Monday, November 18, 2013

Homosexuals and the Plan of Salvation: Why We Need New Revelation

[Editors Note: This is the first and possibly only post for this blog my husband and I have talked about starting for several months to chronicle our discussions of gospel topics.  It was originally posted to Facebook on Monday, November 18, 2013 with the status: Today I am grateful for many things: my family, my faith, my Church, for Prophets and continuing revelation and of course the Savior.  I've written something--it's long but I think its important.  In my life I've known and cared about a lot of Gay people.  I've always felt this was for a reason, that God had a plan, but I didn't know what that reason was.  I think this is it."

[Update:  I've recently added an addendum at the end of this post that addresses my thoughts on Prop 8 and The Proclamation to the Family since I originally neglected to mention either.  I feel they clarify some things and sum up my thoughts.]

As an rank and file member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I have had to navigate my share of internal contradictions within the teachings of the LDS Church. Often the insights I gain when contemplating these contradictions reveal beautifully harmonious ideas that no longer seem at odds with each other. One such topic involves the treatment of homosexuals in the plan of salvation. I grew up in a loving LDS home with a worthy Priesthood leader for a father and doting stay-at-home mother. I’ve attended Church my whole life, went to BYU for my undergraduate, served a mission and married in the temple. I am currently a stay-at-home mother to a beautiful little boy and am constructing this essay among other projects between naps and bedtimes, dishes and dirty laundry. I’ve studied the deeper aspects of the Gospel that at best leave members feeling uncomfortable and worst lead to their eventual apostasy and removal from the Church (either by themselves or from ecclesiastical discipline) and successfully navigated and integrated them into my own personal tapestry of spirituality and worship. I have a strong testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and His speaking to Prophets both in ancient and modern times. In other words, I know both logically and ethereally that this Church is true. I wish to make this known at the beginning of my essay so that as my words, written in the weakness of my language, are not misunderstood, misinterpreted, seen as heresy or even critical of the Church. It has come to my attention, through intense personal prayer and scripture study, larger critical study of Church history and doctrine, personal experience and personal testimony of others that the Plan of Salvation, also known as the “Plan of Happiness” as we currently perceive it, does not account for the current Church supported understandings of homosexuality. In other words: we need new revelation.

I started this honest inquiry a little over a year ago, the biggest thing being the impending birth of my first born son. I wanted to know from the Lord how I should teach and treat homosexuality and interacting with His children in a post-DOMA world, inklings of which I could already sense even though DOMA was not officially repealed until a few months after his birth. I had navigated many relationships with family and friends who were homosexual while maintaining my standards (sometimes even lovingly but blatantly telling them that I supported them as a person but not their lifestyle). Even though I felt I had done so successful, I knew going forward that things would not be the same as they were when I was growing up and I wanted to know from the Lord what He would have me do concerning our growing family. I lacked wisdom, knowing that if any woman needed it at this time in her life it was me. The feelings and promptings I got were somewhat unexpected although I was not shielding myself from them: love openly and proactively, worry not about regulating lifestyle, listen intently and follow the Spirit.

The existence of homosexuality is difficult for many Latter-day Saints because it directly challenges some of our most dear and guarded doctrines on eternal families and our divine natures as children of God.  But exist it does. Quoted from the Church’s website: “This complex matter touches on the things we care about most: our basic humanity, our relationship to family, our identity and potential as children of God, how we treat each other, and what it means to be disciples of Christ.”

The Plan of Salvation is the collection of Mormon doctrines that answer the larger questions about our existence: where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going. We believe that we existed before this earth life with Heavenly Parents who loved us and sent us down to earth so that we could learn and grow through experiences and trials and eventually come back to their presence through the sacrifice of their son Jesus Christ. We believe this earth life is an important part of our eternal existence and that the experiences we have here are ultimately “for (our) good” (Doctrine & Covenants 122:7).

With the Church’s introduction of, they make the statement: “The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people...Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them.” Recognizing the complex reality of sexuality breaks from the long held dogmatic belief that sexuality at the heart involved a choice. This raises issues with the current lifestyle options allowed to homosexuals within the Mormon Church: a life of celibacy or the infinitely more complex option of a mixed-orientation marriage.  And even though I have personally and publicly known people in successful, committed mixed-orientation marriages--it is a hugely personal decision for a couple to say the least, and a difficult path to walk I'm sure.

Growing up in California I had plenty of opportunity to have my valiancy on this subject tested. At 14 I stood up in front of 30 or so classmates and terrifyingly yet proudly denounced gay marriage for a number of well researched reasons. I received an “A” even with my teacher’s contrary opinion on the matter. Yet to be humble we must be willing to review our positions from time to time. The Lord’s urgency on my studying this out has kept me up many a nights, and even with His patience I still have not prayed to ask which way be right and somewhat feeling grateful that no vote is currently being asked of me. I have felt the weight of a great moral dilemma, not unlike Saul in the Old Testament whose animal sacrifice was unacceptable to the Lord, despite it being the expression of obedience in the mosaic law and the approved cultural expression of willingness to do the Lord’s will in one’s life. The words of our Prophet from just this last April (which incidentally I had to read later since at the time I was in the hospital giving birth) have rung in my ears: “Centuries ago, to a generation steeped in the tradition of animal sacrifice, Samuel boldly declared, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”

Realizing my approach in the past may have been unwarranted and also feeling great spiritual weight to understand these things completely, I launched into a deep scriptural study through all the standard works. I also exhaustively studied Church history as well as scholarly and personal writings online and in print. Conservative faithful LDS readers who have delved into messier gospel topics can testify that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). Yet knowing the voice of God in my life and eventually letting faith override the fears I had, I moved forward into the abyss. What I first thought would be a major challenge to my testimony turned out to mostly be an unpacking of the fears and anxieties I had built up around homosexuality (even though I have loved many a gay people). Removing these fears and instead leaning on the Spirit, I have found for myself that “perfect love casteth out all fear” (Moroni 8:16) and that God indeed “hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). I found that my hesitancy to address these matters was that I “feared man more than God” (D&C 3:7), other men and women being my fellow saints. This essay is in part my repentance from that error. Even so, I was acutely aware that those smarter than me and more spiritual than I of having been deceived in the past. In the midst of my studies I discussed everything I learned with my husband who is also a faithful Latter-day Saint. He has been sublimely supportive and has been my rock, and working together we've kept firmly on The Rock. This analysis is meant to be ultimately faith promoting even though it questions some current Mormon teachings on homosexuality.

From the beginning of time God has called prophets and spoken to them, giving them inspiration and revelation that is often written down as scripture. Scripture is not received within a vacuum, and has much to do with the place and time in which it has been received. When new revelation is not being received, Prophets teach and expound scripture that has already been written. In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord says: “Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding” (D&C 1:24). I personally believe that God is trying to do as much good as possible among his imperfect mortal children at any given time, and that as the human family progresses in light and knowledge throughout the dispensations; so does the beauty and complexity of his commandments. This helps me understand why really appalling teachings and commandments from the Lord are found in the Old Testament including murder, mass genocide, slavery, and the treatment of homosexuals. This explains why later revelations often clarify and contextualize earlier teachings and that the Lord’s word is often described as a “two edged sword” to the “dividing asunder” of both joints and marrow, of soul and spirit (Hebrews 4:12, Doctrine and Covenants 11:2, 6:2, 12:2, 14:2, and 33:1).

This is why every new conference, though profoundly inspiring, does not end up in our scriptures and while only a few revelations, mainly the Manifestos and a couple others have been added to our Doctrine and Covenants since the bulk of new revelation was received in this dispensation. Revelation usually happens in response to a question or need and we do not as a Church, to quote Elder Holland, believe in “ex nihilo revelation.”

Since prophets most of the time are working with what is already there and working within the context of current times, it is possible for Church leaders to misinterpret previous scriptures and “make mistakes” as Elder Uchtdorf expressed this last conference. The most notable of this is Brigham Young’s “Adam-God Theory” which was preached from the pulpit and later denounced as non-doctrinal. This does not negate Brigham Young’s calling as a true prophet of God or the true doctrine that he did preach from the pulpit.

Understanding of homosexuality has changed throughout human history and the Church’s own past. Old testament and new testament scriptures make no distinction between lifestyle and inherent sexuality, only stating homosexuality as a sin in the broad sense. This is no wonder, considering this was in a time where the idea of same gender attraction as something inert and sexuality being something distinct from gender or the act of sex itself was about as easily conceived as the internet or airplanes or a thousand other things concerning modernity. It takes only a cursory reading of the Old Testament to gain a clear and unmistakable appreciation for modern and continuing revelation. The Book of Mormon makes no mention of homosexuality, only that sexual sin is an abomination (Alma 39:3–5). The Doctrine & Covenants also make no specific mention of homosexuality. The Church’s own policy and rhetoric has changed over time resulting in the latest iteration being the Church sponsored website In this, while there is a greater call to love and listen, the Church also made clear the distinction that this policy “has not changed nor is changing.”

It is true God’s laws do not change, however, our understanding and application of His laws and ordinances do change from time to time, sometimes in dramatic and paradigm shifting ways. This is at the heart of our foundation built on modern and continuing revelation. In the ancient Church, cultural attitudes and Church policy had to accommodate new revelation with the old cultural practices of Judaism. This is why the Savior had to clarify: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Matthew 5:17). Much of the New Testament after the four gospels is the Apostles trying to sort out within the membership old cultural practices that were perpetuating or being unnecessarily amalgamated into the new Church. Similarly, early on in the modern Church, there were huge paradigm shifts to both accept polygamy and then after the Manifesto, to discontinue the practice. Faithful Church members in Utah during the period of polygamy believed that the families involved in Church sanctioned polygamy were practicing true “celestial marriage.” This unique family unit as a higher law had to be reconsidered in the period after the revelation disbanding polygamy. Sexual relations are to be kept within bounds the Lord has set, but at times the Lord has ordained other marriages.

Homosexuality within the bonds of marriage has no scriptural precedent, which understandably has led to possible assumptions inside and outside the Church to believe that gay marriage is completely unacceptable and is also in direct opposition to traditional marriage. If new revelation were to allow gay marriage, traditional scriptures about homosexuality would still apply when considering the laws of chastity before marriage and fidelity after.

Now to be clear, this essay is NOT a clarion call for the Church to accommodate gay marriage. And not just because there are subsets within the gay Mormon community that are already doing that but because to me that approach seems more contentious than seeking. I personally feel extremely uncomfortable with directly challenging the Brethren. I do think we need to allow space for dissent within our community, but my call here today is for Mormons everywhere is to stop, take a step back, and recognize the deficiencies within our own doctrine; and at the same time, recognize and ponder on the glorious message of the Restoration: we have a Prophet of God who is authorized to receive further light and knowledge and dispel contradictions in doctrine previously understood.

And in seeking humility I understand and readily acknowledge that an expansion of the current understanding of the Plan of Salvation to accommodate our gay brothers and sisters (beyond being children of God) may not include the ordination of gay marriage. Simply saying God now ordains gay marriage would bring up a lot of other doctrinal questions: what does that mean about the importance of marriage in bringing children of God into this earth life through biological reproduction and the creation of our physical bodies in the image of God for that purpose. We need further revelation to see the broader perspective of how the existence of homosexuality fits in the Plan of Salvation, for at the moment we “see through a glass darkly” (1 Cor. 13:12).  We as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints need to stop asking questions about gay marriage, and start asking questions about the role and nature of sexuality in the plan of Salvation.  For in there here and now, there is currently no scripture (canonized or otherwise) directly addressing sexuality.

For whatever reason, faults with Church leaders have never caused my testimony to waiver, knowing that God was over all and putting my faith in His plan and His power. This point has been the mainstay of my deeper study of gospel doctrine and history throughout my life. As Jeffrey R. Holland stated: “Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with...As one gifted writer has suggested, when the infinite fulness is poured forth, it is not the oil’s fault if there is some loss because finite vessels can’t quite contain it all.” I know that the Lord speaks to the Prophets but that Prophetic stewardship and revelation is more complex than God simply speaking out his word verbatim to the Prophet. This in no way diminishes the divinity of the work or the authority of the Prophets.

Prophets and Apostles being ordained of God and authorized to speak in His name and knowing that they can and have spoken untrue statements from the pulpit does not make these two facts mutually exclusive. In his CES fireside at the beginning of this year, Elder Uchtdorf quoted Brigham Young in saying: “I am … afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security. … Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates.” To me this places a large responsibility on us as members to be listening to the Spirit while we internalize the teachings of Church Authorities. I am sure even Elder Oak’s would agree that making the Lord a priority in our lives and not placing any other Gods ahead of the One who leads this Church would also include His anointed servants. It is telling to me of the character of Elder Bruce R. McConkie, a well known writer on theories about the “seed of cain” concerning “The Negro” to say in a BYU devotional a few months after the 1978 landmark revelation to “Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world” (emphasis added).

Perhaps the best example we have of Prophetic revelation and the revelatory process is the documentation gathered by Spencer W. Kimball’s son in a BYU Studies Article concerning the revelation to extend the Priesthood to all worthy males. President Kimball struggled for months on end, praying in the temple and importuning the brethren in considering the question on blacks and the Priesthood, which was a divided issue for a time among the apostles. He struggled with the prejudices he held growing up as a boy in Arizona and the long held cultural attitudes in America at the time concerning African Americans and with a beautiful experience involving a pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit, they were able to overturn the policy restricting Priesthood and Temple ordinances for Black members.

On one side God speaks to Prophets in the weakness of their language, while on the other side the Prophets can only give us revelation that we are willing to accept. An example of this in in the Old Testament when Moses brought down the higher law but upon finding the children of Israel worshipping the golden calf, returned to the Lord and brought down the stone tablets and what now known as “The Mosaic Law” or lower law (Exodus 32:19-20). Concerning the revelation extending the Priesthood to blacks, It is interesting to note that in meetings leading up to the announcement, there were concerns that the membership wouldn’t receive the revelation. From what I understand, we could be stopping revelation from happening simply because we don’t believe it could happen or have faith enough to ask. As Moroni states: “wherefore, if these things (miracles and revelations) have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain” (Moroni 7:37). We must have faith, as well as prepare ourselves, for further light and knowledge from the Lord through a Prophet of God.

Whenever the Prophet has received new revelation from the Lord, there are shifts that occur within the larger membership to accommodate and shed off folk doctrine that has built up around how things were practiced before the new revelation. This is part of the pattern of God calling Prophets from the beginning of time, his people eventually falling into apostasy, and the Church having to be reestablished and restored by calling a new prophet. Even though we are in the “dispensation of the fulness of times,” the final dispensation, and prophecy reveals no other mass apostasy before the second coming (Daniel 2:44, D&C 138:44), we can still collect folk doctrine that can inhibit us from receiving new revelation. In the words of President Uchtdorf: “Brothers and sisters, as good as our previous experience may be, if we stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop pondering, we can thwart the revelations of the Spirit...How often has the Holy Spirit tried to tell us something we needed to know but couldn’t get past the massive iron gate of what we thought we already knew?” (emphasis added). I believe homosexuality could fall under the situation of previous understanding thwarting new revelation.

Most members in the Church believe that revelation through a prophet of God is essentially a top-down program. The understanding is, “if the Lord wants us to know something, he will tell us through the Prophet” often forgetting that revelation through the Prophet is not much different for them as it is for us and the distinction is more a matter of stewardship rather than spirituality. I’ve heard many talks from the Brethren telling members that they hold the same revelatory power in their lives as the Prophet does. This does not mean members can receive revelation for the Church (this was cleared up early on with Doctrine & Covenants section 28 concerning Hiram Page) but it also does not mean members cannot receive revelation about the Church. In our lesson manual this year, Lorenzo Snow recounts an experience he had in the spring of 1840 where he received a vision dictating the doctrine we now understand as “deification of man.” His own poem sums up the revelation:

“As man now is, God once was:
As God now is, man may be.”

The account continues, “Feeling that he had received ‘a sacred communication’ that he should guard carefully, Lorenzo Snow did not teach the doctrine publicly until he knew that the Prophet Joseph Smith had taught it. Once he knew the doctrine was public knowledge, he testified of it frequently (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, Page 83). This is especially interesting, because when Lorenzo Snow received these thoughts, the idea of a God who progresses, as well as his children being able to attain godhood was in direct contradiction to the current understanding of the nature of God and man, and still is for mainstream Christianity. Where I judged them before, this account gives me pause when thinking of many faithful Latter-day saint members who currently support gay marriage. Let us have charity and give them the benefit of the doubt.  If they are wrong that will weigh on their conscience, not ours.

Even though there is nothing stopping members from asking for more revelations from the Prophet, the “proper channels” for that to occur have been convoluted through Correlation and widespread growth of the Church in the 20th century. In Joseph Smith’s day, members could easily approach the Prophet and ask questions about personal or doctrinal matters, resulting in many of the revelations included in the Doctrine & Covenants. With the advent of the internet and social media, all organizations are seeing a flattening effect, including the Church. Grassroots efforts with members who have concerns about doctrine have begun to snowball, perhaps the most noted being the Mormon Feminists. Even though I myself identify as a “Moderate Mormon Feminist” I have not officially joined with any of the feminist groups, simply because social protest within the Church makes me extremely uncomfortable, even though I also have honest questions concerning doctrine and policy regarding gender roles.

To honestly contemplate gay marriage within the gospel paradigm has admittedly felt somewhat akin to an “abrahamic sacrifice” in going against my long held convictions concerning authority, revelation and eternal families. Sometimes we like to draw the proverbial line in the sand and do our best to “hide our face from sin” (Isaiah 53). Yet knowing that I could fall prey to the same overzealousness as the Pharisees, I did my best to follow the Spirit and walk the “straight and narrow path.” Feeling great urgency from the Lord I have pressed onward. The mental gymnastics that a member has to make to accommodate gay marriage in the Mormon paradigm are not much more than the call to both stand up for traditional marriage while obeying the charge to “love thy neighbor” (as I have literally, at multiple times and multiple locations in the United States had neighbors who are homosexual).  This does not mean that gay marriage will be ordained in the Mormon Church, I just want to make sure I am humble and willing to receive any new revelation the Lord presents through His prophet.

Of course, if gay marriage were allowed, members who have fought long and hard for traditional marriage would see this as a very real contradiction to the most recent discourse from the Church and would perhaps suffer from a faith crisis. This would not be historically precedent, as families in my mission in Missouri were known to have left the Church after the 1978 revelation extending Priesthood to blacks. I judged them, falling to the vice of generational superiority, until I realized that up until about a year ago I would have had a faith crisis myself if the Church were to change its policy concerning homosexuality. I was further humbled when I realized that there were many statements from Apostles prior to 1978 that suggested blacks would only receive the Priesthood in the Eternities.

Our Plan of Happiness as outlined in the scriptures is a beautiful restoration that expands and clarifies what early Christians sought to understand with the scripture that was left to them. For example, the expansion to include a pre-mortal existence as well as the break from a clearly bifurcated Heaven/Hell afterlife account for greater mercy from our Heavenly Father regarding the necessary saving ordinances for those who could not receive them in this life. But as any gospel scholar within the Church knows, it does not answer all questions. For example, it does not specifically tell us HOW we lived with our Heavenly Parents or HOW our Spirits were organized. At the other end of the diagram, there are conflicting opinions from apostles about the rigidity of the tri-glory existence: namely, is “kingdom swapping” allowed? In the same vein and understandably, it was written from a heteronormative perspective, like all scripture before it. To quote the 9th article of our faith: “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”

One view that has been expressed from some of the Brethren is that homosexuality is a condition of mortality, that God’s children will not be gay in the eternities. I have heard accounts of some gay Mormons believing this to be true, while there are some that find this idea ludicrous. I find that when I compare this idea to my own heterosexuality and what I understand about my eternal marriage, the idea holds much less water. This idea may end up being a personal opinion of the Apostles preached as doctrine. This is not unheard of and does not challenge their status as Apostles of the Lord, especial witnesses of Jesus Christ.

If there was a major policy change regarding homosexuality within the Church, critics and non-believers might cite outside pressures as the impetus and try to use it as evidence to discount the divinity of this work. While these pressures are indeed part of receiving modern revelation (can we honestly say the Manifesto would have happened without the United States outlawing polygamy?) true believers and those with personal testimonies regarding the sanctity of this work will know that it is more nuanced than that: the Lord is directing His Church through his imperfect, mortal children.

And so I wait patiently, urging all to pray for ourselves and our leaders and to pray for inspiration and the courage to follow it. I am humbly petitioning our leaders to examine the role that homosexuals play in the Plan of Salvation, a undertaking that has yet to be examined in the context of seeking prophetic advice. If that revelation comes tomorrow, in 10 years, 50 years, or never, I continue to support the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and sustain our leaders because I know this is God’s Church on the earth once again. In the meantime I continue to pray and follow inspiration of how I can both support the plan as we currently understand it, including the traditional family and our religious freedoms while also following inspiration on how I can better love and support our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters around us. These days that includes an increase of love, listening, charity, and friendship which unfortunately has not always been my highest priority.

To the current and former gay Mormons and their allies: I honor your pain and your patience. You are effectively navigating a doctrinal desert and many of you in my eyes are “spiritual pioneers.” The scriptures that can help you and bring you comfort far outnumber the scriptures that might confuse you or bring you pain. My thoughts are drawn to the Gentiles who approached Peter before the revelation was received to bring the gospel to all the world and to those faithful African Americans who lived and worked in the Church prior to the 1978 revelation. I pray that further light and knowledge come sooner rather than later. In the meantime, please stay with us as much as possible: We need you and the Lord needs you.

As a woman in the Church I have no ecclesiastical authority or aspirations for such beyond my family and my calling. I am simply and most profoundly: a mother. I have made the sacrifice of mind and body, spirit and soul to bring a child into this world, in a tabernacle of flesh, in order to experience mortality. I will raise him in a righteous loving home surrounded by the Gospel and caring parents, and the hope he and the children to come will make correct decisions through their agency that will lead them back into the arms of loving Heavenly Parents. Becoming a parent makes you realize the sublime love of our Heavenly Father towards all of his children, from time immemorial, and that his greatest triumph is truly to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” Concerning our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as part of our human family, one of my greatest desires is to also be able to see them fully partake in the blessings of the gospel, feel the love of the Savior, and be able to return home to our God.

Megan Knobloch Geilman
November 18, 2013
BYU Campus, Provo, Utah.

If and until we receive further light and knowledge concerning homosexuality in the Plan of Salvation, please consider these methods in interacting with gays and lesbians. The focus is on charity and do not conflict with current Church policy.

- When interacting with gays and lesbians, ask yourself how you would treat a child of God, as they are certainly accounted for in the Plan of Salvation under these terms, and treat them accordingly.

- Pray for our leaders. Revelation takes time, patience, humility, study, prayer, inquiry, and all the other good things that the Gospel teaches us to be.

- If you have a friend who is gay and interested in the Church, instead of testifying that the Lord has ordained marriage between a man and a woman (which He has), instead humbly let them know that we don’t understand at the moment perhaps all that God knows concerning the complex nature of sexuality but that we have a living Prophet and the ability to receive new scripture. That if we are patient, whether here or in the eternities, all questions will be answered. This is wonderful and incredibly hopeful news for former and currently gay christians and their allies, who wrestle with the question of homosexuality using only a closed canon of scripture.

- The above approach can also be used with Parents who have children who are gay, or have friends who are investigating the Church that struggle with the Church’s current position on homosexuality. I find this answer brings a strong confirming witness of the Spirit and to me falls under the charge to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). The Lord has restored the Church of Jesus Christ through a Prophet, the Heavens are not closed!

- When teaching the youth of the Church, consider the position the Boy Scouts of America have taken: “any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting.” Many youth within the Church struggle with same gender attraction while their testimonies are tender and growing. Lambasting homosexuality with a broad brush might be insensitive to their very real and very valid feelings. Instead focus on the Lord’s law of chastity before marriage and fidelity after, and that right now the Lord has only ordained marriage between a man and a woman.

- Listen to and validate the hurt and pain felt by our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters caused either by members or from direct teachings of the Church. As Nephi says “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things” (1 Nephi 11:17).The Church is not perfect, but it is true. I also find this helps me keep my baptismal covenants of effectively “mourning with those that mourn” and “comforting those that stand in need of comfort.” Christ died for all of our sins. Charity IS the pure of love Christ and we can have charity BECAUSE of the pure love of Christ.

- Elder Ashton gives an expanded definition of charity that includes “giving people the benefit of the doubt.” Listen or read the experiences of gay people without trying to fit them within your mormon paradigm. Really listen. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with their choices but trust they are trying to do what God wants them to do. If they aren’t, that is their issue and concern, not yours--judge not.

- Make local outreach a priority.  Actively reach out to all Gay Mormons (that includes current, former and future Gay Mormons) within your ward family.  Be proactive without turning them into a project.  We must humbly assess our Sunday experience and know that even though our signs say "Visitor's Welcome" that doesn't automatically mean that people outside the Utah-Mormon stereotype feel welcome.  I believe we can do better.  This is also a good approach to use with less-actives.

- Have faith. When Elder Holland spoke directly to doubters of the Church, a growing number at this time of great spiritual confusion on a matter of subjects, he explained: “In this Church, what we know will always trump what we do not know. And remember, in this world, everyone is to walk by faith.” To me this is a qualitative statement more than a quantitative one. It is simply impossible to know of what God’s knowledge we do not yet know and will yet be revealed to the Kingdom of God; for we know that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and His ways higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). But what DO we know? We know that God is our loving Heavenly Father, that we are literally His spiritual offspring, that Jesus Christ is our Savior, that the Lord has restored his Church through a Prophet of God. These things will always trump what we do not know.

- If feelings have been hurt on either side: forgive, forget, move forward. There is much work to be done in the Kingdom.

Addendum:  I've had a few people remark on the fact that I withheld any mention of Prop 8 or The Proclamation of the Family.  I didn't even realize this myself until after I had posted it as I felt a great weight to finish as quickly as possible.  I read through it only once personally in its entirety before posting, so great was the pressure I felt that this needed to be said to the world.  I will comment on both below.

Proposition 8:  Respectfully and sincerely, my singular and only regret with Prop 8 is that I didn't pray about it.  I was on my mission at the time but was able to vote absentee from California.  My parents were highly involved and made a point that I was aware and had my ballot.  As a missionary, I didn't have the time or means or allowance to truly "study it out and ask if it be right."  It also didn't really occur for me to do so at the time.  I remember feeling uncomfortable that my Church was directly asking me to take sides on an issue because I have always been grateful that this is a politically neutral church (even though my views largely line up with conservative mormonism).  I also don't feel comfortable saying that it was wrong and since I never studied or prayed about it at the time I simply have no testimony either way and this bothers me.  I also see many great things that have come out of this conflict, including the creation of

The Proclamation of the Family:  I have a copy of this hanging in my hallway.  I have always loved and appreciated this document.  I won't comment about any specifics on it but when I read through the whole thing with the eye of the Spirit this past year some things stood out more clear than others.  I have wondered why it is still not canonized.  Gender and consummation in marriage is addressed but there is no mention of sexuality.  I am not so concerned about gay marriage as I am about the potential importance of sexuality in the Plan of Salvation.  Sexuality is different and distinct from gender and lifestyle and from the act of sex itself.  I think when we ask the right questions we can get the right answers from God.  I came at this question through the lens of homosexuality and the debate of gay marriage because it is perhaps the most hotly contested issue of our day.  I also think God's chosen people have run into trouble when they have decided what God is thinking and what He will and will not reveal to his children.  I believe historically gay people have born a huge burden due to misunderstanding and lack of doctrine.  I truly believe in the power of pure doctrine.  And since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only Church to claim a true Prophet and a restoration of the Priesthood for continuing revelation and an open cannon of scripture we have the means to ask this of God.  Think about all the things that could potentially be cured with new scripture concerning the correct role of sexuality in the eternal scheme of things: homophobia and sexual bigotry (see John 8:3-7), pornography, frigid and failed marriages, the loneliness of spinsterhood and bachelorhood, rape culture, sexual abuse and sexual shame to name just a few.

New revelation is only received in response to a need and a question.  I think we need this now more than ever and have always needed it but have been too afraid or didn't know how to ask.  The question I urge everyone to begin asking for and praying about is such: What is the role of sexuality in God's supernal Plan of Happiness?  The plan that has been built and taught for the purpose of obtaining and bringing immortality and eternal life to His precious children?  What does sexuality mean for us then, now and in the eternities?  Why does homosexuality bisexuality or transsexuality or anything else besides heterosexuality exist?  Why does sexuality exist, why is it important, what is it for, what does it mean and does that alter the boundaries God has concerning it?  (Please note: I have no personal agenda for seeking alteration of God's boundaries concerning sexual behavior: I am a heterosexual woman happily married to a heterosexual male).  Is sexuality moldable, to what extent, and what are the ethics surrounding attempts to change sexuality? Because clearly, shock therapy or strongly encouraging mixed orientation marriages is a bad idea. We must acknowledge that we lack wisdom in these matters.  To all who may read these words I repeat the scripture which prompted the Restoration of the Gospel in the fulness of times. The words of a Prophet of God written down for anyone to read and contemplate and follow: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." And I would add the next line (to which I am certainly not perfect at): But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering."(James 1:5-6). Let us ask, let us pray, let us have faith.