As a family, we prayed every day before the election for the passage of Proposition 8 in

California.

We had many discussions about the necessity of marriage, between a man

and a woman, being the best possible way to have, love, and raise

children. The social institution of marriage is a key foundation of a

civil and healthy society.

 

We

talked about how the attempts to redefine marriage would have damaging

implications not only for marriages, families and morality, but also

for our freedom of speech and ultimately the freedom of religion, upon

which this great nation was founded.

 

Since

the election, my mind has been in a stir regarding the institution of

marriage, and how to address the conflict that surrounds it. But, in

striving to stand for marriage I am also concerned for those who

perceive that Mormons "hate" homosexuals, when we are only seeking to

preserve what we know to be the divine order of marriage.

 

How

do we continue to go about doing what needs to be done to preserve

traditional marriage without alienating gay-marriage advocates even

further? Or is it even possible? I sincerely wish I better understood

how those who are intent on redefining marriage see this conflict to

figure out what I may be missing.

 

Those

in California who identify themselves as gay and lesbian already have

access to the protective rights they need to live with the freedom they

desire. Redefining marriage seems only to force society to morally

elevate same-sex relationships to the same level as opposite-sex

relationships.

 

How

do you say, "I'm sorry, but redefining marriage is simply not an

option," without adding to their anger? I wish I knew. I long to

understand more fully how God sees this battle as well, not only

regarding the preservation of marriage, but for the greater scope of

cultural morality, and what He would have us do about it.

 

As

faithful and committed followers of Christ, how do we stand strong for

the divine order of marriage, while also conveying God's love and

concern for all His children — our fellow brothers and sisters? What

will be our role in promoting marriage and morality, as society strays

further and further from the things of God?

 

While

I freely admit I don’t fully understand all the issues or have all the

answers, I wish to share some of the ideas that have been weighing

heavy on my heart and mind.

 

Morality redefined

 

Not

only is there a concerted effort to redefine marriage, but morality is

being redefined as well. Morality used to mean living a virtuous life

based on standards of right and wrong. God has set those standards to

which we strive. They are not negotiable. Maybe that is what is so hard

for some to understand. God's principles of sexual relations being a

gift reserved for marriage, and marriage being a covenant relationship

reserved for a man and a woman, are still in force.

 

As

an increasingly secular society works to eliminate God from public

discussion, some seem to think that standards of morality are up for

grabs to include only the virtues of their choosing. George Orwell

suggested that if people can get rid of God, then everything and

anything can be permitted. For many of us, getting rid of God is simply

not an option.

 

The

popular politically correct "morality" — a culturally mandated moral

relativism — promotes virtues like tolerance and diversity over God’s

laws of right and wrong. Politically correct morality misuses the

virtue of compassion to excuse those who prefer not to follow God’s

laws.

 

Tolerance

is defined as allowing, letting, or enduring something or someone. It

does not mean approving or sanctioning behavior, especially with the

time-honored designation of "marriage." Those who stand for traditional

marriage

do exhibit tolerance — just not approval.

 

Compassion

is defined as having empathy for another’s experience or suffering.

Maybe that has been lacking on our side, and I hope to see that

compassion grow in all of us, including myself, but compassion does not

necessitate condoning behavior. Compassion means loving and embracing

the sinner, even as we disapprove of the sin.

 

Most

people would likely agree, regardless of the angle from which they

approach this issue, that factors influencing homosexuality are a

mixture of nature and nurture. A concern with the normalization of

homosexuality is that it may encourage those who already have a

vulnerability to same-sex attraction to fully pursue a homosexual

identity when a healthy heterosexual identity and attraction could have

been developed.

 

Some

of the pro-gay messages of the homosexual movement could be dangerous

for those in a vulnerable place with regard to their sexual identity

development.

 

Playing catch-up

 

In

light of the increasing battle between good and evil, the scripture in

Matthew 10:16 comes to mind, "I send you forth as sheep in the midst of

wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves."

Traditional marriage advocates must be wise to make effective their

efforts to help people understand the importance of traditional

marriage, not only for the benefit of families and society, but also to

protect our freedoms of speech and religion.

 

Traditional

marriage advocates must work to catch up if they hope to compete with

the years of daily pro-gay messages that viewers have been fed in the

media. In fact, the same can be said for combating the pro-immorality

messages that viewers are continuously fed.

 

Think

about how many pro-gay TV shows, movies and other media the average

viewers have ingested compared to pro-traditional marriage and morality

messages. The years of such programming, with the help of secular

media, have taken their toll.

 

Not

long ago it was inconceivable that so-called "gay marriage" would ever

even be taken seriously by anyone. Now it is reaching a 40 to 50 percent approval

rate in some areas. I suspect the flood of messages promoting that

perspective have been successful in desensitizing many.

 

I

hope we will all be more wise as we engage ourselves more effectively

in the public discourse regarding issues of marriage and morality.

Hearts and minds can be changed when they can see the positive fruits

of following God’s way.

 

Compassion with conviction

 

In

discussing the battle over marriage with a friend, he made the

observation that one side of the debate tends to err on the side of

compassion while ignoring moral conviction while the other side tends

to err on the side of convictions while ignoring compassion. Somewhere

in between is the better way. I seek that better way.

 

My

heart goes out to those who wrestle with feelings of unwanted same-sex

attraction. I know many for whom this issue is a daily reality. My

concern is that they know they are loved both by God and those who

claim to be His disciples.

 

Some

of these individuals may be able to overcome or diminish their same-sex

desires, whereas others may not — at least in this lifetime. There is

much still to be learned. It’s critical, however, that they feel loved

and accepted just for

being. It’s especially critical that all of our brothers and sisters feel welcome to worship with us.

 

Some latter-day saints may be concerned that their embrace of homosexual

individuals would be perceived as promoting homosexual behavior,

especially within the church, but a great many who have these feelings

desire to live their lives according to His revealed word. Even for

those who do not, the most important thing we can do is build

relationships with them and seek to make God's love more real than the

love of those in the world. Only then will hearts be softened and

penetrated by His Spirit.

 

We

all struggle to live up to God's laws in numerous ways. The Church of

Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a place for all who desire to come

unto Christ regardless of our mortal difficulties. We all have sins,

weaknesses, and thorns of the flesh with which we wrestle daily. The

gospel of Jesus Christ ought to be where we can all find loving

support, even as we strive to live up to the Lord’s standards.

 

I like the concept of a "mortal overlay" coined by Dr. Allen Bergin in his book "Eternal Values and Personal Growth."

He suggests that we all have some kind of mortal overlay that clouds

our eternal identity and gives us opportunities to learn and grow. I

can imagine how same-gender attraction may be one of many mortal

overlays that human beings may experience here in mortality, providing

opportunities for learning and growth not only for themselves, but also

for those around them.

 

Homosexual

men and women can either live among the body of Christ while working

out their own salvation with God or, if we close our hearts and turn

our backs, they can leave us and go into the world to look for answers.

I would imagine it would be better to encourage them to stay close, and

to invite them back if they have strayed. I imagine it would be a

worthwhile pursuit for every latter-day saint to seek out that delicate

balance of loving each individual among us while still maintaining

fidelity to the teachings of the gospel.

 

We

all engage in daily efforts to master our mortal or "natural"

tendencies that could otherwise lead us to engage in sinful behavior.

This is at the heart of our purpose in life — to master the natural

man, to overcome, to lean upon the Lord to make up for what we lack,

and to receive the grace and strength, which helps us endure life’s

crucibles.

 

Understanding how homosexuals see the battle

 

In

an effort to better understand those on the other side of this marriage

conflict, I sought out a dear friend who experiences same-gender

attraction and who has chosen to live in accordance with God’s laws. As

an active and believing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of

Latter-day Saints, and a source of support to many gay members, he

shared some interesting insights.

 

He

suggested that those who seek to stand for marriage also consider and

seek to empathize with those individuals who are affected on the other

side:

 

“What

is hard for many in the gay and lesbian community is that they see what

seems to be latter-day saints and other religious conservatives doing a

victory dance over the wounded hearts of those who feel like they've

just been told that they don't have value, that they are subhuman at

worst or are second-class citizens at best. To many, this is about more

than marriage or receiving legal benefits — it's about feeling like

their very existence is less valuable than others, or that the genuine

affection and love they feel for their partner is somehow less real or

meaningful than it is to men and women in heterosexual relationships.

To them, being ‘gay’ is not just about ‘behavior.’ It's such a core

part of their identity that the behavior and identity simply can't be

separated. Latter-day saints may not share that belief, but this isn’t

about sharing beliefs; it’s about empathizing and seeking to truly

understand the perspective of another and how they experience the

world. It’s about understanding what it means to be human from the

perspective of another.

 "For

that reason, I believe the latter-day saint response needs to be three

parts 'personal ministry' for every one part of 'preserve marriage.'

Without the personal ministry — the 'and then showing forth afterwards

an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved,' (D&C 121:43) —

 we as latter-day saints become the enemy. And

right now latter-day saints are perceived as the enemy. We might be

seen that way regardless of how much love we have tried to show, but it

genuinely feels — even from my perspective as a latter-day saint who

is on the same ‘side’ — that most of the love and compassion that latter-day saints have expressed is merely lip service. We are too busy

celebrating political victory to truly hear and feel how this has been

experienced by the gay and lesbian community — to genuinely empathize.

There have been a few exceptions, but for the most part, I have yet to

witness genuine reaching out — genuine personal ministry. I've only

seen the preserving marriage part. That has to change if this will ever

be as much about saving souls, our Father’s beloved sons and daughters,

as it is about preserving the divine order of marriage."

 

This

conversation was quite eye-opening to me. To be honest, I still

struggle with the balance between compassion and living my convictions.

I also don’t understand how the gay and lesbian community can’t see

that what we are trying to do is simply preserve the time-honored,

time-tested and divinely ordained institution of marriage. I don’t see

how this has anything to do with their perceived value as a human

being. But that just goes to show that I still have a lot to learn on

the subject.

 

This

battle is about upholding deeply held religious principles regarding

marriage. Surely the gay and lesbian community can see that people of

faith are not going to just surrender something so pivotal to our

faith. This isn’t about disliking anyone. Though it does seem that no

matter what we do or say we will be accused of "hate speech."

 

I

guess where we can all do a little better is to engage ourselves more

in the personal ministry side of this issue to be sure we are not just

giving lip service to our fellow travelers. We need to figure out how

to genuinely love and seek to understand any individual in our midst,

regardless of their personal beliefs or lifestyle.

 

Some things we might do to better minister to those around us include:
  • Consider

    individuals in our family, workplace, or other areas of our life who

    experience same-gender attraction, whether they are active, believing latter-day saints, or whether they are in gay or lesbian relationships.
  • Spend

    some time pondering various issues regarding homosexuality — including

    the theological, scientific, social, or political — to identify what

    we know and what we don’t know, and the questions we may have.
  •  Familiarize

    ourselves with the issues and internal conflicts homosexuals face by

    reading articles or blog entries on Web sites, such as at North Star, the Northern Lights blog, Evergreen International,

    or NARTH (The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuals).
  • Read

    books and other resources about the subject from multiple perspectives.

    Given the variety of perspectives, there will surely be those with whom

    we disagree, but even so, there is value in understanding the

    perspectives from which others are coming. (See a list of resources at

    the end of this article.)
  • Open

    up a dialogue with someone you know who is same-gender attracted,

    and/or is openly gay, to sensitively learn more about what their life

    experience is like, and how you might be a source of support. Seek to

    build a meaningful relationship with them, free of agenda or efforts to

    change them. Seek to understand before seeking to be understood.

     

God’s designs for sex and marriage

 

God

surely has a plan for those who experience same-sex attraction, as He

does for all of us. Either homosexual tendencies can be overcome, or

they can somehow be managed well enough to yet live meaningful lives

that are in harmony with God’s laws. God has promised that He will not

require more than we can endure.

 

But

any discussion of God is where the debate gets tricky again. For those

with whom we share a common belief in God and a commitment to his

teachings, there is room for discussion regarding how to best address

this issue.

 

But

when someone wants to live contrary to God’s laws, and insists that

their behavior or lifestyle choices be given social or political

license, then that’s when we encounter problems. Navigating the

boundaries between religious beliefs and civil rights in a pluralistic

society is no simple matter.

 

I

realize that not everyone believes in God, or understands Him and His

plan for his children the same way we do, nor is everyone particularly

concerned about keeping His commandments. This is where all I can say

is, “Now what?”

 

In

fact, it's difficult to know how to even have a productive discussion

about some of these critical issues when one side understands that God

has already spoken on the matter, and is committed to that, while the

other side doesn’t have the same reference, and is therefore more

amenable to the winds of personal preference and political fancy.

 

I

had just such an experience when a woman took one of the last remaining

seats next to me on a long flight to the east coast. She was a liberal

activist and outspoken lesbian. We couldn't have been more different in

our views! I kept myself busy with my textbook readings for some time,

as I absorbed some of her conversation with the guy in the other seat.

 

Since

I thought I might not ever have such an opportunity, I decided to see

what I could learn from her. From our discussion, I did learn quite a

few things. I could certainly see how she did not want to be judged for

something over which she believed she had no control.

 

But

I could see that she believed my religious beliefs were merely

intolerant and closed-minded. I’m often saddened by the fact that what

some see as intolerance and closed-mindedness others see as having

moral convictions and the integrity to try to live by them.

 

My

new friend told me she used to believe in God, in fact we previously

shared the same religion, but she had adopted some new views that

seemed to make her feel better. I wonder how a lack of understanding on

the part of those with whom she associated in the church may have

played into that. I imagine we as church members can do better.

 

I

was pleasantly surprised at how I enjoyed our conversation, though. She

was a good person, and was gracious enough to answer my genuine

questions without getting defensive or offended when she could see my

honest interest. I’m pretty sure it would have turned out differently

if my approach had been different.

 

Having this discussion with someone who

used to believe as I do caused me to wonder how people I know that

currently believe as I do, and who hold similar respect

for God and his laws, seem to buy into the notion that tolerance or

diversity or so-called compassion can supersede God's word.

 

Finding

that perfect harmony between compassionate empathy and fidelity to

moral conviction is certainly difficult. I suspect, however, that such

a harmony would be an important pursuit of any follower of Christ. When

we know someone personally, or even have a family member who is

homosexual, it’s difficult to watch the pain they experience, but our

compassion can never veto what God has said about his plan for sex and

marriage.

 

As latter-day saints, if we have a close family member or even a child who

struggles with such feelings, it’s important that we live faithful to

what we know and encourage them to do the same. Should they choose to

follow other paths for a time, the best thing we can do is reach out to

them in every way we know how, expressing our love and affirming their

numerous gifts and virtues, and seek to be supportive of them in ways

that do not affirm a course contrary to God’s designs for our eternal

progression and happiness.

 

What would you do?

 

I've

often tried to imagine what I would do if it were me, or someone I

loved, that struggled with homosexual feelings. I've seen many

individuals each take a variety of different paths with their

attractions. Some resist for a while, and then give in to the

temptations. Some marry and do their best to create a stable marriage,

while others remain single and celibate.

 

I

imagine that for me it would be similar to if I were not able to marry

in this life, since many of God’s children may not. We can all imagine

how difficult and lonely that might be. But if that were the hand

“which the Lord hath allotted unto me” (Alma 29:3), and if I had

determined to live a chaste life, then I imagine I'd figure out a way

to live virtuously regardless of the sacrifice. Granted, I certainly

realize that’s a lot easier said than done.

 

It’s

been amazing, though, to hear from many individuals who have feelings

of same-sex attraction, and yet have committed themselves to living a

godly life to the best of their ability. What great faith and moral

fortitude that would take.

 

They

seek out many sources of strength, support, and fulfillment in their

lives to help them weather life’s storms. I am humbled and in awe of

them. I applaud them, especially given the heated context of their

situation.

 

Many questions remain

 

The

whole debate over same-sex marriage has sparked a lot of spiritual

ponderings in me. I admit I yet have many unanswered questions:
  • What

    would God have us do to protect His sacred institution of marriage, and

    yet not have others feel that we do not have compassion for them?
  • Is the fight to preserve traditional marriage simply one of many coming battles between good and evil?
  • Is there something important about the struggle of same-sex attraction that we have yet to learn?
  • Does God see the issue of same-sex attraction differently than He sees the many other crosses that people are called to bear?
  • Are

    homosexual tendencies in an individual designed as an opportunity for

    God's grace to carry and heal, just as are the many other painful and

    seemingly unfair human conditions?

 

Satan’s battle

 

For

now, we may have won this battle to preserve traditional marriage. But,

I wonder how long it will hold. There are certainly more battles to be

waged. With so many outspoken voices intent on redefining marriage, I

wonder how long we will be able to hold back the tide of moral decline

in this nation.

 

I

have to remind myself that this is not simply an issue between people

with differing personal opinions. This is one of many well-orchestrated

battles by Satan and his minions to weaken marriage, morality and the

family.

 

Only

he could have orchestrated such a stealth attack on society, and

accomplished so much in so little time. He has been amazing indeed. In

some ways, it is helpful to recognize the underlying author of all the

conflict, and to know that God is still in charge.

 

For

me, I am deeply committed to upholding the institution of marriage as

the divinely ordained union of a man and a woman. I will continue to

work personally and professionally to strengthen marriage and the

quality of marital relationships. I am grateful to the Lord for His

role in the passage of the constitutional amendments protecting

marriage.

 

However,

as much as I hope to continue to work to address the moral decline of

society, I also feel newly committed to learning more about those who

experience same-sex attraction. My hope is that we all might work

together, strengthened and nurtured by one another, to be a better

refuge from the world.


 

Resources for better understanding the various perspectives on homosexuality:

 

Books

Book reviews and responses

Web sites

Articles