When my wife, FlameRetardentMormon, and I discuss the afterlife, the conversation usually gravitates toward nuanced doctrines like whether you can eat as many cheeseburgers as you want without getting fat, and how great it will be to fly around like Peter Pan. I’m an afterlife stick-in-the-mud, I think, in that I believe “heaven” doesn’t simply mean all your dreams come true. In my mind, things will be better, what with sin and death having been done away, but there will still be a few cold hard realities to deal with regardless of our personal dislike for them. I might sheepishly suggest to my wife that it may be considered wasteful to swim in a sea of chocolate pudding–even in heaven–but I don’t want to destroy her faith in a better world.
Heaven, unfortunately, may have its disappointments. Take, for example, the matter of sexual orientation. Will everyone be changed to straight in the twinkling of an eye? When those malignant melanomas wither up and disappear, will there also be an amorous swelling of hetero affections in every formerly gay heart? This would be a disappointment to some, but a great relief to me. I’ve noticed some disagreement on the topic, and I’ve wondered who is doing the magical thinking about the afterlife–those who believe things will all go straight in the afterlife, or those who believe things will be just the same?
I wonder this partly because there seems to be a partisan division between the two camps of thought–those who believe homosexual desire will extend into the afterlife are generally those who are living a homosexual life now and believe the brethren are wrong about the topic in some way or another. This is just my unmeasured personal observation. On the other hand, those who believe the afterlife will be full of hot straight sex (read: me) might be indulging in the “all your dreams come true” view of heaven after a life of faithful sacrifice.
Well, here’s my case for same sex attractions being a mortal condition only. Elder Wickman has stated fairly emphatically on the official church website:
Gratefully, the answer is that same-gender attraction did not exist in the pre-earth life and neither will it exist in the next life. It is a circumstance that for whatever reason or reasons seems to apply right now in mortality, in this nano-second of our eternal existence.
Elder Holland said recently in his interview for the PBS documentary The Mormons:
I do know that this will not be a post-mortal condition. It will not be a post-mortal difficulty? These conditions will not exist post-mortality.
A few Ensign articles over the years also imply without explicitly saying so, that same gender attractions are limited to this life. But, a couple general authorities and scattered implications in official church publications do not make doctrine. I would say, however, that these opinions are presented matter-of-factly enough that the authorities in question seemed to be unaware of any dispute and to believe there was no need for further justification. It’s as if they consider the point obvious enough from the scriptures and other doctrines of the church not to require great elaboration. I believe this is true.
The plan of salvation has families at its core. Procreation is essential to our ultimate progression from child of God to exalted being, and our procreative abilities–physiological, anatomical, emotional, psychological, attractive, and otherwise–are indispensable in the ideal destination. The Proclamation on the Family says: “We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed.” It doesn’t seem much of a stretch to me to assume that the means of creating spiritual and mortal life in the hereafter are divinely appointed as well. I take that to mean there will be no Great Fertility Clinic in the Sky?, but that for all those who qualify for exaltation, minds and bodies will be brought to conform with all characteristics essential for procreation in terms of God’s divinely appointed methods. The way I imagine celestial reproduction, this necessarily includes attraction.
For those who opt out of exaltation, I suppose there could be a persistent strained effort toward romantic same-sex relationships if they so choose. Having a perfected reproductive system (and therefore a hormonal and physiological response suitable for reproduction–straight) may not change the patterns of desire established throughout our life. Some believe that Alma’s words, “that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world” imply that gay feelings won’t change after the resurrection. But this confuses the chosen (behavioral) and unchosen (inclination) aspects of being gay–a distinction made clear by many church authorities. For that matter, this scripture seems to be referring to our attitude toward repentance, not just any old feeling we might have.
I don’t think God can take away our free will, that much I can agree with. I actually wrote on this topic once before:
I think the biological components of same sex attraction–the actual neurological pathways and genetics and brain imprinting–will be “healed” in the resurrection to be consistent with the actual purpose of the reproductive system. The psychological aspects like emotional ties and relationships I’m not so sure about (which is one reason I think chastity is an eternal true principle). Ties to men loved during mortality will no longer be supported by physical attraction nor sanctioned by legal or divine authority. A life of love and common experiences will end when we’re set to whatever our eternal jobs will be. But the emotional ties will probably remain, and to that end gays will have inadvertently created an eternal situation ironically similar to the temporary one I’m in now–one in which they are not fully sexually compatible with the person with whom they’ve shared their life. I imagine this might be an instance in which my imagined explanation of why gay love is ultimately wrong applies… of why gay love is good, but not good enough.
Yes, for those who are really set on the prospect of swimming in a sea of chocolate pudding or keeping their same-gender orientation into the next life, there is still hope. I can’t say my skeptical take is official doctrine, because there is no doctrine on the subject in the strictest sense. It’s not doctrine in the sense that principles taught in the scriptures are doctrine, or statements given in General Conference over the pulpit by President Hinckley and preceded with the words, “Thus sayeth the Lord,” are doctrine. But I think my conclusion follows pretty clearly and necessarily from the plan of salvation. If there’s another reasonable way to view it, I haven’t managed to see it yet, but I do acknowledge that there is a lot about the afterlife yet to be revealed.