With the ban on same-sex marriage being ruled unconstitutional in Utah by a federal judge (See here), I thought I might finally share about an experience I had almost a month ago. I attended a same-sex attraction conference, wrote a blog post about it, and then asked Kate’s friend, Vance, to respond. I’ve included his most central ideas which he delivered with passion and humor. His perspective is challenging for me to understand, I think because I don’t believe in the same faith behind his reasoning. Here it is:
On Saturday I attended the second annual Reconciling Faith and Feelings conference. It was really interesting. There was a panel of speakers– most of them were men who experience SSA (Same-sex attraction. A lot of the speakers rejected the term “gay,” because they equated that with living and embracing the lifestyle. SSA is a way of saying they have the attraction and can’t stop their thoughts, but don’t commit any gay actions.) There were 2 women who experience SSA and 3 or 4 wives of men who experience SSA.
I think it’s really neat that members of the church have been coming out lately (I’ve seen a lot of this on the internet) and are able to receive such awesome support from their families and friends and have resources available to them. [Although the conference established that it was “not organized or endorsed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”] And I think it’s great that they have found a way to live openly and still keep their faith. There weren’t too many people at the conference though, and I think a lot of heterosexual people that really could have learned something (like all those boys who were afraid of my rainbow stickers) chose to sleep in instead.
The impression that I got from the speakers is that having SSA is not wrong because human beans can’t control their thoughts or attractions. However, lustful thoughts (hetero- or homosexual) are wrong. SSA is a “trial.” One man said his same-gender attraction was something he was dealing with, but it’s not him. A woman panelist said that when we focus too much on one part of our life (SSA), it’s not healthy.
I feel like I understand how they are choosing to reconcile their feelings with their faith. They acknowledge that they can’t control their thoughts, but they can channel them into healthy relationships with other men (or women) where they can meet their needs by connecting emotionally and spiritually.
The two things I don’t understand or relate to are
1. Referring to SSA as a “trial,” and not a part of who they are. People don’t choose to be gay. It’s an unchangeable part of who they are–just like race, genetics. It’s how they’re wired, just like others are wired to be heterosexual.
2. Why they can’t embrace the gay lifestyle. If any lustful acts or thoughts are considered sinful according to the church, I can understand that. However, I don’t understand why two gay people can’t have physical intimacy after they’ve married and become partners for life. Is it our business what any couples do in the bedroom? How does the church define a healthy sex life? What if a married couple is really into S&M–is that okay? What if a straight couple is into anal? Is the only requirement for healthy sex that it be hetero and consensual? And why isn’t it okay for two gay people to express their love for one another? How can the church take away someone’s natural-born ability to love? Aren’t Jesus’ teachings all about love? So if we happen to experience romantic love for someone of the same gender, why should the church squelch it?
The answers to these questions are personal and do not reflect the opinions of the LDS Gay Community at large.
Do I believe people are born gay?
Yes. I do. I believe I was born to be attracted to both men. I believe it is part of my own nature. Attraction to men is normal, natural, and easy for me. I never chose it. I am attracted to women, but I am more attracted to men.
Is being gay a trial?
Yes and no. I think any strength we have can be a weakness, and any weakness a strength, depending on the actions we take with the feelings built into us.
Yes: The temptations I have from being gay sometimes persuade me to act naturally. This distances me in my relationship with my Father who loves me. Sometimes I overeat, oversleep, oversex, over… over anything really. Physical appetites must be disciplined to find happiness.
No: Being gay has made me compassionate with the appetites that others have. I am less prone to judgement. I see excesses in others lives as natural to their bodies, and as a work in progress, but as good enough right now.
Jesus Christ said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
It really is that simple. I love Jesus Christ. I try to keep His commandments. I make mistakes, but He allows for that. THAT is the good news! That is why we celebrate Christmas!
Why can’t the LDS Church support Homosexual Marriages?
My best friend lives with his boy friend. I respect his choice. I think he is very happy. I think responsible gay couples are just as beautiful and valid in their love as straight couples.
I believe there is a better way. I believe in an afterlife. Mormons believe that a very small percentage of God’s children will go to an actual “hell.” The beauty of Mormonism is that most people will go to heaven. I believe in growing and learning and becoming, so I choose to try to obey ALL of the commandments and covenants that have been given, even if it is hard. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints encourages us to grow better where we are, with what we have. Homosexual marriage is not eternal, nor will it ever be declared as such. What the Lord has not bound on earth is not bound in heaven. While a relationship with a man would be very rewarding, it can only be temporary. That, for me, is too painful to contemplate. Again, choosing to obey the Lord’s commandments is choosing happiness.
And why isn’t it okay for two gay people to express their love for one another?
It is ok. It is natural. It is not best. It is not ideal. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a vehicle for people to become. Certain regulations are in place for those who want to embark on the adventure of eternity: eternal progression and eternal life. If you are content with life the way it is…do whatever you want. If you want something more, if you want to create, and become, and grow…You have to stretch yourself.
How can the church take away someone’s natural-born ability to love?
The Church does not take away. Individuals give to the Church. I sacrifice sex with men because I love Jesus Christ. I sacrifice sex with women before marriage, because the Lord says I will be happier if I do so. I sacrifice my sleep so that I can run marathons. I sacrifice Taco Bell so that I can be healthy.
So if we happen to experience romantic love for someone of the same gender, why should the church squelch it?
Homosexual relationships are temporary. It is a fact of life. Eternal Life is organized in families. Families are lead by heterosexual couples. Anyone who desires to come unto Christ is invited and welcome. We all live with the commandments and covenants that we have agreed to live. I have agreed to live this way, and it makes me very happy.
If you enjoy life in this world, with all of its base, unenlightened mediocrity, then do what you will. Live your life. Choose pleasure and temporal happiness. There is some degree of truth in living this way. It is my choice to be here. Nobody forced me to give up gay sex. I chose it.
There is a better way.
I prefer enlightenment. I prefer to live by the Spirit. I want outstanding, extraordinary, and amazing.
I have set forth an ideal. Kelsey. I don’t want you thinking that I am actually ok at keeping all of the commandments and obligations to which I have agreed.
On good days my love of Jesus Christ is strong enough that I will choose best.
On ok days, the reward of eternal life seems to be my motivation.
On not so good days, the societal norm to be “good” in Provo does influence me.
On bad days, not being kicked out of school stops me.
On really bad days…I’m just vulgar.
The beauty of this Gospel is my personal relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I can be vulgar, feel that loss of enlightenment and then pray to my Father in Heaven and ask Him to please let me and help me try again. He always says, “It’s ok, try again, Vance. I love you.” Nobody else is like that. Nobody else gives you the freedom to choose, make mistakes, move on and be forgiven. He is fantastic. Kelsey. If this Church were not true, I would have left. A long time ago. I would be living life up! I would have all the boy friends, try all the wine, coffee, tattoos, because what is the point of living, if there is nothing after this? I know it to be true. I know that God, and his Son appeared to a boy named Joseph Smith. I know it like I know my parents love me. I know it like I know the sun will rise tomorrow. It would be convenient to say that I didn’t, and get a boy friend and marry him and adopt some cute kids. That is a decent way to live. But there is a better way. I do know. So I can’t do those things, because Heavenly Father has some awesome plans in store for me, and I want to do His plan, because my plan never allows for the great blessings that He promises with His plan. Joseph Smith spoke for God. The Book of Mormon is the most true Book. It brings me happiness to ponder the words written there. I bear witness that what I have said is true.