Scriptures and Theology
LDS Rhetoric on Homosexuality
The Plan of Salvation for Me, a Gay Latter-Day Saint
"I believe the plan of salvation is more all-inclusive of all of God's children that we might perceive, including his homosexual children”
by Clark C. Pingree
Presented at the Seattle Sunstone Symposium on October 13, 2007. Posted with the author's permission.
Watch Clark present this talk
Growing up in an active LDS family, the plan of salvation has been a concept that has been second nature to me for as long as I can recall. Knowing where I came from, why I am here on earth, and where I am going after this life, gives me comfort in leading a meaningful life. I have always believed that I am loved by heavenly parents who understand the core makeup of my soul. Although I don't always fully understand my path in life, I know that this higher power knows better than I do.
My view of the plan of salvation as a gay child of God is unique. I don't necessarily subscribe to the traditional cut-and-dry LDS definition of this plan. I believe the plan of salvation is more all-inclusive of all of God's children that we might perceive, including his homosexual children. I stand here today to declare my convictions pertaining to the plan of salvation for me in my own life. This is a cherished experience for me, because this is the first time of which I am expressing my religious convictions, publicly, as a gay Latter-day Saint. Just as all members of the LDS church are given the opportunity to stand before their peers and bear witness of their convictions, I stand here today to declare my beliefs concerning God's all-inclusive plan of salvation.
I grew up as a devout Latter-day Saint. During my teenage years I never veered from the "straight and narrow" path. I went on my mission at age 19 and obeyed every mission rule with exactness, with the exception of one can of Pepsi I secretly consumed on New Years Eve. I worked myself to exhaustion on my mission and I probably burned a few too many of my mission companions out of my somewhat obsessive execution of hard work. However, I look back on my mission with fond memories.
Through all of my years growing up, I always knew there was something different about me. What my oddity was, I was not sure. But I knew I was different from my friends. In middle school, my friends started becoming interested in girls, but I didn't. In fact, I became annoyed when my male friends started taking less of an interest in me and more of an interest in the opposite sex. Through high school, my mission, and through college, I was reminded of being different, but I never identified how I was different, nor did I want to. I just wanted to be like everybody else, so I pretended to be just like everybody else.
My college years at BYU set in, and this "thing" that made me different began to wear me down to the point that knew I had to face my ugly reality. My soul ached as I could not reconcile what I then referred to as my "same-sex attraction", or my "cross to bear in life", or "my ultimate test". For the next 6 years, I longed to somehow find a way to conform to God's plan of salvation. I believed I had to marry a woman, have children, and raise them up righteously in order to be a part of the plan of salvation. I spent many years in despair, constantly on my knees, pleading with God to change me and help me understand where I fit within the plan of salvation.
I eventually concluded that perhaps I could comply with the plan of salvation if I just remained single, celibate, and alone my whole life. After all, many women in the church face this same predicament. Just like with them, perhaps in the next life the perfect match will be waiting on the other side of the veil. This would therefore make me eligible for the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom and gain from the blessings of the plan of salvation. There was one problem with this logic, however. To be partnered with a woman, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and personally throughout all eternity is not my definition of Celestial glory. It is my definition of hell. Since I never chose to be gay, and never having had any experiences in life that turned me gay, I could not envision my body or soul being un-gay at any future point in time, eternity included.
A statement from the pamphlet "God Loveth His Children" reads:
"As we follow Heavenly Father's plan, our bodies, feelings, and desires will be perfected in the next life so that every one of God's children may find joy in a family consisting of a husband, a wife, and children."
I struggle with this statement. As I look back on my life and contemplate the struggle and despair in reconciling my homosexuality, this attitude has been the most damning to my soul through inflicting feelings of inadequacy, anguish, and despair. To me this statement is one from a heterosexual majority to a homosexual minority, affirming that because I am not like most, I must be deformed. For years I lived under this premise, accepting that I was, in fact, a spiritual and physical abnormality because of my homosexuality. This state of mind is a horrible way to live. I cannot express the turmoil that existed inside of me as I lived under this cloud of, "Who you are isn't good enough, but keep looking forward to the resurrection to fix your soul." Not only am I biologically programmed to be homosexual, but also my soul is programmed to be homosexual. Because of this, I do not believe my homosexuality will convert to heterosexuality at my physical death, nor at the resurrection.
Human to human attraction, to me, is complex and fascinating. Like my heterosexual peers are drawn towards the opposite gender, I am drawn towards my own gender based on the same dimensions of attraction: The magical connection of two souls spiritually, emotionally, personally, and physically. My dreams and intents are just like those of a heterosexual: companionship, strength, support, intimacy, stability, and eternal growth. My homosexuality extends far beyond physical attraction. For whatever reasons God saw fit, my soul was created as homosexual. My creation cannot be altered. I believe it's a dangerous game to defy one's own creation. We see time and time again, the dangers of fighting against one's creation. As we've recently seen with Larry Craig and Ted Haggard, they and their loved ones have been placed in harms way as a result of defying their creation. I would much rather spend my energy devoting love to a same-sex partner through a responsible, monogamous, and caring relationship than to spend my life making hand signals under bathroom stalls or partaking of methamphetamine with male prostitutes.
Elder Jeffrey Holland's recent October Ensign article entitled, "Helping Those with Same-Gender Attraction", states:
"Through the exercise of faith, individual effort, and reliance upon the power of the Atonement, some may overcome same-gender attraction in mortality and marry. Others, however, may never be free of same-gender attraction in this life."
I do not consider myself trapped in my orientation in mortality. Nor do I anticipate l will be rid of in it the next life. After all, it is part of the core makeup of my soul. I do not consider my homosexuality to be a personal retardation of which I will be released from at some point in eternity. I am happy to be just who I am. I have no desire to be freed from myself.
I have a few scars on my body. I have a large nose. My hairline is receding. I get frequent headaches. My teeth aren't quite as white as I'd like them to be. Perhaps many of these perceived physical abnormalities will be fixed through the resurrection. I welcome these changes as well as any other changes that might bring my physical body to its full potential. The view of my soul, however, is different. I love my soul and I love who I am. I do not want my soul to be altered in any form as I believe the makeup of my soul is how God intended it to be. To imply that my soul will be resurrected based on the premise of my sexual orientation is hurtful to me.
Because there is little known about the eternal progression of a homosexual child of God, I've had to forge my own understanding of what's God's plan is for me in this life. Many of my questions remain unanswered, but I've found special meaning from the words of Moroni:
"O then despise not, and wonder not, but hearken unto the words of the Lord, and ask the Father in the name of Jesus for what things soever ye shall stand in need. Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him."
I believe the plan of salvation includes the eternal progression of a homosexual, as a homosexual. Moses teaching Joshua, as cited in the Book of Numbers, teaches me a powerful principle in my search for answers to the plan of salvation in my own life:
"And Moses said unto him enviest though for my sake? Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them."
As Moses explains, we must become prophets unto ourselves and navigate our path in life, according to the will of God. I don't have the luxury of my LDS peers, of a clearly defined plan of salvation for my life. However, I believe I was a homosexual in the pre-existence, I am clearly a homosexual in mortality, and I strongly believe I will be a homosexual in the next life. With this said, few reasonable alternatives are offered to me by the LDS church as to how to live a happy life. I know that a life of solitude, silence, and false hope for change is not in my plan of happiness. To sit in the corner in silence about whom I am, hoping for a change that will not occur, while looking forward to living and dying alone, hoping to be transformed into a person whom I am not, is not what I'd consider happiness. Since I believe I am eternally homosexual, celibacy in mortality seems pointless for me eternally. God wants me to be happy. I also believe he created me as who I am for a reason. I no longer believe I will face damnation for finding and loving a soul mate in this life. And just as my heterosexual peers have the privilege to live with their eternal soul mate throughout the eternities, I also believe that I will not be denied that same privilege.
As Moses explains, we must become prophets unto ourselves and navigate our path in life, according to the will of God. I no longer believe I will face damnation for finding and loving a soul mate in this life. And just as my heterosexual peers have the privilege to live with their eternal soul mate throughout the eternities, I also believe that I will not be denied that same privilege.
I recognize that my beliefs pertaining to my homosexuality deviate from the church's approach. In years past, I thought this disconnect would haunt me for life. Some might say that my beliefs on the eternal nature of my homosexuality indicate that I have been misled. I recall one of my favorite bible passages from the book of Matthew, where Jesus states:
"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits."
The fruits I have seen come to pass in my life, by the acceptance of the eternal nature of my soul, have been astoundingly positive. I have found new fulfillment and peace that I never knew was possible. Amazing changes have occurred in my life as I have come to accept myself for whom God created me to be. I no longer fight grueling internal battles. Heavy burdens have been lifted of which I used to carry day and night. I feel free. I used to be hopeless and now I am hopeful. I wake up with a smile on my face, eager to face the challenges of each day. I enjoy a better quality of life. I feel more resolute spiritually and emotionally. My friendships are more abundant and have greater depth and understanding. My work ethic and focus on my life's goals have intensified. I treat people with more kindness than I used to. I am optimistic about my personal challenges. My family relationships have become more honest. And as is evident today, I've developed a stronger, more loyal relationship with my own brother. I laugh a lot more. I see endless possibilities ahead of me. Each day seems to be better than the day before.
I live the Gospel more realistically than I have before. The saving power of Christ's grace has become an empowering force in my daily life. I have a clearer understanding of what it means to be a Christian. I have a new found love of the two great commandments of loving God and loving one's neighbor, no exceptions. Best of all, my soul no longer aches. This self-legitimacy has been one of the greatest gifts that I have ever given myself. As explained by Christ in the previous Bible passage, these fruits are virtuous, and I am thereby lead to believe I am pursuing a path in life that is right for me, including the complete acceptance of my homosexuality. If were misled, there is no possible way I could experience such Godly changes in my life.
Some might argue that my beliefs in my eternal nature are not doctrinally sound. Often, the Old Testament's Levitical Code is used as harsh ammunition to subjugate any form of open dialogue about homosexuality. If we truly remain consistent with the Old Testament's rejection of homosexuality, then we must also legalize polygamy, encourage concubinage, legalize prostitution, prohibit inter-tribal & interracial marriage, ban all forms of birth control, strip women of their civil rights, and marry off our 13-year old daughters. Clearly, our adherence to the Levitical code is inconsistent. Additionally, as Latter-day Saints, we believe the Book of Mormon to be the truest book on the face of the earth, to act as a compass to us in the last days. Yet, the Book of Mormon is amazingly silent on the subject of homosexuality. The Doctrine & Covenants, meant to be a specific guide to us in the Latter-day era of the Gospel, is also completely silent on the matter.
Joseph Smith, inspired by James, read: "if any of ye lack wisdom, let him ask of God". Just like the Prophet Joseph, I've experienced confusion as to my place in the kingdom of God and where I fit into God's plan. Piece by piece I have received answers from my creator, which has given me more and more clarity with each passing day. I doubt I will ever have all the answers to my questions surrounding my homosexuality, but I believe I will continue to receive answers day-by-day to help me find more happiness with each passing day.
Just like the Prophet Joseph, I've experienced confusion as to my place in the kingdom of God and where I fit into God's plan. Piece by piece I have received answers from my creator, which has given me more and more clarity with each passing day.
I have never been happier knowing that I indeed have a place in the plan of salvation as a legitimate homosexual. God created me this way and despite societal rejection of my claim, I know that he is happy with who I am. I don't have all the answers, but I strongly believe that I have a place in the kingdom of God as a gay child of God. Having this peace of mind makes fighting any of today's external battles easy. At last, I am happy and resolved before God with who I am.