D&C 11:12-14 “…put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously…. 13 …I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy; 14 And then shall ye know, or by this shall you know, all things whatsoever you desire of me, which are pertaining unto things of righteousness, in faith believing in me that you shall receive.”
So the bishop issued me a challenge: “Take your questions to the scriptures,” he said and added, “And I will do the same.” I was going to wait a week or so before delving into the scriptural aspect of my journey. I mean, I haven’t read the scriptures seriously since I don’t even know when. Every time I thought about it, I imagined myself falling down this Bible/Book of Mormon Rabbit Hole that never ends. As I’m sure many can attest, once you start looking for something, one verse has several cross references, and the verses that you are led to each have more cross references….
But I went into my search with a Plan. I’m a planner, by nature, so I came up with what I thought was a very linear way to go about finding the answers I was seeking. And it worked! Mostly. Until it didn’t.
Before I proceed, you should know that this post will indeed deal with some scriptures (duh) but also some doctrinal stuff too. I mean, it is impossible to search like this and not present my side without delving into some doctrinal stuff as well. I want to make sure you know, as a disclaimer, that all the “conclusions” I’ve reached here are just my own feelings. I am not an historian. I am not a scholar of world religions. I’m just a guy who is trying to find some answers. That being said, I am an English teacher, I LOVE words and etymology and semantics and culture, and I practice what I preach to my students: I check my sources, I try to filter out pure bias, I look at both sides of the argument to see how each side is presenting its points, I don’t take passages in isolation (context is key!), and I proofread. Always proofread, kids!
You should also know that a scriptural study of homosexual issues has been done myriad times by myriad scholars, researchers, historians, linguists, cultural anthropologists, etc. I haven’t seen anyone attempt to do a joint Bible-and-Book-of-Mormon study, so maybe that aspect of my journey will be a first.
I am going to start with some doctrinal basics. It is my understanding that in LDS doctrine, our souls are eternal; that is, our essential self was the same in the pre-existence, here in the mortal world, and it will be the same in the afterlife. If I was born gay (which I was) then I have to believe that if I have a soul, it too is gay. If this is how God intended me to be, then it logically follows that there is a plan for me, in all my gayness, in the afterlife. I do not believe that God would make me gay in this life and then say, “Good job with that man-on-man thing you did on earth. That’s so great that you and your husband stuck it out for almost sixty years! But now that you’re here, let’s get to finding you a woman.” I just don’t buy it.
So. My search. I needed a starting point. I decided that that point would be the set of statements that encompass the core beliefs of the LDS Church, the Articles of Faith. I thought I would reread them as a “Mormon refresher” and to get my bearings. Maybe something will pop out at me, I thought.
Some things popped all right. Some big things. But I’m going to come back to those in part two of this post. (Yes, this is going to be a long one, so I decided to split it up. Part two is where things are going to get really heavy-duty.)
I had never heard of the BoM saying anything directly about homosexuality, pro or con, but after poking around online, I found a blog whose purpose is to describe to non-Mormons the intricacies of the LDS faith. The author, on the entry about Mormons’ belief about same-sex relationships, put forth a scripture: “For the natural man is an enemy to God…and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord…” (Mosiah 3:19). I found out that this same scripture is used in several other places to scare gay people into changing their ways. The interpretations basically all say the same thing, that homosexuality is akin to succumbing to a “craving” or an “appetite” or a “hunger” of the flesh. (See also David Bednar’s talk from this year’s Gen. Conf.: “We Believe in Being Chaste.”) In other words, the gays are only about getting lots of the sex. In this case, gay people are put into the same category as prostitutes and people addicted to pornography. But someone got something very wrong along the way, whether it was our modern-day readers or Joseph Smith himself. The word “natural” in a scriptural sense only means people who have not accepted Christ as their Savior (Think “natural” versus “in the Spirit.”) A sermon given by Jonathan Edwards that bears similarities to this passage from Mosiah is spoken directly to “the natural men,” e.g. those in the congregation who have the truth right in front of their faces and still refuse to accept it. Edwards says, “God has laid Himself under no obligation by any promises to keep any natural Man out of Hell one Moment….but what are contained in the Covenant of Grace.” He is saying that unconverted people will go to Hell unless they receive the “covenant of grace,” or baptism. This scripture, then, in Mosiah, seen in the light of what the word “natural” really means, just says that people who have not been baptized in Christ’s name will not go to Heaven. And that is certainly nothing new, right? (Even the footnotes in the BoM for the word “natural” refer to unsaved people.) The “lake of burning brimstone” referenced a few words later in Mosiah (and, coincidentally, also in Edwards’ sermon) is being applied only to those who are “unconverted.” So how, as in Bednar’s talk, can we just decide that a word now has a new meaning in order to push forward one set of beliefs and sacrifice another?
Using footnotes and cross references, I ended up at a few other scriptures that I will just discuss briefly because there are many other scriptures that say similar things.
First, 2 Nephi 2:24-25 “But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things…men are, that they might have joy.” God knows and has planned everything: there are NO mistakes! Moreover, we exist to be JOYFUL. To have love and share love. To experience intimacy. This chapter goes on to exhort resisting temptations “of the flesh,” which some might use to negate my argument, in that homosexual “acts” are merely lustful. Again, this is just not true, and I will refer you once again to Bryan Hendrickson’s beautiful essay on this topic: “It’s About Love.”
Next, I came across D&C 132, which is still confusing to me. It talks about celestial marriage and the “new and everlasting covenant.” But it talks about being married in the church by someone who has the priesthood, basically saying that earthly (civil) marriage will only last while the couple is living, but eternal marriage done in the temple by one who has the power of the priesthood will last forever. While it does talk about husbands and wives, nowhere does it attempt to define marriage as being between a man a woman, as it is used to do today; indeed, this same chapter extols the virtues of a man marrying ten virgins! So, does the exclusion of something mean that God is against it, or was Joseph Smith speaking only about what he was familiar with, e.g. heterosexual relationships (of which he freely partook). Also, Section 22 of the Doctrine and Covenants talks about this “new and everlasting covenant” in reference to baptism. So what is being referred to? Is it marriage or is it baptism? Or is it both? Is the “new and everlasting covenant” just a promise/agreement/contract that all major spiritual actions (i.e. marriage, and baptism) be done by someone who holds the Priesthood? I think this is an important discussion because this section is used often by LDS authorities to define marriage and state the church’s position on same-sex marriage.
And then I read this one: 1 Samuel 1-3: “…the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul…and then Jonathan and David made a covenant because he loved him as his own soul…”I am not going to assume that Jonathan and David were secret lovers, but, you have to admit that this relationship of theirs definitely does beyond fist bumps and bro hugs. The “knitting” together of souls cannot be a small thing. They made a covenant to each other that seems to go beyond “I swear I’ll always have your back, man.” And Jonathan loved David “as his own soul.” Sounds an awful lot like the relationship I hope to have someday. Identical, even.
So I’m on the LDS scripture website (because I don’t have scriptures and the website is much better than a paper book anyway because it instantly cross references and goes to linked scriptures) and I’m bouncing all over the place. I’m looking up words. I’m reading entire chapters. I’m going back and forth to compare how different verses use the same words to get more context. And yet, I’m having fun. It’s a weird feeling.
Then I found a biggie. I’ve actually read this one before and wanted to read it in context and learn more about it. D&C 137:9: “For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.” (see also D&C 76:111) If people knew, really knew, what has been in my heart, what is in my heart now and in the hearts of so many LGBT people, they would know that their negative judgment is false. I believe, if I believe anything at all, that God alone knows that my heart is good, that I want to give and receive love, that I want to have a partner to support and cherish and love for the rest of my life. That I want a family. That I want children. That I desire to raise them also to be good, honest, caring, loving people. As far as my works go, I strive to do good, to help others (I mean, I’m a poor high school teacher for crying out loud). But this argument will go nowhere if talking to someone sees only the sexual aspect of my life (one of my “works”) to be sinful in nature. And where does that belief of sin originate from?
The LDS Church officially maintains that homosexual activity is a sin. While they concede that homosexual inclinations (or what they prefer to call same-sex attractions, just to drive home the point about sex) are in and of themselves not sinful, acting out on those feelings most definitely is. The Church says, “Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them.” So where does this idea come from? Where does the sinful nature of gayness come from?
Hint: It came about much more recently than you might think.
Justin Moore has been many things, a ballet dancer, ballet teacher, and choreographer, a prep cook, a deck builder, a custom framer, a pianist (thought not a very good one), and a singer (even worse than the pianist gig). He is currently loving his job as a high school English teacher, even if it is in small-town rural Wisconsin. He recently started a blog that will chronicle his journey as a mid-30′s gay Mormon as he reconciles his past with his present with his future.