Ive been wanting to address this topic for over a year, but as someone who loves my church with all my heart, and who also has an ever-increasing number of friends who are gay, I wanted to make sure I did it right. I've spent the last year pondering and praying, trying to figure out how to both live my religion fully, and support my friends at the same time. This post is written based on the personal revelation I have received in that time.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka the "Mormon Church") is, and always will be, against gay marriage. The official doctrine of the Church states that "marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God" and that "the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife." We believe this to be not only a matter of policy within the Church, but also a commandment from God. And God never changes.
As active, faithful members we do our best to uphold this truth, but when we're faced with the reality that many of our friends and family are gay, we don't always know what to do. How do we hold fast to our beliefs while also holding fast to our family/friends? How can we firmly stand for what we believe without people thinking we hate them? That is the question I have been pondering this last year, and I think I've finally found the answer: we prioritize our obedience.
Now, you may ask, "How can we prioritize the commandments? Don't we need to keep all of them?" The answer is yes, we do need to keep all of them, but some are more important than others, and those are the ones that should be kept first.
In the Law of Moses there were 613 rules/commandments. One of those was "thou shalt not commit adultery." Today many Christians, including Latter-day Saints, believe this includes all issues of chastity. When asked which was the greatest commandment in the law, Jesus answered, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matt. 22:37-39, emphasis added).
Here we see Christ Himself prioritizing the commandments, and the Law of Chastity is not in the first two. Now, once again, this commandment is important, but not as important as loving God and our neighbor. So as we interact with people who are gay, we should focus more on being kind and loving them than on condemning them for their actions.
We should also stop trying to change them.
I hear a lot of talk in the Church about how if a gay person tries hard enough or prays hard enough or goes to the temple often enough, they can be "healed" or "cured" of their homosexuality. I hear people say that God wouldn't possibly let a person stay that way for their entire life if it's against the commandments. They say that if they just have enough faith in the Atonement, they can change and become attracted to the opposite sex.
Why do we say this? Why do we want them to change? Is it out of love for them? Is it because we know that true happiness comes from keeping the commandments?
No. That's not why.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson (an LDS Apostle) has said that "The invitation to repent is an expression of love." I thought this is what we were doing: inviting them to repent. But are we really?
No. We are not.
Repentance is one of the most personal things a person will ever experience, and suggesting that they change on our time table or by using our methods is not inviting them to repent. Instead it's demanding them to conform to our limited view of God's plan for them. It's putting our feelings and beliefs before theirs. Often times it's attempting to pull the mote out of their eye before casting the beam out of our own (see Matt. 7: 1-5).
Let me remind you that homosexuality itself is not something that needs to be repented of. Being attracted to someone of the same sex is not a sin. The main reason why the "pray/try hard enough" method doesn't work is because there's nothing wrong with being gay. There's nothing that needs to change. Yes, we believe that acting on homosexual feelings is wrong. Yes, we believe that that is something that needs to be repented of. But no, we do not believe that gay people need to somehow change who they are attracted to. That would require changing their biology, something which most straight people would be incapable of doing as well. (In fact, if you really want to put into perspective how ridiculous that expectation is, imagine trying to change your sexual orientation from straight to gay. Not so easy, is it?).
So, as God-fearing Christians, what do we do when our friends or family are gay? How do we live our religion?
I'll tell you:
We love them like we've always loved them. We listen to them like we've always listened to them. We include them like we've always included them. And if they come to us for help, we help them. If they ask for our advice, we give it to them. If they do want to change, we help them change. In short, we love them as we love ourself, because even though all the commandments are important, this is a greater commandment than even keeping the law of chastity.
Now, in addressing this I want to say that when it comes to a member of the Church being gay, I don't know what the right course of action is for them. That is something extremely personal and I can't possibly claim to understand what it's like, so I will leave it up to them and God.
Finally, we now come to the question I asked in the title of this post: can God heal gays?
The answer is yes, He can heal them. He can heal them from the hurt we have caused them. He can heal them from the scars our expectations have left on them. He can heal the relationships that have been broken due to lack of understanding on both sides. And yes, he can even heal the pain that comes from sin. Your sins. My sins. Everyone's sins. No one can be perfect in this life. We all have challenges and make mistakes. We all have the need to change in some way. But on God's timetable, not someone else's.
I have many friends who are gay. You know who you are. And whether or not you have come out publicly, I want you to know that I love you. I always have. I always will. We may have differing beliefs, but we're all the children of God. If you need someone to talk to, I'm here. If you need a friend, I'm here. I'm not going to change my core beliefs on this topic, but that doesn't mean that I won't listen to yours and do my best to be your friend.
Because that's what good humans do.
My name is Jordan Michael Anderson. My life's mission is to do as much good as possible.