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There are generally three options for Latter-day Saints who are part of the LGBT community to choose from in terms of life path. These potential paths for LG (also referred to those with same-sex attraction) Latter-day Saint have both consequences and blessings.
1. Remain celibate and single for the rest of their lives.
2. Enter a mixed-orientation marriage.
3. Enter a same-sex relationship or marriage.
The first two options offer many challenges but allow individuals to retain their membership in the Church. The third road cannot be followed while maintaining full membership in the Church, but some choose this option because of the emotional fulfillment they find with a life-long partner. Each of these potential paths has trade-offs that cishet Latter-day Saints do not face. Understanding the choices that LG members must face and their perspectives can help others develop empathy and love in ministering efforts.
Many of our LG members have decided to be celibate and fully participate in the Church. Those who choose this path are often motivated by a love of the gospel, a desire to follow Church teachings and receive the associated blessings, make and fulfill temple covenants, and maintain community with other Latter-day Saints. Many also find purpose in reaching out to and supporting other LGBTQ Church members. Many of these good members have shared their stories on the Listen, Learn & Love podcast, offering other Latter-day Saints on this road vision, support, and hope. They are some of my heroes, and we should do everything we can to support them.
I believe that an LG Latter-day Saints’ probability of staying in the Church and being emotionally healthy increases when they feel comfortable coming out to their families and wards and developing a deep relationship with the Savior. Being honest and open about who they are relieves a burden and establishes a new framework from which they can find belonging. When people meet them with love and support, understanding the difficulty of their road, and withhold triggering questions about dating and marriage, they have an easier time feeling welcome in the Church community. We are one step closer toward becoming the full body of Christ.
The best thing is when they listen to me and they don’t try to fix me or my situation. I am very lucky in my ward where most people are really good and ask honest questions. I got a new ministering brother, and we visited for over an hour with him just asking questions and being incredibly supportive. We even have an inside joke, and it’s great!
Many in the ward have made sure I have space to speak and even exist. They make sure others know that too. Then I have a few who I can talk to, who listen to me when I open up about my struggles. They don’t try to fix it. They listen and take a step back. I feel very blessed to be in my ward.
A mixed-orientation marriage (MOM) is a marriage in which one or both of the spouses is not cishet. Many episodes of the Listen, Learn & Love podcast feature interviews with those in MOMs. My friends Ricardo and Elizabeth Rosas are featured on the Church’s website with a video and several related stories, and have been on my podcast.6 Ricardo, who has same-sex attraction, shares how his feelings of same-sex attraction are not what define him as a person or as a son of God. Rather, his experiences have provided him with tools that he can use to bless others as he continues to follow the Savior. The Rosas have helped me better understand that MOMs can be beautiful and authentic.
President Gordon B. Hinckley was the first General Authority to teach that entering a mixed-orientation marriage should not be seen as a way to overcome same-sex feelings. In 1987, he said, “Marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices.” In 2015, President Oaks added, “We definitely do not recommend [heterosexual] marriage as a solution to same-gender feelings. In times past, decades ago, there were some practices to that effect. We have eradicated them in the Church now.”
While the Church doesn’t encourage this road and some of these marriages fail, mixed-orientation marriages can and do work for some. We should hope they succeed.
While same-sex marriage is outside of the teachings of our Church, I understand that some of our LG members do choose this path. Bryce and Sara Cook, active Latter-day Saints and parents of two gay sons, spoke on my podcast of the “double-bind” their gay sons face. Here is how they describe it:
Our LG members have the same basic human need or desire that most of us have: to fall in love with that special someone we are attracted to and, ultimately, to share our life together as a couple. In addition, if our LG members were raised as faithful Latter-day Saints (or later converted to the Church) and have testimonies of the gospel, they also desire to actively participate as members in full fellowship in the Church they love. But for our LG members who fall in love with someone of the same sex, these two major life paths are mutually exclusive.
If they choose to legally marry the person they love who is of the same sex, they must give up full fellowship in the Church; if they choose full fellowship in the Church, they must give up the person they love and a core part of their human experience. For those of us who are straight, can we imagine having to face that kind of choice when we were dating and falling in love? If we are now married, can we imagine having to choose between our spouse and the Church?
Many Latter-day Saint parents spend time in fasting and prayer that their LG child who has chosen to step away from the Church will make responsible choices that will keep them safe. Many are deeply worried about their emotional health with fear their LG child will die by suicide to end their pain and loneliness. Some pray their child will find a life partner who will bring out the best in their child, help them make thoughtful choices, have a relationship with Heavenly Father, and find stability in their lives. Yes, this is a path outside the teachings of our Church, but these parents, recognizing the reality of their family situation, still want the best for their LG child.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Let us know in the comments!
** The following was taken from Listen, Learn, and Love. The opinions and views expressed herein belong solely to Richard Ostler and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of Cedar Fort, Inc.