Homosexuality and same-sex marriage are complex, sensitive, and often divisive issues that reach to the core of our deepest human emotions—our belief in God and His laws, our identities, our relationships and families, and our happiness in this life and the next. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church—issued this statement:

 Few topics are as emotionally charged or require more sensitivity than . This complex matter touches on the things we care about most: our basic humanity, our relationship to family, our identity and potential as children of God, how we treat each other, and what it means to be disciples of Christ.

 The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. [1]

 In The Church of Jesus Christ, those who struggle with same-sex attraction but do not act on the desire enjoy full fellowship and activity in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus, for those who abide and live the commandments of God, it is possible to be attracted to the same gender and to be a faithful Latter-day Saint. In a message to those struggling with same-sex attraction, The Church of Jesus Christ stated:

 You are a son or daughter of God, and our hearts reach out to you in warmth and affection. Notwithstanding your present same-gender attractions, you can be happy during this life, lead a morally clean life, perform meaningful service in the Church, enjoy full fellowship with your fellow Saints. [2]

 While there is much confusion and many differing opinions on this issue, one thing is clear: The time has come for those on both sides of the issue to work together to find common ground, understanding and compassion for each point of view. Elder M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (with the First Presidency, the governing body of The Church of Jesus Christ), said:

 Sometimes we will have to agree to disagree with you, but we can do so without being disagreeable. In our communities we can and must work together in an atmosphere of courtesy, respect, and civility. [3]

 Nowhere is this more vital than as we address the complex issues of same-sex attraction, same-sex marriage and upholding traditional family values. As the message of The Church of Jesus Christ states:

 From a public relations perspective it would be easier for the Church to simply accept homosexual behavior. That we cannot do, for God’s law is not ours to change. There is no change in the Church’s position of what is morally right. But what is changing — and what needs to change — is to help Church members respond sensitively and thoughtfully when they encounter same-sex attraction in their own families, among other Church members, or elsewhere. [1]

 ‘Our Laws are Defined By God’

 The Church of Jesus Christ has made its position on same-sex attraction and marriage clear:

 Mormon MarriageSexual activity should only occur between a man and a woman who are married. However, that should never be used as justification for unkindness. … The Church distinguishes between same-sex attraction and behavior. While maintaining that feelings and inclinations toward the same sex are not inherently sinful, engaging in homosexual behavior is in conflict with the “doctrinal principle, based on sacred scripture … that marriage between a man and a woman is essential to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.” [4]

 Elder Dallin H. Oaks, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, said:

For Latter-day Saints, God’s commandments are based on and inseparable from God’s plan for His children—the great plan of salvation. This plan, sometimes called the “great plan of happiness” (Alma 42:8), explains our origin and destiny as children of God—where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going. The plan of salvation explains the purpose of creation and the conditions of mortality, including God’s commandments, the need for a Savior, and the vital role of mortal and eternal families. …

 Knowledge of God’s plan for His children gives Latter-day Saints a unique perspective on marriage and family. We are correctly known as a family-centered church. Our theology begins with heavenly parents, and our highest aspiration is to attain the fulness of eternal exaltation. We know this is possible only in a family relationship. We know that the marriage of a man and a woman is necessary for the accomplishment of God’s plan. Only this marriage will provide the approved setting for mortal birth and to prepare family members for eternal life. We look on marriage and the bearing and nurturing of children as part of God’s plan and a sacred duty of those given the opportunity to do so. We believe that the ultimate treasures on earth and in heaven are our children and our posterity. [5]

The standard of moral conduct in The Church of Jesus Christ has always been—and always will be—total sexual abstinence before marriage and complete fidelity afterward. Marriage is between a man and a woman. Elder Boyd K. Packer, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, explained:

 With some few, there is the temptation which seems nearly overpowering for man to be attracted to man or woman to woman. The scriptures plainly condemn those who “dishonour their own bodies between themselves … ; men with men working that which is unseemly” (Romans 1:24, 27) or “women [who] change the natural use into that which is against nature” (Romans 1:26). …

 Pressure is put upon legislatures to legalize unnatural conduct. They can never make right that which is forbidden in the laws of God. (See Leviticus 18:22; 1 Corinthians 6:9.) [6]

 ‘Love One Another’

http://www.lds.org/bible-videos/videos/parable-of-the-good-samaritan?lang=eng

When the Savior was asked which of the commandments was greatest, He answered, “To love God.” The second, Jesus said, was to love one another. In all that the Savior did and taught, He showed love, kindness and compassion to everybody. The Savior’s parable of the Good Samaritan provides a powerful lesson of how we should treat each other. The parable of the Good Samaritan is not powerful because the Jews and Samaritans got along—it is powerful because the two groups of people did not. The Jews hated the Samaritans because the Samaritans apostatized from the Israelite religion. The Samaritans were angry and bitter toward the Jews because the Jews did not allow the Samaritans to help rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Both sides were angry and bitter.

This is the backdrop for the parable of the Good Samaritan. As the story goes, a man was robbed, beaten and left for dead. A priest came upon the wounded man and passed him by. A Levite, who was also a religious man, did likewise. But then a Samaritan saw the man and “had compassion on him.” The Samaritan bound his wounds and carried the stranger on his own animal to an inn, where he cared for the Jewish man. When the Samaritan left, he paid the innkeeper to care for the man and said, “If you spend more money, I will repay you when I come back.” (See Luke 10:25-37.)

The parable of the Good Samaritan—with two groups of people who have vastly different cultural and religious viewpoints—provides a framework for how those of us on each side of the same-sex marriage issue should behave—with love, kindness and compassion. In fact, Elder Quentin L. Cook, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, said:

Many in this world are … angry with one another. While we understand these feelings, we need to be civil in our discourse and respectful in our interactions. This is especially true when we disagree. … How we disagree is a real measure of who we are and whether we truly follow the Savior. It is appropriate to disagree, but it is not appropriate to be disagreeable. [7]

Elder Packer, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, said:

We understand why some feel we reject them. That is not true. We do not reject you, only immoral behavior. We cannot reject you, for you are the sons and daughters of God. We will not reject you, because we love you. [6]

The goal of all people should be to peacefully coexist with one another by respecting the rights and beliefs of each other…including and especially those with whom we disagree.

Self-Mastery is the Test of Our Life on Earth

Mormon Quote

Some may wonder, “Why the restrictions on sexual behavior? If a person is attracted to the same gender, where is the harm in expressing those feelings?” President Thomas S. Monson, the president of The Church of Jesus Christ, has a simple yet profound explanation: “We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” [8]

What does this mean? We are literal spirit sons and daughters of a Heavenly Father. He sent us to earth to test us—that is the plan of happiness, as Elder Oaks described. The test of mortality is this: To see if we will follow the Savior, Jesus Christ, in all things and keep the commandments of God no matter what. No matter what temptations we face, what other people do to us or whatever our desires, urges or wants—will we follow the Savior and obey His commandments? Will we allow our spirits to master our bodies—or will we allow the carnal, selfish, “natural” appetites to rule our spirits? If we are to become like our Savior, we must remember that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. Thus, we are spiritual beings learning to control the bodies we have been given within the bounds set by our Heavenly Father, the Father of our very spirits. True happiness can come from no other source.

We begin the journey to mastering our bodies as newborn babies, unable to control anything but our eyes. I remember watching my first baby trying to master his body. He was so excited when he could finally clasp his hands together. I watched him focus on one hand, and then the other, and work to line them up so the two would join together. He was so proud of himself when he finally accomplished this task! And then he worked to master the movement, until he could move his arms at will. I will never forget the sheer determination in that child’s eyes as he worked to gain control over his little body. I could almost see his thought process, “I need to get this hand up here. OK. Now, the other one. It’s almost there… Just a little closer… Got it!”

But learning to control our movements is just the beginning. Then we must learn to control our bowels, and then perfect our fine motor skills. And the process continues. The ultimate goal is to master our bodies in the Lord’s way—not the world’s way. This means keeping our desires, appetites and passions within the bounds and guidelines that the Lord has set.

Elder Russell M. Nelson, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, taught:

A pivotal spiritual attribute is that of self-mastery—the strength to place reason over appetite. Self-mastery builds a strong conscience. And your conscience determines your moral responses in difficult, tempting, and trying situations. Fasting helps your spirit to develop dominance over your physical appetites. Fasting also increases your access to heaven’s help, as it intensifies your prayers. Why the need for self-mastery? God implanted strong appetites within us for nourishment and love, vital for the human family to be perpetuated. When we master our appetites within the bounds of God’s laws, we can enjoy longer life, greater love, and consummate joy.

It is not surprising, then, that most temptations to stray from God’s plan of happiness come through the misuse of those essential, God-given appetites. [9]

But control them we must. That is the reason that Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation included an infinite Atonement. It is through the Atonement of Jesus Christ that we find the help, strength and ability to overcome our weaknesses and temptations, and the ability to control our desires, appetites and passions. We are spiritual beings learning to control our mortal bodies.

What is Your True Identity?

http://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2010-04-20-our-true-identity?lang=eng

One of the reasons that same-sex attraction is such a sensitive issue—especially for those who struggle with it—is that it’s part of who they are. Sexual orientation is a part of a person’s core identity. But it’s not the only one, and it’s not the most important one. The most important identity any of us has is that we are sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, speaking with a member of The Church of Jesus Christ who struggled with same-sex attraction, said:

You serve yourself poorly when you identify yourself primarily by your sexual feelings. That isn’t your only characteristic, so don’t give it disproportionate attention. You are first and foremost a son of God, and He loves you. [10]

If our identity begins with our spiritual heritage—the divine potential we received from a loving Father in Heaven—then we can prioritize the rest of our identity and actions accordingly. But that doesn’t mean life will be easy. Elder Holland taught:

For various reasons, marriage and children are not immediately available to all. Perhaps no offer of marriage is forthcoming. Perhaps even after marriage there is an inability to have children. Or perhaps there is no present attraction to the opposite gender. Whatever the reason, God’s richest blessings will eventually be available to all of His children if they are clean and faithful. Through the exercise of faith, individual effort, and reliance upon the power of the Atonement, some may resolve same-gender attraction in mortality and marry. Others, however, may never be free of same-gender attraction in this life.

As fellow Church members, families, and friends, we need to recognize that those attracted to the same gender face some unique restrictions regarding expression of their feelings. While same-gender attraction is real, there must be no physical expression of this attraction. The desire for physical gratification does not authorize immorality by anyone. Such feelings can be powerful, but they are never so strong as to deprive anyone of the freedom to choose worthy conduct.

In saying this, let me make it clear that attractions alone, troublesome as they may be, do not make one unworthy.  … If you do not act on temptations, you have not transgressed. [10]

The Gospel is a Message of Hope

The gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of hope. Hope in the Savior and in His love for us. Hope that through His grace and Atonement, all things will be made right in the end. The answer to all problems is the same: turn to the Savior and His teachings, and He will send the Holy Spirit to help us in our time of need. Elder Holland said:

Consider a principle learned in gardening. Someone said that if we plant a garden with good seed, there will not be so much need of the hoe. Likewise, if we fill our lives with spiritual nourishment, we can more easily gain control over inclinations. This means creating a positive environment in our homes in which the Spirit is abundantly evident. A positive environment includes consistent private and public worship, prayer, fasting, scripture reading, service, and exposure to uplifting conversation, music, literature, and other media.

This same environment extends to experiences at church. Some with same-gender attractions have unresolved fears and are offended at church when no offense is intended. On the other hand, some members exclude from their circle of fellowship those who are different. When our actions or words discourage someone from taking full advantage of Church membership, we fail them—and the Lord. The Church is made stronger as we include every member and strengthen one another in service and love. [10]

When we are focused on the Savior and His love and teachings, all things fall into place. When we lose focus, we can lose our place. The Bible tells a story about the ancient Apostle Peter. The Apostles were in a ship on the sea, and Jesus Christ walked on the water toward them. Peter said unto the Savior, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee in the water.” And the Savior said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water. But when Peter lost focus on the Savior and began to notice the waves on the sea, he started to sink. The lesson of this story is simple: We must never lose focus on the Savior. The Savior can work miracles in our lives if we allow Him. (See Matthew 14:25-32.) This is true no matter what our problems are, no matter what our ailments. Of this Bible story Elder Holland said:

It is not without a recognition of life’s tempests but fully and directly because of them that I testify of God’s love and the Savior’s power to calm the storm. Always remember in that biblical story that He was out there on the water also, that He faced the worst of it right along with the newest and youngest and most fearful. Only one who has fought against those ominous waves is justified in telling us—as well as the sea—to “be still.” Only one who has taken the full brunt of such adversity could ever be justified in telling us in such times to “be of good cheer.”  Such counsel is not a jaunty pep talk about the power of positive thinking, though positive thinking is much needed in the world. No, Christ knows better than all others that the trials of life can be very deep and we are not shallow people if we struggle with them. But even as the Lord avoids sugary rhetoric, He rebukes faithlessness and He deplores pessimism. He expects us to believe! [11]

Hope is a powerful ally as we struggle through life. The Church of Jesus Christ has launched a website called Mormons and Gays that explains the Church’s stance on same-sex attraction. It also tells stories of hope from those who struggle with this issue as well as their loved ones. One man said:

Hope, it lifts us, it keeps us moving forward, looking forward with belief that things will get better; that things can be good even if they’re not now and that if things are good now it’ll get even better. But ultimately, hope in the promises of God that there is a world better than this one, where all wrongs will be made right. And that that’s something that we can and should look for. [1]

Another man said:

Oftentimes people have hoped that they wouldn’t have to deal with it, that it wouldn’t be an issue anymore, that it would just go away. As I have seen people that have placed their hope in a friendship, or their hope in going to the temple, or their hope in feeling the spirit, and just moving in that direction, moving in the direction toward God and toward a little more hope, that’s where I have seen people succeed. [1]

http://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2010-05-12-good-things-to-come?lang=eng

Elder Holland tells the story of a young father who was trying to take his young family across the country but their car kept breaking down on the highway. Elder Holland’s message to that young father—himself—is the same message to all of us:

“Don’t give up, boy. Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead—a lot of it—30 years of it now, and still counting. You keep your chin up. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.” [11]

That message applies to all of us—no matter what our challenges are. There is hope in the end, if we are focused on our Savior, Jesus Christ. And as we apply the teachings of the Savior—love, compassion and kindness unfeigned—to the tense issues of our day, we will be able to work together to make the world a better place for all… even if we disagree on how to do it.

About Lisa M.
I am a wife and mother of 4 beautiful children in a small town in the mountains of Idaho. We ski as a family in the winter and camp, fish, and go to the beach in the summer. I’m a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I am grateful for the Savior and the blessings of the gospel in my life.

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