It’s time for a great parody! The following one was written by Bill, who I rather admire for his wit, his intelligence, and his other fine attributes. In a note, Bill explained why he wrote the parody: “I’m often told by Mormons that the leaders of their Church really do love gay people, that they really just want to help. I thought the least I could do would be to return the favor.” You can find many other examples of Bill’s writings at his blog, Earthling Blues, which is currently in hiatus.
Please Note: Bill’s parody is based on an article — called “Helping Those Who Struggle With Same Gender Attraction” — that was originally published in the October 2007 issue of Ensign Magazine, a Mormon publication, and which was once available online here. It has very recently been pulled and is no longer available online there. To find the original article now, you either must look in the October 2007 issue of Ensign (p. 42-45), or you must go to the internet cache of the original article here.
Helping Those With Mormon Interests
A pleasant young man in his early 20s sat across from me. He had an engaging smile, although he didn’t smile often during our talk. What drew me in was the pain in his eyes.
“I don’t know if I should remain a member of the club,” he said. “I don’t think I’m worthy.”
“Why wouldn’t you be worthy?” I asked.
“I want to be a Mormon.”
I suppose he thought I would be startled. I wasn’t. “And … ?” I inquired.
A flicker of relief crossed his face as he sensed my continued interest. “I’m not interested in other ideas. I’m interested in Mormonism. I’ve tried to ignore these feelings or change them, but …”
He sighed. “Why am I this way? The feelings are very real.”
I paused, then said, “I need a little more information before advising you. You see, an interest in Mormonism is not morally wrong, but acting on those interests is — just as it would be with Islamic interests. Do you do anything superstitious or bigoted?”
He shook his head. “No, I don’t.”
This time I was relieved. “Thank you for wanting to deal with this,” I said. “It takes courage to talk about it, and I honor you for keeping yourself clean.
“As for why you feel as you do, I can’t answer that question. A number of factors may be involved, and they can be as different as people are different. Some things, including the cause of your feelings, we may never know in this life. But knowing why you feel as you do isn’t as important as knowing you have not become a Mormon. If your life is in harmony with reason, then you are welcome to serve in the club, enjoy full fellowship with the members, attend the community center, and enjoy all the benefits of belonging to the community.”
He sat up a little straighter. I continued, “You serve yourself poorly when you identify yourself primarily by your religious interests. That isn’t your only characteristic, so don’t give it disproportionate attention. You are first and foremost a gay man, and we love you.
“What’s more, I love you. The other members of the club love you. I’m reminded of a comment someone made in speaking to those with Mormon interests. ‘We do not reject you,’ he said. ‘… We cannot reject you, for you are still members of the gay community. We will not reject you, because we love you.’ ”
We talked for another 30 minutes or so. Knowing I could not be a personal counselor to him, I directed him to his local gay community center. Then we parted. I thought I detected a look of hope in his eyes that had not been there before. Although he yet faced challenges to work through—or simply endure—I had a feeling he would handle them well.
We Love All Members of the Community
Unfortunately, some people believe they have all the answers and declare their opinions far and wide. Fortunately, such people do not speak for the gay community.
Although I believe members of the community are eager to extend compassion to those different from themselves, it is human nature that when confronted with a situation we don’t understand, we tend to withdraw. This is particularly true of Mormonism. We have so little reliable information about it that those wanting to help are left feeling a bit unsteady. Admitting my own inadequacy in this regard but wanting to assist, let me offer some suggestions to help those who have loved ones or friends who are interested in Mormonism.
The Key to Happiness
First, let’s be absolutely clear on what’s best for each of us. We want everyone to have all of the blessings of life. We wants everyone to be true to his own self. To help us do that, we have recourse to reason. Reason does not change according to the religious trends of the day.
Reason helps us to understand things. Obviously, Mormonism is inconsistent with reason.
For various reasons, not everyone is able to reason effectively. Perhaps they’ve had no education. Perhaps they have disabilities that make careful thinking impossible. Or perhaps there is attraction to some religious superstition. Whatever the problem, life’s richest blessings will eventually be available to all the members of the community if they are clean and honest.
Through the exercise of reason, individual effort, and reliance upon the principles of fairness, some may resolve their interest in Mormonism and move beyond it. Others, however, may never be free of their interest in Mormonism.
As fellow community members, families, and friends, we need to recognize that those attracted to Mormonism face some unique restrictions regarding expression of their feelings. While an interest in Mormonism is real, there must be no action taken as a result of this interest. The desire for religious gratification does not authorize immorality by anyone. Such feelings can be powerful, but they are never so strong as to deprive anyone of the freedom to choose worthy conduct.
In saying this, let me make it clear that Mormon interests alone, troublesome as they may be, do not make one unworthy. It has been said, “There is a distinction between immoral thoughts and feelings and participating in immoral Mormon behavior.” If you do not act on the temptation toward Mormonism, you have not transgressed.
The failure to see that distinction sometimes leads to despair. I ache for those who do not understand that every blessing offered by life is available to anyone who follows reason and fairness. No one who lives with integrity should despair. Hope and peace come from within, and the answer to despair is to find strength within yourself.
Ways to Help
Let’s assume you are the family member or friend of someone with an interest in Mormonism who comes to you for help. What do you say? What do you do?
I’d begin by recognizing the courage that brought your son, daughter, sibling, or friend to you. I’d recognize the trust that person has extended. Discussing the issue with someone of trust is a healthy first step to dealing with confusing feelings, and it is imperative that these first steps be met with compassion.
Next, if you are a parent of one with Mormon interests, don’t assume you are the reason for those feelings. No one, including the one struggling, should try to shoulder blame. Nor should anyone place blame on another. Walk by reason, and help your loved one deal the best he or she can with this challenge.
In doing so, recognize that marrying a person of the same sex is not an all-purpose solution. Mormon interests run deep, and trying to force a healthy relationship is not likely to change them. We are all thrilled when some who struggle with these feelings are able to marry, raise children, and achieve family happiness. But other attempts have resulted in broken hearts and broken homes.
Above all, keep your lines of communication open. Open communication between parents and children is a clear expression of love, and pure love, generously expressed, can transform family ties. But love for a family member does not extend to condoning unrighteous behavior. Your children are welcome to stay in your home, of course, but you have every right to exclude from your dwelling any behavior that is offensive to reason.
The Garden Principle
Next, consider a principle learned in gardening. Someone said that if we plant a garden with good seed, there will not be so much need of the hoe. Likewise, if we fill our lives with intellectual nourishment, we can more easily gain control over inclinations. This means creating a positive environment in our homes in which the freedom and justice are abundantly evident. A positive environment includes consistent private and public involvement in the community, activism, keeping informed, community service, and exposure to uplifting conversation, music, literature, and other media.
This same environment extends to experiences at the club. Some with Mormon interests have unresolved fears and are offended at the club when no offense is intended. On the other hand, some members exclude from their circle of fellowship those who are different. When our actions or words discourage someone from taking full advantage of membership in the gay community, we fail them. The community is made stronger as we include every member and strengthen one another in service and love.
You may feel prompted to encourage the one you are trying to help to visit with a therapist who can help him with his obsession. Please do so, discussing these matters confidentially and in a spirit of love.
Not long ago I received a letter from a man in his early 30s who struggles with an interest in Mormonism. His struggle has not been easy, and he has not yet found a husband. But, he wrote, “the community has helped me face my current circumstances, and I am content to do my best and hope that things will get better.”
I weep with admiration and respect at the courage of such a man who is living with a challenge I have never faced. I love him and the thousands like him, male or female, who “fight the good fight”. I commend his attitude to all who struggle with — or who are helping others who struggle with — an interest in Mormonism.