I’ve been scanning through a pamphlet from the church website on SSA called God Loveth His Children. It’s quite apropos considering my post last week. However, it doesn’t answer all the things I’m curious about as much as it reassures us that we don’t need answers necessarily to every thing right this very instant.

An understanding of eternal truths is a powerful motivation for righteous behavior. 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. Focus on living the simple truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Same-gender inclinations may be very powerful, but through faith in the Atonement you can receive the power to resist all improper conduct, keeping your life free from sin.

One interesting part of the piece seems particularly applicable to blogging:

In addition to filling your garden with positive influences, you must also avoid any influence that can harm your spirituality. 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. The careful selection of friends and mentors who lead constructive, righteous lives is one of the most important steps to being productive and virtuous. Association with those of the same gender is natural and desirable, so long as you set wise boundaries to avoid improper and unhealthy emotional dependency, which may eventually result in physical and sexual intimacy. There is moral risk in having so close a relationship with one friend of the same gender that it may lead to vices the Lord has condemned. Our most important relationships are with our own families because our ties to them can be eternal.

I’ve gained a great deal of benefit from blogging, and I think I’m closer to my wife because of it. On the other hand, there have been times I’ve felt that it was a distracting and unproductive, and there have certainly been times where I’ve seen it as contributing to temptations (for me and as I’ve read the accounts of other bloggers).

I’ll look this over in more detail when I have time (which there seems to be precious little of lately!), but for now, what are your initial thoughts?

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21 comments

  1. avatar

    drex

    While I agree with the thrust behind the friends commentary, it’s a terribly antiseptic way to view friendship. Mostly because I see it being applied in such a way to encourage breaking off existing friendships, if they are with a flamboyant individual. While it helps to avoid temptation if one associates only with people who don’t flaunt themselves, that shouldn’t be the basis of a friendship.

    As for avoiding emotional closeness, it’s all about moderation and balance between one’s dependency and ability to stay focused on eternal principles and goals. I would trust most of my current friends with emotional dependency, because I trust both the nature and strength of our friendship and my own ability to avoid serious temptation. With a new friend that might not hold true, because there might be more risk and temptation involved.

    I guess overall, then, I have to say that based on the excerpts you provided (because I haven’t taken the time to view its entirety), it’s a good start and provides some good points, but falls short of the understanding I’ve gained for myself. I suppose that can be fairly typical for a generalized pamphlet, though.

  2. avatar

    This is interesting. My first thought is: Who wrote this? There’s no authorship ascribed, other than that it’s “approved” and published by the Church. But it wasn’t a corporate body that wrote it, it was a person or a group of people. The potential danger I see is that Mormons tend to treat official Church publications as prophetic counsel–i.e. The Word of God–and I’m not sure that correlation is true, even in the context of Mormon doctrine. There’s nothing there to indicate that Gordon B. Hinckley received a revelation saying, “Gay Mormons shall not make their same-gender attraction the subject of unnecessary observation or discussion,” but I imagine that’s how a lot of people are going to end up talking about the pamphlet.

    Really, I think it’s good that the Church is making steps to actually talk about the issue. It would be nice, though, if they’d mention who’s doing the talking.

  3. avatar

    -L-

    I had similar reactions to both your comments. I haven’t tracked down the full discussion about this elsewhere, but I think I remember seeing that they had solicited feedback on this. I don’t know if this is the pre- or post- feedback copy, but the idea seemed like a good one. I could have voiced a couple pointers. ;-) I don’t think that flaunting one’s homosexual tendencies is the same as being flamboyant though.

    I think that publications from the church typically go through the correlation committee. I suppose one could figure out exactly who they are, based on that.

  4. avatar

    To be honest, I often get frustrated when I read such materials from the Church… then I remember the Church’s definition of this topic: “any kind of erotic thoughts, feelings, or behaviors towards persons of the same sex” (providentliving.org, italics added).

    If I read the pamphlet with how I view my attractions, I get bogged down and defeated. However, if I read the pamphlet with how they view same-sex attractions, I can see how the Church is just trying to protect us from having erotic thoughts and feelings and then acting on such.

  5. avatar

    Ron Schow

    I am really very pleased by this new pamphlet because something like this is needed for young people who have these feelings. This should be perfect for a seminary student or a teenager or young adult who is trying to figure this out by him or herself.

    After two readings, my favorite quotes are these.

    “In some circumstances a person defers marriage because he or she is not presently attracted to a member of the opposite gender. 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. ” p. 3(especially the first sentence and the last phrase here)

    “Attractions alone do not make you unworthy.” p 6

    “Some people with same-gender attraction have felt rejected because members of the Church did not always show love. No member of the Church should ever be intolerant. As you show love and kindness to others, you give them an opportunity to change their attitudes and follow Christ more fully.” p. 9

    “Despair and doubt may lead to withdrawal, fault-finding, and impatience that all answers and resolutions for life?s problems are not immediately forthcoming. The Spirit of God brings good cheer and happiness. Trust the Lord. Do not blame anyone?not yourself, not your parents, not God?for problems not fully understood in this life.”
    p. 10 (The last sentence is a gem)

    “Some people have been abused during the early years of life or have engaged in sexual experimentation at a young age. If this has happened to you, please understand that abuse by others or youthful experiences should not create a present sense of guilt, unworthiness, or rejection by God or His Church. Innocent mischief early in life does not predispose a youth toward same-gender attraction as an adult.” p. 10 (again, great last sentence)

    “No one is, or ever could be, excluded from the circle of God?s love or the extended arms of His Church, for we are all His beloved sons and daughters.” p. 13 ( I’d like to think this includes John G-W and opens a place for all others like him)

  6. avatar

    John Gustav-Wrathall

    I just finished reading the pamphlet from beginning to end. Here are some of my favorite excerpts:

    “You can be happy during this life.”

    “Same-gender attractions include deep emotional, social, and physical feelings. All of Heavenly Father?s children desire to love and be loved…”

    “Your bishop and other leaders can counsel you and teach the true principles of God?s plan for His children, but ultimately the sustained strength you need must come from the Lord as you submit to the influence of the Holy Ghost and exercise faith in Jesus Christ.”

    Ron, you already picked out the best one… “No one is, or ever could be, excluded from the circle of God?s love or the extended arms of His Church, for we are all His beloved sons and daughters.”

    As I read everything the pamphlet advises about faith and trust in God, seeking the guidance of the Spirit, relying on the atonement, and cultivating a rich, daily spiritual life built around prayer, study, fellowship with the Saints and loving service, I felt a deep sense of satisfaction and happiness… I found myself saying Amen and Amen. The one thing I wish the brochure had explicitly added (though I think it is implicit) is that such a life of faith should be encouraged and supported even if you are not at the present time able to live celibately. I wish there was a little more explicit encouragement to view things less in terms of “either/or” and more in terms of “line upon line, precept upon precept.”

    But I can’t really criticize it for that. I honestly think this is the very best official publication on the subject I have ever seen. They didn’t even use the word abomination once. :)

  7. avatar

    Ron Schow

    Playasinmar on his blog says this is not an accurate sentence in the new pamphlet.

    “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. ? p. 3

    I wish it could be edited to read

    While SOME Latter-day Saints, through individual effort, the exercise of faith, and reliance upon the enabling power of the Atonement, overcome THEIR DESIRE TO ACT ON THEIR same-gender attraction in mortality, others may not be free of this challenge in this life. ? p. 3

    I feel that would be more accurate.

  8. avatar

    When the church says “many” it is heard as “100% who try have completly changed so what’s your problem?”

  9. avatar

    socal

    Okay, I have to respond to this. I recognize that for most of you, I am preaching to the chior but I felt based on comments I have heard, this might be the best place to post this. While I do think that some statements could have been worded better to be more accurate… for example, the statement “many Latter-day Saints have… overcome same-gender attraction…” (the word “some” instead of “many” would be more accurate). Overall, I am very happy that the Church has published this pamphlet. I really feel that the brethren are trying to show that there is a place in the kingdom for those who struggle with SSA but desire to remain faithful to their gospel covenants.

    I guess what I find really discouraging are statements that are overly critical of the Church for any effort they make to try to be encouraging to those who strugge. It seems that these type of overly critical statements are meant as ways to find fault with the Church and/or the Brethren because they aren’t going “far enough.” I respect the viewpoints of all those shared in this blog and in others but I ask of you, what really do you want the Church and/or the Brethren to say? Do you want them to embrace homosexual relationships with open arms? It is not going to happen. I struggle with this, just as much as anyone else here in this blog. My whole point is, recognize the efforts that the Church is trying to make here. Any errors in this and other publications are the errors of men. I believe that the brethren and other leaders in the Church, for the most part, are being genuine when they are trying to reach out. The least we can do is recognize that.

    Finally, while we may see some statements again made by the Church in the future, I don’t believe that we are going to see some all-encompassing statement that will be able to “help” everyone. Each individual, whether they experience SSA or not, is unique. Their challenges are unique and no statement made can possibly satisfy or assist each person and their individual needs. So I say, accept and rejoice in truth where you can find it. I don’t see how being obsessed with some statements that are not always the most accurate is going to bring you happiness and help you find peace.

  10. avatar

    I just wish that the leaders of the church would talk to some of us “normal” gay Mormons, rather than the LDS therapists who profess that SSA is “100% curable.” I think this pamphlet is a great start, but could use some differing points of view from those of us who live with this.

    I have put forth great individual effort, I have exercised faith, and I have relied upon the enabling power of the Atonement – yet I still have not “overcome” SGA.

    BTW, the “100% curable” quote comes from my aunt who works with the therapy people at the MTC. Those guys profess it is 100% curable. Eek. Anyone want to place bets on whether or not the MTC people had input to the pamphlet?

  11. avatar

    Lest I give off an air of discontent over that one point, I do have to say that I did read the whole pamphlet and found it refreshing. I’m glad that this is becoming a topic worthy of discussion in the church. Maybe it will end up in the Priesthood/RS manual one of these days. :)

  12. avatar

    -L-

    I think the original wording of “many” overcoming SGA in mortality is perfectly appropriate. Many isn’t the same as most, and correctly avoids overstating it as “all.” How one overcomes is different for different people, but I don’t think it should be limited to merely those who have managed not to act on their feelings–there are certainly other outcomes reported more dramatic than that. It is neither appropriate to imply that everyone should be able to easily change their orientation nor to imply that nobody ever can.

    Socal, I’ve read some pretty obnoxious critiques of the brethren in regard to their manner of teaching and dealing with homosexuality issues in the church, and I second your suggestion that this is discouraging. I hope in starting the discussion here you don’t believe I’ve “obsessed” about this issue. This blog aims to support the brethren and the church absolutely. But I’ve noticed legitimate questions that remain unanswered. For example, I have a friend in a stake presidency who wonders retrospectively whether his SGA might have influenced his getting that calling despite that he has been 100% morally clean and faithful in his marriage. I’ve personally been released from a calling in a manner that suggested it was specifically because of a misunderstanding of SGA. These sorts of things could use some clarification, in my mind.

    John G-W, what do you mean by, “a life of faith should be encouraged and supported even if you are not at the present time able to live celibately”? How is someone not able to be celibate?

  13. avatar

    I have two comments on this thread: First, something socal wrote (#9) resonates with me:

    I guess what I find really discouraging are statements that are overly critical of the Church for any effort they make to try to be encouraging to those who struggle. It seems that these types of overly critical statements are meant as ways to find fault with the Church and/or the Brethren because they aren?t going ‘far enough.’

    On another list, someone cynically wrote: “It ought to be titled ‘The Joy of Celibacy for God’s Lonely Children.'” This annoys me because they criticize the Church for not being more loving, but the simply truth is that, for a great many, nothing will be good enough until the Church endorses same-sex unions both civilly and theologically and renounces all past “homophobic” statements, and repents in sackcloth and ashes. But, that won’t matter either, really, because the Church wouldn’t be true anyway—after all, how could any “true” Church have preached in hateful ignorance for so many years.

    I have more remarks on that, but I may hold off and post something separately.

    The other point—the more important point—is that the Church has openly solicited feedback on this pamphlet. There seems to be a mixed reaction here about some things said. If there are statements you think are in error—even if mildly—or could be rephrased better, please, let them know. I can only imagine that will be taken into consideration for some future reprinting. I’m encouraged by a lot of the positive statements that were made, statements outlined in earlier comments so I won’t reiterate them, but there are some things I believe could be said better, or that I really just don’t like. So, I’ll share my feedback with the Church and hope it’s taken into consideration. If not, I’ll simply rejoice that the Church has come out with something that affirms God’s love and seeks, however imperfectly, to reach out to homosexual Latter-day Saints.

  14. avatar

    John Gustav-Wrathall

    -L- Technically, you are right. It is hard to imagine anyone literally incapable of celibacy. But what I meant is that large numbers of people find that they are not able to be celibate and experience the kind of happiness we all reasonably expect to experience in this life. We are all different, and we all experience the drive for sex with varying degrees of intensity, and there are some who can be quite happy living celibately, some rare folks, in fact, who prefer it. Others find life in that state virtually unbearable.

    Furthermore, once people have established lives together and become interdependent, this has a strong impact on subsequent choices. Again technically you are right, someone in an intimate relationship is able to cut it off, but common human decency and compassion, not to mention love, forbid it. So, one could say that it is not possible for some to achieve celibacy in a way that is ethical or compassionate. This is probably why Paul told the Saints in I Corinthians 7 to remain in the state they found themselves in when they converted. I would not argue, looking at this from another side of the coin, that unhappiness in a mixed-orientation marriage should be automatic grounds for divorce. The common life that has been created, the interdependencies (economic, social and emotional) that have been forged demand to be considered in making ethical decisions about dissolving a partnership.

    Ultimately, my point is that each individual must be free to make such momentous and deeply personal decisions based on their conscience. Perhaps to be more technically accurate I should have said that those who choose to live in same-sex partnerships should still be encouraged to foster a moral, ethical and spiritual life in every way possible.

  15. avatar

    John Gustav-Wrathall

    Tito – until you pointed out that the Church is soliciting feedback on the pamphlet, I don’t think it was brought up. That alone says something, if you ask me. Has the Church ever solicited general feedback on official publications before? To me, this is another positive sign. (Though maybe the Curriculum Planning Department doesn’t know what they’re setting themselves up for by asking for it…!)

  16. avatar

    “How is someone not able to be celibate?” -L

    I don’t know but I do know most aren’t. There are few Mormons on Earth. There are very few homosexuals. There are also very, very few people who will live out life in celibacy.

    Overlap the three circles of this Venn diagram and you get a very, very, very tiny population the entire community is told to emulate and join.

  17. avatar

    “But, that won?t matter either, really, because the Church wouldn?t be true anyway?after all, how could any ?true? Church have preached in hateful ignorance for so many years.” -Tito

    Ouch, Tito. Ouch. The men who lead the Church are only human.

    (Unless… which church issue are you discussing here? Race or orientation?)

  18. avatar

    Ron Schow

    “Some can overcome” is not the same as “nobody ever can.”

    If there are “many” who can it would be interesting to know how many on the MOHO blogs feel they have. In reading them, I don’t get the sense that anyone feels the attractions have disappeared, but I haven’t read them all. I do get the sense that some (a few) have “overcome their desire to act.on their attractions.”

    “change their orientation” What does that mean? Change it from one orientation to another??? Change it 1/10 of one percent??? How you define that term “change” gets to be a very slippery slope!!!! Actions and behavior are measureable but “change” is pretty vague. I am so grateful the Brethren were wise enough not to use that word “change.”..To me the term “overcome” is one we often use with sin, and “behavior” IS the sin according to the 1991 First Presidency statement.

  19. avatar

    Tito,

    Thanks for pointing out that they are soliciting feedback on it. I didn’t see that before. They might get some feedback from me. I would hope that they would get feedback from all of us. :)

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  21. avatar

    socal

    L – I’m kind of getting around to responding to one phrase in your comment about how you hope that I don’t feel like you are obsessing or that this blog is. No, I do not feel that way. Actually, I feel this blog and others like it are quite useful resources for support for one another. My comment from a little while back was in reference to some people who feel the need to criticize the brethren for saying too little on the issue of same-sex attraction and then over-analyze and criticize every word they say when the brethren to provide comment on the issue.

    I have great respect for you and many others on this and other blogs who open their personal lives to the rest of us, particularly to see single guys like me who have hopes of finding an understanding sister in the Church to marry and raise a family with someday.

    Take care and I hope all is well.

    Socal