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?