In the church's most recent publication on the subject of homosexuality, entitled Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (and one of my long-time favorites), has taken another step towards sensitizing the members of the church to the issue and helping them realize how difficult it is for many who experience same-gender attraction to feel like they're truly part of the church family.
I especially appreciate the personalized opening regarding an interview with a twenty-something man in which Elder Holland assures him that if he is keeping the law of chastity like anyone else, he has no cause for concern about his worthiness and can rest assured that he has a place in the kingdom and hope for a bright future with all the blessings of the gospel.
Because I did like this article, it's a little hard for me to even bring up the following because I don't wish to detract from the good the article can do. I grow weary of nay-sayers harping on sincere attempts to help, but there's something dangerously subtle in the layout of the article in the Ensign that I have to bring up, if only because I doubt Elder Holland would have wanted it done as it was.
Some editor missed the boat tragically and terribly. Maybe Elder Holland himself chose the excerpts he wanted highlighted next to the illustrations in the magazine, but I would guess he did not. The points that were highlighted were sadly indicative of a deep lack of understanding regarding what those of us who actually experience this need to hear from our fellow church members.
I think it would have been beautiful to see the following statement highlighted:
"I ache for those who do not understand that every blessing offered by God is available to anyone who obeys the laws upon which those blessings are predicated (see D&C 130:20–21). No one who lives the gospel should despair."
"In saying this, let me make it clear that attractions alone, troublesome as they may be, do not make one unworthy. The First Presidency has stated, 'There is a distinction between immoral thoughts and feelings and participating in either immoral heterosexual or any homosexual behavior.'"
"Above all, keep your lines of communication open. Open communication between parents and children is a clear expression of love, and pure love, generously expressed, can transform family ties." (emphasis added)
What was, in fact, highlighted? Aside from the blurb about the church's new pamphlet, the two highlighted paragraphs in this article directed not to those of us who experience the attractions but to those desiring to help us were:
"At the heart of God's plan is the begetting of children. Adam and Eve were commanded to 'be fruitful, and multiply.' We are to follow them in marrying and providing physical bodies for Heavenly Father's spirit children."
(next to a picture of Adam and Eve and family)
"Planting a garden with strong, healthy plants will help keep weeds under control. Likewise, if we fill our lives with the spiritual nourishment God has provided, we can more easily gain control over our inclinations."
Who made this call? Who decided to draw attention away from his suggestions to friends and family and instead emphasize, first and foremost, a reminder that they were Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, and second, the perceived admonition that I, as one who experiences same-gender attraction, avoid anything and anyone remotely homo and that my inclinations must be controlled?
I didn't mind Elder Holland's mention of these principles (in the form he gave them, not my brashly paraphrased version). When giving counsel, you must lay a doctrinal framework upon which that counsel is built.
But was this article just another thinly disguised sermon to us passed off as counsel to our loved ones, or do we have here a tragic example of priestcraft in our church publications? Somewhere in between? I don't know, but I sincerely hope this was not Elder Holland's decision and that he finds and has a heart-to-heart with whoever was responsible for trying to turn his article into another admonition to "strugglers" rather than a sincere attempt to present balanced advice to our friends and family. Please?
I can handle it. I'll get over it. I can look past it to the message I believe he was trying to portray. Like I said, I don't think this is Elder Holland's doing, but regardless, I just don't know how many more of these little "reminders" we as an already marginalized group in the church can take before we lose hope that church members truly are willing to take a break from reminding us the ideal is heterosexual marriage and children (do people really believe we do not already have this present in our minds?) long enough to let us know they truly are trying to understand our dilema and not just reminding themselves of what we must do so they can remember to crack the whip, but perhaps a little more gently?