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  • Writer's pictureJacob Hansen

An Open Letter To A Gay Latter-Day Saint (Youth Version).

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 and stand ready to make updates and revisions to this as needed.

The first letter is addressed to a youth, the second to an adult. The timeframes matter immensely as I believe what you might say to teen experiencing SSA vs an adult will be different.

A letter to a young Latter-Day Saint seeking counsel related to their SSA. ---------

Dear Brandon

First I want to thank you for opening up to me about the fact that you feel attracted to guys. I know that is probably something very personal and sharing personal things with others takes a lot of trust. I hope you always know that you can trust me to be on your side. God loves you no matter what and I love you no matter what. Your worth in my eyes and the eyes of God are infinite. Never let yourself believe that these feelings make you less than anyone else. Life sometimes throws us things we don’t expect, that we can’t control, or perhaps, that we don’t want.

I want you to keep in mind that you are only 14 years old. You are just starting to acquaint yourself with your sexual nature. Now is not the time to simply say “I am gay” because you are experiencing same sex attractions (SSA). The development of your sexual preferences, and the emotions attached to them, are in the beginning process of development and probably won't have fully formed for another 5-7 years. People develop a variety of sexual urges and attractions during their teens. Some level of SSA is not that uncommon. According to the best and most recent research I have found, SSA often (and perhaps usually) is associated with bisexuality.

In other words, same sex attractions can develop on a spectrum. For instance, a person may feel 100% sexually attracted to women or men, or a person may be 50/50, Or 60/40 or 10% for men and 90% for women or any other different combination. Don’t forget that you are not finished with your own sexual development!

But do you have any control over how your sexual nature develops?

This is a good question but a widely debated one. I think you likely do have some level of control though it is likely small. I DO NOT suggest that you burden yourself with trying to “pray the gay away” or take extraordinary measures like being super spiritual thinking that will fix everything. If there are things that help you better cope or that you feel pull you toward heterosexual development, embrace those things and magnify them. However, recognize this matter may be out of your control and obsessing with trying to “fix yourself” is not where you should be putting your focus and may actually be more harmful than good. So where should your focus be? It should be focused on being a great teenager and getting the most out of these special years.

Even if it does turn out that you are 100% attracted to men, and that never changes in any way, your teenage years are not the time for sexual expression. If a person is gay, bi, or straight teenage years are a time to learn to control their sexuality. Now please know that this is a real challenge for anyone regardless of their sexual orientation! 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. Don’t ever feel weird if your sexual preferences seem strange. Pretty much everyone has sexual attractions or fantasies others might find strange. You are not weird. However, just because we have all manner of sexual attractions which we do not choose does not mean that we have no control over our behavior or responses to these urges and attractions. You, like most teens, may develop habits like masturbation. You also may engage in homosexual fantasies as part of this. Avoid both of these bad habits the best you can. Not because they are some terrible evils that God will hate you for. God loves you and always will. Avoid them because control over your sexual thoughts and behaviors are something all people should work on developing in their teenage years. Indeed it’s because God loves you that he wants you to develop into your best self, a self who controls, rather than is controlled, by sexual impulses.

"For there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon...Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself." - 2 Nephi 2

The sooner you begin working on good habits of sexual control the better. Also, don’t think that because your sexual impulses are different than others that you are somehow exempted from the sexual standards other teens are expected to abide. But also don’t think that if you slip up that your sexual screw ups are somehow so much worse. Simply realize that the sexual standards for you are the same as they are for all other teens in the church. Your teens are not the time for sexual expression, they are a time for sexual development and mastery. You won’t be perfect, but please try. If you fall down get back up and try again. The Lord does not care how many times we fall down. He just cares if we get back up and sincerely try again.

But what about the future?

You don’t know what is going to happen with these feelings. Will you be able to control them? Will they “go away”? Will you end up with bisexual feelings? Will you be 100% gay? The reality is that you don’t know and should remember that this may not be entirely (or perhaps in any way) in your control. My point here is that no matter how you answer these questions I would suggest the same path for any teen. Many (if not most) adults (gay, bi or straight) never learn to control the sexual part of themselves and many suffer serious consequences because of it. Constantly working on improving sexual mastery in your teens will be a blessing to you regardless of your future sexual orientation.

Life happens in phases and at each phase we are doing things that prepare us for the next phase. Focus on the phase you are in for now because what you do in this phase and how much you focus on it will determined your state in the next phase.

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."- Matt 5:34

Now, I should fully admit that this is not just a sexual thing. It's perfectly normal to want a close romantic relationship as a teen. But perhaps learning how to avoid falling into these deeper emotional entanglements during teen years is another healthy part of self development. What's funny is that when I, even as someone who never dealt with SSA, look back on my teenage days I realize now that I put way too much focus on this desire for serious romance more than I should have. I worried about it too much. It was largely a waste because teenage years are not the time for developing significant emotional romantic relationships. There will be a time for these things when your psychosexual development had fully run its course.

The reality is that your teen years are an amazing time that can be squandered and derailed by too large of a focus on your sexuality or romance. You don’t need to ignore your sexuality, but part of learning to master it is realizing that it is just one part of your identity which should be so much bigger than that single aspect of your life. I have found there is great power in putting my sexuality into a small (but important) box. What I found made my teenage years the best was when I placed my life focus on other areas of my life, and the passions I had instead of focusing on my sexual urges or longing for romance. Sexuality is like fire. It’s needed, it’s useful, it’s beautiful but it has the ability to consume everything else. The teenage years are not the time to play with this fire but to learn to master it as it can easily consume you. During these years learn how to integrate your sexual identity into its small but important place in a more complete identity as you explore and expand your experiences, friendships, passions and achievements into various areas of interest.

Also, don’t forget that teenage years can be pretty hard for most people regardless of sexual feelings. Don’t assume every hardship you have is connected to your sexual proclivities. Don’t let this become the lens you see yourself and the world through. Be you! You are so much more than your sexuality and all people no matter where they fall on the sexual spectrum run the risk of allowing their sexuality to become something bigger than it should be. Your teenage years should be filled with school, clubs, sports, friends, adventures, service, and fun. Don’t let these feelings stop you from developing yourself spiritually, intellectually, socially and physically. Learn the gospel in depth. Serve others. Love others. Prepare for, and serve a full time mission. Keep busy with great experiences and activities that grow you as a person. No matter how your sexuality develops as you enter the next phase of your life (your 20s) you will not regret these decisions and you will have grown from them. So for now let’s be about the task of making this phase of our life the best that it can be and controlling our sexual desires.

When you get to the next phase there will be a new set of challenges no matter where one falls on the sexual spectrum but we just don’t know what those challenges will be for sure until we get there. Now is not the time to be wrestling with the future that is not here. Instead now is the time to be a teenager and make the most out of this great time in your life. Gay straight or bisexual the standards for teens are and should be the same because no matter where a person ends up on that spectrum they will benefit from having put their sexuality in the proper place in their life.

To close, I again want to say how proud I am of you for having the courage to bring up such a personal subject with me. I don’t really care about what sexual proclivities you have. I care about you. Any of the advice I have given above comes from my best judgement and because of that love I have for you. If you disagree with me now or in the future please know that nothing changes about how much I care about you. My desire for your ultimate well being is my motivation and your worth in my eyes is and always will be infinite. Thats what love is. It’s when we will the well being of another because of their inherent infinite worth and for no other reason. I wish I could make all the tests and trials you now face go away, but ultimately we both chose to come to this earth to pass through this terribly unfair but also beautiful experience we call life. I don’t know how things will play out as you pass through this phase in life. There are no guarantees. Just know that I am your brother in this. If you need some advice I am here, but more importantly if you need a shoulder to cry on and someone to just listen I am here beside you ready and willing anytime for any reason. Things can and will be hard in life but I promise you that life is good and you can and will find happiness and peace. Things will be alright.

Forever your friend - Jacob

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