Recently the LDS Church held its semi-annual General Conference, and two very interesting results emerged from it.
President Boyd K. Packer gave a talk that made some references to recent developments in gay marriage, and reiterated that homosexuality is against the Lord’s code of chastity.
The Associated Press reports that the Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay civil rights organization in the nation, delivered a petition with 150,000 signatures demanding that President Packer withdraw his October 3rd comments about gay marriage. For more on the story, a link is provided here:
In response to this group, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve issued an official statement of response that was delivered through a spokesman. This statement can be read or viewed here:
I love and completely concur with this statement for several reasons.
First of all, it reestablishes the fact that what legally happens between consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes is part of their free agency. Even if we disagree with the practices of others, there is no reason to attack them for their choices, because that breaks the higher law of loving our neighbor.
Yes, if others make dysfunctional choices with how they use their life, the people around those people may suffer physical or psychological pain, but that’s part of the beauty of the Atonement of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He paid the price for our sins, as well as the sins of others.
If we are in pain because of the choices that others make, we can ask the Lord to apply His atoning sacrifice in our behalf, and He can lift that pain. This frees us to allow others to exercise their agency so that full and honest judgment can be made by God, and also allows our progression to continue unhindered.
“…Satan will strive to convince you that there is no solution. Yet he knows perfectly well that there is. Satan recognizes that healing comes through the unwavering love of Heavenly Father for each of His children. He also understands that the power of healing is inherent in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Therefore, his strategy is to do all possible to separate you from your Father and His Son. Do not let Satan convince you that you are beyond help.” – Richard G. Scott, Ensign, May 2008
Second, it reaffirms the fact that we are free to believe what we choose to believe, regardless of outside pressure, and that our beliefs are not determined by popular vote. If one hundred million people signed a petition to repeal the law of gravity, it would make no difference at all to natural law. We can’t repeal or legislate away the consequences of our choices.
“But let us emphasize that right and wrong, righteousness and sin, are not dependent upon man’s interpretations, conventions, and attitudes. Social acceptance does not change the status of an act from wrong to right. If all the people in the world were to accept homosexuality, as it seems to have been accepted in Sodom and Gomorrah, the practice would still be deep, dark sin.” – Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, pg. 79
President Packer’s talk simply stated the truth as we in the LDS Church understand it – that the Lord does not sanction sexual practices of any kind outside of the marriage relationship. That is the doctrine of our church, and no amount of legislation or protests can change that. Only the Lord can, and the Lord frankly doesn’t care what we think is right. He sees things differently than we do.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” – Isaiah 55:8
Third, it brings us around to the fact that there is no excuse for unkindness or manipulation or bullying of others. From my understanding of this press release, vigilante efforts against evil, even in an effort to destroy it, only creates evil within us. There has to be order and due process, even if ultimately, the Lord is the only one to make that judgment after this life.
The press release also makes the point that, when it comes to immorality, it’s our actions that ultimately count, not our thoughts. To me, this means the Lord will not judge you or deem you unworthy for thoughts. When Jesus said that “a man that looketh upon a woman to lust after her hath already committed adultery in his heart”, he didn’t mean that that person is the same as an adulterer who has done the deed.
Thoughts indicate our desires, and can be considered a warning that we’re moving in the wrong direction. We can then choose to take steps to keep thoughts from turning into actions, or we can choose to follow impure thoughts and become truly impure before the Lord. It’s always our choice.
A member of our Church who struggles with unworthy thoughts (whether those thoughts are homosexual or adulterous or sexual in nature at all) is still worthy for all the blessings of the gospel, as long as they do not act upon those unworthy thoughts with the body. However, as modern prophets teach us, all actions begin with thoughts, so guarding our thoughts is important.
Members of the Church who feel same-sex attraction and wish to continue in full Church fellowship should seek out assistance from trusted family and friends, counselors and Church leaders. It’s not a sin, according to this statement from the First Presidency, to have feelings of same-sex attraction, and we don’t deny that some may be born with a certain biological inclination towards same-sex attraction. What is condemned is acting upon those feelings, because they are counterproductive to the procreative process and the plan that God has for us in marriage.
Ultimately, people with these attractions can seek to stay close to the Spirit and remember the covenants they have made. The Lord will bless and protect those who love Him and trust in Him. There are loving members of the Church who have the skill to help members with same-sex inclinations to keep the law of chastity. Sometimes these struggles can be overcome, and a person can have a healthy, heterosexual relationship.
As science learns more about the biology of homosexual attractions, we have come to realize that sometimes people with same-sex attraction can’t change these feelings, and it’s a very difficult and painful struggle to endure. Such a person who desires Church membership would have to practice abstinence their whole life, and simply manage such feelings. These feelings may be strong, but they're not uncontrollable. No one has ever died from not having sex. You will never find a death certificate with the cause of death listed as "Failed to orgasm or ejaculate."
I encourage all my readers to remember that we all struggle in this life, and should do our utmost to make sure that others will not struggle more because of our treatment of them. Let us disagree about concepts and ideas if we must, but continue to respect and love the person as the child of God that they are.