Monday, October 15, 2007


Someone said that the Church is not a museum for saints. It is a hospital for sinners. I thought of that when I read the Church's new pamphlet, "God Loveth His Children". Some bloggers' critical comments about it motovated me to go to and read it for myself. I came away with a very different response than the critics.

They said that the title was too vague; that the Church was trying to cover up the fact that there are gays in the Church. The numerous articles in the Ensign, Church News, and now this pamphlet don't suggest to me that the Church is hiding the fact that many members struggle with SGA. They said that the pamphlet said we shouldn't have gay thoughts, act gay, or have gay friends, that we should deny our true selves and remain in the closet so that we won't make straight members feel uncomfortable; that there is nothing new, just the same old guilt trip.

While I understand that people who have been hurt by Church members' often unsensitive responses would feel defensive, I really believe that they are over reacting this time! I had never read the pamphlet. I was expecting to be offended by it because I have read all the past Church publications on this subject and at times have been miffed. Some pamphlets in the past seemed to try to bludgeon me into conformity. They got my attention like a 2×4 between the eyes. But I found this one to be very gentle, supportive, and inspiring! As I read it my thoughts were: "These principles apply to people of any sexual orientation." I thought of the hours I have spent counseling individuals and couples as a singles ward bishop. This is good counsel! I am going to use it in the future and suggest that if their problem isn' t SGA, they substitute their own issue and follow the principles and advice given. As to the title, the message that God loves me, and wants to help me permeates the pamphlet.

What follows is my summary of what it says:

They start off by saying that they don't know why SGA exists, but you should know that God loves you and that you are not a second class citizen in the Kingdom. You have the potential to fully enjoy all that God has to offer everyone. Handicaps in this life will be removed in the next. SGA doesn't make you unworthy.
Everyone is tempted. The challenge is to "diminish" these "uninvited" tempting thoughts. When they come don't "entertain" them. It helps to replace them immediately with uplifiting , constructive thoughts. [I see nothing but good advice here for someone who strives to discipline his thoughts. There is no guilt trip for having desires and thoughts, just good advice on how to bridle passions (Alma 38:12)]
You can be forgiven by God and should forgive yourself of the past. Concentrate on your strengths. Don't worry about those things you don't understand. Focus on simply living the Gospel.
You can resist these strong temptations through the power of Jesus Christ. Surround yourself with uplifting, positive things. Avoid environments full of temptations. Be fully active in the Church. No member of the Church should ever be intolerant. If some are, show them love and kindness. Don't stoop to their level.
Avoid influences that can harm you spiritually. Avoid people who talk obsessively about sexual stuff and unnecessarily discuss it. Choose friends who lead constructive, righteous lives. Set wise boundaries in your relationships. There can be danger in some emotionally intimate relationships, be cautious. [Again, more good advice. It doesn't say to have no SGA friends. It does counsel to avoid those who "flaunt" the desires you are struggling with. That is good advice for a heterosexual.]
You can find hope and overcome despair by knowing of God's continuing love and the power of the Atonement. Be patient if resolutions are not immediate.
Pornography is damaging and addictive and can lead to worse behavior. Turn to uplifting literature and music.
Don't carry guilty feelings for sexual experiences during your early years.
It is better to have daily spiritual food than to have occasional spiritual binges. Seek out help when needed from priesthood leaders and counselors, but don't become spiritually dependent on them. Your spiritual strength will come from your relationship with God.
There are other Latter-day Saints who, like you, have SGA. They are living lives worthy of all the blessings of the Gospel and so can you.
[It ends with this statement:]As President Hinckley said: “Our hearts reach out to those who struggle with feelings of affinity for the same gender. We remember you before the Lord, we sympathize with you, we regard you as our brothers and sisters.”

True to its role as a "hospital for sinners" the Church has provided a practical aid to healing. It as written for each of us with SGA who choose to stay in the Church and who strive to live up to our covenants. This is hard. We need all the help we can get.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Earlier I said that I would report back after I taught the priesthood lesson discussing concerns of LDS with SGA. I was ambivalent after Elder Oaks' strong remarks in priesthood about sticking with the Spencer W. Kimball text. I prayed about it and felt strongly impressed to proceed.

I began by asking them what they would say if a faithful, returned missionary son told him that he was homosexual. [One brother then got up and closed the door into the hall.] The first response was: "I would listen, listen, listen. I wouldn't preach or be critical. I would let him talk and then let him know how much I loved him." Next one said: "I would make sure that he knew the Church's position on homosexuality which I support and then tell him that I would respect his free agency. He would have to decide for himself what to do. He should know that whatever he decided, I am still his father and love him dearly." I asked "What is the Church's position?" Someone responded, "I think that as long as he doesn't get sexually involved and strives to be morally clean that he can go to the temple or do anything else in the Church." Someone said, "Well he can't go on a mission!" I said that each potiental missionary is handled individually and that I know a number of cases where they were called on missions after confessing and waiting for a time period if they had any transgressions. I know of a case where one missionary even transgressed on his mission. A general authority was his mission president and seeing his grief and thorough repentance didn't send him home, but let him repent and serve a successful mission.

Other comments were: "Tell him that there is far more to him than his SGA. He should focus on the goodness in his life and all of the goodness he can do in and through the Church. Satan only wants him to feel that he is a queer and feel like a second class citizen in the Church. This is not true." "We all struggle with sexual issues. He has his and I have mine. What matters is how we deal with them, and staying close to the Lord." I said that I would tell him that he must cope with a physical/emotional emptiness and hunger for intimate contact with a male if he stays in the Church. But if he pursues just the physical he will have to cope with a spiritual/emotional emptiness and hunger for the peace and fulfillment that comes from communication with God and the opportunity to serve in the Church. He has to make a choice. Even if you choose the gay path you still may not be able to satisfy all your sexual desires. One brother said, "Well, even we straight guys with happy marriages experience unfulfilled desires and have to cope with them." Another said, "Yes, especially as we get older and have physical problems."

I said, "What is your counsel about marrying a woman?" After no response from the class, I referred them to Elder Holland's article in the current Ensign. He leaves the door open for marriage, but realizes that for some that may not be a wise choice.

I then read a statement by one of our fellow bloggers expressing his love for his wife and children. He stated that he had no physical attraction for her but that they had developed a satisfying physical relationship. He then listed many of the things he did to show her he loved her, praising her, helping around the house, etc. One of the class members said, "He sounds like he is a better husband that I am!"

Following Elder Oaks' suggestion, I then turned to the Spencer W. Kimball manual page 182: "What is love? Many people think of it as mere physical attraction and they casually speak of “falling in love” and “love at first sight.”… One might become immediately attracted to another individual, but love is far more than physical attraction. It is deep, inclusive, and comprehensive. Physical attraction is only one of the many elements; there must be faith and confidence and understanding and partnership. There must be common ideals and standards. There must be great devotion and companionship. Love is cleanliness and progress and sacrifice and selflessness. This kind of love never tires or wanes, but lives through sickness and sorrow, poverty and privation, accomplishment and disappointment, time and eternity. For the love to continue, there must be an increase constantly of confidence and understanding, of frequent and sincere expression of appreciation and affection. There must be a forgetting of self and a constant concern for the other. Interests, hopes, objectives must be constantly focused into a single channel. …Even though sex can be an important and satisfactory part of married life, we must remember that life is not designed just for sex."

And page 194: “Soul mates” are fiction and an illusion; and while every young man and young woman will seek with all diligence and prayerfulness to find a mate with whom life can be most compatible and beautiful, yet it is certain that almost any good man and any good woman can have happiness and a successful marriage if both are willing to pay the price. …
Two individuals approaching the marriage altar must realize that to attain the happy marriage which they hope for they must know that marriage is not a legal coverall, but it means sacrifice, sharing, and even a reduction of some personal liberties. It means long, hard economizing. It means children who bring with them financial burdens, service burdens, care and worry burdens; but also it means the deepest and sweetest emotions of all."

These apply to any couple. I told them that I knew many with SGA who had happy, fulfilling marriages.

Getting back to the initial comments about listening to and loving and our sons and daughters in spite of their chioces we read selected quotes from pp. 205, 207, 210, 212.

Time ran out. It seemed to go well. Only about one third of the class of about 25 brothers made comments. A few seemed embarrassed. Some spoke positively of neighbors and friends who were gay. One said that his gay neighbors were surprised that he and his wife who were Mormons would be so friendly and nice to them.

It seemed to go well. I felt the Spirit confirming our discussion.