Guest Post from "Mormon Guy"
There are plenty of people who feel the words "gay" and "Mormon" are about as opposite as it gets. From the public view, it seems they stand opposite each other at political events, on moral issues, and even in the working definitions of social psychology. Popular culture propagates the notion that Mormons (insert epithet here - hate, abuse, vilify, torture, brainwash, deprive, etc) gays and points to Mormon doctrines about traditional families as proof of bigotry and hatred. That isn't my experience. I'm a single guy who's attracted to guys, who has lived in Mormon and non-Mormon communities around the world. And being Mormon is the best thing that ever happened to me... my experience in coming closer to God, loving myself for who I really am, and learning to have faith and hope and happiness in life together make my message a bit different from the one you hear in the media. If you want a better relationship with God and perspective on the purpose of life, try being Mormon. It's the best place for anyone - straight or gay - to find peace and happiness in life.
I grew up in a stalwart LDS family, complete with parents who served as leaders and taught me the gospel in our home. We had family prayer, weekly family home evening, and woke up to study the scriptures before school. It was never a question of if we would attend Church. We always did, along with every activity and fireside and service project.
My parents never talked about same-sex attraction when I was younger. Neither did any of my leaders or teachers. But, then again, there were lots of things they never really talked about. They talked about what applied in my life as a kid, and what applied to others. Dating issues. Morality. Honesty. Kindness. Forgiveness. Patience. Love. If I ever asked a question, they answered it, or helped me find the answer on my own - and I fell in love with the logic and simplicity of the doctrines of the Church.
One double-edged sword of LDS society is the expectation of goodness in others. You go to Church and honesty give people the benefit of the doubt - treating them as if they had no major problems and lauding them for their faith. It was double-edged for me because I couldn't imagine ever disappointing those around me... which meant that in the moments when I did, I couldn't share it with anyone.
The realization after my mission that I lived with same-sex attraction (or ssa or sga or gay or whatever you want to call it) was one of those moments. Marriage and family are huge in LDS culture, and perhaps even more important in my own family. The only thing I had ever heard (I have no idea where - not from my parents or from Church. It was probably some type of media...) was that being gay was a choice. Only one problem - I definitely had not chosen to be attracted to guys.
I looked back on my life and wondered if maybe I had been cursed because of past sins. I had a pornography addiction when I was young, struggled with pride in high school, and was sexually abused in my teenage years (and the abuse still felt like it was my fault - anyone who has been abused understands that dilemma). So I threw myself into the gospel and tried to repent of my sins to be freed from the curse.
And nothing happened. I grew closer to God, more able to make better decisions, and better at resisting temptation, but the attractions didn't go away with prayer, fasting, study, temple attendance, service, or blessings. I wondered if there was something fundamentally wrong with me. Maybe I was simply doomed to damnation because I wasn't cut out for faith... and this was just the proof of that. Maybe I hadn't tried hard enough. The one thought that did not cross my mind was, "Maybe it isn't true." I had enough experiences with the Spirit and with God Himself that I could never deny the truth of the LDS Church and all - ALL - of its teachings. So, if I was cursed, as the scriptures say, "men bring all curses upon themselves." So I must be the one at fault.
Except that I hadn't been cursed. The flaw wasn't in my nature or in the teachings of the Church. It was in my understanding of them.
I'm not sure when it was that I realized that I could be faithful no matter what. It was probably at the depths of my frustration, when I finally gave up everything to the Lord and committed to Him that I would keep His commandments even if I never made it. Somewhere, deep inside me, I realized that keeping the commandments was all that I needed to do... and that I hadn't been cursed at all. I had just been dealt a different hand in life... just like everyone else, and making it back to God involved playing the hand right... not having the right cards to play.
Sometime afterward, I learned that in the LDS Church, there is a doctrine that matches the revelation I got from God. There is a major distinction with regards to homosexuality that is often not made outside - that of action. In the words of Church leaders, there is no sin in the attraction part of same-sex attraction. The sin only comes if you act on that attraction. In that regard, all members are the same. If you keep the commandments, you can serve a mission, receive temple ordinances, hold leadership callings, and be a member in full fellowship (all of which have happened in my life). If you make a mistake, then you can repent - and the repentance process is the same whether you're attracted to guys or girls.
My folly was in believing the dichotomy that presents itself. Either 1) Homosexuality is a choice and a sin, should be avoided at all costs, and if you are righteous enough you will be freed from all sin, or 2) Homosexuality is inborn and immutable, and hence either I am a permanent sinner or will never get married or have a family. The reality is that sexuality is neither fully a choice nor fully immutable. It slides along a scale dependent on genetics, nurture, choice, environment, and as many other factors as you can imagine. And same-sex attraction isn't a sin.
That realization freed me. God loved me. He hadn't cursed me. And I had just as much of a chance to make it back to Him as anyone else if I kept the commandments.
The one thing I didn't do is believe that my attractions automatically meant I needed to follow them. God may not have made mistakes when He created the bodies of Adam and Eve, but He didn't create the part of me that is ultimately me. And, as part of my life, He gave me plenty of imperfections to work on to bring me back to Him. Being attracted to alcohol doesn't mean I should morally drink. Neither does being attracted to multiple women mean I should seduce each of them. In my case, being attracted to guys is just a characteristic I have. My actions don't directly follow unless I choose them.
Understanding how same-sex attraction fit in took much, much longer than I ever imagined, and applying the gospel has taken much more work than I thought it would. It's not enough to be faithful just while on a mission, or to graduate from BYU or Seminary, or even to serve as Elder's Quorum president. There aren't as many resources as I wish there were, few Conference talks and fewer references in Church manuals like For the Strength of Youth.
Ultimately, If God and teachings of His Church aren't bringing you happiness, then either you have a flawed understanding of His teachings (which was my case), you're doing something wrong (sin), or you just need to right the chemicals in your brain (also a very real issue). It's not an issue with God or His Church.
Today I'm an active, faithful member of the Church in every way. I love the support it gives, and have had only positive experiences (well, except for one) with leaders in private discussions on same-sex attraction. Everything applies to me, even though I wonder about the talks that focus so heavily on dating. As far as my long-term plans? I don't know what's going to happen. As long as I'm doing what is right, the Lord will take care of me. Maybe I'll fall in love with a girl (that'll take a miracle), get married, and raise a family. Maybe I'll be single for the rest of my life and able to bless tons of other people's lives. But the key is finding happiness and peace today - not worrying about the future. And I've found that embracing my circumstances in life, matched with living the gospel (as soon as I actually understood it and how it applied in my life) has done that and more.
"Mormon Guy" is the author of (Gay) Mormon Guy. An amazing and insightful blog sharing a perspective that is often overlooked and a voice that is rarely heard. Mormons and Non-Mormons alike could learn quite a bit from this individual.