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 www.lds.org/same-gender-attraction 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.