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.
Wonderful! Fantastic! Absolutely brilliant!
That is how I would describe Al Carraway's new book "More Than the Tattooed Mormon." Scriptures aside, I have never been more affected by a book than I was with this one. Let me tell you why:
First of all, I want to point out that this book is dedicated to the reader. That means you and me. Right from the start Al decided to make it personal. All throughout the book she reminds us that the book is not about her, it's about us and our relationship with God. She teaches us that life, although difficult, can be absolutely glorious if we put our trust in Him.
Next, this book made me feel incomplete. but not in a bad way. Maybe a better way of saying it is that it made me "hunger and thirst after righteousness." (Matt. 5:6) Reading this book made me realize that my life could be so much better than it currently is. It made me realize that when you put God first, He takes care of your needs and He blesses you more than you could ever imagine.
My third reason is similar to the previous one: it made me crave gospel knowledge. I was raised in the Church and was taught the gospel from a very young age, but this book made me want to start all over and study like I was an investigator. It made me want to give more priority to the simple things like developing my faith and saying more meaningful prayers. It made me want to appreciate the scriptures more and it has motivated me to study them every day. It reminded me that we are never done learning and there is always something more we can do.
My last reason for loving this book is that it gave me a new perspective on life. After reading it I wanted to live the gospel with every bit of my heart. I wanted to trust God more and appreciate the things that He does for me. I wanted to do more to be a light in the lives of those around me, I wanted everyone to see the treasure that I have found, for the gospel truly is a treasure worth sharing.
To me, "More Than the Tattooed Mormon" is more than just a book, it's a tool that God has given me to enrich my life and bring me closer to Him. I'm grateful that Al has heard His call and has chosen to answer with all that she has to offer. She has been a blessing in the lives of millions of people.
Thank you Al.
You can purchase her book here:
Read Al's blog here:
There's a phrase that's being said a lot lately and it REALLY bugs me. When talking about different races, people say: "God doesn't see color, and neither should we."
And so here's what I have to say:
Are you serious??? Do you really think that God is colorblind? Do you really think that he doesn't see people's skin color? Do you really think that when He looks at us we're all the same? That's definitely not the God I know.
The God I know MADE color, and He made us. If your skin is black, God made you that way! If your skin is brown, God made you that way! If your skin is white, God made you that way! Of course God sees color! And the best part is, He loves it! God loves color! God loves diversity! God wants us to be unique and He wants us to see each other's uniqueness! He wouldn't have put us all here on the same planet if He didn't want us to see each other's color.
Somehow in the fight for equality, we lost individuality. I don't care who you are, where you came from, what color your skin is, or what language you speak, as long as you're proud of it. Be proud of who you are, no matter who you are! God loves you and He sees your individuality. So why shouldn't we? Why shouldn't we call people "black" or "white?" THAT'S WHO WE ARE!
I firmly believe that every single person on this planet is incredible, and I believe that they should be treated with the highest respect and honor we can give, but that doesn't mean we all need to be the same. The only way we can truly love someone for who they are is if we allow them to be who they are. Don't just mash them into a big ball with everyone else.
We need to stop trying to make everybody "equal," because we already areequal. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, written in the Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
Did you notice what that said? These truths are self-evident. Do you know what that means? It means we don't need to prove it. We are born equal. We are also born different. That is a fact. And that must mean that we can be equal and different at the same time.
So basically here's my point: treat people equally, but love them because they're different. If God didn't see color then He wouldn't have made rainbows.
I have spent years trying to forget most of the things I am about to write. I'm going to tell you about the most miserable time in my life. My experiences during this time are the single worst memories I have. The only reason I am doing this is because I feel like there is someone out there that needs to hear it. There is someone out there that needs to know how I overcame the hardest trial of my life. This story does have a happy ending, but I went through hell to get there.
So here we go.
This is me in 2004:
I was a scrawny kid just out of elementary school, headed into junior high; scared, but also excited; pretty much your average 7th grader.
I remember my first day at Elk Ridge Middle School. It took me so long to get my locker open that I was late to my first period. Once again I was your typical seventh grader sprinting through the halls with a map of the school trying to find his class. I remember that I was especially excited for this one: Tech Lab. I'd always been good at building things and now I got to do it in school! I was beyond excited. By the end of the class I was ready to take on the world. These were going to be the best years of my life, I just knew it!
But I was wrong. What happened next troubled me greatly.
For reasons unknown, every one of my friends left me. Not only would they not talk to me, but they began to tease and bully me. These were friends that I had known since kindergarten, friends that had come to my birthday parties, friends that had been there through every one of my childhood adventures. And now they were gone.
I've always been a nerdy, clumsy, somewhat introverted person. I never had any interest in sports, but give me a computer and I'd be sucked in for hours. That's just who I was and I never thought anything of it...until that day in 7th grade.
When my friends left me I began to question who I was. They were quickly becoming the "cool kids" and I was left behind. I tried fitting in, but I just couldn't. I was nerdy, clumsy, and introverted, and it was beyond my ability to do so. It wasn't long before I was officially given the title of "loner," and that was when my self-esteem took a plunge into the mud. I didn't fit in. I wasn't cool. I couldn't throw a football or hit a baseball. I didn't know how to dance and had never been to a real party. No one wanted to be around me. I began to view my strengths as negative things. I felt absolutely worthless.
The bullying continued throughout middle school and into high school. I was constantly being told that I was weird and that I wasn't cool. My lack of social skills made me an easy target because I couldn't defend myself. I just took it. I soaked it in. I believed it. I wanted it to stop, I wanted to change, but I couldn't. I did my best to stay strong but it eventually broke me.
By the time high school came I had no hope. I hated school, I hated life, and above all I hated myself. I hated who I was. Life just wasn't worth it anymore and I stopped trying. Right when grades really started to count, I failed every class. Right when I was old enough to start dating, I didn't dare talk to girls. And right when I should have began preparing to serve a mission for my church, I stopped believing in God.
When I felt that I couldn't go any lower, I began to lie to make myself seem better than I was. I began to steal to make people think I had more than I did. I rebelled against everything I had been taught because it obviously wasn't working. My life was dark and full of hate. I was miserable and there was no cure. I was alone and there was no one who cared. 11th grade started and I resolved that this was the year that I would kill myself. I just couldn't take it anymore.
But this is the part when the hero enters the story.
Junior year, 2008:
Day one of 11th grade, seventh period biology. I walked in, took my seat in the corner furthest from everyone else, put my head down and sank into my own misery. Not a minute later I heard someone sit down next to me. I didn't bother to look up to see who it was, they were probably doing it on a dare; that was one of the many ways people mocked me and I was used to it by now. To my surprise, the person said, "Hi, what's your name?" I looked up to see a girl smiling at me. Not only did she seem happy, but she was glowing. No joke. She was actually glowing. Confused, I told her my name, to which she replied, "Hi Jordan, I'm Kelsi. Is it okay if I sit here?" Still confused, I agreed.
To my even greater surprise, she sat next to me the next day, and the next, and every day after that. She talked to me like I was a human being. She asked me real questions and listened when I responded. I had never met her before that first day, but she treated me like her best friend. And every day she continued to glow.
Kelsi Richardson probably has no idea that she literally saved my life that year; I never told her all that I was going through, nor that I was planning on killing myself. I don't know if she even remembers any of this. I haven't seen her since high school. She'll probably find out through this post exactly what her kindness did for me.
Change is not easy, and very rarely is it immediate. Mine sure wasn't. Kelsi's kindness gave me hope. She showed me that I wasn't worthless. 11th grade was a tough year, but it gave me the confidence I needed to begin rebuilding my life.
Senior year, 2009-2010:
My senior year was the first time in five years that I was actually happy. I wasn't one of the "cool kids," but I was finding more confidence every day. I started to get more involved and was even the president of the school's German Club.
With my newfound confidence I tried hard to fit in. By the end of my senior year I was literally able to change my personality to fit in with just about any of the major social groups, from the jocks, to the nerds, to the emo rockers. Now that might sound like the happy ending, but it's not. High school ended and my group-hopping skills were rendered useless. Once again I didn't know who I was.
A year passed and I was finally ready to serve a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I didn't have strong faith in God, but I had the confidence to try.
Those two years changed my life 100%. Once again, it was not immediate nor was it easy, but it was definitely worth it. On my mission I developed real social skills. Not only was I able to talk to my friends, but I was able to talk to complete strangers. As my faith in God increased, so did my ability to look beyond myself. For the first time in my life I was able to sacrifice my own desires and focus on the needs of others. It really is true, the saying that when you lose yourself in the service of others, you find yourself. I learned that I was special and unique. I have talents that I can use in many ways. For the first time in my life I actually believed in myself. I'm still nerdy, clumsy, and somewhat introverted. I still don't know how to dance and I've completely given up on an athletic career. But that's okay. That's who I am. And that's all that matters.
It's been a year since I returned from my mission and I have learned so much in that time. I tried living my life like people expected me to, but I just wasn't happy. I am a person that likes to break molds and disprove stereotypes. I don't like to just "go with the flow." I'd much rather forge my own path and do things that no one has ever done. That is who I am and that is what makes me happy.
In telling this story I purposely left out many of the details, mainly because it would take too long to write, but I will to discuss them with anyone that needs to hear them. As I said before, the reason I am writing this is because I felt like someone needed to hear it, and so to that person I say this:
You are amazing. You are loved. And you are worth it.
You can be whatever you want to be, but in your journey of self discovery don't forget to be yourself. You have talents and strengths that people may tell you are small, but I tell you that they are amazing, and I believe in you.
Now one final thing:
On my mission I met a woman that had been beaten down by an unfair and miserable life. She was weak and had very little hope. We did everything we could to serve her. We listened to her, we prayed for her, we showed her that she wasn't worthless. One day she told us that when we came she could literally see a light around us. It was what kept her going. My thoughts turned back to that day in biology class when I saw that very same light, and how it kept me going. I realized that it was the light of Jesus Christ, shining through someone who had taken time to serve someone else.
It is my hope that you will find your place in this world, but when it comes right down to it don't be afraid to just be you.
Because you are amazing. You are loved. And you are worth it.
My name is Jordan Michael Anderson. My life's mission is to do as much good as possible.