Mind-bending story about ‘gay Mormons’ reinforces political correctness


A growing number of Americans seem to be accepting, even embracing, the idea of same-sex relationships (i.e., homosexuality) even while there still remain Americans who view those relationships as dysfunctional. Professional medical associations have, one by one over the years, basically “declassified” homosexuality as a mental disorder and now consider such behavior as generally “natural, normal, and healthy.”

Admittedly, and unashamedly, I fall into the old-school camp. I view homosexuality as a disorder – psychologically, emotionally and culturally. Now, after reading this, I’m inclined to add that it’s also an intellectual disorder.

Jennifer Dobner is a veteran Associated Press reporter. I’m quite sure she hasn’t made up any of the quotes used in her story, so there’s no reason for me to doubt the actual words of the people she interviewed. Her story centers on how “gay Mormons” continue to cope (or not) with their faith. I recommend her story if only for one reason: as an intellectual exercise. Try to count how many falsehoods, misunderstandings, half-truths and misrepresentations are manifest in the story. Again, I’m not questioning Dobner’s professionalism; I am questioning how politically correct our world has become in its understanding of “gay” anything.

One of the more peculiar politically correct threads that seems to run through all of these arguments these days is mentioned in the story as it relates to Mormons.

There are many people who read into recent LDS Church statements that there is a separation between “being gay” and homosexuality – that someone can think he is “gay” without ever being involved in homosexual behavior and thus demand (now under force of law) that this self-identity be taken seriously by others; in other words, that someone can reasonably identify his personhood, and hence conduct his life, in terms that preclude human behavior.

I simply don’t believe that concept or accept its construction.

Within any Christian theology of which I’m aware, a person isn’t a thief unless she actually steals something. A person isn’t actually a murderer unless he takes an innocent life. And so on. I believe that a person isn’t actually a homosexual unless she has same-sex sexual relations. [pullquote]I believe that a person isn’t actually a homosexual unless she has same-sex sexual relations.[/pullquote]

The AP reporter writes in her story, “While the church has historically frowned upon homosexuality, since the 1990s, leaders have softened their stance to differentiate between feelings and actions. Leaders now say the origins of homosexuality aren’t fully understood and disciplinary action or excommunication is typically limited to those found to actually be engaging in homosexual activity.”

I’ve been a Latter-day Saint since 1978 (33 years of my 53 years) and I’ve never thought otherwise. Actual human behavior determines any disciplinary Church action, period. I’ve never heard of anyone being excommunicated for just thinking something. I know LDS Church members have been excommunicated for both thinking “contrary” ideas, especially ideas that reflect critically on church authorities, and publicly sharing those thoughts as a manner of advocacy (like a few, more strident, advocates of the Equal Rights Amendment years ago), but not simply for having a thought.

For me, there’s really nothing “new” about my church’s position on what or how people think about themselves. A person can think whatever he wants to think, period, and the rest of us are to be patient with that. When the time comes that personal thoughts turn into outward actions, then is when the discernment of others is needed and justified.

There’s something else this story reminded me of. It’s difficult to be critical of deeply held personal feelings. That’s what makes this issue so tough to discuss publicly, let alone aggressively debate. But that’s part of the point. “Gay” activists have put the rest of us in the unenviable position of arguing an opposite point of view while we try to skillfully and exhaustively traverse deeply emotional terrain. Because those activists rarely permit us to do so without claiming offense, real human emotions get mixed in with politics and policies. We wind up labeled as “mean-spirited.” Unfortunate, but unavoidable.

After 25 years of studying this policy issue, I suppose I grow callous toward the claimed offenses. It’s frankly tiring to defend sound public policy and still remain sensitive to (overly sensitive) human emotions. Perhaps the best I can do these days is to simply point out the falsehoods, misunderstandings and misrepresentations among the professionals when I see them.

Read this story. Maybe you’ll see them too.

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  • Anonymous

    Mr. Sutherland, can a man who has never married and always been chaste call himself a heterosexual if he is attracted to women?

    • Paul Mero

      Having “attractions” is what healthy men and women have…it means were either male or female, it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re sexual.  Our sexuality is something different…an actual choice…an actual behavior.  Based on the broad implications of your question…meaning, psychologically/emotionally…I suppose I can safely answer your question, yes.  If your implication is legal, I’d say no.  In other words, if you wanted to place the word “heterosexual” into law, I would consider the term to mean a sexually-expressed act of some sort, and not simply your individual idea of what the term means.  For instance, if an application required you to list yourself as “heterosexual, homosexual, or other sexual,” and you checked “heterosexual,” I would assume that means you are communicating that you are active sexually as a heterosexual.  It could, of course, simply mean you want to be active in that fashion if you’re not but, in that case, the question becomes relative.  I’m interested to understand the intent of your question.

      What we have said time and again about human sexuality is that all that science and medicine know is that we are all either male or female with moral agency.  After those distinctions, our
      sexuality is what we do, especially as our sexuality relates to the law.

      • Anonymous

        I ask because you seem to think that a person cannot properly be considered to be (or call themselves) gay without engaging in homosexual activity. If it’s possible in a broad sense to be a chaste straight person, as you agree it is, why is it not possible to be a chaste gay person?

        As for this distinction you make between a legal implication and a broader one, what is its justification? (If you’re just saying that this is what the law in fact is but aren’t justifying it, that’s no defense against people who would have it be otherwise.) If a person can meaningfully be said to have their sexual orientation compose part of their identity, as you seem to think it can for a straight person, why shouldn’t it be the purview of law in the same way other basic personal characteristics are, like skin color?

        • Paul Mero

          I can see your context is “sexual orientation.”  I don’t share that context.  My context is “human orientation,” if you will.  I see human beings who, because of physiology and biology, are also naturally sexual; I don’t see “sexuals” who are also naturally human beings.

          Likewise, I don’t see a chaste heterosexual or “gay”; I see chaste human beings.

          Your other questions are answered by the differences in, and logical extensions of, our contextual views.

          • Anonymous

            No, it’s not at all necessary for anything I said to somehow construe “sexual” as a noun and “human” as its modifier. That’s a pretty glaring mischaracterization. I don’t support a view that places a person’s characteristics before his or her status as a person.

            That doesn’t, however, mean that characteristics don’t exist. A person (the noun) can be described by their characteristics (the adjective). Recognizing as much is not the height of political correctness — it’s reality. I don’t imagine you would write this piece or make the same argument if the article in question were about black Mormons, hispanic Mormons, American Mormons, tall Mormons, male Mormons, young Mormons, etc.

  • Anonymous

    Well said.

    Thanks for stating the obvious.  Obvious to anyone who is willing to actually think through the problem – and it is a problem.