The LDS church has just launched a new website, designed to open up a dialogue for greater support of the LGBT individuals in the church.
I don’t think the LDS church leadership is changing the core LDS doctrine about homosexuality. But the emphasis on reaching out to the LGBT population is long overdue. Mormons are compassionate people. The vast majority of LDS individuals, when presented with an opportunity to support and love a friend or fellow Mormon in distress, do so wholeheartedly. One issue that comes to play here is that the stigma surrounding homosexuality has historically been such that those who are wired that way have not been comfortable sharing the fact. Truly they have suffered in silence, fearing that coming out would cause others to reject or despise them. This is a sad truth that needs to be amended as quickly as possible.
This fact is not new, it is just that LDS leadership has finally determined that the time has come to right this situation that plays out all too often. It’s not that their level of compassion was unacceptable, given the level of awareness that prevailed before the SSM debate matured. But the capacity for compassion has obviously increased, as it naturally does when one is faced with new information that challenges an old belief. As the plight of LGBTs who dwell in our LDS circles has become better-understood, church leadership has taken notice. I doubt that the actual number of LGBTs in the church is known even now, but there is recognition that it is perhaps much higher than was once thought. But even if the number turned out to be smaller than believed, it is no less important to reach out now, with unconditional love.
It can be argued that there are some among our people (perhaps especially in places like Utah and Idaho) who live in a Mormon cultural bubble, rarely venturing out of their comfort zone. To consider the plight of the LGBTs who dwell in LDS circles, there needs to be exposure to LGBTs. In predominantly Mormon communities, unless someone has such a child of their own, it is unlikely that they will personally know anyone who is open about their LGBT status. The need to consider how to reach out to those families who are raising these kids, or single LGBTs trying to live peacefully in the church, is simply not widely manifest in daily experience. Ignorance is lamentable, but not grounds for condemnation. The good news is that the dialogue is opening up, from Utah to the farthest reaches of church membership.
Fortunately for me, I grew up in the Bay Area. And while I didn’t have numerous close friends of the LGBT stripe, I had such acquaintances in high school and college. I can say that my own capacity for compassion has increased dramatically as I have spent time researching the SSM arguments on both sides. One epiphany came to me last year as I finished up a course on families in crisis. In my textbook the authors submitted that LGBT families who seek mental health services are still not adequately supported. More specifically, contemporary therapies still had not fully validated the LGBT families created and raising children. In this sense, it was very obvious to me that for the sake of their innocent children, these families needed to be supported and strengthened. ( I still don’t agree that any child should be willfully deprived of a close association with both his biological parents. This causes damage and unanswered questions that will likely follow him throughout his life, until he finds the answers. But I’m digressing here. ) My point is that my own level of compassion has increased over the last few years because I have kept myself open to understanding the LGBT cause, and why they long for widespread cultural affirmation of their lifestyle.
While the LDS church is not any closer to solemnizing gay marriages in their temples, they are seeking to encircle the LGBT population more tightly with personal love and support that the church, and more especially individual members, can offer. I had a gay man for a neighbor some time ago. He recently died, and to my knowledge, never acted on his homosexual impulses. He never married, but remained firmly in his LDS beliefs. He was deeply loved and greatly respected in the congregation and neighborhood. He was a gem of a man, and no one doubted that he had made great sacrifices to live his beliefs. It was the great trial of his lifetime to do so. I believe he went straight into the loving arms of Jesus Christ, the moment his spirit left his body.
Now for a short lesson on my LDS beliefs: God does allow for life-altering challenges to occur in each person’s life. Every last person is severely tested. For me, that means mental illness and addictive tendencies, and children who have atypical wiring of the autistic stripe. For my late neighbor and gay friend, it was his lot to find balance between his deeply-held LDS faith and his atypical orientation of the homosexual type. He is a gem of a person who suffered all of his life in a society that did not validate his truest identity. For my sister, her trial is a body racked with various lifelong physical and mental ailments. For another dear friend of mine, it is the lifelong battle to break the chain of abusive family processes. God does not make mistakes, and loves each of His children unconditionally. I don’t have all the answers.
I don’t know why some of us have been compelled to live in a society that has mostly condemned them. I expect the Jewish among us may be best equipped to empathize. I believe we are placed in circumstances where we will grow in the way that we personally need to grow, in order to meet our respective life purposes. I know a dear woman who has felt compelled by God to be a voice for mothers and their gay children. She has provided a place for their voices to be heard. I highly recommend her blog, and applaud her efforts. We are all fallen in our natures, and Christ has stepped in to take all of our pain and suffering on his shoulders. I don’t feel that I am in a position to judge those of the LGBT stripe. I hope that if I had a friend who is still in the closet that s/he would be comfortable sharing their orientation with me. We each have impulses that we have to subdue in one way or another. We also have to learn to love ourselves exactly for who we are, without condition.
That journey toward the ideal continues beyond this earth life. I’m perfectly happy to allow for the great diversity among us. LDS doctrine positions itself among the Christian religions not as Universalist, but much closer to that view than most other denominations. When we die, we will ALL eventually receive perfect, immortal bodies. Those of us who do not know Christ in this life will have a chance to know him in the next. Now before I completely veer off of the beaten track here, let me conclude by saying that I am happy to see the dialogue for supporting LGBTs opening up among the LDS faithful. It is long overdue as I mentioned. I say better late than never!