Scriptures and Theology
Homosexuality and Scripture from a Latter-Day Saint Perspective
By Alan D. Lach
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, Because he hath anointed
me To preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the
brokenhearted, To preach deliverance to the captives, And recovering
of sight to the blind, To set at liberty them that are bruised,
To preach [a season of acceptability from] the Lord." (Luke
After centuries of spiritual bondage, lesbians and gays are rising
to reclaim the liberty that belongs to every disciple of Jesus
Christ. Yet rare is the homosexual, bent beneath the frightful
load of religious condemnation, who feels completely free. The
"good news" of the Gospel is truly a message of renewal
and of reconciliation with God. More often, it is presented by
the modern Church as a joyless sentence from God upon homosexuals
that withholds both the ability to reverse the orientation and
the possibility of consummating it. This is out of harmony with
the spirit of Christ's message. Well-acquainted with the ideological
tyranny which established religions are wont to exercise, Jesus
gave lesbians, gays, and all of us a valuable piece of advice.
". . . Ye shall know the truth," he said, "and the
truth shall make you free." (John 8:32)
The purpose of this study is to help all interested Latter-Day
Saints be free of certain misconceptions regarding the Sacred
Writ and same-sexual love. It is not a search for permission to
be homosexual. It is rather an attempt to save scriptural authority
from the diminishment it must necessarily suffer as long as it
is made to condemn that which is not actually under condemnation.
The question to be considered here is whether the Scriptures are
not better fulfilled; the universality of the Gospel perfected;
and God glorified by the Church's acceptance of a legitimate sexual
An Analysis of The Principal References to Homosexuality in the Bible
My belief and my fundamental assumption is that Scripture, correctly
translated and interpreted, speaks with divine authority on the
subjects it addresses. Truth is eternal; changeless, but, our
perception of it is in constant flux. Our understanding is continuously
evolving. The task before us is to read the meaning of the Scriptures
in a spirit which is more consistent with the age that produced
them and less through the filter of our own prejudices. This cannot
be done without some appreciation of social and political situations
of the past. It is also requisite to examine the language of the
translation and of the original (where possible) in order to determine
precisely what is being said and what is not.
We cannot discount the importance of an historical-critical (hermeneutical) approach
to the Scriptures without risking failure because any interpretation
which ignores historical context is certain to be married to our
own thinking on the subject. We need at the same time, to use
our powers of reason, fairness, and love to uncover the larger
moral meaning in any specific historical pronouncement. Scripture
has often been used to justify the absurd or immoral ideas of
a particular generation, e.g., that the earth is flat and has
four corners (Revelation 7:1), or that slavery is divinely sanctioned
(Ephesians 6:5-9), etc.
Were it not for the tradition of anti-homosexuality
in our time, few people would seriously consider a case against
a universal phenomenon of nature based upon what little the Scriptures
say. I do not believe that they even address the purer phenomenon
of homosexuality apart from such things as male cultic prostitution,
common prostitution or phallic aggression. Latter-day Scripture;
the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the
Pearl of Great Price ignore homosexuality altogether. In the thousand
years of history covered by the Book of Mormon—a history which
includes three distinct migrations of people from the Middle East-how
could homosexual practice have been unknown? How can the Doctrine
and Covenants, written for the Church in our time, fail to identify
a sin of its supposed magnitude? The significance of this silence
has yet to be given due importance in LDS theology. This leaves
only the Bible with its familiar problems of translation and interpretation
as the sole source of indictment.
The Old Testament
The Bible would be enough if it condemned homosexuality as it
is presently defined, but it seems to be addressing a different
set of practices which relate to it only marginally or not at
all. Certainly the prophets were acquainted with homosexuality.
Raphael Patai writes of its familiar place in the domestic life
of the Hebrews (Patai p. 169). In the Prophetic books of the Old
Testament, i.e. those written by the prophets themselves (and
possibly their close disciples), no mention or condemnation of
homosexual persons or acts is made (Edwards p. 64). A general condemnation
of homosexuality is, therefore, out of character with Prophetic
The Hebrew word qadesh and its plural qadeshim
are used in the Priestly literature of the Old Testament no more
than six times and always in connection with idolatry (Deuteronomy
17:23; 1 Kings 14:24; 15:12; 22:46; 2 Kings 23:7; Job 36:14).
Incorrectly translated "sodomite/s" in the King James
Version, the word actually refers to male cult prostitutes. Today
it is rather widely understood that a qadesh was a male
devotee of a pagan religion who participated in sexual fertility
rites, probably with other male worshippers. Some of the qadeshim
were voluntarily castrated, making ritual sex with them more efficacious
than with a female cult prostitute because of the sacrifice involved.
These sacred male prostitutes were common in antiquity, as were
their female counterparts, the qadeshoth (rendered "whores"
in the KJV). They were part and parcel of the plague of idolatry
upon the ancient world. The primary objection was to the idolatry
expressed in cultic homosexual and heterosexual ritual (Deuteronomy
23:17-18). The denigration of idolatry is certainly a pervasive
theme of the Old Testament.
In the book of Leviticus, two verses proscribe male homosexual acts both
cultic and domestic:
"Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is
an abomination." (Lev. 18:22)
"If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman,
both of them have committed an abomination: they shall be put
to death; their blood shall be upon them." (Lev. 20:13)
These texts also belong to the Priestly tradition. Leviticus was
not composed by Moses and did not reach its final form until after
539 B.C., the end of the Babylonian exile. While Moses provided
the Holiness Code upon which Leviticus is based, the book, as
we know it, was elaborated by reforming priests and did not emerge
until six centuries later (New Jerusalem Bible p. 14). The exact
words of these proscriptions, with their broad condemnation of
male same-sex intercourse, definitely reflect the cultural concerns
of post-exilic Judaism rather than those of the pre-exilic Hebrews.
It is well known that captive Israel was influenced in legislative
matters by the conquering nation (New Jerusalem Bible p. 13).
When the Persians conquered the Babylonians in 539 B.C., Israel
was granted some political and religious freedoms, but domestic
homosexuality would not have fared well on account of the severity
of the Zoroastrian condemnation of it. Zoroastrianism was a major
feature of Persian religion. Cyrus I is believed to have been
a Zoroastrian. A passage on homosexual acts in the Vendidad,
a book of their scripture, bears an uncanny resemblance to the
Leviticus texts-or is it the other way around?-suggesting a strong
foreign influence (Horner pp. 78-81).
Same-sex activity between females is not forbidden in Leviticus
or any other place in the Bible. (Romans 1:26-27 takes a dim view
of the behavior of certain women (and men) but does not actually
prohibit same-sexual activity for Christians of either sex.) Possibly,
the erotic activities of women would have been of little consequence
to the Hebrew male, provided, of course, they did not take place
with another male. I believe this omission reveals more than androcentrism,
or, male supremacy. To me, it argues rather strongly in favor
of the text having undergone a mutation. The Hebrew mind always
conceives its ideas in binary, that is, in pairs which are either
analogous or complementary. If the original intent of the source
material for this text was to outlaw homosexuality generally,
where is the symmetrical reference to lesbianism? If, however,
the intent was to forbid a man's recourse to cultic prostitution,
as in Deuteronomy 23:17-18, the omission of women makes sense.
The patronage of cult prostitutes of either sex was a male activity.
No Hebrew female would have had the freedom or the mobility to
patronize cult prostitutes, so, a parallel situation could not
Notable also in the Leviticus texts is the use of the word "abomination,"
or in Hebrew, to'ebah. George Edwards believes that the
Hebrew word is a technical term for a sin of idolatry (Edwards
p. 51). The underlying theme of idolatry is borne out by an examination
of the context of 18:22. It is preceded by a condemnation of child
sacrifice to the deity Molech (v. 21) and followed by a prohibition
against bestiality (v. 23) which was also connected with idolatrous
worship, viz., the Egyptian ram cult.
For these reasons it is questionable whether Moses originally
condemned anything but male cultic prostitution in these sections
of the code. This would be more consistent with the Prophetic
tradition. Even if he intended the statutes exactly as we have
them, we believe that Mosaic Law was fulfilled in Christ.
If we insist on applying portions of the Law which pertain to
homosexual acts, then, logically, we are obligated to resurrect
the whole of it, including burnt offerings (Lev. 1-7), circumcision
(Lev. 12:3), levirate marriage (the brother-in-law of a childless
widow must have intercourse with her "to raise up seed")
(Deut. 25:5-10), the prohibition of heterosexual intercourse during
menses (Lev.15:24; 18:19), the death penalty for cursing a father
or mother (Lev.20:9), and other various Levitical prohibitions
against eating shellfish (11:12), or fruit from a tree less than
three years old (19:23), men with trimmed hair or beards (19:27),
as well as wearing cloth made of mixed fibers (19:19), etc. Either
it is valid as a total, or else it is superseded by the Gospel.
There is far less reason for the condemnation of homosexuals on
account of the Sodom story in Genesis 19:
"But before [the two angels] lay down, the men of the city . . . compassed
the house round, both old and young . . . from every quarter: And
they called unto Lot . . . Where are the men which came in to thee
this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may know them. And
Lot went out at the door unto them and said, I pray you, brethren,
do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters which have
not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and
do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do
nothing; for . . . came they under the shadow of my roof." (Gen.
On what basis may we assume the men of Sodom who wanted "to
know" the angel visitors were gays and not straights attempting
an act of phallic aggression? Lot's offering of his two daughters
makes no sense otherwise. Phallic aggression was the practice
of humiliating and subjugating conquered males through anal rape
and was widely practiced in the ancient world. Sodom was infamous
for its criminal treatment of travelers (Jasher chapter 19).
The corresponding reference in the Joseph Smith Version, also
known as the Inspired Version, differs significantly from the
King James Version:
" . . . This one man came in to sojourn among us, and he will
needs now make himself to be a judge; now we will deal worse with
him than with them. Wherefore they said unto the man, We will
have the men, and thy daughters also; and we will do unto them
as seemeth us good. Now this was after the wickedness of Sodom.
And Lot said, Behold now, I have two daughters which have not
known man; let me I pray you, plead with my brethren that I may
not bring them out unto you; and ye shall not do unto them as
seemeth good in your eyes." (Gen. 19:9-13 JST)
In this account, the threat of heterosexual rape is also raised
by the men of Sodom as a retaliation against Lot's lack of cooperation.
If we accept the Joseph Smith Translation, an exclusively homosexual
interpretation becomes even less plausible.
It is erroneous to think the motive for Sodom's destruction was
rampant homosexuality. In the first place, Sodom was a growing
city which meant there was abundant heterosexual activity. Far
more important, all subsequent biblical references to the sins
of Sodom by Jesus and the prophets state that pride and inhospitality
were the principal reasons for its destruction.
In any nomadic society like that of the Hebrews in the desert,
the responsibility to share life's necessities with sojourners
was often a matter of life and death. The people of Sodom were
wont to rob, torture and murder strangers traveling through the
plain. Ezekiel 16:49,50 lists pride and inhospitality as their
main sin with secondary emphasis on to'eboth (idolatrous
abominations). In Matthew 11:24, Christ chastises the cities which
have rejected his teachings and says it will be more tolerable
for Sodom in the day of judgment than for them. In Genesis 19,
as in Matthew, the common theme is rejection of God's divinely
commissioned messengers and the intended violence against them.
The New Testament
In light of hermeneutical evidence pertaining to key 01d Testament
scriptures and the legal superiority of the Gospel to the Law,
the case against homosexuality must now shift to the New Testament.
Here too, there is very little to go on. There are five traditional
allusions to homosexuality in the New Testament. Two of them,
Jude:7 and 2 Peter 2:2 may be immediately dismissed because, since
there is no mention of same-sex acts, these can only be inferred
from the linkage of Sodom with homosexuality. What remains is
three beleaguered passages from the Pauline epistles (if we ascribe
authorship of 1 Timothy to Paul); one in Romans 1:26,27 and the
others in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:10. Let us examine
the first of these:
"For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for
even their women did change the natural use into that which is
against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural
use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men
with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves
that recompense of their error which was meet. (Romans 1:26,27)
The setting for this passage is the Apostle's great sermon on
the preeminence of faith over works. He begins with a traditional
denunciation of idolatry and its evil consequences. The effectiveness
of his argument requires the reader to concur with Paul in the
Jewish aversion to idolatry. Paul leads the reader into judgment
against the idolaters "who [willfully] changed the truth
of God into a lie" so that in chapter two he can turn the
same judgment against the reader himself. In Romans 2:1 Paul shifts
from the third person to "thou" and accuses the reader
of the same sins. All of this serves the rhetorical function of
setting up the reader, a typical Jewish boaster (v.17) for indictment
and subsequent deliverance through faith (Edwards p. 94).
If the function of Romans 1 is that of a rhetorical appeal, it
is difficult to see how it can simultaneously be an exposition
of doctrine likely to elicit controversy in the mind of the reader.
The Apostle is not issuing an edict but making an appeal to the
conventional wisdom of the reader. In verses 26 and 27 he argues
that certain idolatrous women and men exchanged their "natural"
opposite-sex roles for same-sex roles. Logic demands that one
must first possess something before he can exchange it. If we
insist that Paul is including lesbians and gays, who are, by nature,
psychically disposed to the same sex, we put the Apostle into
the unfortunate position of conflict with a fact of modern psychology,
namely, that sexual orientation is a given, not a choice (Marmor
p. 125). Interpreted thus, the moral authority of Paul's whole
argument breaks down because a just condemnation can only result
from free choice.
Furthermore, Paul's linkage with idolatry is fully intentional.
We know that psychic homosexuality is not caused by idolatry,
but Paul ascribes the whole list of evils to the latter, including
those described in verses 26 and 27. Rather than attribute this
kind of theological absurdity to a great mind, I prefer to give
Paul the benefit of the doubt. It seems fairer to assume he was
alluding to cultic prostitution, still prevalent in his day, or
simply to heterosexuals caught up in a cultural scene of idolatry
and homosexual lust.
In 1 Timothy 1:9,10 we are presented a list of wrongdoers:
"Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man,
but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners,
for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers
of mothers, for manslayers, [f]or whoremongers, for them that
defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for
perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary
to sound doctrine[.]"
Its purpose is to show that the Law was created for offenders
like those mentioned, not for upright men. Of interest to us is
the word arsenokoitais, translated "them that defile
themselves with mankind." This term, also occurring in 1
Corinthians 6:9, presents an etymological problem. The root arseno
refers to male, and, the root koitai to base sexual practices.
The compound they form in rude English is "male f[*]ckers,"
which preserves both the vulgarity and ambiguity of the original
Greek. It is not clear whether "male" refers to the
sex of the penetrator or the penetrated. If the former is intended,
the word may not be describing same-sex acts at all.
Such ambiguity would be best resolved by an examination of the
word's normal usages in contemporary literature. Unfortunately,
the word is extremely rare. Boswell believes that arsenokoitai
is equivalent to the Latin drauci, in which case it would
connote male prostitutes who take the active role with either
men or women (Boswell pp. 341-353).
True or not, the word is definitely tied to the kind of prostitution
practiced throughout Ephesus and Corinth; it cannot refer to homosexual
acts in general. If Paul had a general condemnation in mind he
would have undoubtedly chosen a word (or words) of wider applicability
to homosexuals, as did Philo, a Hellenized Jew and a contemporary
of Paul, who wrote just such a general condemnation of homosexual
acts himself (Boswell p. 341).
Turning to 1 Corinthians 6:9,10 we read: "Know ye not that
the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God? Be not deceived:
neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate,
nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor covetous, nor drunkards,
nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the Kingdom of God."
The problem with this text similarly involves the translation
of two Greek words listed among the practitioners of vice, malakoi
and arsenokoitai. The KJV Bible renders them "effeminate"
and "abusers of themselves with mankind" respectively.
Boswell says malakoi means soft, or by extension, morally
weak (persons). Obviously, the compass of such a term is not limited
to homosexuals. Boswell argues persuasively that malakoi
is never used in Greek to refer to homosexuals or gay people (Boswell
p. 107). Paul, of course, was writing in Greek to a Greek-speaking
Other scholars feel there is a precedent for translating it as
"catamites," or, passive partners in homosexual acts.
Since arsenokoitai refers to the active partner and connotes
prostitution, it has been postulated that the pairing of these
terms suggests male prostitutes and their clients. That would
fit with what is known about the thriving institution of prostitution
in Paul's day (Horner pp. 90,91). Thus, his objection may be to
the perversion of love and the selling of sex. Whatever his original
intent, the words of his text have become too ambiguous to be
It is possible that Paul, like Philo, held anti-homosexual views
in line with Hellenistic Judaism. If so, in his mind, homosexuality
would have been gentile vice, inextricably tied up with idolatrous
beliefs. Indeed, it is possible for him to appear quite narrow
in a number of his views, e.g., the proper length of a man's hair,
the role of women in the Church, slavery, and especially sex.
Sex was something Paul felt he could personally do without. He
advocated celibacy for those able to contain themselves as the
better way to serve God and prepare for the end of the world (which
he believed was imminent) (1 Corinthians 7: 7,25-32).
Does not this differ rather sharply from the LDS understanding
of the importance of marriage and children? Clearly, it is possible
to be an inspired prophet and yet retain certain limited personal
opinions on important subjects. These opinions may be expressed
publicly, and in Paul's case, even be canonized. In fairness to
Paul, however, it must be remembered that his advice was always
geared to the specialized concerns of the congregation he happened
to be addressing. If they understood exactly what he meant in
Corinth and Ephesus, they may not have elsewhere. Paul certainly
had no idea his letters would be made into a canon by which future
generations would judge such issues as homosexuality. If he had,
his approach would probably have been different.
Whatever Paul's understanding of homosexuality was, he did not
acquire it from any known teaching of the Saviour's. It is a major
impediment to the case against homosexuality that Jesus, the foremost
authority on the Gospel, had nothing adverse to say on the subject.
His silence is remarkable when one considers how outspoken he
could be on those sins which he found objectionable. Jesus' whole
attitude toward sexuality seems uniquely serene in contrast to
that of Paul, whose epistles, incidentally, were composed prior
to the appearance of the written gospels. In his exquisite chapter
on Christ and sexuality (pp. 110-126), Tom Horner observes that
this new, relaxed perspective is the result of spiritua1 liberation
from the world's obsession with sex, the importance of which is
stressed either by excess of indulgence or of abstention. To restate
Horner, what the Gospel attempts to do is establish an attitude
of the heart that will instinctively prefer right conduct over
wrong thereby freeing the spirit from any preoccupation with legalities.
This new perspective is evident in the story of the healing of
the centurion's servant (Matthew 8: 5-13; Luke 7:1-10). As Horner
astutely observes, the care shown by the Roman official for a
mere slave is extraordinary-inappropriate, really, unless one
allows for the presence of a love relationship of some kind. Luke
uses the word doulos or "slave," but, Matthew,
closer to the Aramaic vernacular, chooses pais or [servant] boy.
Pais is the word an older man would use to describe a younger
friend or lover in Greek (Horner p. 122). I believe this is a typical
example-in the outward sense at least-of a kind of homoerotic
relationship, common throughout the Roman Empire, between persons
of unequal status. The thing that gives it relevance is that the
centurion, in sympathy with the Jews, showed unprecedented faith
in a Jewish prophet. Jesus found nothing to condemn in his actions
but much to praise.
Cultural Attitudes at Variance
Condemnation of homosexuality is not the manifest and inescapable
conclusion of the Standard Works. In fact, once the underpinning
of preconception is removed, its scriptural foundation proves
dangerously unable to support the weight of the Church's present
stand. No sooner does the case in contra threaten collapse than
it is shored up with a new argument: even though something is
not specifically forbidden in the Scriptures, that does not mean
it is sanctioned.
Many natural phenomena lack scriptural sanction.
The motive behind this conservatism is clearly the same old homophobia
which led to a faulty interpretation in the first place. To make
use of such an argument is to admit that one's objections do not
derive from the Scriptures themselves but are prejudicially imposed
upon them. Anti-gay "theology" thus exerts its own authority,
independent of the text interpreted, simply by virtue of its long-established
Requiring gays and lesbians to validate their sexuality in canonical
terms is an ethically different matter from requiring an explication
of apparently incriminating verses. One cannot make such a demand
of others without calling his own judgment into question. For
example, since the doctrine of biblical sufficiency is widely
taught in other Christian denominations, an investigator may wonder
why he should read the Book of Mormon. He may even suppose
that certain passages in the Bible preclude the possibility of
latter-day scripture (Deuteronomy 12:32; Revelation 22:18). But
is it fair or wise of him to demand proof of the Book of Mormon's
authenticity in the pages of the Bible before he is willing to
consider it on its own merit?
God asks rhetorically, having spoken one word, if He cannot speak
another (2 Nephi 29:9). We might ask, because He has praised one
aspect of sexuality, do we have the right to assume there is nothing
praiseworthy in its complement? Both occur in nature, and, arguably,
both express the nature of the Creator.
Recognizing its underling bias, then, let us examine the question,
"Why is there no specific validation of same-sexual love
in the Scriptures?"
Of course, no definitive explanation for such an omission is possible
at present. Nothing is more routinely omitted than the obvious,
however. The ancients generally seem to have been more at ease
with the idea of sexual diversity. It is not unlikely that older
Hebrew traditions made allowance for the fact that a small percentage
of people are naturally at variance with the sexual majority.
A special theological justification might not have been required
to account for it.
Historically, religions that have tolerated it have had some kind
of homosexual prototype or precedent in their source mythology.
Thus, if the earlier Hebrews were also tolerant of same-sexual
love, it likely would have been validated in scripture we do not
possess. Many "plain and precious things" were expurgated
from the Bible because of the sin and carelessness of its preservers
(1 Nephi 13:26). A substantial portion of the record inscribed
upon the golden plates remains untranslated on account of our
lack of faith (Ether 4:5-7). Who can say that an understanding
of God's purpose in creating homosexual beings was not among them?
The Old Testament is consistent and emphatic in its portrayal
of Yahweh, or Jehovah, as a solitary God. It reflects Judaism's
reaction against the polytheism of its pagan neighbors. One is
apt to suppose this was the understanding of God's people from
the beginning, yet, recent archaeological discoveries suggest
that earlier Hebrews conceptualized God as a married Being. One
bas-relief represents Yahweh with a consort. (Mormons will not
fail to appreciate the significance of this find). The emphasis
on monotheism in the Old Testament does not preclude the validity
of the earlier tradition. It merely shows that later ages canonized
from among diverse source materials those things which reinforced
their own orthodoxies.
If a more relaxed attitude toward homosexuality did exist among
the pre-exilic Hebrews, the Book of Mormon peoples would
have brought it with them to the new world. It has already been
observed that the Book of Mormon is oddly silent on this subject.
Yet, in pursuit of its major historical theme, it takes great
trouble to identify the causes of spiritual decline among the
Nephites and Lamanites.
It is interesting to note that one of the remarkable features
of American Indian culture (which Mormons believe is a residue
of the great Lamanite civilization) is its long-standing tolerance
of sexual diversity. Tolerance reaches its height in the institution
of berdachism. A berdache is typically a cross-dressing
homosexual male who has both sacred and practical duties within
the tribe. His androgyny is perceived as a spiritual difference.
God made him that way, so, it is unwise for society to attempt
to change him. The special status and religious reverence widely
afforded berdaches in Indian society indicate a tradition
radically opposed to the homophobia of European culture. Apart
from berdachism, casual homosexuality among traditionalist
Indian men and women was and is no cause for concern (Williams
pp. 17-30, 91-93, 142).
Parallel to the tradition of the berdache, though not as widespread,
is that of the amazon. Most often she would be a woman who rejected
feminine behavior and occupations in favor of masculine activities
such as hunting and warfare. In these she frequently equaled or
excelled the men. Her erotic interest was in other females whom
she actively courted. She and her lovers were accepted as valuable
members of society, free of stigma. The amazon's gender variance,
like the berdache's was regarded as arising from spiritual differences
and, in some cases, also connected with shamanistic (shamans,
sometimes called "medicine men," were priests believed
to be in communication with the world of spirits) powers.
Another clue to the difference of attitude toward homosexuality
in aboriginal American civilization is found in pre-Columbian
art. The great urban civilizations of the Mayas and the Incas
produced much erotica. In the National Museum of Anthropology
and Archaeology in Peru, I have seen examples of clay sculpture
depicting male-male intercourse. That homoeroticism should figure
among the subjects worthy of representation is significant.
As Latter-day Saints, we are fond of citing evidences from these
same cultures as corroboration of Book of Mormon testimony.
We point to accounts of the Creation and the Flood in Indian writings
which parallel those in Genesis. We find baptismal fonts in the
ruins of their sacred architecture. This should give us pause
before we dismiss the evidences pertinent to homosexuality under
consideration. At very least, they are a strong indication that
homosexuality must have been known among the original Lamanites.
Separating us from these ancient civilizations is a wide band
of Eurasian medieval history. John Boswell's landmark study chronicles
the complete defamation homosexuality suffered during this period
(Boswell 137-166). Mormons refer to this time as the Great Apostacy,
an age of unprecedented religious corruption. We do not normally
hold any of its theological inventions in very high regard. Yet
all of the arguments used by the LDS Church against homosexuality
may be traced directly to the letters of medieval church fathers,
including its linkage with Sodom and its "unnaturalness"
Their dialectics furnished a rationale for the torture and incineration
of people accused of "sodomy". The epithet, "faggot,"
which has come down to us recalling sticks of burnt wood from
the pyres, suggests the gruesome inevitability of their sentence.
Where even the slang persists, can one underestimate the impact
this period has had upon the western cultural conception of homosexuality?
Decimated by plague and war, European populations were not magnanimously
disposed toward the practitioners of non-reproductive sex. On
the other hand, the Church found a way to dispose of its enemies
and confiscate their wealth. Spain, in particular, used anti-homosexual
sentiment to its own advantage, first in its quest to drive the "sodomitical"
Moors from the Iberian peninsula, and second in its plunder of
the Americas among whose inhabitants "sodomy" was also
rife. Persecution, theft and political aggrandizement were the
latent motives behind medieval homophobia. Well might we question
contemporary western attitudes along with the matrix that gave
birth to them. After all, can a corrupt tree bring forth good
fruit (Matthew 7:18)?
The Gospel and the Individual Solution
Whatever the reasons for a lack of homosexually positive scripture,
we, the product of medieval European society, cannot make assumptions
based upon our inherent homophobia. All we can safely say is that
the need for a specific sanction has become necessary in the contemporary
Christian mind because of the antecedents of the last thousand
years. We turn to the Scriptures, but they have never boasted
the complete catalogue of solutions to every dilemma. Instead
they teach us how to obtain the necessary answers from God. In
Doctrine and Covenants 8:1-3 God promises:
". . . Assuredly as the Lord liveth, who is your God
and your Redeemer, even so surely shall you receive a knowledge
of whatsoever things you shall ask in faith, with an honest heart,
believing that you shall receive . . . yea, behold I will tell you
in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall
come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold,
this is the spirit of revelation . . . ."
When God provides an unequivocal answer, we must be prepared to
accept it, to embrace it, even to defend it. If Nephi had not
esteemed his personal answer above the law and the teachings of
the prophets, he could not have killed Laban to obtain the brass
plates. Had he been mistaken about the source of his revelation,
Nephi might have faced eternal damnation. The Lord did give the
commandment, however, and with it a justification for the spilling
of Laban's blood. This branch of Israel, soon to be transplanted
in America, must not "dwindle and perish in unbelief"
for want of God's word (1 Nephi 4:10-15). It did not matter that,
as a nation, they would ultimately fail in belief. So important
was the need for certainty that what in other circumstances would
be an act of murder became an act of righteousness.
From this account we learn several important things. First, even
a minority in Israel requires an explicit understanding of the
law by which it must live. Second, and ironically, God is sometimes
willing to allow the contravention of important parts of the law
"to bring forth his righteous purposes". third, sin,
therefore, resides not in the act itself, but in the motive, the
timing, the lack of permission.
Nephi's answer is an unorthodox, exceptional solution. That is
its value as moral instruction. The better one is acquainted with
them, the more one realizes that the great lessons in Scripture
often disrupt prevailing notions of morality rather than confirm
them. That should indicate to us that God's freedom to help the
individual nearly always transcends the level of morality which
the body of people is prepared to accept. This will continue to
be the case until, like the city of Enoch, we can so internalize
the spirit of rectitude that we are able to shed the braces and
correctives of the law.
The Apostle Paul had this ultimate freedom in mind when he wrote:
"All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient:
all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not."(I
Corinthians 10:23; see also 6:12)
Paul clearly feels he has liberty to do some "illegal"
things made expedient by his need for personal growth. Other things
become superfluous for the same reason.
These verses are particularly troublesome to legalists within
the Gospel because they set the moral authority of the inspired
individual above the community standard. Perhaps all people cannot
be trusted to be as conscientious as Paul in their personal interpretations
of expediency. Some will undoubtedly abuse their freedom, but
the plan of salvation never has been without hazards. The light
of Christ is given to every man to help him know the difference
between good and evil. Every member of the Church is additionally
given the gift of the Holy Ghost so that the honest in heart will
know how to make good use of their freedom.
Paul's iconoclastic pronouncement appears in the context of a
discussion of sexual immorality. He asserts that sexual immorality
is never an expedience for members of Christ's body. Obviously,
he means to exclude only sinful, unwhole expressions of sex. In
light of his statement-one of many which announce the triumph
of the Gospel over the Law-do we honestly see Paul in the business
of setting up another code of inflexible rules?
Joseph Smith taught that:
"Our heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless
in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or
receive; and at the same time more terrible to the workers of
iniquity, more awful in the executions of His punishments, and
more ready to detect in every false way, than we are apt to suppose
Him to be . . . He says: 'Ask and you shall receive, seek and ye shall
find; but if you will take that which is not your own, or which
I have not given you, you shall be rewarded according to your
deeds; but no good thing will I withhold from them who walk uprightly
before me, and do my will in all things . . . .'" (Smith
The question we must ask is, "What makes a particular act
of sexuality immoral by the Lord's standard?" Is it not its
motive, its timing, or its lack of divine permission? If not,
how is it that such things as sexual intercourse between siblings
(the offspring of Adam and Eve), marriage to more than one woman
at a time (polygamy), and common-law marriage (in South American
countries-see Adjustments of the Law section below) have been
expedient at certain times and unacceptable at others?
Issues of Fornication, Celibacy and Non-Reproductivity
Increasingly, Mormons are willing to accept a homosexual's orientation
as given, but see celibacy as the only righteous alternative open
to him/her. They hold that sexually active gays and lesbians are
automatically guilty of fornication (something forbidden in the
Gospel) because they are not legally married. It is curious to
see the Gospel applied against itself in this way. After all,
in the Gospel, immorality is primarily an attitude of the heart,
not a technicality of law. What would happen if certain more liberal
states opted to legally recognize same-sex marriage? Would it
no longer be a sin?
We should rather be considering what it is about the spirit of
fornication which makes it immoral. I believe it is a mentality
which, in essence, seeks to enjoy a gift of great worth from another
person for as little as possible in return; a no-fault, noncommittal
sexual ethic. It is a selfishness that devalues both the gift
given and the gift taken. It is the spirit of Corianton's harlotry,
and, it is a serious evil (Alma 39:4-11). Ultimately, it detaches
eroticism from the emotional and spiritual elements necessary
for a fullness of joy. It is sinful on account of its motive,
timing, and lack of divine permission.
Likewise, celibacy is answerable to the "spirit" of
the law. Its purpose is to deliver a person clean and free of
regret to the commencement of his/her eternal love relationship/s.
It is a necessary and beautiful attitude for lovers to be, but
not an end in itself. The Bible condemns mandatory celibacy (at
least for heterosexuals) in I Timothy 4:1,3. In one part of the
first letter to the Corinthians, the generally sex-negative Apostle
Paul advises married couples not to deprive each other sexually,
except by mutual consent and for purposes of fasting and prayer,
so they will not be vulnerable to temptation (1 Corinthians 7:3-5
KJV; also New Jerusalem Bible).
Here and elsewhere, the need of intimacy and sexual expression
between heterosexuals is recognized as expedient. Why are the
needs of Christian homosexuals less important? Using Paul's logic
of I Cor. 7:2 and 7:9, why is it not urgent that lesbians and
gays be allowed a parallel option to legitimize their unions?
Christ taught that the "sabbath was made for man, and not
man for the sabbath" (Mark 2:27). He excoriated the Pharisees
for binding heavy burdens of law upon their brethren which they
themselves were unwilling to bear (Matthew 23:4). Let heterosexual
legalists who lay the burden of lifelong celibacy on the shoulders
of their homosexual brothers and sisters beware they do not fall
into the same trap.
Many object to homosexual acts on the grounds that they cannot
produce children. If so, one is under logical obligation to object
to non-reproductive sex among married heterosexuals. The Church
makes no attempt to discourage infertile couples from physical
intimacy. If its sole justification is reproduction, sex during
a woman's infertile period, as well as post-menopausal relations,
must also be proscribed. In theory, all sex which does not lead
to impregnation is indefensible.
In their enthusiasm for children and the family, Latter-Day Saints
often forget that everyone is not meant to be a parent in this
life. What else does one conclude from the following verse?
"For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their
mother's womb; and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs
of men; and there be eunuchs which have made themselves eunuchs
for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it,
let him receive it." (Matthew 19:12)
In the strict sense, a eunuch is a male who lacks complete genitalia,
which accounts for the first two categories mentioned. By including
the third, an elective category, Jesus shows that he intends the
word to refer to men (and women?) whose mission in this life demands
the sacrifice of marriage and children. Eunuchs were widely associated
with pagan sexual practices in the ancient world, especially homosexual
activities. Considering their reputation, I find it remarkable
that Christ should number this last exalted group of people among
them. Probably, he included himself as well (Isaiah 53:8). Jesus
apparently had no phobia of homosexuality or singleness. More
importantly, in the context of a discussion on marriage, he took
special care to observe that some people are exempt from that
The prophet Isaiah wrote this concerning the childless daughter
"Sing, 0 barren, thou that didst not bear Break forth into
singing, and cry aloud thou that didst not travail with child,
For more are the children of the desolate Than the children of
the married wife, saith the Lord . . . Fear not; for thou shalt not
be ashamed: Neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be
put to shame: For thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, And
shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more. (Isaiah
Concerning the eunuch, he wrote:
Neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. For thus
saith the Lord unto eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, And choose
the things that please me, And take hold of my covenant; Even
unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls A place
and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them
an everlasting name That shall not be cut off. (Isaiah 56:3-5)
Clearly, failure to marry and have children in this life is no
hindrance to the faithful. The egalitarian attitude toward the
childless woman and man contained in these verses is a world apart
from the hieratic outlook of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Isaiah's
attitude is all the more striking when contrasted with Deuteronomy
"He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member
cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord."
The conflict presented in these opposite views of the eunuch's
place in Israel illustrates the difference between Prophetic and
Priestly schools of thought. The Books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy
are characteristic of Judaism's emphasis on ritual purity after
the Exile, and, according to scholars, reached their final form
in that period. With the birth of Christ, Judaism had become a
different religion from the one expounded by Isaiah and other
prophets. Jerusalem had become the city which kills the prophets,
and stones them that are sent unto her (Luke 13:34).
In Acts 8:26-39, God provides another "unorthodox" solution
to an individual problem through the Gospel. In an early episode
of apostolic evangelism, Philip was led by the Spirit to an Ethiopian
eunuch who, appropriately enough, had been reading from the scroll
of Isaiah. No doubt, the eunuch's interest was captured by the
reference to a victim of suffering and humiliation deprived of
his posterity. Philip seized the moment to preach of Christ, and
the eunuch responded with such great faith that he requested baptism
on the spot.
In view of the fact that the Apostle was about to immerse a castrated male,
a foreigner, and a negro, in contravention of the Law, his lack of inhibition
is remarkable. There was no need to confer with the Brethren, to appoint
a special committee to study the problem, or to deliberate over theological
precedent. Philip obeyed the Spirit and left future generations to assess
the impact of his actions. Would that this kind of prophetic courage in
the matter of same-sexuality were found today among the leaders of God's
Revelation and Homosexuality
In a televised interview with Charles Kuralt (February 1987, CBS),
Dallin Oaks reiterated the Mormon "truism" that prophets
through the ages have repeatedly condemned homosexuality. With
all due respect to a modern apostle, this is simply untrue. The
prophets, including those in ancient America, have been practically
unanimous in their avoidance of this subject. Only recently, within
the last quarter-century, have apostles and prophets made explicit
statements condemning homosexuality per se. None of these
has ever been announced as a definitive, direct revelation. No
prophet has ever claimed or published an original revelation on
the phenomenon of same-sexual orientation. Some have prepared
statements of official Church policy and/or arguments against
homosexuality based on 1) traditional interpretation of biblical
verse, 2) appeals to theories of psychology (albeit, obsolete
theories), and 3) the conventional wisdom of western culture.
Once again, it must be affirmed that when a prophet or apostle
of the Lord claims direct revelation through the power of the
Holy Ghost, his authority on that point is absolute. The amazing
thing is that no prophet has ever based his opposition to homosexuality
on his own direct revelation but rather on revelations which he
supposed others to have received.
Attitudes of the Prophets
Since no modern prophet has invoked the ultimate authority of
personal revelation in this matter, no claim of prophetic infallibility
can be made. When confronted with the notion that prophets are
always prophetic in their understanding and opinions, Joseph Smith
corrected, ". . . A prophet [is] only a prophet when he [is]
acting as such" (Smith p. 278). It is not surprising that
with no latter-day revelation to guide them in the issue of same-sexuality,
modern apostles and prophets have followed the homophobic path
taken by all major denominations of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Indeed, prior to the emergence of gay activism in the 1960's it
would have been extraordinary (and dangerous) for any church not
to follow such a path.
What if Joseph Smith, for instance, had published a revelation
claiming heavenly sanction of homosexuality? Its effect would
have been explosive enough to disrupt the Restoration before it
began. As it turns out, Joseph Smith was not at all homophobic.
In a funeral address delivered in 1843 at Nauvoo, Illinois, he
gave comfort to a survivor of one Lorenzo Barns who had died while
serving a mission in Great Britain. The Prophet noted that Brother
Barns' "very friend" was present in the congregation
that day (Feliz p. 3). Attempting to enlighten the congregation
on a particular principle of the resurrection, he is quoted as
" . . . to bring it to the understanding, it would be upon the
same principle as though two who were vary friends [sic] indeed
should lie down upon the same bed at night locked in each other's
embrace talking of their love[,] and should awake in the morning
together[.] [T]hey could immediately renew their conversation
of love even while rising from their bed[,] but if they were alone
[and] in separate apartments[,] they could not as readily salute
each other as though they were together . . . " (Wilford Woodruff
Journal, entry for April 16, 1843, as cited by Feliz p. 3); (emphasis
and bracketed punctuation mine).
The Joseph Smith Diary kept by Willard Richards contains a briefer
but similar version of the same statement. So does the Documentary
History of the Church (Smith pp. 294-297). Admittedly, nothing
erotic need be inferred from these remarks, but even the skeptical
reader is struck by the relaxed attitude toward same-sex intimacies
in the Woodruff account. One cannot write off the Prophet's apparent lack of concern for
the implications of his statement as nineteenth century naivete.
Homosexuality existed then as now. Widespread accusations of fornication,
adultery and "buggery" were being leveled against the
Mormons by the Illinois press (Feliz p. 5). He could hardly have
been unaware of such rumors.
Joseph is unique among prophets of the Restored Church owing to
his highly developed capacity for inspiration and the number of
his visions. Few have beheld the Father enthroned in the highest
Heaven with the Son at his right hand, as did he and Sidney Rigdon.
Manifestly, one's perspective could hardly be conventional after
an experience like that. Joseph occasionally expressed dissatisfaction
at having to withhold knowledge from the body of the Church on
account of its unpreparedness. Certainly, he knew more than he
was permitted to tell. At the end of the account of his incomparable
vision of the degrees of glory, he alludes to "marvelous
works" and "mysteries of the kingdom" which were
unlawful to utter, yet which may be known by those who have the
Holy Spirit (D&C 76:113-117). I believe the Prophet had esoteric
insight into the phenomenon of homosexuality. For that reason,
he declined to rush in where his successors have not feared to
In 1969 Apostle Spencer W. Kimball's book, The Miracle of
Forgiveness, was published. A special chapter on homosexuality
was included, largely as a repudiation of the "liberalizing
process" of American society undertaken by the gay community.
(That same year, the Stonewall riots in New York had focused national
attention upon the gay liberation movement.) This was an admittedly
distasteful subject for the Apostle's pen brought on by the need
of drawing a clear battle line between the permissiveness of the
world and the Church's higher standards.
In his book, the scriptural case against homosexuality is entirely
conventional-even to the replication of familiar errors, such
as its connection with Sodom, etc. Apostle Kimball prosecutes
homosexuality with charges that are ill-founded and out of date,
even for their day. He asserts that masturbation often "evolves
[by degrees] into total homosexuality". He suggests that
"through the ages, perhaps as an extension of homosexual
practices, men and women have sunk . . . to seeking sexual satisfactions
with animals." He regards homosexual practices, at least
theoretically, as threatening to depopulate the earth (Kimball
Twenty years earlier, data collected by Alfred Kinsey in his now
famous research projects on human sexuality had been published.
Even if one takes exception to its numbers and percentages, it
was readily apparent that masturbation leads more often to full-blown
heterosexuality than anything else. Today we understand that masturbation
has no effect upon whether the brain is oriented to males or females.
That is psychically programmed in the individual long before he/she
begins the process of sexual self-discovery. The thinking reader
of Kimball's chapter will certainly wonder what has bestiality
to do with homosexuality any more than heterosexuality. Finally,
does anyone, including the author, seriously expect that the heterosexuals
of this planet could be persuaded to suspend reproductive activity
for a single day, let alone a generation?
Apostle Kimball is not claiming ground-breaking revelation or
special insights here. Indeed, at this point in his career, regardless
of what his later experiences as Prophet taught him, he sees no
need for additional enlightenment. He feels the Lord's word is
sufficiently clear, thus, an open mind on the question of homosexuality
is of no use to him. From his initial paragraph he is well beyond
"Homosexuality is an ugly sin, repugnant to those who find
no temptation in it, as well as to many past offenders seeking
a way out of its clutches. It is embarrassing and unpleasant as
a subject for discussion . . . . " (Kimball p. 78)
Because he regards the issue as one completely settled by previous
revelation, he feels safe indulging in heterosexist polemics-so
safe, in fact, he confesses discomfort and embarrassment over
his subject. Though the purpose of this chapter is to assure the
reader that there is a way out of homosexuality, Kimball actually
undermines the authority of his position. One would expect that
a healer of any real experience would have lost his squeamishness
to the disease by now. To be embarrassed is to stumble over the
loose ends of one's emotions; to be caught unprepared for the
experience one is facing.
At emotional and practical disadvantage with his subject, the
Apostle is dealing in theory. Although he certainly believes his
views are right, he makes no pretension to prophetic infallibility.
Thus it is not heretical to subject them to evaluation more critical
than that reserved for bona fide, canonized revelations. One cannot
fault the sincerity of his convictions; one has no right to doubt
the charity of this man, renown for his compassion and philanthropy.
One can say that at this stage of his theological development,
Brother Kimball, like most General Authorities in this century,
was unprepared to allow homosexuals the fuller measure of God's
One can also legitimately question the long-term progress of "reformed"
gays and lesbians he cites whose affidavits crowd the files of
Church offices. It would be interesting to see how they have fared
ten to twenty years down the line. Regrettably, no such follow-up
study has been done.
The fundamental assumption of Spencer Kimball's theory, as well
as that of most official statements of Church policy, is that
homosexuality is a condition temporarily imposed upon the basic
heterosexual instincts of the spirit through sinful indulgence.
Consequently, homosexuals can become wholly heterosexual with
proper motivation. Lesbians and gays have been asserting the contrary
for thousands of years. Clinical experience has borne out the
fixed nature of psychic orientation irrespective of learned behaviors.
The fact is that now even prominent LDS psychologists, such as
Jan Stout and Carlfred Broderick readily concede that the basic
direction of a person's orientation is a permanent feature of
his/her psyche, and that people are mostly unable to move more
than a short distance from their "assigned" position
on the Kinsey Scale. (The Kinsey scale is a division of the continuum
of sexual attraction into seven points ranging from purely heterosexual
(0) to purely homosexual (6) with mixtures of these absolutes
lying between them, including bisexuality(3).)
As science vindicates the homosexual, the Church is increasingly
faced with problems of credibility. To save its reputation on
this issue, it will have to turn a critical eye upon its anti-homosexual
policies. It must determine how much is revelation and how much
Historically, we have always done that. Joseph Fielding Smith once
stated that man would never land on the moon. In retrospect, it
is easy to see that he was not acting as a prophet when he formed
this particular opinion. Even so, in many other matters he spoke
the mind and will of God. We do not doubt he was a true prophet.
Spencer W. Kimball was also a true prophet, who, nonetheless,
was mistaken in his opinion on same-sexual love. Whenever there
have been frailties, latter-day prophets and apostles have been
men of integrity. Rarely, if ever, have they abused their prophetic
gifts by claiming inspiration they have not received. In light
of progress in the study of homosexual issues in the sciences
and the Scriptures, is it not time for our leaders to use their
sacred gifts for increased understanding?
Adjustments of the Law
Some may argue that the Church cannot bend the laws of God to
suit man. Assuming they remain unpersuaded by any of the foregoing,
I think they would be interested to know that the Church has already
amended certain moral teachings for the convenience of some. No
less an authority than when Christ taught that whoever divorces his
wife for any reason other than adultery and marries again is himself
guilty of adultery.
Jesus' teaching was expedient in the ancient Jewish context. Since
women could not normally inherit property from their fathers,
they were dependent upon their husbands for their wealth. Clearly,
the potential for the abuse of women in a system such as this
was great. Jesus' doctrine on divorce is a timely effort to temper
patriarchal privilege with justice. Invoking divine authority,
Paul forbade divorce altogether in 1 Corinthians 7:10,39. Nowadays,
the Church wisely chooses not to add excommunication to the burden
of family break-up. Yet, it does so at the risk of disregarding
a dominical commandment.(Dominical commandments occupy a special
place in theology having been spoken by the Lord, Jesus Christ,
In some South American countries with extensive LDS missionary
programs, divorce does not legally exist owing to the influence
of the Catholic Church upon the laws of state. (Catholicism bans
divorce and remarriage based on its interpretation of New Testament
scripture.) There is an expensive "annulment" procedure
available to the affluent, but this option lies outside the economic
reach of many of the groups the Church is trying to convert. When
poorer couples have irreconcilable problems in their marriages,
they simply abandon each other. Because battered women with children
are frequently involved, and because economic and social needs
are better satisfied in a family setting, individuals regroup
and enter "common law" marriage.
As a missionary in Chile during the late 1970's I came to appreciate
the human dimensions of this situation. I realized that the Church
took a courageous and compassionate step with its acceptance of
these unions. It did so on the condition that the parties involved
consider themselves under the same obligation to each other as
if legally wedded. They were then fully eligible to be baptized
and even sealed as families in the temple.
The General Authorities might have stipulated that these couples
refrain from sex as long as they remain technically married to
other people. They chose not to, presumably, because they felt
it was too much to ask. Here again, the Church made an exception
to the laws against divorce and adultery. If the Scriptures condemned
homosexuality as often and as explicitly as they do adultery,
there could be no doubt about the former.
The Church was willing to adjust its policy because it understood
and sympathized with the problems of heterosexuals in a difficult
situation. When modern prophets begin to understand and sympathize
with the plight of lesbian and gay Latter-Day Saints who need
both their religion and their sexual identity to be happy, reconciliation
will be forthcoming.
A Personal Testimony
I believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and in the Scriptures.
I also believe that the power of the priesthood is genuine, and
that ours is the one church authorized to represent the Lord on
earth. I believe modern prophets and apostles are divinely called
and have access to revelation in the measure they seek it.
As a student of the Gospel, I believe I have a responsibility
to the truth; to be accurate and fair in my representation of
it, and, I believe I shall be held ultimately accountable for
what is written here. Throughout the preparation of this study,
I have asked God to help me remain at the center of the truth.
I believe His Spirit has been with me. This is perhaps an "unscholarly"
confession to make, nevertheless, the people for whom the message
is intended will appreciate my reason.
Others will never be able to accept that homosexuality is not
a defect and a sin except by ecclesiastical decree. Until they
have one, they will be cautious. They will give the Church's traditional
posture the benefit of the doubt. They are in no hurry to see
a resolution of the problem. Like the Apostle Thomas, they will
be happy to accept the good news but only when they have tangible
proof. They who require no more proof than the testimony of the
Spirit within their minds and hearts are happier, because they
can accept the freedom God is extending to faithful gays and lesbians
this very day. As with Nephi and Paul, that which is revealed
unto them by the power of the Holy Spirit is lawful for them here
My own interest in gay/lesbian spiritual liberation is more than
academic. I am a Mormon, from a long line of Mormons, yet, I am
also a homosexual. I have come to realize that I cannot cease
being either. Thus, happiness depends upon my ability to reconcile
these two facets of my nature. On my mission, I endeavored to
bring people to the verge of a spiritual discovery. The price
of that discovery was sometimes very high. During the course of
the discussions, many felt the upwelling of the Spirit in their
souls. I would explain to them that they must follow in the direction
they were being led, regardless of the sacrifice. On the strength
of that feeling, they were expected to change the habits of a
lifetime, to reject their childhood religion, and, frequently,
to defy family and friends-whatever it took-for the sake of the
Years later, when I was seeking to come to terms with my sexual
orientation, I was able to more fully appreciate what I had been
asking of my investigators. After much denial, suffering, fasting
and prayer, many tears and brave efforts to change, I submitted
my problem to God. It was not as though I had never asked for
help, but, because of the thorough moral instruction I had received,
only one answer was possible. God's answer was to continually
deny my request to become heterosexual. Since a homosexual orientation
was supposedly a great hindrance to exaltation, why wouldn't it
yield to any of the means by which one usually overcomes sin?
Why couldn't I meet at least one person who had actually reversed
his orientation so I could learn how it is done? I was baffled
by the contradiction. Intellectually, I understood that one does
not go before God with a closed mind, that is, prepared for one
answer only. It never occurred to me that I had completely closed
my mind to God's gift of same-sexuality and its purpose in the
overall scheme. How ungrateful and short-sighted was my request;
with good reason it was refused. Indeed, what right have I or
anyone else to tamper with a single phenomenon God has set in
motion in this complex universe?
When it first entered my mind that homosexuality might be a good
thing basically, and that perhaps God wanted me to be as I am,
I regarded it as a Satanic prompting. Paradoxically, I was filled
with peace, well-being, and a sense of tremendous relief. It was
as if I had been born again. As often as I would ponder those
thoughts, they would bring great spiritual joy. There could only
be one source of the peace I was feeling. I had felt it before,
and, on my mission I had taught others to recognize it. Was I
not under obligation to follow the Spirit in the direction I was
The validation of my belief in the intrinsic goodness of homosexuality
is personal revelation not hermeneutics, history, or psychobiology.
These provide only the impetus to reconsider and to ask the appropriate
questions of God. In my testimony I rely upon the key given by
"For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man,
that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the
way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to
persuade to believe in Christ is sent forth by the power and gift
of Christ; wherefore, ye may know with a perfect knowledge it
is of God. But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and
believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then you
may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil . . . "
If I must accept that God abhors me and all homosexuals for our
unchosen sexuality; that God created a perfectly formed capacity
for love and desire in us which focuses precisely on that which
is wrong for it, and that this capacity is irreversible; if I
must accept that God would make an exception to the law against
adultery but remains adamant towards the practical needs of lesbians
and gays, then I am tempted to disbelieve the justice of God.
I am not persuaded to serve Him because there seems to be little
hope of fulfillment in it. No, according to the prophet's key,
this doctrine must be Satanic. On the other hand, when I believe
that God can provide a fulfilling place for me in His kingdom;
that I am under the same obligation as all other children of God
to make good use of my gifts; that I am at liberty to be truly
happy, then I believe in Christ and love His justice with all
my heart. Whatever He requires of me is not too great a price
to pay. Thus, I know with a perfect knowledge that my testimony
comes from God though the power of Christ. I believe that I too
am eligible for this promise:
"Thus saith the Lord—I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious
unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me
in righteousness and truth unto the end. Great shall be their
reward and eternal shall be their glory. And to them will I reveal
all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from
days of old, and for ages to come, will I make known unto them
the good pleasure of my will concerning all things pertaining
to my kingdom. Yea, even the wonders of eternity shall they know,
and things to come will I show them, even the things of many generations.
And their wisdom shall be great, and their understanding reach
to heaven; and before them the wisdom of the wise shall perish,
and the understanding of the prudent shall come to naught. For
by my Spirit will I enlighten them, and by my power will I make
known unto them the secrets of my will—yea, even those things
which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor yet entered into the
heart of man." (D&C 76:5-10)
Homosexuality is one of those hidden mysteries, the truth about
which confounds the wise and defies the understanding of the prudent.
For above all the fury and strife of the leaders of God's Church
against it, God's Spirit is quietly affirming the sexuality of
lesbians and gays who stand by Him.
The time is fast approaching when the Lord will no longer suffer
the contradiction between his public and private ministries to
continue. Heretofore, it has not been expedient to attempt to
send homosexually-positive revelation to Church leadership; to
put "new wine into old bottles". God would save both
the wine and the bottles. Yet, God makes only new wine. If His
servants cannot receive new doctrine, increased understanding,
and a knowledge of mysteries that are important to His children,
their usefulness will have passed away. For its part, the Gospel
of Jesus Christ refuses to categorically condemn homosexuality.
I invite all fellow Latter-Day Saints to consider carefully the
position they take on this issue.
" . . . I beseech of you, brethren, that you should search diligently
in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if
ye will lay hold upon every good thing and condemn it not, ye
certainly will be a child of Christ." (Moroni 7:19)
The Book of Jasher (editor and translator anonymous in
original edition). J.H. Parry & Co., 1887.
Boswell, John, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality.
University of Chicago Press, 1980.
Edwards, George R., Gay/Lesbian Liberation: A Biblical Perspective.
The Pilgrim Press, 1984.
Feliz, Antonio A., Joseph Smith Was Not Homophobic, Affinity, September 1987.
Horner, Tom, Jonathan Loved David: Homosexuality in Biblical
Times. The Westminster Press, 1978.
Kimball, Spencer W. The Miracle of Forgiveness. Bookcraft,
Marmor, Judd et al. Homosexual Behavior: A Modern Reappraisal.
Basic Books, 1980.
The New Jerusalem Bible. Edited by Henry Wansbrough. Doubleday, 1985.
Patai, Raphael Sex and the Family in the Bible and the Middle
East. Doubleday, 1959.
Smith, Joseph. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.Edited
by Joseph Fielding Smith. The Deseret News Press, 1942.
Williams, Walter L. The Spirit and the Flesh: Sexual Diversity in American
Indian Culture. Beacon Press, 1986.
List of Biblical Scriptures Traditionallly Associated with Homosexuality
Genesis 19:1-13; Leviticus 18:23; 20:13; Deuteronomy 23:17,18;
I Kings 23:7; 15:12; 22:46; II Kings 23:7; Job 36:14;
Romans 1:26,27; I Corinthians 6:9,10; I Timothy 1:10; II Peter
2:2; Jude 7
Note: All references to biblical texts make use of the King James Version, except as noted. The use of brackets in quotations indicates words or punctuation supplied by the author of this study to facilitate
a clearer reading. The integrity of the text quoted has not been compromised. The reader is invited to consult the source as often as possible.