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An invaluable resource on the topic of same-gender attraction, this unique volume includes six plenary chapters features notable authors and gospel scholars: Brad Wilcox, M. Catherine Thomas, Camille Fronk Olson, Wendy Ulrich, Robert L. Millet, and Michael Goodman.
In addition, each chapter includes personal essays or first-person stories of faith and commitment from Latter-day Saints who have dealt with same-gender attraction.
Ty Mansfield says, "If you personally experience same-gender attraction, I hope the Spirit will impress upon you the depth of God's love for you, that you will know you belong in His church and kingdom, and that you will know there are many who walk this journey of faith with you."
Introduction: "A Seal of Living Reality" Ty Mansfield
"Arise, and Walk" Robbie Pierce
Becoming Sarrah Reynolds
The Gift of Hope Kirk Reidman
A Mighty Change of Heart Rich Wyler
"Trust in the Lord" Tony Clarke
"As I Have Loved You" Antoinette Cocco
Love Is Always the Answer Kathleen Marsden
Learning the True Gospel: The Transforming Power of the Atonement T.S. Richards
Being My True Self Tyler Moore
"This Will Be for Your Growth": A Wife's Journey to Self-Discovery and Healing Rhonda Moses
A Sacred Gift Blake Smith
Finding My Home in the Faith of My Fathers Steven Frei
A Christ-Centered Gender Identity John Alden
"They Will Be Done": Living with HIV/AIDS in Faith and Brotherhood Kenneth Hoover
My Shepherd Will Supply My Need Shawn McKinnon
My Journey as a Priesthood Leader Jerry Harris
The Atonement Can Fix That Too! Kevin Lindley
An Unlikely Gift Jason G. Lockhart
For Time and All Eternity Katharine Matis Adams
Resolution: The Unexpected Miracle Jeff Bennion
Creating a Whole Marriage Tanya Bennion
Resources Specific to Same-Gender Attraction
- Size: 6x9
- Pages: 384
- Published: 08/2011
About the Author
Ty Mansfield is a marriage and family therapist in Lubbock, Texas, and is currently completing in PhD in that field. He coauthored In Quiet Desperation: Understanding the Challenge of Same-Gender Attraction with Fred and Marilyn Matis, published by Deseret Book in 2004. Ty is a cofounder of the nonprofit organization North Star, a support organization for LDS individuals and families affected by homosexuality. He and his wife, Danielle, are the parents of one son.
"A Seal of Living Reality"
Homosexuality is a sensitive and complex issue that Latter-day Saints are learning to face with increasing openness and candor. Few issues of our time are proving as difficult to respond to in the way I believe our Eternal Father desires of us: with both heartfelt compassion and uncompromising devotion to eternal principles. President Gordon B. Hinckley affirmed, “Our hearts reach out to those who struggle with feelings of affinity for the same gender. We remember you before the Lord, we sympathize with you, we regard you as our brothers and sisters.”1
We live in a world where the stories of those quietly striving to live the gospel get lost in the crossfire of sexual politics and where popular perception increasingly is that if you experience same-gender attraction, the only way to live true to who you are is to pursue a gay or lesbian relationship. Because of this, it’s more important than ever for Latter-day Saints dealing with these issues to seek as much understanding as they can and to hold up hopeful alternatives that are consistent with the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Furthermore, as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, Latter-day Saints covenant at baptism to “mourn with those that mourn . . . and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:9) and to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees” (D&C 81:5). We can more effectively fulfill that covenant responsibility to succor all of our Father’s children, including those who experience same-gender attraction, as we feel their humanity by hearing their individual stories firsthand. This volume contains such essays of men and women who are living in harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings of His prophetic witnesses in relation to the eternal order of sexual expression, marriage, and family.
Several years ago, President Hinckley identified three things every convert to the Church needs as he or she matures in the gospel: “a friend, a responsibility, and nurturing with ‘the good word of God’ (Moro. 6:4).”2 I first heard President Hinckley’s remarks while I was serving a mission, and I thought about his words often as they related directly to the work in which my companions and I were engaged.
In the years since that time, I’ve come to feel that President Hinckley’s counsel is vital not just for converts but also for every son and daughter of God. Each of us yearns for a sense of community and belonging through close friendships with those who share various aspects of our life experience, we long to feel a deep sense of purpose and that we have something meaningful to contribute to the lives of those around us and toward the building up of Zion, and we all need a constant dose of the life-giving and regenerating power of God’s eternal Spirit.
Sheri Dew confirmed the powerful impact of having these three needs met in her own life as a single, adult member of a church where family is everything. Reflecting on her experience, Sister Dew said:
“I have often been asked why I feel so comfortable as a never-married member in such a family-oriented Church.
“I do not understand this question, which implies that I would be happier if I were not a member of the Church. It also implies that happiness comes only to those whose lives are ideal, which would make, incidentally, for a very small group of happy people. So perhaps the question on some people’s minds is really, How does someone in nontraditional circumstances feel a sense of belonging in The Church of Jesus Christ? . . .
“As I have reflected on my experience in the Church and on the reasons I have felt so at home within this divinely inspired organization, I have concluded that it is because I have been blessed to have [President Hinckley’s] three essential ingredients since the time I was young. . . .
“If there is anywhere in the world where every one of us, regardless of our personal circumstances, should feel accepted, needed, valued, and loved, it is within our Church family. And every one of us can reach out to others and help them feel a sense of belonging.”3
As a thirty-something Latter-day Saint who has experienced same-gender attraction and who has wrestled to find answers concerning this complex issue, I understand what it is like to find oneself in “nontraditional circumstances” in the Church. Over the past several years as I’ve contemplated the reasons I feel so hopeful and happy, I have felt to echo the words of Sister Dew as my thoughts have repeatedly returned to these principles outlined by President Hinckley. Neither pen nor tongue can tell the gratitude I feel for the love I’ve received from family and friends who value me for all that I am, for a strong sense of spiritual mission that keeps me both grounded and growing in my faith in Jesus Christ, and for the eternal peace I’ve felt as the life-giving Spirit of the living God has nourished my oft-thirsty soul.
This was not always the case. There was a time when I felt growing discouragement and doubt that living gospel teachings was a realistic possibility for me. I wasn’t sure I could continue on in the Church given the deep longings that persisted despite some very helpful work with a great LDS therapist. Because the few people I could find who also experienced same-gender attraction were either openly gay, living double lives, or simply didn’t seem happy in what appeared to be white-knuckled efforts to live Church standards, I began to wonder if it was even possible to live the kind of life in the Church I had always hoped for. Eventually, I started to explore the possibility of a committed same-sex relationship despite my deep testimony of the gospel and my understanding that such a choice was inconsistent with what I knew to be true. I started to feel as though I didn’t have any other choice for a happy life, and I longed for the strength and encouragement I believed could come from others who had dealt with similar issues but who were faithfully living the gospel and were willing to talk openly about it.
While I understood that there are legitimate reasons that people may choose to address these issues privately, I still longed to really know that there were faithful Latter-day Saints who were happy and successful in healthily addressing their feelings. The lack of these open voices, combined with the fact that the most insistent and prominent voices were telling me that the life I wanted with a thriving temple marriage and a family was simply unsustainable (and unfair for the Church to ask of me), left me feeling increasingly discouraged and hopeless.
All I could find on this issue from a faithful Latter-day Saint perspective seemed to be almost exclusively scientific or clinical in nature. In addition, it focused on how to overcome these feelings, with success stories (“success” usually being pretty narrowly defined) either artfully vague or safely concealed behind pseudonyms and broad clinical statistics, all of which perpetuated the shame with which I already struggled so much. I longed to hear the real, lived experiences of real, live Latter-day Saints—flesh-and-blood people who had been where I was. And when I grew weary of the polarized clinical rhetoric and political debates, I often sought solace with trusted teachers and leaders with whom I could talk about the issue from a more gospel-focused perspective. I wanted to believe that peace, at the very least, was possible, since “change” didn’t seem to be happening as quickly as I would like. So even as I started to more openly explore the possibility of a gay relationship, I continued to attend meetings and activities where I hoped the Spirit would be present and give me some desperately needed personal guidance and comfort.
It was during one of these times that I had some sacred, heart-changing spiritual experiences that reignited my rapidly fading hope for resolution and helped to reground me on a gospel path with a more optimistic and eternal perspective. I felt enveloped by the Spirit as it taught me that whether I ever married or achieved my desired transformation in this life, I was infinitely loved and accepted of God. My responsibility was to continue to live one day at a time while seeking and following the guidance of the Spirit. As I did so, I was assured that I would eventually receive every promised blessing of the gospel, including eternal marriage, whether in this life or the next. Something about that direct and divine communication to my heart liberated me. I felt a hope and joy and freedom in Christ that I hadn’t felt in years.
As I was contemplating this experience, the idea for this book was born. Though I had found (and continue to find) good therapy helpful, it was the basic eternal truths of the gospel and Christ’s Atonement, communicated to my heart through the power of the Holy Spirit, that soothed my soul and gave me renewed energy to keep moving forward with faith. I dreamed of a book with a collection of gospel teachings by respected inspirational writers that would speak of widely applicable gospel principles but be targeted directly toward LDS individuals and families dealing with issues related to same-gender attraction. My hope was that those teachings might facilitate further spiritual insight and encouragement for others.
In addition, in the years since that time, my initial yearning to meet Latter-day Saint men and women who have committed their lives to the gospel and who have experienced peace and resolution in that choice in various ways has been richly realized. Their stories and their tutoring examples—and in some cases, their personal support and friendship—have lifted and inspired me. I’ve longed for some kind of forum where their stories might benefit an even wider audience.
Although the idea I had for compilations of gospel teachings and first-person stories seemed like two very different projects, they came together when I recalled a lesson I had learned years earlier. For three years after returning home from my mission, I worked as an instructor at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. During my time there, I often heard referenced in talks and training some inspired counsel from Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who suggested that as we teach the gospel, “perhaps the perfect pattern . . . is to teach what is found in the scriptures and then to put a seal of living reality upon it by telling a similar and equivalent thing that has happened in our dispensation and to our people and—most ideally—to us as individuals.” There is something inspiring, he taught, about having “stories of real people who faced real problems and who solved them in a way that was pleasing to the Lord.”4 I would add that equally valuable are the stories of those whose problems aren’t fully solved, who may have yet to find the much sought-for resolution but who continue to exercise faith in the Lord—being “led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which [they] should do” (1 Nephi 4:6), and trusting that they will be led to their promised land “according to his own will and pleasure” (Mosiah 7:33).
It has been with Elder McConkie’s pattern as a guiding principle that I have compiled this collection of gospel teachings and personal essays. The compilation is organized along loosely defined themes, with an introductory chapter expounding broadly applicable gospel teachings related to each theme. These chapters are written by some of the Church’s seasoned teachers, who elaborate on the concept as they find it in the scriptures, the writings of latter-day prophets, and their experiences with LDS culture and perspectives. These authors do not personally experience same-gender attraction. Following each of these chapters is a handful of shorter, first-person essays by those who have wrestled directly with the issue of same-gender attraction in their lives, whether themselves or as parents, spouses, or priesthood leaders. These essays broadly correspond with the given themes, adding the “seal of living reality” Elder McConkie spoke of. “Unless our religion is a living thing,” Elder McConkie said, “that changes the lives of people in whose nostrils the breath of life is now inhaled, it has no saving power.”5 My desire is that ever more Latter-day Saints will have opportunities to share their witness of how God’s love and sustaining power have been made manifest in their lives.
In many ways, the selection of personal essays has been the most difficult part of this process. First, there are many men and women whose heroic stories of faith and commitment deserve a wider audience, and there simply hasn’t been enough room in one volume to include them all. Second, I wanted to highlight a wide variety of ways to understand and respond to this issue while remaining firmly anchored within the umbrella of faithful adherence to core doctrines and standards of the Church. I may not have been entirely successful in that effort, but I hope that each of these essays will help our faith community piece together a broader, more textured approach to this issue, carving out a more compassionate place for all who strive to follow the Lord, regardless of their mortal circumstances.
Parenthetically, in discussions of homosexuality in our broader culture, we typically also hear about what are commonly referred to as transgender issues—feelings of disconnection or incongruence between a person’s biological sex and the person’s internal sense of gender. Gender incongruence is distinct from homosexual attraction in that few men and women who experience same-gender attraction desire to actually be the opposite sex, and men and women who experience feelings of gender incongruence may or may not experience sexual or romantic attractions to the same sex. While this collection of teachings and essays primarily addresses the Latter-day Saint experience with homosexual attraction, virtually untouched in faithful LDS literature are the stories of individuals who have struggled with gender identity or transgender feelings. There are untold numbers of Latter-day Saints who have struggled with these issues who are as equally in need of the love and sympathy and understanding of their brothers and sisters in the gospel. Within this collection is an essay by a man (John Alden) who is dealing with this distinct issue, although he doesn’t experience homosexual attraction.
My hope is that both the widely applicable gospel teachings and the narrative personal essays can serve readers of every background. Elder Richard G. Scott has taught, “As you seek spiritual knowledge, search for principles. Carefully separate them from the detail used to explain them. Principles are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances. A true principle makes decisions clear even under the most confusing and compelling circumstances.”6 In the case of the principle-themed chapters, personal application is a clear imperative, but in the case of the narrative-focused essays, readers are invited to mine deeper nuggets of truth, “separate them from the detail used to explain them,” and seek the Spirit for guidance concerning how those principles might be appropriately applied to their unique situations. It’s also important to note that not everyone’s story is the same, and the presentation of one person’s story is not meant to suggest that it is the only right way.
I also hope that this collection might offer something akin to each of the three key human needs President Hinckley taught: that as readers hear the stories of others they will know that they are not alone either in their feelings or in their efforts to live the gospel, that they will gain a deeper appreciation for the truth that they belong in the Church and that they have a vital role in the growth and perfection of the Lord’s kingdom, and, finally, that they will feel loved, nourished, and empowered in the life-giving word of Jesus Christ.
A Unique Approach
The approach to same-gender attraction in this book is unique among other traditional LDS approaches, and there are four broad concepts that have informed and framed the lenses through which I’ve taken this approach. Sadly, they are concepts that I feel have often been neglected in conversation about homosexuality in the LDS community and that I believe are critical to continuing dialogue.
Concept One: Rooted in Jesus Christ
Aside from doctrinal and ecclesiastical positions articulated by Church leaders, the bulk of what has been written about homosexuality from a faithful LDS perspective, or that has been promoted in the LDS community, has been scientific or clinical in nature, often with a focus on changing attractions and behavior. There is a place for helpful literature within that frame of reference, but it is only one thread of a much larger conversational tapestry.
Without minimizing the importance of continued research that the various scientific and social disciplines provide on this issue, or the place they have in LDS discourse, I have collected these chapters and essays with the primary intent to provide messages of gospel-centered hope in the work of Christ in which we are all engaged. As more and more voices share their personal experiences and perspectives, the more help we will have in ministering more effectively to the individuals and families dealing with these sensitive issues. As a practicing therapist and as one who has benefited from good therapy, I have strong convictions of the value of the human sciences and the healing professions. Nevertheless, when it comes to the issue of “change,” I find even greater value in the wisdom of President Boyd K. Packer’s teaching that “true doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.” He added, “The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.”7
Although many men and women, including many of the authors of the personal narratives in this book, have experienced a significant shift in the nature of their attractions, this book isn’t advocating one particular path or perspective of change. Among those authors who have experienced various types of change, change did not happen in the same way, and those authors who haven’t (yet) experienced the types of change they hope for are still maintaining their gospel covenants. The common thread running through each of these essays concerns the spiritual change and the holistic transformation—a change in heart that is linked to becoming a disciple of Christ, whether or not it is accompanied by a change in orientation or attractions—that takes place when we center our lives in Christ and allow Him to consecrate all difficult circumstances for our gain (see 2 Nephi 2:2).
Affirming the importance of faith and testimony in response to same-gender attraction is not to endorse a shallow “pray the gay away” approach. What it does mean, however, is that even as we fully and humbly acknowledge all the complexities of our humanity and of life in a fallen world, we must bring those complexities to the altar of God, seek His guidance, and willingly surrender our entire hearts to Him and His work and glory (see Moses 1:39). Again, resources that help individuals explore the human dynamics of homosexuality are useful to many, but I believe that they are secondary to the spiritual capacities we cultivate as we surrender our hearts and lives to the Lord. Whatever other resources we may seek, whatever other helps or truths or programs we benefit from, President Packer has also taught that any truth not connected to “the very root of Christian doctrine”—the truth of Jesus’ infinite love and atoning sacrifice—is insufficient. If branches of truth “do not touch that root, if they have been cut free from that truth, there will be no life nor substance nor redemption in them.”8 The call of Christ is to become holy before it is to become heterosexual.
Efforts to change or live in harmony with the behavioral standards of the Church that are disconnected from the Spirit-born faith, love, and “perfect brightness of hope” (2 Nephi 31:20) offered us by our Savior are at best insufficient and at worst empty and void of true life. And, I would suggest, they are at times even harmful. One young man said to me, “I had become so consumed with changing my sexual orientation that my relationship with my Savior kind of got pushed to the back. Things weren’t in balance. I continue to do all that I can to experience a healthy shift in my sexuality, but as I’ve been able to reshift my primary focus back to the Savior, I’ve felt able to turn the timetable over to the Lord. I realize I need to focus instead on living my life such that I feel His presence, just as everyone else is trying to do.”
Understanding the gospel of Jesus Christ is more than simply connecting a host of doctrinal dots that underscore a variety of behavioral dos and don’ts. The gospel of Jesus Christ is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16)—a power that runs in and through us, empowering us to do what we cannot do by ourselves. I still have much to learn about the Savior’s Atonement, but according to my experiences thus far in life, the promise of the Atonement is as much a promise of peace and sustaining grace during our mortal challenges as it is a promise of deliverance through and from them (see Mosiah 24:10–16). It’s important to understand that the redemption and transformation promised through Christ’s Atonement far surpasses anything that can ever be fully realized in a fallen world.
I believe the mortal challenges of all people will be transformed through the power of Christ’s redemption, but I also believe that those who promise through some spiritual platitude or therapeutic program that the Atonement will change them in this or that way may misunderstand the true nature of the Atonement and limit its power. Some seem to think of the Atonement more as a tool to be used than as a power to be accessed—a power that is God’s alone to dispense. And it will be dispensed according to a mind and will and plan that is much bigger than any of us can fathom in our mortal myopia.
The promise of the Atonement, as I understand it, is that all the effects of the Fall—whether manifested intellectually, emotionally, physically, spiritually, or sexually—can be transformed through the power and grace of Christ either in time or eternity. Yet our human tendency, it seems, is to want to make the transformations we desire happen in our own time—which is usually yesterday—and we condition our faith in and allegiance to Christ and the Church upon it. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell observed: “When we are unduly impatient with an omniscient God’s timing, we really are suggesting that we know what is best. Strange, isn’t it—we who wear wristwatches seek to counsel Him who oversees cosmic clocks and calendars.”9
As I strive to keep my focus on Jesus Christ and stay attuned to His life-giving Spirit, I experience His power. It’s what keeps me going every day. And the more I’ve come to access and understand that power, the more my feelings resonate with one Christian author who stated:
“There are few things quite so boring as being religious, but there is nothing quite so exciting as being a Christian! Most folks have never discovered the difference between the one and the other, so that there are those who sincerely try to live a life they do not have, substituting religion for God, Christianity for Christ, and their own noble endeavors for the energy, joy, and power of the Holy Spirit. . . . They are lamps without oil, cars without gas, and pens without ink. . . .
“There are those who have a life they never live. They have come to Christ and thanked Him only for what He did, but do not live in the power of who He is. Between the Jesus who ‘was’ and the Jesus who ‘will be,’ they live in a spiritual vacuum, trying with no little zeal to live for Christ a life that only He can live in and through them.”10
It is the truths of eternity, infused by the living Spirit of the living God, “not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart” (2 Corinthians 3:3), that ultimately provide the hope and grace and divine tutelage men and women need to return to the Father’s presence. It is also that same Spirit that may potentially guide them to seek professional assistance for particular temporal concerns. In my own experience, it was specific promptings from the Holy Ghost that led me to some of the best therapeutic help I’ve yet received and that made a healthy marriage to my beautiful and supportive wife a meaningful reality. But even with that said, it was an eternal perspective and the empowering companionship of the Spirit that have most inspired me to stay on (or return to) the path of discipleship during the times I was most discouraged.
One of my concerns with a disproportionate focus on the changeability of sexual orientation is that men and women who experience unchosen and often confusing feelings frequently come to believe that they are not worthy Latter-day Saints, even if they obey the laws of the gospel. They may also believe that they are not worthy of love and acceptance from the Saints below and God above—unless and until they can eliminate their homosexual attractions. At the same time, there are still many differences of opinion regarding tentative and evolving scientific theories about homosexuality. Such differences need not concern Latter-day Saints because they aren’t nearly as important as the larger truth that obedience to the gospel and genuine happiness and peace through the Comforter are possible when we have anchored our lives and perspective in the revealed plan of our Heavenly Father. And the variety of therapeutic options, even though many may seem contradictory, means that if one approach isn’t helpful, an individual is free to try another. We can be flexible in our personal response so long as we are firm in our covenants.
Too often the message that comes across is that unless and until an individual can be heralded as an example of complete reorientation, he or she cannot exist in a faithful Latter-day Saint context. “Those who have completed their change,” this attitude implies, “are now welcome into the fold of true Latter-day Saint respectability.” The many heroic stories of faith and commitment of those who are still striving, who believe in the ideal but haven’t achieved it yet, seem to have had rare place in LDS discourse on this topic. And too often, when men and women have given so much of their emotional and temporal resources in sexual-reorientation efforts and then do not succeed as soon or as easily as they had hoped, they tragically conclude that God has rejected them. Such people can so thoroughly lose hope that they succumb to some of the worst forms of self-destructive behavior.
Of course it is wise to seek benefit from the best that modern helping professions can offer, provided that it is consistent with the gospel and helps individuals live more fully in harmony with their covenants and attain greater peace, fulfillment, and sense of individual worth. It’s important to note, however, that if an individual’s therapeutic work doesn’t provide the anticipated results, that individual still has full access to the sustaining and redeeming power offered us through the Savior’s atoning sacrifice. Even the best of practitioners, as finite mortals, have had clients beyond their reach. My testimony is that such people are never beyond the Savior’s reach. Therapists, family members, friends, and others may fail them, but the Savior never will.
Thus, the “change” I desired to be the focus of this collection of gospel teachings and personal essays concerns the choices over which we have full control regarding keeping our behavior in line with our covenants. This collection also focuses on the change of desires in the spiritually reborn heart that comes through the gift and power and grace of Christ. My testimony is that if you keep your covenants, follow the Lord’s servants, and endure to the end, then you are a worthy Latter-day Saint who is destined to inherit the celestial kingdom even if you experience homosexual attractions until your dying day. Some, like Paul with his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7), may have the gift and blessing of learning to trust that God’s grace is sufficient for them.
In a book I was recently reading by a Buddhist psychotherapist, the author talked about how most religious traditions hold place for what she called “sacred pause.”11 I reflected on my own experiences with “sacred pause” in the temple, in prayer, and in quiet meditation. During those times, when my heart has simply been quiet for God, when I’ve slowed down enough to really listen to my feelings and attractions—not to fight or run or avoid or overcome but to merely listen without judgment—I’ve found that I’m taught those things I most need in order to grow in Christ and fulfill the measure of my creation. Through all that I’ve learned, same-gender attraction has become less my “struggle,” my “problem,” or my “cross.” Rather, it has become more my teacher and my friend. I no longer hate my attractions as an enemy to be conquered; I honor them as a mentor—as a divinely orchestrated spiritual tutor—and as one of the greatest blessings the Lord has granted me. Without that mentor, I would never have been brought to my knees as I have been or brought to know Him as my Savior and Redeemer as I do.
I believe that if we had eyes to see the blessings that come through an honest and open engagement with all aspects of our complex human experience, we would echo the words of the prophet Brigham Young. If members of the Church had the eternities in full vision before their minds, he said, “there is not a trial which the Saints are called to pass through that they would not realize and acknowledge to be their greatest blessing.”12 We would see how the difficulties and tensions we experience in mortality refine and enlarge our souls for the greater good Christ offers us and how they give us the greatest opportunity to exercise our agency in developing faith and the attributes of godliness. Elder Orson F. Whitney similarly taught, “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God.”13
As a final point, the restored Church of Jesus Christ is a living church guided by living prophets (see D&C 1:30, 38). To be firmly rooted in Christ is to be firmly rooted in the living witness of His living oracles (see Mosiah 15:10–11). “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants,” the Lord declared, “it is the same” (D&C 1:38).
While science can inform our understanding of sexuality as part of the broad spectrum of our human experience, it is still far from conclusive on the origin and development of sexuality in all its qualitative variations from person to person. And it will never be sufficient to frame the eternal lenses through which we see our potential and guide our life’s choices.
It’s important for us to understand that the Lord’s prophets need not be experts in all things human in order to be a prophetic medium for things divine. In a 2004 interview with television host Larry King, President Hinckley stated that he didn’t fully understand all the complex issues associated with homosexuality. “I’m not an expert on these things,” he said. “I don’t pretend to be an expert on these things.”14 We will continue to learn much about the human dynamics associated with homosexual attraction and the myriad potential factors influencing its development through the scientific disciplines, but God’s living oracles have spoken clearly and with divine authority regarding the order and appropriate bounds of sexual expression. If the findings of modern science appear to contradict the teachings of the living prophets, our proximate understanding is either incorrect or incomplete.
The late Hugh Nibley, a respected Latter-day Saint scholar, wrote: “The words of the prophets cannot be held to the tentative and defective tests that men have devised for them. Science, philosophy, and common sense all have a right to their day in court. But the last word does not lie with them. Every time men in their wisdom have come forth with the last word, other words have promptly followed. The last word is a testimony of the gospel that comes only by direct revelation. Our Father in Heaven speaks it, and if it were in perfect agreement with the science of today, it would surely be out of line with the science of tomorrow. Let us not, therefore, seek to hold God to the learned opinions of the moment when he speaks the language of eternity.”15
Concept Two: Proximate vs. Ultimate Hope
An outgrowth of living faith in the living Christ—and another of the central themes running through the chapters and essays in this volume—is hope. True hope keeps us going when the right choices are the hard choices. It enables us to see something beautiful and sanctifying on the other side of adversity. The prophet Moroni wrote, “Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God” (Ether 12:4).
Generally, there seems to be two polar approaches to homosexuality, both of which condition hope and happiness on the possibility (or impossibility) of “change.” First, there are those who insist that homosexual orientation is inborn; they see a life of faith and devotion to the Church as incompatible with happiness for individuals with same-sex attraction. They insist that the only way for same-sex-oriented people to be happy, healthy, and well-balanced is to leave the Church or to demand that the Church alter its teachings and practices in a way that will make room for gay or lesbian relationships. They do not allow for the possibility that for some individuals, sexual orientation may be sufficiently fluid or flexible to allow for satisfying, heterosexual relational intimacy. For those who affirm the teachings of the Lord’s prophets and apostles regarding heterosexual marriage and sexual expression, the problems with this approach are clear.
On the other side of the spectrum, some people, as a well-intentioned means of offering hope to those seeking resolution to their feelings, focus on environmental and relational factors in the development of homosexual attractions to demonstrate the possibility of their elimination. These people continually promote stories of those who have done so. The problem with this approach is that it often leads people to anchor their hope in change of sexual orientation rather than in Christ. And then if efforts to change don’t work or don’t work as quickly as expected, this approach actually has the potential to increase despair rather than hope.
The stories of those who have experienced a meaningful and lasting shift in the nature of their attractions are valuable—this volume includes many of them—but they must be placed within a larger conception of the spectrum of faithful responses to homosexuality. When therapist-mediated reorientation is promoted as the only means of offering hope, and when the only messages people hear are how their attractions will go away if they just apply the right formula—the right therapy, the correct application of a set of temporal and spiritual practices, and so forth—then these therapies and formulas, if they don’t work, have the unwitting potential of doing spiritual and psychological harm.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of change, of course, but some people in their eagerness to help or provide hope make promises the Savior never did. And when we make promises the Savior hasn’t made in order to instill a hope that only He can offer, we do a disservice both to Him and to those who seek to follow Him with faith built upon an eternal foundation. Hope conditioned on sexual reorientation is like the house built upon the sand, while the hope promised through the eternal vision offered in Christ—the only hope that saves—is the rock upon which we must build our lives. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ,” the Apostle Paul declared, “we are of all men most miserable” (1 Corinthians 15:19).
Just as the first principle of the gospel is not faith alone but rather faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, so it is not hope alone that anchors our souls but rather hope in Jesus Christ. Elder Maxwell was clear to distinguish between “ultimate hope” and “proximate hope.” Every one of us may hold tightly to the truth that we all can have ultimate hope in Jesus Christ—a hope that growth and transformation and transcendence of all the effects of the Fall are assured and extend even beyond the grave—while proximate hopes are more temporal in nature and may not always be realized. Elder Maxwell wrote:
“Having ultimate hope does not mean we will always be rescued from proximate problems, but we will be rescued from everlasting death! Meanwhile, ultimate hope makes it possible to say the same three words used centuries ago by three valiant men. They knew God could rescue them from the fiery furnace, if He chose. ‘But if not,’ they said, nevertheless, they would still serve Him! (Dan. 3:18.) . . .
“Though ‘anchored’ in grand and ultimate hope, some of our tactical hopes are another matter. We may hope for a pay raise, a special date, an electoral victory, or for a bigger house—things which may or may not be realized. Faith in Father’s plan gives us endurance even amid the wreckage of such proximate hopes. Hope keeps us ‘anxiously engaged’ in good causes even when these appear to be losing causes (D&C 58:27).”16
The hopeful message I pray comes through this volume is that individuals who experience homosexual attractions can find happiness and fulfillment in the Church and that they can find joy and meaning in their journeys through mortality, even before they have completely resolved their feelings of same-gender attraction. While growth and change are inevitable when we submit our lives to the Lord, we cannot hold the Lord hostage to an arbitrary timetable or qualify our faith in Christ and devotion to His Church upon some dangerously narrow characterization of what change should look like. The mixture and degree of influencing factors of homosexual attraction—whether biological, psychological, emotional, or relational—are so different for everyone that “one size fits all” explanations or formulas simply cannot account for all the variety encountered.
“As for why you feel as you do,” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland reported saying to one young man, “I can’t answer that question. A number of factors may be involved, and they can be as different as people are different. Some things, including the cause of your feelings, we may never know in this life.”17 But, he stated on another occasion: “I do know that this will not be a post-mortal condition. It will not be a post-mortal difficulty. . . . I want that to be of some hope to some.”18
With an eternal hope offered through the Spirit, we understand that for every blind man who experiences the miracle of sight (see John 9:1–7) there is at least one Paul who pleads for the transformative power of Christ only to be given the simple assurance that Christ’s grace is sufficient, even as human weakness and struggle remain. Ultimate hope—saving hope—is grounded in an eternal perspective, with reliance upon the promise that whatever burdens the Lord doesn’t remove He will lighten, even to the point that we “cannot feel them upon [our] backs” (Mosiah 24:14).
Concept Three: “Standing As Witnesses of God”—Passing the Baton of Primary Voice
One reason I believe the inclusion of personal essays in this volume is important is that they give the witness of lived experience where it belongs: to those with lived experience. For too long, those who don’t have personal experience with same-gender attraction have dominated the discussion around these issues. While those perspectives are highly valuable, we’re long overdue for those voices to step back and assume a more supportive role to those who understand these issues firsthand.
Perhaps a valuable metaphor for this idea can be found in the words of LDS convert Roger R. Keller, a former Presbyterian minister and current professor of Church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University. At the “Worlds of Joseph Smith” conference in 2005, where both LDS and other respected scholars gathered to commemorate the Prophet’s life and work, Brother Keller noted the value of having those from outside Mormon tradition share their perspectives of Mormon faith and practice. He also noted that this value has inherent weakness. “I know the limitations of [this] approach,” he said, “having . . . stood outside of [Mormon tradition] myself at one point in my life. No matter how hard I tried then to be fair to Joseph Smith and Mormonism . . . as an outsider I can never articulate another’s tradition quite the way that a practitioner of that particular faith could or would. I might come close, but there will always be something I overlook or do not completely comprehend.”19
As a Latter-day Saint, imagine what your understanding of yourself and your faith would be like if you had to rely solely upon outside scholars who didn’t share important aspects of your life experience. From the perspective of many who experience same-gender attraction, too much of the discussion of this issue has been like that. While there is great value in the work and perspectives of other concerned voices who have devoted much of their time and resources to assisting those who have struggled with homosexual feelings, those perspectives can never be as salient as the perspectives of those who have dealt with these issues firsthand.
We live in a time when popular cultural discussion of these issues is becoming increasingly strident and uncivil. It is more important than ever for individuals of faith to share their stories and bear witness in a way that has potential to build bridges of understanding and present positive alternatives to the increasingly narrow polemics that dominate public discourse on homosexuality today. More than ever before, those striving to live in harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ need to step out of the shadows and let their voices be heard. If their voices are obscured through anonymity, mediated by clinicians, or shielded by spokespeople, they will simply never match the credibility or impact of the numerous first-person accounts that dominate the broader cultural discussion and that do not understand the eternal truths for which those who have contributed to this volume stand.
In order for more faithful Latter-day Saints to be willing to share their perspectives, we need to create space where these men and women can authentically share their experience and witness of Christ without fear of judgment or retribution. A friend of mine, a lifelong and seasoned member of the Church who has experienced significant resolution to his homosexual feelings, shared with me the following as he contemplated how open he should be when sharing his story: “When I made the final decision to use my real name, knowing the potential for backlash, I decided that there is a war being waged, and our side is losing while gay cultural ideologies are winning. We are losing because people like me feel the need to hide and pretend. I pretend not out of fear of the gay community; I pretend out of fear of the negative reaction I will get from people in the Church.” There is something clearly problematic in our traditional approaches to this issue when committed disciples can’t share their authentic witness of Christ or tell their personal stories of hope and faith and transformation without fear of backlash and retribution from fellow believers.
As cultural battles continue to wage ever more passionately, and as the restored gospel of Jesus Christ continues to go forth to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, the Church’s teachings regarding homosexuality will increasingly affect how people respond to our message. I suggest that in addition to the continued witness and teachings of the Lord’s prophets and apostles on this issue, there will be an increasing need for “a cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1)—Latter-day Saint men and women who have personally dealt with these issues.
I was recently contacted by a bishop in California who was choking back tears as he expressed his gratitude for the growing number of Latter-day Saints who are willing to add a real face and name to this issue in their efforts to live faithful to the gospel. Just months prior, same-gender attraction had been simply an issue he dealt with as a priesthood leader or as it related to California’s Proposition 8 campaign to stop same-sex marriage. Then his son confided in him regarding his own private struggle with feelings of same-gender attraction. In an instant, the issue took form in one of the people he loves most in his life. Not being aware of any nonpolitical resources that addressed homosexuality from his faithful perspective, the bishop, as he went looking for help, said he wanted to believe that there were real people, believing Latter-day Saints, who had worked through their feelings and had come out on the side of active faith in gospel teachings. For him and his family, to find a host of such Latter-day Saints brought him and his wife to their knees in gratitude before the Lord.
As Latter-day Saints prayerfully decide how open they should be, it’s important to understand two potential extremes to which many are tempted, both of which are inconsistent with the gospel of Christ. The story of Adam and Eve’s garden narrative serves as a valuable metaphor. After Adam and Eve had partaken of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Satan shamed them, telling them to hide from God’s presence. God had other plans, however. He called them out of the bushes, out of darkness and hiding—their proverbial closets, if you will—and into His light. He didn’t chastise or shame them. Their mortality would play an essential role in their eternal progression. Yet He didn’t tell them to go marching in the “mortal pride parade.” Rather, He called them to the altar of covenant. While fully acknowledging their mortality and the associated blessings and weaknesses it would bring, God taught them of redemption and eternal possibilities, for which they rejoiced and praised His name (see Moses 5:5–12). He then called them to be witnesses of both His love and His law.20
I suggest that there is a contemporary equivalent to how God would have us respond to issues associated with same-gender attraction. Hiding in shame or fear is no more God’s way than are rainbow festivals or pride parades—both are distortions that grow out of the same dark spiritual and emotional shadows. And those who choose or advocate for either extreme serve only those same ends Satan sought in Eden—to keep us from fully embracing the true light and consecrated life of the Holy One. As we come to understand and similarly learn from Adam and Eve’s divine tutorial, we are opened up to a sacred spiritual and emotional space where neither shame nor pride exist.
We understand that all difficult aspects of our mortal experience can be for our eternal growth and good if we will but relate to them more as teacher than tormentor. Then, from the altar of covenant, as we rejoice in the promises of reconciliation and exaltation in Christ, God calls us to stand as authentic and open witnesses of His love and redemption “at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in” (Mosiah 18:9; emphasis added). And if that witness is rejected or ridiculed, we know we stand with the Apostles of old, who rejoiced “that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name” (Acts 5:41).
Concept Four: Our Covenant to Mourn and to Comfort
The fourth broad concept framing this collection concerns each of us in the Latter-day Saint community at large, whether or not we personally deal with homosexual issues or are close to someone who does. By giving a human face to the issue through first-person narratives of real people with real feelings, I hope this collection will help members of the Church learn more about what it feels like to experience these challenges firsthand and thereby exhibit a greater sense of compassion and understanding. For Latter-day Saints to more effectively fulfill their covenant responsibility to “mourn with those that mourn . . . and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:9), to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees” (D&C 81:5), we need to spend time with others, seeking to understand the depth of their humanity.
Not all issues surrounding mortality, including homosexuality, are as clear-cut as we would like them to be. Even when we may not always agree with what others have to say, we should not be afraid of sincerely opening our minds and hearts to simply listen—to understand the length and breadth of what it means to be human from the perspectives of others whose mortal experiences, challenges, or beliefs have been different from our own. We need not compromise revealed doctrines or inspired convictions in doing so. In fact, such explorations may provide us with opportunities to more fully discover the godly heart and the divine nature—whereby we come to know more fully of the Savior’s infinite love for each of our Father’s children. The Savior had to go to people where they were. Often, those sheep were wandering, lost in the mountains. We, as His emissaries, must do the same. And we cannot find people until we know where they are.
Suppose a same-sex couple were to walk into an LDS church with the desire of learning and worshipping with everyone else. How would we respond to them? Would we tell them they are not welcome? Would we shy away from them and avoid interacting with them? Or would we recognize that everyone has eternal value and spiritual needs, regardless of where they are in their personal journey back to our Heavenly Father? Would we reach out to them, talk with them, befriend them, sit with them, and let them know that they are welcome in our midst? Would we encourage them to live as many principles of the gospel as they are willing to live and to learn and grow and seek the guidance of the Spirit in making important decisions about their lives?
One of the hallmark witnesses of President Thomas S. Monson’s prophetic leadership has been the importance of personal, one-on-one ministry. We must make sure that “issues” never lose their human face. Elder Stephen L Richards taught that while Jesus Christ brought the gospel to humanity, “it is our duty to bring humanity to the Gospel.”21 Members of the Church, who cannot realistically be expected to master all the science behind the causes of and therapeutic responses to homosexual attractions, can nevertheless transform the shame and burden associated with this issue through the everyday practice of unfeigned love and compassion.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf stated that of all qualities Latter-day Saints have the potential to be known for—from images of clean-cut missionaries to friendly and family-oriented neighbors who don’t smoke or drink—the most important is to be known as a community that embodies divine love. “Because love is the great commandment,” he taught, “it ought to be at the center of all and everything we do in our own family, in our Church callings, and in our livelihood. Love is the healing balm that repairs rifts in personal and family relationships. It is the bond that unites families, communities, and nations. Love is the power that initiates friendship, tolerance, civility, and respect. It is the source that overcomes divisiveness and hate. Love is the fire that warms our lives with unparalleled joy and divine hope. Love should be our walk and our talk.”22
Regrettably, when it comes to how many in our community have historically responded to the issue of homosexual attraction or men and women who experience it, love and compassion are not the first words that come to mind. That said, we’ve improved immeasurably over the past several years. When Church historian Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy was interviewed for the 2007 PBS documentary The Mormons, producer Helen Whitney asked if he felt that there had been a change in how Church members have approached the issue of homosexuality. “Yes, I do,” he replied. “We’re more enlightened. We’re more accepting in the sense that we understand this is a condition that some people are dealing with and that even if it needs changing or even if it needs controlling, that can’t be done without our support, our love, our empathy, our interest in them as people. That’s much different, I’m sure, than it was in my youth.”23
My own experience is that this support, love, empathy, and interest Elder Jensen speaks of is more spontaneously and abundantly offered than ever before by the collective Church body, and we continue to grow ever more Christlike in this way. I’m encouraged that those growing up in or joining the Church today will find much more empathy and sensitivity as they seek to understand and respond healthily to their feelings than perhaps those of earlier generations. Even so, there is room for growth, and the Lord’s prophets have offered inspired instructions in that regard. In an article on assisting those who struggle with same-gender attraction, Elder Holland stated, “Some members exclude from their circle of fellowship those who are different. When our actions or words discourage someone from taking full advantage of Church membership, we fail them—and the Lord. The Church is made stronger as we include every member and strengthen one another in service and love (D&C 84:110).”24
President Uchtdorf similarly counseled:
“Unfortunately, from time to time we . . . hear of Church members who become discouraged and subsequently quit coming to and participating in our Church meetings because they think they don’t fit in. . . .
“I hope that we welcome and love all of God’s children, including those who might dress, look, speak, or just do things differently. It is not good to make others feel as though they are deficient. Let us lift those around us. Let us extend a welcoming hand. Let us bestow upon our brothers and sisters in the Church a special measure of humanity, compassion, and charity so that they feel, at long last, they have finally found home. . . .
“I am not suggesting that we accept sin or overlook evil, in our personal life or in the world. Nevertheless, in our zeal, we sometimes confuse sin with sinner, and we condemn too quickly and with too little compassion. We know from modern revelation that ‘the worth of souls is great in the sight of God’ [D&C 18:10]. We cannot gauge the worth of another soul any more than we can measure the span of the universe.”25
In this battle for souls, as homosexuality becomes an increasingly prevalent social and political issue, more and more Latter-day Saints are being seduced by cultural ideologies that are inconsistent with the truths of the Restoration. Often it’s not just individuals dealing with the issue who are leaving the Church but also their LDS friends and family members. My hope is that the more we live the harmonious balance of covenant discipleship and unfeigned love and compassion, the more likely it will be that those who struggle to reconcile the Church’s teachings on homosexuality with their perception of homosexuality will seek to find the peace and resolution they desire within the protective walls of Christ’s church and kingdom. For those who struggle with such reconciliation, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin counseled:
“To you who have strayed because you have been offended, can you not set your hurt and anger aside? Can you not fill your hearts with love? There is a place for you here. Come, join the fold, consecrate your abilities, talents, and skills. You will be better for it, and others will be blessed by your example.
“To those who have strayed because of doctrinal concerns, we cannot apologize for the truth. We cannot deny doctrine given to us by the Lord Himself. On this principle we cannot compromise. I understand that sometimes people disagree with doctrine. They even go so far as to call it foolish. But I echo words of the Apostle Paul, who said that sometimes spiritual things can appear as foolishness to men. Nevertheless, ‘the foolishness of God is wiser than men’ [1 Corinthians 1:25; see also 1:18].”26
There have been and will continue to be times when Latter-day Saints will be an active voice in the cultural debates about homosexuality. There will be times when we must, as the Lord has directed, teach and “reprov[e] betimes with sharpness”—that is, with clarity and boldness. Even so, that is only the first part of our gospel stewardship. After those times when we—of covenant necessity—must teach and preach hard truths, we are then called to act with “an increase of love toward him whom [we have] reproved, lest he esteem [us] to be his enemy” (D&C 121:43). My concern is that we’ve perhaps given too much heed to the first part of that call without equal heed to the second part, and our efforts have thus been perceived more as prejudice masquerading as principle than as a demonstration of God’s perfect love and eternal plan for all of His children. Unless we give ever more emphasis to truly cultivating and expressing God’s gift of divine love, we may be perceived more as a hateful enemy than as a loving witness.
As we share the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, not all will be ready to receive it in the timetable we would like. But through the practice of true friendship and unfeigned love, we might do much to soften hearts, heal wounds, and change perspectives. In an 1896 letter to his missionary son, President Joseph F. Smith offered wise counsel regarding the attitude and approach we would do well to emulate: “Kindness will beget friendship and favor, but anger or passion will drive away sympathy. To win one’s respect and confidence, approach him mildly, kindly. No friendship was ever gained by an attack upon principle or upon man, but by calm reason and the lowly Spirit of Truth. If you have built for a man a better house than his own, and he is willing to accept yours and forsake his, then, and not till then, should you proceed to tear down the old structure. Rotten though it may be, it will require some time for it to lose all its charms and fond memories of its former occupant. Therefore let him, not you, proceed to tear it away. Kindness and courtesy are the primal elements of gentility.”27
A friend of mine who worked with a wilderness survival program for troubled teenagers told me about one teen who was so angry about being in the program that as soon as she got a chance, she bolted from the program’s office. Two staff members who were going to be walking the trail with her followed her. She got into a dry cement canal and started running down it. The staff started running with her. The girl was running without her shoes, and rocks and glass started cutting up her feet. The two staff members removed their own shoes and continued running with her. Her heart was eventually softened by their actions. She realized that the pain she was experiencing was because of her own rebelliousness, yet here were people not scorning her, not trying to force her to make the right decision, but instead willing to experience the pain along with her. The actions of the staff members left an indelible mark on her.
Those I’m personally most grateful for are those who, in my own times of ignorance or rebellion, have taken off their shoes and walked with me and loved me. While maintaining full fidelity to the principles of the restored gospel, I hope fervently that this volume will better equip Latter-day Saints to reach out with ever more empathy and compassion—to likewise remove their shoes—to a group who most desperately need to know of the Savior’s love and grace. I hope that as individuals and as a collective community we can truly reflect the nature and love of Christ to men and women who experience same-gender attraction. I firmly believe that those who love most and love longest will be the ones who win the hearts of God’s children. As one friend of mine has said, “If they feel the most love in the gay and lesbian cultural community, that community wins; if they feel it with God’s covenant people, then we win.”
I hope you will find the teachings and essays in this volume beneficial. If you personally experience same-gender attraction, I hope the Spirit will impress upon you the depth of God’s love for you, that you will know you belong in His church and kingdom, and that you will know there are many who walk this journey of faith with you. If you are a family member, friend, or ecclesiastical steward who loves someone dealing with these issues, I hope you will feel even greater empathy and capacity to support your loved one in a way that will inspire that person either to remain faithful to gospel covenants or to eventually return to his or her spiritual roots in Christ. Finally, if you are simply seeking a greater level of understanding, for any reason, I hope you will feel greater empathy and capacity to reach out with love for all of God’s children. With all of my heart, I thank you for reading.
Needed more than ever....
by Natalie - reviewed on October 10, 2011
This book is so needed right now. It seems that all of our lives have been touched by this issue or will be at some point or another...either personally or someone close to us. There are so many loud voices out there, that even as someone who supports our leaders and strongly believes in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it easy to become confused! What an amazing book of testimony of people living by the Spirit, taking one day at a time and trusting in the Lord. I am so grateful for those who opened up and shared some of their most personal, sacred, and intimate experiences for us all to learn from. Just like Ty's first book, I think I learned just as much about the Atonement of Jesus Christ as I did about anything else. Just a great book to show that it is possible to be attracted to the same sex and not only have a place in the LDS church, but to find peace in this life.
wonderful helpful book
by sarrah - reviewed on October 05, 2011
Voice(s) of Hope is an insightful book; I highly recommend it to anyone dealing with unwanted SSA (same sex attraction), anyone dealing with trials of any kind, and all the members of The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Undoubtedly, this book will help those in leadership positions understand this particular issue better. It is a helpful tool, which will educate members of the church, on the challenges of being a member that is attracted to their own sex; as well as the attitudes of some LDS people with unwanted SSA. The book equips us to understand other and ourselves better. The contributors in the book bring hope to LDS wanting to live a life in harmony with the restored gospel while dealing with SSA. It show it is possible to live the gospel and fulfill our purpose on the earth no matter the innate or learned sexual nature. The experiences of those in the book touched my heart and brought me a better understanding of the trials and issues members of the church are facing. Whether, straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender this book helps and shows us there is a way to hang on to the gospel in the midst of turmoil. The authors 'voice' reminds us of the power of the atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ. It shows the successes of some who are striving to live a life in harmony with and according to the gospel of Jesus Christ- while dealing with unwanted SSA; it shows us the hope of remaining faithful to that gospel no matter the level of difficulty. Within its pages, the reader is brought to remember that it is possible for ALL the children of God, to enjoy ALL the promised blessings reserved for those that overcome the tests, temptations, and trials of earth-life. No matter which trials we have we can come out victors through our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, by taking hold of the atonement and living the gospel. There are a great many members who deal with unwanted SSA and none is alone in their trial. I hope by reading the book many will recognize themselves, find truth, and gain the courage to be among those who overcome the world and themselves and are counted among those who are full of truth, light, and charity. I also highly recommend the book by the same author, "In Quiet Desperation" also a 5 Star read!
This book is an inspiration voice of hope.
by Linda - reviewed on October 20, 2011
I love this book and am so grateful for everyone that contributed. It is a must read for every latter-day saint that wants a better understanding of how to help those who are affected by same gender attraction. Not only is it an inspirational voice of hope to all those who are affected by SGA, but it is a message of the atoning power of Jesus Christ for all people, no matter what they are dealing with. It is a great resource for family, friends and church leaders that want to help as well as those who deal with it firsthand.
A beacon of hope to one who is sometimes lost
by Theodore - reviewed on November 01, 2011
We are each called by the Savior to testify and bring the Gospel to all peoples. Too often, those who experience Same-Sex Attraction, like myself, can feel that we are not worthy of the redeeming love of Christ and the blessings contained through membership in the Lord's Church. "Voices of Hope" has the power to change that. Each author bears their testimony of how Christ works in each of our lives, and that those who experience SSA are no different in the need and fulfillment the Gospel brings. The structure of the book moves from doctrinally sound articles, to personal narratives of how Christ, who bore all things for our salvation, extends his love and redeeming power to those in need, and calls for those who are a part of His kingdom to do likewise. This book isn't a mellowed out description of the Gospel, but a clarion call to all of the Lord's children that there is a place for them in his kingdom. I will be the first to admit that I haven't always lived in accord with my covenants as a Latter-day Saint who experiences SSA, but "Voices of Hope" extends just that--Hope--that I too, if I willingly submit myself to the Savior, will one day too be worthy of His inheritance. And that is one of the great blessings of my life. "Voices of Hope" is highly recommended for all those experiencing SSA, who are in a leadership position and called to council individuals experiencing SSA, to family and friends, or anyone who has a desire to familiarize themselves with a sound, Gospel centered understanding of the challenges of SSA.
ALL things beareth record of Him.
by James - reviewed on September 28, 2011
As I was sitting in a Seminary Room this Scripture was on the wall Moses 6:63. I had just given this book to a good friend whose brother deals with SSA. My friends brother called me three weeks prior saying he was planning on taking his life. He felt that SSA was a curse God had sentenced him to live with the rest of his life alone and without hope. I told him that my SSA is a gift and blessing from God and that I cherish it with all my heart. Through reading of this book, I have learned how others have been blessed as well. While reading this book I have come to meet many if not all of these authors both in word and in person. I have felt their spirit and know that they do have a testimony of Christ and the wounds which he bore so that all our wounds can be healed. May Christ's voice of hope come to you while reading these words as they have to me. I hope many, like my friend and his brother, can come to find the peace and gratitude I have felt by reading these words. May all who read this book learn how have the courage and compassion to share His Love with those who feel all alone in this world. ForeverSTRONG!
As bishop, I recommend "Voices Of Hope" to those who come to me with SSA
by Customer - reviewed on September 26, 2011
As a bishop in California, I dutifully lead our ward in the Prop 8 fight. A month later my wife and I were stunned to have our wonderful son confide to us that he suffers from Same-Sex Attraction. Deeply stunned, the SSA topic became real and very personal. Although we felt isolated and alone, we were determined to stand by our son and together find LDS based answers. "Voices Of Hope" is the book that we have been waiting for. It has been a real blessing for us as we have been inspired by many successful LDS SSA stories. I am especially appreciative to the author and compiler, Ty Mansfield, for being courageous enough to use his real name and story and to show a successful gospel based path for those looking for hope in living a Christ centered life while dealing with SSA. As bishop, "Voices Of Hope" is already my "go to" book for those who approach me about SSA. It is simply a MUST READ book!
Judge a little less, love a little more.
by David - reviewed on September 18, 2011
One does not need to experience same gender attraction to read and relate to this book. Whether it's a spouse, child, or friend, one can read this book, understand the trial that is same sex attraction. One can feel the spirit testify of the simple Gospel truths that are born testimony of again and again in this book. True stories are told by real men and women who experience this attraction. I encourage all to read this book, if only to soften your heart or achieve a greater understanding of this issue. Come unto Christ and reflect on your own life as you read Voices of Hope. You will find an increased vigor to better yourself and judge a little less, and love a little more. God Bless.
I'm in Love :)
by Kevin - reviewed on October 05, 2011
I love this book! I love the frank, compassionate voice that comes through in all of the writing. I love the courage with which the authors teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I wish everyone I know would read this book. Individuals who experience SSA, my family, friends, priesthood leaders, everyone can benefit from the principles discussed and the love shared in this book. I can say that for myself, a single reading is not going to be sufficient. There is so much truth and valuable insight packaged in there, that I will study and re-read. Thanks to all those involved in this moving work.
This book truly changed my life.
by Danielle - reviewed on September 16, 2011
I happen to know the compiler of Voices of Hope...in fact, I married him. This book has been a long time in the making, so I had the opportunity to read most of the manuscript before it went to press. I read all of the essays when Ty and I were engaged. I thought I understood a lot about same-gender attraction, especially as experienced by those of the LDS faith, but this book totally changed the way I understand this issue and so many of our friends. Reading the personal essays humanized and personalized the issue of same-gender attraction for me, so that any lingering questions I had about SGA dissipated. My testimony of the Savior and the Atonement were strengthened as I read about the peace and healing experienced by so many whose lives have been touched by this issue. This book changed my life. I am so grateful that it exists for the way it helped me understand this issue on a much deeper and more compassionate level.
by Laura - reviewed on March 15, 2012
I found this book first and foremost an inspirational book for anyone trying to make peace with their individual, unique challenges in an imperfect, uncertain, stress-filled world. I’m one of these people. I took my time reading the book and had several experiences where what was said gave me an idea that helped me with a particular challenge, or I related with a personal story on such a level that I found some peace in not being” the only who’s felt like that”. At one point I was inspired to read in it every day in place of scripture study for a time and had a sweet spiritual experience because of it. You don’t have to experience same sex attraction or even know someone who does in order to be spiritually fed by this book. The principles talked about by loving, learned gospel speakers as well as the life lessons taught by the amazing men and women who live them, apply to anyone trying to make sense of their life and yearning for the spiritual guidance that will help them stay on the path they’ve come to believe they should follow, find a path to follow, or maybe even to just find peace with where they are at right now in their lives. Secondly, this book is unique, overdue, and I hope, a trendsetter! Voices of Hope couldn’t be a better title and I’m looking forward to hearing more of these “voices” in the future! I’ve often felt that people who are attracted to the same sex, for the most part, are the nameless and faceless in our society, especially religious society. And yet, how can we understand, how can we be of help, if those who are attracted to the same sex feel that they can’t approach us? And, with good reason! We need to be more open, and help them to feel comfortable enough to tell their stories to us. Then, we need to be able to act with love, sincerity, and compassion. This was the best “church book” I’ve ever read! All my thanks, love, and admiration go out to Ty for putting this anthology together!
What I always needed
by Customer - reviewed on September 19, 2011
As an LDS man who struggles with Same-Sex Attraction, I have felt isolated most of my life. The struggles were difficult to talk about with anyone, but I knew there had to be others who were going through the exact same internal battle as I was. I just couldn't find it. I had the opportunity to read the manuscript not long before publication. Every single story was completely unique from mine, but every single one resonated within me and I heard the trials and joys that other people experiencing SSA went through. This is the book I needed while growing up and feeling alone and never had. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone experiencing SSA or to anyone who knows somebody who does. It's very literally exactly what I had been praying for my entire life.
Voice(s) of Hope - In Quiet Desperation No More!
by Keri - reviewed on September 21, 2011
My wife and I first read "In Quiet Desperation" a number of years ago and commented to each other at the time, that it was the finest treatise on the Atonement that we had ever read and have recommended it to family and friends regardless of the nature of their struggles and challenges in life. It was, therefore, with great anticipation, that I began reading Ty's latest work, "Voice(s) of Hope." It flows so well...each chapter setting forth doctrines and principles followed by the real-life experiences of those whose lives lend such authenticity and personal application to the doctrines being taught. I was so moved, often to tears, at the depths of despair that some had reached, and at the same time, felt to rejoice with them at the hope and assurances they had found in being true to their divine nature and to covenants made. As I finished the book, I felt lifted...a better person for what I had experienced...willing to walk arm in arm with my brothers and sisters the world over, no matter our individual trials or thorns in the flesh. I felt inspired by the hope discovered by these men and women of faith, not unlike those described by Paul, who "not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off...were persuaded of them, and embraced them...wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city"...which city the Savior described in modern times as "a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety." My hope for this book is that all who struggle with same-gender attraction might find in it the voice(s) of hope they need, but that it might also be read by millions of others the world over who face demons of other kinds. In all of life's challenges we have a very real and living hope, even the Hope of Israel, our Savior and Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. Of Him this book bears a sure and certain witness. My sincere gratitude to the compiler, the contributors, and its publisher.
'Voices of Hope' is a must read for Latter Day Saint members facing same gender attraction either in their own lives or the lives of those they love.
by Rachel - reviewed on September 28, 2011
'Voices of Hope' is a must read for Latter Day Saint members facing same gender attraction either in their own lives or the lives of those they love. These "voices" brought so much clarity, understanding and love toward not only those who struggle with same gender attraction but toward all people. As these contributors shared thier insights and testimonies I was lifted and strengthened in my own testimony of the Savior and his infinite love for all of us. I am so grateful to have read this book and recieved the blessings that have come to my life through understanding this sensitive topic more fully. Those who have shared their own personal stories are true heroes and will bless the lives of those who read this book. It is my prayer that those who are searching to understand same gender attraction will read this book and find the "hope" they are looking for.
A welcome plea for charity but neither objective nor comprehensive
by Rob - reviewed on October 11, 2011
Since this is published by Deseret Book and features essays written not only by gay Mormons but also a number of (apparently) church-approved professionals and BYU professors, one should not expect to find any perspective here other than strict adherence to LDS doctrine and orthodoxy, at least in its current version. LDS teachings about homosexuality have fluctuated drastically over the last century, and are currently driven mostly by theological theorizing in response to a growing body of professional conclusions that previous generations’ beliefs about it (including LDS beliefs) were incorrect. It is unfortunate that the book perpetuates use of patronizing and often offensive terminology like “suffers” from “same-gender attraction.” Gay people who reach a state of healthy self-acceptance often resent the implication that they are “suffering,” and most Mormons don’t realize that the term “same-gender attraction” is a virtually unique “theologically correct” LDS euphemism routinely scorned outside the church. It is also unfortunate that the book legitimizes the efforts of Evergreen International, the “unofficial” “support” organization that, with tacit LDS sponsorship, promotes to gay Mormons theories and ideas about changing sexual orientation which have been thoroughly discredited by every reputable professional organization in the country not driven to elevate a religious agenda above scientific fact. Any effort by this book or any other source to reduce ignorance, promote understanding, and increase Christian charity is of course welcome. Readers of this book, however, should not expect to find a comprehensive or objective treatment of the subject of homosexuality. There is one clear agenda here, and one only: insistence that gay Mormons must accept the currently incomplete LDS theology of homosexuality and resist, for the duration of their lives, any indulgence of homosexual attractions. No other alternative or information source is even mentioned. Those interested in a truly comprehensive understanding of the subject should not confine their reading or their trust to this book.
by Brock - reviewed on October 02, 2011
As a 24 year old who struggles with SSA personally, I know first hand the pain, loneliness, self-hatred, and feelings of inadequacy that come with this struggle. After reading Voice(s) of Hope, I now know that Im not alone in all of this. Ty has truly been guided and directed in compiling this masterpiece that allows new venues of hope, peace, self-love, and competency. For the first time in my life deep, deep wounds are starting to heal. Although I know its just the beginning, and many, if not most, of my feelings of anger and inadequacy reside, it was this novel that has sprung me on the road to recovery. A sense of worth and purpose, although still a seed, has finally been instilled in my soul, and for the first time, I have heard a Voice of Hope. Whether or not you are someone that struggles with SSA, this work is an absolute MUST READ.
by Olivia - reviewed on October 11, 2011
This is a must-read book for any Latter-day Saint. At the very least, we all know someone who struggles with same-sex attraction or a gender issue. This book gives guidance and hope for those who want to live the gospel and be valiant in their testimony of Jesus Christ but are struggling with these challenges or with those of someone they love, which can be almost as overwhelming. Because I don't struggle with this challenge myself, this book gave me very helpful insight into understanding others who do and what I can do to "bear one another's burdens." It also gave me inspiration in dealing with my own challenges -- any challenge where you feel isolated in the Church -- infertility, being single or if you struggle with any kind of mental health issue or addiction, including with food, this has a wealth of fantastic information for you. I can't wait to buy this for friends with struggling family members and friends who serve in Bishoprics who deal with these issues. Thank you for this amazing resource!
An answer to my prayers
by ashley - reviewed on December 06, 2011
I personally do not struggle with SSA. I have had little reason to give that specific trail much thought until recently. My very best friend confided in me his feelings of SSA shortly after returning from his mission. I, in my quest for understanding ended up at Deseret Book and purchased Voices Of Hope. Not for my friend but for me. It's amazing how the personal stories and essays have altered my perception of SSA and helped me understand the blessing it has the potential to be. I prayed so hard for understanding and I felt as if I was guided by the spirit to find it, in this book. It has turned my fear for my friend into hope, and I will be forever grateful for the men and women who were brave enough to share there stories.
Part of a changing conversation
by Adam - reviewed on January 29, 2012
I first came across Ty's writings in 2007 when I picked up 'In Quiet Desperation.' Ty's book came to me at a time when I was looking for increased reconciliation between my faith and sexuality. His book gave me a voice and a language to be able to open up about my predominantly undisclosed homosexual orientation within the context of my Mormon community, something I never dared do before. In Ty's new book, 'Voices of Hope,' more stories of those whose lives have been touched by this important topic are shared. This book is unique because it gives a voice to gay/SSA members themselves. I believe this reflects an important change we are witnessing in the church in which the conversation is shifting from one dominated by clinicians to one in which real people with real experiences are talking and their friends and families and fellow church members are listening and learning and loving. Some things I liked about the book: Ty mentions the value of listening to stories that are "not fully solved." I appreciated that since I have often felt a lot of pressure to not contribute to the conversation until I had everything figured out, a notion that can lead to isolation for those who experience dissonance surrounding their experiences with faith and sexuality. I also appreciate that Ty mentions that there is not a 'one-size-fits-all' solution to approaching this issue. In my experience, the circumstances in which gay/SSA members find themselves are quite varied, and so to assert that there is a single solution for all involved is to undervalue the diversity of experiences of gay/SSA members of the church. 'Voices of Hope' is also one of the first LDS-oriented resources of which I am aware that addresses transgender topics, including members of the church sharing their personal stories in this regard. I thought Ty provided a good primer for discussing some of those topics and pointed out some important distinctions between gender identity and sexual orientation. There is a part of the book where Ty writes "Suppose a gay couple walks into a LDS chapel..." which I think is something that we, as members of the church, need to think about more--how to help gay/SSA folks feel welcome at church and church activities regardless of their level of compliance with church teachings. It has been helpful for me, in approaching my own journey of reconciliation, to read many different perspectives on this issue. I would definitely recommend Voices of Hope as required reading for anyone who is interested in understanding the dynamics of what it's like to be both Mormon and gay/SSA. Getting a first-hand perspective on this is critical to knowing how best to reach out to others with experiences that are different from our own. Honestly, I am still not at a point where I can claim complete resolution with respect to my faith and sexuality. I don't know what the end will look like for me. But I do know that I don't want to do it alone. And having people like Ty and others share their stories in an open and honest way, and in a way that is respectful of those who have differing opinions on the matter, has been a tremendous blessing and encouragement for me.
This book made has made a life-changing impact on not only my life but everyone else to whom I've given a copy.
by kerry - reviewed on September 08, 2012
I have given away more than twenty copies of this book -- usually to a friend in crisis who needed answers to help themselves, a friend, a family member or someone over whom they had ecclesiastical authority. Each time, the responses have followed a similar pattern: why did I not know about this book before now and this book was a lifesaver. I had a couple of incidents in which the book literally WAS a lifesaver. The recipients told me they felt they were out of options and that they felt suicide was the only one left. In one case, this book arrived just three hours after a young man had bought a gun. Instead of taking his life that night as planned, he read this book cover to cover and, instead, opted to reach out and tell his family about his same-sex attraction. In another situation, faced with the option of leaving his marriage of 15 years and three children, a man who had been privately struggling with same sex attraction for most of his life, read this book and decided to stay and work on rebuilding his marriage and his life. His wife, who had decided that the marriage was not salvageable, decided that if one of the wives in the book's stories could forgive her husband for his infidelity and rebuild their marriage to a place of wholeness again, she could at least try to rebuild her own. How often can you say that one book saved an entire family? This book did that--in just 24 hours. There is no way that a book this powerful and effective could have been conceived and produced without divine inspiration -- it's just that amazing. I have read it five times, each time to gain additional wisdom and insight to help a particular person at the time. If I could only own ten books, I would want Voices of Hope to be one of them.