Youth Sunday School: “Come, Follow Me”
August: Marriage and Family
The Youth Curriculum has been structured to help better prepare the youth for missionary service, increase their understanding of the Church and its teachings, and strengthen their testimonies. Each month is devoted to a different unit, or general subject area, and various outlines discuss specific points of each unit.
This particular unit includes outlines which discuss how to explain to others the Church’s emphasis of marriage and family. It also addresses the particular question, “Why should marriage be between a man and a woman?”, and whether the youth have ever been asked to explain the Church’s position on same-gender marriage. It should be emphasized that this specifically focuses on same-gender marriage as a doctrinal issue, and it avoids any discussion of sexual orientation in general.
There are references to other source material for additional reading, including the Marriage and Family sections of “True to the Faith,” “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” and President Hinckley’s talk from the October 1999 General Conference, “Why We Do Some of the Things We Do.” In that talk, President Hinckley explains the Church’s position on the doctrine of same-sex marriage, and he then makes the following statement:
“Nevertheless, and I emphasize this, I wish to say that our opposition to attempts to legalize same-sex marriage should never be interpreted as justification for hatred, intolerance, or abuse of those who profess homosexual tendencies, either individually or as a group. As I said from this pulpit one year ago, our hearts reach out to those who refer to themselves as gays and lesbians. We love and honor them as sons and daughters of God. They are welcome in the Church. It is expected, however, that they follow the same God-given rules of conduct that apply to everyone else, whether single or married.”—President Gordon B. Hinckley, “Why We Do Some of the Things We Do,” General Conference, October 1999
This quote is not specifically referenced in the unit or outline material, but it is significant that President Hinckley uses it to distinguish between the marriage doctrine and the acceptance of gays and lesbians in the Church. He also applies the expected rules of conduct consistently between straight and gay members, whether single or married. This statement was made over 15 years ago, and the most recent statements of the Church are consistent with it.
Aaronic Priesthood: “Come Follow Me”
This monthly unit includes outlines that ask the young men how they would help a friend who is struggling with same-gender attraction, and suggests “Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction,” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Liahona, October 2007, as a source for ideas. It also encourages them to write a letter that could help friend struggling with same-gender attraction.
The repetition of the word, “struggling,” may send a message of weakness of self, testimony, self-image, etc; having difficulty in resisting the “temptation” of an LGBT sexual orientation; a second-class status or sense of patronizing; or other such negative images. Based on direction and guidance by the Spirit, this may be an opportunity to explain that LGBT’s really do struggle. But the struggle is not with “same-gender attraction,” sexual orientation, being gay/lesbian, or such. Rather, the struggle is with living in fear of being found out, not because of who he is, but who others are; with not feeling loved and accepted by other members without any judgment; with members who talk behind his back while smiling to his face; with being subjected to pity or “righteous bullying” instead of Christlike love; with those who love their own reputation more than their fellow man, and who are afraid what others will think of them if they have a gay friend or relative; with those who think the Law of Chastity is different for gays than it is for straights, even though prophets state it is the same for all; with those who “know it all” and are no longer teachable; with being judged by those who confuse pride with the Spirit; with being called to serve in one ward, and the same person being called to discipline in another; with members who won’t take the sacrament from him even though he’s totally worthy to pass it; with those who let ignorance be their Liahona; and with the fear of being rejected by family or ward, whether figuratively or literally. That is the real struggle so many LGBT members face.
Young Women: “Come, Follow Me”
August: Marriage and Family
This monthly unit includes outlines that focus on the family as an eternal unit, and the importance of temple marriage in order to receive those blessings specific to that unit. While the material does not discuss sexual orientation, it does emphasize the relationship of man and woman, husband and wife, as essential to the family to make it an eternal unit and realize all blessings associated with it.
Given the Church’s doctrine and teachings regarding marriage, this context is to be expected. The purpose of this class is different from that of a college course on the subject. If this is understood by LGBT young women, families, and friends, the lessons may not be as troublesome. Many of the questions discussed in this unit (Why is family important? Why is chastity important? How can I strengthen my family? Etc.) have principles that apply to all. Others (How do the roles of men and women complement each other in families?) can be adapted to other households and types of families without being gender-specific.