Ideas for Teaching Youth

Summary: Ages 14 to 24 years are particularly important for those with same-sex attraction. Openly discussing same-sex attraction with these age groups can help those experiencing same-sex attraction avoid many pitfalls and set them on a road to resolution of their struggles. It can also help those who don’t personally experience same-sex attraction to understand the confusing issues related to same-sex attraction.

Why Discuss This Subject With Youth?

Large numbers of youth are experiencing same-sex attraction, making them vulnerable to various negative outcomes. Providing accurate information and an appropriate gospel-centered perspective on homosexuality can benefit them and their non-same-sex attracted peers. [ MORE ]

Concepts to Consider

The concepts, quotes, and scriptures in this section are provided to help you prepare if you wish to address this topic with the youth in your ward or stake. [ MORE ]

Why Discuss This Subject With Youth?

Summary: Large numbers of youth are experiencing same-sex attraction, making them vulnerable to various negative outcomes. Providing accurate information and an appropriate gospel-centered perspective on homosexuality can benefit them and their non-same-sex attracted peers.

Today’s youth are at high risk for being impacted by homosexuality. A recent Gallup Poll showed that, among young Americans ages 18 to 29, 6.4% identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). There is no reason to believe this statistic would be any different within the Church. This means that a youth program with 15 or more members will most likely have at least one member who is experiencing same-sex attraction. The study also revealed that the percentage of females was almost twice that of males: 8.3% of females versus 4.6% of males.

The time period during which individuals are in the young men’s and young women’s programs are key years in the development of homosexuality. Our experience with same-sex attracted males suggests they tend to first recognize their attractions to other males by age fourteen. By about age nineteen, many have had their first romantic or sexual experience with another of the same sex. Due to the high profile of LGBT issues today, young people are likely to have labeled themselves as gay or lesbian by the late teens or early twenties.

Most same-sex attracted youth in the Church don’t consider getting professional help for their homosexuality. Rather, they attempt personal righteousness as their main method for dealing with these issues, which may include prayer, fasting, scripture reading, serving others, and talking with their bishop. Yet many clients from many faiths have reported to us that personal righteousness was an unhelpful, and sometimes even a harmful approach to dealing with their same-sex attraction.

We believe personal righteousness is an ineffective response to same-sex attraction because homosexuality is not caused by spiritual problems and thus is not resolved by righteous behaviors. Righteous behavior typically does nothing to diminish homosexual feelings or reduce mental and emotional distress, even if it temporarily distances individuals from sinful behavior. When young people unsuccessfully attempt to overcome their homosexuality through righteous living they may experience shame, disillusionment, and doubt, which can lead to depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

Many of those who are struggling with these issues won’t seek help until a crisis point has been reached. Such crises may be caused by sinful behavior or intense emotional or relational conflict. Intervening in a young person’s life before they reach a crisis point may spare them tremendous hardship.

It’s not just those who are personally experiencing same-sex attraction that might be impacted by homosexuality. Today’s youth tend to be very aware of homosexuality because they are so frequently presented with pro-gay messages from the media, the education system, and from their friends. Today’s youth are growing up in a world that has been heavily influenced by gay advocacy. Many youth may be unsure how to respond to issues like gay rights and gay marriage. They may have questions or concerns about how to understand or respond to gay friends and may wonder how homosexuality fits within the gospel. Much of what is presented in the media as fact conflicts with the teachings of ancient and modern prophets, and this may create conflict or even doubt for some young people.

On the other hand, some of our youth may be disposed toward harsh judgments of those with same-sex attraction and those who identify as gay or lesbian. Bullying is still a common occurrence for young people who are seen as “different” or who are gender atypical in their interests, behavior, or dress. Bullying, harassment, and exclusion can create great pain for those with same-sex attraction or who identify as gay or lesbian. Those who commit such behavior set an improper example of the Church’s doctrines of love and acceptance.

Concepts to Consider

Summary: The concepts, quotes, and scriptures in this section are provided to help you prepare if you wish to address this topic with the youth in your ward or stake.

Essential gospel principles

    • The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles provided a foundation for understanding this issue in The Family: A Proclamation to the World:

“Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”
“We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.”
“Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan.”

    • For the Strength of Youth sets the standard:

“Homosexual and lesbian behavior is a serious sin. If you find yourself struggling with same-gender attraction or you are being persuaded to participate in inappropriate behavior, seek counsel from your parents and bishop. They will help you.”

Responding to worldly views

    • Satan is actively working to undermine the sacred principles outlined in The Family: A Proclamation to the World. One way he does this is by encouraging acceptance of homosexuality as a natural and unchangeable part of one’s character and identity.
    • Society’s views about homosexuality encourage sexuality outside the bonds of marriage, compromise spiritual identity, create a foreshortened perspective of eternal potential, confuse the meaning and purpose of marriage, and cause people to question the wisdom of the prophets. These views are being promoted intentionally by certain people who want to change our culture and beliefs.
    • While we must not compromise our understanding of the gospel plan, we also have a responsibility to reach out with understanding and respect to those with same-sex attraction, including those who identify as gay or lesbian. To persecute, bully, or speak badly of these people is contrary to the teachings of Christ, whether they are among our membership or outside the Church.

Understanding same-sex attraction

    • Church leaders have stated that feelings of same-sex attraction are not a sin and those who have these feelings, if they live worthily, may fully participate in the Church.
    • ’There is a distinction between immoral thoughts and feelings and participating in either immoral heterosexual or any homosexual behavior.’ If you do not act on temptations, you have not transgressed.” “Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction,” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (Ensign, October 2007)
    • Those with same-sex attraction did not choose to have these feelings. Homosexuality seems to develop through a combination of mostly environmental factors. Science has not proven that people are born gay.
    • Many young people with same-sex attraction are bullied and harassed by other young people. But mistreatment of others is contrary to the teachings and example of the Savior. Instead, we should show tolerance, acceptance, and even friendship toward them while still holding to our beliefs and values.

Hope

    • If you have homosexual feelings that doesn’t mean you have to be gay. We can all choose what we do with our sexual feelings.
    • Homosexuality is a mortal condition, not an eternal destiny. The full blessings of the gospel are available to all, including those who experience same sex-attraction. This means that same-sex attraction does not represent an eternal stumbling block unless individuals make it one.
    • “[The Lord] inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.” (2 Nephi 26:33)
    • God has designed mortality to provide trials unique to the needs of each individual. Homosexuality is one of those trials.

Sanctification

    • “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
    • “If any of us are imperfect, it is our duty to pray for the gift that will make us perfect…. No man ought to say, ‘Oh, I cannot help this; it is my nature.’ He is not justified in it, for the reason that God has promised to give strength to correct these things, and to give gifts that will eradicate them.” “Discourse by President George Q. Cannon,” Millenial Star 56, no. 17 (April 23, 1894): pp. 260-61.
    • “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind…. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9, 11, emphasis added)

In this scripture, the terms “effeminate” and “abusers of themselves with mankind” refer to male homosexuality. Verse 11 tells us that such people were washed, sanctified, and justified by the atonement.

Grace and Works

    • And he [Christ] shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people…. And he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy…” (Alma 7:11-12)
    • Alma tells us that, through the Atonement, Christ took upon himself our sins. He also took upon himself our pains, sicknesses, and infirmities. Certainly, homosexuality is among the conditions He has taken upon himself.
    • “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23)
    • Our personal efforts are part of how me make the Atonement effective in our lives. Those who experience physical pains and infirmities typically seek temporal help from medical professionals. So too, for those experiencing same-sex attraction, help from a qualified therapist is often necessary in order to progress.

Expectations

    • Many people with same-sex attraction have been able to diminish their homosexual desires and resolve related issues in their lives.
    • But even with appropriate therapy, same-sex attraction may not be entirely resolved in this life. Such life-long challenges are a part of mortality. One must not assume that the continuation of these feelings means a person has failed or not worked hard enough. Nor should one assume that ongoing feelings of same-sex attraction will necessarily cause hardship or struggle. Many who continue to experience same-sex attraction find that it does not detract from living a fulfilling and worthy life.
    • The Apostle Paul spoke of a “thorn in the flesh,” which he asked the Lord three times to remove. The Lord did not remove the difficulty, but said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Paul responded: “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).

For Follow-up

    • Consider inviting any who are struggling with these issues to speak with you privately so that you can help them obtain appropriate help.
    • Consider encouraging the youth to visit this website if they want to study this topic further. Click here to print invitations for you to distribute.
    • Consider suggesting the article Same-Gender Attraction, by Elder Dallin H. Oaks (Ensign, October 1995)
    • Consider suggesting the article Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction, by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (Ensign, October 2007)
    • Consider encouraging the members to visit the Church’s website on this topic, www.mormonsandgays.org