At a high school in American Fork, some staff planned on discussing homosexuality as one of two “serious social problems.” Fortunately that part of the discussion was canceled. The fact that it was even considered and planned makes me vomit. Nothing like that would ever have happened at my high school. The reason it was canceled was because it would have promoted “depression and suicide” by giving youth questioning their sexual orientation the message that they were a serious problem to society. That statement is obvious to people outside of Utah, even Latter-day Saints. I couldn’t imagine my ward back home supporting such an event at school.
But this got me thinking. If we don’t tolerate it at school because it damages self esteem, why do we tolerate it in church? Prophets and church leaders have consistently referred to homosexuality as a serious social problem, especially when addressing the youth or in youth settings. Boyd K. Packer called refers to it as one of the three greatest threats to the Church.
As a twelve year old, I was given a pamphlet that read,
“The Lord specifically forbids certain behaviors, including all sexual relations before marriage, petting, sex perversion (such as homosexuality, rape, and incest), masturbation, or preoccupation with sex in thought, speech, or action.
“Homosexual and lesbian activities are sinful and an abomination to the Lord (see Romans 1:26-27, 31 ). Unnatural affections including those toward persons of the same gender are counter to God’s eternal plan for his children. You are responsible to make right choices” (For the Strength of Youth, 1990).
This pamphlet was given to all youth ages 12 and up at least on an annual basis. In High School, a newer version of the pamphlet came out that I was asked to memorize. I did memorize it.
Twelve year olds cannot distinguish between “homosexual activities” and the feelings towards those of the same gender they have. To say that homosexuality is an abomination is to tell that twelve year old that he is an abomination. And then you tell him that he is associated with rape and incest, and since he is worried about his sexuality and thinks about it a lot, he is guilty of being “preoccupied.” Oh, and he masturbated, so he feels like he’s going to hell. And the worst part? “You are responsible to make right choices.” You just dumped all of the responsibility for his sexuality on his shoulders. As a twelve year old, I felt responsible for my same gender attractions.
People often tell me that its not the Churches fault that I hated myself because I was gay. The Church didn’t make me depressed or suicidal. The fact of the matter is, though, if my High School didn’t teach me that I was an abomination, where did I learn it? The media didn’t do it. My family didn’t really talk to me about it. It was my Church. The Church clearly distributed material to me at a young age that lead to depression and suicidal tendencies. It wasn’t until I overcame the false assumptions I had developed from the Church teachings that I was able to love myself.