Not too long ago, I flew to Boston to speak at a public affairs conference. When I finished speaking, I had the opportunity to shake hands and mingle with the great people who had attended. As I was getting ready to leave, a man came up to me in the foyer, shook my hand, and introduced himself as a gay man. I told him it was so great to meet him and he proceeded to tell me a bit about his background. I didn’t say much because I know that this can be a sensitive topic for many people, and so he did a great deal of the talking. I just wanted to keep my mouth shut and listen to this brother’s story…
We hear a lot about people who have been raised in the church but who subsequently “come out of the closet” and are trying deal with the associated familial, social, and ecclesiastical pressures of being gay. But this man’s story was very different. I listened intently as he explained to me that he did not grow up in the church. He told me that he was a convert to the church in one of the most liberal college towns in the United States, Cambridge Massachusetts. I was sort of shocked to be honest. With all that is going on with social media, a gay Mormon convert seemed like last person I’d run into while speaking in Cambridge. I’m sure he could read the surprise on my face as he began to tell his story. We sort of joked about how much of an enigma he is inside the church. A gay man… converting to Mormonism?! How?! But what he told me next… I’ll never forget.
This good, kind man said this:
I believe that there is a place for gays inside of the Mormon Church. The doctrine of the church tells me that I have a place here. Nothing I have learned inside the church tells me that I don’t have a place here. It is the media and those that are critical to the church that persistently tell me that I don’t have a place here… but the doctrine tells me otherwise.
When I heard this, I just stood there. I felt the spirit so strongly standing there in that foyer with this brother. This gay Mormon man… a recent convert… just spoke the truth, and the spirit testified of it to me. Homosexuals need to know that they absolutely have a place in the church. They should have a place among us just as much as anyone else. Members of the church need to know this. Critics need to know this. And the world needs to know that prophets and apostles continue to back it up, even from the pulpit in general conference. “We cannot” as Elder Ballard said, “stand on the sidelines while others, including our critics, attempt to define what the Church teaches.” The church teaches inclusion. It is at the core of our doctrine. If a member of the church is discriminating, it doesn’t mean that the church is discriminating.
Look… I can’t understand homosexuality. I just can’t. I can’t wrap my head around it as a man who loves his wife and is so naturally and physically attracted to her. Personally, to feel that way toward another man just doesn’t register in my brain. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be understanding to another man who feels the contrary. There’s nothing he or anyone else can do about the way he feels toward men, in just the same way that there is never a chance that anyone could change the natural desire I have for my wife. But for a gay man or woman, who can’t help the way they feel, it can be a scary, lonely, and confusing predicament to be in when it comes to having a desire to follow Biblical Christianity.
The official stance of the church is simply this: “God loves all of us. He loves those of different faiths and those without any faith. He loves those who suffer. He loves the rich and poor alike. He loves people of every race and culture, the married or single, and those who experience same-sex attraction or identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. And God expects us to follow His example.”(Ref)
I love that.
“And God expects us to follow his example.”
We don’t follow his example by ensuring that we’re on the clear other side of the chapel from that gay member or by talking behind his back. We follow his example by pulling up a seat right next to him and figuring out how to be his friend. We follow God’s example by not treating that person differently than we might treat others. We follow God’s example by being “no respecter of persons.” We follow God’s example by recognizing that each of us have challenges and each of us have sin.
But keep in mind… that just because a man or woman is attracted to the same sex, it doesn’t mean they’re sinning. Elder Ballard said, “Let us be clear: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that ‘the experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them.”
It was never my job in life to determine where someone else’s testosterone or estrogen levels fall within the Kinsey scale. I don’t know if a person is gay because they were born that way or whether it was because of social circles, friends, or the confusing world we live in. I believe there are some of both. But truly… I don’t know why anyone is the way that they are… and again, it’s not my job to figure it out. It’s not my job to speculate or keep track of whether or not my brother or sister is sinning in a homosexual or a heterosexual way. As long as what others are doing doesn’t affect me directly… then it’s really none of my business. My business is to live according to the light and knowledge that I have. My business is to follow Christ’s example and love my brothers and sisters. Plain and simple. The rest is up to God alone.
God is not going to distinguish between homosexual and heterosexual sin. Even the least sin will keep each us from entering the kingdom of God without faith in Christ, repentance, and growth. Sexual sin is forbidden regardless of whether or not you’re gay or straight. The Bible forbids it on each end of the spectrum. God forbids men being with women outside of marriage and he forbids men being with men outside of marriage. But he also states that marriage is between a man and a woman… which makes the trial that much more difficult for someone who has truly been dealt the hand of homosexuality. That is all the more reason for us to rally around someone who is trying to deal with that circumstance in their life. Alma describes Christ as one who “will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” Christ shows empathy towards each of us. His bowels are filled with mercy… toward everyone… especially those who are working through challenging times in their lives.
This brother I met in Boston was completely right. The doctrine of Christ testifies that there is a place for him in the church… and it’s right next to me on the pew.