LDS Church: Homosexuality is not a Choice

Earlier today Buzzfeed blogger (and Mormon) McKay Coppins wrote the following:

In an evolution from its past teachings, the Mormon Church launched a new website Thursday asserting that sexuality is not a personal choice.

This evolution is evidenced on the Church’s new official website on homosexuality, http://www.mormonsandgays.org/, which states the following (emphasis added):

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.

As Coppins points out, this is a rather significant departure from what some Church leaders have previously taught. Others on MormonLiberals.org have received some criticism for posts about homosexuality and marriage equality (this post in particular), with people responding that Church doctrine and beliefs about homosexuality will never change, that it’s impossible to believe in the LDS Church and also hope for changes in policies toward our LGBT brothers and sisters.

This development suggests otherwise. One of the core beliefs taught every day by Mormon missionaries all over the world is that this church is led by a living prophet. This means that revelation is a continual occurrence, and that it’s not only okay, but expected for positions to change. That’s the whole point of having a living prophet–if doctrines, beliefs, and practices never changed, then we’d have no need for a living prophet and could just rely on reading the words of ones who lived long ago.

As Kent Larsen put it over at Times and Seasons, we need to be aware of the rather good chance that current doctrines will be replaced in the future:

Those who taught and believed that race is a qualification for the priesthood were surprised after they entered the next life, weren’t they? Or perhaps those who believed that polygamy is a requirement for the celestial kingdom were likewise surprised, don’t you think? If it isn’t these, then probably it was something else. Like it or not, over time our conception of Gospel Truth has changed a bit. I think the core beliefs are the same—certainly the atonement of Christ, the plan of salvation and our belief in continuing revelation, and more.

If Mormons from the past were wrong about some things, then what will prevent us, today, from being wrong about some things? Regardless of what those things might be, isn’t it likely that we’re wrong about something? We do believe in continuing revelation, so we have to admit the possibility of change in the future, right? And we even believe that humanity, as well as each of us individually, is taught line upon line, precept upon precept, so in the future we should be taught new and important truths, right?

As the missionaries teach, this possibility of change is one of the fundamental beliefs of the Mormon faith. So when people say “the Mormon Church will never change its position on homosexuality,” we respectfully disagree. First off, there is no way we can know that for sure. And second, it’s no longer a question of whether the Church’s position will change, but how much. As is clear today, a teaching that was shared by an Apostle as recently as 2008 (that homosexuality is a choice) has been replaced by another teaching that is the exact opposite of the one originally shared. And that’s the whole point of continuing revelation, isn’t it?

Larsen concludes with a reminder and a clarification that we echo here in full because of its great importance:

Lest someone misunderstand, I am NOT suggesting that we should not follow the brethren. There are clearly things in the gospel that we should do now, but that are not eternal principles. The general authorities have been given the responsibility for determining what should be done today. They are the Lord’s anointed, and responsible for receiving revelation today. I AM suggesting that we should be humble about how we think about doctrine and patient with the pace of the Church toward perfection. I don’t know why it took so long for the Church to progress to the point where the priesthood ban could be overturned by revelation. But I do see that it took over a century for the correction to be made. Perhaps I should be willing to have patience to that degree, if necessary.

Update: Times and Seasons has an excellent history of the LDS Church’s evolution on the issues of homosexuality.

 

 

 

 

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11 Responses to “LDS Church: Homosexuality is not a Choice”

  1. Jace Nye
    December 7, 2012 at 2:56 am #

    Apparently I am one of the “people” in particular who was critical in the previous article titled “Who Is My Neighbor”. Apparently it was understood that I said, “that Church doctrine and beliefs about homosexuality will never change, that it’s impossible to believe in the LDS Church and also hope for changes in policies toward our LGBT brothers and sisters”. And so I would also like to respectfully disagree with the moderator who wrote this piece.

    I want it to be clear that my statements never used that language about the doctrine “never” changing. I also want it to be clear that the Church’s doctrinal stance has NOT changed. From the Handbook 2 of the church it says, “As a doctrinal principle, based on the scriptures, the Church affirms that marriage between a man and a woman is essential to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. Sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife. Any other sexual relations, including those between persons of the same gender, are sinful and undermine the divinely created institution of the family. The Church accordingly affirms defining marriage as the legal and lawful union between a man and a woman.”

    The new website even affirms “There is no change in the Church’s position of what is morally right.” I understand this debate hinges on the use of the word position and/or church policies. Lets keep it clear about what the church’s position is exactly. I see this as a development about how the church members (and members of society) should treat, associate with and love/support those who struggle with these issues. And by all means lets follow this counsel. I do not believe, however, that the church will change it’s doctrinal teachings about the immoral nature of homosexuality. Obviously, I don’t know that for sure. Fundamental laws would have to be changed. Revelation that has been received for decades in modern times, and in the scriptures, would have to be replaced with new revelation specific to homosexuality. In short, what is sinful now would have to be allowed and accepted by God for the Church’s “position” to change. That is my belief based on my understanding of the laws and commandments of the Gospel and the eternal nature of families.

    In conclusion, and also from the new website, “God has given us commandments that support family and individual happiness. One of these is the Law of Chastity — individuals should have no sexual relations except in marriage, which Latter-day Saints define as between a man and a woman.” I have always been in favor of love and support for those whose struggle with same-gender attraction. So let us all find happiness in keeping the commandments that God has given and use the blessings of the Atonement for all of life’s difficulties.

    • moroni
      January 5, 2013 at 9:14 pm #

      Jace–

      I apologize–I didn’t mean to single you or your comment out in any way. Yours was the first comment on the previous blog post, but I wasn’t responding just to you. I’ve heard that argument many times, and I was responding to the general argument and not just to your comment.

      I think you’ve brought up a very important set of terms this post does not adequately explore: doctrine vs. teachings vs. “official position.” These three terms are very similar, yet different enough to warrant a full discussion (which this post does not even begin to provide). The Church’s official position on homosexuality itself has changed, but has the doctrine behind that position changed? I’m not sure. Likewise, some individual leaders have previously taught certain things about homosexuality (most specifically: that it is a choice) that are contradicted by this new official position, but I’m not 100% sure what that will mean for official doctrine, or even on future official positions of the Church.

      You brought up a number of very good quotes from the website, and my post was in no way meant to disagree with any of them. My goal in the post was to point out that one of the unique and powerful aspects of the LDS Church is the enduring belief in continuing revelation. This particular change in position (which probably doesn’t reflect a change in doctrine, but most likely will be reflected in future teachings) might very well be an example of this type of revelation: something that wasn’t said before is now officially accepted.

      I, like you, find happiness in keeping the commandments that God has given and enjoy the opportunity to use the blessings of the Atonement for all life’s difficulties, and (as a returned missionary and current Ward Mission Leader) I’m dedicated to helping others feel the same way. I hope this post (or any of my other posts) didn’t portray otherwise.

  2. Sean
    December 7, 2012 at 9:19 pm #

    To Jace Nye:

    The doctrine about chastity has not changed. The teachings/claims about the nature of homosexuality, however, have fundamentally changed. Times and Seasons has a phenomenal summary of the evolution of these claims. Either way, the cultural approach to the issue as a whole is rapidly evolving before our eyes. That’s the most exciting part. We’ll no longer be ostracized for expressing our love for our LGBT brothers and sisters. We’ll be better equipped to respond to respond to LGBT friends and family members. Hopefully, suicide rates among young LGBT people in Utah will be dramatically reduced. If you can’t see this profound evolution toward a more Christ-like Church and world, then I feel sincerely sorry for you.

    • Jace Nye
      December 8, 2012 at 12:01 am #

      Sean, you don’t need to feel sorry for me. I do value the cultural changes and approach that the Church has taken to bless the lives of those who struggle with same-gender attraction. It is positive that the leadership of the Church is encouraging this Christ-like approach and as I said before, lets follow this counsel.

      What did I say that you take argument with specifically? Where do we even disagree? I feel like you didn’t fully read my post but are replying in frustration to past experiences you have had. Obviously I want suicide rates to go down and people to be accepted and loved. If you feel that my stance on the sin of homosexuality is insensitive then please read more carefully.

  3. Sean
    December 8, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

    From the tone I perceive in your comments (perhaps incorrectly), I think the fact that you still say the “sin of homosexuality” is insensitive. You’re not distinguishing between the innate feelings people have and the sexual acts the website discourages. In other words, your attitude about the “sin of homosexuality” is exactly what the website was designed to refute. Again, perhaps I am misinterpreting your language. But the whole point is that we need to be more sensitive with our language. Think what you will about my past experiences, but overzealous, insensitive language like yours tore some of my family members apart.

  4. Kevin L
    December 9, 2012 at 4:52 pm #

    Sean,

    Thanks for your comments. I can’t say how much I agree with your statement about language. We all would do better to make sure the words we choose accurately represent our opinions. At the same time, I wonder if the reverse isn’t also true: we would all do better to ensure that the meaning we infer from another person’s words accurately represents their opinion.

    This is particularly true of interpreting past statements of Church leaders. As a gay mormon man, I really struggled with believing anything good about President Kimball. Reading his writing on homosexuality in The Miracle of Forgiveness was so hurtful to me. It wasn’t until years later that I started to understand the fluidity and nuance of language, especially around sexuality. Foucault explains this very well. I started to read Kimball in a different light. I’ve since come to dearly love President Kimball and believe that we’d get along very well.

    Basically, I’m suggesting that teachings on homosexuality haven’t actually changed much in the last 50 years. While the doctrine is still the same, the way we talk about it is very different. Perhaps part of that change has as much to do with the natural shifting of language as an actual change in attitude.

  5. 2cents
    December 9, 2012 at 11:32 pm #

    I also do not think any church position or policy has changed. Jesus taught to love thy neighbor as thyself. Breaking the law of chastity is a sin. The Church has not changed its policy regarding homosexuality however many members and even church authorities have made claims prematurely regarding the nature of these attractions. Many undue hatred has been directed towards the gay community and I feel that the church is making an effort to reinforce what has already been taught but what seems to be forgotten. We are to judge not, and love everyone and it has become a practice to leave the gay community out of that and the church is making a more direct statement regarding what church policy actually is. Sometimes the Church has to make a point of reinforcing how doctrine actually applies to specific issues and this is where a living Prophet comes in. Yes church practices do change but the doctrine never does. It’s the same with evolution. The Church is open to the proper practice of science and pursuit of truth though many rural members are unaware of this and see it as liberal mumbo jumbo.

  6. Alex
    May 27, 2013 at 3:23 am #

    It is loos like part of an agenda how some sectors of the media are now saying that the LDS Church statement on homosexuality is ‘Homosexuality is not a choice’. Language and communication is something easy to distortion, some lawyers do it all the time. However, ‘Homosexuality is not a choice’ and “individuals do not choose to have such attractions” does not mean the same thing. The first sounds like an endorsement, the latter (which is the official statement) admits some people have do deal with a problem that they have not chosen. You may have a cancer or some other problem that you did not choose to have… It does not mean that you do not need to combat it. Moreover, as we all know, some individuals (not all) do choose to have those attractions as they become influenced, encounter traumatic events or just want to follow the popular fashion of the day. We are slowly and incrementally becoming blinded and cannot discern between right and wrong.

    • moroni
      May 28, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

      I’m not sure I see the difference between those two. Can you help me understand?

  7. Alex
    May 28, 2013 at 9:32 pm #

    Another post already explained it:

    herbellis3 (signed in using yahoo)
    This is taking too much latitude from the Church’s position. We are not stating that ALL homosexuals have no choice but rather there ARE homosexual individuals that have no choice. This does not mean that there are not homosexuals who DO chose to be that way. I know many like this personally…

    But as you can tell already, the church statement is vaguely written, and gives way do different interpretations.

    • moroni
      May 29, 2013 at 8:05 pm #

      There is certainly the possibility that some choose their orientation.

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