I’ve frequently thought about and been asked how I can support same-sex marriage when the LDS Church is so vehemently against it. While this is the surface question, the real question is if I believe that everything the prophets and apostles say, including official Church statements, comes from God. This is a much messier question.
First, we’re going to have a short Sunday school lesson on the LDS doctrine regarding prophets and apostles. If you are already familiar with this (those familiar with Preach My Gospel know this as lesson one) or just don’t care, feel free to skip to below the picture.
According to LDS doctrine, God is our loving Heavenly Father and the Master Creator. As incredible as His power is, we have a personal relationship with Him. He is our Father. We are a part of His family. He provided us with earthly families to bless and enrich our lives. One way that He blesses these families is through prophets. Prophets are men called of God to lead His people. He communicates directly with them through revelation. A few Biblical examples of prophets are men like Noah, Abraham, or Isaiah. An important note is that they are not perfect men and are not worshiped as gods or saints. While prophets are imperfect men, there was also one perfect Man that lead God’s people, Jesus the Christ. He taught many good principles and performed miracles, culminating in His atonement and resurrection. While he lived on the earth, he lead and organized a church. Twelve men were given His priesthood, or the authority to act in His name, and were called to be special witnesses of Him. They were called apostles. After Christ ascended to heaven, these twelve apostles continued to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and build His church, but ultimately they were all rejected and killed. People turned away from God and His authority, or priesthood, was withdrawn from the earth. Many good principles and pieces of Christ’s church remained and many other churches were formed with those pieces (Catholicism, Baptist, Lutheran, Protestant, etc.), but none of them were authorized of God.
This continued for hundreds of years until the year 1820. There was a boy named Joseph Smith who had questions and wasn’t satisfied with the answers that he received from various pastors or other religious leaders. He didn’t understand how there could be so much confusion and disagreement between the churches if they all claimed to be Christ’s one true church. He searched the scriptures and came across the following scripture: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (KJV James 1:5). He decided to follow that counsel and went to the woods to pray to know which of all the churches was correct and as a result had a vision. In Joseph’s words: “I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. … When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith—History 1:16–17). Shortly thereafter, God called Joseph Smith to be His prophet on the earth once again. Joseph was given the task of translating The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ as proof of his calling. At the end of the Book is the promise: “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:4-5).
Every six months, in April and October, the prophet, his counselors, and the twelve apostles along with other leaders of the LDS Church speak in what is called General Conference. There have been a number of infamous talks given during these conferences that aren’t exactly friendly towards LGBTQ+ folks (I’m not going to link to those). There are also other things that church leaders have put out that could be harmful (ex: “For Young Men Only,” or the “Crime Against Nature” chapter in The Miracle of Forgiveness).
For a long time I unquestioningly accepted these statements as the words of God Himself. That’s what we’re taught in the LDS Church, “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38). In putting such trust in them I did what Brigham Young warned against so long ago: trusting without inquiring of God to know for myself.
I hated myself for a long time. I thought I was an “abomination” and that I was unquestionably damned for being attracted to guys. I was hating myself and cutting myself, frustrated that I wasn’t living up to the expectations of the LDS Church. It wasn’t until I sincerely prayed about it, asking if it was okay that I was gay that things changed. And the affirming answer that I received can’t be forgotten. It’s the way I’ve always been, even before I was born. Similarly, I prayed to receive confirmation that I should support the Church’s stance on marriage and got nothing for years, but when I asked if I should support it I knew, through personal revelation, that is what was best for me. I can’t speak for anyone else, because I’m not anyone else. I can only say what I’m supposed to do, what is right for me.
Personal revelation is consistently taught in Mormonism. Missionaries count on it daily. They’re taught to receive personal revelation to know where to go, what to do and how to teach. They count on others receiving personal revelation to know that the LDS Church is true. We’re taught to rely on personal revelation, but sometimes I feel that the church says, “Rely on personal revelation, just as long as it’s the same as what we say.”
I’m not implying that the LDS Church is false, rather I’m implying that many take whatever they hear from the Church as irrefutable truth, without seeking to receive confirmation from God. If it really is of God, then the Church should have nothing to worry about. But there is no need to follow commandments that don’t come from God.
The Church has done a lot of good for me and I don’t want it to sound like I hate it or am packing my bags to leave. That’s not the right answer for me right now. A couple of weeks ago we had a testimony meeting at USGA. One of my friends talked about how the Church is an important part of our lives. We grew up in it, some served missions in it, and now we’re at BYU. Parts of the Church are incredible and should be treasured, regardless of our standing in the Church.
I don’t know what the future will hold for me or my relation with the Church. There are too many variables. But the one constant I know is that what happens will be right for me. I have faith that God, or whatever deity you may or may not believe in will not lead me to be miserable and that I will have answers.
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (KJV Matthew 7:7-8).