Clarify The Sin

The church needs to clarify the sin. There are many of us already in same-sex marriages, and if we want to be part of the church, then we need to know specifics about what is sinful. Local leaders (Bishops and Stake Presidents) need specific, coherent guidelines to determine worthiness, and also to determine church disciplinary actions. But most importantly, LGBT people need to see this framed from our perspective, as we ask the questions we are genuinely concerned about. So I am asking the church here to answer the questions we are asking ourselves, as LGBT people, about our lives, and about our loves.


Is it the companionship?


Is it a sin that we spend time together every day? Is it a sin that we have long philosophical discussions about science and religion? Is it a sin that we laugh together? Is it a sin when we go to movies together, or enjoy the company of friends together? Is it a sin that we share hobbies and interests that occupy our time together?


Is it the affection?


Is it a sin if I hold his hand or his arm as we walk down the street? Is it a sin if I give him a kiss hello after a business trip? Is it a sin if a stroke his hair while he is taking a nap? Is it a sin if I hold him in my arms as we wait for the bus to keep him warm on a winter day? Is it a sin to sit side by side and hold hands as we watch the sunset? Is it a sin to sleep side by side?


Is the the commitment?


Is it a sin that I promised to keep my husband in my presence so that we are not alone? Is it a sin that I promised to care for him in sickness? Is it a sin that I want to provide for him in the case of my death by letting him inherit my pension and our house? Is it a sin for him to receive my social security benefits if I die?  Is it a sin to have the legal right to visit him in the hospital and be involved in medical decisions? Is it a sin to have the legal right to plan and attend his funeral if he should die?


Is it the family?


Is it a sin if I provide substantial financial support to his parents who are having difficulties in old age? Is it a sin if his nieces and nephews love me and accept as an uncle and as an integral part of his family? Is it a sin if I help his niece buy a computer, or offer to let a nephew live with us while he attends university? Is it a sin if I provide a loan so his sister can buy a home to live in with her family?


Is it the children?


Is it a sin to provide for his children? Is it a sin to give them a two parent home instead of a single parent home? Is it a sin for us to adopt a child in need of a home and provide them with love and stability?


Is it the same-sex marriage?


Is it a sin to commit to the person you love, if that person is the same gender? Is is a sin because it ‘weakens’ other peoples heterosexual marriages? Is it a sin to marry someone you can’t have children with?


Is it a sin to stay married?


If I committed to stay with my partner for the rest of our lives, would it be a sin to keep that promise? If we are raising children together, is it a sin to continue to provide a two parent home for these children? If my spouse depends on my financially, is it a sin to continue to support him? If I only have the means to support one household, is it a sin to continue to support my spouse instead of making him move out?  Does this change if he is disabled? Would the sin be less if I support him through cancer or disability? Does this change if he is already too old to work or support himself? If I have also been supporting his parents and caring for them is it a sin to keep doing that?


Would God command me to divorce my same-sex spouse?


Would God command me to abandon my husband? Would He command me to refuse to care for him? Would He command me to leave him alone, or leave him destitute? Would He command me to abandon any children we care for together?


Is it the sex?


Is it sin if we are having sexual relationships in a legal, committed, monogamous marriage?

If it is the sex, then what is it about the sex? Is it a sin because of sodomy (normally referring to oral or anal sexual intercourse). Is it a sin when temple-married couples engage in these same practices? Is this part of the temple worthiness interview for temple-married men and women in the church? Is same-sex sodomy sinful while heterosexual sodomy allowed?

Is it a sin if we are having sexual relationships in a legal, committed, monogamous marriage?

If the sin is same-sex sodomy then are other sexual activities within the same-sex marriage sinful?

If the sin is sex, then would the marriage still be sinful if there was no sexual relationships (after all many heterosexual marriages have no sexual relationships)?.


What is it exactly?


I have a feeling that the church can’t answer these questions yet. These aren’t just questions about sin. These are questions about moral and responsible behaviors. These are questions about being human.

I have a feeling the leaders haven’t asked these questions yet. So far the leaders haven’t said anything that makes me believe they have contemplated our realities. I really hope they seek God’s inspiration on these issues.

16 comments for “Clarify The Sin

  1. Nielper
    July 16, 2013 at 6:02 am

    Amen! You put into words what I’ve been thinking for a long time.

    • Lyle
      July 18, 2013 at 5:36 pm

      Thank you, I have had these questions as well. Especially since I will soon be married.

  2. Matt Brewster
    July 16, 2013 at 6:34 am

    This was absolutely one of the very best insights into homosexuality I’ve ever seen. Every Mormon should read this. Thanks Daniel.

  3. Andrew S.
    July 16, 2013 at 6:42 am

    Fortunately, I think that you’re right in that I don’t think the church has a robust enough theology of marriage (especially heteronormative marriage) to be able to answer the questions, exactly as you suggest in the final two paragraphs.

    However, from conversations elsewhere, it seems that the most clear argument at least to me (and I understand it’s not going to be persuasive to a lot of folks) is that marriage basically ultimately means only one thing — it’s the community of a man and a woman open to biological children (or that can otherwise model such a community but for “accidents” that prevent such children.)

    In this completely different worldview, many of the questions you ask are, if not irrelevant, then tangential. Companionship? That does not a marriage make (because marriage isn’t about the two adults in it more than it is about children). Affection? That also does not a marriage make (because marriage isn’t about the feeling and sentiment for the two adults in it.) Commitment? This is part of the other view of marriage, but not necessarily for its own sake…the commitment is a commitment to have and rear children.

    Speaking of children — it’s very obvious from discussions with people who hold the “other view” that I speak of that they prioritize “having” children more than “raising them.” Or rather, they thing that there’s a bonus to being able to “have” children in a biological sense that gives a bonus to one’s ability to raise them. I think it’s an empirical question about the ability and capacity of different folks to raise children just as well as one another, so this is an area where I think that people are resistant to view evidence when they just state outright that a man and woman are the best to raise children (because they model appropriate opposite gender relationships or whatever). They start with theory first, then move forward…

    When you define marriage, you define it as “commitment to the person you love.” When these others define marriage, that may be tangential, but it is not the end goal. (Because marriage, again, is not primarily about the two adults in it.)

    As far as staying married, I think many people are moving past such callous arguments as suggesting that people should divorce, but not past such views as would see your situation as non-ideal (and because of its ‘non-idealness’, they would not support it.)

    As for sex…I mean, maybe you can go along with what I’ve been describing, but of course, sex in this worldview has a primary end as being for procreation. So, yeah, the hardcore view is that non-procreative sex is going to be sinful whether it is from a straight couple or gay couple.

    All of this being said, all of this being said, I point out again that I don’t think that the Mormon church has the theological chops to stick to these points. The LDS church has a different view of the purpose and point of relationships. The LDS church has a different view of embodiment — the body is for one experience things (and man is that he might have joy!), rather than being the pure locus of evil.

    And, truth be told, I think that most denominations that used to or currently teach this are losing the ability to teach this worldview. Because when you look right at it, it’s based on such fundamentally different ideas — many of which people DON’T buy — that it’s going to appear foreign, inconceivable even, to others.

    I mean, I think that’s why the most conservative voices on voices are also against things like *contraception*, women’s *economic autonomy*, the voluntary decision against having children, etc., Because these conservative voices are the few ones who realize that their worldview is predicated on a profoundly different worldview than most people accept.

    But you know, since most people won’t accept all those premises, I think that is why change will continue to happen.

  4. Chad
    July 16, 2013 at 8:16 am

    This is an excellent essay! You honed in on the key questions that point to bigotry over any logical policy with respect to the church’s position on same-sex marraige.

  5. A friend who disagrees
    July 17, 2013 at 8:37 am

    I recognize I disagree with those on this website on many fundamentals, but these specific, nuanced questions have been answered by the principles in these three links: (“Choose to date only those who have high moral standards and in whose company you can maintain your standards.”)

    The standard is clear: any relationship which is not in keeping with principles (not just the technicalities) of chastity is inappropriate.

    With a ton of well due respect, asked and answered.

  6. Jennette
    July 21, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Simply brilliant!

  7. Jon
    July 22, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    I find the whole idea completely ridiculous. It is taught many different times in the scriptures that you must have an eye single to the glory of God; you cannot serve two masters. If he says that a marriage must be between a man and a woman then you should either accept it and follow his commandments or choose a different way. He nowhere states that people will not have the agency to choose.

    While I read this, I didn’t necessarily see anything wrong with the majority of the questions. However, I do know that Men are that they might have joy, and God’s purpose is to magnify that joy by bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. I’m sure he has a reason for commandments that he has made.

    If you find that you don’t believe that the LDS church is making God’s commandments known through the prophets, then it seems irrational to seek support from them while choosing to go against what they preach.

    If you find that you do believe that the LDS church is not making God’s commandments known through the prophets, then it seems irrational to seek support from them unless you intend to choose to err.

    With that being said, I don’t hate anybody who CHOOSES to do something that they enjoy; I would do the same. However, I do find that for myself, the most joy I have felt is by following the commandments that I have proved through faith. I would recommend finding out for yourself if you couldn’t also find a similar joy by choosing this day to serve the Lord.

    • Daniel Parkinson
      July 22, 2013 at 7:27 pm

      This may seem ridiculous to you, but have you ever been told you need to spend the rest of your life alone? Have you thought about how that might feel?

      Man is to have joy, but the message LGBT people get in Mormonism is devoid of joy for so many. Thousands of LGBT Mormons have committed suicide. The joy is hard to find for them with these messages that don’t take into account their reality in an empathetic way. These questions are questions that are genuine to any LGBT person who is trying to figure out why it is that the church wants them to live alone with no hope for companionship in this life.

    • Daniel Parkinson
      July 22, 2013 at 7:30 pm

      The answers that the church offers to LGBT presently are so isolating that the vast majority of LGBT people leave the church (not to mention all of those who leave this world by killing themselves). I am asking for the church leaders to try to frame these questions from a point of view that we can understand, so that LGBT people can see that their predicament is understood. So far the church leaders don’t show a real understanding of what we go through.

  8. Confused
    November 19, 2013 at 2:18 am

    I’m posting this despite some reservations about doing so because I have rarely tried to collect my thoughts on this in a public forum, though I do have many thoughts. And in spite of how it sounds, know that most of those thoughts are sympathetic to the position you are advocating. Most people commenting on these kinds of threads seem to have their minds already made up as to whether or not they agree. I am just trying to voice the confusion of someone who neither wholly rejects nor wholly embraces your opinions at the onset.

    I have given the issue of homosexuality and the Gospel a great deal of thought, and your post gave me some new and compelling things to consider. However, you are asking these questions as someone who has already broken a commandment by getting married to your husband in the first place. There is no room for confusion as to whether or not your marriage is considered acceptable by current practice. And in spite of the rising hope among some Church members that our current practice may be temporary or liable to change in the future, the evidence does not look favorable. The Church recently released a statement saying, “On the question of same-sex marriage, the Church has been consistent in its support of traditional marriage while teaching that all people should be treated with kindness and understanding. If it is being suggested that the Church’s doctrine on this matter is changing, that is incorrect. Marriage between a man and a woman is central to God’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. As such, traditional marriage is a foundational doctrine and cannot change” (cf.–same-sex-marriage).

    As a straight ally, this was hard for me to read; obviously, it is even harder to hear for those who are gay themselves. I am open to the idea that in the end, God’s plan for us is much bigger than what we currently envision as a Church. In fact, I’m basically counting on that idea. To what extent it implicates the future of gay marriage in Zion, however, has always felt like a point of uncertainty for me. It seems harsh to consider that our current standards may be eternal standards, and in that case I can only hope MUCH more understanding is given to us from the Lord.

    All that said, though, “I need clarification” ends up reading as “I need this doctrine to change.” And maybe that was the purpose of this post. I don’t have qualms with your posing these questions and asking them to be taken more seriously by leadership and membership alike as we address these issues. Sincere questions are welcome in our prayers and they should be welcome in our conversation. But… I can’t put my finger on it. Something about this post had an air of cognitive dissonance.

    If we interrogate the “why” of every commandment, we end up at a dead-end. Something like, “Why not drink coffee?” turns into “Well… uh… caffeine? Does that mean we can’t drink Coke either? No? Is it because it’s a hot beverage? Well, we Mormons do love our hot chocolate. Is it because it’s bad for our health? Studies disagree. Is it because we can become dependent on it for energy? Well, what if I only drink coffee casually? Is that a sin?” I’m not saying by any stretch of the imagination that the question of coffee even comes close to the level of emotional complexity you have in your own questions and your own searching. But I think the nature of the questions you’re asking makes it look as though you are seeking justification for a decision you’ve already made that clearly deviates from what has been defined as doctrine. I’m not sure how much power that will have in changing the conversation. Not to mention, the “why”s that are given for many doctrines usually seem inadequate to our logic. You have been given “why”s for traditional marriage, just not ones that make much sense (marriage is for procreation, for example) because they were made up by members scrambling around to make sense of something that seems almost harsh in its simplicity: “Marriage is for a man and a woman.”

    That answer seems overly reductive and almost teleological, I get it. I’m kind of sick of that answer, too. But here’s my question: What if that ACTUALLY is the “why”? The one that God will give us when we meet Him face to face? Will that ever be convincing enough? I don’t blame you if it’s not right now, but that is indeed the answer that has been given thus far. Is there a way for someone as intelligent and seeking as you are to reconcile yourself to such an answer? (That’s a sincere question, and one that frustrates me when I think of this topic.)

    I’m not trying to come off as a hater. The last thing I want is to be bundled with the likes of “Jon” or “A friend who disagrees” who sees everything as cut-and-dry. Your post is the kind of thing that I normally wouldn’t bat an eyelash about because of my own feelings and experiences when it comes to homosexuality. I advocate for marriage equality in general; it’s a choice you should be able to make. However, marriage equality in the Church feels like a different story. Someone who is drinking or fornicating or embezzling money can often stay in the Church, with disciplinary actions that lead them back into full fellowship and temple attendance. But if what you’re doing is still defined as sin by the Church but not defined as sin by you, I’m not sure what recourse you have.

    Thanks for letting me engage in this superlongcomment if for no other reason than to strengthen my own resolve to keep praying about this matter sincerely on behalf of the brothers and sisters I love so dearly. Best to you.

    • Daniel Parkinson
      November 19, 2013 at 8:08 am

      In answer to your question, I wasn’t really asking at all. I already know that God approves of my marriage. I don’t have a shred of doubt about that. I also know it would be a sin for me to abandon my husband.

      I asked all these questions because every one of them is a question LGBT Mormons have. Straight church leaders just see it all as black or white, and don’t give a single word of guidance that connects to the real questions and issues that people face.

      You brought up the point that I already broke the commandment by marrying my husband. Suppose I agreed with that. What should I do know? Is it a bigger sin to abandon my husband so that I can be in full fellowship in the church ( or even get baptized as is the case of several people I know). The church doesn’t talk about that, but they are literally asking people to abandon their spouses, and sometimes their children. My essay is filled with the situations that LGBT people are facing across the spectrum, and the lack of ANY discussion or empathy about those situation on the part of church leaders.

      I do want the doctrine to change. I know it is wrong. It is wrong because of the despair and suicide it causes. No law coming from God would lead to such high levels of despair, and high levels of suicide. Most LGBT people are forced to realize that and most leave the church, because they see the obvious…that the Mormon church basically teaches them that God hates them as they are. This makes me sad though because many of them leave damaged and many of them kill themselves.

      I openly say that I want the church to seek revelation to change a very discriminatory teaching that is leading to despair and suicide. They did it in 1978, after teaching for years that this teaching would never change. When they open their hearts again and make themselves ready, God will reveal it again. I know this because I know that God is fair and loving and not arbitrary and discriminatory.

      Right now the church is spending a lot of energy telling 97% of its members to actively fight against the rights of 3% of its members. There has never been a message of love toward that 3% in a general conference. The only message of love is hidden on a web-site that nobody knows about. The net result for LGBT members who are trying to stay in the church is despair. The realities facing these people are never ever discussed, and they are never given a message of love. Meanwhile in every General Conference there are comments marginalizing them, and it is even worse in Stake Conferences and Sunday School meetings. By all appearances it seems that the church leaders simply want them to leave the church, because that is the impact of what they are doing. I want to believe that this isn’t the case, but it is blatantly apparent to any LGBT person that the church leaders simply aren’t taking into account in any way their realities and their experiences.

      My hope is that the church leaders are sincere in their desire to minister to everybody including LGBT people. I just wish they would start sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, I have a lot of hope for the Mormon people. They are ready to start making changes in their attitudes and there is a beautiful growth of acceptance emerging. It is still small, but it is bound to grow, because the cause is right and just. Christ taught love, and Mormons are going to understand that.

      • Less Confused
        November 22, 2013 at 7:11 am

        Hi, it’s me again! You’ve given me a lot to think about, Daniel. I couldn’t agree more that the dialogue about this needs to open up much more if we are to really have the love and fellowship we desire within our community. If the website you’re referring to is, I agree that it is only one of many steps that needs to be taken to open up a space for LGBT voices and concerns in our community. Over the summer, I wrote a letter to the Brethren thanking them for the creation of this website but voicing my opinion that the conversation will have to go even further than that. Furthermore, I admitted that I disagreed with something said in an interview with one of the leaders. More or less, this leader affirmed that it was okay for parents to stop inviting their gay children to family reunions and things like that. I was shocked. My brother is gay, and I have a very strong testimony that my parents’ continued love and acceptance of him was one of the best Christlike examples they could have shown me. Not to mention, my brother’s long-term partner of 12 years was always invited to our family gatherings as well, and he became like a brother to me.

        I did not mean to invalidate your experiences and thoughtful questions by voicing my own in my first comment. To be honest, it is only recently that I have ever found myself disagreeing so blatantly with something a General Authority said, much less to the point that I was willing to write a letter about it. I’m just not sure where to draw the line between having an open mind and descending into the kind of criticism of Church leadership that leads to doubt and apostasy.

        What I will say is this. I try to subscribe to Kierkegaard’s notion of an “absolute relationship with the absolute.” That is to say, if each of us have a radically individual relationship to God (and I believe we do), it is possible that He asks different things of us and confirms different things to us in our personal lives. Kierkegaard makes this argument with the use of Abraham of the Old Testament as an example. Abraham was asked to do something that violated both moral and ethical standards, and of course he would sound crazy to anyone else had he tried to explain what he was prepared to do in faith for the Lord. This means, of course, that I can’t tell you with any certainty that your marriage isn’t right before God, and I wouldn’t try to convince you of that anyway. But all of this means something different for me, someone who does not have that personal affirmation from on high. That’s why I call myself “confused” and am trying to show what this position looks like from someone who is sympathetic to what you are saying but does not have enough personal revelation to wholesale agree with everything either.

        No matter what, though, I think you are absolutely right that this black-and-white approach is not serving the needs of the Saints. I hope such questions as the ones you’ve asked will be taken seriously in our community, and soon. I can’t thank you enough for letting me have this conversation, as it has opened up my desire to counsel with the Lord on these matters rather than to just keep relying on old conclusions or instincts.

    • Rob
      November 22, 2013 at 12:08 am

      Wow, that’s such a fantastically honest comment. Thanks so much for speaking up ‘confused’.

      As a gay man myself, I certainly identify with Daniel in some ways. I’m not married, but I have no doubt about my standing before God. He continually ratifies my trajectory and my identity as a gay man, very specifically, as a gay man. Let me reiterate that the ratification of his spirit is often and undeniable. Because I’m single, I really need that constant support from him. I don’t have a spouse to be there, I don’t have a church that recognizes the legitimacy of my inherent worthiness as a gay man, and I don’t have a gay culture that respects my spiritual beliefs or values.

      My only hope for community lies in the eventual embrace by the church. Unlike you I suppose, I do see many reasons to anticipate with optimism. For one, we have such amazing access to biblical records in their original ancient languages. We don’t leverage it very often in the church, but I’m hoping that the conversation surrounding this issue revs up to the point where people take the effort to educate themselves regarding the original biblical contexts. Doing so won’t eradicate all presumptions about homosexuality as sin, but it will certainly unbind the certainty of it. After all, we believe the bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly. We believe that there are translation errors, and errors of understanding concerning many points.

      Such biblical conversations are happening outside the church and are leading to a better understanding of the origins of the traditional christian position against it. I have a lively hope that the membership of our church will consider the fact that there have been no specific revelations regarding the issue, nor do our expanded scriptural cannon address the issue. The origins of LDS doctrine against homosexuality still lie firmly under the umbrella of traditional christian dogma. It’s a position that has been perpetuated in much the same way as the doctrine against the ordination of black men to the priesthood prior to 1978, that is, by our leaders expressing their personal viewpoints, which in the case of blacks, later proved to be false viewpoints.

      For the church to make doctrinal room for homosexuality, we need to re evaluate our assumptions regarding many of the unknown details of exaltation. We don’t know the dynamics or properties of eternal fecundity. Will it entail copulation or is there a higher way to express an intimate relationship? Will it involve pregnancy? Or a specific number of contributors to the process? “Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was”. That doesn’t sound like the way we make babies, and yet we assume that our “eternal increase” will look exactly like it does here.

      We are also taught that to be exalted is to be one with God. Will there be privacy? Favoritism? Harems? I feel like there are too many limited and potentially flawed assumptions about those concepts. For his ways are higher than ours.

      So yeah, I’m very hopeful that we can transcend the obstacles one day. Hopefully the more people whose loved ones are directly affected by this issue, the more honestly people investigate it, the more hearts will open to the possibility.

  9. Nephi Joshua
    December 2, 2013 at 9:26 am

    I want to personally thank all of you for this abundant insight. These are excellent questions that I have swept under the rug for too long. I was raised in the Mormon Church, baptised at a young age and taught to live an honest and truthful life.

    This led me to come out to my parents just before my 14th birthday. I am now 28. I’ve dabbled in pretty much all the world has to offer and continually find myself yearning for a stronger spiritual connection. I respect the Mormon Church for many of it’s teachings, and I know in my heart that Jesus set a more profound example on this earth than anyone else in history.

    I recently felt the urge to return to the LDS Church I was raised in, the Church that my father told me I couldn’t attend because of my “choice”. (that was over a decade ago and he has since become inactive, yet seems to accept me more)

    The service I went to about 3 months ago was very uplifting. Two sister missionaries performed a lovely rendition of a hymn that brought tears to my eyes. I felt the Holy Spirit as tears poured down my face. All the talks resonated with me, about love and fellowship. Then I went to the Sunday school afterwards….a great brotherhood of people I knew from my childhood in the Church. The lesson that day was about repentance, and one of the first things mentioned that needed to be repented for was homosexuality. I felt confused… I felt part of me urging me to speak up and confess what I had never told any one in the Church, but I suppose at the time I lacked the necessary courage to do so. I feel the need to reconcile my feelings. I know God exists and loves us all. I also feel, based on personal experience that only by the teachings of Jesus have I been able to be the decent human being than I am this day. But I am frustrated with the Church. The idea that I am less of a righteous man because I am attracted to men feels unnatural to me. I’m also confident that I am not the only one who has tried to feel for a woman and failed. At the end of the day I feel my purpose in this world is far more important than my sexual orientation, but i’d be lying if I didn’t say I long for a much larger open LGBT spiritual community. I suppose I am looking for resources… I found “Affirmation” online and have enjoyed some of their material, but up in Winnipeg Manitoba, Canada there is not really an opportunity for some face time. Am I supposed to meet with my Bishop and pour my heart out? What outcome can I expect from this interaction? A “to do” list to live my life the way HE feels I should? Can he alone steer me in the direction God wants me to go? One thing I do know is that sharing my testimony is truly important. The Church got that right!

    • Daniel Parkinson
      December 2, 2013 at 11:02 am

      Nephi Joshua. I hope you will take advantage of some of the resources that are available. One example at Affirmation is a FB group called Prepare. It is for LGBT Mormons who want to be active in the church, but plan on pursuing (or staying in) same-sex relationships/marriages. There are also some other very supportive FB groups that I could tell you about. If you contact me I can give you the information. You can find me easily on Facebook (Daniel Parkinson) or email

      I also think you might be interested in a presentation I compiles which gives the testimonies of several LGBT people. They each had a personal revelation confirming to them that God accepted their homosexuality and even of their same-sex marriages. We know in Mormonism that we have to rely on personal revelation, because that is the only way we know whether to trust whether or not any of Mormonism is true. LGBT people in Mormonism need to take this farther, because of the lack of answers provided by the church. I encourage you to listen to this youtube that was also posted here.

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