Although not a General Authority, Daniel K. Judd currently serves as the First Counselor in the General Sunday School Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was the chair of the Department of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University. Brother Judd has a Master’s degree in family science and a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from BYU.
He is a consultant with LDS Family Services and a member of the Know Your Religion Faculty. He has published much material and is the author of “Hard Questions, Prophetic Answers,” and the editor of “Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in Religion,” as well as “Religion, Mental Health, and the Latter-day Saints (video here).”
The list could go on and on, but the point I wish to make is that I believe him to be most eminently qualified for his material that I am about to present on the very difficult subject of homosexuality. He has been a bishop and a Stake President, and has been intimately involved in providing family counseling for many, many years on this very topic.
Why I write about homosexuality
I raise this difficult subject only after much thought and prayer. It comes up as a natural progression of my blogging activities lately which have touched upon same sex attraction and defining marriage here in the State of California. I have had much dialog with those who feel the pull of same sex attraction but do not participate in homosexual activities. I also have had some conversation with those who are openly involved in the gay lifestyle.
To state my position up front: I am not gay. I have never experienced same sex attraction to any degree. I am passionate about marriage and family and believe it to be a source of some of my greatest happiness. I have never suffered abuse as a child or an adult and have always felt loved and cherished as an individual of worth by my family and by my Heavenly Father. My desire in writing this is simply to understand another point of view.
The source of the essay from which I take my quotes today can be found in this article on the Deseret Book site. It was published in 2004 but is just as pertinent today as it was back then. It is prominently referenced on the Evergreen International site under articles. I was profoundly impressed with the depth of compassion and understanding exhibited in the essay, apparently a chapter from his book on Hard Questions, Prophetic Answers.
God did not intend us to be homosexual
He recites a letter from a young man announcing to his family that he is gay. Says Brother Judd, “He believes he is homosexual and has found some seasonal peace in being ‘honest’ about who he believes himself to be. The real tragedy of this story, as well as the doctrinal reality in it, is that this young man has been deceived into being honest about a lie.” If you have never heard or read this before, please continue on before jumping to conclusions. This is important.
“He has come to believe and act upon the false notion that being homosexual is the way God intended him to be and that change is not necessary or even possible. Although this young man may have a biological predisposition for some of the physical and emotional characteristics that sometimes accompany the homosexual lifestyle, it is both a doctrinal truth and a scientific fact that his biology does not force him to engage in homosexual relationships.
“This young man may indeed be more susceptible to homosexual temptation than many other young men his age, and he may not have capriciously chosen to think and to feel the way he does, but the doctrinal fact is that he is “free to act for [himself] —to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life” (2 Nephi 10:23). The focus of Brother Judd’s writings, and indeed the position of the Church is that we are free to choose our behavior.
Born that way – how is that possible?
In a previous post I had a fascinating dialog with someone who pointed me to several resources that helped me tremendously in understanding more about this subject. I confess that I at one time thought it was very simple. I wrote that it could be dealt with just as with any other temptation such as pornography, through self-control and through redirection of passion into a more positive channel. I still feel this is a valid approach.
The point that was new to me is that some are suggesting that Elder Wickman’s choice of words in this interview means that the Church has changed its position. In the detailed interview, Elder Wickman used the words, “…one’s gender orientation is certainly a core characteristic of any person…” Unless I misread it, this apparently meant to some that being gay is simply the way they are and that there is nothing they can do about it.
I note that Elder Oaks did not use the phrase “core characteristic.” I have thought long and hard about this. I do not believe that Elder Wickman meant to imply that we were born to be homosexuals. I hope nobody uses this as a justification to engage in any kind of homosexual behavior by concluding, “Well, if a General Authority says I was born this way and there’s nothing I can do about it, then why not just give in to these feelings?”
Elder Oaks teaches correct doctrine
Elder Oaks wrote, “Different persons have different physical characteristics and different susceptibilities to the various physical and emotional pressures we may encounter in our childhood and adult environments. We did not choose these personal susceptibilities either, but we do choose and will be accountable for the attitudes, priorities, behavior, and ‘lifestyle’ we engraft upon them.” Choice is an essential part of our existence.
Brother Judd wrote, “The Lord and His prophets have taught that God did not create His children to be gay or lesbian and that for those who suffer with this affliction, change is possible. Also, contrary to what the young man in the story found in his own research, reliable scientific research supports the doctrinal truth that change is possible—someone who experiences same-sex attraction can work towards, and in time experience, a change in sexual orientation.”
Elder Oaks explained, “We should note that the words homosexual, lesbian, and gay are adjectives to describe particular thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. We should refrain from using these words as nouns to identify particular conditions or specific persons. Our religious doctrine dictates this usage. It is wrong to use these words to denote a condition, because this implies that a person is consigned by birth to a circumstance in which he or she has no choice in respect to the critically important matter of sexual behavior.”
Homosexuality is a temptation
I maintain that homosexual behavior is a temptation. Putting it in the same category as pornography may have been a bit simplistic but not far off. There are many men in the church who have been devastated by their addiction to pornography and masturbation. It is my observation that those who struggle with same-gender attraction suffer the same if not even more powerful pull of the temptation to engage in homosexual behavior.
I appreciate the education I have received that same-sex attraction may indeed be a part of our biological makeup. But I can’t believe that we were sent here to be anything other than the gender that we possessed in our pre-mortal life. The prophets teach that “gender is an essential characteristic of individual pre-mortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” I don’t believe that a woman is born into a man’s body or vice-versa.
We teach as a Church that the source of temptation is the adversary. I think that we are sometimes hesitant to clearly identify that the adversary works through the spirits that followed him from the pre-earth life to here. He also works through those who have died addicted to the flesh and remain here with the intent to use the mortal tabernacle of those who will give in to their suggestions and temptations to engage in homosexual behavior.
Summary and conclusion
Let’s focus on the hope that is in Jesus Christ. He is the source of all hope and all power. However, that hope and power is dependent upon our exercise of faith in Him. He has the power to heal us. He has the power to bless us and help us as we struggle through the temptations of this life. He is the only one who understands perfectly the whisperings of the adversary that tempt us and try us. He was also tempted but gave them no heed.
As Brother Judd concluded in his article, we may not know all the reasons or explanations for same-sex attraction. Although I do not feel this pull, I know there are those who do, and perhaps are more susceptible to it because of their biological makeup. Some things we may not know until we pass through this life and are educated when we get to the other side. We may also never be fully healed until we are no longer subject to mortal bodies.
There are members of the church who have unwanted feelings of same-sex attraction and have to deal with them everyday. For others, it is something that they have overcome but must be constantly vigilant. Some have not accepted the doctrines as taught by Apostles and Prophets and have given in to the temptations. So is homosexual behavior a sin? Yes, it is. Is same-sex attraction a biological fact? Yes, I now believe that this may also be true.
1. LDS Family Services
2. Evergreen International
3. LDS Resources
4. God Loveth His Children
5. LDS Newsroom Interview
7. Northern Lights
8. Elder Oaks on SGA
9. Elder Holland on SGA
10. Daniel Judd’s article