North Star is a faith-affirming resource for Latter-day Saints addressing sexual orientation and gender identity, and who desire to live in harmony with the teachings of Jesus Christ and the doctrines and values of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. North Star has been a remarkable partner with Leading Saints to help leaders better understand the experience of LGBT members of the Church.

North Star has their annual conference coming up March 15-17 with Saturday (17th) including a free leadership session for lay leaders of the Church. THIS IS A MUST ATTEND OPPORTUNITY! We can’t stress enough how much this free leadership event would enhance your ability to lead. If you are in a realistic travel distance you will not regret making it a priority on March 17th. To attend the free leadership session you must REGISTER HERE.

To give you a sense of how helpful these leadership sessions are, North Star was kind enough to allow us to publish a leadership session from the 2017 North Star conference for this weeks Leading Saints podcast episode. Be sure to listen above!

Episode Highlights

Joseph Stith knew from an early age that he experienced same gender attraction. He married the one workman he had been attracted to in his lifetime, that he met right before putting his missionary papers in. As a young man getting married he thought that would take care of his SSA (5:00).

  • Nearly everyone at the conference had been experienced someone coming out to them (2:20)
  • Shared a story of a member going into a disciplinary council and was blown away that all of the leaders learned as much as they could from the Mormonandgay.lds.org website (2:54)
  • Joseph joined the Marine Corps and became a drill instructor, to help him “overcome” his SSA (5:30)
  • When he was almost at a crisis of faith, he turned to his family, the temple and church callings (6:00)
  • After being released from his calling he found his SSA spiraling out of control. He was recommended to go to a blog, where he then found that he wasn’t alone. 7:30
  • Dealing with the age of the individual 10:36
    • The most painful thing that he has heard is after a youth tells their bishop and then says they ignored them for two years. 11:38
  • Truth and fiction (12:09)
    • Fiction: If someone has same gender attraction, they should not associate with others of the same gender who also has same gender attraction. Menfindingpeace.blogspot.com, offers men supporting other men with SSA.
    • Fiction: SSA is an addiction or Sin.
    • Truth: Coming out to themselves is the first step (15:30)
    • Truth: Coming out to others at their pace and at their choice is part of the healing process (15:39)
  • Personal Crisis of Faith: Individuals bargain with the Lord (16:06)
  • How do people identify if the are SSA. The church has accepted that it’s ok to be SSA (16:34)
  • Remember the spouse is on their own journey. (18:06)
  • Just listen first, don’t try and fix it! (19:07)
    • If you recommend therapy, know what it is you are recommending the therapy for. (19:49)
  • All of us are children of our Heavenly Father have two innate needs (21:51)
    • To be accepted by others (particularly God)
    • Fear rejection
  • What to Say and What not to say 22:35
    • Don’t:
      • I suspected it all along.
      • We all have our challenges.
      • If you have enough faith.
      • I read this story and someone overcame this and got married.
    • Do:
      • I respect you more for sharing this with me.

Kyle Merkely (26:15) first met a transgender person while serving his mission. He then found that there were the people that thought like him. He searched online looking for other church members who felt the way that he did. He wants other people to know that you can be transgendered and to be a member of the church.

Jeremy (29:32): Was born and raised Catholic in Southern California. From a young age, he always felt different and had strong desires to be female, and felt like there was a mistake. He hid it from everyone growing up and only told a limited number of friends in High School. When he was 19 he joined the church and served a mission. Although he is married, has kids and serves faithfully in the church he still finds himself struggling.

  • Starting with the basics of Gender Dysphoria (32:09)
    • Sexual orientation is different from gender Identity (34:30)
    • Gender Dysphoria is a condition where someone feels discomfort or distress because there is a difference between their biological gender and their identity. (35:54)
  • Descriptions from peers and their families of what Gender Dysphoria feels like (36:15)
  • Common recommended treatments by medical professionals (42:37)
    • Present in Public the gender you identify with
    • Hormone replacement therapy
    • Sexual realignment surgery (gender confirmation therapy)
  • Church’s recommendations (43:10)
    • “This question concerns transgender, and I think we need to acknowledge that while we have been acquainted with lesbians and homosexuals for some time, being acquainted with the unique problems of a transgender situation is something we have not had so much experience with, and we have some unfinished business in teaching on that.” President Oaks 1/25/2015
    • Why Does the Website Not Discuss Gender Dysphoria or Transgender Issues? Many of the general principles shared on this website (for example, the importance of inclusion and kindness) apply to Latter-day Saints who experience gender dysphoria or identify as transgender. However, same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria are very different. For example, those who experience gender dysphoria may or may not also experience same-sex attraction, and the majority of those who experience same-sex attraction do not desire to change their gender. From a psychological and ministerial perspective, the two are different. https://mormonandgay.lds.org/articles/frequently-asked-questions
    • We don’t have all of the answers. (47:17)
  • What can leaders do or know to help minister to members who have Gender Dysphoria (47:49)
    • Quote from a member with Gender Dysphoria.
    • Be aware of feelings and conflicts
    • How can we help YOU.
    • Gender Dysphoria is not a choice
    • Be part of the journey, you don’t have to be the expert (57:00)
  • If you want to learn more talk to a member who is experiencing Gender Dysphoria (54:24)

Q&A (58:12)

  • Will transgender issues be added to the Mormonandgay.lds.org website?
  • Is there a peer group for a 17 year old transgender individual?
  • Question about the updated section of the handbook about restricting priesthood ordinances for minors whose primary residence is with a couple living in a same-gender marriage or similar relationship. (https://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/handbook-changes-same-sex-marriages-elder-christofferson)
  • How do leaders support spouses of transgender members and their children?

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