New Mormon Tract on Homosexuality
July 30th, 2007
With about eight million members, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) is among the ten largest denominations in the country. It is also one of the largest funding sources of anti-gay initiatives and a strong lobbyist against fairness and equality for gay citizens.
Some would look at the history of discrimination against Mormons and find it sadly ironic that they would seek to demand conformity on issues of religion and marriage. But sociologists tell us that it is not uncommon for those who face social inequalities to be among the most ardent at upholding inequalities against others.
This week the Mormon Church issued a publication on homosexuality that is, in some ways, an improvement on previous positions but which are far from the welcoming or reconciling traditions adopted by some mainline churches. In synopsis, the LDS church states that same-sex people are welcomed but that such persons should avoid “inappropriate thoughts” or “sinful behavior”. The church also recognized that reorientation is not necessarily to be expected in this life but demands celibacy and a rejection of “flauting homosexual tendencies”.
Some statements of the pamphlet could be taken right out of the writings of any conservative mainstream Christian church:
God has provided the plan of salvation, or plan of happiness, to help you receive the blessings of eternal life. This plan is set forth in the scriptures; men and women cannot rewrite it to accommodate their desires. … Eternity is long, and mortality is short.
Others have concepts that are foreign to those who are not familiar with Mormon theology:
Heaven is organized by families, which require a man and a woman who together exercise their creative powers within the bounds the Lord has set. … Without both a husband and a wife there would be no eternal family and no opportunity to become like Heavenly Father. … As we follow Heavenly Father’s plan, our bodies, feelings, and desires will be perfected in the next life so that every one of God’s children may find joy in a family consisting of a husband, a wife, and children.
The new writings reflect the recognition that regardless of effort many people cannot reorient, but it still states the unsubstantiated (and in my opinion cruel) claim that “many Latter-day Saints, through individual effort, the exercise of faith, and reliance upon the enabling power of the Atonement, overcome same-gender attraction in mortality”. Not only does this claim appear to be without ready example, but I believe it reinforces the notion that a failure to reorient is as likely to be due to a inadequate individual effort or faith as it is the will of God.
Overall, I find this tract to be more compassionate than some by other conservative denominations. However, it makes assumptions and recommendations that I believe are more likely to result in isolation and misunderstanding than in peaceful resolution: no gay friends, immersion in church activities, avoiding too close of friendships, showing “love and kindness” to church members who are rejecting you. Further, when coupled with such hostile and agressive language as is found elsewhere (e.g. “But we cannot stand idle if they indulge in immoral activity, if they try to uphold and defend and live in a so-called same-sex marriage situation.”), I don’t see it as any indication that the church will cease to fund its attack on my life.
I cannot forgive the Mormon Church for its multi-million dollar efforts to deny civil equality to non-LDS gay citizens. But this tract did help clarify some of the motivation behind their anti-gay activities and some has given me some compassion for those raised in this church. With a theology that requires heterosexuality and procreation in order to become like God, there is little wonder that so many gay men that I have met who have had a Mormon upbringing are so deeply conflicted about their sexuality.
ADDENDUM: For an interesting discussion from the perspective of LDS members, see here.