The Children Suffer

A child of god died this week.

The causes of any suicide are complicated. There are always multiple factors. So it is impossible and unhelpful to draw a line from A to B and state what was behind the act.

So, I won’t.

Instead, I’ll ask you to conduct a thought experiment. Imagine that you are an LGBTQ member of the church. Would the teachings of the church regarding how and who you love escalate suicidal thoughts, de-escalate suicidal thoughts, or prove irrelevant?

Now imagine that you are a cis-gendered hetero member of the church. Would the teachings of the church regarding how and who you love escalate suicidal thoughts, de-escalate suicidal thoughts, or prove irrelevant?

I submit that the answers to these questions are different. And that matters.

One last question: When you imagine how the answers to these questions might be different and why that matters, does it, to quote Moroni 7, invite and entice to do good, to love God and to serve Him?

Answers below.

Comments

  1. Andrew H. says:
  2. Andrew,
    You’re not giving me enough context to understand your point.

  3. John Mansfield says:

    I hate that proponents of homosexual causes hijack the deaths of people who have no particular connection to homosexuality, and they do it over and over again.

  4. John,
    That’s not what is happening here, but you do you, brother.

  5. Andrew H. says:

    John C.,

    Did you read the link? Homesexuality is comorbid with serious mental illness and suicide remains a significant problem even in the most LGBT-friendly of places. Basically, if you could wave a magic wand and transform Provo into Scandinavia overnight it wouldn’t make any difference to the LGBT suicide rate. So I guess my point is if we’re going to do thought experiments then they should probably be about something else.

  6. Suburbs of SLC says:

    Andrew, I also don’t entirely know what you’re getting at with that link, but I do want to respond to the link, because I think it raises an interesting question with respect to the OP.

    One thing missing for LGBTQ people, especially to teenagers or young adults, is any moral authority advocating for sexual restraint /apart/ from celibacy. The article you linked to includes quotes from gay men who were depressed because, among other things, the LGBTQ community (both metaphysically and, in the article, actual, physical neighborhoods where gay men have congregated for mutual support) encourages a lot of sex, multiple partners, body shaming, drug use, etc. But I believe this culture exists, in part, because of the lack of role models or trusted, authoritative entities who manage to persuasively condemn that environment, without also condemning homosexuality as a whole.

    It doesn’t have to be that way, however. I have very minimal hopes or expectations for the LDS church, or most other Christian churches in general, to change their tune on the sinfulness of homosexuality. But even if they never, ever change, I wish they could at least use their position of authority to teach queer teens and young adults how to explore their sexuality safely. (As sometimes happens, this is more of a sexual orientation issue, rather than a gender identity issue, though analogous gender identity issues could certainly be identified as well.)

    For example, I wish youth leaders could tell gay teenagers, “The Church says you should be celibate for the rest of your life. Here’s my testimony of the Church, and why you should do what the Church says, etc., etc. **But,** I also recognize that maybe, someday, you’ll choose a different path. I understand, and would still love you if you did. And I want you to understand that, in part because I love you no matter what, I’m going to hold you to the same expectations of all the straight kids your age. Don’t have sex, not just because I believe homosexuality is a sin, but for all the reasons we give straight kids: There are physical health risks, and, perhaps more importantly, there are emotional and mental risks that come from being intimate too soon. Don’t go down that road. I’m required to tell you that, per the Church’s teachings, unlike your straight friends, the Church doesn’t even want you to date, or kiss, or hold hands. **But,** if you do decide to do those things, follow the advice we give the straight kids. Don’t get too serious with one person when you’re this young. Go on group dates. Enjoy kissing, but don’t let it get too far. Etc., etc., etc.”

    The same goes for young adults: “You know what the Church’s stance is on homosexuality. Even if you disregard that, though, you should be dating with your eye on getting married. Think carefully about the type of person you want to marry. Don’t have sex before you get married, or, if you do, at least don’t be sleeping around. Wait until you’re with the right person. Etc., etc., etc.”

    Honestly, I think the foregoing would do a lot to create an environment that counteracts many of the negatives identified in the article Andrew cited. I also think it is one option, however imperfect, that could minimize the different answers that I do believe one gets when responding to the questions in the OP.

    Of course it’s not foolproof–a lot of gay people will ignore the advice (just like plenty of straight teenagers and young adults ignore it) and some of the ones who follow it will still be unhappy (just like plenty of straight married people are unhappy), but I still think it would be a big step in the right direction. Instead, bizarrely, (and thanks in no small part to the PoX), it often feels like getting gay-married and having children is viewed as a much more serious sin in the eyes of the Church, worthy of much more serious social shaming, than just being a gay man who has sex with lots of different partners. That’s a really problematic narrative separate from whether the Church continues to teach that homosexuality is a sin.

  7. Cis-hetero. The Church tells me that my identity, my very way of being is godly (I’m a woman, so godly with an asterisk, but still…)

    If I were queer, and I’m not, so I can’t do more than imagine the experience: the Church and by extension nearly everyone I relied on for love, support, and acceptance in my formative years would see me as irrevocably broken, and in serious conflict with the Plan of Happiness. “Oh, but we are all irrevocably broken and in serious conflict with Plan of Happiness.” Not like we tell our queer sibs they’re broken.

    My gender identity matters to me. I like believing that I take it with me eternally, that it’s always been a part of me. I experience it as essential to me in the way that I experience my child-of-Godness as essential to me–more so, because although I have faith in a God I do not see, my gender experience is far, far more incontrovertible to me. It’s not only about sex, it’s not even just about companionship, it’s about who I am and who I want to be as a child of my Heavenly Parents and as a human who wakes up in the morning and goes to work.

    If someone were to suddenly tell me that my body and the ways I express my womanhood were morally wrong and that my attraction to men and my desire to partner with a man and be with a man forever were vile perversions of what God wanted for me, well, I’d probably be fine…because I have a lifetime of people telling me just the opposite and affirming my way of being, and so I’m secure in my identity. But if all my life I were told that the dearest desires of my heart, my tenderest feelings, my fondest hopes were vile perversions of the way the God I had otherwise been taught to love wanted, well, I might question the value in living. Particularly if I was also told that none of this hurt would apply after I died.

    We Latter-day Saint cis-hetero folk have made idols of ourselves, and we are sacrificing our queer siblings to that idol. We have to stop it.

  8. Andrew,
    It shouldn’t be surprising to find out that LGBTQ folks have mental health issues. Loneliness affects everyone, no matter their sexual preference. And the hetero-norm is pervasive worldwide, so it is rare for LGBTQ folks to not feel othered. But all of that is irrelevant to my questions, except for offering justification for avoiding them.

  9. OtherTiberius says:

    Was this student gay? If not, have you ever thought that knee jerk connecting all things suicidal to gay might be causing contagion?

    It’s amazing how fast we went from “you can believe what you want as long as you give the same rights to others” to the “if you are guilty of this thought crime you are causing gay kids to kill themselves.” As somebody on the more traditional side, the blackmail strategy to change our beliefs causes a reaction more than anything.

    You can do that kind of simple weaponization-of-deaths with just about anything normative. With any parameters about belief or action, there is going to be additional stress for people for whom the expectations are more difficult to achieve. There’s an institution or society that highly values education; would that increase or decrease the suicide rate of somebody who has a disability and can’t go to school? Should we not encourage people to go on missions because it might increase the suicidality of people that can’t fit into that mold? The Church’s position is that God loves them and no matter what they do or choose they will inherit a kingdom whose glory is impossible to comprehend. The single life is only viewed as suicidally lonely for LGBT populations, for everybody else (for whom it is becoming the rule rather than the exception) it is a right and get-of-my-back-about-dating.

    Note: I tried to submit this before, it didn’t work, and we I resubmitted but it said that it was a duplicate comment, so apologies if it shows up multiple times.

  10. As a gay man in the church in the closet, these comments are exactly why people like me are depressed and suicidal: Your unbelief of the reality of my pain. Your willingness to say, “They shouldn’t feel pain because the gospel is great for me, so any pain they do feel surely can’t be because of the church and its teachings, and therefore I’m not going to do anything to help with their pain except tell them again the gospel works for me so it will work for you.” Here’s a hint: if you think people shouldn’t feel bad because of anything the church does, but they tell you they do: BELIEVE THEM and help them.

  11. I found this presentation from the recent FAIR conference quite helpful in parsing through my many thoughts on this particular matter (the broader matter of homosexuality within the Church, not the more narrow matter of LGBT-related suicide). The presenter, Jeff Robinson, is an actual medical expert in the field of human sexuality and has “spent many thousands of hours in one to one conversations with Latter-day Saints who experience same-sex attraction” over the last 25 years. I think his perspective is worth considering, especially since the science we think we know about sexuality is actually quite far from conclusive or settled.

    https://www.fairmormon.org/conference/august-2018/thinking-differently-about-same-sex-attraction

  12. OT,
    I would submit to you that issues surrounding homosexuality and gender are treated differently in the Church than the other things you cite. I would also submit that plenty of hetero people have been suicidally lonely. Finally I would suggest that the belief that groups of people are fundamentally malformed, along with the tendency to act in accord with that belief politically and socially, is not just a matter of thought.

  13. Bensen,
    I can’t say that I endorse that presentation. Some of what he says strikes me as wrong. Im skeptical, for instance, that rates of homosexuality differ in rural areas or that there are societies with no LGBTQ folk.

  14. “The presenter … is an actual medical expert…”

    I know a lot of actual medical experts who probably couldn’t reason their way out of a barrel. But keep telling yourselves the stories that will make you feel better, if you have to, instead of exercising the compassion to listen to fellow Saints like Anon.

  15. I read Jeff Robinson’s presentation. I am not a medical expert, but I have spent 25 years carefully paying attention to these isssues. My take is that his approach is not bad (in the literal “not terrible” sense, not in the casual “pretty good” sense) in a therapeutic one-on-one situation. I’d be willing to give him more time. However, that therapeutic approach is misapplied if appropriated to a policy or institutional discussion.

    One example is the rural/urban comparison. It is commonly observed that reported numbers are higher in urban areas. However, it is ALSO pointed out that the numbers are almost all self reporting, self identification, and that there is reason to believe that being gay and out is more difficult in rural areas. Self reporting is probably skewed, and people move to where they can be happy and accepted. In other words, the evidence says to me that communities and institutions make a difference. Which probably takes me back to the point of the OP.

  16. Actually, forget it. Don’t keep telling yourselves those stories. The burdens being carried right this minute by gay members of the Church, including adults and children who are not known to their fellow members of the Church to be involved in the struggle, and the burdens carried by their mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and friends, are much more important to God than your numbers and studies and experts and rationalizations and platitudes.

  17. Benson’s link is interesting, but if this guy is right then he should be able to prove it. How language is aquired/learned is something we understand at this point. Same with skills/talents. If homosexuality is the same, then let’s see the research showing how it happens.

  18. Imagine that you are an LGBTQ member of the church. Would the teachings of the church regarding how and who you love escalate suicidal thoughts, de-escalate suicidal thoughts, or prove irrelevant?

    There are two pieces to the proposed vise – the first being the Church’s teachings, and the second, implicitly assumed piece being beliefs about the biological immutability of how and who you love.

    If we presume both pieces of the vise are true, and that is an assumption, it is possible that the perceived contradiction between what one wants to be true (my love life is nobody’s business but my own), and what one believes is true (certain attitudes / desires towards my fellow beings are incompatible with salvation), might lower the perceived cost of suicide relative to the cost of denying oneself what one desires.

    Now imagine that you are a cis-gendered hetero member of the church. Would the teachings of the church regarding how and who you love escalate suicidal thoughts, de-escalate suicidal thoughts, or prove irrelevant?

    Because there is less apparent contradiction between the Church’s teachings about how and who one loves and one’s desires in this hypothetical, it is unclear how the Church’s teachings on this subject would affect one’s perceived cost of suicide relative to the cost of denying oneself what one desires.

    I submit that the answers to these questions are different. And that matters.

    The answers to these questions, of course, depend strictly upon the assumptions with which they were crafted. Those assumptions are what produces the conflict. If we assume that who and how we love is immutable, and also assume that the Church’s teachings are even possibly true, then it is possible that those who believe the Church’s teachings to be true who will not deny themselves may indeed choose instead to destroy themselves.

    One last question: When you imagine how the answers to these questions might be different and why that matters, does it, to quote Moroni 7, invite and entice to do good, to love God and to serve Him?

    To serve God one keeps his commandments and observes his teachings. Let me, in the light of God’s commandments and teachings, offer an alternative formulation to your questions.

    Given your own views about your own sexuality, how does the Lord’s teachings about lust (Matthew 5:28; 3 Nephi 14:12:28; see also D&C 42:23) affect your desire to kill yourself?

    To appreciate the thrust of the question, note that one’s wife is a woman.

    Does knowing the Lord’s position on the matter of lust invite and entice to do good, to love God, and to keep his commandments?

  19. Jared,
    I confess I don’t understand your question. And truly don’t feel like you bothered to answer mine.

  20. John,

    I feel I answered yours as clearly as they can be answered consistently with the truth. To be even briefer:

    1. Maybe.

    2. It’s not obvious how they might relate.

    3. The citation to Moroni 7 in its proper context does not relate to the previous two questions and requires reorienting towards the teachings and commandments of Jesus Christ before the question can be answered.

    I then reoriented your questions towards the teachings of Jesus Christ. However, some confusion may be my fault – I meant to cite 3 Nephi 12:28.

    I feel that reading the cited scriptures will make the questions readily understandable, since I am asking the same questions you asked, only where you referred to the teachings of the Church, I am referring to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

    Whatever you may believe concerning your own sexuality, does knowing the Lord’s position on the subject of lust as explicitly stated in the cited scriptures affect your own suicidal ideation?

    We note, again, that one’s wife, if one has one, is a woman.

    Does knowing the Lord’s teachings on this matter invite and entice to do good, to love God, and to keep his commandments?

    And a third question, for good measure: should truths be suppressed if it is possible that some who believe lies might make choices I deem harmful when confronted with the truths?

  21. Livesey,
    You are a coward. The quotation of Moroni 7 in its proper context relates because, in its context, it is meant to apply universally.

    To quote exactly:
    13 But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.

    14 Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.

    15 For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.

    16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.

    17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.

    Now perhaps you are going to try and argue that any erotic emotion, other than that directly toward your spouse (of the opposite gender), is doing evil and, therefore, not of God. But people engage in these emotions prior to marriage innocently enough. And the church no longer adheres to Christ’s teachings on divorce, as an example, so why play these games?

    I asked you a direct question and you are too much of a sniveling coward to answer it. And I’m done with this. You had a chance to explain how the church’s position is an invitation to do good, leading one to believe in Christ and you failed to do it. Time and again. Have a day.