In the last few months, the Church [1] has taken some significant steps in demonstrating love and acceptance of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.

  • In March, it posted a video front and center on LDS.org of the Mackintosh family telling their story of coming to accept their gay son and even inviting him and his boyfriend to church with them.
  • In August, the Church took an unprecedented step in endorsing the LoveLoud festival, whose purpose was to build bridges between Mormons and the LGBTQ community and help protect our LGBTQ youth.
  • And in the last few weeks, Deseret Book, Deseret News and LDS Living have been promoting Tom Christofferson’s new book, which shows how a faithful LDS family doesn’t have to choose between remaining faithful in the Church and loving and accepting their gay son – and his partner.

Of course, for every step forward, it seems there is an inevitable step back.

  • Just a few days after the Mackintosh video came out, the Ensign published Elder Lawrence’s “The War Goes On,” in which he labels same-sex marriage one of Satan’s counterfeits, “a twisted version of something good” used to deceive unsuspecting people.
  • Within a few days of the Church endorsement of LoveLoud, and three days before the actual festival, Elder Russell M. Nelson made a post on his Facebook page about “true partners” to reiterate his position that marriage can only be a union of a man and a woman regardless of what human judges, legislators, popular opinion or bloggers say.
  • And finally, in the midst of promoting Tom Christofferson’s story about an LDS family accepting their gay son and his partner, the Church filed an amicus brief in the cake-baker case, basically arguing that religious people who own businesses should not have to accept gay people as customers in certain circumstances.

Despite the “steps back,” I am still grateful for any and all positive steps the Church takes on LGBTQ issues. These positive messages show church members that it’s okay to love and accept our LGBTQ members and, I believe, help reduce homophobia and its associated negative outcomes within the Church.

Now to the central point of this post: Are these messages of love and inclusiveness enough? Will more education and outreach ultimately solve all the negative outcomes (e.g., depression, suicide, loss of faith) our LGBTQ members experience being raised in the Church? While more love and less homophobia will help mitigate those negative outcomes, the elephant in the room we can’t ignore is this fundamental doctrine: “being gay (or trans) is not a sin but acting on it is.”

By my observation, no matter how much the Church tells gay people they are loved, as long as it teaches them that there is no sin in being gay, but their deep inner desire for love and companionship is considered a defect, like a susceptibility to alcoholism, this message will continue to result in intense inner conflict, hopelessness, depression, suicide and loss of faith. As so many faithful LDS parents of LGBTQ kids have come to learn, this message is toxic to the mental, emotional and spiritual health of their kids. As long as gay members are taught from the time they are children that their core natures are evil if expressed – even in a legal, committed marriage – and that they must bury this fundamental aspect of their humanity, the majority will leave the Church to preserve their mental and emotional health. Can we really expect otherwise? Would those of us who are cis-gender/heterosexual act any differently if we were required to make this sacrifice?

For discussion:

  1. Why do the majority of LGBTQ people leave the church? Is it because they are spiritually weaker than their heterosexual peers or because there might be something wrong with our doctrine on homosexuality/gender?
  2. Is a change in our current doctrine on homosexuality the only way to prevent the negative outcomes associated with that doctrine?
  3. What might a doctrinal change look like? Is it as simple as applying the Law of Chastity equally to all members whether gay or straight (i.e., no sexual relations outside of legal, monogamous marriage)?
  4. What about temple sealings?

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[1] I really dislike using the term “Church” as the monolithic entity responsible for the actions discussed herein when in reality the “Church” consists of many different voices and stakeholders, including Public Affairs, various wholly-owned subsidiaries of the church corporate entity, and the disparate voices of the highest leaders who have responsibility for approving content and statements made by these entities and who express their own opinions in talks, public statements and church policies. However, for the sake of brevity, and with this disclaimer in mind, I will refer to the “Church” as the entity taking the actions discussed above.