Elder Holland held a Face to Face event yesterday evening (for background on previous Face to Face events, see my recent post), during which he responded to a series of questions, including a final two-part question about same-gender attraction. This is a transcript I made of the question(s) and response. I make no guarantees about the accuracy of the transcript, but you can check my work by viewing the video yourself here. This question begins around the 1:13:24 mark.
Face to Face Host:
[The] last question is in regards to same-gender attraction. And as you all are well aware, those who experience same-gender attraction in the Church, they encounter…
[Reading:] “Those who encounter this feel alone in the Church. They feel scared, and they’re not sure how they fit into the Lord’s kingdom. So if you could meet with them, face to face, what message would you share with them?”
Let me respond, and if Elder Hallstrom and Sister Stephens want to join in, please.
This is a current, sensitive, complex issue for the Church. It’s something of the time that we’re in. But let me say this to begin a response: I think we have talked altogether too much about gender and altogether too little about chastity. The issue is chastity. The issue is not gender. We have written, we have publicized, we have talked, we have put articles in Church magazines, about attraction. We do not make a judgment about someone’s attraction. We don’t know why that attraction came that way. And the person doesn’t. The one struggling with it doesn’t. We don’t make any attempt to say why that happened or how it happened. It might be as individual as there are those circumstances out across the Church. What we do say is that we teach chastity, for heterosexuals, for those with homosexual tendencies, whatever. We just go with what the Lord has declared about chastity and sanctity, the use of the body, and the spiritual impact, because it’s at least as much spiritual as physical, on sexual relationships. So please, maybe it helps everybody if we could just shift the discourse a little bit to that subject and talk about chastity, about which the Lord has been quite clear and will, I think, continue to be very clear, for all people, for all of His children.
Now, when that attraction exists, what we ask for those inclined to a homosexual feeling, is exactly what we ask for those with heterosexual feelings (I’m talking to a young single adult group), and that is, be faithful, be clean, be chaste. And for you, every blessing of this Church is available, in terms of the sacraments, the ordinances, going to the temple, sitting by Elder Hallstrom and Sister Stephens in General Conference. Whatever you need, and whatever you desire, and whatever you hope, those blessings are available to the chaste. We’ve published that in every way we know how to publish it. We’ve put it in our handbooks. It’s in the governing handbooks that give direction to the priesthood leaders of the Church.
Now, if some members fall short in that, then shame on them. And if I haven’t done well enough to teach it, then shame on me. That we are not passing judgment, we’re not issuing an indictment to somebody who has a feeling, to somebody who has an attraction, to somebody who has some complexities in their makeup that, I guess, neither they nor we fully understand. But we’re not making them second-class citizens, any more than, we were talking earlier about, sisters who don’t go on missions. We’re just talking about a single standard of devotion to the Lord and keeping the commandments. There are commandments. Sometimes that’s not publicly popular. Sometimes that’s not politically correct, to talk about commandments. But there are commandments, and as the Doctrine and Covenants said, “commandments not a few.” There are quite a few.
But we would be the first, by “we” I mean the General Authorities and General Officers of the Church. We would be the first, we would be on the front line to say that every person is welcome at the Church, and in our circles, and in our association, and in our friendship, on the basis of everybody trying to keep the commandments, everybody trying to be chaste, everybody trying to pay their tithing, and keep the Word of Wisdom, and do the things that we do in faithfulness in the Church. And so I think a lot of steam can come out of the kettle, and I hope some of the pain can come out of the conversation, if we could talk more fundamentally just about the divine standards of chastity, and stop talking quite so much about whether that’s a heterosexual application or a homosexual application. We’re just talking about chastity. And we’ll issue all of our love and all of our help, and everything we know to do, to help people meet that standard, whomever they are and wherever they are. I hope that can help anybody out there who’s struggling.
Face to Face Host:
Can I just add one quick, tiny, follow-up question to that? I know a lot of people that experience same-gender attraction, or whatever they may confront in life, whatever they struggle with in life, I mean, a lot of them fear that happiness isn’t available for them because, whatever reason. What words of hope do you have for them to tell them there is happiness, no matter what trial or whatever experience they go through?
Well, I think much that we’ve been saying, I think, is to address that, and to not make arbitrary distinctions. In my professional life (I’m trying to make sure that I add this up right and say right), I’ve only had two married secretaries, in my life, and all the others have been single. And those women can just as justifiably ask the same question as somebody who’s struggling with same-gender attraction, or whatever, and say, “What is there for me? What is the hope for me?” I say there is hope for all of us. There are promises. I don’t know when. Some blessings come now. Some blessings come later. Some blessings don’t come until heaven. But they come. Every word that God has ever uttered will be honored and fulfilled. Every word. That includes patriarchal blessings. That includes baby blessings. That includes confirmations at baptism. That includes temple promises. That includes, all of those promises will be kept. All of those words will be fulfilled. So we’re back to Section 4: patience, long-suffering, virtue, faith, charity. Those are the lessons for all of us. And there’ll be different stages and different lives to which they apply, in different seasons. But probably by the time we’re all through, we’re all going to ask those questions about “Where is hope for me?”, “Where is happiness for me?”, “What can I count on?” Married, single, new convert, long-time member. We’re probably all going to have a chance to ask that. And the answer is secure that the promises will be fulfilled.
Please feel free to comment below to share your thoughts.
Of course he totally begs the question. The church has recently designated Legal Gay Marriage to put the individual into a state of apostasy. Any children being raised by gay parents cannot be blesses, baptized, receive the priesthood or serve a mission unless that child repudiates his/her parents marriage and is willing to break up their family. But we won’t go into that. It’s because we love the children. He also begs the basic issue that in the church the standards for “what he is calling universal chastity” are very different for LGBT members than for other single members. So it’s not the same. His total example is bogus. So he dodged the issue entirely. Thanks for nothing.
Yay for inherently being more sensitive than Elder Bednar!
But you still missed the entire point. Thanks for nothing. Again.
I hear you. The claim “for you, every blessing of this Church is available” is not true for children of homosexual parents, although the response was not directed at them.
And it is true for gay Mormons only in the most technical sense. That is, technically if I make all the same decisions I would have made if I were heterosexual, the options available to me in the Church are the same. Let’s first admit that this is actually not a trivial thing. In another time (and still in many places), gay members would have been (are) mistreated just for coming out, even if they kept (keep) all the same rules as everyone else. If we can manage to change even that, it will be a good thing.
But suggesting that gay Mormons have all the same options available to them obviously ignores the ways in which they don’t. Many can’t healthily remain celibate or marry someone of the opposite sex, which is the precondition for everything else.
This claim is something we hear a lot, and I think Elder Holland knows as well as we do what how limited its application is.
Agreed, this was much more tactful and sensitive than Elder Bednar’s comments, which is worth celebrating.
I know that many will be very disappointed by these comments. To be honest, I’m pretty pleased by them overall. Within the bounds Elder Holland has for him (i.e., his beliefs and the beliefs of the church he officially represents), I think he’s doing some real good. We’ve heard it claimed many times that the law of chastity is the same for all people, but we always knew it actually applied differently to gay people and straight people. Straight people could date, hold hands, and kiss, but gay people could not. I think Elder Holland’s call to “talk more fundamentally just about the divine standards of chastity, and stop talking quite so much about whether that’s a heterosexual application or a homosexual application” could actually help things, because it suggests that the same things that are appropriate for straight people prior to marriage are appropriate for gay people prior to marriage. This still ignores the problem of marriage itself, but if ecclesiastical leaders took this advice seriously it would certainly be an incremental improvement.
So here is that disconnect. If the same standards hold true for heterosexual teens/young single adults as they do for homosexual teens/young single adults… Then those same standards should equally apply to married adults regards of orientation. Anything otherwise is discrimination.
As of now we are witnessing Bednar and Holland, like McBean, handing out stars upon thars.
What will happen when we Sneetches forget about stars and decide that Sneetches are Sneetches and no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches.
Nathan, your reference to the S-n-double-e-t-c-h-e-s is brilliant. I’m with you.
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