What is it like to be a gay Mormon struggling with same-sex attraction? I don’t know but there are several websites where you can learn more if you are interested. I would like to highlight two of them in this essay. My objective in reviewing these websites is to determine which promotes faithfulness and obedience to the Lord’s commandments.
Evergreen International is a nonprofit organization based in Salt Lake City that helps people who want to diminish same-sex attractions and overcome homosexual behavior. They claim right on their front page that, “If you want to diminish your same-gender attractions and avoid homosexual behavior, there is a way out.” I find that encouraging.
Affirmation, on the other hand, states that they “reject the tyranny that would have us believe that who we are—gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender—is evil. We view our sexual and gender orientation as a blessing, not a curse.” Affirmation endorses the embracing of homosexual identity and encourages expression of homosexual behavior.
Remain a member of the LDS Church
Both of these organizations “seek to meet the needs of persons experiencing frustration or alienation from family, friends, and the Church because of their feelings” of same sex attraction. But, as Affirmation states, “Many of us are no longer members of the LDS Church [although] we celebrate being part of the great Mormon tradition.” Hmm….
If I were gay and wanted to remain an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I think I would be more inclined to learn more about what Evergreen had to say on the subject. This is especially true as you read on their site that, “We sustain the doctrines and standards of the Church without reservation or exception.”
Contrast that with the numerous resources on the Affirmation site providing detailed instructions and encouragement to withdraw your membership from the LDS church. In addition, Affirmation has many pages dedicated to attacking Evergreen as being false, misleading and dangerous. I wonder why they need to attack Evergreen and the church.
Born that way – or not
In the past year or so since I started writing about this subject I have received quite an education from many helpful people directing me to other resources besides Evergreen and Affirmation. For more on those resources, see my previous essay on the subject of “Homosexuality – sin or biological fact?” It quotes extensively from Daniel K. Judd.
One of the pivotal arguments in the discussion of same sex attraction has to do with the idea of being born as a homosexual or not. I appreciate the comments from readers on my essay, “Born that way – not a choice,” in which I decided that both camps are right. Some are born with a predisposition to homosexuality but they still have power over it.
And that is the big difference between the two websites that are the subject of this essay. Evergreen maintains that although one may have feelings of same-sex attraction, they are not what identify the individual. Affirmation, on the other hand, is clear that feelings of gender orientation are what make the person, so it is wrong to suppress them.
Leading the reader unto Christ
The position of the LDS Church is clear and always has been – homosexual behavior or gay sex is a sin. One cannot practice the homosexual lifestyle by engaging in gay sex and still be a member of the Mormon Church. On the other hand, one can profess to be gay, or have same-sex attraction, and still be an active, faithful member of the church.
I find it telling that General Authorities have spoken at many recent Evergreen conferences. As I read the material on their website, I find that it can apply to almost anyone who is struggling with an addiction or any powerful pull of the flesh. The articles and reading material are uplifting and encouraging and lead unto Christ.
On the other hand, I searched the Affirmation site in vain for articles or essays that were uplifting or faith promoting. There were plenty of stories of tragedy and desperation. I was saddened to read them. I kept looking for answers or solutions but all I found were enticements to give in and embrace who you are even if it means leaving the church.
Same sex attraction can be mastered
When Evergreen held their first annual conference in May of 1990, they boldly spoke out against the idea that one had to embrace the gay identity and lifestyle because they experienced same-sex attraction. On the contrary, they emphasized personal choice and responsibility, teaching that homosexual tendencies could be mastered and overcome.
This enraged the local gay groups then and it continues to be a major point of opposition on the Affirmation site today. You can read more than a dozen essays on their site that warn you away from the terrible harm that can come from listening to or believing the teachings of Evergreen. In direct opposition, they state that SSA cannot be mastered.
I guess if I were gay and wanted to choose which organization I wished to counsel me I would have to think deeply about what I believed about personal growth and success. If I felt that the way to happiness is to go with what comes natural, then I’d embrace what Affirmation says. If I felt that I’m here to rise above the flesh, I’d go with Evergreen.
Summary and conclusion
It was not my intention when I began this essay to endorse Evergreen and oppose what I found on the Affirmation site, but I have concluded that I am more of an Evergreen kind of guy. I believe that a man can and should rise above the flesh. I believe that is one of the main purposes of this life – to be tested and proven that we are more than our flesh.
The way of life that Evergreen advocates is not easy, but then, neither is the gospel of Jesus Christ unless you follow His admonition to cast your burden upon the Lord. I have weaknesses of the flesh that I sometimes feel powerless to control. My own will power has never been enough. I need my Savior to rise above and be a better man.
Therefore I endorse what I found on the Evergreen site to be helpful and of great worth. The materials there encourage me to come unto Christ and be perfected in Him. I need and appreciate that. I invite the people of Affirmation to point out articles on their site that lead me to Christ and I will be happy to append this essay with those links.
Update: If you read nothing else on the Evergreen site, read the overview from the 2008 conference held in September. The chairman’s message includes a current issues section that is especially interesting in refuting rumors and untruths found on the internet today.