Question: If same-sex attraction is something that occurs naturally, why can't God and the Church accept it by allowing sealings of LGBT couples?

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Question: If same-sex attraction is something that occurs naturally, why can't God and the Church accept it by allowing sealings of LGBT couples?

Introduction to Question

Some have brought up the sensitive question of why gay marriage and other LGBT relationships can't be accepted by God and the Church if the characteristic is innate. Some struggle to find a purpose in the command to not engage in homosexual behavior. Some secularist critics and even members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who support same-sex marriage co-opt this issue as a means of openly and directly challenging the Church's opposition to same-sex relationships and marriages. This article examines that sensitive question/criticism.

It must be understood that some people are very sincere when asking these questions and that the questions deserve to be treated as such when sincerity is sensed. Others simply want to emotionally manipulate people into faith crisis over this issue. Great discernment is needed to know whether one is the former or latter in any given situation.

Response to Question

Feelings are Not Being

It is important to remember that just because something occurs naturally, that doesn't mean that it is therefore a good thing. This is what is known as the Is-Ought Fallacy in philosophy. There are plenty of things that occur naturally that we don't consider good such as depression, anxiety, and so forth. Many animals kill each other after mating.[1]

Brigham Young University professor Ty Mansfield pointed out something important in regard to feelings not forming identity:

“Being gay” is not a scientific idea, but rather a cultural and philosophical one, addressing the subjective and largely existential phenomenon of identity. From a social constructionist/constructivist perspective, our sense of identity is something we negotiate with our environment. Environment can include biological environment, but our biology is still environment. From an LDS perspective, the essential spiritual person within us exists independent of our mortal biology, so our biology, our body is something that we relate to and negotiate our identity with, rather than something that inherently or essentially defines us. Also, while there has likely been homoerotic attraction, desire, behavior, and even relationships, among humans as long as there have been humans, the narratives through which sexuality is understood and incorporated into one’s sense of self and identity is subjective and culturally influenced. The “gay” person or personality didn’t exist prior to the mid-20th century.

In an LDS context, people often express concern about words that are used—whether they be “same-sex attraction,” which some feel denies the realities of the gay experience, or “gay,” “lesbian,” or “LGBT,” which some feels speaks more to specific lifestyle choices. What’s important to understand, however, is that identity isn’t just about the words we use but the paradigms and worldviews and perceptions of or beliefs about the “self” and “self-hood” through which we interpret and integrate our various experiences into a sense of personal identity, sexual or otherwise. And identity is highly fluid and subject to modification with change in personal values or socio-cultural context. The terms “gay,” “lesbian,” and “bisexual” aren’t uniformly understood or experienced in the same way by everyone who may use or adopt those terms, so it’s the way those terms or labels are incorporated into self-hood that accounts for identity. One person might identify as “gay” simply as shorthand for the mouthful “son or daughter of God who happens to experience romantic, sexual or other desire for persons of the same sex for causes unknown and for the short duration of mortality,” while another person experiences themselves as “gay” as a sort of eternal identity and state of being.

An important philosophical thread in the overall experience of identity, is the experience of “selfhood”—what it means to have a self, and what it means to “be true to” that self. The question of what it means to be “true to ourselves” is a philosophical rather than a scientific one. In her book Multiplicity: The New Science of Personality, Identity, and the Self, award-winning science and medical writer Rita Carter explores the plurality of “selves” who live in each one of us and how each of those varied and sometimes conflicting senses of self inform various aspects of our identity(ies). This sense seems to be universal. In the movie The Incredibles, there’s a scene in which IncrediBoy says to Mr. Incredible, “You always, always say, ‘Be true to yourself,’ but you never say which part of yourself to be true to!”[2]

Thus, there is big difference between feelings and the meaning or labels that we assign to feelings. Thank goodness that feelings are not being. Couldn't we imagine a time where someone would want to change feelings that they didn't feel described their identity such as impulses for pornography, drugs, or violence? This does not mean that the author is comparing sexual orientation to bad impulses, this is simply to point out that feelings do not inherently control identity. We assign identity to feelings.

The Latter-day Saint Argument for Marriage

We should turn to Latter-day Saint scripture to figure out why the Church values marriage as much as it does and why is refuses to acknowledge same-gender sexual behavior and romantic relationships.

In 1831, Joseph Smith gave a revelation to the Shakers living in Ohio regarding some of their beliefs. As part of their religious system, they forbade people to marry and made them celibate. This revelation reissues the Lord's definition of marriage to the Shakers:

15 And again, verily I say unto you, that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man.
16 Wherefore, it is lawful that he should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation;
17 And that it might be filled with the measure of man, according to his creation before the world was made.

This revelation makes several crucial points about the Latter-day Saint position on marriage:

  1. Marriage is ordained of God
  2. Marriage is defined as being between one man and woman
  3. We were designed by God to be married this way.
  4. Our design is not shown in the sexual orientation we have but our biological gender.
  5. We were designed in the pre-mortal existence to be married man and woman.

We might ask why this marriage arrangement is the ideal one? We believe that it is because the Lord endorses the conjugal view of marriage. What is the conjugal view of marriage? Another website explains:

The conjugal view holds that marriage is a union between a man and a woman who share a domestic life oriented towards child-bearing and child-rearing. In other words, procreation (creating new human life) is the unifying good of a marriage relationship. A “unifying good” is that activity that most completely unites the partners in the relationship — the purpose towards which they coordinate their joint activities.


Let’s illustrate what this means: Consider a boyfriend and a girlfriend who share a deep emotional connection and enjoy spending time with each other. They have no particular plans for the future, and have made no commitments to each other. They may be united by many things, including mutual enjoyment, or whatever shared hobbies they pursue. Imagine that the girlfriend suddenly becomes pregnant. At that moment, their futures change completely — a whole host of duties suddenly arise that fundamentally changes their relationship.

They are now united by something more than just mutual enjoyment and emotional connection — they are united by an innocent human person, who physically embodies their union. While their relationship may still involve love and a deep emotional connection, raising the child becomes that thing that most completely unites them. This is what it means to say that child-raising is the unifying good of the relationship. They will probably consider getting married, because that is what marriage is about. In fact, if they don’t get officially married, but continue to live together and raise their kids together, many governments will still consider them married anyway (in what is called “common law marriage”).

The change that occurred in their relation strikes at the heart of marriage, from the conjugal view. Marriage is when a man and a woman say to each other, in essence, “Let us extend our emotional union into something more permanent, by starting a family together.” That is, a married couple arranges their lives and joins their families in anticipation of child-birth and child-raising. A pregnancy may be an unexpected interruption to a boyfriend and girlfriend, which fundamentally changes their relationship. However, as much as a child might change the lives of a married couple, she does not change the nature of their relationship. Marriage creates that difference from the get-go (before children are ever conceived), by enwrapping the relationship in norms (expectations) of permanence and fidelity. This is because marriage is oriented towards procreation. It points couples that direction.[3]

There are some objections that people have raised to this that we address below.

Latter-day Saint scripture also provides some evidence that the union of man and woman creates the spirits people in the next life (D&C 132:63).

Objections to Church Standard

The Argument from Personal Revelation

There are often claims from members of the Church who identify as LGBTQAIP+ and other members of the Church who support same-sex marriage that they have received personal revelation that the Church is wrong about this issue and that it will eventually accept LGBT sealings, relationships, and so on in the future. Since this is a topic that involves the ontological makeup of the entire human family as well as their eternal destiny, this type of revelation does not lie within the stewardship of those that identify as LGBT or those that support same-sex marriage, but with the prophet of God (Doctrine and Covenants 28:2-4; 42:53-60; 112:20). The Savior told us that the one way we could protect ourselves against deception is to hold to his word (JS-Matthew 1:37) and he announces himself as the source of the revelation declaring that our telos as men and women is to be united maritally and sexually (Doctrine and Covenants 49:28). Thus, it is likely that these individuals, if they have indeed felt revelation occur, have been deceived by false Spirits (Doctrine and Covenants 50:1-2) and their testimonies should be disregarded. If someone were to receive a revelation like this, it would be given to them for their own comfort and instruction. They would also be placed under strict commandment to not disseminate their revelation until it accords with the revelation of the prophets, God's authorized priesthood channels (Alma 12:9).

The Argument from Priesthood Restriction

As an additional means of justifying opposition to the Church's position on same sex marriage, some point to the pre-1978 restrictions on people of African descent from holding the Church's priesthood or officiating in temple ordinances, including the Church's disavowed explanations for the restrictions. If the Church was wrong about their explanations for that, could it be wrong about this issue? This has been examined in another article on the FairMormon wiki.

Conclusion

Many LGBT members of The Church of Jesus Christ do not need to hear the points listed in this article. Many understand these points clearly but may simply need someone to love and empathize with their struggle. Members of the Church are placed under covenant at baptism to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort (Mosiah 18:8-9) and should be open to helping these good men and women when they need it most.

Alternatively, there may be some that begin to debate against the Church's position out of sincere frustration and sadness or simple spite. First, those who wish to help these individuals will need to dig deep and find out why these individuals are debating against the Church's position. Some may still need to simply have someone love them and empathize with them. Others may be past that and be debating, as mentioned, out of simple spite and emotional manipulation. In these instances, members of the Church should follow the other part of their baptismal covenant as outlined in Mosiah 18:8-9 and "stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in[.]"

As a final word which we wish to emphasize:

FairMormon joins The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in unequivocally condemning the discrimination of any of God's children based upon gender (or gender identity), race, sexual identity and/or orientation, and/or religious affiliation..

Notes

  1. Katherine Ellen Foley, "Some animals kill each other after sex because their distinction between hungry and flirty is blurred," last modified February 14, 2017, https://qz.com/909885/some-animals-kill-each-other-after-sex-because-their-distinction-between-hungry-and-flirty-is-blurred/.
  2. Ty Mansfield, "'Mormons can be gay, they just can’t do gay': Deconstructing Sexuality and Identity from an LDS Perspective," (presentation, FairMormon Conference, Provo, UT, 2014).
  3. "The Conjugal vs. Revisionist Views of Marriage," Discussing Marriage, accessed May 4, 2021, https://discussingmarriage.org/the-conjugal-vs-revisionist-views-of-marriage/#.YJG5gkhKjRZ.