Sunday, February 23, 2014

Same-Gender Relationships: In This Life or In the Life to Come

“We all struggle with imperfections, some not of our choosing. 
But we also believe in an infinite Atonement that has the capacity 
in this life or the life to come to endow us with every power necessary to convert our weaknesses and imperfections into strengths.”

~ Elder Tad Callister

As I pointed out yesterday, Elder Tad Callister’s article on morality in this month’s Ensign, which ignited a firestorm of controversy concerning his comments about women, also contained some comments on the subject of “same-gender relationships.”

In this post, I’d like to focus on two points, which are related: first, his brief discussion of how gays do not fit into the “Plan of Salvation” (the LDS doctrine concerning man’s progression through life and into eternity); and second, his implication that gay people will be “fixed” in the after-life. I’d like to first address the second point.

Fixing People Who Experience Same-Sex Attraction

In his article, Elder Callister implies in the strongest possible terms (i.e., stopping just short of a direct statement) that being gay is an “imperfection” and a “weakness.” This belief is offensive and demeaning to any person who experiences same-sex attraction. It is a belief that my generation was raised on, comparing homosexuality to, for example, alcoholism and birth defects. It is a belief that has been diluted over the years, but it is still there, as evidenced by Callister’s remarks. It is a belief that is the basis of reparative therapy and the cause of widespread and deep depression among Mormons who experience same-sex attraction.

But what is even more troubling is Elder Callister’s implication that homosexuals can be “fixed” in the afterlife. Everything will be made “right,” and a faithful gay Mormon will be able to have a spiritual transfusion that will make him straight so that he can move forward toward exaltation and eternal increase (see below).

Unfortunately, other general authorities have made statements to this effect in the past, but it is not based on anything more than their understanding of the Plan of Salvation. Meanwhile, it conveys a message to the entire church membership that being gay is a weakness that will be fixed in the afterlife, a message that reinforces many members’ beliefs that homosexuality is “unnatural,” a “sin,” and unworthy of recognition as something that is real. 

Celestial Glory Shall Be Mine

In his brief remarks about homosexuality, Elder Callister opens by stating the following:
“[Same-gender relationships are] at odds with the scriptures, with the words of modern prophets, and with the plan of salvation, all of which teach the necessity of eternal marriage between a man and a woman as a condition to exaltation. A same­gender relationship is inconsistent with God’s eternal pattern that husbands and wives not only have children in mortality but also have eternal increase in their exalted condition.”
Elder Callister is right: same-gender relationships are at odds with the Church hierarchy’s current understanding of the Plan of Salvation. They are also at odds with the Church’s fixation on its understanding of exaltation. But this does not mean that there is not a place for God’s gay sons and daughters in the eternal scheme of things.

I have written more extensively on this subject before, but for present purposes, I’d like to point out that the Church’s current understanding of “exaltation” is essentially based on only six verses in the Doctrine and Covenants, i.e., D&C 131:1-4 and D&C 132:16-17, which read as follows:
“[131:1-4] In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; and in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this border of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; And if he does not, he cannot obtain it. He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase … [132:16-17] Therefore, when they [i.e., those who are not sealed in the temple] are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven …”
Note that other than these passages, there is nothing in all of Mormon scripture that addresses the two lower degrees of celestial glory (let alone the two lower kingdoms). Nothing. 

That being said, is there not ample room within Mormon theology to provide a place in the afterlife for Heavenly Father’s gay and lesbian children? Did not Jesus himself say that in His father’s house are many mansions? Why aren’t these “other mansions” ever discussed in modern Mormonism? 

Because nothing is known about them. 

Gay people don't need to be "fixed" - either in this life or in the life to come. They are as God created them, and they are here in mortality for the same reason as all of God's other children: to fulfill the measure of their creation.


  1. We all know the expression "it's hard raising children". My grandmother once whispered to me (when she knew I was not getting through to my parents about something) that "it's hard to raise parents". We had the best laugh together. Well, might I add that it's hard to raise Apostles - to exhort that they might receive greater light and truth, after the assumptions of their lives have sunk in deeply. But, Elder Holland did offer a recent audience just that. Bring us your requests. For us, it is simply that every flower in your celestial garden doesn't have to be a red tulip.

  2. Great article, it has taken me some time to come to accepting myself this way.

  3. Are you aware that the verses you quotes from D&C 131:104 contain a bracketed clause that was not part of Joseph Smith's original revelation, but was inserted by Orson Pratt, under the direction of Brigham Young in order to provide a "scriptural" basis for polygamy? The verse is [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage].

    Two other important items from the D&C. It says that not all of God's judgments are given to man. (D&C 29:30), and we do not know what qualifies a person for the two lower degrees of the Celestial Kingdom. This long-discussed question has never been answered. There may yet be a place in the world hereafter for Gay people, but the subject has never been revealed.

    I have to correct you doctrinally. You say "They are as God created them". According to the teachings of Joseph Smith and the revelations in the D&C, "man was in the beginning with God". "Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be." (93:29) We are self-existent beings. We exist by the same principle that God exists. God did not make us gay or straight. God did not make us period.

    When God formed Adam's body out of the dust of the ground, that body contained both masculine and feminine elements. Adam was formed in the image of God: male AND female. Later, Even was taken from his side, and the masculine and feminine elements were then manifested in different ways in different bodies, but each of us still have male and female elements to our nature -- some, perhaps, more than others. But, still, there is nothing to "fix".

    These comments actually bolster and support your position that Gay people do not need to be fixed. The whole have no need of a physician. If there is anything that Gay people need to repent of, it is the same thing that straight people need to repent of -- sexual promiscuity and marital infidelity. We now have no excuse, now that marriage is legal. We can now enter into the legal covenant of marriage, and be faithful and true to our spouse.

    But, for some reason, the church wants to make it impossible for us to keep this important commandment. This is not unlike the Pharoah of Egypt refusing to let the Children of Israel go into the wilderness and serve the Lord, or the US government preventing the LDS people from practicing what they believed was a divine commanement -- polygamy.

  4. Martin, thanks as always for your insightful comments.

    John, thank you for taking the time to make such an extensive and thoughtful comment to my post. I take your point on the Mormon doctrine of intelligences, etc., a doctrinal point on which I am very aware. I was using "created" in a more generic sense. Again, although I take your point about D&C 93:29, we actually know next to nothing about this doctrine beyond a few statements in the D&C and the now fairly discredited Book of Abraham. But I don't want to get hung up on that. Thanks again for your thoughts.