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The LDS Church and homosexuality

Part 2: Will the LDS change its LGBT teachings?
Abandonment of LGBT teens by LDS families.
Effects of family rejection on LGBT youth.

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This essay is a continuation from the previous essay.

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"LDS" is an acronym meaning "Latter-day Saints" which is an
abbreviation of: "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints"

"LGBT" is an acronym for Lesbians, Gays,
Bisexuals and Transgender persons/Transsexuals.

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Is there any possibility that the LDS Church will change its beliefs about homosexuality, perhaps due to another revelation from God?

The LDS Church teaches that God instructed the LDS Church on two occasions to reverse two of its policies:

  • In 1890, God ordered them to cease the practice of polygamy.

  • In 1978, God ordered them to stop prohibiting ordination of African Americans.


The Church teaches the principle of continuing revelation. Some have suggested that perhaps in the 21st century, God will instruct the LDS Church in a third revelation to promote marriage equality and accept homosexual orientation as normal and natural..

Harold Brown, the church's official spokesman on homosexuality, said that no amount of press coverage or activism is going to influence God to change the rules about homosexuality. Brown said:

"Being black is not a sin. ... Being immoral is." 1

This is a surprising comment, because prior to 1978, the Church taught that African Americans were given a dark skin color as a punishment from God for sins they committed before they were born on Earth. Thus "being black" was considered the result of having sinned.

All conservative groups in the U.S. are faced with increasing pressure to change their beliefs to become in favor marriage equality. This includes the Republican Party, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, fundamentalist and other evangelical faith groups, the Catholic Church, and other conservative faith groups. The pressure comes from a strong generational shift on beliefs about the LGBT community.

Public Policy Polling (PPP) announced the result of a poll of Utah voters in 2011-JUL-21. Some interesting results were:

  • 70% of voters identify as Mormon; 30% as "another religion."

  • Among Mormon voters of all ages, 81% oppose and 13% support same-sex marriage.

  • Among non-Mormon voters of all ages, 29% oppose and 63% support same-sex marriage. This is much higher support that the national average in mid-2011 which was about 53% support.

  • Among all voters, 66% oppose and 27% support same-sex marriage.

  • Among voters aged 18 to 29, 39% oppose and 42% support same-sex marriage. A slight plurality favors marriage equality. 2

For this poll, PPP sampled 732 Utah voters during 2011-JUL-08 to 10. The margin of error is ±3.6 percentage points.

Young voters form the first generation to have widely known members of the LGBT community as personal friends and relatives and to have widely accepted them. They will probably retain these beliefs as they age. Also, older teens reaching adulthood in the future will probably feel similarly. This will produce a gradually increasing level of support for marriage equality as time passes. Further, if previous social changes are a good indication, then in future decades those who oppose marriage equality will increasingly be looked upon as bigots. This happened throughout most of the U.S. over interracial marriage: those opposed to such marriages are widely regarded today as racists. If the LDS Church wants to retain its membership numbers, they will need to change their teachings on homosexuality because few people wish to be associated with a religious groups that is widely seen to be bigoted.

In fact, the LDS Church has already made significant changes. They no longer excommunicate celibate gay and lesbian members. They no longer look upon a homosexual orientation as a mental illness. They no longer believe that it is a chosen orientation.

Rick Robison, writing in the Salt Lake Tribune, said that the LDS Church can change its teachings on homosexuality just as it did in 1978 on race. Prior to that date, he said that most church members believed that African Americans would never be allowed access to ordination. He writes:

"I believe that the main reason most Mormons — including church leaders — felt that LGBTs would never receive equal rights is because their "same sex attraction" trait is an abomination ... a sinful and unnatural lust that should be changed with appropriate therapy and prayer.

Science, and simple empathy and compassion, have all but debunked this attitude today. Even church leaders have evolved to an approach of acceptance that "SSA" [same-sex attraction] is natural, but they must not act on it.

Traditional Christians lean on a few biblical scriptures they believe prove that homosexuality is sinful. These scriptures are surrounded by others that we no longer accept — such as stoning the neighbor who eats shellfish and other equally bizarre concepts. ..."

"In the short history of the church, major doctrine has evolved and sometimes taken a 180-degree turn (plural marriage, blacks/priesthood to name a couple)." 3

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Abandonment of gay and lesbian teens by Mormon families:

D. Michael Quinn commented in a PBS interview about the special problems of gays and lesbians within a Mormon family. According to Mormon theology, if a family is sufficiently righteous, they will remain together after death. Many Mormons try to conform to the Scriptures and the teachings of the Church so that they will remain a family unit in Heaven. Unfortunately, this pro-family belief system can be profoundly destructive to those families that include a child who happens to have a homosexual or bisexual orientation.

Quinn said:

"... when you're gay you realize you don't fit that picture. And when you come out to your parents as gay, their fear is indescribable, because it's not just that they've lost their image of you in terms of this heterosexual perception they have of you. Their fear is beyond the fear of other parents, because their fear is that they have the opportunity of having you with them for eternity, and now they've lost it because you are a disgusting homosexual, and nothing disgusting can be in the presence of God. ..."

"LDS families are in this double bind, because they're told when they have gay children, [to] follow that which is true. Avoid even the appearance of evil, and homosexuality is evil. So there has been almost a kind of expectation that if your child will not conform, then you should abandon them. ... And yet many families find this extremely difficult to do -- not only the physical abandonment, but to give up the faith that this child, this homosexual child, and maybe his partner or her partner for life may want to be with that family eternally. And it creates this huge faith disjunction. ..."

"You have to develop a private faith, which I have, that God accepts all loving relationships. But this separates you from the orthodoxy of the Mormon Church, and many gays and lesbians cannot make that step. They accept themselves as inferior eternally, because they've never been taught otherwise, and they don't have the individual testimony that I do. Maybe I'm wrong, but this is my faith. So for the mass of Mormon families this is an unresolvable tragedy." 4

According to Rachel Jackson, writing in the Daily Utah Chronicle, comprehensive reports about homelessness in Salt Lake City were released in late 2011 and 2012. However although the authors "strive to represent all groups that experience homelessness," there was no question in their surveys related to sexual orientation. Thus the surveys contain no indication of the seriousness of homelessness among lesbians, gays and bisexuals who were either ejected by their parents from their family of origin, or who found themselves personally unable to continue living at home.

Fortunately, Volunteers of America have conducted a separate study that reveals that about 40% of homeless youth in Utah are from the LGBT community. This compares with 20 to 30% in other large cities. Various studies have indicated that the approximate percentage of lesbians and gays in the population is on the order of 5%; the percentage of bisexuals is also about 5%, and that of transgender persons and transsexuals is relatively very small. Thus the LGBT teen community is massively over represented in youth shelters throughout the U.S., and in even larger percentages in Utah. 5

There are two homeless youth drop-in centers in Salt Lake City: TINT (Tolerant Intelligent Network of Teens) at the Utah Pride Center and the Homeless Youth Resource Center of Volunteers of America. They believe that lack of "... family acceptance is a contributing factor to the proportion of homeless LGBT youths."

Unfortunately, there is no youth shelter where homeless youth can live 24/7. So, many are forced to live on the street.

Danielle Watters is the director of community support and wellness services at the Utah Pride Center. She said:

"We see a high level of family rejection at TINT. If [gay youths] were accepted, [homelessness] wouldn’t be such a big issue." 5

Unfortunately, we have never been able to locate surveys that report the faith groups that homeless LGBT youth's families of origin attend. But the concentration of LGBT homeless youth in Utah and the high percentage of adults in the state -- 62% to 70% -- who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, would seem to indicate that Mormon teachings are likely playing a major role in the large numbers of youths rejected by their families of origin. If this is true, then leaders of the LDS Church would appear to have blood on their hands.

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Links between family acceptance/rejection of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth and the latter's health outcomes:

There is an enormous amount of information on the Internet and in the media concerning mental health, depression, suicide attempts, suicide completions etc. among LGBT Mormon youth. However, almost none of it is particularly useful. One reason is that the data concerning youth suicides is so unreliable; many completed suicides are ruled by the coroner to be accidental deaths in order to lessen the stress on the surviving members of the family. Another reason is that suicide rates tend to increase as one moves westward towards the mountain states.

One useful report was published in Pediatrics magazine in 2009-JAN titled: "Family Rejection as a Predictor of Negative Health Outcomes in White and Latino Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Young Adults." It reported that:

"Higher rates of family rejection were significantly associated with poorer health outcomes. On the basis of odds ratios, lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults who reported higher levels of family rejection during adolescence were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs, and 3.4 times more likely to report having engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse compared with peers from families that reported no or low levels of family rejection. Latino men reported the highest number of negative family reactions to their sexual orientation in adolescence." 6

Unfortunately, many teens will receive mixed messages. They may view Mormon teaching on sexual orientation as a rejection of homosexuality as well as a rejection of themselves. Meanwhile, they receive positive and neutral messages about homosexuality as a normal, natural sexual orientation from some sex-ed classes at school, LGBT organizations, mental health organizations, the media, etc.

The Pediatrics study concluded"

"This study establishes a clear link between specific parental and caregiver rejecting behaviors and negative health problems in young lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults. Providers who serve this population should assess and help educate families about the impact of rejecting behaviors. Counseling families, providing anticipatory guidance, and referring families for counseling and support can help make a critical difference in helping decrease risk and increasing well-being for lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth." 6

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Homosexuality and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," Wikipedia, as on 2013-DEC-30, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  2. "Utah opposes same-sex marriage, but not all recognition," Public Policy Polling, 2011-JU-21, at: http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/
  3. Rick Robison, "Op-ed: LDS Church can change; it did in 1978," Salt Lake Tribune, 2013-DEC-28, at: http://www.sltrib.com/
  4. "The Mormon Church and Gays," PBS, 2007-APR, at: http://www.pbs.org/
  5. Rachel Jackson, "Homeless LGBT youth need attention," Daily Utah Chronicle, 2012-NOV-14, at: http://www.dailyutahchronicle.com/
  6. Caitlin Ryan, et al., "Family Rejection as a Predictor of Negative Health Outcomes in White and Latino Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Young Adults," Pediatrics Magazine, Vol 123, #1, 2009-JAN-01, Pages 346 to 352, at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/

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Copyright 2013 & 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2014-JAN-01
Author: B.A. Robinson

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