|photo by Matt Cook|
Are Mormons against gay people?
No. As the expression goes, we "hate the sin, not the sinner." That creed applies to any person struggling with sin, not just gay people. What we disapprove of is the homosexual lifestyle. There are members of our Church who are homosexual yet as worthy as heterosexual members because they do not participate in that lifestyle.
Elder Holland said, "Let me make it clear that attractions alone, troublesome as they may be, do not make one unworthy. The First Presidency has stated, 'There is a distinction between immoral thoughts and feelings and participating in either immoral heterosexual or any homosexual behavior.' If you do not act on temptations, you have not transgressed."
Elder Holland also shared the following story:
A pleasant young man in his early 20s sat across from me. He had an engaging smile, although he didn’t smile often during our talk. What drew me in was the pain in his eyes.
“I don’t know if I should remain a member of the Church,” he said. “I don’t think I’m worthy.”
“Why wouldn’t you be worthy?” I asked.
I suppose he thought I would be startled. I wasn’t. “And … ?” I inquired.
A flicker of relief crossed his face as he sensed my continued interest. “I’m not attracted to women. I’m attracted to men. I’ve tried to ignore these feelings or change them, but …”
He sighed. “Why am I this way? The feelings are very real.”
I paused, then said, “I need a little more information before advising you. You see, same-gender attraction is not a sin, but acting on those feelings is—just as it would be with heterosexual feelings. Do you violate the law of chastity?”
He shook his head. “No, I don’t.”
This time I was relieved. “Thank you for wanting to deal with this,” I said. “It takes courage to talk about it, and I honor you for keeping yourself clean.
“As for why you feel as you do, I can’t answer that question. A number of factors may be involved, and they can be as different as people are different. Some things, including the cause of your feelings, we may never know in this life. But knowing why you feel as you do isn’t as important as knowing you have not transgressed. If your life is in harmony with the commandments, then you are worthy to serve in the Church, enjoy full fellowship with the members, attend the temple, and receive all the blessings of the Savior’s Atonement.”
He sat up a little straighter. I continued, “You serve yourself poorly when you identify yourself primarily by your sexual feelings. That isn’t your only characteristic, so don’t give it disproportionate attention. You are first and foremost a son of God, and He loves you.
“What’s more, I love you. My Brethren among the General Authorities love you. I’m reminded of a comment President Boyd K. Packer made in speaking to those with same-gender attraction. ‘We do not reject you,’ he said. ‘… We cannot reject you, for you are the sons and daughters of God. We will not reject you, because we love you.’ ”Why are Mormons against the gay lifestyle?
One reason we are against that lifestyle does not depend on sexual orientation. It is that we believe that all sexual relations should be reserved for lawful marriage. Any sexual activities outside of marriage are sinful because they toy with the sacred power God has given His children to create life.
Then why don't Mormons allow gay marriage?
God defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
Why does marriage have to be between a man and a woman?
Our religion is centered on what we call the plan of salvation. That plan is for all of Heavenly Father's children to come to earth and receive a body, be raised in a family, experience life, and return to Him. Obviously, homosexuality does not allow for the creation of children.
Why can't gays just adopt? There are plenty of unwanted children, and gays make loving parents.
We believe that "gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose" ("The Family: A Proclamation to the World"). Heavenly Father created males and females with different characteristics and roles that complement each other: "By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners" (ibid.). Gender differences are often dismissed or trivialized to justify gay marriage (or no marriage); however, they are what create a balanced family life in which children can learn and grow, with the hope that they will then create their own families based on the same divine principles.
If gender is so important, then why is there so much confusion about it?
The more sacred something is, the more Satan (the devil) tries to destroy it. Life, God's most precious gift, is perpetuated through heterosexual families; therefore, Satan does whatever he can to demean marriage and family, sexuality, gender, and the value of life. He does not want Heavenly Father's plan of salvation to continue.
What should gay people do then?
Elder Oaks explained:
We should note that the words homosexual, lesbian, and gay are adjectives to describe particular thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. We should refrain from using these words as nouns to identify particular conditions or specific persons. Our religious doctrine dictates this usage. It is wrong to use these words to denote a condition, because this implies that a person is consigned by birth to a circumstance in which he or she has no choice in respect to the critically important matter of sexual behavior.
Feelings are another matter. Some kinds of feelings seem to be inborn. Others are traceable to mortal experiences. Still other feelings seem to be acquired from a complex interaction of “nature and nurture.” All of us have some feelings we did not choose, but the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that we still have the power to resist and reform our feelings (as needed) and to assure that they do not lead us to entertain inappropriate thoughts or to engage in sinful behavior.
Different persons have different physical characteristics and different susceptibilities to the various physical and emotional pressures we may encounter in our childhood and adult environments. We did not choose these personal susceptibilities either, but we do choose and will be accountable for the attitudes, priorities, behavior, and “lifestyle” we engraft upon them.
Essential to our doctrinal position on these matters is the difference between our freedom and our agency. Our freedom can be limited by various conditions of mortality, but God’s gift of agency cannot be limited by outside forces, because it is the basis for our accountability to him. The contrast between freedom and agency can be illustrated in the context of a hypothetical progression from feelings to thoughts to behavior to addiction. This progression can be seen on a variety of matters, such as gambling and the use of tobacco and alcohol.
Just as some people have different feelings than others, some people seem to be unusually susceptible to particular actions, reactions, or addictions. Perhaps such susceptibilities are inborn or acquired without personal choice or fault . . . .
In each case (and in other examples that could be given) the feelings or other characteristics that increase susceptibility to certain behavior may have some relationship to inheritance. But the relationship is probably very complex. The inherited element may be nothing more than an increased likelihood that an individual will acquire certain feelings if he or she encounters particular influences during the developmental years. But regardless of our different susceptibilities or vulnerabilities, . . . we remain responsible for the exercise of our agency in the thoughts we entertain and the behavior we choose.Elder Oaks further reminds us that Satan wants us to believe that we do not have control of ourselves and that some things are without the reaches of agency. If those things were true, there would be no hope for any of us, because we all struggle with a variety of strong temptations. But God has promised not to let us be tempted more than we can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13) and to provide the means to obey any commandment (1 Nephi 3:7). Heavenly Father has given us the ability to determine our own eternal destiny.
Discussion: Do you have any other questions about Mormons and their opposition to gay marriage?
NOTE: This is not an official statement from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Only the quoted portions are directly from Church leaders. The rest is based on my understanding of our doctrine. Furthermore, I will not publish any insulting or contentious comments. Thank you.
Read the follow-up discussion.