The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is extending an olive branch to a community that it has shunned for years: gay Mormons.
The website contains stories of gay and lesbian Mormons who have grappled with balancing their sexual orientation and their faith. While the church stresses to its followers the importance of loving their gay and lesbian neighbors, the website does not offer any evidence of a softening of doctrine, under which same-sex relationships are forbidden.
While it is not a sin to have same-sex attraction in the Mormon religion, it is a sin to act on those feelings. Under church doctrine, same-sex couples can be excommunicated, and their children can be denied baptism until they leave their parents’ home. To remain in the church, some LGBT Mormons will choose to remain celibate, while others will marry a person of the opposite sex.
In one of the written testimonials on the site (accompanied by a video interview), a man named Josh explains his struggle to reconcile the teachings of his faith with his sexuality.
“For me, there were pros and cons to either entering a gay relationship or living a celibate life,” he writes. “I know I’m foregoing certain benefits by choosing not to enter into a gay relationship. However, there are aspects of joy and peace that come because I am trying to live God’s will that I didn’t feel while in those gay relationships.”
But some former Mormons say a shift in tone without a change of policy is worthless. John Dehlin, a straight psychologist who was excommunicated after speaking out against the church’s stance on LGBT issues, says the better option for LGBT Mormons is to leave the church.
“There’s no change in substance — it’s only a glossy, more highly produced finish on a set of toxic doctrines,” Dehlin told the Wall Street Journal. “Until the church supports gay and lesbian Mormons finding long-term, loving relationships, they are just recommending toxic choices.”