Review of an article regarding being gay and celibate

Review of an article published in the August 2020 edition of the Ensign magazine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Promoting celibacy as being the answer, it’s a problematic article for many who are LGBTQ+ and a member of the Church.

Why bother? Why not just let things be? Three initial reasons come to mind.

One. I have lesbian, gay, trans, nonbinary, queer friends who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I want them to feel loved, supported and accepted for who they are.

Two. Such an article can, and no doubt will, be weaponised. It’ll be sent to families with gay children, telling them not to worry, their son or daughter just needs to be celibate and everything will be okay. Similarly it’ll, no doubt, be sent direct to a gay person, telling them they just need to be celibate!! All followed by “See this guy called ‘Jacob R’ in the Ensign did it!!

Three. I’m mid way through writing an essay, for the Pink Therapy foundation certificate I’m nearing completion. Titled “Reconciling Being LGBTQ+ and Mormon“. I was hoping to find a way to bring the two together. Yet, the more I try, the more articles such as this one appear, making it harder and harder, if not impossible to do.

Being celibate and single may work for Jacob R which is wonderful, if that’s what he wants. The concern is when one way is put out as the way for all gay members of the Church. What about a nuanced viewpoint, looking at varying perspectives of being gay and a member of the Church? A more detailed exploration of celibacy was undertaken by Thomas Montgomery here.

Yes, there may be a few individuals who can remain celibate throughout their lives. Such people are most likely to be asexual and/or aromantic, having no or little interest in sexual or emotional relationships. For the majority the toll on their mental health will be tremendous. For some so bad life seems pointless, worthless.

The Church, when talking about the need for gay celibacy seems only to share stories of individuals and couples, who on the surface, seem to make being celibate or in a mixed orientation marriage work. One such couple was Lolly and Josh Weed. Not seeking such a position, they ended up as a kind of poster couple who had a loving and successful marriage, having four children, with Josh, openly gay, married to Lolly, a straight CIS woman. After years they explained why everything had to end. This is the same with many of the LGTBQ+ people on the Church’s website. Everything initially fits the Church’s agenda, then after time their position becomes untenable.

The article itself

I’ve linked the article below if you want to read the whole thing. I’ve quoted a few paragraphs, followed by my comments in italics.

Digital Only: Young Adults

Why digital only? What’s the issue with publishing this in the printed version of the Ensign? Don’t want the general membership to read it? It has been suggested ‘digital only’ makes it easier to remove from publication, if Jacob R ever changes his stance.

My Experience Living the Law of Chastity with Same-Sex Attraction

An improved title: “My Experience Living the Law of Chastity and being Gay”? There seems a persistence, from the Church, in using the phrase “same-sex attraction” which appears to reduce being gay down to something sexual, missing completely the close, intimate relationships gay couples develop.

By Jacob R.

Where’s the person’s full name? I can understand the person’s reluctance to publish their name in full, with there being still not yet full acceptance of the leadership, or the general membership of someone being gay and Mormon. Maybe times will change, so one day it’ll be fully acceptable to be LGBTQ+ and a member of the Church.

Sometimes the law of chastity can seem difficult to understand and reconcile…

When pursued from a strictly binary view, it is. Why not apply the law of chastity equally to gay and lesbian couples as to heterosexual couples? Once married what goes on in the bedroom is no one’s business, except the couple.

Editors’ note: This article is part of a series in the August 2020 Ensign regarding having a positive view of sexuality, sexual intimacy, and the law of chastity. The term sexuality means different things to different people, but in this context, we are talking specifically about our sexual feelings and identity.

Have to disagree – this article is not “a positive view of sexuality, sexual intimacy, and the law of chastity”, nor “sexual feelings and identity.”

There are two things I knew to be true about myself while I was growing up:

  1. I was a Hebrew-speaking Hasidic Jew.
  2. I am gay.

Being a Hasidic Jew this person has already had years of hearing that being gay is against God’s will. Joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a gay person seems like stepping out of the frying pan into the fire or perhaps the other way round?

But I’ve learned that regardless of what we may experience, when we trust God’s will above our own, our lives can turn out better than we ever imagined for ourselves.

May be so. Is God’s will being imparted directly? Or someone else telling us what they think God wants for us?

Finding the Truth

I moved to New York to go to school when I was a teenager. I started noticing a beautiful chapel near my school. I was really drawn to it, and as I took a closer look at it one day, I saw the words, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Because I was Jewish, I decided I probably shouldn’t go anywhere near it again, but I never forgot how intriguing it was.

“I started noticing a beautiful chapel”?

Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder. Yet describing, as beautiful, chapels of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seems a stretch, which adds to the thought this is by a ghost writer. Temples described as beautiful, I can understand, plain brick Chapels, not really.

I ended up reaching out to missionaries in my area. The thing that intrigued me so much about the Church was that instead of being told what was true and having beliefs forced on me, I was encouraged to pray and receive knowledge and a testimony that it’s true for myself.

And I did.

After I gained that testimony, I asked to be baptized. The missionaries asked me, “Are you willing to endure to the end and keep the commandments?”

I said yes, even though at the time I didn’t fully understand everything that question entailed.

Saying yes, though he “didn’t fully understand everything…entailed”. Something that frequently happens. Happened to me. Especially for children baptised aged eight. How can they really understand all that will be required throughout their life? There’s something about full consent missing in such decision making. I began exploring consent here.

Because I experience same-sex attraction, sometimes I struggle to comprehend what Heavenly Father has planned for my life in the gospel. For me, the need to live the law of chastity can be difficult to understand and painful to apply at times, because it’s hard imagining I might be single throughout my life. I don’t know if I will have the opportunity to get married or have children in this life, but I want to, and I keep my mind open to being sealed in the temple if that is Heavenly Father’s plan for me. But regardless of when, I know those blessings will be fulfilled eventually if I follow His will and not my own.

Eternity is one thing, but what about joy now? Because a person is gay they have to wait for family and children in eternity?

As I have learned about His eternal plan, I truly understand that we can experience godliness in many ways, not just through sexual intimacy.

Back to sex. Intimacy is much more than sex. What about talking, holding hands, cuddling, hugging, going for a walk together, kissing, sharing time together, doing a puzzle, playing a game together, etc., etc.?

I Remember That the Lord Hasn’t Revealed All Things

I’ve often wondered why I experience same-sex attraction. I’ve prayed for answers so many times. And as I’ve spoken with stake presidents and bishops and with Heavenly Father over the years, I’ve come to understand that we don’t know all the answers yet. He hasn’t revealed everything to us. God is perfect, but as we see in the Book of Mormon, He doesn’t reveal everything at once.

Avoiding the word “gay” again. Let’s hope Heavenly Father reveals that marriage between people of the same sex and gender is okay sooner, rather than later.

Our souls are wired for connection, and that longing to connect is often at the heart of sexual feelings. Connection, close bonds, and friendship are such an important part of finding joy, and fulfillment as a member of the Church in this life, regardless of your circumstances.

Absolutely. Our souls are wired for connection. What about connection for those who are LGBTQ +? Allowing marriage between gay and lesbian couples helps fulfil such wiring for connection.

I know it’s true.

When I am wholeheartedly in the gospel and when I look through the lens of an eternal perspective and spiritual progression rather than a limited perspective, I feel such incredible peace and joy that doesn’t compare with anything else. The blessings I experience from the gospel of Jesus Christ and the blessings I am promised outweigh anything else, and they are worth everything.

Great for you. Don’t expect everyone else to feel the same.

And that is one of the main concerns with publishing such an article in an official church publication. The implication this is for all.

What is Consent?

What is consent? Saying yes or no to something? Well, yes, partly. Surely, it is something more though? Giving and receiving consent feels vital, where all involved know exactly what’s happening, to be expected and with whom. This, for me, is really the fuller aspect of being consensual, with everyone knowing, agreeing and happy with what’s happening, may happen and with whom. Though, not just in regard to any type of sexual relationship, but every aspect of life.

Being consensual for me is not just saying yes. It must be an informed yes. All parties being fully aware of everything that they are agreeing to. Regarding sex, fully understanding any potential health risks (STIs, pregnancy, HiV, etc.) involved, both to themselves and their partner/s. Plus, respecting any religious, moral and cultural views of their partner/s, all of which need discussing and negotiating.

I lay in bed one night pondering over what makes full consent so, so important to me. I feel it relates, at least in part, to abuse.

An experience

Consent has always been an important part of how I lived. Well, I thought it was. Sometimes I’m oblivious to things. I appreciate when people call me out on something. Consent was/is one such thing. I guess I’d always connected it solely to sexual activity. That without consent sexual abuse was occurring, which it is.

I share this experience with the consent of the other person involved. On the first or second day of a residential for the Pink Therapy diploma I’m currently studying, Sue taught me the expansiveness of consent (for further insights into Sue’s work, I recommend visiting their website https://thefeelinstitute.com). Students were all involved rotating in pairs asking each other questions. At the end of the two minutes together with Sue I reached out, in my mind, gently to hold Sue’s hands as a gesture of thanks. As my hands lightly touched theirs, Sue stepped back, saying, as far as I recall, “please don’t touch me, I haven’t given you permission”.

I admit at the time to being completely floored, embarrassed, unsure of what I’d done wrong. I think I apologised, certainly resolving to speak with Sue later, which happened. They explained about Betty Martin’s wheel of consent, which was new to me, covered in more detail later in the week. A light bulb went on. I’m grateful for the initial awkwardness I felt, that allowed me to be open to learn and change. Both consenting we hugged. 

A small example. Later in the week there was something in my room Sue wanted to see. A book or handout. Reaching my room, I walked straight in expecting Sue to just follow me. They waited at the entrance. Seeing that, I remember thinking “Sue’s waiting for consent to come in”. I said “come in”, specifically adding, “…if you want to”. Following the whole wheel of consent discussion and workshop it seemed appropriate to add that last part of my sentence, something I probably would not have thought about doing before. To me, it seemed to then be more of an invitation, a choice, which could more easily be declined, rather than any type of command. This leads to more thoughts on many aspects of wider consent, that there isn’t space or time today to write about here. Maybe another day.

For further insights into Sue and their work, I recommend visiting their website – https://thefeelinstitute.com