By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them

“Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matthew 7:16-20)

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When I first heard a gay LDS man express his gratitude to Heavenly Father for blessing him to meet and marry his husband, I was amazed and very pleasantly surprised. Since then, I have heard several other LDS men and women testify of divine inspiration they received that led them to their relationship with their same-sex spouse. They acknowledge the Lord’s hand in bringing them into that relationship, and continue to include the Savior as part of their marriage. Not only does such a statement defy archaic stereotypes about gay relationships, but it challenges the common Mormon paradigm about what Heavenly Father accepts as a righteous family relationship.

It is inconceivable to most mainstream Mormons to suggest that Heavenly Father would condone, let alone inspire and facilitate, a same sex marriage. They would even call it blasphemous for a gay member to pray for such a thing. This is because they view a gay sexual orientation as a sin and a perversion. In their view, all people are born straight and because of sinful behavior and rebellion against God (i.e. being sexually molested as a child or experimentation as a teen) they became perverts. Most still do not accept the church’s official position that being gay is not a choice and not a sin.

While the church is to be applauded for acknowledging that being gay is not a choice and not a sin, the church continues to define the Law of Chastity from a biased heteronormative perspective:

“Sexual relations between a man and woman who are not married, or between people of the same sex, violate one of our Father in Heaven’s most important laws and get in the way of our eternal progress.” (LDS.org, Gospel Topics, “Same-Sex Attraction”)

However, this interpretation of the Law of Chastity has its origins in a day when same-sex couples were not allowed to be legally and lawfully married. The immorality of sexual relationships outside the bonds of marriage is universally accepted among most world religions. Now that same-sex marriage is recognized and protected by the law in all 50 states and territories of the US, and in an increasing number of nations around the world, an update to the current LDS definition is necessary. The phrase “who are not married” should be moved slightly to the right and should read:

“Sexual relations between a man and woman or between people of the same sex, who are not married, violate one of our Father in Heaven’s most important laws and get in the way of our eternal progress.”

The church’s official definition of chastity already states it this way:

“Chastity means not having any sexual relations before marriage. It also means complete fidelity to husband or wife during marriage.” (LDS.org, Gospel Topics, “Chastity”)

This definition of chastity is much more in alignment with what endowed members of the church covenant with God to observe. The temple covenant requires abstinence from all sexual relations except with the person to whom you are legally and lawfully married. It is a covenant that even same-sex married couples can keep.

Church leaders and other members insist that gay members must bear their “afflictions” with patience (as if being gay is a disease or disability) and remain celibate for life, all while they themselves enjoy the companionship and sexual intimacy of their own marriage. They argue that it is no different than asking straight singles in the church to stay celibate. It is not the same, because straight singles have the option to marry and to love someone in alignment with their sexual orientation. Gay members are told that they can never love someone in harmony with their sexual orientation, and must remain celibate for the rest of their lives.

Even the Savior taught that celibacy is not for everyone, but only for those “to whom it is given” and only if he is “able to receive it” (Matthew 19:11-12). When a gay member does not feel called to celibacy and is not personally able to receive it, and instead chooses to marry someone of the same sex, they are shamed, condemned, ostracized, excommunicated, and labeled as apostates. I know this is not what the Savior would want to be happening in His church.

When I came out to my straight sister who is a devout member of the church, I asked her how she would feel if the church were to say that she couldn’t be married to a man and had to remain celibate or marry a woman. Her sexual orientation is oriented toward the opposite sex, and the idea that the church would demand her to give up her husband and live a celibate life or marry a woman was shocking to her. I asked her how obedient she thought she could be to that if it were a commandment. Suddenly she had a glimpse from the gay member’s point of view. It was a major paradigm shift for her.

When it comes to the issue of gays being obedient to current church dictates, the best lesson from the scriptures is the story of Adam and Eve. It is interesting how the first lesson taught in the Bible is not about “obedience”, as many have misunderstood, but it is really about “agency”.

In the garden of Eden, the Lord gave Adam and Eve commandments that directly conflicted with each other, so that it was impossible to be obedient to both. They were commanded to not partake of the fruit of the tree, and at the same time they were commanded to be fruitful and multiply. To obey one required disobeying the other. It wasn’t about God wanting them to be obedient at all costs. What God wanted was for Adam and Eve to use their agency to choose the path that would bring about the greatest benefits toward God’s work and glory. It was all about making a choice, no matter how difficult, to bring about the most good and the best fruits.

We focus so much in the church on obedience. But what I get from the Adam and Eve story is that using our agency to bring about the most good is far superior to blind obedience. It also reminds me of the parable of the talents. Being obedient for obedience sake is just burying your talent — it doesn’t create the conditions necessary for growth. Clearly the Lord is interested in his children multiplying their talents, being fruitful, and being “anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward” (D&C 58:27-28).

The Lord wants us to use the gifts and talents he has endowed us with to bless the lives of others, and not bury them in the ground or hide them under a bushel. While many in the church consider being gay a curse, an affliction, or a disease, being gay is actually a gift from God. It is ironic that so many gay members try to “pray the gay away” (like I did myself for many years) and want to get rid of the very thing that God has blessed them with. God has given us gay members special gifts that we can feel proud of and grateful to have received.

As LGBT Saints, we have been endowed with many special gifts and abilities that the Lord needs in the church and in His kingdom (and someday the church will figure that out). This is one reason it has been estimated that many in church leadership positions are gay. I was a bishop and held other key positions in the church before I came out, and many of the qualities that I needed to magnify those callings I can see as directly related to my being gay. Qualities like compassion and sensitivity, to name a few, are so important for church leadership and service, and they are common qualities among LGBT members.

Gay Mormons are in a very similar situation as Adam and Eve, and have to choose between being obedient to current church dictates, or choosing a path that will bring about greater love, joy, spiritual growth, and fulfillment of God’s purposes. Many gay Mormons are living a life full of good and bringing about much righteousness in a committed same-sex marriage. It is a personal decision that only the member can make for him or herself. They may be cast out of the garden of Eden because of their choice, but at the end of their days they will have had the opportunity to have a fruitful life. And as the Savior taught, we can know what is true and right by its fruits. By their fruits ye shall know them.

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