Part of me really questioned writing this post, because I'm certain it will annoy some people. Then the other side of me pushed back, for I know that regardless of what I write, it cannot possibly please everyone. I write for personal expression & insight, selfless service, and to strengthen my conversion to Christ-not for popularity. Naturally, I love reaching a large audience-but I would rather touch a few individuals on a personal level than gain a generic, watered-down audience. That being said, let's discuss cultural Mormonism and how sometimes affects Latter-Day Saints when a gay Latter-Day Saint is in their midst. What I will say about others' negative behavior, as a sort of disclaimer here, is not always true- in fact, many times it is not. However, for the benefit of both parties, I want to lay down what I have observed as a Latter-Day Saint.
To start, what is "cultural Mormonism"? It is the social culture in the Church that is sometimes mistaken for doctrine and unfortunately will often promote un-Christlike behaviors such as gossiping, unrighteous judging, excluding eccentric individuals, and so on. To say the least, it is not something I ever recommend embracing, because much of it drives away the Spirit. And when you mix gay people into the picture... well, it turns into something that is downright ugly sometimes. Now, don't get me wrong here. My intent is to provide a positive, uplifting experience by writing this. I have seen many members treat gay individuals with great respect, love, acceptance, and compassion. Today, though, it's time to expose cultural Mormonism for what it really is, and encourage gay Latter-Day Saints in their faithfulness.
To begin, I noted that cultural Mormonism is sometimes mistaken for doctrine. Some examples include: Young LDS men and women should be married by their mid to late twenties, caffeine violates the Word of Wisdom, words of General Authorities are always the word of God, expressing frustration or negativity towards someone in church (even if it's assertive) is bad, and so forth. Not a single one of these is true, because they are all contingent on opinion-including the words of General Authorities, meaning that an opinion of a General Authority does not constitute doctrine (D&C 68:4). This can be spiritually detrimental for gay LDS individuals, because how do they feel if people are constantly pressuring them to get married and have children if that's not what they desire, or if members are pushing them to date? Is it sinful or even erroneous for an individual to not desire marriage and family or a dating life, due to their sexuality? Some members certainly seem to act like it- but nobody in authority, including the Savior, has condemned this. Indeed, Elder Hales once remarked in a CES fireside that those who do not get married in this life at no fault of their own will have a chance for marriage in eternity. And the Strength of Youth pamphlet comments that some people date because they have no desire to do so, confirming that this is normal and okay. Some wonderful Latter-Day Saints I know of didn't get married until their late thirties, or still haven't married in their forties, and I know several individuals who are still dating into their thirties. Celestial dating and marriage happen on the Lord's time; earthly dating and marriage in mortals' time.
What of the General Authorities' words always being doctrine? That is hardly true, although I am a firm believer that their words are almost always doctrine. The reason that they cannot always speak doctrine is because they are imperfect, as President Uchtdorf recently stated in General Conference. And sometimes, being human, they also sometimes give opinions that are not sufficiently backed up by scripture. President Harold B. Lee once stated that if we are to discern whether their words are opinion or not, we are to look to the scriptures. If the scriptures back the General Authority's words, then they are the word of God. Sometimes, however, a well-intentioned General Authority could give an opinion about same-sex attraction that isn't doctrinally sound-for example, that same-sex attraction is meant to be overcome through the Atonement of Christ in every case. They also might say other opinions, like it is an active choice, that it comes from parental influence, etc. But none of these statements can be backed by the scriptures-indeed, the scriptures will contradict each one if you search thoroughly enough. I would strongly recommend handling anything you regard as "doctrine" with tact, love, compassion, and open-mindedness around gay LDS individuals, because you might have an opinion rather than some doctrine. And from personal experience, I can tell you the last thing a member with same-sex attraction wants or needs is something more to increase the challenge of enduring faithfully and joyously in their journey.
What about cultural Mormonism sometimes promoting the un-Christlike behavior I mentioned? How does that come about? What I have often observed is that younger members, and sometimes older ones, will stay in their own personal cliques. Anything new and strange threatens the comfort and security of those cliques, and so people reject or otherwise persecute individuals for fear of change & eccentricity, and because of pride. It also could potentially arise from fear of what others may think of them if they chose to befriend someone different, and from personal insecurities, low self-esteem, narrow-mindedness, and countless other sources. The key question is, though, is it edifying-that is, does it draw other children of God closer to their Heavenly Father? In this month's CES fireside, Elder Ballard supported this path of edifying others with same-sex attraction, telling us that regardless of their lifestyle, we should treat them with love and respect. In the true gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the real reason we attend church (versus cultural Mormonism), we believe in loving others even as we love ourselves. Whatever we do to others, we do the Savior. If I were to meet the Savior, I would want Him to look upon me with love and confidence because I chose to speak well of His children and judge them righteously. That is what I hope we all strive to live by-the loving spirit in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
My dear brothers and sisters, I want to end with a beautifully insightful quote written by Brad Wilcox. He wrote, "Some Latter-day Saints go through all the right motions without feeling any of the emotions. They settle for rule following instead of religion, for obedience and sacrifice instead of consecration, for testimony instead of conversion, and for cultural Mormonism instead of the soul-transforming fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is time for a little zeal with our knowledge." Isn't today the best day to start really living our religion, consecrating our efforts, working towards conversion, and embracing the 'soul-transforming fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ'? At the very heart of this gospel is the pure love of Christ, because the center of all we believe, teach, and live for is the beautiful, sacred Atonement. How then, could we ever consider ourselves His followers unless we choose His teachings over the opinions of men, and start loving all of God's children equally? Everyone is a child of God, and God loves them all equally. Surely, then, following Him means we must do the same. I hope and pray we all will. Let's start loving everyone, because that is what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about. I love you all...have a beautiful day.