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The LDS Church and homosexuality

Part 3: Recent signs of change in the
LDS Church towards homosexuality.

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This essay is a continuation from the previous essay.

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Signs of change in the LDS Church:

The LDS Church has made some remarkable changes in its teachings:

  • In the past, the LDS church taught that men with homosexual orientation should attempt to marry a woman in the hope that this would end their sexual attraction to men. After many years of this policy, which produced a rate of divorce approaching 100%, they finally abandoned this teaching. They now teach that if a person with same-sex attractions is able to control their feelings, and is also able to develop a strong feeling of attraction to a woman, that an opposite-sex marriage may be a good choice for them. In practice, this would mainly limit opposite-sex marriages to heterosexuals and some bisexuals.

  • In the past, the church excommunicated members simply because they were found to have a homosexual orientation. Currently, gays and lesbians are allowed to remain as members, and are subject to church discipline only if they become sexually active with members of the same sex.

  • The LDS Church historically taught that gays and lesbians individually chose to be homosexual, or developed same-sex attractions because of a mental illness. The latter position was abandoned by the American Psychiatric Association in 1973. In 1992, the church produced a document: "Understanding and Helping Those With Homosexual Problems." It no longer referred to homosexual orientation as a disease.The LDS church now acknowledges that "individuals do not chose to have such attractions." 1

  • During 2000, the LDS Church played a major role in California to promote Proposition 22 (a.k.a. the Knight Initiative). This citizen initiative restricted marriage to one woman and one man. During the lead up to the vote on Prop. 22, Stuart Matis, a young gay Mormon, committed suicide on the steps of a Mormon ward in Los Altos CA. In his suicide note, he wrote:

    "On the night of March 7th, many California couples will retire to their beds thrilled that they helped pass the Knight Initiative. What they don't realize is that in the next room, their son or daughter is lying in bed crying and could very well one day be the victim of society's homophobia. The Knight Initiative will certainly save no family. It is codified hatred. It is anti-family, anti-love, and it is wrong." 2

  • During 2008-MAY, the Supreme Court of California overturned the Knight Initiative and legalized same-sex marriages. The LDS Church and its members donated over $20 million to support Proposition 8 in California. This was a citizen initiative that narrowly passed in 2008-NOV and temporarily ended same-sex marriages in California. The church transported members by the busload to California to canvass neighborhoods and promote Prop. 8 in opposition to marriage equality.

  • In 2009, a poll showed that the LDS Church's favorable rating among the general public had dropped from 42 to 36%. There was much quietly expressed frustration with the anti-equality stand that the Church was taking. Mitch Mayne a gay Mormon from San Francisco. CA, said:

    "The church probably deserved the black eye we got from Prop. 8. What the non-Mormon world didn't get to see was how destructive that was inside the faith." 2

    He has pointed out that gay Mormon teens have a significantly higher suicide rate than gay non-Mormon teens.

  • In 2010, Marlin Jensen, the LDS Church's historian held a private meeting with a group of Church members who were disgruntled at the Church's stand on LGBT acceptance. Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones magazine wrote:

    "The church members tearfully told Jensen their stories—of being shunned by their families, and the homophobia generated by the Prop. 8 campaign. "We explained that [the church had] pitted father against son, mother against daughter, exactly the opposite of what we stand for," says Mayne, who attended the meeting."

    After listening to them talk, Jensen did something almost unheard of in a church whose strict authoritarian hierarchy is unaccustomed to being challenged from below: He apologized "for the pain that Prop. 8 caused [us]," Mayne recalls, choking up at the memory. It was, he says, a "very meaningful event." 2

  • In 2011, Mich Mayne, an openly gay Mormon, became the first official of a Mormon ward.

  • In 2012, at the Gay Pride Parade in Salt Lake City, more than 300 Mormons who are not gay openly marched in support of LGBT acceptance and equality. They were part of a new group called "Mormons Building Bridges." 3 Mormons for Marriage Equality also marched in the parade. 2

  • Also in 2012, Brigham Young University -- which is operated by the LDS Church and is the largest religiously-based university in the U.S. -- allowed a LGBT-positive group to organize on its campus called "Understanding Same Gender Attraction." It is composed of students and community members some of whom are from the LGBT community, and others are straight allies of that community. 4

  • During 2012-DEC, the LDS Church launched a new web site called "Love One Another: A Discussion on Same-Sex Attraction," "in an effort to encourage understanding and civil conversation about same-sex attraction."The web site states, in part:

    "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. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. ..."

    "The Church’s approach to this issue stands apart from society in many ways. And that’s alright. Reasonable people can and do differ. From a public relations perspective it would be easier for the Church to simply accept homosexual behavior. That we cannot do, for God’s law is not ours to change. There is no change in the Church’s position of what is morally right. But what is changing — and what needs to change — is to help Church members respond sensitively and thoughtfully when they encounter same-sex attraction in their own families, among other Church members, or elsewhere." 5

    Unfortunately, the Bible, which Mormons and other Christians accept as containing "God's Law," appears to be ambiguous. At least, when different Christians read the 7 or so "clobber passages" which many people view as discussing same-gender sexual behavior, they interpret the passages in many different ways. Some conclude that all of the passages condemn all forms of same-gender sexual behavior. Others conclude that the Bible does not condemn loving, committed, sexually active same-gender relationships.

    This web site conducted a pilot study to determine if sincere Christians could assess the will of God on marriage equality through prayer. Unfortunately, 100% of those who entered the study approving of same-sex marriage found through prayer that God agreed with them. Also, 100% of those who entered the study disapproving of same-sex marriage found through prayer that God agreed with them as well.

  • During 2013-JAN, a LGBT organization called OUTreach Resource Center of Ogden joined with Mormons Building Bridges to launch Safe and Sound, a project which places homeless LGBT youth in loving LDS "host" homes." 6

  • During 2013-APR, Stephanie Mencimer, writing for Mother Jones magazine, commented about the scene in Washington DC at the time the U.S. Supreme Court held hearings in the case Hollingsworth v. Perry which examined the constitutionality of Proposition 8. 2 She wrote:

    "Faith-based groups were on prominent display. ... But one group that wasn't there in any official capacity was The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — a.k.a. the Mormons — which perhaps more than any other religious group was responsible for getting Prop. 8 passed in the first place.

    Between the time of the church's campaign for Prop, 8 in 2008, and the hearings in 2013, she wrote that the church:

    "... has all but dropped the rope in the public policy tug of war over marriage equality. The change stems from an even more remarkable if somewhat invisible transformation happening within the church, prompted by the ugly fight over Prop. 8 and the ensuing backlash from the flock.

    Although the LDS's prophet hasn't described a holy revelation directing a revision in church doctrine on same-sex marriage or gay rights in general, the church has shown a rare capacity for introspection and humane cultural change unusual for a large conservative religious organization.

    'It seems like the [Mormon] hierarchy has pulled the plug and is no longer taking the lead in the fight to stop same-sex marriage,' says Fred Karger, the LGBT activist who first exposed the church's major role in the passage of Prop. 8. 'The Mormon Church has lost so many members and suffered such a black eye because of all its anti-gay activities that they really had no choice. I am hopeful that the Catholic Church cannot be far behind'."

  • On 2013-JUN-02, hundreds of members of Mormons Building Bridges also marched at the 2013 Utah Pride Parade.

 7

  • The Church supports an proposed national Republican Party amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would restrict marriage to one woman and one man, thus excluding same-sex marriages in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. 1

  • On 2013-DEC-20, federal judge Robert J. Shelby of the U.S. District Court for Utah issued a 53 page ruling declaring the Utah Constitution's Amendment 3 to be unconstitutional because it conflicts with the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 8 Wikipedia states:

    "The ruling prevents the State from enforcing Sections 30-1-2 and 30-1-4.1 of the Utah Code and Article I, § 29 of the Utah Constitution to the extent these laws prohibit a person from marrying another person of the same sex. 9

    Thus, Utah became the 18th U.S. state to have attained marriage equality. Loving, committed same-sex couples converged on their county courthouses by the hundreds to pick up their marriage licenses. Whether SSMs will continue to be available in the future is anyone's guess.

  • The same day, Cody Craynor, spokesperson for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, issued a statement:

    "The Church has been consistent in its support of traditional marriage while teaching that all people should be treated with respect. This ruling by a district court will work its way through the judicial process. We continue to believe that voters in Utah did the right thing by providing clear direction in the state constitution that marriage should be between a man and a woman and we are hopeful that this view will be validated by a higher court." 10

    The phrase "support of traditional marriage" as used by religious conservatives typically means to support marriages involving one woman and one man, while also opposing marriages between two women or two men.

    What remains to be seen is whether the LDS Church will systematically haul all of the same-sex recently married couples into court and excommunicate them.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Homosexuality and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," Wikipedia, as on 2013-DEC-30, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  2. Stephanie Mencimer, "Mormon Church Abandons Its Crusade Against Gay Marriage," Mother Jones Magazine. 2013-APR-12, at: http://www.motherjones.com/
  3. "Over 300 Mormons Join Utah Gay Pride Parade; Mormons Building Bridges Send Message Of Love," Huffington Post, 2012-JUN-03, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
  4. Rachel Jackson, "Homeless LGBT youth need attention," Daily Utah Chronicle, 2012-NOV-14, at: http://www.dailyutahchronicle.com/
  5. "Love One Another: A Discussion on Same-Sex Attraction," at: http://mormonsandgays.org/
  6. Jamie Lampros, "LDS host-home project launches to keep LGBT kids off streets," Standard-Examiner, 2013-JAN-24, at: http://www.standard.net/
  7. "Utah Pride Parade 2013 - Mormons Building Bridges," You Tube, at: http://youtu.be/
  8. Text of "Kitchen et al v. Herbert et al," Scribd, 2013-DEC-20, at: http://www.scribd.com/
  9. "Utah Constitutional Amendment 3," Wikipedia, as on 2013-DEC-22, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  10. Mori Kessler, "Federal judge strikes down Utah’s same-sex marriage ban," St George, Utah, 2013-DEC-20 at: http://www.stgeorgeutah.com/

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Copyright 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2013-DEC-31
Author: B.A. Robinson

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