A Letter to Ward Leaders and Sunday School Instructors

By Gina Crivello

A painful lesson is coming up that causes many anxiety. I hope this helps. I will be talking to my SS instructors and giving them this letter. I’d like to give credit to Matthew Vines for his hard work. You have my permission to use this.

Dear (Sunday School Instructors, Bishop, and SP),

I friend of mine shared her anxiety about an upcoming GD lesson, Lesson 8: Living Righteously in a Wicked World, and I felt inspired to write about it. Please feel free to utilize the following information the way the spirit moves you whether it’s in class, for your own pondering, or as something in your pocket when another person who doesn’t understand happens to comment.

This lesson includes the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, which is traditionally attributed to homosexuality and where misinformation about gay people begin. My goal is to bring understanding, compassion, and sensitivity toward our gay brothers and sisters by expanding on the materials in this lesson already provided.

First, allow me define homosexual because I have found through discussions with members that many equate homosexuality with child-molestation, bestiality, lustfulness, and a non-stop sexual appetite for sodomy. This is false. Most gay people don’t like the word homosexual because it presents their identity as being all about sex. That simply is not true. Gay people experience attraction to the same gender on a heart-to-heart emotional level, spiritual level, committal level as well as the physical level — just like heterosexuals. So, when I say “gay” or “homosexual,” I am speaking about people with age-appropriate same-gender-attraction. The Church recognizes that being gay is not a choice nor an illness.

Lesson 8 teaches that the destruction of S & G was sexual sin, (Genesis 19). Sexual sin is a component, but it’s also the attitude behind the sexual sin (inhospitality). The sexual sin that the city men show towards Lot’s guests is sexual assault or gang rape, which is an act of humiliation and aggression. This was a common tactic during warfare and other hostile contexts of ancient times (and today, too). They wanted to shame, degrade, and conquer these guests. This has nothing to do with sexual orientation nor attraction. The story of S&G is to show us their cruelty to outsiders, especially compared to Gen. 18 (the chapter right before this story) where Abraham and Sarah are so kind to outsiders.

{Side note: Sexual sin, as you already know, includes infidelity, prostitution, human trafficking, pornography, rape, child molestation, impropriety with a minor even if minor isn’t fully aware of it, objectifying women/girls, and casual sex especially when it results in pregnancy.}

In the lesson manual almost at the end under “Additional Teaching Ideas” is a significant scripture that explains the reasonS for the destruction of S&G. Ezekiel 16:49-50 state, “Behold, this was the iniquity of they sister Sodom: Pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters [and...um...sons ;)], neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.”

Pride. Unsharing. Idleness. Turns-away the poor and needy. Haughty. Abominations. << We see all of those everyday in the news and communities. What can we do to be less prideful? Less idle? More charitable towards the poor and needy? Less arrogant? Less abominable? More hospitable and welcoming? More understanding? More interested in seeking truth? More humble?

I have to disagree with the staff-writer of Lesson 8 when he or she writes in the manual (still under the section “Additional Teaching Ideas”) about Ezekiel’s reasons for the destruction of S & G as being “small sins.” There are somewhere around 20 scriptural references about S & G, and only one of those connects their sins to sexual sins; the rest are about their inhospitality and arrogance. Christ, himself, discusses the grievousness of inhospitality in Matthew 10:15 and Luke 10:12, referencing S&G. Therefore, inhospitality and lack of charity must not be “small sins” after all.

I am glad that Ez.16:49-50 was at least mentioned in the manual, although it appears to only be an after-though. Last year, when I began studying the six scriptures traditionally used to persecute gay people, I discovered by chance that the hard-copy Bible Dictionary completely leaves it out. When I looked up “Sodom” in the BD, it told me to “See Gomorrah.” When I looked up “Gomorrah,” it only listed scriptures with the word “Gomorrah” in it. As you can see above, Ezekiel’s scripture only contains the word “Sodom,” so getting the full picture is hindered. This is very frustrating. It’s also discouraging that the lesson manual barely gives Ezekiel’s verses a mention and minimalizes its significance at that. It is very significant to our gay brothers and sisters as well as those who love them, including our Heavenly Father.

“Good teachings are not destructive to human dignity.” – Matthew Vines

I won’t be attending GD class for two reasons: One because I enjoy my husband’s lessons over at Gospel Principles, and two because I don’t want you to think I’m looking over your shoulder and ready to pounce. I have confidence in all of you and your ability to teach with love and direct the class to do the same.

Sincerely,

Gina Crivello

5 comments for “A Letter to Ward Leaders and Sunday School Instructors

  1. Debbie Costello
    February 15, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    I haven’t attended GD in years nor do I take my smartphone when I go to church. But I may have to make an exception and do both for this lesson.

    • Gina
      March 13, 2014 at 9:29 am

      I heard my ward was really good about this topic that day. Did you end up going? :)

  2. Kevin
    February 15, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    Excellent counsel, Gina. I’ve been chewing on this lesson for a couple of weeks ahead of teaching it and have come to the same conclusion that you have. For my gay brother and any LGBT members of my class I am compelled to gently reframe the story as you have said.

    I love the insight of BYU professor, Dr. William Bradshaw:
    “Those not closely acquainted with gay people may not have considered that they are capable of the same type of romantic feelings that characterize heterosexual love, something in addition to urges of a sexual nature. Nevertheless that is true. Falling in love can have the same positive emotional, spiritual, and moral qualities for a homosexual couple as for a heterosexual couple. Homosexual love is not counterfeit. What do Latter-day Saints (and others) who are in a committed gay relationship do? They get up in the middle of the night to care for a sick partner. They fix dinner, out of turn, when the person they love has had a bad day. They sacrifice in order to provide opportunities for the growth and development of their children. They resist the temptation to be unfaithful. They send flowers. They coach little league baseball teams. They say, “I’m sorry.” They help in buying the groceries. They plant flowers and mow the lawn. They delight in the success and achievement of the one to whom they are devoted. They do their best to express the deepest feelings of their heart when they say, ‘I love you.’”

    Bill Bradshaw, “The Evidence for a Biological Origin of Homosexuality,” available at https://docs.google.com/leaf?id=0B4d4HeuA_ceTYzgyODNkMGQtNjY1Mi00OWU5LWI2MmYtMjhjMzk0MTgyNTIx&hl=en pg. 41

    • Gina
      March 13, 2014 at 9:32 am

      Thank you for the link. Yes… same love. And your brother is so fortunate to have you in his life.

  3. Gina
    March 13, 2014 at 9:37 am

    I had actually left this out of the letter, but JST in the footnotes also nullifies the assumption that S&G were destroyed because of homosexuality. JST says that the villagers were also demanding Lot’s daughters (that it wasn’t Lot offering them). One could take that to mean it wasn’t just about homosexuality if they wanted the girls, too.

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