Earlier this month, the LDS Church launched a new website at the URL www.mormonsandgays.com. The site is titled, "Love One Another: A Discussion on Same-Sex Attraction." Overall, I have been impressed with this new website, which is landmark for the Church in several ways.
First, this is one of the first times that a statement by the Church or representatives of the Church have referred to gays and lesbians without being prefaced with "so-called" or "those that refer to themselves as" or something similar along those lines. I am pleased to see that the Church has learned to be more respectful in discussions with and about gays and lesbians. Some statements made in the past have sounded demeaning or offensive to people that embrace a gay identity. It's nice to see the Church changing the language used around this issue.
Second, this website encourages respect and inclusion of gay family members and others that make different choices concerning their sexuality than the Church counsels. In one of the videos posted on the website, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles says, "let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion and outreach...and...not have families exclude or be disrespectful of those who choose a different lifestyle."
Third, as also shown by Elder Cook's quote, the Church is encouraging members to reach out with love and compassion to gays and lesbians, as well as "respond[ing] sensitively and thoughtfully when they encounter same-sex attraction in their own families, among other Church members, or elsewhere." Although calling for compassion and love towards gays and lesbians is not completely new for the Church, this is the first time that this much emphasis has been placed on it.
That being said, I believe there is still room for improvement in how the Church approaches the subject. Some of the wording used in the website, while better than before, can still come off as demeaning to gays and lesbians. Some of this is due to the terminology used (and I could write a whole post just on terminology, and likely will some time soon), though some of it is just using a poor or awkward choice of words.
The website does emphasize that the doctrine concerning expression of sexuality remains the same. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles says in one of the videos posted on the website, "the doctrine of the Church, that sexual activity should only occur between a man and a woman who are married, has not changed and is not changing. But what is changing and what needs to change is to help our own members and families understand how to deal with same gender attraction." The change that Elder Oaks refers to is much of what I've mentioned above: inclusion and respect of gay family members and others who choose not to follow the Church doctrine around sexuality, as well as increasing understanding among members of the Church that same-sex attraction itself is not chosen and is not sinful.
As regular readers of my blog will know, I am quite open about my sexuality. There is one place, however, where I have not been very open about it, and that is in my own ward. I have made my bishop and several others in leadership in my ward aware of my sexuality, but I haven't been open with my ward at large, because I haven't been sure how well members of my ward understand same-sex attraction. I haven't felt completely safe revealing this aspect of my life at church, though I should also state that this is in part due to the fact that I am still relatively new in my ward and haven't had the time to get to know very many members of my ward.
My hope is that as the discussion and dialogue around homosexuality increases in the Church (and as I get to know and trust the members of my ward) that I will find it safe to discuss my sexuality within my ward. Many members of wards that I have attended in the past have learned about my sexuality when I came out publicly earlier this year. Many responded to me with love and support. My hope is that I will receive the same type of response when I share this with my current ward (whenever that might be).
If you have any thoughts or insights on this new website or on dialogue within the Church concerning homosexuality, please share it with a comment. Let's keep the discussion going.
And as this is my last blog post before Christmas, I also want to take the time to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and an enjoyable holiday season! Best wishes to all of you.