The last few years have been witness to a remarkable LDS cultural shift in the conversation around homosexuality. While core doctrines of the Church with regard to the appropriate bounds of sexual expression have not changed (and will not change), there has been a clarifying and nuancing of Church teachings (i.e., sexual attraction or temptation is not a sin; only inappropriate indulgence in thought or behavior is) as well as a notable shift in our cultural attitudes. We’re becoming much more open and loving toward others wherever they may be in their journey of faith (or lack thereof), even as we continue to embrace our own faith in the Savior and the doctrines of the restored gospel.

One of the shifts that I’m most pleased to see (and to be a part of) is the increase of voices of those who understand the experience of homosexual attraction firsthand who are both speaking up in the cultural conversation around sexuality, as well as embracing and sharing their faith in the restored gospel of Christ.

The goal of North Star has always been to be a gathering place of those who desire to live within the framework of the gospel. In 2006, when the newly organized North Star launched the Northern Lights blog, our intention was to bring together the community of faithful Latter-day Saints already blogging on homosexuality. With the recent launch of our new website, we’re doing the same—we’re relaunching Northern Lights with a fresh chorus of both new and returning bloggers.

But that’s just the beginning. We need to be doing more. My belief is that homosexuality is one of the great Abrahamic tests of our day—not just for those whose personal attractions challenge their commitments to live the gospel (which, in reality, includes all of us in way or another), but also for our broader Church family whose compassion—if not rooted in firm conviction of the gospel—may lead them to question their own commitments. It will also affect how the world responds to us. As I wrote in the introduction to Voices of Hope,

“As cultural battles continue to wage ever more passionately, and as the restored gospel of Jesus Christ continues to go forth to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, the Church’s teachings regarding homosexuality will increasingly affect how people respond to our message. I suggest that in addition to the continued witness and teachings of the Lord’s prophets and apostles around this issue, there will be an increasing need for ‘a cloud of witnesses’ (Hebrews 12:1), Latter-day Saint men and women who have personally dealt with these issues” (p. 21).

So, what more can we be doing? Each of us who embraces the gospel needs individually to seriously consider God’s call and commission to stand as authentic witnesses of His love and redeeming gospel “at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in” (Mosiah 18:9). The fulfillment of that commission may look somewhat varied for different people, but I would invite each of us to consider the ways in which even our sexuality is tied to our covenant to consecrate our entire self to building God’s kingdom and to spreading the restored gospel.

As a final note, my wife and I have been recently reading Third Nephi in our family scripture study. One of the themes that has been impressed upon me by the Spirit is the importance of fidelity to prophetic leadership and guidance. That, and that it doesn’t take long for even God’s faithful to put too much confidence in themselves and for their faith to atrophy into total loss. Much earlier in the Book of Mormon, when Nephi was warned by the Lord to separate himself from his rebellious brothers, he noted that “all those who would go with [him] were those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God; wherefore, they hearken[ed] unto [his] words” (2 Nephi 5:6).

There are too few places, whether in cyberspace or elsewhere, where believing Latter-day Saints who fully sustain the prophets can engage in meaningful discussion about the intersections of sexuality, faith and culture. While we invite all to listen in and participate in these discussions, I remind readers and dialoguers that this is first a forum for believing Latter-day Saints—or for others who are willing to respect members’ beliefs—and to read closely the comment policy, to which we’ll be strictly adhering.

As we begin again this journey as a Northern Lights community, with a growing euphony of voices, I invite and welcome you in our effort to become part of a movement that is a growing “cloud of witnesses” of the Savior, of His gospel and Church, and of those whom He has called as prophets, seers, and revelators.

Leave a Reply

11 comments

  1. avatar

    Thanks, Ty. I’m excited to be a part of the conversation. I especially appreciate your thoughts about fidelity to prophetic leadership. I believe that everyone could benefit from additional reflection of that principle.

    • avatar

      GMP

      I agree, Kevin. Hit the nail on the head.

      And Ty, I couldn’t be more excited for the relaunch. There’s been an erstwhile dearth of voices in this world that are equally gay, faithful, and articulate and perceptive, so Northern Lights will fill a depressingly empty hole in the blogosphere.

  2. avatar

    I used to think that this was an Abrahamic trial. But I don’t think of it that way anymore.

    • avatar

      Ty Ray

      So what was the shift for you? I’m not sure how one might describe a trial of Abrahamic proportion from any other trial, but I do think that homosexuality is going to be one of the great “sifters” in the Church in the last days. I’m a little in awe at the number of people recently who don’t experience SSA who have described the Church’s position on homosexuality as one of their primary reasons for leaving the Church. I wrote in the Epilogue of Voices of Hope:

      “My belief is that homosexuality represents one of the last great generational Abrahamic tests—a spiritual sifter, if you will—before the great Second Coming of our Savior. It presents a spiritual crucible that will try our allegiance to the testimony of those prophetic witnesses whom God has called to be spiritual watchmen (see D&C 101:44-62) in a long-prophesied day when men and women would increasingly ‘call evil good, and good evil’ and ‘put darkness for light, and light for darkness’ (Isaiah 5:20).

      “Whether the Abrahamic tests that try our faith are individual or collective as a people, Joseph Smith taught that Latter-day Saints ‘will have all kinds of trials to pass through. And it is quite as necessary for you to be tried as it was for Abraham and other men of God… God will feel after you, and he will take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings, and if you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom of God.’ The Prophet also taught that before any individual can be exalted, or have his calling and election made sure, he must learn to ‘liv[e] by every word of God’ and be ‘thoroughly proved’ until the Lord “finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards.'”

      While I don’t feel SSA is a big issue for me now—in fact, outside of my efforts to facilitate more faithful dialogue and sharing of stories, it’s pretty much a complete non-issue that doesn’t affect my personal life goals at all—at one point it felt like it took everything in me. I’ve always been a pretty strong, committed believer, and this is the only thing I’ve ever dealt with really challenged my convictions to live the gospel. There was a period of about a year when I really “wandered” and saw myself as on my way out of the Church. Prior to finally coming to terms with this, I couldn’t have even imagined that.

      • avatar

        I think the shift in label – from Abrahamic trial to simply part of life – was when I realized that homosexuality had never pushed me to the edge. Abrahamic trials are designed to truly take everything out of you. To make you question your faith. To make it such that you have only two choices – turn away, or turn toward God. Homosexuality never did that for me. It never made me question my faith in God or my commitment to living the gospel, never opened the door to even wondering if the doctrines of chastity or eternity were applicable in my life.

        I’m just now realizing that I haven’t had my Abrahamic trial yet… or even one similar. Homosexuality, sexual abuse, severe depression… those have all been facets, but I’ve never felt torn or stretched to my limit. I’ve never even had the choice of whether or not to stay true… it was always a given.

        I guess that makes me wonder. Are Abrahamic trials typified by their “absolute” severity? That calling you to sacrifice your son is, by definition, really hard, and thereby Abrahamic? Or are they outlined with relative difficulty – where Abraham’s trial was not the sacrifice, but the juxtaposition of having to sacrifice his son when his own father almost sacrificed him to the gods of Pharaoh? Or is an Abrahamic trial created through the spiritual effect it has on us – whereby the trial was proved by Abraham’s deep emotional turmoil and, perhaps, the thought that he could simply not go to Mount Moriah?

        I don’t know. Maybe, depending on the definition, I have had Abrahamic trials. Lots of them. But I get the unnerving feeling that homosexuality, and all of the problems I’ve faced in life and whatever doctrinal paradoxes they may have at one time presented, could easily pale… and are just preparing me for something that’s going to be a whole lot harder to handle.

        • avatar

          Wow, Mormon Guy. I’m impressed by your insights about upcoming trials.

          My mission president and his wife used to say that each of us would have to go through our own personal Gethsemane. I think that is a similar metaphor to Abraham’s test. I believe that the difficulty of the test is relative, in that each of us have a series of experiences designed to push us to our personal absolute limit.

          What for one person may be extremely difficult, wouldn’t even bother someone else. President Packer suggested that for some, riches or beauty may be the most challenging “trials.” I think most parents would admit that some days it would be easier to sacrifice a child than others.

          John Taylor related Joseph Smith’s comment that God would test us like Abraham and “wrench [our] very heartstrings.” He added that “Joseph said that if God had known any other way whereby he could have touched Abraham’s feelings more acutely and more keenly he would have done so.”

          PS. On a related note, about half-way through my mission (one of my more difficult trials) I read Abraham 3:18-19. From this passage, I concluded that each spirit is created with different capacities. Some were more intelligent than others. Some were more capable than others. As I understood it, it would be easier for some to “pass the test” and qualify for exaltation.

          That didn’t set well with me. How could God be that unjust? I was really bothered for a couple of months. I finally found resolution to my concerns in D&C 93:30. Something about the plan guaranteed that each of us would be on a level playing field. Each of us would face an equal choice: Christ or . . .something else.

  3. avatar

    Rex

    I am more prone to compare my journey to a trial similar to Abraham’s grandson, Jacob. He wrestled with the messenger of God over the survival of his family and his place in the covenant God made with Abraham. As I wrote in another blog a few years ago.

    Such was my own wrestle with the Lord, the night I finally called an end to my homosexual encounters. As I have described before, I had spent many nights in inappropriate sexual activities. I was a teenager, a mere child, but with years of experience and addiction.

    Many times I had prayed, prayers of deep lament, prayers of promise to God that I would stop, prayers of excuse, but until that night, I had not wrestled with God for a promise from him. They had all been promises to him, promises I was powerless to keep.

    Like Jacob, I wrestled with the Lord so persistently that he told me to let him go, and still I held on and insisted, “Not until thou bless me.” I received my promise. The Lord has kept it.

    We should be like Israel, and wrestle with God for a promise. What is it that we want him to promise us? Surely there are many things we desire, but the greatest of all of these things would be the promise of eternal life. We want him to promise us that we are forgiven. We want him to promise his blessings.

    Because of the Covenant

  4. avatar

    So thrilled to see this joint endeavor. Thank you for your courage and faith. We shared your stories recently on our site, and we look forward to watching this effort continue to unfold.

    One of the themes that has been impressed upon me by the Spirit is the importance of fidelity to prophetic leadership and guidance. That, and that it doesn’t take long for even God’s faithful to put too much confidence in themselves and for their faith to atrophy into total loss. Much earlier in the Book of Mormon, when Nephi was warned by the Lord to separate himself from his rebellious brothers, he noted that “all those who would go with [him] were those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God; wherefore, they hearken[ed] unto [his] words” (2 Nephi 5:6).

    I think this is a key message in the Book of Mormon. If it were easy to follow God’s ways, we wouldn’t need prophets to keep the path clear. There is a reason they are called watchmen on the tower. I’m so grateful for prophets!

    Each of us who embraces the gospel needs individually to seriously consider God’s call and commission to stand as authentic witnesses of His love and redeeming gospel “at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in” (Mosiah 18:9). The fulfillment of that commission may look somewhat varied for different people, but I would invite each of us to consider the ways in which even our sexuality is tied to our covenant to consecrate our entire self to building God’s kingdom and to spreading the restored gospel.

    This is another something I’ve been thinking a lot about as well. Sexuality in our culture is often framed as a right, but in the gospel of Jesus Christ, I believe it is instead taught as a responsibility, a stewardship, to be guided by God’s laws and doctrine — for our own good. I loved how Josh and Lolly framed the concept of intimacy. I commented elsewhere that I think what they shared is profoundly important for heterosexual married couples to understand as well. The distortions about sexuality are found on all sides, in so many ways in our culture.

    Anyway, thanks for what you are all doing. There are many of us cheering you on and trying to help spread the word.

  5. avatar

    That didn’t come out quite right — my point was that the truths Josh shared on his ‘coming out’ post about intimacy are ones that I think many married couples don’t understand. Too often, sex is treated as a need or and end in and of itself, rather than being part of a whole, healthy relationship.

    Nevermind all the ways that sex is dominating individual lives and our culture outside of its divinely defined purposes within the bounds of marriage.

  6. avatar

    Jaramiah

    I haven’t read Voices of Hope, so I am reading your quote out of context but I feel like the scripture you quoted gets over used in the arena of same sex attraction.

    “a long-prophesied day when men and women would increasingly ‘call evil good, and good evil’ and ‘put darkness for light, and light for darkness’ (Isaiah 5:20).”

    I get on nuance that I think you are trying to express in that there are voices telling people that supression of same sex desire in the name of creating a family with a member of the opposite sex is vile. They would seek to take away the individual liberty to choose that course of action even though it has been a course of action chosen over the centuries.

    On the other hand, I have sat in too many priesthood meetings where that scripture comes up and the old codgers say, ‘its the gaaaays!—back in my day there were no gays and now there are and its a sign that this scripture is true!” When I read that scripture I would like it to be recognized as pertaining to more than gays. It can pertain to many facets of a society less willing to embrace a moral code. The willingness of the old codgers willing to jump on the presence of gays flies in the face of counsel from Elder Oaks and others about uncertainty about origins of homosexuality, lack of sinfulness in the attraction itself and compassion for those who are different.

    So it seems to me like a less than ideal choice of placement for the point you are trying to make, unless you are going for a strong emphasis in condemnation. A scripture like “when you are converted, strengthen your brethren” would seem to be more apt. Again, I haven’t read the book and haven’t posted on one of your threads before, so I admit my reaction to reading it could be off.

  7. avatar

    Rex

    Jaramiah, I used to couldn’t spell “codger” and now I are one. :)

    Back in the day before I became one, I heard some of that in priesthood meetings. I don’t anymore. Maybe it’s because they know about me and just keep quiet about stuff like that when I’m there.

    I suspect that they are becoming more tolerant.