What should BYU and the church do to reduce future firestorms regarding LGBTQ issues?

August 25, 2021    By: Geoff J @ 4:36 pm   Category: Ethics,Life,Mormon Culture/Practices

Hey y’all. I’m back.

Or I guess I’m still here…

As you know, blogs are lame now. Or something like that. Anyhow I’ve spent most of the last decade diverting myself at my BYU sports Twitter account (@geoffjbyu). But I still maintain the ol’ blog so I figured I’d slap up some thoughts on the latest turbulence surrounding Elder Holland’s speech at BYU a couple of days ago since this topic doesn’t really work there. Read or listen to Elder Holland’s talk here.

Based on some reactions I saw online, liberal Mormons (er, church members?) are severely disappointed in all sorts of things about the talk. They don’t like that it feels like a smackdown to them and LGBTQ BYU students in general. They don’t like how he quotes the “trowel and musket” analogy from church history and a previous Elder Oaks talk for fear it will inspire looney right wingers to violence. And they don’t like that he seemingly threw that BYU valedictorian who came out in his graduation speech under the bus, even though the speech was approved by BYU.

On the other side, there is evidence that the Mormon alt-right wackos are indeed doing some victory laps and using the musket talk somewhat menacingly online. This “DezNat” wannabe secret combination of Mormon alt-righters is a scourge. Anything that revs those turds up concerns me.

Anyhow, I don’t want to get into the nitty gritty of the talk. I think, based on the freaking out some folks are doing, it’s safe to say that Elder Holland probably didn’t quite hit the mark he was aiming at though.

In this post I more want to step back and suggest a few ways BYU and the church might handle this LGBTQ issue in the future.

1: Move on from the gay marriage fight

It’s over. Gay marriage is legal. Accept that fact and move on. It’s the law of the land now and the church won’t change that.

2: Focus on the Law of Chastity only

In the end this is about the Law of Chastity. And by that, I mean the church teaches that any sexual behavior outside of a legal hetero marriage is a sin. It’s 100% within a church’s rights to believe and teach that. So stick to it. You’re gay? Fine, live the Law of Chastity as we teach it and there’s no problem with the church. You’re Bisexual? Fine — same. Making discussions and arguments about sexual identity is always going to be a losing battle. Focus on the behavioral standard and at least you can be consistent.

3: Because of the Law of Chastity, be ok with a permanent truce

The LGBTQ community will likely never be satisfied with the church until the Law of Chastity changes and gay sex (within marriage at least) is considered chaste. And it’s unlikely the Law of Chastity as I’ve described it will change. So at best the church will likely have to settle for a truce. Say and mean that we don’t focus on whatever sexual identity people claim. Say and mean that to be in good standing with the church (or with BYU) folks of any sexual identity just need to live the Law of Chastity. The church would benefit from having strict standards when it comes to sexual *behavior* and keeping the focus on that, rather than wading into the weeds of sexual identity.

Of course this gets messy because they’d have to determine what qualifies as sexual behavior. Does holding hands count? Snuggling? Kissing? What about just being transgender? There would have to be allowances for these things to be consistent. The church and its members would need to give ground on many of these things over time, but would not have to give ground on strictly adhering to the Law of Chastity.

4: Start reacting to violations of the Law of Chastity more consistently

Breaking the Law of Chastity is breaking the Law of Chastity. Seems to me that we will need to get to the point where the ecclesiastical reaction to Bryce and Breanna having sex outside of marriage is equal to the reaction to Bryce and Dallin having sex. If and when the Law of Chastity becomes the standard we are focusing on regarding this issue, we can’t wink at hetero indiscretions and freak out about gay indiscretions among members or BYU students. This one is gonna take some cultural training but I think it is required if we really aren’t going to be bigoted. The standard has to be “no sexual behavior outside of a legal hetero marriage” period. The breaking of that standard would need be equally and fairly dealt with when it comes to church discipline (and BYU discipline).

If #4 makes you uncomfortable then perhaps it’s time to ask yourself why hetero breaking of the law of chastity is more “ok” than gay breaking of it. It’s not. Or at least reason dictates it shouldn’t be.

Anyhow, that’s what I got for you today. Is it controversial? I hope not. Doesn’t seem like it should be. I think I’m just trying to be pragmatic and fair. But let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

(I know this is a heated topic for many, but please try not to be obnoxious in the comments — I’ll be moderating the comment section to keep things productive. Thanks!)


  1. While discussing my objection to the POX, my (usually good) bishop offered his answer to your evenhandedness proposal–that heterosexual sin could be rectfied by gettig married while homosexual sin could not be.

    Comment by Last Lemming — August 25, 2021 @ 7:45 pm

  2. Heh. Not sure “gettin’ hitched” is a wise solution to sexual transgressions in most cases…

    Comment by Geoff J — August 25, 2021 @ 7:55 pm

  3. Even if it takes talking about gay sex to bring Geoff out of retirement, I’ll take it

    Comment by TheyCallMeRyols — August 25, 2021 @ 8:08 pm

  4. Haha. Ryols! Glad you’re back

    BTW — You bring up a good point. Our prudish aversion to even mentioning things like gay sex is part of the problem. Using euphemisms like “same sex attraction” ain’t helping. We need to be able to say “attraction ain’t a sin in our church. gay sex (and hetero sex outside of legal marriage) is.” If we are too afraid say it, we’ll be forever mired in this sexual identity quagmire.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 25, 2021 @ 8:14 pm

  5. As the mother of a gay child, I am not sure this is a solution I or she would have remained in the church if the church adopted it. It just isn’t “livable” for her. See, it isn’t really the same chastity standard, because it is eternally without hope. It took me a while as a straight person to really *get* that gay love is the same as straight love. Would I stay in a church as a straight person that told me I could never be with my husband. Hell no. I love him more than I love the institutional church. And that just doesn’t fit my concept of who God is.

    To go back to stupid BKP quote, why would God do that to a person, make them born gay and then tell them they can never be loved in the only way they feel love, not now and not for eternity? Calling it a problem to be overcome just doesn’t work, because someone who is as homosexual as I am straight just cannot imagine loving someone of the opposite gender. Try it as a mind experiment you straight people. Imagine being married for eternity to someone of your same gender, and the person you really love being a sin, even wanting to be with them in a non sexual way is forbidden. If you think you would promptly leave a church that tells you that you can never love anyone in the way you understand love, then that is the position you want to put gay people in.

    The fact that President Oaks can imagine “everyone wanting to choose a gay marriage,” tells me he is bi, toward the gay side and forced himself to deny that part of himself. I am too straight to imagine what he does. But he was bi enough to find happiness with a woman. But emotionally he understands preferring to marry a man, how else does he think everyone would prefer that? (By the way, yes, I am a mental health professional) because he *understands* wanting to live a gay lifestyle. Me, I am just too straight to even imagine that. And my daughter, well, she is just too lesbian to imagine being happy with a man. The idea of a God who would force her to spend eternity with a man just makes her hate God.

    So, see, her choices are to hate herself for being born that way, or to hate God for being so cruel as to force her to marry someone she cannot imagine loving.

    The problem is the general authorities are hung up on the sex part of it instead of the love part of it. It is one thing to go without sex but quite another to go without love, or even the hope of finding love.

    Comment by Dragon mom — August 26, 2021 @ 7:18 am

  6. PS and the idea that God will make them straight in the next life doesn’t work either. How would you like a God that is going to make you gay in the next life? Seriously, think about what you are demanding of gay people.

    Comment by Dragon mom — August 26, 2021 @ 7:22 am

  7. Dragon mom,

    Thanks for the comment. Some responses below:

    “I am not sure this is a solution I or she would have remained in the church”

    Yeah, unfortunately I don’t think there is a workable win-win here if the Law if Chastity remains unchanged as I assume it will. At best we are faced with a pragmatic truce where the church clearly says up front “gay sex will never be smiled upon here but if you’re willing to abstain you can be in full fellowship” and gay folks will have to decide if those terms are acceptable or not. I’d guess most will not. But that is no different than what we have now. And at least there is no beating around the bush.

    “it is eternally without hope”

    This is making a massive theological assumption that I see no reason to believe. We don’t know what happens to sexual appetites after this life but seems to me that a major part of Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is faith that He won’t be unfair and leave people completely hosed in the next life.

    “To go back to stupid BKP quote”

    I agree that quote is a problem. Part of what I’m proposing here is fleeing from such rhetoric about sexual identity and focusing only on behaviors. Any other tactic is doomed IMO.

    “The problem is the general authorities are hung up on the sex part of it instead of the love part of it”

    As I stated in the post, I think it’s the opposite. Church leaders need to focus more on the sexual behavior and way less on the sexual identity. Lay out the acceptable behaviors and basically say the same rules apply universally regardless of sexual identity. It’s a compromise, but at least it’s fair and defensible.

    “How would you like a God that is going to make you gay in the next life?”

    See my comment above about trust in God to watch out for our best interests after we die. That’s what I think “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ” mostly means.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 26, 2021 @ 9:12 am

  8. I think one of the major problems here is that the “why” of the current law of chastity standard is underpinned not by doctrine of the church but by unspoken doctrinal assumptions that we don’t talk about and are highly debatable. It assumes our sexual activity is eternal and something we will continue to be doing after we die. Specifically, It assumes Heavenly Mother (never mentioned in our scriptures) and Heavenly Father having sex to create spirit children, which she spiritually gives birth to via her spiritual vagina. (This is doctrinally problematic because the scriptures say we are beginning or end and were not created)

    This pseudo-doctrine underpins the argument that marriage has to be between a man and a woman. It is not clearly articulated, and when stated plainly as above, usually denied.

    The second doctrine that underpins this is a culturally taught understanding of Sodom and Gamorrah, which identifies the act of having gay sex as the issue, when non-consensual rape is involved in the text.

    This is why we are on shaky ground when it comes to our position on gay marriage. Our position is based on shaky doctrine.

    Comment by Matt W. — August 26, 2021 @ 9:50 am

  9. Also, good to have a post on the Thang on this. I miss the blog and discussion.

    Comment by Matt W. — August 26, 2021 @ 9:52 am

  10. Matt,

    Yeah, in this post I’m taking the Law of Chastity as currently defined as functionally immutable. If the definitions and rules of the Law of Chastity were to change (presumably that would require revelation) then we have an entirely different discussion and there would theoretically be new options.

    But seems to me this is not like the 1978 change, since the blacks and the priesthood thing was pretty obviously a cultural relic that had somehow become codified into policy. The basic supports for the current Law of Chastity definitions are pretty readily apparent in ancient scripture (as you’ve noted).

    Comment by Geoff J — August 26, 2021 @ 10:27 am

  11. I think the challenge for the Law of Chastity position is 3 fold:

    1. The Law of Chastity for a very long time was no sex outside of marriage and relied on the law of the land to make sure that precluded gay sex. I remember as a new member an investigator asking members of the church if gay people could get married if that would be in keeping in the law of chastity and the response just being “gay people can’t get married”. So I think the Law of chastity’s additional rider of “no sex outside of hetero marriage” is doing a lot of work and that it isn’t universally understood that it needs to be gay or strait to be approved.
    2. Which is where my previous comment comes in to play, the theological underpinnings of the eternal ramifications for the law of chastity. In so far as the theological underpinnings for the law of chastity have been Elder Holland’s prior talk at BYU – That it matters just as much how you bring a life into the world as it does how you take a life out of the world, those theological underpinnings don’t address gay marriage. Further, the theological underpinning the church uses for single people states ““We promise you that insofar as eternity is concerned, no soul will be deprived of rich and high and eternal blessings for anything which that person could not help” (SWK) and the current teaching of the church is that people who are gay can not help being gay. You address this in your opening post very well with the distinction between identity and sexual behavior.
    3. Which comes to a 3rd challenge for the law of chastity position, which I think you also speak to in your OP, the permanent truce point, and communicating on this is very challenging. The people I know who identify as LGBTQIA+ want to hold hands, kiss someone of their same gender or be married to a person of their same gender. Kids talk about being “Bi-Romantic” and not “Bi-Sexual”. If the church were to focus solely on the Law of Chastity, then fundamentally it should not excommunicate members for being “Gay Married” since you can be married to someone and not have sex with them. Much less holding hands, snuggling, kissing and so on. The church’s current doctrine is unclear and just lumps all of this in as sexual behavior. Of course this is because the line between sexual behavior and non-sexual behavior is in itself a big gray area. One action in one circumstance can and can not be sexual, so trying to narrowly define the line is pretty futile.

    All this to say it is a very complicated issue and I am not sure it is easy to solve. I don’t have the answer, for sure.

    Comment by Matt W. — August 26, 2021 @ 1:19 pm

  12. Matt,

    Some responses:

    “So I think the Law of chastity’s additional rider of “no sex outside of hetero marriage” is doing a lot of work”

    I don’t think it’s much work. Pretty easy to clarify this was the intent all along. The whole idea of gay marriage being legal would have seemed utterly absurd until about 25 years ago after all.

    “the theological underpinnings of the eternal ramifications for the law of chastity”

    I think this might be over-complicating things. The church can set its behavioral guidelines. We know there are no eternal ramification of alcohol consumption for instance, but the behavioral guidelines of the modern church expressly prohibit it. Basically, it’s a “because God said so” situation.

    “then fundamentally it should not excommunicate members for being “Gay Married” since you can be married to someone and not have sex with them”

    Agree 100%. This is where the church would have to change in my proposal. Basically the stance would need to be that we don’t care if you’re in a same-sex marriage if you live the Law of Chastity as described in the church.

    As for the kissing and snuggling and whatnot, I think the church would have to get to the point where they treat hetero and gay members the same on these things to be truly equitable in the administration of the LOC.

    In some sense, my proposal requires quite a lot of change in church attitudes on these things. But it would not require the church to fold when it comes to the Law of Chastity.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 26, 2021 @ 1:39 pm

  13. One more thought: I think at least part of the dissonance here is not just shaky doctrine in terms of foundations, but also shaky doctrine in terms of execution.

    For example, the church website teaches

    “If you decide to share your experiences of feeling same-sex attraction or to openly identify as gay, you should be supported and treated with kindness and respect, both at home and in church. We all need to be patient with each other as we figure things out.

    As Church members, we all have a responsibility to create a supportive and loving environment for all our brothers and sisters. Such a support network makes it much easier to live the gospel and to seek the Spirit while navigating any aspect of mortality.”


    Elder Holland taught differently this week. This uneven application of teachings causes confusion and disharmony.

    Comment by Matt W. — August 28, 2021 @ 12:41 am

  14. Totally agree, Matt. I think that is illustrative of how hard it will be to culturally root out so many years of cultural aversion to anything LGBTQ related.

    But I contend it must be done. This tide is rising and while the church need not ever bend on the Law of Chastity, I think fights over sexual identity will always be losses in the end.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 28, 2021 @ 11:17 am

  15. “But seems to me this is not like the 1978 change, since the blacks and the priesthood thing was pretty obviously a cultural relic that had somehow become codified into policy. The basic supports for the current Law of Chastity definitions are pretty readily apparent in ancient scripture (as you’ve noted).”

    It doesn’t seem at all obvious to me that this is different. Considering homosexuality to be a sin seems as likely to be a cultural relic as racism was. Even more than just culture, it seems like human nature to marginalize minority groups, which homosexuals have always been. This would be especially true when that minority group is into something that the majority group naturally finds unsavory.

    First, I don’t find clear support for the current law of chastity definition to be readily apparent in ancient scripture. I mentioned this here: https://www.newcoolthang.com/index.php/2011/10/what-does-jesus-think-about-giving-alms-to-the-poor/2892/

    Second, even if it were clear from ancient scripture, how sure can we be that this does not reflect the culture in which those scriptures were written and received?

    Comment by Jacob J — August 29, 2021 @ 11:35 pm

  16. Thanks for your thoughts, Geoff. I particularly appreciate #4. It’s not something I’ve considered before.

    Comment by Kim Siever — August 30, 2021 @ 4:38 am

  17. Jacob! Good to see you back.

    “Considering homosexuality to be a sin seems as likely to be a cultural relic”

    As I mentioned in the post, I agree that we need to ignore sexual identity entirely. So homosexuality isn’t a sin in itself because the state of being homosexual doesn’t violate the Law of Chastity. Yes, having gay sex is precluded by the LOC. And there is evidence in ancient scripture that it always has been so. It’s the behavior that I think should be focused on, not the identity. I think it would take a pretty major revelation from God to change the Law of Chastity as we currently understand it.

    Maybe someday God will reveal that He is cool with gay sex in marriage (and always has been). We’ll see. But for now, the Law of Chastity precludes it. So I’m focusing on the practical issue of how the church should handle this issue while the Law of Chastity as we understand it now is in place.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 30, 2021 @ 12:18 pm

  18. Kim (#16) — Thanks!

    Comment by Geoff J — August 30, 2021 @ 5:43 pm

  19. I will write a few thoughts here and there.

    1. As a black man, I have in my lifetime been told that my righteousness would cause me to be turned white in the afterlife.

    2. As a gay black man, I have in my lifetime been told that my righteousness would cause me to be turned straight in the afterlife.

    I get the sense that in 2021, it’s no longer OK to say (1), but it seems like it’s totally OK for people to say or believe (2), and people who are not the recipients of these comments don’t seem to appreciate that recipients of these comments might feel similarly about both (even if people can come up with explanations for they think they are materially different).

    Personally, I react similarly to any discussions or implications that the prize for lifelong celibacy and self-denial is to have my orientation converted in the afterlife as the way that I internally reacted to the guy who told me that he believed my righteousness would transform my race: I understand this is coming from a place of sincerity and maybe even goodwill, but it is a twisted sense of goodwill that speaks more to the impoverished nature of the worldview that the other person has. The worldview confuses or misunderstands things that matter with things that should not (what should and should not be considered “righteous”).

    (…Then again, as a totally nonbelieving dude, I can’t say I take too much stock in my ability to be the arbiter of righteousness. I get it. I’m just saying that for me, I can’t make sense of the worldview or of the value of such a divine being that would care so much about these things.)

    3. To me, I don’t understand the fixation of viewing the law of chastity in such a limited way as “no sex outside of hetero marriage”. To me, if I think about the “telos” of relationships from what I understand of an LDS POV, to me, the core part isn’t about childbearing or anything exclusively heteronormative. (If it were, I think we would have to be more like Catholics, and eschew contraception, abortion, etc.,) So, unless we just concede the law of chastity is an arbitrary “Because God said so” (as Geoff J talks a bit about in comment 12 for Word of Wisdom), I am not sure why everyone is tied to “no sex outside of hetero marriage” as the sine qua non.

    To me, the most striking theme that distinguishes LDS sexual ethics from other Christian sexual ethics is the privileging of relationship and marriage: we value engagement, relationality, community (from the community of a family to the community of a ward). Whereas in other Christian traditions (and especially Catholicism), marriage is seen (cf. Paul) as a sort of compromise to the ideal state of celibacy, Mormonism categorically rejects that. To me, Mormons elevate “It is not good for the man to be alone”. And I think we see this in that Mormons really struggle to create a telos for singleness. What I realized is that the end goal of chastity is not (is *never*) lifelong celibacy — it’s marriage. That’s *why* eternal singleness challenges Mormonism in a way that it doesn’t challenge other Christian traditions. Because whereas there’s a telos of lifelong celibacy in other Christian traditions — there’s something to do and something to be that is cherished and privileged, in Mormonism, it is a kind of failure state that the community doesn’t really have answers for.

    But the question to me is: what exactly is failed here? Is the failure to create biological children? (No, I don’t *quite* think so…hence again I don’t think it’s about the failure to *bear* children).

    In my view (and again, as a total nonbeliever maybe I’m totally off track and maybe this doesn’t resonate at all with any of y’all), Mormonism teaches that marriage is a proving ground and an education that is microcosmic of the way that our life in mortality in general is a proving ground and an education. It is an institution where we bind ourselves to another (who is Other) in a way that forces us to grow, change, compromise. This is true of how we must be in life, but marriage creates a particularly intimate form thereof.

    In this way, I think that Mormonism struggles to find a place for singleness in the same way that Mormonism struggles to find a place to monastic isolationist devotional practice — it just doesn’t *fit* the core of what Mormonism is trying to do, even if other Christian traditions have a place for it.

    OK, so then the only question is: can this sort of proving ground only be built within a heterosexual marriage? I’m not so sure about this. I think the conventional thinking is that men and women are just so different that people might think that only hetero marriage can teach how to struggle along side someone who is wholly other.

    …but I think there are a lot of individual differences that cannot and should not be reduced to gender differences only.

    I think that for someone like myself, who is naturally an introverted person, that being married to my husband is the *most Mormon* thing I can do, because my nature would be to stick to my lonesome and never stretch out beyond myself. Marriage encourages me (to my betterment, I think), to be present and engaged with another person who is different from me.

    Comment by Andrew S. — August 31, 2021 @ 4:37 pm

  20. Hey Andrew! Glad you’re still around.

    Some comments:

    “As a black man, I have in my lifetime been told that my righteousness would cause me to be turned white in the afterlife.”

    Sadly there is no shortage of fools here on earth. The good news is they should presumably be less idiotic in the afterlife.

    “I have in my lifetime been told that my righteousness would cause me to be turned straight in the afterlife”

    Folks tend to vastly overestimate what we really know about the afterlife.

    “So, unless we just concede the law of chastity is an arbitrary “Because God said so””

    I think we kinda have to do this for now. It is nearly universally considered bedrock doctrine in the church at this point. So it would take a full on prophetic revelation to change the LOC in the church — possibly the “add to the canon” type. This would be a bigger deal than the 1978 proclamation and that was considered a pretty big deal.

    “What I realized is that the end goal of chastity is not (is *never*) lifelong celibacy — it’s marriage.”

    Well said. Rings true to me about modern Mormonism.

    “In this way, I think that Mormonism struggles to find a place for singleness”

    Good stuff. (I have missed all the smart people I interact with here. Sports Twitter ain’t good for intelligent conversation…)

    “I think that for someone like myself, who is naturally an introverted person, that being married to my husband is the *most Mormon* thing I can do”

    Yep, and that’s the crappiest part of about this compromise I’m proposing. The whole uneasy truce where a married gay couple (who are sexually active) will always be excluded in the church from full participation.

    But it’s the old immovable object vs irresistible force dilemma. As long as the Law of Chastity remains that immovable object, a certain percentage of the population will find the demands of the LOC unacceptable.

    The only consolation is Mormonism has several theological outs that account for folks not connecting with the church on earth. And let’s not forget that even in 2021 99.8% of the population of earth is not Mormon so those outs apply to most of God’s children. Still, this compromise is just that — a compromise rather than a win-win 3rd way. And as a result, it will suck in some ways, like all compromises do.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 31, 2021 @ 5:35 pm

  21. Thinking the only issue is the Law of Chastity is a problem. The stance of the church is that there is something essential about being male and female that makes only a hetero pairing eternal.

    What that something is, we don’t know. But we maintain that binary gender is essential, even if the mortal world doesn’t always get it right.

    The LGBTQ+ and liberal communities can’t stop pushing against this line because there is just so much the church doesn’t know about it. And, unlike they would like to have happen, the church leadership doesn’t just make it up to fit what they want. They aren’t exactly in control, by their perspectives. God is, and moreso God as He works through them.

    There’s a lot of learning and growth in that arrangement, and learning and growth is never cut and dry.

    Until people on *both* sides can learn to tolerate people who believe and behave differently than they do, and tolerate a stance that isn’t necessarily backed up with hard facts, there is no resolution.

    Comment by SilverRain — September 1, 2021 @ 5:42 am

  22. SilverRain,

    You bring up a fair point about the eternal gender thing which was somewhat codified in the Family Proclamation. That puts the church at odds with transgender folks, even when they are living the Law of Chastity.

    My sense is it would need to become a priority question for the church. LOC could be the hard line the church doesn’t compromise on, but we’d have to see how things played out with the transgender folks. For instance, what to do in cases when a transgender woman (but biological male) is married to a biological woman? If the focus is entirely on the LOC, their active sexual relationship should technically be deemed fine. But I agree we’re pretty far from that having a chance to fly in the church. Maybe someday though — who knows.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 1, 2021 @ 8:32 am

  23. Geoff,

    Yeah, I understand the tack you’re suggesting and I do feel it would be a better approach than what we are taking today.

    I said “considering homosexuality to be a sin seems as likely to be a cultural relic” and you responded by interpreting “homosexuality” purely as an identity issue. I don’t think that response holds up. Firstly, homosexual sex is part of homosexuality. To pretend the two can be divorced (poor choice of words) is untenable. But, leaving that argument aside, I can simply rephrase my whole comment to be about gay sex directly:

    Considering gay sex to be a sin seems as likely to be a cultural relic as racism was. I don’t find its sinfulness to be clearly set forth in scripture, and even if it were clear from ancient scripture, how sure can we be that this does not reflect the culture in which those scriptures were written and received?

    Comment by Jacob J — September 2, 2021 @ 10:21 am

  24. Jacob,

    Yeah, the uneasy truce still would require gay people to remain celibate. (Bisexual folks at least have better options with the current situation.) As I mentioned in the post, celibacy is likely a deal breaker for them. But as I’ve mentioned in other comments, there is no win-win here. Something would have to give. And as long as the Law of Chastity as we understand it stands, gay sex will be proscribed in the church. My suggestions in the post are mostly a way for the church to be as forthright and internally consistent about that as possible.

    As for the question of God’s opinion on gay sex in general, I think we’re in so deep now that nothing short of a revelation from God telling us that it is the fidelity in marriage part He cares about, not the gay sex part, will get us past the impasse. And that would be a big revelation indeed. Would likely need to be the type that is added as canon in the D&C.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 2, 2021 @ 11:22 am

  25. Regards the Law of Chastity and gender, it is codified in the covenant, between the husband and wife, so there’s that to also contend with.

    Comment by anon — September 2, 2021 @ 3:58 pm

  26. “I think we’re in so deep now that nothing short of a revelation from God”

    I’m interesting in that thinking. What makes you say we are “in so deep”? What does it even mean to be in deep? It seems to me like we are in very deep with pretending to be sure about things that we have no good reason to be sure about. We are in deep in committing ourselves politically in ways that have not turned out to be very helpful. I don’t see how any of those things implies that a revelation is required more than it would have been otherwise. Do you mean that our leadership has dug in so far that they are not about to change directions without God bonking them on the head?

    It is striking to me that your original comparison to blacks and the priesthood fits this situation so well. Then, like now, there was a lot of rhetoric adopted from the culture which was not well grounded in revelation, but which we spouted very confidently and dogmatically as though it was based on direct revelation. David O. McKay even followed the exact same sentiment you are putting forth now that the policy could not change without a big revelation. We finally got the big revelation in that case, but it seems to be from reading the history that the biggest reason a revelation was needed was to change the hearts and minds of the people. We get so set in our ways, we require revelations where they would not be necessary if we just followed the gospel.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 3, 2021 @ 1:41 pm

  27. Jacob – “What makes you say we are “in so deep”?”

    I mean we’re in deep with precedent. When it came to blacks and the priesthood we know that black men were ordained to the priesthood in Joseph Smith’s time. Then a policy arose stopping it. Still, it took a revelation in 1978 to officially say that there are no racial barriers to getting the priesthood. I am mostly saying this would have to follow the same pattern if it were to ever change.

    It can easily be shown that gay sex has always been proscribed in the modern church. And I know of no evidence to refute the longstanding assumption that gay sex was always proscribed in the ancient church as well. So in the face of all of that, we’d need God to clearly say it’s not actually against His laws (under the right circumstances).

    I think that’s the practical reality we’re dealing with here. Can you think of any other way we’d get to the point of considering gay sex as chaste?

    Comment by Geoff J — September 3, 2021 @ 1:59 pm

  28. I don’t disagree from a practical standpoint. I don’t even necessarily think that’s a bad thing. I would not have described that as us being in deep, it is just a consequence of the fact that we don’t generally change long-standing doctrinal positions without revelation, which is fine by me. I acknowledge your point that with blacks and the priesthood there was at least a precedent from the early days of the church. Similarly, there are some early precedents that show a more relaxed attitude toward women and the priesthood. I’m not aware of such a precedent with homosexuality, so I cede that point. I do see strong reasons to suspect our attitudes toward homosexuality generally (and gay sex specifically) originate in culture and human nature rather than revelation. But (unfortunately) that is not in conflict with your last comment, so I can’t take issue with it.

    Given the tenuous origins of this aspect of the law of chastity, I would love to see both the membership and leadership of the church asking God to guide us and reveal himself on this topic, rather than us assuming we already know what he thinks because we’re so dug into our position. And maybe that’s exactly what is happening at the leadership level, I have no visibility. At the membership level, I know we are still very divided on it. I believe it took prayers from both the leaders and the members to bring about the change on the priesthood, so I would assume any potential change here would require the same.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 3, 2021 @ 4:42 pm

  29. Jacob (#28)


    Comment by Geoff J — September 6, 2021 @ 10:31 am

  30. I have a few observations about comments that have been made. This is an issue that deserves sensitivity to those who love friends and family that are included in one of the many catch-alls in the LGTBQ+ designation. Yet the issue also calls for straightforward honesty. Needless to say, feelings are easily hurt and offense is easily taken when these kinds of issues are discussed.

    First, Jacob J’s statement that “homosexuality includes homosexual sex” is not quite accurate. Numerous surveys demonstrate that a much higher percentage of LGTBQ relationships are sexless. Just an observation. The notion that being homosexual simply requires one to engage in sex is not accurate. There is a an important difference between having a sexual orientation and taking one’s pants off.

    Second, we have a fairly important issue regarding expectations for chastity of heterosexuals at issue wrapped up in this issue. I know that folks argue on a regular basis that there is a distinction between straight singles who are not married — and have no realistic prospects for marriage — and gay sex. That seems just false to me. Both are required to maintain chastity. The line that the church has been able to hold against cultural norms — at least to some degree — of having sex outside of marriage for heterosexuals is essential to the church. We have numerous scriptures condemning illicit sex and violation of the laws of chastity outside of marriage (think Corianton). We can hardly say that we can expect heterosexual singles who have no prospects of marriage to be an excpetion and that it is proper for them to have sex because they remain unfulfilled and unhappy without sex. I know that the rejoinder is “but at least they can hope for sex some day.” I would think that makes it worse and not better. It is not wrong to engage in heterosexual sex tout court so why not just do it outside of marriage when marriage is not realistic? I believe that they are in the same boat realistically.

    That brings up the most important error made in these kinds of discussions. The argument is that LGTBQ* folks cannot feel fulfilled and be happy unless they can engage in sex. It is just part of who they are; it is their inherent nature. Further, God must have created that nature so it must be divine. But that argument falls apart if pressed to its logical limit. There are plenty of men I have spoken to that say it is their nature to want to have sex with lots of women and they just cannot be fulfilled in their sexual desires unless they can. They are unhappy and unfulfilled unless they can act on their sexual desires. They simply have more love to give than can be expressed to just one woman — and love is love. But of course that argument simply ignores the obvious: desires that go beyond the bounds set by the Lord are sin. It ignores that there is a “nature” in all of us called the “natural man” that seeks to give full reign to sexual appetites. The argument is seductive but ends up being a rationalization for sin.

    It seems to me that the law of chastity can require life-long celibacy in certain situations. It is not a violation of the nature that God seeks for us to require celibacy.

    Further, Jacob J’s point about the view that gay sex is merely a cultural artifact is a mistake in my view. The injunctions in Leviticus that are expanded by Paul to an argument that gay sex is against the nature that God seeks to create in us well is established IMO. I know that there are those who argue otherwise, but I find their arguments to be ideological special pleading not related to the text but their own views on what they wish the text said.

    Further, the argument about a position being merely cultural cuts both ways. Those who make these kinds of wrong side of history and merely a cultural artifact arguments seem blind to the fact that the view that gay sex is permissible is just a reflection of our own current culture — the same culture that sanctions extramarital sex as both the norm and expected. In fact, one is ostracized if the view that sex is always just fine if people really care about each other. But that is certainly not the view stated in revelation.

    I think that we should be open to the possibility of further revelation on this and all issues. But the assumption seems to be that if a revelation is received that God is going to sanction gay sex and gay marriage because the view that gay sex is sin is merely the view held by a bunch of old men who are out of touch with the ever-so-much-more-enlightened progressive culture. That assumption undermines all trust and any commitment to the gospel IMO. Admittedly we must be open to being surprised no matter what our prior views.

    Finally, the fact that a person is somewhere on the scale of non-hetero normative sexuality does not suggest that they are lesser than. The assumption that celestial marriage is necessary for full Divinity or full exaltation runs into two very compelling counterexamples — the Son and the Holy Ghost. Neither is married yet are fully divine and fully exalted.

    Given all that, we ought to see committed gay sex as morally superior to promiscuous gay sex — and married gay sex as superior to gay sex outside of that commitment. (I believe that the State should get out of the marriage business altogether and just perform contractual civil unions). Perhaps we recognize that fact by not excommunicating those who become married in a gay marriage. We maintain full fellowship. We permit them to take the sacrament in full communion. We allow them to hold church callings. We treat a violation of gay-marriage vows as a deep breach of personal promises warranting discipline. I believe that in many instances these measures are already being adopted. Let me just say that I know of a specific instance where in fact just this position has been adopted with respect to a gay married couple.

    Comment by Blake Ostler — September 10, 2021 @ 11:22 am

  31. Blake: “Perhaps we recognize that fact by not excommunicating those who become married in a gay marriage. We maintain full fellowship. We permit them to take the sacrament in full communion. We allow them to hold church callings. We treat a violation of gay-marriage vows as a deep breach of personal promises warranting discipline.”

    I must admit, I didn’t see this coming based on where your comment started. But I like it and hope it comes to pass churchwide. It has the church bending more than I suggested they would be willing to in my post.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 10, 2021 @ 4:27 pm

  32. I find your logic compelling Blake. Thanks for posting!

    Comment by Kent — September 11, 2021 @ 12:37 pm

  33. Blake, while it is obviously true that deification is not tied to marriage in the case of existing members of the Godhead, how should we interpret D&C 132? Is not full exaltation only for those who are married?

    Comment by Kent — September 11, 2021 @ 2:30 pm

  34. Hi Blake! Fun to be conversing with you again.

    I want to address a few of your points, but I have to first clarify that most of what you are arguing against are common positions taken in these discussion which I personally do not take. All of that is well and good, just wanted to make it clear that although I am a launching pad for some of your critiques, I am on board with many of the things you are saying. So before disagreeing, let me clear the field by highlighting some points of agreement.

    I certainly agree that people can be celibate, even if they have a sexual orientation. When I talked about homosexual sex being part of homosexuality, I was referring to people’s attitudes toward both being highly related. Attitudes about homosexuality throughout history have been fully entangled with their attitudes toward gay sex. The attempt to separate them cleanly now (as Geoff is doing) is fine but we shouldn’t pretend cultural attitudes were based on one and not the other. As a single man in the church (divorced), I am intimately familiar with the fact that we ask people to live the law of chastity whether they are gay or straight. I fully agree that having some natural desire does not imply that the desire is acceptable.

    I have not asserted that attitudes toward gay sex are merely cultural artifacts. I have taken a more cautious position that we have very good reasons to think that they might be. I am not certain about any of this, which is a big part of my point. I am specifically criticizing the degree of confidence people display on a topic where God has not made himself abundantly clear in my opinion. If you think Leviticus gives you all the clarity you need to understand God’s position on the matter, then you read the scriptures in a very different way than I do. Leviticus prohibits lots of things that I don’t consider to be a sin in any way.

    My reason for commenting here was that Geoff took for granted that blacks and the priesthood was based on a cultural bias, while current views about the sinfulness of gay sex are not. I simply don’t see how that can be sustained. My position is that we are sure of ourselves beyond the strength of the evidence. We assume that we know the will of God when he has not revealed himself in a clear way. There is (seemingly) more scriptural support in the book of Abraham for the previous policy on priesthood than there is in the scriptures for considering gay sex to be a sin. I see it as a tragic mistake that people felt so certain about how they interpreted those passages from the book of Abraham that they confidently asserted the will of the Lord on the matter instead of humbly seeking the will of the Lord. I see us making the same mistake today. We act more certain than we have a right to be and in so doing, we cut ourselves off from the openness that is needed to receive further light and knowledge and for God to reveal his will.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 15, 2021 @ 1:52 pm

  35. Setting aside the question of which rules should be enforced against whom for the moment, high cardinality viviparous spirit birth is a really unusual model of exaltation when the scriptures themselves and the entire practice of child to parent sealings provide a much better one.

    Abraham (and by association Sarah): “And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen 26:4).

    Abraham bears a relationship to the faithful beyond his lineal seed according to Galatians, and they are heirs to the same promise by the same passage. The practice of child to parent sealing suggests adoption not of every unrelated individual, one at a time, but something more like a splicing in of entire families and their descendants, both lineal and adoptive.

    That is multiplication of the seeds according the promise. And a pretty good model of continuation of the seeds, as numerous as the stars of heaven, that doesn’t necessarily require children in the here and now, but does establish it as the rule not the exception.

    As far as the theological approach to homosexuality is concerned, every question seems to relate ultimately to what the ideal is, and both the temporal and eternal consequences on the whole of having children in the here and now at all.

    I imagine that there is concern that too easy accommodation of same sex attraction in its thoroughly benign forms will on the margins discourage procreative family formation which is the core (exceptions notwithstanding) of the preservation of the Church and the family of Abraham as it were both in the here in the now and in the eternities. Otherwise we have no business worrying about the patriarchal or family order, sealing lines, lineal heirs to the promise made to Abraham, the need to be adopted in, or anything like that. If there is no need for a transitive sealing relationship to Abraham and ultimately back to Adam, then one wonders about the urgency of family history and temple work, and one’s first responsibility to his or her own lineal ancestors.

    This is the real weakness of high cardinality viviparous spirit birth – it makes family structure basically irrelevant in the eternities as so much water under the bridge. In any case, if heaven is actually organized on family lines, there are presumably a lot more opportunities for adaptation and adoption of and by those who were never married or seriously same sex inclined in this life. D&C 130 verse 2 says something about that.

    Comment by Mark D. — September 19, 2021 @ 1:08 pm

  36. Actually courts do not make law just because they rule on something. There is no law on the books stating gay marriage is legal

    Comment by Dogheart — October 20, 2021 @ 6:51 am

  37. Jacob J. I have read many scholars who take the same view regarding the scriptural injunctions against gay sex that you do. You cited Leviticus and state that we can ignore it because Leviticus forbids lots of things that we approve. The problem is that you ignored the passages in Paul’s genuine letters that also enjoin homosexual sexual activity. In my view, Paul is clear.

    I guess that you would say, “yeah, well we don’t really believe Paul anyway.” But that is false. We do accept the letters of Paul as scripture and inspired and superintended by God. Moreover, this is a true slippery slope argument. Where does it stop? We accept only what we can verify that Jesus actually stated? Very well, we have nothing at all.

    Your assertions about the Book of Abraham supporting the wrong-headed policy regarding Blacks and the priesthood is simply mistaken in my view. The Book of Abraham does not address that issue — even remotely. The fact that some wrested the scriptures to support their view doesn’t change that fact.

    I don’t think that accepting scriptural injunctions regarding conduct cuts us off from further light and knowledge. In fact, I believe that quite the opposite is true. In any event, this is a difficult issue that requires sensitivity and I appreciate the careful thought and sensitivity that you bring to the subject. Thank you for responding.

    Comment by Blake Ostler — November 2, 2021 @ 3:02 pm

  38. The best thing that the church can do is stand against the lgbtq agenda. This is coming from someone who had been mired in it for a long long time.

    Comment by Genxyz — November 18, 2021 @ 6:44 pm

  39. This is a great discussion. Thanks all.

    Per Blake’s comment above, especially the part about Leviticus and Paul, a real turning point for me on all of this came when I read the New Testament scholar Richard Hays’ essay on homosexuality and the Christian church, per here: https://www.heartlandchurch.org/d/The_Moral_Vision_of_the_New_Testament_excerpt.pdf

    The reason this affected me was that this was the first truly methodical and rigorous attempt I’d ever read to try to understand what scripture actually says about homosexuality. He expands on each scripture, especially Paul’s passage in Romans. I really encourage anyone interested in that to read it, it’s VERY good; especially his framing about his gay Christian friend, and his analysis at the end of how these passages should apply to “the Church.”

    I think we would answer some of these questions differently. We have a different theology. But I wish our church would try to wrestle transparently and clearly, as he has, drawing from the different ways of knowing: scripture and tradition, sociology and scientific evidence, reason and personal intuition, drawing conclusions along the way. FWIW, I think many of his ultimate conclusions would be similar for us, even if the theological reasons are somewhat different; and any movement in another direction would require revelation, prompted by experience.

    And I have to admit, I really like some of the
    accommodations” suggested above. I certainly hope we get revelation and change soon.

    Comment by Bryan S — November 18, 2021 @ 9:20 pm