Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Gay and Mormon?

I was thinking about this blog I created last night after retiring for bed; and, I thought that I should probably explain the gay thing a bit more.

First of all, the LDS church doesn't like us calling ourselves gay, preferring us to use terms like "same gender attraction" (SGA) or "same sex attraction" (SSA). The concern being that some people have preconceived notions of what 'gay' means and often associate it with the, so called, 'gay lifestyle' or 'gay culture', (which they believe to mean promiscuous sex, drugs, etc.).

I, however, believe that there is more to being gay besides having sex with other men. I believe that there is a non-sexual aspect to being gay. I am married and I'm 100% faithful to my wife. But, the truth of the matter is, in personality and interests, I probably have more in common with other gay men than I do with most straight men. I will probably blog more about this in the future. For now, suffice it to say that I would probably feel more at home if I were to join a gay mens chorus than I would playing basketball with the brethren from church.

Speaking of the LDS churches position on homosexuality. Being the good Mormon boy that I am, I make extensive use of the resources that can be found on On one such occasion, I searched all Ensign articles (which includes most conference talks) that contained the word "homosexual". I extracted each paragraph that mentioned the word and organized them in chronological order. After studying this list, I made the following observations:

  1. In the period of time of 1971 to 1986, homosexuality was often associated with words such as: perversion, inspired by the devil, seldom happy, encourages promiscuity, harmful, morally wrong, a vitiating disease, abominations, gross sin, unholy transgression, heinous sin,
  2. During that same time period (1971-1986) homosexuality was also linked with other things such as: alcoholics, drug abusers, fornicators, adulterers, murderers, abortion
  3. Although, interestingly, even as far back back as 1971, church leaders condemned “persecution of homosexuals”.
  4. In 1977, J. Richard Clarke blamed homosexuality on lack of a “normal, loving father-and-son relationship”.
  5. In 1980, we start to see statements against “homosexual marriages” as part of the opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment
  6. In 1980, Steve Gilliland stated that “individuals tempted with homosexual or other abnormal tendencies can, with patience, commitment, and faith, control such desires and permit normal desires to awaken and take precedence over the abnormal”.
  7. In 1982, Bruce C. Hafen reported that “American Psychiatric Association recently voted to remove homosexuality from its list of disorders” and then quoted a study stating that “that 50 percent of the male homosexuals surveyed in one American city had had at least 500 sexual partners and 28 percent had had 1,000 partners”
  8. Starting in 1988, there is a softening of the rhetoric against homosexuality by using terms such as: homosexual behavior, homosexual relations, homosexual inclinations or practices, homosexual tendencies, homosexual or lesbian susceptibilities or feelings, homosexual difficulties, homosexual attraction, homosexual struggles, homosexual activity, homosexual lifestyle
  9. Although, it is still considered an “addictive behavior” (Spencer J. Condie, 1993) and a “perversion of God’s plan of happiness” (Joseph B. Wirthlin, 1994), “homosexual relations are sinful” and “homosexual relations, fornication, and adultery are grievous sins” (A. Dean Byrd, 1999), “abuses of the sacred power to create” (M. Russell Ballard, 1999)
  10. Starting in 1995, we start to see statements refuting claims that homosexuals are “born that way”, “is inborn”, “acquired by birth”, “determinative”, “caused by genetic inheritance”, “innate and unchangeable”, “biological or physiological causes”
  11. In 1995, Dallin H Oaks condemns “gay bashing”
  12. In 1995, Dallin H. Oaks also counsels “… words [like] homosexual, lesbian, and gay are adjectives to describe particular thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. We should refrain from using these words as nouns to identify particular conditions or specific persons.”
  13. In 1999, A. Dean Byrd concedes that “homosexual attraction may not result from conscious choices,” and quoted President Hinkley as saying “Marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices,”. He then says “When homosexual difficulties have been fully resolved, heterosexual feelings can emerge”
From this I conclude that the LDS Churches position on homosexuality is evolving and, I believe, it will continue to evolve over time. I don't know that we'll ever see a time when practicing homosexuals are accepted into full fellowship; however, I do look forward to a day when people who have same sex attraction are not ignored. I read somewhere that there are, on average, 5-6 people in every LDS ward who have same sex attraction. That's 50-60 people in an average stake. That's a sizable group of people for whom little, if anything, is done to address their needs. Mormon's are good people. If I had a physical handicap, an alcohol or drug addiction, or some other challenge in my life, the people at church would be tripping over each other in their efforts to assist me in any way that they could. However, as a gay man, I am forced to hide that part of me from other church members.

I know that there are probably other Mormon's who disagree with my decision to call myself 'gay' while remaining active in the LDS church. On the other side of the coin, there are gay people who cannot fathom why I choose to remain active, as a gay man, in a church that is largely homophobic. The 11th article of faith in the LDS church states:
We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
I believe this extends to gay people as well. Although I choose to remain gay celibate, I allow everyone else the same privilege to live their life as they see fit and only ask the same from them. And, I hope, we can all be friends.


-L- said...

I suspect that homosexuals themselves have changed over time as well as the church's rhetoric regarding the issue. Sometimes I wonder if the prevalence of whatever the conditions are that result in homosexuality has increased. I realize homosexuality has been around, but I have a hard time imagining it having the same prevalence among, say, pioneers crossing the plains.

I remember reading a pamphlet in the student health clinic about drug abuse, smoking, and alcoholism among homosexuals. It was a completely politically correct approach--there was no moral condemnation of homosexuality--but there were shocking statistics about the depth of substance abuse problems when compared to non-homosexual populations. This isn't too surprising if the best place to find a homosexual friend is in a bar. And promiscuity isn't surprising considering the impossibility of marriage and secrecy necessary for gays in the past (to even survive). This becomes less and less applicable now days.

Anyway, that's all just to say that there could be multiple reasons the church's rhetoric changes over time, not all of them pointing to changing discretion among the brethren.

emma said...

Dear M E (ME?) -- Thank you for starting this blog! I have already sent the address to my husband -- he may or may not post.

You mention non-sexual aspects of being gay. Well, that is one way to label your interests (or non-interests), but I could use a similar argument. I am not a lesbian, nor have I had those inclinations, but I don't sew, I hate gardening, I've never canned anything in my life (and never hope to), and my attention span in a craft store is probably identical to yours watching football. (By the way, I have come to greatly enjoy watching football, but that is another story -- change is possible!). I have to make myself clean house and cook dinner for my family. In fact, I would be deliriously happy living my days out in hotels! Does that mean I am not a 'true' LDS handmaiden for the Lord? Absolutely not! Celebrate your contradictions! Who you are is a gift -- discovering those gifts is part of life -- and then sharing those gifts, re who you are with all your wonderful contradictions, with others will bring joy to you and to others. Emma