Friday, January 30, 2015

"Many Questions Must Await a Future Answer": The Case of Homosexuality

I don't believe that all people who end up in homosexual relationships are hard-wired biologically for that. I understand enough about the research on human sexuality and know too many homosexuals who had traumatic experiences that influenced greatly their choices and/or actions to believe sexual orientation is predestined at birth for all. Boys who are sexually abused in their childhood by a male are more likely to be abusers of other boys when they are adults; women who are abused by men are more likely to turn to other women for comfort, support and sexual fulfillment; etc. I understand those "environmental" forces and their effects on sexuality.

However, I also know WAY too many homosexual people who lived completely normal lives without any trauma, "indoctrination" (which I really don't like using regarding a topic like this, since it's a standard charge that means, in practical terms, "teaching something to children that I don't believe") or other environmental influences. I've known too many people who have known only sexual attraction to those of the same sex from the days of their earliest awareness of sexual attraction - and many who have tried to change that aspect of themselves without any success whatsoever. For them, like for me, trying to change their sexual attraction from one sex to another is useless; it simply can't be done.

Thus, I believe the following statements in the Church's latest pamphlet about same-sex attraction ("God Loveth His Children":

Many questions, however, including some related to same-gender attractions, must await a future answer, even in the next life.

However, the perfect plan of our Father in Heaven makes provision for individuals who seek to keep His commandments but who, through no fault of their own, do not have an eternal marriage in mortal life
Same-gender attractions include deep emotional, social, and physical feelings.

It also is interesting that the pamphlet does not use the word "repent" or "sin" once when dealing with homosexual attraction. Rather, it talks about such attraction often lasting throughout one's entire life and speaks of "self-mastery" - not "change". That is a critical word choice.  It is obvious that the Church no longer views homosexual attraction itself as sin, which translates into the belief that homosexual attraction is not a conscious choice in many cases.

All other issues aside, I believe that foundational understanding is key. Yes, there are environmental forces at work in many cases, but there are genetic forces at work in many others. I have come to this understanding partly through the research, but a more important part of my understanding was gained by talking openly and deeply with those about whom this post is addressed - and the ultimate realization came from multiple people who asked me, point-blank, if I could change my own sexual orientation if I tried hard enough - if I "only had more faith". I couldn't, and the very assertion that I should evokes a powerful oppositional reaction within me. In that sense, I "get it" - and I understand why many people hear someone say that they weren't "born that way" and feel like such statements are a direct attack on them and their honesty and sincerity. It is very much like saying, "That's not true. You are lying - or deceived." They aren't lying, and they aren't deceived. They simply are being honest about what they feel and, in many cases, always have felt.

So, for me, the "solution" to this type of discussion is to recognize the truth of the Church's first statement I excerpted and posted above:

Many questions, however, including some related to same-gender attractions, must await a future answer, even in the next life.

I'm fine with doing my best to understand what I can in this life while admitting openly that many questions must await future answers. 

Having said all of that, I also need to make it clear that there are parts of the pamphlet I have excerpted and parts of the general view of homosexuality within the LDS Church with which I do not agree.  I also need to make it clear that we do NOT need to await further light and knowledge regarding this topic only "in the next life" - that we are learning much in this life and must be open to continuing that learning, both religiously AND scientifically.