If you believe in the restored gospel and want to apply it in your life as a gay member, then you probably value the law of chastity (especially if you are an endowed member who loves the temple, and you want to do your best to live up to those covenants). So how does a gay LDS member, who wants to be in a relationship with another person of the same sex, keep their covenants and stay in the Church? Is it even possible?
The idea of being an openly gay Mormon who is dating, and living up to the temple standard of chastity, may seem to be somewhat of a non-sequitur. I think the answer for gay LDS members should be the same as it is for all members. Abstain from sexual relations except with the husband or wife to whom you are legally and lawfully married. Now that same-sex marriage is legal and lawful in the United States and in a growing number of countries around the world, it is totally conceivable for gay members to live up to their temple covenants and be dating others of the same sex, and ultimately get married to a same-sex spouse. In this post, I will be referring to the purpose of dating in terms of eventually finding a same-sex relationship that will grow into a stable and happy marriage. For Mormons, is there any other reason to date than as a preparation for marriage?
Sadly, same-sex dating continues to be frowned upon by the Church, not only because of presumed illicit sexual behavior that is so often the stereotype imposed on gay members, but precisely because dating should lead to marriage. As a result, we continue to see so many gay LDS members leaving the Church in large numbers and abandoning their previously held standards, including chastity. This can make it very challenging for the growing number of out gay members who want to stay in the Church, to form a healthy romantic relationship with someone of the same sex, and live the law of chastity as defined in the temple.
Unfortunately, the Church (i.e the fifteen members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, sometimes referred to as the Q15) currently defines chastity as more than what is defined in the temple, and tag on the bit about same-sex marriage also being a violation of chastity. While we can say that the source of the endowment is pure revelation, the same cannot be said of the Church’s current position in opposition to same-sex marriage.
The Family Proclamation Is Not Revelation
Even the Family Proclamation has not been granted revelation status in the Church, though the Brethren could have put it up for canonization and to be sustained by the body of the Church years ago. Yet, they have not yet chosen to do that. Part of the reason may be that the Family Proclamation was written by Church attorneys, so it may be kind of hard to call it revelation when it was foremost a legal document used by the Church to give justification for its involvement in several court cases where legalization of same-sex marriage was the issue.
I think the main reason the Family Proclamation is not canonized is because it is a guideline or a standard promoted by the Church, not a revelation and not a doctrine set in stone. In effect, it is primarily a “word of wisdom” (as the Word of Wisdom was originally intended to be) offered to the members of the Church “not by commandment or constraint… Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints.” (D&C 89:2-3) In fact, the words of the Family Proclamation specifically point out how its principles and patterns for family success should be adapted to the needs and circumstances of individual members. “Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.” Same sex orientation is a valid circumstance that necessitates individual adaptation.
Just as with all policies, practices, guidelines, and standards promoted by the Church, they are subject to change. Birth control used to be considered a sin, but today it is not. 40+ years ago, it was heresy to think that people of African descent could be given the priesthood or attend the temple, but today they do. I believe the same will happen to the Church’s prohibition of same-sex marriage, probably within the next 5-10 years (i.e. when Elder Holland becomes president of the Church). Maybe even sooner.
The Shame of It
I would go so far as to say that the reason the vast majority of out gay members leave the Church is because of the law of chastity, or more accurately the current amended definition of the law of chastity. As the Q15 have been enforcing this amended definition, it brings shame on gay members. Even if they are in compliance, many gay members feel intense shame because they are naturally inclined to a sexual preference that is prohibited by the Church. Hence, when gay members become authentic about their sexuality and come out, the shame can become unbearable and toxic so that the member feels they must leave the Church for their own well-being.
When gay members leave the Church or even if they stay in the Church but feel they have been sidelined or excluded, it’s natural for them to start to question all of the values and standards they had followed all their lives, including chastity. For this reason, it is very common for out gay members to also engage in sexual relations outside of marriage. It is not because they are bad people and not even because they might have lost their testimonies. What it boils down to is that gay members are more vulnerable to illicit sexual behavior because of the trauma caused by the shame and exclusion by the Church.
Strengthening Families or Not
Ironically, the Church’s current efforts to strengthen families and promote chastity are having the opposite effect among gay members. In their efforts to enforce the principles of the Family Proclamation, Church leaders are in fact destroying families and promoting sexual illicitness among gay members. The absence of a support system in the Church supporting gay members in establishing healthy and stable relationships and marriages only undermines the institution of marriage and weakens the family.
If Church leaders were to stop shaming and disciplining gay members who are pursuing or who are in a same-sex marriage, I believe we would see an overall strengthening of families, a reduction of sexual relations outside of marriage (the true definition of chastity), and a cease to the hemorrhaging loss of gay members from the ranks of Church membership. If the Church were to instead support same-sex marriage, and provide a support system for gay members seeking a healthy and stable marriage (as it does already for its straight members), we would not only see greater adherence to chastity among gay members, but we would see the establishment of strong same-sex families in the Church based on the principles of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. These couples and their children would become huge assets to the Church and the establishment of Zion throughout the world.
The positive results to the Church worldwide would be enormous. For this reason, I believe it is only logical to conclude that the Church will adapt to the needs of its members, and that soon a revelation will be coming that reverses the current policy prohibiting same-sex marriage. And when that happens, the Church needs to jump in immediately to start providing support to strengthen gay members in establishing loving, Christ-centered same-sex marriages that will endure. What a huge blessing this would be to the Church and to all its members, gay and straight, all over the world.
In the meantime, it will be largely left up to us as individual gay Mormons to hold fast to our temple covenants and the temple standard of chastity. We can do this, with or without the support we should be getting from the Church, and seek after virtuous, loving, Christ-centered same-sex relationships that can be worthy of marriage, the temple, and all the blessings of eternity.
Why I Am So Optimistic
One of the first comments I got to the above post stated that I am much more optimistic than she is. Let me explain why I can justify such optimism.
I know that my optimism around this topic can be quite surprising to most people. But when you look at Church history and the precedent that has been set, it’s clear that the Church has changed long-standing policies and practices, and will do so again. Especially when the Church receives such negative PR as it has over the gay marriage issue, or when change is clearly in its best interest.
Wilford Woodruff ended polygamy when under pressure from the federal government, and there was real fear for the survival of the Church. Spencer W. Kimball reversed a century of false doctrine in the Church by ending the ban of priesthood and temple blessings for members of African descent, a change that was essential for the growth of the Church in Brazil, Africa, and other nations around the world.
Today there is a strong argument for how the Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage could stifle the growth and prosperity of the Church around the world. Already we have seen possibly hundreds of thousands of people leave the Church because of its position. Not only gay members, but their family and allies. And today, Millennials are leaving the Church in large numbers, greatly influenced by this issue.
I believe the Brethren are very aware of this issue and how it is impacting the future of the Church. Considering the changes that have already been implemented in the Church since President Nelson took the helm is an evidence that even he might be considering a change to this policy prohibiting same-sex marriage. Notice that one of the new apostles called, Elder Gong, has a gay son himself and could be a very strong force for changing the policy. And certainly by the time Elder Holland becomes president of the Church (after Nelson, Oaks, and Ballard), change is almost certain.
There is a rumor that the decision to implement the Exclusion policy took place when Elder Uchtdorf and Holland were away on travel, and they were not consulted before it was implemented. It is almost certain that they were left out of the decision intentionally because they would have opposed it.
Considering the ages of Nelson, Oaks, and Ballard, it is unlikely any of them will still be living more than 5-10 years from now. The much younger Elder Holland will then become the president of the Church, and I believe he will call Elder Uchtdorf back into the First Presidency as one of his counselors. Then the tide will turn, and there will be few in the Q15 to oppose acceptance of same-sex marriage in the Church.
Now do you see why I am so optimistic?
I would like nothing better than to see your ideas come to fruition, but there are too many obstacles in Doctrine for it to happen. You say, “I believe it is only logical to conclude,” yet few things have been determined by Logic in church history. The one point you have not addressed is the plan of Eternal procreation as the goal of marriage in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom. Perhaps God has a plan for two male spirits to beget more spirits. That would be an interesting thought to pursue.
Mike, because there has been no specific revelation to the whole Church concerning the doctrine of what will happen to same sex oriented individuals and couples in the eternities, we must rely only on what we do know and avoid speculation. Many have considered the mention of “ministering” angels or servants in D&C 132 as the possible outcome for homosexuals. While such an outcome would still be a wonderful existence in the Celestial Kingdom, we still do not have enough that has been revealed on this subject to do more than just speculate.
When you say “plan of eternal procreation”, if you are inferring that only couples who can procreate are worthy of being sealed or to inherit exaltation in the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom, such a notion is unfounded and not doctrinal or scriptural. The Church does not prohibit marriages of couples who are infertile and cannot produce offspring. This includes elderly couples who get married and who are far beyond the years of bearing children. President Nelson is himself one of those who has been married when there is no chance of producing offspring.
Does the inability to procreate make the marriage any less worthy of exaltation? Certainly not. It is therefore reasonable to extend this same logic to same-sex couples. If the ability to procreate is the standard God is using, then same-sex marriage should not be singled out, and marriages of infertile or elderly couples should also be prohibited. However, if the Church is going to continue to recognize and solemnize marriages of infertile or elderly couples, then it should also extend that privilege to same-sex couples. Reason leaves no room for justifying bigotry against same-sex couples.
As for two males or two females begetting offspring in the eternities, one can only speculate. I love the story of the homosexual penguins in the Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland. The two males paired off, and when all the females were starting to lay eggs, the gay couple seemed confused that they hadn’t been able to produce their own egg. They found an egg-shaped rock and brought it to their nest, and tended to it just as the female penguins did to their eggs. The zookeepers witnessed this behavior, and when they noticed that a female penguin had an extra egg she couldn’t care for, they took the rejected egg and replaced the homosexual penguin’s rock with the egg. The gay penguins tended that egg as if it was their own, and when it hatched they cared for and raised the baby penguin that otherwise would have died.
As the scriptures tell us, “with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37).
LovinglyAnon, your argument on the “plan of eternal procreation” that uses infertility or old age as reasons for not having children is unfortunately not taking into account the fact that our bodies will return to a perfect form after the resurrection so these couples WILL be able to have children in the eternities, whereas same-sex couples still won’t be able to, even with perfect bodies.
To the author of this post: I appreciate your optimism. I appreciate the fact that you are advocating a life of worthiness as an openly gay member. Unfortunately, I don’t see this happening. Even if the church has changed policies on those topics you mention, those changes were not going against God’s doctrine. The gospel doesn’t change. You cannot find a scripture anywhere in the bible, the BoM, or the D&C that will support same-sex marriage. That’s why, I don’t think the position of the church will change on that subject.
But the church isn’t rejecting gay members. The church is rejecting the behavior that breaks the law of chastity as you mention in your post. So it is very much possible to be attracted to same-sex people and be members of the church who can go to the temple. Unfortunately, being attracted is the extent to which gay members can live their sexual lives to stay worthy of a temple recommend.
Also, remember that the Q15 must be in full unity to bring about changes. If all 15 members are not in agreement, there will be no change. So when you say that there could be disagreements, it means there would be no change.
I don’t want to burst your “bubble” here. Maybe you are right. Maybe that will change. I just don’t see how it could happen, especially since marriage is scripturally a man-woman thing. And God intended it that way for procreation, which is impossible for same-sex marriages. And since we are literally in God’s image, women can bear children, and not men.
The OC, your points in favor of the “procreation argument” (i.e. same-sex marriage is bad because gay couples cannot procreate) is based on the premise that after the Resurrection, straight couples who were barren in mortality will be able to have children because their bodies will be perfected, but gay couples will still not be able to procreate even with perfect bodies, and therefore same-sex marriage is bad.
This statement assumes that procreation is the only reason for marriage, and that couples who can’t procreate are not worthy of marriage or of exaltation in the eternities. It also assumes that adoption is not accepted in the eternities, and it also assumes that God does not have power to provide a way for all righteousness. I see no doctrinal foundation for any of these assumptions, not even in D&C 132. The assumptions seem to be more folklore and traditions of men than actual doctrine. Even though D&C 132 refers to a man marrying a woman, that would be expected from within a heteronormative perspective, and there is nothing that explicitly precludes the same blessings being applied to same-sex couples.
The truth is, there is so much about the eternities that has yet to be revealed, and drawing profound conclusions with arrogant confidence really is unjustified. More humility is required until the Lord reveals more on the subject. And I believe more will be revealed, because I cannot see how a loving Heavenly Father would relegate 5-10% of his children to not even have the chance for exaltation, simply because of their sexual orientation that they did not choose. That would make God a very unjust and unloving God, and that’s not the Heavenly Father that I believe in.
Your next argument may be that after the Resurrection, all gays will be “cured” of the disease of their same-sex orientation, and they will want and will be given the opportunity to enter into opposite sex marriages, and be able to procreate, and therefore be worthy of exaltation. Let me clarify that the Brethren have not stated this, and we simply do not know whether same-sex orientation continues beyond the Resurrection. The Family Proclamation would seem to hold that our sexual orientation is something that is eternal and part of our premortal, mortal, and post-mortal existence.
However, even if it were explicitly revealed by God that people who are gay in mortality will be made straight after the Resurrection, why prohibit same-sex marriage now in mortality? Since before 1842 when Celestial marriage was first revealed, the Church has allowed people to be married “for time only”, and to be sealed “for eternity” to someone else. Why doesn’t the Church allow gay members to be in a stable, loving, committed, monogamous same-sex marriage “for time only”, knowing that they will be straight in the eternities and can be sealed in an opposite-sex Celestial marriage?
Personally, I don’t believe that same-sex orientation will be “cured” in the Resurrection, because I don’t think there is anything that needs to be cured. God created 5-10% of all of his children through all generations of time to be gay, and perfectly so, for whatever purpose He may have. I believe he wants his gay children to receive all of the same blessings that his straight children have been offered — God is no respecter of persons. What needs to change is the bigotry and prejudice that exists within the Church that attempts to block Heavenly Father from extending these blessings to his gay children. Might as well try to reverse the course of the Missouri River than prevent the Lord from pouring out his blessings upon the gay Latter-day Saints.