LDS Rhetoric on Homosexuality
Entry for the 2000 Affirmation Writing Awards Contest
By Jon Schild
We have been assured by church leaders on several occasions that the church expects no more of its gay members than it does of any other unmarried members. The wording varies from time to time, but the assurance remains. Is it true? Let's look.
One way to examine a claim of equality is to separately examine two individuals, one on each side of the supposed equal sign. In this case, consider two 17-year-old priests sitting side by side in the same quorum meeting. On this particular Sunday, their instructor is giving a lesson on sexual morality. Both priests hear and consider it. But although only one message is given, two are received. You see, one boy, Roy, is gay. The other, Karl, is not.
Karl has never doubted that he is heterosexual and will one day be married. Most likely it will be in the temple, more to comply with his mother's wishes than his own. He has fantasies about some of the girls at school, and an occasional movie star, which his bishop tells him he must learn how to control. So although his body desperately wants to do so, he has never acted on his attractions and fantasies.
Roy has spent a lot of time over the past three years examining his feelings and fasting and praying about them. In the last few months he has come to the inescapable conclusion that he is gay, or suffers from same-sex attraction, or whatever you want to call it. He likes to look at other boys, has erotic dreams about certain young male movie stars, and has no interest whatever in girls. Like Karl, he has never acted on his attractions.
When Karl hears the bishop talk about sexual morality, he hears the message "no sexyet. You must be alonefor now." He knows that he must continue to restrain himself for the time being. He knows that he will be expected to go on a mission in a couple of years. After that time, he will start looking for a mate. Once he finds one, the two of them will form a couple. There will be an official ceremony (a wedding) to celebrate this formation. All his friends and family, and all the folks in his ward and hers, will celebrate their new status. They will move in together and not only be allowed, but expected, to begin a sexual relationship.
Until that happens, there will be plenty of opportunities for low-level intimacy, both before and after his mission. Some of these will be sponsored by his school (dances, class parties, etc), some by the church (singles activities, more dances, movie nights), and some will be dates which are less structured but more private. His parents, and hers, will wish them well. His mother will tell him to be a gentleman and behave himself, but to have a good time. His father will slip him some emergency money, which will most likely not be used for an emergency. He will probably be a part of several temporary couples with different potential partners. In some cases he will bring the girl to church with him, or go to her ward with her. They will sit together, maybe hold hands. Everyone will think it is really cute. It is all a part of growing up.
How does Roy receive the message? He knows that he is expected to be alonepermanently. His moral imperative is no sex or loveever. He expects that he will go on a mission. His constant prayer, soul searching and scripture reading during his attempt to "be like everyone else" has given him a very good understanding of his beliefs and feelings, and he feels that a mission is something he wants. He also feels that if he shows his Heavenly Father his dedication, it will help in his quest to become heterosexual.
He knows that the church is totally against any form of marriage for people like him, that they are willing to spend large amounts of tithing money to influence elections in various states, but he thinks that in spite of this he will one day find a mate. When this happens, there will be no ceremony, no celebration. They will probably just tell people they are sharing an apartment to save money, and there will be a never-used spare bedroom complete with clothes in the closet. If, or more likely when, people learn the truth, there will be hell to pay.
Until he finds his love, there will be very limited opportunities for low-level intimacy. There will be church and school dances, but Roy can't enjoy them with a potential partner. They can go together, of course, but not dance together. They can go to all the church singles activities together, but someone will probably set them up with a couple of girls in a misguided attempt to help them enjoy themselves more. About the only advantage Roy and his potential partner have over Karl and his is that they can go camping together, spend the whole weekend with just the two of them, and if they are careful no one will suspect. But this gets old. The hiding, the sneaking, the lying, take a toll on one's spirituality. God's statement that "It is not good for man to be alone" does not apply to him. Roy will have to decide between love and his church. He can stay with the church and live in loneliness for the rest of his days, or find love and be forced out of his spiritual home.
This then is the truth behind the statement that "The church expects no more of its gay members than it does of any other unmarried members." Two boys are outwardly the same, but only one can look forward to a life with a person he loves in the church he loves. The other can look forward to a life with a person he loves OR in the church he loves. Equalityisn't it wonderful!