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Few topics are as emotionally charged or require more sensitivity than same-sex attraction. This complex matter touches on the things we care about most: our basic humanity, our relationship to family, our identity and potential as children of God, how we treat each other, and what it means to be disciples of Christ. – mormonsandgays.org
In this podcast, we have an enlightening conversation with Ty Mansfield, President of North Star International, and former bishops Dale, Joseph, and Monte. All of these faithful priesthood leaders experience same-sex attraction (or SSA), and their candid insight is certain to help other leaders gain a better understanding of this challenge.
- what resources are available to church leaders and members alike through the Church, North Star International, and the Voices of Hope Project.
- how to help someone reconcile same-sex feelings with the doctrines of a family-centric church
- what to say (and what not to say) to someone who experiences SSA, or to a family member of someone who does
- how to create a loving, safe, and compassionate environment in your congregation for those who experience SSA
Whether you’re a bishop, serving in a stake presidency, or an auxiliary or youth leader, you will come away from this podcast with a deeper appreciation for the gospel plan and how there is a place for all of God’s children in it.
At the North Star Conference, there will be a special leadership track for church leaders to ask questions and learn more about how they can effectively support SSA members in their ward. Register below.
Helpful Resouces & Links:
North Star Conference, (April 23-25, Provo, UT)
“What (and What Not) to Say to Someone Who Experiences Same-sex Attraction”
Transgender Mormon – The Cultural Hall Podcast
Wow. Hands down your best and most informative yet (which says a lot since your previous podcast was exquisite). Thank you, and thanks to all of the superb interviewees.
Is there a transcript? I listened, but would like to be able to refer back to it. Thanks!
There’s no transcript at this time.
Hello: I came over to your podcast from a mention on The Cultural Hall show in the form of a podcast, and have listened to this entire episode.
I would call it informative about a particular situation, which seemingly all of the men interviewed came from: Men who really, really want to live the gospel, and either believed at some point that getting married was an answer to that, or decided that being celibate was worth that. It’s probably important to draw that distinction as you share this with other leaders in the Church.
I’m a gay man in my mid-40s, in a very happy 14-year relationship with my partner. I’m formerly LDS (served a mission, graduated from BYU, stayed active up until the point I was excommunicated and about a year after that), and while I can honor and respect the opinions and personal situations of those who were interviewed, I was very, very frustrated by the general conversation, as well.
Despite everyone’s desire to be more kind and thoughtful to people who are homosexual (or something other than completely heterosexual), the entire tone of the discussion came across as incredibly condescending. Despite everything said, it’s pretty clear that everyone on the podcast thinks that anyone “living a gay lifestyle” is deluded, subject to a much deeper level of sin, can’t really be happy, and if they are honest with themselves, will want to find their way back into full fellowship. The folks on the podcast have evolved to allowing that this might mean these poor “SSA people” will never marry someone of the opposite sex in this life, and that might be okay. Poor SSA people. Look at them, down there, those deeply flawed sinners.
Human nature leads us to take whatever we have been given (personality, spirit, genetics, the environment we were raised in, the situation we now live in, who our friends are, who our families are, etc) and try to find maximum peace and happiness within those bounds. I can fully respect that if a homosexual places their idea of deity and church membership and LDS theology above anything else (as they are expected to, it would seem, in the Church), they would feel led down a path that also places them in a lot of huge ongoing challenges, but believing they will ultimately find peace.
Most of the guests on the podcast managed to get married at some point, have children, and were called to significant leadership positions in the church. OF COURSE the path of maximum peace for them would be to suppress or learn to deal with their attraction to men by calling it “SSA” and trying to suppress it. Of coruse they would have a powerful experience when they seek out something like Northstar, and realize they aren’t alone in dealing with their life situations.
I grew up fearing that I was probably gay, but hoping it was just some weird phase and that I could change. I had also heard the story of Carol Lynn Pearson and “No More Goodbyes.” I wanted never to be fodder for anyone’s book, or to put a woman and potential children through the wrenching experience of having a gay father.
I’m happy for these guys on the podcast. I really am. And I recognize in them many of the same attitudes I felt about myself and other gay people (heck, I’ll even refer to them as “men with SSA”) when I first started honestly accepting who I was. I thought of myself as smart, educated, ambitious, decently physically attractive, and mostly well-adjusted. On the other hand, I had been taught “gays” were fundamentally flawed, unhappy, probably into drugs and alcohol, and ultimately doomed. That wasn’t me, therefore, I must not actually be gay. Once I met other people that I considered to be “normal” in my worldview at that time, who were also gay, it *was* amazing, because I could now see that I wasn’t alone. When I came out to my bishop, my stake president, my immediate family, and others, I finally felt an additional peace about being honest that was intense and amazing.
My understanding of LDS theology and the purposes of life, however, did not lead me to believe that anything good would come of leading a life of celibate loneliness. A life with a wife and kids where I didn’t fully love a woman in all the ways she truly deserves to be loved seemed like a REALLY bad and unfair idea, even if she knew about it, going in. Just didn’t seem right to me to entice someone into that life.
Further, it did not make sense that a small minority of our Heavenly Father’s children would be expected to pass a test of mortal existence which included a full life of celibacy and no close spousal marriage relationship. If celibacy was an important lesson to learn during earth life, why was EVERYONE not called to learn that? If all heterosexuals were asked to be celibate to be a full member of the church, how many would stick around?
Think about that. If you were told you needed to never have a romantic relationship in life, would you stay in the Church? But of course, most heterosexual members of the church would say, the Lord would never call them to do that. That’s completely in opposition to the plan of salvation… The Lord would never ask that of his children.
I don’t begrudge your podcast guests the peace they have found. I don’t question that there are men or women or transgendered people who feel that their membership in the Church is more important to them than anything else, and it actually DOES bring them the peace they seek to live their lives. For them, an organization like Northstar is a blessing.
Let’s not, however, logically jump to the fact that these people have changed, that the path they are following is the “right” path for every homosexual. It might be, but it seems reasonably likely that it might NOT be, as well, if that path leads to years of depression, thoughts of suicide and deep unworthiness when someone can’t follow the path successfully. It’s really easy to prescribe an unimaginably difficult path to someone else, someone so different from you, you can’t fathom their existence.
It’s not enough to strive to make us feel welcome in your ward, me and my partner. That part of the podcast about welcoming “SSAs” to Church made it sound like you were trying to prepare yourselves and your ward to accommodate someone who really, really doesn’t belong. So much discussion and preparation for the ward members and ward council seemed necessary, it sounded like you were thinking of the gay couple you’d be invitting, as more like a horse, or some large livestock, into sacrament meeting. Safety fences, perimeters, and preparation discussions shouldn’t really be necessary, should they?
If that’s seriously how you feel about gay people–about your fellow brothers and sisters–you have a LONG way to go before you can ever really welcome us. We are a small minority of the population (five percent, maybe). Of that amount, far more of us are so similar to you that you would never know we aren’t. We’re far less different than you’d like to believe, because believing we are more deluded, less honest, less happy, more confused, allows you to keep your present view of the gospel. Keeping your current worldview and views of the LGBT community–does that just help *you* feel more comfortable? Is that the same as spiritual peace?
Until you authentically feel that you are, in fact, my brothers and sisters, please don’t even worry about inviting me back. I no longer have the patience, or the need, to subject myself to scorn or pity or uneasiness. When you stop seeing me as “living a gay lifestyle,” but rather *living my life* and allowing that I’m actually happy and peaceful and prosperous, let’s talk.
I can hardly begin to address all of what you said, Mark. I don’t know what it’s like to have a partner and feel rejected. I’m gay too, and for some reason, the Church has always been the place for me. I feel like I understand the law of chastity and the Church’s stance on marriage. But does celibacy always have to equal loneliness?
A life in the Church requires sacrifice no matter how you look at it, but I don’t believe that means we need to suppress or ignore the desires for healthy connection with other men. Just my two cents, for what they’re worth.
“Look at them, down there, those deeply flawed sinners.”
You’re projecting. This is your perception of the situation, not theirs.
“OF COURSE the path of maximum peace for them would be to suppress or learn to deal with their attraction to men by calling it “SSA” and trying to suppress it.”
So it’s bad for them to feel your choice is deluded for okay for you do to it back?
“I wanted never to be fodder for anyone’s book, or to put a woman and potential children through the wrenching experience of having a gay father.”
Why would it be a wrenching experience? You betray your own bias.
“Further, it did not make sense that a small minority of our Heavenly Father’s children would be expected to pass a test of mortal existence which included a full life of celibacy and no close spousal marriage relationship.”
Why? God asks many things of his servants. Abraham was asked to sacrifice his own son (though received a reprieve at the last minute). Jesus, for goodness-sake, was asked to endure the worst kind of pain imaginable, yet you whine that someone might be asked to be celibate? How ridiculous.
“If celibacy was an important lesson to learn during earth life, why was EVERYONE not called to learn that?”
The same reason people aren’t all asked to experience the same trials; we all have different personalities and different lessons we need to learn in order to become perfect.
“If all heterosexuals were asked to be celibate to be a full member of the church, how many would stick around?”
Probably just as many (percentage-wise) as gay members. But what difference does that make? It’s either true and guided by God, or not.
“Think about that. If you were told you needed to never have a romantic relationship in life, would you stay in the Church?”
Asked and answered. Everyone has their cross to bear.
“But of course, most heterosexual members of the church would say, the Lord would never call them to do that. That’s completely in opposition to the plan of salvation… The Lord would never ask that of his children.”
Don’t put words in others mouths, dear, it’s rude.
“It’s not enough to strive to make us feel welcome in your ward, me and my partner.”
And you wonder why there’s a need to understand how to handle this situation. You (and many like you) make it impossible to understand how to act around you.
“it sounded like you were thinking of the gay couple you’d be invitting, as more like a horse, or some large livestock, into sacrament meeting. Safety fences, perimeters, and preparation discussions shouldn’t really be necessary, should they?”
They wouldn’t be if you didn’t find EVERYTHING offensive.
Thanks for the very thorough refutation of every point I made. personally, I think there’s little to be gained from back and forth in internet comments. So, I’ll just wish you continued peace and certainty about your own course of action. Have a good one.
Very well said. Thank you, Mark. I am a gay woman (I hate the “L” word), but have chosen to stay active in the Church. I have not counted out marrying a man if I fall in love, but I’m not counting on it. I used to think that staying in the Church was the only path and that’s what everyone should do. Over the last year or two I’ve realized that may not be possible for everyone. When I was pursuing same-sex relationships (@living a gay lifestyle”) I was happy. I could have lived my life that way forever. So I know of the happiness you talked about that heterosexual members don’t think is possible for someone not on the “right” path. Thank you for your comment. Sometimes I read comments in opposition to what is being said on this topic and the commenters words are harsh and hateful. Thank you for being tactful and truthful. I hope you don’t mind if I share some of your thoughts with others in the future. My hope is that as we talk more about homosexuality and people like you and me and Alex (another person who commented on your comment) share our stories, stereotypes of this “gay lifestyle” will dissappear and hearts will open to all of our brothers and sisters, no matter what path they are. Our job is to love, not judge.
Mark, I just wanted to say that your reply makes complete sense. I really appreciate that you made your point being respectful to the people who choose to be celibate or marry someone of the opposite sex. As a church member of course that would be my first choice for my son, but I’m not the one who would have to live that life. So, I think that each individual has to choose their own path according to what they are able or willing to endure. You are right there is a long way to go before LGBT individuals can feel welcome as true brothers and sisters in the church. Only the ones who have a loved one experiencing SSA can begin to understand the complexity of this issue from an LDS perspective. Starting a dialog is the first step. Educating people, and having LGBT individuals who are willing to put themselves out there, where church members can see them and interact with them. It takes the mistycism out of it. There are many LGBT individuals who report having good experiences in their wards. And of course there’s many that have had bad experiences. I’m sure God loves all of his children no matter what, and He is the only one who can truly understand you, and your decisions. You seem at peace with your decision, have an awesome happy life.
I am not a member of your church, however I always have looked to it for a framework how to live. As a man who identifies as gay, and is Married to the same sex partner. I found this website incredibly interesting. Folks who identify as SSA I Applaud for the strength you have and pain you have endured, and found a way of reconciling . I would love to meet a person with this stenghth
And glad I found your site