Idaho Fireside Thoughts

I attended the fireside in Idaho Falls last night, which I found very interesting.  There were some things that I liked about it, and others that I didn’t.  Overall, though, I’m happy that it happened.  The fact that homosexuality was able to be discussed in such a setting is enough to make me feel that things are being done and meaningful strides are being taken on all sides of the issue.

To those who helped plan this fireside, I thank you for doing so.  Creating a place in which this could be openly discusses was so helpful.  I feel that overall it was well received and that it was extremely helpful to a lot of people.  Please do not take anything I say that might be slightly negative personally.

The fireside was set up to resemble a conference.  It began with an opening session in which a few speakers presented the topic of homosexuality.  After the speakers, different groups were held:  a group for gay men, a group for gay women, a group for friends and family, and a group for priesthood leaders.  In these groups, two talks were given, and then a Q&A session was held.  After the Q&A session was complete, everyone met together again and there were a few more speakers, again discussing the topic of homosexuality.

Near the beginning of the fireside, a speaker addressed the use of different terms used when discussing homosexuality, and it was again mentioned in the last talk.  I’m glad this happened, but I feel there needs to be more understanding of interchangeable terms.  If someone prefers to say that they are gay, they shouldn’t be looked down upon for doing so.  In the same way, if a person feels more comfortable saying the are same-sex attracted or same gender attracted, they shouldn’t be looked down upon for that either.  Some general authorities have said that using the word “gay” shouldn’t happen because it signifies that someone is not only attracted to their own gender, but that they are acting out on their attractions.  I disagree.  I have almost always told people I was “gay” because that was just easier than labeling myself in a way that made it sound like I had a disease.  That is my personal preference, but I don’t want people to here me say that I am “gay”, and assume this or that about me.  In short, I feel that it would be best to say something along the lines of “please be understanding as we discuss the topic at hand that the words ‘gay’ and ‘same-sex or same-gender attracted’ may be used interchangeably, and that neither one defines what a person is doing with their attraction”.

I liked that we were able to split into different groups, and I liked the groups that were available.  I feel like all need to be addressed in different ways.  I don’t know that I agree with how they were discussed in the fireside, so I would like to make my comments on how I feel they need to be dealt with.  I wanted to do so by discussing them by the different groups, but after writing this, I have found that so many things cross over into different areas, that it would be easier to just write them all in one area.

I understand why the church takes the stance on homosexuality that it does, and at official church functions, I would expect the church’s stance on the subject to be presented.  I don’t expect the church to change because that would also mean that fundamental LDS doctrines would also have to change.  I don’t think, though, that the church should talk about how those who choose to live a life contrary to those teaching will never be happy, that they will not inherit the Celestial Kingdom, etc.  Really, I don’t think we definitely know what will happen to anyone who is living a life contrary to the church’s teaching.  That’s up to God, and we have absolutely no say in that, so why speculate now.

The focus of the conversation should be that of love.  Not only that God loves us, but that we are loved by church leaders and members.  I think that members of the church want to be understanding, but because of the stereotype surrounding homosexuality, gays and lesbians are seen as only one thing and that image can be a strange and scary one.  If gays and lesbians within the church can know that they are loved by many others, that would help us so much.

There isn’t one right answer for everyone.  There are things personally that I will never advocate, but I will never tell anyone to not try it out either.  For example, I will never advocate change therapy.  If someone were to come to me and tell me they wanted to try it out, I would tell them what I believe are the pros and cons of such (fairly, I hope), and then support them with whatever decision they make.  Some people have been able to find happiness in single life, others have found happiness in marriage to the opposite gender, and some have found therapy helpful.  There are choices that I feel are better, but everyone is different and some answers will work better for them than they will for others.

Priesthood leaders should follow the doctrines of the church.  In my opinion, those are vague, but there are some very definite doctrines surrounding homosexuality.  According to LDS.org:  “People inquire about our position on those who consider themselves… gays and lesbians. My response is that we love them as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. Most people have inclinations of one kind or another at various times. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church. If they violate the law of chastity and the moral standards of the Church, then they are subject to the discipline of the Church, just as others are” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, Nov. 1998, 71).  That is it.  Do not make it more or less than what it is.  Don’t make anyone feel less than humane for having these attractions, especially when they haven’t acted on them.  When someone has acted out on their attractions, the issue becomes one of chastity.  React to what they have done in the same way you would react to someone who is straight and had done the same thing.

To all members of the church, whether you are gay, straight, a bishop, a mother, a friend, are anyone else.  Please be understanding and loving.  No one is perfect.  Everyone has problems they are working on, yourself included.  No matter what you believe about homosexuality, please love those who experience it.  We don’t expect you to understand it or to agree or disagree with our actions.  We just want to feel like we have a place in the church and that we belong there, no matter what we have done.  Church is to be a place to feel peace, solace, and love.  If fear and even slight dislike towards people because of their situations is present, we don’t want to be there.  Life is already hard enough, let’s not add to the pressure.  We want to be loved and we want to be understood.  Please help us help you do that.