This article is taken from a talk given by Elder Bruce C. Hafen. He was addressing an Evergreen International conference. To see the full transcript of Elder Hafen’s talk, including his references, click here.
As difficult as same-gender attraction is, feeling that attraction does not mean that a person is flawed, either temporarily or permanently. “Whenever the adversary tries to convince you that you are hopelessly ‘that way,’ so that acting out your feelings is inevitable, he is lying. He is the father of lies.”
Some may wonder whether even Christ can sympathize or empathize with this kind of trial. Elder Neal A. Maxwell has reminded us that Christ descended below all things, and that by doing so, He “earned empathy.” He knows that every day may feel like a major battle for you. The General Authorities of the Church remind all that the Lord judges us according the degree of our knowledge and the difficulty of our earthly trials. Elder Maxwell compared this to Olympic diving. The judges decide not only on the execution of a dive, but they also weigh the difficulty of the dive. Thus, it could be said that no two people are judged the same by the Lord. He not only knows our capacities, talents, and trials, but also our personalities thoroughly. For many, life is ”being made much harder these days by the increasing cultural confusion that now swirls around the topic of homosexuality.”
We must understand that gender was never intended to be a gray area. We had a specific male or female gender in the Pre-Mortal existence, and since families are intended to continue forever, we will have specific male or female gender and attractions in the eternities.
The Law of Chastity is unchanging, and that is why church policy will never change. The Lord has revealed through His prophets, both ancient and modern, that sexual behavior outside the bonds of marriage between a male and female is wickedness. This includes heterosexual behavior as well as homosexual behavior. “While same-gender attraction is not a sin, you need to resist cultivating immoral, lustful thoughts toward those of either gender. It’s no sin if a bird lands in your tree, just don’t let him build a nest there. No temptation is so strong that you can’t resist it, unless you have already given away some portion of your agency to a total addiction.”
“Focus on all the good things you may have put on hold—your education, career plans, social experience, and Church service. Stop focusing so much on yourself, including hating yourself, and spend more energy caring about other people. Build good associations with people of your own gender. Find a therapist who can help you identify the unmet emotional needs that you are tempted to satisfy in false sexual ways.”
“If you have engaged in immoral behavior, you need to repent fully by confessing your sins and forsaking them. These actions unlock the door to the Savior’s mercy, which allows your complete forgiveness. But if you feel an attraction you didn’t seek and haven’t acted on, you have nothing to repent of. The Atonement can heal us not only from sin, but also from carelessness, imperfection, and all mortal bitterness — intended and unintended.
“The blessings of the Atonement include its healing and compensating power when one has been separated from God by sin, by unintentional mistakes, or simply by adversity. I classify same-gender attraction within the category of ‘adversity,’ because typically you haven’t brought it upon yourselves. It has consequences similar to being harmed by the sins of others, such as the separation from God felt so commonly by the victims of childhood sexual abuse.”
“To those challenged by same-gender attraction, the Atonement offers two healing blessings. First, Christ helps us draw on His strength to become more “at-one” with God even while still overcoming the attraction. He helps us bear the burden of our afflictions. As a second healing blessing, the Atonement enables the grace that assures us of this grand promise: No eternal blessing—including marriage and family life—will be withheld from those who suffer same-gender attraction, if they do ‘all they can do’ to remain faithful always.”
Some Historical Background of the Gay Movement
“Today’s cultural and legal climate is making your challenge much harder than it would otherwise be.” Elder Hafen began teaching family law in the early 1970’s, when civil rights movements were pressing forward for equality. “During that period, almost no one considered people with homosexual attraction as a distinctive demographic group (like race or gender) who were the victims of discrimination. The main legal goal of gay activists then was to eliminate criminal penalties against homosexual acts, as a first step toward their goal of greater public acceptance.” These laws, though rarely enforced, were considered constitutional until 2003. In the 1970’s both legalists and doctors viewed homosexuality as a psychological disorder. As recently as 1982, the mayor of San Francisco vetoed a bill that would have allowed spousal rights to both straight and gay couples. “No country anywhere in the world recognized gay marriage until 2001, eight years ago. Since then, a few countries and six U.S. states now recognize same-gender marriages.”
In 1973 the American Psychiatric and Psychological Associations removed homosexuality from their official lists of disorders. This was done by vote, the first time a definition was changed due to social pressure rather than advances in science.
Science and Homosexuality
Recently, “the activists have used similar methods in the years since then, trying to prove that they are a legitimate demographic category with fixed and unchangeable characteristics. They must present themselves in this way in order to justify their demand for the same legal protections now given to race and gender. That is a crucial point in understanding both the agenda and the tactics of intimidation used by today’s activists.” Said Dallin H. Oaks:
“We have seen unrelenting pressure from advocates of [the homosexual] lifestyle to accept as normal what is not normal, and to characterize those who disagree with them as narrow-minded, bigoted and unreasonable. Such advocates are quick to demand freedom of speech and thought for themselves, but equally quick to criticize those with a different view and, if possible, to silence them by applying labels like ‘homophobic.’… This is more than a social issue — ultimately it may be a test of our most basic religious freedoms to teach what we know our Father in Heaven wants us to teach.”
There are four misconceptions about homosexuality that can make it more difficult for those who desire to overcome their same-sex attraction.
- “Same-gender attraction is an inborn and unalterable orientation. This untrue assumption tries to persuade you to label yourselves and build your entire identity around a fixed sexual orientation or condition.” In truth, “there is simply no scientific consensus about what causes homosexual tendencies.” The American Psychological Association has said that “no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any factor or set of factors. … Nature and nurture both play complex roles.” The possibility that homosexuality is genetically caused has been dismissed by science. 80% of women who have same-gender attraction were abused in some way as children. Among men, some who have had certain experiences just before puberty have taken on a gay identity. “Often these boys are emotionally sensitive, introspective, and, especially among Church members, perfectionistic.” Their transition from relating to other boys to relating instead to girls is blocked, and this can be helped through proper counseling.
- “A second misconception the activists promote is that therapy cannot treat, let alone change, same-gender attraction.” This misperception is related to the first. If a person believes no change is possible, he only has two choices: to either give in, or give up. “In general, well over half of those seeking treatment can be significantly helped by it. That is roughly the same success rate as treatments for clinical depression. One non-LDS therapist who has treated both men and women for years reports that 40% of his clients find full heterosexual resolution, another 40% achieve enough resolution to control their attraction and behavior, and 20% are unsuccessful.”
- “The third misconception is that most Americans favor same-gender marriage, which means the Church is outside the mainstream in opposing it.” The truth is that “six American states now permit same-gender marriage. But 40 states have already passed laws opposing such marriages. And the most recent national polls reinforce that large majority opinion, despite some modest recent gains by the activists.” Recent random polls still show that a strong majority of U.S. citizens are not in favor of gay marriage.
- “The fourth misconception is that there are no rational, non-religious reasons for opposing same-gender marriage. Marriage is our most significant social institution — not merely a private project. This ‘public interest’ or ’social interest’ separates the marriage contract from every other contract in society. The research clearly shows that, by every measure of child well-being — such as health, emotional stability, education, and avoiding crime, drugs, and abuse — children do far better in a two-parent, married heterosexual family. The contrast between adult rights and the rights of society and children introduces the most persuasive example I have seen of the secular case against same-gender marriage.” The French parliament performed a thorough study of gay marriage before banning it, deciding that society would only benefit by disallowing the desires of the adult population to trump the basic needs of children. “The French report said that to accept a public policy that consciously places children with homosexual adults increases the risks to children who are already at risk because they feel identity confusion and abandonment by their biological parents. To ignore this need is to discriminate against these children. So France rejected same-gender marriage so that children ‘do not suffer as a result of situations imposed on them by adults. The interest of the child must outweigh the exercise of freedom by adults, whatever life choices are made by the parents.’ This view takes marriage away from the private, adults-only world of gay and lesbian lifestyles and returns it to its original place as society’s primary social institution.”
“An LDS medical doctor who has worked closely with many people who deal with same-gender attraction recently said to me, ‘This is a truly difficult problem, but in its very difficulty is something that allows those who meet the challenge to become amazingly purified and sanctified and thus qualified for special comfort and revelation from the Savior, who knows how to succor ‘all’ men and women in their infirmities.’ His words prompted a memory of Elder Maxwell’s insight: ‘If we are serious about our discipleship, Jesus will eventually request each of us to do those very things which are [the] most difficult to do.’ The apostle Paul wrote, ‘All things work together for good to them that love God’ (Romans 8:28). Even same-gender attraction can work for your good IF you love God.”