Bishop’s Guide to Same-sex Attraction posted, and then removed

Check out this cache of a Bishop’s Guide to Same-Sex Attraction that the Church posted and then took down.  (Note:  Link is no longer functional.)  Such documents are useful because they give a snapshot of everyday policy and counseling advice that affects millions of lives.  One can also get a sense of how the Church currently frames the issue of “same-sex attraction.”

The site says, “seek to remove shame and combat stereotypes and myths” with the exception, of course, of the myth that “same-sex attraction is a mortal experience, not an eternal identity.”  It’s odd how the Church says, “We don’t know what causes homosexuality,” and then they go around telling people that they know what the eternities are like.

Rather than advice of “don’t have friends who are public about their attractions” (which was the advice given as recently as 2006), they say, “Recognize the priorities of others who may be helping you and be willing to understand that they also have shortcomings.”  In other words, be mindful of gay friends who might be trying to convince you to act your attractions solely by showing you how happy they are.  View their happiness as a shortcoming.  (Also see Comment 3 below about how this advice is perhaps more geared toward “Listen to your bishop even though he’s not perfect.”)

Try to “develop a plan of action with alternative responses to limit exposure to triggers.”  Only hang out with ugly people.

Okay, now I’m being facetious.  But I would suggest that as the Church has been recently rolling out subtle policy changes…creating a more “welcoming” atmosphere…it’s actually more of the same.  Consider this letter to Dallin Oaks’ from a parent, which he quoted in his 1995 Ensign article “Same-Gender Attraction”:

[A] concern we have is the way in which our sons and daughters are classified as people who practice deviant and lascivious behavior. Perhaps some do, but most do not. These young men and women want only to survive, have a spiritual life, and stay close to their families and the Church. It is especially damaging when . . . negative references are spoken from the pulpit. . . . Many simply cannot tolerate the fact that Church members judge them as “evil people,” and they, therefore, find solace in gay-oriented lifestyles.

Notice how this letter assumes that gay people act on their attractions because straight people are mean to them.  It would seem that the Church as a whole has adopted the same line of reasoning.  “Be extremely nice to gay people, but firm about ‘sin’, and that’ll convince X number of gays to stay faithful.  We can only hope that X increases as Niceness increases.”

Consider Oaks’ response to the parent:

The person that’s working [to resist] those tendencies ought not to feel himself to be a pariah. Now, quite a different thing is sexual relations outside of marriage. A person engaging in that kind of behavior should well feel guilt. . . . It’s not surprising to me that they would feel estranged from their church.

Ah, I see.  So, if the gay person acts on their attractions, it’s either because (a) straight people were mean to them, or (b) they were selfish and wanted to sin.

That was the logic in 1995.  The same logic is in place in 2013.  (Actually, you could compare it to Boyd Packer’s writing in the 1970s about homosexuality as “selfishness in a subtle form”…the EXACT same logic is present today, even as Mormons say they’re turning away from Packer’s views of homosexuality.)

And Mormons wonder why people think their church is “anti-gay.”

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8 Responses

  1. Andrew S. says:

    The excerpts from Oaks’ letter response/1995 Ensign article are illuminating to me in a way that I hadn’t quite gotten before. I mean, I had taken it as given that the different sides weren’t seeing eye to eye, but this really captures how the church is seeing things.

    When they talk about treating gay people with more compassion and respect, it’s only because they think that a lack of compassion turns people away from what they still think is pretty solid, solid sexual ethics advice. While I do think that you catch more flies with honey, I think people in general are just not buying that the church’s advice is all that helpful or relevant.

  2. Alan says:

    Yeah, I think there’s a real danger now that as the Church adopts subtle policy changes toward increased niceness, that Mormons think the homophobia problem in the Church is on its way to being fixed. Really, another layer of heterosexism is being added.

  3. Alan says:

    Btw, someone has let me know that the advice

    Recognize the priorities of others who may be helping you and be willing to understand that they also have shortcomings

    probably is referring to

    Your bishop may be straight and imperfect, but follow his advice because he’s putting eternal priorities above your desire to have a same-sex partner.

    Kinda odd, since they use the word “others,” perhaps to take the focus off possible/probable ignorance of particular individuals with power, such as one’s bishop.

    But since it does read “others,” I think it could refer to anyone who is “helping”: one’s bishop, one’s family, one’s friends (all with varying shortcomings and priorities).

  4. chanson says:

    It’s intriguing that they posted it and then took it down. I wonder who objected to it, and which part they objected to…

  5. Alan says:

    @4: Well, if it’s like anything else dealing with homosexuality, the Qof12 quarrels over it for months, even years before they’re happy with it. And by the time it’s released, it already feels dated, even within the Mormon universe.

  6. Chris F. says:

    That guide was obviously written by someone who has no real understanding of homosexuality (and this is coming from someone who has no real understanding of homosexuality). It shows that the views of the Church really are along the lines of the Mormons Building Bridges. That is: “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” It is indept, ignorant, and completely missing the point, but at least it is a step in the positive direction; however, that is like saying that reverse racism is better than outright bigotry.

    They are attempting to treat a percieved spiritual wound, though the real wound may be with themselves, not the people that they don’t understand.

  7. leisurelyviking says:

    Sounds like exactly the same kind of logic they use when explaining why people leave the church – either someone was mean and offended them, or they were selfish and wanted to sin.

  8. Taryn Fox says:

    “Reverse racism” is a disingenious term to use for racial antipathy directed at a majority group from a minority group.

    It’s a kind of discrimination, and is in no way a good thing. But the word “racism” means the way in which society rewards one group of people for having a given skin colour, and punishes another for having a different one. It’s a systematic thing, not an individual thing, and it marginalizes an entire group of people within a society.

    tl;dr if you call it “racism” when a black dude mutters something about a white dude, you need to come up with a new word for how black dudes can’t go anywhere in white society without people looking at them like they’re afraid they’ll be robbed. “racism+”?

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