Same-gender attraction at BYU
by Austin Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org)
My freshman year home-teaching companion, a mission buddy, my cousin--these are a few of the wonderful people in my life who, through no choice of their own, are attracted to members of the same gender. I fear that here at BYU, talking about homosexuality has for too long been taboo. Same-gender attraction (SGA) is not something we can just ignore, wishing it would go away, because it won't. It deserves and demands a mature, respectful, faithful, and open discussion. We cannot allow our silence, ignorance, or intolerance to push amazing people out of the Church. As the recent Church publication for Mormons who struggle with homosexual attractions, "God Loveth His Children," says, "Some people with same-gender attraction have felt rejected because members of the Church did not always show love. No member of the Church should ever be intolerant." Tolerance does not require one to embrace homosexual behavior, but my prayer is that we, as a campus community, can be more understanding, loving and, yes, accepting of our friends and loved ones who find themselves in this position.
One misconception about those who struggle with SGA is that they simply don't have enough faith. In my experience, nothing could be farther from the truth. These are people who spend countless hours in earnest prayer, serve selflessly in the temple, magnify their callings as full-time missionary, visiting teacher, or Elder's Quorum President, and meet consistently with both priesthood leaders and professional counselors. These are people who show me what it is like to go forward with faith despite walking in darkness. Some eventually feel comfortable entering into heterosexual marriages, others feel no change in their orientation, but all demonstrate great faith and trust in God.
The men and women in our lives who struggle with SGA have a difficult cross to bear which we cannot afford to exacerbate with our scorn or disdain. However, no one wants or needs pity. Our friends and loved ones who experience SGA need to be befriended, loved, and accepted. They need, just as we all do, support in trying to live the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to be able to say, as President Hinckley did, that “Our hearts reach out to those who struggle with feelings of affinity for the same gender. We remember you before the Lord, we sympathize with you, we regard you as our brothers and sisters.” Put a face on the issue: if a friend of yours were to tell you about his quiet battles with homosexuality, would you turn him away, or embrace him?
To those of you reading this who struggle with same-gender attraction, let me express my unconditional love and support for you. Know that you are not alone; there are many active Latter-day Saints who experience SGA or who have unanswered questions about this issue. One of my friends at BYU who struggles with SGA told me that for a long time, he thought he was literally the only guy in the whole university who had these kinds of feelings. That is a very depressing and unhealthy way to live, and it simply is not true. It's an easy thing to let depression and despair overwhelm you, especially if you have been unsuccessful in trying to change your orientation, but I plead with you to hang on. Remember the words of Nephi, who acknowledged that he did not know the meaning of all things, but nevertheless testified "I know that [God] loveth his children." You do not need to bear this burden alone, there are many resources where you can find help and support. Seek out close friends and family members with whom you can confide and discuss your trials, missteps, successes, and goals. Speak with your bishop, chances are he has counseled with others in your situation. BYU offers free counseling where you can confidentially work through your feelings with an empathetic professional. The website NorthStarLDS.org is a resource and community for Mormons who experience SGA, with the aim of helping them cope with their struggles and stay active in the church. Above all, search out the best in life and enjoy the abundant blessings of the church and the fellowship of the saints.
As a BYU community, it is my fervent hope that our attitudes on the issue of same-gender attraction can be open and tolerant. That does not mean we need to compromise our beliefs or condone sexual activity outside of marriage, but we should always strive to love our brothers and sisters as God loves each and every one of us: unconditionally, no matter our struggles.
Update: You can read the final, published version (which only uses the term "struggle" once, when paraphrasing the words of a friend with SSA) here on the Daily Universe website.