We don’t normally touch on issues of faith and religion here in the virtual pages of Rhombus. We generally try to keep you in the know for six days a week and leave Sundays to you. However, one recent article about a timely and important topic inspired me to wade into religious waters, if only for a brief moment. I don’t like to preach, but I feel that all of us can benefit in hearing the following message.
Too often in the LDS Church do we vilify and condemn those who deal with homosexual tendencies. I cringe every time I hear one of my peers call another a “fag” or “queer” with such obvious disdain. I am bewildered by the frequent, vitriolic tirades against the many evils of “those gays.” We have become, in a word, homophobic. Now, before I get millions of angry e-mails, let me say this: the policies of the Church itself do not support such hatred and intolerance in the least. Unfortunately, however, it seems that our culture has not followed that lead and the aforementioned expressions have become far too common. This is not what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about
The following article, penned by Austin Smith, first ran in the Daily Universe on July 2nd. Austin beautifully outlines the need for compassion and understanding toward our brothers and sisters using the words of ancient and modern prophets, as well as powerful examples from his own encounters. I can only hope that, by republishing this wonderful piece, our readers will heed the author’s admonition for compassion — not just for the sake of our friends and loved ones, but also for the salvation of our own imperfect souls. — Steve Pierce, Editor
My freshman year home-teaching companion, a mission buddy, my cousin — these are a few of the wonderful people in my life who, through no choice of their own, are attracted to members of the same gender. I fear that in Utah Valley, talking about homosexuality has for too long been taboo. Same-gender attraction (SGA) is not something we can just ignore, wishing it would go away, because it won’t. It deserves and demands a mature, respectful, faithful and open discussion. We cannot allow our silence, ignorance, or intolerance to push precious people out of the Church. The recent publication for Mormons who have homosexual attractions, “God Loveth His Children,” says, “Some people with same-gender attraction have felt rejected because members of the Church did not always show love. No member of the Church should ever be intolerant.” Tolerance does not require one to embrace homosexual behavior, but my prayer is that we, as a community, can be more understanding, loving and accepting of our friends and loved ones who find themselves in this position.
One misconception many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have about those who experience SGA is that they simply don’t have enough faith to change. In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth. These are people who spend countless hours in earnest prayer, serve selflessly in the temple, magnify their callings as full-time missionary, visiting teacher, or Elder’s Quorum President, and meet consistently with both priesthood leaders and professional counselors. These are people who show me what it is like to go forward with faith despite not having answers to all their questions. Though most experience no change in their orientation, some eventually feel comfortable entering into heterosexual marriages, but all demonstrate great faith and trust in God.
The men and women in our lives with SGA have their own challenges to bear which we cannot afford to exacerbate with our scorn or disdain. However, no one wants or needs pity. Our friends and loved ones who experience SGA need to be befriended, loved, and accepted. They need, just as we all do, support in trying to live the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to be able to say, as President Hinckley did, that “Our hearts reach out to those who struggle with feelings of affinity for the same gender. We remember you before the Lord, we sympathize with you, we regard you as our brothers and sisters.” Put a face on the issue: if a close friend of yours were to tell you that he is gay, would you turn him away, or embrace him?
To those of you reading this who struggle with same-gender attraction, let me express my unconditional love and support for you. Know that you are not alone; there are many active Latter-day Saints who experience SGA or who have unanswered questions about this issue. One of my friends at BYU who struggles with SGA told me that for a long time, he thought he was literally the only one in the whole university who had these kinds of feelings. That is a very depressing and unhealthy way to live, and it definitely is not true. It would be an easy thing to let depression and despair overwhelm you, especially if you have been unsuccessful in trying to change your orientation, but I plead with you to hang on. Remember the words of Nephi, who acknowledged that he did not know the meaning of all things, but nevertheless testified “I know that [God] loveth his children.” You do not need to bear this burden alone, there are many resources where you can find help and support. Seek out close friends and family members with whom you can confide and discuss your trials, missteps, successes, and goals. Speak with your bishop, chances are he has counseled with others in your situation. If you attend BYU, you have access to free counseling where you can confidentially work through your feelings with an empathetic professional. The website NorthStarLDS.org is a wonderful resource and community for Mormons who experience SGA, with the aim of helping them stay active in the church. Above all, search out the best in life and enjoy the abundant blessings of the church and the fellowship of the saints.
As a community, it is my fervent hope that our attitudes on the issue of same-gender attraction can be open and tolerant. That does not mean we need to compromise our beliefs or condone sexual activity outside of marriage, but we should always strive to love (and stick up for) our brothers and sisters as God loves each and every one of us: unconditionally, no matter our struggles.
Austin Smith is a senior majoring in Computer Science at BYU who finds himself spending more time reading about his hobby of politics than he probably should.
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