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.