This is another in the Gay Gospel Doctrine Class series of posts that takes a lesson from the LDS Church’s (Adult) Gospel Doctrine class and presents it from a gay perspective. Today’s lesson is based on Lesson #24 in the Gospel Doctrine Manual (“This is Life Eternal”).
The scriptural readings for Lesson 24 center on the 16th and 17th chapters of the Gospel of John. The setting is the Last Supper. This is Jesus’ last evening with his apostles, and he is sharing parting words of inspiration, revelation, guidance, admonition and direction with them.
It is during the course of this evening that Jesus discourses about the Holy Ghost, pointing out that this member of the Godhead will not come unless and until He (Jesus) is gone: “for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” (John 16:7).
The GD manual conveniently lists the following “missions” of the Holy Ghost: comforts (John 14:26); teaches (John 14:26); brings truths to our remembrance (John 14:26); testifies of the Savior (John 15:26); guides us into all truth (John 16:13); shows us things to come (John 16:13); and glorifies the Savior (John 16:14).
Many, if not most, who read this blog will be well-versed in the role, mission, and operation of the Holy Ghost. We Mormons start learning about the HG in Primary, particularly as we prepared for baptism. Then there were countless lessons in Young Men’s and Young Women’s lessons, Sunday School lessons, Seminary lessons, firesides, talks, family home evenings, etc., etc., etc. (which in turn equipped us to teach these same lessons and principles as missionaries to non-members throughout the world).
And what were the purposes of these lessons? Ostensibly, the objective of these lessons was to teach what has been a fundamental doctrine of Mormonism since the day Joseph Smith went into the woods, i.e., that each person has the right and the ability to receive divine guidance in the daily conduct of their lives and gain a testimony of truth (and not just the truth of the Church, mind you, but as Moroni pointed out: “by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things [emphasis added] (Moroni 10:5).
I say “ostensibly” because, in the modern Mormon Church, this emphasis on the role of the Holy Ghost has arguably been increasingly counterbalanced, if not overtaken, by an emphasis on the principle of obedience to Church leaders and their (authoritative, read definitive) interpretation of existing scripture.
Nevertheless, the gift and power of the Holy Ghost remains at the heart of Mormon doctrine. When Joseph Smith was asked, "wherein [the LDS Church] differed from the other religions of the day," he replied, that it was in "the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying-on of hands,…[and] that all other considerations were contained in the gift of the Holy Ghost" (History of the Church 4:42).
Now, I’d like to take these principles and apply them to one particular situation that is of crucial importance to every gay or lesbian Latter-day Saint. Where does God stand on the issue of homosexuality? Or, in other words, is gay okay?
Although I’m sure there will be some who will quibble with the following statement, I stand by it as a general principle: There is no more important issue facing a believing gay Mormon than the issue of whether or not God accepts such a person as they are, i.e., gay.
Countless are the cases where Latter-day Saints have tried to pray the gay away, trusting and believing in their leaders’ assertions that homosexuality is a perversion, is impure and unnatural, is an abomination in the eyes of God. Innumerable (only because we can never know just how many Mormons have offered up such prayers in the secrecy of their closets [double entendre intended]) are the cases where gay Mormons have sought a witness, through the power of the Holy Ghost, that they can and will be “healed” of this affliction.
Countless though such cases be, I have never read nor heard an account where a gay Mormon has testified that they have received a spiritual witness that homosexuality is indeed an abomination, that they have received a witness that, though they were born gay, God expects them to deny who they are, condemn this aspect of themselves, and become “cured.”
I have, however, read a number of accounts where gay Mormons, after spending countless hours on their knees, have finally asked a different question and, wonder of wonders, have received an unexpected response by the power of the Holy Ghost, who testifies of the truth of all things. One such account is the following, available here:
“I nearly didn't survive as a result of the hatred I had developed for myself, due to the guidance I had received that being gay was immoral, wicked, sinful, and evil. Finally, just before I turned 18, a thought occurred to me that I should kneel down and ask Heavenly Father himself if being gay was so wrong. I had always been taught these things, but I had never actually asked for myself.
“I have to tell you, the overwhelming feeling of comfort I received was more powerful than anything I can possibly describe. I was forced from my knees into a weeping slump on the floor. I wept with joy that I wasn't evil after all. I wept in grief for all the wasted years spent hating myself. I wept at the confirmation that not only was being gay okay, but it was part of God's plan for me. I wept with bliss at the knowledge that I had a future with a loving husband and adoring children. I had finally come to terms with my sexuality and fully embraced the fact that I am gay. I was finally ready to come out to the world and live honestly. I was sick of the shame I felt in hiding all these years.”
Other accounts are available here. The common threads through all these stories are (i) surprise and (ii) joy. Surprised by joy. (I think someone wrote a book about that.) I can personally testify to such surprise and such joy, for I have experienced them; I have received my own witness through the most sublime spiritual experience of my life.
I hope gay Latter-day Saints will continue to lay claim to what I believe is rightfully theirs: a witness of the Holy Ghost unexpected, to crib from Thoreau, in common hours; a witness that will testify as to their divine nature, which in their case means being a gay son or a lesbian daughter of their Heavenly Father, who loves, accepts and affirms them as they are.