Is Church Policy Unfair?

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In its fantastic new webpage, the LDS church has clearly outlined its doctrine regarding same-sex attraction and same-sex activity. People don’t willfully choose to experience by attracted to members of the same-sex, but they don’t have to feel trapped by those experiences. They can live a chaste Christian life regardless of their same-sex attractions. While experience these attractions is not a sin, acting on them is.

The site also conveys the sobering message, “Some people, including those resisting same-sex attraction, may not have the opportunity to marry a person of the opposite sex in this life.” That is, because of this trial, some people might not be able to marry someone of the opposite sex during their mortal probation. The church asks these people to remain celibate, as sexual relations are only approved by God within marriage between man and women.

Many people are displeased by this stance. The church, after all, has long preached that marriage is essential for salvation, and that following divine instructions means finding a spouse, having children, and raising them in righteousness. Family is one reason we came to earth, we’ve been told. We are here to start a family. I’ve therefore heard the question asked, “Is the plan of salvation broken for those with same-sex attraction? Are they excluded from the very reasons we came here?”

These feelings are real and poignant. However, I think we overfocus on this particular demographic. Those who experience SSA are not to only members of the church for whom marriage and family is out of reach. There are people who’ve been maimed or paralyzed by an injury, and are thus unlikely to ever find a spouse. There are those who aren’t blessed with physical features that make them appealing to members of the opposite sex. There are those who are autistic, and who will likely never find someone willing to put up with their quirks and characteristics. There are those who experience schizophrenia that scares aware potential suitors. There are those who are just plain socially awkward, and who don’t learn the skills they need during their dating years to effectively court someone. There are those who, for no apparent reason at all, just never manage to find someone to love and cherish.

I don’t have hard data to demonstrate this, but I suspect that demographically, all these groups combined are larger than the number of Latter-day Saints who experience same-sex attraction. And we ask all of them to remain celibate. Those with SSA are not singled out in these issues. And if the Plan of Salvation is “broken” for those who experience SSA, then it is broken for all of these groups of people too.

While marriage and family is an ideal that we all strive for, it is simply not going to be available to everyone in this life. In addition, nobody is entitled to marriage and a family. Some people die before ever reaching marriageable age. An acquaintance of mine was killed in a car wreck weeks before her wedding. Some people’s spouses die before bearing children. Some people are never able to marry at all. It seems to me unwise to claim an moral or religious entitlement to something that many people seem unable to obtain (or maintain), for reasons entirely outside of their control.

In today’s hypersexualized culture, where sexual satisfaction is seen as one of the paramount goals of life, it seems patently unfair to ask people to remain abstinent of their own free will and choice. And yet we do it. While it may be unfair using the world’s metrics of fairness, and while it may even be unfair by heavenly standards too, for all we know, this life certainly wasn’t designed with fairness in mind. Everybody seems to have their unique trials. Nobody seems immune from trials, either. And a great many people, of whom those with SSA are only a small part, are given the trial of living a life of celibacy and abstinence amidst a society that is constantly informing them (in an “in your face” kind of way) of the pleasure and allure of sexual intercourse.

My heart reaches out to these individuals. This is hard. They deserve all the love and support we have to offer. They deserve our kindness, our compassion, and perhaps even our willingness to overlook and forgive their weaknesses as they attempt to submit their wills to Christ. But this doesn’t mean that the law of chastity should be revised to grant a special dispensation or exception to a demographic because of their unique circumstances. If we grant such an exception because it is unfathomable to ask people in this day and age to willfully remain celibate, it seems we would have to grant this exception to all demographics who we currently ask this of.

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