In his nicely-written blog post “I Have Not Chosen to Be Celibate“, Ben Schilaty outlines the three possible paths that many think are the only options available to gay Mormons:
- Find an opposite-sex partner and stay in the Church.
- Leave the Church and find a same-sex partner.
- Stay in the Church and be celibate.
However, there is a fourth path for gay members, depending on how you define “staying in the Church”. If you can consider “staying in the Church” to include participating in Church meetings and striving to live the gospel of Jesus Christ, even under Church discipline, then you can consider a fourth option of being in a same-sex relationship or marriage. There is a growing number of gay members who want to be married to someone of the same sex AND stay connected to the Church and live the gospel of Jesus Christ to the fullest extent possible (just like anyone else in the Church).
It is no longer true that all members who enter a same-sex relationship automatically leave the Church and become antagonistic toward the Church. There is a growing number of members in same-sex relationships who continue to love the Church and strive to live the gospel, and who are struggling to maintain a precarious balance along the precipice between Church membership and living an authentic life as a gay son or daughter of God.
I know several in the DC area who are active members of their wards and who are in a same-sex marriage or relationship. While they do not hold temple recommends, they participate in Church meetings and serve in their wards to the extent that their bishop and stake president will allow them to. They have family home evening, study the scriptures, and pray, and do the best they can to live the gospel of Jesus Christ, just like any other active member of the Church.
Ben mentioned in his post that he was involved in organizing a support group for gay members in his stake, which is really great. I really applaud anyone who does this, and the stake presidents who are supportive. My stake in Virginia has sponsored such a group for years now, and has my stake president’s hearty endorsement. However, the one problem with this support group, and others like it, is that it doesn’t include those who want to be in a same-sex relationship AND stay in the Church. The numbers of such groups are seeming to dwindle, because the options of celibacy or opposite-sex marriage are insufficient for a majority of gay Mormons.
It seems to me that there is a great need to have a place to support members who are in same-sex relationships (or who want to be) and who want to stay in the Church. They probably need support more than anyone else, and are the most vulnerable to feeling ostracized and pushed out of the Church. Instead of saying “good riddance” to these brothers and sisters, we should be trying to strengthen them and support them in their desire to live the gospel of Jesus Christ in their lives to the fullest extent possible.
This subject has caused me to ponder how we can better reach out to gay members who are (or will be) in same-sex relationships/marriages and who want to stay in the Church. Many bishops and stake presidents are doing their best to do just that, trying to stop the hemorrhage of gay members leaving the Church. If such support could be provided in a wider way, then I believe a significant difference could be made in the lives of many.
We must also remember that we are a Church of continuing revelation. This doctrine is embedded in the gospel as the Ninth Article of Faith. By very definition, continuing revelation means we have to consider that the current policy and practice of forbidding same-sex marriage in the Church could be done away with, in the due time of the Lord — just as the once-considered unchangeable doctrine of forbidding priesthood and temple blessings to members of African descent was done away with in 1978. Within the next 5-10 years, perhaps when Elder Holland becomes president of the Church, we could very well see such a change take place.