Mormonism and Homosexuality

Note: I’ve done my best on this page to set out the positions of the LDS Church and other organizations and individuals fairly — as I understand them. However, I haven’t been authorized to speak for anyone. For firsthand information, I encourage you to follow the various embedded links below.

The Official Mormon Position

Organizations Focusing on Mormonism and Homosexuality

Resources for LDS Youth Dealing with Same-Gender Attraction

Noteworthy Books Focusing on Mormonism and Homosexuality

The Official Mormon Position

In a nutshell, the position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the LDS Church or Mormon Church) is that while it’s not a sin to have homosexual feelings or tendencies, it is a sin to act on those feelings in any way — including entering into any kind of romantic or sexual relationship with someone of the same gender.

Reasons for this position are deeply rooted in LDS theology. Mormons believe that God is heterosexually married, and that the married state holds the greatest potential for human happiness. Mormons also believe that humans belong to the same species as divinity and that to fulfill our potential of becoming like God, we must be heterosexually married as well. Marriages in Mormon temples are performed “for time and all eternity” — meaning we believe that the marriages we start in this life can continue throughout eternity if we and our spouses live right.

For orthodox Mormons, this theology more or less compels a belief that whatever else homosexuality may be — genetic, chemical, or environmental in origin — it’s not an innate part of anyone’s eternal, spiritual nature. Rather, it’s a temptation or weakness that must be resisted in this life, like a weakness for alcohol or a tendency toward depression. The assumption is that for those who are faithful in this life, homosexual attraction will eventually be replaced by heterosexual attraction, if not in this life then afterwards. As with others who are unable to marry in this life through no fault of their own, such individuals will have the opportunity for marriage at that point.

To view the official LDS Church Public Issues webpage about same-gender attraction, click here

To read the LDS Church’s official statement, The Family: A Proclamation to the World, which states that “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God,” click here

Origins and Treatment of Homosexuality
According to LDS apostle Dallin H. Oaks on the LDS Church’s official Public Issues webpage on same-gender attraction, “The [LDS] Church does not have a position on the causes of […] susceptibilities or inclinations […] related to same-gender attraction.” There is a general acceptance that homosexual attraction isn’t typically a result of personal choice.

In the past, some LDS Church leaders have emphasized the possibility of people’s sexual attraction changing over time. More recent statements are much more cautious about this possibility. The current emphasis by Church leaders appears to be less on people attempting to change their orientation, and more on encouraging them to live Church standards regardless of whether their orientation changes in this life. The Church doesn’t endorse any particular therapeutic approach with respect to homosexuality.

Gay Identity
Because of the LDS perspective that homosexual tendencies are a temptation or weakness, Church leaders see a spiritual danger in people describing homosexuality as part of their personal identity. Part of the thinking goes: If you think of yourself as homosexual, it becomes that much harder to resist acting on those feelings. In particular, Church leaders discourage members identifying themselves as gay because of the way that term has been associated with acceptance of homosexuality as part of one's identity. Instead, they encourage use of terms such as same-sex attraction or (more recently) same-gender attraction.

Within my book, Paul uses the term “gay” to describe himself because as a teenager, his views have been influenced by the world around him and he hasn't yet worked through all the issues involved with rejecting society's view of homosexuality as an essential part of himself. Gay is what everyone around him uses to refer to homosexuality, and it's the language he uses for now.

Heterosexual Marriage
In the past, LDS Church leaders have sometimes encouraged people experiencing homosexual attractions to marry. More recent statements from LDS leaders are much more cautious about this. Dallin Oaks quoted President Hinckley saying, “Marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices.” At present, the Church’s position appears to be that marriage should be entered into only if there’s a strong chance of making the marriage a success.

Missions and Church Service
The LDS Church’s website on same-gender attraction specifically states that same-gender attraction doesn’t disqualify someone from missionary service or from most callings in the Church, so long as the person doesn’t act on those attractions. For some callings (such as bishop), marriage is a requirement. There’s also a sense that being publicly known as same-gender attracted may disqualify someone from serving in certain callings because of issues related to public perceptions.

Same-Sex Marriage
The LDS Church opposes measures legalizing same-sex marriage and supports a Federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. A lot of reasons have been given for this, ranging from protection of religious beliefs to a necessity to uphold the “teaching function” of the law with respect to what marriage is supposed to be.

Organizations Focusing on Mormonism and Homosexuality

Evergreen International, according to the organization’s website, is “a nonprofit organization that helps people who want to diminish same-sex attractions and overcome homosexual behavior” that “sustain[s] the doctrines and standards of the [LDS] Church without reservation or exception.” Evergreen has been strongly associated with “reparative therapy,” a general term for a variety of approaches that are designed to change sexual orientation.

North Star
North Star, according to the organization’s website, is “a place of community for Latter-day Saints dealing with issues surrounding homosexual attraction who desire to live in harmony with the teachings of Jesus Christ and the values and doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” It is chiefly distinguished from Evergreen by an emphasis on living LDS Church standards as opposed to changing sexual orientation per se.

Family Fellowship
According to its website, Family Fellowship is “a volunteer service organization, a diverse collection of Mormon families engaged in the cause of strengthening families with homosexual members.” From what appears to be a perspective of commitment to LDS faith, Family Fellowship nonetheless has been critical of some of the rhetoric used and policies and positions taken by Church leaders. There appears to be a dual focus on engagement with Church leaders and support for families with gay family members.

Note: As of June 2010, the general tone of Family Fellowships sponsored Yahoo group was strongly critical of the Church, its positions, and those who support them.

Affirmation, according to the organization’s website, is “a forum for gay Mormons to associate with their peers. We seek to meet the needs of persons experiencing frustration or alienation from family, friends, and the Church because of their sexual orientation.” Affirmation includes both Mormons and ex-Mormons, and is associated with those who feel that the LDS Church should change its position to accept same-sex relationships.

Resources for LDS Youth Dealing with Same-Gender Attraction

LDS Teen Help
This site offers both direct support and links to resources on topics including same-gender attraction, pornography, and masturbation, from a perspective of helping youth live up to LDS standards.  According to Dan, who maintains the website, “We have two sets of resources other than just basic links to websites and information. The first is done completely online and basically someone that needs help is partnered with a mentor who can guide them along the path to living righteously. The main goal of the mentor is to just be another LDS teen that can be a positive influence in the life of this person and, whenever necessary, encourage them to get the help they need from their Bishop, parents, or counselors. If the person is struggling with addiction, the mentor can also help to be a check in point.

“The other resource we have is new and we're just trying it out in some areas. This deals specifically with Same-Gender Attraction. It's called Gender Affirmative Mentoring and basically a young man struggling with same-gender attraction is paired with a friend who is straight and a good example of Christ-like masculinity. The friend is meant to mentor the young man in the ways of manhood and kind of include him in male activities that may not have been a part of life growing up. All of this is done with the oversight of a Bishop. We have a manual that was developed for the all 3 people involved (the Bishop, Mentor, and Mentee). This seems to be the most promising thing I'm aware of right now. I really feel like this has the potential to help a lot of people.”

North Star Youth Online Support Group
North Star offers an online support group for youth (male and female) ages 13-18 who want to “receive and/or give support for living the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ as you strive to better understand and respond to the feelings and attractions you are experiencing.” There is also an online support group for prospective missionaries. However, a contact in the North Star organization says these support groups aren't very active at present.

Note: If you are aware of resources not listed here for LDS youth and their families dealing with same-gender attraction, particularly from a perspective of faithfulness to LDS Church teachings, please let me know.

Noteworthy Books Focusing on Mormonism and Homosexuality

Text for this section is still under development.