The following letter was sent out to 60 or so stakes in southeast Idaho:
We live in a time of increasing difficulty and temptation. The world is relentless in its efforts to ensnare Latter-Day Saints. One particularly devastating and challenging trial faced by many members of the Church is same-gender attraction. This unwanted difficulty is increasingly common. While the percentage of individuals who embrace alternate lifestyles is small, nearly 10% of people experience feelings of sexual attraction to members of the same sex. The nature of this trial leads far too many of our members to become discouraged and abandon hope. Far too many fall away from the sweet peace that the Gospel can bring.
Recently, the First Presidency and other Leaders of the Church have made an effort to approach same-gender attraction with a new level of compassion and understanding. Elder Jeffery R. Holland wrote an article for the Ensign which was published shortly after the release of the new pamphlet God Loveth His Children. Reading these documents, it is clear that the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve recognize the need for us to reach out in love and understanding to those who experience same-gender attraction.
To that end, we have organized a fireside designed for all members of the Church: individuals who experience same-gender attraction and Priesthood Leaders, as well as every parent and friend in the church. We invite your stake or ward to participate in this unique opportunity. Please make an effort to let every member know about this invaluable learning experience. This special fireside will include specific instruction for you as Priesthood Leaders, for those who experience same-gender attraction, and for friends and family. Presenters will include Priesthood Leaders and Mental Health Professionals. We are also honored to announce that Ty Mansfield, world-renowned author of In Quiet Desperation, will be our feature speaker.
We've included a flier that could be posted in your buildings. We've also included an announcement to add to your bulletin for the next couple of weeks. Additionally, we encourage you to consider announcing this event from the pulpit. Perhaps you are aware of individuals who would benefit from this fireside; they would most-likely benefit from a special personal invitation for them to attend.
Thank you sincerely for your efforts in reaching out to those who struggle daily with this incredibly difficult and often misunderstood challenge. As we all strive to increase our understanding and compassion, we will be better able to offer the Christ-like love and support so desperately needed.
You know, when I was struggling so hard with fighting against my homosexual feelings and trying to be a good member of the LDS Church and feeling alone because I didn't feel like the Church was doing much to help people like me, this letter probably would have been a welcome one. Now I have some problems with it.
Although I admire the fact that church leaders are doing more to deal with this issue in a more compassionate way, in some ways it feels too little, too late. But I do at least support the fact that those who are struggling with this issue have an outlet of sorts, although in the long run I wonder if it does more harm than good.
I know there are a fraction of people that have been able to live with their homosexual attractions and still live as fully worthy members of the LDS Church. Many of these people are married and making those marriages work the best they can. Many feel this is their cross to carry and are doing it as best they can. I admire their tenacity and devotion to what they believe they must do.
Ultimately, I was one of those people who couldn't do it and no longer want to do it. To each his own, but I think things like this may give people like I once was false hope that they can change or overcome something which, in my mind, is truly difficult, if not impossible, to overcome and which maybe is something that isn't really meant to be overcome. Of course, I can only speak for myself, but when the Church teaches that if a person has enough faith and lives worthily enough and prays hard enough, God will provide a way for that person to overcome or at least live with the challenge; and that doesn't end up happening, it can make a person feel very hopeless, depressed, guilty, sorrowful, frustrated, and make them wonder what is wrong with them. As someone who has been on both sides, that was a miserable way to live, and I'm happy that is no longer my life.
The letter says "too many of our members to become discouraged and abandon hope. Far too many fall away from the sweet peace that the Gospel can bring." Why does that happen, and why so often? Maybe it's because many of these people (to sort of paraphrase Spencer W. Kimball) knock on the door until their hands are mashed to a bloody pulp and their bodies are so ravaged with the aches and pain of trying to get the blasted door open and they are filled with doubt that God even wants them to even open the door at all. Maybe it's because they discover another door to open; one that makes life far more joyful and fulfilling. Maybe it's because they feel lied to and betrayed, whether intentionally or not.
But I do appreciate the sentiment of the letter. I appreciate the fact that they acknowledge that it is "incredibly difficult and often misunderstood challenge." I appreciate that they are asking members of the church to "reach out in love and understanding" to their gay brothers and sisters. I appreciate that this issue isn't being swept under the rug as much as it once was. I appreciate that church leaders are becoming more educated and compassionate about it. I appreciate that the LDS Church has evolved somewhat as far as this subject is concerned (although I still feel they have a ways to go). Progress is slow, but when I think of where the Church was on this issue 20 or 40 years ago, and where they are today, it gives me hope that 20 years from now or 40 years from now, the LDS Church's attitude toward gay people will have evolved into even a better place.