In the fall of 2008, I campaigned actively for Proposition 8, with tens of thousands of other Latter-day Saints, after the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints asked members in California to “do all you can to support” it. For such a sensitive, complex, and difficult political issue, we were, without question, imperfect emissaries. Nevertheless, we did our best to follow the prophet.
Following a Prophet in Faith
Not surprisingly, many of us were intimidated at the prospect of going door-to-door in support of our beliefs about marriage. After our first Saturday knocking doors, a member of our ward expressed the questions and doubts that she had beforehand. Why would the Church be taking a controversial public position based on our private religious beliefs? What good could come of it? Then, welling up with emotion, she explained that she had come that first Saturday because of her love for the prophet, President Thomas S. Monson.
Those present knew what she meant. At times too numerous to count, our hearts had also been touched by the humble example and loving teachings of a man that we sustained as president of the Church and a servant of God-even a prophet. Our love and respect for him engendered deep trust. For difficult social and political issues, following a prophet can require great faith-even childlike faith that lovingly obeys before completely understanding.
Another inspiring example of such faith can be found in Voice(s) of Hope, published by Deseret Book. This compilation includes faith promoting and inspiring stories of Latter-day Saints who experience same-sex attraction, or have family members that do, and who abide by the moral standards of the Church and affirm its divine teachings on marriage and family. One of these “voices” is the father of a son who experiences same-sex attraction. He relates the following personal experience about his decision to follow the prophet:
For several years an acquaintance had encouraged me to attend a support group for parents of gay and lesbian children. Still looking for answers, I agreed to go with him. Most of those in attendance were LDS, and . . . they began their meeting with a song and a prayer.
That night there was a presentation on the legal efforts to gain equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals. There was wild applause as the speaker reviewed each court decision that expanded gay rights. He emphasized the need for parents to become advocates for their gay and lesbian children and to pressure Church leaders to change.
After the presentation I visited with a number of those in attendance. As we talked, each person emphasized that he or she was an active member of the Church and believed it was true. Each person also expressed a concern that the prophet and other Church leaders didn’t understand the larger issues associated with homosexuality and the individual struggles of gay members. One mother pointed out that President Gordon B. Hinckley had admitted that he didn’t know what caused homosexuality. She felt it was not acceptable to deny gays and lesbians full rights in the Church if the prophet himself didn’t know what caused a person’s sexual orientation. I sensed that those in attendance loved their children and wanted them to be happy. And although I didn’t feel the Spirit at the meeting, there was compelling logic to their arguments.
Over the next few days I struggled with what I’d heard and felt. I knew that I loved my son as much as those people loved their children. How should I show that love? They wanted their children to be happy, just as I wanted [my son] to be happy. How could I help him find happiness? They believed the Church was true and that the prophet taught the truth on every subject except homosexuality. Should I believe as they did? I began to worry that the prophet and the Church were wrong on this one issue.
As I pondered and prayed, the Spirit directed my thoughts. I knew that I couldn’t compartmentalize my faith in the teachings of the prophet; I either followed every word the prophet spoke or none at all. I was concerned that if I didn’t believe what the prophet taught about homosexuality today, tomorrow I might choose not to believe what he taught about another issue. I would essentially be saying that I knew better than God or His prophet what was right and what was wrong. That sounded like pride. In the end, I made the choice to follow the prophet.
Then speaking for his wife and himself, this father writes, “We believe that as God’s watchman (see D&C 101:44-57; 124:61), he stands on higher ground and can see dangers others can’t. We’ll follow him, even if he doesn’t have specific answers to every question.”
The True Change Needed
When the prophet’s teaching goes against a current cultural consensus or the prevailing popular opinions, there can be a temptation to believe that eventually the Church will change to be more in line with the rest of the world. Rather than follow in faith, it can be tempting to lobby for change.
My grandmother lived to be ninety-seven years old. I enjoyed my visits with her in the twilight of her life. She would share experiences from her memory that spanned almost a century. Not a member of our faith, she became acquainted in her 20s, through a professional sorority, with a young woman from Salt Lake City, perhaps the first Latter-day Saint she had ever met. This young woman was certain that the Church’s standards were outdated and old fashioned-it was then the 1930s-and that eventually the Church would be forced to change in order to keep the interest of a more progressive, younger generation.
My grandmother related that experience to me from her memory, as if she was reliving what she had thought and felt at that time. It appeared she was just as certain as that young woman that the Church would have to change to keep up with the times. Then, a peculiar thing happened. As her mind turned back to the present, she asked me with some apparent surprise, “Michael, the Church didn’t change, did it?” I responded simply, “No, Grandma, the Church didn’t change.”
With respect to same-sex attraction, the Church’s website <a href="https://www.
<hr class=’system-pagebreak’ />mormonsandgays.org”>www.mormonsandgays.org makes clear what can and cannot be changed:
The Church’s approach to this issue stands apart from society in many ways. And that’s alright. Reasonable people can and do differ. From a public relations perspective it would be easier for the Church to simply accept homosexual behavior. That we cannot do, for God’s law is not ours to change. There is no change in the Church’s position of what is morally right. But what is changing-and what needs to change-is to help Church members respond sensitively and thoughtfully when they encounter same-sex attraction in their own families, among other Church members, or elsewhere.
Speaking for myself, I could do better to follow the example of the Good Samaritan who “had compassion,” in contrast to the priest and Levite who “passed by on the other side.” For those who desire greater sensitivity and thoughtfulness on the issue of same-sex attraction, the following websites are excellent places to start: www.mormonsandgays.org (the Church’s website) and www.ldsvoicesofhope.org (a companion site to the book Voice(s) of Hope).
A Prophet’s Example of Love
In striving to show greater compassion and love, we can, as always, follow the prophet. Though not related to same-sex attraction, one story of a prophet’s love provides a powerful example. While attending the LDS Institute of Religion in Austin, Texas, I heard dozens of inspiring and faith promoting stories from Brother Randal Wright, our Institute Director. Many of those stories have faded with time, but I will never forget the following story told originally by his friend:
“I seem to be at rock bottom in my life. I’m so depressed.” That was my journal entry from February of 1981. I was nineteen years old, attending school at the Brigham Young University Campus in Laie, Hawaii. I lacked direction and purpose and felt that my life was floundering. My reason for coming to Hawaii seemed clear: my family was experiencing some serious problems, and I wanted to get away from them. Upon arriving in Hawaii, I found that I was not any happier. Surfing, swimming, playing on the beach-none of these activities seemed to fill the emptiness I felt. With time I learned that it was not my family I was trying to get away from. I was really running away from myself.
I had fought off all pressures of going on a mission. My testimony had weakened over the years, and it became increasingly difficult to understand the role the Church played in my life. At BYU-Hawaii I was slow to make friends. I had a chip on my shoulder, and people could detect it. My countenance and appearance seemed to underscore the fact. I kept my hair down to my shoulders, and because I was in violation of the standards code, I would tuck my hair into a baseball cap whenever going to class. No one was going to make me get a haircut. My hair had become a symbol of my rebellion and unhappiness.
Although I had closed myself off to family and friends, deep down I wanted to change. I wanted to be loved. But because of family problems, because of past mistakes I’d made, and because of my feelings of inadequacy, I would not open myself up, nor did I know how to. I did not love myself, and therefore I concluded that no one else could love me either. What was there to love?
Then one day, this young man heard that President Spencer W. Kimball was coming to speak on campus. He had never seen the prophet before, so he went to see him speak. He continues:
After arriving back at my dorm room, I lay on my bed thinking about the wonderful words that had been spoken and how I felt during the talks. I was restless and wanted to get away-to think about my life and try to understand myself. I walked to the Hawaii Temple located near campus and sat on a stone bench in front of the entrance. I sat there for some time poring over my life, wondering why I had elected to take certain pathways.
I suddenly noticed that a small number of people were excitedly gathering around the entrance of the Temple. Moments later, President Kimball and some of the other General Authorities emerged from the building. As they shook the prophet’s hand and embraced him, I watched from a distance away, too frightened to approach him. I feared that he, as a prophet of God, would be able to discern the present state of my spirit and would peer into my eyes, seeing the mistakes I had made. I also feared that he would see my long hair, chastise me for breaking the rules and possibly have me kicked out of school. And so I quietly watched as he proceeded down the walkway across from where I stood.
The image of what then happened will always remain with me. President Kimball stopped and gazed into my frightened eyes. I prayed he would not come toward me. And yet he left the group he was traveling with and walked directly toward me. The feeling of shame that engulfed my soul made me want to get up and run from him. When he reached me, he threw his arms around my neck, kissed my cheek, and whispered in my ear, “I love you.” I shall never forget the warmth and love I felt. I could not dispute it-he loved me. I actually felt his love for me. I then did something I hadn’t done for a long, long time-I cried. I couldn’t control myself. I went behind the temple and continued to sob. That pure love had melted away my anger and bitterness and made me realize that I did have worth. I felt that I was loved, and that if my Father in Heaven had been there, he would have told me the same thing-that he truly loved me.
This story is not shared to suggest that by experiencing same-sex attraction one is living in rebellion. That is not the case. Church leaders make clear that the “attraction itself is not a sin,” only “acting on it is.” Tragically, there appears to be a common fear among Latter-day Saints who experience same-sex attraction that they are unworthy of God’s love because of their attractions. President Kimball’s example teaches us how to identify and dispel such fears by communicating, in words and deeds, the worth of a soul.
As revelators, prophets reveal God’s love for His children. As much as we might have preferred it, President Monson could not have visited every home in California to personally communicate that message of love. Those of us who went instead were meager substitutes. No doubt we made many mistakes and fell short of expressing true Christ-like love for all of those affected by Proposition 8. But we can trust with perfect confidence that our errand was motivated by a prophet’s love.
 First Presidency Letter, “Preserving Traditional Marriage and Strengthening Families,” 29 June 2008 (read to all congregations in California), available at Newsroom: www.mormonnewsroom.org.
 Tony Clarke (pseudonym), “Trust in the Lord,” in Voice(s) of Hope, Ty Mansfield (ed.) Deseret Book 2011, pp. 122-24.
 See www.mormonsandgays.org.
 Randal A. Wright, The Case for Chastity: Helping Youth Stay Morally Clean, (1993) 61-63 (sharing experience of a friend).
 See www.mormonsandgays.org.
George A. FarhnerJuly 26, 2013
When does " TOLERANCE " become "CONDONING " ? Jesus Christ was willing and able to confront sin where he found it and also added his counsel to...." Go, and sin no more ! " The euphemism " same sex attraction " is used in place of the more emotionally charged term " homosexual " so as to be less offensive. However, regardless of how you phrase it......it still means someone ( male or female ) that has a " Gender Identity Crisis " ( a.k.a. Gender Confusion ) !
SheriJune 29, 2013
Ahhh the nephite cycle has begun. The cleansing will begin within the church first. Rob I'm not sure of your comment, saying if we support the prophet against gay marriage now you hope we'll support him WHEN the change happens. The Lords position is clear in the proclamation. All this opposition to the prophet and the Lords council. I will choose The Lord and His prophets every time. If The Lord gives further revelation I will follow.