Many Mormons who are LGBT or have family or friends who are were surprised/not surprised at the announcement of Josh & Lolly Weed that their Mixed Orientation Marriage was ending. Some had considered them evidence that gay people could have happy heterosexual marriages, so hey, everything is OK for gay people. They can be *happy without any accommodation in the current understanding of the Plan or the ideal family we preach. When they announced their divorce, both of them wrote a fairly long OP explaining their choice and experience that can be found here.

Josh Weed listed the teachings on homosexuality that he’s received from the church since he was a kid, knowing he was gay.

1. My sexual orientation wasn’t real.
2. My sexual orientation was evil.
3. My sexual orientation was an abomination.
4. My sexual orientation was tantamount to bestiality and just shy of murder.
5. My sexual orientation was a crime against nature.
6. My sexual orientation was just a feeling.
7. My sexual orientation was very small–merely a temptation and a tendency.
8. My sexual orientation was something so huge and dangerous that it led to Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction and could lead to the downfall of civilization.
9. My sexual orientation could change in this life if I had enough faith.
10. My sexual orientation was a “trial” to bear.
11. My sexual orientation maybe couldn’t change in this life after all.
12. My sexual orientation could be managed with faith (but not changed).
13. My sexual orientation could be endured (as a trial).
14. My sexual orientation was my own fault (for, as stated in The Miracle of Forgiveness written by the Mormon prophet, Spencer W. Kimball: “Many have been misinformed that they are powerless in the matter, not responsible for the tendency, and that ‘God made them that way.’ This is as untrue as any of the diabolical lies Satan has concocted. It is blasphemy. Man is born in the image of God. Does the pervert think God to be ‘that way?’”—which was the quote that finally made me, as a 14-year-old reading those words alone in my room, throw the book across the room in horror. It was the word “pervert” that really shook me—I knew I hadn’t brought gayness upon myself and that I was not a pervert, even at that age)
15. My sexual orientation was NOT okay to have and needed to be rooted out (The Miracle of Forgiveness even recommends a type of counseling that will help, claiming many had changed).
16. My homosexual feelings WERE okay to have because they can never change, but were never okay to act on.
17. It was not okay to be referred to as “gay” but instead only as “same sex attracted”.
18. Homosexual feelings should never lead to a person identifying himself/herself with the word “gay” as a noun.
19. It IS okay to be referred to as “gay” but only in certain circumstances.

He added his thoughts about the mixed messages he received and that gay people in the church continue to hear:

I could keep going, but hopefully you see the point. These mixed, uninformed messages all came out during the course of my lifetime. Sometimes, they said the exact opposite of what was said before. And yet, I was instructed, continually, to listen to the men saying these things and obey what they were saying, and that if I didn’t, I was faithless and apostate.

That is a problem. While I can absolutely accept that the men who said this wide array of often damaging things were of God, I think it’s clear from this list that the people that lead the LDS church 1. often share opinions about subjects like this, and not necessarily the will of God and 2. often change those opinions over time and 3. are sometimes totally inaccurate in their assessment of social issues. And I mean no disrespect as I point out this obvious reality.

I can remember a lot of these different messages myself from my decades in the church. The mixed messages have a lot of causes, but the chief two are:

  • A rapidly evolving acceptance of homosexuality in American society.
  • Leader to leader differences in perspective and understanding.

All of which is of course distressing to gay youth born into LDS families. Society is suddenly mostly accepting of their orientation, and church culture is not. We are encouraged to love our gay brothers and sisters while denying them a tenable place in the plan.

As I thought about it, there are a lot of mixed messages in the church, and that’s because the church is a human institution, full of human beings, each of whom has different views. Topics I can think of off the top of my head include the role of women, the role of the Holy Ghost, the Word of Wisdom, science, biblical scholarship, etc. Obviously some of these changing views and human errors are more harmful than others.

To me, it looks like most people in the church do what you would expect when confronted with mixed messages: they cherry pick the ones they agree with and ignore the ones they find challenging. That too is human nature.

  • What other mixed messages have you heard in your years in the church?
  • What do you do when you are faced with mixed messages?
  • What would you recommend to someone for whom the mixed messages are particularly harmful?