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How to Relate to Your Child Who Experiences Same-Gender Attraction


Setting Boundaries

At some point parents are faced with situations in which they wonder what boundary lines might be appropriate because their love for their child versus their sense of right and wrong can create conflict in their minds. Such situations might include whether to attend a marriage or commitment ceremony, or what role a potential partner might play within the family. Elder Oaks was asked: “At what point does showing that love cross the line into inadvertently endorsing behavior? If the son says, ‘Well, if you love me, can I bring my partner to our home to visit? Can we come for holidays?’ How do you balance that against, for example, concern for other children in the home?”

Can a parent’s love cross a line and inadvertently endorse homosexual practice? Elder Oaks responded: “That’s a decision that needs to be made individually by the person responsible, calling upon the Lord for inspiration. I can imagine that in most circumstances the parents would say, ‘Please don’t do that. Don’t put us into that position.’ Surely if there are children in the home who would be influenced by this example, the answer would likely be that. There would also be other factors that would make that the likely answer. . . . There are so many different circumstances, it’s impossible to give one answer that fits all.”

Elder Wickman emphasizes a parent’s need to avoid the pitfall of defending a child’s homosexual lifestyle: “I think it’s important as a parent to avoid a potential trap arising out of one’s anguish over this situation. I refer to a shift from defending the Lord’s way to defending the errant child’s lifestyle, both with him and with others. It really is true the Lord’s way is to love the sinner while condemning the sin. That is to say, we continue to open our homes and our hearts and our arms to our children, but that need not be with approval of their lifestyle. Neither does it mean we need to be constantly telling them that their lifestyle is inappropriate. An even bigger error is now to become defensive of the child because that neither helps the child nor helps the parent. That course of action, which experience teaches, is almost certainly to lead both away from the Lord’s way.”

One mother remarks that she has said to her son: “‘I love you and respect your feelings, and I know you will respect mine. Because you were reared in the Church, you know what my standards are.’ He is fine with that because he prides himself on being an honest person.”

Elder Oaks mentioned that different circumstances may require different responses. After fasting and prayer, one set of parents in a home where there were no younger children chose to let the child and his long-term partner make the decision as to whether they would share a bedroom in the family home. The key seems to be Elder Oaks’s statement: “That’s a decision that needs to be made individually by the person responsible, calling upon the Lord for inspiration.”

Click here to read the companion piece, "Our Story: Living with Same-sex Attraction" by Ty and Danielle Mansfield.

The lead image above is from Getty Images. It is being used for illustrative purposes only and does not reflect the opinions or feelings of the models found therein.

Here are more valuable resources on same-sex attraction:

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Voices of Hope: Latter-day Perspectives on Same-Gender Attraction

An invaluable resource on the topic of same-gender attraction, this unique volume includes six plenary chapters features notable authors and gospel scholars: Brad Wilcox, M. Catherine Thomas, Camille Fronk Olson, Wendy Ulrich, Robert L. Millet, and Michael Goodman.

In addition, each chapter includes personal essays or first-person stories of faith and commitment from Latter-day Saints who have dealt with same-gender attraction.


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A Reason for Faith: Homosexuality and the Gospel

A Reason for Faith was written to do just as the title implies, provide reasons for faith by offering faithful answers to sincere questions. Before the Internet, historical and doctrinal questions not addressed in LDS Church curriculum were mostly found in the scholarly articles of academic journals. This is no longer the case. These topics are now widely debated and discussed online and in other forums. And when members of the LDS Church come across information that is unfamiliar, they may feel surprise, fear, betrayal, or even anger. Laura Harris Hales has assembled a group of respected LDS scholars to offer help in A Reason for Faith: Navigating LDS Doctrine and Church History. Together these authors have spent an average of 25 years researching these topics. Their depth of knowledge and faith enables them to share reliable details, perspective, and context to both LDS doctrine and Church history.


Image titleIn Quiet Desperation: Understanding the Challenge of Same-Gender Attraction

Most likely, someone you know is living a life of quiet desperation, struggling with feelings of same-gender attraction. In an effort to help Latter-day Saints understand and reach out to those who suffer from this difficulty, Fred and Marilyn Matis discuss how they've dealt with the knowledge of their son Stuart's challenge with same-gender attraction, and how parents and others can reach out with love. In addition, Ty Mansfield discusses his own challenge and how he continues to go forward with faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. "The Lord promised that he will change our hearts, but he didn't say when," writes Mansfield. "He never promised it would happen in mortality. He only said it would happen."