I was delighted to see that the Church’s Curriculum Planning had solicited feedback on their new resource discussing same-gender attractions. The little book has already generated a little buzz in the media and on several blogs. My own feeling toward the publication is one of gratitude. There’s not much here that I didn’t anticipate or already believe, but having it pulled together in a somewhat definitive way as well as specifically sharing it with the bishops and other leaders of the church, makes a big difference.

It is interesting to me, but not particularly surprising, that many people have been clamoring for the church to say something more about SSA, but now that it comes with great concessions and beautiful reassurances of God’s unconditional love, our divine worth, every blessing being achievable, etc., some folks still seize with fury and venom because it doesn’t say what they most want to hear. Socal suggested in a comment on a previous post that some will be happy with no less than a complete reversal of current doctrine to accommodate their own views and desires?an astute observation I agree with and that is directly addressed inside the church’s pamphlet itself. [Is it a pamphlet, a book, a booklet, a resource, or what? I dunno.]

Regardless, here are my suggestions submitted to the church’s Curriculum Planning:

I am writing in regard to the new book, God Loveth His Children. Thank you for both this beautifully written support material and the opportunity to provide feedback. I have long believed that something of this nature would be extremely helpful to those within the church who find their same-gender attraction upsetting and difficult to understand within the context of revealed truths of the gospel. I hope you will consider what I believe to be a few opportunities to clarify this book’s beautiful and uplifting message.

“Although His children may sometimes do things that disappoint Him, He will always love them.”

I appreciate your emphasis on God’s enduring love both in this sentence and in the title.

“While many Latter-day Saints, through individual effort, the exercise of faith, and reliance upon the enabling power of the Atonement, overcome same-gender attraction in mortality, others may not be free of this challenge in this life.”

One of the more formidable challenges same-gender attracted individuals face is an inclination to assign self-blame for their attractions. Elsewhere in the book, there is an appropriate emphasis on the lack of culpability for unchosen attractions. However, although the statement quoted above is literally true, it implies that personal failings (a lack of effort or determination, not relying on the Atonement, or having inadequate faith) IS rather than MAY BE the reason one is not “free of this challenge in this life.” I don’t believe this is your intended message, so the wording may benefit from revision.

“You are best served by concentrating on the things you can presently understand and control, not wasting energy or enlarging frustration by worrying about that which God has not yet fully revealed.”

It is precisely the seemingly indomitable nature of same-gender attraction that causes frustration when a righteous desire for guidance and help is met with a shrug of uncertainty at what God has not yet revealed. Certainly desiring greater light and knowledge is an admirable quality consistent with admonitions in the scriptures, and same-gender attraction may be the most formidable challenge some face at certain times in their lives. For this reason, I particularly enjoyed: “Happiness is harvested from the cultivation of worthwhile things, not just the suppression of that which offends God.” The advice that members are best served by focusing their efforts on what they can control is wonderful, but the seeming mixed message condemning members for desiring and seeking greater light and understanding specifically regarding their same-gender attraction challenges?often perceived to necessitate urgent help and support?may be better avoided.

“One of these adverse influences is obsession with or concentration on same-gender thoughts and feelings. It is not helpful to flaunt homosexual tendencies or make them the subject of unnecessary observation or discussion. It is better to choose as friends those who do not publicly display their homosexual feelings.”

I know first-hand the importance of choosing good friends and righteous influences in life. However, the vague nature of “publicly display their homosexual feelings” may have the unintended effect of encouraging some members of the church to act in intolerant and unkind ways toward same-gender attracted members of their congregations on the sole basis of their awareness of that challenge. These sentences trend toward a mixed message when appreciated with this text from elsewhere: “Some people with same-gender attraction have felt rejected because members of the Church did not always show love.”

This quote also leaves what is “unnecessary observation or discussion” to subjective interpretation. Directly addressing, talking about, and working through same-gender attraction through one kind of cognitive processing or another can be very helpful, and this passage seems to suggest it is necessary to keep one’s feelings secret or suppressed, encouraging people not to seek help and greater understanding from others as is encouraged elsewhere. “Concentration” on same-gender thoughts and feelings, in certain personal contexts, may be necessary in order to properly understand how to deal with them and move past them.

Additionally, the phrase “homosexual tendencies” has a cultural connotation that may make an alternate word choice desirable.

“Innocent mischief early in life does not predispose a youth toward same-gender attraction as an adult.”

I am not familiar with the evidence for this statement, but I suspect that substantial data has been gathered that failed to prove a correlation between early mischief and attractions as an adult, and which therefore suggested your assertion here. However, not having demonstrated something is not the same as demonstrating its opposite. Regardless, even if this statement is well supported by revelation or scientifically credible data, it constitutes discussion of the origins of same sex attraction, the absence of which I appreciated elsewhere in the document. I believe there must be a better way to encourage people not to assign causes and blame from past experiences than to make a definitive statement such as this.

Again, thank you for this wonderful resource. It makes explicit the church’s position on this issue in a loving and increasingly clear way. I believe many lives will be blessed if this information is shared not only with members of the church who deal personally with same-gender attraction, but with those who otherwise wouldn’t give it much thought at all.

Leave a Reply

13 comments

  1. avatar

    Excellent work, L.

    You responces to the ?You are best served by concentrating…” and the “It is not helpful to flaunt…” statements are particularly well done.

    Good job.

  2. avatar

    John Gustav-Wrathall

    I couldn’t have crafted a better, or more articulate response myself. Will you actually send this to the Curriculum Planning Department as well as posting it here on the Northern Lights blog?

    My parents and I had a very interesting discussion about the pamphlet last night, and they were surprised when I informed them that the Curriculum Planning Department was soliciting feedback. They were eager to give feedback of their own.

  3. avatar
  4. avatar

    m&m

    they were surprised when I informed them that the Curriculum Planning Department was soliciting feedback.

    Actually, this is always an option. If you look at the front of our manuals, you will see that the invitation for feedback is pretty consistent. FWIW.

  5. avatar

    John Gustav-Wrathall

    Well, that answers my earlier question about if this was a special case. That’s good to know…

  6. avatar

    -L-

    JGW, I did indeed submit this to the Curriculum Planning people. But, I didn’t include my name and ward and the other info they request saying instead that I prefer to remain anonymous. So, I don’t know if it will ever be read.

    Thanks for your kind words, btw.

  7. avatar

    L, I like this, very much, and I agree with your interpretations. I’m going to have to read through this myself and see if there’s anything else that catches my attention.

  8. avatar

    Ron Schow

    There are 2 paragraphs that start on p. 9 of the pamphlet and the 2nd of these contains the 3 sentences on obsession that L has highlighted in his comments above. I agree with L that some further editing of this paragraph would be helpful.

    These sentences are perhaps the most troubling in the whole document. One way to measure this is to ask if you should or could say something like this to males in the Church about their association with other heterosexual men. Listen to this…Brethren,… “One of the adverse influences (that can harm your spirituality) is obsession with or concentration on OPPOSITE gender thoughts and feelings. It is not helpful to flaunt HETEROSEXUAL tendencies or make them the subject of unnecessary discussion. It is better to choose as friends those who do not display their HETEROSEXUAL feelings.”

    I feel it is very unrealistic to expect heterosexual men not to discuss their heterosexual feelings now and then. I have known many friends including bishops and other Church leaders who do so because it is very much on many minds. The same would be true for men with SGA. Not being allowed to talk about one’s feelings creates a kind of pressure that may not be healthy.

    If these 3 sentences were removed the rest of it would probably be ok and convey the intended message. However, the last sentence in this paragraph on friends is quite strange in this context and implies that friendships outside the family aren’t important. It could probably be dropped. Some of us do not have family close by and friends can be very important.

  9. avatar

    John Gustav-Wrathall

    I thought about submitting feedback too, but when I saw they wanted my name and ward, I figured maybe they would ignore me too, since I am excommunicated and therefore not a member. However, I know my parents are eager to submit feedback, so perhaps I can talk to them and they can incorporate some of my feedback into their response.

  10. avatar

    Nick Literski

    I was initially dismayed about the passage which read:

    It is not helpful to flaunt homosexual tendencies or make them the subject of unnecessary observation or discussion. It is better to choose as friends those who do not publicly display their homosexual feelings.?

    My concern was that this statement encourages–perhaps almost directs–gay members of the LDS church to be deeply closeted, and to hide their orientation. I was soon surprised, however, to find that many heterosexual LDS members are expressing concern with the paragraph, because they mistakenly think it is directed at everyone, rather than being directed specifically to those who are gay. I’ve seen several LDS members comment that they think this passage contradicts the other expressions of love and tolerance. It seems to me that there’s a clear need for some editing.

    I also agree that the passage about “overcoming” homosexuality strongly implies that those who don’t “overcome” haven’t put forth enough prayer, faith, etc. It sounds more like Exodus than LDS.

  11. avatar

    Ron wrote (#8):

    the last sentence in this paragraph…implies that friendships outside the family aren?t important.

    I’ve been thinking a little bit about this. Friendship–particularly with other men with ssa–has been one of the most important and liberating pieces of this journey for me. Granted, I think it’s easy to be a bit extreme and have only friends who share a particular life experience–balance is key–but to avoid deep friendships with people who share this particular life experience doesn’t seem particularly healthy or balanced, either. I guess I’m not sure that’s what they were trying to say, entirely, but it could be perceived that way.

    After all, as Joseph Smith said, “Friendship is one of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism’.” I get that family is important, but that principle shouldn’t have to minimize the importance of non-familial friendships.

  12. avatar

    Borealis

    Actually Ron, when you reworded the sentence to address heterosexual men, I felt better about it than I did before. The sentence still could be reworded, but I think the sentence as you have worked it is as true for heterosexual men as it is for homosexual men. Note the key words “obsess” and “focus” and “unnecessary discussion”. It doesn’t say anywhere that you can’t mention that you think Sister So-and-So is hot, or that you’ve been particularly tempted and want help. It says we shouldn’t be obsessed about them, and that is as good of counsel for heterosexuals as homosexuals. It’s true that too many heterosexual men (including leaders) wink at this sort of thing as harmless. But it isn’t helpful. Lustful ogling doesn’t help anyone keep the law of chastity.

    I like this scripture from D&C 88:121-125:

    Therefore, cease from all your light speeches, from all laughter, from all your lustful desires, from all your pride and light-mindedness, and from all your wicked doings…
    See that ye love one another; cease to be covetous; learn to impart one to another as the gospel requires.
    Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.
    And above all things, clothe yourselves with the bond of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace.

  13. avatar

    L

    Thank you for those comments – I think they were right on the mark. I run the lds-ssa.org web site, and I can say with absolute certainty that most SSA members have a tremendous need to discuss and understand their attractions. Keeping things bottled up is self destructive. I wish the pamphlet had focused more on the responsibilities of LDS members everywhere to show Chirst-like love, compassion and acceptance for SSA people. SSA members of the Church should not have to live with the fear that discussing their challenges or being honest about their attractions will bring down scorn and wrath from other members. For example, friends in my Ward are always trying to set me up on dates. I’m constantly inventing excuses why I can’t or won’t take someone out, when instead I should feel comfortable enough in the Church to simply tell people, “Thank you for thinking of me, but I’m SSA and don’t date other members”. When we get to that point I’ll feel like we’ve really crossed a bridge! This pamphlet is just a start…

    Regards,

    Neal