This is the second part of a series of articles about Same-Sex Attraction and Mormon culture. If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, you can find it here.
Double Standards for Gay and Straight Mormons
“Same-gender attraction is not a sin, but acting on those feelings is—just as it would be with heterosexual feelings.” This quote comes from Jeffrey R. Holland, and I have heard similar sentiments from David A. Bednar and others. The idea being expressed is that standards of worthiness and conduct are the same for both heterosexual and homosexual members of the Church. This universal standard of worthiness in question is the Law of Chastity. The Law of Chastity is basically described as having no sexual relations outside of marriage.
I want this idea to be true that gay and straight members of the Church are held to the same standards. I think being held to the same standards would help us see each other as equals, and treat each other as such. But I don’t think we’re there yet. In fact, I think there are some double standards to be addressed.
As a heterosexual man, it is not considered a violation of the Law of Chastity if I hold hands with a woman, kiss a woman, or commit to a relationship with a woman. If I am not having sexual relations with a woman outside of marriage, I am not in violation of Church standards. I think Mormons would all agree that this is a true statement.
But if I were a homosexual man, it would be considered a violation of the Law of Chastity if I held hands with a man, kissed a man, or committed to a relationship with a man, because I would be acting on “same-gender attraction.” If gay and straight members of the Church were truly held to the same standards of chastity and worthiness, a gay member of the Church would not be living in sin insofar as they were not having sexual relations outside of marriage. They would be allowed to date, hold hands, kiss, and have relationships. But this is not the standard we hold them to.
Gay members of the Church, or SSA Mormons, are taught to never act on their sexuality, which is not the same standard heterosexual Mormons are held to. On the other hand, if they are the appropriate age, heterosexual Mormons are encouraged to act on their sexuality: to go on dates, hold hands, start relationships, with the ultimate goal of getting married in a temple.
Because of this double standard, members of the Church who identify as Gay or as having SSA have very little to hope for. A single heterosexual member of the Mormon Church can hope and pray to one day fall in love and get married, sealing upon them all the blessings available through the gospel. SSA Mormons, on the other hand, can only hope to never fall in love. Fulfillment of romantic or sexual attraction for a Gay Mormon would mean jeopardizing their salvation. Their only options are lifelong celibacy or a mixed-sexuality relationship, and neither of those options are encouraged for heterosexual Mormons.
So, I’m going to have to disagree with the notion that we are held to equal standards. I would argue that we hold Gay or SSA Mormons to an incredibly higher standard than heterosexual Mormons, a standard that requires far more discipline and sacrifice. Like many other facts of life, this is not fair. I can only hope that some form of justice will come to this situation one day.
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