Around 6:30 am last Friday, I was driving to work when I heard the news of the Supreme Court ruling in support of gay marriage. I cried tears of joy. Since that morning, I have pondered the seemingly contradictory positions that I hold as a believing, faithful Latter-day Saint and a joyful supporter of gay marriage. I have tried for five days to untangle the reasons and processes that have led me to believe that for me, these are not antithetical beliefs at all. This is not an attempt to engage in a scriptural, philosophical battle, but rather an effort to explain my process of understanding truth through personal revelation around this specific issue.
Praying for Truth
…I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. – Moroni 10:4-5
I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints the summer after I graduated high school and the day before I flew to Philadelphia to start college. It was a decision I made after much scripture study, fasting and prayer about the truth of the Book of Mormon. The truth of every teaching and doctrine of the church rested, for me, on this foundational point, for it follows that if the Book of Mormon is truly the word of God then Joseph Smith must have been called by God to be His prophet; he must have been inspired by God to translate the book, and the church he restored must then be the true church of Jesus Christ.
I prayed with a genuine desire to know the truth and I expected one of only two possible answers: the Book of Mormon was either true – as in, the word of God – or it was not and Joseph Smith was a great liar. I eventually received an answer too sacred and powerful to deny that the Book of Mormon was truly God’s word (another tale for another time!). I still had unanswered questions and many points of doctrine that I did not yet know were true or did not fully understand or believe; but I knew I had received an answer from God and I acted in faith. A week after I received my answer, I was baptized.
When I was still learning about the church, I struggled to understand the church’s teachings about what it is now calling same-sex attraction. I simply did not agree with the teachings. I struggled with this so much that it almost prevented me from joining the church. However, I could not deny that I had received an answer from God, so I was baptized, trusting in my heart that if I continued to seek truth and answers, I would understand all things in time. In all honesty, I believed that one day, the church would revise its teachings about gay marriage (the church has recently stated unequivocally that this will never change, which alters nothing about my personal process to understand God’s will and doctrine because I still do not understand). With that belief, I tucked the dissonance away for a time, but I never stopped seeking answers and truth. I knew from the very beginning that if I prayed for a testimony of truth, or if I prayed for understanding, God would eventually answer my prayers.
Faith is Like a Seed
Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves – It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me. – Alma 32:2
It has been nearly fifteen years since I joined the church. In that time I have gained a testimony of many of the doctrines and principles of the gospel by testing the seed. I have read and re-read the scriptures and received many answers to prayers. I try to live the commandments and follow the Savior as much as is possible for one as imperfect as I. I have learned that developing a testimony and understanding of truth is a process that takes time.
Part of learning and living the gospel is trusting in this step by step process. Seeds grow over time before bearing fruit, but we must nurture and water the seed with faith that, if the seed is good, the fruit will grow. My experience praying about the Book of Mormon told me that the seed was true; living the gospel everyday since then has shown me that the seed is good. This is what gives me faith to continue when there are things I do not understand or agree with.
God is Love
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. -1 John 4:7-8
God loves and knows each of us more perfectly than we can currently understand. He loves all of us, queer, gender-conforming, gay, trans, lesbian, straight, or however we identify. And, this love is unconditional and very very real.
The scriptures teach us this over and over again:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should no perish, but have everlasting life. -John 3:16
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39
Charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever…pray uno the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love… -Moroni 7:47-48
The entire gospel of Jesus Christ centers around this love. God loves us so he sent us His Son. Christ loves us so he gave himself that we might live again with Him. Nothing can separate us from this love. Love is the essence of the gospel and it knows no boundaries for God does not discriminate.
Love is of God
But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God. -Moroni 7:13
God loves us because we are His children. He created each of us and he does not make mistakes. To be queer is an innate, unchangeable part of one’s identity. It is not a choice. It is not an addiction. It is not a temptation that draws in those who are most susceptible. It cannot be reduced to a sexual act or to a feeling of lust. It is a fundamental and intrinsic part of a person’s entire being. To be queer is to be human and a child of God.
My step-brother is gay. He is married to the most amazing man and they complete each other. I have known they were perfect for each other for many years before they were able to tie the knot in New York. They nurture a love that is beautiful and inspiring to behold and they have created partnership built on sacrifice, support and care. I admire their relationship and look to it as an example of a strong, loving marriage.
I see and feel the love of God when I am with my step-brother and his husband. I hear this love when my friend Michelle speaks about her wife. Love is love is love no matter who is loving whom, and it is good. The scriptures teach that “all things which are good cometh of God” (Moroni 7:12), so I can only conclude that this love is also of God. I don’t understand how any relationship that is built on genuine love can be anything but Godly and sacred.
Some Unanswered Questions
Just a few of the questions I am still seeking to find answers for include:
- Why would God create queer people only to degrade and dehumanize their identities by minimizing the entire identity into a temptation, and worse, a sin? How can a fundamental part of one’s identity be considered wrong if it was created by God? (To be clear, I don’t think God does this, imperfect human beings do this. So, my real question is what is God’s true will and purpose here?)
- Why would God create queer people and then deny them the chance for lasting love and happiness in this life when He wants us to have joy? Based on current church teachings:
- If they live the gospel, they cannot find or act on love in this life or they will be separated from God in the life to come
- If they find and act on love in this life, they may have happiness now, but then they will be doomed to eternal unhappiness and separation from God in the next life
- A comparison to single, straight people who live chaste lives is not an applicable comparison because straight, single people at least have the chance of finding and acting on love, of finding companionship and creating families. Their love is at least considered love and not degraded to temptation, lust or sin.
- If the love is real, why can’t a marriage between any combination in addition to woman and man also be considered sacred and holy?
- If the church does not support gay marriage in the temple, do we need to make other follow our beliefs if they don’t agree? Isn’t this life about giving people choice?
Truth is Revealed in God’s time and in His Way
For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have. -2 Nephi 28:30
I am able to live with the dissonance between the church’s current stance on “same sex attraction” and my personal beliefs about gay rights, marriage and humanity by accepting that I do not and cannot yet understand God’s will or plan. I look to the things that I do know to be true and they give me perspective and patience for the questions I still have. I know that God is perfect; He loves each of us and desires for each of us to attain eternal, lasting happiness. I trust that his plan is merciful, just, fair and equitable for all of His children in ways that I do not yet see with my small and limited perspective.
In my experience, God reveals truth “line upon line, precept upon precept,” one small step at a time. He does this when I seek personal revelation about the choices I should make in my life and He does this when I seek to understand truth. Sometimes he hits me with a frying-pan-to-the-face spiritual experience, but most often, he shows me a little at a time and asks me to walk in darkness toward the light. In this way, he guides me forward without showing me the end; I learn to trust in Him and walk in faith. I have learned that when I walk where He leads, my prayers are always answered in better, though often different, ways and times than I imagined. I have learned to trust in God’s timing and His plan for me.
Walking in faith is not blind, nor is it ignorant. It comes from a well of trust and spiritual knowledge built on real personal experiences. This is not just how I explain difficult things, this is how I live every aspect of my life. This is also how I gain an understanding of spiritual truths.
I had the opportunity to sit in a small question and answer session with Elder David A. Bednar, one of the Twelve Apostles during the era of Prop 8 in California. I was extremely torn between my desire to follow the counsel of our church leaders and the feelings and beliefs that told me Prop 8 was wrong. During this two hour session, we were able to ask Elder Bednar any questions we had. Although his answers did not clear up any of my confusion regarding doctrine or politics, I left with a tremendous sense of peace. I came away from the meeting with the strong feeling that Elder Bednar was truly called of God as an Apostle and special witness of Christ. I came away with a deep feeling of God’s love, channeled through Elder Bednar, not just for me but for all people.
Though it seems strange to walk away from such a meeting without a stronger feeling of agreement or peace around the teachings themselves, I know that this experience has strengthened my testimony of God’s chosen servants and the leaders of the LDS church. I left with a stronger belief that our leaders are not bigoted men acting out of fear or hatred. I left knowing that, above all other influences, the prophet and apostles are driven by a genuine desire to seek and follow the God’s will; they are imperfect, yet righteous men who are filled with the love of God. They, like all of us, must engage in the same process of seeking and receiving truth “line upon line, precept upon precept,” trusting in the Lord’s timing and plan. Knowing this has given me peace that the truth, whatever that is, will be revealed in God’s own way and time.
I see bigotry and ignorance on all sides of the issue. It is misguided to accuse all religious people of blind and willful ignorance, hatred or bigotry (which is not to say that this does not exist among both religious and non-religious folk). There is a spiritual process, faith and knowledge that guides our choices, beliefs and actions; it seems that because some do not believe in, accept or understand this process, it is ridiculed and degraded. On the flip side, there are also clearly misguided beliefs about what it means to be queer which creates tragically degrading and dehumanizing results. Both are wrong. This is not to enter into a discussion of power and privilege; clearly those who are Christian – though this is debatable in regards to those of the Mormon faith – and straight (as well as white, male, able-bodied and extroverted…) have the power and privilege in our society. It is merely to observe that ignorance and fear from any lens creates harmful and misguided consequences.
However, I also see tremendous love and understanding on both sides. There are many people who genuinely seek to understand a viewpoint that seems diametrically opposed to their own. I appreciate those who have engaged with me to seek understanding and not to judge. I also appreciate those who allow me to do the same in the spirit of purest love.
I also want to acknowledge that it is much easier for me to live in this space of uncertainty as a straight, married LDS woman. I cannot begin to understand the anguish, hopelessness and pain of those church members (current and former) who are queer or questioning their sexuality. I can more comfortably exist with unanswered questions because I do not have to confront people and teachings I love that confuse and devalue my humanity every single day. I hope that I can be a friend and ally to those enmeshed in this struggle.
There is much I still have to learn on every side of this issue, but I’m grateful to know that the Lord wants us to ask questions and to seek answers. He wants us to gain our own testimonies of truth. I feel the Spirit telling me that gay marriage is right and I also feel absolute certainty about the truth of the gospel of Christ. I am okay not knowing everything now and living with some questions unanswered. I trust in God’s process and believe in answered prayers. I must continue forward on my journey toward truth and know that in time, I will be able to understand all things according to God’s will and plan.