibate for their entire lives, while straight members are supported in getting married should they have that opportunity. Very big difference!

    I hope straight members of the church can start to see the stark difference and will stop shaming gay members by saying it is no different for straight members. Not only is this a double-standard that is unfair, but it is discriminatory and oppressive toward gay members, and demonstrates a severe lack of Christlike empathy and compassion.

  78. Agreed, and I also don’t understand why there can’t just be “full throated acceptance.” Well, as an ex-Mormon I do understand, it’s because the doctrine isn’t so. But then to me it didn’t seem the doctrine was right.

  79. Amen.

  80. Carol Colvin says:

    Paul, thank you for sharing your experience with Elder Costa. You made me cry. I hope someday my gay son will feel that love and want to come back to church. I totally understand why he can’t come now and I support him, but I would love it if my ward/stake could show the kind of love Elder Costa did.

  81. Carol, to be clear, it was not my experience. It was sent to me by a friend and I thought it fit with this discussion. But I agree that Elder’s Costa’s showing of love is admirable and should be emulated.

  82. I came her from my own blog about gay Lifestyle and I never even imagined that someone somewhere might have These questions. My Basic philosophy is to do everything that makes you happy. Because there is literally no single Person in the world who can tell you what’s right and what’s wrong – Moral decisions are up to you. But I guess this has more to do with being Mormon and I can’t say anything useful about that.