When I came out, I was treated very… gently. People smiled, hugged me, and told me they loved me. Like many gay Mormons, I did not separate from the LDS community, and as my friends, family, and church leaders became more comfortable talking with me about my “situation” many of them began to, accidentally, tell me to kill myself.
Here’s what I was told-
1. Dying is better than living in sin.
“You young people, may I directly entreat you to be chaste. Please believe me when I say that chastity is worth more than life itself. This is the doctrine my parents taught me; it is truth. It is better to die chaste than to live unchaste.”
-LDS First Presidency Message "We Believe in Being Chaste," Ensign, Sept. 1981, 3. Quotes like this didn’t exactly tell me that suicide was okay, but it did tell me that that I’d be better off shooting myself than holding hands with my boyfriend.
2. It is virtually impossible to live a chaste life if you are gay.
- “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” Mark 7:20-23 Gay members are told, at least today, that their attraction alone is not a sin. But since thoughts are a sin, it is virtually impossible for a gay person to stop sinning. And I’m not just talking about sexual thoughts. Because love and romance go far beyond sex. Every time a gay member longs for a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex, or every time they fail to feel a desire for a romantic relationship with someone of the opposite sex, they are sinning.
3. Even if you can live a “chaste life,” it is hollow and meaningless.
- Ask any Mormon what the two most important things in their lives are, the answer will be “church and family,” or possibly “family and church.” A few years ago the church stopped recommending heterosexual marriage as a treatment for homosexuals, so a righteous gay Mormon cannot have a family. They also began allowing openly gay members to serve in the church as long as they didn’t act on their gay impulses, but they can serve only minor callings in a ward. (Single women can serve in almost any calling, but men must be married to serve in high priest callings or with the youth.) Mormons are told that a man’s greatest calling is to be a father, a woman’s greatest joy is her children. But gay people are told that their desire to have children is selfish. If a man marries a woman, he is exploiting her feelings for her uterus. If two women marry and birth children, they are selfishly bringing fatherless children into the word. If two men marry an adopt children, even from the most awful dregs of the foster care system, they are still selfishly denying them a “real” family. Week after week, lesson after lesson, testimony after testimony, reaffirms to the gay member, that all of life’s greatest joys are impossible for them to obtain.
4. Death is the cure for gayness.
“Gratefully, the answer is that same-gender attraction did not exist in the pre-earth life and neither will it exist in the next life. It is a circumstance that for whatever reason or reasons seems to apply right now in mortality, in this nano-second of our eternal existence.” –Dallin H. Oaks.
I find the idea that one day God will rob me of my love for my husband and give our children back to their parents who abused and abandoned them in life terrifying, but to a gay teenager lying awake in bed night after night desperately trying to not be in love with his best friend, death is a welcomed release. To a desperately lonely middle aged lesbian working in the nursery and longing for a family of her own, death is her only opportunity.
5. Yes, suicide is a sin, but not as bad as gayness. And sacrificing your life for righteousness’s sake is the noblest action.
-We’ve already talked about how death is preferable to uncleanliness. Consider also that suicide is kinder to those around you. While suicide hurts more than just the victim, the effects are shorter lived and smaller in scope than the effects of homosexuality. Remember Mormons are taught that to take someone else’s chastity, even with their consent, is an act of violence against them, and that bringing children into a “gay” family is violence against children. If a woman falls in love with another woman, she could easily believe that by killing herself, she is saving the woman she loves and her future children. Such a sacrifice seems noble, and in the next life, free from her homosexuality, she can marry a man and raise children up unto the lord.
I know neither the LDS church or its members want gay people to kill themselves. This message is sent and received accidentally. My intention is not to criticize church doctrine, but to warn parents and church leaders that this is the message many gay people are receiving.