Avoid Negative Labeling
People tend to behave according to the way they see themselves. Help him to take care with the labels he puts on himself. Lift your child’s sights to a vision of who he really is. Elder Dallin H. Oaks offers this counsel to a parent about what he might say to his child:
“You’re my son. You will always be my son, and I’ll always be there to help you. . . .
“Homosexuality . . . is not a noun that describes a condition. It’s an adjective that describes feelings or behavior. I encourage you, as you struggle with these challenges, not to think of yourself as a ‘something’ or ‘another,’ except that you’re a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and you’re my son, and that you’re struggling with challenges. . . .
“You’ve described a particular kind of challenge that is very vexing. It is common in our society and it has also become politicized. But it’s only one of a host of challenges men and women have to struggle with, and I just encourage you to seek the help of the Savior to resist temptation and to refrain from behavior that would cause you to have to repent or to have your Church membership called into question.”
Shaping a Life
As people dealing with same-gender attraction look at traditional lifestyles, they may not see where they fit in. One young man wrote me: “All of the talks at BYU on dating and marriage, including some in which we were told that if we weren’t dating ‘X’ number of times per week we weren’t magnifying our priesthood, left me feeling especially depressed, broken, and like I was failing God and everyone else around me. It wasn’t until I had a very powerful spiritual witness—in association with Isaiah 56:3–4, actually—that all I needed to do was my best to nurture my relationship with the Lord and to cultivate and follow the Spirit in my life (and whether I married in this life or the next, I was completely accepted of the Lord) that I felt so much of that burden of shame and guilt and depression and failure lift. The love I felt was overwhelming and taught me what my central focus should be. Prior to that, the cultural box I was being shoved into was spiritually and emotionally suffocating.”
Another young man, who chose to serve a mission even while dealing with the challenge of same-gender attraction, describes how he had been mentally and emotionally stuck in choosing the gospel way over the world’s way until he found that he didn’t have to live a traditional life and that, indeed, stereotypes can be ignored:
“I understood, finally, that I was an individual on my own path and that it was impossible to know where that would take me. I did have to make choices along the way, but I wasn’t limited by those stereotypes in my head. And the only thing I had to commit to was the gospel of Jesus Christ. The important distinction was between LDS culture, which isn’t necessarily true, and the fulness of the gospel, which is. When I realized that my path might not look like everyone else’s and that it was really just between the Lord and me, I felt a new confidence. I handed that map over to the Savior and let him navigate—I jumped into the driver’s seat. . . . If we truly trust the Lord, we don’t need to fear the unknown vistas that await us. We can listen to the Spirit and the compass of our hearts and look forward to that day . . . when we realize we have happened onto an answer and that it was the Lord who brought us there. But until then, there’s no reason we shouldn’t roll down the windows and breathe deeply, even if we’re not sure exactly where we are. It’s okay, the Lord does.”