The LDS Church gets a lot of grief over its stance on homosexuality. The criticisms are often well-deserved, but rarely constructive.
In the wake of several gay Mormon suicides, concerned Mormons are asking what their church could do to better minister to gay members. Here are what I hope to be a few constructive suggestions:
1. Work out a consistent theology regarding sex. Let me explain. If you’re going to oppose homosexuality on the grounds that it perverts the procreative end of sex, then treat homosexuality as you would other non-procreative acts—like masturbation, heterosexual sodomy, and contraceptive use. In other words, don’t treat homosexuality as a special, excommunicable sin.
(I of course don’t think homosexuality is a sin, but I cannot realistically expect the LDS Church to share my view any time soon).
2. Stop anti-gay marriage politicking. I’m not asking that the church embrace civil gay marriage, but to tolerate it. Gay marriage will be an inevitable reality in a decade or two, so the church will need to adapt (as it did with polygamy, interracial marriage, and black priesthood). Why not adapt sooner rather than later?
And if the church cannot abstain from anti-gay marriage politics, then it should at least support other gay rights measures like it did with the Salt Lake City non-discrimination ordinance.
3. Repudiate ignorant teachings about homosexuality. For many years, church leaders taught that homosexuality was caused by sin and cured through repentance and marriage. This teaching had profoundly hurtful implications. At BYU and elsewhere, for example, gay Mormons underwent traumatizing reparative therapies in a futile effort to change their sexual orientation.
The LDS Church has made progress since those days, to be sure. LDS leaders today are more careful when addressing homosexuality. In a recent press conference, Elders Oaks and Wickman said that the church has no opinion about the causes of homosexuality and that some people cannot change their sexual orientation. That’s a pretty tepid repudiation of past teachings, though—if it’s even a repudiation at all.
I’d like to see church leaders say in no uncertain terms that homosexuality is not a choice and that homosexuals deserve our love and understanding. General conference in October would be the ideal opportunity for this message.
4. Dialogue with LGBT groups. Back in 2008, the LDS Church entertained the possibility of meeting with Affirmation, an LDS gay support and advocacy group. That meeting never happened, unfortunately, in part because the LDS Church wanted it to be private and Affirmation wanted it to be public. Despite that disagreement, the LDS Church should try to re-engage Affirmation and related groups in open dialogue.
5. Love. LDS leaders and members say they love homosexuals, and I don’t doubt them. But they need to show that love. Acting upon the above suggestions would go a long way in doing just that, in my opinion.
My list is by no means comprehensive. These were just a few ideas I had. What do you think the LDS Church could do to improve their relations with their gay members and the larger LGBT community without totally sacrificing its teachings?