“The traditional family is under heavy attack. I do not know that things were worse in the times of Sodom and Gomorrah. … We see similar conditions today. They prevail all across the world. I think our Father must weep as He looks down upon His wayward sons and daughters.”
Gordon B Hinckley (“Standing Strong and Immovable,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, 10 Jan. 2004, 20.)
This article is about practicing homosexuality, fornication, and adultery, repentance, and Christ-like love. It is not about experiencing same sex attraction or having the temptation to commit adultery or fornication. The website mormonsandgays.org says: “The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children…”
Popular Article by Jeff Benedict
Perhaps you have seen this, perhaps not. It is an article written by a well-known Mormon writer, Jeff Benedict. He introduces his topic by saying: “This post is about same sex attraction, loneliness, faith, despair, and unconditional love.”I am not writing about same sex attraction. I am writing about serious sexual sin which includes adultery, fornication, as well as homosexual sex. Benedict proceeds to tell the story of a gay man, Clark Johnsen, an actor, who played a missionary in the Broadway hit, “The Book of Mormon“. “The Book of Mormon” musical is a vulgar satire of the Book of Mormon and missionary work. Johnsen grew up in a strong Latter-day Saint family. After his mission and becoming a successful actor in NYC, Johnsen left the church to pursue a gay lifestyle. It becomes immediately clear that the author does not believe that homosexual sex is a sin, nor does he believe that marriage is only between a man and a woman. Alongside the general tone and the author’s description of Johnsen, he declares:
“When it comes to same sex attraction, understanding is what’s lacking. I look at Clark and I see similarities, not differences. We were both raised in devout Mormon families. We joined the Boy Scouts. We never tried alcohol or cigarettes or drugs. We participated in the church’s seminary program for teens. We followed the church’s moral code of abstaining from sex before marriage. And we served full-time missions for our church at age 19.
We did all the same things to demonstrate our faith. To be perfectly candid, Clark was probably more disciplined than me. Yet I am in the church and he is out. There is only one reason for this: he’s gay and I am not. That doesn’t set well with me.”
Benedict states that, “The challenge for my church isn’t that we don’t know everything we wish we knew about where gays fit into the eternal scheme of things. A higher power will sort that out.”
His thesis is clear: the church doctrine on family and marriage is false, and God will eventually right this wrong.
The Law of Chastity
As members of the church, we know this is not true. The answers are found in the scriptures. A higher power has already sorted this out—sex outside of marriage is a sin next to murder. (Alma 39:5, D&C 76:101-106, D&C 19) In the scriptures we learn exactly what Christ taught about chastity. He said “whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” (Matt 5:28) That is so strict! Christ does not even excuse lust.
As Many as Heeded Them
Given how strict Christ was on the topic, it is not surprising that the apostle Paul said: “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators.” (1Cor 5:9)This certainly includes those engaging in homosexual or any serious sexual sins. We could also include this as a guide for what we watch and read and what we view online. While this counsel runs counter to our culture, it is scripturally sound. This scripture is calculated to save God’s children from committing grave sin. From Lehi’s Vision of the Tree of Life we learn: “33 And great was the multitude that did enter into that strange building. And after they did enter into that building they did point the finger of scorn at me and those that were partaking of the fruit also; but we heeded them not. 34 These are the words of my father: For as many as heeded them, had fallen away.” (1Ne 8:33-34) The Savior does not require us to go out of our way to accompany those involved in serious sexual sin unless they are repentant. Joseph Smith said, “Christ said he came to call sinners to repentance, to save them. Christ was condemned by the self-righteous Jews because He took sinners into His society; He took them upon the principle that they repented of their sins. It is the object of this society to reform persons, not to take those that are corrupt and foster them in their wickedness; but if they repent, we are bound to take them, and by kindness sanctify and cleanse them from all unrighteousness by our influence over people.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section 5, 1842-43 p.240)
As a mother of teenagers, I understand the importance of this counsel. At such impressionable ages, who my children spend their time with makes a big difference in the decisions they make. That is why For the Strength of the Youth pamphlet advises the youth of the church to, “Choose friends who share [their] values so [they] can strengthen and encourage each other in living high standards.”
True Christ-Like Love
In order to not be deceived, we must understand what it means to truly have the love of Christ. Jeffery R. Holland taught:
“At the zenith of His mortal ministry, Jesus said, ‘Love one another, as I have loved you.’To make certain they understood exactly what kind of love that was, He said, ‘If ye love me, keep my commandments’ and ‘whosoever … shall break one of [the] least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be … the least in the kingdom of heaven.’ Christlike love is the greatest need we have on this planet in part because righteousness was always supposed to accompany it. So if love is to be our watchword, as it must be, then by the word of Him who is love personified, we must forsake transgression and any hint of advocacy for it in others. Jesus clearly understood what many in our modern culture seem to forget: that there is a crucial difference between the commandment to forgive sin (which He had an infinite capacity to do) and the warning against condoning it (which He never ever did even once).” (April 2014 General Conference)
To love like the Savior, we must keep the commandments as He did, and unashamedly declare and stand for those commandments as He did. Advocating for sin is not Christian love. Christ never advocated for sin. He does not save anyone in their sins. He came to save everyone from their sins, but only on the condition of repentance. (Alma 11: 34-37) Without thinking about the message and theme of the article, many people are enraptured with the story Benedict tells about how the Johnsens’ continued to love their son and include him in their family. We know that Heavenly Father absolutely wants us to continue to love the sinner, particularly when that sinner is a family member. However, Benedict is actually instructing his readers that in order to love like the Savior they must accept homosexuality and the practice of it. He would like members of the church to conclude that if they believe and teach the doctrine on marriage, the family, and chastity, then they do not have the love of Christ. Is it really love to tenderly lead our family members and friends involved in homosexuality to a place in eternity where we know they must suffer for sins that could have been repented of? Is it really love to accept and celebrate homosexuality and gay marriage to help gay people feel supported in their sins when we know that these actions will never lead them toward exaltation? Is it love to keep quiet about eternal truths to make our family members feel comfortable now and yet not have a part with us in eternity? What would Jesus do? Did the Savior care more about hurting the sinner’s feelings or about the eternal soul of the sinner? Many who commented on Benedict’s articles, called his theme Christ-like, loving, life changing and beautiful. There is nothing beautiful about a family member turning from living the gospel. There is no beautiful way to tell that story. If that family member doesn’t repent, he has broken his family. He will be missing from his family in the celestial kingdom. The only beautiful ending would be if he were to repent, set aside his sins, and endure to the end. Then his family would be healed. Everyone inside and outside of the church makes life choices contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ because none of us are perfect. If everyone just kept their mouths closed so as not to offend the choices of others, no one would have the truth. It would be like the apostasy all over again. Those seeking for truth could not find it because there would be no one offering it. We are only given our agency in as much as we have truth. No one can make a choice without options. As we gain more light and knowledge, we gain more and more agency. We can choose to accept and obey or to reject it and rebel. That is the essence of agency.
Alma and Corianton
Alma the Younger is a marvelous example of Christ-like love. Instead of justifying Corianton, he teaches his son about mercy, justice and the atonement. He teaches Corianton that he must not rationalize his immoral behavior by denying the justice of God.
“29 And now, my son, I desire that ye should let these things trouble you no more, and only let your sins trouble you, with that trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance. 30 O my son, I desire that ye should deny the justice of God no more. Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility.” (Alma 42: 29-30)
Alma shows Christ-like love not by telling Corianton to ignore and suppress feelings of guilt, sorrow and regret, but rather advises him to no longer let his doctrinal doubts trouble him, and instead to let his sins trouble him, with that trouble that will bring him down to repentance. The use of the word “down” here implies that these were uncomfortable feelings. They are feelings that play a purpose in bringing one to repentance. Alma himself would not have repented if he did not experience and listen to such feelings. If he hadn’t felt terrible shame, guilt, sorrow and regret, he would never have changed from the young man seeking to destroy the church into the prophet who was eventually translated and taken up into heaven. We should give the same counsel. We should not tell others to excuse and rationalize feelings of guilt from serious sin. We should instead encourage people to let their sins “trouble them with that trouble that will bring them down to repentance.”
As members of the church, we know that the prophets have declared that our doctrine will not change and that marriage is to be a union between a man and a woman. This is part of the gospel and it is good news. Celestial marriage is the highest and most sacred gift God has to offer His children. It would not be fair to withhold this good news from many of God’s children simply because they are not choosing it now. More good news of the gospel is that the Savior has His arms open. He stands there full of mercy and love waiting for us to come unto Him with a broken heart and contrite spirit willing to accept His gospel and repent of our sins. The Savior’s mercy and ability to change us through His atoning sacrifice is infinite and eternal. He offers more love than any of us can really imagine. We are commanded to share that message with others. There are many people out there hungering for the truth about family, marriage, repentance, and the atonement. D&C 18:10-14 reminds us why we must not remain silent:
“10 Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God; 11 For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him. 12 And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance. 13 And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth! 14 Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people.”(D&C 18:10-14)
In Lehi’s dream there were people who were initially devoted to the gospel, but then turned to heed the criticisms of those in the great and spacious building. Every last one of them fell away. Yes, the Benedict article will elicit the praise of the world, but we need to be looking for what God has declared and hold firmly to that instead. It can hardly be overemphasized that we need to accept all of the doctrines of Christ and not just those parts that the world will sanction as Christ-like. The Benedict article would never have been written 50 years ago. Does the truth change in 50 years? Let our views be longer than the myopia of this decade’s fads and fancies. Let us look to prophets of today, of 50, 100, and 200 hundred years ago, as well as to those of 2000 or more years ago. They proclaim in unison the unchanging truth that serious sexual sin is next only to murder, that homosexual sex is always serious sexual sin, and that only through the gate of faith, repentance, baptism and enduring to the end will any soul find salvation. Resources: Love One Another: A Discussion About Same-Sex Attraction (mormonsandgays.org): “Few topics are as emotionally charged or require more sensitivity than same-sex attraction. This complex matter touches on the things we care about most: our basic humanity, our relationship to family, our identity and potential as children of God, how we treat each other, and what it means to be disciples of Christ”. NorthStar: “North Star is a community for Latter-day Saints dealing with issues surrounding homosexual attraction who desire to live in harmony with the teachings of Jesus Christ and the values and doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Author Diane Robertson is an admin for Mormon Women Stand.