Monday, January 6, 2014

FHE Lesson 4: LDS Teachings on Homosexuality

Source material for this lesson:

"Mormonism and Gender Issues / Same-sex Attraction,"
"Navigating the Labyrinth Surrounding Homosexual Desire," Joshua Johanson, Proceedings of the 2012 FAIR Conference, Aug. 2012
"Why We Do Some of the Things We Do," Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, Nov. 1999
"Same-gender Attraction," Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, Oct. 1995
"The Family: A Proclamation to the World,"

1. What is homosexuality, or same sex attraction (SSA)?

  • SSA is when a woman is attracted to other women, or a man is attracted to other men. They may also feel some degree of attraction to members of the opposite sex at the same time (bi-sexual), or they may only be attracted to members of their own sex.
  • Joshua Johanson, who has SSA, explains: "According to the dictionary, homosexuality could refer to sexual orientation or behaviors. I think most of the miscommunication around this issue comes from confusing these two definitions. Do people choose to be gay? It depends how you define gay. We may not choose our attractions, but do choose our behaviors."

2. Why are people attracted to others of the same sex? Can they change?

  • Science suggests there is some genetic basis for SSA, but it doesn't explain everything. For example, with some identical twins, one twin will be gay while the other will not. This could relate to gene expression, outside influences, or personal choices.

  • We don't know whether people with SSA can change their feelings, but we can all change our behavior. This is what the Lord asks of us—to put aside the desires of the natural man and obey His laws. (See Mosiah 3:19.)
  • Dallin H. Oaks, among others, has stated that same-sex attraction is limited to this mortal life. It didn't exist in pre-earth life, and it won't continue on in the eternities. He added, "There is no fullness of joy in the next life without a family unit, including a husband, a wife, and posterity. Further, men are that they might have joy. In the eternal perspective, same-gender activity will only bring sorrow and grief and the loss of eternal opportunities."

3. What does the Church teach about SSA?

  • The Church teaches that we should all obey the law of chastity. This means one should not have sexual relations with anyone except a spouse of the opposite sex to whom one is legally (law of the land) and lawfully (law of God) married. A marriage between people of the same sex does not meet this definition, even if it is civilly legal.
  • The Church opposes same-sex marriage not as a matter of civil rights, but of morality. Gordon B. Hinckley presented "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" to the Relief Society in 1995. In part, it reads: "The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ." Same sex marriages do not follow this pattern set forth by God.
  • The Church does not have any official teaching as to why some people have SSA, but leaders emphasize that we should always treat them kindly and respectfully. President Gordon B. Hinckley said: "... our opposition to attempts to legalize same-sex marriage should never be interpreted as justification for hatred, intolerance, or abuse of those who profess homosexual tendencies, either individually or as a group. As I said from this pulpit one year ago, our hearts reach out to those who refer to themselves as gays and lesbians. We love and honor them as sons and daughters of God. They are welcome in the Church. It is expected, however, that they follow the same God-given rules of conduct that apply to everyone else, whether single or married."
  • As part of this, we should support those who have SSA and want to keep the commandments. We should not remain silent out of discomfort. Joshua Johanson said: "It is getting harder and harder for people with SSA to find the support we need to live the law of chastity. ... I have been encouraged by how compassionately our leaders have spoken on AIDS prevention, and against gay bashing, bullying of gay people, and discrimination in housing and employment, but disappointed in the lack of enthusiasm from the general church membership. They tend to be very reluctant to be involved in anything related to homosexuality besides opposing it. They tend to miss subtle changes in terminology. They don’t participate in any programs designed to help gay people, so they leave gay right activists completely in control."

Conclusion: Church leaders are very rarely vocal in political matters, reserving this for only the most important issues, many of which center around preservation of families. The traditional family is the basic unit through which God works to bring to pass the eternal life and immortality of mankind (Moses 1:39). He doesn't change His laws to suit what is popular or even what seems more fair. While the effects of gay marriage on society as whole remain to be seen, the effects on individual salvation have already been clearly stated. Though we cannot force others to accept what we believe, we can to encourage and persuade them to respect and maintain traditional marriage for as long as possible.