Question: Do Mormon teachings against homosexual acts lead to bullying of gay youth or unchristian treatment of members or non-members with same-sex attraction?

Table of Contents

Question: Do Mormon teachings against homosexual acts lead to bullying of gay youth or unchristian treatment of members or non-members with same-sex attraction?

Some members have, through ignorance or malice, doubtless used the sinful nature of homosexual acts to justify their decision to disparage, neglect, or mistreat those who are tempted toward such acts

Like members of all faiths, all Latter-day Saints do not live up to their ideals and principles perfectly. Some members have, through ignorance or malice, doubtless used the sinful nature of homosexual acts to justify their decision to disparage, neglect, or mistreat those who are tempted toward such acts. Such behavior is sinful, and requires repentance.

In this, as in all else, the example of Jesus is paramount

In this, as in all else, the example of Jesus is paramount. When brought a woman taken in adultery, Jesus refused to stone her:

7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. (John 8:7-11)

It is important to recognize, however, that it is no cruelty to teach that homosexual acts are sins—just as the adulterous woman would not have been well served if Jesus had winked at her sin. The Church and its members will continue to teach that homosexual acts are not worthy of those who are children of God. As the Church observed, "Tolerance as a gospel principle means love and forgiveness of one another, not 'tolerating' transgression."[1]

The Church has consistently taught that all people are children of God, and ought to be treated with love, dignity, and respect. This includes those with same-sex attraction, or those who commit homosexual sins.

1980s

In 1987, President Gordon B. Hinckley said of the AIDS/HIV epidemic:

There is a plague of fearsome dimensions moving across the world. Public health officials are greatly concerned, and everyone else should be. The Surgeon General of the United States has forecast an AIDS death toll of 170,000 Americans in just four years. The situation is even more serious in some other areas of the world.

AIDS is a commonly fatal malady caused primarily from sexually transmitted disease and secondarily from drug abuse. Unfortunately, as in any epidemic, innocent people also become victims.

We, with others, hope that discoveries will make possible both prevention and healing from this dread affliction. But regardless of such discoveries, the observance of one clearly understandable and divinely given rule would do more than all else to check this epidemic. That is chastity before marriage and total fidelity after marriage....

Having said this, I desire now to say with emphasis that our concern for the bitter fruit of sin is coupled with Christlike sympathy for its victims, innocent or culpable. We advocate the example of the Lord, who condemned the sin, yet loved the sinner. We should reach out with kindness and comfort to the afflicted, ministering to their needs and assisting them with their problems.[2]

1990s

In discussing this issue, Elder Dallin H. Oaks quoted the First Presidency:

“We are asked to be kinder with one another, more gentle and forgiving. We are asked to be slower to anger and more prompt to help. We are asked to extend the hand of friendship and resist the hand of retribution. We are called upon to be true disciples of Christ, to love one another with genuine compassion, for that is the way Christ loved us.”[3]

He then said:

Kindness, compassion, and love are powerful instruments in strengthening us to carry heavy burdens imposed without any fault of our own and to do what we know to be right.[4]

Elder Oaks also taught:

Our doctrines obviously condemn those who engage in so-called “gay bashing”—physical or verbal attacks on persons thought to be involved in homosexual or lesbian behavior....

Despite such invitations and assurances, the Church and its members continue to experience misunderstandings about our positions on these matters....

A recent letter is illustrative:

“Another concern we have is the way in which our sons and daughters are classified as people who practice deviant and lascivious behavior. Perhaps some do, but most do not. These young men and women want only to survive, have a spiritual life, and stay close to their families and the Church. It is especially damaging when these negative references are spoken from the pulpit. We believe such talks only create more depression and a tremendous amount of guilt, shame, and lack of self-worth, which they have endured throughout their entire lives. There is sometimes a real lack of the pure love of Christ expressed to help them through their ordeals. We will all appreciate anything you can do to help with the plight of these much misunderstood children of our Father in Heaven. If some of the General Authorities could express more sensitivity to this problem, it would surely help to avoid suicides and schisms that are caused within families. Many simply cannot tolerate the fact that Church members judge them as ‘evil people,’ and they, therefore, find solace in gay-oriented lifestyles.”

These communications surely show the need for improvement in our communications with brothers and sisters who are struggling with problems—all types of problems. Each member of Christ’s church has a clear-cut doctrinal responsibility to show forth love and to extend help and understanding. Sinners, as well as those who are struggling to resist inappropriate feelings, are not people to be cast out but people to be loved and helped (see 3 Nephi 18:22–23,30,32). At the same time, Church leaders and members cannot avoid their responsibility to teach correct principles and righteous behavior (on all subjects), even if this causes discomfort to some.[5]

President Hinckley taught: "Nevertheless, and I emphasize this, I wish to say that our opposition to attempts to legalize same-sex marriage should never be interpreted as justification for hatred, intolerance, or abuse of those who profess homosexual tendencies, either individually or as a group."[6]

Each holder of the priesthood also watches to "see that there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking." (D&C 20:54).

2000s

In October 2000 conference, while speaking about people in same-sex relationships, President Boyd K. Packer taught:

We understand why some feel we reject them. That is not true. We do not reject you, only immoral behavior. We cannot reject you, for you are the sons and daughters of God. We will not reject you, because we love you (see Heb. 12:6–9; Rom. 3:19; Hel. 15:3; D&C 95:1).

You may even feel that we do not love you. That also is not true. Parents know, and one day you will know, that there are times when parents and we who lead the Church must extend tough love when failing to teach and to warn and to discipline is to destroy.

Elder Jeffry R. Holland reiterated the need for a warm and supportive atmosphere at Church toward those with SSA:

Someone said that if we plant a garden with good seed, there will not be so much need of the hoe. Likewise, if we fill our lives with spiritual nourishment, we can more easily gain control over inclinations. This means creating a positive environment in our homes in which the Spirit is abundantly evident. A positive environment includes consistent private and public worship, prayer, fasting, scripture reading, service, and exposure to uplifting conversation, music, literature, and other media.

This same environment extends to experiences at church. Some with same-gender attractions have unresolved fears and are offended at church when no offense is intended. On the other hand, 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 (see D&C 84:110).[7]

A booklet prepared by the Church in 2007 noted the need for improved kindness from Church members:

Some people with same-gender attraction have felt rejected because members of the Church did not always show love. No member of the Church should ever be intolerant. As you show love and kindness to others, you give them an opportunity to change their attitudes and follow Christ more fully.[8]

In 2009, Elder Bruce C. Hafen spoke on this subject, and his address was placed on the Church's official website:

Remember President Hinckley’s confidence in you: “Our hearts reach out to [you]. We remember you before the Lord, we sympathize with you, we regard you as our brothers and sisters.” And President Packer has echoed, “We do not reject you… We cannot reject you… We will not reject you, because we love you.” With that kind of leadership, I pray that all Church members are learning to be more compassionate and understanding.[9]

The Church also endorses and supports the principle that all citizens are equal before the law. The Church has endorsed, for example, non-discrimination ordinances in housing and employment.

For a detailed response, see: [[../Non discrimination ordinances|Church support of non-discrimination ordinances]]

2010s

In 2010, the Church issued an official statement:

...we have all witnessed tragic deaths across the country as a result of bullying or intimidation of gay young men. We join our voice with others in unreserved condemnation of acts of cruelty or attempts to belittle or mock any group or individual that is different – whether those differences arise from race, religion, mental challenges, social status, sexual orientation or for any other reason. Such actions simply have no place in our society.

This Church has felt the bitter sting of persecution and marginalization early in our history, when we were too few in numbers to adequately protect ourselves and when society’s leaders often seemed disinclined to help. Our parents, young adults, teens and children should therefore, of all people, be especially sensitive to the vulnerable in society and be willing to speak out against bullying or intimidation whenever it occurs, including unkindness toward those who are attracted to others of the same sex. This is particularly so in our own Latter-day Saint congregations. Each Latter-day Saint family and individual should carefully consider whether their attitudes and actions toward others properly reflect Jesus Christ’s second great commandment - to love one another.

As a church, our doctrinal position is clear: any sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong, and we define marriage as between a man and a woman. However, that should never, ever be used as justification for unkindness. Jesus Christ, whom we follow, was clear in His condemnation of sexual immorality, but never cruel. His interest was always to lift the individual, never to tear down.

Further, while the Church is strongly on the record as opposing same-sex marriage, it has [[../Non discrimination ordinances|openly supported]] other rights for gays and lesbians such as protections in housing or employment.[10]

In October 2012 general conference, Elder Dallin H. Oaks said:

When we consider the dangers from which children should be protected, we should also include psychological abuse. Parents or other caregivers or teachers or peers who demean, bully, or humiliate children or youth can inflict harm more permanent than physical injury. Making a child or youth feel worthless, unloved, or unwanted can inflict serious and long-lasting injury on his or her emotional well-being and development.9 Young people struggling with any exceptional condition, including same-gender attraction, are particularly vulnerable and need loving understanding—not bullying or ostracism.[11]


Notes

  1. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "The Divine Institution of Marriage," (13 August 2008).
  2. Gordon B. Hinckley, "Reverence and Morality," General Conference (April 1987).
  3. “An Easter Greeting from the First Presidency,” Church News (15 April 1995), 1.
  4. Dallin H. Oaks, "Same-Gender Attraction," Ensign (October 2005), 9.
  5. Dallin H. Oaks, "Same-Gender Attraction," Ensign (October 2005), 9.
  6. Gordon B. Hinckley, "Why We Do Some of the Things We Do," Ensign (Nov 1999), 52. off-site
  7. Jeffrey R. Holland, "Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction," Ensign (October 2007), 42-45.
  8. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, God Loveth His Children (Intellectual Reserve, 2007).
  9. Bruce C. Hafen, "Elder Bruce C. Hafen Speaks on Same-Sex Attraction," report of address given to Evergreen International annual conference, 19 September 2009.
  10. Michael Otterson, "Church Responds to HRC Petition," (12 October 2010).
  11. Dallin H. Oaks, "Protect the Children," Ensign (November 2012).