Before we discuss LGBT and the Church…

When it comes to the experience of sexual minorities in the church, here are some questions that affect our viewpoint and our behavior, which we are invited to consider. These can help us to see if we are prepared to dialogue with people who may disagree with us on these issues.

  • How we define our identity: whether we choose to define it by mortal experiences that take place in a context of biological and other variation, or we choose to identify in a more eternal sense as children of a heavenly mother and father.
  • How we choose to define gender and biological sex, and whether we are willing to see orientation as fixed and determined, socially constructed, fluid, definable according to one’s personal preference, or in any number of other ways.
  • The way we determine what (or which) aspects of our biology and other aspects of our mortal experience we view as continuing into the eternities.
  • Which voices in science, the social sciences, and in popular culture that we are willing to consider, and why we gravitate toward some voices and not others.
  • Whether or not we are willing to fully acknowledge the pain and struggle experienced by our LGBT family and friends in the church, and whether we are inclined to respond with compassion or dismissiveness (or other responses).
  • Whether or not we are willing to acknowledge the reality that there are many LGBT people in the church who fully affirm the church’s teachings on gender and sexuality, and who are thriving in the church.
  • Whether or how much we feel a need to “fix” other people.
  • What we see as the desired outcome of our ministering interactions with others (connection? emotionally-detached truth telling? pain relief? healing? growth?).
  • Whether we see concepts like love and empathy as having obvious definitions and supreme importance, or whether we see them as important but also in need of principled guidance and boundaries.
  • How we define love: primarily in terms of affection and romantic attachment, or in terms of covenant bonds, commitment, boundaries, principled decisions, etc.
  • Whether we see spiritual struggle and feelings of loneliness as a unique experience of victimhood, or we see them as opportunities for growth and development of the individual and the people around them in church.
  • How we read scripture: through a pre-critical lens, culturally informed, or both- and what relative importance we attach to those approaches.
  • Whether or not we think that cultural influences on a prophet’s worldview and teachings, or noticeable evolution of prophetic teachings, automatically negate the value of those teachings.
  • The extent to which we view our feelings as a reliable guide to reality.
  • What we view to be the primary purpose of participation in the church (Personal development in a covenant relationship with God? Feeling a sense of personal validation and belonging in a community? Emotional comfort? Social support?).
  • Whether we view the current leadership of the church as ordained of God, and whether we view the united voices of the governing councils of the church as binding.
  • Whether we or a person whose story we are considering, have ever experienced authentic conversion to the revealed Christ in the context of the church (as opposed to merely offering mental assent to other people’s beliefs and teachings).
  • Our and other people’s level of experience in receiving and applying discernment to personal revelation.
  • Whether or not we have a mature and well-informed understanding of the plan of salvation.
  • Whether or not we understand the church’s current teachings on LGBT issues, and articulate them in the spirit in which they are offered.
  • Whether we are able to assume the best of people who disagree with us, even when those disagreements involve very important and sensitive issues
  • Whether or not we are angry
  • Whether or not we are open to opposing points of view, and willing to broaden our perspectives on sexuality and sexual attraction

My experience is that not many people are willing to discuss LGBT issues with all of those cards on the table, and that is why so many forums for discussing LGBT issues are characterized by either shouting and conflict, or just emotional validation. The more we understand what we personally bring to the table, and where there are gaps in our own understanding, the more we are able to engage in real and respectful dialogue with others who have a deep understanding of the same for themselves. This self-awareness allows for understanding and mutual respect to emerge, even when there is not agreement.

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