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  • Writer's pictureJacob Hansen

An Open Letter To A Gay Latter Day Saint

Updated: Feb 7, 2022

A common challenge faced by Latter Day Saint parents and leaders is the reality of same sex attraction, either among their

children, or those they minister to. Knowing that I as a parent or leader could very well face this situation I have spend time pondering how I would respond to someone who wanted my counsel on what to make of, and do, with their SSA. After discussing this with some of my gay friends and family, studying the gospel, and examining my own heart and mind on the subject I have put together 2 open letters that act as a “what I would say” if someone in my stewardship wanted my counsel on this issue. I have done this as a way to explore this issue and get feedback from others so that I can feel prepared myself and hopefully help prepare other faithful Latter Day Saints (and Christians of all stripes) for how to approach the topic in love and faith with those who experience SSA. I know this is a controversial issue which is exactly why I am publishing these publicly. I want the feedback and counsel. I want to consider the best ideas from everyone possible to explore how a faithful Latter Day Saint might deal with this topic.

The first letter was addressed to a youth, this second letter (below) is to an adult. The timeframes matter immensely as I believe what you might say to teen experiencing SSA vs an adult will be very different. -------------------

Dear Thomas

Thanks for telling me about your history with same sex attraction. Opening up about such personal things shows real courage. It pains me to think that you have been dealing with the complexity of this situation alone. The first thing I feel prompted to do is wrap my arms around you so you don’t feel alone or unwanted. You are never alone, you are never unwanted. You matter to me and so many others. You will always matter to me. If you feel upset or frustrated by the situation you are dealing with I just want to sit with you in the unfairness and frustration you feel. I don’t want to fix anything you don’t want to fix. I want you to know that you have nothing to hide with me. You face no judgement from me. You are loved and wanted. The attractions you experience do not change how I feel about you in any way. If you worry about the way these attractions or your behavior in response to them will affect our relationship, know that it won’t. I am here for you and always will be. End of story.

This would have been the end of the letter, but you came to me asking for my thoughts on how you can reconcile the reality of your attractions with your faith and desire to be a disciple of Christ. That’s why I am writing all that follows.

Trents Story

Let me start by telling you a story about a dear friend of mine named Trent. Trent was born with an illness called muscular dystrophy. However, it did not really have significant effects until he was around 10 years old. What this awful illness does is slowly eat away at your muscles over the course of a persons life. Despite a deep love for sports and a desire to play them, Trent ended up in a wheel chair by the time he was in middle school as his leg and back muscles lost the ability to let him walk.

Eventually, he lost the ability to feed himself or go to the bathroom without help. Video games were the last things he was able to do, but even his hands eventually lost the strength to hold the game controllers. Near the end, his favorite thing to do was to have people over while he sat in his chair and watched them play the video games he used to be able to play himself. What amazed me most about Trent was how he chose to react to his awful circumstances. I never heard him complain about anything ever. He was always happy when myself or others would come to play video games with him (or for him). Trent died in his late 30’s and I was one of the friends selected to carry his casket at his funeral. It was one of the greatest honors of my life.

I don’t tell you this story to imply that what you are experiencing is as terrible as what my friend Trent dealt with. I also don’t tell his story to minimize anything you are experiencing. I mention his story to so that you know that not everything we are born with comes from God. Trent was “born that way”. He was born having to face circumstances he did not choose.

Jesus was once with a person who was born blind and was asked why that person was born that way. Jesus answered it happened so “that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:3). I personally came to know what Jesus was talking about and I got to know a lot about God and the plan of salvation by knowing this amazing friend of mine. Through him, I learned first hand that we chose to come to a fallen world where things happen randomly and unfairly. I learned the immense hope that comes from the message of the resurrection. I learned how, in a fallen world, during the development of our bodies inside our mothers wombs we are simply born with things we did not choose. One of the first truths of the Gospel is that we live in a fallen world. We chose to come here knowing that we could lose a child to cancer or a freak accident, or that we could be born with muscular dystrophy, or develop complicated sexual and emotional desires for members of the same sex. Not everything you experience or every feeling you have is your choice. I did not choose what sexually appeals to me and nor did you.

Why does God Care? The Nature of Sin

So if God did not cause this why does God care? What kind of monster would punish someone simply for expressing the love they can’t help but feel? Why is it that everyone else can express their love through intimacy but if you do it’s considered sin? These are real and meaningful questions. They should be pondered.

In the searching of my own soul, the scriptures and the broader implications of these questions, I have come to realize that in order to address these questions we must have a clear idea about what sin is and why God cares about it at all. Sin is that which causes us to miss the goal. What is our goal as children of God? To enter into the same kind of life that God has. God is not punishing anyone. God is trying to save us from the natural consequences that follow when we sell ourselves short of the highest and best. We may not want the highest and best, but God always wants that for us.

Some people think that God arbitrarily sets ideals. This is not true (See Alma 42). God exists within reality, he is subject to the laws of reality, he knows the path to becoming divine. His laws are the guideposts toward that end. The ideal end. He created us in such a way as to make this possible. Wanting an ideal to be different is like wanting 2+2 to equal 3. The laws that makeup the very fabric of reality are what they are, they are eternal. Gods work is to help us harmonize our existence with these laws in such a way that we attain an eternal life that brings about maximum joy even if that means sacrifices must be made during this portion of our eternal journey.

One might wonder why human beings are male and female at all. Christ answered this.

"But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female. FOR THIS REASON a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." Mark 10:6-9

“Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” 1 Cor 11:11

In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; And if he does not, he cannot obtain it. D&C 132:1-3

I am sure hearing these scriptures can be hard to hear when you are facing SSA. It might make you feel like there is no place for you in Gods plan. This is not true. In fact this is where Christianity can really begin to speak to you. If you don’t like being told that you are not right the way you are, just know that none of us are right the way we are. The point is not how perfect we are the question is how much faith we have in the one who (over an eternal timeline) has the power to perfect us as we surrender our will to him bit by bit (repentance) over an eternal timeline. You may not be able to surrender totally to him in this life, but don’t worry, none of us do.

So what should you do?

So what is expected of us in this life? What is expected of you? The answer is simple and personal. DO YOUR BEST. Or in other words, genuinely strive for what’s ideal.

What exactly does that look like? Well, that is a question I cannot answer. You and I both know what the ideal is. It is complete sexual abstinence outside of heterosexual marriage. That simply is the standard and we must never lie to ourselves or work to manipulate this clear standard found in the Law of Chastity. Perhaps you feel like you could never imagine falling in love with a woman and having a fulfilling sexual life with her. Fair enough! But eternity is a long time, and in the space of a few years kids go from thinking sex is gross to wanting to have sex all the time due to physical changes in their bodies. We can only imagine the physical changes that will occur in the promised resurrection of our physical bodies. The question is not what is ideal, Christ has been very clear on what is ideal in relation to our sexual nature, the question is what your best will look like in relation to that ideal.

“When a young pianist hits a wrong note, we don’t say he is not worthy to keep practicing. We don’t expect him to be flawless. We just expect him to keep trying. Perfection may be his ultimate goal, but for now we can be content with progress in the right direction. Why is this perspective so easy to see in the context of learning piano but so hard to see in the context of learning heaven?” - Brad Wilcox Talk “His Grace Is Sufficient”

If you feel like Christ’s ideal is an ideal you will never live up to, I have good news for you. None of us ever live up to all our ideals in this life. We all are hopelessly broken before God. “The Gospel” literally means the “Good News”. But it does not start from a place of good news, it begins in the dismay you are feelings now. It begins when we realize that we cannot save ourselves, that we cannot live up to the standards. Christ message is specifically for all of us who are honest enough to realize that we will never live up to his perfect standard. He brings us the “Good News” that our timeline is eternal, and as long as we never give up on him, he will never give up on us, life is about learning to trust him. From a recent article :

“In other words, salvation is not found in arriving at a destination but setting course toward the right destination and becoming a real sailor. A real sailor is never on a perfect course but understands how to course correct and will do it over and over until they reach their destination no matter how bad the weather. Becoming ideal (exaltation) is a destination so impossibly far off that we may never think we can reach it. But on an eternal scale, no distance is too great as long as you stay fixated on the right destination and continue to course correct. I have heard it said that it does not matter how far along the path you are, what matters is if you are pointed in the right direction. Damnation does not occur because we fell off the path, damnation (the stop of our progress toward the ideal) occurs when we no longer want to get back on it. This is why those who sell the idea that “you are good enough the way you are” are so dangerous. What's the point of a course correction if I am “good enough”…Pride has been said to be "The Great Sin". Pride is when we refuse to be humble enough to course correct. Pride is us choosing a different destination, like the relatively low bar of temple worthiness being "good enough". We may feel pride in our temple recommend, but God is not nearly as impressed with that as the drug addict who just decided to sincerely try again to get sober and continue their progression. It's not about a destination, it's about keeping on sailing. It's about not getting stuck at a destination. It's about being pointed in the right direction and keeping the sails in the wind. Pride is faith in ourselves rather than faith in Christ. It's our pride that tells us to justify ourselves. It’s what distances us from God and our fellow man. Taking on the journey of moving closer and closer to Christ also brings us closer and closer to our fellow man. It allows for human relationships to be deeper. The saints are the people who have chosen Christ as their destination. As time progresses their ships come closer and closer to the destination and closer and closer to each other.” - Click here if you want to read more, I highly suggest this article.

Because I love you I want the ideal for you, this is why I will always ask all people to make Christ their destination. Don’t change your destination. The destination is Christ. This is where meaning is found. Some people delude themselves into thinking, “sure I sin but I don’t commit any of those “big” sins”. This is a completely flawed paradigm. While some sins may be more serious in their practical/temporal consequences, when it comes to the ultimate spiritual consequence all sin has the same consequence, falling short of God. You and I are no different, you just now can see more clearly than most people how utterly hopeless it is for us to measure up to all ideals. And that is why WE (myself included) need a savior.

"If Christ did not require faith and repentance, then there would be no desire to change. Think of your friends and family members who have chosen to live without faith and without repentance. They don’t want to change. They are not trying to abandon sin and become comfortable with God. Rather, they are trying to abandon God and become comfortable with sin.” - Brad Wilcox (See full talk here)

So how are we saved? If we can’t live up to the ideals aren’t we just stuck in our sins? This is the “Good News”. This is the gospel, We are saved by faith, not our works. We enter into celestial glory and have the opportunity to progress to exaltation if we have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is not to say works will not play into this. Do you really have faith in Christ if you are not doing your best to follow him? Just because a person says they have faith in Christ does not mean they do. We must do our best.

What is life going to look like?

But what does it mean to do your best? That is ultimately between you and God. Perhaps your best will result in you living a celibate life, perhaps it will result in you being celibate until entering into a faithful gay marriage, perhaps it will result in you marrying a woman, perhaps it will simply result in an occasional sincere prayer asking forgiveness for being unable to live up to what you know to be ideal. I know I do that. In the eyes of God you are no more broken than me. I could list 10,000 ideals I fall short of and I fall short of them despite having every advantage in the world. So sometimes I just have to throw myself at the mercy of Christ because my trust and hope for redemption is in him. This is the path to salvation. It’s a personal path, it’s a path of faith. That is why I don’t have any judgement about how far along the path you are. I just hope, because I love you, that you will do your best and not give up on Christ or his ideals simply because you (and all of us) fail to live up to them.

When I was a kid in sports my Dad told me something I believe God tells all of his Children. He said “I will never be disappointed in you for not winning the game, all that matters to me is if you did your best.” This is the compelling message of Jesus Christ. I worry far less about what your best looks like and far more on if your faith is in Christ and if you can sincerely say “I am doing my best”. That is ultimately a question between you and God and all I can do is point you to him and encourage you to join me in doing your best and not rationalizing when we fall short of the ideal but instead throwing yourself with me at his feet with supreme gratitude for his saving power. You also might notice that I am very vocal in my opposition to those who try and justify sin. My issue is not with sinners, we all are sinners. But some want to justify themselves by saying sin is not sin. They are missing the point of the gospel.

As you look at your future, you may be struggling with what your life is going to look like due to SSA. If you want to find meaning and happiness in your life you need to lay out a vision for your life. What are you going to do in your 20-30s? 40-50s? Old Age? What do you want to be remembered for? What do you hope to accomplish in your life? What is your life going to look like at each phase? How will you serve God and your fellow man at each phase? What role are you going to play in the world at each phase? What does your best look like at each phase? SSA complicates how we answer those questions. Don’t worry if you can’t answer these perfectly, don’t worry if revisions are needed at times, but just know that the more solid that vision is the happier and more stable you will feel. They key is to have something you are aiming for that fits into a bigger picture and ultimately into the biggest picture of all - Gods plan of salvation. This becomes your personal path toward God, it gives you something to strive for, it gives your life context and meaning, its the key to fulfillment.

Many who face SSA simply envision a life where they abandon Christ altogether. But to them (and any person who takes this route) I have the same question. Where are you going? To secular humanism? To vague spiritualism? To some other form of Christianity? Can these things save you? Do they redeem you from the nihilistic unjust hell of human existence? We all place our faith somewhere. We all are moving toward a destination. Are you going to choose to simply wander towards the abyss of death through this unjust world with no hope for anything better? Is pascals wager not worth taking? I am far less concerned with what people don’t believe in and far more curious about what they do. Everyone places their faith in some ultimate destination. I have placed all my chips on Jesus Christ because I honestly can’t see a destination that is more compelling or real. This is why I encourage all to do the same. It’s where hope is found no matter what our circumstances.

And the Church?

But what about your activity in the formal church? Won’t certain choices limit your ability to do certain things in the church? Won’t the church judge you for your actions?

Yes. The churches practices are meant to communicate Gods order and laws. The institution manifests the high standards Christ has and our own imperfections show us how far we are from those standards. A member who understands what their baptismal and temple covenants ask will not feel they are living up to them fully. But the church does provide some specific standards for members to shoot for. I have been glad that the church has given us specific standards tied to certain activity in the church. It gives me an idea of what “doing my best” might look like, what specific goals I can strive for. But Sadly many members use this tool which is supposed to help set ideals for us to work towards as a way of putting themselves above other people. The church is going to set high standards for everyone despite our different circumstances. Don’t resent these, they are a tool that helps us know what to shoot for, but don’t ever think that anyones inability to live up to all Gods standards during this life means they are less than anyone else.

Talk to your bishop, talk about what you think your best will look like, ask him where you fit into the ward and how you can serve given your situation. Look at your bishop like a spiritual personal trainer. Someone who is there to challenge you. Some will be better than others but I am sure that if you do this with faith your bishop and you can work together so you can find your place in the church where you can serve and help be a beloved part of a ward family.

Your engagement with the institutional church is not ultimately about how the church can serve you, the church is a vehicle where you can minister to people right around you in your local community and where you can have the chance to share Gods love with others and be part of building his kingdom. Yes some life choices may change the part we play in that construction crew but if you sincerely desire (as you should) to share Gods love and serve, your bishop, like a construction foreman, will help you find a place to help and be part of the work.

Challenges, Redemption and Identity.

But how does this get resolved? I don’t claim to have every answer but it seems clear that God created us male and female so those two natures could come together to join him in the order of creation. Sadly, in this fallen world random people are afflicted by infertility, or SSA or muscular dystrophy, or any number of issues that inhibits their ability to join in the order of creation while in this life. This is no small matter. There was a time I was told I may not be able to have children in this life. It was devastating as I considered how my entire vision for my life might be different. Luckily that turned out not to be the case. But I did have to consider it. People who fully confront their SSA have to deal with that same reality. I mention this to combat the myth that ALL feelings of unhappiness associated with SSA are driven by mistreatment from others. Social rejection is only part of the challenge and luckily one that is improving as people become more tolerant. SSA is a complex reality for someone to deal with. Even if you are surrounded by accepting and loving people all the time you still have to process the fact that, barring a mixed orientation marriage, SSA inhibits a person from being able to see the full consummation of their love with another person result in a child - a child who literally is a combination of their DNA. This is not some socially imposed challenge, it’s a biological reality at the very root of human instincts. And while things like adoption can and are legitimate ways people make the best of that situation, the inability to directly participate in biological creation is a real hardship. In addition, many gay people never consider the challenges associated with growing into old age without children and grandchildren to accompany them into that process. Sex is very important, but human relationships are ultimately are what matter most. Then there is the challenge of finding a long term partner who has the same values you do, which can be far more challenging in the gay community if you hold to a more traditional value set. SSA also causes you to confront the challenge of trying to manage a relationship where both partners are male and have male sexual drives and instincts, thus making the relationship dynamic more complex than traditional male/female dynamics. There also are more complicated health challenges that can exist in long term male sexual relationships. Again none of these challenges are created by mean people. They are simply the challenges inherently associated with SSA. Those who say that SSA is only a “challenge” because people make it a challenge are simply ignoring these facts and often have an agenda. Beware of resentful people with an agenda. They will tell you to blame others for any negative feelings you have. They will tell you nothing is ever your fault. They will deny the existence of sin itself, or frame it only as a lack of unconditional affirmation. They will say that those who love you don’t really love you. They will equate love with the chaos of unconditional affirmation. They will try and make you forget that Love always desires the ideal for another. Love always encourages people to do their best. But against what standard? Are we going to curse God and abandon him and choose to form God as an idol in our own image and according to our likeness. Or are we going to retain our faith in the Christ who has revealed himself to the world? Are we going to reject the physical and spiritual redemption he has promised?

If we are fallen beings in a physical, mental, emotional sense and our fallen bodies are to be perfected at the resurrection, it stands to reason that psychosexual hardwiring which did not develop according to the ideal would be fixed in a perfected body. In simple terms rationally coherent theology would dictate that SSA is not a phenomena after the resurrection, it is not something eternal. This may be as hard to believe for a gay person as it would be for me to believe that my attractions toward my wife would one day be gone and I would feel attraction toward men. Well, when I was a child sexual acts with a woman would also have been unimaginable so I don’t deny that with significant alterations to psychosexual hardware you can end up regularly imagining and desiring something you once never desired or imagined. In addition, some will say that such a promise of healing after this life will cause people to want to commit suicide in order to avoid suffering more in this life. Would me telling my friend Trent about the glorious resurrection of his body and how one day we will play baseball together cause him to want to kill himself? Or did he understand that we are all given crosses to bear in this life and realize that his mission in this life was to bear that cross as best he could in order to become the kind of spirit being that God wanted him to be - a spirit who inspired and continues to inspire me even after his death. No suicide is not the answer and we cannot stop talking or teaching the doctrine of resurrection as this is central to the hope the atonement brings.

Another reason people reject the complete doctrine of the resurrection and its implications for SSA, is because they have made sexual proclivity core to their identity. Obviously sexuality plays a significant part in our identity but we must be careful (regardless of our sexual orientation) not to make this aspect of who we are become the center and foundation of our sense of identity. For a Christian we “take upon ourselves the name of Christ”, in other words all our identities and affiliations in this life are subservient to this foundational identity and our role and purpose in a greater plan of salvation. Christ says we must be “REBORN” and subjugate all notions of our identity him and the order of his kingdom. Our national identity, gender identity, sexual identity, political identity, ethnic identity, racial identity, tribal identity, economic identity, etc etc are to be swallowed up in our identity as a child of God with a place and a purpose in his great cosmic plan. We are reborn, with a new name under which all other identities are subject and oriented. This again is yet another ideal that we often fall short of, but that does not change its ideal nature or our obligation to strive for it.

Brothers Bearing Crosses.

So where does this leave us? Where does this leave you? Where it always has. You are my dear friend. I love you. You are my brother. We are in this life together. We are both sinners who are falling hopelessly short of the ideal. The only thing I hope is that you (and all) will join me, not in justifying ourselves and ignoring Christ, but instead to take on the great adventure of doing our best to follow him.

We don’t carry the same crosses, we don’t carry crosses of similar weight. We chose to come

to a world where you are randomly assigned a cross. But we all have the same mission, to pick up that damn cross and drag it up the hill as best we can. My cross may be lighter but I am also certain God expects me to pull my cross much farther up the mountain than he expects you to (see the parable of the talents). Christ knows what we are all given, only he can justly account for that. All he asks is that we sincerely (and that is the key) do our best because we trust him. Don’t ever lose that saving faith in Christ and his incomprehensible love and mercy to the faithful. That is our hope, that is the Good News.

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Feb 13, 2023

I've just discovered your blog and podcast this past month and would like to thank you for your great efforts in teaching the gospel. I feel your logic and faith are consistent with Christ's intent- from my study of the scriptures and words of the prophets. This letter is a wonderful message that I have been able to share with others to help them feel more peace, less hurt, over the complex feelings and dilemma of SSA. I love how you gave the initial message for anyone and then a deeper message for those at the level that they want to stay in close connection and in harmony with the covenants of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I don't know…

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