We are all enlisted: breaking our silence on behalf of our LGBT brothers and sisters

rainbow_ribbon__high_res_I woke up this morning to heartbreaking news of two more young members of the Church who ended their lives this week, presumably because their sexual identities were at odds with the teachings of their religion. Their spark of life is gone. I shed tears as I watched videos posted by parents of their once vivacious and joy-filled children. For those of us who believe in an afterlife, I can only hope and pray that these lovely souls are now cradled in the bosom of the Savior who comforts and weeps with them. I don’t know what this brings the total suicide count to over the past year. I’ve heard numbers could be as high as sixty. Regardless, trying to figure out the numbers can distract us from the real conversation we need to have. This is more than tragic; it is an epidemic. These are our children, our brothers and sisters, our friends and neighbors. They don’t feel loved, they don’t feel wanted, they don’t feel valued, and they don’t feel human.

It is easy to point our fingers at Church leaders; to blame them for making hurtful statements and policies. And they are complicit. But the problem is larger than this. We have a culture where being single or gay is viewed as less than the ideal. Our culture, which promotes the beauty of eternal family and community, leaves too many out in the cold in the here and now. The rhetoric at our local wards, taught from our youth, promotes an ideal that, for a significant number, will never be obtainable – a temple marriage, bearing children, and finding a fulfilling relationship with a member of the opposite sex.

Although Mormon teachings are unambiguous about the nature of individuals and families, Mormon teachings are also unambiguous about our responsibility towards our neighbors, friends, and family. An official website of the LDS Church states: “Everyone in God’s small world is our neighbor, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.” (Mormonsandgays.org). While lay members have no influence over the teachings and policies of the Church, we have tremendous influence over the social environment within our wards and neighborhoods, and this is where it needs to start: we need to build an army of love, compassion, and inclusion. And we need YOU to enlist. In fact, you already enlisted when you entered the waters of baptism and promised to “mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:8-9).

The majority of Latter-day Saints experience their religion through their family and local ward congregations. In particularly dense LDS areas, this also extends to their neighborhoods, schools, and social activities. The phrase “no man is an island” applies. In some way or another, we are connected to the lives of others. Often, we don’t realize the influence that we have. Awareness of this issue is perhaps our largest obstacle to overcome. For many, it is obliviousness, not hate, that perpetuates their insensitivity. Until I served in a ward-level leadership position where I was put into direct contact with gay members (some open and others still struggling with self-acceptance), I was ignorant of the very real challenges that they face while hiding in plain sight. I was ignorant of the influence that I had to offer comfort or cause harm by my words and actions.

Neylan McBaine authored a remarkable book titled Women at Church that offered a faith-positive challenge to the common roles that women are relegated to at the local ward and stake levels. This book has been well-received and passed along to numerous bishops and stake presidents with hopes that they may become more aware of the ways in which their decisions affect women in the church, offering pragmatic solutions that can be initiated at the local level without challenging current Church teachings or policies. We need a similar approach to ways in which members can influence our local social environment to make it more loving and inclusive for LGBT+ members; as well as to make us aware of the potential we each have for inflicting harm, even if unwittingly, through our complicit silence. I believe such a book will come in due time, and I hope it gets into the hands of many. Until then, I can only offer a few suggestions and hope that the conversation continues.

  • Be a leader. If you are involved in a leadership calling, be it Young Women, Young Men, Relief Society, or a bishopric, please have a conversation among your leadership regarding LGBT+ suicides in the Church. See this post titled “The LGBTQ Mormon Crisis: Responding to the Empirical Research on Suicide” for well-researched data. Also see the Family Acceptance Project website for publications, training, and resource material. You may not be aware of gay or lesbian members within your quorums, groups, and auxiliaries. Statistically speaking, they are likely to be there. Even if there aren’t gay or lesbian members in your immediate surroundings, there are members within your group, quorum, or auxiliary who likely have gay or lesbian friends, relatives, or neighbors who may be hurting. Discuss what you can do to ensure an environment where all are valued and welcome. Please be aware of what we are teaching and the message that is being conveyed. I am not suggesting that we should de-emphasize the core messages of the Gospel. However, please be aware that our messages on eternal family, while central to the Gospel plan, can cause severe depression among those who feel excluded from it due to their sexual orientation or other reasons. Please be aware that our emphasis on family and raising children, while inseparable from our teachings on eternal family, can be emotionally painful for those who see no place for themselves.
  • Watch your language. Responding to LGBT+ members by encouraging them take hope in an afterlife where they will be “corrected” is tantamount to telling them that they are unacceptable to us and God now. I do not pretend to have an understanding of eternal nature and sexual identity; I am, however, suggesting that sentiments such as this that attempt to minimize the pain felt in the present can actually be more damaging. Likewise, using the “love the sinner, hate the sin” approach is demeaning and patronizing. We must learn to love people for who they are now without condition. Referring to same-sex orientation as a “trial” is not helpful. Being gay is not a trial. Being gay among a group of people who do not accept you is a trial. Unless we change how we discuss homosexuality, we will only continue to foster a hostile and unwelcoming environment for our gay and lesbian brothers, sisters, and children.
  • Speak up. When you hear others speak in a demeaning or judgmental manner, please speak up. Understandably, most of us prefer to avoid conflict, staying silent when we hear others speak unkind words. Be aware that there may be others around you who feel that they have no voice. They may be silently crying out for someone to speak up on their behalf. Fear keeps us from action. We do not have to be callous or flippant in our reactions. Often, a simple reminder that we attend church to feel uplifted, not to condemn others, is enough. Sometimes, a more direct request to stop using language that demeans those who we care deeply about is necessary. Muster the courage to speak tenderly but firmly. Through our courage, others may feel emboldened. Remember, it only takes one comment to change the tone of an entire room. But also remember to pick your battles. Sometimes, the most appropriate response is to take the offender aside after the meeting and gently tell them how you feel about what they said.
  • Be kind. People respond to our disposition and how we carry ourselves. Being kind lowers defensive reactions. As the old adage goes: you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Yes, there is a place for outrage. The civil rights movement would never have succeeded, and segregation would never have ended, if outrage had not been expressed. Can we express our outrage, our grief, and our sorrow in ways that do not push others away or make them defensive? Can we express ourselves with a contrite heart and broken spirit? Yes. By allowing charity and compassion to be the vehicle through which our outrage and sorrow is expressed.
  • Build Zion. Be involved. Do your home and visiting teaching. Serve faithfully in the callings that you are asked to perform. Treat your leaders with charity. Volunteer and look for opportunities where you can make a significant difference in the lives of others. Being actively-engaged is far from a compromise of our integrity, it is an opportunity to interact with others and better understand their challenges – even more, it may be an opportunity, if we are friendly and fearless, to help change the perspective of others around us who are oblivious to the silent suffering of so many within our midst.
  • Be an ensign. Make it known that you are a safe ally for LGBT+ members to approach. If you are courageous enough, you can bear testimony of your love and concern for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. You can also follow the #RainbowMormon initiative by wearing a rainbow ribbon to church on Sundays, or pin it on your shoulder bag or scripture case. These do not need to be taken as signs that you are an activist against the teachings of the Church, but rather that you are a safe person to confide in.

These are only a few ideas of what we can do at our local level without challenging Church leadership or teachings to express our love, concern, and inclusion towards our LGBT+ brothers and sisters. Many more and better ideas than these can and should be explored. Let us be steadfast with courage, but filled with compassion and charity. Until that “dawning of a brighter day,” may the light of Christ shine through us. We can make a difference. We must.

Comments

We are all enlisted: breaking our silence on behalf of our LGBT brothers and sisters — 28 Comments

  1. It appears frequently that the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings of the prophets have become displaced by the social gospel of alternative lifestyles. As such, though there is much we agree on (the worth of souls of ALL of our brothers and sisters, regardless of their sins), there are some fundamental assumptions you make here that bleed through.

    For example:

    “Being gay is not a trial.”

    Homosexual sexual behavior is either a sin or it is not. You state a certain ambivalence towards that position based upon your view of sexual orientation in the hereafter, but the question of whether it is a sin is a binary one. If it is not a sin, then being gay is not a trial (though, correctly, being in a culture that persecutes your acceptable alternative lifestyle is a trial). On the other hand, if it is a sin, then having the desire to commit that sin is absolutely a trial (in the very same sense that a temper is a trial), even though subsequent persecution can also be a trial. It is either sin or it is not.

    “Responding to LGBT+ members by encouraging them take hope in an afterlife where they will be “corrected” is tantamount to telling them that they are unacceptable to us and God now.”

    I am unacceptable to God now. So is absolutely everyone else in this world – gay or straight. That is the blessing of the Atonement – though we are all now unacceptable to God hereafter through the sacrifice of His Son we may yet become acceptable to Him through Grace. To convince someone they are acceptable to God is to cheat them of their souls, to lull them into a false sense of security (thinking all is well), and is one of the Devil’s favorite tricks to carefully drag us down to Hell. To convince someone they are acceptable to God is to convince someone (falsely, in every case) that they need not repent

    “Often, a simple reminder that we attend church to feel uplifted, not to condemn others, is enough.”

    But that isn’t why we attend Church. We attend Church to hear the pleasing word of God, it is true, and to be taught and to teach. We attend Church to be called to repentance and to gain strength to repent. Most of ask, we attend Church to partake of the Sacrament. It is far more than just wanting to feel uplifted – if that is all we want from our Sunday meetings, we can go listen to a Tony Robbins seminar.

    Anyhow, there is more but I’ll stop here. Look, it is easy to love someone by wearing a ribbon – it is costless, telescopic charity. It requires no really effort from the giver and provides no real benefit to the recipient (and may cause genuine harm if the recipient determines that they are acceptable before God). Real love involves being there for people, serving them in ways they genuinely need, taking time to minister (on that I think we agree). But it also requires the courage to speak the truth boldly, and invite all people everywhere to repent. In the hereafter, regardless of what sin we speak of, would you rather have your unrepentant friend speak of your acceptance or have that same friend (having repented) speaking of you having had the courage to help motivate them to change. In which case (promoting acceptance or promoting repentance) were you a true friend?

    I speak from experience, having not always lived the life I should have lived. I have been greatly blessed by those who loved me enough to call me to repentance, and I am so grateful they didn’t falsely teach me to accept who I was – they instead showed me who I could be.

  2. There isnt a higher amount of suicides by gay youth in our church. I dont know where the LGBT community gets their stats but they are wrong. Studies actually show that gay youth involved in religious activities in their community (which include our LDS religion) have a lower suicide rate amongst those gay youth not involved in church. We should be careful not to bash the church or its policies because it is not true that it has contributed to an increase in suicides.

  3. Yes to everything.

    Thank you for pointing out that God very much cares about our relationships, so much so that he gave us the two great commandments: loving God, and loving our neighbor. We don’t love our neighbor (or demonstrate our love for God very well IMO) when we are blaming them for the denigration of society, insisting that they are capable of meeting a higher standard than anyone else in the church (foregoing romantic human companionship for their whole lives), and threatening excommunication if they don’t. We don’t love them when we refuse to listen as they (and science) try to teach us over and over again that being LGBT+ is first about identity, not behavior. Can we hear them? Can we hear God in them? Can we have enough faith to be willing to learn from this awful experince of losing them? One question that haunts me is this: if God doesn’t want them in his church, why does he keep sending them into Mormon families?

    There is something lacking in the church in the way we understand and treat our LGBT+ members, especially youth. I’ve had a wake up call. I’m praying and fasting for answers, operating under the belief that God touched my heart because he wants me to do better.

    Thanks for a wonderful post.

  4. I think everyone should read this booklet as well. It has nothing to do with policy or law, and everything to do with encouraging best outcomes for our kids.

    http://familyproject.sfsu.edu/publications

    (you do have to enter your email address, I believe, to download it- there’s an LDS specific version)

  5. I very much agree with the comments by Jonathan Cavendish (above). I could find myself being much more sympathetic to the gay community if it were not for what a member of that community has done to my family, directly and indirectly. This person is an admitted, yet unconvicted, pedophile who continues his behavior because people seem to be afraid to tell him (even in the gay community) that his behavior is unacceptable. He does not think that it is, and this behavior has gone on for more than 20 years. Additionally, there seems to be this overall drumbeat of “we must accept/condone gay behavior”, or somehow we who do not are evil. What someone chooses to do in their own life is their business, until they bring it into mine, or someone else’s because they think that somehow that will make everything ok. Yes, I can accept the sinner without accepting the sin, and I try to not judge, nor will I make it a practice to demean someone else, but neither do I wish to have this alternate life style continually shoved down my throat to satisfy political correctness etc;. especially when those in the gay community who would harm others aren’t held accountable for their actions.

  6. Rob, I would urge you to read the research article I linked “The LGBTQ Mormon Crisis: Responding to the Empirical Research on Suicide” before making such an assertion. This article was not sponsored by the LGBT community. The research is sound and well-balanced.

  7. A beautiful, thoughtful plea, Brian. I hope it has an effect. Though, similar to the way in which our country refuses to respond in unison to mass shootings, I fear our church is refusing to respond in unison to these tragedies in our community.

    Individuals can and certainly do make a difference, but what’s it going to take to get a serious institutional response?

  8. Brian,
    I have read it all. There is no valid research that links the church to a higher rate of suicides of its youth gay members. Only one study I am aware of, done in Utah, shows a strong correlation to a lower suicide rate amongst gay youth who are also involved with their religion. So, the evidence apparently makes the case that it is best to be a gay active LDS youth rather than not be LDS and gay. Im tired of the church taking the hit when the truth is that the church is actually best able to help them out.

  9. Rob, correlation is not causation. It would make sense that a significant number disconnect from church activity prior to taking their own lives, if church activity was one of the painful aspects of their life. However, leaving church activity does not erase cultural memory. Many of these kids are experiencing a form of PTSD. Although, I completely agree with you that a supportive family and church environment can reduce the likelihood of depression, suicidal thoughts, drug/alcohol abuse, etc. And that is what I am advocating.

  10. Jonathan, I know you mean well, but this kind of “yes but…” patronizing without listening or making an effort to actually hear and internalize someone else’s experience is exactly why our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters don’t feel safe at church. Instead of defending why what they experience and feel isn’t correct, could you practice empathy and take some time to look at this entire situation through their eyes?

    Rob- there is a direct link explaining where the suicide stats come from. Read it. Where do you get your stats from?

    Victor- gay and pedophile are not the same any more than straight and pedophile are the same.

    Brian, thank you for a very well thought out and timely post. I hope you write that book and it becomes required reading for every member of the church.

  11. I shouldn’t have read the comments.After a beautifully written post about how we can help rally around our LDS LGBT brothers and sisters, I got smacked with the harsh reality of how far we have to go. The first one out of the gate was Jonathan’s.
    “It appears frequently that the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings of the prophets have become displaced by the social gospel of alternative lifestyles.” Immediately, judgment and condemnation. What I see is that the true Gospel of Jesus Christ has been replaced with us standing in judgment and not showing love to those that need it most. I believe that too frequently the “Cultural” Gospel of Jesus Christ is at times replacing His Gospel. I believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ is about loving our neighbor as ourselves. The second great commandment, by the way!! Reaching out and trying to make the load easier for our brothers and sisters. Understanding that some of what we say is hurtful and damaging to those that are LGBT, single, or in any way that they may not fit into the perfect mold. We have gotten off track. I see the cultural gospel as one that is very, very damaging. Jonathan jumped right in and nailed in the cultural gospel. There was no love in his comment, just defending why he can continue in his own judgment.

    I believe what Brian was getting at when he states being gay is not a trial is that those of us that don’t have this struggle are the ones that make it such a great trial for those that do. The way we treat and talk about (Jonathan’s post is a perfect example of what NOT to do) our LGBT brothers and sisters is what makes it such a difficult trial. We are quick to judge, and condemn, but where is the outreach? Where is any kind of action of love? There isn’t, and that is why it is so very, very hard.

    “I am unacceptable to God now. So is absolutely everyone else in this world-gay or straight.” I can agree with you 100% on this one…however, I am pretty sure you aren’t hearing that YOU are an abomination…YOU…all of the time. A homosexual person’s very desires and feelings of wanting love are considered “an abomination,” “evil,” “dirty,” “unnatural.” It doesn’t matter if they act on it or not. Their FEELINGS and DESIRES are considered “wrong.” They didn’t CHOOSE it! Just like I didn’t CHOOSE to be and have heterosexual desires and feelings that happen to be wonderful, acceptable, and natural. What does that come down to? They so often feel THEY are an abomination. Their very soul’s desires are an abomination. Then they are told, one day you will be “fixed.” You and I WORK on our shortcomings. Gay people can’t “work” on not being gay. It is WHO they are! So when they die, they will be “corrected.” A good Lesbian friend of mine who is an active, temple going member said to me, “Even though I am doing my best to live the Church’s standard, you will never know the pain of feeling you are opposite the Plan of Salvation.” This is so different from your comment about how no one is acceptable before God at this time. You totally missed the point.

    Brian states that “Often, a simple reminder that we attend church to feel uplifted, not to condemn others, is enough,” when trying to make church a safer place for our LGBT brothers and sisters. How in the world can you not agree with that?? Jonathan’s response, “But that isn’t why we attend Church. We attend Church to hear the pleasing word of God, it is true, and to be taught and to teach..etc..” From this very statement it seems to me you have NEVER considered how we speak about our LGBT brothers and sisters in church makes church a very unsafe place for them. What Brian says is true. We don’t go to condemn others…yet our LGBT brothers and sisters seem to be the exception to this rule. The things I have heard at church have at times been heartbreaking. No one is thinking about the closeted (or not) youth or young adult hanging on for literally dear life and listening to how they are the scourge of society. Who do they think they are going around demanding rights? Etc…When I hear something at church that I need to work on, my Spirit is pricked and I will think, “Yes, I need to do better with that.” It is not the same when an LGBT person hears, “Those darn gays are ruining society and are going to be the downfall of our great nation.” I have heard that at church…more than once by the way. It is cruel, hurtful and emotionally traumatizing. They can’t change their orientation. I do go to church to be uplifted and to be given strength to endure. If I go and then leave feeling like I am not wanted and a scourge to society, then I won’t keep going. Something is very off if an LGBT person can’t feel church is a place to be uplifted just like anyone else. If I am LGBT, what I often times hear is my very being is unacceptable to God and His church. This is VERY different than what you experience at church.

    We have become the Pharisees. We are clinging so fast to our rules and traditions that we are forgetting what our Savior taught us. We are more interested in defending our church than reaching the ones who are considered today, “the least of these.”
    How can we apply the Savior’s Perfect example to us today? The parables He taught couldn’t fit more perfectly with our LGBT brothers and sisters.The Parable of the Good Samaritan, the woman caught in adultery, etc… I will not judge. I will love and find the one. I will reach out and be a safe place for someone who is struggling. I have been commanded to love and NOT judge. You can’t determine if a person is living to the very best of their ability. It is great you were able to turn yourself around. Can you not, then, show a little compassion for others and believe they are trying their very best too? How blessed we are to have the Atonement! Our job isn’t to “motivate” another to change. A true friend will stand by another and encourage and lift them and support them.They may very well be doing the very best they can at that time. I will choose love above all else and leave all judgment to my Savior. The only one who has that right.

    As a woman who personally knows one of the families that lost their gay son this week, I am pleading with you. We MUST do better at reaching those who are in despair. We cannot think that all is well in Zion. We must quit judging and truly follow our Savior and his command to Love One Another.

  12. “I am unacceptable to God now. So is absolutely everyone else in this world-gay or straight.” This sentiment, which is so prevalent in the church, is one of the many reasons I left. I am so much more happy embracing my new philosophy of “Everyone is acceptable to God – right now, just as they are.”

  13. Rebe, that was absolutely one of the best comments/takes on the church and how we treat our LGBT+ family. IMHO, one of the cruelest things a human being can do to another is to deny others’ experiences, realities and existence, refusing to engage with empathy and compassion. For whatever reason, this behavior is rampant in LDS culture. It’s like we’re afraid of “catching sin” and getting our hands “dirty.” We covenanted to “mourn with those that mourn!” When King Benjamin warns against “withholding [our] substance,” I don’t think he only means money. I believe it includes compassion and opening our hearts rather than condemning and justifying ourselves from afar. I hear a lot of members say, “They only make up 3% of the population! Why are they shoving their lifestyle down our throats?” But see, Christ advocated leaving the 99 to save the one. That’s 1%. He asks us to go to the 1%. Why quibble over how many LDS youth have “actually” taken their lives? One is too many.

  14. A few responses:

    @Janell
    “Jonathan, I know you mean well, but this kind of “yes but…” patronizing without listening or making an effort to actually hear and internalize someone else’s experience is exactly why our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters don’t feel safe at church.”

    The alternative to “yes but…” being what? You are very correct that I cannot understand what anyone’s experience is like (though I do and should try, and my experiences might give me more insight than you happen to guess), but the Savior does fully understand their experience, loves them completely, and still requires complete obedience. I don’t presume to know everything, but I do trust Him. Therefore the best way I can show love to someone I don’t understand is to share the doctrine given by the Person I know both loves and understands them

    “Instead of defending why what they experience and feel isn’t correct, could you practice empathy and take some time to look at this entire situation through their eyes?”

    You misunderstand me if you believe I am saying that empathy isn’t important, or that I am saying that you shouldn’t try to understand someone else’s perspective. Both are valuable and necessary for charity. What I do say is that this empathy is not the end goal — how have I served my brother when I understand him but do not help to lift him? Christ did not stop at understanding mankind in our sinful state, but rather both taught us a better way and provided the Atonement.

    @Rebe
    “Immediately, judgment and condemnation. What I see is that the true Gospel of Jesus Christ has been replaced with us standing in judgment and not showing love to those that need it most.”

    I wish this had been presented ironically. You claim that I am condemning others and then, in the very next sentence, you do the exact thing you accuse me of.

    “I believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ is about loving our neighbor as ourselves. The second great commandment, by the way!!”

    We agree on that point. But it is the second commandment, the first being to love God. If we truly love God, we will love our fellow men. If we seek to love our fellow men without loving God (including striving to keep ALL of His commandments), we will ultimately do neither. Put another way, if we love and trust God we will advocate for His commandments because we trust that He knows better than we do how to make our brothers and sisters (His children) happy.

    “Jonathan jumped right in and nailed in the cultural gospel. There was no love in his comment, just defending why he can continue in his own judgment.”

    Again, sadly, this was presented unironically. You condemn me for condemning others (something I never did, by the way). You judge me for judging others (again, something I never did).

    “It doesn’t matter if they act on it or not. Their FEELINGS and DESIRES are considered “wrong.””

    Doctrinally, this is absolutely incorrect. It matters a great deal whether they act on it or not. This statement creates a strawman.

    “This is so different from your comment about how no one is acceptable before God at this time. You totally missed the point.”

    Paul prayed for the thorn to be removed from his flesh (unsuccessfully). I have prayed for the Lord to change my heart, and I look forward to hope of being “corrected” (your use of scare quotes make such a correction seem a bad thing). We ALL are in need of correction, we all need to be changed (beyond how we can change), we all want things that are not in accordance with the Lord’s will, and we must all surrender our wills to His.

    The Lord does not demand more of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters than He demands of any of us — He demands absolutely everything from each of us. Yes, perhaps I can create the appearance of acceptance more easily than they can because when I give in to my weaknesses it might not be as visible. But all sin is equally terminal spiritually. To say that the Lord requires a unique sacrifice from those who are gay or lesbian is both true and false. It is true in the sense that it is a unique trial with nuances than none but they (and the Lord) truly understand. It is false in that nothing more is ultimately required of them than is required of us — namely consecration. To claim that “more” is required of them is to be blind to the overwhelming demands on each of us in an attempt to falsely view ourselves as righteous.

    “I will not judge. I will love and find the one.”

    I agree with this. But when I find the one, I will strive to put him on my shoulders and bring him back to the fold (the way the Good Shepherd did). That is very different from finding the one and seeking to rebuild the fold around them wherever they happen to be.

    “You can’t determine if a person is living to the very best of their ability. It is great you were able to turn yourself around. Can you not, then, show a little compassion for others and believe they are trying their very best too?”

    Nothing I have said is inconsistent with that. I agree with this statement in it entirety.

    “Our job isn’t to “motivate” another to change. A true friend will stand by another and encourage and lift them and support them.”

    Again, your two sentences contradict. We encourage and lift and support someone by helping them to change for the better. If a person stays where they are after we interact with them, we have not lifted them.

    “We have become the Pharisees.”

    There is a common misconception of what it meant to be a Pharisee or what Christ was condemning. There are those who believe that Christ was saying that those who strictly hold to the Law were wrong in doing so (and this was the condemnation they were under). But that simply isn’t the case.

    The best cite on that is Matthew 23:23, which reads:

    “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”

    Note in particular what Christ says here — he does not condemn the Pharisees for their particular and exacting obedience. In fact, he explicitly states that they should have paid their tithes of mint and anise and cummin. The condemnation of the Pharisees was not their teaching of the exacting standard (God requires everything, after all), but rather their hypocrisy and their failures to follow the more important aspects while still considering themselves righteous. And this is a correct application if we hold ourselves out as more righteous than others. But nothing in Christ’s life or teachings justifies sin in the slightest, and to claim that encouraging exacting obedience to any or all of God’s commandments is Pharisaical is to misunderstand the term.

    “I will choose love above all else and leave all judgment to my Savior.”

    I agree with this. We just seem to disagree on how best to show that love. Sin leads, inexorably, to misery and I don’t see how I am loving if I passively watch my brothers and sisters engage in sinful behavior without doing what I can to encourage repentance. I wouldn’t be very grateful for the help given to me if I was unwilling to give that same help to others.

    “As a woman who personally knows one of the families that lost their gay son this week, I am pleading with you. We MUST do better at reaching those who are in despair. We cannot think that all is well in Zion. We must quit judging and truly follow our Savior and his command to Love One Another.”

    I am sorry for their loss — this is truly a tragedy. And I agree that we must each strive to do better to reach those who are in despair.

    @Kerstin
    “This sentiment, which is so prevalent in the church, is one of the many reasons I left. I am so much more happy embracing my new philosophy of “Everyone is acceptable to God – right now, just as they are.”

    You may be comfortable embracing this philosophy, but the issue is not what philosophy is comfortable but what philosophy is true. I don’t know your situation, or how far removed you are philosophically from the Church but what you express not only goes against Mormon theology but Christian theology (what needs is there for an Atonement if we are already all acceptable before God?). What’s more, it goes against common sense. Do you genuinely believe that everyone is acceptable to God? What about murders? Pedophiles? Rapists? Genocidal warlords? People who post orthodox Mormon positions online?

    If any of them are not acceptable before God, at what point do you draw the line?

    But that gets to the larger point that seems to be the undercurrent of so many of these discussions — do we look for truth or do we look for what feels right? Truth may, at times be painful, but the comfortable lie always leads to more pain in the end.

  15. I could not have said that any better. In fact.. I would love to document this discussion. Could you write the book Jonathan? Articulated well.

  16. Exactly Johnathon. Loving and not judging someone ,does not mean that you don’t tell the truth , because it might hurt their feelings . A sin is a sin , we are all doing it somehow . The key is not to shame someone into feeling their sins are so much worse than yours or that they are less needed or important because their sin is different or obvious . We should not water down the commandments or the potential consequences of breaking the commandments . That is a beginning of defiance to our Heavenly Father and his plan . That is also a disservice to those we have influence over . However , every member needs to know that they have a part to play and a purpose in Heavenly Fathers plan . If a person is lgbt , single , addictive tendencies,etc ,because of their more unique struggle , they are needed even more so . Why ? We all have learning and teaching to do , different experiences teach us different things . Our lgbt single sisters brothers have things to teach us , perspectives we might not ever learn ,if not for their unique struggle or yes trial that gives them valuable insights . The gospel is a one size fits all in the sense that the closer you follow the plan and his guidance , the faster and more well rounded you will grow . However , the lord loves and wants all of us regardless of how closely we follow his plan , he is more concerned that we don’t give up on following him or growing . He is focused on our true desires and heart , not the weaknesses that may be causing us to take longer to achieve them . The question is are you using the strengths you do have to serve yourself and others better ? Or Are you making your weaknesses or struggles your identity, focus and priority? We are not judged by what contributions we can make , but if we are willing to give what we have . We All have contributions to give .

  17. The church congregation is Like a puzzle , all pieces are different , but each fit perfectly.

  18. No man is an island. USA is far behind other developed countries regarding sexual orientation. Science shows a spectrum of male/female and practically none of us are 100%. Including you. None of this is in the Book of Mormon. Maybe we need a new book because we’re hurting people and that’s not acceptable. God doesn’t make mistakes. People do.

  19. Yet again the LDS church fails to address the real issue. You could be as loving, accepting and tolerant to homosexuals as possible – but it won’t make a difference in membership.

    Why?

    Because the church is silent on
    1. What does God expect of homosexuals?
    2. How can this trial be overcome?

    Homosexuals are implicitly expected to live celibate lives, with no idea why they have the trial or how to fix it. Yes, God is Love, but is he not also Truth? If so, where are the revelations from the prophet? Why must they be silent? There is no hope for most homosexuals, which means they will never be more than an extreme minority.

  20. I think there is much good in this article & the comments. But I have to say I feel a special appreciation for Johnathon’s words & demeanor. Thank you sir for adhering to the doctrines and explaining your position so eloquently & non-judgmentally. I think people think “judgment” now means NOT agreeing with them or their choices. Which is not what it means.

  21. As to the church’s answer, it is there, and it is simple, it is just hard for people to accept & practice. The answer is Christ. That is the thing that makes me most sad about the politicization of this issue & the huge push for acceptance, fundamentally there is a denial of the power of Christ to save all of us. Is the enabling power of the atonement insufficient? Does it have limitations?
    This is an excellent article on this, written by an Apostle:
    “That I Might Draw All Men unto Me” http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2016/04/that-i-might-draw-all-men-unto-me?lang=eng

  22. wow, I sit here in my little room reading all of these very intellectual comments , from obviously very smart people, and wonder is this the same church that I belong to. it all sounds very complicated, perhaps at my age I am past realising that this is such a huge problem , or maybe things are a little different down under. any way I love you all to the moon and back.

  23. Thank you Jonathan.. so very much. I hope the writer will read your words and feel the truth behind them. Thanks Harmony.

  24. Brian, thank you for this. Among your other excellent suggestions, after reading this I went out and purchased a roll of rainbow ribbon to tie around the handles of my primary bag and some rainbow socks for my husband. Perhaps one of my primary kids, on some dark night of the soul down the road, will remember that I recognized that they existed and that Sister Moss loved them and was glad they were at church. Thank you for the call to action.

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