As a heterosexual, married, Republican-leaning white male living in Utah County, I’m not a natural to speak on a political subject like the potential for the LDS church to allow gay marriage. This is going to be kind of a brain storming, thinking out loud kind of blog article, where I’m sure I’ll be educated by my readers. I expect to make edits to this and have my thinking refined over time. But here goes.
The Tyler Glenn story I blogged about Friday has really put me in turmoil this weekend. I listened to the entire five and a half hour Mormon Stories interview. I hope there can be something in the church we can do to help gay members of the church that are struggling so badly.
We’ve got a problem in the church. Many gay members don’t feel loved and accepted by the church. They have no idea where they fit in the church or if they even do. Parents or family or close friends of gay members see their suffering and are leaving the church with them. Millennials don’t understand the church’s position. As many times as the church restates “we don’t hate gays,” our own heterosexual children raised in the church and loyal to it are not buying it. And their peers outside the church certainly aren’t buying it. That’s a problem. But that’s not a reason to change. Many doctrines and policies of the church have been unpopular over the years, and we don’t change just to satisfy the world. But what if…
What if the brethren announced a policy change. No doctrinal change. Simply a policy change. It might not even require a revelation, since there would be no doctrinal change attached to it.
Possible new policy: the church announces it would recognize gay marriage and that sexual activity within such a marriage or officially sanctioned civil union would not be against the Law of Chastity. Gay married members who are faithful to their spouses can have full fellowship in the church, qualify for temple recommend and serve in callings.
Talking out loud and brainstorming, here are some points to consider in this discussion.
1. This could be seen as similar to the Law of Moses or the Aaronic Priesthood, preparatory in nature. Marriage between man and wife and sealed in the temple is eternal. Though gay marriage would not be seen as eternal, it could be viewed in preparatory kind of way.
2. This could be done without making a doctrinal change. We don’t have to modify the Proclamation on Family. We don’t have to retract our belief that eternal families consist of husband and wife and those roles are eternal and important. We don’t have to change our teachings that ideal family life is with a father and mother. This policy would not require changing temple marriage to include sealing of gay couple.
3. We don’t believe sex is just for procreation. We believe it’s given by God to help those in married relationship find joy together and deepen their love and relationship.
4. The brethren seem to have changed their position on viewing homosexuality as something to “overcome” through faith and obedience. Elder Holland taught that we no longer expect gay members to have their sexual orientation changed. In his Oct 2015 talk, he talked about a young man who went home early from his mission due to emotional trauma he was experiencing due to same sex attraction. After a lot of anguish, five years later, he was able to repent, find peace, and go back and finish his mission.
And, I must say, this son’s sexual orientation did not somehow miraculously change—no one assumed it would.
I take this as a change in position among the brethren of the church. I think clearly in the past, church leaders would assume there could be a change in sexual orientation. I don’t know how strong of a point Elder Holland meant to make, but it seems important. Conversion therapy is no longer endorsed by LDS psychologists or performed at BYU or any other church institutions, which is a change from past views.
5. What’s the worst that could happen? It seems our biggest fear in legitimizing something like gay marriage and sexual relationships within gay marriage would be that by legitimizing it, more people would do it. But would that really happen? Would someone who otherwise could lived a fulfilling heterosexual life now be more likely to experiment with homosexuality now that it’s allowed by the church? I guess that’s possible. How much? It doesn’t seem like it would be a lot, but that would probably be an important point to consider.
6. The recently popular film Spotlight showed the depth of the Catholic priest abuse scandal where it was uncovered that thousands of Catholic priests had molested children. LDS have it right that we don’t require celibacy for clergy. I think behind closed doors you would probably find most conservative LDS say something like “yeah that’s what happens when you force adults to be celibate and spend their life repressing sexuality.” I’m NOT suggesting that a likely result of denying gay LDS sexual expression would be the sexual abuse of children. But what I am suggesting is that by demanding celibacy and denying someone the ability to find romantic love and a healthy sexual outlet, it’s very likely to inflict emotional and psychological damage that could potentially manifest in a number of unhealthy ways. One of those unhealthy outlets might be the “hook up” scene. Another devastatingly sad manifestation could be in the number of suicides in Utah youth recently.
7. For a long time, homosexuality has been associated with promiscuity. My observation from hearing stories like Tyler Glenn’s is that due to societal stigma of public gay relationships, the expression of homosexuality developed underground and was associated with secrecy and shame. We’ve had mistaken understanding that homosexuality is promiscuity-based not relationship-based, due to the secrecy and shame, which was kind of what society forced on the homosexual world.
8. It could be difficult for the church to make a big change without damaging the faith of its members. Sometimes it’s hard for us to change because we look at past statements prophets have made and don’t want to disagree or make them appear uninspired. But, since homosexual sex within marriage is a completely different act than homosexuality outside of marriage, it can be understood that “homosexuality as sin” when referenced in the past was clearly talking about homosexuality outside the bonds of marriage. Why would God’s prophets speak this way in the past? Were they wrong? I think with gay marriage becoming part of society, this completely opens up our view of homosexuality and what about it is sinful. Gay marriage had never been a possibility in the past. The homosexuality that past prophets preached against could easily be reframed to understand as being sinful due to status as extra-marital sexual relations. Homosexual sex that is outside of marriage would still be sinful.
9. One of the theories for a long time for why blacks weren’t allowed the priesthood was that the church wasn’t ready. God wanted it to happen. But the racists culture in society and within the church caused God to withhold the revelation until the church was ready. I don’t know if that’s right. I don’t know if that’s even possible. But maybe attitudes in society and within the church that have harmed gay people are being changed. Maybe the church is ready now.
10. This should NOT be seen as being forced on the church. Many people mistakenly view changes the church has made in the past, such as with polygamy or with black LDS receiving the priesthood, as being reactions from external pressure. This should not be seen that way. This should be seen as the brethren presenting God with a request for revelation due to new information, and the realization that prior policy might have depended on cultural perspectives and not doctrinal mandates. The new information being:
• Homosexuality is genetic, or at least not reversible, we no longer expect gay people to be “cured”
• We no longer counsel gay people to attempt heterosexual marriage. We’ve seen the failures of these attempts and this is no longer the counsel the church provides.
• Gay people seem to thrive in same sex marriage, something not understood previously.
I think it’s very possible something like this will happen. How long from now? The church is conservative and moves slowly. I think there’s good reason for that. If you’re a gay Mormon and are struggling, or a close family or friend, I hope you can hang on a little longer. Can you hang on ten years? I know the sacrifice being asked of you must be unimaginably difficult. I think of the black LDS and those that mourned with them in the time period leading up to 1978. I wonder if they felt reward and fulfillment for pioneering the way for so many in the future.
I support the brethren and think they must have a good reason I don’t understand for the Nov 2015 policy. I believe the brethren are seeking answers on how to help you. I believe the brethren are listening to those who are struggling and will respond.
Tyler Glenn’s song Trash and the video he made was difficult to watch. But, this video he made in 2014 as a gay Mormon that loved and believed the church but struggled with his place in it, was difficult to watch for different reasons. Tyler Glenn singing Where Can I Turn for Peace:
Until a change is made, I hope those with wounded hearts can find peace in the One who provides peace.
Where can I turn for peace?
Where is my solace
When other sources cease to make me whole?
When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice,
I draw myself apart,
Searching my soul?
Where, when my aching grows,
Where, when I languish,
Where, in my need to know, where can I run?
Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish?
Who, who can understand?
He, only One.
He answers privately,
Reaches my reaching
In my Gethsemane, Savior and Friend.
Gentle the peace he finds for my beseeching.
Constant he is and kind,
Love without end.
Here are some additional good resources I was introduced to after writing this.