LDS Church Launches LGBT-Related Website
What People Are Saying about www.MormonsAndGays.org
Mitch Mayne, a gay Mormon who is executive secretary of the church’s Bay Ward in San Francisco, said the site represents limited progress. “I’m optimistic about parts of this website and what it represents,” he told The Advocate by email. “For example, we’re seeing more use of the term ‘gay’ as opposed to the more primitive and mythical label ‘same-sex attracted.’ This is a step in the right direction, and gives me hope that we might someday emerge from our outdated understanding of what it really means to be an LGBT individual — a complete human, with a sexual orientation and identity equal in depth and complexity to that of our straight fellows.”
The launching of mormonsandgays.org follows persistent criticism of Mormon involvement in California's ballot measure banning gay marriage, NPR's Howard Berkes reports. Berkes tells our Newscast Desk that scrutiny continued through Mitt Romney's campaign for president.
Oaks says that “what needs to change is to help our own members and families understand how to deal with same-gender attraction.” While that sentence doesn’t quite parse grammatically, the message seems to be: Don’t throw your children out of the house because they’re gay. Do teach them, though, not to have gay sex.
The website rarely uses the words “gay” or “lesbian,” the terms preferred by the gay community. Instead, the site refers mostly to people “with same-sex attraction.” Still, John Gustav-Wrathall, 49, said it was significant that the site used the term gay or lesbian at all. He was excommunicated from the LDS church in 1986 after revealing to his bishop that he was gay. “This is huge,” said Gustav-Wrathall, who has been with his partner for 20 years. “I don’t see any hint of condemnation.”
Yes, it is still packed with deeply offensive language to the LGBTQ community. No doubt. It’s exasperating to hear that it’s okay to be gay as long as we don’t do gay. It’s an insensitive argument that belongs in the last century. But the website also has many positive elements. Let’s acknowledge both.
The new mormonsandgays.org is a welcome resource that I hope will help heal a deep-seated wound in our LDS culture. It turns the tables from focusing on those who are gay to those who are not. Latter-Day Saints have often described gay individuals as “struggling with same-sex attraction” without considering whether the true test from God was on those who are straight to see if they would struggle in loving those who are gay. From the very first lines on this site it is clear: We must love one another – unconditionally.
"Our hope with this site is that empathy will grow in families," LDS apostle D. Todd Christofferson says in one clip. "We’re trying to communicate that our love is inclusive, that we want to have the family remain intact, and the relationships we’ve treasured over the years to remain and to grow."
The church maintains its longheld position that it is sinful to "act on" homosexuality, a range of actions that runs from romantic hand-holding to gay sex. But the church's unqualified statement that "individuals do not choose to have such attractions" represents a departure from past remarks by church officials.
Though the church’s doctrine, that sex should be reserved only for a married man and woman, has not changed the church says, many outside the church say the church is subtly but unmistakably growing friendlier toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, including voicing support for some gay rights.
“I think it is extraordinary,” said Jim Dabakis, chairman of the Utah State Democratic Party, recently elected state legislator and an outspoken advocate of gay rights. “I'm very pleased with the website and its message. It shows wisdom, and the ability to temper doctrine in love that is the essence of Christianity.”
Indeed, these improvements over blatant ostracization and condemnation could very well save the lives of many young people and help keep families together. However, with this approach, the Mormon Church has essentially only caught up to the “hate the sin, not the sinner” approaches of the Catholic Church and many evangelical Christians, which are still incredibly problematic.
It may not seem like much, but it's a big step. This is the Mormon church admitting that being gay is not a personal choice, in no uncertain terms. The site still maintains that it is a sin to be in a same-sex relationship, but patience people.
The Mormon Church’s official position is that gays and lesbians can be fully recognized and accepted members, provided they do not act on their feelings. Gay and lesbian Mormons must either choose to remain celibate or marry someone of the opposite sex.