Can a loving God ask His homosexual children to never marry? I get asked this fairly often, and think on the question a fair amount myself. I have watched many people lose their faith in God, or faith in their religion, over teachings related to homosexuality, and fully understand that it is a deep and sensitive issue for many. The issues are intensely personal, and there is no one answer that will satisfy everyone. There are, however, principles that help paint a bigger picture of God, principles that help shed some light on the subject and that should be part of our attempts to understand homosexuality and God.
Christian churches are generally not fully united in their teachings on homosexuality, adding perplexity to the issues. Teachings range from fully banning anything homosexual to fully embracing homosexuality. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a church that teaches it is not a sin to be homosexual, but that it is a sin to act on any homosexual desires. This teaching places homosexual members in a rough spot, as they have to live an abstinent life to be in good standing with the church. For many people, this is simply more than God would or should ask of His children, especially if they were born homosexual.
I fully recognize and respect that being asked to live an abstinent life is a tall order, one with very serious implications and losses for an individual. Because of the depth of what is asked of homosexual members, I too have pondered much of the same questions, and I have serious respect for anyone that is faithfully working to understand such issues themselves.
As I have pondered on the issues related to homosexuality, I have seen many other people struggling with very different issues. With my work and church service, I visit a lot of people, in their homes, at their office, or in public meeting places. Many are seriously struggling, and many of them are alone, internally isolated from others they interact with each day. Many carry deep pain, heartache, or confusion, and most would love to find peace, lasting happiness, or joy, but are unable to do so.
Here is a short list of the burdens I have personally seen people face, burdens that hit even the most faithful church members:
Seeing the breadth of the issues faced, and seeing the depth of the pain carried by countless individuals, I have wondered where God is in the lives of many people. I have wondered why trials are given, or allowed to occur, to different people. In addition to the above burdens, in my church service in various places across the United States I have seen other burdens related to sin. As an example, in a short list again, I have seen things such as:
Most of these people did not want these burdens, but felt driven by an overpowering force inside of them to act on things they knew would cause them issues later. For all of these people, the question is often the same, why would God give this to me?
The Mixing of Temporal and Spiritual
The story of Adam and Eve sets the foundation for much of Christianity. Adam and Eve partook, as the story goes, of some fruit that caused them to “fall”, or to receive a temporal nature that was subject to death. This meant that their physical bodies would be “fallen”, but would also be a house for their spiritual body that would live forever. In other words, Adam and Eve’s “fall” introduced what the scriptures refer to as the carnal, or natural, state into our physical bodies.
Christianity goes on to teach that God has a plan to redeem us from the fall, to enable us to become free of our fallen state, and to obtain an immortal physical body. This concept is understood by many, but the real rub comes in asking the question “why?” Why would God allow this? What purpose does it serve?
The answer is often along the lines of “because it is a test.” A test of what though? A test of cruelty where one is given homosexual desires but told to never act on it? A test hardcoding most men to view pornography, but telling them never to look at it? A test filling many people with depression, but telling them to find happiness anyways?
A Test to Become Like God
The answer to the question “a test of what” is that our test in this life is a test to become like God. To me, the key to understanding “like God” is the key to understanding many of these other issues. In other words, understanding “like God” helps to paint a picture broad enough to highlight principles at work in our temporal world.
What God Is Not
Sometimes, to understand what something is, it is helpful to first understand what it is not. God is not a being controlled by His passions. God does not act on selfish desires. God does not use His infinite power improperly, even to force me to do what He would like me to do. In other words, God is not a being controlled by any force except His own will.
Consider if you or I had infinite power in our “fallen” state. In a moment of intense anger, would that power be used to significantly harm or kill someone? Would a grudge fester into putting an eternal curse on somebody? Would physical attraction to another not similarly attracted result in them being forced to be with you? While some may laugh at such questions, it opens up a bigger picture to reflect on our times of weakness and what we might have done had we had the power to do so.
What God Is
God is the most free being in the Universe. God acts, and is not acted upon. God bridles all of His passions. God acts out of pure love, a love deep enough to allow me to learn and walk an individual path, one unique to me alone. God’s love is deep enough to recognize the value in physical suffering in a world with limited time attached to it in setting a proper course for an eternal life. In other words, God has the strongest, purest, most developed will in existence, a will powerful enough to submit to the most intense suffering possible when necessary to further eternal life.
God does not use His power for His own purposes. He uses His power for us. His work, His glory, is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man,” not to gratify the lusts or other forces that exist in the Universe. God is in control of the Universe because He is in control of Himself, and He is not subject to or accessible by the other powers that operate, entice, and encourage us down other paths.
Becoming Like God
To truly become like God then, we have to develop an exceptionally strong, an exceptionally pure, and an exceptionally good will. Our choices have to become the determining fate in our eternal existence. On this earth, all types of things will happen to us, and the “test” is in developing the willpower to respond in accordance with our eternal nature, in accordance with the God who gave us life.
Wills, in my mind, are created through the refinery of fire, affliction, and temptation. Wills are tested, or made stronger, when they encounter serious resistance, or serious pulls. Individual wills will simply never develop in a state free of heat, conflict, opposition, or friction. Just like metal is truly forged, tested, and tried in the midst of great heat, so too are our wills so created.
What is will truly? It is the power to resist. It is the power to act in the face of everything else saying no. It is the power to maintain individuality in the midst of our fully interconnected world. A truly developed will is the only way to be a free individual, and is the only way to become like God.
Consider the Savior Jesus Christ for a moment. Why is He a God? There are many reasons of course, but one is that He had the will to submit to the most suffering possible. When everything inside Him, including His physical DNA, screamed to stop and not drink the bitter cup, He maintained the power to act as an individual. He maintained His own destiny, and drank, sweating drops of blood from every pore.
King David, on the other hand, never developed the will to stay in control of himself. He had many wives, but when he saw the beauty of Bathsheba, He could not refrain. His will never developed enough to keep him in control of himself, and he became subject to the pulls of his temporal state, leading him to commit adultery and murder as he tried to cover up what he had done.
We came to this earth to become like God. In other words, we came with the hopes of developing and progressing to the point where we could enjoy “all that the Father hath,” which, in my mind, means His power and abilities. He wants us to become like Him, we are His children, but He knows that since His power can affect eternity itself, it can only go to those who have truly developed their wills to keep them free and independent of any other force in existence.
In other words, we can only become like God if we are truly in control of the forces that operate without and within us as individuals. Because of this, God asks us all to forego acting on serious passions and feelings. God asks men to avoid all pornography, even though their DNA may compel them to view it. God asks the depressed to keep working, the introverted or anxious to talk to others and share the Gospel, those attracted sexually to children to never act on those desires, those too socially awkward or simply without the right opportunity to ever find a marriage companion to stay fully abstinent, and those with a homosexual nature to never act on it.
Yes, sexuality is a massive force. It operates and pulls on all humans in existence. Lusts of all sorts operate powerfully on others as well, physical conditions severely limit or entice, and darkness may exist inside many individuals. Despite all of this, all are asked to “put off the natural man,” or are asked to truly develop their wills.
All of us have natural, carnal, or temporal conditions inside of us. Every day we must decide whether to embrace our natural, physical state, or to embrace our eternal, spiritual state. If we embrace our physical state, and let our passions and physical natures control us, we are relinquishing our eternal will, and our eternal potential, for a life that dies and ends. We do not rise in the resurrection with the temporal things of this life. Our physical DNA does not define us eternally. Rather, our spirit, created by our Eternal Father, defines us eternally.
The Opportunity to Become Like God
Our opportunity to become like God is our opportunity to experience the pulls, desires, and passions of everything that may keep us from becoming like Him. Yes, those things will be a part of us. Yes, God will ask us to forego acting on our temporal DNA and conditions and act instead in accordance with our eternal DNA found in our spirit.
This earth is our time to develop a will, a will that can withstand all forces that may be in existence, a will that makes us truly free from all constraints – so that every decision we make is the decision of our eternal being, the being that we will live with forever.
For all who are asked by God to remain abstinent in this life – whether homosexual, heterosexual with no opportunity to marry, or simply someone with a condition preventing them from maintaining a relationship – God’s request can be seen as a horrible thing preventing the experience of things of this life, or it can be seen as a significant opportunity to develop and forge an intensely strong will, a will commensurate with that of God’s. To truly reach the height of God, we must experience the depths of the pulls that operate at that level.
Christ forsook all on this earth, and he asks us to do the same, to forsake everything that is not in line with an eternal nature. He loves us enough to allow us to experience all of the forces that exist, and it is up to us to decide if there is a force we choose to succumb to, whether it be darkness, sexuality, greed, selfishness, or anything else, or whether we push back sufficiently to maintain our eternal freedom. This principle is the same for all of us, regardless of what force operates on us.
God doesn’t leave us alone in this process. He will push back with us, He will give us strength, and He will give us deep fulfillment and meaning as we strive to overcome the forces that exist in the Universe. God has walked this path Himself, and He knows of the depths it takes us to, as well as the heights that are ahead.
The big picture is simply that God knows maintaining our individual will and freedom is far more fulfilling, eternally, than acting on temporal natures that die when we do. Yes, God asks us to give up a lot, to give up even things that define us so significantly in this life, but He promises “all that He hath” to those that work to overcome, to build, and to forge a will of eternal character and significance.
Christ voluntarily experienced all of the possible pulls and forces in existence. When He said “not my will, but thine be done,” He was submitting all of his personal desires, pulls, and passions aside to pursue the path of eternal life. This process caused extreme suffering, suffering that was necessary to try, or temper, even the will of a God. God’s refusal to give in to any opposing force produced the will and power to truly overcome all things, as power can only come through choosing to turn away and resist the forces that be.
Similarly, in our walk on this earth, in order to gain spiritual power, we must be faced with enticing forces, forces that are so strong and prevalent and stem from within that the only way to not act on them is through our will alone. Our wills are tested, tried, and forged on our path to become like God, and this is so for all of us, regardless of sexuality, nationality, or personality.
So yes, teachings from the LDS Church put homosexuals in an extremely difficult spot. However, teachings from the LDS Church also put many others in an extremely difficult spot. When faced with this, we must decide whether we continue to push and develop our wills and capacity to be like God, to be free from the forces of the Universe, or whether we throw in the towel, so to speak, on eternity, and embrace the fleeting moments of our temporal existence.
From what I can see, homosexuality is not an anomaly and fits into God’s big picture, just like everything else in this life. The fact that Church teachings conflict with the human experience, with individuals, and with DNA even is evidence of a God in charge, a God interested in helping and loving us enough to become like Him, to become free from all known opposing forces in existence.
To truly be an individual, we have to have a pure will, and to have a pure will, we must be refined and tested by all opposing forces, as wills can only be created, built, and strengthened through our daily choices to resist. God’s power came through the exercise of His individual agency, or will, and our eternal potential and power comes the same way, through a daily walk of giving up the temporal for things of eternity.
God loves you, He loves me. He wants the best for us in eternity, and so He lets us experience all that the Universe offers, thereby enabling us to develop a strong will, a will like His, similarly forged in the furnace of affliction, conflict, and opposition present on this earth and inside each one of us.