What Every Mormon Needs to Know About Gender

Conversations about gender identity confusion are steadily increasing in our world. Beginning with young children and continuing throughout adulthood, society is teaching and embracing gender distortions. Trends include parents encouraging their little girls to identify as little boys[1] (and vice versa), people using opposite sex bathrooms or showers, schools promoting sex change and transgender ideologies for children in both the classroom and in children’s books and drag queen story hours for little children spreading across North America. Included in these new teachings is the sexually graphic Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) curriculum inspired by child abusers Dr. Alfred Kinsey and Dr. John Money which teach (among many alarming things) that children are sexual beings from birth, being male and female are merely feelings, and that one can choose or change their gender (Dr. Kinsey is considered the “creator and father of the transgender movement”.) In extreme cases, more and more clinics and therapists are offering children as young as 4 years old dangerous body-altering, puberty blocking and sterilizing drugs and dramatic surgeries in order to make their bodies appear as though they are of a different gender. Hollywood and social media are driving these alarming trends with stars openly engaging in sex changes or portraying “gender transitions” in sitcoms[2]. These new trends are being hailed as “courageous”, “praiseworthy”, “brave” and in the case of children, “good parenting.” In a radical move, some have coined the phrase “TransKid” and announced 2015 as “The Year of the Transgender Child.” Update: In January 2017, National Geographic produced a magazine and documentary which further promoted false ideologies as truth combined with errors, weak science and contradictory claims (see: National Geographic‘s “Gender Revolution”: Bad Argument and Biased Ideology.) All of these examples—a mere sampling among thousands exploding into society—deserve a stern and necessary rebuke.

And so, with the increasing attention towards gender confusion in society, how can we become grounded in LDS doctrine and dismiss gender trends that go against eternal truths? What have prophets and apostles said about gender? How can the rising generation discern between right and wrong, while a tsunami of spiritually and physically dangerous false doctrines and messages that flood their world? What can parents and leaders do to better teach and prepare children and youth to understand issues surrounding gender and eternal identity?

The aim of this essay is to be a go-to reference guide, providing an overview of social theories and corresponding doctrinal statements. It may be a helpful resource in conversations with members of your family and ward.

Terminology, Trends and Truths About Gender

In order to help teach truths about the doctrine on the eternal nature of gender, we need to first understand the contrasting messages that activist groups, social media, movies, magazines, and television are promoting.

Terminology:
Terms include (but are not limited to) transgender, transgenderism, transsexual, transvestite, Gender Identity Disorder (GID), Gender Dysphoria Disorder (GDD), gender dysmorphia, gender confusion, gender distortion, cross-dressing, gender disorientation, gender bending, gender variant, cisgender, agender, unisexual, gender reassignment, two spirit, trans identity, gender expression, androgeny, gender rebellion, gender reconstruction, and so forth. There is a strong push to create new definitions and make these terms commonplace in order to pave the way for social acceptance and to redefine gender altogether.

Trends: Social media and pop culture have suddenly (and very strategically) begun to celebrate transgenderism, including offering 50+ gender identities on Facebook[3], and praising “surgical procedure[s] [involving] the intentional damaging and mutilating of otherwise perfectly functioning [body] [4] Referring to medical interventions to block normal puberty in gender-confused children, Dr. McHugh of Johns Hopkins says bluntly, “This is child abuse.”

Society is now (wrongly) teaching that our bodies and spirits can be disconnected and that gender is fluid and changeable, and (falsely) asserting that people are born in the wrong body (believing that God places the wrong spirits into the wrong bodies.) Activist groups and large organizations are lobbying for dramatic changes in public policy and medical policies including the notion that gendering a baby at birth is discriminatory. These groups are mobilizing at a rapid pace with highly organized and heavily funded efforts, beginning with teaching the youngest children and aggressively marketing youth and university students. These groups wield powerful political swords while neglecting those who sincerely suffer from gender dysphoria (approx. 0.003% of people) and who need help. Our hearts should rightly ache for those who suffer with this devastating mortal trial, and we should be always kind. However, we cannot accept the false doctrine that our Heavenly Father places mismatched spirits in mismatched bodies. This is why we must raise a voice of warning with the rising generation in the church. We must be prepared to teach the doctrine of eternal, unchangeable gender clearly. This also means we must deeply understand the doctrine of eternal gender identity through the scriptures, the temple, and teachings from modern day prophets, seers and revelators.

Why should we care about gender ideologies?  Because our bodies are temples, are holy and are the essential part of our soul. Because the family is sacred in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is the most important social unit in time and eternity. Author Stella Morabito explains the importance of gender and the family unit in her article “How the Trans Movement Seeks to Redefine Everyone“:

Erasing gender distinctions would serve to legally un-define what it means to be human. … Already, there is social pressure for everyone to comply with the gender theory notion that biological facts are mere “social constructs.” … We should especially care because we are well on the way to enacting such laws already … based on the assumption that one’s perceived “gender identity” does not always “match” your sex “assigned” or “designated” at birth.” [5]

The terms “designated sex at birth” or “birth assigned sex” change the language of everyone’s identity because the laws that are being imposed are all based on the premise that no one’s sex is real. In essence, it separates our sex from our bodies. Declaring that gender only exists in our minds is extreme because it muddies and then destroys human understanding of who we are. … It codifies into law that everyone’s understanding of gender identity has to override everyone’s biological sex distinctions legally.

This gender-neutral scheme obliterates the template for the family as a unit. And if the family is no longer accepted as a union that originates through the union of male and female, there is no real basis for the State to recognize any family as an autonomous unit.” (Link)

The danger lies in philosophies and eventual policies which confuse “truth about such matters and sow the seeds of sexual confusion in future generations for years to come.” [6] So how did we get here so quickly? How has this been able to get such a strong and sudden foothold into our society? Academics in the Stanford Law Review suggest one plausible theory:

“It’s about marketing, of course, injecting [hype] into public discourse in order to build opinion cascades. An interesting academic look at this is in a Stanford Law Review article by Cass Sunstein and Timur Kuran on “availability cascades.”  It explains how you can take an implausible idea and make it seem plausible by raising its availability in public discourse. Once you’ve shaped public opinion through all the usual channels—Hollywood, academic, the media, and so on—then the road to public policy has been nicely paved.”[7]

Doctrinal and Truth

The doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints clearly teaches that gender is an essential characteristic of who we were before we were born. Each of us is a beloved son or daughter of God who has a gender which was determined in the premortal life, and it will continue in this life and the eternities.[8] Gender is part of both our eternal and physical DNA and is unalterable and unchangeable. Why? Because our doctrine is such that “the spirit and the body are the soul of man” (emphasis added).

President Boyd K. Packer was clear in his teachings that,“From our premortal life we were directed into a physical body. There is no mismatching of bodies and spirits”  and “We know that gender was set in the premortal world. The spirit and the body are the soul of man.” (How to Survive in Enemy Territory,” Seminary Centennial Broadcast, April 2012.)

Additionally, the scriptures teach us that God created us “male and female” (Moses 2:27; Gen. 1:27 and we were created spiritually before physically” and “The spirit is in the likeness of the physical body”, as demonstrated in Gen. 2:5; 1 Ne. 11:11; Ether 3:15–16; D&C 77:2; 129; Moses 3:4–7 (See also the Bible Dictionary.)

What Do Church Leaders Teach About Gender?

To answer perplexing social and moral issues, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can to go to one of the most definitive compilations of doctrinal statements in the Church, The Family: A Proclamation to the World. Of this, Elder M. Russell Ballard says: “Gender is being confused, and gender roles are being repudiated.”[11]

Countless other Church leaders have taught about the significance and doctrine of eternal gender, including:

Elder James E. Talmage: “We affirm as reasonable, scriptural, and true, the eternity of gender among the children of God. The distinction between male and female is no condition peculiar to the relatively brief period of mortal life; it was an essential characteristic of our pre-existent condition, even as it shall continue after death, in both the disembodied and resurrected states.

… “There is no accident or chance, due to purely physical conditions, by which the gender of the unborn is determined. The body takes form as male or female, according to the gender of the spirit whose appointment it is to tenant that body as a tabernacle formed of the elements of earth, through which means alone the individual may enter upon the indispensable course of human experience, probation, and training.

… “These Scriptures attest a state of existence preceding mortality, in which the spirit children of God lived, doubtless with distinguishing personal characteristics including the distinction of gender, for “male and female created he them,” spiritually, “before they were [created] naturally upon the face of the earth.

… Man is man, and woman is woman, fundamentally, unchangeably, eternally. Each is indispensable to the other and to the accomplishment of the purposes of God.”[11]

Virginia U. Jensen: “Look at the lessons God taught a floundering world through this proclamation: Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God. We are created in His image. Our gender was determined before we came to earth and is part of our eternal identity.”[12]

President Boyd K. Packer: “I want to speak now in the pattern of straight talk about another matter. We know that gender was set in the premortal world. “The spirit and the body are the soul of man.”4 This matter of gender is of great concern to the Brethren, as are all matters of morality.”[13]

Elder Richard G. Scott: “Your gender existed before you came to earth.”[14]

Elder Dallin H. Oaks: “Individual identity began long before conception and will continue for all the eternities to come.”[16]

President Boyd K. Packer: “The scriptures and the teachings of the Apostles and prophets speak of us in premortal life as sons and daughters, spirit children of God. Gender existed before, and did not begin at mortal birth.[17]

President Spencer W. Kimball: “Some people are ignorant or vicious and apparently attempting to destroy the concept of masculinity and femininity. More and more girls dress, groom, and act like men. More and more men dress, groom, and act like women. The high purposes of life are damaged and destroyed by the growing unisex theory. God made man in his own image, male and female made he them. … Certainly, men and women who would change their sex status will answer to their Maker.” (God Will Not Be Mocked – Link here)

Elder David A. Bednar: “Because the physical body is so central to the Father’s plan of happiness and our spiritual development, we should not be surprised that Lucifer seeks to thwart our progression by enticing us to use our bodies improperly. It is to me one of the ultimate ironies of eternity that the adversary, who is miserable because he has no physical body and therefore cannot progress, seeks to make us miserable “like unto himself” (2 Ne. 2:27) through the improper use of our bodies. The very tool he does not have and cannot use thus is the primary instrument through which he attempts to lure us to spiritual destruction. Our physical bodies indeed are temples of God. Consequently, you and I must carefully consider what we take into our temple, what we put on our temple, what we do to our temple, and what we do with our temple.” (“Ye Are the Temple of God.”)

Divine Differences: Femaleness and Maleness

Gender is determined premortally and continues throughout this life and the eternities. Below are some insightful quotes from Church leaders that teach us about the divine differences and eternal purposes in gender:

Elder Richard G. Scott: “The scriptures record, “And I, God, created man … male and female created I them.” 1 This was done spiritually in your premortal existence when you lived in the presence of your Father in Heaven. Your gender existed before you came to earth. You elected to have this earth experience as part of His plan for you.”[18]

Margaret D. Nadauld, speaking to the Young Women: “That women were born into this earth female was determined long before mortal birth, as were the divine differences of males and females. I love the clarity of the teachings of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve in the Proclamation on the Family. They state: “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” From that statement we are taught that every girl was feminine and female in spirit long before her mortal birth.”[19]

Elder Dallin H. Oaks: “Modern revelation makes clear that what we call gender was part of our existence prior to our birth. God declares that he created “male and female” (D&C 20:18; Moses 2:27; Gen. 1:27). [20]

President Boyd K. Packer, speaking to the Young Men: “Your gender was determined in the premortal existence. You were born a male. You must treasure and protect the masculine part of your nature.”[21]

Elder David A. Bednar: “For divine purposes, male and female spirits are different, distinctive, and complementary.”[23]

 

The Doctrine of the Body and the Soul

Perhaps some of the misunderstanding we encounter human sexuality comes from not fully understanding the sanctity of the body and its profound connection to the soul. The Doctrine and Covenants teach us that “The spirit and the body are the soul of man” (D&C 88:15; emphasis added). Our bodies are sacred and an essential part of our soul.

A fantastic place to start this conversation is with Elder Jeffery R. Holland’s “Of Souls, Symbols and Sacraments.[2] It’s a powerful discourse on the doctrine of the soul and human sexuality and should be recommended reading for all members of the Church.

The Plan of Salvation and Gender

What does the plan of salvation have to do with gender confusion? Each of us came to this earth to receive a body and to be born into and create a family. Because the family is central to God’s plan, Satan persistently strives to confuse society about the divinely appointed purposes of gender, marriage, and family. A helpful explanation from LDS.org states:

“Because Satan “seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (2 Nephi 2:27), he and his followers try to lead us away from righteousness. He directs his most strenuous opposition at the most important aspects of Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness. For example, he seeks to discredit the Savior and the priesthood, to cast doubt on the power of the Atonement, to counterfeit revelation, to distract us from the truth, and to contradict individual accountability. He attempts to undermine the family by confusing gender.“[24]

In short, “When Satan truly wants to disrupt the work of the Lord, he attempts to confuse gender and he attacks God’s plan for His children.”[25]

Along these lines, many Church leaders have taught the following:

Sheri L. Dew: “Satan bombards us with bizarre messages about gender, marriage, family, and all male-female relationships. … Our Father knew exactly what He was doing when He created us.[26]

Elder David A. Bednar: “More recently the devil has attempted to combine and legally validate confusion about gender … as we look beyond mortality and into eternity, it is easy to discern the counterfeit alternatives. … Satan works unremittingly to confuse understanding about gender, to promote the premature and unrighteous use of procreative power, and to hinder righteous marriage precisely because marriage is ordained of God and the family is central to the plan of happiness. … [Satan] persistently strives to confuse the divinely appointed purposes of gender, marriage, and family. Throughout the world, we see growing evidence of the effectiveness of Satan’s efforts.”[27]

Elder Dallin H. Oaks: “We live in a day when there are many political, legal, and social pressures for changes that confuse gender and homogenize the differences between men and women. … Although Satan and his followers have lost their opportunity to have a physical body, they are permitted to use their spirit powers to try to frustrate God’s plan. This provides the opposition necessary to test how mortals will use their freedom to choose. Satan’s most strenuous opposition is directed at whatever is most important to the Father’s plan. Satan seeks to discredit the Savior and divine authority, to nullify the effects of the Atonement, to counterfeit revelation, to lead people away from the truth, to contradict individual accountability, to confuse gender.”[28]

Elder M. Russell Ballard: “When evil wants to strike out and disrupt the essence of God’s work, it attacks the family. It does so by attempting to disregard the law of chastity, to confuse gender.”[29]

Recent Comments By Elder Dallin H. Oaks

In addition to all we know about the doctrine of gender, we can keep looking to prophets and apostles for continued direction on these difficult issues, keeping in mind that there will never be doctrinal changes. Elder Dallin H. Oaks recently stated:

“I think we need to acknowledge that while we have been acquainted with lesbians and homosexuals for some time, being acquainted with the unique problems of a transgender situation is something we have not had so much experience with, and we have some unfinished business in teaching on that.”[35]

There is much that we do know about gender, and we look forward to increased direction from our church leaders. While the doctrine is clear and will not change, certain policies may be updated in the Church Handbook of Instructions.

Connecting the Dots: One Final Thought

Because we know that gender “in large measure defines who we are, why we are here upon the earth, and what we are to do and become” [36] and that “Satan’s most strenuous opposition is directed at whatever is most important to the Father’s plan”[37], it is no wonder that society is seeking to redefine these truths.

The adversary is using gender confusion in society to dilute one’s God-given identity. He is cruel, clever and calculated in his efforts to confuse and minimize the divine which is within each son or daughter of God. He does this by trying to manipulate, undefine and strip away one’s belief about what it means to be male or female. Confusing, isolating, and disengaging a person from their God-given identity has dramatic and devastating consequences. It separates one from understanding who they were, who they are and who they will always be.

Yet we know the doctrine. We know the truth about our unchangeable and eternal gender identity. We not only know who we are, but Whose we are.  We have the same eternal identity that always was, is and will be. We can be comforted in knowing these eternal truths and using these truths to teach pure doctrine to our children as they face an increasingly confusing world.

Sidebar: Intersex Conditions

A misleading distraction frequently is raised in the context of this issue. A tiny percentage of people suffer from disorders of sexual development (DSD), sometimes referred to as an intersex condition (or as hermaphroditism). True hermaphrodites — those in whom sexual anatomy is ambiguous or clearly conflicts with their chromosomal make-up — are rare, estimated by one expert as “occurring in fewer than 2 out of every 10,000 live births.” The vast majority of “transgender” individuals are not “intersexed.”

*For helpful info on how parents can talk to their children about gender, please visit “Understanding Transgenderism“.

References

[1] Agee, Christopher B. (2014/12/24). The Latest News About Brad And Angelina’s ‘Transgender’ 8-Year-Old Has People Talking. Retrieved from http://www.westernjournalism.com/latest-news-brad-angelinas-transgender-8-year-old-people-talking/#dKRfegKtsvQ6BOE3.97

[2] Webber, Stephanie. (2015/02/05) Glee Star Dot-Marie Jones Moves Forward With Coach Shannon Beiste Transgender Story Line. Retrieved from http://www.usmagazine.com/entertainment/news/glees-coach-shannon-beiste-transgender-arc-see-transition-photos-201552

[3] Goldman, Russell. (2014/02/13). Here’s a List of 58 Gender Options for Facebook Users. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/02/heres-a-list-of-58-gender-options-for-facebook-users/

[4] De Flores, Carlos. (2015/02/15). The Absurdity of Transgenderism: A Stern but Necessary Critique. Retrieved from http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/02/14305/

[5] Morabito, Stella. (2014/06/23). How The Trans-Agenda Seeks To Redefine Everyone. Retrieved from http://thefederalist.com/2014/06/23/how-the-trans-agenda-seeks-to-redefine-everyone/

[6] De Flores, Carlos. (2015/02/15). The Absurdity of Transgenderism: A Stern but Necessary Critique. Retrieved from http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/02/14305/

[7] Morabito, Stella. (2014/06/23). How The Trans-Agenda Seeks To Redefine Everyone. Retrieved from http://thefederalist.com/2014/06/23/how-the-trans-agenda-seeks-to-redefine-everyone/

[8]“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102.

[9] Eternal Marriage Student Manual, (2003), 294–302

[10] “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102.

[11] M. Russell Ballard, “The Sacred Responsibilities of Parenthood,” Ensign, March 2006.

James E. Talmage, “The Eternity of Sex”, Millennial Star, August 24, 1922, pages 539-540

[12] Virginia U. Jensen, “Come Listen to a Prophet’s Voice,” Ensign, Nov. 1998.

[13] Boyd K. Packer, “How to Survive in Enemy Territory,” New Era, April 2012.

[14] Richard G. Scott, “The Joy of Living the Great Plan of Happiness,” Ensign, Nov. 1996.

[15] Neil L. Anderson, “Power in the Priesthood,” Ensign, Nov. 2013.

[16] Dallin H. Oaks, “The Great Plan of Happiness,” Ensign, Nov. 1993.

[17] Boyd K. Packer, “For Time and All Eternity,” Ensign, Nov. 1993.

[18] Richard G. Scott, “The Joy of Living the Great Plan of Happiness,” Ensign, Nov. 1996.

[19] Margaret D. Nadauld, “What You Are Meant to Be,” New Era, Oct. 2002.

[20] Dallin H.Oaks, “The Great Plan of Happiness,” Ensign, Nov. 1993.

[21] Boyd K. Packer, “Counsel to Young Men,” Ensign, May 2009.

[22] D. Todd Christofferson, “The Moral Force of Women,” Ensign, Nov. 2013.

[23] David A Bednar, “Marriage Is Essential to His Eternal Plan,” Ensign, June 2006; Liahona, June 2006;

[24] LDS.org “Satan”, Topics.

[25] M. Russell Ballard, “The Sacred Responsibilities of Parenthood,” Ensign, March 2006; Liahona, March 2006.

[26] Sheri L. Dew, “It is Not Good For Man or Woman to be Alone,” Ensign, Nov. 2001.

[27] David A. Bednar, “Marriage is Essential to His Eternal Plan,” Ensign, June 2006; Liahona, June 2006.

[28] Dallin H. Oaks, “The Great Plan of Happiness,” Ensign, Nov. 1993.

[29] M. Russell Ballard, “Let Our Voices Be Heard,” Ensign, Nov. 2003.

[30] Boyd K. Packer, “Covenants,” Ensign, Nov. 1990.

[31] Jeffery R. Holland, “Of Souls, Symbols and Sacraments,” BYU Devotional, Jan. 1988.

[32] M. Russell Ballard, “Let Our Voices Be Heard,” Ensign, Nov. 2003.

[33] Dallin H. Oaks, “No Other Gods,” Ensign, Nov. 2013.

[34] Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “What is Truth,” LDS.org CES Devotional, Jan. 2013.

[35] Dallin H. Oaks, “Trib Talk: LDS Leaders Oaks, Christofferson on Religious Freedom, LGBT Rights,” Retrieved from http://www.sltrib.com/news/2112602-155/tomorrow-at-115-pm-lds-apostles

[36] David A Bednar, “Marriage Is Essential to His Eternal Plan,” Liahona, June 2006, 51; Ensign, June 2006, 83.

[37] Dallin H.Oaks, “The Great Plan of Happiness,” Ensign Nov. 1993.

[38] Dieter F. Uctdhorf, “Our True Identity,” Youth.LDS.org Video

 

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Angela Fallentine

Angela Fallentine is the Co-Founder of Mormon Women Stand. She is a native of Alberta, Canada and has loved living in New Zealand and briefly in Europe. She is a researcher and analyst for a think tank in New York which focuses on social issues, religious freedom and international policy affecting the family at the United Nations.