The Mormon Church and Gays

While the family is the spiritual core of Mormon life, not everyone feels welcome at the table.

Daniel Peterson
Daniel Peterson is a Brigham Young University professor and the author of many articles and books on LDS doctrine.

… To be a practicing homosexual is something that will bring you into contact with the church court. To be a homosexual as such, to be of that inclination, there's nothing excommunicable about that and there are lots of them in the church. It must be a terribly difficult road to walk.

But the standard for a homosexual is the same as the standard for a heterosexual. No sexual relations except within marriage. And if you violate that, that is one of the most serious things the church will look at. In that sense, there's no discrimination; there's a single standard that if a heterosexual male violates his marriage covenants, he's likely to be disciplined, whether it's with a man or a woman. …

D. Michael Quinn
D. Michael Quinn is a Mormon historian who was excommunicated in 1993.

In a society that doesn't accept homosexuality, ... everyone feels like they're alone and lonely, and they have to hide. But in Mormon culture it's worse because of the theology of the family. ... You have the opportunity of being together as a family forever if you are righteous enough, so Mormons live this frenetic life of doing and behaving in any way that the Scriptures or the leaders of the church tell them to, because they want this family unit to continue forever.

Well, 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.

You were making a distinction about the special pain in Mormon families as they confront this.

... I'll have to say that I'm an exception to this in some ways, because the intensity of my relationship with God since childhood never caused me to doubt the eternal life with him.

Even though I knew that my family found "fairies" disgusting, as they told me, and friends would say that, and I heard this over the pulpit, I never doubted my relationship with God. I knew that God accepted me as queer. I just knew that. I knew that he loved me. I never feared his rejection. But the thing I couldn't live with was the rejection of family and friends here on earth. ...

Do you see an irony here in that the jewel in the crown of Mormonism is the family, yet on the issue of homosexuality, they break up families?

... LDS families are in this double bind, because they're told when they have gay children, 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.

Jeffrey Holland
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and a former president of Brigham Young University.

Any more than I can see it compromising on its heterosexual position of chastity before marriage and fidelity afterward, I don't anticipate that [the church] would change on homosexual behavior. But none of that has anything to do with my belief in the value of that soul and the love that God has for that person.

But it's just that ... there is a quid pro quo in terms of wanting the church's blessing on our lives. … I believe with all my heart that it's divine language; it's a divine commandment. There really are "thou shalts" and "thou shalt nots" in life. And in this world, in some contemporary life, thou shalts and thou shalt nots are not popular on the face of it; it wouldn't matter what subject. But we'll always have some, and we'll try to help each other master that and embrace it and see it through and be exalted on the other end. …

I do know that this will not be a post-mortal condition. It will not be a post-mortal difficulty. I have a niece who cannot bear children. That is the sorrow and the tragedy of her life. She who was born to give birth will never give birth, and I cry with her. ... I just say to her what I say to people struggling with gender identity: "Hang on, and hope on, and pray on, and this will be resolved in eternity." These conditions will not exist post-mortality. I want that to be of some hope to some. ...

Greg Prince
Greg Prince is the author of David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism and a book on the Mormon priesthood.

There is irony if you step back and look at the current situation regarding gay marriage, and another situation that also involved marital relations, and that was 19th-century polygamy. ... Where we've come down on the two is quite different, and yes, I think there is irony in that. ... And yet if you are stepping back, each one of those is a reinterpretation of the traditional family. ... There is irony in comparing them a century apart.

The church did a survey 10, 20 years ago and found that half the members of the church were of single families, which means that one-third of the adult membership of the church is single, either never married, widowed or divorced. So to cling to the notion that the only acceptable family unit is a mother, father and children flies in the face of reality. We can accommodate single parents in the church; we should be able to accommodate other forms of family life that are strong, that are nurturing, that are faith-promoting and that are enduring -- but we haven't been able to do that yet. ...