Saturday, August 23, 2008

Our divine destiny as it applies to gays and lesbians

One of the first lines from The Family: A Proclamation to the World reads: "All human beings—male and female—are 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."1Our nature is that we are children of God.2 Our destiny is to have joy.3 This joy comes from following the commandments of God.4 We must accept Christ and take upon us his name.5 One of the greatest joys is found in the family, which is one reason we are commanded to multiply and replenish the Earth.6 Our destiny is to be exalted, together as a family. Being God's children, we are to inherit all that he has.7Of course, all that isn't going to happen here. There are children who die before being able to accept Christ, and many others who live their whole lives without even hearing of the gospel. Other people, for whatever reason, will never have the chance to get married in this life. But God is just, and it will all work out in the end. However, we must understand the goal that we are working towards. Understanding that goal is key in helping us fulfill our divine nature and identity. Once we understand our own purpose, we can help others to understand and fulfill their destiny.Since our identities are so essential to the Lord's plan, our identities are often under attack. It is this attack of which I wish to speak of today. Our identities are under attack by what we think of ourselves, how we see other people, and how we act according to those identities. One of the ways our identities are attacked is through labels. We use labels everyday. It is how we identify what we are talking about. However, labels can be used to hurt or limit the capacity of our fellow man. These labels are powerful, and whether they are true or not, they take a hold of our hearts, and lead us to action. This is one of the reasons it is so important that we take upon ourselves the name of Christ. If this is our identity, it will lead to act according to the commands of God. However, if we choose some other label as our main identity, we become weak, for we are only as strong as that label. When Satan came to Moses and told him to worship him, Moses replied: "Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?"8 If Moses had responded "Who art thou? For behold, I am Moses, a prince of Egypt," he would not have had the same result. Elder Holland tells the story of one man who let one of these labels diminish his self worth and distract him from his divine identity. He states:
A pleasant young man in his early 20s sat across from me. He had an engaging smile, although he didn’t smile often during our talk. What drew me in was the pain in his eyes.
“I don’t know if I should remain a member of the Church,” he said. “I don’t think I’m worthy.”
“Why wouldn’t you be worthy?” I asked.
“I’m gay.”
I suppose he thought I would be startled. I wasn’t. “And … ?” I inquired.
A flicker of relief crossed his face as he sensed my continued interest. “I’m not attracted to women. I’m attracted to men. I’ve tried to ignore these feelings or change them, but …”
He sighed. “Why am I this way? The feelings are very real.”
I paused, then said, “I need a little more information before advising you. You see, same-gender attraction is not a sin, but acting on those feelings is—just as it would be with heterosexual feelings. Do you violate the law of chastity?”
He shook his head. “No, I don’t.”
This time I was relieved. “Thank you for wanting to deal with this,” I said. “It takes courage to talk about it, and I honor you for keeping yourself clean.
“As for why you feel as you do, I can’t answer that question. A number of factors may be involved, and they can be as different as people are different. Some things, including the cause of your feelings, we may never know in this life. But knowing why you feel as you do isn’t as important as knowing you have not transgressed. If your life is in harmony with the commandments, then you are worthy to serve in the Church, enjoy full fellowship with the members, attend the temple, and receive all the blessings of the Savior’s Atonement.”
He sat up a little straighter. I continued, “You serve yourself poorly when you identify yourself primarily by your sexual feelings. That isn’t your only characteristic, so don’t give it disproportionate attention. You are first and foremost a son of God, and He loves you.
“What’s more, I love you. My Brethren among the General Authorities love you."9
One of the things that struck me about this story was the pain the young man's eyes. When Satan came to him, and told him he wasn't worthy, he didn't say "Who art thou? I am a son of God." He said "You're right, I'm gay." He ended up believing Satan's lies that he wasn't worthy, and hence Satan was able to prevent this man from having joy, and replaced his deserved joy with pain.Does this happen to you? Does Satan cloud your mind from your true identity, and tell you that you are not worthy of God's love? Does he replace your core identity with some other identity, that isn't nearly as important your true identity as a beloved child of God?Satan uses many tricks to do this. We may look around and think of ourselves as less talented, less skilled, not as faithful, or not as beautiful as those around us. When Satan comes and tells us we aren't worthy, we too might bow our heads and agree with him, "You're right, I'm not as good as so and so at such and such."God gives us our gifts. God gives us our weaknesses. Everything we have we have received from the Lord. He knows what we are capable of and what we are not capable of. He gives our weaknesses so that we can be humble, and he uses that humility to bring us unto him, so that he can make those weak things become strengths.10 If we believe in Christ, and follow his will, we will be able to accomplish all things.11One of the greatest impediments to feeling worthy is the feeling we cannot accomplish what the Lord has asked us to do. But He knows our weaknesses, and yet promises that he shall prepare a way for us so that we may accomplish the thing which he has commanded us.12 Relying on the Lord and trusting that we can accomplish what he has in store for us is all part of preparing us to achieve our destiny.13 This is one of the reasons hope is so essential to the plan of happiness.14 I think gays are especially challenged in this area, because so many people teach they are inherently evil. God did not create anyone to fail. He created us to succeed.15 Our divine destiny applies to every one of God's children. Some may forget that the Family was not a proclamation to the church, but a proclamation to the world. President Hinckley said "Now we have gays in the church. Good people. We take no action against such people – provided they don’t become involved in transgression, sexual transgression. If they do, we do with them exactly what we’d do with heterosexuals who transgress."16 Later, as a follow-up to the Larry King interview, he said "People inquire about our position on those who consider themselves so-called gays and lesbians. My response is that we love them as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. Most people have inclinations of one kind or another at various times. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church."17Knowing that we are able to accomplish the Lord's commandments is an essential step in feeling our worth and fulfilling our destiny. The next logical step is to obey the Lord's commands. Of course, Satan challenges us here too. The world teaches us that we should embrace all of our feelings. If something feels good, we should do it. Elder Oaks said “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.”18 These unchosen feelings do not take away our divine nature and destiny. We were made to act, not to be acted upon.19 The natural man acts unrestrained on these desires, and is an enemy of God.20 But we have been given the power to choose for ourselves.21 We fought a war for our agency, for our ability to act, and that war continues here on Earth. Satan would have us believe we are incapable of acting, incapable of obeying God’s commandments, and hence incapable of joy.
As we learn to control our feelings and bridle our passions, we feel better about ourselves.22 We are empowered to do more, and accomplish great things. There is a peace that only Christ can give us.23 This peace is this sweetest thing on Earth.24 As members of the Lord's church, we dedicate our lives towards bringing this peace to our fellow man.25 This may prove difficult at times, as it may require an abrupt change in the lives of those we teach.26 However, this peace and joy is the purpose of why we are here, and if we are diligent in helping our brother and sisters to change their lives, they too can join with us in the most glorious joy available to man.27
This requires some hard changes. In doing so, we might come off unloving. With regards to the church's position on same-sex relationships, many feel the church is unloving. But this is really one of the greatest things we can do for those involved in same-sex relationships.
President Packer explains "We understand why some feel we reject them. That is not true. We do not reject you, only immoral behavior. We cannot reject you, for you are the sons and daughters of God. We will not reject you, because we love you. You may even feel that we do not love you. That also is not true. Parents know, and one day you will know, that there are times when parents and we who lead the Church must extend tough love when failing to teach and to warn and to discipline is to destroy. We did not make the rules; they were revealed as commandments. We do not cause nor can we prevent the consequences if you disobey the moral laws. In spite of criticism or opposition, we must teach and we must warn."28
Our church leaders teach us correct principles because they love us. Wickedness brings pain,29 and our purpose is to have joy. They do all that they can to teach us joy, and I am so grateful for the love they show to us.
Michael Glatze, who was the founder of the magazine Young Gay America and was of the up-and-coming gay right activists, said after repenting and being baptized into the Lord's Church, “Homosexuality prevents us from finding our true self within. We cannot see the truth when we are blinded by homosexuality." He said that before he was baptized, whenever he had a sense that he was doing something wrong, "I would just attribute it to, 'that's just the way life is.'...30
How many of us feel that our leaders don't love us because they tell not to do something? Do we feel they are harsh, unfair, or unloving. It is precisely because they are loving that they teach and warn us against the dangers of our day. They know obeying the commandments will bring us joy. Here is one story how the “tough love” President Packer was discussing brought joy to one woman's life:
Melissa Fryrear came to believe at an early age that her same-sex attractions made her "detestable" before God. Under this false belief system, she turned away from God and by the time she was 16 had started having sexual relationships with women. After living with her girlfriend for many years, a Christian co-worker befriended her. She talked with her girlfriend, and they decided to go to a local church. When they entered the small, conservative church, they were welcomed with open arms and the congregation invited her and her girlfriend to the various activities. Doris and her husband D.J. in particular took time to reach out to Melissa. She recounts "They met me where I was, accepted me with grace, loved me unconditionally and prayed for me fervently. It was through the relationship with them that I was led to make the most important decision of my life. One day in February of ’91, I said quietly in my heart, Jesus, I need You. I receive You. Please, please, please come and be the Savior of my soul and the Lord of my life. And He did... For months I went around and around with the Lord. I didn’t understand. I argued with Him, begged Him, ignored Him, hurt Him and fled from Him... Over the next months, the Holy Spirit continued to work God’s truth in my heart until I ultimately came to the point where I knew that I knew what I was doing was wrong. Even in my confusion, even in my anger, even in my rebellion, God showered me with His kindness, which led to repentance. In October ’92, by His grace, I repented of my years of sexual sin."31 Melissa left her girlfriend and is touring the country telling all of how God saved her from the chains of homosexuality.
What would have happened to Melissa if Doris and DJ had adopted the philosophy of day, and had told Melissa that she would never change, and that God wanted her to be in a same-sex relationship? Melissa would have been denied the healing power of the atonement. So many gays are looking for healing, and much of the world is telling them it is impossible.
This is the whole point of the church: to bring us to Christ, so that through his atoning mercy, we can turn all of our sorrows and pains over to him.32 Yet this is a difficult process. Both the young man that Elder Holland interviewed and Melissa talked of severe pain associated with the process. Alma recounts a similar pain: “But I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins.”33 Yet this pain is a cleansing pain. It brings us to our Savior. Alma continues: “Now as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: “O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me... And now behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And oh what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain.”34
The pain might be hard, but it is worth the joy. There are many good-intentioned people, who encourage a sinner to continue in their ways, so that they would not have to feel that pain. I remember on my mission, I was working with an investigator who was trying to quit smoking. She threw away all of cigarettes and didn't bring any money with her to buy any more. However, when her friends saw how much pain she was going through to quit smoking, they insisted that she take one of their cigarettes. If they were true friends, they would have suffered with her. I think that is why the scriptures ask us to “mourn with those who mourn.”35
I think gay men and women have a lot of suffering to do, and it is our responsibility to help them. Elder Oaks exhorted us that "All should understand that persons (and their family members) struggling with the burden of same-sex attraction are in special need of the love and encouragement that is a clear responsibility of Church members, who have signified by covenant their willingness “to bear one another’s burdens” “and so fulfil the law of Christ.”36 Let us live up to that covenant.
The greatest commandment is to love the Lord thy God, and the second is to love thy neighbor as thyself. All other commandments hang on these two great ones.37 Everything we do should be out of love. From reading the words of our prophets, I know that they love gays and lesbians, and they are doing all that they can to teach them of their divine heritage and help them fulfill their divine potential.
However, there are many forces trying to tell gay men and lesbians that they are incapable of fulfilling their divine destiny, or that they would be happier rejecting their destiny than fulfilling it.
Satan tells gay people who want to obey the commandments of God that it is impossible, he tells gay people who are confused about which way they should go that they should pursue same-sex relationships, and he tells those that are in same-sex relationships that they can't change. Isaiah 5:20 reads "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" So many people with same-sex attraction believe they should pursue same-sex relationships in order to be true to themselves. They avoid marriage because they believe it would be dishonest for their spouse. Those already married leave their marriages because they believe that is what they should do. Those who want to obey the commandments of God are being ridiculed and told they are being dishonest, and those trying to help them are being told they are hurting them. Marriages are being broken apart, lives are being destroyed, souls are lost, and the wounded suffer in silence and are denied the healing power of the atonement, all in the name of acceptance and open-mindedness.
I have chosen to focus on the divine nature and destiny of gay men and women partially because of the political atmosphere, but also because I think it is a strong example of how destructive a false view of one's identity could be. We all face challenges to our identity. Whatever the temptation may be, there are those lined up to tell us we would be happier embracing that desire rather than going through the pains of repentance. We must be strong. If we remember who we are, we will be able to ignore Satan, and continue with faith and fulfill our destiny. And that will bring true joy, which is the whole reason why we exist.
It also a testimony of how powerful the Lord is in helping us overcome our struggles. Any struggle can be overcome. I know way too many people who victimize themselves, who falsely believe they are incapable of attaining the Celestial Kingdom, who believe the road is too hard to travel because they are too weak, because some desire is too strong, or some burden is too heavy. Others falsely believe that something that happened in the past, like abuse or a transgression, disqualifies them from the kingdom of God. 2 Nephi 26:5 reads "Doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price." God is that powerful. He can redeem all who come unto him. This is my testimony. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
1 The Family: A Proclamation to the World
2 Romans 8:16
3 2 Nephi 2:25
4 Mosiah 2:41
5 3 Nephi 27:5
6 Genesis 1:28
7 Romans 8:17
8 Moses 1:13
9 Holland, Jeffrey. "Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction" Ensign, Oct. 2007, 42–45
10 Ether 12:27
11 Philippians 4:13
12 1 Nephi 3:7
13 Mosiah 4:9-10
14 Ether 12:32
15 2 Nephi 2:25
16 Lattin, Don (April 13, 1997), "Musings of the Main Mormon: Gordon B. Hinckley"
17 Hinckley, Gordon. "What are People Asking About Us?" Ensign, Nov 1998, 70)
18 Oaks, Dallin "Same-Gender Attraction" Ensign, Oct 1995, 7
19 2 Nephi 2:14
20 Mosiah 3:19
21 2 Nephi 2:27
22 Alma 38:12
23 John 14:27
24 1 Nephi 11:22
25 D&C 15:6
26 Mosiah 27:25
27 D&C 18:15-16
28 Packer, Boyd K. "Ye Are the Temple of God" Ensign, Nov 2000, 72–74
29 Alma 41:10
30 Glatze, Michael "How a 'gay rights' leader became straight" WorldNetDaily
31 Fryrear, Melissa "The Seeds that Grow: Real Stories - Women" Exodus International
32 Alma 7:11
33 Alma 36:12
34 Alma 19-20
35 Mosiah 18:9
36 Oaks, Dallin "Same-Gender Attraction" Ensign, Oct 1995, 7
37 Matt 22:37-40

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this wonderful blog post!