Same-Sex Attraction
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“Same-Sex Attraction,” Counseling Resources (2020).

“Same-Sex Attraction,” Counseling Resources.

Same-Sex Attraction

Some members may feel same-sex attraction or identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. As you seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost and take the time to educate yourself about the needs of God’s children who experience same-sex attraction or identify as gay, you will develop charity and your capacity to minister will be magnified.

Feeling same-sex attraction or choosing to use a sexual identity label (such as gay, lesbian, or bisexual) is not a sin and does not violate Church policy. Words like gay and lesbian mean different things to different people. Identifying as gay may mean a member experiences same-sex attraction but chooses not to act on these feelings. This label may also describe how they express themselves emotionally, physically, romantically, sexually, or politically. Do not assume an individual is breaking the law of chastity because they use a sexual identity label.

Elder M. Russell Ballard stated, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that ‘the experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including [those with same-sex attraction]’” (“Be Still, and Know That I Am God” [Church Educational System devotional for young adults, May 4, 2014], broadcasts.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.)

People who experience feelings of same-sex attraction who commit to keep God’s commandments may receive Church callings, hold temple recommends, and receive temple ordinances.

The most important thing you can do after an individual discloses feelings of same-sex attraction is to listen and help them feel welcome.

Many principles about same-sex attraction will also apply to those who experience gender dysphoria or identify as transgender. However, same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria are very different. Those who experience gender dysphoria may or may not experience same-sex attraction, and the majority of those who experience same-sex attraction do not desire to change their gender.

For Church teachings about same-sex attraction, frequently asked questions, and other information helpful to leaders, teachers, parents, and individuals, see the Life Help section and Gospel Topics on ChurchofJesusChrist.org.

Seek to Understand

Those who experience same-sex attraction may feel ashamed or unworthy, even if they’ve never acted on these feelings. They may be afraid you will reject them because of these feelings, and they may not know how to reconcile their experience with the principles of the gospel.

As you counsel individuals who experience same-sex attraction, acknowledge their faith and courage in discussing these feelings with you. Reassure them of God’s love. Admit you may not fully understand what they are going through. Let them know you love them and want to understand. Express your willingness to provide emotional and spiritual support.

Prayerfully consider the following questions to better understand the situation. Seek to provide care and take caution to avoid probing too explicitly:

  • Will you please tell me more about your experience?

  • How have these feelings affected your life? How have they affected the lives of your friends and family?

  • How can I help you?

  • Would you like us to meet regularly to discuss this?

  • Labels have different meanings for different people. What does the word gay (or lesbian, bisexual, same-sex attraction, and so on) mean to you?

Help the Individual

As you counsel with individuals who experience same-sex attraction, you don’t need to have a perfect understanding of the issue. Your desire to understand and help will qualify you to receive guidance from the Spirit as you love and listen.

Help individuals recognize that feelings of same-sex attraction may be one aspect of their mortal experience, but those feelings do not change their eternal and divine identity as children of God.

  • Help individuals recognize their individual strengths, talents, and abilities. Encourage them to seek to know God’s purpose and to discern, through the Holy Ghost, specific and personalized direction on their path.

  • If the individual has engaged in same-sex sexual behavior, teach repentance and forgiveness through the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ.

  • Provide regular counsel and support so the individual doesn’t feel alone on this journey.

  • Avoid promising a reduction or elimination of same-sex attraction in exchange for faithfulness.

  • Marriage should not be recommended as a way to eliminate or reduce same-sex attraction.

Invite the individual to focus on developing or maintaining healthy patterns of living.

  • Recognize the spiritual strengths that can be, or already have been, developed in responding with faith to feelings of same-sex attraction.

  • Help the individual look for opportunities to make meaningful contributions to his or her family and ward through callings and other service opportunities.

Encourage the individual to develop healthy, nonsexual, same-sex relationships with trusted individuals. Help the individual to:

  • Find a trusted mentor or friend to meet with regularly to discuss goals and progress.

  • Disclose feelings of same-sex attraction to trusted individuals. Thoughtfully disclosing these feelings is not only helpful but could potentially protect some individuals against depression or self-harm.

  • Seek to strengthen relationships with trusted family members, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

Some individuals who experience same-sex attraction may have acted on these feelings and violated the law of chastity:

  • If the individual struggles with pornography, masturbation, or other sexual behaviors not in harmony with the law of chastity, support his or her efforts to overcome these challenges. Refer to the “Addressing Pornography” section on ChurchofJesusChrist.org for help with pornography issues.

  • Identify the most common situations that lead to sinful behavior.

  • Understand the feelings behind these situations (such as loneliness or rejection).

  • Help the individual develop alternative responses.

Some people who experience same-sex attraction may seek the guidance of a professional counselor. Therapy can strengthen healthy patterns of living. Consider the following:

  • Sometimes it can be difficult for persons to view themselves objectively. Seeking insight from a professional counselor that is in harmony with gospel principles can help many aspects of life, including patterns of depression and anxiety, compulsive behaviors, the effects of abuse, and other emotional problems. As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has noted, professional help can sometimes be just as important as spiritual help (see “Like A Broken Vessel,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2013, 41).

  • Seeking insight from a professional counselor is a sign of strength and humility. If a person chooses to seek such help, others should respect his or her right to determine the desired outcomes. The Church recommends approaches that respect “client self-determination.”

  • In other words, the individual has the right to determine desired outcomes, and therapists and counselors should respect his or her wishes. For someone who experiences same-sex attraction or identifies as gay, counseling may help the person approach his or her sexuality in healthier, more fulfilling ways. However, counseling and therapy are not needed by everyone.

  • While shifts in sexuality can and do occur for some people, it is unethical to focus professional treatment on an assumption that a change in sexual orientation will or must occur.

    If available, contact Family Services for information or a consultation.

Support the Family

Same-sex attraction impacts family members as well as individuals. Determine the impact on the individual’s family and seek to address those issues.

  • Support family members, including a spouse, as they work through possible emotions such as shock, hurt, anger, betrayal, and guilt.

  • Help parents, spouses, or other family members move beyond blaming themselves or others so they can better focus on nurturing family relationships.

  • Encourage family members to love the family member and accept the individual.

  • Encourage family members to seek professional support and counseling if needed.

  • Encourage family members to seek information from Church resources, such as Gospel Topics or the Life Help section on ChurchofJesusChrist.org.

Use Ward and Stake Resources

Consider asking ward leaders or other trusted individuals to provide continuing support, guidance, and assistance. Request the individual’s permission before discussing the situation with others.

Determine how to best minister to those who experience feelings of same-sex attraction.

  • Create an environment and culture for all individduals to feel welcome and loved.

  • Consider discussing the issue in ward council or in a fifth Sunday lesson. Use materials from the Life Help section on ChurchofJesusChrist.org and “Same-Sex Attraction” in Gospel Topics to prepare lessons or discussions.

  • Combat stereotypes and myths about same-sex attraction. If people in your ward or branch do not have a gospel-based understanding of this issue, refer them to the Life Help sectionon ChurchofJesusChrist.org and “Same-Sex Attraction” in Gospel Topics.

  • Help individuals understand that being around those who experience same-sex attraction does not mean they will also experience same-sex attraction and that the experience of same-sex attraction does not increase the risk of pedophilia.

Identify local counselors or online resources that provide services in harmony with gospel principles.

Consider contacting Family Services, if available, to identify resources.