By sitaM nyliraM dna derF
Fred and Marilyn Matis sponsored a monthly fireside for many years for men and women who experience same-gender attraction, which has since been retired, and are co-authors with Ty Mansfield of In Quiet Desperation: Understanding the Challenge of Same-Gender Attraction. Watch a KSL news interview with Carole Mikita and listen to a podcast interview with the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR).
If there is anything we, as Stuart Matis’s parents, have learned since his death, it is that very kind, loving, decent people can really say cruel things when they simply do not understand same-gender feelings.
In a conversation, a young man dealing with same-gender-feelings made the following comments: “I don’t want to wake up every morning and feel I have to get rid of my challenges. I also don’t want to think that my sole expectation is simply to change who I am.” He then raised this question. “Is there any chance that Heavenly Father made me this way, because I could fill a supplemental need… is there a purpose?”
President Boyd K. Packard has taught, “True doctrine understood changes attitude and behavior.” (1) It has been with teaching and our conversation with this young man in mind that we’ve considered a helpful formula for understanding same-gender attraction and gathered some key statements from the Lord’s prophets and apostles. Consider this:
Understanding same-gender attraction is as simple as… A-B-C.
A. There is a difference between ACTION and ATTRACTION
The First Presidency stated in a letter on November 14, 1991: “There is a distinction between immoral thoughts and feelings and participating in either immoral heterosexual or homosexual behavior.” (2)
In the pamphlet, God Loveth His Children, we read, “Many people with same-gender attractions have strong testimonies of the gospel, and, therefore, do not act on these attractions. Attractions alone do not make you unworthy. If you avoid immoral thoughts and actions, you have not transgressed even if you feel such an attraction.” (3)
Elder Dallin H. Oaks remarked, “All of us have some feelings we did not choose, but the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that we still have the power to resist and reform our feelings (as needed) and to assure that they do not lead us to entertain inappropriate thoughts or to engage in sinful behavior.” (4)
In the new Handbook 2: Administering the Church, it reads:
“Homosexual behavior violates the commandments of God, is contrary to the purposes of human sexuality, and deprives people of the blessings that can be found in family life and in the saving ordinances of the gospel. Those who persist in such behavior or who influence others to do so are subject to Church discipline. Homosexual behavior can be forgiven through sincere repentance.
“If members engage in homosexual behavior, Church leaders should help them have a clear understanding of faith in Jesus Christ, the process of repentance, and the purpose of life on earth.
“While opposing homosexual behavior, the Church reaches out with understanding and respect to individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender.
“If members feel same-gender attraction but do not engage in any homosexual behavior, leaders should support and encourage them in their resolve to live the law of chastity and to control unrighteous thoughts. These members may receive Church callings. If they are worthy and qualified in every other way, they may also hold temple recommends and receive temple ordinances.” (5)
B. BOTTOM LINE: Same-gender attractions are not who you are, they are feelings you have
In a statement on same-gender feelings, President Packard said,
“In ‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World,’ an inspired document issued by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, we learn that in the premortal existence ‘all human beings–male and female–[were] created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of Heavenly Parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic [and was established in that premortal existence].
“We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.
“The great penalty Lucifer and his followers brought upon themselves was that they were to be denied a mortal body.
“Many of the temptations you face, certainly the most serious ones, relate to your body. You not only have power to create bodies for a new generation, but you also have agency.
“The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, ‘All beings, who have bodies have power over those who have not.’ So every living souls, who has a physical body ultimately has power over the adversary. You suffer temptations because of your physical nature, but you also have power over Satan and his angels.” (6)
In an interview with Church Public Affairs, Elder Oaks said,
“I think it is an accurate statement to say that some people consider feelings of same-gender attraction to be the defining fact of their existence. There are also people who consider the defining fact of their existence is that they are from Texas, or that they are the best basketball player that ever played for such-and-such high school. People can adopt a characteristic as the defining example of their existence, and often those characteristics are physical.
“We have the agency to choose which characteristics will define us. Those choices are not thrust upon us.
“The ultimate defining fact for all of us is that we are children of Heavenly Parents, born on this earth for a purpose, and born with a divine destiny. Whenever any of those other notions, whatever they may be, gets in the way of that ultimate defining fact, then it is destructive and it leads us down the wrong path.”
Elder Oaks further stated, “I think it’s important for you to understand that homosexuality, which you’ve spoken of, is not a noun that describes a condition. It’s an adjective that describes feelings or behavior. I encourage you, as you struggle with these challenges, not to think of yourself as a ‘something’ or ‘another,’ except that you’re a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and you’re my son, and that you’re struggling with challenges.” (7)
Elder Lance Wickman added, “We live in a society, which is so saturated with sexuality, perhaps it is more troublesome now, because of that fact, for a person to look beyond their same-gender feelings to other aspects of their life. I think I would say to you, you are a son or daughter of God. Strive to expand your horizons, and find fulfillment in the many other facets of your character, and your personality, and your nature that extend beyond these feelings. There’s no denial that same-gender feelings certainly are core characteristic of any person, but it’s not the only one.” (8)
Elder Oaks further added to Elder Wickman’s comments, saying,
“Everyone has some challenges they have to struggle with. You’ve described a particular kind of challenge that is very vexing. It is common in our society and it has also become politicized. But it’s only one of a host of challenges men and women have to struggle with, and I just encourage you to seek the help of the Savor to resist temptation and to refrain from behavior that would cause you to have to repent or to have your Church membership called into question.
“These differences result from our understanding of the gift of eternal life that Heavenly Father has prepared for us and the conditions necessary to receive it.
“You are a son or daughter of God. These feelings do not define who you are.” (9)
Some, who have same-gender feelings, have stated to us that they find it troublesome to have their “feelings” referred to as a challenge. They feel it brings negativity into their lives. It is understandable that having a “challenge”, of any kind, can be looked upon as a negative in one’s life. Chris Belcher, who is blind, married and has three young boys, has written a book called Hard Times and Holy Places. While not all of us can feel any excitement to say with Paul “I…glory in my infirmities” (2 Cor. 12:9), it still remains our opportunity to pick up our cross and do our best to follow our Savior. “Standing in holy places” is a sacred experience.
You, my dear friends, are among our Heavenly Father’s most chosen. Don’t ever forget that! You have been given incredibly great gifts and talents for a purpose. You are the artists, the composers, the musicians, the authors, the landscape designers, the athletes, the doctors, the lawyers, the architects, the mathematicians, the scientists, the organizers, the inventors – and the list goes on and on. You bring rhyme and reason, light and beauty, healing and kindness to the world! Where would we all be without you to bless our lives?
C. We spend far too much time on the CAUSE and the CURE and not enough time on the CARE
CAUSE is past prologue.
CURE is only an expectation of something in the future
CARE is action in the present.
How does one care for a challenge? You learn how to manage it and let the Atonement of Jesus Christ begin to work.
In God Loveth His Children, it reads,
“Despair is an adverse influence. It often results from a lack of understanding and trust in God’s continuing love as made available through the power of the Atonement that every blessing contemplated by Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness remains available for each of his children.
“Despair and doubt may lead to withdrawal, fault-finding, and impatience that all answers and resolutions for life’s problems are not immediately forthcoming. The Spirit of God brings good cheer and happiness. Trust the lord. Do not blame anyone–not yourself, not your parents, not God–for problems not fully understood in this life.” (10)
The Psalm of Nephi helps us put these thoughts into perspective:
“O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in His condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?
“And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?…
“O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness! O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies! Wilt thou make my path straight before me! Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way – but that thou wouldst clear my way before me, and hedge not up my way, but the ways of mine enemy.
“O Lord, I trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever, I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm” (2 Nephi 4:26-27, 33-34).
How do parents, Church leaders and loved ones offer this “care”?
The First Presidency stated: “We encourage Church leaders and members to reach out with love and understanding to those struggling with these issues. Many will respond to Christ like love and inspired counsel” (letter, Nov. 14, 1991). (11)
Addressing the subject of parental guidance, Elder Oaks remarked in the October 2009 Conference:
“To pose an even more serious question, if an adult child is living in co-habitation, does the seriousness of sexual relations outside the bonds of marriage require that this child feel the full weight of family disapproval by being excluded from any family contacts, or does parental love require that the fact of co-habitation be ignored? I have seen both of these extremes, and I believe that both are inappropriate.
“Where do parents draw the line? That is a matter for parental wisdom, guided by the inspiration of the Lord. There is no area of parental action that is more needful of heavenly guidance or more likely to receive it than the decisions of parents in raising their children and governing their families. This is the work of eternity.”
Elder Oaks went on to say:
“This sobering teaching reminds us that when family members are not united in striving to keep the commandments of God, there will be divisions. We do all that we can to avoid impairing loving relationships, but sometimes it happens after all we can do.
“In the midst of such stress, we must endure the reality that the straying of our loved ones will detract from our happiness, but it should not detract from our love for one another or our patient efforts to be united in understanding God’s love and God’s laws.” (12)
A Latter-day Saint family trying to deal with this very situation wrote to us about their personal experience.
“I think this is where each parent has to pray for divine guidance and then follow whatever that is for their situation. In our case, we’ve had the ‘talks’ and the ‘letter-writing’ to our son. THERE IS NO QUESTION OR DOUBT IN OUR SON’S HEART HOW WE FEEL ABOUT WHAT HE IS DOING. He knows the teachings of the Gospel inside and out. And he knows we believe in those teachings 100%. So now that it’s all out on the table, we have felt it our job to love unconditionally, and sometimes that requires doing things that are more uncomfortable than we’d like. But sometimes, we either put ourselves in that ‘uncomfortable’ position, or shut the child out and exclude them. It doesn’t for one minute say we agree with their behavior. A child in their 40’s understands that. I also believe that when one is dealing with a 40+ child, it’s different than a teenager or young adult.
“The thing I know for sure is that Paul (not his real name) and I are rock solid. Paul is our Stake Patriarch, as you know, and as such, he fasts 4 or 5 time a month in order to receive that inspiration he needs to give the blessings. And in the same way, I believe we have received the inspiration in how to handle our wayward child–how to deal with our differences without causing the 1 of the 99 to stray even further.
“Thanks for listening. I think until one walks on one’s shoes, they really don’t know what they will do. We certainly would never have predicted our actions if we had not experienced what we have.”
On June 9, 1842, Eliza R Snow reported Joseph Smith saying, “All the religious world is boosting of its righteousness. It is the doctrine of the devil to retard the human mind and retard our progress by filling us with self-righteousness. The nearer we get to our Heavenly Father, the more we are disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls, to take them upon our shoulders and cast their sins behind our backs. I am going to talk to all this society. If you would have God have mercy on you, have mercy on one another.”
Continuing to quote Joseph Smith, Sister Snow stated, “Then the prophet said also, ‘Nothing is so much calculated to lead people to forsake sin, as to take them by the hand and watch over them with tenderness. When persons manifest the least kindness and love to me, Oh what power it has over my mind. Our Heavenly Father is more liberal in His views and boundless in His blessings than we are ready to believe or receive.’” (13)
There is power in love!
In God Loveth His Children, it states, “The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi voiced feelings we all have when he acknowledged that he did not ‘know the meaning of all things.’ But he testified, ‘I know that God loveth his children.’ (1 Nephi 11:17). God does indeed love all His children. Many questions, however, including some related to same-gender feelings, must await a future answer, even in the next life. But God has revealed simple, unchanging truths to guide us. He loves all His children, and because He loves you, you can trust him.”
It further states, “No one is, or ever could be, excluded from the circle of God’s love or the extended arms of His Church, for we are all His beloved sons and daughters. As President Hinckley said: ‘Our hearts reach out to those who struggle with feelings of affinity for the same gender. We remember you before the Lord, we sympathize with you, we regard you as our brothers and sisters.’” (14)
Addressing the subject of accountability, Elder Henry B. Eyring stated,
“A second truth about our accountability is to know that we are not the helpless victims of our circumstances. The world tries to tell us that the opposite is true: imperfections in our parents or our faulty genetic inheritance are presented to us as absolving us of personal responsibility. But difficult as circumstances may be, they do not relieve us of accountability for our actions or our inactions. Nephi was right. God give no commandments to the children of men save He prepares a way for them to obey. However difficult our circumstances, we can repent.
“Similarly, the world might be willing to excuse our bad behavior because those around us behave badly. It is not true that the behavior of others removes our responsibility for our own. God’s standards for our behavior are unchanged whether or not others choose to rise to them.” (15)
Elder Lance Wickman concluded:
“Whether it is nature or nurture really begs the important question, and a preoccupation with nature or nurture can, it seems to me, lead someone astray from the principles that Elder Oaks has been describing here. Why somebody has a same-gender attraction…who can say? But what matters is the fact that we know we can control how we behave, and it is behavior which is important.
“One question that might be asked by somebody, who is struggling with same-gender feelings is, ‘Is this something I’m stuck with forever? What bearing does this have on eternal life? If I can somehow make it through this life, when I appear on the other side, what will I be like?’
“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.” (16)
Recently, Michael Otterson, speaking in behalf of the First Presidency, stated the following:
“While we disagree with the Human Rights Campaign on many fundamentals, we also share some common ground. This past week we have all witnessed tragic deaths across the country as a result of bullying or intimidation of gay young men. We join our voice with others in unreserved condemnation of acts of cruelty or attempts to belittle or mock any group or individual that is different–whether those differences arise from race, religion, mental challenges, social status, sexual orientation or for any other reason. Such actions simply have no place in our society.
“This Church has felt the bitter sting of persecution and marginalization early in our history, when we were too few in numbers to adequately protect ourselves and when society’s leaders often seemed disinclined to help. Our parents, young adults, teens and children should therefore, of all people, be especially sensitive to the vulnerable in society and be willing to speak out against bullying or intimidation whenever it occurs, including unkindness toward those who are attracted to others of the same-sex. This is particularly so in our own Latter-day Saint congregations. Each Latter-day Saint family and individual should carefully consider whether their attitudes and actions toward others properly reflect Jesus Christ’s second great commandment—to love one another.” (17)
Elder O. Vincent Halack stated,
“We experience hard things in our lives that can sometimes diminish our vision and faith to do the things we should. We become so busy that we often feel overwhelmed and unable to do any more. While each of us is different, I humbly submit that we must focus our vision on the Savior and His teachings…
“When we study the life of our Savior and His teachings, we see Him amongst the people teaching, praying, lifting, and healing. When we emulate Him and do the things we see Him do, we begin to see a vision of who we can become. you will be blessed with insight through the help of the holy Ghost to do more good. Changes will begin to come, and you will bring a different order to your life that will bless you…
“I know that as we gain a vision of ourselves as the Savior sees us, and as we act on that vision, our lives will be blessed in unexpected ways…
“Believe that He can bless you with vision in your life and the courage to act.” (18)
To all who are personally dealing with same-gender feelings…
You, who have same-gender feelings, are the caretakers of this issue in the eyes of Latter-day Saints. The responsibility is now in your hands. Your family, your friends, and society will all understand what Stuart would call “the true nature” of same-gender feelings as they observe your faithful diligence to the Lord.
1. Elder Boyd K. Packard, “Little Children,” Ensign, November 1986
2. “Eternal Marriage,” Student Manual (14 October 1977).
3. “God Loveth His Children,” Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2007).
4. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Same-Gender Attraction,” Ensign, October 1995.
5. Handbook 2: Administering to the Church, “” (2010)
6. President Boyd K. Packard, “Counsel to Youth, July 2007
7. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Same-Gender Attraction,” Public Affairs Interview (2006)
8. Elder Lance B. Wickman, “Same-Gender Attraction,” Public Affairs Interview (2006).
9. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Same-Gender Attraction,” Public Affairs Interview (2006).
10. “God Loveth His Children, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2007).
11. First Presidency Letter (November 14, 1991).
12. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Love and Law,” Ensign, 2009.
13. Eliza R. Snow, Relief Society meeting, Nauvoo, IL. (June 9. 1842).
14. “God Loveth His Children,” Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2007).
15. Elder Henry B. Eyring, “Do Not Delay,” Ensign, November 1999.
16. Elder Lance B. Wickman, “Same-Gender Attraction,” Public Affairs Interview (2006).
17. First Presidency addressing the Human Rights Campaign, (October 12, 2010).
18. Elder O. Vincent Haleck, “Having the Vision to Do,” Ensign, May 2012.