The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not immune from this struggle. There are members around the world who have a strong belief in Mormonism and also have strong convictions about the positive value of being homosexual. And in their mind's eye they see no inconsistency between these two positions. And, indeed there is none, except for one thing - sexual activity.
President Gordon B. Hinckley has told church members, "Our hearts reach out to those who struggle with feelings of affinity for the same gender. However, we cannot condone immoral practices on your part any more than we can condone immoral practices on the parts of others" (Sept 1995, Relief Society Meeting, Reported in Deseret News).
There has always been both brotherly love among men and sisterly love among women. Especially in European cultures, men hugging and kissing men has always been a normal way of greeting loved ones. Even in modern America, women embrace each other in an endearing manner and often hold hands as a sign of sisterly affection. But that is not what homosexuality is about.
Gay men and lesbian women desire a more profound and intimate association with one another. Their longing is to have the same kind of close, personal, and special relationship that society now only approves of among husbands and wives. In marriage, the most tender and private way of showing one's love and affection is that of having physical intimacy with each other. Whether one's desire is for someone of the opposite or same gender, the yearning to express love in this unique manner is still the same. Therefore, the question of homosexuality is not so much about a couple's affection for one another as it ultimately is about them being allowed to engage in sexual activity on a par with heterosexual couples.
Both inside and outside the church, homosexuals seek to justify their lifestyle of intimate relationships by use of logic and reasoning to show that there is no difference between them and anyone else. One way they do this is by comparing their characteristics to that of others. They are fond of pointing out that homosexuals are just as patriotic, honest, hardworking, smart and caring as heterosexuals. They proudly give examples of homosexuals in business, government and in church who can perform their duties with the same degree of effectiveness as that of heterosexuals. Gay and lesbian Mormons often say that when the church excludes them from participating as full members, the church is denying itself valuable skills and faith which these people can offer to help the church grow. While all of that is very true, that has nothing to do with the issue of sex outside of marriage.
Many defenders of President Clinton used this same approach to condone his immoral conduct. They've argued that because of his great leadership skills and ability to feel people's pain, it's irrelevant that he obstructed a federal investigation. They claim that because his policies have helped bring about remarkable prosperity for so many Americans, it doesn't matter that he lied to them, to Congress and to his own close associates. Because of his talent in the area of foreign affairs that affects our national security, it's a trivial thing that he was convicted of committing perjury. "After all," it was argued, "what man wouldn't lie after being caught cheating on his wife?" Therefore, they argue that what he did was no different than what anyone else would have done.
As such, in the eyes of those who seek to justify President Clinton's inappropriate behavior, they contend that whatever "minor" mistakes he may have made should be "balanced against what he has done in his public life as president" (comment by Al Gore on December 15th, 1999 when asked what he thought about the allegation that Bill Clinton raped Juanita Broderick). That's the same kind of attitude homosexuals want us to adopt concerning their physical relationships outside the vows of marriage. To them, what they do in their private life should be irrelevant or overlooked when compared to all the good they can do in their public life.
Another way homosexuals attempt to justify their behavior is to say that God made them the way they are and therefore there is nothing they can do to change their attitudes and affections toward someone of the same gender. As has already been pointed out, the church teaches that there is nothing wrong with having homosexual desires. What the church does condemn is when anyone engages in unchaste behavior. Not even church leaders are exempt from this standard.
But each of us are also born with the natural tendency to express anger and hatred. At one time or another, everyone has felt the urge to take revenge on someone else. Just because we have these attitudes and tendencies doesn't make it right when we give into them. All of us have been endowed with the godly desires to engage in physically intimate companionships. But the Lord has explained that these desires need to be used appropriately and should remain under control at all times. This goes for homosexuals as well as anyone else.
But, generally speaking, homosexuals tend to disagree with this kind of thinking. They don't want controls on their sexual desires as the Lord has prescribed. Instead, they view abstinence as a violation of their basic rights. As one person reasoned "Why shouldn't we be able to express our emotions with those we love? We are whole people who deserve whole relationships. God wants each of us to choose our happiness and love each other unconditionally." Another person took a more conciliatory approach when he said, "Follow your heart. If you feel celibacy is the only option, then that is what you should do. But if you can put sex in it's proper perspective, then it should not be a problem."
Even among gay and lesbian Mormons who have a testimony of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith and the church itself, the tendency is to shape their LDS faith to fit their personal behavior. One such person wrote, "I look at the church as a human institution that God manages to bend to his uses from time to time," Another person wrote, "An organization that so strongly indoctrinates us to marry is cruel to suggest that we must lead a life of celibacy." Still, another person said, "I finally came to realize that without having the experience of a loving, intimate relationship, a large part of my spirituality would remain missing. I was losing my spirituality in fact, I could progress no longer. I am now in a long-term committed relationship and feel that finally, for me, I am progressing. I am more fulfilled and have much more joy in my life."
A prevalent view in today's society is that whatever idea a person has is right and proper, at least for them. It's like saying that if someone believes that two and two makes three, then, for that person, that is the truth. This kind of belief system is called relativism, which teaches that there are no absolutes, especially when it comes to right and wrong. Everything is relative. What's right for one person may be wrong for someone else. Therefore, one person's opinion is just as valid as anyone else's
When a gay or lesbian Mormon states that they have a testimony of the truthfulness of the restored gospel and yet criticizes the leaders of the LDS church because of their stand on homosexuality, they are practicing the religion of relativism. Either the LDS church is led by God through His appointed servants or it isn't. Either the president of the LDS church is God's spokesman to the world or he isn't. Either the official position of the church, as expressed by the President of the church, with concurrence by the Quorum of the Twelve and the Quorum of the Seventies is God's declaration of what is true, or it isn't. Unlike in other Christian denomination, for Mormons, there is no middle ground. Yet that is exactly what gay and lesbian Mormons need for us to believe in order to justify their conduct.
To better understand the church's stand on homosexuality it might be helpful to look at this issue in a broader context. When Christianity first began, it was based on the Jewish law which God gave to Moses. The law of Moses condemned sexual activity outside of marriage and this law was rigidly followed by the early Christians. At the time when the gospel was being preached to the Gentiles, sexual promiscuity and homosexuality were normal behavior for many Roman citizens, and especially the elite. In fact, many of the gods they worshipped required orgy like rituals to please them.
Against this backdrop, history shows that Christians were expected to remain chaste at all costs. This fact was so well known to the Romans, that during the persecutions, not only were people thrown to the lions because of their belief in Christ, but Christian women were publicly raped because of their insistence not to indulge in the sensual practices of the day. Although there are some who question the interpretation of certain scriptures in the Bible that seem to condemn homosexual acts, there is absolutely no evidence from any source that the early Christian church condoned this kind of behavior. In fact, all the ancient records seem to show that sexual abstinence outside of marriage was demanded of a Christian at a time when the rest of society felt just the opposite. Furthermore, there is no evidence that Christians ever performed homosexual marriages. Given the moral climate that surrounded the early church, this is a very significant omission in church practices.
For two thousand years, from the time of Moses to Jesus, and for nearly the next two thousand years, from Jesus until about 20-30 years ago, every Jewish and Christian sect has always taught that sexual activity outside of marriage is forbidden and against the laws of God. But, today, there are those who say that such a standard is out of touch with modern reality. Therefore, they seek to redefine the church's doctrines in a way that conforms it with the views of contemporary society. They talk about how the church should change with the times to meet the needs and challenges of today's problems. They seek to convince others that the old way of thinking is out of date and that the rules and practices of the past are no longer applicable. They argue that since we live in a more enlightened and technologically advanced world, that the church must also become more opened to new ideas. Of course, when talking about sexual promiscuity and homosexuality, these are not new ideas at all, but very old practices which the church has denounced for almost four thousand years.
But let's say that the LDS church were to allow gays and lesbians the right to have sex outside of marriage, as they hope will someday happen. How does the church then teach its youth to live morally clean, chaste lives before marriage? Each year the Young Men/Young Woman's' program has what is call "Standard's Night" where the youth are taught why it is important for them to live by the church's standards. In addition to that, each young person is given a booklet entitled "The Standards of Youth" which sets forth guidelines for dating and other interpersonal relationships among the youth to help them live morally chaste, clean lives.
There are numerous people who have married and then have lost their spouse due to death or divorce. To obtain a temple recommend, these unmarried people must remain completely celibate until they again marry. But how can the church fairly require total sexual abstinence from heterosexuals while allowing homosexuals the freedom to express themselves any way they want outside of marriage?
Homosexuals argue that they are being unfairly treated because they cannot be legally married. Therefore, they claim they have no other choice than to have an intimate relationship outside of wedlock. But that's like saying because someone can't afford to buy food, that it justifies stealing it. Man cannot live without food, but he can live without sex. However, I've never heard one gay or lesbian person advocate sexual abstinence until they get married. What homosexuals are asking the church to do is to overthrow four thousand years of practice and reverse it moral standard just so they can have sex without any condemnation. But if that were to happen, there is no way that the church can expect a doctrine of sexual purity to be observed by others.
For example, it is only natural when an LDS boy and girl go out on a date that they can find themselves in a sexually aroused situation. Professing a love for one another, it is very easy for them to justify expressing their feelings in an intimate way. Perhaps they may even be engaged and conclude that it will happen eventually anyway so why wait until marriage? Since that is what everyone else outside of the church does, why shouldn't they do the same? The reason is because they cannot get sealed in the temple if they violate the church's standard of morality.
But if the church were to allow homosexuals to have sex outside of marriage, all these guidelines and the programs which support them would be meaningless. With the safe guards of high moral standards lowered or eliminated, there is no reason why heterosexuals should postpone the gratification of their desires. As such, if the LDS church were to change its policy concerning sexual activity among gays and lesbians, the whole moral foundation of the church would be seriously jeopardized. How can they convince young people not to engage in today's all too common practice of "trial marriages" if homosexuals are allowed to live physically intimate lives outside of marriage?
Therefore, to accommodate the demands of the homosexual community, the LDS church would have to become like so many other churches which remain silent and look the other way when their members live together out of wedlock. Thus, to sanction homosexual behavior, the church would have to do away with its "Standards of Youth" and change both the temple recommend questions and the temple teachings itself.
This is the position homosexuals are asking the church to put itself in just so they can live as they want. Rather than conform to the standards of the church, gay and lesbian Mormons want the church to conform to their standards.
Their solution to this problem is to have the church allow same sex marriages. They argue that their union can be just as warm, caring, and loving as any other couple's. As far as the question of children goes, they contend there is a growing need for adoptive parents, which makes them ideal for solving this urgent problem. They tend to downplay or dismiss the negative psychological effects of children growing up with only one kind of role model to emulate. And they see nothing wrong with their adoptive children being raised to mimic their "parent's" homosexual inclinations, thereby fostering an increase in the number of non-traditional families.
But all these areas of concern are superficial. There is a more basic, fundamental problem that underlies and underscores all these outward factors. Even when people are formally wedded by man-made authority, they take an oath that only death will separate them. And, sure enough, at death, the marriage pact becomes null and void unless they have been sealed together by the authority of the priesthood in one of God's holy temples. And without being sealed in the temple as husband and wife, no exaltation is possible for either one of them.
Since gay or lesbian couples cannot be sealed to each other, neither can any children they raise be sealed to them. That means neither they nor their children can belong to an eternal family unit. Therefore, to allow same sex marriages would mean that an ever increasing number of people would be unable to achieve the highest degree of salvation because they cannot abide by its laws. As the scriptures indicate, if that were to happen, then the whole world would be wasted at the Lord's second coming (D&C 138:47,48 )
Because of this very reason, if homosexuals in the church are content today to be married by civil authority, tomorrow they will demand the same right be performed in the temple. It is true that God loves all His children, no matter how they live their lives. And Mormons are not the only ones upon whom God shows forth His mercy and blessings. But God doesn't change His standards to suit man's changing ideas. It is our eternal Father in heaven who has determined before this earth was ever created that only a man and a woman constitutes a true and valid marriage.
Everything done in the temple is for the purpose of helping us achieve the highest degree of salvation. Only those who have been sealed together as husband and wife can hope to receive God's greatest gift of exaltation (D&C 131:1-5). At no time in any scripture has the Lord ever said that marriage consists of something different than the uniting of a man and woman. And the reason for that is because marriage is patterned after that which is in heaven, not after what people desire upon earth.
In the Celestial kingdom, sealed parents beget spirit children, and in the eternal worlds, there is no such thing as children without parents. In other words, where full salvation is enjoyed, there are no children that need adoption. Even if two men or two women were sealed to each other they could not achieve exaltation because they could not beget children. And without spiritual offspring there is no purpose to being exalted.
But, for the sake of argument, let's say that homosexuals are allowed to become sealed to one another for all eternity. What about the temple work for homosexuals who have died without being married to their lover? How do we do their genealogy? Or do present-day homosexuals think that they are the only ones allowed to be sealed to each other? And what about children raised by homosexuals? Is the church supposed to allow them to be sealed to two men or two women? But if they can't become exalted, then what's the purpose of sealing them in the first place? The point is, that to accommodate the idea of gays and lesbians being married and/or sealed to each other, the whole idea of doing genealogy and temple work for our ancestors and progeny becomes corrupted just to suit their pleasure.
God doesn't give us commandments so that we can enter into the telestial or terrestrial worlds. Every commandment is designed to exalt God's children, not just to get us into the celestial kingdom. When we follow a course of action that takes us away from our heavenly Father's stated goal of bringing to pass both the immortality of man and giving mankind eternal life (exaltation), we are working against His efforts to fully save His children. Therefore, it is unthinkable that the church could sanction a practice that is totally opposite of it's stated goals. Yet, despite this fact, LDS homosexuals charge that it is the church who is being unreasonable and bigoted because they oppose same sex marriages which cannot endure beyond this life.
All of Christendom might condemn what we believe, but that doesn't change what is true. Even if the leaders of the LDS church decided to change its policy to accommodate the wishes and desires of the homosexual community (as other churches have done), that doesn't mean God will then change the laws for salvation to accommodate man's desires. Truth is eternal, unchanging, and uncompromising. If we don't follow God's ways, then we don't get His reward. Just by saying that something is true doesn't make it so. Just because someone strongly feels that homosexuals should be married and/or sealed doesn't mean God is suppose to recognize it for all eternity. The only thing we accomplish by doing that is deluding ourselves into thinking that it actually does have any effect upon God's laws.
God's word has never come by the wisdom of man's learning, nor by a consensus of opinion, nor by debate and arbitration. As Latter-day Saints we believe that God reveals His mind and will through divinely appointed servants whom He alone calls and appoints at His discretion. Furthermore, these men don't assume to take this honor upon themselves, nor do they seek it. Yet, that is exactly what people do when they presume they can change the doctrines of God's church simply by demanding it
To justify their personal opinions of what they think is supposed to be right and wrong, homosexuals teach for doctrines the commandments of men. With self-imposed authority, they quote verses of scripture and give worldly reasoning presuming that they can speak for God. Although they surround their teachings with a form of godliness, their doctrine will ultimately deny themselves and others the power to achieve God's greatest gift of exaltation.
Does that mean gays and lesbians should be treated with contempt and scorn because of their beliefs and practices? If that were true, we would have to treat Protestants, Catholics, Jews and Muslims the same way because of their beliefs and practices. Although we may disagree with a person's ideas, Christ has admonished us to "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Matthew 5:44).
There is never any justification or excuse for someone to mistreat or abuse anyone for any reason. Although gay bashing is popular among certain self-righteous individuals or groups, such behavior is totally inconsistent with how a Christian should behave. To have an honest disagreement with someone's view point or disapprove of their actions is one thing, but all people are children of God, and should be treated as such at all times. It is not our place to execute judgment on others. That prerogative is reserved strictly for God.
If someone feels they must be true to their feelings of love for someone of the same gender, there is an acceptable way to do that. But if a person feels they cannot live by the moral standards which the church teaches, that is a personal choice which they alone must make. If homosexuals sincerely believe that God is pleased by their lifestyle, that is a personal matter between them and God. Ultimately God will judge each of us on the way we lived our lives and not on what others have thought of us or what we think of our own behavior.
However, to decide what policies, practices and doctrines the LDS church should have is not a personal matter. Only God has the right to make those kinds of decisions. Not even the president of the church, who presides over God's earthly kingdom, makes changes without first consulting with the Lord in all solemnity and humility. Those who seek to council the Lord's divinely appointed prophet concerning what is right and wrong, have a much greater problem with the church than just the issue of homosexuality.
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