Let’s get a couple of things out of the way:
I’m not losing my testimony.
I’m not telling the Church what to do.
I”m not claiming a new revelation.
All that said, and knowing that my Bishop and Stake President both read this blog, I’ve been doing some thinking, and I’m not sure that I am confident that I know what I thought I knew when it comes to the LGBT community and the Church.
This is something that has been much on my mind of late, mostly because of my interactions with gay folks that have challenged my perceptions and prejudices. I’ve written before that I regret having been unfair and often ugly when it came to my reaction to gays and lesbians. But being tolerant is one thing. Loving people is something different.
In the near future, I will be going to my first same-sex marriage ceremony for two young women that I think the world of. One has been like a daughter to my wife and me, to the point that my own daughters complain that I like her better. She would insist that I do, and might hurt me if I said otherwise. When I was in an auto accident years ago, she was one of the first at my side in the hospital. She cried. I cried. And we just held hands in silence, because that was enough. She is a bright light in my life, and I would do anything for her.
I was invited to be present when the marriage proposal was made (a much bigger production than when I proposed to my wife in the front seat of my pickup), during which I looked around and thought, “Well, Robin, you never pictured yourself here!” Then I shrugged, hugged everyone, got my picture taken with the couple, and told them both I love them. Because I do.
Imagining the two of them apart is just…weird. They are loving and warm, wonderful with my family, and just good people. There are plenty of heterosexual married couples, including many within the Church, that I am hesitant to have around my kids. Not these two young ladies. I wondered how, if one or both of them were to join the Church, I could ask or expect them to separate. Pondering it made my head hurt.
The Church is visibly struggling right now in sorting out what to do with LGBT members and prospective members. The Church’s opposition to Proposition 8 in California resulted in considerable blowback, but it did get the Church to reassess its position and message. Church leaders have said supportive things about gay members that I never thought I would hear. On the flip side, the policy regarding children of gay parents cut against that trend, as did the Church’s recent position on the baker who didn’t want to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. The Church is working hard on its message, but it remains mixed.
Doctrinally, the Church has tweaked its position on homosexuality by saying that it isn’t a choice and same-sex attraction is not a sin. Acting on it, however, by being in a same-sex relationship is considered a sin and is grounds for excommunication. That is a line that I think just can’t hold. I’m not sure how doctrinally or ethically sound it is (given that thinking about other sinful conduct is supposed to be a no-no, right?), and it puts us in the awkward position of saying that neither heterosexual attraction nor homosexual attraction are bad, but you can only have a relationship is you are straight. And the definition of chastity that we are given in the temple–no sexual relations except with your lawfully married husband or wife–complicates matters further. Married gays could, with a straight face, declare that they are living the law of chastity under that definition.
I don’t have the answers here, and I don’t want to pretend that I do. Gobs of people professed to have all the answers about race and the priesthood, only to have their arguments swept away by revelation. I suspect that as our leaders continue to work through this issue, such divine direction is likely to come again. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the answer surprises us.
What I do know is this: If you take away the things that make both heterosexual and homosexual lifestyles unseemly (sex before marriage, promiscuity, lack of commitment, reckless behavior, etc.), I don’t personally have much of a gripe left with gay relationships. And the more that I interact with folks who are LGBT (well, LGB at least; I don’t really know any T’s), the more I have realized that my thinking has been unsound and unfair.
Experience should soften us. I was racist, until I spent my mission in the midst of wonderful people of other races and my prejudices were shattered on the rocks of reality. I was judgmental until I came to know people who had done terrible things and learned more of their stories. And I was harsh to homosexuals until they became friends and family. I can’t be harsh any more. I’ve invested too much love to do that.
I do not believe that the Lord has had the final say on this issue. I believe that we still have plenty to learn, and that as we become prepared for greater light, we will receive it, and we will be able to accept whatever that light will reveal. But even with the limited light I have now, I can see the need to love more, judge less, and not assume that what I’ve always thought on the subject necessarily is true. I’m open to additional instruction.