I have a daughter who is 12 going on 20, and is the most amazing, brilliant, and wonderful girl. She recently told me that she is quite certain that she is attracted to girls and always has been. I was shocked mostly because I didn’t think she was old enough to really be attracted to anyone! Well, not really, but she is still so young I was very surprised that she was so definite.
I am worried for her though. My family on both sides comes from serious pioneer stock. Our family’s sense of identity is deeply rooted in the church. I have somewhat parted ways with the strict orthodoxy that nearly all of my family still lives by. I am so happy that my daughter knew that she could trust me enough to tell me something so personal and difficult. But I don’t know what this means for her. She is finding Young Women’s more and more difficult. Lessons about the temple are particularly painful, and my heart aches as I watch her cry.
What should I do?
I am very humbled by this question–as a mother, as a Mormon, as an LGBT ally.
I think it’s wonderful that your daughter felt she could be open with you, and I can feel your heartache as this discerning young soul begins to comprehend the difficult position Mormon theology affords LGBT people and those who love them.
There are parents of LGBT Mormons who I hope will share their experience with you in the comments section, and you may find guidance from them at LDS Family Fellowship (http://www.ldsfamilyfellowship.org/). I can only speak from my own experience.
When I was in my mid-twenties, I had a talk with my own father about my own serious conflicts with faith and the very distressed place to which they had led me. We were driving down highway 395 in California, coming home from the mountains. It was just me and him in the car. Dad took my hand and said, “Leave the church, leave the family—do whatever you must, but please don’t hurt yourself.”
That was not easy for him to say. Not easy at all. He was (and is) a man of devout faith and lifetime service to the Church. But when it came to his own children, he was courageously merciful: he did not sacrifice us to orthodoxy.
So many parents feel they must. So many LDS parents feel they must turn away or even turn out their own children who are gay. They do so out of shame, or sadness, or disappointment, or guilt, or community pressure, or out of the conviction that they must not countenance behavior that contradicts church standards. It must seem to them the kind of sacrifice God asked of Abraham: end your relationship with your child, for the sake of devotion.
The story of Abraham and Isaac gets used quite a bit in LDS circles, I’ve noticed, especially in cases of heartbreaking sacrifice. “Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven,” go the words to a beloved Mormon hymn. We celebrate ancestors and fellow Saints who make dearly expensive sacrifices in the name of faith. We covenant to sacrifice all we have to build up the kingdom of God. But does God really expect us to sacrifice our own children?
One day, when I was meditating on the story of Abraham and Isaac, I thought of that first facsimile image from the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price—that’s an LDS book of scripture, for you non-Mo AMG readers–which depicts Abraham himself being tied to an altar as a sacrifice from his own family to the idolatrous god Elkanah. In Abraham’s world, child sacrifice was an accepted form of worship. And he almost perpetuated that barbaric practice on his own son—until God intervened. When God spoke, the child sacrifice ended. I realize this is an unorthodox reading of Abraham–a Mormon feminist midrash, perhaps?– but it turned the whole story around for me.
What would happen if parents refused to sacrifice their children or their relationships with their children in the name of God? I think with gratitude on the example of my own father. Certainly, I would say the same to my own child if she found herself in some comparably anguishing place: “do what you must but please don’t hurt yourself.”
Mothers especially can play a crucial role in fostering better mental, spiritual, and physical health outcomes for their LGBT children. (After all, the Proclamation on the Family says that a mother’s job is to nurture her children.) I’d recommend you take a look at this publication produced by the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University. It offers guidelines to parents and families of LGBT youth. These guidelines have been recently designated “best practices” by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
I offer them with my solidarity and my love and my prayers for our entire LDS community as we all contemplate and address this difficult and urgent issue.
Readers, what can you offer?
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97 responses to “My 12 year old daughter says she is attracted to girls. What is a Mormon mom to do?”
Your recommendation that your wonderful reader seek out the http://www.ldsfamilyfellowship.org/ is great. There are people who have dealt with that problem and who will have experienced the challenges, the pitfalls, and the opportunities.
The members of the family fellowship will be able to give great advice. As always, listen to several people, not just one and then determine carefully and critically, if the advice is good and how it applies to your particular circumstances.
Once you found your bearing, I would recommend to carefully seek one or two allies in your family who will support you and your daughter. A few committed and principled voices can transform the climate in the extended family.
The same is true for your neighborhood and community.
Your church does not fit your daughter. Get a new church or get a new daughter. Others will argue a more compromising position, but at what cost? Sure, you could use your daughter as a stretching tool and maybe the church will expand a little, but how many blisters must your child suffer so you can be loyal to an institution that does not fully accept her as she is?
I agree with kilimanjournal. I’ve honestly thought about this myself. My children are still very young, but I’ve even thought to myself, “What if my two-year-old told me he was gay, once he’s a teenager?” I’ve decided that I would encourage him to keep his faith as a Christian but that we, as a family, would have to find whatever church would be most accepting of him. If he felt determined to remain LDS, despite the misfit, we would support him. However, if he wanted us to worship somewhere else, then the entire family would search for another church that would help the entire family draw close to Christ without alienating any one of us.
I’ve reached a point in my life where I figure life is too short to spend years attending services at any house of worship that makes one feel anything but fully enveloped by God’s love, even if that means leaving the faith of my childhood and progenitors.
Yes, albertinamel, every parent of a young child should be aware that their future teenager may one day tell them that he or she is gay. More kids are “coming out” as the social climate is changing so that unaccepting parents are increasingly viewed as the pariahs, not the gay teenagers. So why choose now to invest in a church and continue down a road that might prove to be a dead end for your family? Sure, you could make a U-turn then, but your child would be the pivot point and the one who would get the worst road rash from the experience.
I understand your opinion (“life’s too short to spend…at any house of worship that makes one feel anything but fully enveloped by God’s love”). As a Presbyterian minister, though, the best I can say is “Good luck finding a perfect church.” There’s no such thing. Look for a church that knows something about grace, and hang on tight when you find one, but even then, don’t expect that community to have no mistakes, blinders, or just plain sins of its own.
I think Carrie has a point: you’ll likely not find a satisfactory church. I say ditch organized religion altogether.
The advice Joanna so aptly gives is about transitioning from acting from an external locus to an internal one. Many in religions feel compelled to “obey” and “follow commandments” given by leaders, scriptures, and others that offer their opinions as to how one should live “righteously.
Courageously, and sometimes at the expense of one’s reputation, the step to look inside one’s heart and humbly seek the unique answer for guidance in how each person can find their own peace and joy is necessary. That answer often conflicts with what they’ve been taught, and the strength it takes to act against the grain of the norm is hard to find…but when the risk is taken, and when the result is a more congruous, loving course, you know it is the right one. I encourage you to look outside the box for the most loving answer to your challenge.
Wow, I love to see this conversation happening sooner and sooner between kids and parents! It shows a dramatic shift in our collective consciousness, even among Mormons. A few months ago a mother wrote in the Huffington Post about her experience with her 7-yr-old son “coming out” to her (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/Amelia/when-your-7-year-old-son-announces-im-gay_b_1277910.html). The remarkable thing about her experience in particular was that her son’s “announcement” wasn’t really what the term “coming out” is meant to convey, because he was never pressured into “closeting” his experience in the first place. A fascinating and beautiful modern realization for us all!
I’m so impressed your daughter has the the courage and insight to approach you about this at her age. I didn’t find the language to describe my experience of being gay within Mormonism until I was 23! Looking back, I remember the names of every crush I had since kindergarten, so it comes as no surprise to me that your daughter is so confident about her experiences, just impressive that she has the confidence to share her experiences, of which you should be very proud!
I’m not sure exactly how to advise you and your daughter on how to interact with the church moving forward–LGBTQ Mormons have a lot of difficult choices to make all the time on this front, and no two ever look exactly alike. Having your support will go a long way in helping your daughter find her way through the often very tangled woods of identity and belief which, gay or not, can be a bumpy ride for anyone trying to live outside of orthodoxy, as AMG can testify.
A big part of the process for me personally was taking the time to sort through all the really positive things I love about Mormonism and all the negative things that got me down. Each day I feel my gay and Mormon identities becoming more and more integrated and supportive of one another. Of course there will be people who tell you and your daughter that homosexual “desires” are inherently contradictory to the Plan of Salvation, but I believe such a view comes out of a basic misunderstanding of the homosexual experience. We are just as capable of loving and serving and growing as everyone else in the church–we are not disabled or defective, so why treat us any different? You may take the time to talk through each YW lesson with her as it comes, in this “sorting out” fashion to see if the experience is doing more harm than good at this point in her life. I spent a lot of time exploring all the heights and depths of Mormon theology with a great deal of intellectual rigor, to the effect of keeping some precious beliefs and experiences, while having to let go of others which were too much of an emotional burden to bear on my own.
It seems as though you realize that your daughter’s coming-out has wide implications for you as a parent in our family-centered community. You will have to become educated and in many cases articulate about the homosexual experience if you wish to be supportive of your daughter and her future relationships, especially since the vast majority of Mormons have not studied it out in their minds, unless they have a personal connection to the issue. You don’t have to become an activist, per se, and Family Fellowship is a group with many great examples of active LDS parents with gay children who have become educated and articulate, supportive and loving.
Most of all, I think you should feel good that this is the best time in all of history to be gay, and even gay and Mormon. There are so many amazing resources all over the web, community and friends within and without the church, all waiting to love and support you and your daughter through this experience. Please check out GayMormonStories.org for lots of content from conferences and podcasts and It Gets Better videos made by and for Mormons like you and your daughter. This session of our last conference in DC in particular features talks from a Mormon mother on her experience of her son’s coming-out, and my own talk on Charity and the family and community experience of coming out (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1tSwR_ehwc&feature=youtube_gdata_player). The LDS Womens’ Exponent II also just published an LGBTQ-focused issue which might be a good read for you and your daughter (http://www.exponentii.org/magazine/magazine/current-issue). So much good stuff!!
Good luck! And sending lots of love!
As a therapist, I have the difficult task of explaining this concept to families with teens who self-identify as LGBTQ. There are options. In my opinion, and I don’t limit the possibilities to my own opinion, these are the basic options for the future in no particular order:
1) Be gay and not LDS. I don’t see homosexuality being accepted as OK in my lifetime in the doctrine of the church. There is a damning culture in the church related to what is termed in the church as Same Sex Attraction. Still not able to flat out say they have this attraction and there is nothing they can do about it (ergo Boyd K. Packer stance). This stance says I will honor who I am with regards to sexuality, and find other means to fulfill my spirituality that don’t cause a perpetual internal schism.
2) Be LDS and gay. There are a lot of brave young folks who are doing this and my heart goes out to them. They will likely spend time oscillating toward expression of one or the other side (sexuality, spirituality), but can never have both and be truly fulfilled at the same time. They likely have strong feelings and testimony of the LDS faith, but also know they are gay and that it means they will likely not find any joy or happiness in heterosexual expression.
3) Be LDS and not gay. This is a tough one. Supressing things related to identity leads to problems, but there are some who choose to be celibate rather than offend God. This will result in an internal struggle that will go on, probably with setbacks from time to time, but will be able to fully express their spirituality and practice all parts of their religion.
This really does not apply to bisexual or transgendered folks, as their struggles are somewhat different. The young lady in the letter to BOM Girl, however seems to self-identify as lesbian. Sounds to me that she is way to that end on the Kinsey scale. These are hard choices, and not to be rushed into, but keep the dialogue open. As a parent, choose love and acceptance rather than judging. Judging is for Christ. As a parent, your heart will break for your daughter many times, because people can be cruel. Be her anchor. Ultimately, this young girl will have to find out her own balance, but as a parent, you can be there for her and support her with her choices in this regard. My heart goes out to all who suffer like this. I might add, though this is a bit of my own prejudice, find a caring and thoughtful counselor who is not necessarily connected to the LDS structure. This can be a safe place to talk about options and choices, and feelings. Best wishes to all who so suffer. It gets better if you let it, and find your place in the world. It is a big world, and there is a place for you.
well said. you have good opinions, Craig.
I just wanted to point out that concerning option #2 (be gay and LDS) that I know of several openly gay members who are married in the temple, who find great joy in their sexual relationship with their spouse and do not feel like they are ever either not fully spiritual, or not fully sexual. I firmly believe this is a blessing that comes from Heavenly Father when an individual works hard, and through personal revelation and with much love and guidance from family/community/church leaders does his or her best to choose what is right on a day to day basis. I cannot imagine the difficulty in that, as I am not personally faced with this challenge. I do however believe (through example and personal answers to many prayers and study on the subject) that it is possible for a LGBT to achieve what you have claimed to be pretty much unattainable.
Thanks for your frankness. I would only like to add that my gay friends have all tried each of the 3 options at one time or another and that each of the three options can take on an endless variety of forms. Best of luck to anyone struggling to redefine him/herself in the face of austerely conventional sexuality and well-intentioned believers. Despite the claims that homosexuality poses a “threat to the family”, we all live together with our highly idiosyncratic sexualities and it all works out just fine.
The command to forsake all evil, turn to Christ, and keep His commandments is for all people. Identifying as gay/lesbian is not a sin, but acting on those inclinations is a sin. Since the Lord knows the hearts of all people, he has given weaknesses to all, that all might come to Him and overcome, as He overcame. Nephi stated, “I will go and do the things which the Lord has commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandment unto the children of men, save He shall prepare a way for them to accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them” (1 Nephi 3:7). The daughter says she is attracted to those of her gender. What she must do now, and what the mother must do, is teach her to keep the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to stay with His Church, which is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All things that go wrong in life (like the daughter crying over not being able to get married in the Temple because of her homosexual leanings) will be made up through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Stay with the Church, and nothing will ever go permanently wrong. Ever.
That is the worst advice she could possibly give. Ultimatums like this harm families and individuals. I am living proof. Here’s my story. Maybe it will help: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43-vRh2walw
Thank you so much for a beautiful and courageous testimony.
I disagree with, “Stay in the Church, and nothing will ever go permanently wrong.” Has it ever occurred to you that suicide is permanent? Or the emotional scars these children will have by never being able to live up to expectations that they truly can never reach. Never judge until you’ve walked a mile in someone’s shoes. I feel that you have the luxury of being able to marry and live a fulfilling lifestyle, which makes it easy to judge others. There are two things that make the world go round, work and love. If you take away love then it’s hard to continue making the world go round. Everyone deserves the kind of love that is between soul mates. It seems so easy for you to say “stay in the church and everything will be fine.” But if the tables were turned and someone told you that you can’t be with the love of your life after you’ve met them, I highly doubt you could live a happy fulfilling life without them. It seems so convenient to condemn others when you already so conveniently have rights. Stop being so ignorant and start doing some research on the affects it has on people that are told to be perfect at all times, but yet you can not reap any of the rewards in this lifetime. I would want to shoot myself and to me that is permanent, which goes against your argument that nothing can permanently go wrong!
seriously “stay in the church and nothing will ever go permanently wrong” gave my chills, the very bad kind of chills. What is the flip side of that – leave the church and everything will go wrong? Thinking like that just seems to limit God. He is bigger than everything, even the ‘one true church’…And he loves you whether you are in it or not.
@herlin005: This caring mother understands the scriptures and the churches position on same-sex attraction thus her concern. She is not asking for a Sunday school lesson. With regards to your comment, “Identifying as gay/lesbian is not a sin, but acting on those inclinations is a sin.” I find this statement to be contradictory and rationalization flawed.
If you agree that God has created all men and women in his image, than how can anyone who is LGBT be made in error? Therefore, how can someone who identifies gay/lesbian etc., be wrong in acting upon their natural instinct to love someone of the same gender when God made them that way?
Your reasoning has been used by many other LDS members in years past. This same reasoning was used when Brigham Young preached against interracial relationships. I find it interesting while you are quoting scripture you miss the basic principle Jesus taught of loving one another.
Also, while I’m sure it was meant with the best of intentions, your last suggestion that the daughter “stay with the church and nothing will ever permanently go wrong” is not the best advice either. Would you subject your child to someone or something that degrades their self worth and belittles their existence by making them feel like they are less of a person?
There are many gay/lesbian youth who have stayed with the church, and because they have, some of them are no longer with us. They denied their true self, became depressed, and lost hope in humanity. All of this, because those around them chose to persecute and try to change them, instead of loving them for who they are.
@Julia D. Hunter: I couldn’t have said it better! 😀
Consuela, babies are born everyday with physical and mental handicaps, and yet they were created in the image of God. These babies grow into strong individuals who learn to deal with the challenges that life throws their way. Why should it be any different for one who is born homosexual? Will it be hard? Of course it will. But is it worth sacrificing your eternal happiness so that this temporal life can be easier?
If this mother would take the time to talk to other parents of children with challenges, and find out how they are helping their children, and if she will stay close to her church leaders and keep her daugher close, she can’t go wrong. If she can teach her daughter to love herself, no matter what anyone else says, and to trust in the Lord, then she can’t go wrong.
Thank you, Herlin, for reminding us of God’s unchanging commandments. Since you seem so aware, I have a few questions regarding some of the specific laws and how to best follow them.
a) When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
b) I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
c) I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
d) Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?
e) I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?
f) A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an Abomination (Lev 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this?
g) Lev 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?
h) Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev 19:27. How should they die?
i) I know from Lev 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
j) My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Lev 24:10-16) Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)
I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help.
Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.
(admittedly plagiarized from the letter to Dr. Laura from J Kent Ashcraft)
Risk – Thank you for posting this letter and and making the point that not everything is black and white.
There isn’t one way to live. I believe that if we start every day with the intention to do good and make the most positive impact on our world then we are pleasing our God. The most recurrent teaching is to love one another. No stipulations, no altering, no conditions. Just love. Loving everyone is very difficult, try everyday and start every day anew in your journey. When I remember to focus on this my day is filled with peace. I often forget, but its discussions like this that help me to remember.
To the mother and daughter:
Love each other. Support each other. Hold each other when others wish to hurt, control or alter who you are. I believe that God loves you for who you are right this minute and only wishes you to know God loves you and wants you to do your best to love yourself and those who come into contact with you.
Peace and love to you on your journey.
Actually, Lou, the underlying point of the “burning a bull” letter is not about shades of grey. If God’s word is unchanging, then Leviticus is still correct. If we must now reject parts of Leviticus, then God’s word is not eternal. This “black and white” logic also gives you a binary set of choices regarding the New Testament: it is reliable as a source of perfect truth and unquestionable moral guidance, or it is not. If the Bible has any flaws, then it is up to the individual to evaluate each passage separately and make a personal determination.
This makes devout Christianity incompatible with acceptance of homosexuality. If being gay is ok, the Biblical injunctions against it (which do extend into the New Testament) are all mistakes, and the book as a whole cannot be considered perfect. If the Bible is not reliable as the divine word of God, then Christianity is based on a fallible book of merely human opinions. Those who wish to be loyal, faithful Christians and yet not anti-gay bigots have a challenge with no logical resolution (similar to those who want to believe in the Bible and in the science that contradicts it.)
Teach your daughter to pray and she will have the inspiration and guidance she needs in whatever direction her life takes.
I’ve never commented on a message board before, however, I feel the need to do so. I don’t think any of us are in a position to judge this siutation, preach, or state with prejudice what this special young woman and wondeful mother should do. It is my sincere prayer and hope that we can reach out with love and understanding. When I think of the universe and what our wonderful creator has created I know that his ways are way above my understanding. I do know that love is the centre of all faiths and hope that the LDS community can be slow to judge yet fast to love. We are all on our own journeys in this life which at times is impossible to understand. If we would reach together with understanding to all how much stronger our community would be. My prayers are for you both, mother and daughter. May your journey be guided by a loving father in heaven – without fear and guilt – let love abound all around you – this is my prayer.
My perspective: I’m a physician; I have a sister who has same gender attraction; I’m LDS, and would consider myself a strong adherent. I subscribe to the notion that Jesus is inclusive of all of his siblings/children, loves us all, is aware of our struggles, empathizes with us, died for our sins, our illnesses and afflictions. It’s difficult for me to understand the perspective of those in LGBT community because I haven’t had their experience, but it doesn’t change my understanding that they are my brothers and sisters. In our church, acting upon homsexual urges is considered a sin; so is drinking alcohol, stealing, cheating on one’s spouse, fornicating, etc. I have some guesses on why the Lord establishes these statutes, but I don’t know why. So in the mean time, I hope I do my best to love those I know who happen to be LGBT the same I would love anyone else. They deserve to have and feel the Lord’s Spirit, and the love of his church just as much as the guy struggling with smoking, or the woman with depression, or the father with anger issues, etc.
All of that being said, I’m concerned about one aspect you didn’t discuss, and that is the malleability of the child and adolescent. I’m not suggesting that this young lady will ever change her perspective, and as many of the other commenters noted, I feel for the struggles that she will most likely experience no matter which choice she makes, some because struggles are a part of finding our way in the world, and part because some people are ignorant and mean, and they salve their own hurts by lashing out at others they feel are beneath them. Nonetheless, at the age of 12, assuming that her perception of who she is is cementing and unchanging could be unnecessarily cruel or inappropriate for her. I’m in total agreement with the recommendations made to seek out resources and education on the subject, but also to find a reputable therapist that can help this family understand the context of what is going on, and help this young girl to truly interpret what she’s experiencing. If she does have a firm identify as a lesbian, then I think Craig French’s insights are quite applicable. However, discussion with a professional who is not bringing any of their own pre-conceived notions about the LGBT community into it may shed some light on her feelings that are different from what she thinks.
I’m not suggesting that therapy will “take the gayness out of her”, but I do think that it’s hard for adolescents to understand and interpret alot that is going on with them, and if we start handing down labels to a young person before their identity is set, aren’t we doing them as much of a disservice than if we would do if we tried to force them to conform to what we perceive as the social norm?
To Dr. Barkdull, and others…I am also a physician, and as you know, the literature and studies regarding the “cause” of homosexuality is slim, unless you are aware of the (particularly Christian) biases often there in their foundations. One of the best (and perhaps ironically) research has been done by Dr. Wm. Bradshaw of BYU. He is a former mission President, Stake Presidency member, and an active member of the LDS Church. He also has a gay son. For those able to follow the science of this issue, He gives a concise discussion with our friend John Dehlin here: http://mormonstories.org/byu-professor-bill-bradshaw-on-a-biological-origin-of-homosexuality/.
While this may leave some confused as to “why” it happens, it may at least instill a little more compassion and understanding of the issue. Maybe that is a key step for all of us.
Rick, I wasn’t in any way suggesting by my comments that I or anyone else has a sure knowledge of the origins of a person’s sexual attraction. Thought I suspect that it is a combination of “nature” and “nurture”, this is founded on what I’ve read in the social sciences, and not based upon any statements or doctrines of the LDS church. I agree with your final comment that learning what has been “learned” allows us to “instill a little more compassion and understanding of the issue.” To me, the point is moot: I don’t think we should care one way or another as it relates to our compassion and love for others, no matter what their attractions, and whether their attraction stems from a different chromosomal set up, or the influence of the environment they were raised in.
Beautifully written. I agree completely.
Hmmm, my earlier comment there was directed at Thad Barkdull, not at Rick. I wrote that comment hours ago, not sure why it’s just now showing up, but I haven’t even read Rick’s response in depth, so I can’t say I agree with anything he said, except that we all need to have more compassion towards the LGBT community.
As for what Thad said, 12 is quite young for a girl to be able to understand feelings of attraction towards the same gender. I think all girls find other girls attractive at that age. That doesn’t make all girls lesbians, it makes them normal. We are brainwashed into looking at other women and comparing ourselves to them. If our boobs aren’t big enough, or our bodies aren’t curvy enough, we envy and admire girls who have huge boobs and curvy bodies. We ogle them, the same as a guy would. Our insecurities are Satan’s most devestating and easiest to use weapon.
I would love to know if this young girl has a father at home, and what their relationship is.
Maybe it’s generalizing, but all of the gas and lesbians that I know come from single parent homes, or homes where both parents work. I know that isn’t always the case, and that some gays and lesbians come from the “typical” happy active mormon home, and I do firmly believe that *some* gays and lesbians actually are born that way. BUT, I also wonder if others haven’t been programmed into thinking they are gay or lesbian because of their environment?
With that in mind, I agree with Thad. This young girl needs to be able to talk through her feelings with someone, so that she can figure out what they really mean. Too many people want to prove how tolerant and open minded they can be, so they don’t question the validity of any claim of being gay or lesbian. Homosexualilty is encouraged and children are trained to accept such feelings as normal.
It’s wonderful that she trusts her mother enough to share such feelings with her. I hope they can always maintain such a relationship.
Every family struggling with LGBT issues within the mormon church must, must, must read Carol Lynn Pearson’s “No More Goodbyes” (and probably “Goodbye I Love You” too). It will absolutely transform the situation, there is so much insight, compassion, and healing in that book. If you do nothing else, please get a copy and read it. I can’t overstate this.
Amen to that! I absolutely love Carol Lynn Pearson and her books. They both were incredibly eye-opening and healing for me.
I don’t know if someone has already mentioned these, but just in case…
There are also other stories from LDS gays in the book “Gay Mormons?”, edited by Brent Kerby. It is available from Amazon, or the entire book is actually online at http://gaymormonforum.org/gay_mormons/index.html
Also, check out podcasts from Mormon Stories “Circling the Wagons” conferences at gaymormonstories.org
I second many people’s admiration and love for this family. It’s great that this young girl feels comfortable talking to her mom. I hope there are others in her community that she would feel equally comfortable with.
One of the things I find interesting about the way we deal with sexual attraction is that we immediately make it about identity. We say “I AM gay” or “I AM lesbian”. Who you’re sexually attracted to becomes an essential part of who you are. I suppose it makes sense. It’s a pretty basic, important part of your life.
At the same time, I look at myself (a heterosexual, married man) and I’m sexually attracted to all kinds of women. The LDS law of chastity teaches that sex should be kept within a legal, lawful, monogamous marriage. Does the fact that I’m sexually attracted to sooo many women mean I “AM” incapable of being monogamous and “chaste” as the LDS community puts it? Does it mean that at some level monogamy is irreconcilable with who I am? That by not yielding to my sexual attraction to many women, I’m losing an essential part of my identity? I don’t think so. In this matter, I get to choose. Who I desire is not who I am. What I choose is who I am. I find comfort in that. It makes me free in a way our society doesn’t understand. Most people think freedom is about having the uninhibited license to fulfill your desires. I see it instead as the ultimate ability to do what is right according to personal revelation and conscience, even when that “right” thing is not my natural desire. I’m free to do what is right even in spite of my desires. In a way, I’m free from my desires, no longer their slave.
I can’t say that my heterosexual experience translates to the LGBT community. I have no idea. I’ve never been attracted to men. It’s never something I’ve had to suppress. I don’t know what that’s like. My intention here isn’t to judge. I guess I’m just sharing the “happy place” I’ve found in my efforts to understand and live orthodox Mormon teachings when it comes to sexual conduct. It’s all I’ve got.
well said. I think that this is an important aspect to consider. I think that it can be significantly difficult for some to surpress heterosexual urges in a monagamous situation–however, I don’t think it would be accurate (nor do I think David Lindes is trying to make this point) to suggest that you could generalize this into suggesting someone can suppress attraction to one gender and “switch” to another (i.e. a heterosexual “switches” to homosexuality or vice versa). However, I think a reasonable discussion/argument should be made as to whether a celibate life might be an appropriate (though admittedly, a difficult) decision for some to make. Making a big assumption that this is what our Heavenly Father would ask of these individuals, aren’t they entitled to the same benefits in the eternities that are frequently discussed in General Conference with regard to single people who never find a spouse to marry in the temple? To try and formulate our decisions based only on a perspective of this life without an appreciation of the eternal consequences of decisions seems to me to be somewhat of a denial of our faith…
Everyone has multiple attractions, David; you aren’t some kind of oppressed minority or suffering from an excess of unexpressed manhood. You chose to be in a monogamous relationship and it’s a “happy place” for you because it fits with who you are. Perhaps you indulge some desires in secret, or maybe you practice extra-marital chastity. Whatever, your world has a wide open, accepting place for you. To suggest that your choice not to try to get with every woman that moves is in any way relevant to being forced to live a lie or to abnegate any chance for any sexual connection is astonishingly insensitive.
Astonishingly insensitive? Wow. I think you overdid that one a little. I get your point, though. What I’m trying to say is that my experience is my only frame of reference. I’m not suggesting it’s comparable. Don’t worry.
I am expressing a concern with the rhetoric that surrounds sexual attraction. This idea that if I’m a man sexually attracted to men (let’s say exclusively), and I don’t act on it I’m living a lie. Let’s switch things around and say a heterosexual man lives his whole life without having sex. FOr one reason or another he never had the chance. Did he live a lie?
Now, there is a marked difference between the two of them. The homosexual man (in orthodox Mormonism) wouldn’t have even had a chance at marital sex. It would not be an option. Additionally, his same gender attraction holds a definite stigma within the Mormon community. Requiring him to pretend not to be attracted to men would definitely be to live a lie. But is asking a celibate life also asking to live a lie?
Because of that, in one respect I agree with you that we need to create space in the Church for people with LGBT tendencies. It needs to be something we can talk about, something we can consult one another about, something others can understand and be compassionate about. However, I don’t see how acting on homosexual tendencies has a place in the orthodox Mormon worldview.
well said, David.
You undermine your credibility by suggesting that David’s viewpoint is “astonishingly insensitive”. When I read what you wrote, it seems to me that you are suggesting that because David has not had the experience of same sex attraction, that he is incapable of empathisizing with urges to “be” or “act” a certain way, and that the only reason he is in a heterosexual relationship is because it is a “happy place” for him, thus suggesting that he merely is lucky he gets to be in the majority, and feel and be allowed to act a way that fits with our society.
I think you might assume too much, and thus express a certain amount of insensitivity yourself. If you think David’s wrong, try to educate him–value the fact that he’s been willing to engage in this forum and talk about the subject, and if you think he’s displaying some ignorance, then take the opportunity to educate him, rather than use terminology that suggests defensiveness and perhaps outrage. That will only push others away, and make them less likely to be willing to hear your point of view, or be swayed to your way of thinking.
I’ve said this before, but I feel comfortable that while there is growing evidence that suggests some measure of “nature” and “nurture” that results in a person identifying themselves as LGB or T, I think it’s unfair and disingenuous to suggest that it is unchangeable. I disagree with suggesting to a person who doesn’t want to change that they must, anymore than I disagree with a person who is comfortable with who they are must conform to a social norm that I or anyone else dictate (at least within the context of being law-abiding and allowing the same freedoms to others who might not share their lifestyle or point of view). I believe that David is suggesting (and please correct me, David, if I’m putting words in your mouth) that as we grow, develop and mature, our perception of who and what we are should and does change as we interact with the world around us, and we shouldn’t try to act as authority figures to compel another, especially at an early age, to make a final decision when they should still be gaining knowledge in order to make a good decision. Additionally, some may decide that their decision is to give up something that is very important to them (i.e. their sexual identify) for something that they perceive is a greater good for them in the long term (ie. their faith that not acting on their sexual urges will provide them with eternal blessings). If that is their faith, and that is important to them once they’ve been able to “study it out in” their minds, then we should, as adults to kids, and peers to friends and families, be supportive and nonjudgmental, and continue to work to express Christ-like love to them despite whether their choice conforms to our decision or not.
Killmanjournal, you’ll bring more to the way of your thinking when you accept that others arguments may not be right, but they just may, and if you listen and try to understand long enough, you may just come to a greater truth than you realized you had before. I hope I try to do that every day, and feel that I have just a little bit by being a part of this dialogue.
“Astonishingly insensitive? Wow,” says David Lindes, “I think you overdid that one a little.” Thad Barkdull (in his post full of misdirected guesses about what I am “suggesting,” followed by a remedy for my shortcomings) adds, for my edification, that the charge I make undermines my credibility. In fact, yes, insensitivity should never astonish anyone, especially when the member of a dominant group tries to conflate some minor inconvenience into the lifetime-of-oppression category. Yep, that’s far too common to be “astonishing.”
Too be fair, David disclaimed, “I can’t say my heterosexual experience translates to the LGBT community.” But ok, then why bring it up? This is like saying to someone who just lost a spouse, “Yeah, I was really upset when my turtle died, so I went out and got a new one.” The context is grief so the comparison is implicit…and ridiculous, and insensitive. Similarly, talking about potential loss of identity when not choosing to pursue all attractive women has absolutely nothing to do with the very real and extreme loss of identity that LDS imposes on gay people by squelching all sexual and romantic expression.
Or put it this way–don’t tell a person starving to death because they are not allowed to eat how you would like to go to a different restaurant every night, but steadfastly limit yourself to always eating at the same one. Following that with “not that my experience translates to yours,” does not wash away the crass insensitivity.
So was my criticism of Lindes’s comments “overdone?” Well, for the record, I’d like to change the adjective modifying “insensitive” (as applied to the comments, not to the love-deserving man) from “astonishingly” to “extremely,” if that’s ok with everybody.
yes, killmanjournal, it is always easiest to disprove someone’s suggestions or arguments with the adoolescent remark of “you just don’t understand me” or “you don’t know what I’m going through” because then it completely validates your point of view, and invalidates theirs. It would be very disconcerting to find out that someone who disagrees with your point of view actually can empathize with you, actually does care about your feelings, actually does want the best for you, and yet still disagrees with your decision-making. But it is possible, and it does happen.
Kilimanjournal, I understand you feel strongly about this. If you think my clumsy attempts at understanding the LGBT community are insensitive, I apologize. Your defensiveness is probably well based. If I had another frame of reference, some other, more effective way to try to understand, I’d use it. Whatever the case is, I hope someone else’s attempts at understanding can prove more appropriate than my own.
Thad, your odd mix of insulting sarcasm and supposed “empathy” is way off the mark. I never said “you don’t know what I’m going through.” And where did you get the impression that what we are talking about is some personal experience of mine? And David, I appreciate the humility of your revised approach, but you talk about my “defensiveness” and seem to be apologizing to me for LGBT insensitivity. Correct me if I am wrong, guys, but it seems like maybe you both think I am gay. Is that because I am standing up for sensitivity to gay people? I hate to play into homophobia by proclaiming my hairy-chested, he-man heterosexuality, but let me put it this way: Did Christ seem like a woman when he spoke up for Mary Magdalene?
first of all, my apologies. i didn’t intend to come across as being insulting and sarcastic, but you’re right, it did come through that way. I actually wasn’t directing my points at assuming your sexual orientation. I was merely pointing out that for any issue, I find it frustrating when an individual minimizes another’s empathy, or their criticism of a behavior using the escape rationale of “you just don’t understand me”. In this instance, with same sex attraction, it makes it easy to say to any critic that the only reason they disagree with one’s choice is because they don’t understand. Or, if an individual with same sex attraction speaks out, then they are told that they’re just repressing their feelings.
I think that to discuss this issue, we have to accept that just maybe those who disagree with acting on same sex attraction may have some valid points, and that not all people who feel these urges need to act upon them to be fulfilled. Some may feel this is the case, but they don’t have to force it upon others just to validate their experience. If I have attractions to men, does that mean that I have to act upon that before I will find happiness? Do you or I or anyone else know that that is the case? I’m unconvinced that that is so, and not because I’m ignorant of what is out there, what has been researched, but because our data is not conclusive. Therefore, I think it fair to be good to all others, but allow them the opportunity to see all options available to them, and as others have said, not “type cast” them before they’ve had an opportunity to figure out who they are and who they want to be.
I appreciate your obvious devotion to the respect for others, and I’ve appreciated your honest opinions, whether I disagree with them or not. I actually agree with most of what you’ve shared, and more importantly, I think I agree with you on the points that are most important. Whether you’re gay or not is irrelevant to me. That’s the best part of this format (though it has its weaknesses as well) of discussion, as it takes away assumptions that might be made based upon appearances or speech patterns, etc. How do you know I’m not gay? Is it impossible for a gay man to feel that maybe God did organize a body for my spirit/intelligence, and knew that I had a pre-disposition for attraction to others of the same gender, and that by working through those feelings throughout my life, I would gain attributes (temperance, discipline, compassion, empathy) that would stand me in good stead in the eternities in His presence? It is impossible that I could be a gay man who believed that sometimes my Father in Heaven’s love is best manifest in his compassion for me as I struggle with weaknesses, or failings, or attractions that I must learn to discipline, even if it means being celibate in this life, because I have faith of a fulfillment of blessings after this life is over, and that eternity is far longer than this mortal “probationary state”, so I’m willing to make the sacrifice? Is it impossible for a gay man to recognize that although it will most likely just suck, that he/I will feel like an outsider in my own church because others aren’t perfect, and that I’ll never quite be at home, that I can feel “at home” and at one with my Savior because I have faith that He knows EXACTLY what I’m going through, and He wouldn’t ask it of me if He didn’t think it was for a greater good for me?
I’m just suggesting that this is a possibility that would be unfair to some to ignore. Thank you again, killmanjournal and others for this discussion, and most importantly, good luck and my thoughts and prayers to the initial writer and all those who struggle with, and/or love those who struggle with this experience.
Thad, the larger issue here is “boundaries.” Perhaps you feel invested with patriarchal authority as a member of a “priesthood,” but presuming to offer consenting adults reasons not to have sex is inappropriate. If I told you how to wipe your butt, wouldn’t you think I had poor boundaries? If I was concerned that you would burn in hell if I didn’t teach you how to wipe my way, would that trump respect for personal private choices that are none of my business?
Your presumption isn’t ordinary, isolated rudeness. No, you are piling on to a societal attack on LGBT people. Gay LDS teens are particularly vulnerable because pressure to not act on who they are …ever… and just consider their lives a “struggle” is very strong and often comes from very close, as well as from more distant sources like you. Your comments contribute to an environment that fosters low self-esteem, depression, and suicide.
As a currently serving Bishopric counselor, I would advise you to interview the Bishop and the counselor who is charged with interviewing your daughter on her half-birthday. (Yes, you can interview them — it’s not a one way relationship.)
If their responses, opinions, and beliefs are not acceptable… if they do not show sufficient Christ-like love towards the LGBT community… then you should inform them that they are not permitted to interview your daughter without you present. (You may wish to set that rule regardless.)
I would also make it clear that any bigotry from the ward leaders or members will force you to leave the ward (or church) and seek out a safe spiritual community for your daughter.
Our church is (or should be) governed by the principle of common consent. There is nothing wrong with meeting with church leadership to establish some mutual understandings regarding your children.
Brett, that is a fantastic option. I will include it in my counsel to LGBTQ kids and families.
I like Janelle’s advice. CLP is a fantastic example of Christian compassion and understanding. I would try really hard to validate my child, help them understand what it means, and make perfectly clear my imperfect yet complete love for them. Then I would offer all of myself to help them understand their identity in their father’s eyes and their Father’s eyes. The last thought I have is that I will always teach my children that regardless of degrees of standing, they are full participants in their faith if they choose; that choosing to stay doesn’t mean you have to be a victim. Joanna has exemplified that concept IMHO.
Reblogged this on Competitive/Contemplative and commented:
Sending compassion to this brave twelve year old and her mother
Let me begin by saying this – the Mormon Church (which is not Christian, but an heretical, aberrant religious system) is probably the worst place that anybody with homosexual tendencies can be. Get out of it for your sake and your child’s sake. How many Mormon homosexuals have ended their lives? I know a Christian boy who is 19. Raised in an evangelical Church. Accepted Christ as Savior at an early age, who has now expressed to his parents that he believes he is a homosexual. He has not acted on these desires. First, Paul in Romans 1 states that homosexuality is not in God’s will. So, what to do? If this boy is truly saved (as he claims) then any acting upon these desires will cause him grief and internal sorrow. The only course for a Christian to take would be to abstain from sexual involvement, or as Jesus said, become a eunuch for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven (and that would not be the Mormon cult). It’s a hard saying – but consider this. What would we tell a Christian who is attracted to porno (many Mormon males, by the way, are porno addicts). Would we say, leave the Church? Would we say continue in the sin? Or would we say, refrain from doing what you desire to do. It is a conflict between the spirit and the flesh. However, Jesus gives us the strength to endure and to serve him and to “become a eunuch” for the sake of His Kingdom. C
Of course, support the daughter and encourage her to accept and love herself, regardless of who she is attracted to right now. Help her to understand that she is just going through puberty and life is full of transition. She may find she has some attraction to boys, or men, later in life. She may not. But whether or not she discovers those attractions, she is still of great worth and is not a failure or does not fall short. There are other people, like myself, who are only attracted to the same sex growing up and later, well down the road, met a man I was attracted to and we were married in the temple. She does not have to choose a letter LGB or T right now if she doesn’t want to. Why identify according to such already?
Love her and accept her and keep her close however this plays out and whatever she decides to do.
I find it interesting that so many people immediately jump to the conclusion that a gay mormon can’t ever be happy. And it’s usually because the gay mormon can’t be in a relationship… more specifically, the gay mormon can’t be in an intimate relationship (because to act on homosexual feelings would be breaking the law of chastity) and stay in good standing with the church.
Plenty of single heterosexual mormons are in the same position as gay mormons, in that they cannot be in an intimate relationship without breaking the law of chastity. Should they be advised to leave the church?
@Mari — There are significant differences between a 30-something single heterosexual member of the church and a gay teenage member of the church. Primary among those differences is that of hope. One gets to hope for the intimate relationship either in this life of the next. The other has no hope of an intimate relationship in this life and, in order to achieve it in the next, must be transformed into a version of his or herself which seems completely foreign to them. (Don’t believe me? If you are straight, try to imagine how it would feel to be told that you will be turned gay in the afterlife.)
The straight member can date, go to dances, and all the different singles activities made available to straight members of the church. The straight member has hope of a marriage someday which will be widely celebrated by friends, family, and ward members. The gay member gets none of the above. No hope. Nothing.
I don’t have time to go through the list of differences but let me identify another one: The single hetero member can get a roommate of the same gender to live with. Who does the single homosexual member live with? If it’s a gay man, he’ll be told that he’s not supposed to live with another man. He can claim that it is a celibate relationship but it will always be looked upon with suspicion. And yet, if he tried to live with another woman as a roommate, that would be looked down on as inappropriate.
While I don’t want to diminish the suffering and loneliness of anyone, I’m tired of hearing that gay members are the same as single straight members of the church. They are not.
Heterosexual’s can flirt, hold hands, kiss. In fact, many that I know have pre-marital sex, and then repent in order to be married in the temple. There is still that hope that you can have a loving relationship. This is not an option for LGBT.
I don’t want to downplay what is obviously a very serious concern for this mom, but what her daughter is experiencing is completely normal for any child experiencing puberty. With all the hormonal changes going on, I recall being attracted to pretty much anything that moved at that time in my life. Puberty is where most preteens first experience sexual dreams, many of which starring members of the same sex because those are the bodies they are most familiar with. Our society is so quick to want to label those feelings, but sometimes they are just that–feelings.
Sexual preference and identity is a product of experience and exploration. In my experience, sexual attraction is not as simple as gay/straight–but like Kinsey proposed, it is rather a spectrum of degrees. I worry that rushing to label or to worry about something, before the child is old enough to have experienced the gamut of sexual attraction is jumping the gun a bit. Whether she will continue to identify as a lesbian or have those preferences extend to members of the opposite sex is something that should be given time.
She’s only 12, not even old enough to date ANYONE by LDS standards, reassure her that what she’s experiencing is normal and that she is loved and cherished by her parents and her Father in Heaven (the only people that really matter anyway)–no matter what!
@Mari…I feel compelled to somehow respond to your several posts but do with reluctance. In general I try to keep my responses positive and uplifting, but I really had to take a stand on this. Your comments on one level project a commitment to the Christian value of love and kindness to those who struggle with difficult issues in this life, but the stronger undercurrent is one of judgment and intolerance. You are implying that the issue is that there is too much permissiveness from parents and they are expressly encouraging their children to become gay, and that somehow normalizes their “abberant” feelings as normal. That is not only wrong, it is dangerous. If that were true then why are there so many tragic LGBT suicides still occuring everyday, the highest numbers specifically amongst LDS and other Christian faiths. From recent research, adolescents like the young sister above are more likely than their hetero peers to abuse substances, attempt suicide, and become victims of violence. If they are rejected by parents (this risk goes up in orthodox families of many faiths), they are more likely to become homeless, contract HIV, and even become prostitutes. Would you say this is a culture that lovingly protects and urges its children into a gay lifestyle? I think it is this very type of comment that is the sort that this loving mother is afraid her precious daughter might be exposed to in the church, by well meaning members who overstep their bounds and make ignorant, insensitive, and unkind comments that well could permanently damage her daughter in unforseeable ways.
Wow, should have read this before I responded. I concur.
Joanna has already given you excellent advice, but I would only one more thing. I would encourage her to hold off on identifying herself as heterosexual, homosexual, or any other type of sexual identity at least until she is through puberty. Stress to her that no matter her sexuality, she is herself, and that is a wonderful, fabulous thing to be.
Waiting to identify herself by a certain sexuality has several benefits. First, it allows her more freedom. She will have a few more years to develop herself, and to pursue her interests. It will give her time with girls her own age where her sexuality can be a non-issue. This will give her the opportunity to develop friendships, interests, skills, and gain adult experiences. This is one reason the church suggests waiting until age 16 to date.
Second, it is extremely common for young girls around that age to experience same sex attraction, but grow up to identify as heterosexual adults. When hormone levels are changing in many different ways, sometimes it is difficult to sort out your sexuality. A single crush on another girl, or even more than one, does not have to determine her sexual identity unless she decides that it does. Suggest to her that she allow herself room to breathe – a lot of those feelings could be related to puberty, and will even out in a few years.
Third, it is a huge issue, and very emotionally heavy. Waiting to identify herself sexually could also allow her some time to grow, so if she does ultimately identify as homosexual, she will be better equipped to handle it. Either way, she will be a fuller, more rounded person. Encourage her in her many interests and talents. These years are about finding herself AND making herself – focusing too much on one area of development could potentially hinder another.
You’ll do great, Mom.
The daughter said “I am attracted to girls and always have been.” That’s not a theory waiting for cancellation by future events, it is a fact about the way she is now. Any “Yeah, but” message that sounds like, “Maybe you’ll still grow out of it” is not going to be experienced as acceptance of who she is today.
Take a breath. All things work together for good. I’m a recovering Mormon, and now a Presbyterian living in the SF Bay area. I get along fine with my pioneer-stock family in Utah. Your daughter is going to be fine because you are a great mother. At this point, I’d give her a break and not make her go to church if she feels uncomfortable. Keep her happy and busy following her intellectual curiosity.
Best wishes, Jen
P.S. One of my Presbyloopian friends at church was distraught that her daughter was dating a girl in high school. In college she decided she liked men. She graduated, got married and now my friend is a grandmother.
Another friend’s son was going to the very exclusive catholic prep school in the area, Bellarmine. He declared himself gay. He’s now a Jr. at Berkeley and has declared himself straight. No matter, whatever she decides, she’d be nurtured in the Presbyterian USA church. We’re not into the authority thing. Church headquarters is in Louiseville, KY and we take everything with a grain of salt. We started ordaining gay/lesbian deacons and elders back in the 1980’s. If they don’t like it, too bad.
I am compelled to respond one last time to this important topic. The reason I think it IS so important is that it is a clear sign that many people who have said through the years that this “condition” is a choice have been completely proven to be wrong (for those that have ears to hear). Why is this important? It may say that many church leaders (you know, those that said polygamy was the only way to get to the highest degree of heaven, those that said that Blacks would never receive the priesthood, and now many who say that acting out on homosexual desires are an abomination to “God”…) are not as perfectly inspired as we may have thought.
Trying to reconcile reality with what church leaders say can be a challenging step in mental gymnastics…at the least. I invite any who struggle with this — or any other church teaching — to consider that perhaps “God” may have given each of us just as much authority and ability to know the answers to these questions as any church leader claims to have.
Just a thought to ponder
I’m not one who rejects the idea that some people can be born with homosexual tendencies, but I also don’t think that all 12-year-olds who wonder if they are gay really are. As such, I think it’s wrong to assume that all who express such a concern should automatically be treated as though their sexuality is set in stone. To be sensitive? Yes, of course. But I do believe there can often be an interplay of both nature AND nurture in all of this. I have some personal experience with this.
I was a young teen when I found out my uncle was gay and I went through a time where I wondered if maybe I was homosexual, too. I expressed my feelings to my dad (who was also my bishop through most of my teen years – we had a very close relationship), and he just responded with love but didn’t make a huge deal out of it. I ended up discovering on my own over time that I was not a lesbian.
I’m extremely grateful my dad 1) didn’t chastise me for what I shared, but also 2) didn’t make the world revolve around that concern or have that concern automatically define me or define the way he parented me..because it ended up not being what defined me or my life. But I’m not at all convinced that I wouldn’t have struggled a lot *more* in my life if he had somehow started assuming that I must be homosexual and started “helping me try to deal with that reality.”
I agree with those who say that teens can be pliable. I think there can also be a sort of continuum of sexuality; I don’t think it’s abnormal at all, especially for teens, to feel attraction for both sexes at one time or another (agreeing with a commenter above who said that adolescence includes a lot of different sexual feelings).
I also liked what someone said about helping her learn to lean on God.
To this mom who posed the question, I would urge you to also lean on God for guidance about how to respond to your daughter. Again I will say that I believe my parents would have created more problems and confusion for me had they started labeling me as homosexual and trying to help me ‘deal’ with something that didn’t really end up being my reality. My feelings and questions were real, but I still had a lot of life to live to discover more about myself.
Trust the Spirit can help you know what is best in this situation with your daughter, and with how to best support and love her — not only with this question but also with all the many others she will have while she is in your home.
Dallin H. Oaks has some interesting ideas in Love and Law.
All I can say is that too often in the church when people are really struggling and need help and support we abandon them. We don’t remain friends, keep in touch, or associate at the precise time they need our friendship, contact and association.
I don’t know what causes gayness but it often begins at such a young age as to seem not to be much of a choice. And often gay latter day saints are extraordinary people commendable and remarkable in every other aspect of their lives except for the one regarding their sexual orientation.
I struggle with this issue because chastity and family are such central aspects of LDS theology. If we allow same sex relations outside of the bonds of marriage as defined by the church then everything we teach about marriage and family and chastity is called into question.
I would stay close to this daughter no matter what happens. Since she has been so open and honest about her feelings how could one be upset at that.
@Anonymous. “If we allow same sex relations outside of the bonds of marriage as defined by the church then everything we teach about marriage and family and chastity is called into question.”
I think that’s precisely the point. Honestly, in a day and age when we know far more about biology, including human reproduction, than ever before, maybe everything we teach about chastity needs re-examination.
I believe it was Brigham Young who once said that life began when a woman could feel the baby move inside her. We now know that’s ridiculous and have the ultrasounds to see every little heartbeat and budding organ from about eight weeks’ gestation. Now that we are at a stage of human evolution when we know how to prevent unwanted pregnancies, perhaps there really isn’t anything wrong with two responsible, mature adults consentually engaging in a loving physical relationship when they are taking all precautions to prevent creating a baby until they are prepared to rear it. In a homosexual relationship, the partners certainly aren’t in danger of creating a baby, so one could argue that they’re even more in keeping with God’s will than two heterosexuals who are using birth control, which still has a slight chance of failing.
Honestly, as someone who waited until after my temple sealing to consummate my marriage, I’m glad I didn’t take sex lightly. I saw far too many people in college make some pretty regrettable decisions, which often resulted in a rollercoaster of self-esteem issues. However, I have asked myself, “Would my marriage today really be any worse off had I had sexually intimate relationships with any of the three or four serious boyfriends I had had prior to meeting my husband?” The answer is “No.” Likewise, I think that a responsible mother will try to teach her how to have high self-esteem and enter into romantic relationships that are healthy, be they lesbian or straight. There are healthy & unhealthy celibate relationships and healthy & unhealthy sexual relationships. The point is to seek healthy relationships that enhance one’s self-worth, regardless of the sex. Furthermore, I hope this daughter can find a church (LDS or not) that can affirm her self-worth just the way she is.
Your child is a son or daughter of God. We are created in God’s image and are his spirit children, with the divine potential to become like him in the flesh through the atonement.
Gay or straight (hetero or homsexual) are terms created by men. They attempt to describe certain behaviors but when we apply them to ourselves as a part of our identity, we are making a mistake.
Please don’t make a mistake with your daughter by letting a term used to describe sexual behavior or attraction determine who she is and what she must do.
@chris — Your sexual orientation isn’t part of your identity? I’m interested in how you arrive at that conclusion. While I would agree with the recommendation that this 12 year old not be too quick lock herself into a predetermined path, suggesting that sexual orientation is not part of one’s identity is ludicrous. Sexual orientation determines friendship, dating, courtship, marriage, and family patterns. If those are not a part of our individual identities than maybe you can clarify what “identity” means to you.
I told you what it means to me. We are created in God’s image. That is our identity. The things you add and subtract from that are created by flawed men (and women) who live very fallen lives.
Chris, are you saying that we are all little God photocopies and that any diversity we have is due to our failings? This perspective might be the source of the belief that those whose lifestyles diverge from the majority are thereby exhibiting the effects of their “fallen lives.” From here it is a very short step to seeing homosexuality as a flaw and gay people as deviants to be condemned.
Chris, you are right in your caution about labels to attach to onesself. It (gay or lesbian) is, however, only one of the labels she might attach to herself in her lifetime. Mormon might be one of those, Lawyer might be one of those, Mother might be one of those, Friend might be one of those, Skater might be one of those, and Girl is one of those. Some of the labels are things we choose, and some of them are just descriptive. She has little choice over girl, or daughter. She just is those things. Others she can choose like Mormon, Friend, Mother, Lawyer, or so forth. She is starting down the path to finding out who she is and who she chooses to be. She will add and remove labels as she sees fit and feels comfortable with them. Labels are not in and of themselves toxic, but the meaning we attach to them can be. She will experiment with those labels and some will be transitory, and some will be permanent. How many 45 year old skaters do you know? I say let her choose which feels good and right for her, and help her to see what each label does for her, and how she chooses to use it. Identity is her prime developmental task right now, and choosing or identifying her labels are part of that. “Letting” her use a term makes it more about parental control, rather than choice. Be careful about what you choose to control in your children. If it is about behavior, that is one thing, if it is about something they can’t control, that is another thing entirely, and it will lead to hopelessness, and identity diffusion.
SKE, bless your hearts.
Thankfully, so many, many younger folks accept their lesbian, gay, and heterosexual friends equally. Also, in a recent poll of young people who had left their churches of all types, the number one reason was the church’s anti-homosexuality.
Early in life, I was attracted to women. At 25, I married a man. After we divorced, for the next 20 years or so, I was with women and thought I was a lesbian. In my early 50s, I began a relationship with a man, and we’ve been together 15 years now.
I seem to be attracted to a person’s inner self. Sometimes, that inner self is in a man’s body; sometimes a woman’s.
With that context, a couple of options to consider:
1. If you use the terminology your daughter uses, currently “attracted to girls,” you meet her on her level. She may not think of herself as a lesbian, a gay, or any other label. If her terminology changes in the future, change with her.
2. Ask her what you can do that would feel supportive to her. Exception: If she doesn’t bring it up, ask if she’d like to take a break from church activities. “Taking a break” avoids having to make a final decision.
How horrid she’s crying after a church group. Wrong. Wrong.
If you can’t honor a request for support, you two can talk about why. Maybe together, you’ll discover another way you can support her need.
3. Why would she need to go to therapy to talk about her attractions? We don’t take our heterosexual children to explore and clarify theirs. Your daughter’s perfect right this very minute.
She might see it as a wretched consequence of confiding in you, and her trust in you might be shaken.
4. Likewise, keep her away from authorities and others in your church. What’s to talk about? What would it accomplish? Message: I’m so bad I have to go talk to that man. She’s just fine, and that experience would run the risk of causing long-term emotional damage to you both, but especially to her.
She might regret telling you and think it’s not safe to tell you important things.
5. Keep yourself away from church people unless you know for sure positive they’d be genuinely supportive and would keep information about your daughter in absolute, complete, ironclad confidence. Sometimes people break confidences “for your own good.”
6. Get support for yourself – whatever feels supportive to you. 🙂
When I was attracted to girls in the ’50s, I knew better than to tell anyone. If I had and someone had told me I might be attracted to men when I got older, I would have felt judged and rejected. Message: You don’t think my attraction to girls is okay. You don’t accept me the way I am.
We don’t tell heterosexual children and young adults they might outgrow their attractions.
And if my mother had taken me to therapy because I liked girls – total shame and self-loathing: I have to go to THERAPY(!!!!!!!) because I told my mom. She thinks something’s wrong with me and wants me to change. My mom!!
Or worse – there’s something wrong with me and I have to make myself change. If only I hadn’t told her!
I get it if none of this fits your situation. And you seem to be a person who makes good decisions.
All the best to you and your daughter,
First and foremost, I respect your willingness to share your experience with me and everyone else on this blog. I think what you went through is informative, and I also appreciate your final statement of respect for the mom who posed the initial question. i agree with you that she has shown a great deal of wisdom in her initial concerns, and desire for her daughter to be healthy and happy.
I would suggest one critique: I disagree with your notion to shield a young person from criticism, or church leaders, or from contrary viewpoints, and suggesting that seeing a therapist/counselor/social worker is not an immediate label that something is wrong with someone. It is a social stigma, but it’s an incorrect one, and we should work to overcome it, not perpetuate it. There was a time when the APA referred to homosexuality in two terms: egodystonic and egosystonic. Political pressure led to the removal of the terms, which I think was a disservice to many. Egodystonic suggests that a person has urges, desires or motivations that they do not want to have (i.e. I am a man who feels that I’m attracted to other men, but I don’t want to act on those feelings), whereas egosystonic is the opposite. Egodystony allows a person to say, at least initially, this is where I’d like to go with this process. As has been said multiple times in this discussion, there is great importance in allowing an individual to see both sides of the decision they make; guidance from a parent or therapist or church leader should involve a frank discussion of what the individual is experiencing, respect for their point of view, as well as an acknowledgement of where they are in their psychological development. I am not so naive as to think that all therapists will approach this issue in the appropiate way, nor any church leaders (or parents for that matter). I hope that the current environment in the church is allowing for greater discussion of these issues, and the upcoming generation will shed many of the inappropriate prejudices that the previous one held (just like my generation has begun to do with the prior generation’s views on race), but generalizing that some are ignorant, or cruel, or just uninformed, and therefore this mother and her daughter should avoid contact with anyone who would suggest any other opinion or framework of thinking is just as or more damaging. They need the opportunity to understand and comprehend
Why is it that when a person suggests that they want to live a different way than LDS doctrine proscribes, there are those who say that they should be free to do what they want… and then not also explore with the person the consequences of those actions? There are both temporal and eternal reprocussions from decisions made, and we should work to understand them when we make any decision.
I don’t think it will be easy for this mom and her daughter to find a counselor and an eccelsiastical leader who have the frame of reference that will best allow her to understand who she is, where she is in her life, and where she wants to go, but that doesn’t mean that she should abandon the effort, because I would suggest that when they do find the right people, it will be of great value to them. Again, I offer my most hearty respect to SKE and the family she’s working to develop, and my hopes and prayers that she will continue to be a mother who guides and fosters the eternal development of her daughter in a way that is pleasing to Heavenly Father–because in the eternal perspective that is what will bring both of them peace and happiness.
Thad, you are right that we shouldn’t shield our children from criticism or contrary viewpoints…not always. However, when the viewpoint the child has is “I am ok as I am,” and the contrary viewpoint is, “No, you are gay (or black, or deaf, or in a wheelchair, etc,, etc.) and therefore NOT ok as you are,” then it is absolutely appropriate to do some shielding.
Serena’s good advice concerns taking care of gay children in a cruel, unaccepting world. Not all LDS leaders have been part of that cruelty, but they are guided by the official position of LDS, which is inimical to acceptance of the gay identity. We can’t protect our children perfectly, but we can keep them out of neighborhoods where they are most likely to get beat up for who they are. The message that you are different from the rest of us good folk and there will be negative “eternal repercussions” if you act on that difference is brass knuckles to a child’s stomach, no matter how sweetly someone tries to deliver the punch.
My heart goes out to you and your daughter. Our son told us he was gay shortly after his 18th birthday. He left the church immediately after his announcement, and now lives with his partner. The last two and one-half years have been an agonizing journey of self-discovery and questioning for me and my husband–and some of the biggest questions remain unanswered at this point.
My best advice: follow your heart in regards to your daughter. For awhile I tried to find a way to blend what Mormonism suggests and what my son needed from me. I couldn’t–it was too contradictory. For example, the church suggests: Love your son, but don’t do anything that would seem to suggest condoning the lifestyle, like eating at restaurants together, taking family trips together, inviting the partner to be part of family pictures, etc. How can you love you child on one hand, and exclude him/her from all normal family activities on the other? I couldn’t do it, and it left me feeling like a Pharisee, counting how many steps I had taken on Sunday to make sure I hadn’t broken some rule.
So I threw that suggestion out, and fully embraced my son and his partner. They are part of our lives–my husband and I do any and everything with them that we do with our daughter who was married in the temple. As soon as I made that decision, a huge chasm in my heart cleaved shut. I felt like a loving mom, a daughter of god, and I felt more whole.
As to the rest of the challenges, I haven’t found answers to most of them. Neither my husband nor I have been able to make our son’s reality work with the way Mormonism thinks it should work. The Mormon ideal doesn’t seem to have any connection to my son’s real life, or mine, for that matter. Sitting on the bench singing “Families can be together forever” doesn’t quite solve the gay Mormon dilemma. So I’m looking for other ways to resolve the issue.
Bottom line: love your daughter fiercely–the “rules” be damned–and you and she will somehow both be OK.
Laura, I would suggest that when you say, “follow your heart”, I would offer that you’re saying, “follow the guidance of the Spirit.” You state that “the church suggests: Love your son, but don’t do anything that would seem to suggest condoning the lifestyle, like eating at restaurants together, taking family trips together, inviting the partner to be part of family pictures, etc.” I see nothing in the church that suggests or offers this guidance–if a leader gave you that advice, they were misinformed. As an appropriate guide, I like to picture Christ eating with the publicans and “sinners” as the elite described them (Luke 5:27-32). Nothing in Christ’s actions or discussion suggested that He accepted any possible “sins” that those individuals might have committed; he was with them, interacted with them, and shared of himself with them completely because He loved them. I would offer that your decision to open your heart to your son, and be a part of his life is doing EXACTLY what Christ (and therefore His church) would want you to do; this may be at odds with the perspective of some imperfect people in the church, but it isn’t to them that you must account to.
I’m not suggesting this would be easy. I don’t think that always feeling good and happy is the recipe to knowing that decisions in life are the right ones. I’m convinced that it was shattering to Nephi to leave his brothers and take away his influence and the teachings of the Gospel from them–otherwise he would have left long before (consider what he put up with from them). However, Nephi also recognized that there was more to his decision than just his love for his brothers, and he saw an eternal perspective. I use this analogy only to suggest that doing what is good and right does not always mean feeling happiness or joy. It is painful to have a steadfast faith and belief in something that you feel will bring eternal happiness to yourself and others, and to see someone you love reject it–but that doesn’t take away the veracity of the rightness of something. Ideally, doing what is right doesn’t mean removing yourself from the life of someone you love because they’re making choices you don’t agree with–I think it’s often better because you’re able to foster your relationship with them, and if there is a chance to share with them the happiness you’ve found, then that’s a great thing.
Laura, you love your son, you’ve embraced him, just as SKE has embraced her daughter, and that’s what the Head of the LDS church wants. That’s what He taught and teaches.
Thad, you’re getting there. Now, when you stop comparing gays to “publicans and sinners,” and the church leadership stops saying condescending phrases like “struggles with same-sex attraction,” (I don’t consider my opposite sex attraction as a struggle at all — I quite enjoy it — as healthy homosexuals enjoy their natural attraction to those of the same sex), then we’ll begin to really believe that you, and others that claim such might actually LOVE homosexuals. Unconditionally.
Rick, I hope I’m already there, but I guess you and I would disagree on that. I try my best to love and accept everyone around me. I think it’s unfair to suggest that because a person feels urges or inclinations, that they should act on them, and just give in, whether they feel it’s right or not–that the intensity of “who they are” should dictate who they want to be.
If an individual feels right in living as a homosexual, then I will accept them. However, if they feel they identify as a homosexual, but don’t wish to act upon it, then I would accept that as well; if I could help either, I would do what I could to do so within the framework of what I feel is right.
I can’t speak to how someone feels who has this as part of their life. But I think it’s wrong to say that the only path is to accept and act upon urges. I believe that part of our life is to try to rein in most of our urges, either to some degree of moderation, or a complete abstinence. I do so because of my faith; I don’t ask others to do the same, but I do believe that it is what Heavenly Father wants of all of His children.
Thad, I understand the standard response so many Mormons give relating to “controlling urges.” Of course, 99% of those that feel that is what is appropriate for those “struggling with same-sex attraction” are heterosexuals. Let’s talk about your term, “urges” for a minute.
As an active Mormon, I spent most of my first Sundays of the month fasting, as I’d been instructed to do most of my life. It wasn’t easy, but I always knew I could do it because I would eventually be able to eat.
Also as a believing Mormon, I “saved myself” for marriage as I’d been taught growing up. Again, not easy, but I anticipated the day I could enjoy complete loving relations with my wife, who had also saved herself for the same.
Now, without quoting a bunch of studies and church leader’s quotes, let’s look at some relatively recent history on the subject of homosexuality cause. A few decades ago, many scientists and healthcare professional believed that homosexuality was a result of nurture, not nature. As such, it was changable, with appropriate therapy. One of the pioneers in changing this attitude, perhaps ironically, was Prof. Bill Bradshaw of BYU. His research shows much of the biology of the developmental process of the condition…and it is a spectrum from 0 – 100%, SSA to OSA — only changeable in the rare few that have tendencies in the middle of the spectrum, with any long-term success. Why is this important?
The paradigm of “SSA” being a choice allows for religious believers to hold to the heretofore concept that God didn’t cause the condition, it was (generally) accepted to be a sinful act or thought that caused this “abomination.” Spencer Kimball (and many others) went so far as to even declare that masturbation was the cause.
But since a Mormon scientist — and a very respected leader in the church –recently began teaching a very different story, it has caused the conflict we have today. Would God really allow, and even create this condition? Would he expect 3 – 5% of his children to remain celibate their entire lives, never experiencing the satisfaction of bonding with a partner they have come to love and want to share everything with? Anybody with a heart and soul MUST pause at this obvious contradiction from a loving Creator.
Yes, this is the position church leaders are asking of members today. As conflicted as many are, they see no other choice…either believe, and teach consistently with many previous prophets, or face the same sort of backlash and scrutiny they did with the blatant change of doctrine regarding the blacks and the priesthood, and the earlier change about the necessity of plural marriage to attain the highest degree of heaven. Perhaps this approach, as hard-hearted as it may seem, is the lesser of two evils.
Or is it? Is it more important to “be consistent” and avoid the PR backlash surely to come if we have another dramatic change of doctrine again? Is it more timely to remain in line with the other Christian Churches today, standing by the scornful words we read in in Leviticus and elsewhere (even though we/they all seem to ignore other obvious outdated rules…)?
Or is it once again time to get on knees and plead for guidance as to what the loving answer is? What is more in tune with the proclamation of the family — to shun those that were born homosexual, to tell them that they are loved, but the “urges” they have constantly may never be acted upon? There is a reason “we” have such a high suicide rate among our LGBT population in the church, you know.
Picture a gay couple in love — committing to each other to love and support the other throughout life, and even eternity. Picture the happiness they might feel when they are allowed to partake of ALL the same blessing and ordinances that you and I believe are important. Maybe that’s how the people of color felt a few decades ago. Does that picture seem evil to you?
Maybe it’s time to extend the same blessings to everybody. Again.
You mentioned, “Would he expect 3 – 5% of his children to remain celibate their entire lives, never experiencing the satisfaction of bonding with a partner they have come to love and want to share everything with? Anybody with a heart and soul MUST pause at this obvious contradiction from a loving Creator.” Your point is well taken, and obviously comes from your heart. I applaud you for this. You believe in a Creator who is loving, and would only ask of His children that which would bring them happiness. I would suggest to you that perhaps He might just expect this from them. I don’t know. I don’t know how one with SSA is to navigate this life. I do have faith that obedience to God is the way to eternal happiness. The scriptures are replete with stories of good people who have relatively unhappy lives, so I’m convinced that while it’s possible to be good and have a happy life, it is not necessarily a causal relationship, and not necessarily the goal that is intended. Assuming that there is a trial to be experienced in this life, and assuming that each of us, as individuals, will experience different trials that relate to the different qualities that we need to develop to become like our Father, then I can’t rule out the possibility that this may be one of those experiences for someone to experience.
If God loved me, why would He let my child die from cancer? If He loved me, why would He take away my parents when I need them in my life? If He loved me, why would He make me be born in poverty and destitution while others have plenty from no work of their own? If He loved me, why would He give me a genetic code that resulted in me experiencing debilitating depression, or addiction to alcohol or gambling, or make me born blind? Why would a loving God create a world so imperfect, so full of suffering, and then additionally place expectations that we must not act on some appetites?
Your example of fasting relates somewhat, but you’re right, there is the anticipation of being able to eat at some point. Similarly, Heavenly Father states clearly that ALL blessings will be ours. I am not dictating this to others; I believe this because I have faith that it is what God teaches. I have no desire to force my beliefs on another, but I will share with them what I believe to be right, no matter how imperfect I may be.
I’m sure I’ve been poor in accurately reflecting my faith, and my imperfect love for others in my multiple posts. Yet I still appreciate very much all of the input that others have offered. I see this issue differently, and better now, and I really hope that if I’m faced with helping another dealing with this experience, I’ll be able to provide them first with the knowledge that they’re loved and accepted, that they can talk to me and not find judgment, and that I might be a resource to help them find what will bring them lasting happiness–but that’s between them and God, and I hope I’ll never interfere with a decision they should be making with their Father, and love them despite what I think…
Thanks Thad…I appreciate your thoughtful comments. Yes, we probably see this from different angles, and that’s okay. Wouldn’t life be boring if we didn’t have other opinions to challenge us?!
I absolutely agree that we don’t know the mind of the creator. I submit that we may not even know much of “His” nature. History shows us, even within the short history of the LDS church, that the prophets have either been wrong many times about “His” will, or “He” has changed his mind.
It is for this reason that if I err, I want to err on the side of equality and love. I’m sure you know the vast divide even in LDS leadership today regarding the cause and approach to homosexuality. Just as prior prophets testified of the inferiority of the people of color, I see the possibility again today of some getting their inspiration wires crossed regarding these loving and beautiful people. I can’t fault them — they are doing the best they can with what they’ve been given.
I’ve long since shed the need to judge those that are different than I…and certainly can’t know what is the right thing for them to do as it relates to the modern rules in religion. But I trust my heart today, and feel that God may actually be once again using this issue as a way to bring us to our knees and look for the answer He is wanting us to hear.
well said, and thanks. i am hopeful that most, including our prophets, are doing their best to look at this issue with an evolving love, as they come to better understand the circumstances. i become more and more grateful that Heavenly Father doesn’t force feed uson how to care for and love one another. it can be frustrating, and i can appreciate that at some level it would be nice for Him to just come out and let us know what we should do, but at the same time, that seems to me that it would disrupt the whole purpose of this life. I appreciate your value judgment to try and err on the side of love an compassion–an excellent choice. i hope i can do the same.
My daughter came out when she was 18 and it was a shock for her father and I. There was never any indication that she was gay. But she said she had these feelings as early as 12. It is a journey for both parent and child. There are so many emotions at various times. So many questions on how to handle it all so that no one is left hurting. There are two books I would recommend reading – one by Carol Lynn Pearson called Circling Our Wagons around our Gay Loved Ones and another I just recently read titled, Voices of Hope. Both were very eye opening for me as a parent and helped me to navigate alot of what I was feeling. We love our daugther, and I very much want her to always be a part of our lives no matter if we tend to see things differently. Boundaries are set and respected and in return I feel that we openly discuss and talk about SSA with her to validate what she feels and we work forward in this journey together…learning from one another and teaching one another as we go.
I think that everyone who’s commented on this thread has a sincere desire to love people in general, and is concerned about the well-being of this 12-year-old girl and her mother in particular. I hope that we can all see those motives in other people’s comments, even if we don’t agree with their approach.
The main disagreement seems to come from what the best way to love this girl would be. For those who are less convinced of the doctrines of the Church, the course of action seems clear: encourage this girl to find a path that she feels comfortable with. If she’s attracted to members of her same sex, then encourage her to embrace that identity. This will eliminate distress and allow her to be her true, complete self. Which is the most compassionate, loving thing anyone could do for her.
For those of us who believe in the doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the course of action is equally clear: encourage this girl to develop a relationship with her Father in Heaven–to understand her divine, eternal potential as His daughter. Someone who has infinite worth and whom God loves in a way we can’t comprehend. Because He loves her, he wants her to have everything He has–not just salvation but exaltation. To be an eternally progressing, powerful Daughter who will have the opportunity to live in God’s presence and forever be involved in God’s work–which is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of God’s children. When she aligns her spirit with true principles, when her mind and heart are illuminated by the Holy Ghost, and she actively receives what God is extending to her–then this will bring her peace and allow her to be her true, complete self. Encouraging her in this way is the most compassionate, loving thing anyone could do for her.
I’m in the second camp, but I can see how reasonable the first camp is–and how compassionate it is from the perspective of those who subscribe to its underlying assumptions. My own advice would be to encourage this girl, who seems brave and perceptive, to delve into a partnership with the Holy Ghost to act on Alma 32 and see if that seed of faith grows. And if it grows–to keep nourishing it so that it will keep bearing fruit. And if it does, and if she feels that what she wants is what the gospel has to offer–that she’ll know she can also rely on the Holy Ghost and the support of the gospel community to figure out a way to stay and be at peace. It is possible. She might have to be a pioneer–but there are many others who have shared a similar journey: http://northstarlds.org/
May god bless you on your journey.
Thank you for this comment.
As a thirteen year old girl, I accidentally put my parents through this with their non-Mormon but equally resistant religion. I’m now mid-30s, heterosexual, and married with kids.
I’m not saying that you should turn your daughter straight. I’m saying that it is too early to cram her in a box, and she shouldn’t have to be crammed in a box so young by a bigoted anyone.
I am impressed to tears at how loving and open your relationship is with your daughter. I hope my daughter feels the same for me. I hope you can shower your daughter in love and support, maintain your daughter’s trust, and I hope you can tell her and show her and really make her believe that you will do whatever you have to do in order to protect her, even if that means changing her or even your faith. I mean it. It was the best thing my parents ever did for me, I never would have asked them to do it, and it turned out to have saved them as well.
I found this today and thought of you: http://www.joshweed.com/2012/06/club-unicorn-in-which-i-come-out-of.html?spref=fb
You and your daughter are in my thoughts and prayers. I know what it’s like to grow up in the Church and be different in some way. Best of luck to you both.
In addition to the blog Wade shared there was this article in the LDS Living magazine.
I don’t know that there is anyone who doesn’t know someone who is affected by these things. I think its safe to say we all love them. There are things in this life we all must overcome.
I realize that this will not be the most popular comment on here, but as others have stated, there are several ways that one can respond in such a situation. This Mother is looking for advice from the perspective of a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. So those of you who are saying that true happiness for her daughter can only be found if she leaves the church to act on her feelings don’t understand the gospel. Anyone’s best chance for happiness in this life is through following the teachings of Christ. There is no exception to that, though it is popular to believe otherwise.
Matt 11:29-30: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me…For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” If we are willing to take upon the yoke of the gospel by following it’s teachings, it may seem like a burden (as a yoke implies) but the burden will be light! Never underestimate the miracles that a loving Heavenly Father can perform in our lives. I’m not saying that these attractions may be magically removed – but that he can help us through all sorrow/lonliness/frustrations/temptations that we feel.
My best advice would be to consult the bishop. Some bishops probably respond to this situation better than others but hopefully he can show her love and acceptance and help her know how to proceed within the teachings of the gospel. Every situation is different, but just because she finds herself attracted to women does not mean teachings about the temple and eternal families no longer apply to her. The bishop can help her see that.
When I first read this post, my knee-jerk reaction to the daughter’s distress over temple lessons was that we need to re-direct the focus on the temple for this young woman. Yes, the temple is about eternal families. Yes, we perform sealings in the temple. But we also perform endowments. Endowments are personal. They are ordinances unto themselves. They impart great blessings to the individual. Perhaps Mom needs to help her daughter understand that temple marriage is not the only function of the temple and that she does, indeed, have a place in the Holy of Holies.
Teach her how to receive answers to prayers. Help her gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon. And most importantly, keep the lines of communication open. My heart is full of compassion for this young woman who feels out of place because in my own way, I’ve been there. She is not alone!
This is a reply to Thad Barkdull, who commented on my post a few posts ago. Thad, you say that “You state that ‘the church suggests: Love your son, but don’t do anything that would seem to suggest condoning the lifestyle, like eating at restaurants together, taking family trips together, inviting the partner to be part of family pictures, etc.’ I see nothing in the church that suggests or offers this guidance–if a leader gave you that advice, they were misinformed.”
Well, Thad, that advice came from none other than Dallin H. Oaks. The following quote comes from the Church’s “Official Statement on Same-Gender Attraction.”
Here it is, word-for-word:
“PUBLIC AFFAIRS: At what point does showing that love cross the line into inadvertently endorsing behavior? If the son says, ‘Well, if you love me, can I bring my partner to our home to visit? Can we come for holidays?’ How do you balance that against, for example, concern for other children in the home?’
ELDER OAKS: That’s a decision that needs to be made individually by the person responsible, calling upon the Lord for inspiration. I can imagine that in most circumstances the parents would say, ‘Please don’t do that. Don’t put us into that position.’ Surely if there are children in the home who would be influenced by this example, the answer would likely be that. There would also be other factors that would make that the likely answer.
I can also imagine some circumstances in which it might be possible to say, ‘Yes, come, but don’t expect to stay overnight. Don’t expect to be a lengthy house guest. Don’t expect us to take you out and introduce you to our friends, or to deal with you in a public situation that would imply our approval of your “partnership.”
There are so many different circumstances, it’s impossible to give one answer that fits all.”
So there you have it. Despite Oaks’s caveat at the end of “it’s impossible to give one answer that fits all,” I would suggest that the general tenor of the response is that you should love your child, but that you shouldn’t do ANYTHING that would “imply our approval of your ‘partnership.'” (Again–Elder Oak’s words.) This is definitely a suggestion that parents do NOT publicly embrace their gay children. The fact that he puts the word “partnership” in quotes shows disdain for the idea (quote marks can be used to indicate irony–thus, he sees even the idea of a “partnership” as something so ironic and unthinkable that it can’t even stand on its own as a legitimate word!)
Thad–you feel and think just like I did BEFORE I found out my son was gay. Trust me–such a revelation, should it ever come to you, will completely change your world-view. No longer can I be content with platitudes such as “Just follow the Brethren, and all will be well.” Nope. It’s just not true. This issue is so much more complex than most people will every understand.
I choose to embrace my son publicly IN SPITE of what the Church has said, not BECAUSE of it.
My hope is that someday they truly will embrace the gay members of the Church instead of paying lip-service to it with convoluted answers like the one from Elder Oaks quoted above.
Laura, thanks for your response. I see this quotation differently. When I read what you’ve quoted, I see Elder Oaks trying to say that each family should rely on the Spirit and follow what the Spirit dictates. He offered some hypothetical circumstances, but I don’t see that he placed any added emphasis on one response vs. the other. His quotation of partnership could mean a myriad of things, but I would suggest its safe to say that Elder Oaks beleives that Heavenly Father doesn’t feel that those with same sex attractions should have physical, intimate relationships. Hence, he does not advocate a partnership of that implied nature, and therefore refers to it with quotations to imply that he doesn’t agree. Disagreement with a person’s actions doesn’t absolutely mean that Elder Oaks or anyone else can’t love a person.
I appreciate your perspective; perhaps you are right, perhaps I will change my perspective one day. I am open to go wherever truth takes me. I can love my children, my sister, my parents, my friends no matter what choices they make and how they feel about them. I feel no need to make my love and my friendship conditional upon agreeing with everything that another person does. They must make their way back to Heavenly Father, and if they want my advice, counsel, I’m there. They’ll get my love whether they want it or not.
Yes, Laura, it is frustrating when someone says something like, “I see nothing in the church that suggests or offers this guidance.” However, sometimes you have to take “yes” for an answer, even when it is phrased as a “no.” It is very difficult for most people to say, “YES, you are right; what I [or we] said was wrong.” Instead they say, “NO, I [we] we never said that.” This doesn’t quite feel like a victory, but if you think about it, it really is, and there is no need to continue the conversation. The old position has been abandoned, and that is enough.
Of course in this case you are quite right to bring forth Elder Oaks’ statement because the “old” position has not yet been officially abandoned by LDS. Unfortunately there is a long way to go and the current, toxic, anti-gay attitude fostered by official LDS policy is very destructive to families. Leaders like you who choose to proudly and publicly embrace their children make all the difference.
When I was 12, I told my parents I was a lesbian. They both told me how much they loved me, and how happy they were that I’d come to them. My dad told me that all he wanted was for me to be happy. He bore his testimony of the happiness he’d found in the church. Later, he told me that he wasn’t convinced I could be happy in a same sex relationship. For the next 5 years or so, I struggled to accept my parents love, though they tried constantly to show their love for me. I left the church shortly after my “coming out.” When I was an adult, I was promiscuous with people of both genders, and I got pregnant. The best decision I ever made was to marry the father of my child and eventually be sealed to my family in the temple.
My husband knows exactly what he got into when he proposed to me. Although there is not the same sexual attraction to my husband that I’ve had with the women I’ve been with, I love him more than I can say. I’ve had a difficult journey, but I am a happy, active member of the church now. I am so grateful to my parents that, even though it must have broken their hearts to see the choices I was making, they still openly loved me.
The only advice I can give to this mom is to show love for her daughter, no matter what choices she makes. I don’t know where I’d be without the love of my parents (even though it took years and years for me to learn to accept and appreciate it).
I think this is a perfect example of the need to not too quickly apply labels, but rather apply love, compassion, and an understanding that despite a “parting of ways on belief”, that that never trumps love and support. Thank you for sharing this, anonymous.
After just hearing about this blog, I decided to take a look. What I see is interesting. As a member of the LDS Church, this throws me off my feet. I can see the other POVs presented here. Some things that are shown seem a little out there. Either way I support free speech, although this seems perpendicular to my way of thought, I’ll bear it. Maybe not grin, but bear it.
How about telling your 12 year old that it is normal to feel drawn to other girls-girls tend to bond at this age….but it does not mean she is gay. Girls are neat, and it’s easy to relate to another female at this age rather than goofy obnoxious boys.. To me, 12 years old is too young to be thinking sexually-especially as it pertains to their orientation. All of you who are so quick to accept that this young girl is gay probably forgot how close your relationship to the same sex was at this age. You literally share EVERYTHING with your friends and admire and love them because you identify and usually see the same traits in them within yourself. 12 years old is a time of discovering and accepting yourself-not trying to declare your sexual orientation-when “sex” shouldn’t even be your focus right now. No wonder our kids are sooo confused-we forgot how to teach them that there “now” doesn’t last forever. Give yourself and that child time to fully develop their “own” mind (because physically their mind/cranium isn’t even completed). Also remember how easy it is to be influenced by society’s “what’s cool and what’s trendy” versus really looking into themselves and seeing what they are made of. A butterfly was never intended to be anything other than a butterfly-despite it’s dramatic change- it was always designed to be a butterfly.
Please research what the general authorities of the LDS church say about gay youth before you judge the Mormon faith. It was said During general conference last weekend to love them and pray for them no matter what they choose. Let the doctrine speak for its self, don’t pay attention to what random people have to say. Love your child no matter what, and they will find their way.
That is a very hard thing to tell your parents. You should be very proud of her. I’m 12, and I’m openly gay to my family and friends. I have always been “out”. When I was in kindergarten, I told my mom I didn’t like guys, she told me that was okay. I’ve always known, it was very hard for me going to an all girls catholic school, I couldn’t tell anybody, and I didn’t talk anything about it for those two years that I was there. I’m openly gay at school. As long as she has you and her friends, she’ll get through it. Tell her to be strong. She has an amazing story.
Give her the same advice you would if she was attracted to boys with regard to serious relationships at the age of 12: Take your time, don’t get in a hurry, enjoy being a kid.