By Joseph Broom
For many of us older gay Mormon guys, the attitude of the LDS Church toward homosexuality was succinctly stated in a talk entitled “To Young Men Only,” given by Elder Boyd K. Packer in priesthood session of conference in October 1976. This address was subsequently printed in pamphlet form and became the standard reference for many years for bishops in dealing with “worthiness” issues among young men and contained the “party line” with respect to the issues of homosexuality and (among other things) masturbation, both of which were condemned in no uncertain terms. (Interestingly, this talk is omitted from both the General Conference section of the Church’s website, as well as from the online edition of the Ensign for November 1976, but can be found HERE on the Church’s website.)
Any Mormon man who came of age in the late 70’s through the mid-90’s is probably familiar with the pamphlet containing this talk, or at least with the principles set forth in the pamphlet. These principles, along with other Church practices that were intended to “deal” with homosexuality (e.g., reparative therapy and encouraging gay men to marry with the assurance that same-sex attractions would be thereby “cured”) were the frame of reference for many of us when we made the decision to get married and start down the “path.”
As I read private messages I received from young gay Mormon men, as well as comments that were left on my blog in response to posts about mixed-orientation marriages, I came to realize how relevant the experiences of those of us who had entered such marriages were to these younger men. The doctrine of eternal marriage (and everything it implies), central as it is to everything the Church is and stands for, represents a significant (and for some, insurmountable) barrier or challenge to young gay Mormon men who are attempting to deal with their sexuality and, by extension, their identity – eternal and otherwise.
One such man wrote a comment that was reflective of others I had received: “I am just thinking that I should get married and have kids. I really want to go to the celestial kingdom, but I am so worried about being married or having kids. I don’t know [however] if I am strong enough to do it.” He then asked for my advice.
Believing that what I wrote may be of some relevance and use to other young gay Mormon men, and with the consent of the man to whom I was writing, I am including here most of my (slightly edited and updated) response to this young gay brother, which I now entitle:
To Young Men Only – The Gay Version
It sounds like you are obviously an active member of the Church and that you have a testimony of the reality of God and of the ability of the Holy Ghost to inspire and enlighten you. Because of this, my first bit of counsel for you would be – if you haven’t already done so – to specifically pray to know whether Heavenly Father accepts you as you are – gay. However, in doing so, I would remind you of Moroni’s admonition: seek wisdom, be sincere, and ask with real intent (and I would suggest that asking with real intent requires that you push away from you everything that you have been taught about the nature of homosexuality and approach God as much as possible with an open mind and heart). Then there is James’ admonition in James 1:5 (which, of course, prompted Joseph to go into the grove of trees): “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” [New International Version].
I can and will give you my own personal conviction that God accepts you just the way you are, but it is obviously no substitute for your own witness (in whatever form that may come, e.g., whether as a flash of insight, an impression in your heart and mind, a feeling, or a settled conviction). My own witness of this, which I have described elsewhere on my blog, came to me on my mission in the most sublime spiritual experience of my life.
My witness is that you were born the way you are and that God accepts and loves you the way you are. President Packer notwithstanding, you did not “choose” to be gay. You just are.
If God accepts you as you are, which I believe He does, then you next need to think and pray about the consequences and ramifications of this knowledge. Would God damn you for something that He has told you is “ok”? Would He expect you to do something totally contrary to your nature, failing which you would be damned? My answer to these questions, after much experience, pondering and prayer, is “no.”
The truth is that God’s ways are not our ways. In Isaiah 55:8-9, we read: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” We – President Monson included – understand and have had revealed to us only a tiny fraction of what God knows and understands. Joseph Smith himself said that if he told the Saints everything he knew, the apostles would leave his side and the saints would “fly apart as glass.” (And remember – he went in to the Sacred Grove expecting one answer and came out with a mind-blowingly different answer, one that he could never have anticipated.)
My own deep personal conviction is that there is much we do not know and understand about homosexuality. But there is something each one of “us” can know and understand: God loves us just the way we are (i.e., gay) and He does not expect us to live a lie. Should we who are gay, alone among God’s creations, deny ourselves and have denied to us the opportunity to fulfill the measure of our creation? Again, my answer to this question is no.
This is obviously a very personal issue. But I believe that if you open your heart and try to push away what you have been taught about homosexuality and ask God with sincerity and full purpose of heart, He will reveal to you the truth of who you are [i.e., in your heart and/or your mind in a way that is appropriate to you] … I wish you the very best, which I’m sure you deserve.
Joseph Broom, an adult convert to the LDS Church, was married for over 24 years and is the father of 10 children. He came out in October 2010 and blogged for over a year as “Invictus Pilgrim,” (where a version of this post was originally published) chronicling his coming-out experience. He now lives with his partner in Salt Lake City and blogs at josephsjourneyings.blogspot.com.