Talking about one’s same-sex attraction can be terrifying and confusing. Your child, spouse, or family member may not have known how to talk to you about it. You may sometimes feel inadequate. Although you may not always know how to respond to the struggles your family member faces, you will never regret reaching out with love and understanding.
You will never regret saying “I love you.”
You will never regret throwing your arms around your loved one and hugging him or her. You will never regret listening. You will never regret trying to understand.
If you overreact, get angry, or say things you regret, don’t be discouraged. This is one moment in a lifelong conversation. It’s never too late to apologize.
If you learn about your loved one’s same-sex attraction secondhand, don’t take it personally.
It’s natural to grieve. Do you feel your dream of the “perfect” family slipping away? Do you fear losing a close relationship? Are you afraid your loved one won’t be treated with kindness? These feelings are natural. There is no shame in grieving.
Don’t blame yourself for your loved one’s same-sex attraction. This is no one’s fault. Blame is neither necessary nor helpful.
As a family member, the least productive prayer is, “Why?” A close second is, “Please take this away right now.” The most helpful question you can ask is, “How?” How can I help? How can I be the support my loved one needs? How can we learn from this?”
Seek knowledge and learn all you can. Speak with your bishop or branch president and receive counsel from an authorized servant of the Lord. If you feel impressed, ask him for a priesthood blessing to help you meet the needs of your loved one. Some people find perspective in support groups or through temple attendance. In fact, there is no better place to find peace and perspective than in the temple.
Surround yourself with people who build you up. Some people care. Some people are curious. Answering questions can help build understanding but can also be exhausting. Be sure to charge your spiritual battery by spending quality time in sacred places. And no one cares more than your Father in Heaven.
Learning to be a parent on this journey will stretch you. As you seek the companionship of the Spirit, you will draw near to God, your child, and, if applicable, your spouse. Remember to honor agency. If your spouse disagrees with how you want to handle things, work it out respectfully. If your child makes choices you disagree with, kindly let them know how you feel. Never try to control or manipulate them. Give them your time and assure them of your love.
Watch President Dallin H. Oaks’s video, “Love and Law.”
“As Latter-day Saints, many of us, not all of us, but many of us are inclined to insist on the law and do so in an unloving way.
“I receive many letters from people who are devastated by the choices being made by someone in their family. And they say, ‘What are we to do?’ And the first thing I always suggest is keep loving them. In the end, that is something you can always do. We have to have in mind the commandments of the Lord, which I’ll refer to as the law, and also the great commandment to love one another. And those will come into conflict when someone we associate with is not keeping the commandments, not keeping the law. And that makes it harder for us to associate with them and to love them. And yet if we love the individual and, at the same time, keep a tight hold on what we know to be our responsibilities to the law, it is possible to do so.
“We should not start off our interaction with people who are making different choices than we desire by arguing about their choices. It’s better for us to talk about, “Where are you coming from? What are your basic values? What do you want to accomplish?” And then in that context we can explain that we are concerned about the Lord’s commandments because what’s important to us is to stay on the path to eternal life.
“We’re given commandments. When we obey those commandments, we are obedient. The consequence of being obedient to commandments is to put ourselves in harmony with the eternal law that permits us to grow and progress toward eternal life. The Savior commanded His followers to ‘love one another, as I have loved you.’ So we look at how He loved us. He sacrificed Himself for us. He was concerned always with the individual. He had a wonderful outreach for people. I think those are all indicators of how we can love one another like He loved us. If we make Him our role model, we should always be trying to reach out to include everyone.” —President Dallin H. Oaks
Divine love does not excuse sin—“I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance”—but is anxious to forgive—“nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:31–32). In like manner, we should yield no ground in living and defending the commandments of God, but to mirror fully the love of God, we must also love one another so openly and completely that no one can feel abandoned or alone or hopeless.
Feelings of depression are real and can be overwhelming and debilitating. Often, professional counseling and medical care can help people deal with depression. When feelings of depression turn to suicidal thoughts, it is critical to have someone to talk to. People who are suicidal are in significant physical, mental, or emotional pain; are often isolated; and may feel they have no hope for the future. They may feel there is no other way to end the crippling pain except through taking their own life. Thoughts of death by suicide are often contemplated, considered, and reconsidered before any attempt is made. During this period of contemplation, intervention can save a life.
Preventing suicide starts with recognizing the warning signs. For a list of warning signs, please visit the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention.
If it appears someone may be at risk, the best thing one can do is talk to them about it. It may seem awkward or presumptuous, but people who are depressed often desperately need someone to talk to, someone to help them process thoughts and feelings. These conversations may be difficult, but they are critical in reducing the feelings of isolation and hopelessness that can lead to suicide. If it appears that a person is at immediate risk of attempting suicide, call the national suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
While same-sex attraction is not a sin, it can be a challenge. While one may not have chosen to have these feelings, he or she can commit to keep God’s commandments. The parent of a child who experiences same-sex attraction or identifies as gay should choose to love and embrace that child. As a community of Church members, we should choose to create a welcoming community.
Watch Carol F. McConkie’s (First Counselor in the General Young Women Presidency) video, “Lifting Others.”
“It is so important that we understand, first of all, that everyone is in a different place along the path, and that we develop an awareness of the people that are around us.
“I know people who come to church every Sunday so that they can be inspired and uplifted and who just simply walk away feeling judged and unloved. Unneeded. Like there is no place for them at church. We need to do this differently. We need to be deeply aware of what the purpose of coming to church on Sunday is and make sure that everyone who comes feels loved, needed, accepted, and lifted. Everybody has struggles we don’t even know about. And it’s so important that we be aware that everyone around us is loved of God. And that we need to see them through Christlike eyes. And we cannot allow judgment to dictate the way we interact with people. It’s just simply not right. I feel that the Lord places us where we are and connects us with the people around us for a purpose. “Because it’s not only about our own progression, but about helping others progress. And I have come to recognize that we are placed where we are so that we can love and lift others.
“We just cannot be, or even call ourselves a disciple of Christ, if we are not helping others along that path. The gospel of Jesus Christ does not marginalize people. People marginalize people. And we have to fix that. We need to be sensitive and love them and allow them the opportunity to grow and to blossom, and to be their best selves. They have talents and abilities and personality that is needed in the kingdom of God. And if we are going to build the kingdom of God on the earth, we need everyone to come, to come and do their part. And we need to recognize that when anyone’s shadow darkens the door of the chapel, they ought to feel immediately embraced, and loved, and lifted, and inspired when they walk out that door, to go and be better. Because they know the Lord loves them. And because they have friends in their faith.”
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:37–39).
“This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
We show our love for God by keeping His commandments (see John 14:15) and by loving one another (see John 13:34). If you have a family member or friend who experiences same-sex attraction or identifies as gay, love them. President Henry B. Eyring observed:
“If you want to stay close to someone who has been dear to you, but from whom you are separated, you know how to do it. You would find a way to speak to them, you would listen to them, and you would discover ways to do things for each other. The more often that happened, the longer it went on, the deeper would be the bond of affection. If much time passed without the speaking, the listening, and the doing, the bond would weaken.
“God is perfect and omnipotent, and you and I are mortal. But he is our Father, he loves us, and he offers the same opportunity to draw closer to him as would a loving friend. And you will do it in much the same way: speaking, listening, and doing” (“To Draw Closer to God,” Apr. 1991 general conference).
You show your love for God by loving and serving others.
“And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).
What does it mean to love one another? Love cares. Love listens. Love includes. Love inspires. Love is at the heart of what makes us human, for we are children of God, and “God is love” (1 John 4:8). At the Last Supper, the Savior reiterated, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).
If you have a family member or friend who experiences same-sex attraction or identifies as gay, love them. The commandment to love one another includes those who don’t see the world the same way we do.
As Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained:
“In so many relationships and circumstances in life, we must live with differences. Where vital, our side of these differences should not be denied or abandoned, but as followers of Christ we should live peacefully with others who do not share our values or accept the teachings upon which they are based. The Father’s plan of salvation, which we know by prophetic revelation, places us in a mortal circumstance where we are to keep His commandments. That includes loving our neighbors of different cultures and beliefs as He has loved us. As a Book of Mormon prophet taught, we must press forward, having ‘a love of God and of all men’ (2 Nephi 31:20)” (“Loving Others and Living with Differences,” Oct. 2014 general conference).
Sexual orientation may refer to emotional, romantic, or sexual attractions as well as a sense of identity. For some, it is helpful to distinguish between sexual attraction, emotional attraction, and identity, rather than grouping them all together as “sexual orientation.”
The most common labels are lesbian (a woman attracted to women), gay (a man attracted to men), and bisexual (a man or woman attracted to both genders). Some women may also use the term gay to describe themselves. People may use other labels, and some who experience same-sex attraction choose not to use a label to describe themselves. How people choose to identify may change over time.
Attraction is not identity. People can make their own choices about how to identify. There are active, temple recommend–holding Church members who comply with the law of chastity and identify themselves as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. There are active Church members who experience same-sex attraction and never choose to identify themselves using a label. Our primary identity will always be as a child of God.
Same-sex attraction (SSA) refers to emotional, physical, romantic, or sexual attraction to a person of the same gender. If you experience same-sex attraction, you may or may not choose to use a sexual orientation label to describe yourself. Either way, same-sex attraction is a technical term describing the experience without imposing a label. This website uses this term to be inclusive of people who are not comfortable using a label, not to deny the existence of a gay, lesbian, or bisexual identity.
Same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria are very different. For example, those who experience gender dysphoria may or may not also experience same-sex attraction, and the majority of those who experience same-sex attraction do not desire to change their gender. From a psychological and ministerial perspective, the two are different. For more information about Gender Identity or Gender Dysphoria see “Transgender” in Life Help, ChurchofJesusChrist.org.