So, I know that this is a sensitive topic, and might not fit in with what we normally blog about, but I feel its very important to address it and deal with it in an open minded, loving way, while still acknowledging the principles and beliefs that we hold dear.
Not sure how many have heard about this, but on Wednesday, BYU held a meeting at which BYU students were invited to listen to and ask questions of 4 gay and lesbian BYU students. The meeting was not recorded, but here is an article about the event. From my understanding, the event was focused on increasing understanding of and kindness towards those who experience same gender attraction on one of the campuses ranked highest for intolerance of LGBT persons. You are free to read the article and interpret it how you choose. Personally, I think this was a great initiative, and in fact, made me like BYU a lot more (as I have not thought its all some people chalk it up to be). I was pleased to see that even my idea of the cold, judgmental, close minded Mormon doesn't apply to everyone out there.
This morning, I found a youtube video sponsored by Understanding Same-Gender Attraction (USGA), "an unofficial group of Brigham Young University students, faculty, and friends who wish to strengthen families and the BYU community by providing a place for open, respectful discussions on the topic of same-gender attraction". Take a look at this video in which several gay and lesbian BYU students, as well as straight allies are interviewed about their experiences and faith.
I also enjoyed this video and the openness with which the students discussed their struggles, feelings, and hope. My heart breaks for those who, like some of these individuals, have feared the hatred of others so much that they have contemplated suicide. That alone is something that needs to be addressed.Going back to the article about the BYU event, the author mentioned a group called the Standard of Liberty. According to their website, "
- Those who express their views in the forum and the the video are not going against church doctrine. Further, I don't believe they are calling for a change to church doctrine. They simply want to be understood and to help others who are like them to lead happy lives as strong, faithful members of the Church.
- As explained by Dallin H. Oaks (link at the end), a way in which we can understand the struggle of homosexual thoughts is that it is a trial that a person has. Just like my trial is anxiety and depression, and another person's might be alcohol, some people must fight homosexual thoughts and feelings. We cannot know yet why people have some trials that they have, and we certainly cannot assign punishment or assume they are a bad person. We are not like God and do not know all.
- Since we don't know everything, our only choice is to love those around us. We can indeed support and love those with homosexual thoughts without condoning homosexual behavior. In fact, the distinction must be clear that thoughts and behavior are not the same. God's standard is the same for everyone, straight or not. Acting on sexual feelings outside of marriage is inappropriate for anyone. But if a person has homosexual feelings toward someone, but doesn't act on them, they have not sinned. In the Handbook of Instruction for Church Leaders (link at the end), it is clear in the differentiation between thoughts and behavior.
- Being supportive of someone with homosexual feelings doesn't mean that they will try to "turn you gay" or push their lifestyle on you. It does not mean you are a bad church member or have sinned yourself. On the contrary, our judgment of others, rather than our love and support, will condemn us (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, April 2012)
- One who identifies as homosexual is in no way less of a human being, less of a church member, or less of a child of God. If they follow the commandments (that again, are asked of straight people too), then they can serve in the Church and also receive temple ordinances.
If you are still reading, kudos to you! I know this was a lot. But this is a topic I feel strongly about. I am a straight woman with a testimony of the church--which includes knowing that God loves his children! The hatred and judgment I have seen from some other church members towards homosexuals is heart breaking to me. I struggled with this in high school because I went to school with some homosexuals who were more Christlike in their behavior (as kind, loyal, charitable, nonjudgmental people) than kids I went to seminary with. In my mind, that happens when there is not a clear understanding of the church's stance and other aspects of the church's doctrine, like God's love, the order of the kingdom, and the process of revelation. I can see some people being horribly offended by my calling a homosexual Christlike in their behavior. But I truly believe that this is possible (remember points 8 and 10?).
I hope that for even one person, this has helped clarify some things, or perhaps soften their hearts to their brothers and sisters. This is a difficult topic, but I do believe it is possible to make some sense of it all, if we focus on loving others as God does, and holding to the doctrine and counsel with which we have been blessed.
The Handbook of Instruction (instruction on Homosexuality and same-sex marriage can be found on pages 195-196)
What is the Church's position on homosexuality? Is it OK to be friends with people who have homosexual feelings? (Liahona, 2012)
God Loveth His Children (A booklet released in 2007 for helping members who face same sex attraction)
Helping Those Who Struggle with Same Gender Attraction (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, 2007)
Articles on Homosexuality (from LDS Family Services, with links to other talks)
Same Gender Attraction (A Q&A with Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder Lance B Wickman)