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Gay and Mormon: Is it Safe Yet?

As much as we are discouraged in referring to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who experience same-gender-attraction, as gay Mormons, it is, nonetheless, often the way that they identify themselves. It is this very description, among other things, that has caused discomfort among many faithful members of the Church, after viewing the BYU video "It Gets Better", created to support the on campus LGBT community, to ultimately reject it.

I am one of those. I took the opportunity to discuss my concerns with a very close friend, who has faithfully dealt with same-sex attraction, as a Mormon, who understands the importance of creating a safe space, within the Church, for our brothers and sisters who carry this burden -- to not only feel love and welcomed, but that will also allow them to come to peace with their life's burden. This is a process that often makes everyone involved uncomfortable -- nonetheless, desperately needed.



Before we go any further, let me get this out of the way, right now. I am not anti-gay, nor am I a bigot. I fully support the position of the LDS Church on the issue of homosexuality, feeling that when we as members embrace such an understanding our actions then emulate that of the Savior's.

The Church teaches that all of us are sons and daughters of God and should be honored and respected as such. We reach out to assist people with all of the challenges of life. Those who struggle with same-gender attraction are certainly not excluded from the circle of love and fellowship the Church hopes to provide. 
The defining factor for each of us is that we are children of God, born on this earth for a purpose and with a divine destiny. Our challenge and opportunity is to overcome the temptations and difficulties that lead us away from God. 
President Gordon B. Hinckley has said: “Nevertheless, and I emphasize this, I wish to say that 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" (“Why We Do Some of the Things We Do,” Ensign, Nov. 1999, 54). LDS Newsroom

I'm not aware of any member of the Church who would not acknowledge how critical it is for those who deal with homosexual feelings, to know that they can find support within the Church, from other members who desire to more fully understand their challenges -- and are also willing to help them bear that burden. And yet, in a desire to be supportive of gospel standards, which were not acknowledged in the BYU video, leaving on a broader scale the intent of the video ambiguous, many faithful members of the Church are left not knowing what the true message of the video campaign is intended to ultimately accomplish.

For some it is simple -- stop the suicide of young Mormons who struggle with feelings of homosexuality. On this, we all can agree. However, for others, the desire that if enough negative, outside pressure is placed on LDS Church leadership, about homosexuality and same-sex marriage policies, change will inevitably have to happen -- ignoring doctrine.

It is my opinion that the latter agenda runs active throughout this particular BYU video campaign, both on and off campus. However I also believe that an even greater "agenda", if you will, can emerge -- and is hoped for by many BYU students, willing to speak out about their experiences with same-sex attraction. And that agenda is the Lord's agenda -- which is for there to be a safe space within the faithful Mormon culture, where members who face the challenge of same-gender attraction can be supported, feel love and find help in creating a fulfilling and joyful life within the gospel of Jesus Christ -- as it should be.

Referring to those who have same-gender attraction, Church President Gordon B. Hinckley has said: “We love them as sons and daughters of God. … If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church” (“What Are People Asking about Us?” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 71). 
We believe the standard of morality is clearly defined and applies to all of God’s children. The Church teaches chastity before marriage and complete fidelity within a marriage. Marriage is also defined by God as the union of a man and woman, and we are not at liberty to change that definition.

Although I can't support the overall "It Gets Better" campaign, I do think it's important to give props to the fact that, although not brought out in the video, every BYU student who was involved with the project is currently committed to living the BYU standards of moral conduct. To emphasize just how huge this is, my friend expressed the opinion that, "these standards are more stringent than what the general membership of the Church are required to abide." And stated that, "It is like the gospel on steroids". 

I was also reminded just how difficult it had to have been for this group of 20 brave, young BYU students to allow themselves to be recorded, sharing their very personal feelings about what it's like to deal with homosexuality.  Uncomfortable feelings such as fear of rejection, stereotypical judgments of unclean or unrighteous, and the overall experience of being stripped naked by such exposure, was most likely felt by many of these students in deciding to go public. From that perspective, I honor those who chose to do so, in hopes of a sincere desire to assist in creating a faithful space within the Church, not only for themselves, but for others with SSA, in the wings, too terrified to come out -- until it feels safe.

In my initial quandary about the mixed messaging of this video, and my sincere desire to show love and support, I decided to reach out to Adam White -- a key voice in the "It Gets Better" video, and within USGA. Understanding Same-Gender Attraction is the on campus support group behind the BYU video campaign, (not the producers) -- neither endorsed by BYU. I did this after watching Adam's own video, before calculated clips were extracted to create the specific message of the "It Gets Better" video -- which I found very helpful in my quest to better understand. The same was done with each of the students' personal video that was recorded for this project. What we see in the "It Gets Better" video is a very small part of what was actually shared by these students -- worth watching if you have the time.

Adam was kind enough to respond to my inquiries and has also agreed to allow me to post our, unedited, (except for spelling) correspondence. I felt that this was the best way for you to understand both of our desire to communicate on this issue. Just remember that neither one of us wrote, with the intention of being published. I think you will find this very enlightening, and at the least, worthy of my reason to address this topic:

Hi Adam,

I write a popular, conservative blog, with an LDS audience. After long contemplation I am considering writing a supportive post for the "It Gets Better" video you participated in.

As you know, many members are concerned that the standards of the Church were not brought out in the main video, and yet after watching your personal video, it seems quite clear that your personal desire is to remain faithful to gospel standards where chastity is involved. Also that USGA is a support group hoping to support such a desire. Is that true?

I hope you don't mind my being personal about these things but I feel that it is important to help the general membership better understand what it means to be gay and Mormon.

Just so you know, I do understand.

I guess what I'm trying to get at, is instead of reading what other people are speculating about as to how committed this group of BYU students are to keeping the commandments -- or the "true" intent of USGA -- I'd really like to hear from you personally.

There are many, both inside and outside of the Church, who would like nothing more than to see the Church change its policies on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. I'd also love to hear your thoughts about how you feel.

Have you accepted that God will not change? How do you deal with an agenda that hopes for something different? Any personal thoughts you might share would be very welcome.

Also, if you wouldn't mind addressing the direct reference of "gay Mormon" in relation to what Elder Holland has counseled and taught about true identity. As you know, within the Church, it is discouraged to refer to individuals as "gay".

We are encouraged to use phrases like -- those who struggle with SGA or SSA. We can't say that you are homosexual, or gay, but that you have homosexual tendencies, etc... And yet throughout the entire main video that people are seeing in mass the BYU students are blatant about being "gay".

My friend's interpretation of "gay Mormon" means faithful to the gospel. I like that.

My hope is to try and blast through the concerns about the various "agendas" of a more liberal approach to SGA in the Church, to the huge step this is for members with SGA to create a safe space for living the gospel, openly acknowledging SGA. Do you think this is possible?

I have a very tender space in my heart for all of you and would like to, in some way, speak honestly about it and also represent USGA properly -- and its members. Any help you could offer would be very appreciated.

Thank you, Adam. 

Love,
Kathryn

###

Hi Kathryn,

Thank you for your well articulated message. I've been following the conversation surrounding our video, and I'm so glad somebody finally reached out to the group to understand our intentions instead of just assuming and speculating that we have an angle or an agenda.

The "true" intent of USGA is to create a home and community for gay Mormons on BYU campus, as well as to spread understanding and empathy in the BYU community concerning the topic of homosexuality. Now, some describe their experience as "struggling with SGA/SSA," and some use LGBT terms to describe their experience. Regardless of how an individual describes their experience with homosexuality, USGA is a place for them to find the support they need.

As to your questions, "Have you accepted that God will not change? How do you deal with an agenda that hopes for something different?" The answers will vary depending on who you ask at USGA. All keep the Honor Code. All are trying their best to reconcile their faith and their sexuality. USGA is place where they can do that safely and learn from the experiences of others.

Many at USGA feel it is a false representation of their experience if they used phrases like "struggling with SGA/SSA" because many don't "struggle" with the feelings. They accept their feelings as a part of them, and do not struggle with that. Many feel comfortable using the word "gay" because it better fits the way they experience their sexuality. Now, there are those who do "struggle with SGA/SSA" at USGA too. USGA welcomes all, no matter how they choose to describe their experience.

I think we are creating spaces where we can talk about homosexuality in positive, constructive ways. I think USGA is creating a community of understanding and empathy; that is what we are about.

I hope these thoughts help. Please feel free to ask any other questions that come to mind. Again, thank you for your efforts in representing our group accurately.

Thank you,
Adam
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Thanks for your honesty, Adam. Your answers are very helpful in clarifying the purpose of USGA.

I'm curious... when the group meets what are the topics discussed to support members? Would you say that members are encouraged, on a regular basis, to believe or have faith that by keeping the commandments that they can be happy and have fulfilling lives within the Church? How is that approached in the group?

I imagine that for many this is difficult to reconcile a life of celibacy, and feeling that the "blessings" of the gospel are being withheld from them. Would you mind sharing how USGA helps to support members in this area? And how do members, in general, reconcile these things?

I hope you don't mind all my questions. I'm sincerely trying to understand.

How would you say that members, like myself, should and could best support members of the Church with SSA feel a part of the fold? How best can we reach out to support you and help you bear this burden?

I know it can't be easy and I know that "gay" Mormons often feel judged unclean simply because they deal with SGA. I know for myself, and I'm sure many members feel the same, but we love you and feel sad that you often suffer from feelings of isolation and depression. Surely God desires that we embrace one another and start acting like children of God -- as we are all His children.

IMO, there should be no safer place that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for those with SGA.

###

We discuss various facets of the LGBT community. We have had panels on bisexuality, asexuality, transgender individuals, and plan on having more panels like those ones. Various people come to speak to the group. Bill Bradshaw has spoken at our meetings, as well as Carol Lynn Pearson. Also, we have a spirituality night every month; I personally have led discussions on revelation and on faith at USGA. It is a very encouraging and empowering atmosphere, and these different types of meetings have helped members maintain fulfilling lives as Latter-day Saints.

USGA helps members reconcile Church policy and feeling closed off from certain blessings by providing a place where members can hold open conversations with each other about their hopes, fears, reservations, and faith. I'm not sure if there is a general consensus among members as to how reconciliation is achieved. There are wide spectrum of viewpoints at USGA.

I think the most important thing members can do is treat gay members as equals and as brothers and sisters. Often, gay Mormons are pitied under the guise of empathy. While Latter-day Saints don't have to see eye to eye on the issues surrounding homosexuality, hearing perspectives out and respecting the testimonies of gay Latter-day saints spreads understanding and Christlike love. This is the atmosphere that makes gay Mormons feel loved and wanted in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


###

Thank you Adam. Do you have any reservations if I decided to just post our question and answer dialogue? I know it's really causal, but I think, as is, it might be really interesting for others to read.

###

I think that'd be great! Thank you Kathryn

The reason why I finally decided to come out and address this particular "It Gets Better" video, knowing that some of you, whom I deeply respect, may have initially gushed over it after watching it --- is to hopefully shed greater light on the wider agenda within the fringe of the Church -- the reason why I ultimately decided to not support the campaign.

However I do support those student, with SGA, who desire to live lives faithful to the gospel. Now that's the video I want to see. I'm not okay being made to feel that if I support the leadership of the Church that I am then anti-gay. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I am confident that I stand with a multitude of other faithful members of the Church, with a compassionate desire to reach out to embrace our brothers and sisters, who carry the burden of same-gender attraction, and who desire to live the commandments of God -- to help them feel greater love and acceptance within the Church. But I am not willing to promote a campaign that manipulates their message in such a way as to attempt to undermine the commandments of God.

My gay friend explained it to me like this...  it's why kids join gangs. When they can't find a safe place to be heard, feel loved, and have their needs met, they navigate to those who stand ready, with open arms, to tell them that everything will be just fine, they are loved unconditionally, and that they will accept them no matter what choices they make in life. For the lost and vulnerable this is very persuasive. I think my friend hit the nail on the head!

So, to my dear younger brothers and sisters, who are same-gender attracted -- I love you. We love you. There are many members who stand ready to embrace you and try to understand what you experience, in order to help you bear your burden. Just give us a chance.

And yes... it is safe.


tDMg
Kathryn Skaggs

WBMW latest: Now More than EVER We Need Living Prophets

Important note: In keeping with a desire to provide a positive place for those with SGA, to feel the support of the faithful LDS community, I will strongly moderate comments on this post. You are invited and encouraged to share your words of support -- which these kids really need to hear. This will not be a place to debate any of the more controversial topics mentioned in this post. We will save that for another day.

For a better understanding of the policies and doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, relating to the topic of homosexuality -- please visit the LDS Newsroom.

Photo Credit: Spencer Ruiz 

31 comments :

  1. I am confident that I stand with a multitude of other faithful members of the Church, with a compassionate desire to reach out to embrace our brothers and sisters, who carry the burden of same-gender attraction, and who desire to live the commandments of God -- to help them feel greater love and acceptance within the Church. But I am not willing to promote a campaign that manipulates their message in such a way as to attempt to undermine the commandments of God....


    So, to my dear younger [and older, I will add!] brothers and sisters, who are same-gender attracted -- I love you. We love you. There are many members who stand ready to embrace you and try to understand what you experience, in order to help you bear your burden. Just give us a chance.


    Amen. Thank you for this post, Kathryn.

    ~Michelle

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  2. I have a comment regarding whether it is ok to use the word "gay," or whether only phrases like "struggling with SGA" are appropriate for LDS to use.

    I think if it's ok for Michael Otterson and the church's Newsroom to use the word gay in their official statements and videos, it's ok for BYU students to use the word in their conversations and in their video.

    Quotes:
    "This past week we have all witnessed tragic deaths across the country as a result of bullying or intimidation of gay young men."

    "Further, while the Church is strongly on the record as opposing same-sex marriage, it has openly supported other rights for gays and lesbians such as protections in housing or employment."

    Notice that these are used straightforwardly as identifying nouns. So I'm not sure it's fair to assert something like this, "As you know, within the Church, it is discouraged to refer to individuals as "gay"." (At least not unless you plan on sending Brother Otterson an email about his video too. ;-) )

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    1. Perhaps we will take this up in a future post.

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    2. Thank you, Cynthia, for your comment. The use of gay and Lesbian as an adjective and the use of SGA instead of gay or Lesbian is generally viewed as highly insensitive and will automatically create a barrier for most LGBT Latter-day Saints. We also find the idea that we struggle or that being gay is a burden is also insensitive. As LGBT Mormons, we learn to love who and what we are as we should. Isn't that what the Gospel teaches? Although I'm a conservative gay Mormon, I would never choose to be straight. I am who I am because I am gay, not despite the fact that I am gay.

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  3. Thanks for posting this exchange, Kathryn.

    I recently learned that I have a gay Mormon friend. I've known him since he was little. I loved him as his youth leader and continue to love him as a friend now that he is a returned missionary at BYU.

    His testimony is part of the video "It Gets Better." I'm not sure of the timing, but he came to terms with his sexuality, came out to his parents and did the video interview in a short period of time.

    Watching the video, was a powerful experience. I was listening to this man I know and love explain his journey and his continued faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

    I've dealt with the idea of gay Mormons only on an intellectual level to this point in my life. This new relationship has allowed me to reexamine and jettison some left over mental junk. I'm gaining a deeper understanding of the Savior's love.

    Others will probably not have the profound experience I've had when watching the video. I just hope that members will consider the messages of these men and women in the video and accord them the respect that all our brethren and sisters deserve.

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  4. I'm thoroughly confused by your post. I will not say you're anti-gay. Because I think you made it very clear that you care. But I find it really, really strange that you say you refuse to "support" something that doesn't clearly promote that people stay faithful.

    I think faithfulness isn't the issue in that video. The issue is "don't kill yourself". The issue is "don't get depressed because it's hard". Basically, the issue is to help others understand how difficult it really is to keep living your faith, and not get depressed or suicidal over it. The issue is that with support and love, and people who accept your agency, it will eventually get better. Even if you choose to leave the Church.

    To be honest, I find your post very contradictory. You say you feel they need love and support, but then you go on to suggest that you will only lend that support as long as they're committed to being "faithful". I think that's very contradictory to the plan of Salvation. The idea is that we teach correct principles, and let people govern themselves. The idea is that we love others, serve them, and help them as best we can, regardless of their choices. You do not have to agree with someone leaving the Church in order to act on his/her homosexual feelings. But you can still love them, reach out to them, support them, or possibly support video clips that suggest that there's hope, and that things will get better. Because, you know, life isn't over till it's over.

    And sometimes, it very well maybe Heavenly Father's plan for someone to go a certain path outside the Church - like it was suggested in a patriachial blessing of one gay family member of mine. Making love and support conditional is simply not Christ's way. Salvation might be conditional. Love and support never should be.

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  5. Thank you for sharing your emails, very thoughtful young man. I can't help but feel a great love for him and wanting to help others. There does need to be a safe place of acceptance and love within the gospel and still keep the commandments as we understand them. Some things are not easily understood, and this is one of them, but we do need to love our brothers and sisters who may feel like they do not belong. It has to be one of the most difficult things within Mormon families. I sadly had a cousin who served a mission, and later committed suicide.

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  6. I have a few gay friends and feel such deep love for them and their situation. I try to put myself in their shoes and just simply cannot fathom the difficulty they face in trying to reconcile the gospel and their sexuality. I am happy to see the "It gets better" campaign and to see that openly LTGB's have somewhat of a safe haven and won't get kicked out at BYU for openly talk about their sexuality. I am also happy to hear that Allies of LTGB students also are protected. It makes me proud to see this happening on BYU campus (my alma mater) as I feel that so many people I knew never felt safe to discuss this. I think we will see more and more people have courage to come out and more and more tolerance. And I personally think this should eventually lead to much more understanding and embracing of our LTGB brothers and sisters.

    Thanks for the post and trying to sort things out in the open!

    Henry Patterson

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  7. Kathryn -- I know you will understand where I'm coming from with this, but I'm not sure your readers will. I'll ask them to follow your lead in responding to this if they find what I'm going to say here shocking or disrespectful.

    It's not your place to decide what words other people get to use. The commandment (not suggestion) to love one another, our neighbors, and our enemies does not have the condition of "as long as you agree with their ultimate agenda." Playing word games about respecting the terms people reasonably use to refer to themselves tells people who describe themselves as Gay Mormons that you know better than they what they should be called -- neither respectful nor loving, no matter that you can couch it in terms of "this is what the Church says." Keep in mind that this is a Church that can't decide what to call itself or its members with any kind of consensus over any length of time, nor even whether Free Agency is or isn't acceptable to use. Inspiration of our leadership by a God who is the same yesterday, today and forever is, evidently, not granular enough to resolve such questions of usage, or, perhaps, God doesn't care about such petty issues.

    Whether or how our brothers and sisters are dealing with the Law of Chastity is only our business if we are serving as a Judge in Israel with stewardship over their worthiness, and neither you nor I are. They do not need to account to us on such matters, and we condition our acceptance of them on such matters at our own risk -- Jesus said that the measure we mete to others is the measure which shall be meted to us. And we will be called to account for how we have treated others. This is very serious territory to be treading in. I appreciate that you aren't doing so lightly, but, again, I can't be certain that your readers might not do so.

    Our views about the legality of SSM ought not take precedence over our clear commandment to love others. Loving them does not mean that we have to agree with them, nor that we have to support what they are doing. But it does mean that we should not be treating them badly, or undermining their sense of personal worth.

    This video is not about SSM. At all. It doesn't teach any doctrine contrasting with what the Church teaches. It tells Gay/SSA Mormons that they still have worth, and that they can find love in the body of the Church. I wish I could be confident that that last part is true, but I'm afraid your response is one of many realities that undermine that confidence.

    I very much agree that there should be no place safer for Gay Mormons than the Church, but I don't think we can yet make the claim that such is the case. I think that this will remain the case precisely to the degree and as long as individual members feel that showing love and compassion and acceptance of our gay brothers, sisters and children is at odds with showing loyalty to the Church.

    I am impressed, but not surprised, that you took this question directly to someone who could answer it, and that you have shown respect in your disagreement. I hope you feel my respect for you in this response.

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  8. Kathryn,

    I appreciate the thoughtful and sympathetic way you treat such a sensitive topic. It provides a good high bar for me and others who want to engage in this topic. Let me do my best to live up to it even though I have a different perspective than you in some regards I would like to respectfully put out there.

    I think we all need to be very careful about deciding what we declare God can or cannot reveal to change our understanding about homosexuality or anything else for that matter. A brief or extended look back across Mormon history or biblical history would warn us to be very careful in making such statements. Even our leaders, at times, had this difficulty of expressing the belief that something is an immutable truth, but they have also provided good examples of aligning themselves with new revelation and knowledge. See Bruce R. McConkie's wonderful example regarding the revelation on priesthood availability for those of African decent. I think especially as regular church members we should be careful in declaring that X (whatever it is) cannot change and more importantly implying those members who do feel it might or will change are somehow are less faithful. I don't purport to know what may or may not lay in store in our continuing understanding of homosexuality, but already there have been important changes by our leaders in defining and approaching this topic. However, I would hate to think that my feelings that it might or even will probably change at some point based on my own spiritual experiences renders me suspect or dangerous in your eyes. On the other hand, I realize that this puts on me the obligation to respect those who feel differently including as you rightfully point out not making the mistake of assuming that they are bigotted or do not love gay members of the church. Hence, I don't think it is productive to withdraw support from groups such as USGA because they make space for those who might hope for or believe that change may come through the proper channels at some point in the future. I believe, it is an integral part of making the church a safer place for gay and lesbian individuals. I think we can give them that, especially since neither you nor I know the mind of God. They obviously respect those that have determine nothing will change and are making decisions based on that belief.

    I hope that was a respectful way to put it and something to consider for you and your readers as we as a community try and grapple with the issues we face in our community in making it a safe place for all our brothers and sisters.

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  9. A very thoughtful post and exchange...thank you so much for sharing this!

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  10. Thank you for a very fair article on the issue.

    I am curious, if you have a chance to ask Adam the question, "Do those struggling with SSA (or however they wish to define their experience) WANT to feel different or apart?" Meaning, there seems to be a sense in this video and in other experiences that I have had with those in similar situations, where they don't consider themselves a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that struggle with SSA, rather they are a GAY members of the Church. It seems to me that this group on campus seeks to fully define themselves that way with reason that I would like to understand more fully. Why, if they don't agree with this issue, or find some kind of spiritual conflict with the doctrines of the Church do they choose to invest this issue so fully into their identities?

    If so I am curious as to why they feel that is a productive approach. It would almost be a kin to saying to those who struggle with pornography addiction, I am a PORN WATCHING member of the Church. Or, I am a DRUG ADDICT member of the Church. Why is it that I don't hear about other groups on campus banding together where they define themselves by their challenges? Most of the male population at BYU does have a problem with pornography. Do those who watch porn hold meetings and make videos hoping that the church will change its policy on pornography or illicit drug use? It seems that the GLBT/SSA community seeks to define themselves as separate from the rest. I am curious if this is intentional, and therefore productive in their eyes, or if that is something that they don't want to see happen.

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    1. Your comparisons dont seem to hold up. A gay person doesnt choose to be attracted to the same sex, it is smply part of who they are. A pornography viewer or drug user actually engaged in behavior at odds with the honor code. The honor code at byu thankfully now allows for gay people to identify themselves by their sexuality if the choose to without fear of official punishment. I think their aim is to help people understand that they are gay and that even though it can be hard in our church culture of arrogance and judging, it can still get better.

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  11. Bravo, Katherine. I could not echo your sentiments more thoughtfully or succinctly.

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  12. Very positive and encouraging post Kathryn. We all have certain issues to deal with in this life, and this is just one issue (albeit a very heavy one for some) that they must seek to come to grips with and live with on a daily basis. I am comforted by the fact that EVERY situation we encounter in this life and every issue we must face and overcome is understood by the Savior. He truly knows how to succor all of us--no matter what our trials or temptations. Truly, this is one issue where FAITH and HOPE must step up (IMHO)--as true companionship as spouses feel for one another may not be something enjoyed in this life. As the adage goes, we must first seek to understand, then to be understood. That is the key--no judgments on those truly trying to live a clean and virtuous life, no matter what their sexual preference.

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  13. I would first like to thank you for your honest, yet respectful discussion. This is a very sensitive subject in the church because it has been dealt with poorly for years. The conversation needs to change from being a conversation between opposing generals in a civil war. Since this is my "struggle" (not with sexuality, but with being gay and mormon), I have a personal investment in this dialogue. There were parts that got my figurative feathers all ruffled, but this is personal to me and a mild case of ruffled feathers is a good thing.

    I struggle with your question to Adam "do you accept God will never change?" I am fairly confident you mean change the doctrine. If not then the rest of this section isn't relevant. God has changed doctrine throughout the history. A big change was the priesthood being restored to all races. There are also changes in temple cerimonies, garments, modesty, etc. Then there was the big changes that was fought against in the new testament when Christ came and then died for us. While I agree God may not change, his instruction does. I feel like that is the point of having living prophets.

    As a race here on earth I see a method God may possibly use and I call it evolution. I don't mean it in the Darwin way, even though I agree with that as well, but an evolution of obedience. It looks to me that God kept things simple in the beginning and as we became better at understanding his direction how to obey got more complex. I struggle with the idea that we have a set of rules and regulations that we will always follow when our journey to be Christlike has ended. I feel that the rules and regulations help us understand what it to be Christlike. I wondered off, but my point is that I do not believe that the gospel is anything more than learning and properly expressing Christlike love. Everything else... is subject to change and be misunderstood.

    Too be continued...

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  14. Although this doesn't seem to be your intent, it feels like your love and acceptance is conditional toward my population. Also an attitude of "one day you'll see that I'm right." This is something we are extremely sensitive about, albet too sensitive. However the sensitivity is warranted, we have silently listened to every word, expression, social cue, etc to see if our secret has been found out. If you want to accept us then you have to accept us and all we bring. Even if what we bring goes against "everything you've been taught." We'd like to think we know everything, but we don't. The more I grow spiritually the more I realize I don't know anything.

    I'd like to explain why the phrase "struggle with same sex attraction" is offensive to some. First of all we don't struggle with the attraction, we are so good at it. Second it implies that we have a choice. When people tell me it's a choice it turns me off to understanding and turns on the gay little diva inside. The gays won't like me saying this but I'd down that straight pill if it were possible. My life would be so less complicated and awkward if I could be straight. Third, its just in accurate. We struggle with accepting ourselves in spite of our "same sex attraction." The rejection we feel from an early age is difficult and frustrating. I remember feeling rejected from my father as early as 3 or 4, I'm not sure how old I was. We often become validation junkies and search in all facets of life to receive it.

    I honestly and sincerely appreciate your respect when discussing this divisive subject. I am choosing to be part of the change of dialogue because I do not want others to feel the same as I have felt for the same reasons. There will be plenty of old and new reasons to feel alone, ostracized, hated and unloved. It's like you said, I want to give you straights a chance, so far I have mostly been pleasantly surprised. One last thing, I want to make sure you understand the the intent of the video was to first reach out those contemplating suicide, second to give "straights" in the church a chance to understand us, and third to be heard by BYU we have been silent for too long.

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    1. Mark - thank you for giving us "straights" a chance. We can be slow to learn, and stubborn about changing out hearts. But there are many of us with gay friends who we love tremendously. I'm grateful for their patience (and yours) as I try to to understand what it's like to be gay and LDS. I find this video beautiful, and I have nothing but respect and love for the courageous people willing to speak out and let their voices be heard. Thank you.

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  15. Thanks for addressing this subject. I think a lot of members don't know how to express their feelings as succinctly as you Kathryn:) and may even be wary of approaching this subject for fear of coming off as 'bigot's', or 'homophobic' - when that is far from the case - the members I know love and accept those who are gay, and I think it takes a lot of courage to be a faithful Latter-day saint, who just happens to be gay. I think the more we talk about these things the more we will be able to understand each other, and any walls of negativity will fall, so that love and respect will be able to rear their beautiful heads:)

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  16. Why would someone think this 'To emphasize just how huge this is, my friend expressed the opinion that, "these standards are more stringent than what the general membership of the Church are required to abide." And stated that, "It is like the gospel on steroids".' it made me wonder so, I followed the link, read the honor code and all the standards there are what we are all taught and should all be living.

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    1. I think what they mean is that gays are expected to be celibate to live the gospel standards. The rest of us who arr straight can have intimate relations once married, those who are gay don't have that option.

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  17. My husband and I had the very same feelings you expressed here, however we were unable to articulate them as beautifully as you have done. After watching the video together, we spent much time discussing our feelings at length. Our hearts overflowed with feelings of love, empathy and support for these youth and so many others facing these challenges. We desired to lighten their load somehow and sincerely desired to better understand them and help them. But were simultaneously concerned that some would use the video as a vehicle to distort and misrepresent. Thank you Kathryn for reaching out to Adam and thank you Adam for willingly sharing more of your experience. It has surely added to the positive dialog that should and I hope will continue to exist among latter day saints, as we all try to be better disciples of Christ. I do not profess to understand all the intricacies of God's plan for his children, and I have yet to meet someone inside the church that dares to claim they do. But we have been given much counsel in this matter and I suppose that yet again, when life's challenges simply don't make sense to us, as with so many other of life's challenges, we are left to our only hope and refuge...and that is Trusting in the Lord with all our might and following His example. Those things we don't understand, Heavenly Father surely does. My prayer is that we will keep our minds and hearts open to God's will in this delicate matter, albeit difficult to accept that there may not be the reconciliation that some might hope for. But maybe reconciliation is not Heavenly Father's purpose here? Maybe there is something greater? What? I have no idea! But this outpouring of love, respect and understanding feels pretty darn good.

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  18. I think it would be good to keep in mind that there isn't a LGTBQ/SSA/SGA Mormon who doesn't understand what the Church teaches regarding sexual behavior quite thoroughly. There aren't any thing I haven't seen struggle to try to comply with those rules, guidelines, and even suggestions. Many have said that they would gladly have this taken from them if it could be -- not a few have subjected themselves to barbaric reparative therapy toward that goal, or gotten married heterosexually at the advice of priesthood leaders. I have a friend who has sexual feelings for precisely one woman -- his wife -- and, past that, his desires are for men. He's lived the rules of the Church for decades faithfully, and is a father and grandfather. And I'm aware of many who have tried to follow his path and have failed, bringing lots of pain and suffering to themselves and their families in the process.

    I have no solutions to offer them that they haven't already considered or, most of them, tried. I don't see any point in continuing to encourage them to keep on trying the same things over, and over, and over. They've heard everything I've got to say, and everything most everybody has to say who wants to support the Church's position.

    The most I know I can say is that I welcome them in my life as my brothers and sisters in the Gospel (not to mention my actual family members, in and out of the Church) and friends. I will leave the question of their fellowship in the Church in the hands of those who have that responsibility. My obligation to love and serve them supersedes any personal reaction I may have to their life-style or their political goals. My reactions to those things may make it difficult for me to behave toward them in the correct manner, but I need to exhaust my ability to choose that behavior before accepting that it is just the way I am. But, for those who have exhausted their ability to choose, I see no love in telling them to keep trying anyhow.

    This video, from what I could see, is about helping these (young) people see that they have value and hope, that the lives they have are worth living, and that they can reach out for love and support from their Church family and find acceptance there. I don't see a thing wrong with that.

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  19. I hope that every faithful member, same-sex attracted or otherwise, soberly considers the weight of the church's expectations for same-sex attracted members. For opposite-sex attracted members, the expectations focus on marriage and family. Yes, it is absolutely true that these members are expected to remain chaste. They are not supposed to misuse their divine sexual gifts outside of marriage. But it is very clear as well that they *are* supposed to use their sexual gifts, because they *are* supposed to marry and have families.

    This goes so far as for the general authorities to speak in conference about how young men should not put off marriage, how it is essentially for them to marry, etc., Young women should look forward to the opportunity to become wives and mothers, for indeed motherhood is akin to priesthood.

    For these same-sex attracted members who wish to follow the standards of the church, they must become fully aware of the fact that they are not achieving a chief theological goal in life. The church simply doesn't have celibacy as the ultimate theological ideal for men and women -- the ideal of chastity is not celibacy, but sex within the bounds of marriage towards raising a family.

    These young men and you women must come to realize that they will not be able to achieve life's purpose, as the church and its leaders have revealed it. At best, they must bide their time in this life, waiting until the end of this mortality with but the hope and faith that in the next life, all will be made well and whole.

    Let us ponder this.

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    1. "At best, they must bide their time in this life, waiting until the end of this mortality with but the hope and faith that in the next life, all will be made well and whole."

      Exactly.

      You could put this comment after a post that talks about the doctrine of bearing children, for a woman/man who is infertile.

      You could put this comment after a post about marriage, for a woman like my Great Aunt who is an extremely faithful member of the Church who has never been married (and probably never will be - she is in her 80s and in failing health).

      But I would change it to this: "We must bide our time in this life, waiting until the end of this mortality with the hope and faith that in the next life, all will be made well and whole."

      Hope and faith are not trivial things, my friend, hope and faith are the most powerful tools we have. It is by faith and hope that God makes all things possible for us.

      We all face challenges in this life. We should all love one another and accept one another with open arms.

      Thank you for your example of love and acceptance, Kathryn.

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    2. Becca,

      I actually completely agree about the implications of the church's teachings on bearing children, for women/men who are infertile. Especially for women, since there seems to be this emphasis that motherhood is akin to priesthood. So, if a woman is not a mother (or is unable to become one, out of no fault of her own), then what is that supposed to say?

      I don't want to be a downer, but let's truly consider where hope and faith get us as the most powerful tools that we have. What do these things and God make possible for us?

      Does it give the infertile man or woman their fertility back?

      Does it give the perpetually single a companion?

      It's less of a matter that we may have a challenge in our life, but rather that some lives are a challenges in and of themselves, with what we know of the Gospel.

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  20. Kathryn,

    I am a gay (quasi(ex))Mormon and was routed here via a blog post made by a gay Mormon friend (http://listentowhoiam.blogspot.com/2012/04/expanding-on-perplexity.html).

    I'd first like to thank you for taking the time to gain a deeper understanding about the gay-LDS experience and to reach out kindly to Adam in the BYU "It Get's Better" video. I'm less that excited, however, to encounter yet again, some of the language that you use to characterize the attractions of people like me. Athough I would have used similiar language for many years while I was an active member of the Church, I no longer feel that my attractions are a "struggle" or a "burden". I only cast them in a negative light for such a long time because the world around me encouraged me to do so. The expression of my physical, sexual, and emotional attractions are not - as an acronym like "SSA" might imply - some sort of clinical problem for which there was some undesirable cause and for which there needs to be some invasive cure.

    My homoemotional and homoerotic attractions connect directly to the most intimate and honest parts of who I am as a person. There can be nothing more beautiful in a human being than the ability to love another human being, with all of the noble characteristics that attend that love - sacrifice, forgiveness, and compassion. I know personally that my capacity to love is greatest with another man. For many of us "afflicted" homosexuals, we are most able to give and receive love with someone of the same sex. Although there is some fluidity to sexuality throughout a person's life, for most of us homosexually-attracted people, our gayness is here to stay. I am only damaging myself if I to continue to fight against feelings that represent the best of who I am.

    Many gay Mormons end up leaving the Church. For many of us, I think we do not feel that there is a place in the Gospel for us, AS we are. We are asked to change, indeed asked to supress feelings that are both natural and elevating. When many of us go through years of prayer, fasting, and self-imposed torture to extricate the feelings with little or no success, we naturally become wary of the message that there is something wrong or burdening us. There is little empirical evidence that gay people can change their orientation, even though we still don't fully understand the biological causes of homosexuality.

    Gay Mormons DO need support. Some will choose to remain celibate in the Church. But we will not all fit in the conventional Mormon box. The "lost sheep" need the compassion and understanding of the membership too. There are too many heart-wrenching stories of orthodox Latter-day Saints who reject their gay children or of gay Mormons who come close to or actually end their lives.

    While I appreciate your attempt to gain deeper understanding, I think that that understanding will be most easily gained when "faithful" Latter-day Saints step outside of their familiar paradigms and really listen to the experiences of gay persons. There is a lot of good in Mormonism, but there is also the tendency to believe that one has the answers before one even asks the questions. I would encourage you to just assume for a time, that you have no "divine" guidance about the homosexual experience and then listen to the heartfelt stories of LGBT persons. I think you are starting down this road and I commend you for that effort. Even for me, a gay person, it took me a long time before I stopped listening to others' explanations of my experiences and started listening to myself. Best wishes - Chris

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  21. This whole thing just makes me angry. Being a straight moron woman, I have taught my children to accept all people. It is not for us to judge, but to love one another. We must be very careful how we word things. While I do appreciate your efforts, I have a hard time with your words. I cannot imagine being gay in the church. I am pretty sure I would leave it. I felt frustrated over many of the comments as well. Who are we to EVER think we know the mind of God. Who are we to assume He will not change doctrine when He has done so in the past. I cannot believe the young man who associated being gay with pornography and drug abuse. Gay is not a choice, and please explain to me how if God himself chose to make a person gay, we think we have the right to tell them it is wrong!We do not get to stand in the judgement seat of God! It is so hypocritical to say gay is wrong and judge those who are, and feel ok about it, and then go against God's commandment to love and serve one another without judgement and not think you are in the wrong. We yet have so much to learn.

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