At the time of this interview, Elder Marlin K. Jensen served as the Church Historian and Recorder.
Helen Whitney’s interview questions are in bold, followed by Elder Jensen’s response. Read the entire posted interview with Elder Jensen on the PBS website.
… What is the official position of the church on homosexuality?
… Our position on that is that there is a single standard actually of morality for all members of the church, and that essentially is that we abstain from all sexual relationships and sexual relations prior to marriage. Once we do marry, we are loyal, completely loyal, to our marital partner, and that the only marriage sanctioned by God is of a man to a woman. As Paul said, “Neither is a man without the woman nor the woman without the man in the Lord.”
So there is really no allowance within our doctrine for a homosexual relationship of woman to woman or man to man. Obviously that creates a lot of pain. It has created a lot of pain for me just because I’ve known some of these wonderful people who have these feelings, who have these thoughts, who have these desires, and I’ve worked with them in my official capacity as a church leader. … I’ve sat with those that have tried for years to transition to a more traditional way of life and who haven’t been able to produce those feelings in themselves that would permit them honestly to marry. …
The thing that we have to ultimately say … is, yes, there’s nature; yes, there’s nurture; but there’s also agency. We all have the capacity and power to choose. If you’re going to live your life within the framework of the Gospel, within the framework of our doctrine, then you’ve got to choose to marry someone of the opposite sex, and if you can’t do that honestly, then your choice has to be to live a celibate life. That is a very difficult choice for the parents, for the young man, the young woman, for whoever’s making that choice, and my heart goes out to them. I think we’re asking a tremendous amount of them.
And yes, some people argue sometimes, well, for the gay person or the lesbian person, we’re not asking more of them than we’re asking of the single woman who never marries. But I long ago found in talking to them that we do ask for something different: In the case of the gay person, they really have no hope. A single woman, a single man who is heterosexual in their thinking always has the hope, always has the expectation that tomorrow they’re going to meet someone and fall in love and that it can be sanctioned by the church. But a gay person who truly is committed to that way of life in his heart and mind doesn’t have that hope. And to live life without hope on such a core issue, I think, is a very difficult thing.
We, again, as a church need to be, I think, even more charitable than we’ve been, more outreaching in a sense. A religion produces a culture, and culture has its stereotypes, has its mores. It’s very difficult, for instance, in our culture not to be a returning missionary. What about the young man who chooses not to go, or the parents who marry and for whatever reasons don’t have children, or the young woman who grows old without marrying, or the divorced person? I think we can be quite hard — in a sense unwittingly, but nevertheless hard — on those people in our culture, because we have cultural expectations, cultural ideals, and if you measure up to them, it’s a wonderful life. If you don’t, it could be very difficult. …
Science is moving toward the idea of a scientific origin for homosexuality. What if this isn’t a choice, but the way people are born? Would that change the church’s thinking about it?
I think that the origins of homosexuality are still very much up for grabs. … I don’t think the church could ever change its position, because gender, gender identification and the idea that a man and a woman coming together in marriage and to procreate and to have a family is such a core element in God’s plan for our life. There’s no room in doctrine, and there’s no room within the plan of salvation, as we call it, or God’s plan for our life, for homosexuality to be accepted. …
At several points in your history there were changes in your doctrine. Is there any way, through revelation, this ban could be changed?
Again, through revelation, I suppose anything could be changed. But certainly, in the consistency with which God has dealt with us from the beginning, the elements of his plan for our life, the essential elements have remained unchanged. That’s why in this context, in the context we were talking about here, the tension between the plan of salvation and the gay person, I just don’t think there’s room for the plan to accommodate the idea that someone can marry, live with, be romantically involved with someone of the same gender and can then be living in accord with God’s plan or our life. It’s too antithetical. Just cannot work within the confines of his plan. …
I feel there’s been a sea change in the Mormon community I’ve talked to. I still hear “abomination,” but don’t you feel there’s been a change?
Yeah, I do. We’re more enlightened. We’re more accepting in the sense that we understand this is a condition that some people are dealing with and that even if it needs changing or even if it needs controlling, that can’t be done without our support, our love, our empathy, our interest in them as people. That’s much different, I’m sure, than it was in my youth. I hear very little terms of derision used anymore, for instance, yeah. ….
What are some of the doctrines a person might be excommunicated for opposing?
If you advocated, for instance, that gay people should be allowed to marry, and you were openly vocal about that, and in the process malign the leadership in the church for not adopting that position, that’s something that would be severe enough, I think, to warrant disciplinary action.
To watch the PBS segment on homosexuality where Elder Jensen appeared, see Part Two of the program, chapter 9 of 12, “Those Who Can, and Can’t Conform.” Also, embedded below: