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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Subject that Must be Faced

The other morning, I wrote a status on facebook that led to a wonderful discussion.  Here's what it said....

"K, so I need to say this. I just hope it doesn't come out wrong....
So many, including me, were happy to see an African-American in the white house. It said so much about where we, as U.S. citizens, have come with the discrimination thing; though, I have to honestly admit, I wasn't too thrilled with who that African-American was. Does it seem strange--a whole lot of steps backward--that so many are freaking out and would rather have ANYONE in the white house but a MORMON?"

Thank you to all who commented.  It's been great!

One friend commented, and I asked for more input from her.  She wrote more and then posed this question....

"Okay, so we're all being very highminded & appalled by bigotry based on the way someone is born & the lifestyle choices they make... What would everyone's reaction be to a homosexual candidate (because it follows logically in the discussion)?"

I have to say, I was happy to see this question come up because it's not something that we, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are asked about very often.  We are judged for it, but very rarely does someone come forward and ask for clarification, and it's definitely not one of those that I, as a member of the Church, am going to climb up on my soapbox, uninvited, and start spouting off about, so thank you, Stephanie, for bringing this question up.  I'm happy to explain at least my take on the subject of homosexuality.  I will also, though, assert that these are my personal feelings and don't necessarily mirror those of my entire religious community.

Not all members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are the same.  It is unfair to lump us all into one group and say, "Mormons are this way."  We are all at different places in our growth and learning; we all have different experiences in our lives that lead us to where we are.  The great desire for all members, though, I believe, is to grow to be more like Jesus Christ in charity and love of others.  We all want to do what's right, but in many cases that definition of "what is right" is cloudy.  From what I understand, if a member of the church is truly living his/her beliefs, the motivation behind every action will be "to do what the Savior would do" and bless the lives of others.  That is the bottom line.

I believe many of the LDS faith are not so much bigoted against those of same-gender attraction as we are ignorant and maybe even apathetic because we don't know how we  feel; we don't have the experience to know just how to judge the situations we sometimes find ourselves in.  My hope is that over time, we will all have opportunities to have experiences that will help us come to some solid decisions about all people.  It is clear that we are all human beings--all children of God, and as such, we should be kind and respectful to all people.

I was raised in Portland, Oregon.  Portland is a very liberal city, and it's not always been easy to live a conservative religion amongst so much liberalism.  I believe that through this experience, I have learned to accept others as individuals and learn to love them but not always like what they do--a lot how I feel about my own children at times.  I'm sure there are many who feel the same about me, and I'm perfectly okay with that.  To be honest, growing up, I had very few LDS friends, but enjoyed the chance of getting to know many of different backgrounds.  My children now experience a similar situation. 

First, I have to explain that as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I take the ten commandments very seriously.  I try to live them everyday of my life.  They are the backbone of my beliefs.  Am I perfect at them?  No, but I try my darnedest.

One of the biggest is the one about chastity--the adultery one.  Yes, I live that.  Yes, I always have.  In other words, when I got married at 23, I was a virgin.  I have only ever had one partner and if he outlives me, I only ever will.  This, to the rest of the world, probably seems freakish and weird, but it goes along with God's top ten, so I live it.  Did I have opportunities to go against it?  Yes, many times, but my answer was "no" in my attempt to fear God and obey Him with the faith that the blessings would be great, and they have been.

That being said, if someone is living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as we know it, no matter what gender one is attracted to, one wouldn't act on his/her sexuality until marriage.  The fact of the attraction is not a bad thing, it's the act of breaking that commandment that is. So, whether I'm attracted to men or women doesn't matter, it's the act of sex before marriage wherein God's law is broken.

Another basic belief, one of an eternal nature, is the understanding that God has given EVERYONE his/her ability to choose.  We, in the church, often refer to it as "agency."  Each of us has the ability to choose for ourselves the route we will take in this life.  We are not to choose for others or coerce them to do what we choose for them.  We, as individuals, will only be judged for our own choices.  We will stand before God alone, so what any other person chooses to do has little or no bearing on how I'm judged by God unless I somehow coerced or influenced him/her to do that thing.  Coersion is not part of God's plan in any way, shape or form.  Therefore, it is not my place to take anyone's right to choose away.  That would also be against God's law.  It seems that this is where we, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are thought to be bigots. 

One thing I've learned as a mother, though, is that if my children are doing something that only effects him/her, I need to leave that problem as his/her responsibility.  He/she must deal with it and its consequences, but if whatever they're doing is effecting someone else and causing a problem for someone else, it's in all of our best interest to address the problem head on.

As far as the topic of marriage goes, we believe that the purpose of marriage is to create families.  As one of our basic tenets, family is of utmost importance and one of its purposes is to create life and provide bodies for spirits so they can have experiences here on earth and learn and grow, but that, again, is a choice.  Another misconception about members of the LDS church is that we have a ton of kids. Okay, my husband and I do, but that was a personal choice.  Some choose not to have children and some choose to have one or two; others, choose to have seven.  It's not something that's dictated by Church leadership.  It's all part of our choosing.  

As we view marriage, we understand that two men cannot create a body together; neither can two women.  It doesn't fit with God's plan as we know it to be. 

Because of our belief of the nature of family, it follows that we would try to protect that.  It is our fear of God that makes us want to defend His plan.

Most women will understand and agree with me when I say that men are hard to live with.  No question.  Men, I'm sure would say the same thing about women.  We're so different in nature, but that's how it's supposed to be.  Living with a woman, for most women, would be easy.  We think similarly.  Men are continually trying to figure women out and women, men.  There's a reason for that.  It's all part of a plan.  It gives balance to a family.

I know there are many who won't understand what I'm sharing here.  It's like I'm from a foreign world because, in a way, I am.  I live by a different code than most of the world, but it works for me.  No, more than "works for me," it makes me happy and satisfied with life.

I guess what I would hope is that, even if you don't like what I do, you'd learn to treat me with the same courtesy as you would any human being and know that I will do the same for you.  I may not agree with what you choose to do, and I may live differently, but my hope is that we, who reside on this ever-turning planet, would learn to just look deeper at the fact that we are all human beings trying to do our best with what we've been given and what we know to be right and best for ourselves and our families.


7mottos said...

Well said! I completely agree!

Crazymamaof6 said...

Well put Julie!

kristi said...

I like how you worded this. I have always been accepting of everyone around me and have strived to understand them. I often find myself frustrated when others judge and attempt to "educate" them to my way of thinking. Your blog made me think about that I don't need to understand them to accept them. I am speaking of all differences, not just homosexuality. And that, while it is ok to share my reason for my feelings and beliefs, I need to except others for their opinions.

Grace said...

very well said Julie. You put a ton of stuff in one message. A couple thoughts came to my mind as I read this. First, referring to those with same-sex attraction. Do you remember the article in the Ensign written by Elder Holland? I believe it was in the Fall of 07. It touched on this subject very well. Also a talk given by President Bensen some time back in which he said we are to love all. We do not have to condone or accept the lifestyle though. I have a good friend who lived a gay lifestyle for 30+ years. In just the past 8 years he has done a 180. We have talked a great deal about what made him change and why he is now much happier living a heterosexual life. I think what it all comes down to is there is no easy way but to love everyone and just try to be understanding. We are told over and over again not to judge. I find that one of my toughest weaknesses. I don't know if it's just because I am a woman or what. But I think women in general find this to be a tough one. I find myself telling my kids all the time..be open minded. Try to understand why so in so is acting the way they are. maybe they are dealing with things that are horrible. We just don't know. Anyone...sorry for rambling on here. great post Julie! :)

Alyson said...

Several people very close to me are gay. So for me this is not a hypothetical exercise, I have had to search and learn in a very real way. I do not for a second believe the "sexual orientation is a choice, and they can choose to be righteous" stance taken by the Church in former years. Several of the people I know would literally give their lives if they could just choose. But I agree with what you've said—there is a great difference, and a dividing line, between having feelings and acting.

vaxhacker said...

I'm glad you pointed out the difference between attraction/orientation and sin. The church doesn't consider it a problem to have same-sex attraction, but holds all its members, gay or straight (or...) to the same standards of moral behavior. Those standards won't match everyone's desires or deeply-rooted drives. Then again, sexual morality isn't the only place you can have that conflict, either.

Just saying "you chose this lifestyle, stop doing that" is not, in my opinion, correct or helpful. I've seen the pain people have gone through in their lives to sort these things out. We're still a long way from truly understanding what causes different people to be attracted in different ways, but it's clearly not just a choice of lifestyle, at least not for a bunch of people (maybe it is for some, I don't know).

That said, of the handful of people I personally know in this situation, a couple of them reached a point in their lives where they decided that however difficult a road it would be to travel, they believed strongly in the standards and covenants they entered with God, and that meant more to them than their mortal desires and comfort. And to their credit, they've held onto that decision, marrying in the temple (to spouses who in my opinion are incredibly understanding people--can you imagine the sacrifice of entering a marriage with a partner who loves you, is faithful to you, cares for you, is your best friend and dear companion, but will never truly be attracted to you?)

That's not an easy road, even to the extent I understand it from their discussions about it, but they're doing it. That's incomprehensible to many, I know, who say you just have to give in to your desires and not suppress them. But what about the other people I've talked to who claimed that their orientation is polyamorous? They say just as strongly that they can't cope with expressing their desires in any other manner, and it would be an emotionally damaging thing to repress that.

The list could go on, but really, there are serious challenges we ALL face in our lives. Some of them are sexual attraction for people that, if acted upon, would violate a commandment somewhere (even the going trend of the world for couples of all orientations to freely indulge sexually with each other without regard for marriage or other "outdated" ideas). I feel for those with SSA having to make hard choices in their lives to reconcile these with the other standards of behavior they choose to adopt, it can't be easy.

I just hope that anyone struggling with these issues knows that they don't deserve to be judged or outcast from the LDS community just because they have these feelings and attractions, and help is certainly available to help them face these difficult circumstances and cope with all that entails.

Echoing what Alyson said, my transgender friend struggled with what to do for a long time before finally deciding to undergo the surgery to physically change her sex to what she felt inside it was supposed to be. She related to me at the time that she would do anything, give anything, not to feel that way, and honestly didn't know if something happened during early development to confuse the biological settings of what gender she felt, or if a different problem made her body form the "wrong" way, or what. Her final thought to me about that was, "I have faith that in the end, God will work it out, and I'll be resurrected with whatever sex I was supposed to be, and I don't care which it is, but I'll be in harmony with myself either way and this terrible conflict will be over."

Those of us who are straight and haven't tasted from the cup of trials these people have gone through have no place passing quick judgment on them, saying that they simply "made a choice" because they liked that better.

Grace said...

i just taught a lesson on agency last week for sunday school. the lessson states that next to life itself, God's greatest gift given to us is agency to choose how we will react to any given situation. I don't want to start a issue but just a thought. IF someone had attractions towards the same sex, yet did not act on those feelings, from my understanding, according to what Elder Holland stated, there is no sin.
Also another point referring to agency. If we were "born" a certain way, where and how could we use our agency? We couldn't and that would be contrary to what the Plan.

Julie said...

Hmm. Interesting point, Grace. So, what I'm getting from what you've written is that if we are created to have certain tendencies, which we all are, and then aren't allowed to use our agency for those things, agency loses its purpose, is that right? I want to make sure I have this right before I comment.

Diane said...

I have a lot to say on this topic. I have been planning on writing a blog post on this myself. So I think that is just what I'll do, and then I'll give you a link otherwise, this could take up way too much space. I don't disagree. I don't think I agree 100% either. Maybe we do.

Grace said...

Agency is key to the plan of happiness. why would a loving Heavenly Father give us something to deal with that would take our agency away from us? Agency is an eternal law and without it we can not choose how we will react. Instead we are left only to be reacted upon. the proclamation on the family definitely speaks to this as well.

Tonya said...

You spoke your heart and soul BEAUTIFULLY!

I agree with what you said wholeheartedly. I just could never have said it as well.

I think having feelings towards others of the same sex would be one of the worst trials to face. Who you choose to love and spend your life with becomes such a HUGE part of who you are. And to have to choose to either act on or deny those feelings would just be really, really tough.

I can't even imagine.

Julie said...

I think, Grace, that much of our purpose here is to learn to control ourselves. Agency is provided for us to be able to learn. If my grandfather was an alcoholic and I knew I had the propensity toward this in my DNA, I'd avoid alcohol. Yes, I have the choice to do it, but why would I? It could be disastrous to my life. We have agency to do good with and to do evil with.

Diane, I've been waiting for someone to express other opinions on this. I look forward to reading what you have to share. Please let me know when you do. Thanks!

Lisa said...

I really enjoyed this post. I think you said everything in a way that no matter if you agree or not with the main issue...that no one should be offended. I wish I was better at that.

I also am enjoying the continuing discussion in the comments. Here's how I look at the "born that way" argument.

My daughter is a Type 1 Diabetic, which they say she was born with that tendency until it finally developed at 12. As a diabetic, she has to make certain choices to remain healthy. Learning to live life with this disease has been a challenge. By no means am I saying being gay is a disease, just likening the point of being born with a challenge and making a choice. If she chose to not be good to her body, there would be consequences.

I've always thought about men and women being two parts of a puzzle, that fit together in a right way... personality-wise and other ways. Ying to the Yang, if you will. My husband makes up for my shortcomings and vice-versa.

In regards to Agency, I think that a lot of times people forget that while we have the agency to choose, we don't get to choose the consequences. They are what they are. We have to live with them.

Diane said...

I have begun writing about this issue. It is going to be in 3 and maybe 4 parts. I have parts 1 and 2 written. It is so long because I am beginning by discussing my history with homosexuality. Here are the first 2 parts. I hopefully will have this finished within the next 24 hours.



Alyson said...

I think Grace brings up a great point, but I disagree with the particular application of it. Because I was born heterosexual (which is "a certain way") and I never had to choose whether I would like men, or whether I would like women. It is hardwired into me. It is who I am. My choices, as I think you pointed out Julie, are other choices: like, do I wait for marriage to act physically on those feelings? How much do I do before marriage? Etc.

But I didn't choose to be heterosexual any more than the people I personally know who are gay chose that. We just are.

Diane said...

So here are my final 2 installments.



A quick conclusion: choice is involved in homosexuality. Even the APA states so. 2. If we let go of the religious voice to be "loving, enlightened, or on the right side of history" we are hurting those who do not want to be gay but are told they are, or are, and want to quit. 3. The homosexual activists proselyte as much as religions do.

So would I vote for a gay president: 100% NO WAY! Because if a president is running on a gay ticket, he is there to change the laws. Everywhere gay marriage is legal and even places it is not, sexual freedom trumps religious freedom. They cannot stand together. Statistics alone prove that religion is better for society than free-sex, or sex without consequences.

vaxhacker said...

But what if he (or she) was not running on a gay ticket, but just happened to be gay, and was taking the stance of "stop talking about the gay stuff, that's not the point of my presidency, focus on my take on issues and leadership qualities" essentially as Mitt is doing about his controversial religious affiliation? Would that be different or still the same situation?

Incidentally, one of my more outspoken gay acquaintances (who has made the choice to live 100% in the guidelines of faithful LDS standards, is married and a father now) is really upset about the claims which say it's unnatural/dangerous/wrong to try to change behavior because he says that is demeaning to him, and discriminating against gays because essentially it's saying they're too weak to resist natural tendencies they feel, like everyone else is expected to in their lives, which is an interesting counterpoint to hear.

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