Category Archives: Homosexuality

The Gospel is for Everyone

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I always look forward to the time that General Conference rolls around. Listening to the inspiring words of our leaders lift my spirit and renew my commitment to follow my Savior. My favorite talks are the ones that call me to action. They help me see doctrine in a new light and inspire me to change my life to more fully honor my covenants.

Such was the case with President Monson’s address in the priesthood session. He challenged us to look beyond the stereotype and “see others as they may become”. He shared a story of a successful missionary in a difficult area, who imagined everyone that he met dressed in white, entering the waters of baptism. He talked about a prison warden, who spent his time rehabilitating prisoners, even though many critics argued that such prisoners could not change. He spoke of his own experiences challenging less-active members to step up to leadership roles.

These stories caused me to stop and consider the way I viewed my brothers and sisters. There have been things that I have done in the past that I haven’t been proud of, so why do I limit others by their mistakes? It takes great humility and charity to view everyone according to their potential, and not by their mistakes. I think this is the way God sees us, which makes it so that “his hand is stretched out still.” (Isaiah 5:25)

There are those who say such a hope is futile, that some people were born to do certain things and have no choice in the matter. They may argue that the gospel plan is too hard and too demanding for some people to follow. We know better. We know that Christ came with healing in his wings, powerful enough to save all that would come unto him. Even though we know this, our hope and expectations for our fellow man is all too often dimmed by the negativity of those around us.

We need to revaluate our stereotypes and prejudices and root out any negativity that may have crept in. What is the first image that pops in your mind when you think of a gay person or a same-sex couple? Do you think of half-naked marchers in a gay pride parade? What about suicidal teenagers? How many of us have the image of a son or daughter of God, dressed in white, ready to enter the waters of baptism? How many of us have an image of gay people who are already members as potential bishops and Relief Society presidents?

Granted, a prospective baptism is not the first thing that pops into my mind when I see a same-sex couple either, but perhaps that is why I was so inspired President Monson’s talk. It is an area that I need to improve. Our current culture makes it difficult to have such hope and charity for our brothers and sisters with same-sex attraction. Critics argue that our church is anti-gay, that our doctrine is damaging towards those with SSA, and that joy and happiness for people with SSA is mutually exclusive with participation in the restored Church. Recently, one group even took out a billboard claiming that gay people cannot be members of our church. This spirit of negativity is enough to make many members of the church wonder if the church is broad enough to welcome all to come unto Christ. Many may doubt if the doctrines and teachings of the church offer any benefit to our gay brothers and sisters. Some may even question Christ’s ability to bring all people to him.

So how do we gain this hope that Christ can save all mankind? How do we revive our testimonies that the gospel has the power to bring peace and joy through faith and repentance to even those who are currently in same-sex relationships? One of the most effective ways is through personal stories. The claims that gay people cannot join the Church and the doctrine cannot bring happiness quickly unravel as we listen to the stories of men and women with SSA who have found peace and joy through living the gospel of Jesus Christ, including those who were in same-sex relationships.

The Church has recently released a web site dealing specifically with homosexuality, called Mormons and Gays. It includes resources, the loving words of our leaders, and testimonies of valiant son and daughters of God with same-sex attraction, who have found the peace that only the gospel brings.  An unofficial web site, Voices of Hope, will soon be launched, bringing even more voices to the chorus of people with SSA who testify of the truthfulness of the gospel.

Through browsing these web sites, you will hear the miracles that happen on a daily basis in the lives of our brothers and sisters who deal with homosexuality. You will read stories of how the gospel has broken the chains of addiction and self-destructive behavior, and given people the strength to leave same-sex relationships. You will hear stories of how the gospel has saved marriages or helped people find fulfillment in celibacy. You will see how gospel has raised people out of depression and increased their confidence and self-esteem. You will also learn that there is still work to be done, that many people with same-sex attraction are hungry for the gospel truths and the fellowship of the saints.

Our gospel is a universal gospel. Christ calls all to come unto him, black and white, bond and free, and even gay and straight. He is full of grace, mercy and truth, and has the power to save us, not in our sins, but from our sins. The question of whether gay people can find joy in the church is not a theoretical question, to be debated through media and parlor conversations. It is a reality that manifests itself in the lives of members of the Church. May we remember the infinite grace of Christ and always have hope and charity for all of our brothers and sisters.

* http://www.mormonsandgays.org

 

Why I Still Choose To Believe

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There are many paths by which we might return to God, or so some would claim. “Organized religion is not necessary” they might say, “and is too prone to abuse by those who would use it to control their fellow man.” Others who disbelieve in God entirely think it is but an opiate to the masses, or a delusional pacification into a state of peace by promising something that will never come in this life. I am aware of such arguments, and yet I am a decided member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Yes, I believe!

This last week, FAIR (www.fairlds.org) concluded two days of conference addresses by faithful Latter-day Saints who look deeply into issues that trouble the faith of some and which challenge their choice to believe. These individuals did not shrink from the controversies, but exercised faith as they looked at controversies and critical questions in order to provide faithful answers for those who struggle. It was something of an academic pursuit, seeking to “negate the negatives”, or eliminate reasons to disbelieve. These individuals have looked closely at that which might destroy the faith of others, and yet they believe!

The topics were myriad. Joshua Johansen spoke of his personal struggles with attraction to men, but how Church standards of morality served him as he sought the same blessings we all desire – that of an eternal family. Neylan McBain spoke of the challenges facing women in a Church governed by patriarchal principles amidst a world that eschews anything but direct equality of practice and opportunity. In so doing, she highlighted both the struggles and the principles of cooperative conduct between men and women that are so central to a gospel life.

Brother Darius Gray shared insights on the rich heritage of black Mormons throughout the history of the restoration.

Dr. John Sorenson spoke on evidences of Book of Mormon culture within the Americas, and evidences of ancient Americas in the Book of Mormon. Royal Skousen shared insights that reflect and support the authenticity of the historicity of the Book of Mormon as found in the original texts.

Brother Brian Hales shared insights on the moral strength of Joseph Smith during the development of the practice of polygamy, and Ugo Perego disabused notions of DNA studies serving to condemn the historicity of the Book of Mormon. This was just the first day of a conference of believers!

Brother Jack Welch shared evidences of authenticity of the Book of Mormon through the poetic use of Chiasmus, an ancient device used to reinforce and emphasize specific teachings. Brant Gardner addressed a criticism of directions in the Book of Mormon, and turned the argument around into an evidence of its authenticity.

Dr. John Gee spoke of the Book of Abraham, and gave insights against criticisms that would claim the translation by Joseph Smith was fraudulent. Don Bradley shared insights on the lost 116 page manuscript and the likely role the lost record played in the temple worship of the Lehites. Hartt Wixam reviewed the history of the defense of the faith from the earliest modern efforts, and Dr. Dan Peterson reviewed his vision of the role of faithful defense in progressing the kingdom, and in so doing announced a new publication known as “The Interpreter” which will serve to provide academic insights to the defense of the Church. This concluded two days of spiritual uplift from knowledgeable believers.

For the first time in FAIR history, a non-member, Rosemary Avance, shared insights on the parallel process of de-conversion, and how that can help inform us in our desires to help those who leave us for various reasons.

All it takes is a simple foray into the online world to learn that critics of the Church abound with arguments that seek to chip away at the faith of some. For the past 14 years, I have worked from within FAIR to help provide needed answers, and in so doing I have been made aware, I suppose,of virtually every argument one could concoct for losing my faith. I doubt anyone could come up with an argument I have not heard of, looked into, or am not intimately aware of. And yet I believe!

It is not that I am ignorant of the thorniest issues. It is not that I am delusional or under the influence of a religious brew of mind numbing barbiturates that remove my ability to reason clearly. It is not that I am afraid of losing my family, or the association of friends that causes me to ignore facts that should destroy my faith. It is not that I have confused emotion for spiritual confirmation, and I have therefore confounded tear jerking sentiment with spiritual confirmation. No, it is none of these things. And yet, I believe!

No, my belief is a choice. It is a deliberate action borne of faith. While I am aware of those things that might challenge faith, I have decided to believe! I don’t do it by ignoring some questions that for me may remain unanswered, but I believe despite the fact that I do not, as yet, have all the answers!

A sentiment was expressed in 2005 by Wendy Ulrich, a Ph.D., M.B.A. and psychologist, who spoke at a FAIR conference just like the one that just concluded. She said “In my experience, neither critics nor apologists for the Church do much to convince me whether or not to believe. Debates, analysis, and scientific evidence may alternately undermine or support my beliefs, but belief itself is a choice.” She later stated, “If God can ask the brother of Jared, who has heard His voice and seen His finger, “Believest thou the words which I shall speak?”, then certainly we also have a choice to believe or not, regardless of our previous spiritual experiences or our intellectual skills. We believe because we are trying to learn object constancy with God, to trust that He is still there even when we cannot feel Him, and that He will tell us the truth, even when it seems improbable.” As described by Sister Ulrich, I have sought such object constancy with God, and I have found Him! Yes, through my choice, I have come to persist in my belief!

When the Church initiated its support for Proposition 8, my personal experience with my older brother (who was among the first 500 individuals in the Unites States to die of AIDS) caused me to want to shrink. I did not want to step into the controversy, and would that the Lord would take such a cup from me. But He did not. I was therefore forced to confront my loyalties, and to work through my thoughts and feelings. My answer did not come from reason. It did not come from an angelic visit, or some religious conviction that allowed me to lay aside my fears. In the end, I simply chose to follow the counsel of the 15 prophets, seers and revelators who asked me for my efforts. Through that submission of faith, I received personal revelation that assured me that my actions were correct. My heart filled with compassion for all individuals involved, and despite my support for Proposition 8, my compassion for those who sought to legalize same sex marriage was actually heightened greatly! No, it wasn’t that I got some great answer that convinced me to change my views.Rather, I chose to believe! And the answer came after my choice.

I could provide you with other examples of similar subjects that were not immediately comfortable to me. Among such a list would be polygamy, why some members of African descent were denied access to the priesthood for a time, and questions around issues of gender participation. In admitting this, I do not want you to suppose that all such issues threaten my faith in the Church, or that they caused me to question my previous choices to believe.

Rather, these issues were among those for which I had not yet achieved a degree of comfort that allowed me to think “this poses no issue for me”. But in each instance, I nevertheless chose to believe, and that choice guided my actions. It was after I actively followed the consequence for my choices that the insights and evidences came that supported my choice. So, despite my having ongoing questions, I still believe!

Why I choose to believe is, in a way, quite simple. Having been raised in a religiously agnostic but intellectually rigorous environment, I discovered that the paradigms I had operated under did not satisfy me, nor did they serve to direct me or develop me in my moral choices in life. It was not until I sought after divine influence and power in my life that I felt myself change.

In short, I felt like the people of King Benjamin and to declare with them “Yea, I believe all the words which [I was taught concerning the restoration of priesthood power and the principles of exaltation, and eternal family unity]; and also, I know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in me, or in my heart, that I have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.” Yes, because of the change the doctrines of salvation and exaltation have had on me, I believe!

But it does not stop there. No, I have continuously tried the Lord through my obedience, and experienced affirmation after affirmation that my choices to believe are good. I have had rich experiences that transcend emotion, that reach beyond coincidence and defy nature, which testify to me that it is good for me to believe. So, I choose to believe!

Yes, I know all the reasons to not believe. I have even been put off by the actions of leaders, had my feelings hurt by a member or two, and had the world try to drag me into practices that seem enticing. I have read all the secular teachings that challenge belief in God, and all the criticisms that challenge belief in the restoration. I am aware of probably every reason that exists to abandon my faith, and yet none of that has the power to dissuade me. No, I have seen too much, I have persisted too long, I have experienced too much change, too much affirmation, and too much personal development from the simple act of submission by choosing to believe.

I invite you to join with me. If you are faced with things for which you don’t yet have satisfactory answers, hold to those things for which you do in fact have answers and let them bolster your strength to persist. Strive for understanding for the things where you don’t yet have satisfaction, and seek it by first choosing to persist in your belief so that, through the corresponding actions that naturally follow, you may eventually receive the affirmations and understanding you seek. Persist in patience, knowing with an assurance that I can most certainly give you is true, that the answers are there, and they will indeed come. All it requires is for you to choose to continue to believe!

If you are interested in reading the full remarks of Wendy Ulrich and her thoughts on “Faith, Cognitive Dissonance, and the Psychology of Religious Experience” you can find her FAIR presentation here

 

Mormon FAIR-Cast 94: Gay Mormon Finds Happiness in Church’s Teachings

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Joshua Johanson, a scheduled speaker at the 2012 FAIR conference on August 2-3 in Sandy, Utah appeared recently on K-Talk radio to discuss his experience as an active Mormon who experiences same-sex attraction, and who is also happily married to a woman. “Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints can find happiness in following the Church’s teachings against same-sex relationships” said Joshua.

A news article reporting on his interview can be found here. More information on the 2012 FAIR Conference, as well as how to purchase tickets, can be found here.

This recording originally aired on June 27 and is posted here by permission of K-Talk Radio. The opinions expressed in this interview do not necessarily represent the views of FAIR or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

FAIR Examination 8: Aversion Therapy at BYU–Dr. Eugene Thorne

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Dr. Eugene Thorne was a member of the psychology department at BYU during the 1970s, and was involved with studies into what is called “aversion therapy.” In this interview, Dr. Thorne explains the studies that were done, and helps clear up some of the misperceptions, false innuendo, and outright lies that have been told regarding aversion therapy.

One of his patients, who is happily married and active in the Church, though wishes to remain anonymous, has made this statement about his experience with aversion therapy at BYU:

“I have absolutely no negative feelings or memories of the experience. It truly didn’t ‘cure’ anything (SSA or lust addiction), but it certainly did not leave any physical or mental ‘scars’ and was carefully and lovingly conducted.”

For further information on aversion therapy, see the FAIR Wiki article posted here.

The opinions expressed in this interview do not necessarily represent the opinions of FAIR or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

FAIR Examination 7: Therapy and same-sex attraction–David Matheson

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David Matheson is a licensed professional counselor at the Center for Gender Wholeness in Salt Lake City, Utah. His practice focuses on helping people with unwanted same-sex attraction.  David received his Masters of Science degree in Counseling and Guidance from Brigham Young University in 1996. Afterwards, he practiced for seven years as a psychological assistant under Dr. Joseph Nicolosi.  During his tenure, he co-created the “Journey into Manhood” experiential weekend with Ben Newman and began serving on the board of directors of People Can Change.

He is an active member of the Church and shares how the gospel of Jesus Christ has influenced his desire to serve men with same-sex attraction.  He talks about some modern approaches and how these approaches fit within the stances of major medical institutions and the relationship with the Church.  He shares stories of success as well as some potential for harm associated with therapy.  He clarifies some common misconceptions around therapy and the need to make this therapy available for those seeking it.  He talks about how family, friends and leaders can help people with same-sex attraction and how that fits in with their duty to bear one another’s burdens.

FAIR Examination 6: Overcoming same-sex attraction–Blake Smith

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Blake Smith is a member of the church who has a history with same sex attraction.  In this interview, he shares how he reconciled his sexual attractions to men with the gospel of Jesus Christ and how the law of chastity has brought him peace.  He begins talking about his unsuccessful attempts at aversion therapy and subsequent failed marriage.  He then shares why he decided to stay in the church and what helped him.  He talks about the love and encouragement he received from his ecclesiatical leaders and from a support group called North Star.  He tells his story of finding true love to the woman of his dreams and of finally overcoming same-sex attraction.

FAIR Examination 5a: Marriage to a man with same-sex attraction–Joshua & Alyssa Johanson

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How does a man with same-sex attraction find the only woman in the world to whom he is attracted? In this interview, Joshua Johanson talks about his history with same-sex attraction, his experience as a BYU student and as a member of a singles ward, and introduces us to his wife, Alyssa Johanson. Alyssa shares her insights into being married to a man with same sex-attraction. Joshua and Alyssa also discuss the things that have helped make their marriage successful. As they do so, it becomes clear that their relationship is not all that different from anyone else’s.

They also discuss Proposition 8, Elder Packer’s October 2010 General Conference address, as well as the following questions:

  • Does the Church recommend marriage as a therapeutic measure for someone experiencing same-sex attraction?
  • What is wrong with homosexual activity (kissing, etc.) that stops short of intercourse?
  • If gays can marry, why would sex in that relationship be a violation of the law of chastity?
  • Did Jesus speak out against homosexuality?
  • How can the Church uphold its standards while still extending love to those who experience same-sex attraction?

FAIR Examination 4: Fred & Marilyn Matis

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Fred & Marilyn Matis are Co-Authors with Ty Mansfield of the book published by Deseret Book called, “In Quiet Desperation: Understanding the Challenge of Same Gender Attraction.” Fred and Marilyn are the parents of Stuart Matis, a young man who struggled with same gender attraction. After successfully serving a mission for the LDS Church, Stuart returned home and continued to struggle with same gender attraction for many years until, in February of 2000, at the age of 32, he took his own life. Since that time, Fred & Marilyn have reached out to other individuals who experience same gender attraction and their families to help foster better understanding and support for those who struggle with the unique challenges of same gender attraction.