Last Updated on June 24, 2022 by Jason Harris
My gay cousin recently died by suicide. It was at precisely the one year anniversary of another cousin (a professed atheist) who also died by suicide. Both grew up devout Mormons and lived in Utah. Emotionally processing this tragedy (as well as the prior tragedy) has been a mix of many emotions. Sadness, pain, anger, regrets… etc.
Both of my cousins were full of love and compassion to those around them. Any who knew them readily acknowledge this. CLEAR signs (per the Bible) that God dwelled within them!
My gay cousin was known for his wit, his sense of humor, his musical talent and his kindness. His husband likewise is known as being kind and compassionate. I know very few in the LGBTQ community who AREN’T some of the most loving people one will ever meet.
I don’t know all of the circumstances surrounding my cousin’s death nor is it right to cast blame or point fingers at any one party in his case. Families and individuals (myself included) are grieving. Perhaps in his life, being gay and outside of the “orthodox Mormon circle” had NOTHING to do with his death. However, I DO know there is a higher rate of suicides amongst those who are LGBTQ, particularly if they are surrounded by a culture that is non-affirming.
The thinking amongst behavioral scientists is that there are often decreased social buffers amongst the LGBTQ population, particularly if they are in a non-affirming environment. And this can lead to worse health outcomes. In fact, social isolation and poor group acceptance are associated with poor health outcomes regardless of the population. This is not unique to the LGBTQ population. As humans, we need social acceptance, understanding and love within our families and our communities to thrive.
My journey on LGBTQ topics has evolved significantly. I used to think homosexuality was a choice and a sin and against the foreordained plan of salvation/exaltation. I no longer believe this.
The Mormon Church is NOT a safe place for LGBTQ individuals.
I don’t have the energy or emotional capacity right now to write a long post about why I now believe the ways I do on this issue, or to outline the evidence (it is substantial) and life experiences that led to me eventually dramatically changing my mind on this issue. But here are the bottom lines:
Mormon theology is that we came from an eternal family (Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother) before we were born on earth. Pre-mortal existent and eternal spirit children. Per Mormon theology, the purpose of life is to come to earth and establish one’s own family (a physical body being a necessary step in this). If one shows the proper diligence and love within one’s own family and has the necessary Mormon priesthood ordinances, one’s family will be eternal. Husbands and wives will become gods and goddesses, able to have their own eternal family and procreate forever. Just as Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother before.
Homesexuality strikes at the very heart of Mormon theology as currently taught because it does not involve biological procreation.
Here’s the thing… Overwhelming evidence shows the Mormon paradigm just isn’t correct. Or at the VERY best, is incredibly incomplete.
First of all, there is the assumption that homosexuality is a sin… and all sin traces back to the fall of Adam (and Eve). A fall which brought sin and death into the world. Homosexuality is a result of being “broken.” “Fallen.” The thing is… overwhelming evidence shows there was no literal fall of man.
Humankind has been on the earth for hundreds of thousands of years (not 6,000 years as the stories in the Bible suggest) and evolved from other primate species before. The chain of life that leads to us is literally hundreds of millions of years (or more) in the making and death has ALWAYS existed as part of this. “Imperfections” that Mormon theology might criticize as part of the “fall” have actually served as necessary steps in the evolution of humankind. At least this is the case unless God is a lying and deceitful god running around planting evidence to lie and deceive (I don’t and can’t believe this).
There is strong evidence homosexuality is not “just a choice.” Even Mormon leadership is now acknowledging this… “Same sex attraction” is no longer deemed a sin in Mormon circles.
Depending on the individual, there are largely genetic and biological factors at play that contribute to homosexuality. It is frequently a biological variation, as natural as heterosexuality (even though it is a less common biological variation). Homosexuality is hypothesized to have evolved to help bring some communities and families together, strengthening survival advantage of communities (even if it doesn’t lead to biological procreation on its own for that individual). It is not something one “catches” or “spreads.”
There is also strong biological evidence that gender is not always as clear cut as the simplistic Mormon model teaches. The fact is, biology sometimes IS shades of gray and is NOT just black and white. Again, I don’t have the emotional energy to outline the evidence of this in this particular post. That said, as a physician, I have treated patients who undeniably live in the “gray” zone of gender by EVERY standard of facts and evidence.
Those orthodox Mormons that want to do some research on their own and are open to any views beyond their own non-fact based dogmatic certainty will find the facts just do not support the dogmatic certainty so frequently present in Mormon paradigms. In fact, the evidence often argues very strongly against such. Those who aren’t open to examining this research, determined to live in a world of just their own experience wouldn’t be open to a mountain of facts and evidence should one be provided anyway.
Health care studies (and the Bible) are clear it is not “good for man to be alone.” Social isolation is associated with increased death and worse health outcomes from many causes. Yet that is exactly what Mormon theology expects, even demands of the LGBTQ population. Either to be part of a union that can’t bring true joy to them or to the partner they are with… or not be part of a union offering intimate and romantic companionship at all.
Current Mormon theology DEMANDS likely increased poor mental and emotional health (to include the increased risk for suicide) for the LGBTQ population.
Bottom line: on this one, Mormon theology is wrong. It is wrong on moral grounds to demand a harmful course of action for others. And frankly, Mormon theology is ALSO factually incorrect. Unless God is a liar.
Those who would advocate that someone who is biologically LGBTQ go AGAINST their nature are advocating harm… knowingly or unknowingly… and worship a story in their heads more than they actually value the health and well being of their fellow travelers.
They are worshiping their man-made stories of Divinity more than they are worshiping God.
At least that’s how I see it.
Since originally writing this post in March of 2020, I’ve decided to include some references and resources here in regards to a variety of LGBTQ related topics as some of these may be helpful for some reading this blog. Many of the references below are as referenced by Laura Skaggs Dulin (a mental health therapist) in a beautiful public Facebook post, Sept 2019. Others are links and sources I’ve collected over the years. Of note, I’ve included five scholarly systemic literature reviews of around 500 peer-reviewed research articles (with links) on LGBTQ related topics from Cornell University. I also want to thank Anthony D. Miller, MBA, MSFS, CFP® for reviewing the references below and sharing some additional suggestions (included below) he has found helpful in his own journey after learning his son is gay.
1,2,3 CRASH: How to Navigate Inevitable Change: Benay Lappe
A Parents Guide: When Kids Come Out
An Explanation of Homosexuality, Dr. William Bradshaw, BYU
Are the Brains of Transgender People Different From Those of Cisgender People?
Broken Hearts: The Nature and Risk of Romantic Rejection, Helen Fisher, PhD, Rutger’s University
Coming Out Mormon: An Examination of Religious Orientation, Spiritual Trauma and PTSD Among Mormon and Ex-Mormon LGBTQQA Adults, Brian Williams Simmons
Gay Rights and the Mormon Church: Intended Actions, Unintended Consequences, by Gregory A. Prince
Genetic Link Between Gender Dysphoria and Sex Hormone Signaling, JCEM
GLAAD, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
God and the Gay Christian, by Matthew Vines, a gay evangelical Christian
God’s LGBTQ Children featuring Tom Christofferson and Vance Bryce, Mesa AZ, Nov 6, 2018
Guidelines for Psychological Practice With Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People, American Psychological Association
Homosexuality: A Conversion: How a Conservative Pastor Outgrew the Idea that Homosexuality is a Sin, by John H. Tyson, PhD and Gregory A. Prince, PhD
Homosexuality: It’s about survival, not sex, James O-Keefe, TED Talk
Is Coming Out Always A Good Thing? University of Rochester
Is There Something Unique About the Transgender Brain? Scientific American
Just One Supportive Adult Cuts the Chance an LGBTQ Youth Will Attempt Suicide by 40%.
Latter Gay Stories Podcast: This one quotes Dr. Allen Bergin (prior member of General Sunday School Presidency). Apology for prior homophobic views and stances.
Letter to Elder Boyd K. Packer regarding Homosexuality, by David Eccles Hardy
Letter to Elder Jeffrey Holland, by Austin Hodges, an active LDS gay man
Mama Dragons, Support for Mothers of LGBTQ Children
Mormon LGBT Questions: A powerful review of LGBT understanding and history in the LDS Church and relevant questions and concerns.
Mormon Spectrum, Excellent resource page for websites, blogs and support groups, regardless of where one is on the LDS faith spectrum.
Research on the Transgender Brain: What You Should Know, The Cleveland Clinic
Response to President Nelson’s BYU Address, Natasha Helfer Parker
Sexual orientation change efforts among current or former LDS church members.
Science of Love, Sex and Babies: When the Perfect Woman is Genetically Male.
“Science vs. Dogma: Biology Challenges the LDS Paradigm” by Gregory A. Prince
Scientists Discover Evolutionary Advantage for Homosexuality
The Biological Basis of Homosexuality, by Dr. William Bradshaw, BYU
The Trevor Project, Saving LGBTQ Lives
Transgender Brains are More Like Their Desired Gender from an Early Age
Unpacking Ambiguity, “Thoughts on Faith, Spirituality, Religion, Scriptures, and Relationships” This is Anthony Miller’s blog. He experienced his own painful faith transition from the Mormon Church after learning his son is gay.
Using Chosen Names Reduces Odds of Depression and Suicide in Transgender Youths
What does the scholarly research say about the effects of discrimination on the health of LGBT people?, Cornell University
What does the scholarly research say about the effect of gender transition on transgender well-being?, Cornell University
What does the scholarly research say about the link between family acceptance and LGBT youth well-being?, Cornell University
What does the scholarly research say about the well-being of children with gay or lesbian parents?, Cornell University
What does the scholarly research say about whether conversion therapy can alter sexual orientation without causing harm?, Cornell University
What is Gender Dysphoria? American Psychiatric Association
What Makes a LGBTQ Heart Beat: A Response to President Nelson’s BYU Devotional
Why People Fall In Love, Helen Fisher, PhD
Jason Harris lived as an orthodox Mormon for forty years. He writes about his experiences leaving the Mormon Church and reconstructing a new World-View. He believes all religions and scripture are man-made, potentially helpful and harmful. He believes there is Divinity in all of them and everywhere.
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