Whenever same-sex attraction and/or same-sex marriage is discussed, the focus tends to be on those who are already seeking/living in a same-gender relationship (a.k.a. gay and lesbian). But there is a forgotten group that experience homosexuality and who feel like they don’t fit into either side: that is members of the Church who experience same-sex attraction (SSA) and fight their temptations every day. They work so hard to obey their parents, church leaders, and God. They are on a roller coaster of emotions as they strive to live the commandments and discover their place in the Church and within God’s plan. Some days they are doing great; they have hit a milestone in their journey and are feeling on top of the world. Other days, they might feel low, hated, or feel like they can never improve, never be loved or accepted. And in all of those moments, we, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), as children of God (literal brothers and sisters), need to offer our unconditional love, support and friendship no matter what.
I cannot speak from personal experience about what it means to have SSA as a member of the Church, but I do observe as a very close bystander. I speak from my experience watching a very dear family member come out and try to find his place both in the world and at Church. I have always loved him. I have tried so hard to perfectly understand him, at all times, but there are so many times where I feel like I have failed him miserably. He is a beautiful son of God. I know that God loves him. As I have watched and been a part of his journey, I have learned a few things:
Love unconditionally. Love every single child of God, no matter their circumstance or trial. They are our literal brothers and sisters. Love them no matter what. Our love for those who struggle with SSA should be unconditional, just like God’s love for them and for all is unconditional. Don’t just say it one time when someone first comes out with SSA to you, show it whenever possible. Be their friend at church and outside of church associations. Talk to them, listen to them, and truly care. Even when (or perhaps especially when) we are married and have children (living the gospel “ideal”), it’s important to keep our relationships strong. If we start to disappear, they will feel pushed away. They aren’t a project nor a charity case. Be a real friend.
Listen to learn, not to preach. When my family member came out to me, I asked him questions for two hours. We had a wonderful conversation because I was listening to him, not telling him what to do. Of course, there were a couple of moments where the spirit inspired me to say something, but I listened more often than I talked. If someone has come out to you, they trust and love you very much, and they want to talk to you; they want to tell you what they are feeling. They want to tell you about their struggles, their victories, their questions, their answers. So listen. When they open up, listen to them.
When we truly listen, we are better able to give the love and support that they are seeking. However, we should be wary of giving advice and support we think they need. For example, my family member told me that it is hurtful when active members tell him that they support him finding someone (another man) to make him happy. Because he has said that he wants to keep the commandments, hearing a contrary message feels like those people aren’t really listening to him. They think they are being loving and supportive, but they are actually encouraging him to do the opposite of what he has voiced that he wants to do (and what Heavenly Father wants him to do). It becomes very confusing because anyone who understands the gospel knows the spiritual ramifications of giving in to temptation, so why would they encourage someone else to do so? Why would someone encourage another down a path that causes them to break their baptismal covenants and keep them out of the temple? Of course, when a friend or family member makes a mistake, we should still love and support them, and repentance is always available; but we should never encourage them to sin in the first place. If they do go down that path, we should not have been the ones encouraging them to do so.
Two more members have voiced similar sentiments:
“As an active member of the LDS faith, AND as someone who also feels attracted to others of the same gender (i.e. I’m gay, homosexual, queer or whatever other label the LGBTQ community would so gladly like to place upon me), I have *CHOSEN* to live a chaste life as best I can in harmony with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What really burns me is when the progressive Mormon community takes it upon itself to speak on behalf of all gay members of the LDS faith and assume that we are all just dying to live the homosexual lifestyle. Who do they think they are? If anything it just creates more tension.
I have a testimony that I am a child of God and, as such, have the potential to become like Him. The essence of godliness is the ability to create, and God’s greatest creation is His children. It didn’t take too much academic reading for me to figure out I wasn’t going to achieve that in a homosexual relationship. But far more important than that, I actually have a testimony that obedience to the Gospel brings blessings and happiness. And that has borne out to be true time and time again in my life. I can’t be more plain than that. That’s why I choose to live the Gospel as taught by Christ himself and by President Monson et. al. in our days. So simple. And no, I don’t want to know what I’m missing out on by not experimenting with my sexuality…
…To those enlightened progressives: please do not endeavor to speak as if you know what’s best for me or for all gay LDS members you so conveniently lump into on homogeneous group.” (Scott D.)*
“As an LDS man attracted to men I have to say the fault is not with the Church or its leaders. No one in any significant role in the Church has ever made me feel like I didn’t belong, or ever even hinted at the fact that my kind was not welcome. But those outside of the Church, or those within who want to change doctrine, they tell me that I am unwelcome in the Church. They also tell me that I can’t be happy living the life the Gospel teaches.
It took more than a decade to figure out how my life fits into the Gospel narrative of faith, joy, and agency, but I found it. The biggest lie out there is that men and women like me were born to only have fulfilling relationships with those of our own gender and to ask us to live differently is cruel. God is both just and loving. If same sex relationships have no place in our eternal destinies, why would same sex attraction be part of our eternal nature? Guess what? It’s not. At worst it is a temporal situation only, at best it is psychological construct brought on by our own reactive choices to events in our developmental stages of life.” (D.H.)*
On the other side of the spectrum, we need to be careful not to overwhelm our friends and family members by subconsciously putting pressure on them to make their journey go a specific way. Saying something like, “I know that you can eventually find someone to marry in the temple” doesn’t lift them up, it puts pressure on them. And if whatever we encourage them to do doesn’t happen fast enough, they will feel like a failure.
When it comes to giving someone who is struggling with SSA advice and guidance, please refrain from doing so unless you have 1) an incredibly strong relationship with that person, 2) you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the spirit has inspired what is about to come out of your mouth, and 3) they are seeking your advice. It really is best to find out what they want from you, and then give that support (especially support of things in harmony with gospel teachings).
Understand that they will change constantly. The biggest thing I learned from my family member is that one victory/milestone does not mean there will not be setbacks. I would get really upset and confused when after a great moment he would be feeling down again. I would say to my mom or husband, “I thought he had gotten past that!” How judgmental and naive of me to expect him to keep moving onward and upward without any difficulty. I had to learn that just because he had chosen to stay active and faithful–and was working really hard to do so–didn’t mean that his journey would be without difficulties, questions, doubts, and moments of full on pausing and trying a different course. Along with learning this, I learned that he needs love and support during both the good and bad times.
I think the reason why I was so surprised when he hit low moments was because after a good moment, I would stop paying attention. I thought, “Oh, he’s hit this milestone. He’s going to be okay.” In the grand scheme of things, yes, he will be okay because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. But right now, he needs the Atonement, and he also needs me and you, he needs all of us. The Atonement is made for these exact situations. When we are feeling lonely, lost, scared, hurt, heart broken, confused, or unloved, Christ is and always will be there. Alma 7:12 explains it beautifully:
“And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.”
Jesus Christ knows exactly how those who experience SSA are feeling. He already took on our pains in the Garden of Gethsemane. And because he knows, he is able to give mercy, love, support, and comfort to them. The Atonement covers everything we will ever experience. Our only job is to open up our hearts to Christ.
Be there. Always. It’s important to be there and help them through tough times; and it’s equally important not to forget about them once they are doing well. Feelings of abandonment will bring them right back down. On the flip side, we need to be careful that we don’t only spend time with them when they are doing good while avoiding them when they are down. If we truly love someone, we will be there for them—always. Being there doesn’t mean we will say the perfect thing at all times. Being there means our presence, love, support and listening ear is there because we love them. Once again, those who struggle with SSA are not a project, they are not a charity case. Spending time with someone struggling is being a friend motivated by love.
Blogger Joshua M. Butler, writing from a LDS LGBT perspective, explained beautifully how we can be there for our brothers and sisters:
“Faithful LGBT members of the Church need Christ-like love and acceptance too. We need Church members who flood social media with reminders of the blessings of temples and the promise of eternal families. We need fellow disciples who mourn with us, as we mourn the increasingly heavy pull of the cultural currents that would draw us away from our covenants, and who comfort us with the assurances of God’s promises to the faithful. We need friends who show us by example the joy of celestial marriage and family by welcoming us into their hearts and homes. We need friends who are sensitive to our feelings and experiences and seek to strengthen us in making and keeping sacred covenants. We need Church members who seek to cement our faith in the prophets and apostles. We need Church members who will be brave and support unpopular doctrines set forth by the prophets and apostles, not out of blind faith or bigoted arrogance, but out of pure testimony, eternal perspective, and genuine concern for those affected. We need fellow disciples who acknowledge that they don’t understand our burden, but who seek to do so in order to better bear it with us.”
Every person is a child of God before anything else. I know this is all very general, but I can’t give any specifics and claim that my way is the only way, because there is no one-size-fits-all response. Every person is unique and each will need different things from different people. This is where your personal knowledge coupled with the Spirit will help you. You know your friends and family members, and you know how to talk to them. You know how to spend time with them. You know how to love them. You love them. Learning that they are attracted to their same gender does not change that. Don’t let it change that.
Same-sex attraction is a hot topic right now. Try not to let that make things uncomfortable or confrontational between friends and family members. Regardless of our personal opinions, we need to love, respect and support each other. I can’t tell you exactly how to do that or what that looks like for everyone because my relationship is different than yours. But I can tell you that with the love you have for your friends and family, and using the Spirit as your guide, you can find the right answers for your situation. I can also tell you that God loves you. He is rooting for all of us to get this right!
For more examples and information visit mormonsandgays.org
*Both comments were taken from the comment section of an article found here.